An open letter from Otterson: Context missing from discussion about women

The following is an open letter from Michael Otterson, Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A PDF of the letter is available here.

Context missing from discussion about women

Comments on various blogs over recent months about what Church leaders should or should not think and do about women’s roles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prompt me to provide some context from an insider perspective that may be helpful.

Recently a woman posted this comment on a blog:

Please understand that not [all] women who wish to be seen in all their worth are seeking to be ordained to the priesthood…. What I am finding…. is that most of these women have been demeaned and marginalized by one (and usually many more) of the brothers of our faith. They have been told their ideas won’t work. They have been told they are not important. They have been told they are lesser.

The point is a noteworthy one, namely that LDS women who describe themselves as feminists don’t necessarily seek ordination, but rather to be genuinely valued and given a voice that is respected and welcomed.

There are three specific criticisms that have been raised on various blogs that will be addressed here:

Criticism 1: The Church doesn’t want to hear from women about painful experiences, doesn’t talk to them or only wants to hear from women who are “blindly obedient.”

This is untrue. I can say with certainty that not one of the senior leaders of the Church would ever want any Latter-day Saint to feel demeaned or marginalized. Does it happen? Yes, of course. In 30,000 congregations led by lay leaders, it would be extraordinary if it didn’t. Serving as a stake president or bishop is demanding and exhausting, and by and large they do a remarkable job of it. Likewise the countless men and women who serve at various levels in wards and branches. But we are all human, and occasionally we say things clumsily or we lack sufficient sensitivity or language skills or experience. The Church is a place where we make mistakes and then hopefully learn to do better. It is also a place where we allow others to make mistakes and improve.

What this argues for is better training of leaders and members, and more patience, more long-suffering, more sensitivity and Christlike behavior on the part of all of us. Bishops are extraordinarily busy, but like local leaders, should be particularly aware of how easy it is to come across as patronizing or dismissive when a woman wants more than anything to be listened to and feel as if she has truly been heard.

But this is quite a different conversation from one about ordaining women to every office, from bishop to apostle, thereby radically redefining how Jesus structured His Church. Those of the Twelve apostles whose responsibilities include leadership and training are acutely aware of these training challenges and expend much energy addressing them.

If there is one thing that my lifetime of working with Church leaders has taught me, it is that they care deeply about Church members and their feelings. In our remarkable system of Church governance, no man or woman can rise to high office without first serving for decades in responsibilities that bring them up-close-and-personal with a mind-boggling array of human problems. In the course of their lives, apostles have spent countless hours in such counseling situations, struggling and sharing tears and helping members work the miracle of the Atonement of Jesus Christ into their lives. While their work as apostles is largely accomplished through local leaders ministering to their congregations around the world, they remain crucially aware of issues that concern the members of the Church.

Many members do not understand this. Even as the Church has grown much larger, the First Presidency and the Twelve are widely read on current issues and continue to travel and engage with the body of the saints. Such assignments invariably bring them into contact with rank-and-file members of diverse thought and backgrounds, not just leadership. I have heard members of the First Presidency and the Twelve speak many times of those experiences, and what they learn from such engagements. When they return, those interactions are often shared and a formidable knowledge base develops over time, especially given the lifetime of experiences of the senior Brethren. The same is true for the women leaders of the Church, who meet one-on-one in the homes of members, hold focus groups and have countless conversations with women and men as they travel the world.

Neither are General Authorities immune from challenges that can arise in their own families, with children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews. One of the great blessings of the Church is that we have leaders who experience the same burdens as the rest of us. They are not aloof.

Additionally, various Church bodies such as the Missionary and Priesthood departments constantly channel information to Church leaders through more formal channels such as the councils on which the apostles sit. Some Church entities such as Public Affairs and the Church’s Research and Information Division specifically seek out opinions from members.

An example: some years ago Public Affairs invited three groups of women, all active Latter-day Saints and including feminists, to come for several hours each to discuss concerns. I use the term “feminist” here not to imply political activism or campaigning, but simply as a term to describe those who want to further the interests of women in a variety of ways. The first two groups included single and married women, working mothers and stay-at home moms. Several in the groups had earned PhDs. The third group consisted mostly of members of stake Relief Society and Young Women’s presidencies, and we were particularly interested to learn if there were differences in perceptions between these groups.

In order to build an environment of trust, we do not disclose whom we meet with or what is discussed, although we do sometimes ask for permission to record the conversations so we don’t miss anything important. We find that this creates a safe place for transparent conversation. For several hours, a woman staffer facilitated the conversations, and I sat in and mostly listened for a major part of the time. I assure you that these women were not wallflowers. We learned a lot, and those findings have long since been shared with members of the Twelve individually and in appropriate council settings. Those kinds of conversations are continuing under similar guidelines to promote honest discussions.

Criticism 2: There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.

This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.

As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.

First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.

Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.

Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances.

Criticism 3: By not engaging with the more extreme groups, the Church – and Public Affairs in particular – is not acting as Christ would.

First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.

As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women.

This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.

The dedicated men and women who work for Public Affairs reflect diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some are native Utahns. Others grew up elsewhere in the United States and some, like me, were born in other countries or are converts to the Church. Young and older, single and married, they have worked through their own challenging life experiences and learned and grown from them, as we all do.

Occasionally, as we have seen in recent weeks on some feminist blogs, those who are spokespeople for the Church and therefore are required to put their names out in the public square find themselves in the cross-hairs of critics. Sometimes those critics are highly cynical and make things personal. In recent weeks, I have seen some of our staff ridiculed by some feminist commentators, called disingenuous or, worse, accused of lying.

Our people are professionals and they have borne this with charity, good grace and without the slightest complaint. I don’t believe for a minute that these strident voices represent a significant proportion of LDS women, or even of those Church members who describe themselves as feminists.

Certainly all the staff understand that public relations is best understood as a bridging activity to build relationships, not a set of messaging activities designed to buffer an organization from others. Readiness to meet with many different groups is therefore basic to public affairs work for the Church, and we do it all the time.

Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved.

We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course. If Mary Magdalene, or Mary, his mother, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had demanded ordination to the Twelve, had spoken publicly about their insistence and made demands such as we hear today, how would Jesus have felt, who loved them every bit as much as he loved the Twelve? Some of these women were closest to him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being. There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes.

I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this conversation).

Few can doubt that the Internet has transformed our society for the better in many ways, notably in providing a voice for everyone with a keyboard or mobile device. The problem with the Internet, as we all know, is that it has also become a place for angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation. What we read there is often anonymous and unverifiable. People are now apt to quote any blog as a legitimate source, no matter how extreme or cynical or how few people it represents, especially if it happens to comport with their personal view. There is an old quote, attributed to Mark Twain, suggesting that a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Never has that been truer than today, and it can make civil gospel conversations on some topics difficult.

Inevitably, some will respond to a lengthy post like this with animosity or will attempt to parse words or misinterpret what I have said, “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel.” Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: “May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,” no matter which chair we’re sitting in.

Michael Otterson
Managing Director
Public Affairs
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Comments

  1. Mormon Women Speak IS an extreme group, yet the Church was willing to engage with them.

  2. Quickmere says:

    I’m glad to see Otterson addressing some concerns. I appreciate his pointing out that many Church leaders deal directly with many real life in person members of the Church and have true and sincere concern for their spiritual well-being. I believe him. At the same time, I fear he’ll only generate more unnecessary concerns by making this remark:

    No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion.

    From what I understand, OW (with whom I’m not personally affiliated) is asking for leaders of the Church to ask God about the issue of ordaining women. In so doing they already recognize the intermediary role of LDS prophets and apostles, and are asking for them to ask God for revelation on this matter similar to the asking that occurred regarding ordaining black men to the priesthood. Here Otterson seems to refer to a vague number of people as being in “apostasy,” or identifying their actions or perspectives as being “suggestive of apostasy,” which is a serious and damaging charge, and if I understand the mission of OW as I just described (to get leaders of the Church to ask God about this issue) I can hardly conceive of labeling such requests, however dramatic or public, as apostate. This essentially reads like an invitation to leave the Church. Otterson may not have intended it that way, but that is one plausible reading of that particular statement.

    It seems to me this gets at the core of the matter, which Otterson doesn’t directly address: Can a member of the church have a reasonable difference of opinion from church leaders and still remain in the Church? The opening criticism to which Otterson responds regarding “blind obedience” still seems to be the issue here, especially if you ignore the word “blind” and think of “obedience” as indicating complete ideological or “doctrinal” agreement.

    Of course, I can’t clarify this matter with Otterson because he has chosen to address the public in this general open letter rather than engaging in a direct dialogue with anyone in particular (as Public Affairs recently did with the “Mormon Women Stand” group) or with reporters not directly connected to the Church itself (as with, say, KSL or the Deseret News). I realize this response might be dismissed as my “straining at a gnat.” I intend no straining here.

  3. Quickmere says:

    One other response to another point: “First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.”

    This becomes much more fraught when one’s employment or education status is on the line.

  4. Jeff T. says:

    “Mormon Women Speak IS an extreme group, yet the Church was willing to engage with them.”

    MWS has 28,000 followers now, and its main message is this: We stand with the leaders of the Church, and support and sustain their teachings on the role of women and the family. How is that extreme?

  5. Quickmere says:

    On the more positive side, I’d be interested to hear Otterson describe specific changes and adjustments the Church has been making over the past while to better accommodate the concerns and perspectives of the positive sort of “feminist” he identifies as having been meeting with Church personnel over the years. I was interested in his suggestion about women meeting with Relief Society presidents for example, and I wonder if that sort of instruction is made explicit in the Church handbooks, or in any training meetings, or if it will be discussed in a conference talk, or made otherwise more broadly known throughout the Church in some way.

  6. “agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation”

    I am curious as to why this is so.

  7. Quickmere says:

    Jeff T.: that seems to be the root question: can a person “stand with” leaders of the Church even if that person disagree with them on various matters? If you were to stack up all the things you agree with them about on one side of the ledger and stack up the issues you disagree with then about on the other side, and the first side vastly outnumbers the latter side, can you be thought to “stand with” the leaders?

  8. Jeff T. says:

    Quickmere, sure — but that is irrelevant to whether or not MWS is “extreme” or not. The main message of MWS is this: We stand with the leaders of the Church, and support and sustain them in their teachings on *the role of women in the Church/family.* Since there are vocal voices raising dissent on those teachings, it’s perfectly natural for the average Latter-day Saint to say, “On these issues, I stand with the leaders of the Church.” They represent the mainstream member of the Church, the average member who is just tired of the controversy and thinks that we need to trust that what the brethren teach on these issues is the will of God for us.

    It’s strange that a member of the Church would label that “extreme.”

  9. A couple of thoughts:

    First, it’s more than a little curious that google can’t seem to find the purportedly verbatim portions of the blog comment that he “quotes” at the beginning of the letter.

  10. Wow. As a woman, who is active in Church, has served a mission, got married in the Temple etc., but who also considers herself a feminist, and ended up participating this year at the OW event (though with many mixed emotions and reservations, and a flurry of thoughts), I am appreciative of this letter.

    Brother Otterson, some of your words in the past, particularly regarding the OW event this year, have been really painful. But I felt that with all the emotions raw all over the place, that every single player (as in, every member no matter what their position or view was/is) was just trying to be heard, and hurt in the process of the channels of communication not working, and hurt by the actions of others that they could not understand or relate to. I did not feel that you could relate to those of us who were entering Temple Square. In all of this though, I never assumed any negative intentions or thoughts. I just figured it was all a big pile of miscommunication, different approaches, different ways of thinking etc. that lead to many raw feelings.

    I’m glad you took the time to explain yourself more. It gives me some hope. I realize that with a Church as big as ours, we can’t just all march onto Temple Square and demand change for every little thing that doesn’t go our way. It’s impossible. With a father who’s served as Bishop, Stake President, Area Authority, Mission president and temple sealer, along with 2 brothers who’ve served as Bishops, I know it’s hard to make things right for everyone. You’re right. We all mess up.

    I think most of us can understand that, and are willing to be patient, and work with people. What I feel is still missing though, and seems to still be missing in your letter, is not just the issue of women genuinely wanting to be heard (we do!) – it’s realizing that we’re stuck in many dynamics that often make it impossible to really hear and value us. It’s not as visible and simple as just taking the time to REALLY listen. It’s more than that, and it’s what many of the faithful feminist sisters try to somehow communicate, but it’s really hard to express when our Church operates in a way where any slight disagreement with any leader can already lead to you being ostracized, and having your temple recommend revoked.

    I’ve had such a problem. After becoming aware of some serious misuse of authority by some priesthood holders, I wrote a blog post on my blog that was read only by friends and family about how anyone can mess up, that even Church leaders high up can mess up and make bad choices. I wrote this because I had just witnessed this happening. It happens, because we’re ALL human. A ward member passed my blog post on to my Bishop, without telling me. My Bishop followed my blog without telling me. He tried to assess if I actually still had a testimony, talking to me in Church in the hallways, never letting me know that he was trying to assess my actual views. When I moved, and needed to renew my temple recommend, I suddenly got called into the office by my new bishop after I had received a new recommend. I was accused of having lied in my interview. I had no idea what was going on. Eventually, it turned out that my new Bishop had called my old Bishop, because I was a new member, and the old Bishop told him about my blog post, and that I may not be sustaining my leaders.

    So, before I knew it, I was on trial, and at risk of losing my recommend. And no one had ever talked to me. I was patient, and explained my views to my new Bishop. I also called my old Bishop to sort out what had happened. He explained he only cared about me.

    These two Bishops are good people. I know they are. I know they meant well. But it was rather interesting that my new Bishop immediately believed the other Bishop instead of believing me. Why? And how can I feel confident to speak up, when even the slightest disagreement can cause me all this trouble? My husband got dragged into this trial interview with my new Bishop. And he sat there in shock. After it was all over, he felt like he could never trust a Bishop again. Even though all he had his whole life were good and kind and caring Bishops. He was shocked to find out that a Bishop would keep tabs on something like a private blog, that they would respond to a member’s tattling, and lastly that they’d talk about members without them knowing.

    These are dynamics that are pretty normal and accepted in our Church structure. I don’t believe they’re divine principles. I think they’re just that – dynamics. And women cannot be heard, and feel safe to speak up, when any disagreement with leaders is putting them at risk of losing everything that’s dear to them.

    Historically, our Church was one of rigorous discourse and discussion, even disagreement. I think we’ve moved away from that, and it’s making our conversations very difficult. I still believe that we’re all in this together, and that the apostles, and the Prophet, as well as any Church employee, and all the rank-and-file members care about getting along, and working together. But it’s so difficult to do that when we keep up certain dynamics that divide us, that put us in us vs. them camps, into active/inactive categories, etc.

    Anyway. I don’t even know if you’ll read this. I appreciate that you made this effort to somehow reach out, and not shut down all conversations entirely. I get that things are complicated. I have faith that we are all striving to do the right thing, and that Heavenly Father is guiding us through this all to be the Church and the spiritual family we need to be. I’m hopeful, despite a lot of painful and bad experiences. I just do not think it can happen, unless we change some of the dynamics we have going on. If I have to be afraid to share my true feelings, or true thoughts with just regular members, how can I hope a leader will receive me…

  11. Angela C says:

    “I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times.” Well, if we asked for a revelation on this matter, which is what OW has requested (hardly apostate to ask for revelation, right?), then we would know. No need to speculate.

    “We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course.” He would have answered their question directly. Of course, he is the source of revelation, not just a conduit.

    “We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised” Is that the answer? Because that’s not a revelation. “We don’t know why” is the one point on which everyone started out in agreement. It’s the role of the brethren to seek revelation for the church, which is what OW has stated. Saying “we don’t know, and we refuse to ask” is not really listening, is it?

  12. amycartwright says:

    While I very much appreciate the tone of this letter, the reality is that Christ dealt face-to-face with many who disagreed with him. While I don’t feel it is appropriate to suggest that the leaders of the Church are Christ (that would be true heresy), I do believe that Christian courtesy should be practiced by all and modeled especially by Church leaders and those who speak for them. We do have scriptural precedent for what OW is doing–the daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses directly about something that was against the current law and asked if things could change. Moses could have chosen to say to his PA people, “that is contrary to God’s revealed doctrine, let those women know that I won’t be speaking to them because God already said what the order of power and authority ought to be” or he could do what he did–hear their plight and take it to the Lord with sincerity of heart before dismissing their concerns as “apostate.”

    Some have suggested that obviously OW does not sustain the prophet but it would be difficult to find any official OW release that suggests such a thing. Choosing to be upfront about one’s desires and concerns is read as fighting against God and chosen leaders when the reality is that it’s just being direct and upfront. In our culture, we are not accustomed to women doing this. We are accustomed to women automatically deferring to men, which is why groups like MWS are upheld as the model while groups like FMH and OW are seen as contrary. What we see here is that cultural practice is being dangerously entangled with claims discipleship.

    I would also suggest any who wish to comment about the role of women in Jesus’s group of disciples revisit those scriptures with more understanding about cultural norms. Suggesting that Mary was right in sitting at Jesus’s feet (a place according to Jewish doctrine and tradition is reserved for men only. Mary was a rabbi-in-training. A spiritual leader and authority that was never to be assumed by a woman) rather than taking care of the home should be very indicative of Jesus’s teachings about the role of women in his Church. Also, The Twelve were not the same thing as apostles. An apostle is one who bears special witness of the Christ. Mary was THE apostle, the one who bore testimony of Christ’s resurrection to the Twelve. Of all of Jesus’s disciples, she was the first apostle.

  13. Ordain Women can say what it wants about its purpose, but the idea that it isn’t demanding ordination of women (or, perhaps, that it would cease and desist if the leadership said that they had prayed about it and received the answer that women should not be ordained) seems absurd.

    That aside, I think it is important to note that the Church did NOT publicize the PR department’s meeting with Mormon Women Stand, just as Bro. Otterson’s statement says. That publicity came from the group leader, and I hope that has an effect on any attempts to gain further meetings with others.

    Overall, I think this message is important in adding balance to a discussion that, in most cases, has lacked it and, in many cases, has been hyperbolic.

  14. Using the women in Jesus’ life as an example strikes me as a bit baffling. If Jesus saw the women in His life as having equal worth although they had not been ordained, why is the fact that women in the modern church aren’t ordained an excuse NOT to treat us as equals?

    And the use of ‘agitation’ as a negative seems particularly ironic given the history of our Church. How was the priesthood ban lifted? How did we get the Word of Wisdom? How did Joseph and Oliver get the priesthood? How did we get this Church in the first place? Every one of these events occurred because someone got a bee in his or her bonnet about some issue or another. Agitating.

  15. Quickmere says:

    Jeff T: I wouldn’t call MTS as it is “extreme.” I imagine the person was referring to the fact that MWS was developed as a direct response to OW, and that one of the leaders recently wrote a controversial blog post accusing Disney’s “Frozen” movie as advancing the gay agenda. I’m less interested in seeing people defend MWS or even OW and more interested in talking about the root issues. I hope you’ll do likewise.

  16. CS Eric says:

    Thanks, BCC, for being the forum to post this letter.

  17. Quickmere says:

    I’m also interested in Otterson’s response to comments like this, in response to his open letter: “And we the Bloggernacle as a whole should consider ourselves rebuked by the Church now.” (At the Millennial Star” blog.) I’m also interested in his reaction or PA’s reaction to recent blog posts which have directly advocated that certain feminist-minded members of the Church leave the Church. What I don’t see the Church doing is trying to meaningfully reach out to anyone who has recently expressed dissatisfaction publicly, but instead, church personnel have been using words like “strident” and “apostasy” and so forth.

    This goes back to the issue of whether you can be considered a faithful member in good standing while disagreeing on any particular issue Church leaders have spoken about.

  18. My ward has several people with extreme views who believe they “stand with the leaders of the church”. It is this belief that drives them to force their views on the rest of us. Publishing a statement saying you follow the teachings of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean that you do (even if you think you do), and that applies to MWS, people in my ward, and LDS PR.

