An Announcement from April Young Bennett
As a condition of renewing my temple recommend, my new stake president has required me to resign from the board of Ordain Women and, with the exception of my Ordain Women profile, take down posts I have written that raise the question of women’s ordination to the priesthood. I do not believe that temple recommends should be used as leverage to censor ideas or silence advocacy, but if I hadn’t complied, I would have missed my brother’s recent temple wedding. Choosing between following the dictates of my conscience and being present for a family wedding has been heartbreaking. In the end, I concluded that while others may take my place as an author or an advocate, no one can replace me in my role as my brother’s sister.
The 11 posts I have deleted were published here at the blog site of Exponent II, which has provided a safe forum for Mormon women to share their opinions since 1974. This is the first time an Exponent blogger has deleted posts due to the mandate of a priesthood leader. Some of the deleted posts literally raised the question of women’s ordination simply by posting an opinion poll question for Exponent readers, but others, such as Ordination is the Answer to Correlation, Confirming our Hope: Women and Priesthood, and Shouldn’t It Be Obvious? How Women Hold and Exercise the Priesthood Today, represent months of scripture study and analysis of church history and the teachings of living apostles and auxiliary leaders.
I feel that my work at Ordain Women and the Exponent has been spiritually enriching and compatible with temple recommend criteria. However, I recognize that under our current system of church governance, a woman’s assessment of her own personal worthiness carries less weight than the conclusions of male priesthood leaders. Local priesthood leaders have a great deal of authority to enforce their personal interpretations of worthiness standards, leaving women susceptible when leadership rotates to new men with differing opinions.
I am comforted when I consider that I am only one of many Mormon women, more every day, who have dared to voice concerns about women’s status in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Fortunately, most of the women who have participated in Ordain Women, the Exponent, and other forums for Mormon women have found that their local leaders are supportive or indifferent toward women who voice their opinions and advocate on behalf of women. Other voices will continue to be heard while mine is silenced.
I have committed not to replace the posts or rejoin the Ordain Women board while my temple recommend remains valid. My stake president and I will revisit these conditions when it is time to renew, unless we come to a better resolution sooner. As a matter of personal integrity, I intend to keep my end of the bargain.
My stake president is a good man and I hope that as we get to know each other better, under less stressful circumstances, we will eventually resolve our differences. He has told me that during his long career as a lawmaker, he was able to have good relationships with people with whom he disagrees. As a lawmaker, he demonstrated egalitarian ideals, placing women in leadership positions and sponsoring legislation that ensured open, transparent government and freedom of the press. It saddens me to observe that he now feels obligated to censor me for expressing the opinion that women should participate in religious governance. I do not fault my stake president; his actions are just another symptom of global problems within church policy and culture. I hope that he will use whatever influence he has to work toward a healthier environment for Mormon women to bring their concerns and ideas to the brethren without fear of censure.
I continue to hope that the brethren are too wise to be annoyed or even threatened by female advocacy. Our scriptures teach that “he that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all.” (D&C 50:26) Because of their stewardship as servants of all, and their sacred callings as special witnesses of our Savior Jesus Christ, I hope that the LDS First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve will eventually respond to the sincere pleas of women with genuine concern, welcoming women’s ideas, requests and suggestions as valuable to the kingdom of God on earth.
I bear testimony that Jesus Christ, our great exemplar, does not look upon women who express their desires to participate in his work as nuisances or threats, but “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.” (2 Nephi 26:33) While it may be difficult for some to empathize with the pain gender inequity brings to many women, Christ does understand us. He is “filled with mercy.” (Alma 7:12)