Let My People Pray: It’s time to consider having women give opening/closing prayers in General Conference

To my knowledge, no woman has ever given an opening or closing prayer in a general session of General Conference. It is time to reconsider this practice of not calling women to share in the giving of these prayers.

The church has been engaged in a sustained effort to identify and end inequalities between men and women that are without doctrinal justification, such as women not being allowed to give opening prayers in Sacrament Meetings and women’s voices not being adequately included in Ward Councils. In particular, the new Handbook and accompanying Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast explicitly emphasize this theme. In doing so, the church is showing its awareness that seemingly little things, like restrictions on who gives the opening/closing prayers in Sacrament Meeting, can send a big message that “you aren’t important,” or, when working as they should (as under the new handbook), a message that “we really do value everyone’s voices.” These messages radiate from the little things to all aspects of how we treat one another.

As just two examples of the church’s recent efforts and teachings in this area, I offer the following:

Handbook 2, Section 18.5 Prayers in Church Meetings:

Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings.

Elder Cook, “LDS Women Are Incredible!” April 2011 General Conference (emphasis added):

We noted that from our earliest history both men and women pray, perform the music, give the sermons, and sing in the choir, even in sacrament meeting, our most sacred meeting.

Perhaps the prayer restriction in General Conference has simply escaped notice. Whatever the reason, I think that the recent Handbook changes make this the time to consider including women in the offering of invocations and benedictions in a general session of General Conference.


Update: Because this piece has drawn some attention from elsewhere [1][2], I would like to note my contact information for questions regarding the post: Cynthia Lee cynthial@bycommonconsent.com

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I sustain the motion.

  2. Amen. Maybe this has never occurred to the GAs; no one has ever pointed it out to them.

  3. Surely it’s been pointed out before. I’m more interested in why it hasn’t been acted upon. Women deserve the opportunity to give a talk within a prayer at GC too.

  4. Loved the primary choir says:

    I think the problem is that the tradition strongly stands that the GAs give the prayers. Women are not, and have never been, considered GAs. Plus there’s the problem with the mere number of GAs versus general auxiliary leaders, I guess they could pull from the general boards…

  5. (Just want to note my solidarity with commenter #4’s handle. The kids were great.)

  6. I concur with both the primary music and this post.

  7. Yes, let the women pray!

  8. I meant someone who knew the GAs personally – a friend or a relative.

    Women give talks at general conference. I don’t see prayers as much different. And like the OP pointed out, the handbook says women should give prayers in church meetings.

  9. Amen!

  10. I totally agree.

    Women pray at stake conferences; I have never seen an explanation as to why they don’t pray at general conference.

  11. I also sustain the motion.

  12. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think we women should keep silent in church, as the Bible tells us.

    However, I do think that we women should be given a special hour each day in which we preside in the home. This is in case we were accidentally blessed with a talent for that kind of thing. Things don’t always come out right in the wash. For example, consider the hyena.

  13. Interestingly (and frustratingly) women are still not allowed to offer opening prayers in my stake in Virginia, per the Stake President’s council. His reasoning? A woman has never offered the opening prayer in General Conference.

  14. Christopher, thank you for sharing that. It perfectly underscores why this issue should be addressed, especially in conjunction with the new handbook.

  15. It is way, way past time. The idea that it must be GAs just underscores the message and symbolism of women’s lack of authority in the Church. My guess is that given the ever growing number of GAs and the limited number of opportunities to participate in GC that the prayers are seen as a practical way of giving more chances for 70s and the like participate. This would mean of course that they have decided explicitly or by default that the benefits of allowing more (male) GAs to symbolically participate in conference outweighs the benefits that would come from the symbolism of including women.I can already imagine my fixed feelings on the day women pray in GC and it is treated as some big moment. Bittersweet it will be.

    #14 So sad to hear. A good reason why maybe the benefits of the symbolism of women participating outweights having 70s that miss the chance to speak/pray in conference.

  16. Don’t women pray in the RS session of GC; or are we treating that as a different meeting all together?

  17. Since when has the church treated it as a session of GC?

  18. Call Me Crazy says:

    I would like to see this on twitter tomorrow especially since we had twitter mentioned today :) They obviously pay attention to it and then we would know the message had been sent. Set an example! Let the women pray!

  19. Of course this should happen. I agree 80-hundred-percent.

    And I also cannot BELIEVE that this is even a conversation we need to be having. In 2011.

  20. Christopher, which stake in Virginia?

    NewlyHousewife, the only thing that RS meeting has in common with GC is that it is held in the conference center and a priesthood leader is presiding. If it were taken seriously as a session of GC, it would be held on GC weekend.

  21. I’ve generally figured the reason that women don’t pray in GC is that there are simply more men among the general leadership of the church, and therefore it provides a handful of other opportunities for them to be involved.

    However, I don’t find that an even remotely valid reason why women are not invited to pray, and I wish that they were, even if it were just once each conference, since there are only 9 women among the general leadership, as opposed to the 108 men. The topic of women praying in meetings first became a big issue to me when I was the Exec Sec and made a conscious effort to have equal numbers of men and women praying each week. I had to deal with people who felt it was inappropriate and had to explain that they were wrong. Having women pray in Conference would definitely help establish the official policy more firmly, since many don’t bother to read the Handbook.

  22. mmiles, good point. Do we have any history on that?

  23. I hope the practice stays unchanged — let the Seventy handle it — they do it well — if they start looking for others to participate in General Conference, imagine the contest it might become — if they do pick a woman, people will say she was picked because she is ___’s wife or ___’s daughter — no, I think it is best to let the general authorities and general officers of the Church do all the speaking and praying. The reason is not sexist — it is just that the Seventy have that responsibility.

  24. NH,
    See #21.

  25. Whoa…

  26. “I think it is best to let the general authorities and general officers of the Church do all the speaking and praying.”

    We women folk do have some general officers. Just sayin’.

  27. “if they start looking for others to participate in General Conference, imagine the contest it might become…”

    I totally agree ji. Of course this is true, since it is a well known fact that women are unable to participate in meaningful or visible leadership activities without becoming petty, aggressive, and competitive. No, I think it’s best to just avoid that inevitable scenario. The reason is not sexist, it’s just that women have these normal monthly hormonal shifts that make them unreasonable.

  28. Wow, I have to be honest. Is it really that big of a deal? I am confidant that my heavenly father hears ALL of my prayers, I have nothing to prove by standing in front of the world to let them hear it. And as I bow my head and close my eyes and focus on WHOEVER it is saying it, it all ends up in the same place, does it really matter if it is a male or female voice? I really don’t think so. I’m sure that there is no track keeping of who’s saying the prayers in conference in heaven. If this is really an issue that someone is really bothered with, I hope I haven’t offended you, but nitpicking about who says the prayer at church or conference? I just feel like there are better things to focus on in life…

  29. Cynthia L. says:

    ji, couldn’t the same hypothetical concerns about favoritism or nepotism be raised to question which men are called to be in the 70 (and are thus eligible to give prayers)? Why don’t we worry about it in that case? Maybe because men have faith in the inspiration behind callings that come from our leaders, and men are mature enough not to fight over opportunities to be servants in the Kingdom? Why don’t you expect the same faith and maturity from women?

    Also, they manage to choose women to say the opening and closing prayers of the Relief Society broadcast without outbreak of “contest” mayhem.

