September 12th, 2013 by admin

43 Comments

The House She Lives In

The House She Lives In

Kate Kelly

At A Glance

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview is part of a series, “Sisters Speaking Out,” that features Mormon women speaking out on social and political issues. The opinions expressed here represent the speaker, and do not imply endorsement by the Mormon Women Project or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We ask that all readers maintain respect for the views of the interview subject.

On March 17, 2013, Kate Kelly launched OrdainWomen.org. Her efforts to draw attention to the possibility of female ordination have drawn both impassioned praise and criticism, but Kate feels that the example of her parents, the experience of her mission, and her training in human rights law has made female ordination a flag she’s prepared to carry.

How did your family and childhood experiences influence who you are today?

My mom in many ways is a pioneer. She was one of six women in her graduating class in law school, she was a Mormon woman who worked outside of the home and created her own career. She’s also a believing woman. She was a great role model for me.

Both my parents worked. My mom was an attorney and my dad was a newspaper publisher, and so they took turns doing the housework, shuffling us around, picking us up from school or when we were sick. My dad called himself the “Laundry King” and would do the laundry. They divided tasks, but each took a fair load. There were no “women do this” barriers or limits.

I’m grew up in Hood River, Oregon, where there were only a couple thousand people. We had a tiny town library, and in middle school I checked out “The Feminine Mystique.” It had old yellowed pages like a vintage copy. A lot of the suffrage literature spoke to me. I was interested in ideas, but I also cared about clothes and boys like most other middle school girls in the United States.

I don’t have any children, but my husband and I are complete equals in our home. We share (and neglect) household tasks equally. He worked to put me through law school and I’m now working while he’s doing his Ph.D. We make decisions together. We collaborate. It’s the most joyous collaboration of my life.

My husband is a miraculous feminist. He comes from a traditional Mormon family from Idaho, and he somehow emerged from that a strong feminist. For him, gender equality is intuitive. In that way, he’s similar to my dad.

Does your family share your political views?

My parents aren’t liberal at all. They’re die-hard Republicans and the farthest thing from radical that I can imagine.

I was definitely socialized to be a Republican, though. My grandfather was a state senator from North Dakota, and we had the elephant mugs lining our house from every election year. I went to BYU, and in so many ways was socialized to be socially conservative. But it was actually on my mission when I started interacting with a wide variety of people that I questioned whether I really bought in to all the conservative agenda. It’s not like a mission is a political time, but in some ways it was a political awakening for me just to know that all people should be treated equal, and should have equal access to the same things. I had a late political awakening for most people, but that was the start of it.

Were you as outspoken and outgoing as a child as you are now?

I was modeled from a young age that it was okay to be opinionated, and I certainly was. I also loved creating a magical space where my friends and I could be creative together, whether that was making costumes and going to a dance, or creating a fake news channel.

What was your fake news channel called?

Channel 5 News. We acted out the news stories (bank robbers, celebrities, athletes) and rotated as the anchors. We also made fake commercials for silly products like a trampoline weight-loss program.

How did you become so passionate about women’s issues and activism?

Growing up, a lot of the things were modeled for me in the home. My parents shared household duties and parenting equally. They were both breadwinners, and when that was pitted against what I was learning in church about what my role would be as a woman, there was a lot of dissonance. That started picking up later in my teens as I started thinking about what I wanted to be—a lawyer.

Since I didn’t have any Mormon friends in school in Oregon, when I went to BYU it was nice to be in an atmosphere with tons of enthusiastic Mormon kids. At the same time, I started feeling more and more pressure to adhere to strictly enforced gender roles, and I started realizing that those gender roles didn’t describe me and who I wanted to become.

KateKelly2

A pivotal experience for me was when I took the “Teachings of the Living Prophets” class taught by Lloyd Newell, the voice of “Music and the Spoken Word.” He assigned a research paper on any topic that was important to us and what the prophets taught about it. I chose working outside the home because that was important to me and something I wanted to do. I remember reading talk after talk after talk, and all the words of the prophets on this subject—it was the middle of the night, the paper was due the next day, and I’m sitting on some shabby couch in some slum apartment in Provo, and I just broke down. I clearly remember sobbing on the couch and saying to my friend, “What am I going to do?” because I realized my dreams were incompatible with these things I was reading—that I was suppose to stay at home and have kids. I didn’t see any other way around it, there was no other option. That’s when it started to break down for me.

I served a mission in Barcelona, Spain, and this is where the priesthood comes in. I felt like there were a lot of jobs that sister missionaries would have been very good at. They would have been very capable and effective interviewing investigators to be baptized, baptizing them, or confirming them—any of the ritual or ordinance responsibilities that we weren’t allowed to participate in. Especially in Spain, a lot of congregations just don’t have many men, maybe one or two Melchizedek Priesthood holders in a given congregation, and those unfilled priesthood roles could have easily be filled by capable, faithful women. There was a lot of imbalance, and that’s when I started factoring in priesthood as being the root of all these gender inequalities.

