Why I’d Also Like to Hear a Woman Pray in General Conference

It’s because when I was 18, I set a difficult goal as one of four big projects to earn my Young Women’s Medallion.  I learned how to play one piece of classical music on the piano for every musical era starting with Bach and ending with Gershwin.  It took me months to accomplish.  My young women leaders invited the whole ward to the recital and I expected a crowd because I had seen most of the ward show up over and over again for Eagle Scout Courts of Honor. On the night of the recital only two people came: my home teacher and my Sunday School teacher. I understand that what I did was non-traditional and so people didn’t know that they were supposed to show up like they did for the boys. I want a woman to pray in General Conference, so as a people we learn to start showing up for our daughters as well as our sons.


  1. Ms. Otis Regrets says:

    This breaks my heart. I would have been there Karen! And I would have brought all my sons to hear you. And they would have dressed up in concert-going attire. And they would NOT have played their ipods during the recital. And they would have clapped loudly [albeit appropriately] whence the recital was finished. We would have been there.

  2. I play the piano, but by no means up to that level you accomplished for your Medallion, so I know you worked hard and this was a great achievement. This brings tears to my eyes. I don’t even know you, and I wish I had been there to hear you play and to celebrate your accomplishment.

  3. Wow. I co-directed a children’s play that we cast with the Primary children from our ward. I can hardly remember the ward turnout. I’m so sorry that you put in so much work and were so completely ignored.

  4. I detect a little topic fatigue, or something. Les Mis is hard to compete with, I admit, and women praying in conference is gonna jump that shark pretty soon. But I want to read more from KarenH, who is an interesting and mysterious woman.

    I used to be the (unwritten) secretary/helpmeet for the ward scout troop back in the day. More often than not, when a boy completed his Eagle board of review (the last major hurdle required by BSA) he would consider himself done and try to weasel out of preparing for a COH. Nope, we would tell him, “it’s a troop requirement for you to have a court of honor. Your parents deserve it as well as the younger scouts who look up to you.” Then we would work with his parents in organizing the COH, the scout and his parents would pick their preferred rituals from a well-established array. Every single scout so honored fully enjoyed the event. Often there were powerpoint presentations of the eagle project and/or the boy’s life, speakers, a printed program, refreshments, the Eagles’ Nest ritual, etc. I would make sure everyone knew their assignment and would get the medal kit from the BSA store. Everyone felt happy and full of accomplishment.

    My daughters never finished their YW Medallion. Those in our ward who completed it, did so almost entirely by themselves, with whatever support system they had from their parents and variable YW leaders. There was no system in place to shepherd a flaky young woman or her distracted parents into performing their tasks in sequence. I don’t remember any special event to commemorate the milestone, but I vaguely remember girls receiving a necklace from the bishop at the pulpit during the ward business time of sacrament meeting.

    Karen, your description of your experience is painful to me and I wonder if I might not have better served the YW as their helpmeet. I wonder how many of our YW earned accolades unpresented, simply because there was no institution in place to help it happen. I hope we can learn to do better from lost experiences like this one. Our primary-age girls are depending on us to improve this.

  5. The last line is crucial. The rest breaks my heart. We can do better. We must do better.

  6. Oh, wow, Karen. That is so sad. And so telling.

  7. Karen, I can relate. I did not experience what you experienced but I raised 4 daughters and 7 sons in Mormonism. It is SOOOOO unequal in the LDS church with regard to recognition. For women it is so very very small. I made a chart showing the difference in the level of recognition between the women and the men. It did not look good. Much more blue than pink from baptism to returned missionary.

  8. Sharee Hughes says:

    Karen, my heart weeps for you. If you had been in my ward–I would have been there. I have never attended a Court of Honor and probably never will. But I definitely would have attended your recital.

  9. Concise and thought provoking. Well said.

  10. This breaks my heart, makes me furious and also makes me want to start planning my daughter’s personal progress ward party. Perhaps I’ll have her recital cooincidentally coincide with the ward Christmas party?

  11. Happily the church doesn’t get involved in Scouting over here in the UK so the boys don’t do Eagle Scouts or have Courts of Honour. They do Duty to God, the girls do Personal Progress, and there is about equal recognition for both – an announcement at Stake Conference and a handshake with a certificate or medallion. So maybe it’s Scouting that’s to blame more than the Church as such because it makes a requirement for a Court of Honour whereas the girl’s programme is run by the Church and has no such requirement.

  12. Imasurfer says:

    Gail K #7..I would like to see that chart- can it be posted?

  13. I’m sadden and elated, that is, my brother and I were cub scouts for about two months. Being poor required us to go weekly without a cub shirt (uniform). After being mocked and laughed at for weeks on in…I quit and never went or looked back.
    However, I now have a six year old son and I look forward to purchasing his uniform. To sit and breath the life I missed out in my childhood.
    Second Chances!


