Mormon Women Express #FaithInWomen with Art…and Keys

This living sculpture by Ginny Huo was featured in the Exponent II in July 2012.

This living sculpture by Ginny Huo was featured in the Exponent II in July 2012.

About 10,000 people from 80 nations who are members of 50 different faiths will descend upon my hometown of Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World Religions on October 15-19. The Parliament began in 1893.  It has taken place in a variety of cities across the world, most recently in Melbourne, Australia in 2009.

This year is exciting to me not only because of location of the Parliament, near my home and the headquarters of my own faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons), but also because for the first time, the Parliament will include a Women’s Assembly, providing an opportunity for women to address the responsibility of the world’s religions to affirm women’s dignity and human rights and empower women. (Follow the Women’s Assembly on social media with the hashtag: #FaithInWomen)

Several months ago, when I was a member of the board of Ordain Women, organizers of the Inaugural Women’s Assembly of the Parliament of World Religions reached out to us and invited us to participate in the event.  For some time, we had already been discussing the possibility of developing a community art project, using house keys to represent priesthood keys, as a way to express our desire for full equality within our church.  Now we had the opportunity to expand that vision to include women of many faiths.

Since Ordain Women launched in 2013, Mormon leaders have sought to clarify the roles of women within the priesthood of our church.  Mormon women are banned from ordination to the priesthood, but we do participate in the priesthood in certain capacities. In 2013, Elder Ballard stated that “when men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power.” Reference A In 2014, Elder Oaks added that women have “the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings.” Reference B Through this authority, Mormon women may complete responsibilities that are limited to ordained priesthood holders in some other faiths, such as proselytizing, preaching, and officiating in certain ordinances (but only within the walls of the temple, not in public).

Decisions about how Mormon women may participate in the work of the priesthood and which women will have the opportunity to participate are made by ordained priesthood holders with priesthood keys.  These people who govern the women of the church are always male, because both priesthood ordination and priesthood keys are currently limited to male members of the LDS Church. Women do not make such decisions because they are not granted priesthood keys.

Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents. –Come Follow Me youth curriculum Reference C

In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. -Dallin H. Oaks Reference B

Over time, the breadth of opportunity for Mormon women has fluctuated as male priesthood leaders have made decisions either restricting or expanding women’s roles in the LDS Church.  For example, in the past, women were not permitted to serve as missionaries, but later, male priesthood leaders with keys authorized the female missionary work that continues today. Just last month, male priesthood holders with keys admitted women to priesthood councils from which they had previously been barred.  However, other opportunities were granted to women in the past but are not presently authorized, such as the opportunity to give healing blessings. Mormon women do not make these important decisions about female opportunity because women are not priesthood holders with keys.

This Saturday, Ordain Women supporters, both male and female, will create “living art” depicting the changing opportunities for women in the church, including examples both of opportunities that have been expanded and opportunities that have been withdrawn.  Then they will attach keys to a gated structure designed by artist Ginny Huo, as a symbol of the need for women to access priesthood keys. Two weeks later, people of all faiths will have the opportunity to add their keys to the structure during the Parliament of World Religions as a way to express support for religious gender equality among all faiths.  Finally, the structure will be permanently displayed in Utah so that the public may continue to add keys; the permanent monument will continue to evolve.

There are opportunities to participate in this project in-person and remotely.  Learn more at the Ordain Women website.



April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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13 Responses

  1. EmilyCC says:

    Ginny’s work is so wonderful…I can’t wait to see how this event goes and what the gate looks like!

  2. Linda says:

    I am struggling with this article and with Ordain Women in particular as this group doesn’t want true equality; they want to usurp all power. They have a real problem with pride. I’m sure it pains our Heavenly Mothers to see how little they understand their role in the great Plan and how they belittle women in particular.

    • I recommend reading Ordain Women profiles to see what supporters really want, rather than making judgments. You can read their profiles here:

      • Linda says:

        I have read the profiles. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but it seems that Ordain Women’s goals and the church are at odds and that OW wants the church to change to satisfy them. I honestly don’t think that is in the Plan. It’s either you align with God, or maybe you need to do some heavy soul searching.

    • Libby says:

      Linda, I don’t think “struggling” is the right word. You seem to have your mind made up already.

      • Linda says:

        I guess reading the other posts did that. It sounds like you are counseling God. If He changes the Plan to satisfy your group, He will cease to be God. Remember, you voted on the Plan as it is now, or did you just vote against Satan’s plan and hoped you could do what you want when you got here?

      • TopHat says:

        Linda, please check the comment policy, particularly the part of questioning others’ testimonies when it comes to your comment “did you just vote against Satan’s plan and hoped you could do what you want when you got here?”

      • Linda says:

        I’m not questioning your testimony. I’m sure you really believe what you believe. I am asking a simple question, did you?

      • Linda, your comment was not a simple question. It was an accusation–and not even a veiled one. Questioning others’ righteousness is not allowed here. We maintain a nonjudgmental space so that people can share their feelings openly. If you cannot follow that guideline, you will be placed in permanent moderation.

      • Linda says:

        I’m sorry if my searching for answers ruffle your feathers. You won’t hear from me anymore. Obviously, you also don’t want to do any serious soul-searching, especially when it deals with the sacred feminine. God gave us special abilities and gifts that men do not have, which is why we compliment each other. When you envy what men have, you trample on those gifts and deny your own feminine power that is just as important and just as powerful as the priesthood power that men have. I’m disappointed in this group and their demanding to be as men. You will never achieve your potential if you continue down this path. Good luck to you.

  3. nrc42 says:

    Linda, the issue here isn’t that you have a different opinion or that you are “ruffling feathers.” The issue is that you are expressing your opinions in such a way as to violate the comment policy. I 100% disagree with your opinion, but I still think your opinion could be expressed without violating the comment policy, if phrased differently. For example, you might have said:

    “I have a hard time understanding the Ordain Women movement. From my perspective, I feel blessed to have been given feminine attributes and roles, and so I don’t aspire to what I believe are the roles and attributes of men. Could someone who supports women’s ordination please explain how they maintain their views and still value their divine femininity? I struggle to understand how these are not incompatible.”

    Now, if you had phrased it that way, I and many others would still disagree with you. However, you would not be violating the comment policy, because your opinion would have been phrased in a nonjudgmental way that focused on your own experiences and suggested a willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue. The way you chose to express your opinion, however, was judgmental and showed that your purpose in commenting was not to share your own experience and learn from the experiences of others. Rather, you made it clear that your purpose in commenting was to call others to repentence, which is a clear violation of the comment policy.

  4. Ziff says:

    This is such a wonderful action! I love that OW is doing it! I’ve submitted my name to go on a proxy key for it.

  1. September 27, 2015

    […] Mormon Women Express #FaithInWomen with Art…and Keys […]

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