One Thing Missing: Beautiful Conference, but Where Were the Women?

Painting029

Conference this past weekend was peaceful and calming in the way I remember it being as a kid. The lilts and accents of certain voices felt familiar and a lot like home. Elder Holland’s talk was a sermon to anchor my mormonism in, as so many others have also noted. Many of the talks reminded me of what it is to step away from all other things and find a place where the spirit dictates my thoughts and actions. It made me want to be better. It was a good conference.

Still, I couldn’t help but notice that only one talk out of twenty-seven in the course of eight hours this weekend was given by a woman.

Of course there are arguments to be made, reasons, justifications, but as a 33-year old woman fighting hard to use my voice and find examples to pattern my voice after, particularly within the church, I don’t much care about any of the explanations that might be given. The fact is that this vast oversight is hurtful. But beyond hurtful, which I can work through on my own, it is disempowering. It sends a message, intentional or not, to not only me, but my children who sat in their forts and did their best to watch with us, that women do not have a place, except in the darkened seats of the audience where they can listen.

When the predominantly female choir on Saturday afternoon came on the screen, my daughter who hadn’t been paying much attention turned and said, “Oh! Look at those girls! Are they at our church? A real church, Dad? I love all their colors.” She was fixed on the screen panning across those girls during the song.

Our girls, as young as four-years old, notice both their inclusion and their absence.

In an online correspondence about a book I had just published several months ago, one man posed the challenge to me to convince him why he, as a man, should read a memoir by a woman. I don’t think he was intending to be controversial, but the statement is telling. No man has ever been asked to convince me as a woman to read or listen to something by a man.. The rarity with which we hear female stories, perspectives, and ideas within the church perpetuates this attitude of “convince me why a woman’s experience would matter”.

This weekend three incredible women were called to the General Relief Society Presidency and a new counselor to the Primary Presidency, Cristina B. Franco of Argentina. Jean J. Bingham, President and former Primary counselor, is among other things a mother to both biological and foster children and went back to school to earn multiple degrees in education after her children were older.

rs presidency

Sharon Eubank oversees the Church’s Global Humanitarian Organization, which she will continue to do along with her calling. She was also an aide in the U.S. Senate.  She is a single woman certainly not defined by her singleness, a much needed voice in our church. A couple of years ago she received a standing ovation a talk given at a FAIR Mormon conference in which she spoke this incredible paragraph:

I think in our practice we also need more imagination. This is not a very powerful example, but I think that young women may be in danger of learning passive helplessness on their road to adult membership and the temple. Young men are setting up chairs and gathering palm fronds and shoveling walks, and home teaching. And I don’t know that we’ve been as imaginative as we ought to be. To think about what are the parallel paths that young women walk so that they are prepared for their adult roles. I also think we need better and more visible role models of men and women working together with their strong strengths that they each bring. I think we need to be more visible about that, not only in our congregations and in our families, but to the world. I think we are so interesting with this moderate doctrine of this way that men and women bring complimentary powers towards solving a solution. And both halves are needed. We ought to be more articulate and more visible about that.

Transcript of entire speech here: https://www.fairmormon.org/fair-conferences/2014-fairmormon-conference/womans-church

The second counselor, Reyna I. Aburto is a convert from Mexico. She lived through a period of civil unrest in Nicaragua and a devastating earthquake which killed her brother and ruined her home in Mexico. She studied industrial design and later computer science. She has three children and two grandchildren.

These women are just a few examples of the stories I want to hear. In just looking at their photos on the stand together and reading their biographies I am bolstered and nearly brought to tears when I see the strong women I have to look up to. I want them to have space to tell their stories so I better know how to tell my own. There is no shortage of qualified women that could have been asked to speak this weekend, including both those called and those who were released from callings.

Sometime ago, even a year ago, I would have been reticent to put my disappointment into paragraphs and post them on a public space, but I don’t feel that now. As I watch my little girl grow searching for her place in the world and in the church, the stakes are high.

Listening to the talks this weekend I felt a true love for these men who are doing their best and offering messages of hope. I know these men love women, I’ve heard Elder Nelson say that he wants to hear our voice, but there seems to be a disconnect between these words and what I experienced this weekend.

I write this not simply to voice a complaint, I write this because I look around me and see strong, intelligent women with a diversity of background, experience and insight and I believe so strongly in the value they bring to the church organization. I’ve seen the ways I light up and move to action when I know their stories and ideas.

I wonder how to feel and what to do when I am confronted with the lack of them this conference. I don’t really know.

In many ways I wanted to return to the comfort of childhood confePainting038rence this weekend where my only job was to fill out a bingo card in exchange for a donut from the Primary president and eat lots of coffee cake, but my imperative is no longer to be passive. I realized not far in to listening that conflicting feelings came from my own deep disappointment of a lack of female speakers. A mention of their wives, however endearing, from the men speaking, an occasional ‘she’ pronoun, a story from a woman in the Bible is not enough.

The oversight is not one I can continue to be silent about, to shuffle around within my heart until it doesn’t matter, because it does matter. It does matter.

 

Comments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    You need to have your girls watch the first session on conference which was held Mar. 25.

  2. Thanks for thoughts. I think the overlooking of women in the church is one of the greatest hinderances for my own growth. It’s very difficult to keep attempting to deal with it ‘on my own.’ Indeed, as you say, “the stakes are high.” And it absolutely matters.

    The cynic in me, unfortunately, thinks that the inclusion of the Women’s Session as an official part of Conference (which I think is great), causes not only causes those who decide to (subconsciously) think that women have been indeed been adequately included, but also gives them an (unacceptable) excuse when pushed on the issue.

    The exclusion hurts deeply; in fact, any curtailing of women hurts everyone deeply. Hopefully, the more that people become aware of this pain, the more we can do to correct it.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. And viola!

    Just as I was typing, Elizabeth refutes with the justification I feared would come–but hoped wouldn’t. We are in a sad state if we are now comparing apples to oranges as far as justifying this.

  4. “As I watch my little girl grow searching for her place in the world and in the church, the stakes are high.” Yes. My husband and I have the same worries for our two small daughters. Thanks for this nuanced, honest post. It *does* matter.

  5. Elizabeth, two things: first, you don’t know that Asmae didn’t (though, in fairness, she did say one of her girls is 4, which makes her 4 years away from being invited). The Women’s session does allow a few more women’s voices, but it’s inclusion does very little to balance the inequity. The lack of women still stands out. (For the record, my slightly-older-than-Ashmae’s daughters also noticed it.

    Also, leaving women’s voices out of the General session means women, girls, men and boys don’t hear women speaking as spiritual agents to general audiences. The women’s sessions are valuable, but are pointedly addressed to only a subsection of our coreligionists. I want not only my daughters, but also my son, to know that women’s voices and experiences and insights have religiousvalue that is broadly applicable.

  6. I’m so glad you posted this – to be frank, I spent some time poking around the bloggernacle and twitter yesterday wondering if anyone other than me was feeling upset. I’m not sure if there are less women speaking now than before in the general sessions, but it sure feels like it. Maybe I’m just more sensitive to the issue recently, as I was really, REALLY excited when “At The Pulpit” came out, thrilled that it was published by the Church Historian’s Press, seeing our slow, but I thought steady, progress forward.

    So this weekend was genuinely confusing for me. There were many talks I loved. I bawled for a large portion of it because I needed to feel the Spirit badly (it’s been a long stint of unemployment in my house and I’m really, really tired). But I’m bewildered and hurt too. C’mon, we couldn’t have even had the new Presidency bear their testimonies?

  7. Only three women spoke at the Women’s Session (and one man — but no woman spoke at the Priesthood Session). So if you add the Women’s Session to this, you get four women speaking out of 31 talks. Is that really better, Elizabeth?

  8. Di, fewer women spoke (and prayed) in the General Sessions than normal. Normally, two women speak and two pray over the four General Sessions. (Already an abysmally unequal line-up.) But this time it was only half that: one woman spoke and one prayed over the entire four General Sessions. Even if one defines oneself as a “conservative” Mormon, ostensibly meaning he or she is never willing to make a criticism of Church leaders’ decisions or opinions, one should still be interested in the good image of the Church, and this is terrible “optics” (even if all one cares about is corporate brand management).

  9. Mary Ann says:

    Like Brian, I also worry that recent acts have made the inclusion of female speakers less pressing. After all, if you count the Women’s Session, there were 4 female speakers at General Conference, not one. Also, I loved hearing Sister Marriott’s southern drawl as she offered a prayer at the Sunday morning session, but that prayer may have contributed to the perception that women were given plenty of airtime. For what it’s worth, even my husband picked up on the missing second female speaker. I can’t believe the brethren thought no-one would notice. One simple explanation might be that a second female speaker was scheduled but had to bow out at the last minute – do they assign back-up speakers for GC?

  10. Amen! I (and my mother, sisters, and daughters, as well as my husband and son and father) were mystified and discouraged by this regression. “At The Pulpit” is in print, but not in reality. For those who don’t recall, the Women’s Session has happened for years in other forms (the RS/YW broadcasts that used to precede Conference by a week, just like now), so while I’m thrilled that it’s now considered an official Conference session, having female speakers there doesn’t justify their exclusion from the other sessions. I felt like it was six straight hours of Priesthood session on Saturday. Thanks so much for expressing what so many were noticing and feeling. As a rule there should be at least one female in every session, praying or speaking–minimum.

  11. Count me in Ashmae. I can’t even find the words. I ache from Emma on down to us. I know my Heavenly Parents are very aware of me. I have amazing women in my life to look toward. Not everyone is so lucky. As someone recently pointed out Jesus visited a Woman First.

  12. Rachael says:

    Where were the women? I imagine they were sitting back in relief at not having to speak in front of the entire church on live television. No, in all seriousness though, on some occasions the call to speak is more for the speaker to grow than the audience. Did you not consider that maybe the men need it more than the women? The women might already be so strong that that they don’t need the learning that comes through preparing a talk that the men do, if that happens to make it so that more men speak than women, so be it. Of course, I could be wrong, but it doesn’t bother me either way. I don’t see it the same way you do. Another way that I see it is, well, first I have to say something else and then get to my point. I always thought it was very sweet how you never see Peter Jackson’s wife on any of the DVD special features of Lord of the Rings, the reason he gave was that he would be the public figure so that she didn’t have to deal with any negativity that comes with being in the public eye. He was doing it because presumably he loves her, which is why you never even see her. When you give a talk, (or make any comment in the public sphere) that opens you up to the possibility of being criticized, insulted, or otherwise mocked. I’m not saying that some women can’t handle it, but I also don’t see anything demeaning in being protected from those kinds of things. I personally would be grateful to not be in the public eye, even if I were serving a higher up calling. Anyway, just some thoughts on the matter and different ways of seeing it.

  13. Kristine says:

    Rachael offers an articulate and thorough case for why we need more women’s voices in General Conference. It’s so our daughters don’t become skilled in justifying their own oppression.

  14. Eric Russell says:

    Definitely wasn’t an oversight. There’s a fairly specific pattern for speaker selection. By my count, Reeves should have spoken in the Women’s session and Burton should have spoken in the general session. But Burton unexpectedly replaced Reeves in the Women’s session and Burton’s slot was not replaced in the general.

    No clear explanation as to why all this happened, but it’s hard to believe that the change in RS Presidency was a coincidence. One possibility is that after the new Presidency was called, Burton was shifted to the Women’s session to allow Bingham to speak in the general, but for any of various reasons, that fell through at the last minute. There are certainly less charitable scenarios as well.

    In any case, it was the first time that there was only one female speaker since the church moved to two in April of 1994. I doubt it’s a new precedent. I fully expect we’ll see both Bingham and Cordon in the general sessions this fall.

  15. Kristine says:

    And then Ashmae will still need to write this post again, because 2/27 is not much less ridiculous than 1/27.

  16. Amen, Ashmae (and Kristine in the comments)

  17. D Christian Harrison says:

    A beautiful post, Ashmae. Seriously. And then… well… the comments. Good heavens: Elizabeth, right out of the gate, followed by Rachael. There’s no way to spin this: 4/31 is unacceptable.

  18. Elizabeth, yes, of course I know about the women’s session and I knew I would be called out for not counting those talks here, but here’s the thing: My daughter is four and so wouldn’t be attending with me and my son and husband are both boys, so will never culturally associate or hear those women’s voices as part of their general conference experience. I am also not interested in always feeling like I can’t want to have a voice because I have the consolation prize of the women’s session now being a part of conference.

  19. D Christian Harrison says:

    I’m hardly a fan of quotas… but it seems easy enough to simply make certain that two presidency members from each of the auxilliaries speak during the general sessions of GC. Certainly, we can sacrifice a few the 70s on the altar of representation.​

  20. Eric Russell says:

    I don’t disagree at all, Kristine. My apologies if my note came off as apologetic.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I was merely saying if she wants her girls to see women, singing, conducting, speaking and praying she should have them watch the Mar. 25th session. Children are not so in tune with all the other nuances of where or when it is happening. I too noticed the lack of women in the other sessions, and wished the women could have given their talks for the general population as they were considerably better than some of the men did. How about having a general session Sat. morning, the women Sat afternoon, and then men Sat. evening. Then two general sessions on Sun. Even if all the women presidencies spoke it would still be 9/27. The real change you want will not happen anytime soon.

