Last Saturday I eagerly watched Twitter and Facebook feeds in anticipation of the news of the day: would the many dear friends I had who were petitioning LDS Church leaders for admittance into the Priesthood Session of General Conference be allowed to participate? The first clue I saw was OW organizer Suzette Smith’s simple status update: “They said no.”
Though I was crushed on behalf of my friends who had placed themselves in such an honest and vulnerable position to ask for this mere token of equality, I would be lying if I said this wasn’t the outcome I expected and even wanted. For as much as I seek equality for myself, my sisters, my daughter, I want the Church to be transparent in how unequally it treats its men and its women–for the inequity to be fully revealed beneath the platitudes and pieties surrounding the discourse of Mormon womanhood. As I was confronted with the image of a green garbage truck blocking women from the standby line for tickets into the Priesthood session, this inherent inequality was exposed in all its metaphorical and literal ugliness. This image, and all it represents, does Mormon feminists’ work for them.
I believe the most compassionate, as well as PR savvy move the Church could have made Saturday was to quietly and respectfully allow this reverent group of women admittance to hear the words of their revered prophet and apostles. Such a move would have offered ammunition to OW detractors who may have used such a compassionate move as evidence of the Church’s respect for prayerful women.
But instead, Church leadership chose a course which opened wounds and stifled hope. Poring through the photographs of women’s faces taken in the moment they were being turned away will stay with me for years. In each face one could see hope, fear, pain, joy, power and purpose. Each face, one after another, was looked into and turned away by a church official. The image of an entire congregation of women watching as fathers and sons dashed by them into the conference center, averting their eyes as though avoiding sin, will haunt me.
And I believe these images will continue to haunt all of us in ways that will both enervate and empower. The exposure of one more symbol of blatant inequality will do more for the cause of Mormon feminism and the OW movement in particular than if those sisters had been quietly ushered in to participate in a rather forgettable church meeting.
To Ordain Women I say, yes, the Church said “no.” But YOU made them say it. And that’s saying something!