Guest Post: Eight Years Later
Guest post by Lori. Lori is a life-long member born and raised in the south. She currently teaches French, German, Latin and Speech/Debate to gifted highschoolers.
Eight years ago, on the first weekend of October, I got on a plane and flew to Utah to participate in the first Ordain Women action requesting permission as women to attend the Saturday evening session of general conference, which was then reserved only for male members of the church over the age of twelve. We were, of course, denied permission to attend. My youngest daughter was then 10 years old.
Today as I write this, that youngest daughter is a freshman at BYU and a member of the BYU Women’s Chorus and will be singing in person in the Saturday evening session of general conference. As a result of COVID restrictions, the members of the choir will be the only audience members in the Conference Center. The bookending of these two events has given me reason to pause and contemplate what has happened in the last eight years and the differences between my experiences in the church and what my daughter’s will be.
I don’t remember when I started discussing ordination for women with my father, but I know that by the time I was a teenager, I knew that his opinion, formed by years of scripture study, was that there was no direct scriptural injunction against it and he believed that women would one day be full recipients of priesthood power and authority alongside men. I trusted his opinion and believed it would happen.
It has been a long time since I was a teenager. Waiting for society to change can be quite a patience tester. Each step forward must seem so benign that it is accepted while outcry and pushback to reverse the forward progress is limited. For those who are held back from achieving their full potential by this painfully slow progress, each little step is never enough and the outcries and pushback are painful. It is only with the blessing of extended time can we look back to see progress being made. We stand on the shoulders of many great women and men who came before us to trod this same path, working for change.
In September of 2012 I was part of a group of women who posted a document online entitled “All Are Alike Unto God”, requesting that LDS church leaders “thoughtfully consider and earnestly pray about the full integration of women.” This document also included several suggestions for interim institutional changes that would create a more equitable religious community that would not require ordination for women. As I read over this list, I am heartened by how many of these changes have been at least partially made and I can see a roadmap to interim steps to even more change.
I cannot claim to understand why some changes seem to take forever or why others happen overnight. I see the damage that is caused by discriminating policies for women, for racial minorities and the LGBTQ+ and I want it all fixed. Now. Instead, I can only measure progress. Not always forward progress, but over the course of time, generally forward progress.
Eight years ago I was denied entrance into the general conference session on Saturday evening. While the meeting was also broadcast widely, it went only to satellites at buildings where church leaders could control who entered the building to watch. In October of 2013, the first policy to change was to broadcast this meeting over the open worldwide networks (including TV and radio) that were used to broadcast all other sessions of conference. In 2018, the women’s meeting was made an official session of conference and began alternating with the men’s meeting on Saturday evening. This year, all gender limiting general conference meetings were eliminated and now all sessions are open to anyone who wants to attend.
Priesthood is now discussed in the LDS Church as priesthood power and priesthood authority and women are told that we have access to the same priesthood power as men. We are limited in our authority, especially to direct the affairs of the church. However, women are gaining entrance into more and more positions and meetings where we have influence over decisions about church policies, if not actual decision-making power in those meetings.
This isn’t enough and I will not quit discussing the need for improvement until all members’ voices, contributions, and leadership talents are given equal status, but I am also glad for the chance to look back to measure progress towards that goal. It gives me hope that more forward progress is yet to come.
My daughter isn’t yet ordained to the priesthood, yet I will enjoy watching her sit in the choir seats of the conference center, attending the Saturday evening session of general conference, knowing that eight years ago her mother was denied the opportunity to even enter the building.