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Going Local: Ordain Women Changes Priesthood Session Attendance Tactic

Ordain Women leaders
Ordain Women members are planning to attend the male-only priesthood session of LDS General Conference at local meeting houses Oct. 4.

General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is scheduled to take place this weekend. Ordain Women announced Sept. 17 that, as with the two previous conferences, they will attempt to attend the male-only general priesthood session, but will use a different tactic to obtain entrance.

They plan to attend the broadcast of the Saturday session at local meeting houses instead of trying to get in to the live session in Salt Lake City.

Debra Jenson, chair of communications on the executive board of Ordain Women, said the group is following advice of church representatives.

“Church spokespeople and representatives of the church have said repeatedly that this is something that should be discussed at the local level, so we are encouraging women and male allies to attend locally,” Jenson said. 

Jenson said Ordain Women has regional coordinators preparing to facilitate the gatherings. She said they have established specific buildings to visit based on demand and comfort for attendees.  

Jenson said the group never intended to cause a commotion with their efforts.

“When we started planning the request to go to the priesthood session in October of 2013 we genuinely thought we would be admitted. We genuinely thought that the church would say, ‘Okay come on in’,” Jenson said. “It was not designed to be a media event and we never conceived of ourselves as the group that tries to get into the priesthood session, but that’s kind of what we’ve become. That’s what we’ve been in the news for and I think that’s so interesting because it’s really a very, very small part of what we do.”

“I think it’s newsworthy because it was people putting their bodies physically out there saying, ‘I believe in this, I desire this thing,’ and it was women doing that, which is unique in a lot of ways,” Jenson said. 

Ordain Women announced in January that the April 2014 conference would be the last time the group would try to gain admission to the priesthood session at the conference center.

“We are at our core faithful members, women of faith who don’t want to be seen as constantly making a media event out of conference, and because our sincere desire is to attend the session as we see ourselves as prospective priesthood holders,” Jenson said. 

The Ordain Women organization was founded in March 2013 by Mormon feminists interested in the question of women receiving the priesthood. However, Jenson said the movement in favor of female ordination is decades old.

“It is not doctrine. Church spokespeople have said it’s not doctrine; you really can’t find it anywhere in the scriptures,” Jenson said. “Since Jesus Christ first ordained disciples the priesthood has expanded and has moved outward to new populations. This idea that it’s doctrine has not been shared by representatives of the church and we also would look to the ninth Article of Faith that states very clearly that we believe that God has yet to reveal many things, and we pray that this is one of the many things He has yet to reveal.” 

The Ordain Women website has grown to house more than 500 profiles since its launch, according to Jenson.

Many in opposition to the group’s decision question why Ordain Women members do not tune in to an online broadcast of the session, available for anyone to view.

“I can watch it online, I can watch it at home, but there’s something about gathering together and hearing that message, if there wasn’t we wouldn’t broadcast it to local buildings, we would just say everybody watch it at home or read the messages in the Ensign when it comes out,” Jenson said. 

Jenson said members of the organization hope this is only the beginning of the ordination conversation.