  30. Cynthia L. says:

    “Is it really that big of a deal?”

    Tami, the issue of who gives prayers in Sacrament meetings was evidently a “big deal” to Elder Cook, and whoever wrote the new Handbook, as I noted on the original post. It seems you disagree with them on whether this is worth thinking about or not.

  31. Tami,
    “does it really matter if it is a male or female voice?”

    If gender didn’t matter in our church, then half the Seventies would be women. But they aren’t. So apparently it matters.

  32. “Why don’t you expect the dame faith and maturity from women?”
    I love the idea of ‘dame faith’ – just can’t decide if it’s the faith possessed by a dame or faith in dames.

  33. @33: Oh dear, fixed that typo. Thanks Markie. (typing on phone, grumble grumble)

  34. mmiles Says:
    October 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm
    Tami,
    “does it really matter if it is a male or female voice?”

    If gender didn’t matter in our church, then half the Seventies would be women. But they aren’t. So apparently it matters.

    Ok, I shouldn’t have posed it as a question. What I meant to say is, it really doesn’t matter to me. Apparently it’s a big deal to others…and that’s ok. We are definitely entitled to our own opinions.

  35. Tami,
    Part of the problem is that it sends a signal to others that women aren’t supposed to pray in meetings. See comment #14. That is why they had to spell it out in the new handbook that women can pray in meetings. Do you feel that is problematic?

  36. Musical interlude brought to you courtesy of Kristine Haglund:

  37. Romney / Huntsman 2012 says:

    It’s part of the oft-cited, conservative “Unwritten Order of Things” presented by Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1996 at BYU.

    I once saw the Unwritten Order shattered at a church meeting. A pretty big church meeting: General Conference in Salt Lake City. It was the first general conference in the new Conference Center, and I was there in the Conference Center. At one point during the meeting, we were singing a hymn while sitting down. I can’t remember if it was the closing hymn or the intermission hymn or what, but everyone was sitting down, GAs on the stand as well as us Saints in the audience. Then some of the Saints in the audience were so overcome with emotion about the new Conference Center, that they began to stand up while singing. Pretty soon the entire audience was standing up, and the GAs on the stand were visibly confused: should they stand or not? This was not part of the written order of things. It was sort of awkward. What happened?

    Slowly, gradually, every single GA stood up and by the end of the hymn, every person in the building was standing.

  38. I don’t even know how to respond…I truly don’t want to offend you in ANY way at all, but I think it’s all a bit silly. Do I think that the comment from #14 is sad? Absolutely! But I also realize that the Stake President is human and IMPERFECT. The reason I go to church is because I have a testimony of the gospel, it makes me feel good and makes me want to be a better person. I attend church with imperfect people, that includes men in leadership positions. They are probably doing what they think is right, but it isn’t always. I can only control me and what comes out of my mouth. I can choose to take offense to what someone says or does, but I can also choose to not take offense.

    If you feel it’s problematic…fight on, I say. But like I said before, I know my prayers are heard regardless if I’m at the pulpit or not.

  39. Oh and Cynthia, just because I don’t say I agree doesn’t mean I disagree either…

  40. Tami,
    I don’t think anyone is offended. I think we all go to church for the same reasons, even us crazy people who think it’s odd women don’t pray.

    One more thing, can you please quit using all caps? Thanks.

  41. Tami, I’m flattered that you think my time is more valuable than Elder Cook’s time, or whoever wrote the new Handbook’s time! Otherwise I’m not sure why you think that the issue of the gender of prayer-givers merits their attention, but is not worthy of mine. :-) You’re right that this isn’t the end-all, be-all of issues, not by a long shot. But it seems worth one blog post. Here is a link where you can read about truly life-and-death issues, if that is more suited to your mood at the moment. It sounds like we are basically in agreement. Cheers ~CL

  42. Wow, I definitely hit a chord with the both of you. I’m truly sorry and will keep my opinions to myself…

  43. Comment #22 points out that there are only 9 women in general leadership positions as compared to 108 men. Does that breakdown make any sense in this day and age? Is that any way to run a major organization? Does anyone think that of the 117 best leaders in the Church, 108 of them are men? Wouldn’t we be a better Church if our leadership was a meritocracy — if we used the best qualified people to lead us instead of the best qualified of half the people? (Indeed less than half, since I’m sure there are many more active, worthy women than men in the Church.) Would not an imaginative thinker like Joseph Smith, had he lived in our day, been capable of coming up with an organization that included women in major leadership roles? These seem to me to be the important questions. If we had any sort of gender equality in leadership we wouldn’t be worrying about prayers in Conference. They would take care of themselves.

  44. Amen to what Morris said in #44! It’s not time to just consider having women give opening/closing prayers in General Conference, it’s time to consider having women begin sitting in those 15 high-backed red chairs on the top row as well. Not to mention sitting among the 15 chairs on the 5th floor of the temple every Thursday, directly contributing to the policy decisions of the church. Women shouldn’t just be giving opening and closing prayers, they should be participating in leadership positions at every level of the church’s hierarchy. Simply put, all forms of gender discrimination need to be purged from the church.

  45. Thank you, Cynthia, for making this request explicit. I keep waiting for women to pray at conference, worried about the message it sends when they aren’t included, but can’t figure out why nothing has changed–still. Please add my name to the “petition”. :)

  46. Looks like I missed out on all the fun! My husband was exec sec in IN in late 80s early 90s and would get prayers every Sac Mtng. Someone didn’t show up and I offered to do it instead and that’s when I was informed only males could do it according to the stake presidency. They’ll take my $–tithing, they’ll let me scrub out toilets–clean the building, they’ll let me teach their children–primary callings, but they won’t let me talk to God out loud? The reason I’m paying tithing, scrubbing toilets and teaching their “angels” is because of the very God I’m not allowed to pray to from the pulpit. Also, what made no sense is I was allowed to do it in SS but not over the pulpit with no explanation as to the contradiction.

    My siblings and I were discussing this discrepancy and my Mom chimed in with the fact that she was fine with women saying the opening prayer, but she felt like only PH holders should say the closing prayer so they could seal the meeting with the Holy Spirit of promise. Huh?! Every time I hear some PH holder mumble out a stereotypical prayer ending with bless us to go home safely, etc. I think, “Whew! So glad that this meeting was sealed with the HSoP!”

    #17 I say that RS broadcast and PH broadcast cancel each other out. That leaves 4 other sessions of conference for all members to pray.

  47. Loved the musical interlude! Alison Krause has a beautiful voice…

  48. Not to detract in any way from Morris’ point that the gender imbalance in leadership is antiquated (and not in a quaint or charming way), but as a practical matter, the members of the General Boards of the auxiliaries could certainly also be among the number from which women are chosen to give prayers.

  49. So, this is my first time here, and I confess I am quite insulted at the comment somewhere above that RS conference is somehow “less” important, or a lower-level meeting and not part of GC. I have always considered it part of conference, it is always held in tandem with conference. Maybe I am particularly blessed, but even here in the fairly backwards upper south, it is considered extremely important and men are informed over the pulpit that they are to attend to all family duties that evening so every woman can attend. Never, ever have I heard anything from my Priesthood leaders to belittle it or suggest it was in any way less important than Priesthood session. My understanding was that RS is held the weekend before for the convenience of families (no need to pay for a babysitter, children can have a parent around). Also, really, I always thought the timing made RS conference more special. In our stake it is always paired with training from our Stake RS and a dinner, sometimes a small service project, usually activities to build Zion-like love and bonding between the women… Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that to ME, as a woman in Zion, RS meeting is every bit as significant and revered as the rest of GC.

