Ten Reasons Why I’d Like To See Women Pray In General Conference

—Because in my ward (and many other wards I know of) there was a big to-do a couple years ago over the question of whether or not it was okay for women (in their capacity as visiting teachers) to pray for the families they teach in those families’ homes.

—Because that controversy was not caused by any policy originating with church leadership, but rather by some women being instinctively uncomfortable with the idea of praying on behalf of the people they visit teach (and telling other women that it was inappropriate).

—Because there are still women who feel uncomfortable and choose not to pray for the families they teach when they visit them.

—Because there is arguably no greater, more powerful, more unifying shared act of worship in the Church than a prayer spoken during a worldwide general conference on behalf of the body of the Church.

—Because prayer, as an act of worship, has nothing whatsoever to do with priesthood authority.

—Because Prophets and Apostles have used the fact that women give prayers in sacred meetings as evidence that women are wonderful and are truly valued in the Church.

—Because excluding women from praying in conference causes real pain (whether or not it causes you or some women you happen to know pain).

—Because sometimes calling women to pray in conference causes no-one any pain at all.

—Because to claim, on the one hand, that conference prayers and who gives them is so important that it is a matter of revelation straight from the prophet (and from the Lord) that no faithful Mormon should question while simultaneously, on the other hand, claiming that giving a prayer at a meeting is so trivial that you can’t imagine why women are “lobbying” for the “right” to do it and they really shouldn’t concern themselves with such unimportant things is to speak in incredibly bad faith about extremely sacred things.

—Because when we, as a Church, are confronted with the realization that we are needlessy and painfully excluding people from full participation in our collective worship with absolutely no doctrinal basis for it, digging in our heels and speaking derisively about/toward those hurt by the practice is unbecoming disciples of Christ bound by covenant to mourn with those that mourn.

Comments

  1. Right on.

  2. Amen to that! I especially like your penultimate point. It can’t not matter who prays and at the same time really matter. Yes, I’m aware of the double negative.

  3. Wonderful, Brad.

  4. Rebecca J says:

    Solid.

  5. KerbearRN says:

    Precisely.

  6. meaygghan says:

    Like a rock.

  7. Can we also add some General Conference poetry readings. And people incorporating poems into their talks without a clue as to what the poems means….does not count.

  8. Nicely done.

  9. I think this is a good list, but I’ve seen number seven thrown around the bloggernacle and I don’t think it is a good reason. Where is the line drawn? Let’s pretend I have a real problem with Elders and High Priests separating on Sunday. It causes me pain. Does the church need to do something about it? Or do they only have to act if I get on Facebook and get at least 10,000 signatures? I don’t want to go all reductio ad absurdum on this issue, but I think seven needs to stop being used as a good reason. There are plenty of others.

  10. Thank you Brad. I can’t imagine not feeling able or worthy to bless a home I am in.

    What sorrow is brought by ignoring the spirtual gifts and blessings that are given to half of the children of our Heavenly Parents. That sorrow comes because of those who don’t even think they have the gifts, and so they will never use them. We also lose the gifts that are only partially used, because their existence is denied by more than half of the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parents.

  11. #7 by itself isn’t a sufficient reason. Taken in conjunction with others, though (especially #8), I definitely still stand by it.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    We as a church have finally succeeded in totally screwing up our women if we’ve got them questioning their right to pray for their charges in visiting teaching visits. And I’ve heard similar reports of women questioning their right to pray in such circumstances. We are reaping what we have sowed with decades of messed up policies vis-a-vis women praying.

  13. Ben,
    How about “Because excluding women from praying in conference causes real pain, without seeming to give any unique benefit that justifies the pain”?
    e.g., If HPG & EQ meeting separately causes some pain, but also provides some unique advantages that are important, maybe we should keep having them meet separately. But if there’s no benefits (or at least none that can’t be reasonably attained some other way), then the practice should be discontinued.
    That is where we draw the line.

  14. Ben, with all the respect I can muster,

    You are no disciple of Christ. Christ was crucified, and our Heavenly Parents made us so that we might have joy! They did not make us so that we might be patronizing, hurtful, dismissive and full of ourselves.

    Your example of Quorums splitting is actually a perfect example of a nonexample. In a branch, there is no need for separation.y grandfather was prideful about his status as a seventy, and was very upset when local “seventies” started meeting with the high priests again. When he complained, he was told that there was truly no need for Elders and High Priest to meet separately, other than pride. He invited my grandfather to join whichever meeting he chose on Sundays. He joined the Elders, and told that story often.

    Wherever pride, and tradition becomes more important than service, love and a willingness to follow the example of Christ, then yes, the Church most definitely does need to examine itself and make the necessary changes.

  15. Whitney, that’s great. Like I said, I’m not saying the list is bad, just that number seven should go because, as written by Brad, I don’t think it’s real helpful. And I’m not dumping on Brad. Think of it more along the lines of, “If we are going to make an argument for something let’s make it as strong as possible”.

    juliathepoet, if you feel comfortable telling me that I’m not a disciple of Christ because I make an offhand comment on a blog that doesn’t happen to align with your particular view, feel free.

  16. Wow on reasons #1, 2 & 3. There are areas of the church that have enough women who feel that way to cause repeated controversy? How few sister missionaries are these people exposed to? What do they think that the sister missionaries do during discussions and member visits? Have they ever read 2 Nephi 32?

