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Some Mormon feminists are moving their drive for ordination in the LDS Church from talk to action: They are pushing for tickets to the all-male priesthood meeting at the faith's October General Conference.
First, the group wishes to publicize the fact that women are not permitted to attend the semiannual priesthood meeting, says Kate Kelly, an international human rights lawyer in Washington, D.C., active Mormon and one of Ordain Women's founders. "Some Mormon women may not know that."
Second, since the meeting is open to men who are "prospective elders," Kelly says, "were we permitted to attend, it would help church leaders see us as the prospective elders we believe ourselves to be."
The point is "to demonstrate to leaders that we are ready for this change, that our commitment is not just online but with our bodies." she says. "We want the [church] leadership to prayerfully consider ordination of women."
In April, the LDS Church responded to the Ordain Women movement by emphasizing that God loves both genders equally.
"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," spokeswoman Jessica Moody said then in a statement. But a male-only priesthood "was established by Jesus Christ himself and is not a decision to be made by those on Earth."
April's General Conference made history when Jean A. Stevens, first counselor in the LDS Church's Primary general presidency, became the first woman to offer a public prayer at the worldwide Mormon meeting.
This time around, Kelly and others at Ordain Women hope to get at least several hundred women to either ask for tickets from their local LDS leaders or wait in line at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Oct. 5 for standby tickets.
So far, Kelly says, about 50 people have pledged to go. Several women have tried to get a ticket, but no one has succeeded.
"A lot of men have offered to give us tickets," she says, "but we don't want them. We want to be permitted to enter the conference. We only want to get tickets with the full knowledge of the priesthood leaders giving them."
Some women have said they are "very, very" afraid to participate, Kelly says, but she is optimistic and proud of this effort.
"We are not protesters," she says. "We are insiders, faithful, active Mormons."
On Monday, National Women's Equality Day, Kelly was among about 35 Mormon women who participated in an event dubbed "Equal in Faith: Women Fast for Gender Justice." They were joined in the daylong fast by Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Lutheran women who gathered for an interfaith prayer service from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at St. Stephen Episcopal Church in the nation's capital.
"The Mormon women," Kelly says, "made up more than half the group."
A similar meeting was held that same night at Salt Lake City's Buddhist Temple, with about 50 in attendance, including 20 Brigham Young University students and a handful of Buddhists.
"There was a ton of interfaith support," says Chelsea Shields Strayer, a visiting professor at Utah Valley University this fall, who was at the Utah gathering.
Strayer says the Rev. Jerry Hirano of the Buddhist church told the group that "if you stand for equality, we stand with you."
Peggy Fletcher Stack