  50. Geoff - A says:

    44 Morris, What makes you think the GAs are the best qualified of the males let alone general members. It seems that who you know or who knows you is as important as any qualifications.

  51. “I have always considered it part of conference, it is always held in tandem with conference.”

    I hope that one of the historians will explain better, but the meeting didn’t exist before 1978. And at the first one, it was billed as a “special women’s meeting,” not a General RS meeting that would continue in the future. Check out the old Ensigns: It is pretty clear that there was no RS meeting before then.

    I am not sure when the YW meeting started, but my recollection is that it was later. Which meant that for many years, sisters were meeting not at all, and then half as often as GC.

    The date on that is interesting, as it is during the season of what some feel as the negative effects of correlation…the RS magazine had published its last issue in 1971.

  52. Sharee Hughes says:

    #50. Ness, I’m in full agreement with you.

  53. Very interesting examination of the issues involved here! I’d like to make a comment on the oft-heard statement that “everyone is entitled to her own opinion.” I believe it was Walter Lippmann who wrote, “The issue is not whether everyone is ‘entitled’ to his opinion, but that we are obligated by the nature of democracy to attend to that opinion, to think about it and find its strengths and weaknesses.” [I'm paraphrasing here.] That is the shining value of a site like BCC, that we not only “grant” someone the right to speak her mind, but that we then think about what has been said and have the courage and humility to change our own views if persuaded by the argument. It’s not enough to say, “Well, this is my opinion”; on a site like this one, we have the “common” obligation to ante up a few reasons, or a story, or sometimes, if appropriate, a testimony. Few sites that I know of do this as well as BCC.

  54. What #44 and #45 said, with one exception: I don’t think the GAs and auxiliary presidency members are necessarily the most qualified. I think often, they’re nice people who who live in Utah and are willing and available.

  55. There used to be General Relief Society conferences, and they were a huge, multi-day affair, planned and organized and directed entirely by the Relief Society General Board. They were halted as part of correlation and in recognition that more and more women of the church lived outside of Utah and could not attend. They weren’t ever seen as part of General Conference, and I don’t think the current meetings are either, however important we say or feel that they are.

  56. Paul Reeve says:

    There is historical precedence for prayers in GC NOT being offered by GAs. I know because my dad gave a prayer in GC when he was serving as SP. I don’t recall what year, but it was in the 50s or 60s. He told me it was common then for SPs to be asked to pray in GC. The point is that we could draw upon more than 9 women to pray.

  57. Except that not all of the general leadership are drawn from Utah; there are quite a few who move there after being given a call.

    Regardless, callings to serve in the Church have nothing to do with being the “most qualified”; this is a topic that has been brought up numerous times in GC. I recall a talk Pres. Eyring gave in which he discussed the idea of the Lord qualifying those whom He chooses, not the other way around. It isn’t about choosing the most qualified candidates; it is about choosing someone from the vast pool of those who are worthy.

    And when it comes to prayers? Is it a big deal to have women pray? I kind of put it in the same category as my father-in-law grumbling about the abundance of sports-related analogies in Conference. Not everyone is an athlete, and so those analogies don’t always convey the message they need to. It is nice to hear different voices and different points of view, and the women’s voices of the Church are clearly important.

  58. Women in the auxiliary presidencies give talks in General Conference, since they are, in every way that makes sense and matters, General Authorities. Imo, giving a talk to the entire church (and world) carries more “responsibility” than praying – so I can’t think of any valid reason whatsoever that the women in the general auxiliary presidencies, at the very least, couldn’t pray in General Conference.

    Given the current ratios, I’m totally fine with one woman praying at some point each conference session – or even each year. The message is the most important thing, imo – and that would send it loud and clear.

    Oh, and there is no exception or disclaimer in the CHI statement. Nothing at all would have to change policy-wise.

  59. I would feel totally vindicated. This is getting ridiculous. This issue has ruined my relationship with two bishoprics and a stake presidency.

  60. Part of the problem is that it sends a signal to others that women aren’t supposed to pray in meetings. See comment #14. That is why they had to spell it out in the new handbook that women can pray in meetings. Do you feel that is problematic?
    This brings up the idea that we are to do as they say, not as they do. The handbook tells us that women pray in meetings, but the example we get is that women do not pray.

    And about the idea that it is a question of numbers; if it were just an outgrowth of numbers then we would expect women to give slightly fewer than 10% of the prayers- in other words at least one every other conference. That women *never* pray in the general meetings says it’s about far more than numbers. And what’s more if you just replace ‘General Authorities’ with ‘Priesthood holders’ in the argument that says “we have all these [Priesthood holders] who need a chance to participate in the meeting” then you can apply that same reasoning to local meetings with the result that women just shouldn’t pray at all.

  61. Yeah–it’s not an oversight . . .

  62. Wow! A rest hymn on this thread! Cool! (#37)

    #38 Romney/Huntsman – That is awesome! Thanks for sharing.

    Btw, the scripture about women keeping silence in church? The JST changed that to say women shouldn’t “rule” in the church.

    Who says that the prayer-givers have to have a highly visible calling in the church to pray?

    #47 (kc) – I’m sure your mother was only repeating an idea she got from someone who knew nothing, or an experience that taught her false doctrine.

    The ward I lived in a year or so ago would have women giving the prayers in Sacrament meeting (and in stake conference). It didn’t matter whether it was opening or closing.

    #50 (Ness), I consider women’s conference to be part of conference. Still, I think women should be invited to give prayers in the main gc sessions.

    And, yes, I do know that it hasn’t been around as long as the main sessions of gc.

  63. #52 Naismith, it was under Ardeth Greene Kapp that the Young Women’s conference started, I believe the first one was in 1985.

  64. I will consider RS conference on equal footing of when it is bi-annual.
    Heck change it Womens Conference and invite YW and RS. If 12 yr olds can here the same message as 50 yr old why can’t we?

  65. Cynthia L. says:

    Starie, I like the solution where both Priesthood and RS YW meetings stay annual, alternating so that one is always in April and the other always in October. Then women YW can have the Saturday evening time slot that Priesthood gets and be in the actual conference weekend. I assume the men will appreciate the semiannual berating about porn being reduced to annual. :-)

  66. All of this will begin when stop using the word Preside, and stop focusing on roles. Attention to all of you interested. Please start speaking and talking of our Heavenly Mother. Just add in addendum to your testimony, if you have gained a testimony of her “I also have gained knowledge that we have a Heavenly Mother and am grateful for this truth.” Bring up Heavenly Parents where appropriate and where the Holy Spirit directly tells you to. Pray on how you can do this. I know I will. I just figure, the more we talk about her, the more people will become comfortable with that, and the faster we will have all this nonsense put behind us. I am going to do this. I need to, hiding it has hurt me more then helped.

    And I agree, women should be involved in Every single decision in this Church.

  67. Oh and that is a great solution. Annual Priesthood meeting, RS/YW is always anual, so I guess what you are saying is combine the RS and YW and then move the Priesthood to an annual thing. That is the perfect solution. Very good, I love that, now if the Lord is willing to inspire us with the idea, is he willing to inspire the Priesthood leadership with the idea?

