LDS Church responds to priesthood meeting request by activists

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24 2013 11:55 a.m. MDT

Thousands prepare for the Priesthood session inside the Conference Center in Salt Lake City Saturday, April 3, 2010.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of women around the world will participate, either in person or via broadcast, in the annual general Relief Society meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

An estimated 20,000 will congregate in the Conference Center for the meeting.

Seven days later, a much smaller group of women — probably somewhere between 150 and 200 — plan to approach LDS Conference Center ushers and ask to be admitted without tickets to the priesthood session of the church’s 183rd Semiannual General Conference. For the more than 70 years that the priesthood session has been conducted in the format that it follows today, men and boys 12 years of age and older have been exclusively invited to attend the session, often coming together as fathers and sons.

The women, who last week formally requested tickets to the Oct. 5 priesthood session, will not be admitted.

“It is the hope of the church that the priesthood session will strengthen the men and young men including fathers and sons, and give them the opportunity to gather and receive instruction related to priesthood duties and responsibilities,” church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said Tuesday in a letter to the group, "much the same way parallel meetings are held for sisters, such as the general Relief Society meeting.

"It’s for these reasons that tickets for the priesthood session are reserved for men and young men and we are unable to honor your request for tickets or admission."

Todd also invited the women to “view the live priesthood session broadcast, as well as the other general conference sessions, on lds.org, The Mormon Channel or BYUtv.”

This will be the first time the general priesthood session of LDS conference is broadcast live to a general television or Internet audience. In a pre-conference press release issued Tuesday, church officials indicated the live TV and Internet broadcast of the session is "part of a continued effort to make general conference proceedings more accessible to members around the globe."

"We are pleased that the church has demonstrated its ability to change to be more inclusive by making the session available through live broadcast," said Kate Kelly, one of the organizers of the action to request priesthood meeting tickets for women. "This is an important step toward a future where Mormon women will participate side by side with our brothers in all areas of church leadership and life."

However, the church's two decisions — to deny entrance to women and to broadcast the priesthood session live — will not curtail the planned action, Kelly said.

"We will be in the line for standby tickets to the priesthood session on Oct. 5 to demonstrate our continued willingness and desire to attend," said Kelly, who indicated the group will meet at City Creek Park at 4 p.m. to pray and sing and then walk together to the Conference Center to ask for admittance. "We are demonstrating our faith by standing at the door and knocking."

Besides, she noted during a telephone interview last week, "this isn't really just about going to priesthood meeting."

"This is about the ordination of women to the priesthood," said Kelly, an international human rights attorney in Washington, D.C., who is one of the founders of Ordain Women, an Internet-driven campaign that professes to be for “Mormon women seeking equality and ordination to the priesthood.”

"We consider ourselves to be prospective priesthood holders," she continued, "and we want to go to priesthood meeting so we can show our leaders that we are ready for both the benefits and responsibilities of the priesthood. That is our focus."

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