Some encouraging signs this month of increased visibility and leadership opportunities for Mormon women.

Some encouraging signs this month of increased visibility and leadership opportunities for Mormon women.

Rumor confirmed!

The Salt Lake Tribune reported last night that the scuttlebutt swirling on Facebook is indeed true: Mormon women are scheduled to pray at next month’s General Conference for what is likely the first time in LDS history.

Although the Church’s spokesperson did not confirm or deny the report, saying merely that the decisions on speakers and prayers had already been made, the Trib sounded mighty confident about its definitive headline. So I’m assuming that it has corroboration from other sources:

The Salt Lake Tribune has learned that LDS women are scheduled, as of now, to offer invocations or benedictions . . . .

For those who say that this is a tiny concession — a crumb from the master’s table, a tokenist acknowledgment — I would counter that heightened visibility for women in leadership is indeed important. Every time young women see the generation above them in leadership, it matters.

It’s progress. I’ll take it.

What’s more, it has happened at least in part because women have been asking for precisely this. Beginning with Neylan McBaine’s outstanding speech at FAIR last summer and also including a targeted letter and email campaign last year, the drive to have women pray in Conference started with women themselves.

And that matters tremendously. (For more behind-the-scenes news and opinions, see this great post today on Feminist Mormon Housewives.)

In other positive news for Mormon women, here are four other news items that have happened in the last week or so:

1) The LDS Church sponsored a “side event” at the UN in early March as part of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women. Sharon Eubank, the first woman ever to head up LDS Charities, spoke about improving the lives of women around the world by expanding access to health care and ending violence against women. In her remarks she discussed the legacies of Eliza R. Snow and Ellis Shipp, two nineteenth-century Mormon women who saw the need for improved medical care for women on the frontier and worked the problem by sending fellow Mormon women back east to medical school. Rock on, Sister Eubank.

2) Twilight novelist Stephenie Meyer has outed herself as a feminist. She even used the F word in an interview! (No, not that F word, you sewerhead.) She says:

“I think there are many feminists who would say that I am not a feminist. But, to me … I feel like the world is a better place when women are in charge. So that kind of by default makes me a feminist. I love working in a female world.”

3) Internet discussions have revealed that some local wards are having young women (12-18) serve as ushers in sacrament meeting. An exciting, and long-overdue, development.

4) And finally, the new sister missionaries are hitting the streets in droves, with the first wave coming out of the MTC for postings around the globe. Now that the age limit has been lowered, missionary applications have surged from prospective missionaries in general and young women in particular. This change in policy is going to have far-reaching impact on the leadership and confidence of thousands of Mormon women in the decades to come.

A good couple of weeks, all in all. Keep fighting the good fights, my sisters. Lean in.

The image of female and male leadership is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.

34 Comments

  1. This is super exciting to read. A few weeks back, after talking with a really good friend of mine about just what was the “feminist beef”, she led me to the post by “Ask a Feminist” on LDS Wave (http://www.ldswave.org/?p=402). I decided to use the article as a basis for discussion on my Facebook page. After 132 comments a few days later and a couple of videos…I really felt like we moved the conversation of equality forward.

    We continued the conversation with those in the Ward we sat with at the Valentines dinner and ended up opening a few eyes and having a really good discussion. So many people have not just turned a blind eye, but BEEN BLIND in the eyes to the hurt that others feel, even if they don’t feel it themselves. The Bishop of my ward called me one night after he heard I had asked the Relief Society President about what she could and couldn’t do without Priesthood Authority. We ended up talking for 40 minutes about gender issues. He is a terrific man and wanted A) To make sure one of his flock was doing OK and B) To grow as a person and understand the issues at hand. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had and I was thrilled with the outcome.

    Just a week or so later, at the Anniversary of Scouting, the Bishop asked all the Girl Scouts to stand up in Sacrament meeting before the Boy Scouts were asked to stand up. It’s small and simple, but it meant that the Bishop was really listening at the Valentines Dinner and on the phone when we talked for 40 minutes. So many people are working to move this important issue forward and I’ve been thrilled with the response that has all seem to come so quickly. I realize that others have been “fighting for the cause” much longer than I and I appreciate and applaud your years of hard work.

    I am with Stephanie Meyer…I am a feminist and I feel a WHOLE lot better when I am in charge. :-)

  2. Nice article Jana, as usual, your list of positive changes is inspiring. Thanks for giving due credit to the work and success of positive efforts. Although some people may see such things as small or insignifcant, the world needs so much more of this, and so much less of the opposite.