    I hope that none of the local leaders I have had would allow people to teach this without setting the record straight. I can see why women praying in GC is a big deal if there are many women who feel uncomfortable praying for their VT families.

  17. Yeah, Ben might hate American football, but he is a good disciple. Despite the football thing.

    Also, we must challenge our own arguments. Both Brad and Ben are good feminists. We should be willing to challenge each other so that we can improve.

    BTW, the best meeting during the third hour of the block is me in the foyer on my iOS device.

  18. Well said.

  19. Ed the Fed says:

    Reasons #1 thru #3: Weird ward! Unable to pray for others? Oh, brother!
    Reason #4: I racked my feeble brain and can only remember a few GC prayers. So speaking just for myself, this reason doesn’t hold water. And what about prayer in the temple?
    Reason #5: But if the prayer is assigned to priesthood quorums, now ya got issues.
    Reason #6: The Church has always valued women. God values women. Will a prayer change anything for those who don’t? I wonder…
    Reason #7: Is there sexism in the kingdom? Yep. Is this a valid example of sexism? Nope. Does the Q of 70 praying in GC cause any woman pain? I’ve never heard of such discontent until the last month.
    Reason #8: Doesn’t cause me one bit of pain… but still not a reason to do it.
    Reason #9: So lobbying for sacred things is a good thing?
    Reason #10: “needlessy and painfully excluding people from full participation in our collective worship” What? Haven’t men and women been praying side-by-side in the temple since the days of Joseph Smith? Isn’t that the greatest example of prayer?

    What bothers me most about this issue is
    1. I doubt the appropriateness of waging a struggle in public
    2. It makes LDS women appear as the victims of some horrible sexism. This isn’t true.
    3. If the Brethren actually consider calling on some sisters for prayers (I don’t think it’s a bad idea), in doing so are they opening the door for everyone to stage a letter-writing campaign to get what they want?
    4. I think that many pushing this and promoting an “equality” argument are being disingenuous. It isn’t about prayer, it is about the ordination of women to the priesthood.

  20. @juliathepoet:

    I certainly hope the claim that Ben is “no disciple of Christ” is based on more than what was said in these comments.

  21. Ed,

    ” I think that many pushing this and promoting an “equality” argument are being disingenuous. It isn’t about prayer, it is about the ordination of women to the priesthood.”

    Actually do not think it is at all. It is more a matter of saying: If we are not going to ordain women while claiming that there is equality…why not include them in more public ways like prayers in General Conference.

  22. Ed the Fed says:

    Hi Chris H,
    I don’t know, I am seeing the same names in the blogs discussing the ordination of women (with favor) over the last few years that I’ve seen in the last month connected with this issue. Does anyone else notice this?

    I also think it diminishes women, do they have to pray in GC to really be considered in people’s minds as have a vital role in the salvation and exaltation of humanity?

  23. Not thinking that excluding women from praying is a valid example of sexism is a brilliant example of sexism.

  24. Ben has a good point about the “causing pain” argument. There are those who are genuinely pained by a sense of unworthiness and underappreciation due to experiences with sexism in the Church (which can be, though not necessarily, supported by the patriarchal hierarchy). Then, there are those who are outraged by the Church’s “offensiveness” because they simply good at being outraged. Often, many in their outrage are “patronizing, hurtful, dismissive and full of [them]selves.” As a people, we should seek to purge ourselves of both through love and understanding.

  25. Ed the Fed says:

    Make that vital ROLES in the salvation and exaltation of humanity.

  26. I can’t think of a more outlandish example of un-self-conscious sexism than the claim that ending the exclusion of women from conference prayers “diminishes” women.

  27. I also think it diminishes women, do they have to [speak in church] to really be considered in people’s minds as have a vital role in the salvation and exaltation of humanity?

  28. I also think it diminishes women, do they have to [do anything besides have babies] to really be considered in people’s minds as have a vital role in the salvation and exaltation of humanity?

  29. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that #1 – #3 are possible. I am sure they are, since I believe Brad, but they are so absurd . . . The other examples are spot-on and not difficult to understand at all.

    If at least one woman prays during the upcoming conference, I will be very happy – but I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen in April, since I believe it will happen soon.

    Having said that, being completely honest:

    I have no argument against women praying in General Conference; there is no theological or doctrinal reason that women can’t pray in General Conference (especially since they already speak in General Conference); I would love to see it happen; I have said so multiple times in multiple places. Having said that, I’m at a saturation point with this issue online. As much as I respect and agree with the reasons put forward, it is starting to feel like piling on.

  30. Ray, I assure you that 1-3 are not only possible but widespread.

  31. Ben, I apologize. I was out of line to bring personal worthiness into this. I definitely need some time between responding the Facebook attacks, and mixing with the civilized world. That excuses nothing, especially not being short and course.

    My personal apology does not chamge thr fact that I do think that Christ would think #7 important, and that it is too easily pushed aside by those who have not felt a life of that pain, liberally applied and reinforced in so many parts of current and past church practice. If we know that the gospel comes down to loving God with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors as yourselves; so that we might have joy; then why would we not take the pain of others, that we have some ability to relieve, and do do as quickly and lovingly as possible?

