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Mormon women: Hundreds of Mormon women protest at male-only priesthood meeting

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Mormon women seeking ordination to the Mormon priesthood protested at a male-only Mormon Church priesthood meeting on Saturday. "Despite polite and respectful requests from church leaders not to make Temple Square a place of protest, a mixed group of men and women ignored that request and staged a demonstration outside the Tabernacle on General Conference weekend, refusing to accept ushers’ directions and refusing to leave when asked," church spokesman Cody Craynor wrote in an email Saturday evening, according to an April 5 Chicago Tribune report.

Saturday’s protest at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square is the second time in six months that Mormon women were rejected from filling some of the empty seats at the Mormon’s all-male semi-annual conference.

While Ordain Women, the group which had organized the Mormon women’s gathering, does not characterize itself as a group of protesters, Mormon Church officials are seeing it differently. Men ordained to the priesthood in the Mormon Church can perform religious rituals, including baptisms, confirmations or blessings and can be called to lead congregations. Boys can enter into the priesthood as deacons at age 12 and grow in authority and responsibility as they get older or are called to service by more senior church leaders – male leaders.

"Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord's revealed organization for His Church," stated the church’s letter to Ordain Women last month.

"We're not activists. We're not protesters," said Kate Kelly, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney and lifetime Mormon who last year co-founded Ordain Women with about 20 other women. “Women are powerless in matters of church governance and can make no autonomous decisions, even at the highest levels,” said Kelly who emphasized that the women want to be for and with the Mormon Church and not against it.

About 200 Mormon women and supporters were reportedly seen at the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square on Saturday, but one of the group’s spokeswomen put the number of participants at 510. According to Ordain Women’s website, the Mormon women aspire “to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”