(KUTV) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints denied the organization called "Ordain Women" its request for tickets to an all-male priesthood session of General Conference next month.
"The priesthood session of General Conference is designed to strengthen men and boys as they receive specific instruction about their roles and responsibilities; therefore we are unable to fulfill your request for tickets," said Jessica Moody, of the church's public affairs department, in a letter on Monday. "We invite you, as our sisters, to participate with women everywhere in the parallel meeting for women and girls on March 29 and hope you will join us in a spirit of love and harmony."
April Young Bennett, a spokesperson for Ordain Women, said participating in the meeting would be the first step for Mormon women to take on a greater role in the church.
"Women are not currently equally in the church," Bennett said. "Women are auxiliary to the priesthood in the church. That means that the church is governed by the priesthood, all of the ordinances of the church are performed by the priesthood and women are a little bit on the outside. We would like to fully participate as priesthood holders."
The church turned away more than 100 Mormon women from the priesthood session during General Conference last October, instead broadcasting the meeting for anyone to view around the world. Moody encouraged sisters to watch the broadcast this year, too.
"Women in the Church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme," the letter reads. "Declaring such an objective to be non-negotiable, as you have done, actually detracts from the helpful discussions that Church leaders have held as they seek to listen to the thoughts, concerns, and hopes of women inside and outside of Church leadership."
"The tone was quite harsh and we weren't expecting that because our correspondence with the church newsroom has been very cordial up until now, and that was disappointing," said Bennett. "We don't know what the majority of women think. The issue of women's ordination is taboo. We silence women who talk about it."
Bennett said she and hundreds of others are discouraged by the church's decision, but they will return to Temple Square on April 5 and wait in the standby line outside the meeting, despite the church's request that they reconsider demonstrating.
"If you feel you must come and demonstrate, we ask that you do so in free speech zones adjacent to Temple Square, which have long been established for those wishing to voice differing viewpoints," the letter reads.
"We are not protestors of the church. We are the church. We are members of the church, and we want to attend the priesthood session, not protest it," Bennett said. " I am a returned missionary. I was married in the temple. I serve in callings in the church. I am raising four children in the church, and my oldest daughter was recently baptized. I have invested a lot into this faith. I want to invest even more. I was to invest fully as a priesthood holder, not as an auxiliary member."
Bennett said the group has requested to sit down and have a conversation with church leaders about Ordain Women so that they better understand their intentions.
In the future, Ordain Women will hold nation-wide fasts and other means of sparking conversation about women's ordination.
By Christine McCarthy
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)