Kate Kelly was excommunicated, and several women reported losing their temple recommends due to their association with Ordain Women. I asked Bryndis Roberts if she felt members of the group were being targeted.
Roberts: I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it a purge. I think, for some of us, as more and more questions were raised in our minds about things that the Church was doing, or even the Church’s response to our requests that the church do things differently or consider doing things differently. I think some women left the church as a result of those actions. For me, I was released from being Relief Society president in June of 2015, and in July of 2017, my temple recommend was taken away. Now, I’m trying to see the actions that I participated in prior to being released from being Relief Society president in 2015. My name was carried as a proxy in the second priesthood action, which would have been in, I think, that would have been in April of 2014. Then in October of 2014, we had what we called a local priesthood action, where we encouraged people to try to go and get admitted into the priesthood meeting in their local areas, and I joined two other women in Georgia. We went to one of their stakes, the stake of one of those women to try to, to the stake meeting house or wherever they were having that the priesthood meeting, to try to get admitted into that meeting. We were not allowed to join, we were turned away at the door. But other women were allowed to come in, people out in California, actually, and some places here in Utah.
GT: Okay, so, alright, wow. So, let me just give you kind of my perception and tell me if you think this is a legitimate perception. After Kate was excommunicated, in my eyes, it seemed like the profile of Ordain Women went down. But it sounds like you were still doing actions. Was there a purposeful lowering of the profile, if you will, so that you wouldn’t be quite as confrontational?
Roberts: I don’t accept that were ever confrontation. I mean..
GT: And I agree with you, but can you see that the brethren felt that Kate especially was confrontational?
Roberts: I can’t speak to what the brethren felt, okay? Certainly, we have not had since April of 2014, an in-person action that had the amount of participation that the first two priesthood actions had. I think there are a lot of reasons for that. Part of that is that the Mormon moment has passed. You know, the Mormon moment that sort of grew out of Mitt Romney running for president and all of that. Then I think, people were very hopeful before Kate was excommunicated. A lot of people were very hopeful, there had been signs, albeit small ones from the church, that perhaps church leaders were willing to listen, and were willing to make some changes. I mean, the Let Women Pray campaign has been held and a woman had actually prayed. I mean, we had at least somewhat of a history of seeing that our concerns had at least been listened to, and perhaps, while our leaders might not be be willing to acknowledge that there was a direct cause and effect between us raising our concerns, and the change being made, changes had been made. So, I think there was a hope, an expectation, a prayer, that there would be a very different response from the church to the two priesthood actions. When the response was to excommunicate Kate, I think a number of people did have to say, “Okay, maybe I was wrong about how the church is going to react to this.”
Roberts: But I don’t think it was so much fear that led people to maybe not be as much involved, maybe it was more of a recognition or a change from having a hope that the church would change to recognizing, “Oh, they’re digging their heels in. they’re not going to change,” and deciding that energies would be better spent elsewhere. So, you know, I reject the notion that women were filled with a spirit of fear. The women with whom I work are not fearful. They’re brave, their courageous and so I don’t think that there was ever a spirit of fear.
GT: But it does sound like there was, for some women at least, a spirit of resignation, that this isn’t going to help?
Roberts: I think there were for some women and for some men, but I think there was also, maybe a regrouping and saying that we will do actions that maybe won’t put people in the limelight so much, but, they will let the brethren know that people are still concerned and that we still have these questions, but I just reject and I bristle at the notion of thinking that a spirit of fear entered into the discussion.
Do you think Ordain Women’s profile has dropped? Has the issue decreased in importance since 2014?
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Don’t miss our other conversations with Bryndis Roberts!
273: Ordain Women Leadership (Roberts)
272: Getting Involved in Ordain Women (Roberts)
271: Addressing Gender Inequities (Roberts)
270: From Baptist to Mormon (Roberts)