SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of approximately 200 women advocating church leaders allow women to be ordained to the priesthood were barred from attending the male-only session of LDS General Conference on Saturday night.
Kate Kelly, organizer of Ordain Women, led a line of women to the entrance to the church's Tabernacle on Temple Square where males without tickets to the session across the street were allowed to view the conference on standby. Kelly and the group were told to stand aside, while males were allowed into the standby seating. Even women hoping to see the inside of the Tabernacle, prior to the beginning of the meeting, were shuffled to the side and asked to look inside from windows next to the entrance to the Tabernacle.
"We hope church leaders will receive our message," Kelly told the usher outside the Tabernacle. Kelly described the women as faithful Latter-day Saints who want the responsibility associated with holding the faith's priesthood.
"We want the blessing and responsibilities of the priesthood," she said.
Asked by the Standard-Examiner if she worried about the status of her membership, in staging the protest, Kelly said she did not. She said she understands any change in who can receive the priesthood requires a change in doctrine, not just policy, but said she hoped the presence of the women Saturday night would compel church leaders to make the issue a matter of prayer. The last major doctrinal change involving the priesthood came in 1978, when church leaders announced a revelation, making the priesthood available to all worthy males 12 years of age or older, regardless of color. Blacks previously were excluded from the priesthood.
Kelly described herself as a faithful member who serves in an LDS congregation in suburban Washington, D.C., as a chorister.
Ruth Todd, spokeswoman for the LDS Church, greeted the women on Temple Square. She told them that a special conference session had been held last week for women, and the session on Saturday night was for men.
Later, in an official statement, Todd also avoided creating a spirit of confrontation.
"Millions of women in this church do not share the views of this small group who organized today's protest, and most church members would see such efforts as divisive. Even so, these are our sisters and we want them among us, and hope they will find peace and joy we all seek in the gospel of Jesus Christ," Todd said.
Kelly said Ordain Women is growing. The website noted that even the late Frances Monson, deceased wife of LDS President Thomas S. Monson, was barred from watching a priesthood session of conference from the inside.
Not all LDS women are buying Kelly's arguments.
Kathryn Skaggs, who has a blog called Well Behaved Mormon Women, said some of the counsel given by church leaders Saturday applies to Ordain Women participants.
"I am inclined to believe that any continued opposition by the group, in how the church is organized, would clearly reveal that they believe they know better than those sustained as prophets, seers and revelators; including those whom they have called to lead the women of the church, under the direction of the priesthood," Skaggs said.
"The majority of women in the LDS Church, because of this understanding, are at peace -- even grateful for the defining roles that make us female, and enable us to fulfill our purpose in God's plan. I certainly am."