  22. D Christian Harrison says:

    While I appreciate the clarification, Elizabeth… it still does nothing for the fact that our sons, brothers, and fathers have a draught of strong and righteous female examples holding forth from the pulpit. We can do better.

  23. Rachael, I do have to say that being asked to speak (even when I was nervous) in front of many crowds and audiences as my book came out is one of the most empowering and important experiences of my adult life. I am so grateful that no one asked me to be “spared” a public eye for fear of my being criticized. I have been criticized and I am fine for it, sometimes better. I think it is a huge disservice and a sad self-fulfilling prophecy to make women believe that they couldn’t handle being in a position of power, nor that the men need it more than us. Anyone giving a talk in general conference has already had years of being able to speak in front of large audiences.

  24. Pokemom says:

    One theme regarding the male leaders’ talks is how different perspectives appeal to our different selves. (Example: Uchtdorf vs Christoffersen this time.). When only 2 women speak, this does not offer much difference in POV from female voices. When only one woman speaks, she is perhaps seen as the only voice representing women.

    This is especially problematic because the women who speak in the general sessions often seem compelled to speak about those in their particular stewardship, rather than about general gospel principles. (Example, women’s talks are often focused more on children, or more on young women.).

    This lack of additional female voices was especially troubling to me this year because our one woman who spoke in the Sat/Sun sessions offered one of the more strident talks of the weekend, a talk of fear IMO, where life is a war against the evil world. So where is the nuance or difference in female voices that get heard in the church? Are my fellow woman, hearing the female speaker, feel they have to adopt this more strident approach? Or are men are going to perceive that war POV as how women are supposed to perceive the gospel and how they are supposed to parent their children? Where does that leave us, to have just one voice representing us, especially when that one voice offers metaphors that are not how I perceive the world?

    Recently I realized that I had spent years imagining that one day, I would contribute my talents to the church in meaningful ways. And I also realized at the same time that the church has not really used my talents, and that it probably will not in the future. My talents and skills and voice are not really wanted by the church. It is only true for a few women that church helps you magnify your talents. It is true for even fewer that the church really wants your voice–your honest voice. I found this insight a source of pain, and then it was freeing. I will no longer hope to be valued by my church, and although I am not leavimg the church, this realization has felt like finally realizing your lover never reciprocated. And finally seeing that, you can seek other opportunities.

  25. Ocotillo says:

    For any comment containing the phrase “Have you considered that….” YES, WE HAVE.

    I know you’re trying to be helpful, but I, for one, have already seen every argument that could possibly be dredged up about this today already. Have I considered that the two presidencies were released? Yes. They outgoing presidencies could have spoken anyway, and the incoming ones could have born powerful testimony, just as incoming Q15 members do. Have I considered that some women would have to speak twice and what a terrible burden that would be? Yes. The men do it, and the women could, too. Or maybe they wouldn’t have to if there were more than six(!) of them to choose from. Have I considered that God sends the COB a memo with the list of speakers for this general conference and God just didn’t think it was important to hear from any women? Yes. The thought makes me ill. If that’s the kind of God we have, why on earth would it be worth my effort to try to please him? Etc. etc. etc. until I want to curl up in a ball and pretend I didn’t just get such a shocking reminder of how deeply the patriarchal thinking in this church penetrates.

    And amen to those who said that 2 ain’t much better than 1. What I think most of women who are hungry for more female voices in the church want is not a return to the glory days when we had two women speakers, but an equitable distribution where we are just about half. Then will we demonstrate with our actions what we like to pretend to with our words–that we value women and their perspectives.

  26. Pokemom and Ocotillo, thank you for such useful and honest insight. I’m glad I get to hear your voices here.

  27. Elizabeth perhaps a better idea would be to eliminate all 4 of the General Sessions entirely. On one Saturday hold the Women’s and the Saturday the Mens and call if General Conference.

    Racheal – I get the fear of speaking. I believe Sister Smoot really struggled with it, but it wouldn’t/shouldn’t be hard then filling prayers slots with women. The auxiliaries are deep with women you could even assign talks to them during the years that Presidency’s are changed.

    I have taught my daughters that they are valued. That they have intellect and skills. The only place they see those models are in the world outside of the church. I don’t live in the corridor, I don’t have the opportunity to take them to FAIR conferences, MHA, or even Women’s Conference. Yet all around them are strong professional woman for them to follow. My church discourages it’s members from looking to the world. There is a war on, I’ve been told. But when the light of strong, intelligent, accomplished LDS women is hidden under a bushel – where are my daughters supposed to look?

  28. Rachael says:

    Yet it is perfectly acceptable. The Lord has never been in the numbers. He knows exactly who needs to talk in order to change their lives and those listening. You act as if it were a choice, and not as if it were inspired by a loving God who by divine design directs this church and how it is run and knows there are people out there who needed to hear those exact talks that were given. It isn’t about how many women spoke. It is about moving the work of the Lord forward in the way that He sees fit. I’m on the Lord’s side. Feel free to humble yourself and come on over. If that offends you, or makes you feel that you would be oppressed if you did so you have some serious re-prioritizing to do. I would rather be “oppressed” (which I’m not) and know that I have absolute faith in the divine direction of this church than feel liberated and be uncertain or criticizing the way the Savior directs this church. You take your pick, the Savior will certainly know.

  29. Loursat says:

    Rachael’s comment about the fear of speaking prompts me to point out that the women who are called as general officers are selected precisely because of their ability to communicate in settings like general conference. That’s their job. If you ever get the chance in person to see any of these women working in a large group setting, you should take it. The ones I’ve seen are world-class communicators, at least as good as any of the male general authorities I’ve met.

  30. Rachael says:

    My last comment was a reply to D Christian Harrison’s comment about my post being out of the gate. I may revise my comment, as I see it is more than a bit self righteous, as soon as I get to read all of the comments that have popped up in the meantime.

  31. Thank you for this necessary and thoughtful post, Ashmae. You are right that what was once easy to justify and live with from my own experience had become unacceptable now that I have my own impressionable kids. I remember all too well what it was like as a young girl, wondering why God made me a girl when I felt like I had things to say like a boy. I’ve never been comfortable with the way women are represented (or unrepresented) at church, and it took a long time for me to gain faith that God not only lives my nurturing self, but my questioning self, my loud self, my speaking self, my thinking self, my argumentative self, my disagreeing self. I must believe in a God who values the voices of the daughters as much as that of the sons.

  32. “Certainly, we can sacrifice a few the 70s on the altar of representation.​” But please let’s not sacrifice those 70s who were clearly not Americans. Their non-American voices are also important. I noticed and did not appreciate the stridency of the one female speaker I heard. I would very much like to have heard from the new RS presidency more than some other speakers, but I also wondered whether some of the governing circles of the Church felt it important that Church members generally have some basis for acquaintance with the thought and personalities of those who are are may become the senior priesthood leadership of the Church. (It’s not like the good old days I remember when we had visiting general authorities at every quarterly stake conference.) Of course, I also wondered whether they had even thought at all of the issues raised in the OP and some of the comments here.

  33. J. Stapley says:

    Rachel, I appreciate the amount of faith you are expressing. Let’s take a historical example as a discussion point. For most of the twentieth century women were not allowed to pray in Sacrament Meeting. Now if you happened to live during that period, you could take a position similar to the one you outline in regards to this practice. Alternately, you could question the practice, and maybe even assert that it wasn’t constructive. In 1978, President Kimball announced that the church leaders had studied the issue and concluded that it was without scriptural support and consequently unwarranted. Now, generally speaking, women and men pray in an egalitarian fashion on Sunday. I don’t think anyone in 1977 would have been out of line for raising the issue.

  34. Rachael says:

    I see that I was more than a bit angry in my last long post, I felt that maybe D Christian Harrison wasn’t even willing to think about or consider what I was saying, so I said something I felt would be a punch in the gut to stand up and take notice of what I was saying in my first post and Really consider it, but reading all of your replies, Ocotillo and Ashmae in particular, I see that you have considered and thought about those things before. That makes me feel a lot better. It makes me see that my opinion isn’t being ignored either. I understand where you are coming from, and now I know that you understand where I am coming from. Obviously I still don’t have a problem with it, but I never was the enterprising type, I don’t really seek opportunities in the first place because I am perfectly fine with being lower level and having less responsibility, but now reading the comments I can see how it would be frustrating for someone who wants the opportunities and isn’t seeing them.

  35. I haven’t read the comments yet, but let me just guess:
    — Why do you care about the gender of the speaker, the Spirit is the real teacher and that can come through a man or a woman equally (but we only need men to speak….).
    — God is no respecter of persons so it doesn’t matter to God (nor should it matter to you) if women speak or not (though be it as it may that God doesn’t “see gender,” it certainly seems like whoever calls speakers does….).
    — There were women speakers at the women’s meeting, so that covers it. Why would we need more at the sessions for “everyone”? (why not? and wouldn’t it help for men to hear women speaking?)
    — Why aren’t you trusting the Lord who calls people to speak?
    — Why aren’t you sustaining the Brethren who call people to speak?
    — I loved conference ergo any problems with it are just you being whiny.
    — If you prayed/had faith/were more righteous, you wouldn’t be bothered by this.

    Did I miss anything?

  36. There is such a disconnect between the “you are important/we need your voices” rhetoric we hear from our leaders and the actual space provided to women to exercise their voices. Every time I hear “speak up” or “we need women who can speak with power and authority” I’m like, Okay! On it! And then the football gets jerked away, again and again. I think that’s why it was so particularly painful for me this year.

    The lack of female speakers also has a profound, trickle-down effect in our stakes and wards. For example,
    1. For as long as I can remember (at least 10 years) the Stake Presidency has never selected a conference talk given by a women to be taught for the “Teachings for our Times” lessons.
    2. Stake auxiliary leaders are not given regular opportunities to speak as companion speakers to the High Council. Rather, we get “reports” from returned missionaries who have been home for a year.
    3. Fewer female speakers means fewer female quotes in talks and lessons.
    4. Following the lead the General Authorities, Stake Presidents and Bishops may not feel compelled to strive for greater parity when selecting teachers, speakers, and leaders.

  37. Rachael says:

    J. Stapley, thank you for your post. That has given me even more to consider.

  38. Anyone know who exactly decides on the speaker lineup for General Conference?

  39. Kristine, if I could like your comment (@3:40pm) a million times, I would.

  40. “No man has ever been asked to convince me as a woman to read or listen to something by a man” — I was caught by this line and rolled it over and around, thinking about how someone perhaps in a mansplaining mode might qualify or reply or explain. And all that pondering brought me to the reminder that some large number of listeners at general conference are not looking (first or primarily) for uplift or spirit or good feelings or personal inspiration, but they are looking for Authority. The Word. And in our current configuration, the current mythos of the LDS institution, men have it and women don’t.
    I am regularly brought back to the cynical idea that for all the sincere efforts at inclusion and expansion of roles–which fail as often as move us forward–anything short of ordination is like spitting into the wind.

  41. Logistically, if you want to just get to a approximately one-third of the meetings being taken up by female speakers, and assuming you only use general officers/authorities of the church, you’d have to have each of the 9 auxiliary presidency members speak every conference. I’d personally really like that, for the reasons articulated in the OP. But that’s a lot of speaking by those 9, especially if you add in 3 more talks by 3 of them at the women’s meeting–though I guess no more so than what the 12 are asked to do.

    I’ve also seen suggestions to involve the auxiliary board members. I’d be in favor, but that would seem to be a departure from the importance of the positions of speakers we’ve seen–at least in my lifetime. My preference would be to increase the amount of female auxiliary positions we consider to be “general,” and then have most of them speak at each conference.

  42. I hope Jason K.’s comment makes it out of moderation, even if Rachael had already acknowledged her comment responded to as being “more than a bit self righteous.”

  43. Dragon Lady says:

    Unfortunately, I came to the same realization as Pokemom a few years ago. This church doesn’t want my talents. So be it.

  44. In a church that adheres to strict gender roles, here’s an example of the problem with assuming that everything that applies to men applies to women as well: Because we know who God is and understand the true nature of the godhead “[w]e know who we are and what we can become” (Oaks). Maybe this is meaningful to men. But, knowing who God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are tell me nothing about who I can become and will be in the eternities. God is a man who creates worlds and loves his children. But how can I really understand who God is without understanding God the Mother? Does God the a Father really just ignore her? What is the place for women in the eternities? What can I become? I am left empty.

