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 going. When I sent in my OW profile last spring, I knew I wanted to do as much as I could for this cause. I’m excited for it and I hope that we have a great turnout!


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.
Some concerns are similar to yours
  • 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).
I don’t know that the press  conference will happen at all either way because we’re still discussing.  I’m in favor of returning to the park to pray and sing together – maybe share some feelings – and disband.
I was surprised by how much the facebook event description moved me–particularly the anecdote about President Monson’s wife, detailing how she wished to hear her husband speak so desperately that she was willing to stand in the doorway, but was still turned away. It reminded me of two events. The first was from my mission. My companion and I needed to pick something up at our local Stake Center during the Priesthood Session. Two Elders saw us, and reprimanded us for attempting to attend the meeting. After we explained our true purpose, they told us that we were not even allowed in the building during that time. It felt both untrue and hurtful.

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.

Emily U:
I want women to be ordained and it’s so frustrating that men hold all the cards as far as that goes.  I hear stories of letters being sent back unread and I wonder what we can do to be acknowledged.  I haven’t thought of any good answers.  So while trying to attend the Priesthood session is outside my comfort zone I can understand why people want to do it. I think the website is really well done and I’m proud to be a part of that.
I have been involved in planning this event.  In fact, I wrote much of the wording on the event page, particularly the parts about seeing ourselves as “prospective elders” and hoping that leaders will consider our untapped potential when they see us in the audience.  It was Kate’s idea to quote Sister Monson and I think that was brilliant.
I did not write or suggest the part about announcing the press conference, but I know the reasoning behind it from planning meetings. As we have had these planning discussions, it has been reemphasized on many occasions that we will not be “sneaky” and we will always “give church leaders a chance to do the right thing.”  As such, the group is publicly being honest about our intentions to talk to the press about our exclusion (if exclusion happens). In addition to having our plans out there in public for all to see, the group is sending a letter to church headquarters explaining the plan and requesting tickets to priesthood session.
I honor and support any person who takes action to bring women into a position of equal power with men. Anywhere. Anytime. And I may or may not feel compelled to participate in such an action. I’m especially appreciative of those who actively work to bring awareness to the problem of gender inequality within the LDS church. It’s a blessing for me be part of the Exponent group for this reason.
I believe there is a spiritual force behind all of this; a swelling awareness and ownership of power among women, within our hearts and minds. I feel a natural “restoration of all things” happening church-wide and world-wide. No doubt, the veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst. Ordain Women is part of the bursting. It just doesn’t happen to be my own personal part. I feel my energies are better invested elsewhere.

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.

I will be there! I AM SO EXCITED about it.

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.

From 1 Corinthians 12, New Revised Standard Version (which I’m liking a lot, btw):
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
I’m grateful and proud (yes, proud, thank you President Benson) to be part of this movement. I’ve also held back from posting a profile on OW because it’s just not the right thing for me to do now. I don’t know why, and quite honestly a lot of my prayer right now is dedicated to figuring out why. This is the scripture that comes to mind, along with the several that say we shouldn’t run faster than we are able.

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.

Thanks for the thoughts on spiritual gifts.  I think we all give of ourselves what we feel comfortable giving.  And all gifts (spiritual or otherwise) combine together to move the Kingdom of God forward.  And I really do feel this is moving the Kingdom forward.  When I raised my hand to the square yesterday in the temple and covenanted to give my talents to the building up of the Kingdom of God on Earth and the Establish of Zion … I thought of OW … and knew I was on the right path.
Thanks also for your thoughts on timing.  I feel strongly that I should be involved NOW.  I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  But each person must know their own heart, and soul, and timing …. even if it’s “never”.






Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.


  1. There truly is a rising tide of Mormon feminist spirit. As Margaret Toscano recently said, Heavenly Mother—like Aslan—is on the move.

    I am quite excited to join in the Ordain Women priesthood session event, just as I am always excited to read and hear of sisters and brothers using their various gifts to advance the cause of equality in the church and the world.

  2. A point I’d like to see made is that since mormon women become members of the priesthood in the temple, then why shouldn’t they expect admittance to a general priesthood meeting?

  3. Amen to Frank Pellett. And thank you for compiling these, Caroline. My favorite part of this post was from Libby: “When we’re awake and busy we’re all busy in different ways, but when we close our eyes we’re all dreaming together.”

  4. The priesthood session of October 2012 Conference found me at the Church. My husband no longer attends Church, so I took my 12-year-old son to listen. I dressed in my Sunday best in respect of the event.

    The EQ president invited me to the dinner before, but didn’t invite me into the session that they were showing in the RS room. I joked about coming to watch the session and still wasn’t invited. I didn’t try to go in the room, but I stood in the hallway. They closed the doors. This Conference I will ask to come.

    I wish that it was possible for me to come to Utah and support this movement. My prayers are with you.

  5. I was in the MTC in 1975. The missionaries all sat together listening to conference. When it was time for PH session, the sisters were in the hall and many of us sat down there to listen. I remember the female teachers coming into the hall and gathering all of us up and saying that we had to go into classrooms where we couldn’t hear the session – we were not supposed to be listening. It was very hurtful to feel that the elders were enjoying the session that we were denied for being women.

  6. If women are given Priest(ess)hood keys to officiate in the outer church (by that I mean outside the temple), for some reason I see it far more likely that the relatively few men that attend Relief Society (Priestesshood) session will be removed allowing full female governance and fellowship than combining into a single general session – the rest of conference already serves that purpose.

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