I hope this will be the last post on M* regarding the Ordain Women movement. The OW movement has been relatively quiet since the last General Conference, which is probably a good thing. Hopefully the people involved with the movement will come to the realization that there are Church-approved channels for bringing up requests for change within the Church.
In the meantime, a private letter from Church Public Affairs Managing Director Michael Otterson surfaced on another blog. It was posted here in a comment, and I wrote to Church public affairs to confirm its authenticity, which was confirmed.
I also asked for the Church’s official position on the OW movement and received a response, which I will detail in this post.
But first, I think it is important to make it clear the Church Public Affairs is definitely speaking for the Brethren on these issues. I asked public affairs this question and received the answer: “yes.” In addition, the private letter from Bro. Otterson says the following:
Please also understand that no Church spokesperson – whether Cody Craynor, Jessica Moody or myself – issues statements on behalf of the Church that are not either initiated or approved by members of the Twelve and, at times, by the First Presidency.
I really need to drive home this point because it appears some people, even faithful latter-day Saints, are not understanding this: public affairs is not some rogue group. All of their statements are approved by the leadership of the Church. In effect, their statements are statements from the modern-day prophets who lead the Church.
So, what is the Church’s official position on the OW movement?
I asked this question of Church public affairs representative Lyman Kirkland and received the response that there are two letters that outline the Church’s position. The first can be read here.
The second is the private letter from Bro. Otterson to “Sister Reynolds” that was published on another blog and confirmed as authentic by Church public affairs. That letter says the following:
“Dear Sister Reynolds:
Thank you for your email addressed to me. I am genuinely sorry that you are upset by the reports you have received about the women’s protest on Saturday evening.
I note that you were not present. I assure you not only that many of us were, but that video of the event shows very, very clearly the repeated attempts that were made to remind the sisters at the head of the line in a very kind but clear way that they had been asked not to bring their protest on to the sacred ground of Temple Square, and to kindly leave. The marchers entered Temple Square by opening the closed East Gate, and subsequently ignored the Church spokeswoman in a very deliberate way. It seemed clear that the leaders wanted to be seen to be rebuffed my male ushers to demonstrate a point. It was extremely manipulative on their part, and no doubt the hired documentarians that were brought onto the square by the group will edit the proceedings to make that point. However, no objective person could possibly argue that this was not a protest and rejection of a plea from Church leaders. That request was communicated in writing to the group ahead of time and repeated in the news media. It is not surprising that the overwhelming response from Church members so far is disappointment that such an event would occur at that place and on that particular weekend.
Please also understand that no Church spokesperson – whether Cody Craynor, Jessica Moody or myself – issues statements on behalf of the Church that are not either initiated or approved by members of the Twelve and, at times, by the First Presidency. We stand by the statement that was issued on their behalf, and which was accurate in every detail.
We are glad that you found Kim Farah’s actions kind. So did I. Kim, who is a valued member of my staff, did a fine job of lowering temperatures once it became clear that the women were not going to leave, but only then. As to your comments about creating division, I’m afraid I can only ask you to reflect on what is actually causing divisiveness at a time when most people are coming to General Conference for spiritual uplift, many carrying great personal burdens.
Conversations about how best to value and enhance the amazing contributions of women in our Church and to educate all our members continue to occur at the highest levels, as they have for some years. I am privileged to be in those meetings along with our sister leaders, and have had long and numerous discussions with wonderful women drawn from the body of the Church. Unfortunately, the leaders of the group about whom you write have removed themselves from any possibility of involvement in those conversations by their confrontational tactics and uncompromising positions on doctrinal matters.
I do hope that you will try to understand how disappointed Church leaders are over the staged event of last weekend, and that you will find peace, comfort and confidence in the apostles and prophets who lead us.”
I wish you the very best.
Michael R. Otterson
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I would like to emphasize a few points from these two letters.
1)The Church sees the OW movement as a public protest movement in opposition to the Church. Notice the continued and purposeful use of the words “protest” and “demonstrate.” In fact, the Church feels that the OW movement is “manipulative” and trying to bring publicity to their cause in opposition to the position of modern-day Church leaders. This is why the Church, very symbolically, told the OW movement to protest in the same areas that the anti-Mormons rally for General Conference. The OW movement represents “differing viewpoints.”
2)Male priesthood ordination comes from God and will not be changed because of public protest. “Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for His Church.”
3)The Church is and always will be interested in discussing issues with members and non-members but feels there is a correct procedure for doing so. Public protest is not the correct procedure. Note the following: “Unfortunately, the leaders of the group about whom you write have removed themselves from any possibility of involvement in those conversations by their confrontational tactics and uncompromising positions on doctrinal matters.”
4)Divisiveness is being caused by the OW movement. “As to your comments about creating division, I’m afraid I can only ask you to reflect on what is actually causing divisiveness at a time when most people are coming to General Conference for spiritual uplift, many carrying great personal burdens.”
I find the Church’s position on this issue very straightforward. Jesus Christ is the leader of the Church. He inspires modern-day prophets who speak for Him. Protest movements like OW are not appropriate for faithful Church members and in fact are manipulative, confrontational and divisive.
I would like to reiterate that just about everybody I know, including “orthodox” Mormons, agrees that there are some changes that the Church could consider. It is worth pointing out that the Church is reaching out to various women in the latter-day Saint community more than ever. But public protests will not succeed, and it is clear that faithful Mormons should not participate in such activities.