    Right now I have a friend who lives far away and is dealing with physical, spiritual and emotional pain. Many of those things I have no power to change, but what I was inspired to do (and which honestly seemed very minor to me) was to send her prints of several pictures that I thought might lift her soul. Much as I watch videos most days of a daughter who does not love those, this friend hoe back to those prints and draws strength from them every time. I would like to be able to give my friend, and each one of my daughter’s a photograph of the last woman who prayed in conference, so they can add it to their collection.

  32. I can honestly say that it doesn’t cause me any pain that women are excluded from praying in General Conference (at least from giving invocations and benedictions–they can still do that prayer-of-the-heart thing by singing, right?). I’m far too numb from other, more egregious offenses to feel anything like pain over something like this. And I’m not at all interested in “lobbying” for the “right” to do it. (I’m not much of a lobbyist.) At the same time, I don’t feel strongly enough about my apathy to take issue with reasonable arguments for women praying in General Conference.

    The thing I feel strongly about is not assuming that just because x is the current policy, that must mean that’s the way God wants it or that there must be a good reason even if we don’t know what it is. Maybe there’s a good reason and maybe there isn’t. If there isn’t, how would we know if we never asked why or why not? I really don’t think this issue is on par with the priesthood ban, so I hesitate to invoke it, but if people hadn’t questioned the morality of excluding blacks from priesthood ordination (and attendant temple ordinances), I doubt very much anything would have changed. You don’t have to take a cynical view (i.e. the church just caved to public opinion) to see the value of people questioning the status quo. I mean, this isn’t like challenging a point of doctrine. It’s just a question of choosing who prays in a church meeting. (Not even our most sacred meeting, just the most widely televised one.) What’s the big deal?

  33. Also @Ed—using prayer in the temple as an example _against_ the claim that women don’t participate equally or fully in collective worship?!?!?

    I’m beginning to think you might be a troll trying to make defenders of the status quo seem like clueless, insensitive clods.

  34. #30 – As I said, Brad, I’m sure they are real examples, but I’ve never come across them in multiple wards and stakes in multiple states over multiple decades, so I have a hard time wrapping my mind around them.

    This is not a confrontational question, but how widespread are they? Is it within a particular area – in a particular region – within a particular type of ward or branch? I really would like to know, since I haven’t seen it personally and have served at ward and stake levels for many years.

  35. There are examples of it throughout the US, in all kinds of units, across all kinds of demographics. Ask around. You’ll find it.

  36. I would like to announce that my new bloggernacle handle is “madhousewife” and that I am the author of comment #32, but I probably couldn’t get away with that. So rather than taking credit, I’ll just say amen.

  37. Ardis, I think you should go with the handle irrationallyhostilewitch. That would be awesome.

  38. When madhousewife/RebeccaJ has spoken, the thinking is done.

  39. juliathepoet, no harm no foul

  40. Re: #2 , women not praying with sisters they visit teach was indeed a church policy so this idea did not come out of the blue, I remember being told we could not quite clearly. Partners were to pray together before going in the home. I remember the anxiety I felt when asked to pray by a less active sister and my decision to go ahead and do it. Even though it was many years ago, those who are old enough to remember this would still feel there was something wrong about it.

  41. Mark Brown says:

    Even now, on the official lds dot org website, the instructions about VTs praying is confusing. It says that you should ask if you can pray, then wait for the head of household to designate who says the prayer. Does that mean the husband? If not, why not just say that you should let the woman you are visiting choose who prays?

  42. Mark Brown says:

    By the way, if I were home when the visiting teachers came to my wife and at the end of the visit they asked *me* who should pray, I’d laugh in their faces. That is a ridiculous instruction.

  43. I want to be able to pray in Relief Society. It causes me real pain not to be able to do so as a man. Which RS sisters are with me? Not being facetious.
    I think women should be able to offer prayer in priesthood.

  44. Praying while visiting-teaching: I ran into this question while in a student ward at BYU in approximately 2001. Eventually the bishop settled it: yes, women can pray, but they are not “leaving a blessing on the home.” I remember thinking of 2 Nephi 32:8: “The evil spirit teacheth…that he must not pray.” In that same ward, as the RS president teaching a lesson on priesthood, I had invited 2 elders to come in and consecrate some oil for demonstration purposes. (I guessed that most newly married women had never seen this procedure.)The bishop told his counselor to nix the plan. After a few weeks of stewing, I spoke to the bishop about it one-on-one and we understood each other better. He thought that after witnessing this ordinance, some sisters might think they can just pray over oil *themselves.* He based this concern on his experience with new converts in a developing Asian country. That ordeal gave me a chance to ponder how some people link prayer with priesthood.

  45. Molly Bennion says:

    Re: the suggestion this and other recent women’s issues posts are disrespectful to Church leaders; I joined a church founded by a man who asked of the Lord, not just his questions, but also the questions of other members. I joined a Church whose founding prophet changed policy at the suggestion of members. I don’t understand the mindset that it is inappropriate for members to continue asking about policy or doctrine.

  46. Thanks, everyone, for the additional input. I appreciate it.

  47. JNR #40
    This was policy??? When was that? I am not all that young for the ‘nacle and my mother was RS president right after I was born. I figure I would have heard of this even if it was 50 years ago.