  3. I am saddened by this. I am proud to be a woman and my role as a LDS woman is important. Why do we need to be in charge exactly? I love having the men as the priesthood that is how this church was founded and because some femanatzi wants to be a man is butt hurt cuz she can’t pray at a confrence. Seems to me that people are not keeping to the way the church started Ya know the true church that we all get taught. I am sure glad that you all get to answer for messing up the Lord’s church. What’s next letting gays be members? I shall pray for you.

    • I hate to break it to you Steph, but (shocker!) gays can be members. What? Heavenly Father loves them too? Crazy! So your post makes it sound like women praying in general conference is “messing up” the Church. Why do you NOT want them to pray, I’m just curious. Remember when Emma approached Joseph, asking him about tobacco use among the Brethren during their meeting? That’s where we got the Word of Wisdom. It’s not an awful thing for members to respectfully ask the leadership of the Church for change they see as important. Many members petitioned their leaders to allow blacks to have the priesthood – or are you against that too? Women praying in conference may not matter to you, and that’s o.k. But it does matter to me, and I want my daughter to see women praying, and that’s o.k. too.

    • Hey Stephanie,

      The Church started out giving the Priesthood to everyone. It was changed by Brigham Young when he led the Saints west. It’s been a fight ever since to get things back to the way they were originally. Remember the whole extending Priesthood to all races of men?

      The Temple Endowment and Initiatories have also been changed. Did you write your Prophet or Apostle?

      Who would you like to blame for messing those things up and giving the Priesthood to someone that wasn’t white? Who are you going to hold responsible for the gay Bishop in CA that’s on Mormon.org? Sounds like you need to call his Stake President and set him straight.

      Instead…maybe while you are praying, you should meditate for a while on where you are at and ask the Lord to open your heart to be more charitable. This is a Gospel in which we are asked to LOVE our neighbor first and then turn the other cheek second. Never does it say to belittle, yell at, make people feel bad, or discourage others from being happy.

  4. I’m confused. I thought women had their own sessions at General Conference, and I thought it was only one of the several meetings that women haven’t given the opening and closing prayers, and I thought in those same meetings, at least one woman speaks at nearly every meeting. A simple search finds this to be true.

    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/conferences?lang=eng

    • Hey Brian, don’t be confused. You are a man, not a women. Better to let woman express their genuine feelings and not make them feel “silly” for doing so. This is a celebration of some positive things happening, nothing more.

      Men preside at the General Relief Society Meeting and speak at it. Name the last time a woman General Authority (Relief Society, Primary, Young Womans) spoke at the Priesthood Session of General Conference…many, many, many decades ago. Don’t you think if we were going to become better husbands, we should hear it from a woman, instead of a man? Of course we think we have the answers…but we’d be better off listening to advice from the other side who has to deal with us.

      • Well, the article didn’t address the distinction between the Priesthood session and the Relief Society session, but it did heavily imply that women have no voice in any sessions at all, which is clearly false.

  5. I can appreciate the energy towards a good cause, but all the while so many are expending energy in a cause such as women praying in a meeting, Hundreds and thousands of women more are actively pursuing causes such as eradicating measles in the 3rd world, community activism to minimize the impact of gang activity in their neighborhood, reaching out to an elderly person who is so lonely and just wants conversation instead of the drone of the television… Strong, brilliant, and beautiful “feminists” are in the pursuit of change that is focused on others, and thereby not only are they showing their impact and influence in the world, they are emulating the Master. Undoubtedly our Father’s Son would never of looked down on women praying at any function, but with all the great causes to support and activism to pursue outside of this issue, and frankly, some of its associated causes, Can we not see that perhaps this is textbook “being in the thick of thin things”?

    • Can a person not do both? Is it not possible to fight this good fight and others all at the same time? There are some assuming that we can’t. And this is a much bigger cause than for ourselves. It is for our mothers, our daughters, our best friends and strangers.

    • Michael, what are you doing to move humanity forward?

      Why the need to say disparaging remarks?

      If it’s cool with the Father that women pray in General Conference, then lets get it done. I just don’t understand the motivation to be mean to others who celebrate something you don’t have any problem with.

  6. I for one don’t want to pray in General Conference; I don’t even like to pray in Relief Society, or anywhere in public for that matter. As for acting as ushers in Sacrament Meeting, what’s the big deal? Let the men do it. And how many of the girls in the Church actually belong to the Girl Scouts, and do they do anything but sell cookies, as people used to say? Besides, I have thought for many years that the Church should get out of the Scout business altogether.

    • Shirley, what benefit is there to disparaging others? Meg is correct that we only have the Word of Wisdom because Emma questioned the behavior of the Prophet and his Apostles. We are told by our leaders constantly that they are not perfect. Why wouldn’t we all improve if we have the ability to do so?

