I Watched The General Women’s Meeting–It Was Great

Because of the turbulence within the church over women’s issues over the last year, my hope for the fall general conference was that someone would press the reset button. When I heard the General Women’s Meeting offered if not a reset, something of good report, I logged on to listen.

I was not disappointed. The meeting had a fresh, international emphasis that challenged some of the conventions of our general meetings. Most impressively, people spoke and sang in their native languages. The talks too seemed fresher with anecdotes about both the failures and successes that necessarily accompany committed discipleship. Hearing President Uchtdorf refer to the General Women’s Meeting as the opening of general conference felt like the earth had shifted just a bit.

Seeing less emphasis on the culture of the Wasatch front and more inclusion of members living outside the United States left me feeling optimistic. It felt like an effort to challenge the conventions of multi-generational Mormonism. It was not exactly afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted but at least drawing those on the geographic and cultural fringes closer to the center of the church.

After watching the General Women’s Meeting, I am left hoping for a consistent, public effort to reach out to Mormons who are not at the church’s cultural center. It is an opportunity to build trust with people who feel diminished. Tonight I saw senior church leadership—both the men and the women—redirect attention away from the Mormon corridor and engage the larger church. It felt right.

Comments

  1. Amen. It felt right.

  2. It felt right to me and I was pleased to see, as I looked around my chapel, that it felt right to the other women in my ward, including the most orthodox ones. No one need be offended by making these meetings more inclusive, with speakers who are more vulnerable and messages which are more challenging.

  3. Having Pres. Uchtdorf speak was also a balm as he seems to have a special understanding of and love for those who don’t feel like they fit in. And of all the GA’s, I feel Christ’s love for me most powerfully through him. And of course, he fit the international theme very well.

  4. “It was not exactly afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted but at least drawing those on the geographic and cultural fringes closer to the center of the church.”

    I’m not sure I understand this phrase. Why do you think it would have been better to “afflict the comfortable” in addition to comforting the afflicted. Perhaps I’m not understanding what you mean by the word “afflict.”

  5. I watched it with my wife and our two youngest daughters. We all enjoyed it very much.

  6. @stilesbn: I understand “afflict the comfortable” to mean “challenge the complacent”–the all-is-well-in-Zion type who have maybe lost the sense of mission and purpose and are just on autopilot.

  7. Curtis Carmack says:

    I was struck by your “people who feel diminished” comment. From my experience that is something mainly felt in the United States, often in the Northeast and sometimes on the West Coast (and of course in other pockets all over). It is clearly not the feeling in most of the rest of the world, from what I have been able to observe, both directly and indirectly. On the contrary, people generally feel empowered and take General Conference and other Church-wide meetings and broadcasts for what they can get out of them, feeling rays of sunshine (if not the full force of the sun) in a world that is dark in ways most Church members in North America do not appreciate and cannot easily understand. There is clearly much supposedly enlightened thinking in the Church that does not see its own parochialism. Not to be a downer completely, your observations generally seem spot on and the changes are certainly welcome to me.

  8. Yes! It felt different — and right — to me, too. I counted at least 16 points of inclusiveness and empowerment last night, and I didn’t even notice that Pres. Uchtdorf referred to it as the beginning of GC (point 1)… that’s pretty cool.

    15 more…

    *Pres. Burton told us about “[her] cute husband, who is a stake president” (addressing eons of “sweet wives”)
    *Pres. Burton referred to “homes AND apartments” being holy like the temple
    *Pres. Burton spoke about “world-class athletes AND university doctoral students” honing their skills (a sweet spot for me — yeah, women’s education!)

    *Sister Marriott spoke according to her Louisiana dialect, NOT Wasatch-ized English.
    *Sister Marriott’s stories used examples of herself and others as imperfect, genuine disciples of Christ
    *(related) Sister Marriott’s talk was transparent, and, therefore, relatable

    *Pres. Uchtdorf referred to “Heavenly Parents” frequently, even once referring to them in logical equivalence to “God” (it’s a step!).
    *Pres. Uchtdorf told a story in which a single mother was strong and, imho, a heroine.
    *Pres. Uchtdorf took the sisters SERIOUSLY — enough to talk about *real* costs and blessings of discipleship.
    *There were no pedestals in Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk.

