Q: What was the purpose behind the Ordain Women panel at Sunstone 2013?
A: A lot has happened in the sphere of Mormon feminism since Sunstone 2012, most notably Pants Day and the creation of Ordain Women. We, as in the organizers of Ordain Women, always want to make sure that we get our message heard and are represented in discussions of Mormonism, so participating at Sunstone was a no-brainer. But beyond simply making clear our goals and motivations for advocating for female ordination, we wanted the panel to be as interactive as possible to allow the attendees the chance to get their questions answered. Sunstone has a long history of audience participation that has enriched its legacy, and we wanted to honor that by allowing a lot of time for Q&A. As has become the trend for Ordain Women meetings, it turned into somewhat of a testimony meeting that allowed many people to share their personal experiences and beliefs about the power of women, blessings, and ordination to the priesthood. We wanted to make sure as many people as possible were included in the discussion, and I think our panel achieved that. Another purpose was to announce our upcoming actions, the fast for gender justice on August 26th and our plan to attend the priesthood session this October General Conference.
Q: Did you feel that the panel reached some people who were either on the fence or otherwise not “converted” (for lack of a better term) to the cause of Ordaining Women to the LDS Church?
A: I’m not sure how much the panel converted anyone- I do feel like there were people who had thought that Ordain Women was maybe hotheaded or disorganized came away from it with more stock in us as organizers. It also felt like a lot of people voiced their respect for what we are trying to do, even if they disagree with our goals and or tactics. I also think that some people walked away thinking that we are total crackpots for our plan to attend the priesthood session, but there will always be people who think activists are going too far. So in short, it feels to me like not many people went from being unconvinced or on the fence to being converted, but that might be because I felt like I didn’t say anything new, so unless this was their first time hearing about Ordain Women, I don’t know why hearing the same arguments would really change their minds.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle faced by faithful agitators for Women’s Ordination?
A: I think absolutely the biggest obstacle is being seen as faithful agitators. If people don’t think that we are faithful Mormons on the inside, then no one will take us seriously. We of course always run the risk of church discipline being used to make us look like outsiders.
Q: Will the panel be an annual feature at Sunstone?/Was crowd participation what you expected it would be?
A: There will always be panels on female ordination, as there have been since the dawn of time at Sunstone J I don’t know for sure if there will always be one on Ordain Women, but I think so, especially given that we at Ordain Women plan to continue doing direct actions and initiatives. So long as we’re around, there will be something to talk about. Crowd participation turned into a testimony meeting faster than I was expecting, which was totally fine but I was expecting more antagonism or criticism than there ended up being.
Thank you to Sister Wheelwright for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions and provide some much appreciated context and thoughts regarding the panel and the overall goals of Ordain Women. You can follow them on Twitter @OrdainLDSWomen , and of course if you missed the panel you can view it in its entirety here .