The opportunity to pray

I will say here that we should give our wives and children the opportunity to pray in the family circle. There are men who think that unless they pray the Lord does not hear the prayer, and they are in the habit of doing all the praying in their families…We should ask our wives and our daughters to pray. Let them do some of the praying in the family…Brethren, do not get the idea that the Lord will not hear your wives and daughters. [n1]

I haven’t joined in any of the recent online activisms. I don’t know or trust some of the key instigators. But when my friend and fellow blogger wrote in 2011, “Let my people pray,” I can think of no other possible reaction than, “Amen!” I have spent a lot of time thinking about “authority” in the church and particularly with regards to women and female participation in church liturgy and work. Hopefully soon I’ll have some new published work on the topic.

In some respects one could say that the association between priesthood and Church liturgy reached an apex in the late sixties when only Priesthood-holders became the sole authorized members to offer Sacrament meeting prayers. It took years for President Kimball to announce that such a ruling was indefensible. But for years after Kimball’s repeal, people, even in the higher quorums of the church, privately taught some variant of a rule that limited female participation in the opening or closing prayers of that meeting.

It was not until the 2010 General Handbook that women praying in sacrament meeting became explicitly endorsed. I think that it is unfortunate that such a statement was required. Like President Cannon in his comment above offered one hundred and fourteen years ago, I believe it is folly to usurp the ear of the Lord (though I am also grateful for changes in family dynamics during this time, particularly with an emphasis on equality between spouses). God will hear our prayers. He will endow us with power, from on high. He will bless as we bless, and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female.

I don’t think that women not praying in General Conference was due to prohibition, like the 1967 rule about sacrament meeting prayers. I think it was largely due to tradition–wanting to give church leaders (the vast majority of whom are male) an opportunity to participate in the conference. I am nevertheless grateful that the tradition has changed.


  1. George Q. Cannon, Conference Report, October 1899, 73.


  1. Thank you, J. Amen.

  2. Excellent quote by George Q. Cannon. It took long but it happened.

  3. Amen!

  4. It really is fascinating how some traditions or perceived doctrines come about. When living in the south, my neighbors family did not believe her mother in laws prayers were heard, because she prayed in spanish-her native tongue. We currently have a member of our bishopric who believes that only a priesthood holder should say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. That is his burden to deal with, not mine. I think there is also a difference in leading your family in prayer and always saying the prayer. So husbands, gather your family, lead them, and don’t forget to give everyone in the family a chance to share what is in their heart. You just might be surprised at what they have to say. They may be the link to call upon the powers of Heaven for the blessings your family stands in need of.

  5. liz johnson says:

    I can’t believe I hadn’t read that quote before today. That’s a lovely one.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Love the quote!

  7. And amen to you, J. Lovely quote.

  8. Thanks, J. Lovely expression.

    “We currently have a member of our bishopric who believes that only a priesthood holder should say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting.”

    I bet he considers himself to be orthodox and a staunch defender of the faith – and probably more righteous than those who disagree. It’s so ironic in cases like this, where that stance is in explicit, obvious opposition to the handbook of instructions.

    All of us, on any side of any discussion, really do tend to embrace or ignore whatever fits what we are inclined naturally to embrace or ignore.

  9. I think he comes from a good place, not realizing the full scope of his words and opinions. HOWEVER, he would be the first to flatten any ogre that would be dumb enough to look crosseyed at any woman or young lady in our congregation. We all have room to grow, and if we don’t give the opportunity for others to stretch in these callings, they will never see the big picture. That’s why we are here-to learn and grow. Sometimes my growth is to sit back and keep my mouth shut while other people find their way. (NOT my favorite method.) My arguing with him is going to get him so lathered that he will never hear the whisper of the Spirit. But rest assured, I have given him my opinions before. And I will again. At the right time.

    P.S. I just have to mention that I could probably flatten a few of those boogers too, but why mess up my hair? LOL

  10. Thanks for the added input, Bertha. I knew I was speaking stereotypically when I typed my comment, and it’s important to remember we aren’t stereotypes in real life – at least, not most of us. Even the people with whom we disagree most passionately often are really good people at heart (sometimes better than we are) – and that applies to apostles as well as our fellow local congregants.

