LDS Church bans news media from Temple Square during General Conference

Posted at 10:44 PM, Apr 03, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has banned reporters from Temple Square during the faith's semi-annual General Conference this weekend.

The ban is in response to a demonstration planned by a group of women seeking ordination to the priesthood. The group attempted to enter the men-only priesthood session last year in front of news cameras.

"After careful consideration we determined we would not turn away news media from Temple Square during the protest last October. However, we found the interaction between protestors and news media to be disruptive to the sacred atmosphere of Temple Square and do not wish to play host to similar circumstances again," LDS Church spokesman Cody Craynor wrote in an email to FOX 13.

On Friday, LDS Church representatives told FOX 13 the ban would only apply to Temple Square itself and not the Main Street Plaza or the LDS Conference Center, where General Conference is broadcast. The all-male priesthood session is held on Temple Square on Saturday night.

Ordain Women, which has vowed to bring 500 women onto Temple Square to again seek entry into the priesthood session, said it would not be deterred.

"We are hopeful of getting in and hearing our prophet speak, and hopefully our leaders will see our sincerity in wanting to be a part of the priesthood," said Suzette Smith, a member of Ordain Women.

Smith said it was her hope that LDS leaders would "hear us and see us," but she said their attempt to gain entry into the priesthood session would continue even if reporters were not allowed to film it.

In March, the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to LDS Church officials, asking them to allow cameras on Temple Square. That request was denied. The ban on reporters was issued Thursday.

The ban on news media is in response to Ordain Women's action at the October LDS General Conference, when they asked for entry. Their request was denied.

“This meeting is all about strengthening the men of our church, so this is no surprise to you, that we won’t be able to offer you a ticket or a place to see it," LDS Church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said to the assembled women.

Prior to the October 2013 conference, the LDS Church announced it would stream the priesthood session online, a first for the organization.

Two atheist groups plan to rally around Temple Square this weekend, and LDS  members who want to leave the church are expected to hand-deliver their resignation letters at the event.

The Salt Lake City Mayor's Office said a third protest permit was filed: an individual who wished to complain about transparency and church documents, said mayor's spokesman Art Raymond.