Guest post: more drama for Priesthood sessions

By Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson no longer lives in Newfoundland, though he misses it terribly, and thanks to a change in ward boundaries this week is now living in his fourth ward this calendar year, which for him is a record. Having only been in his new ward for a week, he has no calling.

We’re nearing another General Conference and that can mean only one thing: the spark kindlers at Ordain Women (see 2 Nephi 7:11) have decided to bring the drama back to the Priesthood Session. Only this time, they are going about it more subtlety and diffusely. In spite of this, I believe that this “action” will more efficiently achieve Ordain Women’s unstated, but obvious, goal of hastening the separation of Ordain Women supporters from the main body of the Church.

You will recall that during the past two General Priesthood Sessions the Founding Mothers of Ordain Women have marched onto Temple Square with a train of acolytes and made a spectacle of themselves getting turned away from the Tabernacle. This time is different. Rather than stage a demonstration on the relatively easily controlled grounds of Temple Square, they are planning on descending on stake centers throughout the world and making a spectacle of themselves.

In their announcement of this Action, Ordain Women says that they “trust that women will be welcome at their stake centers, as they have been previously.” However, if they want to be honest about this, they should have acknowledged that they’ve not been welcome to attend Priesthood Session at their stake centers previously. Last year (and I give a hat tip to Peggy Fletcher Stack for actually including this in her article today) a letter went out to local leadership instructing them to remind any women that seek admission to Priesthood Session that “the meeting is for men and that mean are invited to attend” and to point out that Ordain Women’s “presence would be disruptive.” The letter gave instructions that if the women seeking admission were insistent after being told that they weren’t invited and that their presence wouldn’t be appreciated, that they would then be allowed to enter.

Clearly, Ordain Women followers are not welcome at the Church’s stake centers for Priesthood Session. By suggesting that they are, Ordain Women’s lie does two really terrible things. First, they have set their followers up to be unwittingly challenged as they attempt to enter their stake centers. Many of their followers will read Ordain Women’s announcement and take the assertion that they will be welcome to attend at their stake center at face value. When they are met at the door by a member of their Bishopric or Stake Presidency and told that they are not really welcome, it’ll be a like a cold bucket of water has been dumped on their head.

Compare this to the last two Priesthood Session “actions.” At those demonstrations, 99% of the women participating were functionally anonymous. They went to the door of a building that they never, or rarely, entered and were turned away by someone they had never met previously, and who they would likely never see again. This action will be different. They will be seeking admission to a building that they (perhaps) enter on a weekly basis, and will be met by someone who they interact with just as regularly. Plus, these buildings and people will be there every week going forward. Instead of being told that they aren’t welcome by the institutional Church; it will be their local leaders; it will be people who know their names and their families; it will be people who sign their temple recommends; it will be people who will have to field calls from other members of the ward asking why their daughter’s Sunday School teacher or Mia Maid advisor was publicly supporting Ordain Women on Church property.

Ordain Women states that it is their hope that “this action will strengthen bonds within our Mormon faith communities.” This is where the second really terrible thing comes in. As should be abundantly clear to all reading this, local bishops and stake presidents will be placed in the situation of policing this situation. They will be expected to follow the direction from the Church and remind those women seeking admission that they are not invited or welcome. In so doing, they will strengthen their own bonds to the Church and its faithful membership. However, in so doing the unavoidable consequence will be to weaken the bonds between the OW demonstrators and these local leaders.

The unavoidable outcome is the strengthening of the bonds within the Ordain Women “faith community” with the weakening of the bonds with the Church as a whole. This is, of course, Ordain Women’s unstated goal. They are trying to build a coalition of as many people as they can and put them through crucibles such as these to galvanize their feelings and sentiments. They feel that if they can get a critical mass of followers, that they can force action by the Church. But they misunderstand.

39 thoughts on “Guest post: more drama for Priesthood sessions

  1. In addition, they are now translating their website into various languages, so sisters throughout the world get the “opportunity and blessing” of knowing how to demonstrate against the Church. Many faithful sisters, who are happy with the gospel, or happy with a few continuous tweaks, will be given a litany of reasons for them to realize the patriarchy in the Church has abused and misused them!

  2. My suspicion is that they’re hoping that sparks are going to fly at one of those stake centers between one of these sisters and their male priesthood leaders, that it will make the national news, and embarrass the church. I think that’s what they were hoping for with their previous marches on the Conference Center, but were stimied when instead they were met by a calm-headed sister. So they’re trying something different.