  11. @Ray, well said!

  12. J. Stapley says:

    Bertha, do you think he would be willing to write down his justification for his policy for me? It would be very valuable for my research? If not, would you be willing to ask him and then write it down?

  13. Amen. Thank you for this post.

  14. That quote is as modern as if it had been written today, no doubt why you used it. It’s a shame that we are bound by traditions not found in the Bible or the Book of Mormon that limit participation in God’s family. I look no further than Elder Oaks talk where he mentions that extremes of dress and grooming are looked down upon as worldly, apparently white shirt, tie and dark suit are somehow not of the world. Can anyone imagine Jesus saying to a petitioner, “I’m sorry I can’t heal you because you have a piercing and you dress weird.” I can’t.

  15. Does this mean we will someday see a female president of BYU? (Plenty of well-known universities have female heads in this day and age.) Or on a ward level, female Sunday School presidents [or male Primary presidents]? Are these things codified in the CHI or just tradition… I suspect the latter.

  16. I have already heard him argue it. He said that if a meeting involves a priesthood ordinance (such as the sacrament), a priesthood holder should open said meeting in prayer.

  17. I have been following, to some degree, the discussions about women praying, both here and over at T&S. When a woman gave the closing prayer on Saturday, I was watching, but paid no attention. Later that evening I saw an article online about it, and did a V-8 slap to the forehead. I guess I’m a bad person for not jumping up and down when it happened. It just seemed like the closing prayer to me.

  18. “Or on a ward level, female Sunday School presidents [or male Primary presidents]? Are these things codified in the CHI or just tradition… I suspect the latter.”

    Handbook 2, 12.2.2:

    “Members of the ward Sunday School presidency are priesthood holders. Where possible, the president holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. They work under the direction of the bishopric. They receive orientation and ongoing support from the stake Sunday School presidency.”

    I think this will be one of the areas where we’ll see a shift in women’s roles.

  19. DeepThink says:

    “Oh the days when I drew lines around my faith: to keep you out, to keep me in, to keep it safe. Oh the sense of my own self: entitlement to say who’s wrong, who won’t belong, who cannot stay. Somebody, somewhere decided we’d be better off divided. But somehow, despite the damage done, He says ‘Come’.”

    One of my favorite songs, Nicole Nordeman, “Please Come”

  20. DeepThink says:

    Oh, and the imagery in the video is not mine and I don’t necessarily stand by it all. I just wanted to share the song.

  21. This is sort of in response to Bertha’s comment and in response to J. Stapley. My X was like the Bishop’s counselor. He was studious and explicit in obeying the commandments and felt it was his sacred duty to defend womanhood – only it was his twisted version of womanhood. X would preach the “righteous role of women” from the pulpit then rape me because I was his because of the temple sealing prayers. He would jump to bless a single sister he home-taught yet tell me our children weren’t sick enough for a blessing. He would preach and expound to anyone who would listen and delighted in calling anyone under his authority, including me, to repentance. Now I;m not saying Bertha’s counselor was like that, but my X served in many leadership positions over the years, including on the High Council and Bishop’s counselor. We both served in high leadership callings in our ward and stake. I used to listen to many conference talks about how husbands were to treat their wives and wonder why it didn’t apply to me. I was heart-broken. Because we were temple married I truly thought for decades that must be what I somehow deserved. Church teachings didn’t help because of the temple sealing words. When I finally realized that rape/sexual assault is a part of domestic violence and against the law I began telling the truth – to a non LDS female therapist. Mormon men didn’t get the depth and seriousness of what X did to me. I am now almost 13 years post divorce, married to a great NOMO who treats me with 1000% more love and respect than Mr. Righteous Mormon man ever did. I have lost faith in most LDS men/leaders. Looking back I feel X truly believed he was doing the right things. I feel he was blinded by something in his character that he could justify raping me yet listening to talks and lessons and believing we had a good marriage. He has since remarried, in the temple (I had my sealing to him cancelled) and verbally abuses his new wife. i hope this sheds some light on why some men might think this way. Feel free to contact me via email if I can be of any other help.