After my mission, I finished my studies at BYU and got married in the Salt Lake City Temple. When I graduated from law school, I began working in human rights litigation. I work with some amazingly courageous people around the word, such as women in Zimbabwe who are routinely arrested, beaten and tortured for asking for simple concessions and to be treated equally, and it gave me a lot of pause. I began to wonder, I’m doing all this work around the world but what am I doing for my own community? It was one of those moments—you know that quote, “I always thought someone should do something about this, and then I realized I am somebody”? Well, for me, I wished someone would do something about women and the priesthood. I thought someone has got to start this conversation and no one seems to be doing it, so I’m going to do it. I am somebody.

What kind of responses did you get after OrdainWomen.org launched?

I wasn’t really out of the closet about ordination, so I was unclear how people would respond. My family has been extremely supportive. My mom submitted a profile; and my sister, an orthodox Mormon who I never thought would have, submitted a profile. My dad also just put up a profile; he’s a former bishop, stake high council member, also very orthodox. I think the hardest responses for me have been from so-called Mormon feminists who strongly disagree with ordination or are upset with what we’re doing. I didn’t expect pushback from a population that already publicly called themselves feminists.

I understand it’s a difficult issue to grapple with—asking for change means the status quo is insufficient and I think that’s a hard place for a lot of people to go. I totally understand the social and emotional cost, but I disagree that things are just fine the way they are.

The Sunday the website launched, I vacillated between enthusiasm and abject fear. I was nervous about how it would be received, not just by the church, but by my family and people in my neighborhood. But going to church that Sunday, March 17th, when we launched the Ordain Women website, was one of the most joyful Sundays I’ve had since my mission—I was able to be my authentic self. I think a lot of that was because that dissonance was resolved, not in the church or organizational structure, but for me personally. I was able to say publicly what I felt. For me the victory is just starting this conversation. Whether or not the church changes, we’ll see, I have a lot of faith it will change, but opening up in this public way was a very transformative experience for me.

How would you describe your relationship to the institutional church?

I think women should be ordained, but that doesn’t mean the spiritual benefits of being part of the body of the church don’t outweigh some of the challenges. That’s not to say those challenges aren’t real and painful and difficult at times, but as a lawyer I imagine the scales of justice, and the benefits of my church membership outweigh those other challenges.

There’s this amazing song sung by Paul Robeson, a civil rights leader and musician who, at the height of the civil rights era, witnessed horrible racism. America was turning the hoses on civil rights activists and firing rubber bullets at them. America was a difficult place to be, but he sung this song called “The House I Live In,” and it basically says, what is America to me? It’s the house I live in, it’s the people I love, it’s the men who made this country a democracy—he describes all these things; and to me that’s what Mormonism is. It’s the house I live in, it’s how I was raised, it’s my marriage, it’s my paradigm, it’s my family. So, no, I’ve never considered leaving. Just because I want the house to have a slight remodel or be more inclusive or larger, doesn’t make it any less of my house.

For Mormon women who don’t agree with your thoughts on ordination, what would you say?

I think that this movement is much bigger than ordination. It’s about creating a space where there is dialogue about controversial issues. I think that’s new territory for Mormons in general. I can totally sympathize with people who might find this a very threatening approach, but I think the tone of the website and campaign has been one of absolute respect and calmness because we are insiders. We are invested. We aren’t interested in diatribes against the church. Honestly, I don’t begrudge anyone who disagrees with me. This is a project of opening up a dialogue. And the dialogue isn’t just one person speaking or just one side speaking. All I want is for people to open up their imagination and think about what it would be like if a woman was a bishop, if women were integrated on the stand at General Conference, if women were integrated into all of the decision making? What would that look like? How would we act and feel?

KateKelly3

I feel like Mormonism is a big tent. We are racially, politically, demographically diverse. We are a broad group and it can encompass so much more than the traditional views that are often conveyed. That’s what we’re trying to open up with Ordain Women—we’re a broad, wide group ranging from the Relief Society president to the radical, and opening up that space is really important to me.

What is a key message you hope your work is delivering?

I want women to know that they are valuable, but not from someone telling them. I want them to feel and see it. Images are very important to me, and when I look on the stand, I want to see women. When I hear people talk, I want to hear women. Functionally, there is no person that can tell me I am equal. I know I am equal, I know I am a daughter of God, I know he loves me … I feel that when I pray and when I go to the temple—I just think that needs to be reflected in the institution, in the everyday practice of the gospel I love. That’s why I created Ordain Women. It is an endeavor in radical self-respect.

At A Glance

Kate Kelly


KateKelly2Location:
Washington D.C.

Age:
32

Marital status:
Married

Occupation:
International human rights attorney

Schools Attended:
Brigham Young University, American University Washington College of Law

Languages Spoken at Home:
English

Favorite Hymn:
“For the Beauty of the Earth”

On The Web:
http://ordainwomen.org/project/my-name-is-kate/

Interview by Kathryn Peterson. Photos used with permission.

