The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refused on Monday to allow a group pushing for Mormon women to be eligible for the priesthood to demonstrate during its semiannual General Conference next month.
The Associated Press reported that the church barred Ordain Women from entering Temple Square or the conference itself during the event, held in Salt Lake City. The group was also denied tickets to the conference, which is exclusively attended by male members. The church’s letter said Ordain Women may assemble in “free speech zones” set up outside the conference.
LDS church spokesperson Jessica Moody said in a statement directly addressing Ordain Women that a “very large majority” of Mormon women do not support the group’s goal.
“Declaring such an objective to be non-negotiable, as you have done, actually detracts from the helpful discussions that leaders have held as they seek to listen to the thoughts, concerns, and hopes of women inside and outside of church leadership,” the statement read in part. “Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for his church.”
Women in the church are currently not allowed to lead congregations and are not eligible for membership in the church’s top leadership group, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ordain Women said on its website that it “believes women must be ordained in order for our faith to reflect the equity and expansiveness of [church] teachings.”
Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly told the AP that she considered the letter a sign that the church was willing to discuss the issue, but took issue with her organization being asked to gather with non-church members she said are trying to “destroy” the church. The “free-speech zones” typically host protesters.
“If we are excluded from even walking on hallowed ground and the Temple, it will be very, very, very devastating to a lot of women who feel so excluded and so marginalized,” Kelly was quoted as saying. “It’s highly unlikely that it will happen, but if does, we’re going to continue and we’re going to keep knocking.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that news cameras have been barred from filming from the square during the event, with coverage limited to outlets affiliated with the church. News crews were present in October 2013, when Kelly and a group of more than 100 women were denied entry to the event after approaching the Tabernacle door asking for stand-by tickets.
“We faithfully, responsibly and quietly gathered and asked to go in, wanting to demonstrate to the Lord that we are ready for the priesthood,” Kelly told the Tribune. “We are going to go there again.”
[Image via Ordain Women Facebook page]