  22. Rosalynde says:

    I’m most interested in seeing incremental changes not in women’s authority per se, but in sites where women and men work together collaboratively. Sunday School and Primary, and combined youth programs, are good possibilities. I currently teach Gospel Doctrine and collaborate quite closely with the male tean teacher. When women and men work together, with both available to take the lead when necessary, maybe a healthier gender dynamic will develop and other changes will follow organically.

  23. rameumptom says:

    That moved me so much, I’m thinking of having my wife give ALL the prayers in our home – even my personal ones!

  24. X also believed that women were inferior to men because of Eve and because we menstruated. Very OT-ish, but scriptural, notwithstanding what other prophets/men have since taught. My role, according to X, was to have babies – I had nine and miscarried twice. And to stay at home. VERY NARROW world I lived in. He felt I was his sacred responsibility and as such, that also made me his property. He did not treat our daughters that way, altho he was patronizing to them. He even gave one of my daughters the money she needed to file for divorce because her husband was addicted to porn (he was a returned missionary). X really did have a HUGE blind spot when it came to how he treated me. He always, always believed he was following the commandments. Through-out our separation then divorce, again, he NEVER apologized to me EVER. He simply does not think he did anything wrong to me, even tho a SP told him it was wrong. X’s response to him was that I was exagerating. X simply could not fathom that raping your wife was wrong. even tho he was also a police officer, who saw numerous abused women, he flet that since he didn’t beat me, what he did was not abuse. Sounds so crazy doesn’t it?

  25. DeepThink says:

    Sherry, I’m so sorry.

  26. Sherry, that is horrible and totally wrong. There is no other way to describe it. I am glad you escaped that relationship and rejoice that you found a good man who loves you the way you ought to be loved. God continue to bless you now and in the future.

    I just want to say that he is not an example of Mormon men, generally. His is a deviancy issue, not a Mormon issue. There still is way too much abuse of various kinds in the LDS Church, but that is true everywhere – a “natural man” tendency that is not condoned nor encouraged by church leaders or even within the general culture. It ought not happen, but, unfortunately, it does – and membership in the LDS Church alone will not and cannot stop it. I know it happens more often than most members realize, but it still is not indicative of the Church, collectively.

    My heart hurts for your past and rejoices in your present. I understand and appreciate your need to escape – from your ex-husband and what he symbolized in relation to the LDS Church. All I ask is that you not condemn the LDS Church for your ex-husband.

  27. J. Stapley says:

    Sherry, I’m sorry that you experienced that. It is terrible.

    Rosalynde, I agree that you outline a very important area for work, and one with great potential.

  28. Sherry, I am so sorry to hear about your experience. I just want to reiterate what church leaders teach us, that those who violate others will stand accountable before God (and those who stand by and do not act). I do not believe that this brother is like that. I don’t see the behavior of abuse in his family, which I (unfortunately in my heart) can usually spot a million miles away. Some people just live in the dark ages and lost the map.

  29. Thank you for your kind words in regard to my experiences with X. While my head knows/hopes most Mormon men are not like X, my heart still wonders. Invoking “ecclesiastical privilege” not one of the 15 men at X’s disciplinary council would be there for me in court. They were the only people on the face of the earth who heard from X’s lips what he did. I felt deeply betrayed by those who I thought were my “brothers.” We settled our divorce out of court the day before we were scheduled to appear before the judge – X signed the papers. I do still believe that many of the church’s teachings DO marginalize women, praying in GC is just symptomatic of many other injustices for LDS women. My greatest difficulty to this day is to separate X from the church. We were married for 29 years and that is a lot of hurt, brain-washing, re-thinking and healing. Because we are in the same ward, I no longer attend and am considered “less than” because of my NOMO spouse, who is a delightful friendly funny man, who does not want to join the church, unless i can baptize him! (his words). I don’t feel there is ANY LDS MAN who knows the depth of my pain and sense of betrayal. To “hear” some of you men on this blog offer me understanding means a lot to me. I certainly don’t have that kind of support in my ward. X appears as a good Mormon man, active, temple married, father of many, home teacher, etc. I have made my peace with my past and have moved on to a happier life, but I do take the opportunity when it avails itself to speak out against spousal abuse, especially in the LDS Church. I also firmly believe that when we find our MOTHER women will then be elevated and respected as SHE is a GOD, just like our Father. Again – thanks so much for your kind words – they are balm to my soul.

