You Can’t Listen to Women If They Aren’t Invited to Speak

“Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage, and in building the kingdom of God.”*

This quote was given by Elder Neil L. Andersen during the Saturday Afternoon Session**, which, ironically, had no women’s voices included. No prayers, no speakers. Nothing.

In total for the April General Conference, two women gave talks: outgoing Primary President Joy Jones and Relief Society Counselor Reyna Aburto. And one woman, Relief Society Counselor Sharon Eubank, gave the closing prayer to the final session of conference, surprising me, because I wondered if we were going back to the 1970s where women were not allowed to give prayers in mixed-sex meetings.

This. Is. Unacceptable. We cannot say on one side that we need to listen to women but then have so few women speak.

Elder Gerrit Gong, in his inclusive talk about the Good Samaritan , also noted the importance of “coming together in counsel and listening to one another, including each sister.” Because unfortunately the default is not to do so.

So let me say it again. You cannot listen to women if you don’t invite women to speak.

As part of his conducting duties, President Oaks on Sunday morning thanked “the Brethren for your great messages.” This was after Sister Aburto had also spoken, but it is so normalized that conference talks are given by men, that it isn’t surprising he forgot to include her.

The number of women speaking compared to men this conference was abysmal. The number of times women will be included in the coming Sunday lessons and talks based on the conference texts will similarly be abysmal. It’s sad, frustrating, and terribly disappointing because it feels like the church wants to continue to be able to say that women are important without actually showing it.

And finally, just yesterday, Young Women President Bonnie Cordon posted on Facebook a message about the new Area Organization Advisors trainings, saying “it was truly a historic day!” alongside a photo of a zoom meeting of women from around the world

So historic, it wasn’t mentioned in conference as a new calling or even in the setting apart of officers.

She also said “These women of God will be part of an effort to better support the members of the Church in their region…I believe that we will soon recognize these area advisors as a vital voice for women, young women, and children at all levels. Sisters, I hope you know you are needed. You are wanted. And now more than ever, you are called!”

Needed. Wanted. Called.

Really?

Putting aside the idea that women only speak for other women and children, the point of recognizing women as a “vital” voice in the church means so little when they get only a few minutes each conference.

This change to more equitable conference speakers is way overdue and the trust in leaders who say one thing about women but do the opposite will just continue to erode trust.

Stop telling us to believe women’s voices are vital and show that women’s voices are vital. Stop saying to listen to women’s counsel without giving opportunities on the largest church stage for women to give counsel. Stop automatically defaulting to “the Brethren.”

*Ironically this quote was also given in a controversial talk about abortion. Elder Anderson should have gotten some female thoughts and concerns about this issue before speaking.

** This quote isn’t in the written version so maybe I misremembered. Elder Anderson did, however, say this in a 2013 conference talk so I believe he still believes it. 

Comments

  1. I don’t know how ironic the point in the asterisk is. I feel I need a place to unload my thoughts about Elder Anderson’s talk. Is this the place for that? Or would that be off topic?
    It is kind of nice when a Conference session ends ~20 minutes early, rather than go long, but it does make me feel that there could have been room for a woman speaker.

  2. Yeah, I’m going to say off topic unless it is about needing women to speak about abortion rather than men.

  3. Skeptic Anon says:

    This continually proves to be the MO of the church during conference, and it’s increasingly upsetting to see in real time. Say one thing, perform another. They continually say they love and support LGBTQ people and then just as continually lobby to have their rights taken away in America. They continually say to ask questions and be critical, then they excommunicate anyone who asks questions they don’t like. It makes conference feel increasingly less authentic when the only reason the church makes headlines is because they’re doing something most people wouldn’t have the lack of moral standing to consider in the first place.

  4. Love a million times! Thank you.

  5. Isn’t this an issue with competing intersectional areas in the church? At the beginning they announced this would be flavored with international voices, when your pool to choose from is, G70, General Presidencies and Q15 it limits whose voices can be heard. When you are more inclusive of international voices you’re less inclusive of women’s voices as long as the pool to choose from remains the same. As long as the Q15 always speak. It seems to me this was the most racially diverse we’ve seen GC speakers ever.

    It’s the Q15 time slots that are in question. Maybe if we guaranteed them at least once per year…

  6. Amen about the point with the asterisk. It was very distasteful of Elder Anderson to lay all the blame regarding abortion at the women without taking into account the men who abandon the women they impregnante, lack of paid family and maternity leave, unfriendly family work policies, the increased cost of living, and certain genetic factors that make it difficult for many women to start a family, let alone carry a healthy child to term safely.

    The men getting a pass on that was gross. Then again, that seems to be the modus operandi in this church: let the men get away with anything and everything, and leave little, if any room for women’s voices to be heard.

    Christ listened to the women who followed Him. I don’t doubt He also let them speak. Why can’t the church?

  7. This says it all “As part of his conducting duties, President Oaks on Sunday morning thanked “the Brethren for your great messages.” This was after Sister Aburto had also spoken, but it is so normalized that conference talks are given by men, that it isn’t surprising he forgot to include her.”
    I just about fell out of my chair when he said this. I loved that the morning session was full of international voices but I cynically felt it may also be tokenism – the same way they throw crumbs to the women in the church.

  8. Responding says:

    John says, “Isn’t this an issue with competing intersectional areas in the church?”

    No. That’s a classic male response to the idea of having women speak. It is a suggestion something is being taken (stolen) from a man if another woman were to speak in conference. This centers white men as the absolute default, rather than centering church members or church leaders.

  9. Amen. Let’s start with listening to and acknowledging our Heavenly Mother. I have a prediction: this May the church will release a Mother’s Day video that lauds mothers’ sacrifices but make no changes in the church to make their jobs easier. They won’t make changes to have women be the decision makers of the policies that govern their lives. They will equate womanhood with motherhood because leaders cannot see any other attributes in women. They won’t compare mothers to deity, Heavenly Mother. Instead they’ll talk about the work women do for Heavenly Father’s children.

    Then in June, they will have a Father’s day video that compares men to Heavenly Father, and how even though they aren’t perfect, they are doing what he does. So women do the work of angels, men do the work of gods. Women belong in the domestic sphere unless it looks bad for the church. Then leaders beg for their voices and tell them how important they are. Men belong in the public sphere and make all the decisions but are good priesthood holders as long as they occasionally seek advice from women in their life, which they can ignore without consequence.

  10. This post/comments is one of the reasons I come to BCC less and less often. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to express their opinions. I’m just doing more of my “shopping” elsewhere.

  11. melodynew says:

    Amen and many, many angry amens! Thank you for articulating this so perfectly.
    Holy hypocrisy, brethren. Listen! Listen!

  12. This. They say how important women are, but treat women as some kind of afterthought. Women are so important that let’s make the speaking ratio abysmally male centric.

    Why do we have to hear for the first presidency more than once each? Why can’t the RS presidency speak every time? Why can’t at least one woman from the primary and YW’s speak every conference? Why do we have to hear from so many of the 12? Sure, there are more men who think they are gawd awful important, but over 1/2 the church membership if female, so why can’t we have something closer to equal representation. For me, I have decided “no tithing without representation”. Good ol’ American philosophy.

    Well, let’s celebrate their progress. They finally admitted that unmarried adults are actually adults, now let us see if the church can treat unmarried adults as adults. And while they are trying to treat all adults as adults, could they please recognize that married women are more than children in the man’s home They finally had some nice international representation, and then Oaks gave a talk that was totally USA focused, ignoring all the members who reside outside of the US. One step forward, two steps back.

    And I wanted to smack the dude who thinks he is an expert on women’s medical care. He is neither a doctor nor someone who has ever faced a decision to abort or risk his life. He has never faced a pregnancy caused by having his body brutalized in rape. And what if the rapist is your own husband? He knows nothing about being confined to bed with a high risk pregnancy and being unable to care for the baby that is crying in the next room. He has never thrown up everything he eats for months on end. He has no knowledge of how many things can go wrong between conception and happily taking a new baby home. Does he even know that the good ol’ USA has the highest maternal death rate of all first world countries? Is he fighting for better medical care for women during pregnancy and birth? He has no right to tell women what he knows nothing about. And way to blame only women for a problem that is probably more men’s fault than it is women’s. If men always made sure that every child was wanted, loved, fed, and cared for, there would be fewer abortions. But too many men are willing to let women pay the full cost of pregnancy, birth, and raising a child for 18 years. Is he fighting as hard for good maternity care, for programs to feed all children, for support for women who spend years of their life caring for children, then have the father of those children run off with a cute young thing, leaving them with no support and no real work experience? Nope, too busy preaching at women and shaming them if they end up between a rock and a hard place.

  13. A turtle Named Mack says:

    That’s a nice hit-and-run, Mike. Would be interested in you providing some context and thoughts about the post and/or comments that causes you to shop elsewhere. Contribute.

  14. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    …oh, and I’ll contribute my thoughts. Posts/comments like this are exactly why I keep coming to BCC. It’s the rare place where faithful people will make thoughtful comments about their efforts to remain faithful, in the face of overwhelming insensitivity. That such people exist gives me hope, and sustains my commitment to my own faith.

  15. I have enough negativity in my life. I don’t think that requires expounding. If you find it fulfilling then more power to you. I’m a full supporter of free speech.

  16. Jacob H. says:

    Ditto to Mack the turtle’s words ^_^

  17. Another point: it was made abundantly clear that it was President Nelson’s idea to have a conference session filled with international voices/singing. So you can’t tell me that he can’t add many more women’s voices to the speaker lineup.

    It’s pretty much that we have men who make the decisions about who speaks unwilling to give up their places to allow more women to speak. And not only do we lose the opportunity to hear from women, it’s a very bad example for all the counsels around the world.

  18. Also, who is the one guy in the zoom meeting above? Can general female leaders not hold a training without a priesthood holder present?

  19. And, why does president Nelson think he needs to talk twice as much as all women put together. He spoke 4 times, while women gave 2 talks. He surely has control over how often he himself speaks and could hand over three of those time slots to women.

