April Young Bennett, a member of Ordain Women's board, was forced to resign from the group's leadership as a condition of renewing her Mormon temple privileges.
Local LDS officials issue so-called "recommends" to devout Mormons attesting to members' "worthiness" to participate in the faith's most sacred temple rituals, including eternal marriages.
Through interviews, the lay clergymen confirm that their congregants' beliefs and actions conform to LDS standards, including the payment of tithing and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. They also inquire about the loyalty of members to their ecclesiastical leaders.
Bennett says her stake president told her that, to keep her recommend, she would have to leave OW's board.
She then faced a tough choice.
Bennett strongly believes in expanding the all-male LDS priesthood to include women. However, the South Jordan mom loves her family and wanted to be present for her brother's temple wedding.
"I do not believe that temple recommends should be used as leverage to censor ideas or silence advocacy, but if I hadn't complied, I would have missed my brother's recent temple wedding," Bennett wrote this week on her blog at Exponent II. "Choosing between following the dictates of my conscience and being present for a family wedding has been heartbreaking. In the end, I concluded that while others may take my place as an author or an advocate, no one can replace me in my role as my brother's sister."
[Exponent racked up more than 90,000 page views, which crashed the site for a time, so the piece was reproduced with permission at Feminist Mormon Housewives.]
Bennett's LDS stake president, who oversees a several Mormon congregations in the southwest Salt Lake Valley, also insisted that she delete 11 blog posts she had written for Exponent II, she wrote, which has "provided a safe forum for Mormon women to share their opinions since 1974."
"Some of the deleted posts literally raised the question of women's ordination simply by posting an opinion poll question for Exponent readers," Bennett wrote, "but others, such as 'Ordination is the Answer to Correlation,' 'Confirming Our Hope: Women and Priesthood,' and 'Shouldn't It Be Obvious? How Women Hold and Exercise the Priesthood Today,' represent months of scripture study and analysis of church history and the teachings of living apostles and auxiliary leaders."
Bennett told The Salt Lake Tribune last year that her then-bishop and stake president knew about her Ordain Women ties and both were understanding.
They told her, she said, that "people shouldn't be punished for expressing their opinions."
Since then, though, the local LDS leadership has changed.
A new bishop issued her recommend, but her new stake president insisted that she meet his conditions.
She believed she had little choice but to comply.
"Under our current system of church governance, a woman's assessment of her own personal worthiness carries less weight than the conclusions of male priesthood leaders," Bennett wrote on the blog. "Local priesthood leaders have a great deal of authority to enforce their personal interpretations of worthiness standards, leaving women susceptible when leadership rotates to new men with differing opinions."
Even so, the OW advocate is optimistic.
"My stake president said he wants to keep talking, wants us to get to know each other better," Bennett said in an interview Friday. "I am going to take him at his word on that."
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