43 Comments

  1. angela s
    12:21 pm on September 12th, 2013

    I’ve long loved this site and the profiles done. This one, while I don’t agree with women ordination, I believe was done in respectful manner. I appreciate that it was respectful to both sides of opinion and Kate was gracious in sharing her beliefs. It is a credit to her that she can disagree with the church about such an important issue and still maintain her membership and temple worthiness. Kate seems to not have allowed this to separate her from the blessings and ordinances that are so important. I will add I intended to type something completely different here but as I began to type I wanted to emulate the graciousness that Kate responded with, so thank you for that.

  2. Kate Kelly
    12:48 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Thanks so much Kathryn for such a delightful interview. And thank you Angela, I really appreciate your kind words!

  3. KD
    1:07 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Hi Kate,

    I’m an LDS woman, and I don’t agree with the goals of Ordain Women, but I’m trying really hard to understand it. If yours is the best way to go, then I sure want to know about it!

    My question regards your statement:

    “[T]o me that’s what Mormonism is. It’s the house I live in, it’s how I was raised, it’s my marriage, it’s my paradigm, it’s my family. So, no, I’ve never considered leaving.”

    It makes it sound like the reasons you stay are all important, but in a sense peripheral. Is the church *true? Are its leaders called of God? Are the covenants you have made eternally important and valid, such that to leave and break them would be spiritually harmful to you?

    I hope these questions aren’t impertinent. But I really want to know.

  4. Kate Kelly
    1:51 pm on September 12th, 2013

    KD I echo the words of my dad in his profile:

    God is real. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and the Savior. The Book of Mormon is true. Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. Women should hold the priesthood.

    http://ordainwomen.org/project/hi-im-jim/

    Thanks for asking!

  5. Lindsay Mitchell
    2:59 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Whether I agree with your stance or not is unimportant in my comment. I have to say that I’ve been watching this movement and you in particular, Kate. Your faith, imagination, integrity, and courage make me wish I could meet you in real life. You are a wonderful example of humbly and honestly asking questions out loud, questions which I know many, many women have been asking in their hearts for a long time now. This interview fits right in with all of the other interviews of tremendous Mormon women on this site. Very inspiring.

  6. Mikayla Thatcher
    3:33 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Kate,

    I appreciate your faithful, gracious attitude in the midst of all this. I also appreciate the conversations that have happened in my own home because of your work. The open dialogue is so important for members of a church–prayerful, thoughtful humans with the companionship of the Holy Ghost have no reason to be sheep.

    Thanks,
    Mikayla

  7. Crystal
    5:00 pm on September 12th, 2013

    I love this, Kate! I met you at DC Circling the Wagons and was very impressed. I have followed this movement closely, and I am so proud of you. As for me, I left the church in January. Is is ok to support Ordain Women, having left the church?

  8. Kate Kelly
    7:20 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Thanks Lindsay & Mikayla!

    Crystal, absolutely! We have a wide range of voices at OW from totally active women like me to non-members and people who have lost their membership over this issue. http://ordainwomen.org/project/hi-im-margaret/

  9. Julie Hawke
    7:37 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Kate, I wanted to write a comment to thank you for your faith and courage. I hugely appreciate this dialogue and those contributing to it thoughtfully. I had been previously busy trying to cover tears in the paint and holes in the wall patch by patch, inch my inch in my own corner of the tent. Ordaining women, to me, means that we could save a lot of time spent on inches. Many of the structural inequalities and cultural barriers would be dissolved if we dissolved the idea that our destiny to be priestesses is limited to another sphere. Thank you for creating this space of asking and seeking.

  10. Triss Carter
    9:48 pm on September 12th, 2013

    I am a convert and grew up with my three siblings and mother. My father suffered from schizophrenia and was not a part of our adult life. Mom was a fiercely independent and hard working woman, very politically active and quite vocal as a feminist.
    I joined the church because of the role of women and men in the gospel. I currently am an ordinance worker in the Oakland temple. I see absolutely no differences between men and women in respect to the priesthood. The power and authority from the priesthood come only through our savior Jesus Christ; his hands come through us, whether those hands are laid upon the heads of others, or in the form of prayer. Prayer is priesthood, it is the work we must do even though the Lord already knows what it is we want and need. That job descriptions in using the priesthood power are different according to gender does not make it less or more powerful when used by women. If you understand the temple, and that it is the closest to heaven we can get to here as mortals on earth, you see us as children loved equally and given equal power through righteous living to call upon the Holy Ghost. It sullies the beauty and distinction of the gospel to question its basic doctrine. We all live and move within the gospel here on earth and it is a beautiful coordinated dance.
    There are many issues you are raising in your essay that are not just about the ordination of women to the priesthood. It seems more that you are questioning definite gender roles that the church seems to have imposed on everyday life of the LDS member. Please do not spend any more time worrying about it. You have a wonderful, honorable and God given talent in your intellect that you are using correctly. Working in or out of the home is your personal choice and not revelant to ordaining women to the priesthood. You are seeing sexism as the problem, and ordaining women to the priesthood as your solution. Love yourself, your relationships, your genius and your testimony, and do not find in them problems with your life as a Mormon woman. It matters not what other people think or say, only what you think or say. The church is here on earth to help keep us close to God, but only as far as our mortal state lets us. It is not the gospel. We only live a tiny tiny part of the gospel here on earth.
    I feel that these types of discontent in us as women distract us from progressing toward exaltation as only we as individuals, finger prints, no one else like us ever, can. Please reflect longer on the significance of what we do as women in the temple, and what who we all are, men and women, as we walk into eternity.

