Hundreds of Mormon women who want ecclesiastical equality were denied admittance to a male-only session of their faith's spring conference on Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah, in their bid for the ordination of females into the lay priesthood.
Members of the Ordain Women group, dressed in purple, marched along with their male supporters from a park to Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square, a four-block campus that is the global home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were seeking unfilled seats in the evening priesthood meeting at the faith's semi-annual conference.
This follows the group's attempt last fall at gaining admittance into the meeting. The women seek a more significant role within their church, and their recent actions have led to tensions between the church and the women.
Before Saturday's event, church officials asked Ordain Women to refrain from coming to Temple Square, and said it would detract from the "spirit of harmony" at the two-day conference, and asked that they "please reconsider." The weekend conference included four events open to both genders, and the male-only priesthood meeting.
In a statement made on Saturday evening, LDS officials expressed displeasure with Ordain Women's actions.
"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," LDS spokesman Cody Craynor said.
"While not all the protesters were members of the church, such divisive actions are not the kind of behavior that is expected from Latter-day Saints and will be as disappointing to our members as it is to church leaders," Craynor said.
Members of Ordain Women expressed displeasure at being referred to as protesters.
"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.
"We're people on the inside. We are investing in an institution ... not critiquing it to tear it down," Kelly said.
Ordain Women, which describes itself as "a space for Mormon women to articulate issues of gender inequality," raised more than $11,000 to meet the costs for women to travel from New Zealand, Mexico City and Germany and across the United States to the event on Saturday.
When Ordain Women members attempted to attend the previous male-only meeting, the LDS denied them admittance, but later asked a woman to pray at conference and the priesthood meeting was broadcast live on cable television and the Internet.
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