The feminist Mormon group Ordain Women explains on its website:
“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”
Last October (2013) Ordain Women put itself in the public eye as a group 200 strong showed up at the Mormon Church’s General Conference priesthood session with a request to be admitted. The request was denied.
A little more than two weeks from now, on April 5th (2014), a group representing Ordain Women plans to again approach the General Conference priesthood session and “reverently seek admission.” The Mormon Church issued a statement this week in the form of a letter, which says in part:
“Your organization has again publicized its intention to demonstrate on Temple Square during the April 5 priesthood session. Activist events like this detract from the sacred environment of Temple Square and the spirit of harmony sought at General Conference. Please reconsider.
“If you feel you must come and demonstrate, we ask that you do so in free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints. They can be found on the attached map.”
The Washington Post summed this up:
“Mormon women seeking tickets to the faith’s general priesthood session next month will not only be denied access to that all-male meeting, but also may be shut out of Salt Lake City’s historic Temple Square altogether.”
This forewarned banishment of faithful (though critical) Mormon women from Temple Square has Mormon feminist blogger Jana Riess asserting, “I’m a Mormon feminist, not an anti-Mormon protestor.”
Ms. Riess’ surprise is evident as she’s come to understand that in the eyes of LDS leadership, all critics of Mormonism are the same. She writes,
“There is something deeply symbolic about yesterday’s statement, for it reveals what the Church apparently thinks of the feminists within its fold. We, as faithful and active members of the Church, are being lumped together with the same anti-Mormon protestors who routinely crash General Conference and shout that the Mormon religion is of the devil. These protestors have started fistfights with conference-goers and even stomped on or burned temple garments. I have little in common with those people.”
We at Mormonism Research Ministry (and many other so-called anti-Mormon groups) also have little in common with the behavior of people who start fistfights and stomp on temple garments; nevertheless we, too, are “lumped together” with those who do these things, both in the way Mormon Church leadership responds to us and our concerns, and the way Mormons in general think of us.
Ms. Reiss’ blog article discusses some of the ways she and her feminist ideas are treated within Mormonism. If a few identifying words were to be changed here and there, the article could very well be discussing Mormonism Research Ministry’s efforts to challenge Mormon doctrinal positions. Some things Ms. Reiss and I share in our respective areas of faithful passion for change are these (as expressed in her blog article):
- “I am being told my views are anathema.”
- The Church “wants to make [critics] appear powerless and insignificant….[it] positions Mormon [critics] as a lunatic fringe, a mere distraction, a mosquito to be swatted off Temple Square.”
- The critical group’s “members are detracting from ‘helpful’ discussions about Mormonism and” [fill in the topical blank].
- We wonder, “where, exactly, are these ‘thoughtful discussions’ about [our concerns] in church allegedly happening?”
- Critics are “dangerous enough that they need to be banned from Temple Square.”
- “So we blog, and we speak out in unofficial ways about the need for change, since there is such a limit to what we’re allowed to express within institutional channels.”
- “Mormon [critics] will continue speaking out in all our variety.”
Ms. Riess, as viewed by LDS leadership, critics of Mormonism are all the same. To them you are an “anti-Mormon protestor.” As Mormon Apostle M. Russell Ballard once explained in General Conference,
“…in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a ‘loyal opposition.’ One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.” (“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, 11/1999, 64).
Faithful Mormon members of Ordain Women, Welcome to the club.