This was originally posted at blog.dembree.com.
This past weekend a group of 200 women requested entrance to the LDS General Priesthood Conference in Salt Lake City. They were told they couldn’t attend the meeting, which is open to Mormons and nonMormons, because it was for men only. The movement was organized by ordainwomen.org, a group of active Mormons who advocate the extension of the priesthood to women in the LDS Church.
Two years ago I started using performance art to bring elements of Mormonism into my art practice. These poetic gestures are ways for me to challenge power structures and reclaim my heritage on my own terms. It allows me to practice my religion in a new way in spite of the loss of my own priesthood and membership in the Church. I have done a lot of “art experiments” with the idea of the priesthood blessing. I found creative ways to give myself blessings, such as sitting in a chair listening to a hymn and then standing over the chair to pronounce a blessing over the empty space. I did many of these experiments in a performance art class where I was working with an intimate group of other artists who often helped me as participants.
Early last year I invited these classmates to place their hands on my head and take turns speaking if/as they felt inspired. It just so happened that most of them are women. It just so happened that what they had to say proved more insightful and meaningful than I was expecting. Their words of encouragement, advice, and analysis moved me to tears.
As I received blessings from these wonderful female artists, I immediately realized how much I had missed during my youth by not receiving priesthood blessings from women. If my classmates could be inspired with what to say, I can’t even imagine the wonderful insights my mother would have had if she could have offered me priesthood blessings in addition to my father. And I’m talking about more than just sage womanly advice. When these women had their hands on my head, I could feel the weight of real power–an energy that uplifted me and inspired me.
I can imagine a Mormon world in which women hold the priesthood because my art has given me a small glimpse of it. Let me tell you, it is a beautiful world.
I hope that one day the LDS Church will give priesthood authority to its faithful women. In the mean time, I hope women will further exercise the power of their spiritual gifts anyway. You don’t need priesthood authority to place your hands on a person you love and speak as you feel inspired. And I have learned from this and countless other experiences that women are inspired.