LDS spokesman sends open letter about Mormon women

By Tad Walch, Deseret News

Published: Thu, May 29, 2014, 7:05 p.m. MDT

 Women arrive at the General Relief Society meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.

Women arrive at the General Relief Society meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The senior spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Thursday in an open letter that church leaders are broadly engaged in women's issues.

Michael Otterson, managing director of LDS Public Affairs, sent the five-page letter to several blogs to offer context specifically to online discussions about women in the church.

Otterson addressed three criticisms raised on various blogs. He said church leaders "expend much energy" training local leaders to be sensitive to women who seek to be heard.

He said they listen to LDS women worldwide.

“Even as the church has grown much larger, the First Presidency and the (Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) are widely read on current issues and continue to travel and engage with the body of the Saints," Otterson wrote. "Such assignments invariably bring them into contact with rank-and-file members of diverse thought and backgrounds, not just leadership.

"I have heard members of the First Presidency and the Twelve speak many times of those experiences, and what they learn from such engagements. When they return, those interactions are often shared and a formidable knowledge base develops over time, especially given the lifetime of experiences of the senior Brethren. The same is true for the women leaders of the Church, who meet one-on-one in the homes of members, hold focus groups and have countless conversations with women and men as they travel the world.”

Otterson said Public Affairs and other church departments also have reached out to women, including feminists, for several years. That outreach often is in group sessions that last several hours. Findings are shared with church leadership.

"Those kinds of conversations are continuing under similar guidelines to promote honest discussions,” he wrote.

Otterson said his office and the church in general do not engage with some extreme women's groups, "such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion."

The letter was posted by several blogs, including The Millennial Star, By Common Consent and Mormon Women Stand.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

1. PPryor
May 29, 2014

The letter is tasteful and fair, given the hostility Public Affairs has been shown recently in the blogs referred to in the letter.

Maybe the most important clarification in the letter is that Public Affairs works under the direct supervision of the apostles, and that it would never issue a statement that cannot be taken as a statement of the church itself.

I may not understand everything about church policy, but I'm willing to whole-heartedly support it. This letter gives me added confidence in the wisdom and inspiration of the leaders of the church.

2. Beach girl
Huntington Beach, CA,
May 29, 2014

Well said!

3. birder
Salt Lake City, UT,
May 29, 2014

I am very impressed with the kind, yet direct way that Mr. Otterson responds to critical matters affecting the LDS Church. His letter was excellent.

4. OC Fan
Orange County, CA,
May 29, 2014

I'm a man, so take these comments with a grain of salt. While my experience is limited, it includes service from stake presidency to Primary.

As I read blogs discussing gender issues, the picture painted of women's dissatisfaction with the Church is a distinct minority view. Almost all men and women I know, while disagreeing on many issues, work together across the range of Church callings with mutual respect, unity, and selflessness. Our work together generally brings great satisfaction. Our heads are not in the sand; these gender issues are discussed openly in places like stake and ward councils, classes, and in the hallway between meetings.

I can't change the doctrines relating to gay marriage or the priesthood or any other issue, but I can strive to live so that each person in my life feels complete acceptance and love of the Lord from me. Whether serving under the direction of the stake or the Primary president, I try to pattern my service on the Savior.

And I'm inspired by others without regard to gender or other categories; my only limitations are my own failings.

5. Mack2828
Ft Thomas, KY,
May 29, 2014

I'm disappointed that we don't hear directly from the Prophet and Apostles on these matters. When it is done by a PR person it makes me wonder why the Prophet won't speak about it himself. I have nothing but respect for our senior church leaders but I wish in these troubled times they had the courage of a Samuel the Lamanite. He didn't send a PR spokesman up on the wall...he got up there himself so the people had no doubt that the message was from God through his Prophet.