  68. “Handbook 2 is subtitled Administering the Church. It contains information that is primarily relevant to the functions and duties of the leaders of priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations of the church.” (Wikipedia)

    So, whatever guidelines are included for ward meetings do not at all have to be used in General Conferences. They are very different settings, by their specific purposes and by who conducts and leads the meetings. The former being to the tailored benefit of a small local group and the latter being patterned by perpetual guidelines in order to benefit the entire world.

    Certainly this has been brought up before. There have always been and ever will be members who are disgruntled about small matters. This church is not a democracy, where the membership votes on general policies (thank goodness, because that would be a disaster). This is also not a dictatorship of the First Presidency. It is the kingdom of God on the earth. He is the everlasting monarch and has every right to give specific instructions, even if, in our finite minds, those instructions seem unfair. ‘Unfair’ would actually be if He commanded that men and women of the General level were to pray, and the Brethren would only call women. But, that is not so. It is a priesthood-guided meeting, and if their own handbook says that priesthood holders are to invoke the Lord’s blessing on a meeting at the beginning and end of it, then so be it.

    This kind of criticism, whether meant playfully or not, encourages annoyance in the least, and discord and contention at worst. 3 Nephi 11:30 “Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men [and women] with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”

    Attend Conference to be deeply edified and instructed, not to find fault with Church practices or leadership. To do the latter is nothing short of flirting with dissension and potential apostasy.

  69. Michelle, take a look at Numbers 27. Prophets don’t necessarily know what is causing pain to God’s daughters unless they articulate the problem. Once that’s done, the prophet can “take their cause to the Lord,” and let them know the answer. I think that’s all anybody is hoping will happen here. Nobody’s going to conference seeking to find fault.

    (because, seriously, if we just wanted to find fault, we’d wait until the transcripts are up–so much quicker than listening)

  70. Steve Evans says:

    *cough*traitortohersex*cough*

    Seriously, Michelle, thanks for accusing everyone of dissension and potential apostasy for suggesting a change which, by your own condescending description, is a “small matter”. I know your capacity for meaning well is infinite, but you sicken me.

  71. Michelle – There are lots of things that aren’t a big deal to some people but which are a big deal to others. For instance, say there’s a Primary handout that says, “I have a body just like my Heavenly Father’s” and there’s a picture of a boy for everyone to color. What do you say to the little girl who is confused/upset because her body is not a boy’s body? It’s no big deal for you, probably, because you’re over that literal part of your life. But it is a big deal for her. Perhaps it is a testimony-challenging big deal. Perhaps it’s the first thing that causes her to wonder if God loves girls as much as He loves boys.

    Do you, as a leader and teacher, reach out to find a way to include her (and the other girls) by finding a picture of a girl that they can color, or do you tell her, “It’s a small matter. You’re choosing to be upset about such a small thing and you’re missing the bigger picture and on the road to apostasy.”

    We hear lots of stories about how spiritual and special and wonderful women are, how they bring a special spirit into the room when they petition the Lord for just about anything. And, despite all the spiritual giantesses out there, we are all left out in the cold because those wonderful women are kept from petitioning the Lord in public on behalf of the congregation of Saints everywhere.

    I’m uplifted and edified by General Conference. I would feel even more uplifted and edified if I were to tune in one April morning or afternoon and see a woman invoking the blessings of spiritual guidance upon me as I watch and listen. The same way I feel more uplifted and edified when speakers make scriptures gender-inclusive and when choir directors change hymn texts to make them talking about all people instead of all men.

    Does God answer my prayers? Every day. Am I leaving the church and walking away in a huff because they leave people like me out? No. But I guarantee that if they changed the policy, I’d feel a whole lot more welcome and loved.

    So, Presidents and Elders, if it hasn’t occurred to you yet, perhaps this is a time when you can start thinking about it: Is General Conference a priesthood meeting that must be opened and closed by priesthood power, or is it like Sacrament Meeting or Stake Conference where women are welcome to pray?

  72. Cynthia L. says:

    Wow, tough crowd!–on both sides.

    Michelle, regarding your note that the Handbook is not necessarily intended to apply to General Conference, fair enough. I didn’t cite it intending that it was legally binding or something. As you’ll notice from the way I introduced the two examples, I was just citing *other* recent examples in the church where the church had acted or spoken in the direction of creating or emphasizing gender equality in praying. This was to support my observation of this being a pattern of ongoing behavior by the church, that they were trying to identify and correct gender imbalances. Then I suggested that this might be an additional thing that fits the pattern, which might make sense to tackle next.

    It was just a suggestion. As you know, I enjoy conference and I especially found many talks to edify and improve me this time around. The Savior’s love seemed to be especially strongly conveyed in the talks this time. It is my personality to speak plainly my thoughts on things. Sorry if you find fault with that.

  73. I’ll join with you in trying to make it happen! Whats your plan? How do you want to go about it?

  74. Wrong question, Jenne–Cynthia has already done the only thing that can be done. (Unless one of the 12 is your grandpa, in which case, please make the phone call).

  75. Steve Evans says:

    Jenne, meet at the Northeast corner of Temple Square on Wednesday at noon. Wear Jedi robes and bring a large lantern, preferably nautical.

  76. Thanks, Cynthia. This troubled me as a little girl, as a teen, as a twentysomething, and . . . well, I’m older than that now and still wonder why I’ve never heard a woman pray in conference. I wonder how many GA’s, if somebody mentioned this, would say, “Oh, I’d never really noticed. I’m not sure why we have that practice . . . “

  77. Oh, goodie. The northeast corner is one I can watch from the library reading room!

  78. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, I assumed you’d be there!

  79. Nah, the library is a safe distance away wrt lightning strikes.

  80. @Deborah, that’s been the exact reaction I’ve gotten from everyone I’ve mentioned this to, from my husband, to church office building people, to friends. Either “Yes they do, don’t they? … Really, they don’t? Huh, weird.” Or, “Oh, I’d never really noticed. Huh, weird.”

    @Steve, man if I knew this conspiracy was going to be this awesome, I would have said something sooner. “Steampunk Jedi for Prayer” = epic movement name.

  81. Stephanie says:

    Ness, as great as the General RS meeting is, and as much as you would like it to be a part of conference, it is not. Notice how they number the meetings: Saturday morning is the first session, Saturday afternoon is the second, priesthood is the third, Sunday morning the fourth, Sunday afternoon the fifth. The RS meeting is not a session of conference at all – it is the “General Relief Society Meeting“. And, if you download the podcast of the “Entire Conference”, you will get all 5 sessions of conference but not the RS meeting. That has to be downloaded separately (or at least it did in 2010. I’ll check for 2011 when it is up). Because it is just so darn annoying as a man to have to skip over the RS meeting on your i-pod!

    Strong testimony of the RS meeting or not, it is what it is: not a session of conference.

  82. 12 seconds – Estimated time between the first female prayer in conference and the first post about her using her Primary voice or praying something objectionable.

  83. Tami and Michelle–Thanks for your comments. I feel as both of you do about this subject and I want to publicly, not privately, support you.

