Ordain Women speak out at Sunstone Symposium

Thursday , August 07, 2014 - 6:05 PM

Standard-Examiner corresponent

SALT LAKE CITY – A full room of women and a few men clapped and cheered as representatives from Ordain Women spoke about their plight to be ordained to the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Sunstone Symposium last weekend.

Members of the group say they are gaining members and the LDS church is losing them.

The Ordain Women panel was a popular one at the three-day symposium where the presenters talked about where things stand now that Kate Kelly, a co-founder of the group, has been excommunicated.

The group has a notable online presence with several profiles posted of women and their stories of why they want the Priesthood, which only men hold in the LDS church. The group has been begging the LDS church for women to be ordained in an organized fashion for about a year.

Kelly was excommunicated on grounds of apostasy and affiliating with a group that opposes church doctrine in June. Nancy Ross, who chairs Ordain Women’s social media committee, told the group that people are stopping going to church in high numbers since Kelly’s excommunication.

In July 2013, Ross conducted one of her first online polls. Of the 1,862 polled, only two referenced resignation. In July of this year, Ross did another poll and among 521 polled, 27 referenced resignations – three of them men, one transgendered and 23 women and of those 11 were seriously considering it and five had already resigned their memberships.

The informal poll also showed that those involved with Ordain Women who attend church aren’t going as much since the Kelly decision. The poll showed a 16 percent decrease for women and a 12 percent decrease for men.

This information is bothersome for Ross. She wants those involved with the group to have a place to express frustration and to remain active, but she and others on the panel admitted it can be tough. “The idea of reduction in activity rates is deeply distressing, but we in the female community can only absorb so much,” Ross said. At that, the room erupted in claps and cheers.

A big part of the Ordain Women website is the profile section where those affiliated with the group post their “stories” as to why they want the Priesthood or want the church to let women be ordained to the Priesthood. Last year, there were 200 profiles and as of July the group almost has 500. So Ross and other panelists said the online awareness is huge and that could be a key difference in the women’s movement this time around compared to decades past when women activity engaged in asking for the Priesthood.

“The church is wrestling with this, trying to frame it differently without making a change,” Ross said. She hopes that by next year’s symposium things will change and the discussion will be different.

Chelsea Strayer, the chairwoman of Ordain Women’s volunteer and recruitment committee, said the women who are seeking the Priesthood is not insubordinate. “But it is commanding self-respect,” she said.

She went on to say that what Ordain Women is doing is not radical and those that think so misunderstand history. She then recounted the church’s history where women continually stood up for different causes. “What we’re doing is not radical, it’s revolutionary,” she said.

The women on the panel were asked if any of them had a “breaking point” where they would leave the church or feel they would face excommunication. All five on the panel said in different ways that is not what they wanted, but there could be some things that would be too much for them.

Several spoke of mistreatment by those in their congregations and mistreatment of their children. “I will go as long as my children can handle it,” said Debra Jenson, who is the chairwoman of Ordain Women’s social media committee. She admits that she loved going to church, cleaning the church and talked of her testimony.

“I will go in my pants as long as I can,” she said as everyone laughed.

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