Neylan McBaine returns to give us this wrap-up of the MWP Salon last weekend.
“And what exactly is this going to be?”
I’d asked a friend to help me with some of the last minute set-up for our Mormon Women Project Salon last Saturday night, and she was unclear about what she was getting herself into. I responded: “It’s going to be Relief Society like you always dreamed it could be.”
Rather than coming to the ideal Relief Society meeting, someof the 125 women who attended the MWP Salon might have thought they were coming to get their hair done. But in calling our annual event a “salon,” I am hearkening back to the 19th century use of the word, which signified “a gathering of eminent people, held to increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.” Often these enlightening conversations were held in the livingrooms of elegant houses, and our setting on the ninth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building overlooking the Salt Lake Temple provided a very elegant setting indeed. Our evening’s theme, “Crafting A Deliberate Life: Making Choices That Are Personal, Purposeful and Powerful,” offered the perfect launching pad for cerebral yet still heartfelt discussion about our essential challenges as Mormon women.
Kicking off the evening with a keynote address by Emma Lou Thayne meant that the eyes were wet and the spirits open within just a few minutes of starting. Mother poetess Emma Lou described her personal trauma leading up to the writing of her hymn, “Where Can I Turn For Peace?” At the climax of Emma Lou’s story, retired Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Ariel Bybee sang the hymn in a way that made many feel they were hearing the hymn for the first time.
Three breakout sessions followed, each focused on in a specific tool that could lead to more deliberate decision-making. All-star historian team Kate Holbrook, Cherry Silver and Jill Mulvay Derr spoke about the inspiration of our Mormon foremothers and how their strength can help influence our decisions today. Former director of Rising Star Outreach Amy Antonelli described her four years of working with lepers in India, but she also pulled back her focus to outline general principles of service that can bring power and fulfillment to our lives. Lastly, Segullah and fMh writer Shelah Miner discussed the tool of personal narrative in discovering ourselves and who we want to be.
Following the literal meat of dinner, we got to the figurative meat of the evening: a panel discussion featuring BYU Professo rValerie Hudson, work/life balance advocate Chrysula Winegar, and Deseret News columnist Tiffany Gee Lewis. My job as moderator became easy as all three launched into heady questions, such as, “How do we understand the equality of divine power between men and women? How should that inform our relationships with men?” and “Do you believe that giving LDS women ‘either/or’ choices about their lives, while giving men ‘both/and’ lives, is harmful not only to women, but to children and men as well?”
If you want to see how these ladies answered these and other questions, please watch out for the filmed segments from the evening, which will be posted on the Mormon Women Project site in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, this video from Meredith and Cory LeSueur of Mainport Media gives a taste of what “Crafting A Deliberate Life” means to our readers and to our volunteers.
While this ideal Relief Society might have taken six months to plan, its effects will be lingering with the women whoa ttended for at least that long. Notes from attendees since Saturday have suggested they’ve re-examined their attitudes about being women in the Church, reread their Patriarchal Blessings in search of the Lord’s will for them, and felt thrilled by their empowerment as sisters. So join us next year at the Salon and every week online as we celebrate the many ways to choose the right.