Earlier this week the church announced that instead of holding separate Young Women and Relief Society conferences (in the spring and fall, respectively), they will now hold a combined “General Women’s Meeting” twice a year. This complements the twice-a-year Priesthood Session of General Conference and therefore is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction as far as women’s status in the church is concerned. A baby step, to be sure. I mean, on the one hand, we’ve been invited to attend another meeting. Yee-freaking-haw. On the other hand, some official people are officially saying that it’s just as important for womenfolk to meet twice a year as it is for menfolk to meet twice a year. It supports the idea that women and men have equal, complementary roles in the church–in the sense that this itty-bitty change is consistent with a viewpoint that might argue such a thing. Okay, when I actually spell out why it’s a good thing, it sounds pretty lame. But that doesn’t take away from my (sincere) conviction that this is an overall-positive lame baby-step for the church and for Mormon women. It may not be big, but it’s significant. Not pulling-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-so-you-can-weep significant, but it is a likely prelude to designating the female meeting an official part of General Conference. And that’s a thing, right? At least a prelude to a thing. That’s my optimistic take on it (and I don’t often have optimistic takes).
Stay tuned for the next exciting change in Mormondom: coming in just 30-80 years!
Speaking of baby steps, that reminds me of the part of the announcement that I thought was totally wackadoo: the meeting will include the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary General Presidencies and will include all female members aged eight and older. Yes, eight-year-old girls are being invited to the Women’s Session of General Conference (not that they’re calling it that—it’s just how I like to think of it in my mind). If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re thinking, “What the crap?” Because…I’m sorry, but why? Why would you do that? Inviting teenage girls, i.e. the young women in the Young Women auxiliary, to the women’s meeting makes as much sense as including teenage boys (who get ordained to the priesthood) in the priesthood meeting. But eight-, nine-, ten-year-old girls? Are they some kind of women now? (Is it all the hormones in the milk these days?) Pre-women? Women in embryo? (How will we differentiate them from actual embryos?) Yes, they’ll be women someday, but so will eight-year-old boys be priesthood holders someday. As far as I know, eight-year-old boys have never been invited to Priesthood Session. And why not? Because it would be lame.
Some Mormon feminists think this inclusion of Primary girls in the women’s conference is some kind of subtle insult, like the church is putting us women in the same category as children. I really don’t think that’s it. Of course, I don’t know what’s actually it because it makes no freaking sense. Why would you include eight-year-old girls in a women’s conference? Why? Why? Perhaps inviting 11-year-old girls would not be inappropriate—girls on the cusp of Young Woman-hood, as it were. Although I am generally opposed to this sort of Valiant creep (just because I think it’s unnecessary, not because it’s harmful), I can sort of understand it. But what do our leaders have to say to grown women that could possibly be relevant and not mind-numbingly boring to eight-year-old girls? I’m not saying the stuff they say isn’t irrelevant and mind-numbingly boring to us grown-ups, but theoretically it is geared toward our interests and concerns. One might well argue that young women and adult women have little in common in terms of interests and concerns, so why combine the meetings at all? But I disagree. Teenage girls are transitioning to womanhood; they are, theoretically, mature enough to appreciate the same kinds of messages addressed to adults. In addition, as an adult woman, I am very interested in what our leaders have to say to the young women who are growing up in the church. I have said before that there ought to be a more direct relationship between Young Women and Relief Society. I do not think there needs to be a more direct relationship between Primary and Relief Society. And anyone who drags an eight-year-old to this broadcast should be punched in the face. Let the children stay children, just a little while longer!
One rationalization for the inclusion of Valiant-age girls that doesn’t seem entirely crazy is that it justifies the presence of the Primary General Presidency, which otherwise has no stewardship over any of the attendees. But I find this offensive in another way. Again and again we are told the following things: 1) women hold important leadership positions in the church and 2) all adult women are de facto members of Relief Society. The Primary General Presidency is comprised of adult women who hold important leadership positions in the church—shouldn’t that be enough to justify their participation in a General Women’s Meeting? What special thing does the Primary General Presidency have to say to Valiant-age girls that they don’t have to say to Valiant-age boys? What could it possibly be? Don’t our little girls grow up fast enough as it is? Why should we make them attend meetings on television in the dark one moment before it’s absolutely necessary? For heaven’s sake, won’t someone think of the children?
All that aside, I still think it’s a good change, overall. And will be even better once they come out and say that part about the eight-year-olds was just a joke. Punkd! by the First Presidency. I can hardly wait (30-80 years).