  20. EmJen – I thought the same thing about the Zoom meeting photo: Lots of women, but the man is (metaphorically and actually) the only one with power to decide who will speak in meetings like general conference.

  21. John Mansfield says:

    Last week there was a full-page newspaper ad placed by seven leaders of black-owned media. It complained that General Motors CEO Mary Barra has not met with them to discuss their wish for GM to increase its advertising in black-owned media. The ad also took a swipe at GM’s Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl: “Mary, you have asked us to meet with your Chief Marketing Officer, Deborah Wahl. We have absolutely no interest in that because when Deborah was Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s, in our opinion, Black Owned Media was, once again, severely neglected, minimized and discriminated against. To be clear, Black Owned Media and not minority owned media, because minority includes white women and large corporations like General Motors can hide behind and tout their minority records while continuing not to do business with Black Owned Media companies.”

    So, after that was put out last week, it is quite in the spirit of the times to see a similar sort of concern expressed today by white women after a General Conference that included talks by three black men.

  22. Ah, John, are your feelings hurt? You and Mike can’t really hide your fragile masculinity behind those comments.

  23. Valerie says:

    Love this post, EmJen. Posts like this are exactly why I come to BCC. Jader3rd: I would love to hear your thoughts about Elder Andersen’s talk–I’m guessing we have some similar reactions. Please write a post with your thoughts, because there are so many of us who would like to discuss this in a safe place and with safe people. Heaven knows my family (especially extended family) is NOT a safe place to express any questions or concerns or doubts or observations.

  24. Brian, this isn’t 8th grade. And my comments had nothing to do with women. I am not at all offended by any posts or comments here. Just not that interested in the negative aspects of BCC. That’s all. No need for your hyper-wokeness to get all worked up. Nobody is going to kick you off or tell you to shut up.

  25. Yep, this. Except I didn’t think about how this problem compounds in that not only do no women speak at conference – but then we end up studying only talks by men for the next 6 months. It’s mind blowing to me (in a bad way).

    Setting aside that they could fix this by creating an equivalent to the Q15 and 70’s for women (or calling them straight to those), I don’t see why we have to hear from the Q15 every six months. They’re running out of material as many have been speaking every six months for decades. I would love to hear from a more diverse lineup – and no, expanding to more racial groups need not take away from women. We need both. The white men need to make way. It is total hypocrisy to say we need to listen to women and then not invite them to speak.

    I am really quite shocked they haven’t fixed this. Even very TBM men I know think it needs to change.

  26. I get it, now, Mike, thanks. Way to see through tall the smoke and mirrors of fabricated angst and negativity.

  27. They finally admitted that unmarried adults are actually adults, now let us see if the church can treat unmarried adults as adults.

    When Anna said this it got me thinking, does anyone know if the Handbook of Instructions has been updated to have less callings require an individual to be married? Because when Elder Ballard challenged local leaders to call more single adults to callings I know my reaction was “But the handbook says not to”. It seems that some BCC bloggers are Handbook Historians, so I’d be curious if the trends towards adding being married as a requirement for different callings has decreased or increased in the last few years.

  28. Aussie Mormon says:

    Jader: what callings besides Bishop and stake President (and maybe patriarch?) actually required someone to be married at the time of their call?

    In my family ward we’ve had at least one single EQ Pres, YM Pres, YW Pres. We’ve had single counsellors in those presidencies. Both bishoprics and stake presidencies have previously told me you don’t need to be married to be a counsellor in the bishopric or stake presidency. Admin callings like clerks and exec secs have been open to singles.

  29. CS Eric says:

    The impression I got was that somebody saw this Conference session as being in the context of continuing October’s thread about racial equality, so we had two black men speak, rather than one every third conference or so. The black men took the speaking slots that women would ordinarily have had. There are only so many token slots to go around.

  30. Wondering says:

    Aussie Mormon. There has been significant variation from stake to stake as some stake presidents insisted that bishopric counselors, clerks and exec secs must be married. Perhaps they thought they were keeping a higher law by going beyond the handbook. However, under one such stake president, a bishop did get a never-married man called as an assistant clerk by threatening to refuse to be the bishop for more than one more week if it didn’t happen. :)

    BTW, and OTOH, despite what the Handbook may have said, SLC has been known to approve the calling of a never-married bishop. (Marital status is reported on the bishop-recommend form the stake president must send to SLC for approval.)

  31. Excellent post, EmJen. It’s hard to say, but I kind of fear that for many or most GAs, hearing from *any* women more than zero seems to them to be a lot of listening to women. Either that or they’re just fine sending a hugely mixed message, claiming to want to hear more from women, but carefully orchestrating things to make sure that women don’t get a chance to speak.

    Anna, I think you make a great point about there not being a need to hear from President Nelson so many times. Or the First Presidency in general. Elisa, I so agree about Q15 members running out of material. President Monson was one who frequently re-told stories, for example, and President Eyring seems to be at the stage too where he’s been in the First Presidency for so long that he’s given every talk he’s ever going to give that has anything original to say in it. I would far rather hear from more women leaders than hear a First Presidency member tell a story for the nth time.

    And on the side issue of abortion, Anna, I’d like to “like” your last paragraph in your first comment about a thousand times. Amen!

  32. anitacwells says:

    Yes! This, from me and my daughters, and my sisters, and some of my seminary students, who all felt the disparity and are greatly bothered. And by having the women sing with the children (“I am a child of God” no less), it infantilized them as well.

  33. Thank you for writing this. For me, I feel comforted knowing that I am not the only one mourning the lack of women’s voices. A few years ago when President Nelson said women’s voices were needed, I naively thought that actually meant that we would hear more women in general conference. That the opposite happened — only one or two across all four general sessions — has been heartbreaking. It doesn’t match with how I know Jesus treated women as full human beings of worth. It’s hard for me to hang onto my own value when there is a mismatch from leaders between what they say and what they do. As this post points out, are women really needed, wanted, called? It doesn’t feel that way to me.

    A post sharing the response from the first presidency about this issue is revealing. It seems there is a struggle to see women as full-fledged leaders capable of speaking in conference. https://www.the-exponent.com/guest-post-calling-more-women-to-speak-at-general-conference-a-response-to-the-office-of-the-first-presidency/

  34. Geoff-Aus says:

    In Australia at present the treatment of women is prominent. The ruling conservative party has 23% womens represintatives, and it is being discussed that lack of equality for women are creating an environment where abuse thrives.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-28/new-power-emerges-in-australian-politics-not-coming-quietly/100030876
    The church is becoming less relaven on the positive side, and part of problem side, with even less than 23% of women.

  35. Angela C says:

    Well said. This blind spot is getting utterly ridiculous at this point. WE DON’T NEED ALL Q15 TO SPEAK EVERY CONFERENCE! OBVIOUSLY!!

  36. Wondering says:

    I have wondered whether the all-Q15-speak at GC practice is intended to let the Church members get to know them somewhat since no one knows (except as to the President) in what order they will be divinely bumped off in order to have their death order to reveal the divine will as to who will succeed the current President. If so, maybe it results in a thoughtless rather than an intentional exclusion of more women leaders speaking. I dunno.

  37. Eli Bowman says:

    As a man in this church I can unequivocally say that I want (no…NEED) more counsel from women. Thank you for voicing this take. It was well stated.

  38. John Taber says:

    Callings I have held as a single man while part of a conventional ward (that’s what the Handbook calls it, not a “family ward”):

    Ward membership clerk (three times), elders’ quorum instructor, ward magazine representative, ward statistical clerk, assistant stake clerk for membership and geography, and of course, home teacher.

  39. Thank you, Emily. This is the post-Conference report we need!

    (My wife’s immediate reaction to the “women and children” choir was to remark that no one would ever think to do a “men and children” choir, now would they?)

  40. Nancy Allred says:

    I too wish more women would speak in conference. Not because I think it would give greater variety to tone and content of the talks (it wouldn’t), but because it would give more variety to the post-conference complaining.

  41. Wondering says:

    Hunter, British Anglican churches do “men and children” choirs a lot Maybe if we taught children to sing instead of whisper or shout, we could too. :)

  42. Actions like these (ignoring women and only paying lip service) is one of the many reasons I am turning away from the Utah church and embracing the Community of Christ.

  43. @Wondering, I don’t doubt that the exclusion tends more towards “thoughtless” than “intentional.” But at this point, in 2021, and with SO many people noticing and commenting on it, it’s inexcusably thoughtless. Willfully malicious would be a pretty low bar for the Q15, so even if this is just willfully ignorant that doesn’t leave me feeling super inspired.

    I’ve seen this discussion take place after each of the last several General Conferences and honestly I’m surprised they haven’t at least put a woman per session to improve the optics. It’s seems just plain incompetent. I listened to the sessions later but am boycotting real-time participation until this is fixed.

    @OP one other thing to note – apparently it’s now “common consent” to appoint area authorities (who I presume will have authority over women in their areas) without a single female sustaining vote. At least that’s my assumption (that the leadership meetings in which these area authorities were sustained were priesthood meetings? If I’m wrong about that LMK. Would love for this to be discussed as well. I get why they aren’t doing this in general conference anymore but why not in regional conferences? It’s absolutely terrible to have no women participating in the vote if that’s what happened.)

  44. @Nancy Allred I am not really sure if you’re being snarky. But I do agree that a lot of women who speak in conference end up sounding a lot like the men who speak and end up quoting heavily from other men. But I think absolutely there are women speakers who have brought a different perspective. Sister Aburto has given what I think are ground-breaking talks on suicide and mental illness. In 2018, Sister Oscarson gave a great talk on involving YW better at church (a talk that I’m so sad was needed and so sad has largely been ignored). Sister Craig’s talk in April was my favorite talk in all sessions that time around. I could list more but I really do think that there are insights, life experience, and perspectives that are missing because we don’t hear from enough women. I also think if we reached a critical mass of women they may not feel like they need to copy men so much – right now perhaps they feel pressured not to stick out.

