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LDS Church responds to priesthood meeting request by activists

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

Kelly was born in Oregon and reared by parents who converted to the LDS Church. A lifelong Mormon, she is a BYU graduate who served in the Spain Barcelona Mission. Today she is the chorister in her LDS ward's Relief Society. She referred to those experiences as she explained why she believes LDS women should receive the priesthood.

“To me, agitating on the issue is a question of self-respect,” she said. “I respect and value the church and myself too much to be silent on this question. I truly believe that God wants us all to equally share the burdens and blessings of the priesthood. The ordination of women would put us all on equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and nothing less will suffice.”

“Equality is an interesting term,” said Sister Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society president, in a video posted last April featuring the leaders of three LDS Church auxiliaries talking about the role of women in church leadership. “It doesn’t always mean sameness. We are of equal value no matter where we are — in the church or in the home. In the home we are co-equal spiritual leaders. I think that’s an important thing that sometimes is misunderstood. We can have equality while having different roles.”

For the most part, Sister Burton said, “I don’t think (LDS) women are after the authority (of the priesthood) — I think they are after the blessings. And they are happy that they can access the blessings and power of the priesthood.”

The empirical research seems to support Sister Burton. For their landmark book, “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” David Campbell and Robert Putnam conducted two extensive surveys on religion and public life in America. They found that an overwhelming majority of LDS women — 90 percent — are opposed to priesthood ordination for women. By comparison, 52 percent of LDS men oppose priesthood ordination for women.

More recently, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a national survey of Mormons in America. It found that overall 87 percent of Latter-day Saints — 90 percent of LDS women and 84 percent of LDS men — are opposed to women being ordained to the priesthood. The number climbs as high as 95 percent among those who claim a high degree of religious commitment. Even among those who claim a lower degree of religious commitment, 69 percent are opposed.

Kathryn Skaggs, who writes her widely read blog, A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, from her home in Murrieta, Calif., said she believes she speaks for that vast majority of Mormon women when she expresses frustration "that this small element within the church who are pressing for the priesthood use the media to draw attention to themselves, as if they speak for all Mormon women."

"They don't represent us," Skaggs said in a telephone interview. "That's not to minimize those who have these passionate feelings about women being ordained to the priesthood. But my personal church experience suggests that most of us are at peace with how the Lord has chosen to establish his kingdom upon the earth. And there's a bit of resentment that the beautiful messages of conference might be overshadowed by this small group that doesn't even represent the feelings of mainstream Mormon women.

"I just really have a hard time feeling good about it," Skaggs continued. "They are taking the attention away from the reason we have general conference in the first place: to listen to what living prophets have to say to us. Instead, they are trying to get the living prophets to listen to them. That just seems wrong to me."

Writing on Patheos.com, BYU professor Margaret Blair Young, well-known for her detailed work on the history of black Mormons, said she would not be surprised to see more privileges extended to women in the near future. But, she observed, "this will not happen through press conferences.”

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