LDS Church: Aims of 'Ordain Women' detract from dialogue
Letter from church asks group to move demonstration off Temple Square
Other changes in the past two years include new leadership roles for sister missionaries, the inclusion of more women in congregation leadership meetings known as ward councils and prayers by women at semiannual general conference meetings.
On March 1, the New York Times described the younger mission age for women as "the biggest gender change" in the church in memory.
The story says " the standard image of a Mormon missionary, a gangly young man in a dark suit, was suddenly out of date."
Ordaining women to the priesthood, as the letter says, is contrary both to church doctrine and the view of the vast majority of Latter-day Saints, especially women.
The Pew Research Center surveyed American LDS women in 2011 and found that 90 percent opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood, a higher percentage than men in the church who felt the same way.
Ordain Women, described as "a band of Mormon feminists" by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Laurie Goodstein in their recent story, drew media attention specifically because it is different from the norm, the reporters said when they appeared on a radio show on KUER last week.
Goodstein characterized Ordain Women's demonstration last October as "kind of a stunt protest." She said her reporting showed church leaders were listening to women — "taking a sounding" — but said, "It's not that the church would make changes in response to a bunch of agitators who do not seem to represent the mainstream of the church."
The Times story reported that the missionary age change has tripled the number of women missionaries and described the mission leadership changes that engage many of them.
Those leadership opportunities are consistent with what LDS women and girls experience elsewhere in the church, Goodstein said.
"This church, more than most," she said, "already has a whole scaffolding of leadership roles for women, at every age, and in fact quite demanding leadership roles. In fact, a lot of the Mormon women I interviewed said, 'I learned leadership from the church. I learned how to speak at a young age in front of a big group of people. I learned how to organize, I learned how to take responsibility.'"
Goodstein's co-author, Kantor described three groups of LDS women.
"We all know there is a large group of women in the church who are totally satisfied with their roles, who really don't want any change at all, express tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment," she said. "We also know there is the small but highly visible group of, you could call them 'out Mormon feminists,' who do things like stage protests at Mormon general conference."
A third group of mostly younger women remain opposed to ordination for women but express interest in greater participation. For example, Kantor said, they ask whether a Relief Society president might sit on the stand on Sundays the way a congregation's bishopric does.
Kelly admitted Ordain Women isn't a large group but hopes church leaders are listening. She felt Monday's letter didn't clearly indicate it was from church leaders, though it said Moody wrote "on behalf of the church."
"We should care for all in the flock," Kelly said. "As we learn in Luke 15, even if 1 in 100 has concerns or questions, that's who the shepherd should minister to. We feel church leaders should minister to what is a small but growing group that wants to see full equality in the church."
Many LDS women in the majority have expressed frustration over Ordain Women's positions. Others bristle at the publicity it generates.
"Women are denied nothing by not being ordained to the priesthood," said Carol Solomon, a mother of eight who teaches Relief Society lessons in her LDS ward in Provo. "We are not left out. Women continue to have access to all the ordinances, rights, privileges and blessings of the priesthood. I have access to revelation just like a man does. In my home I have equal authority in my family."
Solomon, 66, has a master's degree in special education, taught and worked in the public school system for 23 years, served as a school principal and now works at BYU, where she coordinates the English Language Learning symposium and related national development grants while managing ELL teacher training projects.
In Relief Society, one of the largest women's organizations in the world with more than 5.5 million LDS members, Solomon said "we're a sisterhood set apart by the priesthood to act with the priesthood to support the growth of women in the church and provide others with relief and comfort."
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