  45. Wondering, I’m well aware of the men and boys choral tradition. But bringing that up is off topic and beside the point. The point of my wife’s remark is that it is laughable (an afront, really) that women, as a group, are paired off with children in our Church.

    Back to the post, please: this General Conference did not live up to its potential when it comes to including women’s voices.

  46. I’ve always thought General Conference was the time we hear from the Lord’s prophet and apostles–which makes it different than hearing other men and women speak in any of our other meetings. I’m as interested in hearing from women (and I’m female) or any other men, such as the Seventy, as much as I care to hear what any brother or sister is saying in a Sacrament or fireside talk–and many are great talks but they aren’t the apostles.
    Only twice a year we get to hear from the Q12. That’s why I listen to Conference. I could speak in Conference too but why? I’m not an apostle the world needs to hear from.

  47. p.s. Catholics look to hear the Pope. That’s it. Not cardinals, bishops, and nuns. And those people are important and matter too but they’re not the Pope.

  48. Mary Ann says:

    One aspect that’s bugged me about the international choirs is that no-one seems to have stopped to wonder why they featured so many women and children. Two of the videos (the Korean girls singing “I Love to See the Temple” and multiple groups singing “I Am a Child of God”) were originally produced for general women’s sessions back in 2014. And yet, none of the female church leaders who commissioned those videos were given any credit – the videos were all seen as the inspiration of current male leadership.

  49. Wondering says:

    Hunter, To quote one of our best female leaders Chieko Okazaki: “Lighten up.” :)
    Are you saying all those men called to be Primary teachers and nursery workers and all those daddy-daughter dates don’t count as pairing men with children? Also, while I don’t know about the cultures from which those conference singers came, in my corner of western American culture and my former corner of European culture, trying to get musically untrained men to even be willing to sing let alone sound like anything you’d want to hear is very far more difficult than getting women to sing and sound acceptable. Perhaps the point was to represent membership in other places in the world participating in conference at a musically acceptable level. Maybe it wasn’t pairing women and children because that’s where women belong; maybe it was because the women could sing. Maybe the choice was even left up to the various participating congregations. If either, it was not an affront by general leadership, but a compliment that people can choose to take as an affront if they want to. (Shades of Bednar! Did I ever think such a thing?! Maybe I can repent as fast as J. Golden Kimball.) When we don’t have information about the reasons, it sure is easy to imagine the worst. I think I prefer Sister Okazaki’s attitude.
    Though I could do without hearing from quite a number of the men we hear from in GC, general authorities or not, I could also do without hearing those “women who speak in conference [who] end up sounding a lot like the men who speak and end up quoting heavily from other men.” And I could certainly do without hearing from a number of GAs’ wives — at least that hasn’t happened in GC so far as I know. I would like to hear from a great many more Sister Aburta types, and regularly from the general RS, YW, and Primary presidencies, whether they happen to be types I respond to or not.
    I might even go with Elisa’s “inexcusably thoughtless” evaluation, though there are also a good number of female voices like mez’ above who do not participate this comment threads like this one. I think having a place to vent frustration is valuable, but, in the end, I don’t think getting our garments in a wad over the multi-faceted and variously appreciated or frustrating problem is going to fix it to anyone’s satisfaction.

  50. p.s. Catholics look to hear the Pope. That’s it. Not cardinals, bishops, and nuns.

    Well, I’m not Catholic, but I’m married to one and my impression is that cardinals and bishops at least (you’re probably right about nuns) carry a lot of weight at the national and local levels. At any rate, I don’t think a comparison of hierarchies is particularly enlightening in the context of who members pay attention to given the near total absence of autonomy below the Quorum of the Twelve.

  51. Responding says:

    Commenters like Wondering and Nancy appear to think they’re being clever and that it’s amusing to use phrases like “garments in a wad” about an issue that is one of the root causes so many of our young people are leaving the church and taking their families with them. Entire generations won’t be attending church or the temple, but based on your words, evidently you can sleep easy because you can be flippant and dismissive of the deep concerns shared by many members of the church.

    Seeing the callousness of church leaders and some commenters here and elsewhere is disheartening and is demonstrative of how this is being handled in local congregations, and why the inactivity rate of our young people is so high. (If you don’t know about that, check with your stake leadership about the number of unknown or inactive young single adults in your stake. Tends to be a shocking number.) This is the divisive message they hear so loud and clear on Sundays including at General Conference that other messages of love and inclusion barely shine through.

    Perhaps we should appreciate people showing up to demonstrate exactly why we’re having this discussion, but it’s a serious challenge to do so when the stakes are so high.

  52. Emjen,

    Wow this post feels like sad deja-vu from almost 15 years ago. I have serious admiration for those of you that have stuck it out for so long waiting for the change that feels so far off. I think the reason you suggest – that the desires of the male leaders to speak at conference, to be “fair” to them along with President Nelson taking up 4 slots is just structurally crowding the women out. Add to that the relatively smaller number of female general officers and its hard to see this changing without more structural equality improvements. The likely explanation you put your finger on makes is so much worse and not better. Its so clear the desires of the men are just given primacy and women are fit in around the corners. Mourning for you and others longing for women’s voices from this organization.

  53. @wondering there are tons of other ways women get paired with children besides choir selection. That was just an example.

    *women’s conference a few years ago changed to “ages 8 and up” whereas priesthood stayed 12 and up. (I believe that’s since reverted which is good because the meeting was in no way targets towards 8 yr olds, unless you think they ought to be listening to Oaks’ transphobia or whatever).
    *the way they have done the last prophet sustaining dividing into groups put women way behind deacons and with children.
    *when they opened witnessing ordinances up to women, it was women and children.

    Basically since women don’t hold priesthood officer there’s nowhere to “rank” them like there is with deacons teachers priests elders etc and they get lumped with children. It is totally ridiculous and insulting. Your examples of daddy-daughter dates have nothing to do with “rank” and “order” within the church.

    I get that there are varying opinions here. I try to recognize that as much as I like my own I’m not always right and that often there is no “right.” But that’s not true here.

    People who think it’s OK for 2 women to speak in a general conference are wrong. It’s fine for them if they are not bothered by it. But they are wrong. It is not ok.

  54. nobody, really says:

    Women might be “called”, but it’s generally with an autodialer and phone tree response system.

    “Press 1 to express Love for President Nelson.”
    “Press 2 to condemn abuse.”
    “Press 3 to express Women are Important.”
    “For all other messages, please hang up and try your talk again in five or six years.”

  55. Thank you! Amid all the hullabaloo about Elder Oaks and his political talk, amid the hushed talk about Elder Andersen’s making women, once again, the perpetrators in the abortion question, amid the celebration of the “diversity” in Sunday morning’s session, no one, nor even the usual voices of change in the church, has stood up post Conference and zeroed in on this. You did it beautifully.

  56. To be fair, the president of the church welcomes all to the conference and closes the conference. They really are not talks and usually comprise a few short remarks. The president gives one talk to the church- then addresses either the Relief Society or Priesthood.

  57. Wondering says:

    Flippancy is often a defense mechanism used in place of others’ angry venting about the same concern. In those cases, it often results from experiencing the futility of anger or venting in an effort to get the concerns addressed. It has nothing to do with being dismissive of those concerns.

    Yes, Elisa, there are tons of ways women get paired with children. Though irrelevant to the main point of the op, there are also some ways men get paired with children. There are tons of men who do not get called into leadership positions in the Church because they are single or are not bootlickers or are too busy actually trying make ends meet or to meet their responsibilities to others. There are others do not “rise” further in the Church hierarchy because they focus on service and not statistics. Like some women, these men are also effectively paired with children. Pairing with children is unfortunately often gender-based; sometimes it is not. Some people are complimented by or at least appreciate it; most who speak up in contexts like this one are not.

    Whatever the reasons for it — good, bad, mixed, varied, variously perceived — it remains true that “You Can’t Listen to Women [in General Conference] If They Aren’t Invited to Speak”

  58. Adele, to be fair, why do we have to hear from the prophet 4 times? His opening and closing remarks really are not necessary when the person conducting the meeting has already opened conference, and then closes after him. And why in the WOMEN’S session do we always have to hear from the men? More time is given to the men in Women’s session than to the women. And, sure one talk from the prophet seems about right. And one talk from the general RSP sounds about right. And one talk from the primary president and YW’s president every conference sounds about right. And since the seventies get five or six talks, why not five or six talks from the other female leaders. To be fair, over half the church is female. And to be fair, we really should be hearing from more women.

    But as I have said, I have already left this church because it made me feel that God did not care about me because I was female and he only loves his sons, so my voice no longer counts. Unless one wants to understand why women leave. I just like the real God better than “Mormon God.”

  59. Valerie Ackroyd says:

    Anna, I have just recently moved away from the church. I hesitate to say left because I haven’t asked for my records to be removed. And it’s for the reasons you state as well as the cultural disconnect from having moved from a country where the Church was less political to an area of the US where it is very political. More, though, is the attitude among my “community” here that any kind of criticism is taken as petty and brushed aside. If I can accept my husband’s remaining in the church as his choice, if I can listen respectfully to his reasons and not try to brush them aside, then why can’t he and the others in our ward give me the same respect? Why don’t my feelings count? If someone reads this article and thinks “well I disagree . . .” that’s fine. But I see several comments here which don’t honor someone’s feelings and right to express an opinion. And I think that’s sad in a religious community.

  60. Here are some interesting numbers around the latest General Conference speakers. The total time of the 5 sessions of conference was 9 hours and 7 minutes. The total times of all 37 talks was 7 hours and 12 minutes. (It surprised me that we had nearly two hours of songs, prayers, prelude, postlude, announcing speakers, old people shuffling to and from the pulpit and thanking Bonneville Communications! The sustaining of church officers and the audit report are included in the 37 “talks”.)