    Ironically, the stricter our view of gender roles, the less generic statements apply to both men and women, and the more women need to hear from women. But our gender roles simultaneously create a situation in which women mostly hear from men. If we emphasized our common humanity instead of distinct roles, women could better apply generalizations to themselves. But in such a situation, we would likely be hearing more from women because they wouldn’t have been relegated to the home/nurturing turf.

  45. How often do speakers announce and direct their comments to narrow segments of the general church body? Not just in general conference, but I can’t help but tune out if I’m not in the segment. This could be perception because I haven’t had the time to go back and look, but I felt like the sisters who spoke regularly did this, at least with more frequency than the brethren. Am I off on this and just my bias coming through? I know I’ve felt like in my stake (Los Angeles area) I’ve noticed and others have commented since it became a bigger topic that many of the sisters speaking in a stake or ward conference have regularly directed their comments to their auxiliary – YW, primary, etc – leading many to tune out.

    While I really enjoyed Sister Jones’ talk, I don’t remember having a sisters’ talk at general conference stick with me since Sheri Dew, which was a too short lived calling. To be fair, very few of the seventy’s talks typically stick with me either.

  46. And, on having to convince men to listen to women’s experiences, or instructions meant for women, check out the lesson on D&C 25 — the revelation given to Emma Smith. This is probably better than a lesson where we all get down on Emma. But in my Sunday School class the emphasis on getting class members to apply instructions given to Emma to themselves was striking — and a contrast to all the times where such application is simply assumed.

  47. Jim Wallmann says:

    Unfortunately, the lack of women’s voices in General Conference has been noted at least since the early 1980s. Some of us remember Jack Anderson, the muckraking columnist who happened to be LDS and served on the church’s “Public Communications Advisory Council.” According to the Sunstone Review (May 1982, as cited in the Salt Lake City Messenger (no. 51, June 1983), the latter available online):

    “The Church’s media problems surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment and, specifically, the excommunication of Sonia Johnson were of obvious concern. … Anderson proposed that one-half of the speeches given at General Conference be by women, but his idea was met with some resistance.”

    If at the four general sessions of conference we are to hear once from each member of the 15 and a rotating group of 70s, there is not much time left over for sisters serving in general church presidencies. If we add voices from the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary boards, there is even less time. We either need to go back to Friday sessions (remember those?) or perhaps some of the 12 could give 4-minute sermons, following the example of President Monson in recent conferences.

  48. Kristine says:

    The size of the rotating group of 70s speaking in General Conference is not prescribed by scripture, is it? Neither is the speaking of all of the 12 every time. I hear nobody really got a word in edgewise at some conferences where Brigham Young spoke ;)

  49. Jim Wallmann says:

    Kristine, no on 70s and the 12. In the 1970s, I remember when all (I’m pretty sure it was all) of the General Authorities spoke in three days (7 sessions) of general conference. Once President Kimball reorganized the 70s and there were too many GAs to speak at one conference, they went to 2x First Presidency (sometimes 3x President), 1x 12, and a rotating group of 70s.

  50. Elizabeth says:

    Lc: Perhaps God is not a man, but the Parents. They are a celestial beings and have become one to the point where when we hear His voice we are hearing Hers also, but in our finite little human minds we do not realize that. Our children knew we were united and there was no going to mom/dad if dad/mom said “no.” I’ve often thought the yin/yang symbol is very telling; half female, half male, one whole. We are told “man is not without the woman, or woman without the man” but that is so difficult to obtain in this world that we can’t really comprehend what it means. Just a thought.

  51. Kristine says:

    “I’ve also seen suggestions to involve the auxiliary board members. I’d be in favor, but that would seem to be a departure from the importance of the positions of speakers we’ve seen–at least in my lifetime.”

    How so? It seems to me that the auxiliary board members perform many of the same functions as some of the quorums of 70s. Of course, it’s hard to compare relative importance when the org. chart is segregated by pink and blue rather than by organizational function…

  52. Jason K. says:

    JR: I modded my own comment because Rachael had moderated her rhetoric in the interim and it seemed unduly harsh in light of the changed circumstances.

    Elizabeth: granting for the sake of argument that you’re right about God, it seems unlikely, given your admission that attaining such unity is “so difficult to obtain in this world,” that the General Authorities have attained such perfection on this point as to render women’s voices unnecessary.

    Admittedly, I don’t think you’re right about God, either. Mormons insist that difference in substance is a fundamental feature of the Godhead, so that sort of collapsed identity seems inimical to every screed any Mormon has ever uttered against the Nicene creed. (It’d be heretical Trinitarianism, too, because that also requires meaningful difference among the persons.) If Heavenly Mother exists, she has her own voice, and we need to hear it.

  53. STATUS QUO DEFENDERS: It doesn’t matter what gender the speaker is, the Spirit is the real teacher.
    ALSO STATUS QUO DEFENDERS: no women, tho

    STATUS QUO DEFENDERS: Why are you women seeking greater authority? Obsessing about callings, titles, and who gets which speaking opportunity is a prideful, worldly preoccupation. Every calling is equal in the church, there’s no calling more important than another, all that matters is the purity of a person’s heart.
    ALSO STATUS QUO DEFENDERS: There are only 9 women with callings that are important enough to warrant speaking in church, because it has to be someone in the presidencies of the auxiliaries, no way we could slum it by reaching down into the boards of the auxiliaries or temple matrons or the like.

  54. *speaking in church -> speaking in conference

  55. Martin W. says:

    I wonder if they boost the female speakers next conference at a 2-1 ratio then would we get the brothers complaining that they don’t get a fair shake? You just can’t win. (Actually the men would probably just kowtow and respond like George McFly). Perhaps we could just do away with conference all together and then the Oppression-ites would take up a new cause? Who knows? Regardless, please tell me that with a 2-1 ratio of women speakers that we don’t have a double dose of the saccharin sweet female voices. I love to hear women speak like normal women, but I have difficulty enduring the sing-songy primary teacher voice and lip smacking we get during conference. It really turns my children off, too.

    I also wonder if this desire to “be heard” at conference is a pride issue on the part of the Oppression-ites. Mother-in-heaven didn’t make an appearance as a third witness at her Son’s baptism? How does that weigh in?

    What is conference really for, anyway? Granted, conference is clearly not what it USED to be in the early days of the Restoration and is much more general (watered down) than prior to the days of the Correlation movement. But is it a forum to push women’s equality?

  56. Jason, yes, it was harsh. It was also funny, while on the serious side it provided a great example of the harm that can follow a self-righteous “invitation.” But, of course, that was not the point of this thread anyway. Thanks for the laugh — and the reminder.

  57. Martin W, I get that you feel that you can’t just can’t win–but that’s ripe coming from a man who calls other Opression-ites. Your sexism towards women is outrageous, but sadly not unexpected.

  58. Jason K. says:

    Cynthia’s comments explain why the word “farrago” exists, and Martin’s explains why the word “nefarious” pairs with it so nicely.

  59. I have read and reread both the article and the comments. I understand the desire for our children to see strong spiritual women. I understand the frustration felt when the occassional male believes he has “power” over a women therfore exercising unrighteous dominion. However, I feel there are so many sisters caught up in their version of equality, that they are missing the beauty of the gospel and therefore failing to recognize the all encompassing love Heavenly Father has for his daughters. It is not that we are being oppressed but rather that we are being protected. I teach my daughters to look for the ways He loves them and not for the ways they are dismissed ( for I do not believe they are). Also, it’s really easy for us to sit in our homes and decide for these sisters that they should be speaking at every conference ( twice if you count Women’s conference). Have we ever considered how they would feel about that? There is a huge differnce between speaking in sacrament, stake conference or for a few thousand people when selling a product than to speak to millions of people at the same time in hopes of helping them to strengthen their testimonies.

  60. Loursat says:

    What is this concern for protecting the female general officers of the church, as if they are too delicate to handle speaking in general conference? First Rachael and now Sarah. Seriously, I really don’t get this. Can someone explain?

  61. Sarah, you don’t see women are oppressed are because you don’t believe there is any way they could be. Also, clearly people have thought about the ‘answers’ you raise but you do seem to have thought about theirs. Finally, how do make sense of your own condescending attitude towards women given that they aren’t oppressed?

  62. Does offering a prayer in conference require six months of preparation? Even if a change in presidencies was a reason for cutting one of the talks, why cut one of the prayers?

  63. No offense, but this drives me nuts. I’m not looking at gender, I’m looking for content, and I very much found it. So this time we had one woman speake and in October we will have 5. I don’t have time to keep track of this,because I am too busy trying to become better from what I have learned from the Lord’s annointed. Perhaps your time would be better served listening, rather then keeping tabs of who’s talking. My frustrations aren’t directed at you in particular persay, but a general “nitpicking” attitude within the membership of the church. I haven’t got time for that myself. Too many of my own weaknesses to address.

  64. Jason K. says:

    But not too many not to criticize your fellow saints, apparently.

  65. I frankly feel sorry for this attitude in general. And feel the need as a woman to call it out. If that is criticism. So be it. Righteous indignation is not a sin on my book. These conferences are very much organized and prayed over meticulously, right down to the speaker assignments. And by so criticizing those assignments, to me you walk on dangerous ground.

  66. Elizabeth says:

    Martin W: maybe you should listen to this year’s Woman’s Conference. No saccharin sweet primary voices there, pure gospel instruction.

  67. Tracie, the real question is could you allow others your same motivations if you don’t agree with them? It seems not. Also, if you’re not looking at gender, why do you mention that you feel, ‘as a woman’ that you must call things out? Surely there’s no difference if you are a woman or not?

  68. Nope. As a woman. As a wife. As a daughter. As a daughter of God. As a child of God. I just don’t have a lot of time in my busy schedule to criticize the Lord’s anointed. And I don’t have a lot of tolerance for those who do. I think I would be better served re-listening to a conference talk rather than continue my involvement in this thread. So I can focus on what spoken, rather than who’s giving it. I just wanted to give an alternate view, as a woman, that it’s really OK for me and my daughter to listen to conference with just one speaker being a woman. I don’t feel it any less value. Or that I had any less to contribute. If anything, I felt more emboldened, of more worth, and ready to battle the world and the voices that would keep me “of it.” My daughter likewise had a wonderful experience. And as far as I’ve heard, so did the 42 young women I serve with. Have a great night!

  69. Tracie, thanks; you confirm your inability to see the matter clearly or your own biases and inconsistencies for what they are. Have a great night as well.

  70. Jason K. says:

    Why is your comment “righteous indignation” while the OP isn’t? I recognize that my comeback was snarky, but really, are you the one to judge these things? It seems to me that if you grant that, on the grounds that God gave us all the Spirit and reason, and the responsibility to reach conclusions based on them, then the door is open to the possibility that Church leadership sometimes gets things wrong, as Pres. Uchtdorf himself declared over the pulpit recently. They are human beings doing their best to follow the Spirit, just like we are. Ashmae’s post, if you read it, begins by acknowledging how much good she found in conference. If nobody can criticize anything in good faith, then we risk being rudderless. The Old Testament even has Abraham and Moses argue successfully with God!

  71. “Righteous indignation is not a sin on my book.”

    Tracie, then what about the righteous indignation all of us have expressed here?

    I agree that content is important and that there was much to learn this conference, and it’s fine if you don’t see the dearth of women as a personal stumbling block. But for many of us, there is a message being sent by lack of women’s inclusion: that our voices aren’t important, valued, or heard. You can agree or not, but chastising people by saying their experience is less valid or righteous than yours is never effective.

  72. Robert60 says:

    While I didn’t listen to Conference, I read a summary of each talk. There was so much wisdom and good I felt in the summaries. I am going to listen to Elder Holland’s talk on bullying (and guns :)) and Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk on feeling slighted by not being invited to a Temple dedication. It is easy to be slighted. It is also easy to feel the wisdom and goodness of the messages given if we have a open heart. I think Alma said something about that in Alma 5. God bless everyone.

  73. I think what has hurt the most, for me, has been the reminder that men don’t have to listen to female voices if they don’t feel like it. It is completely optional in this church. It is so very easy to overlook and/or eliminate them. I suppose this is how we ended up with so few women in the Book of Mormon, in the D&C. They don’t have to sing female pronouns, or liken countless female scripture heroines to themselves. They don’t have to consider how scripture or liturgy or some “eternal doctrines” can be disproportionately difficult for women. Their own gendered deity is not simply assumed and shrouded in speculation. They never have to consider what it is like to be a woman in this church unless they deliberately make an effort. And it doesn’t seem like God cares if they do or not, so why should they?

    Sorry for the doom and gloom. This just hit me hard yesterday. I kept waiting and waiting for the thing that was going to make it ok, like having the new RS Presidency speak or something, but it never happened. It was like Joyce’s Araby, or that Kamp Krusty episode of the Simpsons.

  74. Righteous indignation is not a sin on my book.
    Excellent, so Ashmae’s righteous indignation is not a sin in your book. Good.

    Nope. As a woman. As a wife. As a daughter. As a daughter of God. As a child of God.
    I love how these identities inform your righteous indignation, just as they did for Ashmae.