  11. RL
    10:38 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Thanks for the variety of stories you are sharing on this website. I really appreciate how you capture the beautiful diversity of Mormon women.
    If Kate is really interested in celebrating that diversity, opening it up even more, and fostering dialogue about difficult gender issues, I hope that she begins to see the ways that she actually helps to shut it down. She suggests in this interview that in order to be a Mormon Feminist you have to support her Ordain Women movement. She calls those who self-identify as Mormon feminists “so-called Feminists” for expressing reservations about or criticisms of her movement. She then patronizingly suggests that they must not support her because they are not able or willing to go against the status quo or deal with the “social and emotional costs” that a change like women’s ordination might entail.
    Could it be that there are other gender issues other Mormon feminists currently deem more important than priesthood ordination? Might there be other strategies and goals that would shift cultural gender norms and the status of women in meaningful ways?
    I have noted, in several internet venues, that whenever disagreements about the goals and methods of Ordain Women are expressed, those people get attacked as being traitors to the feminist Mormon cause. I would have hoped that through this interview Kate would have acknowledged the wonderful history and diversity of Mormon feminism. But instead of recognizing and encouraging different strains of Mormon feminism to flourish, she has tried to delegitimize them.

  12. Martha
    10:59 pm on September 12th, 2013

    Bravo to Kate. Love her courage, love her site.

  13. NP
    3:59 am on September 13th, 2013

    RL is right. OW shows an intolerance for feminists who raise concerns or offer a different point of view– they are discounted or criticized. If you are a feminist who does not agree with OW, then you are not a real feminist. In this way, OW can stifle disagreement and discredit those who disagree. Is that feminism? Aren’t we all entitled to our own view? If you make a public statement, you open yourself to public criticism, so you can’t malign people for simply disagreeing with you. Yet your subtext seems to be — real feminists agree with you.

  14. Kayna Stout
    4:04 am on September 13th, 2013

    I am 56. I’ve been around long enough now to see the fruits of feminism, and they are not all positive. Title 9 is wonderful. I remember the days when high school sports were only funded for the men. That was wrong, and it needed to change. During college at BYU I studied journalism, and I did an internship at a women’s magazine in New York with a feminist agenda. It was called New Dawn, and tried to emulate Ms. Magazine. I was very much on the feminist bandwagon in those days. My concerns were for my future and my opportunities and my success. Then in 1979 along came a temple marriage and three sons over the next nine years. I began to see life with a new pair of glasses. After twenty years of being in the thick of it (along with my faithful husband) through church programs and in home guidance, I discovered how very difficult it is to raise young men to become strong priesthood holders. This was a goal that I ultimately did not achieve. Two of my sons did go on missions, but now all three are inactive. They are in your age range 33, 30 and 26. They are not yet married.
    Yes, the feminist movement opened conversations, and brought changes into society. For example, in the past two decades much emphasis has been placed in education on girls becoming more proficient at math and science. Those efforts have paid off; more women than ever are going to college and finding careers in those fields. That’s been great for the women. But from where I sit as a mom to three men, the societal messages that have spoken to them are vastly different. They and thousands of young men like them are now avoiding their responsibilities to grow up. There’s a huge concern in the church these days about keeping our young men active.
    I see what you see because I’ve been in your shoes as an ambitious woman with a career on her mind. I was that woman. But you do not see what I see as a mother to sons. They are not progressing in church activity or in commitments to marriage and serious careers. I’ve seen so many of their friends stagnating in their twenties. It’s disheartening. The future effects to the church are potentially devastating. The easy solution is, “Let the women do it if the men won’t.” I think pushing the feminist agenda has had an unexpectedly negative impact on men. It appears to me that the more empowered women have become, the less responsible the men have become. Most of the young men in their 20′s and 30′s that I know would be more than happy to let women run things. Ultimately, that just creates more responsibilities for women who are already stressed from working outside the home and taking care of families. We need our men in the church to step up to the plate and do their fair share of helping at home and at church. Your family model was the exception. Most women in the church today would say they need more help, not less, from their husbands and priesthood leaders. I think it would be a huge mistake for the church to ordain women to the priesthood. I agree with you that women are perfectly capable of doing many of the priesthood duties, and no doubt would excel, but I don’t think it would be a positive change for women in the long term.

  15. Kate Kelly
    7:05 am on September 13th, 2013

    RL & NP, I think y’all make a good point and appreciate your candor. I do not believe that in order to be a good Mormon Feminist you have to support her Ordain Women movement. Some of my dearest friends and relatives (and strong feminists) disagree and I respect their opinions (even though I obviously disagree).

    My apologies if that message was conveyed in the subtext. I have absolutely NO intention of getting weighed down in a “who is a better feminist” contest.

    What I meant to convey was that the comments/reactions I have found most surprising and hurtful are the ones from people I anticipated would be my allies, because they already call themselves feminists, but they did not support me.