    *The order of speakers didn’t imply “least to greatest”
    *Sister Wixom expressed women’s appreciation for the First Presidency/Quorum of 12’s support — not just the other way around
    *ALL of the talks referenced and quoted (sometimes extensively) sister leaders
    *The hymn arrangements sung by the choir were more challenging and innovative than we generally hear (pet peeve).
    *The Korean children’s choir. That’s all.

  9. (“That’s all” = Korean children’s choir. I hope, actually, that there are more points I missed.)

  10. Geoff - Aus says:

    One of the things that we very different was that the oldest speaker was Elder Uchtdorf, who is 73 I think. How do we have a discussion on the succession for Prophet?

    Assuming these women are chosen on merit (and of course inspiration), is it strange that none of them are over 80. If the tradition allowed it, might the Lord choose the next Prophet on merit and we might then have leadership who were vigorous enough to receive revelation and provide leadership relevant to this age not a past one. The Apostles over 80 could then retire gracefully, and allow for a vigorous, and perhaps more representative, leadership to emerge.

    How do we get this discussion going so that the 12 feel an expectation of change from the membership?

  11. “How do we get this discussion going so that the 12 feel an expectation of change from the membership?”

    Not sure how, but I am sure that it’s not here on this thread.

  12. I didn’t know that former TX governor Ann Richards was a Mormon….and married a Marriott! =)

    Why didn’t Pres Uchtdorf speak in German with English subtitles?

    The Korean children’s choir singing with all of their hearts. Spirit transcended the language.

    Our local leadership threatened we HAVE to go to the buildings and meetinghouses because Pres Monson told us to. Then we did and only a handful of others did and even the speakers acknowledged all of the technological devices that the conference was being watched on. Pretty sure it’s the last one I’ll go to there….

  13. “How do we have a discussion on the succession for Prophet?”

    This is obviously your hot-button issue, since you’ve now posted it on numerous sites with relatively little connection to the content of the posts. I’m sure you find the idea very stimulating by now. In the Lord’s kingdom, inspiration = merit. “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” We can run thought experiments all we want about how the Church would be if someone Joseph Smith’s age were called as President (or even the local bishop), but that’s a counterfactual that enables little, but fault-finding.

  14. Denise Hamilton says:

    The additional measure of the Spirit that accompanies the mantle of prophet enlivens and rejuvenates the recipient. Age is not very important. Wisdom to follow God’s guidance is paramount.

  15. oh the stories I could tell says:

    I generally skip going to the Stake center to watch, but was given an assignment so I was there. I was dreading it, but actually it was better than anticipated. I will say though, that when Sister Wixom said the closing song was I Am a Child of God I was dancing in my seat. A short meeting and NO male speakers. Sigh. It was apparently just a slip of her perky tongue. Over refreshments another sister commented that she was pretty darn excited that the meeting was going to be short and end with I Am A Child of God and then laughed about being mistaken. I told her I had thought the same thing so at least we weren’t alone :-)

  16. Lynn in Europe says:

    I am always pleased at progress, however incremental. But I wonder when women will end up being the keynote speakers at the women’s meeting. Men’s words far outnumbered those of the women ostensibly called as leaders. Can’t women speak just as authoritatively? (Rhetorical question, that.)

  17. I also look forward to a day when the prophet speaks halfway through the meeting, and then shares that there is an exciting new revelation, and the Presidents of the Primary, Relief Society and Young Women will be sharing the details of the revelation they received. The prophet will go on to confirm that the Spirit has ratified the truth of the revelation to the First Presidency, and that they are grateful for the prayers of so many women and men who have patiently sought after more light, knowledge, love and truth. The prophet will encourage women and girls watching on media at home, or where their husbands and sons are near, to invite them to come and hear the prophetesses speak.

    The Primary president explains the circumstances of the revelation being received as all 3 presidents met for a week of fasting and prayer after the African Women’s Conference. She goes on to explain the process of informing the First Presidency that Heavenly Mother is ready to reveal more of Herself to the church.

    The Relief Society President then shares the major new doctrine about Heavenly Mother, the expanded roles and powers of women that will be rolled out over the next 6 months. As she finishes, she shares a powerful testimony of the Savior, and the blessing it was to hear of Mother talk about her Son.