    I just don’t have a lot of time in my busy schedule to criticize the Lord’s anointed.
    But apparently plenty of time in your busy schedule to leave numerous blog comments criticizing your fellow saints?

  75. Moss, so sorry for the way this has hit you. I hope you find some solace in the men and women that do care here in this thread. It is so hard though to reconcile, or even want to oftentimes.

  76. Rachael says:

    Moss, as for women not being mentioned in the Book of Mormon, I did learn in class that in Greek or Roman culture, I forget which, that it was counted as an honor for a woman back then to not have her name be mentioned anywhere. So maybe this somehow got transferred to Jerusalem and from there to Book of Mormon culture because that one harlot Isabel had her name mentioned, but the slave girl who saved, I think it was Captain Moroni, by running away from her camp, her name wasn’t mentioned, which was a good thing. Sorry for the bad grammar, I was typing this really quick. It was an even greater honor to not be mentioned at all, which seems like backward logic to me because that means nobody knows about how honorable and good they were, but maybe it made sense to them. That’s the only way I can figure why Isabel would have her name mentioned but not the girl who saved the whole army.

  77. Katie M. says:

    When the female leaders speak with saccharin sweetness, they’re criticized for using the “Primary voice.” When they drop the Primary voice for a bolder tone, they’re accused of stridency. Alas, even in the Church, women just can’t win.

  78. Another Rachael says:

    Ashmae, your post was so timely and so true. Thank you for caring enough about the Church to advocate for change. While the Church has made small steps in response to the criticism that it marginalizes half of its members, so much more could be done to make the Church a place where all women feel represented. Keep up the good fight. I believe that Zion depends upon it.

  79. Martin and Tracie, I am sad on many levels to read your comments. Not in oppression-ite type of way but simply from one human to another type of way. I think one of the most unfortunate things we run into in the church is the refusal to acknowledge another’s suffering or sadness when it does not match our own. That’s great that it doesn’t matter to you if females speak or if they don’t, but I am telling you, not for attention sake, but out of sincerity and as someone who is sticking around, that it does make me sad and that should matter enough to you to at least ask why. Ridiculing another’s faith or how that faith plays out should not be part of our gospel rhetoric. I tried to write this piece with a tone of love, sincerity and positivity. I did listen to conference with a full heart and despite my best efforts still felt sad to hear only one woman, so there you have it. you can take that and throw it back in my face disguised with words like ‘pride’, ‘nitpicking’ and ‘oppresion-ite’, but I’d love to try and alternate route in which you ask why a sheep among the flock (or many) are hurting right now.

  80. In my ward and stake there have been a good number of women speaking in Church who used neither “Primary voice” nor a strident tone or content. Women can “win,” but perhaps not by overcompensating for a “Primary voice” presumption by being strident instead. Incidentally, the female stake auxiliary leaders here do get invited to speak with high councilmen and I have taught a “Teachings of Our Times” lesson on an assigned conference talk by a woman. The trickle-down effect noted in another comment is not universal and doesn’t need to be.

  81. Marivene says:

    I really enjoyed this General Conference, & being able to both see & hear the speakers in every session. I have not always had that opportunity, & I do appreciate it, since it makes it much easier for me to focus on what they are saying, if I can see the person who is speaking. I was delighted to sustain Sharon Eubank in her new calling. I sustained the others as well, but I know more about Sharon ( although she would not recognize me), & think she will do a great job in that calling.

  82. ashmae, thank you so much for this. I scoured my mofem blogs for a mention of the halving of women participants this conference but didn’t see anything. I’m so grateful I found your essay–it is beautiful and thoughtful and captures the pain and the thoughts of my heart.

    Perhaps this isn’t the venue, but does anyone know of a way we could express to the leadership that we noticed the lack of women’s voices this session? Social media blitz, letter writing campaign, an appeal to the Trib for an article?

  83. We apply so many adjectives to women’s voices: shrill, strident, saccharine, “primary voice.” I never really hear men’s voices discussed at all. It plays into the black and white, either/or rhetoric women deal with constantly: we’re either virgins or whores. Strident or saccharine. The “middle ground” is the width of a knife blade.

  84. It was a good conference. But we can do even better. Our varied experiences and testimonies enrich and encourage growth in one another. Let’s continue to push ourselves and our leaders to do better. We only will reach a Zion community when we do so. With you all the ashmae!

    We can be faithful AND look for ways to improve. We don’t have bishops serve in a vacuum. They serve with a ward council that helps them know what the ward needs. Our churchwide leadership do the same-and they expect and need us to provide the same kind of loving feedback that will help them serve a worldwide and diverse membership.

  85. Thank you, Ashmae. You express so beautifully what so many of us are feeling.

    You make a point that Grover echoed further down in the comments that resonates with me too. It’s different than what I felt as a little girl. Because now I have daughters. But also because I have the benefit of an education and a career and a family of my own, and I see more clearly and emphatically why it’s important to include women’s voices everywhere. (And, for that matter, why it’s important to include voices of color and LGBTQ voices–wouldn’t be awesome if MCS, who posted here as a guest some days ago, could speak at Conference?)

    Also, Ashmae, your comment @8:55 was the soul of wisdom and Christian kindness. Bless you.

  86. I noticed the same thing. I just found it hurtful that more of an effort wasn’t made to be inclusive and represent women’s voices. I agree with the noticeable disconnect between what we’re told about being valuable contributors and what we saw in conference this weekend. I’m a little sad about what it’s teaching my girls. And my boys for that matter.

  87. Thanks for the post and the comment thread. I went through the usual stages of grief in record time. Realization. Anger. Indignation. Biting sarcasm. Reluctant acceptance. Resolve.

    I don’t have a daughter yet. If I ever do, I will never ever make excuses for the way the church operates. I will certainly never tell her that she is a) inherently more spiritual and therefore does not need opportunities to grow and/or b) that she is not given opportunities because she needs to be protected.

  88. Beutiful

  89. I know this is perhaps the last place I could post but this story caught my attention. I think the church reflects the general society. Like for example, I believe in God and the Trinity. But I have never believed we have all which God have had to say to mankind. I do not believe God discriminate based upon gender as everything passed down to us has been written.With the stark discrimination that has existed down through the ages I believe some female work has been omitted. Whose? I don’t know but I do not believe God only spoke to men.

  90. Hedgehog says:

    Thanks Ashmae for saying this rather more gracefully than I’m able to manage at the moment. Gutted. Absolutely gutted.
    And the one woman speaker we did have, it appeared to me that her talk was there to get the smack down at the end of the session. I can’t say I didn’t prefer Pres Uchtdorf’s sentiments on the last days and his criticism of the fear rhetoric, because I did. But since we’re given to understand that talks are submitted and vetted beforehand, I’m left wondering why that was allowed to happen. It’s not like she wasn’t following previous precedent in the way she addressed the topic. If there’s an official change of tone can they not keep her in the loop about that. That really did upset me.

  91. It does matter. It does.

  92. I have to think Rachael is a troll – right? Anytime someone hits every single “oppression” apologist keyword it has to be a tell-tale sign.

    However, I do have a point. The new Relief Society presidency seems very awesome. While I agree this was a possible rock bottom representation for women’s voices, publicly and possibly in private meetings (who knows what goes on in Church office buildings?), I have a great feeling about the online rumblings toward the new RS presidency. Hope springs eternal!!!

  93. And Marian FTW—

    “Thanks for the post and the comment thread. I went through the usual stages of grief in record time. Realization. Anger. Indignation. Biting sarcasm. Reluctant acceptance. Resolve.”

    A very important post — I agree completely. These comments are proof of an important conversation. I’m surprised at how many members have convinced themselves (and their children, shame on “Martin”) to turns out women’s voices for their tone, the very way their lips move. That’s not dominion, that’s abuse. Stop treating women like they are less. If women threaten you, you have a serous inferiority problem that likely needs to be professionally dealt with. What an important conversation. And I am sorry that this comes up every time a post comes up that brings up women’s issues. How sad.

  94. ElleK, “I never really hear men’s voices discussed at all….Strident or saccharine. The “middle ground” is the width of a knife blade.” I am sorry that has been your experience. It has not been mine, but the subject of this thread has been women’s voices, not men’s. In this thread and in my stake there has been a wide variety in women’s voices that were neither strident nor saccharine; the middle ground is very wide. As for men’s voices, I do not appreciate or respond well to stridency in tone or content from the men, including at least JS, BY, JFS II, ETB, BKP, sometimes DHO, a variety of mission presidents, stake presidents and others. I also do not respond well to TSM’s commonly saccharine tone. That does not prevent my appreciating my personal interactions with some of them (I’m not quite old enough for the first two mentioned.), nor does it prevent my responding well when they are not strident or saccharine. It does not prevent my trying to set aside my natural response to strident and saccharine tones. I also do not respond well to my bishop when he seems overly teary from the pulpit. (And I hate it when I do that.) I had to try to train one mission companion out of his false humility in the habitual use of an assumed and saccharine “prayer voice.” I had to try to train one mission president out of pounding on the pulpit and screaming harmful generalizations in sacrament meeting. None of those sometimes strident or saccharine male voices is any less irritating or any less counter-productive, than similar female voices. Now you have heard men’s voices discussed at least once. BTW, your voice here is neither strident nor saccharine, nor is Ashmae’s nor many of the female commenters. I wonder how much of my reaction to voices I perceive as strident or saccharine and your reaction to your perception of such comments may be more about us than about others. I hope you will continue to carve a wide swath between the sometimes strident and sometimes saccharine voices of some other women. We need a variety of women’s voices.

  95. Thank you, Ashmae.

  96. BTW, your fellow saints are the Lord’s anointed. All those who have been anointed in the temple are the Lord’s anointed, not just those who hold leadership positions. And FWIW, I don’t read any of ashmae’s post as evil speaking at all. To the contrary, she points out the good she saw in conference and praises church leadership for that. Her “criticism,” if it can even really be called that, it pretty mild and gentle. She doesn’t say that the church hates women, or is in apostasy, etc. She calls the all-time low of women’s voices this time around an oversight, not a deliberate blow, and she offers her observation that the oversight has an unhelpful effect. I think it’s pretty clear that ashmae is presuming that church leaders are acting in good faith, but may be simply unaware of the effects of their actions. I think she deserves the same presumption of good faith. Let’s dial back the indignation a little bit.

  97. Mary Ann says:

    Rachael, “as for women not being mentioned in the Book of Mormon, I did learn in class that in Greek or Roman culture, I forget which, that it was counted as an honor for a woman back then to not have her name be mentioned anywhere.” The six women mentioned by name in the Book of Mormon are Eve, Sarah, Sariah, Abish, Isabel, and Mary (mother of Christ – name revealed a century before Christ was born). Are you sure you want to stick with that argument that a woman referred to by name means she was less honorable?

  98. Jennifer Hansen says:

    Oh please, you sound like such a whiner. So did you not take advantage of the General women’s session which is the official start of conference. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Just don’t delude yourself into believing that you speak for all of us.

  99. Oh please. So you did not read the comments where ashmae said that of course she watched the General Women’s Session. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion that ashmae is a “whiner.” Just don’t delude yourself into believing that your opinion bears any relationship to reality.

  100. Sorry, Jennifer, that was a bit snarky. I stand by my earlier comment that ashmae’s post was very mild in its criticism, and was offered in the spirit of love and respect for the general authorities of the church, with a presumption that they are acting in good faith. If I hurt your feelings, though, I apologize.

  101. Thank you Ashmae for this post. I was feeling so isolated and alone. I feel that when I express these feelings to loved ones and acquaintances they become very defensive. As if I am degrading or insulting their family. It’s my family too. I’m not trying to be insulting, but productive conversation is the way that things change.

    We need our children to be raised in homes where these conversations can happen in a safe and healthy environment. This is how things change. We raise up righteous children with love and understanding in their hearts who are willing to actively engage in the conversation and ask the tough questions. Questions lead to inspiration.

    Fear make us put on our armor and go to war. It makes us push anything we don’t understand away rather than taking the time and patience to understand.

    I know that things won’t change as quickly as I want them to. But I know that with posts like these from people who are willing to have their voice heard, we will some day look back with grateful hearts that things are no longer the way they used to be.

    And as much as I understand that the content of the talks is far more important than the gender of the person giving them, I also believe that our Heavenly Father can actively inspire anyone to spread his message. The gender of the speakers chosen, I believe, is a choice made by man.

    It DOES matter.

  102. Actions speak louder than words. No matter how many nice words are written or spoken about wanting input from women, the lack of female speakers sends a loud, clear, message. Women don’t have anything to say that is worth “the brethren’s” time and attention. Women are good at listening, not at speaking, the the global forum that is General Conference. Unfortunately, as i see so very many instances of patriarchy (and they are impossible NOT to see), i feel invisible and not valued. And consequently i feel myself not valuing the institution that does not see or value me.

  103. Pleading with my sisters says:

    A Plea to My Sisters

    “So today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward! Take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before.”

