A Discarded Draft

March 19, 2014 | 61 comments
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The following draft of a letter was discovered in the waste paper basket at the Church Public Affairs Office:*

Dear Sister Kelly,

We have received your request for a ticket to attend the Priesthood Session of April General Conference. The purpose of this session is to provide instruction from Church leaders specifically for men and boys. Each year the Church receives more requests for tickets from men and boys than it can accommodate. Accordingly, your request for tickets is refused. We appreciate your desire to hear from Church leaders, however, and invite you to watch the live broadcast of the meeting and the other sessions of General Conference.

We welcome your interest in finding ways that the Church can better serve its female members. God loves and values all of his children, and the Church is always eager to find additional ways of advancing His work. By divine revelation, the priesthood is conferred only on men. The leaders of the Church lack the authority to change this doctrine and practice.

You are welcome on Temple Square to worship with the Saints as part of General Conference. However, Temple Square is not an appropriate forum for media events aimed at criticizing Church doctrine and practice. Accordingly, we ask that you not invite members of the media onto Temple Square for any events that you might wish to organize. We also ask that you not organize any other public protest on Temple Square. You are, of course, free to express your opinions to the media about the Church and your desire that women be ordained to the priesthood. We ask, however, that you do so on public property. In order to maintain the character of Temple Square and General Conference, the Church will insist that such events not be held on Church property.

We appreciate the chance to communicate with you on this topic and pray for the Lord’s blessings on you and your family.

Sincerely,

Church Public Affairs

The Church issued a somewhat lengthier statement instead.

*Actually it wasn’t.

61 Responses to A Discarded Draft

  1. whizzbang on March 19, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Being a janitor in the COB would be the greatest job without having to attend all those meetings!

  2. Katie on March 19, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    If the church was smart, they would outsource all future letters to you in a heartbeat. Would it have been so hard to send a letter like this???

  3. Frank Pellett on March 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    The response to this letter wouldn’t be much better, as OW continually states that they are not a “protest”. Just women expressing a desire to attend Priesthood session.

  4. Clean Cut on March 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Well, that would have been and improvement, but I have yet to see this “divine revelation”, and the Public Affairs department should probably read “This is my doctrine” before they say doctrine cannot be changed.

  5. Cynthia L. on March 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    “God loves and values all of his children, and the Church is always eager to find additional ways of advancing His work.”

    Our Heavenly Parents love and value all of *Their children, and the Church is always eager to find additional ways of advancing *Their work.

    Fixed it for you.

  6. Nate on March 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    The letter doesn’t say that the doctrine or practice couldn’t change. It says church leaders lack the authority to change it.

  7. thor on March 19, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    So your draft was rejected because it leaves the door to some future revelation open, whereas the Church’s released statement shuts the door pretty hard on any future possibility of revelation in this area, no?

    Ironic, given the official statement’s condemnation of declaring “an object to be non-negotiable”.

    Still, for better or worse, the House of Israel historically seems to get what it prays for. And often those prayers are motivated by a desire to be seen as “up to speed with the times”. Theologically keeping up with the Joneses.

  8. guest/host on March 19, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Would it have been a better strategy if the Church had simply set aside a certain number of seats in the conference center (100? 200?) for women who wanted to attend, not as prospective priesthood holders, but as observers or official guests? These might include family members of those who were speaking, or media representatives, or churchwide auxiliary leaders, or just interested female members. A few women among 21,000 men would hardly be noticeable and wouldn’t affect the dynamics of the meeting at all. They could even have segregated them into a distinct section. But the important thing is that with at least some women in the hall, the basic issue would have been diffused, and the Church could still control the numbers.

    It’s one thing to say “The tickets for women have already been allocated, sorry” and another to say “Faithful LDS women are completely excluded from this meeting” (“but go ahead and tune-in online or read the talks in the Ensign next month”; it’s not like anything secret happens in a priesthood session, which are, after all, open to non-member men and boys).

  9. rah on March 19, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Also strange because the reason that can not attend is not lack of seats. I could buy that maybe they receive more requests for PH session than there are seats with TONS of no shows (people are well intentioned and lazy like that), but there is plenty of room in the building and overflow.

    Also, the church has made it very clear that they refuse to communicate on this topic with anyone representing OW. They won’t meet with official representatives of the group (wisely or not). So that part has to come out.