  3. This whole thing makes me very, very sad. There is a big confrontation coming up in a few weeks where it will become very obvious where people stand. I anticipate seeing a lot of disciplinary councils and people leaving the church as this line as drawn more firmly in the sand. Part of me hopes the First Presidency will come out with an official statement before Priesthood session indicating that women should not attend at the stake buildings or something to that effect.

  4. I am almost certainly that nobody in my stake in northern Colorado will be joining this protest. Few people know about OW and those that do mostly are sad that so many people are being led astray by the latest anti-Mormon fad.

  5. I noticed that our ward and stake recently called folks to be Public Affairs specialists. I imagine that these folks may be called upon to assist in the effort of informing any women who aren’t aware that their presence would be disruptive.

    I assume the women and others agitating for female ordination will assert that their actions are not harmful. For the final answer on that, I await final judgement. In the mean time, I am enlightened by the attendance statistics for denominations which have opened their priesthood roles to women.

    Until such time as those agitating for female ordination can explain why attendance plummets for denominations that open priesthood to women, I am unsympathetic to their attempts to make the Church yield by dint of public pressure.

  6. I personally think this will fail for the same reason “wear pants” did, no matter what they want or how much media given. The general membership who give a care about the Church will simply not do this, going about their lives like they always do. Any who are OW generally don’t go to church anyway and would be bored to death if they do actually enter; probably to never come back again unless a spiritual witness during prompts them to repent of their rebelliousness. Not a lot of followers exist to start with, so a critical mass for any ward would have to be manufactured.

  7. These OW women just love the spot light. I guess they miss the interviews and all the temporary fuzz that comes with these things.

  8. Sam Bishop,
    “these sisters and their male priesthood leaders”

    As opposed to their female priesthood leaders? Goes without saying they are male, no?

  9. M Miles, take the snark to another blog. It is obvious that Sam Bishop is just making a contrast between the sisters and the “male priesthood leaders.” Thanks for understanding.

  10. I just love it when there is contention in the air. It really puts the focus where it should be at General Conference time.

    And, back in the real world … the rest of us who are trying to actually build the kingdom will have to spend how much time putting this fire out? I agree with Sam’s comment. They want to get kicked out, they want a scene. They want to be the victims, which flys in the face of Nephi’s declaration in The Book of Mormon that “Adam fell that men may be, and men are that they might have joy.”

  11. I would be willing to sit at a table near the entrance of a stake center with a member of the priesthood as a partner and act in the capacity of gentle but firm gatekeeper just to diffuse the idea that those who oppose OW are all men.

  12. When I was bishop and single sister brought her son to General Priesthood meeting. I invited her to come sit in the chapel. I didn’t see any harm in it. She was just a mother trying to bring up a righteous son.

    But unfortunately, OW has an agenda and are using their attendance as a form of protest.

  13. That said, if I were bishop now, I would diffuse the situation by inviting the sisters to attend. Seems like a Gandhi-esque move.

  14. Wonderdog, I think you get the fact that this is not about anybody wanting to innocently “go see priesthood session.” This is about attacking the Church. I have been in several priesthood sessions where women will be there waiting for their husbands or simply because they are interested. The protesters are using this event to bring down the Church, not support it.

  15. GMTA. I was thinking along the lines of wonderdog and single moms of Aaronic priesthood age boys.

    General Conference priesthood session, at the local level, is not interactive, meaning its entirely via the big screen. So there’s not much damage that could be done by sisters who insist on entering for reasons other than wonderdog points out.

    Priesthood _leadership_ meeting, held in our stake prior to the saturday night session of stake conference, isn’t even open to rank and file priesthood holders, it’s for those in priesthood presidencies. i could see some opportunities for disruption and contention if OW-ers stormed their way in.

    there is usually a semi-annual stake-wide meeting for all priesthood holders, including Aaronic, held in one of the chapels, at 7:00 am. And like wonderdog, I’ve seen single moms bring their sons there. But again, that could be an opportunity for disruption since it is live over the pulpit.

  16. I don’t think anyone would have a problem with a single mom bringing her son to the priesthood session, and sitting with him. I know I would not. I also would not have issue with a wife sitting next to her husband. But I think Geoff is right … the OW gals want to push in a make a scene — and that is what is wrong. I doubt that they will get any sympathy if they do try this.

