The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints limits its priesthood ordinations to men and boys 12 and older. And while the church’s positions on some long-standing policies have evolved in recent years, the group Ordain Women found little flexibility on that issue.
A crowd of about 200 people gathered in City Creek Park east of Temple Square on Saturday afternoon, ready to make a statement about the exclusion of women from the priesthood – and from its semi-annual meeting, the priesthood session of General Conference. Katy Kelly, the group’s founder and organizer, told the group they represent Mormon women everywhere.
"I welcome everyone here today," she told the crowd. "There are people who have come here specifically for this event from Germany, from Idaho, from Florida, from New York, from Illinois, from Texas, from Mississippi, from Oklahoma and all over the country and all over the world."
Heidi Doggett came from Lafayette, California.
She said, "I have two children – girls – who are actually among my main motivators in being involved with the Mormon feminist movement. I need to make the church a place where I feel like I can send them and that they’re going to learn top love themselves and everything about themselves and not try to have to fit themselves into this set of criteria that may or may not actually be bad.”
Nadine Hansen, from Cedar City, says she’s been asking questions about the church’s policy for thirty years – and she recalled struggles within the Anglican church over the same issue.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury said, words to the effect that, ‘We are in danger of not being heard when the only doors closed to women are the doors of the church," Hansen told KUER.
After a prayer and some instructions on avoiding confrontations, the group marched a block down the street and through the gates of Temple Square to the line where standby tickets to the priesthood session would be made available to men and boys. There they encountered Ruth Todd, a public relations spokesperson for the church.
She told them the meeting was “all about strengthening the men of the church," and added “We won’t be able to offer you a ticket or a place. But we are so glad that you’re here. Welcome to Temple Square. We hope you have a wonderful conference.”
As they had promised, the Ordain Women group left quietly when they were refused admission to the priesthood session, while Todd explained the decision to reporters.
“Millions of women in the church do not share the views of this small group that has come and organized this protest today," she said in a prepared statement. "And some of the members feel this is very divisive as well. But even so, these are our sisters and we want them in our church and we hope they’ll find the peace and joy we all seek in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The priesthood session went ahead as scheduled, streamed on the church website and broadcast on regular TV channels for the first time. Ordain Women and its demonstration weren’t mentioned, though Elder Neil Anderson touched on the issue in his talk on Sunday afternoon.
“We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the church. The priesthood is the power and authority of God, given for the salvation and blessing of all men, women and children.”
The organizers of Ordain Women say they intend to continue knocking on the door – whether or not it’s opened.