  19. Quickmere says:

    Fran: Thank you for your comment.

  20. Jeff T. says:

    Quickmere, I was responding to someone in this thread who DID call the group extreme.

    I support the goals and aims of MWS. I don’t see anything about the group’s ideals or actions that contradict any of my own values, or those of the Church. So why wouldn’t I support and defend them, when they are maligned? Who cares that a member of the group wrote a blog post you disagree with — I’m talking about the group, which now has tens of thousands of followers. The ideals, aims, and messages from MWS are of good report and praiseworthy, so I see no reason not to full support it.

  21. Mark B. says:

    It is disingenuous, at best, for OW to claim that it is merely “asking” the brethren to pray about the question of ordination of women.

    And it is simply ahistorical to suggest that public agitation had anything to do with the events that Joni lists in her comment.

  22. “I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised …”

    What I would most love to hear is an explanation for why the omission of women from priesthood ordination is seen as doctrinal while so many other omissions are not. Christ did not send women out as missionaries. He did not invite them to teach in synagogue. He never asked a woman to pray for a congregation that included men. And he never passed the sacrament to a woman. Yet for some reason we do not impose those restrictions today. Could it be that Christ’s decision to not ordain women stemmed from the unprepared culture in which he lived rather than from some eternal decree? Could it be that that is still the reason for their exclusion?

    What I would next most love to hear explained is why the church has authority to create an “exception” (quoting Elder Oaks) to allow women to perform the priesthood ordinance of the initiatory. Where does the priesthood authority for such an “exception” come from? And whatever that source, why can it not also allow women to perform other ordinances such as proxy baptisms and confirmations? If we can authorize women to perform one temple ordinance by virtue of keys held by the temple president, then why not all temple ordinances? Further, why not allow sister missionaries to baptize converts under the keys of their mission president, or laurels to administer the sacrament under the keys of their bishop? It seems to me that, regardless of the church’s authority to ordain women, the church currently possesses all the authority it needs to allow women to perform priesthood ordinances.

  23. What a shame to see a once great blog reduced to publishing authoritarian threats against good people.

  24. Quickmere says:

    Jeff T.: Then good job, you defended MWS and now you are free to go do something else, unless there are other aspects of the present conversation you’d like to discuss.

  25. Quickmere says:

    It is disingenuous, at best, for OW to claim that it is merely “asking” the brethren to pray about the question of ordination of women.

    An interesting point. When you begin with the assumption of bad faith on the part of your interlocutor it isn’t surprising when dialogue breaks down.

  26. “I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised”

    President Hinckley said women could hold priesthood offices if God revealed it after being asked. Otterson ignores that and pretends interpretation of ancient canon is the only means of ascertaining doctrinal truth. Otterson is apparently an apostate who not only has no testimony of continuing revelation, but who openly denies its validity on church letterhead.

    And he even goes so far as to say “For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest,” just before he takes a position directly contradictory to President Hinckley’s clear statement on this very topic.

    Well, I guess it’s nice to see that the Church remains tolerant of divergent beliefs and doesn’t ride people out on a rail who, without authority, openly defy church leaders. Otterson is fortunate.

  27. Just to say this, since it is important to me as a former history teacher not to misuse history, the people in Ordain Women are not modern Zelophehad’s daughters.

    Those women went to Moses *as the political leader of the people* about an inheritance issue – and Moses changed a secular law to allow a MAN (their dead father) not to lose the land he had inherited as a man, since he had no sons. Later, again as the political leader, Moses altered his previous decision and restricted those women’s right to marry by legislating that they marry only within their own tribe – again, to protect their father’s original inheritance rights and not have one tribe lose lands to other tribes. Thus, it is a secular story about maintaining male-focused rights at the expense of the women who went to him previously, even if that secular leader prayed about it. (The best modern analogy might be Brigham Young praying about water rights in Utah – something that would have been done in his role of territorial leader, not in his role as President of the Church.)

    How I feel about the possibility of women being ordained to offices in the Priesthood and being authorized to perform ordinances outside the temple and/or serve in callings restricted to men currently (which I would support fully) is irrelevant to the point that using the example of Zelophehad’s daughters in this case is bad history.

  28. “Otterson apparently is an apostate.”

    Sarcasm or not, this is a perfect example of what the letter addresses.

  29. “Sarcasm or not, this is a perfect example of what the letter addresses.”

    The letter is a Grade A example of “angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation.” Otterson should be fired.

  30. Criticism 1: I get that humans are imperfect. I do. I’ve had knuckleheaded bishops that I give a pass because, hey we’re not perfect. My main source of marginalization doesn’t come from lone, rogue individuals — it comes from the church organization, from the handbook that changes and says women can no longer serve in Sunday School presidencies, from articles in the Ensign, the exhaustive pushing of gender roles down my throat, from the culture that it creates, from the behavior that it encourages with skype meetings (lending positive reinforcement to exclusive behavior, instead of inclusive behavior), etc.

    Criticism 3: Wow. The name of the group ‘Ordain Women’ I suppose puts out a branding message, but it seems even leaders of our church haven’t bothered to see that anything being asked for is remotely more complex than that. OW is precisely the thing causing a conversation, it caused my own personal study in and out of the temple that has been a blessing in my life. You may see them as “suggestive of apostasy” and I may see them as, in general, “seekers of answers.” Christ never had a female 12, he never had a public affairs department either.

    {sigh} so much {sigh}

  31. Anonymous says:

    Fwiw, I was told as a young girl many years ago in a Patriarchal blessing, that I myself would one day hold not only the power of the Priesthood, but I would have the authority of the Priesthood as well. I’m not the “agitating” type, but I just figured that one day I would indeed hold priesthood authority – and maybe that just meant in the eternities or something….Years later, as YW President in our ward, I listened intently as one of our YW asked our Bishop (back in 2003) why women didn’t hold the priesthood. His answer was: “Well, one day they will!” He alluded to “priestesses” mentioned in the temple and said it was his understanding of doctrine that one day women would be given Priesthood authority. [This was the first time I'd ever heard anyone else say what matched my Patriarchal Blessing & I thought, "Oh, maybe this isn't such a big secret after all!"] Other people I’ve talked with since have given me similar answers – that it seemed (to them) to not to be an ‘if” question but a “when”.

    So I’m surprised to see it so swiftly rejected as ridiculous/heretical by Church spokespeople and some of our leaders.

    I’m no scholar by any stretch, and I am aware that some talks from church authorities have tried to explain to us that yes, we woman already DO hold that power, & maybe even the authority, we just don’t realize it or know it, or understand it. I’m more than just a little confused by this. (Also, when my son was married in the temple 2 years ago, the sealer told both he and his new bride that they held the Priesthood equally, together. I thought, “Well how, exactly, does that work?” I would love for it to be true – I hope it is – I just don’t see it happening in real time outside the temple.)

    Can anyone explain any of this to me, in language I can understand??!!

  32. I am in no mood to offer up my true feelings on this open letter today, but I will say this much: this quoted portion from the letter “In recent weeks, I have seen some of our staff ridiculed by some feminist commentators, called disingenuous or, worse, accused of lying.” is true, because the Church PR Department was in fact lying.

    I was at the April Action, I stood in that line, I asked to enter. The release that the PR Department later put out got nearly every single thing wrong. So wrong, that either they wrote the release ahead of time, they simply weren’t there, or they wanted to spin the event sympathetically for The Church for some reason. Any of those three reasons are categorized as lies.

    I’m personally not interested in what Public Relations does because I never raised my hand to the square for a single one of them. They have no ecclesiastical authority over me, and I have no ecclesiastical allegiance to them. It is good form when one has a one-sided conversation to at least lay the facts out as they happened though rather than how it would have conveniently happened to suit a particular narrative.

  33. Hear, hear, EOR.

  34. In all seriousness, what could Otterson have possibly said that the commenters here would not have criticized and complained about?

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Gang, calling the author an apostate and a liar is simply not welcome here. Sorry to disappoint.

  36. I think Dave K. makes the appropriate “opposition” points, so to speak, that I think are pretty good questions in a non-aggitative way. It’s a tone and style worthy of emulation.

    Ray,
    I’m by no means supportive of OW. But I think a fairly decent spiritual case can be made about the spiritual significance of Zelophehad’s daughters. Abraham desired the “blessings of the fathers”, ie. an inheritance, ie, the priesthood. You might say that the priesthood is one of the only inheritances we should really be concerned about. I’m not claiming this is what the original scripture is referring to in the case of Zelophehad’s daughters, but it’s very easy to see that story being likened unto ourselves in a modern interpretation, where the desire is to receive an eternal inheritance.

    That being said, the ultimate blessings of the priesthood, which God has in store for all men and women are already being offered, if we live worthily. I’m not sure there is really much more we can ask for than eternal lives and worlds without end.

    If the desire is to provide meaningful service in the church and the world at large, those avenues are open. If the desire is to provide a voice in the daily administration, I kind of get the feeling that’s a nuanced kind of arch steadying. I don’t get to offer my opinion up on every practice even though I have one. But I do have a stewardship, which I’m probably not doing a good enough job of magnifying anyway.

  37. “Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept.”

    What Is A Priestess? Personally I think it means a female priest. I guess I just made a non-negotiable demand for something that already exists in the teachings of our temples. Shame on my “suggestive apostasy.”

    Seriously how is this even a black or white issue?

  38. Dave K gave an excellent response. Much better in tone than I am projecting. I’m ducking out and taking a deep breath and going to fold some laundry. Phew.

  39. “Gang, calling the author an apostate and a liar is simply not welcome here. Sorry to disappoint.”

    Steve, I have utmost respect for you as a writer, thinker, and moderator here, and I’ll abide by your wishes, whatever they may be. That said, the author fired the first shot on both of those terms. If you’re not tolerant of people calling others apostates and liars on BCC, that’s perfectly fine. Are you going to admonish Otterson, as well?

  40. I imagine that at one time, extending the priesthood to black males was a non-negotioable demand for doctrinal change that the Church couldn’t possibly accept.

  41. DQ, I understand that approach and won’t argue against it, since it obviously and openly admits its an expansion of the original story in a spiritual and “likening” fashion. That approach moves it firmly out of a direct historical comparison into a more personalized lesson context, which inherently is subjective.

  42. Melissa says:

    I spoke to my Bishop about my struggles & concerns. I was literally dismissed with a wave of the hand, told that those things weren’t important, and never given a calling again after that. There’s some nice anecdotal evidence for you. So thanks for telling me I need to go through the proper channels and be patient. I’ll just keep sitting here, waiting.

  43. Quickmere says:

    SGNM: that sort of rhetoric is a perfect way to obscure the salient points other people are tying to make, regardless of whether Steve or anyone else “admonishes” Otterson.

  44. I’ll abide by Steve Evans’ moderation.

    I think it’s quite salient to point out Otterson, who calls people with whom he will not even speak apostates, is, himself, openly renouncing the clear doctrinal proclamation of the President of the very church on whose behalf he purports to be speaking.

  45. chriscarrollsmith says:

    “Christ never had a female 12, he never had a public affairs department either.”

    I LOL’d.

  46. Why is this not on LDS Church Letterhead? Why is it published on blogs rather than the church website and media room? Is this a spoof? How do we know this is legit?

  47. Angela C says:

    Ray: “Ordain Women can say what it wants about its purpose, but the idea that it isn’t demanding ordination of women (or, perhaps, that it would cease and desist if the leadership said that they had prayed about it and received the answer that women should not be ordained) seems absurd.” Why don’t church leaders simply call their bluff then by praying about it for revelation? That would either expose the bluff or put the matter to rest because God would reveal that women should now be ordained. Right?

  48. Well it’s certainly interesting to gain some insight into the line of thinking that’s been going on in the PR department lately. While this letter (is it really official?) is certainly a step above the recent circus that’s been the norm, it still leaves much to be desired.

    If I label someone a dissenter/apostate/whacko from the outset, that means I don’t have to talk with them anymore? Who knew it could be so simple?

    I’m still waiting for a serious engagement on this topic.

  49. It is super weird that the author of this letter didn’t just publish this at the Newsroom site. Also super weird that he tries to gently label OW supporters as apostates. And by “super weird,” I mean that he is either willfully trying to attach their church membership by giving local leaders ammunition to discipline them, or not competent to carry out the responsibilities he currently has.

  50. Jeff G, that’s a clown question, bro.

  51. Liffey Banks says:

    It’s hard for me to overstate how little I care about Mr. Otterson or anything he says. Someday much of what he and his department says in “official” statements will be inevitably reversed and come across to future members as the paternalistic sexism and bigotry that it is, and because it was just spoken by someone in the PR department, it will be easy to deny that anything he said represented the church’s official doctrine. He is the LDS church of 2050′s scapegoat.

    I can only hope, anyway.

  52. Quickmere says:

    Jeff G., easy answer: All the things in this particular letter that no one has complained about.

  53. So the dialog about female ordination begins in third-person by addressing everything else!

    …not one of the senior leaders of the Church would ever want any Latter-day Saint to feel demeaned or marginalized. Does it happen? Yes, of course…

    Next in rapid sleight-of-words the blame is quickly shifted to the local level

    This argues for is better training of leaders and members…Bishops are extraordinarily busy…Serving as a stake president or bishop is demanding and exhausting…

    Yet is wasn’t the local leadership level that “forgot” to invite women to pray in GC for a mere 182 years or continues the troubling temple litany or limits the number of General Women leaders and female GC talks to a fraction of the male metrics, etc, etc. and generally the slights of local leadership make up only a minority of feminist blog article criticisms. So the response to Criticism 1 is largely SPIN.

    Criticism 2 addresses the lack of safe space in wards to discuss these issues. The advice is “to be patient, and trust” in the general leaders while it is implied that this too is a local problem! Yet a single letter from the first presidency or a pointed GC talk from TSM or a change to the Handbook or all three would very quickly bring local congregations into compliance.

    Criticism 3 makes it clear that the responses above ARE consistent with the views of those who preside

    …the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable…

    In other words those who preside view these feminists complaints to be related to (and apparently limited to) local leadership with little of no mention of general leadership’s role in these issues but this view is in congruent with the majority of blogged feminist issues I’ve read.

    I don’t see the question of female ordination as a “demand” but I’m aware that many see OW in that light. Why would women like Mary Magdalene, or Mary, his mother, or Mary and Martha feel the need to demand? They enjoyed Jesus’ undivided attention.

    Some of these women were closest to him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being. There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes.

    Indeed! Zelophehad’s daughters found it expedient to ask Moses for revelatory services which he quickly and amicably performed and reported back with the answer. How do the opportunities of women in today’s church compare with these Biblical examples? How does a common female LDS member get an audience with TSM to sit at his feet and learn as the Marys and Martha did with Jesus? How does she ask TSM a the door of the temple for revelatory services as Zelophehad’s daughters did Moses? They can’t. He is inaccessible to her!

    The way it works today is is much more circuitous and indirect. She and other like minded shes agitate and the church PR department ignores her and the fact that she occasioned their need to respond this and they then snub her while placating some of her complaints by selecting much more moderates and traditionalists to dialog with. I wish it were more graceful and elegant that this but the absence of any meaningful church suggestion box has trained those who are marginalized to attempt this before voting with their feet. BTW, “marginalized” is synonymous with minority of active members BUT marginalized represents a large and growing portion of those leaving the church at a time the church has a significant retention problem. So playing the majority against marginalized to further marginalize them doesn’t really sound much like a divine solution or a bright way to go.

    …agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation… Interesting given it was President Hinckley who introduced this idea of “agitating” for female ordination and given it is highly likely that we never would have learned of such conversation in the absence of agitation!

  54. Whenever I begin to believe that the Bloggernacle and its navel-centric churnings are a threat to my worship, my usual reaction is to take a break from the Bloggernacle. Surely there are missionaries who need a ride or something, right?

    (At any rate, I think OW has crossed the line into advocacy against the brethren. That’s dangerous territory.)

  55. Quickmere says:

    queuno: “(At any rate, I think OW has crossed the line into advocacy against the brethren. That’s dangerous territory.)”

    It isn’t so relevant what you “think,” unless you can back your thought up with specific and concrete examples on something like this. OW is asking church leaders whom they sustain—which is precisely why they are asking them and not simply acting as though they could unilaterally take it upon themselves to bestow the priesthood on each other—to pray about this matter and then let the Church know what the circumstances are, what the continuing revelation from God has to say on the matter.

  56. Well, this letter still feels like talking AT rather than talking with, but it’s not nothing… In defense of Brother O, there really doesn’t seem like any scenario where he could make everyone who cares about these issues (plus the folks who pay him) happy. Even if it’s not a great response by my reckoning, maybe this is an early step toward some kind of actual public dialogue on women in the church

  57. Steve Evans says:

    Quick: “It isn’t so relevant what you “think,” unless you can back your thought up with specific and concrete examples on something like this”

    Totally agree, though the recent adoption of localized discussion groups may throw some cold water on things. It’s not entirely outlandish to imagine some bishop or SP who is perfectly willing to institute church disciplinary proceedings despite a paucity of specific and concrete examples…

  58. Thank you, Howard!

  59. “First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance.”

    What does he mean by this? It’s in a letter purportedly written by the head of the Public Affairs Department of the Church, on behalf of the Department, but not on Church letterhead and not published by the Church PR department on its own site. That’s freelancing, isn’t it?

  60. Steve Evans says:

    Stating that agitation for female ordination was President Hinckley’s idea is a false claim. I’m aware of the quote involved, but to interpret that as a call to agitation is absolutely incorrect. It can be more fairly offered up as opening up a fairly narrow window of possibility of change in response to demand; it certainly was not call for increased demand.

  61. J. Stapley says:

    SGNM, it could also be called reaching out.

  62. Is Otterson speaking officially on behalf of the Church here?

  63. Casey, I agree with you, but in this case the people who care deeply about these issues and the people who are paying the Church PR department’s salaries are the same people.

  64. I think it’s great that Otterson has reached out like this — made this overture. To me it signals that although Otterson still feels like, for symbolic reasons, I suppose, he cannot speak directly to Kate Kelly or OW, he feels like he can communicate with them by issuing a general letter to everyone, which includes OW participants.

    So it’s not helpful in the overall dialogue for people to be criticizing the fact of Otterson’s efforts here. I see it as a genuine attempt to cool things down a bit and communicate.

    I also see it as completely legitimate for people to analyze the letter and voice their concerns about the ideas expressed and issues discussed. The latter is a great cultural failing among us as a people — that it could be considered unacceptable for people who might disagree with Otterson’s ideas in this letter to express that disagreement in their own analyses of the letter, now that he’s put it out there.

  65. I have been on a years long quest to meet with any and every church leader or employee I could in order to share what I’ve learned from my place in the kingdom, with very little success. I meet regularly with my Stake President and those meetings have been intensely valuable and productive but also desperately difficult as we both work to remain open and truly listening. The sad fact is that many, I’d say most, leaders don’t have the willingness or see the need to engage on that level. We need way way way better training of leaders on every level, yes, but they also need to have the example set for them that doing this work is important and valuable, even as it is hard. They need to have the example set publicly that these meetings are a good idea and beneficial.

    I personally never doubted that our leaders are engaged in the daily lives of rank and file members, I don’t doubt their sincerity or generosity in that regard, which is why I’m still here, plodding away at the work I feel is my vocation, in the old fashioned Christian sense of that word, since when I call it a calling people get very confused about what authority I’m claiming. The problem is that there is every incentive to only present “company men” to our leaders. I’ve seen it on every single level. Ward conference comes around and the bishop picks someone for the Stake Presidency visit that he thinks will show the Stk Pres how hard he has been working and how dedicated he is. That’s not wrong all by itself, people deserve recognition for their service, but because almost every encounter with a General Authority is so scripted, they meet with Stk Presidents that Area Authorities have picked, who pick the Bishops they’ll meet, who pick the ward members they’ll meet, and none of those people are going to pick someone they view as problematic. This effectively silos our leaders away from people like me.

