The emotions, throughout the night, of the women who stood in line, their families and loved ones, male members of Ordain Women who were allowed in without their female counterparts, and the MoFem community in general, covered almost every emotion you could name. As Kate Kelly said, before they were turned away, she truly believed that if the men who were there to bar them from the meeting, could see how pure their intent was, that they would be allowed to enter. (If you don't personally know someone who is part of Ordain Women, I really hope that you will take the time to read this entire post, and get to know their hearts.) There was excitement at the number of women who showed up, many of them coming from across the country, (one came all the way from Germany to attend) and there was a sense of solidarity and triumph from just being there, together, as more and more women joined the group, and got into line.
Then, as the doors closed, and all of the women were still outside, the entrance cut off from view by a landscaping/garbage truck, the range of emotions ran soul deep. Mostly with pain, loss, sadness, rage, but also some relief that things weren't worse, that there was no retaliation.
(Some had worried that the church might have tried to have them arrested for trespassing, or that names would be taken and excommunication hearings would start, that would make the September Six, just a forerunner. While I never thought there would be a reaction like that, the talk earlier that day, describing a caricature of a straw feminist, I did understand why some worried.)That pain, and deep sense of loss, and not knowing how to move forward, is still a constantly reoccurring feeling, and I suspect it may be weeks, months, even years, for some participants to resolve the feelings of betrayal that many have described, in conversations in Mormon feminist online communities and in a loose check-in system, out of which, some are envisioning a Mormon feminist visiting teaching program.
That doesn't mean that there aren't many good things that came from October Conference, or even specifically the Priesthood Session, but that night those things were not so easy to see. I would like to share a few of these positive things that I have seen, which have come from the talks, actions and discussions about the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference.
As I watched Priesthood session with my husband, one thing I noted, was a juxtaposition that I thought was important, and Elisothel (at Feminist Mormon Housewives) wrote about feeling similar feelings about the talk, given by Frère Caussé, literally during the same time that the group from Ordain Women, was walking away from the location of the pulpit that he spoke from. Elisothel captures the moment better than I could, (and you should really go read the whole post) when she explains;
"I know the nets are crawling with the negative optics of an elder speaking of unity, saying to be inclusive while a few hundred feet away ushers turned women away at the doors to the conference center. But consider: did Frère Caussé know the Ordain Women event was happening? Was he speaking to the brethren to open the doors? Perhaps he did not know, and this was the talk The Lord told him to give. Perhaps he did know, and in spite of likely fallout, he gave it anyway, at the behest of God. Either way, I believe in this talk, finally, God was speaking to women. I cannot imagine a better talk for the occasion of the Priesthood session during the Ordain Women effort.
In that talk I heard the Lord teaching me about the standards of love and inclusion we are under obligation to employ as Christians and Latter-Day Saints. I heard the Lord gently but clearly instruct us to open the doors, and to open our hearts. I heard the love of the Lord, not just someone saying he loves me."
As I have listened to this talk several times, and each time I have felt, that the Lord is talking to each of us, asking us to open our hearts to one another, to new thoughts and ideas, and I believe that some of those ideas will relate to feminism, and more recognition of the mistakes of the past, and that many people who struggle with questions of history or faith, and that asking questions is honorable, as Elder Uchdorf acknowledged earlier that day. I suspect that this will be a talk that will be referred back to for decades to come, as a turning point in creating badly needed space for questioning and healing. and that there will, and must be, a stronger role for the female members of Christ's church. I don't know if ordination will be part of that, but I fully believe that we will learn more about our Heavenly Mother, (Heavenly Parents, mentioned by a Carole M. Stephens, was exciting for several friends) and hopefully the priestesshood which Mother holds.
While many were frustrated by the RS Conference, held the weekend before conference, I choose to see the Relief Society Conference through Edward's eyes, as he explains so well in this post.
(He is a male member of Ordain Women, the co-founder of the Finding Heavenly Mother Project, and one of the best men I know. He did not have tickets to the RS Conference, but easily gained admittance, (using the same method that Ordain Women attempted to use to attend Priesthood Session) even though his calling has nothing to do with Relief Society, he has never been a member of the Relief Society, and does not ever intend to become a member of RS.)
As he shared, he sees the emphasis on making and keeping covenants, as being preparatory to receiving the opportunity to make more covenants. We may disagree about whether it is priesthood or priestesshood, which will be the additional spiritual responsibilities and blessings, as I had read his blog post, before I had a chance to watch RS Conference, I could also see those glimpses of eternal preparation that Edward describes when he says:
"Sister Reeves encouraged sisters to “claim your blessings” in the temple. I am greatly moved by the courage of my sisters in Ordain Women who are claiming their blessings in the priesthood. I know this will bring amazing blessings not only to them but to everyone they serve and to the whole church and the world.
The Spirit has borne witness to my spirit that by supporting women’s ordination I am fulfilling my covenants to stand as a witness of Christ—who invites all people, female and male, to work in His vineyard—and to build up the kingdom of God on earth."
So was Edward wrong, because the group from Ordain Women was not allowed into the 183rd Conference's priesthood session? No, I don't think so. There are several other things that happened during conference, including the over-the-pulpit admission that past mistakes have been made, and that the church has not always been forthcoming about them, in this talk by President Uchdorf. As people continue to study, implement, and ponder the sometimes contradictory things taught, and those inconsistencies lead to divergent actions taken, I think that there will have to be continuing communication, to clarify policy and doctrine, and with that clarity, will come lasting changes. Many of those inconsistencies, make me think that the entire church is being prepared, for changes that are important, especially for a global church that now has more members outside the US. Many of the old answers aren't only hurtful to women, but they are hurting the international church, as well.
Joanna Brooks did a fantastic job of bringing in many of the voices and stories, from women who participate in Ordain Women in . (Please read the entire story, it is all great!) In her Monday morning Religious Dispatches post, she quotes Kate Kelly, as she explains that there is a different between feeling loved and cared for, and equality. Kate encapsulates one of the most important things that feminists try to teach both women and men, who oppose Mormon Feminism, solely on the basis of their lack of feeling unequal.
“I have heard from many women, ‘I see nothing wrong with the status quo. I feel equal,’” said Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly to a pre-demonstration gathering in a downtown Salt Lake City park. “To them I say: you can feel respected, supported and validated in the church, but equality can be measured. Equality is not a feeling. In our church men and women are not equal.”
As I have read, not only the posts I have linked to, but the comments and many links you will find in them, I have been able to find hopeful, wonderful things that have fed my soul. They are well worth the time and energy. In so many places, I have found that the words of my brothers and sisters in Christ!
They have given me the chance to see the reflection of my soul. Their words, lead me to believe in, and see, a better me, a better church, a better world, and it starts with each of us following the advice to make room for everyone, whether they have doubts, or sin differently than we do. Christ has invited us all to Come Unto Him, and so we must be able to approach Him, with those who are different than us.
If we are able to make room for each person, learning to love each one with our whole hearts, then making room in the church, for people we know we will learn to love, (if we don't already) will be simple, even if it means making our hearts bigger than they are now!