On Saturday, I walked with Ordain Women supporters to Temple Square. I had already been told, “This is not for you.” I had been told this because the priesthood is for men, because God is a man, because the power of god is masculine, because I was born a woman.
I had been told that motherhood is the parallel to priesthood, that my uterus should satisfy my desire to serve my fellow children of God, that the meeting I had attended the week before where men presided and gave me counsel on how to be a woman was sufficient for my spiritual education. Why would I want it, anyways? Isn’t it just more meetings and responsibility? The priesthood is nothing more than putting away chairs, right? I shouldn’t want it, right?
When I approached the closed gate, the gate we had announced publicly we would be entering Temple Square through, the gate we had been told had been unusually locked moments before we gathered in the park, the gate that we had carefully chosen so that we would not block any sidewalks with our crowd of 510 participants carrying the names of over 400 more- I could see through the bars the holy grounds I have prayed on throughout my life.
When we were within a few feet of those dark metal gates, I watched a random man in street clothes walk up to the gate from the inside and push open the door to let his female companion exit. I watched him look up, see us, and turn back to the gate quickly to try to push it shut. I watched Kate Kelly take the gate in her determined hands and open it the rest of the way so that myself and other followers of Jesus Christ, other faithful Mormon women, other partakers of a divine nature, other children of God with eyes of hope, could enter onto the ground our tithing dollars and our pioneer ancestors and our hours of service had contributed to build.
The gate had been closed because I am a woman, because women with questions are not welcome in our church, because women who want to serve more are not welcome in our church, because women who try to be heard in their desire to serve are protestors. They are like the gruff men who held signs and shouted at us as we walked over to Temple Square that we were faggots, that we should be submissive to our husbands, that we were blasphemers before God because we weren’t Christian, that we were making our children cry.
Women with questions do not understand the gospel. Women with questions need to look to their scriptures for answers. Women who read the scriptures and find more pain and exclusion because of their gender need to pray harder. Women with questions need to go to the temple. Women who go to the temple and find more pain and exclusion because of their gender simply need to go more, to feel more of the pain, to find ways to bottle it up inside and pretend it isn’t happening and pretend they don’t feel it and pretend that it’s all how God wants it to be and that’s okay.
I am intimately familiar with that pain. You can see it on my face in the photo of me asking for admittance to the priesthood session last October. You can see that I am miserable at having to actually ask for physical inclusion into a space from which I have been barred because I look like a woman. You can see that there are a million thoughts swirling in my head- non-Mormon and ex-Mormon men were able to strut right past me because they looked like men. You can see that I know what the answer will be. You can see that the answer is something that has been suffocating me, like so many other women, some for decades in our church. You can see that I do not think this is fair, but more than that, you can see that it hurts me.
On Saturday, I walked through that previously closed gate towards the tabernacle. A strange woman I did not recognize called to Kate Kelly, with whom I was sharing an umbrella. The woman called out “Hi Kate!” to which Kate said, “Hi!” and kept walking. The woman seemed a little confused and called out again, a little more emphatically, “Hi Kate!” to which Kate again responded, “Hi!” and kept walking. It wasn’t the first time someone has thought they could just acknowledge women’s presence in the church and that would resolve our pain. Not the first time that someone thought a smile and conciliatory glance could substitute for empathy and understanding and dialogue. Not the first time that such an interaction only came about because the woman dared to enter where she had not been invited. Not the first time that the woman’s quest was met with passive aggressive responses and not the first time that the woman kept her eye single to the glory and service of God and walked with determination towards it.
We approached the end of the standby line, a roped off path around the outer wall of the tabernacle leading to its main door. A large white male usher stepped in the middle of the line saying it was for men. Kate Kelly and two others stepped around him to enter the line. When I went to follow them, the man stepped further in my way, bumping into me. Looking down at me, he said with a toss of his head and dismissive condescension in his voice, “This is not for you.”
I was once again, in that moment, a child looking out over the high wood of the pews in my church, wondering silently why my brothers could bless and pass the sacrament and I could not. I sat back down, pulling out my connect-the-dots book and busied myself while the ordinance continued.
I was once again, in that moment, a teenager in my Young Women’s class, hounding my leaders for an answer on why the Personal Progress handbook was so full of things that would prepare me to be a stay at home mom but would do little to help me develop my individual skills, prepare for a career, think for myself. I was in the MiaMaid’s class where my teacher insisted that women are more divine than men and would not hear my disagreement, my frustration, my plea that she acknowledge God’s insistence that He is no respecter of persons.
I was once again, in that moment, crying to the heavens to know why my prayers to know my Heavenly Mother had long gone unanswered, why when I brought up her mere existence at church I was told that to talk about her was off limits, to know of her was not an essential doctrine in our church, to pray to her was inappropriate. I was sitting in the pews for every Sunday of my life while men performed essential ordinances and I held a baby. I was reading Genesis 3:16 all over again, asking once more if God really thought that men rule over women, if women are really second class citizens, if in the eternities I will be eternally pregnant and nothing more, if I am no more than my physical body and its limitations, if I have no role to play beyond parenthood as my husband performs his role as parent as well as his role as a priesthood holder.
“This is not for you.”
I could not accept these words. I could not be told no again.
I stepped around him and entered the standby line. I asked for admittance to the priesthood session from a male usher who shook his head, his jowels wobbling from side to side as he responded, “Nope.”
And then I watched as hundreds of women, women who had traveled from New Zealand and Ohio and Germany and Georgia and Alaska and Oregon and Quebec and D.C. and Mexico City and California, women who had come cautiously and tearfully and humbly and prayerfully, women who did not expect to but who broke down in tears as they moved in front of Kim Farah, an employee of the Church Public Affairs department, to ask for admittance. I watched them each turned away one by one. “This is not for you.”
Women are only necessary in our church to create more members born in the covenant. If no women showed up to sacrament meeting this Sunday or any Sunday, every single essential ordinance could continue. The bishop could carry on his business. The ward clerk would collect tithing. The men would home teach. The missionaries would baptize new members. Women have dedicated immense amounts of service, have served in so many callings, have loved this church- but they are not necessary. Women have reached their hands for more for decades just as I reached for more before the usher stepped in front of me. Their hands have been swatted away, or in some instances, cut off.
“This is not for you.”
The “this” of which those church employees spoke is the priesthood of God. “This” is the power unto exaltation in our church. “This” is the organizing body around which administrative decision makers are structured and chosen. “This” is divine spiritual authority, which women are only permitted to exercise under male supervision at every single level of our church. “This” is the ability to exercise God’s power, to grow through that exercise to become more God-like, to receive the blessings of exercising the priesthood. “This” is accepting a calling to serve based on your individual talents, worthiness, and leadership- if you are a man.
“This” is the core of our church.
Because if you are a woman, this is not for you.
You can see a storified version of the events of that day here. I have compiled some photos and tweets below as well.
You can read the account of one of the brothers who gave us tickets here
You can read an essay by Anya here.