  30. JennyP1969 says:

    Sherry, I hope you know, or at least can believe that you are not “less than” because you re-married a man not of our faith. I hope one day you will go to church, for your own joy, and as a beacon of hope for those sitting on the edge because they live closeted lives, marriages, and families that they feel no one would understand, believe, or help with. You and your good husband would be a blessing to others. Please know I’m not trying to pressure or push in any way…..but I truly believe we have need of every member. We have many divorced people in our ward. We have mis-understood people. We have very quiet ones with sad eyes. I ache for all who feel marginalized and alone in a crowd. We must do better. Lord, show us the way….

  31. JennyP1969 says:

    One more thought…Im back again in 2 Nephi in my scripture study. Never before has the chapter on, “Wo unto them who say all is well in Zion” struck me with such power and concern as this time. There is so much cousel and prophecy in that chapter. I would love two or three (or more) posts and comments from the good folks here to offer insights and wisdom. Ardis and Kevin and j Stapley are personal faces, though I appreciate all the bloggers here. I would love a guest post from Terryl and/or Fiona, or Elders Holland and Uchtdorf. Just saying….just requesting….

  32. JennyP1969 says:

    Make that that ” are personal ‘faves’, please. Sorry for missing the auto correct.

  33. One of the most surprising things I have heard an apostle say (Richard G. Scott in a 1 hour mtg. prior to our Stake Conference) was there would be an awful lot of surprised/shocked LDS men in the afterlife when they find their wife chooses *not* to remain sealed to them because of their unrighteous dominion (surprising to me because I’ve never thought about that post-mortem choice). I got the impression the apostles care very much about this.

  34. I take “an awful lot…” back – I’m not sure he said there’d be a LOT of them, he just mentioned it happening.

  35. There are far too many instances in the church of spousal abuse justified by perceptions of authority and male-female roles. They span a broad range that includes my step-father’s refusal to ever participate in the kitchen (and never ever partake of leftovers), verbal belittling of the “lesser sex”, and Sherry’s long horrible experience. That said, I believe that the majority of LDS church leaders, at both local and general levels, would be as appalled by Sherry’s experience and supportive of her as the best voices expressed above. I feel that they speak of these issues often, but in terms that miss the mark because they are to vague and non-specific. Beyond admonitions to be fully supportive, perfectly respectful, etc (which are sometimes expressed with suitable fervor, conviction, and even urgency), I keep hoping for more stern counsel drawn from real-life bad examples. Let’s hear over the pulpit about husbands who think mopping the floor has something to do with nurturing, and that that thing where he watches his own children on RS-night is called “babysitting”. And yes, lest there be any confusion, that the definition of rape includes no reference to marital relationship. In steady doses, it might alleviate a lot of suffering. And help me put up a better-founded defense whenever my wife draws analogies between church practice and the Taliban.

    Like many others, Sherry, I am deeply sorry for your experience and glad you have found a way out and into something positive and constructive.

  36. Unfortunately, the instances of spousal abuse in the Church are not limited to men being the aggressor. Spousal abuse by a woman can be both harder to see and harder to believe.

    One of the difficulties in marital problems is we tend to want to limit the fault to a single person. The other is the tendancy to not believe someone we believe to be good being capable of doing something we find so abhorrent. Many killers have been lamented with, “he was such a nice boy”. No idea the solution to this, but it’s something to watch out for.

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