    But I also agree that it’s not a good idea to follow things just because they’re tradition. I love truth. I seek truth in all forms. And sometimes truth differs from tradition, especially tradition that is slowly changed from the truth over time. That’s why I love the Gospel. However, I also believe it’s important to humbly be okay with things how they are right now (since we are led by a prophet and the Lord reveals things to him line upon line…sometimes as we are ready for it and sometimes in His own time for His own reasons). If things change in the future to something we wish to see happen…great! What a blessing! If not, then at least following with humility will keep our hearts soft and open to the Spirit’s interpretation of the matter (because any time we strongly hold to an opinion, we close the Spirit off from revealing the truth to us).

    If women never get to pray in GC, will that affect our eternal progression as women? Nope. So there isn’t a need to get worked up about it and worried about it. It’s one of those things we could hope for, “put on the back burner,” and wait and see what happens. It may be one of those things we’ll never really get an “answer” about here in mortality but we may understand more fully later.

    Personally, I don’t feel any less worth as a woman or as a daughter of God that the Church is led and guided by brethren who hold the priesthood. I personally don’t feel like my gender is of less worth or less importance just because the other has more visibility and prominence. In the end, if we are faithful to our covenants, don’t we all end up with the same status? Queens and Kings. Priests and Priestesses. Gods and Goddesses.

  84. Hi Angie, for the record, I agree with everything in your comment. I love truth, I seek truth, I love the Gospel, I think it is important to be humble and accept prophetic leadership, I know that things are revealed line upon line at unexpected times, I know that eternal salvation hardly depends on women praying in General Conference, and so on, everything you said.

    At the same time, I think sometimes it makes sense to speak plainly about things we notice in the church. We could cite Emma talking to Joseph about the spitoons and the Word of Wisdom, and many other examples, where faithful but forthright behavior of this kind ended up being beneficial. Maybe this won’t end up being instantly or obviously beneficial in the way that Emma’s comments were, and that’s okay too, but why not give it a try, right?

  85. In conformity with the example in Numbers 27 it would be best if this issue and the resulting request was made directly to the President of the Church. I would be curious to hear his response.

    If those so eager to hear women pray in conference feel that that is not an available channel of communication there is another one universally available. Why not pray to Heavenly Father to inspire those who make assignments in General Conference to invite sisters to pray.

    In the interim, those sisters who do speak should start using that common General Conference phrase to end their talks, “… this is my prayer, in the name of …”

  86. Except that we have been asked NOT to send letters to SLC . . . so we’re left with no avenue through which to communicate this concern.

  87. “12 seconds – Estimated time between the first female prayer in conference and the first post about her using her Primary voice or praying something objectionable.”

    So funny. So sad. So true.

  88. Also, this may be one of those things that we don’t know how it will affect us until it happens.

    It was just this year that I heard a female captain on a commercial airline flight. And although those announcements from the cockpit are routine, and we tune them out–I teared up to hear a woman’s voice.

  89. When Naismith and I agree on a gender issue…I think that counts as consensus.

  90. If God can listen to the existing GC prayers in their entirety, he’s a better man than I am. I think they need a trapdoor that springs open after the first 90 seconds.

    It’s obviously a silly tradition with no basis for women not to pray at GC. But I agree that some well-meaning SPs and bishops ignorantly take it as a sign to suppress female participation, and that alone is good reason to change the tradition. This is one that actually could happen. Much sooner than an apostle with a goatee, blue shirt, and visible tat.

  91. hawkgirl – you’re BAD! Actually, wasn’t there a recent GC talk about prayer length? I mean some of them were stretching to J. Golden Kimball dimensions.

  92. And if not a woman, then Peter Vidmar!

  93. re: hkobeal in # 87, barring the jedi robes, nautical lanterns, or a thousand origami cranes, perhaps we ought to encourage a grassroots campaign to start asking our bishops and stake presidents why this practice is in place, as it would appear that there is no doctrinal foundation for it. That and using the bloggernacle to respectfully ask the question might raise the profile of this idea with the general authorities. If every stake president heard this request from 10 members or bishops who had been asked, this likely would be raised in his next PPI with his regional 70, and on up the line.

  94. kevinf–the net effect of such a campaign would be a denunciation of the bloggernacle over the pulpit at the next conference. Let’s stick withe the robes and lanterns.

  95. MrsBrittDaniel says:

    [Got your note and passed it to the relevant person, now deleting that paragraph here. --admin]

    And re: HKOBeal’s mention that letters to SLC are no longer welcome – EXACTLY! The communication is one-way, SLC to us. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the older Q15 have never seriously considered women giving prayers and have never been asked about the policy. They exist in a bubble, in many ways, and the no letters business only increases the density of the bubble.

  96. I tend to agree with part of post #16. I’ve noticed that each member of the second quorum of the seventy usually gives one talk in General Conference and offers one prayer during their five-year tenure, and that’s it. In fact, several of the female auxiliary leaders (Dalton & Beck come to mind) have had more opportunities to speak in General Conference than have several of the general authorities.

  97. Kristine, how about if I put on my jedi robe, carry the lantern, and ask my stake president this week? That should cover all the bases. Otherwise, why have this discussion if we really would like to see this change? There doesn’t seem to be much of any other possibility of raising this question to that level other than these bloggernacle discussions. I’m serious enough that I will ask my stake president. I have to call him this week about his home teaching anyway, which means he will already be on the defensive. Well, I’m serious about asking, but not so serious about him already being defensive. SPs always do their home teaching, right?

  98. I would be really great if women offered the prayers at GC. I’m not going to loose my faith if this never happens. I sometimes let myself get way worked up about gender inequality in the church. Even as a child I remember watching general conference and noticing that there were no women speakers, and it really bothered me. Does anyone know when and who was the first woman invited to speak in general conference. What was there any preface to the inclusion and what was the general membership reaction?

    I thought that the sisters that I saw speak in this conference did a good job. I felt generally that their talks were a little heavier duty than some in the past. I felt as well they were more directed for general edification and not just aimed at the primary children, or the young women or Relief Society sisters. I also appreciated that the “between conference specials” featured an anniversary program about the PEF and included WOMEN that had been blessed and had blessed the lives of their families and communities by participation in the program. In fact it was a super slam dunk in my mind even though it wasn’t part of actual conference, and will probably not be seen much out of the inter-mountain area. I had such a strong witness of the program when it was first announced. The spirit had been I feel, brooding over my heart and drawing in out in behalf of my sisters and brothers around the world, that had no opportunity to lift them self out of grinding unimaginable poverty. In the weeks before conference they had been included in my prayers. When the announcement came it was like, “Of course, this is my answer, this is thing that I can do!” So I was so happy to see that my SISTERS have also been blessed by participating in it.

    The other thing that I appreciated was the fact that when several of the speakers mentioned both sexes it was “daughters and son” and “women and men” and “sisters and brothers”. Instead of the other way around. These are little things but they meant something to me.

  99. Thanks for your comment, Dovie. I really like it.

  100. Oct. 2,1988 » Michaelene P. Grassli, general Primary president, became the first woman in 133 years to speak in General Conference.

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/50381686-80/church-conference-april-general.html.csp?page=2

  101. kc, we knew that. Are you offering some analysis with that factoid?

  102. If the male gas can pray under current lds policy, there is no reason not to let the rs and yw do it too.

  103. Scroll over to 8:40.

  104. 102: Kristine, Dovie asked in 99 who the first woman to speak in General Conference was, and kc answered the question.