    So here we are, stepping forward, asking taking our rightful places in the kingdom of God and we get shot down, shamed, and ridiculed (by our fellow saints, no less) for asking and for pointing out the disconnect between what we hear from the pulpit versus what is actually done.

  104. Effie, Ellen, Pleading, JKC, solidarity friends. So glad we can have this “family” here to have these conversations.

  105. Rachael says:

    Corey, my arguments consisted of 3 main points and Cynthia L pointed out after my post 7 different apologist arguments, so my posts hardly constitute as hitting on every point. Furthermore, I just came across this blog yesterday in searching for a Mormon blog to use as an example in my homework, and upon reading this article, which I thought was rather radical as I had no idea that people felt this way, I couldn’t help but post, not realizing what I had stumbled into, that I was way out of my league and that I would be labeled a troll for having a differing opinion. Despite this, after looking at several different blogs I have still chosen this one to use in my homework. Finally, upon thinking further, I realized my logic was flawed about the Greek or Roman culture, but Mary Ann beat me to it. I guess my real point of that post was that we can hardly judge a culture more than two thousand years removed from us based on our modern standards, well we can, but it will more likely than not lead to us being disappointed in them, like Moss.

  106. Jennifer, I’ve said something similar in response to other comments, but I’ll say it again. I want to say that your tone of “Oh please, you are a whiner,” likely won’t get either of us very far in building Zion. I am sincerely saddened by the lack of women this weekend, and while you clearly don’t hold that opinion, my guess is that if not now, at some point, something will make you sad too and I hope the response you don’t get is one of “oh please, you are a whiner.” It’s likely Jennifer that we both hold callings in the church, go our three hours on Sunday, read the scriptures and pray. I am trying my best, I bet you are too. I don’t believe I am speaking for all of us, how could I? Let’s give each other a break. And frankly, when I pray to the God I know about feeling sad, I have never gotten the response or feeling of “Oh please, you’re a whiner,” so I don’t really imagine it is your place to hand out those sentiments either.

  107. Rachael, I’m glad you’re still here. I am sincerely impressed by your willingness to work through some tough stuff, especially when you didn’t realize that people feel this way. I hope this has been both an empathy building experience and a useful one in going ahead. I hope you come back and continue to be part of the conversation. I think it is important for us to have differing opinions and let that be okay, but probably far more important to listen, be willing to be wrong and hold a space for possibly new thought. Don’t know how this will all play out in your homework, but good luck!

  108. Mary Ann says:

    Rachael, I got pounced on a few times when I first came to some of these blogs as well. Some of these are more “mourn with those who mourn” posts, so the contrary opinion comes across way more harsh than you intend.

  109. Esther, Abish, Lamoni’s wife, Ruth, Martha, Mary, Mary Magdalene, I still look to them. This weekend’s choice’s break my heart.

    I know the conversation has about run dry, but one more thing.

    It was noted earlier in the thread that perhaps the present ladies in leadership aren’t comfortable public speaking. Well another theme I hear repeated on ward, Stake and General levels is “Callings Stretch You.” Over and over talks are given about people who weren’t skilled or felt skilled in their callings, but “having faith” they dug in and “Look how much they’ve grown”.

    That rule applies to the top leaders as we lowers. And if it doesn’t. Then we need that announced loud and clear. If there is a part of your calling you have no skill for you don’t have to do it.- Until I hear that, I choose not to give my Sister’s a pass for not speaking.

  110. Tracie, all temple endowed Latter-day Saints are the “Lord’s anointed,” are they not? (How could they not be?) Therefore, each of your comments in this thread are indeed criticizing the Lord’s anointed, as Ashmae and many others in this conversation are indeed endowed, faithful members.

  111. Ashmae is so nice!

  112. Jennifer Hansen says:

    I’ll give you that. Yeah it was “snarky”. And yes it is also likely not my place to handout the sentiment that you are a maybe anymore than it is your place to presume you should be handing out criticism as to the speaking assignments given out at general conference.
    I assume that since Jesus Christ is the literal head of this church and the work done is His work and He directs the prophet and apostles that He likely has the deciding vote in who speaks at what session. And those who spoke were likely the ones that Jesus Christ wanted to have speak at this particular time and at this particular conference. But maybe some don’t believe that He literally guides and directs His church through revelation and inspiration given to His chosen earthly leaders.
    I apologize if I hurt your feelings. I do not apologize for believing that the prophet and apostles are guided by the Spirit of God.
    Also. I don’t understand why you took personal offense to the chosen lineup. It is not a personal attack on anyone. I’m sorry you felt sad about it. I felt uplifted and thankful for each and every message. Again. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I am sorry I did. And yes I see that it was snarky. But I don’t understand how the chosen speakers were a personal affront to women.

  113. Jennifer Hansen says:

    Also, we have been directed over and over again to pray for our own confirmation of things. Maybe you already have, but I would suggest praying and asking Heavenly Father if the speakers chosen and the messages they imparted were the ones that He and His Son wanted us to hear. Maybe that will give you some comfort.

  114. Hi Rachael,

    You seem stuck on the lack of women in the Book of Mormon. I agree with you that the lack of female representation in the Book of Mormon is likely cultural. But even if you excuse the lack of women in the Book of Mormon as a problem rooted in an ancient culture that we can’t possibly judge by modern standards, how do we deal with the same problem showing up last weekend that we can evaluate from modern standards? How do we deal with it when people use ancient narratives to justify lack of representation today? When people use them to continue the narratives that hold women back from full participation and using their gifts in the service of the kingdom?

  115. I’d like to echo a comment made much earlier. One reason making it a priority to include far more women speakers in the General Sessions of General Conference is so that a range of views can be seen being expressed. For example, with so many men speaking, one can see that they all do not hold the same opinions, beliefs, perspectives, tastes, priorities, etc. The difference between Elder Christofferson’s talk and President Uchtdorf’s talk was used as an example of this above. Elder Christofferson seems to join columnists who write in The New York Times, First Things, and even The Wall Street Journal in an apparent effort to make a further outspokenly politically “conservative” contribution to the culture wars (literally taking sides in a very American, temporally and geographically determined argument), setting up “tolerance” as a foil/punching bag, whereas President Uchtdorf personifies the type of tolerance and a universality in his Gospel perspective that all would wish to receive and emulate.

    It would be inspiring to see a similar diversity of views among our women leaders. So President Jones can give her talk telling us we’re continually at war and some other female leader might give a talk telling us we’re at peace. Then our daughters can see a similar diversity of opinions, perspective, belief, approach that has always been visible among male leaders because so many male leaders speak each time.

  116. Powerful Marian (@9:51pm)! I have four daughters and can only say amen to your comment!

  117. My goodness. Ashmae, that was a brilliant post. It is not inconsistent to sustain our leaders, believe they are guided by the Spirit, etc. and to say, “we need to hear more from women.” Not inconsistent at all — in fact it is part of how we fulfill our promise as a true and living church.

    As for folks in the comments calling others to repentance and asking that the OP pray about it, etc., I mean geez, listen to yourself! Do you actually talk that way in real life to people? Do you have any friends?!?

  118. Jason K. says:

    To the point that our female leaders might not feel comfortable speaking, I recently heard Kate Holbrook talk about Eliza R. Snow’s initial discomfort as a public speaker. It’s hard to believe that she once lacked confidence, but there you go. She grew into the occasion. Why should we think any less of our current leaders?

  119. it's a series of tubes says:

    We can be faithful AND look for ways to improve.

    Amen. Thanks, Amanda, for stating an important principle so simply and clearly.

  120. Mary Ann says:

    For those who want to point to the changes in the female auxiliary leadership as an excuse, I’d like to point out that, in April 2012, Sister Julie B. Beck spoke in the Sunday morning session the day *after* she’d been released as General RS Pres. Her official position listed in the Ensign for that address was “Recently Released Relief Society General President.” It’s not an adequate excuse.

  121. I’m not trying to pile onto Jennifer Hansen here, but I’ve heard similar rhetoric before, and it has me stumped. Do people really believe that Jesus sits at the table in every meeting and sanctions every logistical choice made by the brethren? I believe that the prophet and apostles are inspired, but their inspiration [they’ve said] comes in the same way mine and yours does, and the church admits prophets have made mistakes in the past, so why not now? God doesn’t tell me what clothes to wear in the morning or which route to take to work. He doesn’t generally micromanage, so why would we think he does with the church? Revelation often only comes when we ask the right questions and are open to receiving different answers. Reading about the wrestle President Kimball had when making the decision to extend priesthood/temple opportunities to black members was very enlightening to me: he had to work for that revelation; it took months; he had to actively overcome his personal biases. I have often longed that a similar approach would be taken to expanding women’s voices and opportunities in the church. And who knows? Maybe they’re wrestling with that as I type this. But I kinda don’t think so.

  122. and upon reading this article, which I thought was rather radical – Lol!

    If you think this post is radical, wait until you read the one about the evils of Trunk or Treats.

  123. JR, I appreciate your comment and agree with much of what you had to say. You’re right that some of the brethren are often strident (Oaks) or saccharine (Nelson), but I never hear their actual voices (or clothes or hair) discussed (though Uchtdorf’s pink ties are a glorious exception). It seems, with women, we tend to focus more on her clothes, her voice, or her method of delivery than we do on the content of her message. I’ve never actually heard anyone call the voice of a man saccharine until your comment (though Nelson has more of a “primary voice” than any woman to me); most critiques of men are disagreements with their message. I’ve found that, in the past 10 years or so, most of the women who speak in conference have not had “primary voice” (though Rosemary Wixom, bless her, is an exception). Sometimes I think we penalize and discredit women just for sounding like women. It’s one more symptom of patriarchal culture. And if only 1-2 women are heard in the general sessions, and if those women are generally born and raised in SLC, it’s easy to say, “women are too saccharine” when the sample size is so small. If there were the variety of women speakers that there are of men, I doubt the one or two overly-sweet voices would be much of an issue.

  124. I love the biographies of the new women involved in leadership.

    I did feel the spirit during conference. I do understand that its not the gender of the speaker but the spirit.

    Its just that…we matter. we are told we are eternally different. We are told we are valued. That difference is either important or it is not. Either it matters and we are different. or gender doesn’t matter.

    if we are just instruments…doesn’t the difference of the instrument matter? it sometimes feels like the church is an orchestra and we can see some of the players on the stand..then we hear just violins with a random occasional moment from another instrument. It’s music. we should be happy. the other musicians exist, we should be happy. They ask the french horns and extol their love for them and how necessary they are…they sit them back down. the violins continue. They talk about how beautiful orchestra music is..it’s lovely it’s full it’s resplendent. The violins continue.

    for one second the half of the orchestra plays and everyone pats themselves on the back and we all clap. There…orchestra.

  125. Jennifer Hansen says:

    Ellie K
    I don’t mind if you do “pile” on me. I am strong and independent and don’t need approval if he masses. So no worries there. No I don’t think that Jesus dictates everything. But I would not compare the idea of Jesus Christ directing the line up of speakers at the world wide general conference to getting divine input on what I am going to pull from my closet to wear each day
    The two things don’t even compare. We are, as a world, in a very precarious time right now. This semi annual conference is a huge matter in that it gives direction and hope (hopefully) to millions of members and some non members as well. I am certain that the Savior is very interested in what is shared from the pulpit at this twice yearly event.

  126. Jennifer Hansen, I think you’re right–I think God cares what is shared in Conference. But as was expressed earlier, the church has used a fairly predictable formula over the past nearly 25 years to determine speaking assignments. There are occasional deviations, but they are rare. For example, every year since 1994, there has been one female speaker on both Saturday and Sunday (except once in 2002 (or 03?) when they had three female speakers). Since women have been allowed to pray in conference (2013 I think), there have been two female prayer givers. This time, there was only one female speaker and one female pray-er. Perhaps it’s because God reached down and let it be known His will was to only have one woman speak and pray this time, but I think it’s more likely that it was an oversight or logistical issue. I also doubt–though who knows?–that there have been specific prayers by leaders asking if we should have additional female speakers in Conference.

  127. Jennifer – why the assumption that women would be less capable of delivering whatever message the Lord wants us to hear at General Conference? Presumably they fast and pray for inspiration and guidance in their talks, too.

  128. In my experience, revelation rarely comes as a direction to do one and only one thing. Most often there is a range of possible choices that are all acceptable to the Lord, and the final choice is a combination of inspiration and human agency. It is possible to believe that this particular combination of speakers was within the range of what the Lord considered acceptable (and that they all fulfilled their assignments admirably), while also believing that including more women would have also been within that range, and would have had the added benefit of showing that our church cares for both men’s and women’s voices. Saying that you wish more women had spoken does not mean disbelieving in modern revelation.

    I mean, there’s nothing wrong with believing that the particular combination of assignments is dictated by revelation if you want to, but I’ve never heard any church leader even make that claim, and I don’t think its fair or charitable to accuse somebody who doesn’t share that view of denying that the church runs by inspiration and revelation.

