From the Back List: Thoughts on the Ordain Women Priesthood Session Event
At Exponent, we permabloggers engage in lots of great discussions on our blog email list. Recently we discussed the upcoming October Ordain Women Priesthood Session event. What follows are some excerpts of various reactions to the event and why some of us are or aren’t participating.
Part of me really wants to fly out there that day and participate. I feel a strong desire to stand in solidarity with the brave women who have already committed to going. And part of me is kind of nervous about it, but I’m not even sure why. Women are only asking to listen to something they could have total access to via internet and print. Certainly no one would bar a woman from attending the priesthood session at a stake center if she wanted to. Then why does this feel so transgressive? I think it might have to do with the press conference plan… it seems to me like Ordain Women’ most effective stance is to present itself as a group of sincere women who just want more opportunities to serve god in the religion they love. Would a press conference come across as too belligerent?
The media will want to talk to the women there whether they are admitted to the meeting or not, and I hope OW has people handling PR who can make it clear that it isn’t a threat. That said, I predict the press conference will never happen—no one in power at church HQ wants the publicity, and the powers that be will issue a press release saying that women are not now and never have been excluded from attending the session.
At first I felt that it was “too soon” but knowing that things get forgotten quickly in our Internet-driven world, I felt waiting until next April would be “too late” so I guess October it is! For my internal “timeline” the perfect time would be this winter.
I’m still deciding I’ll go, but I think I will and here are my reasons why –
- I’m in complete solidarity with Ordain Women. Although I did not choose the time and place, I want to be there if something is happening. I am helping with the planning because I want my heart to be a part of it: prayerful and faithful.
- I think the action makes the strong point (if we are turned away, which seems likely) that there is a divide between men and women and it is ONLY about sex. (ie: non-LDS men are invited and permitted to attend Priesthood session)
- I’d really like to attend the session – and partake of the spirit. And, if we’re let in (doubtful) I will be thrilled to be a part of the meeting. On the Saturday night of conference, I usually stay home to keep the spirit of the conference and if I were allowed to attend the Priesthood session, I would.
- I want to agitate.
- And I do feel peaceful (personally) about attending. I’ve done a lot of praying about it.
- I wonder about the place. I don’t like the idea of disrupting a sacred space for others. (Though … the more we plan … the more I feel the disruption will be minimal.)
- I wonder about the timing. It seems to soon. And I think we need more time to recruit and organize. (And get PR people in place as Libby suggests).
The second event did not happen to me, but to an older female relative. During her freshman year at BYU, a returned missionary asked her to accompany him to the Priesthood Session at the Marriott Center. She agreed, having been raised in a convert household, and not knowing that it was unusual for women to attend. She sat there, the lone female in a sea of thousands of men.
My last thought is about exclusively male and female spaces in the Church. It seems like there is the first, but that there is not quite the second: men are allowed (and ofttimes directed) to attend primarily female spaces, such as Relief Society gatherings and Girl’s Camp. I long for us to be given a space that is entirely our own, where we can be Priestesses.
As for the priesthood session action – I feel it is premature. At least for me. However, I respect the women and men who feel moved to take this action. Hopefully, the image I have — of a much larger group of women, quietly, and without fan-fare, entering the conference center with (or without) husbands to enjoy the spirit of a general priesthood session — will come to fruition in my lifetime. And I will be part of that. For now, I have other work to do. May God bless each of us in the work to which we are called.
One of the main reasons (and I need to write this up in a better way) that I think this particular action is SO necessary is because THIS year in Francis Monson’s obituary (pres. Monson’s wife- isn’t it sad that we don’t always know the women by name) it told this story of how right after Pres. Monson got called to be an apostle his first talk was in Priesthood session. She had watched him labor over that talk at home and was really excited to watch him give it. She attended the priesthood session and was not allowed in, so she stood outside the window to listen to his talk!!! This is the message that they shared in her OBITUARY! It is amazing. It is incredible. It is such a vivid picture of inequality and I think we need to have people seeing this in order for them to understand.
I’m in Utah this year and I’d be happy to help out in any way that I can.
I think we’re all meant to be here in this movement called Mormon feminism, and something a little different calls to each of us, and we approach it all in different ways. But we’re all necessary, and we all feel called to the work.
Today, of all days, let’s remember that civil rights movements take a lot of people coming together, and we won’t all agree on all of the details, but we all know there’s more for us than we’ve been allotted. When we’re awake and busy we’re all busy in different ways, but when we close our eyes we’re all dreaming together.