  105. Thanks kc, knowledge that I should have been possession of before now, but better late than never.

  106. Actually, if you wanna know why women won’t be praying in General Conference anytime soon, just go back to the BYU Centennial Convocation, held in the Marriott Center on October 10, 1975–which I mentioned before on this esteemed blog (October 1 of last year, to be exact).

    And all the wannabe women pray-ers at General Conference can blame Barbara Smith.

  107. Amen. And, while we’re on the subject, let’s also put a call in for females to be considered as MoTab Conductors and principle organists who accompany the MoTaB and play during general sessions of conference, not just RS/YW conference or special musical numbers.

  108. ah, sorry kc!

  109. Amen, J.A.T. (#108).

  110. Gee, I’m betting that Linda Margetts and Bonnie Goodliffe, who played in one of the sessions of conference yesterday, consider themselves females. But, for all I know they may be unprincipled–and there’s nothing worse than an unprincipled organist.

  111. I’m an exec secretary in a fairly conservative ward, and I’ve been mixing up men/women for opening/closing prayers since well before the revised handbook. No problems here.

    And yes, I’ve heard priesthood used to justify men both opening and closing a meeting.

    Twenty years ago when I was a student counselor in a BYU singles ward, I occasionally asked for volunteers to give sacrament meeting prayers — more often for the closing than the opening, but sometimes both — always with the explanation that I hoped someone would pray who felt a specific inspiration to do so, not just a feeling of obligation.

    Sometimes we sat for a few minutes, but every single time, the person who prayed told me that the unexpected opportunity to pray and participate in the congregational service was itself an answer to a prayer.

    Neither my bishop nor my stake leaders ever expressed concern about it.

  112. When is the next vote for such matters coming–we should try to get this issue on the ballot.

  113. #107

    Mark B I don’t see why one “inappropriate” prayer by a woman in 1975 in any way justifies a blanket exclusion from women praying at conference. Under this logic men shouldn’t be allowed to be 70s or apostles so that we can punish that gender for the crime of their apostate brethren. And I am sure NO man has ever said an inappropriate prayer in any high profile church meeting. Never. Lets hope for the sake for all that is sane and good that our leaders don’t think this way.

  114. #107 (Mark) Link to your original comment, please? I have never heard of this. How was the prayer “inappropriate”?

  115. Y’all, knowing Mark B., I suspect there was some wry humor in 107.

  116. Ya think? ;)

  117. I was led to believe that BCC is the earhorn attached to the mouthpiece of the Lord (a few people removed anyway). We’ll see in the next conference . . .

  118. Actually, hawkgrrl, that’s about right. Of course, we are also about as effective as an earhorn attached to a mouth.

  119. I don’t think this discussion extends very effectively into other areas, such as Tab Choir directors and organists as mentioned above. First, the absence of a female choir leader is not really a reflection any policy or practice at church HQ when you consider the potential applicants qualified for the position.

    Given who’s out there (and the potential selection pool is not that large), I am not aware of any up and coming women LDS choral directors who will be in consideration when either Bros. Wilburg or Murphy move on. The church won’t have the opportunity to be progressive on this front even if they want to, most likely. Choral directing at the highest levels is fairly male-dominated, for better or for worse (same probably goes for organ – that there are two women in the “bullpen” is somewhat significant, in my opinion).

  120. I’m all for hearing more from women. I’m not sure though where you got that women aren’t allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting though. I’ve given the opening prayer several times in multiple wards.

  121. #121

    I believe the policy switch was made in the mid 1980s for women giving prayers in sacrament meeting. However, many wards continued the practice of male only sacrament meeting prayers or some variation, men only could give the closing prayer etc. Per some earlier comments on the thread there are still similar local practices going on – Stake Presidents that only allow men to pray at Stake Conference citing the current General Conference practice for justification. I think most wards and I would imagine stakes these days have both men and women pray. The new handbook is explicit about it. Traditions of our fathers and all that apply to “Zion” as well as the heathen. Sometimes it seems more so these days as the organization of the church tends to bias it against change in many ways.

  122. Allison Mack says:

    I find the wording of Elder Cooks comment in the article, “LDS Women Are Incredible,” as offensive when he offers the comment that women have been given the opportunity to pray, “even in sacrament meeting, our most sacred meeting,” as if it were odd that women would participate in something sacred, and that the church was doing women a big favor by allowing them to participate in sacred sacrament meetings.

  123. Allison Mack says:

    And speaking of men always giving the closing prayer, have you ever noticed that in so many wards, there is first a youth speaker, then a female speaker, and the last speaker is usually a male? You see, the church allows one or two “warm up speakers” before the “main event.” The idea is that you can zone out until the talk that really matters is presented. My nephew, a wonderful young man in his late 20’s, told me and his wife that he zones women speakers out. They don’t have the priesthood, so why bother listening? In his mind, women have nothing of value to offer.

  124. Sorry, Toni–I’ve never been able to find a story about that prayer. You’ll have to take my word for it–just as the rest of y’all will have to take Kristine’s and Ardis’s word for my sense of humor. The “prayer” went on and on and on for well over 10 minutes–or was it 20?–(who would have thought to time it, since nobody expected when it began that it would go on so long?) and recounted, with gratitude I suppose, the entire history of Brigham Young University.

  125. “Oct. 2,1988 » Michaelene P. Grassli, general Primary president, became the first woman in 133 years to speak in General Conference.”

    Several women spoke in General Conference in that 133-year period, including Louise Y. Robison, Ruth May Fox, May Anderson, Barbara Smith, Barbara Winder, Elaine A. Cannon, Ardeth G. Kapp, and Dwan Young.

  126. Re: 108, 120: Actually, history was made in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Organization a few months ago as the first women conductor was named with sadly little fanfare: LeAnna Wilmore, the new conductor of the Bells on Temple Square.

  127. #128: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Can it be?? Well met, Justin. Good to see you again.

  128. Follow-up to #122 —

    Full section on “Prayers in Church Meetings”

    1989 handbook:
    “Both men and women may offer prayers in Church meetings. All prayers should be brief and simple and should be spoken as directed by the Spirit. Members should use the pronouns thee, thy, thine, and thou when addressing our Heavenly Father. All members should say amen aloud at the end of the prayer to show their unity with the spirit of the prayer.”

    2006, Book 1:
    “Men and women may offer prayers in Church meetings. Prayers should be brief and simple and should be spoken as directed by the Spirit. All members are encouraged to respond with an audible amen at the end of a prayer.
    “Members should express respect for Heavenly Father by using the special language of prayer that is appropriate for the language they are speaking. The language of prayer follows different forms in different languages. Some languages have intimate or farniliar words that are used only in addressing family and very close friends. Other languages have forms of address that express great respect. The principle, however, is generally the same: members should pray in words that speakers of the language associate with love, respect, reverence, and closeness. In English, for example, members should use the pronouns Thee, Thy, Thine, and Thou when addressing Heavenly Father.
    “The bishopric should avoid the pattern of having a husband and wife pray in the same meeting. This may convey an unintentional message of exclusion to those who are single. Members who are not often called upon should be included among those who are invited to pray. If appropriate, bishops may want to caution those who pray not to sermonize or pray at great length.
    “In some areas, the person who offers a prayer has been asked to read a scripture aloud before the prayer. This practice should be discontinued.”