    The first presidency spoke 8 times. Two each for Presidents Oaks and Eyring, and 4 times for President Nelson. His “welcome” was 4:27, his “closing comments” were 6:40. Excluding those two, the average talk from the first presidency was 14:48. The Apostles each spoke once, and their average time was 14:47. It is pretty clear that they are all given a 15 minute spot as none of them were very far off from that at all, except Elder Soares (11:09) who was one of 9 speakers in the Sunday Morning session and was probably given less time to fit more speakers in. Other sessions all had 6 or 7 speakers.

    Non-apostles spoke 15 times and averaged 9:45. Sunday morning they were all between 8:19 and 9:18, and in the other sessions they were all between 9:33 (Elder Becerra) and 11:24 (President Jones). It seems to me they were given 10 minute slots, except for the Sunday morning speakers who were trimmed a little for time.

    In total (in hours and minutes)
    First Presidency: 1:39
    Apostles: 2:57
    Everyone else: 2:26
    70: 1:43
    YM: 0:10
    SS: 0:10
    Primary: 0:11
    RS: 0:09

    Men: 6:42:52
    Women: 0:20:42

    Other than the totals in the first paragraph, I have not included the sustaining of church officers (6:41) or the audit report (the boringest minute and 40 seconds in all of Mormondom) in any of the totals. Sorry for the lists of numbers, charts and graphs would be much more fun and helpful, but I don’t know how to leave those in a comment. Data all comes from the length of videos posted on the church website.

  61. I haven’t read all the comments on which callings require you to be be married so somebody may have already addressed this, but in any case, last month Elder Holland did a five-stake leadership meeting in my area at which he said:

    “You don’t have to be married to do everything in the church. You have to be married to be a temple president and a mission president and a stake president and a bishop and a patriarch. And other than that you don’t have to be. So use these able wonderful single adults, of whom there are more and more and more.”

  62. I haven’t read all the comments about callings single adults are able to hold, so somebody may have already addressed this, but in any case, last month Elder Holland did a five-stake training session in my area, and he said:

    “You don’t have to be married to do everything in the church. You have to be married to be a temple president and a mission president and a stake president and a bishop and a patriarch. And other than that you don’t have to be. So use these able wonderful single adults, of whom there are more and more and more.

  63. Sorry, didn’t mean to post the same comment twice!

  64. Old Timer says:

    Agree with rah. I could have posted this in 2006. And it would have attracted the same comments tone policing and saying that I shouldn’t be so concerned about the gender of the speaker. At least they allow women to pray in General Conference now. At least there’s that.

  65. Chadwick says:

    I want to go on the record as standing against mez’s comment, for two reasons:

    1. I believe I can have a personal, direct relationship with God. I don’t need to go through my Bishop, the stake high council, or even the Prophet to get there. So while I’m not opposed to listening to him speak from time to time, I truly believe my connection to the divine is no less than his. Four talks seems a bit much then, in my humble opinion.

    2. I want a diverse range of voices. I learn better in that environment. When women’s voices, or the voices of people of color, or even the voices of anyone below the age of 50 is ignored for ten straight hours, I am confident I didn’t learn as much as I could have learned. I want to hear the stories others have to tell, not just the stories of privilege told by white men born in the 1940’s.

  66. Wondering says:

    Chadwick, I agree. I’m glad some of the apostles are not white men born in the 1940s.

  67. “Only twice a year we get to hear from the Q12.”

    Agreed….I mean, except for their presence on social media, print media, TV interviews, church website, Liahona, etc., I have no idea what they are up to or what they are saying except for those 4 days a year.

  68. Talon–if that should suffice then why have General Conference at all? I think we prefer to see them speaking live and Conference gives most people that opportunity at least twice year.

  69. Mez, based on the comments here, I think “[I] prefer to see them speaking live” instead of “we” might be more accurate.

  70. Ditto Brian. “We” do not prefer it.

  71. Chadwick–the reason I’d rather hear from the apostles is to avoid “the inspiration” from people ,of any age, sex or color, like Julie Beck delivering her “Women Who Know” talk. Julie Beck did not speak for the Lord as one of the twelve people He called to do so to the entire church in that Conference. Nor was she praying
    for the Lord and the entire church as if she were one of the twelve when she gave the prayer at Trump’s rally. She, you and I shouldn’t be counseling the entire church in a worldwide conference.

  72. Mez, so now you’re arguing for infallibility, that non-leaders cannot receive revelation, and a “he said-she said” argument? No one’s talking about revelation for the entire church here, which, like almost never happens at conference anyway.

  73. Chadwick says:

    Hi mez:

    I have no intention to counsel the entire church. That being said, I have life experience that may resonate with people; life experiences different from a group of men whose life experiences are, with some exceptions, substantially similar. And I believe others have stories to share more valuable than mine; stories that would bring me closer to Christ.

    Like I said, I’m fine listening to their counsel. But they can give it faster/more efficient, with time left over for a more diverse group of speakers. Can we agree on this?

    So where do we cross the line on not speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed? The Relief Society President doesn’t count, but the First Presidency and Q12 do? So only men? That seems unfair.

    Depending on how expansive your view of heaven is, it seems most people will get back to God without ever having heard these fifteen men. So I guess I believe I can too. That doesn’t mean I don’t find value from time to time in their words, but I suppose it seems I don’t value their words to the same extent that you do. And that’s ok, for my part at least.

  74. Cathy Clarke Sheets says:

    Thank you for your well written words. As a member of my Ward Relief Society Presidency, now I I can look forward to another six months of Relief Society Sunday Discussions focused on talks that won’t likely contain many women’s voices unless the discussion leader chooses to bring in her own sources (which I will certainly encourage them to do!).

  75. EmJen, thanks for this. It’s important for church leaders to understand that if they want us to listen to women’s voices—and I’ll take them at their word that they do—that they need to provide a robust cross-section of women’s voices for us to listen to, they have to model the respect and appreciation for the women’s voices we hear (by, among other things, acknowledging the women whose voices we do hear), and they need to recognize that tokenism is almost as bad as just leaving women out entirely, When the number of women who speak is in the single-digit percentage of speakers, the message they send about the importance of hearing women is undercut by their actions.

  76. To be clear: It’s not our job alone to cure abortion, and it’s not our job to visually accommodate men. It is not our job to raise our families on our own. These are just examples of how we get all the blame and zero control over the narrative.

    If women are going to be given all the responsibility to fix abortion, then can we teach about it? Maybe we can change the narrative. At the very least, a woman can talk about it from a relatable place.
    If we are constantly told to dress modestly for the sake of men and boys, can we please have a say in it? How can we control the mind of every man that ever looks in our direction? We can’t win that fight. We are set up for absolute failure. So “man will be punished for his own sins”, but I’ve got to make sure men don’t sin?
    If I am the “anchor” of my family, then can I hear from some other anchors, please?

    I would LOVE to have my daughters hear from more women. I would love to hear from more women. I want my sons to hear from more women.

    I cringe hearing people talk about how we need strong young women and outspoken women in the church… Because what is really being said is, “as long as they agree with me”. As a woman who has experience in discenting opinions, I can tell you that sometimes sharing those opinions have been interpreted as an open invitation to call me to repentance. It’s pretty hurtful, because the information isn’t even considered, but my testimony is called into question. This is why women don’t share…. Sometimes we are asked…. But people don’t like what we say.

  77. – Yes, Chadwick we agree on that.
    Brian–Infallibility? No, not at all. It’s the fallibility that makes me respectfully aware and relieved I am not accountable to God like they are for speaking to others as if God Himself. It’s enough hearing from them that I need to be better, etc.that everyone else should say they know what I should do or not too? I don’t speak for you–I can’t even say that people like me, “we” prefer seeing GA’s live, Uchtdorf especially, always so sunny and uplifting in person, without pushing someone’s button. The twelve have the authority to push my buttons.
    Sure we all have valuable experience that would resonate with others and benefit them. I imagine so did members of the early church but it’s the apostles witnesses of Christ that are the New Testament. For whatever reason, Christ called twelve specific males out of all other people to be his apostles. Was it unfair to women? Did Mary and Martha feel “less than”?
    I hope not because they weren’t.

    My understanding is the twelve have a mission that differs from anyone else.
    They are special witnesses of Him because they have actual knowledge of Him, whereas most of us are going on faith. If that’s not so, or you believe it isn’t, then you won’t see any reason to listen them more than anyone else.

    True, most people will get to heaven not knowing modern day apostles but none will do so without hearing the accounts of original twelve apostles. If they accept the temple ordinances after death, they will hear about the others.

    Who is considered the Lord’s anointed? In the Old Testament it seems to be prophets and the priesthood–which was only Levite men, not all men. Did the other men find that unfair? Maybe or they understood it differently. There was no equivalent of an RS president so anointed leader wasn’t referring to that role. RS isn’t the Church. RS has no saving ordinances. They can give you the baptismal clothing but they cannot perform the baptism.

    I’m an older woman. It’s not the RS thinking about the widows in my ward. It’s the priesthood–the stake presidency, bishopric, elders quorum and the young men. They act like they feel anointed and responsible to God for the stake and ward members. The women’s focus is primarily their own family. The women are good at saying the most incredible Christlike things during the lessons but in my experience it’s the men who walk the walk.

  78. McMurrin says:

    Amen sister. Can we Latter-day Saints please vote for you to organise and conduct the next GC? And also make Sharon Eubank the Prophet? In an instant, this would positively transform my semi-annual GC experience. I usually watch ‘from a distance’ so I don’t get too upset. It’s so strange how our religious tradition is so culturally backward, treating gender equality with contempt but eagerly embracing the morality of finance. The mind boggles.

    I remember attending an event at the BYU London Centre a number of years ago. After listening to a few European presenters, the delegates we’re invited to eat in the dining hall. And then the American academic director went off with his male friends to continue his interesting discussions, leaving *his wife* to clear all the tables. I thought this was insane – so I joined the effort to clear things away. But I couldn’t help thinking, this capable and intelligent person, who is referred to as *the academic director’s wife*, has travelled across the Atlantic to clear dinner plates alone. It really does speak volumes about the out-dated and backward approach to capable people in the church because of their gender.