  16. Mimi Smith
    7:11 am on September 13th, 2013

    I am so grateful for this interview. I can see that Kate is a faithful woman who loves the gospel and her church. I appreciate her positive approach and her understanding that there are many of us who find ordaining women to the priesthood a hard pill to swallow. Yet, I can relate to many of her thoughts and feelings while I was serving a mission. I am amazed at all the talented and smart women in the church and I marvel at their leadership capabilities. I think if we are patient and go at it slowly we will see some wonderful things happen in the church for women.

  17. EFH
    11:27 am on September 13th, 2013

    Kate, I am a feminist and I have been hesitant to fully support your OW movement for different reasons. However, I appreciate your candor, passion and honesty. I appreciate your work. Whether we agree on how to bring about a positive change in the church, I appreciate you, your message and your courage. Even if it might not be the right way to do things, it gives voice and validation to the void where many of us might hide. So, thanks for your example.
    PS – I live in DC area and I hope to meet you one day.

  18. Charity
    2:02 pm on September 13th, 2013

    Well put, Kayna. Thank you for adding your thoughts.

    The priesthood is not about getting things done, or running the Church perfectly. It’s not even about efficiency. It’s about the personal development of good, upstanding men who live the principles of the Gospel. This is something that I think every woman in the Church, and the world for that matter, is interested in. We need men who honor their priesthood, because doing so helps them to be righteous fathers and good citizens of the world. For reasons I do not fully understand (although I could postulate a few), men find this development through the priesthood. Women find it elsewhere, perhaps even partially from stepping back and giving men the opportunity. I have faith in a loving Heavenly Father who knows so much better than us what we need, and what the Church needs. I don’t think He’s so concerned with things running as smoothly as possible. I do think He is interested in the personal development of each of His children.

  19. Tamra
    5:04 pm on September 13th, 2013

    Kate, I am not currently involved actively with the OW movement but I am very supportive. It is an important beginning for changes that will someday become a reality. So I applaud you for formally taking the steps for other women… who don’t even know yet how important it is to have this dialog now.
    Your demeanor is beautifully sincere without offense or anger. It is a strong clear voice in this void for women.

  20. Donna
    6:08 pm on September 13th, 2013

    I have the privilege of being Kate Kelly’s mom, and I can vouch for every word she has said. It is an unusual thing for a mom to have a daughter as a mentor, but I am unusually blessed in that way. When Kate told me she was starting Ordain Women, I was on board from the very first moment. Even though all these years I had not articulated that I thought women should be allowed to hold the priesthood, I have always felt it deep down in my bones. There was just no place to safely say what I felt. Thank you, Kate, for creating a very public space for so many of us. I believe what President Hinckley said in 1997 – God could give women the priesthood if there were “agitation” for it. I have a strong testimony that the gospel is true and that the church is a good, albeit not perfect, means of furthering that gospel. The gospel is in the process of being fully restored, and ordaining women is a part of that great restoration.

  21. Erin
    8:20 pm on September 13th, 2013

    Kayna–AMEN. I was a single woman in the DC area in the late 90s and 2000s and I can’t tell you how many men I saw languishing in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s for one reason or another. Most were succeeding in their careers because that is the nature of the mood of the region but so many were just stuck in the Peter Pan mentality.

    I’m fortunate enough to have married a strong, faithful man who honors his priesthood responsibilities and we’ve been married for over ten years and have two wonderful children. I have worked full-time during that entire period except for eight weeks of leave for each birth. My husband has always been supportive and I have never felt less than him. I feel as his equal in every way, even if it means we do different things around the house and care for the children in different ways. I think in my personal development path, since I can be a very head-strong individual, I really do need to step back occasionally and let the men around me step up to the plate and fulfill their priesthood responsibilities. Could I do their job better? Perhaps. But that’s not how I’m going to grow on this earth. I was an ordinance worker for four years in the DC temple and I -never- felt unequal there. Never. I have zero desire to be ordained to the priesthood. I need less church responsibility, not more. I am the R.S. president in my current ward and I feel like the bishop really values my input. I have zero desire for the additional spiritual weight and responsibility that his calling brings. Zero. Are there gender issues and sexism in the church population? Absolutely. And I call them out when I see them. But as RL pointed out, I don’t think ordaining women is the solution.

    All that being said, I actually appreciate that you’re doing what you’re doing in such a beautiful, loving way. It’s good to at least have the discussion.