    Even going to a RS President with some of these concerns is not helpful, partly because no one on any level can do anything about how hurtful the temple ceremony is to so many women, or how the garments harm our bodies, or how the materials published in the Ensign hurts us. But also because it is truly rare to meet anyone at church, let alone a RS President, who is open and unthreatened by an exploration of these issues. Those people tend to stop attending or drift away. The people who are in positions of leadership are people who other leaders feel inspired to call, and also feel like they can trust. Someone who recognizes these issues is rarely viewed as trustworthy.

    Take me for example. I keep all the commandments. I have a temple recommend. By every measure we apply to these things, I am “worthy.” And yet in my last ward I was forbidden to have any calling at all because they were afraid of my feminism. Despite the fact that I’ve served in YW Presidencies for years and took great personal pride in the service I offered there, taking the charge of those young testimonies extremely seriously and never abusing any position I’ve had in the church. The fear was enough to ostracize me.

    In the FMH FB group we hear over and over and over again, “I can’t say this anywhere else.” Because there is a MASSIVE cost to bringing this stuff up to anybody, especially someone in church leadership. They don’t want to lose their friends, they don’t want people to be afraid of them, they don’t want to have their children impacted, and all of those fears are so very real. I literally can’t even count the number of women who have told me their stories of being pushed out of the church once they raised their concerns. VTers saying “why don’t you just leave,” Bishops inviting people to never come back, Facebook gangups with ward members attacking and questioning righteousness. That last one alone has happened to me personally so many times it barely registers anymore.

    All of that behavior is directly tied to how people see those with questions treated. Statements made about OW have deeply wounded women who have no love for OW, just because they recognize that they would be treated the same way if they opened up about their feelings.

    I am one who said that there were statements from the PR department that were untrue. Because they were. That’s not the same thing as an individual person being a liar, and I hope I’ve always been clear about that distinction. I don’t think it had to be malicious, these things can also happen through a miscommunication of misinterpretation or even preparing a press release prior to the start of a conference session when all attention was needed elsewhere, and releasing it without updating it to reflect the facts as they happened.

    It truly hurts when your name is shamed publicly, when people attribute motives you don’t have for behavior you never foresaw as hurtful. It hurts when people meet you with vitriol and judgment. I know all of that so well I could write an encyclopedia on it. But the hurt alone doesn’t change the facts, as church leaders know so well *they* could write an encyclopedia. That can’t be the benchmark for right or wrong. People who are engaged in this work have to meet and listen, openly and honestly, sharing the hardest stuff and then doing something about it.

    I am still eager to meet with anyone and I will do it under just about any conditions necessary to achieve that goal. There are thousands of women who talk to FMH who don’t share these stories anywhere else and I want to tell anyone who will listen about them. My email: Tresa at reesedixon dot com

  66. In the matter of President Hinckley versus the current Party Line, it’s not so much that PH called for agitation so much as acknowledged that this is something that could, in fact, be changed by revelation.

  67. Well said, Brad.

    And, although the current Party Line may not be the same as Hinckley’s statement, the current party line is most certainly not that the heavens are closed and all we have to go on is interpretation of ancient scripture.

  68. What if the PR department let us all in on the topics discussed in these discussions they’re having? Why all the secrecy? I asked this question on the Millenial Star blog post and it was promptly deleted. The leadership of Mormon Women Stand are acting like a child taunting “I know something you don’t know.” If something substantial actually changes as a result of these ‘discussions’ (beyond hanging some portraits in the conference center and changing the seating arrangements at conference), will it be called a revelation? What would that imply? If Mormon Women Stand unequivocally, without hesitation, supports things as they are, what changes could they possibly suggest and why the need for the meeting at all?

  69. Steve Evans says:

    Anon, it’s not unusual for PR arms of organizations to meet with groups under some form of nondisclosure agreement or press embargo. What is unusual/unprofessional is for those groups to tout those secret meetings. My instinct is: don’t blame LDS PA for that, blame the people in those meetings for a lack of discretion.

  70. Angela C says:

    Steve Evans: “Stating that agitation for female ordination was President Hinckley’s idea is a false claim. I’m aware of the quote involved, but to interpret that as a call to agitation is absolutely incorrect. It can be more fairly offered up as opening up a fairly narrow window of possibility of change in response to demand; it certainly was not call for increased demand” OW called Pres. Hinckley’s bluff because he said there was no demand for it. The church could do the same thing and call OW’s bluff if leaders think OW won’t accept a current revelation on the matter. Has no one in this church played poker before?

  71. Dovetailing on Dave K’s comment, and for the sake of understanding, even though I disagree with the tactics of OW, I’m curious when LDS women started being called to serve missions. What revelation or scripture was pointed to (if any) to justify the change in policy?

  72. Kristine A, genuine question – “the handbook that changes and says women can no longer serve in Sunday School presidencies” –

    can you point those of us who are less well informed towards the sources of information where we can become informed about women in Sunday School presidencies and the when’s of change? Thanks in advance.

  73. You mean hanging portraits of women in the conference center and changing their seating arrangements at conference isn’t revelation??? Well what is it then? It certainly can’t be a response to agitation.

  74. Ray, what is our evidence that “secular” was even a category of analysis in ancient Israel?

  75. Teresa:

    I commend you for taking the course you are taking and addressing things in the proper way. Although I don’t think we share much in common as far as underlying beliefs, I don’t think we need to. I appreciate your patience and faith in how you are handling things.

    Regarding the General Authority visits, I think the leadership of the Church usually winds up talking with the people that they need to talk with. I always remember President Monson’s talk from 1975 (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/10/the-faith-of-a-child?lang=eng). This was the talk where he picked out of the audience Misti White, who was a little non-member girl and talked directly to her under the influence of the Spirit. In the course of that talk, he spoke of how he had been directed to go on a conference to visit Christal Methvin. He is our Prophet today, and I believe he is continuing to be guided by the Spirit. I believe that things like that happen, and probably happen far more than we know or realize.

    If the Lord needs to correct His Church or His leaders, I daresay your faithful prayers and fasting that the leaders be led to the right people will accomplish more than every blog post ever written.

  76. Steve, Kristine etc.

    Sorry can you specificy exactly where this lettere came from and how it was released? Was it released to specific blogs to post? I don’t see it in the official newsroom? Any clarification would be appreciated.

  77. Tresa thanks for your comment. I worked at Ricks College Public Relations, and part of our job was to arrange devotional speakers and their visit. I also helped arrange the devotional luncheon in which the GAs (or whoever) would meet with the rank and file students. You are right, the students whose names were submitted were the “shining stars” by and large every once in a while we had a bishop submit a name of someone who they thought could need an uplifting experience. Never once was one submitted as, “I really think leadership of the Church could benefit from hearing from this diverse viewpoint.”

    I have a dear friend who is a former apostle’s secretary. I told her I came in contact with an inactive mofem via my blog when I wore pants. I invited her to church with me and my friend said I was wrong to do so – that the point wasn’t to have her come to Church but to have her submit to her local stake leaders. These same leaders had implemented a dress code for all church meetings: all skirts/dresses, nylons, and closed toed shoes for women. I was told I was being subversive for not teaching my fellow inactive mofem that to come to Christ she had to submit to local phood over-reach. I also told my friend I hadn’t visited with my local leaders yet, but I told her there is a culture of fear that we will be disciplined just for sharing our thoughts and ideas. My friend said if a bishop is uncomfortable with any of my ideas it is his stewardship to release me from all callings and somewhat “quarantine” me from spreading them and my challenge in this life is to submit. Submit, submit, submit to all of those decisions.

    My family freaked out after I posted my blog in response to the last public affairs letter — because I said I was like Ordain Women. I do not support nor will I join them, but I am LIKE them. I have all the same questions with perhaps a different method or tone to my actions – but I am LIKE them. And everything you say to them is really close to saying it to me. And it hurts. My family thought I was apostate for identifying with them. But I, an incredibly faithful, moderate mormon feminist is not welcome at MWS ( a group that eschews any faithful questioning–which is possible) — it says on their purpose: no doubts, no questions. Wow. That is so super exclusive. And 4 years ago before my faith transition I would have probably been a founding member of the group. And meeting them does send me a message, as much as you would like it not to. To me they are just as divisive as the other group, and well, you just chose sides, Bro. Otterson. And no, that really wasn’t Christlike.

  78. Steve Evans says:

    Rah, it was emailed to us directly from the Church. It was released to several other LDS blogs at the same time.

  79. Angela C – the church does not work that way. We don’t get to assume the church policy is wrong, and insist they pray if they should change the policy. The priesthood restriction is very different in this regard as it’s clear from the very beginning the church authorities were wondering what the right course of action was and it came up time and again.

    What’s really interesting though, is what I personally predicated months ago with the whole church PA caffeine letter “scandal” (not really). The blogs and the internet are starting to wag the dog. There is no reason for the church to issue formal letters to the press about such an obscure topic (why not issue another letter about what constitutes proper sabbath observance? thoughts on playing poker?), but once having done so, it reveals the church will respond in somewhat if pressure is put on it.

    So here is the natural result of the church feeling it must respond, almost as if it were a blog commenter itself taking part in the debate at a distance. Rather than applying the old french proverb, as it were, la bave du crapaud n’atteint pas la blanche colombe, the PA department is being increasingly sucked into a news environment in which the PA department itself as well as the church’s policies are becoming the news item. I’m sure the church does not desire it’s own policies, let alone the actions of its PA group to become newsworthy.

    So in a long way to answer your question, if you give a mouse a cookie…

  80. Mike Otterson: “Nevertheless, I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other.”

    Yes, but why the passive-aggressive suggestion that Jesus would disapprove of the OW women, spitefully pitting their actions against Mary Magdalene or the Virgin Mary? There aren’t many women to celebrate in the scriptures; this looks therefore precisely like a cynical move to drive a wedge between the OW sisters and the few gospel heroines they have to cling to: “Jesus would approve of these [good] women but not *those* [bad] women.” Quite frankly, you don’t seem to know very much at all about the status of women in the New Testament, nor even the establishment of the early church. It’s a great deal more complicated than you think (I would refer you, for example, to the recent Catholic discussion about women in the early diaconate).

    Brother Otterson, neither you nor I have any idea whatsoever what Jesus would say to the OW women and those who sympathise with them. Not only is it blasphemy for you to suggest otherwise, it is just about the least civil or generous thing you can level at a fellow Christian: Jesus does not approve of you. If that is something the Brethren feel confident to say then fine, get out the way and let them say it.

  81. Angela C says:

    If “no doubts, no questions” isn’t an apostate, strident, divisive view, what is?

  82. Though I don’t doubt Brother Otterson’s good intentions, I think the fact that a letter regarding *feminist* concerns was sent to the racist and misogynist Millenial Star while fMh was excluded is exhibit A of why said concerns are valid.

  83. Yes, but why the passive-aggressive suggestion that Jesus would disapprove of the OW women… Playing to the base while saying “no” to OW. It drives a marginalizing wedge between OW and most of the rest of the church.

  84. WM – I was serving as primary president in 2010 when the new version of the Handbooks were released. The one where they had worldwide leadership trainings and cheesy videos about ward councils? It was all very exciting. Many good changes being moved forward there. The whole set up and arrangement of the handbooks were redone, and I was determined to follow them – many good changes. One of those changes is found here:

    https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/sunday-school/12.2.3?lang=eng#122
    12.2.2
    Ward Sunday School Presidency
    Members of the ward Sunday School presidency are priesthood holders. Where possible, the president holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. They work under the direction of the bishopric. They receive orientation and ongoing support from the stake Sunday School presidency.

    before that I had often seen the wife of the SSP serve as a secretary. Also I heard from women who had been serving in SSP in college wards who had to be released and replaced by someone holding the priesthood.

    Which, according to Elder Oaks’ last talk – was the women who had to be released. Because they have priesthood power and authority. {sigh}

    See? such a black and white issue. Glad to see such a black and white response.

  85. “Brother Otterson, neither you nor I have any idea whatsoever what Jesus would say to the OW women and those who sympathise with them. Not only is it blasphemy for you to suggest otherwise”

    RJH – seeing as the discussion here is ultimate priesthood, and priesthood in the LDS context is to represent and act in behalf of the Lord — as in, an authorized priesthood act is just as efficacious as if the Lord himself had performed it, it’s astounding to read someone suggesting it’s blasphemy for claiming to know the mind and will of the Lord on a certain matter. That’s exactly what priesthood, properly channeled with power and authority is. I realize BCC gets it’s Catholic and Evangelican spirit on from time to time, but we are most expressly a church founded on actually knowing the mind and will of the Lord.

  86. Orwell, do you have any reason to think it wasn’t sent to fmh? I don’t personally know if it was or not, but that they haven’t (yet) posted it doesn’t mean they weren’t included on the email.

    Again, I don’t have any idea if it was or not, but I don’t think we can assume that, because they haven’t posted it, they didn’t get it. (Because yes, if they hadn’t, that would be a remarkably poor move.)

  87. RJH and Angela C deserve an engraved medal for Best Comment

  88. it's a series of tubes says:

    Not only is it blasphemy

    Bold. Too bold, perhaps. Certainly very poorly phrased.

    Besides, who appointed you judge on this topic?

  89. Joni, I’m not sure I follow your comment 100% (do you mean tithe payers or GAs?), but regardless, my wife and I participated OW so I’ve drawn my personal line in the doctrinal sand :). I guess I’m attempting to overcome my inborn cynicism and hope for a minute that some good might eventually come from letters like this.

    Speaking more generally, folks on the reactionary side (Hi M*!) were always going to wield this as a club to try try and bludgeon others into submission, so to the extent Otterson used language to enable that kind of thing (“suggestive of apostasy”), it kinda stinks if the PR goal was actually to reach out in good faith.

  90. >we are most expressly a church founded on actually knowing the mind and will of the Lord

    Yes, but Public Affairs has never been accepted by common consent as a prophet, seer, or revelator.

  91. Angela C says:

    Orwell: “I think the fact that a letter regarding *feminist* concerns was sent to the racist and misogynist Millenial Star while fMh was excluded is exhibit A of why said concerns are valid.” Just to clarify, FMH also received the letter. They wanted to craft a response prior to publishing.

  92. That someone in Otterson’s (rather privileged) position should call for generosity and respectful dialogue and in the same breath label OW as apostate is unbelievable.

  93. Regardless of the intent of this letter, the centuries-old message: “these hysterical women are causing the problem” is loud and clear. It’s offensive on so many levels. And disappointing, yet not unexpected.

    Also I love Angela C’s comments above.

  94. Angela C says:

    RT: Believe it.

  95. “…the fact that a letter regarding *feminist* concerns was sent to the racist and misogynist Millenial Star while fMh was excluded is exhibit A of why said concerns are valid.”

    Worlds without end.

  96. Good comment RT! What’s with this “us” vs “not us” attitude? Two thirds of the church’s membership is currently inactive! Where is our prophet in all this? Why isn’t he bringing us together in a Christlike and caring way?

  97. Kiskilili, I agree that “secular” wasn’t a category in ancient Israel, just like it isn’t a category in some modern theocracies. I didn’t mean to imply that it was. When a leader is both the religious and secular leader of a people (as we now would define those terms), there often isn’t a distinction at the time – although there is in some cases. In the case of Alma, he was both the Chief Judge and the Church President; in the case of Moses, he simply was the Prophet Leader.

    However, the use of the word now to describe duties that we do not consider to be religious in nature is valid, which is why I used the example of Brigham Young – a political and religious leader whose duties and responsibilities often can be divided without serious debate between “secular” and “religious”. The same could be said of Joseph Smith during his time as mayor of Nauvoo. In fact, Alma is said to have given up his secular duties to focus on his religious duties, which illustrates my point.

    Finally, when two things that are separated by such a long time and exist in very different cultures are compared, it’s important to take those cultural differences into account and talk about the comparison in common terms – either by framing the discussion of both in terms of the ancient culture or the modern one. I simply used the modern terminology, since it is more widely understood now.

  98. Kristine A – Thanks for the response.

    In the conversation Sunday School is often mentioned as an area where a change could be instituted easily with women serving in the presidencies. I was interested that you’d said it had been changed to make it men only, and whilst anecdotal evidence is one of my favourite kinds, I’m wary of it in this instance. Is there any evidence that the 2010 edition was a change (I’ve never heard of women serving in the SSP), opposed to a codification and a clarification in response to situations such as in yours and college wards? 2010 wasn’t long ago, and if the policy before then was that women could serve in the SSP, then that raises questions as to why it changed, and suggests it could be a relatively simple thing to reverse such a policy change.

    I don’t mean to derail the thread but so far internet searches suggests the 2010 edition was more status quo, but if it really was an actual change of policy it seems that would be quite significant.

  99. RE: RT’s comment—not only did he call for respect while simultaneously labeling OW supporters apostates, but he tried to blame all the problems on rogue, sexist local leadership while simultaneously giving those same leaders ammunition for attacking OW supporters.

  100. Mark Brown says:

    Steve, while I agree that the MWS’s decision to crow about their meeting is amateurish, in their defense, they did say that they asked for, and we’re, granted, explicit permission to publicize their meeting. Assuming that is true, the amateurishness is located higher up the food chain.

    I heartily approve of br. Otterson’s call for charity and patience with one another as we build Zion. That is a reminder that we can always use! But I see little in his own example about how to engage charitably with those with whom we differ.

  101. Angela C says:

    Minor correction. The title of the open letter should have read “Content missing from discussion about women.” Small typo.

  102. Angela FTW

  103. Otterson’s letter could very well be an honest outreach to women who have felt pain in the church and women who have expressed some degree of solidarity with OW, even if they themselves are not inclined toward women’s ordination. However, I can’t help but believe that he is going it with the intention of marginalizing the people of OW. It was great to hear him say what we all should know by now, that with so many thousands of lay leadership in the church, all for the most part doing their level best, there are times where things are said and things that are done that are wrong, or at least very inappropriate regarding women’s issues. So that bit of introspection was good. I did notice that there was no introspection, however, regarding how the Church PR department has handled and communicated about OW, seemingly as if the PR statements have been fair, accurate, and done in a manner one would expect of communication about any other group of believing saints.

    As someone who is not a part of OW and am not advocating for women’s ordination, I have been disappointed in statements that PR has made that is not hard in my mind to see are very inaccurate and potentially hurtful. It would show some real class on Otterson’s part to at least acknowledge that PR could have done a much better job on some of their past statements. After all, it is not like if they did that it would mean some sort of capitulation on their part.

  104. It’s interesting that Otterson points to the demographics of the Apostles in the Book of Mormon and the Bible as proof that only those demographics are approved for priesthood office today. Jesus didn’t ordain any U.S. citizens to the 12. He didn’t ordain any Germans, either.

  105. WM – I agree I’d not like to derail a conversation, but for further consideration, 1/3 of the General Sunday School board are women. So, they can be general leaders but not local leaders . . . . because? Also my traditional ward had a woman serving in the SSP at the time changes were made (of course she had the gendered roll of administrative support of taking minutes and attendance as secretary, and there’s another further layer of inequality amongst that, but I’ll let that lie for now).

    https://www.lds.org/callings/sunday-school/messages-from-leaders/sunday-school-general-board?lang=eng

  106. Steve,

    Thanks. In some way I appreciate this effort to reach out directly the blogs where a lot of this public discussion is taking place. That seems very appropriate.

  107. I have long felt that women ought to have a more equal role/voice/representation in the church. Because of that, I attended the very first meeting of the OW group with a hopeful curiousity. But when Kate Kelly described the demand for women’s ordination as “non-negotiable,” I just didn’t feel like I could join the group.

    However, the current position of the church as lately expressed by the PR department, and to a lesser extent Elder Oaks, seems to be the same tone on the opposite end of the spectrum. The idea of ordaining women is non-negotiable to them as well, in that they won’t even consider it. I much preferred President Hinckley’s take on this subject – that it would take another revelation – and felt that it more correctly represented the way the church has historically handled questions and requests for changes. I honestly don’t understand the shift away from that position to this black-and-white, not-even-a-possibility rhetoric. I think that is damaging the church as much as the non-negotiable talk from the other side.

