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First person: The fight to 'ordain women' in the LDS church

The main entrance of the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is seen in Kensington, Maryland, near Washington, DC, April 18, 2022. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)
The main entrance of the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is seen in Kensington, Maryland, near Washington, DC, April 18, 2022. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP via Getty Images)

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A recent edition of On Point explored the role of patriarchal power in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the consequences of that for Mormon women in abusive relationships.

Currently, only men in the Mormon Church get to ascend the religious hierarchy.

Kate Kelly founded the group Ordain Women roughly a decade ago to try to change that. Here's her story:

KATE KELLY: We decided to ask for the priesthood because it is the backbone of the church. It's literally called the patriarchal order of the priesthood. So, every male person over the age of 12 gets the priesthood and no women do.

We launched in 2013 where we went to the tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. We were, you know, all dressed in our Sunday best.

And we met at a park, and we walked down to the tabernacle in a single file line, and we politely went up to the door and asked to be admitted to the priesthood session, one by one.

So the first woman went, Hi, I'd like to attend the priesthood session, please.

They said, No.

The second woman went.

They said, No.

The third woman went. They said no. And we went through so that every single woman could have that experience.

GUARD: How are you?

WOMAN: Good how are you? I came here for my sister who wanted to attend the priesthood session. Is there space for me to come in?

GUARD: There isn't. This is actually the standby lane for men to get into the priesthood session. But you have access to the things that are being taught online.

KELLY: And I remember one reporter from Al Jazeera was like, wait, that's it? The Internet is breaking because you, like, politely stood in a line. But that was the case. It was nothing short of revolutionary for Mormon women to confront the hierarchy in that way and be told to leave but refused to go.

You know, you don't typically have a singular moment in your life where you realize that the community you're part of does not value you, does not consider you to be in any way equal. And so as we stepped away, one by one, each of us was having that visceral, crushing reality of something.

October rolls around, we do it again. They're more angry this time. They try to shut the gates of Temple Square and close us out. A tourist was coming out of the gate and I grabbed it. And so we physically forced our way onto Temple Square.

We started getting people joining our group who were, you know, bishops in a ward or people with very high callings or prominent families in Mormonism.

And it was getting more and more popular. And the more they clamped down, the more sympathetic we seemed. And eventually they decided that they were going to excommunicate me.

I was in Salt Lake City when I opened the email, and it said that I had been excommunicated. I immediately collapsed, basically on the table. Because for Mormons, spiritual death is worse than physical death. And spiritual death, being excommunicated is eternal.

I don't have hope that the future of the organization will be inclusive. But women themselves are changing. Women are demanding more. They're expecting fewer violations of their own autonomy and dignity. And that, I think, is hopeful. And that is the radical change that we will see.


Tim Skoog Sound Designer and Producer, On Point
Tim Skoog is a sound designer and producer for On Point.


Claire Donnelly Twitter Producer, On Point
Claire Donnelly is a producer at On Point.


Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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