  22. PA
    11:02 pm on September 14th, 2013

    In my career, I work with people toward community solidarity and resilience. I find it interesting that the Mormon community seems to have exactly the opposite problem as they. In the community I work with, women are asking the men to get together on their own and to reclaim their masculine power. Men need a space and role to call their own. Without that, they often languish. Does this mean that men are weak? I don’t think so. It means that there is something in men (perhaps an evolved instinct, I don’t know) that connects with the expectation to step up when called upon for spiritual leadership. The Priesthood Session is not only a place for men to solidify power; in fact, on the contrary, I think that it is, in practice, more properly understood to be a special place in which men enjoy brotherhood and talk intimately about current men’s problems (eg, pornography, the treatment of women, domestic violence, racism, etc; if we are to grant that one must live in a woman’s body to fully understand women’s experience, we must grant the same to men). It is not just a good old boys club of power (though I recognize that some changes need to take place to empower women). What concerns me most about the strategy of OW is that many men see Priesthood meeting not as an exclusive club of power, but rather as an intergenerational opportunity to explore men’s issues, pass down stories of unique importance to men, and to raise the next generation of servants. By insisting on gaining admission as listeners, I feel that the wrong message might be taken. Let men have their unique, male space. Ask that women speak at Priesthood session. Men need to hear and respond to the concerns of women, who need a greater say in the Church. Ask that the meeting be renamed and that Bishops don’t refer to men as “The Priesthood.” How do you get a boy growing into testosterone and aggression to learn a higher way? Ask him to pass the sacrament–in effect, to stay involved, to serve the congregation, to learn to subjugate some of his needs for the benefit of the community. I say all of this, realizing that sex and gender are a continuum; I think, however, that it’s impossible to create a healthy society without establishing some norms based on biological probabilities. Where else but in the Mormon Church does one see men aspiring to become humble servants of the Lord? The danger (a side effect?) of the current system is male privilege and paternalism. Let’s address those while taking care that we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  23. Catherine
    1:18 pm on September 15th, 2013

    It’s important to note that the Ordain Women site represents a very small minority of self-identified Mormon feminists. Viewing their agenda as representative of that of all feminists is something like believing that PETA is the voice of all animal lovers.

    This is unprecedented: that individual female members unite online to organize a campaign against LDS Church leaders to lobby for priesthood ordination — by utilizing the media as their advocates to both protect themselves and to put pressure on the Church in an attempt to force desired change.

    These sisters have made a choice to step away from the Church and work outside the appointed priesthood councils, (of those having keys) to form their own plan to get what they want, with zero regard for the Church and the very men, authorized to exercise priesthood, which they claim to sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.

    We might want to keep in our minds the very recent words of His Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson:

    “I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm. As we now go forward, may we follow His example. He left His footprints in the sands of the seashore, but He left His teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom He taught. He instructed His disciples, and to us He speaks the same words, “Follow thou me” (John 21:22). May we ever be found doing so.”

    I thoroughly trust that the prophets are called of God and that they are not running this Church alone, but that Jesus Christ stands at the head. So I will put my trust in the Lord and His prophets. And, therefore, anyone who issues calls to action to members of the Church on behalf of the Church, who does not have authority to do so, I will not follow.

  24. Deborah
    4:12 pm on September 15th, 2013

    “Functionally, there is no person that can tell me I am equal. I know I am equal, I know I am a daughter of God, I know he loves me … I feel that when I pray and when I go to the temple…”

    I agree 100% with this statement which is why the issue of women holding the priesthood is a non-issue with me. Holding or not holding the priesthood is entirely immaterial to my relationship with God and my personal salvation. What is fundamentally pertinent to my salvation is that the priesthood is here on the earth and I have ready and equal access to it at all times. God is fair and just. Do you really think any woman living alone has less access to the priesthood than one who does not? Or that somehow God will deny her blessings?

    If the Lord decides He wants women to hold the priesthood, great, I’m all in. But it would not effect my testimony one way or the other. I have no need to “agitate” because I feel no discrimination.

    Having said all that, I applaud Kate’s graciousness. When a controversial issue is approached in this way, it causes me to listen. I may not agree, but I listen.

  25. Kate Kelly
    9:16 pm on September 15th, 2013
  26. KD
    10:22 pm on September 15th, 2013

    Robeson did not write “The House I Live in.” He did sing it, beautifully, and perhaps most famously in the context of Union Organizing Conferences in the 1940s. The fire hoses were turned on civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s. Real bullets (not rubber ones) were used on those who fought for human dignity and racial equality throughout American history. OW’s repeated suggestions that their struggle for women’s ordination to the priesthood is akin to the struggle for racial equality in the United States (or in the LDS church )is as misplaced as Elder’s Oak’s suggestion that persecution against Mormons post-Proposition 8 was like that faced by blacks in Jim Crow America.

  27. Kate Kelly
    6:44 am on September 16th, 2013

    RL I am sincerely interested in knowing how you think we could best honor our truth and push for ordination while respecting the contributions, opinions and methods.

    I sense and acknowledge as valid your anger and annoyance. Constructive, concrete suggestions would genuinely be appreciated.

  28. Kate Kelly
    6:45 am on September 16th, 2013

    contributions, opinions and methods [of other MoFems].

  29. admin
    9:07 am on September 16th, 2013

    We have generally been pleased with the cordial tone of the comments on this interview. However, we have removed some comments we feel are disrespectful or condemning, in keeping with the Mormon Women Project’s stringent commenting policy and spirit of bridge building.