    Also I am curious about the sentence “By divine, revelation the priesthood is only conferred on men”. Which revelation says that men only are to receive the priesthood now and forever? I know so many TBM, orthodox women who fully believe they have been conferred some measure of the priesthood through the endowment. Are they wrong? They are clothed after all in the garment of the holy priesthood.

  10. rah on March 19, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    Though I will say your letter is an improvement over what went out in some respects.

  11. Cameron N. on March 19, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    This is a nice, more gentle letter, but I’m not sure how much difference would it make.

    How many times does something need to be gently reiterated in general conference? A year ago the talk count was about 3. Six months ago it was about a dozen. Perhaps, as suggested, more progress would be made, and faster, if things were approached differently.

    Was a proclamation on blacks not having the priesthood read at general conference in 1958 and cited as inspired canon up until the revelation announcement?

  12. Cynthia L. on March 19, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Cameron, there is nothing in the Proclamation on the Family about women not having the priesthood. Nothing even hinting or close.

  13. mtnmarty on March 20, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Is there anyone that disagrees that male only priesthood sessions and priesthood are practices of the LDS church? Is there anyone that disagrees that ordain women teaches an opposition to that practice?

    How then can anyone affiliate with ordain women and still answer “No” to the temple recommend question about groups opposed to LDS teachings and practices?

  14. Carl Youngblood on March 20, 2014 at 1:55 am

    Nate, I think the word “demonstration” would be better than “protest.” I also think that the claim that they don’t have room is clearly false, since they rarely ever fill all the seats at the priesthood session.

  15. Matt on March 20, 2014 at 5:42 am

    The point of this suggested draft is to edit out the elements of shaming and manipulation that appeared in the actual letter. Nate is simply showing how easy it would have been for the Church to respond to the request without the commentary on the OW Movement itself.

    It’s definitely an improvement. Well done!

  16. Exponent II April on March 20, 2014 at 6:20 am

    Thank you, Nate. While this letter does have some flaws, as others have mentioned, it demonstrates that it was unnecessary for the Church Newsroom to respond to our polite request with such harsh tones, thus setting an example for church members everywhere. The actual letter sent and publicized by the Newsroom has been taken by many Mormons as permission by the church for people to come verbally spit at Ordain Women participants, as anyone who visits our Facebook page can see.

    As one of the four women to whom the original letter was addressed, I would add another suggestion to the Newsroom about courteous correspondence. I am not okay with the fact that a letter addressed to me, with my name across the top, was published in the Deseret News before I even received it.

    I think the harsh tone of the letter demonstrates that church leadership does not know us or understand us. This is not surprising, since they have ignored other letters we have sent requesting private meetings with church leaders.

  17. Nate on March 20, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Carl: I don’t live in Utah so I may be mistaken but my understanding is that the session isn’t filled at the beginning but all available seats are eventually occupied until of course the early rush to beat the traffic. FWIW, I think there are perfectly legitimate reasons for single sex meetings, and while I would have no problem with OW folks sitting in the conference center during such meetings, I think efforts to integrate such meetings or attack their legitimacy are mistaken.

  18. Anonymous on March 20, 2014 at 7:54 am

    So what will be the reason given for men being able to attend the upcoming general women’s meeting? I believe that the instruction is meant specifically for women and girls, is it not?

  19. J1254 on March 20, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Exponent II April : Many of us feel that it is the OW organization that has demonstrated the “harsh tone” by determining to use the tactics of secular political activism to chance a private, religious organization we believe is led by God. The OW movement sets a “harsh tone” is set by choosing to make a scene at a General Conference session in order to garner cheap media attention. The OW movement has set a “harsh tone” by taking actions and making statements designed to put the Church on the defensive in the media. If anything, the Church’s response to the tone set by the OW movement the past year has been moderate and concilatory — not “harsh”. If OW desires a change of tone, perhaps it needs to look inward first and change its own tactics and manner of discourse.

  20. J Town on March 20, 2014 at 8:19 am

    I just don’t understand how the posted response by the church can be construed as an invitation to “verbally spit” at anyone. I don’t see how people in the church could condone such behavior. There is no need for hatefulness, even if we disagree. However, I do know that everyone (myself included) is predisposed to read into any written communication that which they either want to see or are afraid of seeing. I think too much is being read into this letter. I will say that I agree that it would have been better not to put the names of the recipients of the letter out on the web without consent. That was poorly done.