    I refuse to believe that the most capable and dynamic people in the church right now are exclusively male. I fear that we shall change in time, long after men in every other Christian denomination have finally accepted that women are equally capable in every imaginable ecclesiastical capacity. And on that day, our decades of self-proclaimed ‘inspiration’ and ‘progress’ (having previously defended the indefensible) will once again be proved to be nothing more than sounding brass.

  79. Wondering says:

    Mez, I think you have articulated two important reasons why some disagree with you.
    1. Apostles “are special witnesses of Him because they have actual knowledge of Him, whereas most of us are going on faith.”
    2. “It’s not the RS thinking about the widows in my ward. It’s the priesthood–the stake presidency, bishopric, elders quorum and the young men. …. The women’s focus is primarily their own family. The women are good at saying the most incredible Christlike things during the lessons but in my experience it’s the men who walk the walk.”

    As to the first, there are many who have understood the apostles to be teaching that their knowledge of Christ is of the same order as that of the rest of us. As to the second, assuming accuracy of perception, that is not the experience of some others. I expect there really is local variation in such experiences There has also been significant variation, in the perception at least, of various GAs walking the walk — or not.

    Some of us tend to learn better from a variety of people, especially when they avoid authoritarian styles. For some, those authoritarian styles get in the way of learning — whether they are employed by apostles or not, by liberals or conservatives, by POC or by men or by women. It would seem that no one can be just the right teacher for everyone. But the experiences of a variety of people as to cultural, ethnic, national backgrounds, AND gender can be very helpful in learning to see beyond our own cultural and personal limitations. I appreciate the recent years’ increase in such variety among GAs, but for some of us there is still a long way to go and a very long way to go before the Church will hear women’s voices teaching to any significant degree. We are impoverished by the lack of them.

  80. Mez, “The women are good at saying the most incredible Christlike things during the lessons but in my experience it’s the men who walk the walk.”

    Wow.

    Might I suggest that if you look closely at almost all of the (dangerous, if I may) adulations of the apostles and prophets on women, their observations are very different from yours. Which, to take you at your word, you should consider very seriously above your own experience.

  81. Chadwick says:

    Thank you Wondering. I couldn’t agree more with your comment.

    Mez, I’m so sorry that you have had these bad experiences. They are yours, and I don’t want to diminish them. To feel disconnected from your identified gender like this is painful.

    Perhaps it’s easy to put the apostles on a pedestal because they are not in a position to let you down personally. They’ve never forgotten to call you when they said they would, or cancelled on you last minute when you needed them most, or said something unkind in a personal conversation with you. But local leaders we know and rely on will ultimately disappoint eventually. My experience is that neither men nor women are better or worse at this but that individual circumstances prevail. That’s my experience which is different from your experience. In both of us sharing this, perhaps we both learn something helpful. Thank you for being courageous enough to share your perspective.

  82. Old Man says:

    I have to push back a bit on Mez’s perceptions of church leadership. Church administrators are mostly male. But gaining a high church calling does not or should not imply advanced revelation or discernment. In fact, many holding such a view will certainly face disillusionment as they come to terms with historical and factual realities. Those who hold administrative keys… hold administrative keys. We should pray for their success. That is why lawyers, CEO’s and finance folks are often tasked with leadership roles. They possess corporate skills tapped by the corporate portion of the Church. And they often call others who hold a similar worldview into administrative/managerial roles.

    But that is not the total “church.” The purpose of the covenant-making, service, and living a spiritual life is to assist ALL in coming to know God and develop spiritual gifts. As taught in Jeremiah 31:34: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM UNTO THE GREATEST of them, saith the LORD…”

    There are no “ordinary” people. Every faithful person is destined to experience inspiration, see visions, prophesy, commune with God, teach, testify, etc. This includes every person, including artists, farmers, poets, nurses, designers, architects, public school teachers, electricians, scholars, truck drivers, etc. There are prophets and prophetesses among us. We only have to pray for the discernment to recognize the gifts and testimonies these individuals have to offer.

    So when the the institutional church (General Conference is just an example) leans too heavily onto a certain demographic of church membership, it does imply that either the spiritual gifts and testimonies of other demographics are not valued by those in administrative/managerial roles, OR that such spiritual gifts and testimonies are rare or non-existent. In either case, it is a failure.

  83. creencia says:

    I agree that this is a broader problem of the demographics of the church, since of the most of the leadership is white guys from the mormon belt, we hear mostly white guy mormon belt perspectives.

    This conference it was nice to hear from some more “regular” folks this conference, like that sister from Nicaragua and another guy from Africa, I don’t remember exactly where. Especially that sister from Nicaragua who used a real, actual, challenge from her personal life (her brother dying in an earthquake) to contextualize her message

    This was a stark contrast to a talk from the priesthood session in which a some white guy talked about how great he once was at football. I get that he was targeting youngish men, but still, someone should use that corpus of General Conference talks and look at how many times examples from football or such are used in conference.

    It seems like there’s an increasing disconnect, almost a sort of tone-deafness, between how the church leadership represents itself and teaches vs. what actual members of the church are experiencing. It often comes off as a massive #firstworldproblems kind of thing where white guys talk about football and the handful of women that speak might talk about how they had to vacuum a lot that one time.

    It would be great to not just hear more from non-white, non-wealthy folks, but especially more women, that probably make more more than half of the church’s membership.

    They’re realizing that they’re too white, now it remains to be seen if they’ll realize whether subset of voices they prioritize first: women or low-icome folks.

  84. EmJen, honest question, is anyone organizing a conference boycott till they un-muzzle the women? I don’t say much publicly about Church – keep a low profile there. But at this point I’d do a boycott and willing to be public about it. And of course the church would be annoying about it and say we were dumb but then a while later what do ya know, they’d have the great idea themselves to have a woman speak in each session …

  85. Mortimer says:

    EmJen, Brava! Excellent post.

    Elisa, I miss Sister Kate Kelley.(She will always be “sister” to me.) Ring -ring- ring- calling Ordain Women to the rescue! It’s time to show up with our umbrellas when in-person conference returns another peaceful demonstration. Time to crank up the heat, they got lax!

    Yeah, conference was a case study in implicit bias, a result of outright male chauvinism and clenched authority. But at the same time, that bias runs deeper than gender. The Brethren say they appreciate women and need women, but don’t actually include them. They say they love us, and yet they live cloistered lives, rejecting our letters and avoiding our company. They say they need us (men and women in the rank and file), yet they don’t rely on any of us- really. They build the temples, we are the sheeple that they have to accommodate. We are mere masses that hinder their efficiency. They are erasing all our fingerprints from inside the temples too. They write the curricula, we are the recipients/parrots. They make all the strategic decisions, we follow. No, we aren’t needed.

    In the pioneer days, the rank and file had purpose. Without everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel, we wouldn’t have survived. We huddled together. Diverse talents and light were needed and put to use. But today, we aren’t needed, we are widgets to be manufactured and managed. In that process, conformity is obligatory.

    When we lament that women don’t speak, we are simultaneously lamenting the fact that an entire gender isn’t participating- across all sectors of the beehive. As long as the Brethren keep thinking they are managing a membership organization that requires them to run everything while creating an illusion of purpose for the members, we’re missing the concept of Zion. Much like cruise ship captains responsible for every aspect of the journey while entertaining the passengers with shuffleboard tournaments, the Brethren have little use for our help, be we women or men.

    Once we were a much more egalitarian society (in our earlier Masonic days). We’ve tragically jettisoned those ideals, first in leader worship, and then we developed amnesia regarding our own roles and value.

    I once heard a wise man say that if you are starting a project, don’t wring your hands over the composition or shortcomings of the people who do or don’t show up to participate. Be in the moment and accept the circumstances as having meaning- perfect in imperfection. Everyone is there for a purpose- just go forward and the wheels of the universe will spin as they should. I wish the powers that be in the church office building appreciated us as we are- and not as they wished us to be (all white male businessmen). They might (gasp) catch the spirit of Zion, which is partnering together, using each covenanted member’s G- given gifts.

    For example, what if women spoke. What if women who had personal testimonies and mIraculous stories about birth, miscarriage, and personal revelation regarding their bodies and reproductive timelines, were to have spoken? (I’ll say it, instead of a man who obviously did not.) What if our craftsmanship were needed to build temples? (Not just the factories in Utah, but in local temple districts consecrated their own China (as the Kirtland story goes) to the effort? What if Minerva’s murals were prized as a consecrated testimony as opposed to an old woman’s out-dated scribbling? What if the anxiety to correlate everything were calmed by trust that the new light coming from the members would harmonize and amplify instead of apostatize? I could go on, but you get the idea.

  86. Genuine question: why does someone with this way of thinking about the church continue to believe it’s God’s church? If it’s God’s church, why doesn’t he “correct” the brethren? Is he counting on commenters at BCC to do it for him? If it’s not God’s church, why not look elsewhere?

  87. Mike, genuine question: If it’s God’s church, why did it take him so long to “correct” the brethren re. racist teachings (racist policies too, but at least the brethren have accepted the teachings were racist)? If it’s God’s church, why were children of gay couples not allowed to be baptised, only for that policy to be reversed a few years later? If it’s God’s church why did it take till 2013 for a woman to be allowed to pray in GC? Why didn’t God “correct” the brethren sooner?

  88. After reading all of the comments so far, I can’t help wonder if many have missed the whole point of a Restoration. Jesus restored His Church through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. The Restored Church is patterned after His church in Jerusalem, with 12 Apostles. These men have the priesthoid keys to administer as Jesus Christ would. General Conference is designated as a time for the entire worldwide membership to hear from our beloved Prophet and the 12 Apostles. I am always so excited to hear from them. Conference is also a time to conduct Church business. We get the opportunity to sustain our leaders, or not. I love hearing the sisters speak, too, but we hear from them at other meetings, also. I know that President Nelson loves and respects the women of the Church, and he is a good listener. He is so kind and loving. I think all of these questions can be resolved by asking yourselves, “Do you believe that President Nelson is the living Prophet of God on the earth today?”