    How do we know what’s negotiable until we ask Heavenly Father for another revelation? Maybe He wouldn’t want to ordain women, maybe He would, and maybe He’d have something else in mind entirely for his daughters? But why does the church have to say it’s doctrine that can’t be changed? That just feels wrong to me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying church history, it’s that church “doctrine” has changed a number of times – typically when the prophet has asked for clarification and additional information. There are also revelations where the Lord confirms the status quo in response to questions. Either way, wouldn’t knowing be better than wondering and fighting about it?

  108. SGNM, again, it is that type of statement that distorts the issue and does exactly what Bro. Otterson mentioned in his letter.

    This is not a statement of support for or agreement with anything, in any way, but women existed in Jesus’ day. US citizens and Germans didn’t.

  109. If this letter says what he meant to say, it’s not a very kind letter – and if it didn’t, he’s not very good at his job.

    I’m not sure which I’d rather believe.

  110. BlueJay says:

    Ray- Jesus himself also very specifically didn’t ordain any Gentiles- so SGNM’s statement meaning that what Jesus did or didn’t do isn’t the be all and end all of what we should do in the church still stands.

  111. Maybe he was called for his own edification, and he’s learning valuable lessons that will deepen and strengthen his relationship with God. (And I know that sounds snarky, and it sort of is, but I think that’s what I’m going to go with – it’s the easiest option for me to practice charity).

  112. PieFace says:

    I agree that more kindness and less divisiveness must happen in this conversation, however from this letter I get that that doesn’t include the people PR disagrees with. It’s OK to make unkind assumptions about apostates.

  113. Kristine A – It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world (except for Lola)

    Anything that involves Ann Madsen has got my vote.

  114. Angela C. and Sam B., it appears I jumped the gun. My apologies for my premature assumption.

  115. My thinking on this subject is colored by Ed Kimball’s wonderful BYU Studies article on his father’s experience with the priesthood revelation. Some commenters seem, by their tone, to assume that Pres. Monson is unwilling just to duck into his bedroom for the few minutes it would take to straighten this all out. For Pres. Kimball, the 1978 revelation was the fruit of years of thinking and questioning, and months of intense, painful, solitary work. I’ve always loved him–he was the prophet of my childhood–and I felt so grateful to him and to the Lord after reading his son’s account. The vibe I’m *not* getting from either side here is humble, joyful expectation that the Lord will yet reveal many great and important things, etc. Even the fact that we talk about “sides” disturbs me: I want to belong to a people without “any manner of -ites.”

  116. But I still resent it getting sent to Millennial Star, nonetheless.

  117. ‘We have learned by sad experience’
    Several years ago, our neighborhood was cut out of our existing ward and put into another existing ward. My wife was young women’s president, and our bishop called a meeting with the two young women’s presidents from both wards along with some of the counselors to discuss the transition. They met in the living room of our home, and I was in the adjoining study. It wasn’t long after the meeting started that I heard a ‘commotion’ from the living room, and a ‘LOUD’ man’s voice declare, “for every time you have received revelation, I have had a thousand”. If anyone ever re-created the ‘ruckus’ that followed, it would be a very entertaining. The door SLAMMED, as he ‘FLED’ the house.

  118. Blue Jay, I agree it’s not the be all and end all, and I’ve never argued otherwise. I believe in continuing revelation that can make and has made massive and unexpected changes. It’s part of our core theology – and I’ve said here in this thread and lots of other places that I would welcome and support such a change in who can do what in the modern LDS Church.

  119. Amen RJH!!!

    Amen and amen. It truly is blasphemous to superimpose thoughts or actions on Jesus in order judgmentally classify others.

    And, we wonder why women are upset.

    I found it ironic that one of the themes in the letter was an assurance that the leadership is aware of and close to the rank and file. I don’t mean to be rude, but this struck me as ridiculous. The distance created between our leaders and the rank and file is extremely intentional and “co-created” by the church to help correlate messages and maintain image. The brethren sometimes mention their fears in talking to small groups or individuals who might then broadcast the their words to others who will inappropriately apply them outside the desired context. Much is done by church employees to specifically tailor communications and to uphold extremely formal boundaries. Trying to convince us how much the church tries to remain connected to the rank and file is not completely honest or in full disclosure, as your department works diligently to maintain formal boundaries and create distance!!!

    There isn’t such as thing as a “Brother Joseph” to us anymore, and probably never will be again.

    Let’s face it, our leadership is essentially cloistered, inter-related, geographically tied, and protected by corporate structure and formalities. Whether or not they choose it or like it, church leaders’ families live in a separate caste and we all know which surnames are included. Encounters with the rank and file are extremely choreographed, formal, short, and shallow. The church’s communication model is one of dissemination, not diffusion. There aren’t even opportunities anymore for serendipitous encounters. The church frequently tells the story of “President Kimball soothing a young child in an airport” from over 40 years ago, but you’ll notice there hasn’t been a similar story in subsequent decades. That’s been fixed.

  120. The Deseret “News” has an “article” on the letter, directing you to read it in its entirety at Millennial Star. I guess that’s the place to discuss these issues, folks.

  121. I see a carefully worded letter that by in large comes off defensive and subtly divisive. The fact they can’t see MWS as divisive shows deafness and lack of empathy. But then again based on the letter I’m not sure empathy was the highest priority on their list. So . . . .

    Which is why I continue to base my testimony on the rock, my Redeemer. I know Christ died for me and lives today. If I look deeply enough through all the layers I think I find the Gospel of Jesus Christ here. But testimony in the organization? shaky, at best.

  122. amycartwright says:

    You know, at the very least, it might be a good idea to meet with women who desire ordination because they probably have good reason for thinking it is a good course of action. I believe women should be ordained but it’s secondary to other concerns, but I see ordination as the easiest way to solve those problems (i.e. sexually explicit interviews between middle aged men and teenage girls, for starters. Start ordaining women and you can have women conducting worthiness interviews with women). Meeting with women who desire ordination in no way means that the church will have to ordain women. It could just be a conversation with women who have a different point-of-view.

    What strikes me in all of this is how Public Affiars seems to be using meetings with general authorities as a sort of carrot–”Play into the patriarchy the way we desire and we’ll *even* let you talk to the men!” Frankly, this is all very disheartening and incredibly symptomatic of the issues facing Mormon women. They are given voice when they stand where told, jump when told, and sit when told. I honestly question if the PA department understands that this is what it is doing. Their conduct isn’t helping Mormon women, it’s hurting them. And their choice to play to it only invokes the “proper” women to use their soft power against other women.

    We’ve created a beast and I’m not sure we’ll ever slay it.

  123. Shawn H says:

    After reading the letter, I’m left saddened and depressed by this church. It occurs to me that this may turn out to be like polygamy; it will require the law of the land to force the church’s hand. I can see a future where equality is demanded in every sphere, and the US government forces the church to change. A revelation would then miraculously be received… I could be wrong, but that’s the general direction our society is headed, legally speaking.

  124. To be clear, the spokesperson for God has a spokesteam which speaks officially on behalf of the church, prophet, and God, via non-official letter disseminated via LDS-themed blog(s)… so… not clear at all then?

    One question (aside from ‘why can’t the Q15 address this mess directly, specifically, and without equivocation’): When Brother Otterson refers to group-which-should-not-be-named as making “non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept”, does he mean the church can’t accept the demands, or the idea of doctrinal change. I’m betting the latter.

  125. anonymous says:

    I must disagree with the claims that the Brethren do not meet with rank and file members, or that they interact with only “shining star” types. Apostle Richard G. Scott held an hour-long, informal Q&A meeting before our Stake Conference a few years ago & the only people invited to it were inactives/disaffected (& their spouses) and brand new converts. I got to go (my spouse has left the church). Elder Scott was extremely interested to listen to the reasons people gave for leaving the church, and to answer any questions we had. There was nothing but loving concern from him, from what I could see. I can’t see any truth to the arguments that Brethren at the highest levels are somehow insulated from certain types or groups of people. It’s an unfounded accusation.

  126. Kristine A, I’m disappointed in another part of the handbook that was changed regarding SS Presidencies. There used to be a section 12.2.3 that said, to the best of my recollection:

    “Just what the hell a Sunday School Presidency is supposed to do in the modern church now that the Sunday School organization no longer exists nobody knows. But keep calling them anyway.”

  127. Amen to sba’s comment above, and to the recent anonymous. Again, I apologize if commenters feel like their First Amendment rights are being violated, but it is important to me on a personal level that BCC be a place that is respectful of the Church and its leadership. I think this letter is good in some ways, bad in others, and it’s certainly fair game to critique, but I am not interested in turning this thread into an opportunity to demonize anyone, be it LDS Public Affairs, Ordain Women, or Millennial Star. It is especially tempting to demonize the last of those three. But please don’t.

  128. Mark Brown says:

    sba: “…humble, joyful anticipation that The Lord will yet reveal many great and important things…”

    Actually, that is an accurate description of how many or even most of OW supporters see the future. Nobody expects this to be easy, it will undoubtedly take even more work and effort than Official Declaration 2. And while I know you said you hated the way this issue is dividing us into opposing sides, it is worth asking the question here: “Who is it that is saying no more revelation can take place?” It is certainly not OW.

  129. Geoff - A says:

    Part of the problem is that the PR dept is involved at all. When you have a problem with a large orginazion there is usually a “customer relations” dept, whose jo is to come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.
    A PR dept is to spin the company line.
    As there is no means of communicating with the church leaders, and no customer relations dept, we end up with people who believe their purpose is to spin the party line, being left to deal with a customer complaint. Consequently even when there is an attempt at concilliation (my interpretatin), there is still more PR than peacemaking, or customer relation.

    Customer relations comes closer to pastoral care, but we don’t seem to be able to do that.

    The idea that there is already consultation with the members is problematic. The only GA I see are at a distance. I’m told by ex stake presidents that the communication is pretty much one way.
    Forgetting pastoral care, isn’t it just common decency when people express hurt/concern to treat them with respect. PR say they are only 10% is that 1.5million.
    What other orginazation would treat 1.5million unhappycustomers this way?
    A long way to go to even common decency.

  130. “Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept.”

    Finally, an official response to Cliven Bundy and his shenanigans! I’ve been waiting for this.

  131. I like to read things like this very slowly and carefully, and Bro. Otterson did NOT say that no more revelation can take place. What he said is, “his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised.”

    I think the operative words are “today” and “compromised”. I know many people on both sides of the discussion might not see that as important, but I think he is highly intelligent and chose his words carefully. This wording says nothing about what his leaders might do outside of today, and I’m sure that depends entirely in the future on whether or not they believe they have received revelation that would change it.

  132. Mark:

    Please be fair. While it is true that I have huge differences in opinion as to what appropriate methods of dissent are with OW, I believe that the Prophet could receive revelation tonight extending the Priesthood to women and I would be on board with it the moment that it happened. From talking with others who dislike the methods of OW, that has been the unanimous opinion that I have received. We believe that revelation can take place, and we will follow the Priesthood leadership.if and when they tell us that revelation has been received.

  133. Mark Brown says:

    Jonathan, I do not disagree that President Monson could pray tomorrow morning about an issue and get an immediate answer. But I also think it almost never works that way. Revelation is not like a vending machine where you put your prayer in and get an answer out. Section 9 teaches Oliver Cowdery and us what happens when you “take no thought save to ask”. In order to get an answer, you usually have to want it, really, really want it. OD2 almost killed president Kimball, sister Kimball was worried sick about him. My opinion is that this will be an even greater change which will require even more hard work and spiritual striving. So far we appear to be satisfied with the status quo, with nobody seeing any need for change. We don’t even think we have a problem, at least not one big enough to put any effort into solving.

  134. Mark:

    I agree that revelation is not typically an easy process. I was strictly pointing out that I did not believe that your statement:

    ” And while I know you said you hated the way this issue is dividing us into opposing sides, it is worth asking the question here: “Who is it that is saying no more revelation can take place?” It is certainly not OW.”

    was fair. I think, among both ‘sides,’ there is an understanding that revelation can take place on this or any other issue.

  135. Mark Brown, yes! I think it is very rare that heavenly messengers deliver new doctrines like surprise packages. We remember those stories because they are cool and so out of the ordinary that they demonstrate divine intervention, but most of the time we have to think things out (sometimes for a really long time) before God will let us know that the idea we’ve been pondering is a good one. Usually that means examining as many sides of an issue as possible. If you’ve already determined what you think God wants you to do, then you’re not all that open for revelation.

  136. Mark Brown says:

    Well sure. Sorry for not being clearer.

    I was simply trying to contrast between a position which says “We believe that the Restoration is ongoing and that many great and important things are yet to be revealed, so let’s get busy and get on with it.”, and a position which says “Nope, that topic is off limits for discussion, we refuse to even consider it.”, and then bolsters that position with a specious reading of the New Testament.

  137. In the end, I’m glad that Bro. Otterson reached out with this letter specifically to the Bloggernacle. This by and large is where a bulk of the discussion is taking place and is a safe space for me to share without losing my temple recommend, I’ve found a community of saints here that challenges me to be better, to question my own assumptions, and yet doesn’t dismiss me or find me wanting.

    Here is what I see: the Church is going to make baby, baby steps into equitable treatment for women. In 20 years this will all be water under the bridge when we’ve disengaged from BSA (please, Lord, let this happen) and invest equitably in our daughters as we do our sons. In the meantime, the treatment I get from mainline mormons and my church organization (PA) is that I get my face ground into the pavement and called names and ostracized for advocating for things that in the future will be deemed “God’s will.” It’s this in-between time that’s so painful. I literally am trying to improve Zion with a heart full of love. This community I love and care about can wound so deeply.

    My advice to PA, hire a Mormon Feminist. Please. The tone deafness aches in my bones.

  138. Kristine A, thanks. We’re glad you’re here.

  139. I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not […]

    Wait, so we know some of the reasons? I’d like to know what he thinks those are.

  140. hemshadley says:

    “We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course.?” As has been pointed out above, Christ engaged with many women with whom he did not agree. I think of his conversation with the woman at the well, for instance. I would hope for more of a Uchdorf-themed, “Come, Join with Us” invitation, that all are welcome, even those with whom we may not agree.
    Anyone who is familiar with “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” knows that the process of change in the church has much more to do with the changing of attitudes and opinions than one might think. That is not to say that revelation is/was not key. But sometimes, our flaws as humans at all levels act as barriers to change. To quote Elder Holland, “when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.”
    Perhaps I’m just speaking from my own perspective, but I believe the crux the issue for the majority of women like me are the embedded cultural practices and fundamental administrative structure that can marginalize or women, not the existence of rogue or overworked local leaders or a desire for priesthood ordination. It is easy for the Church to rebuff those like OW, whose methods a moderate LDS woman may find a bridge too far. It’s not so easy for the Church to perhaps recognize that that most women would embrace changes that would better engage and empower women at all levels in the Church regardless of Priesthood standing, yet many women are afraid to voice even the mildest of concerns regarding womens’ roles for fear of being marginalized even further.
    That being said, I appreciate Otterson’s effort here and have resolved to take Elder Holland’s advice above to be “patient and kind and forgiving”.

  141. Angela C says:

    I too want to be clear that I appreciate any effort made by Bro. Otterson or any church leaders to truly listen and understand women’s concerns, including women who want to be ordained and women who don’t but still feel underutilized, patronized or dismissed. It is crucial that this take place because I also know this to be true: “many women are afraid to voice even the mildest of concerns regarding womens’ roles for fear of being marginalized even further.” Frankly, this is a church-wide problem that the bloggernacle exists to relieve. Most of us don’t have in person access to any leaders. Never have, never will. So we blog.

  142. Brother Otterson, thank you for writing and sharing this letter. It’s clear that you gave it a lot of thought and care about this subject, which is so welcome. I have a few concerns about the comments you made, and in the spirit of respectful dialogue, would like to respond to them here. I hope you won’t see this as an effort to “parse words,” but rather to respond to some of your thoughts and continue to the dialogue.

    First you suggest that the response to the concern”There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive” is essentially to speak with our bishops or RS presidents. Having done this with many different bishops, RS presidents, and even temple presidents/matrons/staff, I can say that in the best case scenario I have had leaders be very kind while acknowledging that they have absolutely no insight to offer whatsoever, contrasted with leaders that are quick to assume apostasy and lean towards discipline. So, sadly, I do not believe conversation with local leaders resolves the concern you highlighted.

    I’d also like to respond to this thought: “We might wonder what the Savior’s reaction would have been had the many prominent women in his life taken such a course [publicly petitioning for ordination]. If Mary Magdalene, or Mary, his mother, or Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, had demanded ordination to the Twelve, had spoken publicly about their insistence and made demands such as we hear today, how would Jesus have felt, who loved them every bit as much as he loved the Twelve? Some of these women were closest to him in life and in death. One was the first mortal to witness a resurrected Being. There was nothing “lesser” about these women in his eyes.”

    Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but sadly to me this shows a lack of understanding about the general concerns feminists are expressing. First, the feminist question is *never* whether God or Jesus values women or sees them as less. We absolutely do not doubt that we are the equals of men in God’s eyes. So highlighting that Jesus loves women is preaching to the choir here- our concern is that the church can do a better job of embracing Christ’s progressive and insightful approach to including women in his ministry.

    Additionally, your example contrasts arguably the most spiritually and religiously privileged women of all time with women in the lowest echelons of our current church hierarchy, who have no access to leadership or opportunity to share concerns, be heard, or give suggestions. The former women had direct access to the Savior, while the latter have no access to anyone in a position to change things really. Ordain Women, for example, has sought a private audience with church leaders repeatedly, and I’m sure that if they had direct access to Jesus in the flesh, as leader of the church like Mary and Martha did, they would not find it necessary to engage in more public conversation. I have absolutely no doubt that OW or almost any feminist, for that matter, would rather be speaking with our leaders directly, as opposed to engaging in public conversation. I’m not saying public conversation is right or wrong here, I’m just saying that your comparison suggests that you haven’t understood this challenge that feminists face: *precisely because* women do not have the ear of our leaders–as Mary, Mary, and Martha did–many choose to engage in more public conversation, in hopes that their concerns will be read and considered. And given the fact that you have written this letter, it’s clear that they are being read– just perhaps misunderstood.

    I’m not sure what the solution is- obviously, we all have the ear of God through our personal prayers–and feminists have pleaded with God on these challenges for many years and we will continue on for many years to come–but perhaps you and I can agree that God isn’t likely to give us insights about women if (a) our leaders aren’t asking about these challenges, and (b) the people of the church are not ready for. I think it’s likely that some of our leaders are asking about this, and some of our members are ready, it just doesn’t seem that we’ve reached some kind of tipping point yet. And the fact that our apostles must be unanimous on all changes of any significance makes this a slow process indeed.

    Finally, these thoughts: “agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this conversation).” To be honest, the fact that apparently a productive conversation about the voice, value, and visibility of women has been going on for years, and the only potential products I can see are (a) lowering of women’s missionary ages along with the men’s, still at a disparate initial age, (b) women finally praying in conference after 150 or so years, and (c) hanging a portrait of women in the conference center (which was previously broadcast by the newsroom as a product of these conversations as well)…. this is actually very discouraging to me. I do sincerely hope the conversation continues, and that more women are not only listened to, but responded to. I’m saddened though that in your experience, one of the best fruits we have to offer from years of productive conversation is that women’s mission ages were lowered along with men’s.

    Lastly, I’d like to respond to these thoughts “LDS women who describe themselves as feminists don’t necessarily seek ordination, but rather to be genuinely valued and given a voice that is respected and welcomed.”

    I think the first half of your statement is totally fair, but speaking for myself, I am actually very tired of being “valued” and “respected.” Usually, for me, this translates into pedestaling women without really giving women a full voice and place in the ministry of the church. What I do hope for women in the church is that our voices carry equal weight with men, that we are parallel partners on all the major councils of the church, that we have more women leaders, and more diverse women leaders, and that our opportunities to minister are expanded. I hope that in the future, the example someone in your position gives of progress won’t be that diverse women were brought together and listened to, but rather that diverse women are a part of our leadership and share counsel with the male leaders of our church (and not just 9 women who participate on a few scant councils).