  21. Bethany on March 20, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Why don’t they just set up a Q&A with a member of the Relief Society Presidency and a general authority? That seems like the best way to calm the waters. Or even just say, “The leaders of the church care about these issues and have made them a matter of discussion and prayer. Please be patient and pray for them as they seek the will of God as they make decisions for the church.” That probably wouldn’t be enough for some people, but it would give me a greater sense of peace and hope that my concerns were shared by my leaders. I don’t understand the reactions that they have made so far. All it has done is give ammunition to both sides.

  22. Nate Oman on March 20, 2014 at 9:32 am

    rah and April: I have to admit that I am confused by the claims I have seen OW folks making. Sometimes it sounds as though they believe that the current practice represents a revealed and authoritative order, but are asking for the prophet to seek a new revelation. Sometimes, it sounds as though they believe that the current practice represents a theological mistake and a misunderstanding of current revelation. On this second understanding, a revelation might be a practical necessity to convince the mistaken old men in the hierarchy, but is not strictly speaking a theologically necessity. Obviously there can be disagreement about this within the group. My guess is that the first approach is seen as being more politically palatable and rhetorically powerful within Mormonism, as it doesn’t imply sharp a criticism of the prophet and apostles while the second approach is actually closer to what folks believe, but I don’t have a particularly good sense on this.

  23. Old Man on March 20, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I don’t think that faithful LDS women should be disheartened. A radical political/cultural trend, as exemplified by the OW movement, is being rebuffed. It gained strength from members who have serious questions and concerns about gender within the context of our faith. But there is a parallel trend that is extraordinarily positive. This trend is being led by revelation, not demonstrations. For my daughter, I see a future in which women are more fully utilized in the kingdom. I see diminishing amounts of sexism in the Church. I hope for revelations concerning gender roles in the eternities. Hang on! It is going to be a fun ride. And you don’t have to demonstrate for it. You just have to serve faithfully in your local units and pray for it.

  24. Carl Youngblood on March 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

    “FWIW, I think there are perfectly legitimate reasons for single sex meetings, and while I would have no problem with OW folks sitting in the conference center during such meetings, I think efforts to integrate such meetings or attack their legitimacy are mistaken.”

    Nate, that is outside the scope of my comment. I’m just saying that the priesthood session usually is not full. You can also see this by looking at the audience shots during the session. So it probably would be best not to make that claim. Not a huge deal, just a comment.

  25. Exponent II April on March 20, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Nate, Ordain Women does not have an official position on the reason for the current priesthood ban against women. You have probably heard different theories from different Ordain Women supporters because they have different personal opinions on the matter.

  26. Nate Oman on March 20, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Carl: The final comment wasn’t a response to what you wrote. I honestly don’t know if priesthood session fills up or not. I’ve never attended a priesthood session of conference at Temple Square. I am going off of what I’ve been told by folks in SLC, namely that eventually it fills before it then empties.

  27. Nate Oman on March 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

    April: That’s what I figured. I am just trying to figure out something like the opinion of the median member and the rhetorical politics.

  28. Scott R on March 20, 2014 at 10:55 am

    From a patriarchal perspective here is a glimpse of how current leadership perceives heaven. “Everyone knows that our Divine Mother is really busy and she cannot accept calls from her children at this time. She has tried to write scriptures a few times but since Father was a lawyer while in mortality eons ago he always critiques her writing and points out better ways of expression, so she’s given up on that. She recalls being ordained a priestess many years ago, but she was never told what she could actually do with the honorary title, so she devotes most of her time to gardening and let’s father and his boys do all the governance, answers to prayers, revelation, and all that.”

  29. thor on March 20, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Scott R: i disagree with your characterization and challenge your competency to characterize what “current leadership” perceives.

  30. Martin on March 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I was at the last PH conference session, and it appeared that there were enough empty seats to accommodate the women who showed up to protest. However, without specific seat assignments, I think it is difficult to completely fill the venue without it being disruptive to the proceedings. It was pretty full.

    April, I don’t think you should be surprised that the letter addressed to you was shown publicly first. OW sponsors protests against church practice and hold press conferences. The purpose of a protest is to separate “us” and “them”, shame “them” in front of a third party in order to effect change and to rally support, and to force sympathizers to realize they’re either “with us or against us”. It’s a divisive and confrontational approach regardless whether you’re playing the aggrieved victim or the I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore rebel, and it should only be resorted to if there is no other way. Clearly, OW feels that is the case, and that makes the church and OW opponents. You put yourself down as an officer or organizer of OW, so you’re the public face of the opponent.