  89. Villate says:

    Mike, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt that you don’t realize how condescending your “genuine question” is, but surely you’ve noticed that an awful lot of people DON’T believe it’s God’s church anymore. I’m not sure that I believe it either, to be honest. I remain because I hope that it is. I wish God WOULD correct the Brethren, but I’m not sure what that would look like. Maybe He has tried through all the “commenters at BCC” and they just haven’t heard or listened. They have their agency too, after all. In any case, though, I suspect that what I was taught growing up about what it means to be “the only true and living church” is probably not right, or maybe I misunderstood it. It’s getting hard for me to keep attending as the membership (at least in my area) is skewing further and further right and the leadership, both local and general, seem more and more out of touch with what people like me are concerned about and less and less able or willing to hear us. My children have no interest in the church because it does not seem to fill any need they have. I want to hear what the General Authorities have to say – men and women – but their remarks are usually so vague and general that they can be (and are) interpreted any way the hearer wants, so they end up meaning nothing. Or worse, they have so much cultural baggage that it is hard to see past it. Again, I hope this is God’s church – whatever that means – and I hope that there is some power or authority in the covenants I have made and struggle to keep. But the Church as an organization seems to be failing a large portion of its stakeholders and I don’t know how to process that. I remind myself often that God’s ways are not my ways, but that is cold comfort most of the time.

  90. Mortimer says:

    I believe in this church, and I believe in us. I think the Lord let’s us work things out- make mistakes, just like he let the children of Israel wander in the desert from time to time. When we get in the mode that the Brethren can do not wrong, that we are perfect and above reproach- we lose our objectivity and humility. I try not to run the brethren down, but like dance partners- we sometimes step on each other’s feet. Some of their actions are painful (destroying murals and historic craftsmanship, hurtful talks on abortion, misogynistic, homophobic, and racist actions and biases, etc.) There’s a fine line between criticizing the brethren and speaking truth with an intent to contribute to a righteous “by common consent”. I always speak from a place of deep love and concern for my faith and heritage, but not everything I say is gushing adulation.

  91. Mortimer says:

    Oops … “lets us” …

  92. James, that’s my point. If people don’t believe it’s God’s church, why are they hanging around? If God has a church, it’s either this one or it’s a different one. .

  93. I recognize that individuals’ feelings about the church are more nuanced than I have intimated. But some of them don’t seem to be. I do think the situation requires people to do some deep soul searching to figure out what the truth is. If it’s God’s church, why has he not corrected the leaders? Is there purpose in his inaction? Do we think we can do a better job than God is doing?(that seems a dangerous position, but I’m guessing most people would reject that notion).

    I recognize that leaders are fallible. God allows them to make mistakes, within a certain range. I don’t think it’s sinful for people to be concerned about what they perceive regarding how leaders handle things, but how far it’s taken can lead to a place from which it may be difficult to return.

  94. Sam Brunson says:

    Mike, your question is off-topic and genuinely rude. On the off chance that it’s genuine, though, it presumes a certain paradigm about the way God interacts with the church (essentially a tight hierarchical control that obviates the need for non-hierarchs to provide input and feedback). Needless to say, many of us don’t accept that paradigm, descriptively or normatively. In fact, I’d argue that the only way we can create Zion is through the full participation and not of everybody. So pointing out places where the church falls short of its and God’s goals is not only permissible but is actually necessary.

  95. Well, Sam, thanks for the feedback. I’m not sure how you are defining “off topic” but I’m not the one who has been taking the position that BCC commenters can slide in as substitutes for God, but if it’s rude to call a rose a rose then I’m rude.

  96. Mike, maybe you misunderstand me but I do believe this is God’s church. You seemed to imply if this is God’s church, leaders’ decisions re. who speaks in GC are perfectly aligned with God’s will and therefore to question these decisions is to question whether this is God’s church (but maybe I misunderstand you too). My point is that if we believe this is God’s church we also have to accept that he seems to allow church leaders to get things wrong (sometimes badly and for a long time), change their minds, and update policies to be more inline with cultural norms. Therefore, it seems perfectly reasonable to believe this is God’s church and at the same time believe that GC speaker lineups leave a lot to be desired.

  97. Mike you’re running into the infallibility problem, the direct-phone line to God problem, the God takes away agency once you’re an apostle problem, the revelation is always clear and obvious problem, the muddied history of the church problem, the one way to think about anything problem, etc.

  98. My point was not that the leaders are infallible (I’ve already mentioned that here). It’s that if God has chosen not to correct them, it seems that some think they know better than God and will do the correcting for Him.

  99. Angela C says:

    Mike, was it a big mistake or a little mistake when Peter only wanted to preach to Jews and Paul insisted they should be teaching gentiles? Eventually Peter had a vision and got on board, but it was by no means a foregone conclusion he would. How long did it take him to get it straight? How many gentiles were not converted as a result of his policy mistake? How many early Church members harbored prejudice against gentiles confirmed by his long-held view that they were unclean?

  100. See my reply to James. It’s not an infallibility problem.

  101. What evidence do you have that God has chosen not to correct them?
    Alternatively, my friend is sick and in hospital. Apparently, God has chosen not to visit him. I was going to go myself but I don’t want to appear as if I know better than God. So I’ll leave the visiting to Him.

  102. False equivalence. I think you can figure out the difference.

  103. What I’ve figured out is that you expect God to do things we can reasonably do ourselves.

  104. I agree that we can “reasonably” steady the arc if we choose to.

  105. Imagine that you were part of a debate club. The primary scheduler debated that there should be more people with stutters debating. The club proactively recruits stutterer’s, and the secondary schedulers make sure that stutters get proper time and accommodation. But then you start to notice that the primary scheduler hasn’t modified their debates to include or accommodate more stutterers. You would not be wrong to think that something was amiss.
    People certainly could have wished for more women speakers at General Conference, but the importance of doing so changed once we had the recent talks about the importance of listening to women.
    How much is God involved in the format of General Conference? I don’t know. I know in the late 19th and early 20th century the length of each session was very random. Maybe it was less than an hour, or maybe an apostle or two would talk for more than 2 hours each and lead to 4 hour plus sessions. The morning session would bleed into the afternoon session, and the afternoon session could run into the evening. Did God direct the current time format? If He did, He must have invented radio to do so. When radio was first introduced nothing changed with the format of General Conference. But after a few years it became important to fit inside a certain broadcasting timeslot. Some General Authorities struggled with this. Then TV came along, and it was even more important to stick within the timeslot. Who knows, maybe someone will say “Let’s give up on the radio and TV thing and just broadcast over the internet, these timeslots are constraining us.” and we’ll go back to 4-5 hour sessions.
    So I’m not too worried about the trueness of the church based off of the format and line up of speakers at General Conference. But it would be nice that if an organization said, “You should be listening to Women more.” I could then see it leading by example.

  106. Steadying the arc? False equivalence. I think you can figure out the difference.

  107. Mike, after announcing your intentions to shop somewhere else, it’s nice to see that you are, in fact, just as human as everyone else. So, help us out. Just to be clear, your position seems to be that the OP and other comments which call out the problems of not hearing women in Conference (after calls from leaders to listen more to women) are basically on the road to hell. Is that right? Do you see how some people might see that as rude (as Sam mentioned above)? Also, do you see that your ignoring of many of the objections to your complaint might lead others to question your honest, genuine interest in the topic and process–and that your concession of the possibility of ‘reasonable’ arc steadying sort of works against your main thrust and thus we have no real idea what your complaint is or why you are making it other than to call people to repent for the supposed crime of . . . pointing out that the plan from those ‘carrying’ the proverbial arc aren’t actually being followed by themselves? And you see this as heinous? As unreasonable? As some sign that people don’t believe God leads the Church?

  108. never forget says:

    This seems to be a step forward, a medium sized one to having the equivalent of female Seventies:
    https://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/faith/lds-church-calls-50-female-area-leaders-worldwide/article_8c368e0f-09a0-5a9d-b872-d37a4f3204cd.html

  109. never forget, The thing is, that happened BEFORE Conference. And from what I understand (I didn’t catch every word of every session), it wasn’t even mentioned then. Sort of like that ‘don’t tell anyone we’re not as sexist in the temple anymore’ fiasco. Huge missed opportunity.

  110. Stephen Hardy says:

    Mike: don’t tell God how to do God’s work. If the church leaders need revelation; if God needs to inspire them, where will it come from? God can choose to inspire me or you through a Coca Cola can if that’s what God wants to do. So God may, just may, choose to inspire our leaders through its faithful, thoughtful members who recommend improvements. It’s happened in the scriptures. It seems to me that you show a real lack of faith and trust in our leaders. They can and should look everywhere for inspiration. Especially from church members.

  111. Jon Miranda says:

    Confluence is a time to hear primarily from general authorities.

  112. The idea that God can correct Church leadership ≠ the idea that the Brethren can do no wrong.

  113. Thanks to EmJen for this post! The comments from other women tell me that there are many women like me who occasionally read By Common Consent but never comment. So I am breaking a long habit of lurking but never participating. Nothing will change until women and men both have the courage to say what they really think in multiple settings and then act accordingly.
    Media posts may help. But purposeful discussion and action at the local level, which is where the Church really lives, is what matters. There is space here for only one suggestion–men as well as women should “seek out” the best talks by women (including Rena Alburto’s fabulous sermon on the place of women as ministers and witness of Christ) and teach wherever they have the opportunity. I teach Relief Society every other month in my highly diverse Philadelphia Ward, so I choose as my topic “women and the resurrection of Jesus” and the week before asked sisters to read the NT scriptures and listen at general conference for any references to them. Imagine my joy when Sister Alburto spoke! Not only was her talk one of the very few that dealt directly with the Easter story, it was deeply moving, both well-grounded in scripture and in her own life experience. I was stunned by Elder Oaks reference to “the brethren” and felt deep despair at the virtual exclusion of women (although joy at the global reach) in the Conference. The range of comments in this discussion tells me there is a lot of work to do locally on these issues. I would love to hear more from others about what they might be doing. My one regret is that I failed to include in the lesson I gave yesterday the part of the Easter story about those who dismissed the women’s stories as ‘”idle tales.”

