SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) Mormon women seeking tickets to the faith’s general priesthood session next month will not only be denied access to that all-male meeting, but also may be shut out of Salt Lake City’s historic Temple Square altogether.

Doug Peterson refuses to let Kate Kelly (right) into the standby line in the Tabernacle, as Kelly and the group Ordain Women, try to gain admittance to the Priesthood session of the 183rd Semi-annual General Conference on Saturday, October 5, 2013.  Photo by Rick Egan, courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune

Doug Peterson refuses to let Kate Kelly (right) into the standby line in the Tabernacle, as Kelly and the group Ordain Women, try to gain admittance to the Priesthood session of the 183rd Semi-annual General Conference on Saturday, October 5, 2013. Photo by Rick Egan, courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune


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On Monday (March 17), the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally rebuffed Ordain Women’s second push for entrance to the priesthood session and urged the grass-roots group to “demonstrate” instead in “free-speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints.”

LDS officials also are barring news media cameras from the square during their two-day General Conference, which the church says is “consistent with long-standing policy.”

A “large majority” of Mormon women do not share Ordain Women’s “advocacy for priesthood ordination for women,” church spokeswoman Jessica Moody wrote Monday (March 17) to the group’s organizers. Such activism “detracts from the helpful discussions” that the LDS Church is having with others on women’s issues, Moody added.

“Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for his church,” she said.

“We are disappointed that we weren’t granted tickets,” said Kate Kelly, one of the founders of Ordain Women.

Kelly, a practicing Latter-day Saint and human-rights attorney in Washington, D.C., took umbrage at the suggestion that Ordain Women and its allies take their place beside protesters who routinely picket the LDS Church during its General Conferences.

“We have nothing in common with those people,” says Kelly, who served an 18-month mission for the faith. “They are seeking to destroy the church. We are not against the church — we ARE the church.”

In October, more than 100 women sought to gain entrance to the all-male LDS priesthood meeting, held in the Conference Center across the street from Temple Square. They approached the Tabernacle door, where standby tickets were distributed. One by one, they asked for admittance. One by one, they were turned away — as news cameras captured the episode.

“We are going to go there again,” Kelly said.

And she does not expect to be barred in the attempt.

It would be “unprecedented to deny a group of faithful women entrance to Temple Square, a place that we consider holy ground,” Kelly said. “It would be extremely disconcerting.”

Moody’s letter invites the women to “view the live broadcast of the priesthood session on lds.org, the Mormon Channel or BYUtv.” Last fall, the LDS Church broadcast the all-male meeting live for the first time.

The church “has regretfully upped the ante,” said Steve Evans, a Salt Lake City attorney and Mormon blogger. “If it not only refuses entry to these women but also forces them off of Temple Square, the church may inadvertently send the message that it feels threatened by the Ordain Women movement.”

It’s also a “PR disaster for the church,” said Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. “Goliath is never going to get better press than David — the optics are terrible.”

And unnecessary, she said, given that Ordain Women had announced that April’s conference would be the second and final time the group planned to seek priesthood tickets.

Even so, most Mormon women wouldn’t be lining up for tickets or ordination. A 2011 Pew Research Center national survey found that 90 percent of LDS women and 84 percent of men oppose allowing women to enter the Mormon priesthood.

Nevertheless, the church’s letter may have unwittingly created sympathy among some Mormons who were not ready to join the Ordain Women movement.

“Ordination is not my bosom-burning cause,” wrote LDS scholar and writer Joanna Brooks at Feminist Mormon Housewives. “But I am tired of seeing women I love leave the faith because there is no serious, open respectful conversation within the church about issues that matter to them and because they are stigmatized and rejected when they dare to ask the questions. Today, again, the church sought to push out women who are asking the questions.”

As to the question of Mormon doctrine, Kelly said there is “no scripture or statement by any prophet or apostle that says women cannot be ordained.”

Kelly points to the LDS Church’s ninth Article of Faith, which reads in part, “We believe that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

That could include ordination of women, she said. “That is what we are praying for.”

(Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for The Salt Lake Tribune.)

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15 Comments

  1. Susan Humphreys

    Why do the women stay in a church where they aren’t wanted? This question applies to the American Nuns who are also having their appeals rejected by the Catholic Church. Why stay where your growth and spirituality is stifled? IF God is what people claim he is, then surely He/She wouldn’t care if a person left one church and went to another or left organized religion altogether to seek a different path towards growth and spirituality. NOW If God isn’t what is claimed then I can see such a God rejecting women that don’t submit to male authority in all matters. BUT then such a God isn’t a God worthy of the name and certainly not worth worshiping. Such a God goes by another name actually, the Devil!

    • Women in the LDS Church are valued, needed, respected, and encouraged to seek and develope their testimonies. There will always be those however that seek to council God, and believe that they are smarter than His prophets. It has always been so, and in the end those who are unwilling to listen and obey His chosen leaders always reap disapointment.

  2. If the Women come as visitors to Temple Square then they can enjoy the grounds to their hearts content. If, however they come to demonstrate as protestors, then they have to follow the rules for protestors and do so in the area set up to limit disruption and divisiveness inherent in protests and demonstrations. They are preaching equality but want to be treated differently than other protesters.

    The meeting is focused on dealing with issues and challenges of men and boys and is meant for the same. I had the opportunity to go with my Father many years ago, but have not yet had the opportunity again. Is it really so important to them to be included in a meeting that is not focused on them that they will take seats that could go to those who the meeting is meant to be presented to?

    The meeting is streamed over the web and they could watch it if they wanted to. In fact, the letter invites them to watch it there. Their purpose, then, is to make a scene and be disruptive. I think it is very appropriate to ask them to protest in the zones set out for it. Read the letter (it has been posted online), it is a very reasonable letter.

  3. Kate Kelly and her followers are not listening. The Prophet has made it clear that the ordination of women to the Priesthood is not part of the Lord’s revealed plan. It has been said over and over again. I suggest Kelly and her followers start their own church and ordain each other, since they consistently demonstrate they do not believe the Prophet or the Apostles.

  4. This general conference, you should be standing with the other protestors. You cannot BE the Church and completely disregard the way the Lord leads HIS Church. You are either with or against. I know that many LDS people have their own opinions about many things, but acting out in this way has nothing to do with faith – you are deceived. I encourage you to listen to the brethren, they are inspired to lead us in God’s ways – not mans.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is run by Jesus Christ, through a living prophet. Today, that prophet is Thomas S. Monson. This is the plan our Heavenly Father established since the beginning. God calls prophets to teach his children.

    It has been said that in the last days, the very elect will be deceived. If you read Doctrine & Covenants 33:4 it states, “And my vineyard has become corrupted every whit; and there is none which doeth good save it be a few; and they err in many instances because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds.”

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