    To conclude, I loved your final thoughts: “I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, more respectful dialogue, more kindness and civility and more generosity of spirit as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other. As Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said recently: ‘May we realize just how much we need each other, and may we all love one another better,’ no matter which chair we’re sitting in.” I absolutely agree, and while I’m concerned by a few of the responses you’ve posed, I certainly have no ill will towards you and I hope that the dialogue will continue and will improve. I’m grateful you wrote this letter, and took the time to engage in this conversation. While I’m saddened that the fruits we have to show feel so small, I’m also grateful the conversation is moving along. And I’m reminded that while the fruits seem small to me, I am impatient and in the big picture of the earth, women are progressing at a rate that they never have before in the history of the world. Our improvements– seeing women as real humans rather than property, treating women with respect, embracing women as world leaders, the widespread increase of women’s education and freedom in work prospects, etc.– these, taken together, are beautiful improvements and I’m hopeful that we will continue to see more from a religious perspective.

  143. ^^ Sorry for some grammatical missteps and typos. It’s quite late and it’s been a long day!

  144. Julie Smith’s thoughts about the letter are worth reading as well: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/05/a-partial-response-to-brother-otterson/

  145. The First Presidency could silence OW with a single word. They want to hear from God, not Michael Otterson. Is that so extreme?

  146. Peter LLC says:

    “We only know [...] that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church”

    What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.

  147. I had a really hard time with this. I’m surely not OW. I’m not MWS either. I do find OW and MWS divisive. I’m just a member of the Relief Society who has questions.

    I know Jesus chose 12 men. I don’t have a problem with that at all. I do wonder if we can take that as meaning something. He also drank wine and we happily revealed that away.

    I wonder what power I am endowed with in the temple.

    I wonder if in the temple we apply Exodus 40:12 to me-in that not only are Aaron and his sons washed…but *I* am…then am I to assume that Exodus 40:13 is an male only invitation to the priesthood? I just wonder what it means to be a priestess. And if I am meant to worship none but God what does it mean to be a priestess to my husband. What is that about? ironing his white shirts? clearly much more than that…but at this juncture…how would I know?

    If we are going to pull women as examples from the scriptures, can I wonder about Deborah and Huldah?

    I’m not feminist…primarily because most feminists don’t really go for women with 10 children. Maybe if I had just had 8. I don’t know. I’m also so conflicted over abortion, and that’s not acceptable in most feminist circles. I also believe men and women are different. I can’t logic my way around that one. Either our olympians have been lazy and holding out on us, or we are different. Either we have a unique voice to share…or we are NOT different.

    I wonder how I am NOT supposed to wonder that a witness couple exists in some parts of the the temple, but in other parts of the temple, only men can stand as a witness. Am I not meant to notice that?

    If there is nothing between me and God…why do I covenant at times to my husband-and what did it mean the first time I covenanted and had no husband ? Who did I covenant with?

    I’m completely conservative. super conservative. I just have a brain and I like to use it.

    I also know that “human” mistakes can be made by Bishops AND RSP’s. (hint…don’t tell a pregnant with twins mom that there will be no meals or help forthcoming, because her parent’s mission call means God thinks she can do this all on her own. )

    It’s not that I want to be ordained. I just feel I already have been promised something and given something…and I want to respect that and use it properly. There is that whole parable of the talents in which if I bury my talents in the sand…they will be taken. Yet every time I take out my gifts to wonder at what to do with them I’m met with crazed stares or at best, very compassionate “I don’t know”s.

    So I mostly just shelve my concerns and hope that’s not the same as burying them.

    I find this PR statement hard.

  148. More people are alienated from the church than Otterson seems to think or wants to admit and this latest only serves to increase the alienation, painting those women who would dare to disagree in any major way and challenge church authority, as apostates and strident extremists (the word “strident” seems to be a favorite way for a patriarchy and sexist individuals, not just Mormons to attack women who express strong views). This letter gives no real specifics, only vague assertions about “meetings” with women where they were allegedly listened to. The point apparently being missed here by Otterson is that if women had an equal role in church leadership, such “meetings” would not be necessary. It shouldn’t take a special meeting for women to be listened to; in a healthy, open organization this would occur everyday on a regular basis.

    What Otterson neglects to take into account is that although women active in the church who are asking for major changes might be in the minority, he is not accounting for the many dropouts the church has and the low rate of people who are active, given that the 15 million in the church includes many who were baptized but who haven’t attended in decades and no longer define themselves as Latter Day Saints or Mormon. While many churches are losing the younger generation, this church appears to be losing them in droves and attitudes such as those displayed by Otterson are an exemplar of why this may be. While they of course did not all leave over women’s issues as this is only one of a number of highly problematic issues in the church, clearly the church did not meet their needs. This latest letter from a church spokesperson only serves to further illustrate how women in the church are clearly subordinate to men and it is the intent of the management, that they always will be. That’s one of the reasons why I have said thanks but no thanks to my own membership in this church and that’s not being “strident”, that’s just being real.

  149. On the one hand, it’s obvious why the Brethren don’t simply answer the question–they don’t want to set a precedent that might lead to all sorts of group “requesting answers” on far less reasonable questions than OW.

    On the other hand, the waffling makes them look rather…ineffectual…compared to past prophets. They should either answer OW’s question or explicitly order OW to stop asking. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young wouldn’t have let this drag out the way it has.

    A prophet of the Lord shouldn’t take a cautious, corporate approach.

  150. lessonnumberone, I wish you were in my ward.

  151. I’m no biblical scholar, but it’s my understanding that the original twelve were male because (1) Jewish law stated that in order to be recognized as a rabbi, there needed to be at least ten male disciples and (2) to tie in the symbolism of the twelve tribes of Israel, who were led by twelve men, to signal in the beginning of a new covenant/law.
    I don’t think it had anything to do with any intent for the priesthood to only be given to men. As many have stated, women were the first to witness the resurrection. Elder Oaks just taught us in the last GC that resurrection is a priesthood ordinance. If women were the first witnesses of the highest ordinance of all, why can’t they be witnesses to other priesthood ordinances?

  152. Mark Brown says:

    Monica is correct to observe that while special meetings to understand women’s concerns may be seen as a sign of progress, just the fact that we have to have them should be a giant red flag, and an indicator that something is deeply wrong. It does us no credit to be self-congratulatory about this.

    Perhaps my biggest disappointment is this. Br. Otterson appears to think that the problem feminists see with the status quo is an anomaly that can be fixed by more training. But he is mistaken. But everybody understands that leaders are busy and sometimes not at their best, and that sometimes you get a bad apple. No, the real issue is the way our current structure takes nice, decent men who are doing their level best and transforms them into unconscious sexists, somebody who thinks he is making a special effort if he actually listens to a real, live woman with an opinion which differs from his. No, this will not get fixed by more training videos. This problem is structural and systemic, and therefore it must be addressed on that level. The fact that Br. Otterson does not appear to grasp either the nature or size of the problem is the second most disappointing thing about this letter.

    The biggest disappointment is the dismissiveness. If we apply St. Paul’s metaphor of the body of Christ, Ordain Women is likely just the little toe. But as anyone who has ever had a broken toe understands all too well, if your toe hurts, your whole body has a problem. But this letter, basically telling feminists to be quiet and go away is saying, in essence, “We have no need of thee.”

  153. Thank you, lessonNumberOne, you have articulated my own thoughts perfectly. I can add my desire to know more about our Heavenly Mother. I am 60 years old, and have been all over the map in my thoughts about “women’s issues” in the Church. I’m a life-long active member, and have served in callings ranging from the invisible pianist to RS president. My husband, a former bishop and current high councillor, has made significant (though still incomplete) progress out of his former cluelessness. I’m proud of my well-informed and faithful children. However, every time I’ve expressed my concerns here in my current ward, I’ve been met with suspicion and dismay. As a result, I rarely speak up these days. Most of the time, I feel that I can go on faith, trusting that my husband is a good man whom I love and that the covenant I made with him has not been misplaced, and especially trusting that our Heavenly Parents will help us understand everything someday and “wipe away all tears”. In the meantime, I am grateful for the opportunity to share thoughts, ideas, and concerns in this mostly anonymous way. It is hard to imagine any circumstance under which I would express these thoughts to my current bishop or stake presidency. I feel sad and isolated from my ward and stake family about this, and with you I say “So I mostly just shelve my concerns and hope that’s not the same as burying them.”

  154. DQ: “I’m curious when LDS women started being called to serve missions. What revelation or scripture was pointed to (if any) to justify the change in policy?”

    The first proselyting sister missionaries were called in 1898. See https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/07/the-first-sister-missionaries. I am not aware of any revelation or doctrinal development that was necessary for this change. It appears to have just been a decision that sisters would help the work. One blog suggests the calls were made to counter negative stereotypes about Mormon women that arose from polygamy. See http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/pragmatism-and-progress-an-overview-of-lds-sister-missionary-
    service-in-the-twentieth-century/; see also http://educationinzion.byu.edu/highlight/the-first-sister-missionaries/.

  155. @Angie @Mark Brown @AngelaC These are the thoughts resonating with me. If Brother Otterson wants me to talk openly about my feelings and concerns about women in the church, there must be an environment where such feelings and concerns are considered welcome and legitimate. I fear that local leaders and church members are observing the interactions (or lack thereof) of OW and Church PR, and taking tacit permission to cast disapproval on (or take action against) many women who express concern or opinions about women’s issues. Thus, the bloggernacle is where Mormon women from conservative to liberal are going for relief and refuge, not for “angry venting, cynical put-downs and the circulating of misinformation” but to communicate genuine concerns with leaders and fellow saints in a safe way.
    Because I know there is no anonymity with my Heavenly Father, I have tried to be respectful and thoughtful with what I say here. I’m happy that the conversation is moving forward, albiet in this awkward sort of way, but forward we go.

  156. “But this letter, basically telling feminists to be quiet and go away”

    There are plenty of legitimate issues with the letter, but, those issues aside, when we misrepresent what it says we are contributing to the problem.

    Bro. Otterson said his department is willing to and does meet with feminists. The only exclusion he made in the letter was for groups who make “non-negotiable demands” that simply can’t be accomplished right now – and Sister Kelly is on record as saying that OW’s desire to gain Priesthood ordination is non-negotiable and they won’t stop until it happens. Those are her words.

    I understand this is a highly emotional topic and a very real and important issue. I know how brutally hard it is to not let emotion get in the way of understanding, but making claims about this letter that simply don’t match what it says and misrepresenting the wording only exacerbates the problem.

  157. I have to disagree with Kelsey. My first question is actually ‘are women equal with men before god’. The method covenants are made in the high church format, coupled with female absence in the holiest echelons and of rite/ritual, and the equivocation about how women access, hold, and exercise priesthood (always under a male) would indicate the sexes are not equal.

  158. My first question is actually ‘are men and women unequal before god because of gods design of the church’s?’

  159. A PR department should be for communicating with people outside not inside. The fact that members have to make noise outside of the structure to be responded to is a strong reminder that we are not “members” in the true sense but rather “subscribers” or “customers”.

  160. Mark Brown says:

    Ray, I think you are giving this letter every benefit of the doubt, while making Kate Kelly and me offenders for a word. The “non-negotiable” card is overused. Yes, Kelly said that. How do we know that she doesn’t see that as an ultimate goal, but is willing to work on incremental, smaller steps in the meantime? Answer: We don’t, because we haven’t asked. And we haven’t asked because we are, yes, looking for reasons to tell her to be quiet and go away. In the meantime there is likely going to be some real damage done because some bishop, somewhere, is going to see Otterson’s reference to apostasy, assume it is the actual personal opinion of Jesus Christ, and throw somebody out of the church because of it.

    It is my opinion that the Newsroom is using that single phrase as a rationale to intentionally marginalize decent people and to justify behavior that would easily be recognized as reprehensible in any other setting.

  161. it's a series of tubes says:

    Ray, I think you are giving this letter every benefit of the doubt, while making Kate Kelly and me offenders for a word

    Mark, I think you are not fairly characterizing Ray’s cautious and moderate comments on this thread – comments which have been consistent with his prior approaches elsewhere.

  162. “A PR department should be for communicating with people outside not inside. The fact that members have to make noise outside of the structure to be responded to is a strong reminder that we are not “members” in the true sense but rather “subscribers” or “customers”.”

    As a member of a PR Department for an organization, I strongly disagree with this math. For starters:

    1. MOST of a PR person’s job in larger organizations is dedicated to communication with INTERNAL audiences, either through official channels or engagement with external media directed at an internal audience (of which LDS blogs are a major player). While Michael Otterson is more associated with his dealings with the external media for external audiences, he has responsibility over the entire department, of which engagement with non-church, internal audiences is an important part.

    2. OW has centered its strategies on the external media. That makes this conversation one that by nature must be handled largely by the PR department.

    3. Michael Otterson was responding to conversations going on in the LDS Blogs (external media for a primarily internal audience) and those conversations were ABOUT the Church PR department activities in large measure. It is not only appropriate that he be the one to respond, it is necessary.

    I think certain members of the Bloggernacle are reading far too much into the fact that the PR department is taking front and center. THAT’S THEIR JOB. Communicating with the media (external or blogs) is what they’re hired to do. And if you think they’re doing it poorly, imagine how much worse it would be if church leadership (untrained in PR) jumped into this situation. They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by being involved in this at the media level.

    President Hinckley was the exception to the rule, having worked in media for the church his entire life. For everyone else who insinuates motives on the part of leaders and PR officers, all I have to say is this: This is what PR people deal with every day, its unavoidable, and not nearly as easy as it looks. The cynicism in play when controversial subjects play out in the media are the reason PR became a profession. As long as OW and others want to play out this discussion in the media, their interface will continue to be the people who are hired to interact with the media.

  163. Mark Brown says:

    It is interesting to me how this letter goes to some lengths to encourage patience and understanding for leaders who occasionally misspeaks while giving just a passing nod to the idea of patience and inclusion for those in the rank and file, and insists that we accept the letters own definition of who it is acceptable to simply exclude because we don’t like the way they said something. This really is the epitome of the problem.

  164. Quoting Steve Evans: “it’s not unusual for PR arms of organizations to meet with groups under some form of nondisclosure agreement or press embargo. What is unusual/unprofessional is for those groups to tout those secret meetings. My instinct is: don’t blame LDS PA for that, blame the people in those meetings for a lack of discretion.”

    PR 101: If you don’t want a meeting blabbed about, don’t meet with organizations that are known for such blabbing.

    The Church PR department is hardly blameless here. They knew the nature of the snake when they picked her up.

  165. Lorin, I understand what you are saying. My point is a bit larger. It’s the fact that it has gotten to this point. It is that there are few to no channels of communication for rank and file members. The only way for many people to feel heard (or perhaps be heard) is to make things into a PR issue by taking issues to the press.

  166. Lorin, as a 10+ year veteran of PR, I have to say I completely disagree with your assessment.

    General church membership is not the LDS Church’s “internal” audience. That would be church leadership and church employees.

    General church membership is the LDS Church’s “customer.” Those not members of the church would be considered potential “customers.” Different strategies are employed for all three groups.

    The Church’s PR department is treating OW as a threat both to its customers and potential customers. I imagine they are not all that worried about (and are handling messaging completely differently) their internal audience being negatively affected by the recent goings on.

    The fact remains that the PR department continues to be the tail that wags the dog at Church headquarters. Has been since the mid 1990s when President Hicknley brought on PR behemoth Edleman to re-invent the church’s world image.

  167. “we are, yes, looking for reasons to tell her to be quiet and go away.”

    “We” are not telling her to be quiet and go away, and I certainly am not – and neither is the letter. The letter said clearly that the only time meetings and discussions won’t happen is when non-negotiable demands are being made on issues that the leadership feels would constitute compromise without direct revelation. If OW dropped the demand for ordination and agreed to private, confidential discussions, the results hopefully would be different. If not, then it would be open for further commentary and criticism.

    Yes, I am trying to give Bro. Otterson the benefit of the doubt. That’s not because of who he is but because I try really hard to do that for everyone. I fail at it on a regular basis, but I try. I also believe passionately that I should give others every consideration I want from them (that I should treat others how I want to be treated) – and a huge part of that is to address what I and others actually say when I and others take time to say something. (For example, I often take quite a while to construct a comment of this length, with multiple readings and revisions to try to be as clear as I can be. Again, I don’t succeed always, but I try.) Thus, I try to read carefully, with the most charity I can – with the attitude that if I make a mistake in how I read something, I would rather err on the side of charity than judgmentalism.

    With that in mind, I re-read the letter. As I said previously, I see legitimate issues that can and ought to be discussed – but misrepresenting and misquoting his words helps nobody and actually adds to the problem. All I’m saying is that name-calling, harsh personal judgments, distortions of his actual words, etc. don’t contribute to understanding and progress; rather, they contribute to further misunderstanding and stagnation or regression.

  168. Brian F says:

    While I have enjoyed this blog for many years, especially the more academic and spiritual posts, over the last few months I have begin to feel that my opinions and beliefs are no longer welcome here. The comments have become so divisive, and intolerant of people with different opinions that I can no longer participate here. The sad part is, I agree with most of you, and I think that we could have much better and productive discussions away from the printed word, face to face. Anyway, I’m out. Thanks for the insights and the things I’ve learned, but no thanks for the vitriol and contention.

  169. LessonNumberOne – I wish you were in my ward, too. Any question I present is met with “those poor mormon feminists, bless their hearts!! one day they might understand the plan of salvation or their glorious, exalted {pedistalized} role!” Well, if I’m lucky that’s the response.

    Meanwhile, I’m wondering, what does all of this muck mean? The temple theology, the RS minutes, Elder Oaks’ address . . . I have really good, valid questions. What is this new priesthood power and authority I wield? If Mary {without priesthood} was the First witness, why can’t women serve as witnesses, especially if they hold priesthood power and authority? There are so many painful situations in the church organization and culture (not rogue leaders); I don’t even care about female ordination, but I see why women who care about these problems see that as a possible solution. I’m told to be quiet and trust my leaders. When I do, I see my fellow sisters with the same questions I have being demoralized and shunned, while women with “no questions” walk around with their heads high sure in their higher understanding and sure footing in their favor among the Brethren. And this is what a Christlike organization looks like?

    I have a super conservative non-mofem friend who admits she’s uncomfortable with a lot of how we treat women (esp around mother’s day) she said, “Well I see some problems I just have to make sure now that I see them I’m not getting caught up and start seeing them everywhere.” That caught in my throat because my husband’s response is the same – so frustrated I have to bring feminism into the Gospel every time. I understand he gets tired of it. But I get tired of just trying to go to a basic sacrament and renew my covenants and have sexist jokes told over the pulpit and have everyone laugh . . . These gender inequities, they are everywhere I turn to worship and find solace: the temple, my meetings, teaching primary songs, Sunday School, sending my daughter to activity days, my husband’s scout/auditing callings, my visiting teachers “lessons” to me, etc. The only place for me to turn is my Savior.

    I feel morally obligated and bound to Do What is Right and Let the Consequences Follow, so I speak. I can’t allow my silence to make me a complicit offender in the pain and marginalization of my beloved brothers and sisters, regardless of my disagreement with them.

  170. Beautiful comment, Kristine A.

  171. Mark Brown says:

    No worries, Ray. I still think you are not hearing me, and that you are misrepresenting what I am saying, but that’s the nature of imperfect communication, I guess.

    As a Mormon, it is striking to me that expecting action which will require revelation to bring about is seen, a priori, as a legitimate reason to declare somebody out of bounds and apostate. And everybody just seems OK with that.