    The Young Woman’s President then stands and explains that for two years, half of all missionaries will be called to missions that will focus on strengthening the wards and stakes across the church. They, along with the proselytizing missionaries will do a minimum of 15 hours a week of service to members in their area, and another 15 hours serving an NGO or nonprofit organization that they will serve through consistently for their entire missions, making connections to the communities they serve. In an effort to create lasting impacts around the world, missionaries will be asked to commit to serving 18 month missions, and then accept the call to go to a college or university in their mission areas. While they understand that this will be easier in some parts of the world than others, they have faith that as the youth of the church integrate into their mission communities that both the missionaries and the countries they live and learn in, will be provided with blessings and innovation that will allow more light and knowledge to be shared with the world.

    The choir of missionaries leaving for the Chinese service mission, all sisters, (there is a huge need for women who will be the new mother’s of Zion, in a country “missing” millions of girls) have already been told about the revelation in the temple earlier in the day, and are ready to not only serve missions. They have all agreed to accept the invitation to go to Chinese universities after their 18 month service missions all re complete. While they sing a beautiful arrangement of songs, there is a slide show of interracial families, and an interracial lesbian couple is included 2/3 of the way through, being taught by sister missionaries.

    The closing prayer is addressed to both of our Heavenly Parents, and is given in Portuguese, by a member of the RS General Board. Immediately after the session, the First Presidency joins the other Presidencies in an open news conference, also broadcast live, with reporters and members able to ask questions, and where most of the answers are given by the women prophetesses, with an occasional answer by a member of the First Presidency, when a question has an answer so simple that it really doesn’t warrant much time, or directly relates to the Priesthood Session’s move so that in the Fall the men will meet the Saturday before the conference block and the Priestess Meeting is held the Saturday evening in between the Saturday and Sunday Daily Sessions, with the Spring session having the Priestess meeting the Saturday before, and the Priesthood meeting being held the Saturday night in between the daytime sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

    That’s my dream, but this was an encouraging start. ;-)

  18. Jared vdH says:

    Juliathepoet,

    The way your comment came across to me was that all of these female missionaries being called to a Chinese service mission are actually being called to marry and convert Chinese men since there is presently a dearth of Chinese women thanks to the one child policy. Was that your intention? The idea of calling any missionary, but especially a female missionary with the “mission” to get married makes me very uncomfortable.

  19. Jared-

    Could there ever be a Mormon announcement for women, no matter how fabulous, that doesn’t have something creepy?

    Congrats though. You beat both my bet and my husband’s for how long it would take someone to pull that out.

    I actually “borrowed” the idea from a fairly strange testimony from a missionary who just transferred to another possible place for him to find the woman that he knows he will meet on his mission. He had a vision the night he received his mission call that he would only go home after his mission for a month to plan the wedding, before he moved to Alaska to marry the lucky woman from his vision. The whole ward was so sad that apparently she is not in Fairbanks.

    I just modified it a little to fit the worldwide church, our commitment to education, and the need to lift where we are sent to stand. ;-)

  20. Jared vdH says:

    juliathepoet,

    Not sure if I should be relieved or horrified that it was intended to be intentionally creepy.

  21. Jared,

    I can respect that. I read it to my husband without the part, and he said, where the gospel principle gone freakishly the wrong way. Then we thought of both the missionary’s testimony, and we have noticed a number of people (mostly men) who specifically move to Alaska looking for an Alaska Native wife to convert and have their children be descendants of Lehi. So I could see some people seeing this a way to salt the earth.

  22. Jared vdH says:

    Yep, now I’m horrified because I can see how that could be a legitimate train of thought for some Mormons.

  23. I don’t like “sweet” wives or “cute” husbands. What does using those adjectives say about us? Too many young women are looking for boyfriends who are cute. Their list of qualities in a boyfriend, unfortunately, tends to end there! And for sweet wives, I don’t want to be sweet. I value empathy, compassion, intelligence, humor…Sweet is pretty much at the end of my list. When I think of Mormon sweet, I think of those LDS women who speak in that “fake” whispy, Utah voice. It drives me crazy. I liked Sister Marriott’s REAL voice just like I admired Chieko Okazaki’s REAL voice. Remember, we are the models for our daughters and sons…