    I think it’s disingenuous of OW leaders to suggest that what they want is peace, love, and understanding. Yes, you’d feel much better if Nate’s letter had been used, but whatever good feelings it gave you wouldn’t satisfy you at all, Nor would sincere commiseration on the part of your ward members. What OW wants is change. Change up to and including ordination of women. It’s not negotiable. The church realized that, acknowledged it up front, and is preparing for whatever OW does next, which is presumably to escalate.

    I’m afraid that many involved in OW really do see themselves simply as aggrieved supplicants, but protests (however mild), civil disobedience, and utilizing public media, place them in opposition to the church. If you believe your cause is just and your means justifiable, then carry on. But don’t be surprised when the friction hurts both sides. I just can’t see the church moving fast enough (never mind far enough) to satisfy OW, and I’m afraid there are going to be a lot of wounded hearts. So April, don’t be surprised if yours in one of them.

  31. Josh Smith on March 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Or …

    Here are two dozen tickets for you and your friends. A few guests and I will be gathering for homemade donuts afterwards. If you’d like to come for donuts, please bring your favorite topping.

    Hope to see you soon,

    Elder Nelson

  32. Scott R. on March 20, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    thor: your disagreement is noted. A few questions: 1) have you ever tried to send an email to someone after they have blocked your IP address? We have a theology of heavenly parents, and doctrine affirming sociality coupled with eternal glory in the afterlife, and yet cannot send messages, texts, or place phone calls with our Divine mother? 2) Name the scriptures other than Mosiah 8:20 “she should rule”, or proverbs 8, which acknowledge divine mother or her authorship? 3) we know the duties of a deacon, teacher, priest, and elder. Name the duties of an endowed lds priestess – and the section in the D&Cov affirming these duties and responsibilities. 4) Every local stake is governed D&Cov sec 102, exclusively by a PEC council of 17 men. At the general leadership level, Sister Chieko Okazaki had been working for months on the curriculum for the relief society, when she was suddenly approached that leadership was moving forward with a new teaching curriculum of the teachings of the presidents of the church. She was not consulted on this, forewarned on this change, or given the opportunity to advise and it annoyed her. Name a conference talk where Christ or Elohim’s wife had an opportunity to answer a prayer from us – their created children?

  33. christiankimball on March 20, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    The discarded draft is a significant improvement, taken as a better way to say the same thing (as opposed to changing substance). However, I think both the Church Public Affairs letter AND the discarded draft have a common problem in trying to give a reason.
    The Public Affairs letter says:
    “The priesthood session of General Conference is designed to strengthen men and boys as they receive specific instruction about their roles and responsibilities; therefore we are unable to fulfill your request for tickets.”
    But “therefore” does not follow. In order for “strengthen men and boys” to be a reason to exclude women, one would have to infer an additional “and might damage women and girls.” But I doubt anybody actually believes that; certainly not based on actual experience with a priesthood session, which is available by live broadcast, online, and in print for all to hear and read anyway.
    The discarded draft say:
    “Each year the Church receives more requests for tickets from men and boys than it can accommodate. Accordingly, your request for tickets is refused.”
    But “accordingly” does not follow. I’m unclear whether the session always/sometimes/never fills up completely, but there is some consistency in the telling that the session does not fill up with ticket holders and there is a standby line that is more or less included as space allows. My understanding is that the OW group stood in that line and were excluded not because of tickets, not because of space, but because they are women.
    An explanation that is euphemistic (at best) leads to speculation that usually goes badly. Like it or not, I think the explanation ought to begin and end with the only simple truth that is available: “because you are not men”.

  34. mtnmarty on March 20, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    I think it is important that the letter actually sent states that ordaining women is contrary to doctrine.

    Creating an organization in an attempt to influence the direction of church doctrine is a schism. Schisms are extremely significant and costly events for a religious tradition regardless of the nature of the doctrine involved.

    I also find it significant that the letter says that activist events detract from the sacred environment and spiritual harmony of general conference.

    I would prefer even plainer speech but I find the letter as sent to be preferable to the draft posted. This is not likely to end well.

  35. Nate Oman on March 21, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Christian: I don’t see any inconsistency between the fact that there is a standby line and the claim that that admittance to the OW folks was refused so that men and boys would be able to attend. It may simply not be the case that the sessions are completely full, but the existence of the standby line is neither here nor there on that issue. I’ve never been and don’t know if they fill up in the end. I am told that they do in the end.