  172. “expecting action which will require revelation to bring about is seen, a priori, as a legitimate reason to declare somebody out of bounds and apostate”

    Mark, what I’m saying is that the letter doesn’t say it is the expectation that is seen as “suggestive of apostasy”. Rather, the letter says it is the demand that the revelation occur and the change be made – coupled with the insistence that it, in fact, will happen if only the leadership prays hard enough and is humble enough to accept it, that is seen as “suggestive of apostasy”. It’s the implication that if the leadership doesn’t change this right away it is a sign of their lack of (fill in the blank) that is the issue.

    I really don’t like to use corporate analogies much, because I think they are over-used in this sort of discussion, but I have been a reasonably high-up executive in my past – and at least one experience is comparable to this situation. I welcomed input into how I was doing things and suggestions about how to make improvements (and solicited input and suggestions), but I did not welcome mass emails from anyone telling me how I should be doing my job and demanding changes I simply thought couldn’t occur at the time – especially when I already was trying to make changes that I felt could be made that would take the company in the direction I believed it needed to go (and I was working on massive, systemic change). I tried to ignore those messages, but I finally had to confront the person sending them and tell them flat-out that their method was hurting the initiatives on which I was working and needed to stop. If not, I would have to take formal action.

    Bro. Otterson’s letter describes this sort of situation – but, since he has no authority whatsoever to initiate any sort of “formal action”, thankfully he did not go as far as I had to go with that job. I don’t want anyone involved in OW to face any kid of formal action, but their actions are directly analogous to what I faced in my former position. I empathize with Bro. Otterson partly because of that experience, and, no matter how I feel about the people involved with OW as individuals, I cannot complain about a refusal to meet with them while they continue to make a non-negotiable demand for ordination.

  173. Also, if I am misunderstanding and misrepresenting, I apologize sincerely. It really is the nature of this type of communication, especially – which actually is relevant to the issue at hand, as well.

  174. Mark Brown:

    “As a Mormon, it is striking to me that expecting action which will require revelation to bring about is seen, a priori, as a legitimate reason to declare somebody out of bounds and apostate. And everybody just seems OK with that.”

    I wonder how much of this is an issue of memory with those of us who see danger in the actions of OW. Mormons for ERA began by taking an approach that the Church was true, then progressed to the Church was true but the Brethren were wrong on this issue, then to a publicity stunt during General Conference (April, 1979), and ended up advocating that people not talk to the missionaries and with a number of our sisters going apostate. We see that same pattern being repeated in a worrisome fashion. It is possible that Sonia Johnson was unique in her apostasy, but it concerns many of us that it is dangerous to walk down that same road.

  175. Steve Evans says:

    Ordain Women has provided its response, here: http://ordainwomen.org/ow-response-to-public-affairs-statement/

  176. That was a very fair and measured statement by OW.

  177. Fed Up Mormon Woman says:

    @lessonNumberOne thank you for expressing thoughts that I believe MANY women feel. Unfortunately the women in this group remain silent and anonymous because of the fear of the consequences that might happen if they did speak from their hearts. And @Joni, I believe there is a lessonNumberOne in your ward, you just probably don’t know she is there. In fact, I’d venture to say there are many of them. @Angie, I agree it is a scary and lonely place as @howarddirkson describes as “hiding behind our skirts”. Which begs the question as to how this “hiding” has had to happen in the first place?

    Wouldn’t it be a wonderful place where anyone could ask questions and be treated with respect instead of being labeled as an apostate. Although I am not brave enough to be a @ChristineA and publicly stick my head in the chopping block, I do agree that she is forging ground that will one day be realized as “inspired” change. And since she has chosen to be that voice for change, what I can do now is thank her for her efforts. I would LOVE to sit down personally with @ChristineA and talk about all the topics she has brought up in her last comment. ( You rock girlfriend!) Maybe one day we will.

    I too recognize the underlying tone of divisiveness brought about by those who “unequivocally” sustain the “leaders”, relinquishing the right to question anything. IMHO this has brought more harm to the members of The Church than just questions regarding “women’s issues”. After all, asking questions is part of continued revelation. When questions stop, revelation stops as well. I have to laugh with the creators of the Facebook group “Mormon Women Stand on Rameumptoms” because it is so interesting how we sound so much like the Zoramites. Recognizing that fact is part of a change that we need.

    The letter written by Brother Otterson is disheartening on so many levels. Much of those have already been discussed, but for me it is the bold slap in the face that “The Church” is such a corporation. IMHO the corporate world is in opposition to Zion. So his response has made me have to think deeper about even greater issues than “feminism”. I suppose our only hope as a Church is that others will think about those issues too. This PR garbage, with poll taking, and surveys, and “political correctness” makes me question my faith in our “Prophet”. The description of a “Prophet” I love best is one used to describe Enoch, “A Wild Man.” IMHO a “Wild Man” would take direction only from God. “A Wild Man” would desire that ALL would be united, so much so, that God himself could “dwell among us”. “A Wild Man” would desire that ALL have an equal voice and the same opportunity for blessings.

    If I understand correctly, The Prophet speaks for God, and the PR department speaks for “The Brethren”. This reminds me a bit of the game telephone.

    So, I guess my real question is this… are our “Prophet, Seers, and Revelators” being forced to hide behind the “PR Department” just as much as the women of the Church are being forced to “hide behind their skirts”?

  178. Such a good response from OW. It’s almost like they’re PR pros or something.

  179. Thanks for linking to the OW response, Steve.

    It is excellent.

  180. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine A, please email the admin at the address under the ‘About’ tab. You’ve been summoned to the principal’s office.

  181. cgudmuns says:

    “demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept”

    Writing as just one Latter-day Saint in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I look forward with great anticipation to the “long-promised day” (OD2) when all worthy women can receive the priesthood; thus fulfilling the promise that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33) as the stone “roll[s] forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). I would so welcome my wife to stand with me in blessing our children. I would so welcome faithful women into the bishopric to help develop the leadership in our ward. Heavenly Father, I pray that Jesus can soften the hearts of the membership of Thy Church and hasten the day. Please let it be in my day, but, if not, the sweet assurances of the Spirit are sufficient until then. I have great confidence in the rising generation of Thy faithful children who, I trust, will accept this gift.

  182. J. Stapley says:

    Jonathan Cavender, I agree that President Monson works under the influence and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I’m familiar with the events of that sermon you point to. The entire sermon including who he was speaking to was read from the teleprompter. I don’t think that detracts from the message at all. However it does frame how inspiration might be communicated (with a little planning as in this case).

  183. Hedgehog says:

    To those doubting the existence of the quote from the blog at the start – it’s this comment over on a post at fMh that got 42 thumbs up:
    (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2014/05/a-proper-church-on-mormon-women-stand-church-pr-and-listening-and-engaging-in-the-body-of-christ/#comment-1259872)
    I knew I recognised it, which shows I have too much time to read blog comments perhaps.

  184. Naismith says:

    Wow, Hedgehog, great memory. So they really took from a blog but did not send the letter there?

  185. Naismith, they sent the letter to FMH at the same time as the other sites.

  186. Hedgehog, you amaze me :) And Steve, consider me properly summoned. {sigh} Me and my big mouth!

  187. Steve Evans says:

    So we get this letter, and the NEXT DAY the White House press secretary resigns. COINCIDENCE???

  188. “Not only is it blasphemy for you to suggest otherwise, it is just about the least civil or generous thing you can level at a fellow Christian: Jesus does not approve of you.”

    RJH – I think that has got to have been the most uncharitable, and ugliest, interpretation of Bro Otterson’s words that anyone could have come up with. I guess I can’t claim to know exactly what his intentions were either, but do you really think your interpretation is really the most likely one? Is he truly so hateful? Was his letter truly nothing more than competitive performance art? If so, then I guess the lines are drawn and all that’s left is to see who scores more points and rallies the most “likes”.

    In a previous discussion, I expressed my feelings (strongly) that people shouldn’t be leaving the church over women’s ordination because they had made covenants and were needed to serve and enlighten the church. Hedgehog interpreted that as me calling her a covenant-breaker, shrugged me off as a name caller, and said said she’d heard worse. What else can one do but pull up his dropped jaw, shake his head, and walk away?

  189. Steve Evans says:

    “that has got to have been the most uncharitable, and ugliest, interpretation of Bro Otterson’s words that anyone could have come up with”

    Martin, come now. You underestimate your audience.

  190. I am looking for some middle place to stand and be heard. To me, women being ordained is not the problem, it is just a very attractive solution for a lot of problems. Women are underrepresented (in every sense and measure) in church administration and leadership. We invest more (in time, money, and sense of purpose) in our boys than in our girls. The relationship between women and the priesthood is muddled at best – church leaders have taught that women exercise priesthood authority in church callings, but those callings are extremely limited. And for that matter, if women hold and exercise the priesthood with men, why are women not a part of the priesthood session?

    I see the possibility of a church where women are not ordained, but where women are called into church administration and leadership in near-parity with the brethren (whether this means creating new positions or redefining current positions). I see a church possible where girls usher and collect fast offerings, where women serve on sunday school presidencies, where disciplinary councils are composed of both men and women, where young girls can be officially counseled by their RSPs, and where RSPs attend bishopric meetings. I see the possibility of a church with more than 9 female GAs.

    I see women’s ordination as a distinct and interesting possibility, just not the only viable option. We can and should address the measured inequality between genders in the meantime.

    So any ideas where the middle ground can stand and be heard?

  191. Hedgehog says:

    Martin, are you confusing me with someone else? Otherwise perhaps you could remind me of that exchange. I’m puzzled to know under what circumstances I would level such an accusation.

  192. Steve Evans says:

    Rachel, you’re in the right place.

  193. Hedgehog says:

    Also to add, I haven’t left the church, lest anyone get that impression. I attend every week, fulfil my calling, TR holder…. You have to be confusing me with someone else…

  194. Steve Evans says:

    Time to change your moniker to ‘Evil Hedgehog’

  195. Ugh! Hedgehod – boy do I owe you an apology. It was hkobeal, and I don’t know how my little mind confused you. So sorry!

  196. Mark B. says:

    So we get this letter, and the NEXT DAY the White House press secretary resigns. COINCIDENCE???</blockquote?

    Throw in Eric Shinseki, and I think you've got a conspiracy.

  197. Someone who goes by “RMM” made an excellent point in the thread to which Steve linked on Times & Seasons (http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/05/a-partial-response-to-brother-otterson/#comment-523614), and I want to expand on it a little:

    I believe the Church leadership wants to get honest and open input about the letter, without fear of reprisal – and they understand that the best way to do that right now is to send the letter to the major Mormon blogs. I think they want to know better how people who participate in online forums will respond to the letter, and I think it’s an honest attempt at understanding – NOT any other negative motivation. I think they recognize, Bro. Otterson’s ideal advice notwithstanding, that many people can’t talk right now with local leaders about this, so they are giving those members an “formal” or “approved” way to express themselves in a way that the leadership can “hear”.

    More than anything else, I am glad the letter was released to the blogs and not just posted on lds.org. The same discussion could have followed online, but I think sending it to the blogs directly conveys respect for and acknowledgment of online discussions like these and sincere outreach to those who participate. This is a departure, and I appreciate the effort and what I believe it conveys – apart from any analysis of the words themselves.

  198. Shawn H says:

    Ray, that had not occurred to me, yet I feel the truth of it. I get so cynical that I can’t see those things as possibilities.

  199. BlueJay says:

    I think Ray, Kristine A. and Dave K. together have really managed to nail exactly how I feel about the letter. I’ve got tons of questions on the subject of women’s issues in the church that I can’t bring up with my local leaders as they have shown themselves to be uninterested and unsympathetic- but I do feel like the PR department is really trying with this, and I simultaneously appreciate the gesture even as I’m frustrated by the counsel that I just need to talk to the local leaders and be patient.

  200. @Bluejay. Exactly.

  201. side thought that’s been nagging me today: as I go through out my day and consider how Bro. Otterson points to local leaders as the source of the marginalization . . . reminds me exactly of the response of my fellow saints after Elder Uchtdorf’s talk where he admits how leaders of the church have made mistakes. I posted his quote on facebook, and immediately was piled on from fellow saints that E. Uchtdorf was ONLY referring to bishops and stake presidents . . . because of course, general leaders could never, ever, *ever* make a mistake. {sigh}

    There are a lot of things in this letter a like, and a lot of things that I think perpetuates bad behavior amongst my fellow saints.

  202. Brother Otterson uses a great many words to say very little. Most of the money quotes have already been mined in this thread.

    The one that stuck out to me was in the last paragraph where Brother Otterson writes, “I hope that we will see less cynicism and criticism, MORE RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE . . . as those members who are prone to use the Internet engage with each other.”

    Coming from the gentleman who refuses to have any “dialogue” whatsoever with members who disagree with him, this strikes me as a tad hypocritical.

    And cynical.

  203. “who refuses to have any “dialogue” whatsoever with members who disagree with him”

    That is incorrect. Refusing to meet with one group does not mean refusing to talk with anyone who sees things differently. He even mentioned that explicitly in the letter.

  204. I wonder if Otterson could have used a less emotionally loaded word than “Criticisms.” Like he could have said “Let me address some of these *concerns.*” Labeling the statements he’s responding to as ‘criticisms’ sets a really bad tone for the letter, right off the bat.

    And I onder how the blog commenter who was quoted feels about having her words edited and non-attributed. (Interesting that it was a blog *comment,* and not a blog *post* as many of us initially believed.)

  205. Anonymous says:

    Ray (clear back at 10:08 am). I’ve been thinking about your comment for most of the day. I also don’t like corporation analogies because if the Church is a corporation, then I need to think about it in a different (and not good) way. So I’m not sure that hearing about your experiences in a corporation is in any way analogous to Br. Otterson’s experience or motivations (at least I hope not).

    I am someone who has been a life-long member (coming up on 50 years). I have been the wife of a Bishop, a RS President, a Stake Primary President, a temple ordinance worker and everything in between. I am (and have always been) a faithful member of the church, as well as a hard-working mother, hard-working grandmother, and hard-working community member.

    It is obvious to me (from your various comments today) that you see OW in a very negative light. I would like to offer another perspective. OW has allowed me to put a name to feelings that have been a part of my experience in the Church for a very, very long time–therefore I cannot see them nearly as negatively as you and so many others do. I feel very grateful that a conversation is going forward so that many differing women’s voices can be heard. I would urge Br. Otterson, other General Authorities, or Auxiliary Presidencies to meet with some members of OW to hear what they are experiencing.

    And no, I am not a part of their group, but I am watching intently how they are perceived and listened too.

    I, too, will be anonymous for today because, no, it is not safe to say what you think and feel even on the internet.

  206. “It is obvious to me (from your various comments today) that you see OW in a very negative light.”

    I appreciate your comment, sincerely, Anonymous the Most Recent, but it’s not that simple. I actually agree with and have no problem with the content of your comment.

    I really liked the person at work who was mass emailing demands for specific changes. He was a good person and, up until that point, had never been a problem of any kind. In fact, he had been very supportive up to that point – and continued to be supportive after I was forced to talk with him about his actions. It didn’t matter, however, in the context of that particular action. His demands simply were impossible for me to meet, and officially discussing them would have granted an impression of legitimacy and opened the door to similar actions by others that I couldn’t allow. I would have liked to meet with him – really, but, in my position, I couldn’t do so.

    Really, my only problems with OW are that they are demanding something that, at this point, would be a massive change and doing so in non-negotiable terms, and some of their tactics. I have said in more than one place that I appreciate their apparent contribution to bringing some of these matters into more open discussion, since they are very important issues, and that I would support in a heartbeat female ordination if the leadership decided to exercise their keys in that manner – with or without revelation, even though I understand their inclination to feel they need clear revelation. I believe the leaders of OW and most participants are passionate about the Restored Gospel and helping to make changes they see as important, and I would be happy to eat with them and talk about these issue – since that would not impact the Church in any way. I have no ill will whatsoever toward anyone who supports or is part of OW.

    I just can’t support the the group itself.

  207. Angela C says:

    OW itself is a movement in flux. It’s not a static group. Unfortunately, some of the movement is because there are sisters who have already left due to local oppressive tactics when their OW profiles were known (e.g. demanding their temple recommends). Other movement in the group seems to be ideological, and it’s positive from my view. I’m not a member of OW, but like others here, I do expect our church to be gracious to minority viewpoints. I only expect it because I think it’s good manners and good leadership. But I am frequently disappointed.

  208. Binders full of women…

  209. Ray, I can figure that you work for the PR department, to support the status quo. Or, you have too much time on your hands.
    Otterson has a way of convoluting facts. He is a hypocrite, and totally out of touch with the dialoug, because he refuses to dialoug with other voices that don’t tow the line. You guys just don’t get it.

  210. Cekine, although I don’t agree with everything Ray has said – I have found him to be sincere and genuine in his attempt to get everyone to be more thoughtful about this.

    Angela, I love this tactic from local leaders: “Because you believe women should get the priesthood I’m taking away your ability to go to the place that tells you that women will receive the priesthood.”

  211. Dear Ray, you are being played. More misunderstood PR dept.
    Give me a break. Me thinks they protest too much.
    You honestly expect us, the readers, to believe you’d be OK with an announcement (sans revelation) to allow women to have the Priesthood? Right.
    Well guess what, they receive the Priesthood in the Temple, and wear the robes of the Priesthood. It is clear that had Joseph Smith lived, this church would look very differently today. In the minutes of the early Relief Society meetings, where Joseph Smith addressed that society (which he established as set apart from any male overseers) he told them he intended to make out of them a kingdom of Priests. He went so far as to encourage them to lay on hands for the healing of the sisters. “…let the sisters lay hands upon one another…if they be healed, then it is sanctioned of God, and let all men hold their tongues.”
    The church today is led by men who see nothing, reveal nothing, prophesy nothing. OW has no tactics. They have no nefarious agenda nor demands. They simply want the leaders of the church to inquire of God. The fact that our leaders DO NOT inquire of God, tells me they are: 1-scared of the answer. 2-Are misogynists. 3-Are not, after all the hype…prophets, seers, or revelators.
    The terrible prejudice against blacks that denied them the Priesthood was a nefarious agenda, with rancid tactics. OW looks completely benign compared to the rhetoric from leaders of this church towards blacks just a short time ago. One wish, one hope: ASK God. Stop with the constant verbal dismissals, attacks, and the patronizing. Quit shaking in your boots; aka protesting too much. ASK. Act like prophets, seers, and revelators.

  212. I’m not going to assume they haven’t asked. We don’t and can’t know which of our leaders have asked or when or how they are asking or if they have or haven’t asked, we can assume . . . but they haven’t specifically said. I think what’s missing is that they aren’t saying. They may have asked and gotten an answer and been told “not yet” or “yes, but the people aren’t ready to hear what we have in store because seriously their minds are going to be blown away and we have to go baby steps” or it could have been “nope”.

    Remember if we read the accounts of how the 1978 revelation came . . . it took years of asking for consensus to come. If we think this “struggle” for women’s rights is a quick little ask and get an answer and one and done . . . I’m not sure where you got the idea but you definitely will be disappointed. This process will take years, maybe decades, and we better be prepared to be misunderstood and frustrated and to make mistakes and move forward and hopefully — we are in this for the long haul. Be in this for the long haul with a heart full of love, committed to the Lord and the organization (as hard as that can be).

  213. Cekine, believe what you want to believe. I have never lied here or any other blog site, and I have commented and authored a lot over the last 8 years. If you want to read other statements supporting what I have written in this thread, there are plenty of them available – going back before OW came onto the scene.

    Also, fwiw, I believe endowed women already have Priesthood power. I said I would support female ordination, and those are different things.

  214. “King Lamoni”, you post some false things that need to be corrected immediately. First, women (or men) pushing for actions and doctrine contrary to the revealed doctrine of the Lord are not “faithful” like you pretend. Those who continue to vehemently deny the veracity of the doctrine and those who uphold it (read: the Prophets and Apostles) and twist, contend and debate to try to push these agendas and keep posting absolute demands on the Brethren are not considered “faithful” Latter-day Saints. In fact, the Otterson letter specifically states that these groups are suggesting apostasy. So, all members of the Church shouldn’t be surprised when we say that no, these aren’t faithful members. Of course these fringe groups would have us believe it in order to push their twisted agendas, but not for one moment do I believe they are faithful members. Because faithful members DON’T do what these extremist groups are doing (shaking head in utter frustration).