  17. It seems to me that OW is creating a “testing moment” for its own members. It’s one thing to ask your members to affix their name to a petition or “like” a Facebook group, or even to crash a General Conference session where and maybe their pic winds up in the Salt Lake Tribune and maybe the pic will wend its way to the member’s bishop/Stake President and maybe he will feel he has to act on it.

    It’s quite another to send OW members to their local stake centers to basically pick a fight with their bishops/stake presidents right then and there. Essentially, KK is imposing a loyalty test on those who purport to follow her–she is demanding they put their own church membership on the line. I suspect that she’ll find that–while her support has been (by her standards) marginally wide; it’s not very deep at all.

    Ah, well. I was kinda thinking about watching priesthood from home this time around; but now I’m inclined to show up at my stake center just to see which sisters (if any) show up. #bringoutthepopcorn

  18. I think that many of these problems could be avoided if Latter-day Saints more actively heeded Nephi’s advice and likened the scriptures to themselves. We have one recorded instance in time and eternity where someone marched on the Pearly Gates. Lucifer’s goal was ostensibly a noble one: to make the Plan of Salvation more inclusive. After all, the eternal well-being of Our Father’s children was at stake. We all know how well that turned out.

    I doubt that anything but a positive affirmation that we’re going to start ordaining women next Tuesday would suffice for most in the OW movement. I also think it likely that we can expect a mortal re-run of the war in heaven fairly soon. A professor of ancient scripture at BYU who worked closely with General Authorities told our class 25 or so years ago that the church leadership was aware of the trends involving the activity of the sisters in the church. I don’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but it was something along the lines of a topic that they prayed about fervently and regularly.

    This raises something that has puzzled me for the last few weeks and I would greatly welcome any input from those with more wisdom than myself. Any supporters of the OW movement who’ve served missions have to be aware that one of the thorniest issues that missionaries deal with is the status of the Golden Plates. Few non-members are willing to accept the assurance that the Golden Plates do in fact exist and that Moroni has custody of them. Take it on faith, they’re told. Yet the OW women refuse to take on faith that the Brethren are aware of their concerns and without doubt have raised them with the Lord. This seems inconsistent to me at best and hypocritical at worst.


  19. This is an insanely stupid conflict.

    Has someone provided a rationale for why this is a necessary confrontation? This is a case where in my mind both sides are behaving like spoiled children. OW made the calculated decision to encroach upon Church leadership’s territory specifically to get a rise out of leadership and leadership obliged by engaging in the predicted. This conflict reminds me of arguments between my 7 and 8 year olds over who gets to watch which particular movie first in the back of the minivan on long trips. Both could easily watch the same movie at the same time or different movies at the same time (each has an iPad to use) but one is attempting to exercise petty, arbitrary power over the other while the other is seeking a rise out of the controller. The conflict always ends with loss of ipad privileges and both having to play the alphabet game.

    It seems like such a petty control argument. Why is this important? Why is it important to coercivly keep women out of the Priesthood session of conference? And for OW, why is infringing on this one little male indulgence (frankly that is all it is) so important to your cause? Does OW fail to realize that all the leadership has to do is cancel the meeting or open it up to all comers and all leverage is lost?

  20. I have most magnanimously decided that I will support the OW movement by actually attempting to enter the priesthood meeting myself. Giving advance notice of my intentions so the media will have every chance to prepare with cameras and reporters to cover the event. Hope I don’t get in trouble with my bishop or stake president.

    I have already prepared myself by attending the temple dedication. The sentries at the door actually permitted me to pass by them, and I was able to successfuly infiltrate the session. So now I know just what to do to defiantly sneak into the priesthood meeting.

    It should prove to be a most memorable occasion…

  21. Most sadly, I will not be attending the women’s meeting, being pressed with previous engagements. However, I do intend to proudly wear pants, most of the day, as another symbolic form of participating in protest.

  22. Jim Cobabe, I think you are exaggerating about proudly wearing pants. I will not believe it until you post pictures. I would like to see a nice selection: plaid slacks, capris, leggings, etc.

  23. I seriously doubt many women are going to attempt this kind of local confrontation. I bet just a few will decide to make a spectacle of it. You can be sure they will invite the press to document every move.

    I don’t see many women sympathetic to OW trying this. Like someone else said, it is one thing to like a Facebook page and other to pick a fight with local leaders. A sister would potentially put her membership status in questions and would certainly destroy any social capital & standing in the church. I am sure people would try to be as charitable as possible, but she would be perceived and treated differently from that point on. To sacrifice all that just because KK told me to–I don’t think so.