    I think that it makes sense to exclude women from the meeting if doing so allows a man to attend who otherwise would not be able to attend. (I don’t think that there is anything pernicious about having a meeting for men and I think that the character of the meeting changes if large numbers of women attend.) I can also understand the idea that admittance would be denied when the purpose of getting into the meeting is to create a public even criticizing Church doctrine and practice. It doesn’t seem unreasonable for the Church to object to its meetings being used in such a way, including by members.

    That said, I think it would have been wiser to simply admit the OW folks without any fuss at all and made sure that televisions crews were excluded from Temple Square. “Mormon women attend long boring meeting on home teaching” isn’t much of a story, and such an approach would have avoided pain for some and made it more difficult for those who were going to try to generate a media event regardless.

  36. christiankimball on March 21, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Nate: My point is very simple. Excluding women is not really about tickets, not really about space, not really about gender specific content. Press any of those explanations and they fail. Excluding women is about being not men. It is blatant sexism, i.e., a privilege or opportunity based solely on gender. You argue it is warranted in this case. I’d take the other side (and not dispassionately) while acknowledging that there is some force to your argument. I just think we should start with the obvious and not try to pretty it up or suggest or pretend there is another reason.

    Changing topic slightly, it strikes me that a point of difficulty, one might even say intransigence, is that Church practices that (appear?) sexist are, in my opinion, almost all about building up men–teaching, training, encouraging, promoting–men. While there will always be outliers, I don’t believe there is any concerted conscious intent to put down or disparage women. Of course you can’t select for men without having the effect of selecting against women, but we move quickly into a debate about intent vs effect, which is a non-trivial discussion in any setting.

  37. Martin James on March 21, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Christian,

    I agree with you about it not being about the capacity. I don’t agree that it’s only about sexism. It’s also about who is hosting and who is a guest. It’s about power and it’s about manners.

    Power often tries to disguise itself and Nate is recommending measures to disguise power. Why should the church not want publicity about gender roles? Why should it want to avoid showing that it is not a democratic organization subject to democratic standards of equality?

    Dissembling makes no sense and leads to accusations of rationalization and defensiveness. Always attack, never defend.

  38. rah on March 21, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Martin,

    My understanding is that the OW women leaders have gone out of their way to ask church leaders well in advance for things like tickets and have assiduously informed the church in writing and through private correspondence well in advance of everything they have done. They have specifically tried not to “surprise” the church in any way nor intend to do so. It is part of the (sincere I believe) self-presentation as being faithful members of the church. They have done what they said they were going to do and nothing more. If the church was serious in asking the organization to politely reconsider their actions wouldn’t have been better for them to first correspond with the leaders in private, give them time to deliberate and not up the ante by making it public from the get go. Doing that way is definitely a pure display of power. Some people might think this is the proper response. From a pure, PR perspective I think it is a questionable decision.

    From my outsider perspective (I am not an OW member or leader or anything though I generally support the view that a fair reading of Mormonism generally supports women’s ordination and that institutionally we can never achieve the value of equality we profess with out it) I find that it is the COB here that has slipped on decorum more than OW. I actually don’t feel any particularly ill-will about it. I just keep being surprised at what seem to be competence based slip ups in the church response. I think whoever is giving the church advice on this should be worried about their job.

    What is even more surprising to me is that OW had informed them apparently that this was the last time they were going to ask for admittance in this way. It wasn’t like there was a plan to keep going. So the clear alternative here would be to suck it up and just take the bad visual of denying women one last time. Maybe you really enforce the policy of not allowing media on the grounds this time to try and bar coverage but even that seems risking giving more press than they want. But instead they come out with the weirdly harsh letter.

    In any case it has helped keep the bloggernacle traffic rocking.

  39. Martin James on March 21, 2014 at 9:27 am

    rah said “I generally support the view that a fair reading of Mormonism generally supports women’s ordination and that institutionally we can never achieve the value of equality we profess with out it.”

    I have no idea what a “fair reading of Mormonism” is but a fair reading of the letter seems to show that the the LDS church does not support the ordination of women.

    This is way beyond what the media thinks. This is a serious fight for the hearts and minds of 12 year old boys and girls in the church. If the church doesn’t plan on ordaining women in the near future, and I see little evidence that it does, then it needs to leave no doubt about the matter for those inside and outside the church and it needs to let those inside the church know that organizing to advocate for ordaining women is opposing church doctrine and church leadership.

    Anything less is following not leading.