  114. LTU,

    Haha, I’ve never connected the idea of “idle tales” to the “gotta get up and get a sandwich during this woman’s conference talk” that is still too prevelant today. Gah, way too long of a history of dismissing the good word of women.

    But yes, every time a man in my local ward (honestly it’s my husband a lot, tbh) brings up a women’s talk as a comment or a male leader does in a general setting, I swear a bell dings and an angel gets their wings. So until we have a better system, this is what needs to happen. And this craving for women’s voices on the local level will trickly upward.

  115. When I was on the high council speaking circuit, I made it a point to always include quotes from women speakers.

  116. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    There often arises a tension in the comments that we seem to have evolved (devolved?) to here: fault lines between those who are already left the church or are disaffected, and those who continue in activity despite concerns. It’s probably fair to say that we aren’t going to resolve that gap in this comment thread, nor any other one. Sensitivity is the only salve for that one. Yet the engagement and energy in the comments often revolves around “proxy battles” that merely stand in for that distinction, even if they obscure it.

    One productive way to think about all this might be to try to acknowledge both types of concerns, rather than seeing them as zero sum. Sort of in the “proving contraries” perspective in the tradition of the late Eugene England. Here’s an example of what I mean:

    1. The OP and supportive comments highlight a real problem. In particular I loved the one comment from @Elisa that just because something doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. So yes: I think it’s critically important to recognize that the dearth of women’s voices in conference is unacceptable. Two female speakers is straight-up abysmal. Atrocious. An affront. The time stamp analysis from @Clark is striking. (I’m a data person.) And +1 @SamBrunson and many others’ supportive comments of the OP. And AMEN to the observation that this issue goes beyond the actual “airtime in conference” analysis, @Clark’s wizardry notwithstanding, because it will play forward for the next six months and beyond, in Sunday School lessons etc.

    2. Nevertheless there is a tension here, particularly as it revolves around how to address this problem. And here’s where commenters (and many of us rank-and-file) can differ. For instance I’m definitely in the camp that thinks we should hear from the Q15 every General Conference, for reasons independent of gender representation. It’s clear from the comments that not everyone agrees. I’ll go even further and say that (if the past is any indication) the prophet will likely enter years of decline in which we’ll hear from him less… so I actually think it’s great to hear from President Nelson as much as we do; I say more is more at this point. (I also acknowledge what others have said about the Q15’s outsize media presence outside of General Conference, on social media / Liahona / firesides / etc. Still, I – and likely many others – don’t pay attention to that stuff much.) Again, others on here disagree obviously. But stay with me for a moment and just accept that this objective may be important just as the objective of better female representation is important. If so, this of course presents a particular tension. Because the Q15 are all male, hearing from them isn’t going to help with the critically-important representation issue that the OP acknowledges…. and the OP recognizes the substantive problem that lack of women’s voices in GC represents. So perhaps the church might try to address the issue in ways other than minimizing Q15 airtime in GC. And I think great strides could be made there. If we go back to @Clark’s analysis, simply replacing all the Q70 talks with women would massively improve the presence of female voices in conference. So perhaps Q70 drop off conference and move to the Liahona channels etc. Anyhow just an idea.

    The larger point is this: one can desperately want to hear from more women, but also want to retain hearing from all the Q15. These views don’t have to be positioned as opposites or contradictory.

    **Side note regarding some of the ancillary points referenced in the OP/comments:
    The tone-deafness is what i find cringey. (Anderson’s abortion talk; priesthood session talk about ‘lessons from football’; even Oaks’ US-centric talk immediately following the more international session. I mean…. I tire. Seriously.***

  117. I don’t want to take this discussion off into a different direction, but I’ve seen several comments about Elder Anderson’s comments on abortion and how troubling they were. I read his talk this morning because of those comments but I must be missing something (perhaps because of my extreme white male privilege). I don’t think anybody should be surprised that the church opposes abortion in most cases and encourages adoption where possible. If I’m being insensitive to specific concerns I’d like to know where I need to adjust. The comments seem to assume that it should be clear to anybody what the problem is, but . . .

  118. Great question, Mike. I can’t speak for anyone else, but one reason I found Elder Andersen’s talk disturbing is that he repeated harsh rhetoric from President Hinckley about how circumstances under which abortion might be permissible are “extremely limited.” To me, this echoes an ongoing problem where GAs in *theory* admit possible circumstances where they wouldn’t oppose abortion, but all Church-produced material tells only stories of women who chose *not* to get an abortion, even in situations where Church policies say it might be allowed (e.g., her health or life is on the line).

    For a whole bunch on this rhetoric (probably more than you want to hear, but I’ll link in case you do), here’s a post I wrote on the topic a year and a half ago.

    https://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2019/08/21/church-rhetoric-on-abortion-and-why-members-are-generally-pro-life/

    I think then there’s also the problem of how he frames it as entirely a problem for women, as though they were somehow getting themselves pregnant. Again, it’s common in Church rhetoric to take the pregnancy as a given, but it’s disappointingly myopic.

    And then there’s the problem of his encouraging of people to have more children. The story he told of the couple that considered their family complete with four kids, but who then felt pushed/inspired/guilted into having two more relates perfectly to the problems with the abortion discussion because the wife’s health and life were on the line, as she was prone to high-risk pregnancies. But Elder Andersen holds her up as a *good* example. Like with abortion, it’s women who are willing to sacrifice themselves to bear children who are praised. And of course the reality is that it won’t work out wonderfully for every family if they follow the example of this one. Sometimes women will have their health permanently damaged or will even die. Sometimes families will be pushed into bankruptcy. Sometimes the parents’ (and children’s) mental health will be harmed. But Elder Andersen isn’t concerned with whether the story he shared is representative. He just wants people to hurry up and have more kids, and to hell with any bad consequences!

  119. I won’t respond to all of your comments, except to say thank you for the response. Regarding the specific comment about Elder Anderson only giving specific examples of adoption or having more children, I suppose one might respond to say that it would seem odd for a GA to give a specific example of someone choosing abortion because it’s between that person and the Lord (though I suppose he could have given a specific example, but naming names seems risky, even assuming he wouldn’t have used someone’s real name–he would have used a name that was real and thus create the possibility that someone with that name had circumstances that might lead those around her to think she is the person he was talking about).

    I’d have to ponder that issue a bit more, but currently it strikes me that the most appropriate way to address the issue would be to reiterate the church’s policy of rare exceptions that are decided with the Lord. But if people have a problem with the “rare” or even “unusual” circumstances I’m not sure there’s a response that would be satisfactory.

    As a parent who adopted two children, I’m obviously grateful for adoption. The mother of the first one was in the waiting room for an abortion and felt prompted to leave and have the baby. I don’t think anybody should judge her harshly for listening to the prompting, which was clearly between her and the Lord. On the other hand, I can truthfully acknowledge there would be circumstances where an abortion would be the appropriate choice (hence, the church’s official stance reflecting this).

    I would find it rather odd if a GA were to publicly encourage abortion. As Elder Oaks once told a group of leaders, “We (general authorities) teach the general rule; whether an exception applies to you is between you and the Lord.”

  120. Thank you #BlueRidgeMormon. As our leaders have been pleading with us for years, we can agree to disagree. We can be sensitive and kind. We need to work more on loving one another than on judging one another. I also want to hear from all of the apostles at General Conference. That is why we have Conference. I also love hearing from the women leadership. I think we just forget sometimes that we do hear from them at other times than just General Conference. Be happy with the 50 new Women Leaders that have just been called. That is going to be a huge help. And, remember to pray for your leaders. They have a very difficult job to fill. 😊

  121. Mike, I appreciate you’re open to the possibility that abortion can be the right choice under some circumstances. Can you see, though, how when so many stories around abortion and fertility focus on women ignoring medical advice to get an abortion or stop having children, women naturally understand this to mean that the reality is that any Church rhetoric about how their health should be taken into account is just lip service?

    If you’re up for it, see this post from a woman who vacillated and ended up feeling tremendously guilty for having an abortion when she had an ectopic pregnancy, that had zero chance of surviving to term. This is exactly what we get when we repeatedly say that exceptions are very rare and depict faithful women as always going against medical advice.

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2011/04/the-gray-areas-of-agency-2/

    I appreciate you engaging reasonably on a potentially hot button topic. I’ll bow out now to avoid threadjacking further.

  122. Geoff-Aus says:

    I thought Elder Andersons talk on abortion was very strange. Some may question if life begins with the formation of an embryo, or when the heart begins to beat, or when the baby can live outside of the womb, but for us, there is no question that spirit daughters and sons of God are on their own personal journeys coming to earth to receive a body and experience mortality.

    He does not answer the question he asks. He infers that a spirit is commited at conception, and that an abortion, natural or induced, will thwart that spirits opportunity to come to earth.

    He seems to be talking to women of the church, where I expect abortions are very rare already. He also fails to address respect for women, and resourcing their agency.

    My interpretation of this talk was as an approval to all those who vote republican, because they believe the lie that democrats are baby killers. When in fact democrat policies reduce abortion more than the republican policy of making abortion illegal, which they never do.

    I saw other talks like Oaks, as saying there are other more important questions, that might influence how you vote.

  123. Elder Andersen’s talk is likely coloured by the fact that he and his wife adopted their children. I suppose having problems with fertility in a marriage and desperately wanting children might complicate a person’s feelings towards those who apparently conceive so easily and didn’t want to… I suppose it could make it difficult to empathise with those in the opposite situation. I suppose he might also feel that the children he and his wife now have could have been a part of abortion statistics…
    Which is not to say I agree with his talk. Just I haven’t read anywhere in the comments here or elsewhere about his own family situation could be influencing this.