    I must confess, I have always been a little jealous of the Priesthood Session, because I love listening to Male Choirs. I just don’t get to hear them very often. I will listen online or something.

  24. Pretty sure that it is carried live on BYUTV nowadays. If you do not have a provider that offers that, streaming devices like the Roku have an app. So anyone that truly wants to listen to the Prophet’s voice, regardless of gender, can do so without much difficulty.

    Those that feel the need to make an issue of listening to him at a specific venue clearly have something else in mind rather than hearing his counsel.

    And for rk – BYU Men’s Chorus has a free downloadable CD out (“Set Apart” – I think) among other offerings that can be purchased. They really are quite good.

  25. This (excluding sisters from the priesthood session) seems like an odd line in the sand for the Church to have (to me anyway). Now that the priesthood session is streamed *live* – just like all the other general conference sessions – anyone can “attend” the session. I “get” the idea that the Church is responding to protest, and that the Church typically responds to protest by getting defensive and claiming to be correct – regardless of the merits, or lack thereof; but if the Church is going to stream the session live why does the attendance policy matter?

    It seems like focusing on, and teaching about, the ordination requirements (church member, of age, worthy, and male) would be more productive than “checking IDs/Y chromosomes” at the door of any particularly building.

    I agree with most of what has been posted already regarding the likely motives of the Ordain Women leaders, and the likely follow-through of sympathetic sisters at the local level (that it is doubtful). I’m sure the Ordain Women folk hope for some over-zealous local leaders to make fools of themselves – I just hope the local leaders are smart enough not to rise to the bait. The letter of instructions after all said to let them in rather have a significant confrontation.

  26. I am the Assistant Ward Mission Leader; our leader is a hospital doctor so in reality I run most of our Correlations. We had 3 baptisms this Saturday in our small Appalachian town; yep I was in charge of it too. Our new members live about a half hour from the meeting house, but I was out there with the missionarys twice this week. I also stop at the home of a former investigator and less active member with a visiting former Elder this week. I gave the prayer for the Sacrament bread and the closing prayer at the end of Sacrament. With my companion I finshed our home teaching (they all live opposite directions and none are close) by mid month. One of our families needed multiple visits as they dealt with a death; they live about 25 minutes away. I gave three blessings in peoples homes the last couple of weeks. I reported in Preisthood about missionarys work as I always do and then taught the lesson in Elders Quorum. I am an Attorney by profession and my girlfriend is an Optometrist so its not like I am not already busy. I support Ordain Women. I am glad we have a church with an open cannon. Its clear women held the priesthood in Biblical times and when when Joseph Smith lead the church. In my part of the county men like me need help in our preistly work; if you wont leave Utah and come help in the work why stand in the way of letting women help. We should not punish those who are trying to progress the church even if we disagree. Asking for the right to set at the table is not protesting and certainly not harmful to the church unless they respond in an unkind way.

  27. George, thanks for all your hard work in your ward. I for one have no problem with the idea of women having the priesthood. The issue is how the decision would take place — it would have to be a decision by the prophet and the apostles.

    Agitation at the recent General Conferences and at stake priesthood sessions do nothing to show support for the prophet and the apostles. Church leadership has clearly asked people not to do this.

    It is clear to me from your comment that you do not understand some important aspects about the Church. You write: “Asking for the right to set at the table is not protesting and certainly not harmful to the church unless they respond in an unkind way.” Who exactly is “they?” Are you accusing the prophet and the apostles of being “unkind” by not giving a tiny minority of women in the church (many of them inactive) what they claim to want?

    You also write: “We should not punish those who are trying to progress the church.”
    I am not sure what you mean by “punish,” but if you mean Kate Kelly’s excommunication, she brought this on herself and clearly sought to separate herself from the Church. She was asked not to do several things by Church leadership, and she did these things. But more importantly I think you are missing the long, long history of opposition to the Church, which started within a few months of the founding. There were literally dozens of people in the first few years who thought they could “progress” the Church more than Joseph Smith could. And the Lord admonished them again and again the Joseph Smith was the leader and that they should follow his lead. The same thing applies today: leadership comes from the prophet and the apostles, and people trying to “progress” the Church are not authorized to make such changes.

  28. “The issue is how the decision would take place — it would have to be a decision by the prophet and the apostles.” Agreed. Thankfully a prophet made it clear over 150 years ago that Preisthood was restored to women. Yeah Joseph Smith!