  40. christiankimball on March 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

    It occurs to me that some might resist my “blatant sexism” point because it sounds bad, but in a more nuanced way because we tend to think that labelled sexism both assigns and heightens the burden of proof (onto those who would discriminate). I do not think that is a necessary conclusion for Church action, but I do think it raises questions that need to be grappled with. Is just any reason good enough? Do we seek something more persuasive? Is “we said so” good enough? Or, harking to U.S. legal approaches, should we talk about a rational basis or strict scrutiny?

  41. Old Man on March 21, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Christian,
    Why do you need something more persuasive? I seriously doubt that the letter in question wasn’t reviewed by the First Presidency. if Church leaders are “prophets, seers and revelators,” and have revelatory access to God, and they say “no,” (repeatedly, in my mind) or request an end to the demonstrations through their PR rep, the burden of a real test is now on the OW leaders. The OW supporters now have to figure out which path will demonstrate faith. They can either follow through with their threat to keep demanding and demonstrating. Or they can exhibit courtesy and adhere to the counsel in the letter.

  42. DQ on March 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    rah,
    ” Doing that way [public letter] is definitely a pure display of power.”

    Seriously? Hasn’t the OW group has been having press conferences to get their message out? This is not a private thing, they are privately asking, and publicly telling everyone about it time and time again. If I ask a private question of someone and then go announce to the entire world that I asked you a private question and I’m awaiting your answer, you certainly shouldn’t insist on the response being private.

    You don’t get the kind of coverage OW is getting in the press without working a lot of PR angles. Many companies would pay dearly for that kind of press. OW is manufacturing the controversy to get it for “free” to try to… do what exactly? Let everyone know? Or pressure church leadership? Generate grassroots pressure from within on the leadership?

    The whole purpose of this group strikes me as being genuinely disingenuous.

  43. Josh Smith on March 21, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    DQ (#42):


    The whole purpose of this group strikes me as being genuinely disingenuous.

    It depends on what the purpose of the group really is, no? About a month ago there was an interesting discussion about OW and its purpose. There are several purposes. Surprisingly, one of the main purposes is not the “ordination of women.” The main purpose of the group, as I understand it, is to give some women a voice. There are many (myself included) who see males receiving unearned advantages in the church while faithful women are denied those privileges. Maybe a friendly way to refer to it would be that our church has a wee bit of 19th-century baggage. OW is an organization to give women an opportunity to voice concerns about the 19th-century baggage.

    All those in favor of excluding OW (all 200 of them!) from a meeting house that seats 21,000, WHY? For the love, why? Pick up any history book of the U.S. and you’ll find that if people are excluded, it makes news. If people are included, there is no news. Regardless of your stance on the ordination of women or OW, why not let them sit in the seats?

    “Dear Ms. Kelly,

    Why of course you may join us in worship. Please don’t bring any signs or make a disturbance as this may affect the experience of others in attendance.

    Love, President Monson.”

  44. Cameron N on March 21, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    If people name the group ‘ordain women,’ it is pretty clear that you have a primary goal and what that goal is. Something more esoteric or less aggressive would have been more fruitful.

  45. Josh Smith on March 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Cameron N.

    I can certainly be persuaded otherwise, but I genuinely think OW is less concerned about the actual ordination of women than providing a platform for women to speak out about the treatment of women in the LDS faith.

    Again, I’m not an OW spokesman. It’s just my observation after a bit of back-and-forth on a blog about a month ago.

    If the point of the group is to give people a platform to discuss disparity in treatment, AND they are excluded from priesthood session …

  46. Suleiman on March 21, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    The Salt Lake Tribune just reported that the OW supporters will be wearing purple at the Women’s Meeting.

    My wife is ticked that they have now ruined her favorite color. Utah stores will not be able to sell purple dresses. Sister missionaries will have to send their purple attire home. OW spokespersons have stated that if they can’t have the priesthood, they intend to “take over the rainbow… one color at a time.” ;-)

  47. Ziff on March 21, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    OW can’t have the rainbow. Ordain Gays already claimed it.

  48. Cynthia L. on March 21, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    “(I don’t think that there is anything pernicious about having a meeting for men and I think that the character of the meeting changes if large numbers of women attend.)”

    Nate, I agree with you on this. It does disturb me that there doesn’t seem to be any complementary concern that women’s meeting has 3x as many male speakers (by ratio) as the general sessions of conference have female speakers. Not from you specifically, but just in general in the church.