    2010, Handbook 2:
    “Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings.
    “Prayers should be brief, simple, and spoken as directed by the Spirit. All members are encouraged to respond with an audible amen at the end of a prayer.
    “Members should express respect for Heavenly Father by using the special language of prayer that is appropriate for the language they are speaking. The language of prayer has different forms in different languages. In some languages, the intimate or familiar words are used only in addressing family and very close friends. Other languages have forms of address that express great respect. The principle, however, is the same: members should pray in words that speakers of the language associate with love, respect, reverence, and closeness. In English, for example, members should use the pronouns Thee, Thy, Thine, and Thou when addressing Heavenly Father.
    “Members of the bishopric should avoid the pattern of having a husband and wife pray in the same meeting. Such a pattern might convey an unintentional message of exclusion to those who are single. Members who are not often called upon should be included among those who are invited to pray. As needed, a member of the bishopric may caution those who pray not to sermonize or pray at great length.
    “The person who offers a prayer should not be asked to read a scripture aloud before the prayer.”

  129. John C,
    :) Aren’t we all?

  130. Allison Mack, maybe you should remind your nephew that all these female speakers have been invited to speak by someone who holds the priesthood – usually, a member of the Bishopric… and that they have as much claim to the spirit of revelation in this delegated stewardship as any man similarly invited.

    Full time sister missionaries, for example, although they do not personally hold the priesthood, have been set apart under its direction and have claim upon inspiration in teaching the restored gospel. All ward teachers, male or female, are similarly set apart. Hence, they have been called of God and they have much of value to offer. They can speak the very words of Christ and those who are moved upon by the same spirit can recognise that.

    It is almost unpardonable to believe that sisters have nothing of value to contribute. Have him read Doctrine and Covenants 25 and see what the Lord thinks about what the sisters, speaking under the direction of the spirit, have to say.

  131. Nicely put MJ. I appreciate your comments.

  132. AM, you’re welcome.

  133. Interesting comments by all. I have a comment/question – however you want to interpret it. If there was direct revelation to our prophet – as to whom should say the prayers – will this “issue” become a non-issue then? Granted, there is nothing wrong in bringing up this discrepancy as many view this, but can many of you accept that there may be a bigger vision as to why-not and be good with no women saying prayers at General Conference at this time?

  134. AnnCP, we have currently no reason to suppose that there is a “why-not” for women not saying prayers in General Conference. Further, there’s no need for direct revelation here — this is a matter of simple practice, not even policy, not doctrine, not scripture. It would take nothing more than mere scheduling for women to pray in General Conference.

  135. I have run into the phenomenon before in discussing issues like this. Some members of the Church seem to want to assume that there are “facts we don’t know ” or “more to the story” or “unknown revelations” that justify the actions or practices of Church leaders. Because Church leaders would never do anything just because it’s the unwritten order of things, right? They would never just perpetuate a practice based solely on tradition, rather than scripture or revelation, would they? Well, of course they have and they do.

    As a lawyer I bristle at the habit of, as lawyers like to say, “assuming facts not in evidence.” It’s a bad habit. We should never just assume that facts or revelations exist that we have no evidence of. Why would we? We don’t do that in any other setting, and doing so doesn’t make you a more faithful Church member, it just makes you kind of a bore to talk to.

  136. MCQ,

    I think your assumption that Church leaders don’t invite women to pray at General Conference “because it’s the unwritten order of things” is probably objectionable for the same reason – assuming that is the case when there is no supporting evidence, just speculation. I think ultimately we don’t know why women haven’t been invited to give prayers in Conference (assuming of course no woman has been invited to pray in GC and refused, which is itself an unsupported assumption). That’s what’s so frustrating about these kinds of conversations – since we don’t know for sure why things are the way they are, it’s hard to argue the value of changing them.

  137. Sam, while on some level I admire your uber-skeptic/scientific approach, I’m surprised that you would suggest that there is any chance that the reason for a 181-consecutive-year absence of women praying is that they do ask women but they happen to decline the invitation. This “makes reason stare,” as a famous Mormon woman once said.

  138. If there’s one thing I know about LDS women it’s that they generally feel really comfortable telling a priesthood leader no when asked to do things. Sam nailed it.

  139. The “we don’t know” reasoning sucks.

  140. maybe many many women have been asked to pray but each time somebody accepts the invitation she is vaporized buy an alien death ray. it is a mystery.

  141. Is there actually a record somewhere of who has given the prayers in all the sessions of all the previous conferences? I just want to be sure that we’re not jumping to the conclusion that women have never given the prayers because its not been done lately. Its like assuming that the first woman speaker was in 1988, when there were many before that. Looking up speakers is easy – they get published – but I dont even know how to find who gave the prayers in this last conference, much less all of them for the past 181 years.

  142. A very fair point, Frank. In the post I noted that “to my knowledge” it hasn’t happened (and should have added the same caveat in my comment #138). In any case, if it has happened in that past, that would only further support an argument to start/resume the practice now.

  143. Cynthia,
    >>that the reason for a 181-consecutive-year absence of women praying<<

    This is exactly what I'm talking about. We don't know that there has been a 181-consecutive-year absence of women praying in GC. If anyone was willing to do the work to find out if women have ever prayed in GC, or been asked to pray, or whether the apparent absence of women praying is the result of practice, or policy, or something else, I would really be interested to know. Too much work for me to do myself, though.

    Sunny,
    I don't know if you're being facetious but when I was in a position where I knew whether someone accepted or rejected callings, it surprised me how often women told priesthood leaders they wouldn't accept a calling (or invitation to speak, etc.).

  144. Sam,

    Even if a woman had been asked and declined, we would then have to assume that all women have declined or that they stopped asking because someone said no. Has that been your experience at the ward level? “Sister Jones won’t serve in nursery. We shouldn’t ask any more women.”

    Also, telling the ward executive secretary you’d rather not give a talk is a whole lot different than turning down a request to pray in general conference. How many people, realistically, who are in the position to even be asked do you think would turn down such a thing?

    But yes, you’re probably on to something here.

  145. “We don’t know that there has been a 181-consecutive-year absence of women praying in GC.”

    Yeah, we kind of do.

  146. Sam, do we really need to know if a woman has ever prayed some time in the past in order to know what to do now?

  147. It’s a mercy no men have ever declined the invitation to pray, or we wouldn’t be having this delightful (if slightly surreal) exchange–General Conference prayers would have become a Relief Society responsibility, and we would instead be trying to find scriptural precedent for the ritual draping of the pulpit in a lace tablecloth during the prayers.

  148. Kristine,
    To say nothing of who would be donning yellow vests to direct traffic…

  149. Sam, here is a possibility that I find as likely a scenario as yours:
    Every prophet and apostle who has every considered asking a woman to pray in conference was immediately struck dead

  150. Cynthia L.,

    Can we honestly believe that the General Authorities of the Church have not considered asking women to pray in GC? Can we fairly assume that the Prophet would send a message to the women of the Church that they aren’t important?

    Both of these assumptions, which you make in your original post, are completely implausible. Yet your argument is based on these and other assumptions that have no factual support. I don’t think it’s fair, or reasonable, to implausibly misinterpret the teachings or actions of Church leaders and then demand change based on those unsupported assumptions.

    I don’t think I’ve expressed any kind of opposition to your ultimate conclusion that women (or more women) should be giving prayers at GC. I don’t really have an opinion on that issue one way or the other. But if you’re going to argue for a change in how the Prophet runs GC, is it too much to ask that it be based on fact rather than unsupported assumptions?