  129. ElleK, I think you are right that the appearance and voices of the few women speakers in general conferences get commented upon more than the men’s. This is partly a function of their numbers and how they stand out in the crowd of speakers. As to clothing it is also largely a function of how boring men’s suits and white shirts are. The women’s clothing would be less noticed, at least after a time, if they all wore dark business suits, white blouses and conservative ties. Oh, but then they might be accused of wearing a priesthood uniform and aspiring to ordination! :) As to hair, there have been numerous comments on DFU (for a time at least, a Brad Pitt kind of heartthrob of many LDS women) and on TSM and DAB and their persistence in coloring their hair. Comments on the latter two have come with speculations about foolish vanity and whether their wives asked them to do it. I have also heard comments on some of their individual repetitive mannerisms, especially TSM who was remarkably well mimicked by his daughter when she spoke in conference. The men’s voices are less often discussed because they are so rarely saccharine, and again because there are so many of them. But they are noticed, sometimes with amusement. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDPi4buduY0
    for their instructions on how to eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup. To echo one of the great female LDS leaders, maybe some of us need to “lighten up.”

  130. Jennifer says:

    I never said women were less capable I said that I believe that the assignments are inspired and I don’t have all the information to second guess those assignments. There may be a multitude of reasons why and a very likely one is that the people chosen may have either a special affinity for a certain topic or maybe they need to growth themselves. I am not the head of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is. It is up to Him and His chosen leaders to make those calls not me. And as for the predictable formula. We are told over and over in scriptures that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. So it’s not super surprising that He stays the course on things and is predictable. So you all want differing opinions from the pulpit you say anyway, but don’t want them in any other forum I guess.

  131. Excellent post, Ashmae. Thank you for raising this issue. And you deserve some kind of award for your charitable responses to commenters who call you to repentance!

  132. Another Rachael says:

    JR, “lighten up” is a refrain often used by people with no skin in the game, to make people who do have skin in the game stop talking. It is totally unproductive and frankly, given your other female-friendly comments, makes you look more sexist than you are.

    ElleK made a valid point. Implicit perceptions about female voices do affect the frequency of their representation. For example, there are many people who have the belief that women are not funny. Because of this, female comedians have more of an uphill battle to make their voices heard. Surely, questioning the ways that women’s voices are implicitly and explicit judged and from there, silenced, is a useful contribution to this thread that is focused on the marginalization of women’s voices. Why then turn around and try to silence the point with a “lighten up”?

  133. “And as for the predictable formula. We are told over and over in scriptures that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. So it’s not super surprising that He stays the course on things and is predictable.”

    If you really think that, you obviously haven’t delved much into church history.

  134. Another Rachael, You are imagining things. I did not try to silence any point. I explicitly agreed with ElleK. My “lighten up” quotation from Chieko Okazaki was very clearly directed to some of “us”. That includes me. Neither Sister Okazaki nor I used the phrase the way you say it is often used. Maybe you could learn to read what is said instead of attributing your presuppositions to others.

  135. Well, that was a bit harsh of me. Sorry. But the fact remains that “maybe” and “us” have a meaning in common English and are not intended to be ignored. As demonstrated by a number of comments in this thread, it is also wrongheaded to imply that LDS men do not also have “skin in the game” of whether, when, and how often we hear the gospel preached by women. But maybe that was not implied by Another Rachael, but only inferred by me. I suppose I may need to “lighten up” in more than one sense!

  136. I don’t know if it is really a men’s or women’s voice thing, but in my house we do laugh about the conference… pause… which, due to my mortal limitations, has prevented me from paying attention to certain speakers, and has also on occasion inspired my mother to yell at the TV.

  137. It’s a tiny image, but maybe this will help all of us.

  138. Thanks, cat.

  139. Conference was wonderful, and each talk seemed like it was directed to me. it was exactly what I needed to hear this time. I’m grateful to all the speakers, who selflessly gave their time and testimony so I could be uplifted!

  140. Another Rachael says:

    I am sorry if I took you in the wrong way. Since ‘we’ and ‘us’ can be used both inclusively and exclusively, I assumed your “lighten up” comment was directed at ElleK and the women on the thread who also think it is unhelpful to focus on tone over message.

    Perhaps I was a bit touchy. But you have to remember that women have been socialized from birth to moderate their tone and behavior to be amenable to men. If a woman says something too forcefully, all sorts of people will jump on board to remind her how unladylike she is being. A woman who is assertive, even if the situation warrants assertiveness, is going to get so much more kickback for being ‘strident’ than a woman who is sweet and agreeable. One of the many ways that women are shamed into being quiet, or at least more sweet, is to be told to ‘lighten up’. I am happy to know that that was not at all what you were up to. Still, I think we should be careful when directing that phrase at people who have a legitimate reason to be taking things seriously.

  141. bbytheway says:

    So many of these comments remind me of what Fiona Givens talked about in a Maxwell Institute podcast, the “sacrilege of glib consolation”:

    Jacob Rennaker talks about “participatory atonement,” and I really do think he’s onto something here, especially when we look at our baptismal covenant. There are three components to it. And then there is, you can take upon yourselves the name of Christ. But I just find it extraordinarily beautiful. I’m a very visual person, so when Christ is saying, “pick up your cross and follow me,” one, I recognize that every single one of us is carrying a cross and we’re following behind Christ who’s carrying his own. So the very first covenant we make is to carry each other’s burdens. But we can only do that by touching the cross which they are carrying in order to help them to lift it as they stumble under the weight of it. And that, you can’t, once you felt a person’s pain, platitudes don’t work. You recognize how insignificant and how superficial they are. And so there’s that understanding of real pain.

    Only then are we in a position to take upon ourselves the second covenant, which is to mourn, because we can only empathize if we actually feel that pain and only then are we in a position to comfort. And then we can take upon ourselves the name of Christ. I think it’s absolutely beautiful but we need to get—I think it would be very helpful to rid ourselves of the vocabulary of “pray harder, read your scriptures more, have more family home evenings,” those don’t help, but the idea of sitting and just participating in the pain. Even if there’s nothing one can do about it, the idea of just being there actually alleviates an incredible amount of pain for a person.

    http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=6243&index=1

  142. Rachael says:

    Ashmae and Mary Ann, thank you so much for your replies. I’m citing the “About” page for the entire blog on my homework. :) Moss, I don’t know the answers to those very good questions you posed. I have some thinking to do. Speaking of homework though, I should really be getting back to it. :)

  143. it's a series of tubes says:

    we do laugh about the conference… pause…

    Some of the timing of GC addresses is designed to facilitate live overdubbing / translation into foreign languages, where a short English phrase may require a longer phrase to convey accurately 9or vice versa).

  144. “Elder Christofferson seems to join columnists who write in The New York Times, First Things, and even The Wall Street Journal in an apparent effort to make a further outspokenly politically ‘conservative’ contribution to the culture wars (literally taking sides in a very American, temporally and geographically determined argument), setting up ‘tolerance’ as a foil/punching bag, whereas President Uchtdorf personifies the type of tolerance and a universality in his Gospel perspective that all would wish to receive and emulate.”

    Yes, because if we get more women involved, they’ll almost certainly demonstrate to the membership at large just how silly this Christofferson guy is. Who does Christofferson think he is, anyway? I mean, surely he knows we all should only listen to Uchtdorf on these sorts of issues, right? Uchtdorf says the things we like to hear, and that should be the end of it.

  145. Ronkonkoma says:

    We need to hear from the General Authorities. Here is wisdom, feminists don’t want equality, they want supremacy. It always gets me when feminists say everybody should be a feminist. Why would males want to be a part of something thar micks and demeans them.

  146. Ronkonkoma says:

    Mocks

  147. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression.” Never has this quote been quite so true as when reading ronkonkoma’s comment. He also illustrates how the church’s patriarchal structure can act as a haven for misogynists. I completely fail to see how wanting the standard two female speakers/prayers or a few additional female speakers remotely qualifies as wanting supremacy.

  148. Dragon Lady says:

    “I am not the head of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is.” Funny thing is, the New Testament is the one place in the scriptures where we hear from lots of women and see that they are indeed a vital part of the gospel–and not only as wombs. Jesus is far better on average than others in boosting the role of women. Let’s not rely on the argument: “I’m not sexist. Jesus is.” whenever his disciples fail to follow his lead and his other disciples are eager to make whatever mental gymnastics are necessary to demonstrate fealty to the status quo.

  149. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I really did enjoy this conference. AND—I am also ready to have a greater number of women’s voices in conference. BUT, I really did enjoy this conference.

  150. I couldn’t get through all the comments. What I want to know is, why, after the original poster laid out her beautiful, heartfelt post about only one woman speaking during the main sessions of conference, would anyone feel the need to argue about and defend this and call her to repentance? It’s true, only one woman spoke. That’s it. Yes, there was a Women’s session, but that can be countered by the priesthood session, so that doesn’t figure here. There’s nothing to argue. One woman spoke. That’s it. And it’s lame. I don’t remember so few sisters speaking in my life. It’s strange, and kind of sad, and feels wrong. One woman spoke!

  151. While reading this I had the distinct impression that this woman has made feminism her God. Sad.

  152. Olde Skool says:

    Fred, I wonder if you would speak such words to Ashmae’s face. I wonder if you would look into the hopeful, vulnerable eyes of a fellow believer who is committed to following Christ, who has trusted you enough to reveal something that makes her feel sad and hurt, and dismiss her curtly.

    “We, who are sinners, must, like the Savior, reach out to others with compassion and love. Our role is also to help and bless, lift and edify, and replace fear and despair with hope and joy.” –Elder Renlund, 1 April 2017

  153. Rebecca J says:

    I liked a lot of the talks in this conference, although I did not hear all of it, and I too was not hurt by the fact that there was only one female speaker–but that’s because I’ve long since given up on the idea that women and men are equal in the church. Of course they’re not. The representation is unequal because the power and authority are unequal.

    What never ceases to annoy me, however, is this disproportionate negative reaction to even the mildest of observations: “there was only one female speaker last weekend, and that bothered me.” We cannot let that stand! No one can ever be bothered by anything! On the one hand, it doesn’t matter what the sex of the speaker is because the spirit can speak to anyone through anyone. On the other hand, if you wish there were more female speakers in conference, there’s something wrong with you because just kidding, obviously God speaks primarily through men, and if you have a problem with that, you must have made feminism your god. #sorrynotsorry #enjoyequalityinhell

  154. Fred, while reading your comment, I had the distinct impression that you don’t make a habit of listening to women with respect very often, otherwise you might have acknowledged that Ashmae’s post comes from an incredibly charitable, faithful, and honest perspective shared by many women, including those you may know in your own life. Try a little empathy next time. As a member of the church, you covenanted at baptism to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Here’s an opportunity for you to try that out instead of dismissing this post out of hand and considering yourself her judge in Israel.

    Ronkonkoma, you seem to deeply misunderstand what it means to be a feminist. “Supremacy” is not the goal: equal opportunity, equal compensation, and freedom of choice are the goals. If you really want to know what “mocks and demeans” men, listen in on the gender role rhetoric our culture passes around that claims men are less capable than women of being virtuous, chaste, nurturing, or in control of their own bodies. Feminists have more respect for men than that.

  155. Preethi B Harbuck says:

    This is perfect and encompasses exactly what I felt this weekend. Thank you. Also, how and where do we get our voices and needs out there to hopefully change this, and soon?

  156. Fabulous post, Ashmae. I am tired of hearing that women are amazing, but the subtext is “only silently, in the home, out of sight.” Oh, and by the way, despite everything we say in YW, this silence is really what you have to look forward to in the eternities.

    I personally am exhausted by the mental gymnastics required to maintain a smiley face whilst balancing that either there’s a portion of our knowledge missing relating to the role of women within the church or that really, truly, women get less out of this plan than men. I find neither of those positions to be comfortable. Or happy.

    Hearing just one female speaker over the course of 4 general sessions of conference just made me think of the portrayal of Eve in the endowment. Eternal silence.

  157. Fred: I know ashmae well enough to know unequivocally and without a doubt that your “impression” was dead wrong.

  158. Not a Cougar says:

    Off-topic, but something interesting. JR, during a Q&A sessions at a youth conference in Oklahoma City in 2011, I personally heard Sister Dibb, President Monson’s daughter, confirm that he does not color his hair. Apparently, President Monson and everyone in his family gets the question all the time. She stated that it is some sort of genetic trait and that several of President Monson’s siblings also have retained their hair coloring in old age. It’s certainly possible the whole Monson family has been lying to protect the secret of President Monson’s hair, but I doubt it.

  159. Not a Cougar, great information! If I hear the hair coloring comment again, I’ll be able to respond. This is also a good example of how off-the-mark people’s perceptions can be. BTW, and irrelevantly, one of my grandfathers still had his very dark hair coloring when he died at age 84.