  48. Catherine says:

    I also remember when it was the policy to not pray in the homes of the sisters we visited. I was a RS Pres at the time. That would have been in the 1980’s, and I don’t know when this mandate was rescinded.

  49. el oso (47) –Visiting Teaching prayer was approved in 1978 by Pres. Kimball (which means that it was previously forbidden) but the prohibition obviously lingered, because I agree with Catherine that it would have been in the 80s. “The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have determined that there is no scriptural prohibition against sisters offering prayers in sacrament meetings. It was therefore decided that it is permissible for sisters to offer prayers in any meetings they attend, including sacrament meetings, Sunday School meetings, and stake conferences. Relief Society visiting teachers may offer prayers in homes that they enter in fulfilling visiting teaching assignments.”

  50. I’m with madhousewife.

    And I too have been told that as a VTer I may not “leave a blessing” on the home of my VTee, whatever that means. So–we could pray but not ask for any blessings for those we were praying for? Or we had to be sure to confine or blessing requests to the woman of the house and not presume to ask for blessings on the family as a whole, that being a priesthood patriarchal function (??) Very strange. I’ve heard secondhand of more radical situations in which stake presidents instructed VTers not to pray at all but I’ve not experienced that draconian a ban myself.

  51. Because when I am told that god hears my prayers, but I have lived my entire life never having seen a woman pray at our most important meetings, I naturally wonder if my prayer does not count as much as a man’s. I question, what is it about my prayer that makes it less worthy or inappropriate? Does god hear my prayer less?

  52. Aaron Brown says:

    Brad, this is great stuff. Different approaches persuade different people differently; for me, this is the best set of arguments I’ve run across.

  53. In my last stake women were not permitted to pray at the beginning of sacrament meeting. Discreet inquiries revealed that one member of the stake presidency didn’t want us to. Given that such practices were flourishing as of 2012, I see a real brilliance in this and in Pantsapocalysalooza. Clearly someone’s going over the handbook with a microscope and staking out the few square millimeters where general practice doesn’t accord with even the handbook’s severe latitude. We’ve got a long way to go simply to secure women privileges that not even the Church itself has denied us.

    But I also can’t help but think there’s something reckless and disproportionate about setting the Mormon Internet on fire–rapidly and repeatedly–over square millimeters. The full moral weight of the entire centuries-long liberal-conservative religious argument about the nature of God, authority, tradition, revelation, liberty, and human flourishing comes crashing down on the precarious fulcrum of pants and GC prayers, and everyone spills torrents of prose to hold or shift the trenches a millimeter or two in the slow invasion of Russia. It’s a terribly disproportionate symbolism. It’s all we have, I guess. But it does nothing for my lifelong cri de coeur: Is God just? In this church I have loved and given my life to do women even have souls?

    I have no better ideas. I have no ideas at all. I remain reluctantly pessimistic than any good will come of this. I would love to be proved wrong.

  54. ” Not being facetious.”

    Bulls**t. You’re also being an idiot. GC isn’t an all male or all female meeting. Women aren’t asking to pray at general priesthood meeting, and you damn well know it. The appropriate comparison is not to RS or priesthood meetings but to sacrament meeting. Don’t insult our intelligence.

  55. What can I say more? Nothin. You said it all, Brad. Thanks for this.

  56. BerkeleySatsuki says:

    Brad: Simply awesome.

    Everyone else: Hiya! I like you people…I think I will start to come here more often.

  57. Eve, you are wise and loving, and I agree so much with your ambivalent support of the actions, and your ambivalence about hope itself.

    The best outcome I can imagine from this is that burning the place down over square millimeters a bunch of times over will cause some fatigue in the powers that be, who will end in saying, “Oh for pete’s sake, how many more times must we go through this? How many more millimeter issues are out there? Can you just give us an exhaustive list now?” And a line of communication, never before afforded, will be created. Maybe just a tiny single strand of silk, but a line nonetheless. And that we can in one great wash get a bunch of these little things out of the way.

    Then with the clutter removed, perhaps all of us will more clearly see the big issues.

    (The silk image reminds me of this great Keepapitchinin post, a little girl recounts her memories helping with silk farming in Utah. Did you know that they hunted down the actual end of the single strand of silk that winds to form the whole cocoon, rather than just cutting a new end in some arbitrary place? Incredible.)

  58. I so hope you’re right.

  59. BerkeleySatsuki says:

    In the recent past, I headed a student group that had to repeatedly negotiate with a large university about a number of issues that impacted the lives of student families (rent, housing assignments, etc.). In studying the history of this group, it became clear to me that the university had systematically ignored the requests / demands of the student group for as long as possible, until the group became powerful enough to stage protests and demonstrations. There was a huge amount of bad media during that period, and ill feelings on both sides for years. By the time I joined the group, the university was tired of the bad media and began to respond to our complaints at only the threat of protests, instead of ignoring us until we could do nothing but stage demonstrations. Within a few years of that, the university set up a line of communication through which we could voice our issues, feel heard, and work together with administrators to find solutions.

