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Hundreds advocate for changes to LDS Church policies regarding women

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Apr 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-05 23:47:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- An estimated 300 people gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday to advocate for change in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it comes to differences they say create gender inequality within the LDS Church.

Members of Ordain Women were seeking entry to the LDS Church's priesthood session of general conference, which has historically been open only to males.

The group marched from a nearby park to Temple Square to make their request for entry to the meeting Saturday evening and were denied. The group also hopes that women will be able to be ordained to the LDS priesthood in the future.

The meeting is free to attend, but it does require a ticket. Ordain Women made a similar request for entry to the meeting while on Temple Square last October at the LDS Church's semi-annual conference and was turned away.

Those among the group said they aren't calling their efforts a protest, but rather an action and a respectful request. They said they are faithful members of the LDS Church and want their voices to be heard.

FOX 13 News' Scott McKane spoke with several women at a park near Temple Square before the planned march to request entry to the event.

Mary Ellen Robertson, Ordain Women, spoke about her views on women being ordained in the LDS Church.

"There's a lot that we leave on the table by not fully engaging women's gifts and talents and abilities in broader leadership roles, and there are lots of things the [LDS] church could do as interim steps to that: helping women be more visible, giving them more leadership opportunities," she said.

BYU Student Tinesha Zandamela said the issue is important to her because she has seen the impacts of a lack of a priesthood holder in her family life. She said her father was not able to hold the priesthood in the LDS Church because of the previous ban on black males being ordained to the priesthood.

"Now I get to be here to ask for the priesthood for myself and for my family," she said.

According to LDS.org: "...for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinance."

In a statement, available in its entirety here, LDS Church officials said the demonstration on Temple Square, which is private property, was disappointing because it occurred:"Despite polite and respectful requests from Church leaders not to make Temple Square a place of protest."

Earlier this week, LDS Church officials announced they would not be allowing news media on Temple Square during the conference--a first in recent memory. Officials said they made the decision as a result of interactions between demonstrators and news media at the October 2013 conference.