  160. Jessica says:

    As far as I know the speakers for General Conference are chosen by the First Presidency and the Twelve. Their inspiration comes from Heavenly Father. If you don’t think enough women are speaking you should take that up with Heavenly Father. I always love General Conference and this year was perfect! It will always be uneven because there are more callings for men then there are for women in those positions. But that’s not the most importantly thing about Conference. It’s about listening to the speakers and trying to improve ourselves.

  161. Gee, I don’t know, could it be that a Church whose leadership is made up of elderly men might have issues with female representation? I’m referring to the Catholic Church, of course. Though Pope Francis is certainly rocking the ark…er boat, over there. Can you imagine an LDS version of Francis? I can’t–the church hierarchy would prevent anyone that radical to get near the top. Barring a miracle, of course.

  162. Jessica, you said: “It will always be uneven because there are more callings for men then there are for women in those positions.”

    So, what you’re saying is, the only members of the church we ought to be hearing from are those who carry callings of prestige in the church, yes? Presumably because it is only from men in these high callings who are able to receive the kind of inspiration that God wants members of the church to hear?

    By this logic, because women cannot hold the priesthood and qualify for these callings, women’s perspectives, narratives, and words will never have as much value in the church as men’s experiences and observations. Or am I misunderstanding? I’m not trying to strawman your argument—these are just the assumptions I am hearing in your comment.

  163. I was chatting with my two-year-old about what conference is. I mentioned that some men were going to talk to us. “…And womans?” she immediately asked me. I had to say no.

  164. Ashmae, you approached this topic gracefully and lovingly and faithfully. I’m with you, sister. The talks in this general conference lifted me up, fueled my faith, and I learned personal lessons from the spirit. I was also driven, yet again, to ask questions about women in this church, given the dearth of female voices this weekend. Why aren’t we more visible? Why doesn’t our method match our doctrine? (Doctrine: gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. Method: male perspective is the norm.) I thought things were getting better; I still hope they will.

  165. Thank you for expressing exactly what I was feeling. I have such a testimony of this church, but I was so disheartened by the lack of women in General Conference. This year as I pondered questions in preparation for conference, I was specifically looking for answers about my role as a woman in God’s kingdom. This has been a topic of great study for me recently, and I have felt conflicted about some of the things I have read and the experiences I have had in this church. I looked forward to this conference to find the answers I was seeking, and instead, after hours and hours of conference, I was so disappointed as I tearfully talked to my husband about the fact that women were practically excluded from conference this year. There was so much I wanted to hear from them, especially as I read about the new women called. I believe that I need to hear from their experiences, because some of them relate to mine, and I feel like we need more opportunities to hear their voices.

    It was interesting also to discuss this with my brother-in-law who recently returned from a mission, who has talked about how so many of the missionaries he associated with believe that women are invited to join in this cause- but that they are not necessary. In fact, one elder taught that specifically in one of his district meetings. That is not doctrinally accurate- but when these young men grow up seeing nothing but men teaching, especially in our worldwide meetings, how could they think that we are all that important? And what message does that send to us as women in the church?

  166. Their inspiration comes from Heavenly Father. If you don’t think enough women are speaking you should take that up with Heavenly Father.

    With the Restoration clearly a work in progress rather than a turn-key edifice that must forever be preserved as is, what makes you think that the general leadership of the church have already received all the light and knowledge that there is to receive? What makes you think ashmae hasn’t taken up her concerns with Heavenly Father? Is it impossible to contemplate that perhaps He inspired her to write this post so that by small and simple things great things will be brought to pass?

  167. I don’t think it matters who speaks to be quite honest. It’s what is spoken about that is important and it applies to everyone. The speakers are chosen through inspiration, not because they are a man or a woman, or because they were just chosen to fill the spot. The words are the important part. The words are what inspire me, not the gender of the speaker. So, for my daughters, I would want them to listen to what is spoken, and apply it to their lives. What is said applies to ALL.

  168. jimbob, the Christofferson/Uchtdorf example shows that when many different men speak, people can see that *the men* each have somewhat different views or perspectives or approaches from each other. The same would follow for women. If many different women speak, we as the body of the Church would be able to see that each individual woman has somewhat different views, perspectives, or approaches from the other women who are also speaking.

  169. How can the selection of speakers be simultaneously so important that God himself dictates it and so unimportant that it doesn’t matter who speaks, only what is said?

  170. An excellent point, JKC. It seems like any argument will do as long as it is made in defence of the status quo.

  171. I’m sympathetic to that, john f., and don’t disagree. My problem lies in unnecessarily setting up GC talks as not just representing a variety of viewpoints, but instead as being in putative opposition to one another, which you seem to have done above. I’m always reticent to attribute incompatibility between conference talks when I don’t think the speakers/authors themselves would do so. I don’t read Uchtdorf’s talk to contradict Christofferson’s, and I don’t think either of them think so either.

    Your previous comment also brings up another pet peeve of mine, which is people here tacitly ascribing to the idea that “I’m going to listen to Uchtdorf, and sometimes Holland, because they say things I like to hear, but people like Christofferson and Bednar I can ignore as anachronistic righties who are on the wrong side of history.” Obviously no one is saying that out loud, and I won’t disagree that there are some of the Q12 I connect with more than others. Nor would I disagree that, historically, plenty of things said from the GC pulpit are flatly wrong. But I find it theologically problematic when people here latch on to one or two Q12 members (especially to Uchtdorf) to the exclusion of all others simply because they like his messages more than other. It’s essentially saying that God has inspired *this* Q12 member, but not *that* one.

  172. I would love to see more biographies about women published by Deseret Book. We have many biographies of apostles (which I love), I wish we had more of their wives, female auxiliary leaders, or other women.

  173. This has me in tears. Complete tears. Thank you for expressing in words, so beautifully, the feelings in my heart. As I sit, feeling helpless, and watch these experiences shape our daughter and our son my heart aches because they notice the discrepancy between what is said and what is shown and yet they are still so young. They have posed questions about it deeper than I would think a 5 and 7 year old would process it. Both boys and girls need women as examples for anchors in the faith and I would hope that they could see that at conference (as well as in the home). One is not enough.

  174. Chadwick says:

    From JKC: “How can the selection of speakers be simultaneously so important that God himself dictates it and so unimportant that it doesn’t matter who speaks, only what is said?”

    This a million times.

    Thank you ashmae for this post. I appreciate the balanced tone of loving General Conference but also looking for ways to make it even better. Clearly the Church believes a diversity of voices does matter given what we see in the I’m A Mormon campaign and Meet the Mormons production. Moving that diversity into our General Conference sessions would be amazing.

  175. JKC – bingo!

  176. Soooo…an all powerful Being cares so much about us that He personally sends us 10+ hours of messages that can enrich our lives, and somehow the wonder of that mirracle does little to stop us from wringing our hands over who He decides to give the messages through…because why eat manna when we could be eating quail? I’d love to see a conference where the ratio is reversed and only one man spoke, but in the meantime I’m going to allow gratitude to fill my heart for the miracle of guidance I’m being allowed to witness rather than ask for a different kind of miracle.

  177. Hedgehog says:

    john f: “the Christofferson/Uchtdorf example shows that when many different men speak, people can see that *the men* each have somewhat different views or perspectives or approaches from each other. The same would follow for women. If many different women speak, we as the body of the Church would be able to see that each individual woman has somewhat different views, perspectives, or approaches from the other women who are also speaking.”
    Except that the women are doubly hampered by the words of Eliza R Snow, and her attitude to having men speaking last:
    “Happy to see brethren at Relief Society meetings and conferences, she invited them to speak last. Relief Society president Margaret T. Smoot from Provo explained, “Sister Snow says it is proper for us to speak first, and let the stronger follow the weak, that if we say anything that needs correcting it can be corrected.”” ( from Eliza R. Snow and the Woman Question by Jill C. Mulvay)
    We really really need to get past all that cultural baggage as well.

  178. Naismith says:

    It is interesting that the Gospel Library app (at least for the iphone) allows users of the audio version of scriptures to set the “main voice” by gender. So one can listen to a version where a male reads the chapter headings and woman narrates the text, or vice versa. When I teach Primary kids, there are times when I want to play audio scriptures so they can catch the pronunciation of names or whatever, and we always listen to a woman reading.

    It is notable that for whatever reason, the church took the great effort to make the scriptures available in two versions.

    It would be interesting if we could listen to the conference talks given in the voice of another gender, to see if it makes a difference. I am guessing that 90% of it would sound just fine coming out of a different mouth.

    I don’t want to diminish the pain of the OP in any way, and the fact that I see this a bit differently because of my own experiences is not a negation of her angst. I see male leadership in the church as an assignment, not a sign that they are stronger or better, any more than having a uterus makes a woman an angel.

  179. Mikki Pursel says:

    When it comes down to the basics of the gospel, it shouldn’t matter what gender is giving the message. I am a strong, independent woman. I am raising strong, independent daughters. If the gender of a speaker is affecting their ability to feel the spirit or learn the gospel principles that are being taught, then apparently my ability to raise strong, independent females is failing. Of course it’s wonderful to have strong, worthy females in the public eye for my daughters to look up to, but that shouldn’t dictate their ability to develop into one themselves. The most important example to my daughters is me. What choices I make matter. What words and ideas come out of my mouth matter. What actions I take matter. Becoming offended that more women weren’t chosen to speak during conference doesn’t matter. In my opinion it speaks more about the character of the person offended than it does about the female/male ratio of speakers. I’m pretty sure there were multiple talks given in regards to taking offense to things like this, but maybe these talks were missed because these seeds of contention were already taking root. In the end, articles like this aren’t doing anyone any good. It’s only adding fodder to an unnecessary fire that, in the end….does. not. matter. The only thing this gender discourse is succeeding at is distracting women from feeling peace, growth and all the other things our Heavenly Father wants for us.

  180. Mikki, there are some great comments on the newer related article called Don’t Shoot the Messenger that speak to your comment:

    From Andrea S: To those who appreciate the messages from all authorized messengers, please also try to have sympathy toward those of us who struggle (whether just a bit or a lot) with the gender disparity at conference. There are many of us who would be comforted by even a few more female speakers, with their unique experiences and inspired messages, at each session. You would still be gettIng an excellent conference experience with uplifting messages all around. As a bonus, those around you who struggle would perhaps struggle just a little less on those days. Perhaps this would be a boon for all of us.

    And from EBK, even more pointed at your comment: I didn’t see any pushback on comments where someone said that they weren’t bothered by the lack of female voices. The pushback came on comments that implied or directly stated that Ashmae shouldn’t feel the way she feels, that she is unfaithful or looking to be offended, that there is some key piece of information she hadn’t considered. I’ve always found that disagreement is welcome and discussed here. However, comments that suggest the poster is unrighteous or unaware of real truth usually receive pushback.

  181. nickbryner says:

    Thanks so much for this post.

  182. Rachael says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that so many women who supposedly buy into the concept that “Charity never faileth,” seem so eager to pile on and question the testimony and faithfulness of women who sincerely struggle with the lack of women’s voices in official Church capacities. Is the point to feel more righteous and therefore superior to your sisters? Because what I think when I hear this kind of easy condemnation of a hurting sister, is that the Church sure seems to produce a lot of pharisees.

  183. Thank you for sharing this! Love every single word.

  184. Chadwick says:

    ” If the gender of a speaker is affecting their ability to feel the spirit or learn the gospel principles that are being taught, then apparently my ability to raise strong, independent females is failing. ”

    This is just about the worst thing I’ve read ever. Ashmae’s struggle does not have to bother you, be about you, or have any correlation to the ways you choose to raise said independent females. Yet this statement is very very telling. It would seem your overt sensitivity sheds light on your insecurities more than anything.

    Unless of course you are Beverly Goldberg; then this statement is gold.

  185. A whole lot of angst over something that actually doesn’t matter at all in your eternal salvation. I personally loved the conference, I enjoyed every talk, and I really enjoyed that lone female speaker, she was very impressive, but in the end it doesn’t matter who the message comes from as long as I connect with the message. I feel a lot of pity for those that focus on such unimportant things.

  186. Huck, what’s unimportant to you may be monumental to others.
    I pity your lack of attempt at empathy.

    Thanks Ashmae for a wonderful post.

  187. Thank you, Ashmae, for such a sincere and thought-provoking article. I really couldn’t agree more. Whatever the reasons were for the decrease in the number of women speakers during this past conference, it doesn’t change the fact that the overall proportion of talks given by the women leadership in the Church does not reflect the binary nature of the Church’s membership. We absolutely need to hear the voices of more strong, faithful women, ideally from a variety of backgrounds. My wife needs to hear them. My daughter needs to hear them. My sons need to hear them. I need to hear them. General Conference is the perfect means to that end, and I sincerely hope that more women speakers will be added to the roster in the future.