    I am not a very optimistic person by nature, but the best result that I can think will come of all of this would be fore the relationship between Mormon feminists and the church hierarchy to follow the same trajectory. On the one hand, I worry about push-back and retrenchment in response to PANTS and Let Women Pray….and on the other hand, I wonder if perhaps the church leaders will realize that MoFems finally have enough power to no longer be ignored…and that maybe in the long run, the best course of action would be to establish communication and try to address the issues, rather than continue to incite demonstration and protest.

    Either way, I suspect that we will have some rough years in the near future, with MoFems beginning to flex their muscles and demand attention from an organization that would rather continue to ignore them. I hope this stage isn’t too messy, and that the next stage comes quickly.

  60. Eve, Oh I didn’t say that’s the likely outcome I see from this, just “the best outcome I can imagine from this”! But I so hope it does work that way.

    Interesting story, Berkeley.

  61. My two cents on the prayer/priesthood overlap (or another anecdotal droplet in an ocean of events). When I was on my mission, the mission president said in one of our multi-zone meetings that we as priesthood holders, should end our missionary discussions with a prayer, and that within that prayer, we should bless the home. He instructed that we specifically should state in the prayer that we leave those blessings “by the power of the Melchizedek that we hold.” And he stressed with emphasis that the statement of the priesthood power was important and that it must be included.

    I have too much orthopraxy fatigue with Mormonism (I really feel we do resemble the Pharisees when it comes to our elevated concern with the minutia regarding what we should and shouldn’t do ritualistically), so I no longer know nor do I feel any desire to hear any Mormon lecture regarding whether stating the priesthood to back blessings during prayer or simply asking God for them during prayer makes any difference whatsoever. I don’t think it does.

    I don’t remember if he gave corresponding instructions for the sister missionaries since they of course would not be able to make such statement; but I bet the sisters began a range of conclusions as to what was appropriate for them to do based on an ultra orthodox approach, as missionaries would predictably tend to lean towards. Could this deviate so much as to the conclusion women should not pray for blessings over others? I guess it is possible.

    The issue to me is interesting because it is parallel to most issues in the church: it is about exclusion, divisions, privileges, elitism, or something along those lines. It is easy to feel apathy for such things and to moan about people making an issue out of such insignificant trivialities. Nevertheless, it is the collection of all these elements (perhaps insignificant to some when looked at them separately) that show a troubling pattern: a pattern of exclusion with no spiritual basis to substantiate it. Heck, even in the presence of clarifying instructions given by the GAs, the pattern continues to survive. I kind of feel for the apathetic ones, since they remain void of the vision of this pattern.

    I can’t help to see comments of silencers and keepers of the status quo come like a broken record, reminding everyone that raising an issue about the church publicly is inappropriate, that there is a slippery slope being pushed by people with a horrid agenda–equality (imagine that), or that the issue is really a non-issue, or that the issue is so small there must be other more important things, or that they don’t care about the issue so nobody should care too much either, etc etc etc etc. Their inability to step in the shoes of someone with a concern is telling. All is well, they are comfortable so why change right?

    Good post, I agree with all these reasons and I conclude I too would like to see woman pray in general conference.

  62. JennyP1969 says:

    #61 —– you are #1! That comment is awesome! It is inspired! In it and this post there are great pearls of wisdom that are truly of great price!

  63. Rosalynde says:

    To me these actions feel like beloved siblings of mine are fighting, alienating one another needlessly, creating pointless drama and confrontation, and draining away the mutual love that has nourished me my whole life. To be clear, BOTH sides are needlessly alienating and confronting the other. I don’t blame the activists solely. I hate it. THAT is what causes me pain.

    Cynthia’s way was so much better: write a post, with force, clarity and passion, and then let it do its work. It will take time, but the sentiment is out there — and then at some point a change can me made gracefully and with dignity. Don’t force a confrontation, don’t whip up frenzied anguish on both sides, don’t back church leaders into a corner and force them to say things they don’t really want to say. The way this thing has unfolded has created no graceful exit for the general leadership: now April conference will turn into a huge litmus test on whether the church loves or hates feminists, and sisters that I dearly love will be deeply hurt over an artificial controversy. (To be clear: I respect that some sisters were already deeply hurt that women don’t pray in GC, but many weren’t aware or didn’t care — but now they WILL be hurt if church leaders fail to respond the way they think they should.) So leaders either have to bow to the pressure, and possibly encourage more such terrible acrimony and alienation over tiny, tiny issues of practice, or else ignore it and wound many of its members. There’s no good outcome.

    It is true that historically the lay membership has contributed wonderful ideas and programs to the general church. I think the lay membership, through their lives and selves, are a huge part of the process of continuing revelation. But if you look at the history, these changes happen on local levels first, through personal relationships and individual actions, through consensus and persuasion and making allies in the leadership structure. (I’m thinking of Kate Holbrook’s wonderful work on Aurelia Rogers and the primary.) I do understand that many of these routes are not available, or not satisfying or fast enough, for sisters who are hurting. There’s no perfect way to approach making changes in the church, or at least I don’t know what it is. But I do feel sure that it will happen by *increasing* trust, not destroying it.

    I like your post, Brad. Sorry for taking the space to vent.