  49. Nate Oman on March 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Chris: I think that “blatant sexism” is the wrong term because that necessarily implies invidious or pernicious discrimination. I don’t think that we are justified in assuming such is present simply because a gathering or event is aimed at men or women and steps are taken to maintain its character as a single-gender event. For more on why you are wrong, wrong, wrong, check out:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2013/10/men-women-and-priesthood-session/

    I also think that the analogy to constitutional law is mistaken. Constitutional law rests basically on liberal political assumptions about how the government should relate to its citizens. While I am a fan of political liberalism (small “l”), I think that it becomes destructive when it is extended to all areas of life as a kind of master norm of justice and right conduct. For more on why you are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong check out:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/03/why-equality-is-a-feeling/

    Cynthia: If the prevalence of male speakers at women’s meetings is one’s concern, wouldn’t those meetings make a better object of public demonstrations rather than priesthood session?

    Of course, I am assuming that OW’s concern is ultimately neither the exclusion of women from a men’s meeting or the character of women’s meetings. Rather it is to agitate for a change in Church doctrine and practice regarding the priesthood by putting themselves in the public eye, something that is best done by a telegenic moment of rejection in front of the Tabernacle. A good and sufficient reason for admitting them, in my book, if one’s desire is to minimize divisiveness around the issue. From a purely tactical point of view, in many ways this is playing out about as well as the OW folks could hope, existential pain notwithstanding.

  50. christiankimball on March 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Nate:
    “wrong” is a response in argument. Personally, I’d just move on; point made. But “wrong, wrong, wrong” is ad hominem. You know better (ad hominen back at you.) So I’m energized to respond. Because yes I know much of what you’ve written on this subject, and I disagree.

    The OW women have been harmed by blatant sexism. (If you read “blatant” as an extra pejorative I understand your reaction to the phrase. I mean “blatant” as the opposite of “subtle” and I think it is applicable.) They were excluded from a meeting solely on the basis of their gender and there’s nothing subtle about it.

    One can argue that they don’t count because they are small in number. I don’t accept that. The PR letter suggests that line. I don’t think you have done so.

    One can argue that they are not really harmed because a majority of Mormon women don’t care or don’t see any harm. I don’t accept that—there is real harm to those women who do want to attend, no matter how many others think differently. The PR letter suggests this line. I don’t think you have done so.

    One can argue that there is no real harm because this is the way the Church works. Or one might argue essentially the same point as “the harm is not cognizable”, or “so small as to not be worth addressing”, or “readily addressed by any rational reason for a single-gender meeting”. By my read you argue this in “Why Equality is a Feeling”. I disagree; that is, I see real harm at a level that we should pay attention to. But I recognize this as a serious argument.

    One can argue that there is no harm, or none that we should deal with, because the discrimination is not invidious or pernicious. I think that is an important argument, and I read you as making it in “Men Women and Priesthood Session”. Ultimately I disagree, I believe we should investigate and pay attention to EFFECT as much as INTENT. But I recognize this as a serious argument.

    One can argue that there is reason for a single-gender meeting. You have done so, and (putting aside a number of quibbles), I basically agree. But I reference U.S. legal and constitutional debate NOT to say that those standards apply, but to say that those questions should be asked. To put it another way, your arguments for value in a single-gender meeting come across as a rational basis argument. Whether intentional or not, it sounds like you have an underlying assumption about the level or standard to apply.

    So now, finally getting to my real point, I think it is completely reasonable to ask whether the values and benefits and advantages that are proffered as justification for gender specific discrimination are good enough. More bluntly, I agree with much of what you say AND I think it isn’t good enough.

  51. wondering on March 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Regarding Cynthia’s point, there are more differences than just the ratio of speakers.

    http://www.the-exponent.com/men-at-general-relief-society-meeting/

  52. Nate on March 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Christian: “Wrong, wrong, wrong” is not an ad hominem. It just means that I was responding to your argument while in a particularly cheerful and exuberant mood. Ad hominem is when I say we should ignore your argument because you’re a pinko liberal.

    One quibble:, I don’t know why you think that my “Equality is a Feeling” post means that I think that women are suffering some de minimis pain or harm. My point is that many many women are suffering real pain and alienation and this calls for a response, even if one does not agree that liberal standards of legitimacy should apply to the Church. My point in the post was to problematize liberal political theory, not pain. Pain I think is real and one should respond to it. I think that the pain of OW supporters calls forth a response. I think that the Church’s statement needlessly caused pain and should be criticized for that reason. Indeed, I think that just letting the OW folks into the meeting would have been the best response precisely because I don’t think doing so would have fundamentally changed the character of the meeting.

