LDS Church: Aims of 'Ordain Women' detract from dialogue

Letter from church asks group to move demonstration off Temple Square

Published: Monday, March 17 2014 8:55 a.m. MDT

Crowds leave after the close of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Salt Lake City. The LDS Church released a statement Monday in response to a group of women who have requested to attend the priesthood session of this year's April conference.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A small activist women's organization is detracting from thoughtful discussions about women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church spokeswoman said Monday in a letter to the group.

The letter, signed by Jessica Moody "on behalf of the church," also says the church is unable to fulfill a request made by the "Ordain Women" group for tickets to the semiannual general priesthood meeting next month, because the meeting "is designed to strengthen men and boys as they receive specific instruction about their roles and responsibilities."

"Women in the church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme," the letter continues. "Declaring such an objective to be non-negotiable, as you have done, actually detracts from the helpful discussions that church leaders have held as they seek to listen to the thoughts, concerns and hopes of women inside and outside of church leadership. Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for his church."

Ordain Women spokeswoman Kate Kelly said she was disappointed the letter didn't come from a church leader but remains hopeful.

"The fact the Public Affairs Department is responding gives us hope our leaders are willing to engage in a dialogue," she said.

Temple Square

In October, a week after 20,000 LDS women attended the church's annual Relief Society meeting, about 150 women with the Ordain Women group gathered outside the general priesthood meeting and approached the stand-by line for men without tickets. One by one, the women approached an usher, then left when denied entry.

Kelly said Monday — Ordain Women's one-year anniversary — that the group will repeat the process on April 5, despite the church's request in Monday's letter that the group reconsider those plans.

"We're going to continue to ask and knock as we are told to do in Matthew 7:7 ("Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you")," Kelly said. "The only thing we're going to demonstrate is that we're ready for the blessings and responsibilities of the priesthood. We’re going to continue to gather, ask and to knock as planned.”

If Ordain Women does demonstrate again, the church's letter asked the group to move its activities off of Temple Square to adjacent free-speech zones.

"Activist events like this detract from the sacred environment of Temple Square and the spirit of harmony sought at general conference," the letter says. "Please reconsider. ... As fellow Latter-day Saints and friends of the church, we invite you to help us maintain the peaceful environment of Temple Square and ask that you please follow these details in your continued planning."

Kelly said the group doesn't feel like it belongs in the free-speech zones, provided by the city for protestors who demonstrate during the church's semiannual general conferences in April and October.

"We feel as faithful, active Mormon women we have nothing in common with people who oppose the church and want to protest against it," she said. "The church is its members. We aren't against the church, we are the church."

'Recent changes'

The church's letter said LDS leaders are listening to women and responding.

"The recent changes you have seen, most notably the lowering of the missionary age for sisters," it says, "serve as examples and were facilitated by the input of many extraordinary LDS women around the world."

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