  64. Rosalynde, “history” isn’t as clear cut as that and neither is it incumbent on all generations to do what past generations have done and in the way that they have done them. Anyone thinking to get through these times in an “easy” way and without “conflict” has to think about what repentance is about. And what we as a Church are going through is a repentance process. There is pain there, struggle, conflictedness, but cleansing, and a “no pain” approach can only take us so far. And a gradual process, IMO, only prolongs pain instead of mitigating it. Thirty four years after the revelation on priesthood, because there was not enough pain and confession, what was meant to be a healing gesture and that would help the Church in the mission field, remains an issue that brings pain to many and stands as a stumbling block to the Church’s efforts. That repentance is not complete. But no, by all means, let’s protect the sensibilities of the hierarchy and try to get out of this as easily as possible. Let’s see how that goes.

  65. In 1954, President McKay is said to have appointed a special committee of the Twelve to study the issue. They concluded that the priesthood ban had no clear basis in scripture but that Church members were not prepared for change.

    Lobbying the brethren is the only way change happens..

    https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=7885

  66. What kind of a church would this be if it caved in instantly to every demand?

  67. StillConfused says:

    I am all for women praying in GC. Can’t see any reason to not allow that. But, I am afraid of the primary voice in a prayer. That would be too much for me. Is there a way that we can require that the prayer be given in the person’s natural pitch and tone?

  68. rosalynde says:

    Allyson, it’s a good comparison (and a great article), but I don’t reach the conclusion that lobbying the brethren — by which I assume you mean exerting public pressure to embarrass the church into changing — is the only way change happens. The article seems to suggest that it was foremost the faithfulness of black members themselves, especially Helvecio Martins, and the growth of the church in Africa and Brazil; Armand Mauss and Lester Bush’s pathbreaking scholarly work; and Darius Gray’s one-on-one bridge-building with church leadership that enabled change. Genesis did attempt direct lobbying in 1976, and according to the article it deeply injured the organization; I guess we can’t know whether that direct lobbying hastened or delayed the eventual change in 1978. I do agree that church leaders need to be confident that the general membership will support their decision, so I think feminist consciousness raising is overall a very healthy thing for the church. But if anything, the direct lobbying actions seem to reveal that a large portion of the membership is *not* ready for feminist change, and it that sense it might directly hurt feminist goals.

    Maybe feminists need a Helvecio Martins or a Darius Gray to complement the consciousness-raising so ably done by FMH and other groups — a representative and ally who has the gift of building trust and working constructively with the hierarchy while hanging on to the progressive ideals.

    JTZ, you make good points. I do agree that the church’s racist past continues to harm its ability to realize its own goals, and I feel there’s justice and (I hope) ultimately a chance for repentance and redemption there.

  69. Dara—“caved in instantly to every demand” is a pretty uncharitable reading of what’s going on. But what kind of church would this be if leaders were responsive to the questions, requests, and concerns of lay members? Exactly the church restored through Joseph Smith. How many canonized revelations do we have that were the result of Joseph asking the Lord something or voicing a concern on behalf of another person?

  70. I always enjoy Rosalynde’s insights and sensibilities. Any sort of political pressure raises the costs of either continuing with the status quo or of making changes that then may seem like concessions to a vocal minority rather than a response to inspiration. This isn’t to say that the Church couldn’t be improved in many ways, or that political pressure is never justified, yet it is important to keep in mind tender feelings all around, so the Church can move forward in unity and love. It will be interesting to see what happens in April (or October or next April), now that, thanks to coverage in the media, everyone will be looking for the first person in a dress to offer a prayer.

    I don’t think that women praying in conference represents a tremendous shift from what already happens in regular Sunday services (symbolic, yes, but I don’t expect the prayers of sister saints to be all that different from those we have heard for years), so I anticipate that this welcome change will occur sooner rather than later. The next great debate, however, will occur when there is a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. These are irregular occurrences, so they don’t easily lend themselves to popular or political pressure, but in an era when over half the Church lives outside of the United States, there will be considerable frustration if the next apostle is another white American. Thinking of sisters who would like more representation in public church-wide events leads to imagining, say, Spanish or Portuguese-speaking Latter-day Saints who wonder why their voices seem to be absent from the highest decision-making council of the Church.

  71. I hear lots of talk of sensibilities, but when we refer to these matters as trivial and small and basically refer to segments of the membership as dupes (they didn’t know it was an issue, now they think it’s an issue and they may now be disappointing if something doesn’t happen), it begins to ring a bit hollow. My reading of these and other comments elsewhere indicate to me that the sensibilities of the privileged are at a premium, particularly when the privileged work together to shore them up. If it seems like people’s sensibilities are offended at greater equality for women in the Church, I’d submit that it is probably not because they are against equality but because they think they are acting in the best interest of the Church and upholding “God’s will.” There’s a solution that will mitigate that pain while also mitigating the pain of those who feel they are not being valued as they should in the house of their Father, a solution that will bring real healing: the hierarchy can act…soon, and decisively.

    There may be some still after official action whose sensibilities are still ruffled at the thought of greater equality for women. I’d also submit that those sensibilities should not take precedence over those that experience joy at an expanding of the role of women.

    Treating all sensibilities as equal is not itself providing for fairness and equality. It is a matter of preserving privilege. Yes, I will feel a little more for the woman importuning at the feet of the judge than for the judge.