  151. #147 and #151

    While I don’t know whether the GAs have considered the question (I assume they have), there is value in pointing out and problematizing behavior that is out of line with our expressed values. Excuse me, but it is a very naive model you have about how our leaders operate on a day to day basis and historically. The WoW came about when Emma problematized for JS spitting tobacco which until then was just kind of assumed to the way things were. We went literally decades “assuming” that blacks’ exclusion to the priesthood was “doctrinal” until finally it was problemetized enough that the quorum was willing to really re-examine from the ground up. Oliver Cowdry learned that he could not just assume that God would give him the ability to translate. How is it unreasonable to point out that there is a significant disconnect between our expressed values (and practices at the local level in or “most sacred meeting”) and practice in our most sacred and important general meeting? Maybe there is a justification but I don’t think it is unruly, unproductive, unmormon or unreasonable to point it out or ask the leadership to explain it.

    More generally, D&C 121 – our seminal canonized scripture on the exercise of priesthood power and responsibility says that “no authority” can legitimately be exercised by dint of the office which the priesthood bearer holds, but rather through “persuasion’ and “long suffering”. Often we think of this in terms of fathers in the home, but I actually thinks it applies more directly to bishops, SP, GAs and Apostles. We are asking in good faith to be persuaded on this practice which has real consequences and symbolic importance regarding gender equality in the church. “Because they says so” and “they must have their reasons” are the very things that lead to unrighteous dominion, with or without intent. Given that on its face the practice violates our value of equality it is the burden on those defending it and those upholding it to persuade not on those pointing out the inequality. This is how the Lord has created checks and balances within the mortal church. The fact that we have shifted so far as to strip those checks and balances from the system does not make us stronger as a church but weaker, IMHO. This is the scary, scary flaw in the “14 fundamentals” and everything that flows out of it. By releasing leadership from the God-given responsibility to persuade, especially persuade those who are sincerely trying to be disciples of Christ, it destroys one of the keys God gave us for keeping our mortal institutions in line. Call me a heretic if you want, but remember it used to be the JS himself was subject to church goverments and courts as were all the Apostles and other leaders. Now we can’t even subject them to questions in good faith about questionable practices? Scary.

  152. Steve Evans says:

    #151, neither of those assumptions are implausible. And yet neither of them are necessary to the OP, You’re being silly and remarkably sexist in your ridiculous arguments.

  153. Mommie Dearest says:

    Speaking from a female perspective, I don’t find it implausible at all to think that the GAs have considered women praying in general conference, and have decided against it. I don’t assume in any way that they want to send women a message that they aren’t important. I rather think that they haven’t very thoroughly considered this question from a female perspective. It’s common for women to see the male perspective, we’ve been trained to do it since we were babies. It does, however kind of blow me away to see how hard it is for otherwise nice guys to get the female perspective. I guess you have to work at it for a while, since you haven’t ever had to do it.

  154. I would agree with you Mommie Dearest. That same idea might apply to the fact that we know absolutely nothing about our Mother in Heaven. According to the male perspective, the status quo, praying to and worshiping our Father in Heaven and having no contact or even knowledge of our Mother in Heaven is perfectly satisfactory, from the male perspective.

  155. Mommie Dearest,
    While I fully agree with your comment in the present context, I’m going to just state for the record that women aren’t exactly all that easy to understand, even with tremendous effort for years on end.

  156. Scott, I think your statement is worded problematically, in that it is stated as a universal principle, “women aren’t exactly all that easy to understand,” when in fact that is only true from the male POV. In other words, your wording implicitly equates the “universal” or “default” POV with the male POV, implicitly positioning the female POV as a one-off. I don’t mean to pick on you personally, in fact this is something that has bothered me about “women are hard to understand” discourse basically as long as I can remember (therefore certainly predating your comment :)). Also, I don’t think it’s sexist for you to feel that women are hard for you to understand, that’s why I say that I simply found your wording to be problematic rather than the overall sentiment.

  157. (I was just googling trying to find a nice treatment of that issue somewhere, and I’m not finding exactly what I want, but this is pretty closely related and not bad at explaining some of the problems with “what do women want??” jokes/complaints.)

  158. Well, my wife must have a male POV, because she agrees with Scott.

  159. Sonny, is anybody really “easy” to understand? Pretty much everybody is both fairly easy to understand at a basic level, and impossible to understand in all their emotional and intellectual nooks and crannies. Saying “women–who can figure them out?!?!” is just a sexist overlay on this truth about understanding others.

  160. Cynthia,
    I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m only referring to myself. But it’s possible that only men would see that as fairly obvious, and it’s unclear to women that I was not speaking in universals. If such is the case, let me state it explicitly:

    I personally–speaking on behalf of no one else–find women difficult to understand, despite tremendous effort for years on end.

  161. Understood. :) Thanks for providing a convenient segue (slash sacrificial lamb) for me to discuss a pet peeve.

  162. Sonny, is anybody really “easy” to understand?

    To the extent that “easy to predict” and “easy to understand” are the same, yes. To the extent that they differ, no.

  163. Cynthia,
    I actually agree with you completely, and trust me I’m practically as feminist as a man can come. I did not mean to offend and apologize if I did. The only reason I mentioned it was I have heard my wife herself say how relatively complicated relationships with other women (generally, and in her experience) have been compared to her relationships with male friends (generally, and in her experience) over the years.

  164. No worries, Sonny. Thanks for your comments.

  165. #152: Amen amen and amen.

  166. And i think it’s just Cynthia that’s hard to understand.

  167. Mommie Dearest says:

    That was a nice link in 158. There was a term in it — hivemind — that generated more rumination. It’s true that men, in general, have a difficult time understanding both the individual females in their life and females-as-a-group. Women have similar difficulty, I believe, because the female POV (point-of-view) is not as publicly available to us any more than it is to men. I know of many examples where women adopt the male POV about women, perhaps because it’s been the dominant brain-training for millennia. The difficulty of women-understanding-men is greatly diminished by the upbringing which all women have in a world where the male POV is dominant. In the church, this is even greater, because the male POV dominance from priesthood elements is almost completely unexamined.

    I am not saying that male priesthood leadership is a bad thing; I’m very grateful that we have the priesthood operating in the church. Rather, my point is this: The fact that the priesthood is administered only by boys and men means that we’ll have a dominant male POV in the church. Further, the fact that so many members think that questions = criticism means that this dominance is largely unseen by many members, much less examined.

    So, it’s not surprising that the our policies and practices in the church, particularly at the GA level (i.e. women praying in GC), are heavily constrained by male priesthood tradition.

  168. And speaking of male/priesthood POV with regard to Church government and leadership, even President Hinckley mentioned something of the kind when he mentioned that the young women’s program had been neglected. He said, “We (I am assuming he is speaking of the priesthood governing body) are prone (when he uses the word prone, I believe he is once again referring to the priesthood governing body’s POV) to put emphasis on programs for the boys. We speak much of the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting.” Sept 1988

  169. #154 et al.

    MD that is exactly what I think has happened both in this question and many others. This is the basic reason for why, even when assuming the best of intentions (which I do), for having significant female leadership in our institutions. In fact, this is what I dearly hope has happened, because if so there is light at the end of the tunnel and the real possibility of revelation on HM, women and authority etc.

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