    “Agitation at the recent General Conferences and at stake priesthood sessions do nothing to show support for the prophet and the apostles”
    When Emma Smith asked about issues that lead to the Words of Wisdom she was agititating. When Elijah Abel petitioned that worthy people of African decent be allowed to be endowed he was agititating. Ordain Women also is asking for things to be done differently and in a way they think is more consistent with the restoration. Its faithful agititating and thats a good thing. To the contrary contributing ideas to leadership is the best support.

    “It is clear to me from your comment that you do not understand some important aspects about the Church”
    Likely so; probably a true statement for all of us.

    “Who exactly is they?”
    They refers to those who judge without authority or who abuse that authority.

    “Are you accusing the prophet and the apostles of being unkind”

    “I am not sure what you mean by punish”
    Excommunication is not just losing your membership. It voids everything from her baptism to her sealing to her husband. It has eteral ramifications.

    “She brought this on herself and clearly sought to separate herself from the Church”
    After listening to several hours of her speaking pre and post her ex commication I have come to a different conclusion.

    President Monson has been silent up to now and I never raised my arm to confirm anyone at the Public Relations Office; but ultimately I think Monson will confirm Joseph Smith over a local Stake President and Bishop. After all in wisdom we have an appeal process.

  29. George, I disagree with many of your points above, but I am not a big fan of tit for tat arguing back and forth. Keep on helping in your ward and doing the Lord’s work. I admire you for all you are doing, so keep it up.

    If anybody else would like to discuss things with George, please keep it civil. Thanks.

  30. George, which females did Joseph Smith ordain to priesthood office, and to what priesthood office did he ordain them?

  31. George said, “After listening to several hours of her speaking pre and post her ex commication I have come to a different conclusion.”

    I too have listened to hours of Ms. Kelly’s interviews after her excommunication. While she clearly was not happy to be excommunicated, it is clear to me that her disappointment at being excommunicated was much different from what my response would be. If you listen to her interview with Dehlin, for instance, she makes it clear that she doesn’t believe the truth claims of the Church. She doesn’t believe in the restoration, she does not have a testimony of Joseph Smith, she doesn’t believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham, she doesn’t believe that her excommunication has had any impact on her eternal salvation. Instead, she clearly thinks the she hasn’t lost much in being excommunicated except for membership in the club. If she is being truthful in disavowing belief in the truth claims of the Church, and I take her at face value, then why is she upset? It can’t be because she believes that the cancellation of her baptism and sealing has any impact on her eternally, she’s said she doesn’t believe it. What else does that leave us with?

  32. George – If women’s ordination were as clear as you make it out to be, we’d have much more than one vague quote to support it. That may have been the intention, but it’s a far cry from “clear”.

    Your examples of those who “agitated” for change are both overstating what these people did and miscalculating how many other changes have been attempted by people who thought they were “asking for things to be done differently and in a way they think is more consistent with the restoration”. We do not know how many others desired change but did not have the same access as Emma and Elijah (or even Zelophead’s Daughters). We do not hear about the many, many well meaning people who ask for things they believe to be the next step in the restoration but clearly were not. Emma asked, she did not organize a march on the Temple. Elijah asked and was turned down his whole life, but he did not take to the media about it. Do we have any examples of a protest changing the Church? Why does anyone think that would be different this time? Because this time the idea is “right”?

    As for Kate Kelly being excommunicated, she probably wouldn’t have been if she would have actually met with her leaders, rather than staging a protest how she was being treated unfairly. If she was excommunicated in error, then why would God make her sealing invalid, even if the First Presidency declined her appeal? Her eternal salvation is only at stake if she were wrong.

  33. As a general, but almost iniversal, rule, left-wing progressives ar e seeking to destroy the institutions they are attempting to change. Progressivism, as in leftism, and PC-ism is destruction.

    Kate Kelly’s intent, along with her mentor Nadine Hansen’s, is to destroy the church, not move it towards perfection or towards Christ. As has been pointed out, neither of them believe in the foundational truth claims.

  34. Perhaps I am overly tired after two days of service in my own ward, but really, George? You want women to help in the work? Because we’re already not doing our own part? If women have the priesthood, then what will the men do? How will men’s unique rolls be maintained if women have the priesthood? Sorry, but no thanks. I will take my RS work and do it, but I sure do not want more.

  35. Joyce, I saw a meme on Facebook that quoted an old Indian saying that the native Americans had the best lifestyle possible because the women did all the work while the men hunted. It seems that some Mormons would like to return to this lifestyle. 🙂

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