  72. rosalyndewelch says:

    JTZ, I appreciate your criticism. My first response to most situations will be to defend the institution and the status quo — that is just how my psyche is wired — and I need other people to awaken me when the institution and the status quo are causing real harm and must change.

  73. I appreciate that, Rosalynde.

  74. Sorry, one more thing. You wrote that, “Maybe feminists need a Helvecio Martins or a Darius Gray to complement the consciousness-raising so ably done by FMH and other groups — a representative and ally who has the gift of building trust and working constructively with the hierarchy while hanging on to the progressive ideals.”

    I don’t know. Don’t we have a lot of these bridge builders now? Like A LOT. If so, what’s the difference?

    Where I think the priesthood revelation/women comparison breaks down a bit is that in the case of black men hoping to receive the priesthood, we were still talking about men. And men had and, I think, continue to have preeminence in the authoritative weight of their words and the immediacy of their needs. Perhaps some bro-ship among a few friends goes a long way. Longer than a boatload of female Darius Grays can in an institution where two male home teachers feel they can’t set foot into the home of an elderly single woman because it might be “inappropriate.”

  75. I should add that I definitely share some of the concerns and ambivalence articulated by Rosalynde about the strategic wisdom of putting public pressure on church leaders in the service of these ends. That said, what’s happening is happening, the conversation is occurring, and because I’m so dismayed and, at times, disgusted by people explaining why they don’t want to hear women pray (or what’s wrong with those who do want to, or why they have no problem with women praying but all the other people who want it are vain and faithless and inappropriate), I felt obligated to express why I do want to hear it and why I think a lot of the critics of the idea are speaking in bad faith.

    That, btw, is important to keep in mind in reference to the question of causing pain. As I said in comment #11, I agree that “X causes pain” is, on its own, an insufficient reason why we should or must end X. But it is nevertheless a reason why _I want_ to see X ended.

  76. I have no problem with pushing for reform. But the tactics of each push need to be analyzed and reflected on. Timing matters. If you push for something and then it gets publicly and vocally rejected, It makes it hard for that reform to be re-visted for quite a while. I think that pushing for reform on things that are virtually impossible for leadership to say is wrong is a good strategy. I can’t imagine a talk by someone at General Conference defending why Women never pray at general conference. Although if they cave I think they will try to say someone about how people shouldn’t try to push them to action. The church is a big tradition based organization and is hard to move. You move it small issue by small issue at a time.

  77. I’d be worried if this were only about public pressure from an external source. But it’s not. There are a wide array of forces and levels of intensity at work from within and there needs to be that variety, including the most public and vocal. I hear the calls for moderation and they fall flat to me because they fail to accept that the entire array of voices, both loud and soft, both public and private, work together to bring about change.

    And, Brad, I don’t think this is about pain for pain’s sake, but if we’ve decided that these particular pains–the pain of those seeking greater equality as well as the discomfort of those seeking to “defend the Church” or whatnot–are worth healing, hearing, and caring after, then…I’d revert to my previous comments.

    Plus, if we’re concerned about it appearing that the Church is responsive to “public pressure,” the news is that it already is. For example, it runs a vibrant public relations department and conducts public opinion surveys and focus groups to help shape its efforts. Who’s concerned that the prophetic voice is being compromised somehow in that? In other contexts we talk about the unrealistic expectations that exist about how decisions are made and about the nature of the prophetic voice and how these things contribute to disaffection. I think we have a great deal to gain and very little to loose by having a more responsive and open structure and, in the process, modifying expectations.

    Or, as ChrisH just tweeted, “In the 50s and 60s liberals and moderates told MLK to ‘wait.’ Today, they would tell him to ‘be civil.'”

  78. Excellent thoughts, JTZ.

  79. Mark Brown says:

    Rosalynde,

    I think that the current Prayers in Conference movement stands a good chance to actually delay the occasion when a woman prays at general conference, yet I still think there is value in it. My assumption is that this is a long-term, hearts-and-minds game. The issue of a woman praying on behalf of the entire church in conference is a relatively small thing. It would not require a change to the Doctrine and Covenants, and probably the majority of members didn’t even know about this policy until it was brought to their attention. It is precisely *because* it is such a small thing that it is not too much to ask. And over time, as more and more latter-day saints start to recognize the cumulative weight of all the small, insignificant things, they will say “Huh. I never knew that, and it doesn’t seem right.” When that happens, the kingdom will be ready to move forward.

    Right now, I think the best possible outcome next April would be for Pres. Elaine S. Dalton to say the prayer in the Sunday morning session. That way, everybody is happy. Or maybe nobody. But at any rate, it would show that the Brethren have a sense of humor.

  80. Mark, if I’m reading you correctly, I find your interpretation of the situation quite comforting and affirmative of a louder and more public campaign. If retrenchment is the response, the absurdity of the retrenchment becomes more and more evident and the likelihood of a more widespread change of mood increased. That’s how I read it, and I find that hopeful, thanks.

  81. Mark Brown says:

    JTZ, I have a pretty high level of comfort with a messy, noisy process. The fact is, we have a mess on our hands right now, even without Pantsapalooza or Prayerapocalypse. Let’s be clear — our current position falls far short of optimal, and it is symptomatic of deeper problems which are damaging, e.g. insane modesty discourse focusing on the prohibition of sleeveless sundresses on nursery-age girls. If that isn’t a disaster, I don’t know what is. If this movement cause a twinge of discomfort at the COB, c’est la vie. But I have a good measure of confidence that we will figure it out, and sooner rather than later.

