Monday, June 30, 2014

At Kate Kelly's Sunstone Fireside

I went to Kate Kelly's Sunstone fireside to satisfy my curiosity, to see if I could learn more about what's really motivating Kate Kelly and the Ordain Women movement, what their ultimate goal is. (Everything that follows is paraphrased; if my memory is inaccurate, they videotaped it, and I'm sure it'll be online somewhere.)

It was held in a Community of Christ chapel (formerly known as RLDS church). The opening prayer mentioned blessing those souls who were wounded or weary, those who'd had issues with the church for a long time or those where they were new.

Kate Kelly talked about how she wanted to launch Ordain Woman on the anniversary of the organization of the Relief Society. She had to beg and plead to get the first 20 profiles up for the launch. No one wanted their face on the website if it was only 5 people. She said she called in old contacts, trying to think of everyone she knew who was brave.

She's proud of the fact there are now about 400 profiles on Ordain Woman and less than 5 asked for their profiles to be removed after Kelly was excommunicated. She spoke of the "courageous risk" OW took in participating in an interfaith fast for gender equality in all faith traditions.

She said "every week" she felt "excluded and marginalized" at church and wanted to give women a voice. In reference to OW trying to get into the October 2013 Priesthood session, the church doesn't know how to respond to women who don't just say "yes." She called the October line-up very brave and views it as a big moment for Mormon women. She resented the church having women be the ones to tell OW they couldn't attend the Priesthood session. "Turned away by a woman who could not attend herself."

She spoke more about the mission of OW and brought up the Six Discussions they're writing up. "Unlike the missionary discussions, you can actually discuss them." (Derisive laughter from crowd.) I gather her mission was a lot more stringent about the LDS discussions. On my mission, they very much promoted discussion.

She said the beginning of the conversation sparked by OW was gloomy, but now the conversation is being had in every ward or stake in the world. They sparked a response from the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve. She pointed out that their statement just pointed out the present but did not rule out women being ordained in the future. She mentioned Ally Isom has been in "the position of defending the Patriarchy." First Presidency and Patriarchy seemed to be interchangeable.

She spoke about the scripture "ask, and ye shall receive." Well, she's asking for the Priesthood. She also mentioned the hymn "do what is right, let the consequence follow" and there's no doubt in her mind she's doing the right thing. She said it's hard to be seen as "intransient."

She said she now has no doubt women will eventually be ordained. "We have become speakers of the truth and we have found our voice."

At that point she opened it up to questions.

One drew a comparsion between sexism at work and sexism at church.
Kelly rattled off a bunch of stats on how women in Utah are worse off than in most states.
"Parity won't come until all faith traditions change."

One mentioned she was here to learn, said that John Dehlin had lead her to Kelly. She was one who stood in line to attend the Priesthood session but was glad they weren't let in because she actually had to leave for work. Ally Isom came up again and they criticized her tone, or maybe Isom had said "tone." Either way, I gathered most of the attendees have a low opinion of Isom. She said anyone who brings up a tone argument needs to rethink everything about their life. Mentioned that women are "bossy" while men are "assertive."

Kelly said OW is not just her. She asked those in attendence to stand if they had profiles on OW. Somewhere around 12-15 people stood up. (About 100 total were in attendence.)

She referenced the scriptures, saying we should "weary the Lord with our petitions," that we should ask 70 times 7.

She brought up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. She said the three of them asked to be saved from the fire, but they said if not, we will continue serving the Lord. She compared OW to them, saying we are asking, and if the answer is no, we will continue. She said even if women get the Priesthood tomorrow, OW still has plenty of work to do pushing for gender equality in the church, racial equality, LGBT equality. Mentioned only 2 of the General Authorities are black. Said there's a lot of work to do "integrating women in the church."

She said the Church is trying to control the information and they are struggling with the internet, how any information is available.

She said her stake president told her that she was the only woman in his stake that had a problem with gender equality in the church. After she publicized that remark, about ten women asked for interviews with the stake president. She said Mormon activists are going to be like Whack-A-Mole: you can't excommunicate them fast enough because more will spring up in their place. Said they can't excommunicate hundreds of us, thousands of us. "Well, I guess they could."

Someone asked about what you say to those women who don't want the Priesthood, don't agree with what she's doing. She said to point out to them that they are part of an institute that value us as less. She said to have compassion, have patience. Offer to go through OW's discussions with them. She said to state very clearly that women are not equal in the church.

She compared OW to the "Let Women Pray" movement or "Wears Pants to Church Day." Someone pointed out that the woman behind WPTCD received a death threat.

What to say to those who want to leave the church?
If you can stay, stay, if it's a healthy safe place. For some, it's harmful. You have to speak up.
She said that before 2013 there were zero General Conference talks about women and the Priesthood.

She said she sees 7 years as the maximum goal for women getting ordained. She said it's a huge sacrifice, and getting excommunicated was very painful. But that she spoke with integrity and that it's been worth it.

She concluded that people know what happened to her was wrong.

Closing hymn was "Let Us All Press On." The lyrics took on a new meaning for me in this setting.

Closing prayer was offered to "Our Divine Parents."

Then we had pie. 10-point bonus to any fireside that serves pie.

I'd had a couple questions before I came, and as people lined up to talk to her, none of them came to mind. I felt like I'd got my answers and was okay to head home to the kids. I overheard one person talk about resigning from the church to show solidarity. The people there were friendly and happy to be there. Kindred spirits coming together, a safe place to ask questions. Some were non-members, some had left the church, some had one foot out the door, but most were faithful members who just believe the church has a lot of changes it needs to make.

So in conclusion, Ordain Women is an activist group, a group that plans to agitate/protest/question/poke/prod the LDS church for years to come, whether all of their demands/requests/inquiries are met or not. Most of OW's members are LDS members who want to see change. Some view women in the church like battered-wife syndrome. The abusive, controlling men and the less-than-equal sisters.  They believe in the church, but even if they're excommunicated over it, they plan to weary the Lord with their petitions. It all goes back to Joseph Smith ordaining women. Why did it stop, and will it start up again?

Some other points: when a woman enters sacrament meeting, who is on the stand? Men.
When a woman needs counseling, to whom should she go? A man.
When a woman goes to church court, who are her judges? Men.

I reread her bishop's letter on what it would take for Kelly to be rebaptized in the church. (And to clarify, she wasn't excommunicated for apostasy per se, she was excommunicated "for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church.")

1. Stop teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood.
2. Be truthful with others regarding matters involving your priesthood leaders and church discipline.
3. Stop trying to gain a following for herself or her cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.

(Oh, that was a question I had! Why did the bishop have that 2nd item in there? What has she lied about? Shoot. Oh well.)

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