“Joseph Smith Himself Viewed Women as Priesthood Holders”

Kate Kelly is a self-described “active, lifelong member” of the LDS Church. She served a mission for the Church in Barcelona, Spain, graduated from Brigham Young University in 2006, and married in the Salt Lake City Mormon temple. She is also an international human rights law attorney who, she reports, “graduated from the only law school in the world founded by women—American University.” This year, she helped launch a coalition of Mormon women and men who support women’s ordination in the LDS Church. As the Church’s semi-annual General Conference approaches this weekend, Kelly and other ordination advocates are planning their own meet-up on Saturday, April 6—during the same hours scheduled for the Conference’s “Priesthood” session, which is restricted to Mormon men.

 

Why did you launch ordainwomen.org?

Because women in the church give countless hours of service and still we are severely underutilized. The LDS Church is run by a lay clergy—all men over the age of twelve are eligible for ordination; women are not. In seeking ordination, we seek a greater role in service to our faith. Our movement is an act of faith in the Mormon Church—our leaders, our community—that the institution can be more inclusive.

Tell me about the website.

We launched Ordainwomen.org because we wanted to foster a more open, personal conversation about ordination and create a safe space where Mormon women can share why they are in favor of it.

And the reaction?

Overwhelmingly positive.  And we’ve received many more profiles. Like from Sharyl, who serves in the stake Relief Society (women’s auxiliary) Presidency. Her profile is beautiful. It speaks to her role as a mother and her leadership role in her community.  It also encourages us to imagine a different future for the LDS Church: “Imagine a Church where your beloved grandmother is your stake president.”  

David is a currently serving bishop who in his profile says he sees within his own ward a void where women are not active in leadership roles. He wants to inspire others to be brave and speak out.

Ordination is a deeply charged issue—some have called it the third rail of Mormon feminism. Why?

We are a faith that firmly and enthusiastically believes in restoration—the idea that lost knowledge and practices can be restored. At Ordain Women, we believe that Joseph Smith himself viewed women as priesthood holders in the early LDS Church. We want women to be restored as priesthood holders. To some people, this is a new concept—but we see it as part of the restoration of all things.

The response from LDS Church spokespeople has been that “equality” of the sexes is church doctrine but that the Church’s practice of ordination follows the model of Jesus in the early Christian church.

We completely agree with the Church that “all are alike unto God,” as the Book of Mormon states. We are enthusiastic that LDS spokespeople have indicated that “equality is the doctrine of the Church.” If the Church is modeled after the original Church, it’s important to remember that Christ was radically inclusive of women for his times—even women who were outcast in society. Women who were seen as sinners, radicals, and outcasts, he included. We would like to follow in that Christ-like example of inclusion of women.

What’s ahead for the ordain women movement?

On Saturday, April 6, at 6 p.m. , we will meet at the University of Utah Student Union building, during the priesthood session of the LDS Church’s worldwide General Conference—a session which we are not permitted to attend. We will meet each up, introduce ourselves and the movement, offer women’s ordination 101 on the history of women’s ordination in the LDS Church, and hold breakout sessions to get individual thoughts on ordination and how we can move forward as a group.

askmormongirl@gmail.com'

Joanna Brooks is the author of The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith (Free Press / Simon & Schuster, 2012) and a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches.