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Rain, wind and a hailstorm didn’t stop 510 women and their male allies from attempting to attend the male-only Priesthood Session of the 184th annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Saturday.
LDS priesthood holders give blessings, perform baptisms and perform ordinances. Ordain Women seeks to change the LDS church’s stance of only ordaining men to the priesthood, which would give women these same privileges.
“It’s such a terrible thing to know that you are being excluded solely on the basis on your gender,” said Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, “and the church that you love and want to invest in doesn’t want you.”
As the group reached the Tabernacle in Temple Square, a church security officer stopped them, physically blocking Kelly’s path to stand in line. “Sorry, ladies, this isn’t for you,” he said.
“It was so condescending that he said that,” said Hannah Wheelwright, Ordain Women spokesperson.
The women stood in line and asked one by one for entrance into to the session. Each one was turned away.
Church security officials began asking all members of the press to leave the premises, shouting, “We can’t have you here for the protest.”
This was the second time Ordain Women members have attempted to attend the Priesthood Session, the first time being in October 2013.
“There were many people who wanted to come last time who couldn’t, or people who didn’t know about it, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to participate,” said April Young Bennett, an Ordain Women spokesperson.
The registration sheets for this gathering more than doubled the amount that walked with the group in October.
“I think we did a great job of raising awareness about the need to ordain women,” Bennett said. “People are learning about it, and more people are feeling that they can speak out. They don’t have to hide their feelings on this issue.”
Gina Colvin, who traveled from her home country of New Zealand to be part of the event, said the letter the church’s public affairs department sent out, asking the movement to “not distract from the spirit of the General Conference,” convinced her to make the trip this time.
The group began their march in City Creek Park with a song and prayer.
Abby Hansen, a resident of Lehi, said it wasn’t something she had ever thought about until she started reading about the groups’ action six months ago, and she felt “this was a call from God to stand with Ordain Women.”
A 2011 Pew Research survey said that 90 percent of LDS women don’t think women should be ordained. A Weber State University student, who requested to remain anonymous, said the priesthood is not something women have been given.
“We’ve been given other gifts and opportunities that only we have, so wanting the priesthood — it’s not about equality, it’s about knowing what your responsibility are and knowing what gifts we’re given,” said the student.
Kelly said she would like to see new polling now that the movement has gained momentum, to see if the numbers have changed.
The church has been increasing women’s roles, allowing women to pray in General Conference and combining the Young Women’s and Relief Society meetings into a general women’s meeting. While Ordain Women members appreciate these steps, their goal remains receiving the full ordination to priesthood offices in the church.
Despite the rejection, Ordain Women members said they are confident the church will someday change the policy.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe we were on the right side of history,” said Laura Pennock , a resident of Bountiful.
Ordain Women members are not currently planning to try to attend to Priesthood Session again, but they continue to push for the ordination of women through other means.
Kelly mentioned the possibility of having a series of discussions and, through other demonstrations, finding new ways to keep the discussion going.
“I have to keep reminding myself that this is just the beginning of a long conversation,” Kelly said. “I kept wanting it to the be end.”