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:
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 , I would like to note my contact information for questions regarding the post: Cynthia Lee firstname.lastname@example.org