  53. Old Man on March 22, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Christian (#50):

    Let me see if I understand you.

    1. Anyone told “no, this meeting is not for you, it is for the opposite gender” suffers from the effects of blatant sexism.
    2. There is significant harm because OW supporters sincerely want to attend and are not allowed to attend.
    3. This effect is so severe that it overrides the intent of those producing and delivering the message.
    4. It is implied (perhaps I am wrong) that because of this effect, there is culpability on the part of Church leadership.

    My questions: Have I misunderstood your argument? Does your argument dismiss the responsibility of the individuals pressing to be admitted into the meeting to discern the intent of church leaders? Are we to deny limitations placed upon any demographic? What gender limits or groupings are appropriate? Is there any responsibility for members of a religious community to ascertain whether their actions are appropriate for the members of the community they are claiming to be part of?

  54. Martin James on March 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    It seems odd to say that a person is harmed by not being allowed to hear moral and political instruction from people who they disagree with morally and religiously.

    If sexism causes them pain and harm then shouldn’t we be trying to keep them away from the sexists?

  55. christiankimball on March 23, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Nate (#52): There are days when I might answer to “pinko liberal”. :-). But not many. Regarding “Equality is a Feeling” — got it and apologies for mischaracterizing. I do read with filters (like everybody?), but I still believe in authorial intent.

    Old Man (#53): Mostly no. I have not stated an affirmative position, nor would I subscribe to your (attempt at a) restatement. If you want a straw man position to argue about, that’s fine. And some of your questions deserve serious debate. (But not from me this early morning.) Just don’t put my name on it.

  56. Cynthia L. on March 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    “Cynthia: If the prevalence of male speakers at women’s meetings is one’s concern, wouldn’t those meetings make a better object of public demonstrations rather than priesthood session?”

    Nate, your response is confusing if serious or maybe just glib. I stated my concern–I am not a part of OW so my concern is not theirs nor vice versa. If “one” is me and not them, well, I do what I can by posting posts calling attention to this and again your response is confusing or glib or not well thought out to its implementation. Can you think of a way of making a “public demonstration” around the issue of not enough women speaking in the general sessions of conference that is as straightforward, non-disruptive (not counting media and response), and reverent as standing in line to get tickets? I just don’t see how one would do that. Although I think the insistence that it is not a “protest” is very unconvincing, just standing in line and asked to be let in at least follows normal process of events. No signs, no candles, no yelling, no doing anything that isn’t already a procedure others are doing. I don’t see how that would work for adding female speakers–would a woman just rush the podium and start speaking??

  57. Nate Oman on March 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I am being glib mainly because your point seemed tangential to the discussion. I dare you to run to the podium during general conference and just start speaking.

  58. Martin James on March 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Seems to work for fast and testimony meeting.

  59. Kristine A on March 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    I have an idea – change the name to “General Men’s Meeting” of the church. Most feminists don’t object to (true) gendered spaces. But the only qualifying factor for attendees to the meeting is their maleness. Nobody’s checking phood creds at the door. OW already said the only reason they attempt to attend this particular meeting is because it is for prospective and current priesthood holders.

    we don’t have an answer to the question “what is priestesshood” and there’s enough evidence out there that we don’t have the full truth and knowledge re: women and phood and what in sam hill females are even doing in the next life. (don’t even tell me having babies).

    I’m not a member of OW – but I don’t begrudge them asking. Everybody needs to realize, “yeah, we don’t have all the answers. let’s be open to the possibility that further light and knowledge may expand our understandings of how things currently are.” If OW is right and following promptings of the Spirit, they are justified. If they are wrong, nothing can stop the work – so who cares if they ask? Just chill and love each other.

  60. Samurai6 on March 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Mtnmarty #13, I don’t agree. And that question you are referring to is too broad to mean much. I have always responded with a number of exceptions relating to technically impermissible associations on my part including the NY Bar, my employer, local and federal government, members of my family etc. Not to mention with recent changes, the Boy Scouts of America to which I am called as assistant scoutmaster by the church itself. I know what is trying to be asked with this question but it makes very little sense anymore by its own terms.

    Perhaps I’m feeding the fire here but having just had my interview last week it’s been on my mind.

  61. Martin James on March 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Samurai6,

    “And that question you are referring to is too broad to mean much.”

    That is a very unfortunate thing. It is in very plain speech and potentially, it is a very, very powerful question.