    Also, I needed to mention something brought up by others:

    It seems to me critics of the Public Affairs department are really grasping at straws, coming up with any excuse they can to still say they follow the Brethren while continuing to murmur. And they pretend that they are not murmuring about the Church and its leaders — they are just complaining about the PA department.

    News flash: the Public Affairs department reflects the will of the Brethren. It is simply a modern-day vehicle for the Brethren to lessen their already huge work load.

    An attack on the Public Affairs department — which was created and is still overseen by the Brethren — is an attack on the Church itself. As Pres. Uchtdorf would say, “stop it!”

  215. p.s.

    From the Otterson letter

    “First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.

    As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women.

    This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.”

    Sorry to raise an inconvenient truth about this letter to those bashing Otterson and pretending that they didn’t read or understand this above statement. It’s so clear that this five page letter has been approved by the top. So when attacking Otterson, remember who you are really attacking. He’s just the messenger, folks. To say otherwise is disengenious and purposefully bashing Prophets and Apostles.

  216. B.B. Jones says:

    The problem I face within the Church in the ways in which I feel women have been patronized, marginalized and misunderstood are not new. I have been patient. I have waited a whole lifetime for changes. I am now what is termed “old”. And these baby steps we see, while good, are simply not enough. My soul feels empty. I no longer feel I have a place in my Church. Let me be clear: I do not want a voice; I want a vote. I want to sit at the table as a decision maker, not testify before it and be dismissed from the room. It saddens me to read of women in the Church still being treated in ways I knew to be wrong 50 years ago. Yes, I was mocked in Church, called a feminist and marginalized whenever I spoke my thoughts, even the most innocuous. It is interesting to note how many of the beliefs I espoused that were considered fringe decades ago that are now mainstream and even taught in General Conference by the leadership.

    To me Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants seems to apply:
    “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.”

    How much of what we think is truth is actually just belief in the tradition of the fathers, handed down unquestioned as the word of God? Are we somehow different from the Jews of Christ’s time who were sure they knew the meaning of the Mosaic Law but failed to recognize it when the Lawgiver himself appeared among them?

    When I used to read the Pearl of Great Price in Moses 7 where the Lord curses the children of Cain who were black and had not place among the sons of Adam, I could not make sense of it. It seems to disagree with all I know and hope about God.

    “And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.”

    Then I heard a speaker who took us through the scriptures and showed that a skin of blackness was a Hebrew idiom meaning wickedness, not a literal description of someone’s skin color. I have to ask, are we misreading some of the scriptures? Do we know the mind and will of God? Do we care enough to know it? By that I mean actually care about both what God thinks and what our brothers and sisters are experiencing in pain and disrespect. Is love the operative word in our lives?

    President Kimball was correct. We lack the priesthood keys to resurrect people. But we must sometime receive them or we will all remain in the Spirit World forever. Abraham thought it fine to seek for the blessings of the Fathers, the priesthood. Am I wrong with seeking as he sought?

  217. B.B.Jones,

    It may be true that Abraham sought the priesthood, but so did Korah and those following after him. Somehow, there is a difference.

    Like you, I have seen changes occur that years earlier I had thought were needful. And although a man who holds God’s priesthood, I have never had the “vote” you write of, or the decision-making seat at the table. I try not to be offended in this, although I often think I could make a contribution for good if anyone would ever ask me. But for me, priesthood is not about deciding. For me priesthood is about performing ordinances and waiting on the Lord. It is true that holding the priesthood seems to be a prerequisite to having a decision-making seat at the table, but my impression as an observer is that those with seats don’t think of themselves as decision-makers — rather, I tend to suppose they think of themselves as having a burden to carry and a service to perform for their fellow Saints.

    Most of those who followed Korah were, I suppose, sincere in their thoughts that their genealogies and their obedience were every bit as honorable and good as Moses’s, and they were honest in the offence they felt in not being invited to hold the priesthood. But somehow, they didn’t see the big picture. Every gospel principle has to be balanced with other gospel principles. In all this discussion now, we need to see the big picture and wait on the Lord for understanding to help keep everything in balance. The yearning you speak of, for a decision-making seat at the table, is honest and sincere — I hope it can be meaningfully satisfied for you somehow, someday, as part of your journey to sanctification.

  218. According to the Church’s own public affairs website, their mission clearly is external, rather than internal. Here is how they describe it on publicaffairs.lds.org:
    “Welcome to the wonderful world of Public Affairs. Though you won’t find the words Public Affairs in the scriptures, the principles of building good will and creating lasting friendships have been critically important to the Church from the beginning. The Church has public affairs directors in every corner of the globe. These seasoned men and women help priesthood leaders build the relationships with community, government, and faith leaders that allow us to pursue the mission of the Church. From working with government leaders for approvals on a new building, to fostering respectful interfaith dialog and answering questions from the media, public affairs forms a vital bridge between our congregations and the communities they call home.”

  219. Sterling Ashley Ingram says:

    When I first heard of OW and their movement from within the ranks of the Church to kick against the leaders, I was confused. I did some homework and I’m no longer confused. Kate Kelly is a paid Washington DC attorney. She travels the world to litigate against the worst thing on earth- men. OW has their wikipedia page, a Facebook page, a large website, and several blogs. Sister Kelly’s name is printed all over the world as the official organizer of a group that stands against the elderly male leaders of the Church who don’t know what they are doing. She is David and in her mind she is twirling her stone around and around and will soon be heralded by all the anti-Mormons as the giant slayer.

    Has her resume has been enhanced and her pocketbook filled with lucre? OW and all who support it are on a strange path. The Church used the apostate word in their letter this week, but many who support this group remain on the rolls of the Church.

    Many of their supporters are members of record who put their name out to the world as being members in good standing. This harms the good name of the Church. I expect anti garbage from non-members but with OW having supporters within the Church it seems worse than the normal anti crowd.

    Sister Kelly wrote on her OW blog yesterday, “…we look forward to the day when we can sit down with our leaders and discuss these issues with those we sustain to do God’s work.” Who, I wonder, does she sustain to do God’s work? Sister Kelly, sustaining is more than holding your arm up for three seconds twice a year.
    Sustaining requires that you support the leaders and stand-up for them. You say you want the priesthood.

    One of the basic duties of those who are ordained is found in D&C 20:54. If you are ordained, the first thing you will need to do is advise all of your followers to repent. The last thing one who sustains the leaders would do is encourage other members to join a group laced with anti-Mormons and broadcast to the world that the Church is wrong and you are right.
    I hope you see the light and stop dragging good members away from the Church. I hope you stop dragging the Church’s good name down into the mud. I hope you return any money you have made from your seemingly litigious quest.

  220. Ray writes: ” If OW dropped the demand for ordination and agreed to private, confidential discussions, the results hopefully would be different.”
    This is likely accurate, that this is the Church’s expectation of how any major difference of opinion should be dealt with and had Kate Kelly kept her mouth shut publicly, she might have gotten a different response. But what does this say about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? This is a very unhealthy way for any organization to operate and religions do not get a free pass just because they claim to be the one true church. Do people not understand that this sort of secrecy, with open disagreement being so taboo or requests for change being verbally chastised in the way Mr. Otterson just did, is a hallmark of highly authoritarian systems and that such secrecy invites abuse of authority? And people are astonished that the church gets referred to as a cult? I’m not crazy about the “C” word because it has so many different definitions, but when we get PR statements such as this one that are so harsh on those who challenge and secrecy is encouraged (not sacred, i really do mean secret), it is not difficult to understand why people see this church as authoritarian and not healthy and so many drop out.

  221. Joni, Angie (thanks for the addition of heavenly Mother…I blame my exhaustion for the lack), Khristine and others…thanks. understanding is wonderful.

    I reread the letter. I got a good night sleep last night and wanted to check myself.

    Covey says we are to seek first to understand, then to be understood. When I read the letter I understand they feel they are trying to understand women. They are tired. Have a ton to do. AND they have chosen to focus their time on those who’s concerns stay in certain bounds…then they plead with those who feel misunderstood and not listened to…to seek help from local leadership, then be patient when they don’t listen. I appreciated that they directed people to teh Relief Society President…definitely an opportunity for counseling.

    What struck me this time? ” active Latter-day Saints and including feminists, to come for several hours each to discuss concerns. I use the term “feminist” here not to imply political activism or campaigning, but simply as a term to describe those who want to further the interests of women in a variety of ways. ” Are there people who don’t want to further the interests of women in a variety of ways? Is there a single Bishop, or relief Society President? In my understanding of the the letter, if active latter-day saints includes feminists…there are active latter day saints who don’t care to further the interests of women.

    I just this week checked with my stake presidency to make sure the needs of nursing mothers are considered at stake conference. He was VERY interested and asked questions on what would be helpful and how to best go about it. His wife had input. Aren’t we all then…feminists? I hope I’m the good kind worth their time to listen to.

  222. Dear Brother Otterson,

    Can we stop with the spin of calling a “request” a “demand”?

    OW has “demanded” nothing.

    OW has “requested” entrance to General Priesthood Session.

    OW has “requested” Church leaders pray to God about a specific issue.

    These are not “demands.”

    They are “requests.”

    These requests have been respectfully made.

    The Church continues to mislabel these requests as “demands” in order to try to win the PR-war.

    You are following suit. Or maybe it was your idea in the first place.

    And then you complain in your letter that you and your staff are criticized for being “disingenuous.”

    Here’s a tip–Stop being disingenuous and that criticism will likely diminish.

  223. An open response to Brother Otterson’s open letter.

    Dear Brother Otterson:

    The church has done lots of complaining
    About all this talk of ordaining.
    But here is my sequel:
    One day, we’ll be equal.
    And then you’ll be done with mansplaining.

  224. Best limerick ever.

  225. My sense is that Church leaders have become increasingly “aloof” from the members, in spite of Brother Otterson’s claim to the contrary.

    The proof that Church leaders are indeed “aloof” is in the pudding that they have their PR Director sign a letter to send out on their behalf.

    I remember once reading an article that put together all of Elder Packer’s talks on a particular subject. The article tried to divine President Packer’s intent by comparing statements in various talks against each other.

    It was a lengthy article.

    Then the thought occurred to me–”Why on earth are we treating Elder Packer’s talks like ancient documents that have to be pieced together in order to figure out their meaning when the man is alive right now and can simply be asked what he meant?”

    The reason is that Elder Packer cannot simply be asked what he meant.

    He is not accessible.

    The information’s not available to the mortal man.

    He is aloof.

    As are they all.

  226. In a letter obviously designed to buffer the Church from its members, Brother Otterson writes that public relations should “not be a set of messaging activities designed to buffer an organization from others.”

    Ironic much?

  227. To Steve Evans at 3:33,

    “Stating that agitation for female ordination was President Hinckley’s idea is a false claim. I’m aware of the quote involved, but to interpret that as a call to agitation is absolutely incorrect. It can be more fairly offered up as opening up a fairly narrow window of possibility of change in response to demand; it certainly was not call for increased demand.”

    I agree with you that Hinkley would never have intended his statement to be used as a call for agitation, but like it or not, that’s exactly what it was. When I first read that statement last year, it was a complete game changer for me. Because what he said next was that “our women are happy.” Well, I’m a woman in the church, I have never been happy and no one has ever asked me if I was. My lack of agitation was simply taken as proof that I’m happy with the status quo. Well no more. President Hinkley’s quote was the invitation that I needed to for once in my life start giving a voice to the deep unhappiness of my soul. Agitation is the only way for us to convey to the leadership that no–many of us are NOT happy!

  228. 227 comments and counting! Just in case anybody is listening (any more or ever, PR department or otherwise), this is what I believe and what I’d like to hear from people in positions of authority in the Church:
    1. Acknowledgement
    I understand (internal) and acknowledge (external) that the current culture, practice, and power structure of the LDS Church is oriented around a male priesthood. That any change in the role of women in the Church will be a change to the whole and that–to the extent of my limited human understanding–change will appear to have both pluses and minuses.
    2. Desire
    Fully aware that it is not up to me, fully aware that it might not happen in my lifetime or ever, on behalf of real living women in the present—my daughter and my wife and my S/sisters—I would like to see women ordained.
    3. Blessing
    In the meantime (while women are not ordained) I am interested in women being fully involved in the life of the Church, blessing others with all of their God-given talents—minds and hearts, hands and feet, listening and speaking, learning and deciding and teaching and comforting and challenging–and I seek that blessing even at the risk of disrupting the current order of things.

  229. The PR Department is most definitely reading these comments, Christian.

    It is also my understanding that the PR Department has a practice of sending out “operatives” into comments sections such as these in order to defend the statements made by the PR Department.

    This doesn’t mean that anybody who agrees with the PR Statement is one of their operatives.

    But it is a good indicator.

  230. >I did some homework and I’m no longer confused. Kate Kelly is a paid Washington DC attorney. She travels the world to litigate against the worst thing on earth- men. OW has their wikipedia page, a Facebook page, a large website, and several blogs. Sister Kelly’s name is printed all over the world as the official organizer of a group that stands against the elderly male leaders of the Church >

    Sterling: perhaps you have not done your homework well enough. My wife grew up with her (not the same age) and her family in the ward. Although I do not know her personally, and my only interaction has been with her family, I can say that your assessment doesn’t match what little I have observed. She comes from a kind and giving family. Everyone I met, although outgrowing and confident, had a sense of humility. Her father was kind enough to gift us with the wedding photos and they helped out with the reception. Their service was quiet. Those I have talked with speak highly and well of her. I imagine her name is plastered all over for the same reason Elder Oak’s is: she is a lawyer and does work world wide.

    You might not agree with her actions, but you cannot know her motivations or heart. Neither can I, and I have my own thoughts about actions, but it might be wise to wonder if she doesn’t have a good heart, just like you. We all struggle to approach the Savior, and some kindness and compassion from all directions would really help in how we approach our views of each other right now.

  231. This morning I left one comment on the Millennial Star blog on their companion thread to this one.

    My comment stated in its entirety: “From some of the comments on this thread, it seems that the old adage, ‘When Church leaders have spoken, the thinking has been done,’ is alive and well.”

    My comment has apparently been removed.

    Thank you, By Common Consent, for allowing an actual discussion of the issues to occur here.

  232. So, Corbin, commenting in such a way that you see it as defending the letter (no matter how or to what extent, apparently) is a good indicator that the person might be a plant / operative?

    Now I’ve heard it all – and you say the letter is extreme.

  233. Meg Stout says:

    [Admin: sorry this was modded. We have a limit to a number of links a comment can have to prevent spam]

    So if I were to make a positive comment here, that means I’m an operative?

    LOL

    My perspective on this is:

    Those asking for female ordination who have made it a sine qua non condition of their support of the Chuch (presuming there are such) have prompted a variety of responses from official Church leaders, as well as the public affairs department of the Church.

    One of the activities that the public affairs department of the Church has engaged in is conducting interviews with individuals or groups who have actively engaged on the topic of the gospel in online fora. I presume they have also engaged in discussions with others, but don’t know that for a fact. These interviews (as Brother Otterson indicated) are conducted in a non-attributional atmosphere. “In order to build an environment of trust, we do not disclose whom we meet with or what is discussed, although we do sometimes ask for permission to record the conversations so we don’t miss anything important. We find that this creates a safe place for transparent conversation.”

    Recently the Mormon Women Stand facebook page posted the information that they had been participants in one of these conversations. Except they didn’t indicate this was one of many such interviews. Peggy Fletcher Stack, writing up the news about the MWS announcement in her May 21, 2014, article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the discussion with MWS was characterized as the Church reaching out to a group of women who “support the church’s status quo — continuing its all-male priesthood.”

    Peggy then apparently reached out to the Church Public Affairs department to inquire about the discussion with MWS. LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor issued the following statement, which Peggy included in her article:

    “In recent years the church has met frequently with women to find out more about their experiences in the church. Yesterday’s meeting with these thoughtful women was simply a continuation of this effort.”

    However, true to the Church’s promise to hold confidential information about who is talked to and what is discussed, Cody didn’t enumerate how many people they’ve talked to, when, or what the demographic content of the population being consulted.

    The next day, Karen H. posted a piece here at BCC titled Our Sisters are Leaving. This prompted Bruce Nielson of M* to post a piece on May 26, 2014, titled Bloggernacle Tactic: Demanding Change To Accommodate the “One”.

    In the comment thread to Bruce’s piece, I opined that Karen’s piece was prompted by Peggy’s article, which was in turn provoked by MWS so excitedly burbling about getting a chance to be interviewed by the Church Public Affairs department. As I have been one who had been interviewed by Church Public Affairs, I suggested the happy MWS folks might have misunderstood the not-for-attribution instructions I knew I had received.

    In other words, I believe MWS provoked the storm, innocent though their intentions might have been.

    When it comes to women and power, I petitioned my mission president in the day to stand up a parallel power structure for the Sisters. I am the working individual in my family, with my husband being the stay at home parent. As instructed by a female teacher in the MTC, I have given blessings by the power of my faith in Christ (though the day after I blessed my son, he died – this was in accordance with the silence on the matter that had been a feature in my husband’s earlier blessing of my son, and consistent with everything I’d been prompted to say in the blessing I gave, so it isn’t as though I think my blessing killed my son).

    So I was hoping to convey that those the Church is talking to are not merely the happy, contented MWS crowd.

    What I will say of myself (amidst my tales of a faithful Joseph Smith and an Eliza Snow who was possibly seduced by John C. Bennett and other interesting historical discussions) is that my first loyalty is to God, who has encouraged me to remain an active member of the Church. There is no matter about which I feel so strongly that I would ultimately walk away from the Church unless God himself told me to do so.

    Those who have made female ordination apparently more important than the Church have therefore by their own position set themselves in a place where they would not be consulted.

    I don’t know if my discussions about having been an interviewee played a role in release of Brother Otterson’s letter or not.

    Back to my normal weekend pursuits, which involve aquaponics, home-brewing kombucha, supporting my daughter at her concert, and writing about how the history of the Church would have been different had Emma asked Jane Manning to be Joseph’s wife instead of Joseph’s daughter.

  234. Meg Stout says:

    By the way, Corbin, I see your post in its entirety over at M*.

    I suspect you didn’t see it show up immediately because the tens of thousands of visitors to M* prompted by KSL’s linking to M* for this story was causing the server to sweat. Whoever cared about that post had also turned on automatic moderation for comments (which I see is also turned on over here at BCC).

    I can’t speak for other M* admins, but I only delete comments on my posts if it’s clear they were generated by a spambot. After all, we all have already purchased all the shares in Russian gold or what have you the spambots keep enticing us to consider.

  235. Angela C says:

    Sterling Ashley Ingram: “Kate Kelly is a paid Washington DC attorney. She travels the world to litigate . . . Has her resume has been enhanced and her pocketbook filled with lucre?” So the objection to Kate is that she has a paid career as a lawyer. Wouldn’t life be easier if women were out of the limelight where they belong? Hello, double standard! By the way, people get paid in money, not lucre. It’s not 1614.

  236. As opposed to an unpaid Lincoln, NE lawyer on welfare

    You know, the good kind.

  237. Meg–Thanks for letting me know that about the M* post. All I knew was that I posted it, saw it there initially, then went back and saw it was gone. I appreciate having the full story.

    Ray–It is not my fault that the Church PR Department has a history of sending out operatives to post favorable things in forums such as these. If they did not do this, people such as yourself would not be viewed by me with a scintilla of suspicion.

  238. Mark Brown says:

    WAIT A MINUTE!! Are you telling me that Kate Kelly is a PAID attorney??!!?? And that she actually LIVES in Washington, DC?? Holy cow, this changes everything. I mean, how uppity is it possible for a woman to get, expecting lucre in exchange for her services as a lawyer?

    Why can’t she be a good woman and just make food and care for children for free?