    I freely admit that, before marrying my wife, I was completely naive about the feelings that many women (and men) felt regarding the seeming inequalities that exist in the Church. Since then, I have tried with all my heart to see the organization of the Church and its practices (not to say the least of the culture), through the eyes of a woman (there have been many articles and posts by women authors that have helped me in that pursuit), and I have concluded that it cannot be easy at times (and that is probably a gross understatement, at least for some members). While the importance of the priesthood and the men that exercise its authority righteously cannot be diminished, it should never, EVER, for one moment, overshadow the absolute essential and equal power and authority held and exercised by the women of God’s church. Yes, they may not be ordained to an office of the priesthood, but that does not mean in any way, shape or form that they accomplish any less than a priesthood holder. More focus needs to be given to this. My wife and daughter need to have this demonstrated and re-affirmed to them. This IS God’s Church, and it will progress only at the rate of its membership. It is our spiritual responsibility, as members of the Church, similar to our civic responsibility as citizens, to voice our thoughts and concerns to our inspired leadership. From my knowledge and understanding of the scriptures and modern revelation, there is nothing contrary to increasing the voice of women at General Conference, nor to giving more focus to the essential role of women in the church. This needs to be expressed to the leadership clearly and consistently, and with time, I have no doubt, those concerns will be addressed. We are not talking about doctrine, but about a practice that could easily be changed to encourage, strengthen and empower millions of saints throughout the world, women and men.

    Thanks again, Ashmae, for a terrific post.

  188. Maybee,

    If something that doesn’t matter at all is “monumental to others” then I do feel sympathy for them. It doesn’t matter, at all. And that is the problem with this entire thing, not only might it cast doubts in some that don’t usually concern themselves with the foolish identity politics of the world but it also feeds into the doubts others of weak constitution already feel.

    No this, the Lord does not care about the norms of the world, not one bit.

    Tell me this, which of the speakers from this particular conference should have been axed from the line up for the sake of some quota and so that so many of you could “feel empowered”? I enjoyed every talk, I wouldn’t want to lose any of them simply for such selfish reasoning buy those that think identity politics means more than Gods word.

  189. Angela C says:

    Huck: Dial down the jackassery, please. “Tell me this, which of the speakers from this particular conference should have been axed from the line up for the sake of some quota and so that so many of you could “feel empowered”? I enjoyed every talk, I wouldn’t want to lose any of them simply for such selfish reasoning buy those that think identity politics means more than Gods word.” Using phrases like “for the sake of some quota” as if women’s voices would only be included to meet political correctness and placate women, not because both men & women need to hear from them, or saying “feel empowered” in scare quotes to belittle those who feel ignored and calling the reasoning of others “selfish” and uninterested in God’s word unlike you who have clearly cornered the market on Christian charity. Bravo for your courage in shouting down the grossly underrepresented women who have dared to say anything. Gee, I wonder where you got the idea that disrespecting women who dare to speak was God’s will. Could it be from the dearth of women’s voices in the church? Perhaps?

    As to which of the speakers should have been axed, I suggest that anybody who is not an apostle would be a good starting point, and then we go from there. Women are 51% of the general population (this is a WORLD conference, right?) and well over that % in the church, but we heard from only one?? Let’s not insult people by talking about quotas when we are only hearing from ONE.

    Save your so-called pity. We can all see it for the sneering condescension that it is.

  190. Angela – where is the dang applause emoticon when I need it. Standing ovation sister.

  191. something that actually doesn’t matter at all in your eternal salvation

    it doesn’t matter who the message comes from as long as I connect with the message.

    I enjoyed every talk, I wouldn’t want to lose any of them.

    So, in other words, “None of it matters—but don’t change a thing ’cause otherwise I might not connect!”

    Heavens.

  192. Thanks, Angela. well said, can’t think of anything I would add.

  193. Mikki,
    I would really prefer the value and performance of my motherhood not be brought into this. I care precisely for this reason. That’s fine and good that you are raising strong daughters, turns out, I am trying to do the same and in my case, I can’t do it on my own. I rely on my faith community to give them examples to emulate, voices to respond to and ideas of what they might become and do. I think it is perfectly reasonable then to feel sad when they are absent. My argument does not
    exist in ‘seeds of contention’, turns out I cried my way through a good portion of conference because the words meant a lot to me. I hold strongly to the idea that we have not arrived fully at Zion, we are hopefully on our way, but as long as people feel like it’s reasonable to call out my character and motherhood in a public forum because I felt sad about something, we are clearly not there.

  194. Ashmae (OP): Amen.
    Angela: Amen and amen.

  195. Angela C says:

    Mikki: “The only thing this gender discourse is succeeding at is distracting women from feeling peace, growth” Hear, hear. Let’s quit hearing so much gender-infused curriculum from the church! The gospel is for all, but apparently some within the correlation committee can’t quit painting everything in blues & pinks.

    Your comments about being a strong, independent woman and raising strong independent women as daughters would be more convincing if you didn’t feel compelled to tear down other women to achieve it by impugning their motives and character or making it clear that YOU aren’t one of those “weak” emotional women who are “offended.” Stereotype threat confirms rather than refutes that sexual inequality is a problem. We can all be strong while still pointing out dumb things that are patently obvious to nearly everybody like that one woman speaking at GC in 2017 is an awfully small number.

  196. ashmae, I’m following a long and unfortunately predictable comment string and am moved to say two things:

    1. I am sad that you are sad. I see it. I feel it. I felt it Sunday morning as the stark disparity became clear.

    And that should be the beginning and end of my comment. But unable to keep myself from self-analysis —

    2. I find myself tempted by the common pressure that Church practices put on us, to believe that nothing’s going to change at the institution and therefore *I* must change. I must find a way to rationalize and accept and come to believe that all is well in Zion.

    So far I am resisting that pressure. I continue to mourn, notwithstanding a cynical belief that nothing will change.

  197. Gag reflex says:

    Good grief. When a man expresses an opinion that others might not agree with, do we say he is a bad father? Men sit on the councils of the church and as a matter of course get to say, just naturally, like around a lunch table, or in a business meeting, hey, maybe we should consider this, or maybe we could improve things in this way, or hey, this concerns me. When a man suggests such ideas, do people call into quation his character? No, they are just as inclined to call him enlightened. Or praise his thoughtfulness, his wisdom, his creativity, his willingness to do things a special way, his focus on principles, his ability to clarify what truly matters. Women are generally excluded from church councils, most women anyway. And when they are on ward councils, they depend on the men in charge to listen. How do women in general get to express their opinions, their feelings, their ideas about the church? They are always on the outs. So they are always placed in the position of critic of the status quo no matter how warm and kind their words. They have to be dutiful enforcers of the status quo to be good and admirable? This all makes me vomit.

  198. Go, Angela! Great response!

  199. Gag reflex, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I hadn’t thought of it in this way, but yes, that’s a lot how this feels. I am honestly in shock (though totally fine, just surprised) at the responses of some of the people here. I certainly wasn’t out to attack, or even criticize, just respond honestly so that we might all at least think on these issues. I hope you continue standing up for women in this way, especially if you do find yourself on any of those councils with the opportunity to invite women in to hear their ideas and thoughts.

  200. truth is truth. An excellent talk with wonderful counsel is am excellent talk with wonderful counsel…..whether it be a man or woman it doesn’t matter. The only difference here is that we have 15 set apart prophets, seers and revelators. Surely as the governing authorities in the church are these 15 then at General Conference I want to hear from them first and foremost. Not because they are male but because they are special witnesses / apostles.
    I personally think that articles like this do a disservice to both women and our faithful leaders

  201. Errol, can you explain how this article does a disservice to women? I would genuinely like to know. My intent in certainly not to do a disservice to women or leaders.

  202. Angela C says:

    errol: I personally think that comments like yours cause me to lose brain cells. We’re all so terrified of saying anything contrary that if a non-Mormon swung by here to check out the church they’d get the idea from some of these comments that Mormonism is more like North Korea than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Gag Reflex is spot on. If you’re an outsider (and all women are), nothing you say other than defense of the status quo is welcome to some people. Ergo, there will never be progress or improvements in inclusion.

    Call me crazy, but I’d like to imagine that some good-sized percentage of our top leaders would read Ashmae’s article and feel empathy toward women who felt this way, and that they would even go so far as to discuss ways to improve things. They didn’t get into this church gig to grind women’s faces into the dirt. Too bad so many of our fellow church members feel it’s more important to shoot the messenger to demonstrate their fealty to the organization.

  203. I’m not sure if this comment belongs here or in the “Don’t Shoot the Messenger!” thread, but here goes: I’m genuinely bewildered by all the people who are claiming that only the message is important, why does it matter if the messenger is male?

    If you’re making that claim, you are assuming that revelation comes from God to us through a mortal person completely unfiltered, that we are only an unthinking vessel who has no impact on the message. That the messenger’s personality and life experiences have absolutely no impact on what they say.

    Yet we have numerous examples throughout scripture and modern church history that the specific *person* receiving the revelation is vitally important to the process. I’ve heard my entire life how President Kimball was specifically prepared for the 1978 revelation, that only he could have received it.

    The person who gives the message HAS AN IMPACT ON WHAT THE MESSAGE IS.

  204. I’m pretty sure Ronkonkoma has that comment set up with a keyboard shortcut so that he can instantly pop it into any thread where he deems it relevant.

  205. Eric Russell says:

    Villains gotta vill.

  206. Lindsey Smith says:

    The irony of this whole situation is that one month ago I sat in the RS building on temple square, where the church history department was announcing the completion of the book that they had been working on for over two years, “Women at the Pulpit.” – Women’s voices do matter! – One book. Female voices in the church can fill one book…Mercy. It’s a baby step, for sure, but at least a baby step in the right direction. As long as we associate holding the Priesthood as synonymous with having the ability and right to convey God’s message, the words of sisters will fail to be valued as much the words of our brothers. Ironic that in YW’s we pledge to “stand as witnesses of God” but apparently we’re not able to stand as witnesses *for* God… Glad I’m not alone in my frustrations, and yet wish I was the only one that was feeling this disconnect between the current reality and my faith in the future.

  207. The speakers are selected from the General Authorities of the Church. There are tons more men than women General Authorities, so the ratio of speakers reflects that. Is the real problem that you think there should be more women General Authorities?

  208. Since there is no such thing as a woman GA, should over half the church in the pews be happy that any women are allowed to speak at all?

  209. We are called to expound, so here goes: in a dream described in Acts, Peter is told by the Lord to kill and eat something from a vessel of animals considered unclean by Jewish dietary law. Peter says nope and the Lord says not to call unclean that which he (the Lord) had cleansed. Turns out the gospel was now to be offered to the Gentiles, which (in spite of miracles done for Gentiles during the Savior’s ministry) had not been done or considered really.

    The Lord does inspire his called leaders; it doesn’t mean that they are perfect or that they don’t struggle with change as the rest of us do, even changes handed down from the Lord. I look forward to a time when we have more diverse speakers across gender, nationality, etc. proclaiming the gospel together. No reason not to start walking that direction.

  210. Joseph Stanford says:

    Today I home taught a family who are completely conservative, an anything-the-church-does-is-by-definition-correct family, a family for whom feminism would be a negative word. We talked about general conference. Without me asking or prompting, they brought up that it was surprising and a bit puzzling that only one woman spoke in (the general sessions of) general conference.

  211. Angela C says:

    I’m often flummoxed when I hear of families “so conservative that feminism would be a dirty word” and yet inexplicably, the women in the family invariably are involved in politics and even feel that it’s OK for them to vote. It’s certainly puzzling.

  212. Yes. Thank you for putting this in such faithful but firm language. As a mother of three sons attempting to show them that girls are their equals and should never be pigeonholed or underestimated, the contrary unspoken message at conference hurt and frustrated me to the point of tears.

  213. I appreciate your post Ashmae, and the many good comments. I am also disappointed, again, that there are so few sisters speaking. Seems so obvious that we need to start hearing from a lot more sisters.

    We have had great sister leaders who have enlightened us over the past few years (Burton, McConkie, Oscarson, Marriott, Stephens, to name a few) in general conference. We need more. I wholeheartedly sustain church leadership, and absolutely believe they are inspired and sincere. It is hard, though, to understand this slow progress.

    However, I am delighted that Sister Eubank was called, considering that her FAIR talk, (which is absolutely wonderful), kind of pushed some boundaries a little. Seems like a step in the right direction.

    I started teaching YW when the new Come Follow Me curriculum started. As many of you know, they have revised/improved it a little over the last four years. And they are changing it all the time, which I find very encouraging. For instance, I believe one of the YW lessons was changed from “the roles and responsibilities of the Priesthood” to “what are my responsibilities in the work of the Priesthood”. They have started including (infrequently) the sister’s talks in the reference material for the YM. There is progress here, but it’s slow. The emphasis for the YM is still heavy on leadership/duty/teaching, but not so much for the YW. That needs to change yesterday.

    I’m 58, a regular, run of the mill Mormon woman. I tell you this because it’s not just you young folks who hope for change. I listen to a conference talk every morning (for years), and find so much personal inspiration and power in the teachings of our leaders. I hope things get better for the sake of all men and women in the church.

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