  82. I share your optimism, Mark.

  83. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark, I love your compromise, sense of humor resolution. Brilliant!

  84. At the end of the day what is frustrating to me as a Mormon is the total move to incrementalism that orthodoxy has all come to accept. The Mormonism I was raised on was bold, pathbreaking, filled with prophecies and major revelations that challenged the status quo – even those that often criticized the church and called its highest officers to repent and change. All that is like every other section of the D&C. Now it seems we are relegated to to teeny, tiny steps with people heralding small changes in policy (yeah sister missionary age was dropped by two years!) and worrying about offending anyone with tiny baby steps. Afraid to even say “sorry” for the priesthood ban or acknowledge officially that its “folk doctrine” was preached repeatedly from our most sacred puplit. People seem to think it is weird when Mormons have hopes for big changes like ordination or signficant new understanding or even worship of the feminine divine. I think many of those Mormons are just buying into the narrative we tell ourselves ALL the TIME about the early Church. Maybe here are reasons (size, scale, different part of a dispensation) that explains the microsizing of change i Mormonism. I just hate to see people treating Mormons who think in bigger, exanded possibilities as lunatics, rabble rousers or what not. Forgive them for you know being converted to the stories that make up the modern Mormon founding narrative.

    The whole idea of the church digging in its heels over something as easy but symbolically powerful as women praying in a meeting “they attend” feels so non-Mormon to me in some ways.

    Loved the article.

  85. My heart sank a bit when my beautiful, loving, newly baptized son asked me during sacrament when girls get the priesthood. He is the product of a family that teaches that anything of merit or of good report can be achieved by both men and women. I’d like to hear from sisters at General Conference. How about half of the talks assigned to sisters while were at it? Okay, we can settle for at least a quarter, can’t we?

  86. Sheri Dew and Chieko Okazaki delivered inspirational talks given in women’s normal voices. But with most other women speaking, I find myself looking at the clock eagerly waiting to hear the next GA Apostle instead. Besides, that’s who we are supposed to be hearing from since they are the living prophets. I want to hear from the Twelve because they have the authority and the humbling responsibility to speak for God. They are called as special witnesses.The R.S. Presidency, the YW Presidency or the SS Presidency for that matter and the Seventy are not the Twelve Apostles. It doesn’t mean they can’t give an inspired talk–they just don’t have the same authority.
    We love Sheri Dew and love Pres. Monson. But given a choice, it’s Pres. Monson we really want to hear.

  87. @ “jill”
    “We love Sheri Dew and love Pres. Monson. But given a choice, it’s Pres. Monson we really want to hear.”

    I simply want to hear whomever the Lord has called for me to hear. Speakers are inspired to give different messages, often just to help the “one.” Jesus ministered to the one or many. The prophet has direction for the whole church, but it’s the testimonies of regular members that are often used to inspire and to heal. The Lord doesn’t just work with the prophet and the Twelve. We are all needed in the Church to save the “one.”

    Next time you’re “looking at the clock, eagerly waiting to hear the next GA Apostle” please remember someone else is being spiritually-fed. The talks we remember are the ones that resonate with us. Please do not marginalize the value of other members’ talks and testimonies. Those “who we are supposed to be hearing from” is anyone God has appointed – including auxiliary leaders, local leaders, family members… anyone speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost.

  88. Jill,

    Thanks for summing up the argument for why women without priesthood will never be full equals in the church and how that impacts how women’s voices are systematically undervalued and go unheard. You had the guts to say it.

  89. “I want to hear from the Twelve because they have the authority and the humbling responsibility to speak for God. They are called as special witnesses.The R.S. Presidency, the YW Presidency or the SS Presidency for that matter and the Seventy are not the Twelve Apostles.”

    Tell that to Mary Magdalene.

  90. Wow. I just happened upon this today, so I’m late to the party.

    Reading this discussion is totally depressing. Wish I hadn’t seen it.

    I truly cannot believe some of the arguments that are being made here. We’re seriously questioning whether there is sexism in the church? Really? (channeling Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers?) I feel like is a foregone conclusion.

    We’re seriously arguing that prayer in the temple is an example of equality? Reading this has made me feel like I’ve lost my ability to comprehend basic English. Did it escape everyone’s notice that women in the temple aren’t allowed to pray vocally? And that we have to veil our faces?

  91. Had not read comment #86 when I posted my first comment (#90).

    Words fail me.

  92. I will not argue that oft times the women in GC speak in a tone that is, I don’t know, incredibly annoying, but wow Jill, wow. Way to set women back a good 50 years in that one comment.

    If one believes that prophets and apostles speak for God, wouldn’t it make sense that if they feel inspired to have a certain woman speak, she too is speaking for God?

    It may also benefit you to read the Bible which speaks of women being prophetesses. Or, perhaps, a talk from conference of last year in which the RS General President said that the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ wasn’t complete UNTIL the Relief Society was organized. That’s right, the inspired and, I dare say, revelation brought forth by women is actually important. What a shame that you lose all of that by waiting for an apostle.

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