To the PR department:
A friend of mine received the survey you have sent out about women's issues within the Church, and she suggested that it might be helpful to send my thoughts to this email address. I realize that this will not count for numbers as I am not part of the random sample, but I hope that you will at least consider my thoughts in your efforts to understand this very important issue affecting the Church today.
I am a convert to the Church; I was baptized 14 years ago next week on my 18th birthday. I attended and graduated BYU, and I have remained as active as my health has allowed. I married in the temple, and my husband and I have 4 children. I have served as a Primary teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a Relief Society music coordinator, a ward dinner coordinator, and a compassionate service leader.
I was aware of Ordain Women when it started, and I followed its conversations with some interest. In the United Methodist Church I grew up in, there had been an abundance of strong female leaders, so the idea of women's ordination was not something new and shocking to me in the least. Nevertheless, it is not something I felt compelled to participate in - my feelings about women in the Church were not that strong and I was reasonably content with the status quo.
When Ordain Women went to Temple Square in October to try to attend priesthood session, my feelings started to change. I was disappointed that the Church would allow men to attend the women's session, but that women could not attend the priesthood session when priesthood wasn't even a qualifier for getting in the door (ie, non-member men are allowed to attend). What was particularly upsetting, though, was that the sisters were turned away and told there was no room for them at the exact moment when the camera panned over a large empty corner of the Conference Center.
I was further upset as stories started to trickle in about how some women were being informally disciplined for having a voice. Most of them were connected to Ordain Women, but some of them weren't. A couple of them said something in church, but some of them were called in based on Facebook comments. Such discipline is very unevenly applied - it basically depends on the attitudes of your local leaders, and whether or not you are a woman. I'm sorry, but I didn't join the Church of Jesus Christ of 1984. Jesus Christ would not punish people for thought crimes. Additionally, the idea of "informal discipline" is hugely problematic because there are not any limits to what form it can take, or any recourse you can take if you feel it was applied unjustly. Church should be a loving place where we learn to be more like God, not a place of fear, but that is what it has become for many women.
I was dismayed at the Church's initial PR handling of Ordain Women's April action. I understand that you didn't want them on Temple Square again, but the PR release painted them with the same brush as the anti-Mormon protestors who curse at Conference-goers and wave pictures of aborted babies at people standing in line. I was also upset to hear about the PR department meeting with Mormon Women Stand when they had been in existence for a month or so, when Ordain Women had been trying for a year to speak to someone with no avail. It felt less like you were genuinely trying to engage with women to find out what their concerns were and how the Church could address them, but more like you were interested in speaking to an echo chamber and insulting Ordain Women.
More hurtful, though, was the Church's response to the April action. I was encouraged to see the pictures and hear the reports from the sisters who attended, that although they were turned away again, they were greeted with love by Kim Farah at the door. At that moment, I thought that the Church was handling the situation very well, that although they would not budge on the priesthood session attendance, they were at least demonstrating that they understood Christ's pure love and welcomed these sisters in fellowship. I was horrified to see the press release that was sent to the Deseret News, characterizing the action as being unruly, as refusing to leave when asked, as causing a ruckus. I felt like I was Harry Potter in the later books, observing one thing but reading something completely different in the newspaper.
Kate Kelly's excommunication was the tipping point for me. I kind of expected that it would come at some point, because that's what happens to people who speak out, but I was disgusted by the circumstances. It was absolutely unfair to call a Church disciplinary council for Ms. Kelly two weeks after they have moved, especially when she was openly engaged with Ordain Women for well over a year prior. The bishop's letters to her contradict what she had described was happening and seem carefully crafted to shape public opinion. The whole thing jarred me to the core, and was the final straw for submitting my own profile to Ordain Women.
I am passionate about the gospel, I love the Book of Mormon, I have a testimony of Joseph Smith, and I enjoy attending the temple when my four little ones will allow. I love the Church, and I have never regretted my decision to be baptized until this year, when suddenly the Church showed itself to be less about loving thy neighbor and more about maintaining the status quo via carefully crafted PR statements. Suddenly it's less about growing and learning to be like God and more like being an identical Stepford wife (which is funny, because wasn't it Satan's plan to make us all identical with identical ideas and identical paths back to God?). My belief in the Gospel tells me that this is the place to be, but the Church is saying that it doesn't want people like me, so where am I supposed to go?
If any message gets to the Brethren, please tell them this. Ordain Women isn't drawing people away from the Church. The Church's duplicitous PR releases and treatment of them as other is what is pushing people out. The bombs intended to destroy Ordain Women have resulted in collateral damage for moderate Mormons who are paying attention. The silence is awful, but the PR department has been worse. Please make it stop. Please show moderate Mormons and fringe Mormons that the Church wants them there instead of saying one thing and demonstrating another.
Thank you very much for your consideration.