  30. Krisanne
    11:29 am on September 16th, 2013

    Kate, thank you for being brave enough to ask difficult questions. The entire foundation of our church is built on the spirit of seeking. It all started with a 14 year old boy who was uncomfortable with the status quo and sought a deeper truth. Whether or not one agrees with the ordination of women, I certainly don’t see anything disagreeable about the process of honest and heartfelt inquiry. You have a lot of integrity. Kudos to you.

  31. Jennifer
    12:31 pm on September 16th, 2013

    Interesting interview. While I have not sought after the priesthood and don’t intend to, I can definitely appreciate the importance of the discussion. This church started because someone asked the hard and unpopular questions. Thanks for sharing your story.

  32. Olivia
    4:57 pm on September 16th, 2013

    I disagree with this fringe movement away from the mainstream church and won’t be championing it or congratulating it. The temple and doctrine therein makes it very clear where the Lord stands on this issue. I am excited for General Conference to hear from our inspired Priesthood leaders who are called of God. Only a few more weeks!

  33. Tasha
    9:11 pm on September 16th, 2013

    I’m one of those Mormon feminists that definitely has reservations about the idea (though less so the website). It’s simply just not something I can agree with. I don’t pretend to understand the current dynamics and certainly see plenty of false culturally-built ideas about gender that I don’t personally subscribe to. That stated it was helpful to read the essays by the women. And I read quite a few of them (almost all of them when I did it, now probably closer to half or so). And though I don’t fully understand and am working to develop my own understanding about the priesthood and women, I can’t subscribe to the reasoning provided by these women. They felt incomplete, worked within only a given paradigm, and I could find plenty of ways to reframe the ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc that were expressed. Many of the more emotive reasons simply were not what I felt at all. Simply put it was not enough valid reasoning for me to assume in female ordination exactly like men.

    It helped me to figure out where I could or couldn’t stand in more defined terms by recognizing why I didn’t believe beyond subjective feeling. Before that, I sensed that it wasn’t the right approach or better gender equity without the words for it beyond that and without being particularly satisfied with the answers usually given by women as to why they don’t want it.

    It’s probably not exactly what would be expected, but I think dialogue in this regard should expect pushback and apprehension about it. It’s not necessarily about pushing against the status quo, but how and why and where that status quo is pushed. It’s in these things that I hold the most reservations about it.

  34. Julie
    4:17 pm on September 19th, 2013

    I consider this recent BYU Education Week address by Robert Millett, professor at BYU and author to be a fantastic addition to this interview. From the Church’s website (just published):

    https://www.lds.org/church/news/five-ways-to-detect-and-avoid-doctrinal-deception?lang=eng

  35. Amanda
    5:09 pm on September 20th, 2013

    Kate,
    I so strongly admire your courage and conviction and integrity. As a MoFem I have struggled with what I believe (is female ordination necessary? sufficient? the best way to push things forward?) and also the courage to act on my beliefs. I feel refreshed reading your interview and encouraged to be more faithful and more authentic.

  36. Jamie Z
    1:04 pm on October 1st, 2013

    Kate: you are flaming wonderful and brilliant. Thank you for your voice and your courage.

  37. Jenn S
    10:46 am on October 2nd, 2013

    I really appreciate reading this biography. I admire Kate’s courage and support her movement in my heart and mind. I support it because I see no other way to bring about a condition for completely active and faithful women in the church to act upon their agency unless they have a level of control and power from which to act.

    From my perspective, this doesn’t currently exist with the many inequalities that exist starting at age 8 between female and male.

    I believe that women and men should be able to act according to their conscience and that societal and cultural parity must exist between the sexes in order for this to occur.

  38. So You Want God’s Power? | Teresa Hirst
    12:28 pm on October 2nd, 2013

    [...] in reality, these discussions started online years ago and most recently about six months ago by a woman named Kate Kelly and others who advocate for women being ordained to the priesthood in the Church at [...]

  39. J.
    10:34 am on October 8th, 2013

    Kate Kelly beautifully and graciously expresses her observations, thoughts and feelings. Many of the readers’ comments I’ve read have been insightful and thought-provoking. As a stay at home father, and husband of a good, smart, and ambitious woman, I understand some sex role issues , and concerns some LDS women have with not being ordained to the priesthood. There are certainly men in positions of authority who aren’t as humble and spiritual as they should be. Likewise, however, there are women in positions of authority who are similarly imperfect.

    I used to wonder how the world would differ from the world we live in if women ruled. Some women claim it’d be a kinder, gentler, more civilized place. Serving as a director in our coop building in Manhattan (and experience in the workforce all my adult life) showed me that sex does not determine character. I feel quite sure if the sex roles were reversed, the world would function on pretty much the same level it now does. Are women as capable as men? Absolutely. Are there differences between the sexes? Yes. Do they matter? I’m not sure.

    Kate responded earlier to someone’s question by quoting her father, who said: “God is real. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and the Savior. The Book of Mormon is true. Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. Women should hold the priesthood.” I echo most of these statements. But there are two things I find missing. The first is a declaration of knowledge that God the Father and Jesus Christ restored the Gospel through Joseph Smith. The second, directly related, is a declaration that Thomas S. Monson is THE prophet on the earth at this time…not just “a” prophet.

