Locals participate in Ordain Women event at General Conference
The Ordain Women organization met Saturday to ask for standby tickets to get into the priesthood session of the 184th semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including residents from Cache Valley.
Ordain Women is an organization seeking to have women ordained in the Mormon priesthood. According to the LDS church, the priesthood is God’s power given to men. Some women are attempting to change that and open up the opportunity for women to be ordained.
Only men are allowed to attend the priesthood session, which is held on Saturday night during the weekend conferences. Ordain Women members stood in line last October for tickets and were refused as well.
Debra Jenson, a member of the Ordain Women executive board and a professor of public relations at USU, said 510 people met to ask for tickets to the priesthood session. According to the OW website, it is estimated 75 percent of the group’s attendance is active members of the LDS church. Some of the participants for Saturday’s event traveled from places like Washington, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts and Mexico.
Jenson said the first and foremost goal of the group is to ordain women.
“The goal of Ordain Women the organization is to get women ordained to the priesthood. We are very clear about that in all of our actions,” Jenson said. “We are clear about that on our website.”
She said there is a misconception that the Ordain Women movement equals Mormon feminism.
Jenson said she thought of the idea of ordaining women when she came to the LDS church when she was 12 years old. She became an active member of the church regardless.
“It has been a source of pain and confusion for me since that time,” Jenson said. “I have prayed about it and lived with it and prayed about it. When I saw this group, it was the answer to many prayers for me.”
She said she there is a common belief within the LDS church that justifies allowing the men to have the priesthood by putting women on a pedestal.
“The rhetoric that we use in the church to explain why boys and men need the priesthood talks about them as less spiritual or less willing to do their part in the church,” Jenson said. “I find that bothersome. I find my son as spiritual and as dedicated to his faith as any women I know.”
Aaron Boman, a former Mormon, said he went to the event to inspire his LDS family to join the movement.
“I am here because I believe in equality,” Boman said. “I talk to some members in my family and they say they don’t feel unequal, but as they say, ‘Equality is not a feeling. You either are or you are not.’”
He said he does not believe in what he calls the gender inequality established by the church. Some women are meant to go to work and some men are meant to stay home with the kids, he said.
“People do not fit into boxes, and the LDS church tries to put them all in the same box,” Boman said.
Zan Burningham, an art teacher from Sky View High School, said she believes modern women should get the priesthood because some women were ordained in Joseph Smith’s time.
“Who has more righteous mojo, President Monson or Joseph Smith?” Burningham said.
The event began with a devotional including a hymn and a prayer. The women sang “Come, Come Ye Saints” in City Creek Park across the street from Temple Square.
“Do this and joy, your hearts will swell, all is well, all is well,” the group of women, men and children sang.
Kate Kelley, the founder of the organization, gave a talk through tears.
“I have no right to remain silent, because I love this church,” she said.
After accounts regarding women and the priesthood were shared, the group then moved toward Temple Square as hail and freezing rain entrenched the group.
The group had to walk past a handful of street preachers, who yelled insults at the people passing by.
“You need to submit to your husband,” one said.
“You need to go back to the kitchen, except you, you are a little fat,” another said.
The group made it to Temple Square, where they lined up three-quarters of the way around the Tabernacle.
They took turns one-by-one to ask for tickets to attend the priesthood session. In all, it took about two-and-a-half hours for everyone to get through the line.
“I am an atheist ex-Mormon. Can I have a ticket to the session?” Boman asked in a video he recorded while in line and later sent to The Utah Statesman.
“Yes,” said Kim Farah, one of the church’s representatives.
“But women who pay money to the church cannot go in?” Boman said.
“As you know, the women had their session last week, and the men are having their session now,” Farah said. “You can listen to it, or you can stream it online.”
Each in turn was turned down, some with tears in their eyes.
In the aftermath of the Ordain Women movement, the LDS church released a statement regarding the behavior of the participants.
“Despite polite and respectful requests from church leaders not to make Temple Square a place of protest, a mixed group of men and women ignored that request and staged a demonstration outside the Tabernacle on General Conference weekend, refusing to accept ushers’ directions and refusing to leave when asked," said Cody Craynor, a church spokesperson.
Jenson said she is disappointed because that does not resemble anything she saw or heard from the attendees.
She said she herself got a very different reaction from Farah, the LDS spokesperson.
“She met and spoke with 510 people individually,” Jenson said. “When an usher asked her if she wanted to stop, she said ‘No.’ She wanted to hear from everyone of us.”
Jenson said she was the last person in line to ask for tickets.
“She assured me that I was welcome and that she wanted to hear what I wanted to say,” Jenson said.
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