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