Joining my sisters (and brothers!) in standing in line to attempt to get into the priesthood session was not an easy decision. I have, for awhile, kept myself on the fence on this issue. Mostly because of fear. I’ve long since known how I *really* felt about it. But, I’ve come down from the fence and picked a side. Authenticity is super.
My interest in going this year, and outing myself on this issue, began last October, when Ordain Women first tried to get into the priesthood session. You see, I was unduly optimistic about the venture. I’m not sure why, thinking back… but I was absolutely convinced that they would be let in. If not into the conference session where the live meeting is filmed, surely into the tabernacle or something… In my mind, it was simply the Christ-like thing to do. But I was wrong, and it hurt. And watching the scene unfold from afar was more painful than I expected it to be.
So when I made the decision to try to go this year, it was with the knowledge that however hard it would be, it would not be as hard as not being there.
My trip was fast, and much of it is a blur. I was tired for most of it, feeling kind of ill because I was away from my nursing baby for too long, and generally a bundle of stress and nerves. I arrived in Salt Lake City late Friday night, and I left very early Sunday morning. But in the blur, there are moments that stand out. Most of those moments are centered around the most fantastic people with whom I spent the day. There were hugs, tears, laughter, and a whole lot of love.
There are a few other moments that stand out that I want to share.
The first I experienced because I volunteered to help keep track of the line and make sure people knew where to go, what was going on, and then if conflict arose, I was there to help dispel it (which was never necessary, for the record). And so I found myself out ahead of the line of women (and men!) before they began the advance from City Creek Park towards Temple Square. I stood at my corner and watched as it began. The group, with Ordain Women leaders in the front, came across the street through a crowd of protestors who were shouting the most hateful things. But, truth be told, I barely noticed that. Because I was so taken back by the dignity and majesty of the women coming across the street towards me. I mean it was raining, the wind was blowing, this was just before we got some serious hail, and these women managed to be majestic nonetheless. The image was so striking, and it took my breath away. And as I watched this scene unfold, D&C 84:88 popped into my head:
And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
Another moment that stood out was when I was helping the line wrap around the tabernacle. A group of young men passed me and started to get in the line. Someone from security came up to them and directed them to another door, where they were just allowed to enter and find a seat. I got the sads. I had to take a step away and pull myself together before I could go back to helping people line up and keep organized, so that they could wait however long it took to be denied the entrance that was so easily granted to those children. It just made my heart hurt.
The next moment, that I will never forget, is of course the moment I was able to stand at the door of the tabernacle and request entrance into the priesthood session. The PR representative, Kim Farrah, was very kind and very gracious. I have so much respect for this woman who stood at the head of that line and met each request (there were over 500 of us!) until the line was gone. She exemplified the baptismal covenant to mourn with those who mourn. She cried with us, laughed with us, hugged us, showed love, thanked us for coming, and let us know that we’d been heard.
Nonetheless, the answer was still no. While I very much appreciated her Christ-like deliverance of the rejection… the rejection still stung. Especially because she told me that the meeting was reserved for men and boys, but I know for a fact that the building was mostly empty on the inside. It hurts that empty pews were preferable to pews filled with women. When I came out of the line, someone—a woman who was standing by and watching the events unfold, I don’t think she was with us—asked me, “What’d she say?” I told her, “That the meeting was reserved for men and boys.”
“Even if they are nonmembers? Even if they aren’t worthy?”
“Well, yes. Any male 12 or older can go in, no matter who they are.”
“But not you.”
“No. Not me.”
The last moment I’ll not forget was when I discovered the church’s PR department press release. There was actually a rumor going around that the press release was written the night before. It could have been, for all of the accuracy it contained. It was a poor description of facts, attitude, and tone. Its author, this Cody Craynor, I don’t think was ven at temple square on Saturday (or if he was in the beginning, he did not hang around long), and so I’m not sure why he is the one characterizing the event. I *was* there, and so what I can tell you is that we were respectful, patient, that we were never asked to leave, that we were never given directions that we did not follow, that they not only knew we were coming, but had already set up a special stand by line for us when we got there, and, as I mentioned before had stationed a wonderfully kind woman to greet us. To see such a dignified display of graciousness and faith, to see upfront the response from people in and around temple square—both bystanders and employees—and to know without doubt that we were not perceived as divisive or distracting by the people who were actually there…. and then to find out that instead of portraying the event as it really happened, the church’s PR department chose to “spin” the story in an ugly way… I’m just having a hard time reconciling this corporate PR political game with the religion that I know and love. I’m having a hard time reconciling the church that I love with the institution that would handle me so deceitfully and unjustly. I’m just not sure what to do with that.
But, I’m not ready to give up on my faith yet. Cody Craynor cannot get rid of me so easily.