    You Go girl, this old boy will!

  14. After a day of comments, no one has mentioned the Duty to God program for young men? That is the appropriate comparison to the Young Women’s Achievement. In my ward when a teenage boy finishes his DtG requirements, his name is mentioned in sacrament meeting, and he gets a certificate and handshake from the bishop, similar to the girls.

    The disparity comes from us allowing an outside secular organization to take over the priesthood program for young men. In most wards in the States, scouting is the young men’s program. Instead of teaching them to serve quietly without undue recognition, we celebrate even minor accomplishments with ceremonies of badges, rank, and honor. No wonder the girls feel left out.

  15. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. My family would have loved the recital.

    FWIW, in our ward the YW have their medallions presented in Sacrament meeting, while Eagle courts aren’t even announced. It’s up to the family to invite people they want to attend. A few get crazy and invite dozens; most are attended by the family and maybe 5-6 others. (We had four non-family people at my son’s, three of whom were Scout leaders participating in the program.)

    I don’t know what they do about Duty to God awards; I haven’t seen any signs of a presentation for many years, but it could be because it’s been that long since anyone in our ward has completed it. I think it tends to be much more low-key these days since there is no longer any physical award to be presented.

    My daughter is earning her Honor Bee soon; I’m interested to see how that is presented.

  16. Ed the Fed says:

    Yep. I sister saying a prayer in GC would fix all of the above problems. Okay, I’m being sarcastic… We all know it wouldn’t change a thing.

  17. Keeping the status quo really, really matters. But don’t worry, ladies—changing it won’t mean a thing…

  18. when i earned my YW Recognition award 11 years ago, i was handed a card 10 minutes before New Beginnings started. the YW President told me to go grab the Bishop and have him sign it as she hastily scribbled her own name on there. “oh! and you’re supposed to sign it too!” So I went into the hall to get his signature. I was given a, “sure, let me see that. huh, good job Nat!” and sent on my way. we went through the New Beginning program and at the end I was asked to come up and the YW president handed me the little pink cardstock and with 3 signatures on it and the shiny gold medal that i had worked for 5 years to earn. i was disappointed – the new medallions were coming out in a few months and i had asked if i could wait to get one of the nice looking new ones, but was told that they wanted to use up what was in the closet. i have no other memories of that night. i went home, and that was it. i’m pretty sure both parents were there, but they were wrestling little kids and distracted. we moved a few months later, and so my name was never added to the plaque that was in the hallway – a plaque you walked past every time you entered the building. it was a small reminder of all the YW over the years who had earned their YW Recognition award. it was noticeably smaller, and had significantly fewer names, than the EAGLE SCOUT plaque.

    fast forward to a year ago with my brother’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. My mom prepped for *weeks* because this was such a large event. there were formal invitations issued, a menu planned, centerpieces for the reception they were having and tables decorated with pictures of his accomplishments. and that’s not to say that they weren’t legitimately great. i LOVE that his Eagle project was working with a woman’s shelter. he worked really really hard and did everything BY HIMSELF. my mom and dad never did the work for either of us; we each earned our awards. i’m proud of him – i really am! but there’s no denying what a huge difference there is in the two awards. There was no professional photographer for portraits or video presentation to show highlights. in fact, i’ve never seen ANYONE do anything beyond recognizing the achievement in New Beginnings and in some wards they hand it out in sacrament meeting. but that’s it.

    so i feel your pain – i really do. i have to not think about it, but with 1 daughter, and now 2 boys, i’ll have to think long and hard about how to handle this disparity. fortunately, i still have 3 years before the scouting/YW issue rears its ugly head. i can only hope that we come up with a better solution before then. and i think this is a GREAT and IMPORTANT step in that direction.

  19. Maybe it’s because I had a mother who fiercely expected equality for both boys and girls, but my YW medallion ceremony was just as elaborate as my brothers’ courts of honor. I don’t remember that much from it, but it was a big party, and well attended by ward members. So maybe the next generation of Young Women will experience the benefits from having mothers like mine, who make sure the recognition is similar.

  20. Esther (no. 19) — The difference is that women today are waiting for the men to arrange the big parties for the girls — but as you rightly wrote, famiies and ward YW leaders are already free to plan big parties. Good for your mother!

    lindberg (no. 15) — If you want a certain outcome, just make it happen — don’t wait to see what your ward leaders do and then criticize them.

  21. Esther, did you read the post? The author’s mother DID throw as big a party, the problem is that nobody came. It’s all well and good for ji and others to smugly say, “Fix it yourselves!” but some things simply require community action, not just individual action.

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