    A fundamental tenet of our faith is that God directs His church through a single human mouthpiece. We know that each of us with callings are entitled to inspiration from God to help us in our stewardships, but we are not entitled to inspiration for the whole church, or organizations other than those over which we have stewardship. Currently, President Monson is entitled to inspiration for everyone.

    As a man, it’s helpful to me to have a males’ meeting at church, and to have the responsibilities and expectations of me that come with the priesthood. I do think these are really good for young boys and men of all ages. However, these considerations aren’t really important. What is important is submission to God’s will. In fact the only true proof of our mettle as Latter Day Saints is our submission to God’s will, just as Christ showed in Gethsemane and on the Cross. It isn’t expedient use of human resources. It isn’t reaching our administrative potentials. It’s submission to God’s will, even when we don’t understand it. Clearly women could do as well as men in priesthood callings. And if priesthood ordination comes to women at some point, sooner or later, then ok. My question to those of you who are actually faithful LDS feminists is…if it’s not God’s will that you be ordained, are YOU ok with that? Will YOU remain faithful? Will you submit to God’s will for you? I hope you will.

  40. Ginee
    6:45 am on October 14th, 2013

    Kayna said what I was thinking so beautifully. In a world where women are being “equalize”, what happens to the importance of our men, the growing of good, solid men? I see more and more men not taking responsibility for equality when women are willing to take more in the name of being equal.Young men are becoming bums and living at home more and more, while women are telling them they are unneeded. I am afraid having the priesthood would just mean more work for me. I feel like our portion now as women is like an iceberg. We feel unequal because the tip only shows and the rest is hidden to our perspective, for now. Even if that analogy isn’t exactly true, If I had to choose to “allow” my husband the priesthood on earth to save his soul and be my worthy companion in the eternities, I would be “unequal” for no other reason than to save him. I strongly believe not having use of all the priesthood is to save my hubby, son, and brother, and myself. I think we will learn to be a unified couple where we both lean on each other to be whole. My hubby works many hours ( I work outside the home too) the home work is not shared now, what would having the priesthood for me change other than to tell him he is even less needed than before? I can do most anything and have on my own because he wasn’t there- we also have a small ranch, and I have done “man’s” work and hated it. I have had to come into the house after taking care of a man’s work outside and still do my mothering responsibility, no one picked up “my” work. I need him to have the priesthood and step up to do his share to show me and him that he is needed on earth and in the eternities. I am sorry we don’t see life the same way, but I can’t and won’t take more work on in the name of equality or the priesthood.

  41. SP
    10:32 pm on October 30th, 2013

    Quoting President Hinckley as saying women could be given the priesthood if only we would “agitate” for it is misleading. And, yes Kate I read the entire interview from the link you posted. upon reading the interview I realized president Hinckley said no such thing, he is merely responding to a question by a very adept reporter who is trying to get something extraordinary out of his interviewee as is the job of a good journalist. Of course the reply is , Yes if He chose to change it (as was the case with African Americans getting the priesthood), then it would be changed. What was He supposed to say, No, if God reveals this to us then we still stand firm on his position. What is more revealing though is the rest of his comments concerning women and the priesthood in that particular interview. My goodness if we were going to use the excuse that if only there is enough agitation then God will change something then there are a litany of other what we consider eternal principles that could be changed as well. It also implies that somehow God is more interested in appeasing the masses than to holding to Divine law. I am more of a feminist than you may think reading this. I struggled for a very long time with the Family Proclamation because of its strong gender descriptions. I almost left the church because of it, but I did something that changed my life and my perspective. I prayed with “all the energies” of my heart to know whether or not it was true, and you know what? I was wrong and God was right.

  42. Kayrena
    1:11 pm on April 8th, 2014

    I wholeheartedly loved and supported the premise of this website until it chose to feature this woman. I think that women who are actively trying to change one of God’s laws and who choose to ignore the many statements from God’s prophets are not women who are strong examples. I would hope that as Mormon women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we would bind together in strengthening one another in making and keeping sacred covenants that lead us back to the Savior. Trying to lobby against God and his ways isn’t something I will choose to support or entertain. I hope you will carefully choose who you feature in the future.

  43. susan
    6:28 pm on June 24th, 2014

    I generally do not comment on current events such as this, but I do see parallels in the Chruch’s beginnings. Ms. Kelly I admire the courage of your convictions. Indeed convictions have brought the LDS church to the place in the world it is today. I am a convert to the Church and was converted by a very dear friend in high school. I too took a class on Modern Day Revelation and also a class on Joseph the prophet. I came to realize, for me, personally, that for Joseph to have gone through all that he did and to never waver in his convictions and the things he knew were true, indeed, to give his life, to go through all that hell, such that the Church has succeeded and grown to encompass the whole world. As Time Magazine said on it’s cover, Mormon, INC.,that the Church and all it teachings must be true. I hope that your beliefs will take you to those same conclusions—–it seems that your life will be interesting, but to be excommunicated from all that has been revealed to you and to not partake, a mighty price you are paying. But then so too, did Joseph Smith pay a huge price, as did Emma and Hyrum. I wish you well and I wish you Grace.

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