      Without things continuing to improve, only white men would hold the Priesthood now. I just don’t understand how women, men, any of us benefit from saying “so what” or asking “what’s the big deal”. I’m honestly asking you, why do you feel the need to say something negative instead of just not saying anything at all?

  7. How anyone can think this church is inspired, much less The One True Church, is beyond me.

    Seriously? Rejoicing because women can now (in the year 2013) FINALLY offer prayers in General Conference?

    The LDS church is led by a bunch of uninspired old men who are dragged into the present unwillingly.

  8. The link to Neylan McBaine’s FAIR conference talk is this for those interested:

    http://www.fairlds.org/fair-conferences/2012-fair-conference/2012-to-do-the-business-of-the-church-a-cooperative-paradigm

  9. “I for one don’t want to pray in General Conference.” Great, Shirley! That’s a FABULOUS reason for no woman ever to pray in General Conference! I don’t want to be a mechanic. Therefore, no women should be mechanics! Or sail a boat! Or join the military!

    I’m pretty sure you’re just a troll, but I certainly have heard “Well I don’t even want the priesthood” used as a lame-o excuse for the reason women don’t have the priesthood. Lame. Also irrelevant.

  10. Sorry–a touchy phone: stephanie doesn’t sound real to me. Gays not members? “I shall pray for you”? Sounds like a plant wanting to stir the pot.

  11. Dont get the issue here!
    Mary was the first one to proclaim the good news that Jesus had risen…to the male apostles!
    I am no longer a mormon but remember many good lady missionaries who were quite capable of going on mission -teaching others the Mormon teachings – praying with investigators…
    why not pray in a meeting – seems a no brainer!

  12. Additional thoughts…the priesthood…where in the new testament is it mentioned as being necessary in the Mormon or for that matter Catholic or established church sense of needing an ordained priest? The New Testament talks of us being called to fulfill certain ministries according to God’s calling and our gifting eg teachers, pastors, apostles, prophets [note the plural], evangelists…
    The “priesthood” is for all believers…What was the role of the old testament priest? To approach the Lord on behalf of others…This role in the new testament extended to “all believers” ie we are all able to come into the Lord’s presence and minister to others…not a select few!
    Sadly Mormonism is stuck with an Old Testament model of ministry ie the Prophet and the layers of aaronic and melchizedek priests not found in the new testament…no wonder gender becomes an issue!

  13. Right or wrong, the past is the past, For me, I am delighted with this positive movement forward towards equality. More leadership by are wonderful sisters will propel the fullness of Gospel powerfully into the 21st Century.
    If Pope Francis can ignore Catholic law and wash the feet of women who are struggling and in need then we as members of the Preisthood can humble ourselves and embrace and re-empower the Relief Society. Without them there would be no LDS Church. It is the right thing to do!

  14. I don’t get why a women praying in GC is seen as such big progress. Giving a talk in a meeting is a much bigger deal and women have already been doing that for years. I don’t think they should be having a woman pray this conf, not because I don’t think they should, but because giving into all this hoopla about it sends the message that all you have to do in this church is lobby hard enough and you will get it. Last I checked, that is not how this church works. If you don’t agree with how things are then you don’t believe that the GA’s are inspired by God to run the church and you’re not sustaining your leaders. It’s my understanding that Christ is at the head of this church and will change something when He wants it changed. The church is not a Republic.

    Who has ushers?? Never seen or heard of that in any ward I’ve been in. Sounds kind of ridiculous. It’s not like our meetings are held in a giant cathedral or something!

  15. Hey Elisabeth,

    As you can see, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to reply. I didn’t want to have a “knee jerk” reaction or say something mean. I have spent a lot of time thinking about my response, and hopefully you feel it’s well thought out. For many, many years General Authorities have been receiving letters from members of the Church and incorporating and them into their talks at General Council. We are very blessed to have such an open dialogue with those that lead and guide the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Below is a very small sample of talks in which a letter from a member was specifically made mention of as the reason for their talk:

    Gordon B. Hinckley:
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1997/10/some-thoughts-on-temples-retention-of-converts-and-missionary-service?lang=eng

    Dieter F. Uchtdorf :
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng

    Dallin H. Oaks:
    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/04/pornography?lang=eng

    Gordon B. Hinckley:
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2004/10/a-tragic-evil-among-us?lang=eng

    I think we have been greatly blessed by both the letter writers and from the council of the General Authorities in response to them via their council in General Conference.

    I hope this post finds you well.

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