“There’s a lot of you guys!” a representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as the umpteenth woman approached him. He had been standing there for at least an hour by that point. His job? To decline the over one-hundred women asking for entrance to the broadcast of the Priesthood Session of General Conference.
The conference itself was held across the street at the Church’s Conference Center, but women and male supporters associated with the “Ordain Women” movement collected in the stand-by line at the Church’s Tabernacle. Between 5:00 and 5:45 P.M., male members were allowed to walk directly into the building while women were stopped at the door.
Over the past year the Church has made some significant changes regarding General Conference that seemed to be in response to protests from some Mormon women, including publicly streaming the Priesthood Session on TV and the internet and allowing women to give the benedictions and invocations of regular conference sessions. The policy of priesthood-session attendance being exclusively male, however, was clearly not an issue they were willing to budge on.
“I’m sorry, this session is for men only,” the church representative said countless times on Saturday evening, referring women to the Church’s website where the session was being streamed live. “This is a gathering only for men.” “Sorry, this is the standby line for men.” “This session is intended for the priesthood only.” He forwarded any further questions to the many full-time missionaries on Temple Square.
When the Tabernacle doors closed at 5:45, dozens of women still waiting in line were disappointed that they did not get the chance to be politely turned away. The large group then collected near the Tabernacle and sang the hymn “I Am a Child of God” before leaving Temple Square (video below).
Asked why they wanted to attend the Priesthood Session, one woman told us, “Because I am an active, faithful Mormon woman, and I sincerely desire to listen to the prophet, and it was a real blow to have men and boys walking by me as they were permitted to walk in and I was not.”
Meanwhile outside of the Conference Center, a pair of Mormon women opposing the “Ordain Women” movement held up signs saying, “I don’t need the priesthood to be equal to my husband.” Asked what they thought of the women trying to attend the Priesthood Session, one of them said, “I don’t think they understand the doctrine very well.”