SALT LAKE CITY -- As conference weekend approaches, the LDS Church has issued a statement in response to a feminist women's group's push for women to receive the priesthood.
The group calling itself Ordain Women launched a website, Ordainwomen.org, and a Facebook page of the same name on the March 17 anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society.
Many members of the group have been involved in other efforts to obtain what they see as certain equality between men and women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women movement, is visiting Utah for General Conference from her home in Washington, D.C., and plans for her group to hold a "launch event" at the University of Utah campus at 6 p.m. Saturday, the same time as the annual priesthood session of conference.
Jessica Moody, spokeswoman for the LDS Church, said Jesus Christ ordained men to the priesthood originally.
"The practice of ordaining men to the priesthood was established by Jesus Christ himself and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth," Moody said in a statement released Tuesday.
Kelly knows this to be true.
"We believe in revelation, and we know change comes through revelation," she said in a phone interview Wednesday night.
Her group was formed to show unity in the cause and to petition the Lord for the change, she said.
She pointed out that, when Jesus Christ established the priesthood, it was not for all males. That change came in 1978, when all worthy males could receive the priesthood. She and others in her group think that maybe a change could come for all worthy church members, including women, to receive the priesthood.
Moody said there is nothing in the scriptures that suggests that to be a man rather than a woman is preferred in the sight of God or that God places a higher value on sons than on daughters.
"The worth of a human soul is not defined by a set of duties or responsibilities. In God's plan for His children, both women and men have the same access to the guidance of His spirit, to personal revelation, faith and repentance, to grace and the atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, and are received equally as they approach Him in prayer."
Kelly said she feels that women are sometimes marginalized in the LDS Church and that having the priesthood would help women feel valued and equal in the church.
Other women's groups have also taken stands in recent months -- some scheduling a special "wear pants to church day" in December and another group that petitioned church leaders to allow women to pray during the 183rd annual General Conference.
A few weeks ago, the LDS Church issued a statement regarding women praying in church.
"Decisions on speakers and prayers at General Conference were made many weeks ago, and assignments were given to the men and women involved. Customarily, details of the conference programs are not announced until General Conference," said Scott Trotter, church spokesman.
While not involved directly with that group, Kelly said she, along with many other women, did send a letter to church leaders asking to receive the priesthood and to able to pray in General Conference, among other requests.
Kelly is not expecting church leaders to announce in conference this weekend that women will receive the priesthood, but hopes her petitions, along with those of many other women, will be heard.
"I would be pleasantly shocked, but we are in it for the long haul," she said of the push for women to receive the priesthood.
She has not spoken directly with any General Authorities on the issue because, she said, there really isn't a direct line to do so, which is why her group is using social media and the Internet to get the word out about its cause.
She has spoken with her LDS bishop and some of her other local leaders about her desires, and her cause has been met with respect, she said.
Male and female church leaders have addressed gender roles recently. The April edition of Ensign, a magazine published by the LDS Church, has an article, "Equal Partnership in Marriage," in which authors Valerie Hudson and Richard Miller state, "Latter-day Saint theology teaches that gender difference does not superimpose a hierarchy between men and women: one gender does not have greater eternal possibilities than the other."
Kelly has faith that her petitions will be heard at some point. For more information on the Saturday night gathering for Ordain Women, visit the website ordainwomen.org or the Facebook page, Ordain Women.