  239. What’s really going on here? Is there an overarching LDS progressive agenda at work? First apply unrelenting pressure to admit women to the priesthood and then to top leadership decisions. All current studies confirm that progressives (Democrats and liberals) are far more likely to support same gender marriage, and that far more women than men support same gender marriage. So progressives of the Church, unite to advance OW as a first step on the path to absolute gender equality in the kingdom and then on to apply relentless pressure to rescue our gay brothers and sisters who wish to not only marry but be sealed in the temple! And then all things will be as they should be in Zion. Maybe we will even have, happy day, a gay sister Prophet who has been sealed to her sweetheart! Only patience, fellow workers. One step at a time.

  240. Mark Brown says:

    You are so right, Fred. Most of them even supported a Kenyan Muslim for president despite his fraudulent birth certificate.

    You really have to watch those people.

  241. Corbin, then spend more time at these forums and get to know people as real people. I don’t mean that to be snarky. It is a sincere suggestion.

  242. Angela C says:

    Fred: Your comment is an excellent example of the slippery slope fallacy. “In logic and critical thinking, a slippery slope is a logical device, but is usually known under its fallacious form in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any rational argument or demonstrable mechanism for the inevitability of the event in question. A slippery slope argument states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect, much like an object given a small push over the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom.”

  243. Fred’s comment is a great example of the simple fact that the behavior Bro. Otterson described and decried, correctly, in his letter is common all along the spectrum and not confined to one part of it. Someone calls church leaders apostates; someone else calls anyone who has any issue at all with gender issues in the Church an apostate. It is exactly that type of reaction that causes so many members (again, all along the spectrum) to feel like they can’t speak to people at church about these issues for fear of being labeled and painted with that cosmically large brush.

  244. Angela C says:

    The point made by T is something I think it’s important to address. He says: “women (or men) pushing for actions and doctrine contrary to the revealed doctrine of the Lord are not “faithful” like you pretend. Those who continue to vehemently deny the veracity of the doctrine and those who uphold it (read: the Prophets and Apostles) and twist, contend and debate to try to push these agendas and keep posting absolute demands on the Brethren are not considered “faithful” Latter-day Saints. In fact, the Otterson letter specifically states that these groups are suggesting apostasy. So, all members of the Church shouldn’t be surprised when we say that no, these aren’t faithful members. Of course these fringe groups would have us believe it in order to push their twisted agendas, but not for one moment do I believe they are faithful members.”

    As a woman who is not part of OW, here’s the problem with your harsh portrayal. What is so wrong about endowed women asking why we aren’t ordained? We ordain 12 year old boys without any originating revelation. There is no originating revelation precluding women from ordination, just as voting rights in the Constitution were naturally assumed to only apply to men, not women. Women had to ask/request/demand the right to vote. It wasn’t going to happen otherwise. The fact that these questions are dismissed, ignored, and their askers maligned makes me wonder (as a returned missionary, faithful, goes to church every single week member of 46 years) what is so wrong with being a woman that makes this question so out of bounds? I’m not even asking for ordination, but seeing women who are asking labelled as apostates and treated like enemies of the church is a huge problem for every woman in the church. Even if you are right that OW is a “fringe” group, all women have a stake in how those women are treated.

    When Bro. Otterson says “doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept” I am left reeling. The church accepted my faithful missionary service. It declared me a future priestess in the temple. What then is so objectionable about asking about female ordination in a church of ongoing revelation and in a world in which so many other churches are ordaining women? Why is asking the question grounds for being labelled apostate? The problem is that the church hasn’t provided a cogent answer. I’m patient and can wait. But I can’t stomach poor treatment of faithful sisters asking a reasonable question.

  245. Well said, Angela.

    If Fred’s comment was an exception – an anomaly – it would be one thing. The fact that it isn’t – and that it is applied merely to asking with no hint whatsoever of demand – makes it an entirely different thing.

  246. Meg Stout says:

    By the way, is there a word limit for comments?

    Or did I actually precede my comment of May 31, 2014 at 9:41 am with the sentence:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    ??

  247. “is there a word limit for comments?”

    Based on a few comments in this thread, I would guess not – and I know how ironic it is that I would be saying that.

  248. I love how men respond to my request for females to be involved in leadership decisions “well I’ve been excluded from those too, so quit complaining!” or “you’re sinning for being ambitious and desiring a position of power!”

    I *personally* don’t want those positions. I want members of my gender to not be shut out of the opportunity to serve merely because of their gender.

  249. I tried to summarize my questions and issues with the systemic and structural issues of the church organization, not to mention the policies, practices, traditions and theology that cause pain . . . and I literally would be writing a book. A very long novel. Maybe several volumes of a novel.

    The problem is I’m relying on local leaders to deal with these issues – when my husband, who loves me enough to be sealed eternally, can’t even care enough to be bothered too much. He’ll listen, to a point. But then we’re back to, “ugh, this again?” The utter lack of empathy to women dealing with this issues is soul wrenching: from our husbands, family members, parents, local leaders, general leaders, etc. It just feels like they want my silence. They want me to go away. If they don’t see it, it must not exist.

  250. p.s. people may listen, but rare do I find one that doesn’t become defense or misinterpret. They may hear me, but they don’t understand. That’s the hopeless part of the whole thing. Can I just get one person who understands me to be higher up? please?

  251. “It is also my understanding that the PR Department has a practice of sending out “operatives” into comments sections such as these in order to defend the statements made by the PR Department.”

    The are probably just trying to ferret out who is responsible for 9/11.

  252. Kristine A, my feelings precisely. I am in anguish about how women’s eternal role is laid out in our liturgy daily and my dear, sweet compassionate husband cannot figure out why.

    I have endless patience for my local leaders and am dismayed to see PR throw them under the bus.

    It is the systemic, institutional sexism that hurts, that tells me I am second class, even in heaven.

  253. de Pizan says:

    Ray, on OW meeting privately with Church leaders or Church PR instead of the public debate, OW says they have asked 5 times to meet and have been denied. This is also the second time that Church PR has sent out a letter addressing OW and their mission, yet didn’t send the letter to OW (Kate Kelly says this letter was not sent to them, there was also the letter in March in regards to attending the priesthood session addressing 4 of the OW women leaders by name–that letter was first sent to the media, not to those women).

  254. de Pizan, sincere question, since I don’t know the answer:

    Are Sister Kelly and OW willing to accept a “No” or “Not yet” answer about female ordination from the leadership, if they say they have prayed about it and received one of those answers?

    I think a meeting would be great, but if they continue to state that ordination is the only acceptable response (which is what I’ve seen in the past), I understand why a meeting isn’t happening.

  255. Kristine says:

    “I think a meeting would be great, but if they continue to state that ordination is the only acceptable response (which is what I’ve seen in the past)”

    Ray, could you please link to where you’ve seen this? Thanks.

  256. Kristine, I’ve seen it stated all over the place and from an interview with Kate Kelly herself. I will try to find a link, but I would appreciate any statement from her and OW that officially says they would accept a “No” or “Not yet” answer. I’d rather read it from her or OW directly than from a third-hand account.

    And I repeat this is a sincere request. I haven’t seen such a statement and really do want to know.

  257. Kristine, the following is perhaps the most direct, explicit statement I’ve read:

    “The ordination of women would put us on completely equal spiritual footing with our brethren, and nothing less will suffice.”

    http://thestudentreview.org/exclusive-interview-with-kate-kelly-from-ordain-women/

  258. Kristine says:

    Ray, that’s at least potentially ambiguous, in the context of the question. She’s saying that (given the church’s current administrative structure), nothing less than ordination would suffice to put women on an equal footing with men. That seems like a non-contentious statement of fact to me. And she was not answering the question “what if the prophet seeks revelation and the answer is no?” so I think it’s misrepresenting her to adduce that statement as an answer to a different question than the one that was asked.

    If they are, in fact, the recalcitrant and disobedient apostates many suggest that they are, I guess it would be pretty easy for the prophet to call their bluff, right? He could, y’know, just ask and let us know how the conversation goes…

  259. Kristine, I guess I don’t see it as ambiguous, especially given how many others times I have read a sympathetic article that also says ordination is non-negotiable – and I haven’t seen any official statement from Sister Kelly or OW saying they will accept any answer other than female ordination. (I didn’t try to provide a link to any of them, since they are reports and summaries, not personal statements.) I read at least one other statement from Sister Kelly that also was explicit, and I will try to find it.

    This really is a sincere question / request. The quote is a year old. If someone can share a more recent statement with me that says “Yes” isn’t the only acceptable answer, I would appreciate it. I keep reading from individuals that it isn’t a demand (only a request), but I haven’t read anything, anywhere that is an official statement saying so.

  260. Kristine says:

    They haven’t answered the question you’re asking because it doesn’t even make sense. If the answer is no, what recourse do they have? Mormon women know perfectly well that they can’t make “demands.”

  261. Kristine, the question doesn’t make sense?

    That means a “No” or “Not yet” answer also doesn’t make sense. Thus, the only acceptable answer is “Yes” – which makes it a demand that won’t stop until women are ordained.

    Thanks for answering my question – and I don’t mean that to be snarky, even if it sounds that way in print.

  262. Kristine says:

    You don’t sound snarky, you just sound like you’re grossly misreading me. The question doesn’t make sense because if one identifies as Mormon, and asks the prophet to seek revelation, then not accepting that revelation isn’t an option. The only alternative at that point is to not consider oneself Mormon anymore. If that’s what they wanted, they could do it without putting themselves through the hassle (to say the least) they’re enduring now.

  263. Kristine says:

    (And, of course, again, I don’t speak for OW–I’m not affiliated with the group and have not discussed this with them)

  264. So, if I understand you, they won’t allow that possibility because they don’t want to get an answer they don’t want to hear. So, in practical terms, the only acceptable solution is female ordination.

    Right?

  265. Kristine says:

    Ray–forgive me if I doubt the sincerity of your desire to understand.

  266. Thanks for the clarification, Kristine. I really do want to hear from them, since I am sincere in my desire not to mischaracterize their intentions or what they will or will not accept.

  267. Forgiven – but I promise I am sincere.

  268. Kristine says:

    I’ll try one more time. “Demands” come with an implied threat–do what we want, or else… Making an “or else…” credible, depends on having equal or superior to the person from whom one is demanding something. OW can’t make a credible thread, and therefore the idea that they’re demanding something is kind of silly. They can ask, they can supplicate, but as believing Mormons, that is really all they can do. To ask whether they’d accept a “no” answer is already implying that they are not believers–no wonder they don’t engage the question.

  269. Also, Kristine, I promise I sincerely would welcome female ordination if it was announced by the leadership – and actually wold love to see it.

  270. Kristine says:

    That’s very nice, Ray, although I’m not quite sure how it’s relevant here.

  271. It means I don’t disagree with their ultimate desire.

  272. Kristine says:

    It’s so great that you’re willing to let the men you support offer favors to the women whom you don’t support, as long as it’s on terms that you agree with. I’m sure that your _benevolent_ insistence that they are wrong and misguided feels totally different to those women than the same disapprobation of their methods from men who are not as progressive as you are in support of their “ultimate desire.”

  273. Sorry, Kristine.

  274. Kristine says:

    There’s no need to apologize to me.

  275. Ray, you’re completely misreading KK/OW and Kristine here.

    To ask whether they’d accept a “no” answer is already implying that they are not believers–no wonder they don’t engage the question.

    Kristine is right- times a million. OW is asking leadership to ask. Leadership hasn’t asked, at least as far as they’ve communicated to anyone- and as faithful members, we have no recourse save that communication. Someone without faith in Mormonism and the structure of the church wouldn’t give a damn about asking, about sustaining, or about upholding their faith and the promises bound within that faith.

  276. I don’t know why, Tracy, but I simply don’t understand the quoted sentence. I have received “no” and “not yet” answers in many aspects of my life when I wanted a “Yes” answer badly, including within the Church, and I can’t see how being willing to accept those answers makes me an unbeliever. David O. McKay is quoted as having been told “not now” as he prayed about ending the ancestry-based Priesthood ban for men, and I can’t see that as making him an unbeliever.

    I honestly have no clue how to see it that way – especially since I agree completely with your last sentence:

    “Someone without faith in Mormonism and the structure of the church wouldn’t give a damn about asking, about sustaining, or about upholding their faith and the promises bound within that faith.”

    I’ve never said, and I’ve never tried to imply, that Sister Kelly and the people who participate in OW are “without faith in Mormonism” and the structure of the church. I think they have incredible faith (hope in unseen things). If I’ve given the impression that I believe they are faithless, I apologize.

    I just don’t understand how accepting something other than “Yes” makes anyone an unbeliever – and I’m not sure I am capable of understanding it.

  277. You are _really_ not hearing the actual question and answer here, Ray. We’re friends, so I want to stay congenial, but this may be a time you need to step back and allow that your sisters might understand their feelings and perspective better than you do.

    Those who believe would accept an actual answer- regardless of what that answer is. It floors me that people can’t see that OW functioning within the very framework their founder and most members sustain and support.

    A “not now” would be the answers to prayers. It would be an answer.

  278. Tracy, I will step back, but I have never believed I understand anyone else’s feelings or perspective better than they do. Never. In fact, I try to teach my own kids and my Sunday School students explicitly that I want them to gain their own views on everything, even if those views differ from mine. I can see in re-reading my exchange with Kristine that it probably came across that way. For that I am sorry.

    I think I actually do understand your last comment, especially the way you just phrased your last sentence, and I appreciate it greatly. “It would be an answer.”

  279. Tracy and Kristine, I’ve been thinking about this exchange for the past 20 minutes, and I just want to repeat my thanks for your patience in going through it with me. Sometimes it takes reading something stated in multiple ways for it to click, and I appreciate being able to read those multiple ways tonight.

    Thank you for your patience in a situation that required it in spades.

  280. Cynthia L. says:

    “The problem is I’m relying on local leaders to deal with these issues – when my husband, who loves me enough to be sealed eternally, can’t even care enough to be bothered too much. He’ll listen, to a point. But then we’re back to, “ugh, this again?” The utter lack of empathy to women dealing with this issues is soul wrenching: from our husbands, family members, parents, local leaders, general leaders, etc. It just feels like they want my silence. They want me to go away. If they don’t see it, it must not exist.”

    Yes, yes, yes, Kristine A. Yes to every bit of this, unfortunately.

  281. Geoff - A says:

    Ray,
    It does sound like you are demanding from OW something that is not in their interest to provide. Surely the PR dept has been equally defininite. Do you have to compromise your position before you can negotiate? They are asking that the Prophet ask the question because they believe the answer will be the same as it has been when they have asked. Why would it be different, and why does he not just ask, like prophets before him have?

    I once recieved an invitation from my Bishop to attend a church court because of my apostacy. When I turned up he said “do you agree with me that you are apostate, and if you disagree with me that proves you are apostate”. I didn’t choose to answer.
    I think you are asking a similar question.

    Just like those seeking change in 1978, those who hold this concern are similarly convinced there can be no other answer.

    Why would the prophet not just ask the question?

  282. I get that now, Geoff, thanks to Tracy and Kristine. I’m still up largely because this conversation is influencing a lot of things that I am scheduled to do in the near future.

  283. Melissa says:

    Matthew 15:22 – 28

    22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

    23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

    24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

    26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

    27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

    28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

    This makes it very difficult for me to believe Jesus would disapprove of people asking persistently for changes in practice.

  284. Melissa, these verses don’t really apply. You’ll note that the Savior first tells her no, then compares her to a dog, then the faith of the woman heals the daughter. It was her faith, just as in several other interactions with the Savior, that made her daughter whole, not her repeatedly asking. The woman did not gather like minded people to each tearfully ask, knowing the answer would be no, nor was she asking the Savior why He had no female Apostles.

    It’s also not the best idea to play dueling scriptures. We’ve plenty of incidents where persistent asking had bad results, no matter how well intentioned.

  285. Melissa, The story about Christ’s encounter with the woman of Canaan has been on mind lately for a number of reasons . . .

    On the one hand, Jesus declared:

    For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

    John 6:38

    Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

    John 5:19

    So Jesus was perfectly obedient to his Father.

    But on the other hand, the Lord taught Joseph Smith . . .

    26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    Doctrine & Covenants 58

    So I think Jesus went “off script” by blessing the woman of Canaan and her daughter. I believe he did this to be a good example for us in terms of D&C 58:26-27.

  286. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
    33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
    34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
    35 Jesus wept.

    Jesus already knew Lazarus would rise from the dead. Could he have upbraided Mary for lacking faith? For not already seeing the end from the beginning? For publicly telling the Savior he had caused her pain? Or did he feel her pain and share her sorrow. He wept.

  287. excelsior says:

    Steve, re your statement: “Stating that agitation for female ordination was President Hinckley’s idea is a false claim. I’m aware of the quote involved, but to interpret that as a call to agitation is absolutely incorrect. It can be more fairly offered up as opening up a fairly narrow window of possibility of change in response to demand; it certainly was not call for increased demand.”

    I respectfully disagree.

    For those who might be interested, here’s the exchange between the ABC’s David Ransom and Pres. Hinckley as aired on Compass, 9 November 1997:

    “RB: Is it possible that the rules could change in the future as the rules are on Blacks?”

    “GBH: He could change them yes. If He were to change them that’s the only way it would happen.”

    “RB: So you’d have to get a revelation?”

    “GBH: Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my wife.” [http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm]

    How can you logically view these comments from Pres. Hinckley as only “opening up a fairly narrow window of possibility of change in response to demand; it certainly was not call for increased demand”? He clearly stated that the status quo re priesthood ordination was okay because “[o]ur women are happy. They’re satisfied.” While that might be the case for the ninety and nine, what about the one who is not? Taking Pres. Hinckley’s words at face value, the one needs to “agitate” for change, as Pres. Hinckley apparently expected to see/hear “agitation” for change if women in the church were unhappy with the status quo and wanted to investigate the possibility of a change re priesthood ordination.

    I say, more power to OW! As seen repeatedly in the D&C, they’re petitioning the Lord’s mouthpiece to ask God for clarification re something that concerns them deeply. What’s wrong with that? What happened to healthy discussion, dialogue and disagreement within this church?

  288. I have one (of many) simple but graphic example of men in the church not wanting “instructions” from women. In this century, I was living on the Arabian Peninsula in a tiny branch. All Americans (like me). From 3 to 15 people, including some children. I simply noted that the priesthood should wash their hands between greeting everyone and administering the Sacrament. No one did. Later I pointed out the possible illness factor. Still no hand washing. I quietly brought hand sanitizer and put it on the Sacrament table. It was moved to the nearby kitchen…..and still no hand washing. ONLY when an American Embassy worker arrived TWO YEARS LATER(!) and I wearily made the suggestion to him did the men start washing their hands before preparing the Sacrament. Mind-boggling….. and the very definition of stubbornness and abuse of “power”.

  289. Excelsior, your enthusiasm is terrific but your reading comprehension skills are poor. Your reading of his interview is, as kids say, wack.

  290. “Context missing from discussion about women”

    Apparently the missing context was imminent church discipline. This letter seems silly now with the Kate Kelly news. I think her (probable) excommunications sends the message loud and clear and in a very different tone than that expressed above.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Bro. Otterson knew about the impending church courts, but it’s unfortunate, almost comedic, timing. “Let’s have more civil discourse…whack…yay! Everyone left agrees with us!”

  291. Garth Wisseman says:

    Hi, my first time on this site. I wonder what our MOTHER in heaven would think of the strident bickering I have read in the last hour. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. That means Jesus is in control If any group seek a change,RESPECTFULLY petition the Lord with your request, both privately and as a group to the president of the church[ The Lord's representitive] As I understand it the prophet may approach the Lord and RESPECTFULLY petition the Lord on behalf of the people. If the Lord condecends to answer, Then we must RESPECTFULLY accept the result and be obedient. I doubt the Lord will submit to the strident demands of bickering children,however just their cause. As a father I would wait until my kids settled down and were prepared to listen. I have a feeling there is one who is gleefully enjoying all of this.It is called divide and conquer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,403 other followers