  124. You see what you want to see with Elder Anderson’s talk. He did not answer the question of when life begins because we don’t know the answer. And the answer does not matter.

  125. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    On the topic of the Anderson abortion talk, my objection was/is slightly different than (or perhaps supplements) what’s already been said.

    I just don’t know why abortion needs to be prominently discussed at all, in 2021. I don’t want minimize abortion as an issue that’s worth discussing in conference…. but…. is it?

    I think having an apostle talk about it is potentially problematic for three reasons:

    1) It invokes the “visibility” bias and (in my view) signals that it’s a more pressing “problem” than it really is. With everything going on in the world right now, from income inequality to civil unrest to racial tension…. we’re going to go with a talk on the evils of abortion that could have come right out of the Roe v Wade debates from decades ago? Five minutes of googling shows that abortions are at an all-time low in the United States (e.g. https://www.statista.com/chart/19490/us-abortion-rate-guttmacher-institute/). So it just seems like a strange choice of topic, the selection of which encourages listeners to believe that it’s a more pressing social problem than it really is. Elder Anderson is talking about it so it must be important! (I realize this isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s almost like insisting over and over that voter fraud is a problem when in fact it’s really not….and how in some circles the repeated assertions influence people’s belief that the problem is dire.) So in this sense, the 2021 Anderson abortion talk seems more like a dog whistle to people who already erroneously believe it’s one of the pressing social/moral problems of the day. Which leads to my second point….

    2) I really don’t understand who this talk is for. It’s unclear who Elder Anderson was actually talking to or trying to influence, or what problem it’s really intended to solve. If the talk was aimed at women in difficult circumstances who are considering abortions, it’s not clear the talk was useful. If it’s intended as a congratulatory talk to those in developed nations who have chosen not to abort a pregnancy but instead utilize well-established adoption infrastructure… well, ok i guess. But why spend 15 minutes of Gen Conf time on that, for a church audience of 16 million people? Why are we talking about this? Who is the audience? And while the personal connection makes the talk “real” (certainly to the Andersons) it doesn’t necessarily make it useful, broadly. I just don’t get what the talk is trying to accomplish.

    (Truthfully this is one of my pet peeves: talks that seem to be oriented more toward virtue signalling or policy projection rather than useful devotional application.)

    3) Finally, I also think in many ways it’s one more example of US-centric “issues” that get highlighted, to the church’s disservice. I can’t help but think that saints in, say, Australia or Holland or Singapore probably listen and wonder why we’re hearing about an issue that’s only a hot-button political issue in the USA. Sort of like Oaks’ talk on the US Constitution. I mean, why. If I were living in Germany I’d probably think: whut? Imagine US viewers’ reaction to an apostle or member of the first presidency talking about the NATO charter or the current state of the EU in a General Conference talk… would that be weird? Why yes, yes it would. Which is why a talk on the US Constitution is also weird in that setting. Or (in this instance) a talk on a divisive American political issue for no empirically-supported reason. It’s just weird.

  126. @Mike – re Anderson, I agree with many of the comments already made here about that talk. I also understand your view that it would be unusual for him to give an example of someone who had an abortion.

    I think the “have more kids to the detriment of your health” message was more damaging than the abortion message (which honestly seemed more political to me). I would have appreciated a counterpoint to the example he gave of the woman who had babies 5&6 in high risk pregnancies such as an example of a woman who decided to stop after 2 kids even though she’d planned a bigger family and was physically able to bear more children because she had severe post partum and knew she couldn’t be the kind of mom / person she wanted to be if she had more kids. That would have truly driven home the point that the decision is personal. As it stands, the talk is “the decision is personal but the right thing is to have more kids.” It’s dismissive of the idea that women’s lives and bodies and health are good for more than just having babies. I am not really sure Anderson believes they are good for more than that given this and another talk he gave in 2011 and that’s kinda gross.

    Women are not factories for populating the Church pews.

  127. I think you made a very important comment…you don’t get it. My question is, “Why are we picking apart the apostles’ talks and complaining about them? There is definitely a reason why each of them speak about what they do. Their talks have to be approved ahead of time by the First Presidency. We may not understand NOW why they are talking about certain topics, but we will. Everyone wondered why President Benson talked so much about The Book of Mormon, but we get it now. People couldn’t understand why President Hinckley talked about The Proclamation on the Family, but we sure do now. We need to read and study their talks and see what is there for us personally. I loved President Oaks’ talk! I learned a lot, and he emphasized why the success of the United States affects the entire world. Jesus Chrust will return to Jerusalem and then the United States. He will dwell HERE during the Millennium. Please, let us learn from our apostles and prophets, rather than judge them.

  128. GEOFF -AUS says:

    Members who think like Deana and live where abortion and gay marriage are accepted by society, hear the talks like Andersons and believe the church expects them to be political extremists. Out there with the white supremacists. In Australia members are recruited by right wing extremists, and by members who are right wing extremists to try and revive these issues, and just look like bigots. Not a good missionary look.

    Hedgehog, I was not aware of the Andersons infertility problems and adoptions. That could contribute to his view, but has consequences for what members believe and the churches image.

    I understand many members voted for trump because they believe the republican lie that making abortion illegal will solve the problem, and this talk will support this lie.

  129. Not a better example of a conspiracy theorist. Turns out they’re not only on the right.

  130. #GEOFF -AUS What do you mean by “members like Deana”? Could you clarify?

  131. A very dear friend of mine in the Church attended Harvard 45 years ago and later Harvard Business School. He’s got a sharp mind and is very curious and inquisitive. He’s spent the last ~12 years in the presidency of a local foreign language branch (last 3 as president). The congregation is small – fewer than 50 active attendees – and rife with problems that tend to accompany lower economic echelons in higher percentages. Put bluntly, it is not the kind of crowd where you’d feel at home discussing macroeconomic developments or best practices for a consulting engagement.

    I asked him once if he resented being in this calling for so long, as it’s typical to serve in these “temporary” callings for 3-5 years at most. Serving this tiny branch has kept him from interacting with his home ward, with all the social benefits that arrangement is supposed to entail. His reply resonated with me (paraphrased): “I decided it wasn’t fair for me to ask to the Church to be my sole destination for every need. I joined my alumni club to get the intellectual stimulation I wanted. I’m now on the board of a nonprofit. But most importantly, the Church gives me a chance to interact with people who likely would not cross my path otherwise. They are helping me, in their way, to become more Christlike and develop his Holy attributes. And they don’t need to be the sole source of that development.”

    There are so many comments in this thread lamenting the current structure of the Church and how it’s “denying” them all sorts of things. Perhaps the psychologically healthy solution might be to give and take what you can from the Church experience, and fill the other needs elsewhere. Struggling endlessly to mold the Church into your image will only produce resentment, not refinement.

  132. I’ve seen comments here suggesting that the others are trying to ‘mold the church into their own image’ or to call them out, with varying degrees of subtly, for their lack of faith. I suggest that instead of assuming the worst, they read the OP again, read the comments again, and see that most of them come from a position faith and from a desire to follow the stated goals of the Church leaders. I mean, the suggestion that people should ‘go find their own external things to engage with’ (more or less) is particularly ironic, given that this is exactly what this post and the comments are trying to do. Perhaps the psychologically healthy thing to do would be to give others a little space and not so outrightly dismiss the lot of them.

  133. If you’d like to respond directly to me after quoting verbatim from my post, Brian, you are welcome to do so. No need to couch your reply under a broad, passive blanket.

    A careful – and indeed, superficial – reading of my comment will notice that I wasn’t lamenting anybody’s lack of faith. My comment was a suggested solution, which I fully understand is rarely the goal of a BCC comments section. It takes a mature faith to realize that your ward might not give you everything you want out of life – and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean the ward (or even the Church hierarchy) is broken. It takes a mature faith to realize that the Church does not have – and never will have – a structure that aligns perfectly with the world’s current and ever-shifting definition of “fair.” It takes a mature faith to choose belief. Perhaps we could do a little more, “Lord, is it I?” and less of, “Lord, what’s wrong with all these people?!”

  134. Bensen, I was responding to several people, hence the board passive voice that you also used in your first response. Second, I agree that everyone could always do with more “Lord, is it I.” Third, I’m not buying for a second that you aren’t here calling out people here for there lack of ‘mature faith’–because well, the content and context of your posts suggest otherwise.

  135. Benson using the insights of a male leader who served for over a decade in a branch presidency to illustrate his position that I, as a woman, shouldn’t expect the church to ever fulfill my need to be valued for my unique insights is… whew. Something else.

  136. For your benefit, Alice, I’ll be more direct. This person spent hours of his week for years serving in a calling that brought no glory and little respect, with a membership that was backbiting and gossiping more often than not. If you think your unique insights are only valued if you get to sit on the stand every week…well, that is something else indeed.

    And it’s Bensen with an ‘en’, thankyouverymuch.

  137. Bensen, look I’m sorry for the typo, but I find it galling that women here and elsewhere are expressing a need to feel valued and heard in the building up the kingdom of God, and your response is that a branch president you know joined his alumni network. I hope you can see how misaligned that is. Assuring each member that they are valued and have something important to contribute to the work of eternal salvation is a pretty fundamental duty of the church, and no, the women whose church experience demonstrates otherwise can’t find assurance somewhere else.
    “If you think your unique insights are only valued if you get to sit on the stand every week…well, that is something else indeed.”
    This is the point of the OP, no? As a church, we claim to want to hear the insights of women, and yet they are given very few opportunities to be heard. Your no-glory, little-respect leader absolutely was given a position to have his insights heard. Women have very little access to any position with similar influence. Regardless of your friend’s experience, our church explicitly values the voices of men more than women; that fact is made plain in our leadership structure, which is overwhelmingly male. General conference is evidence of unbalance. Do you really believe women’s and men’s voices are equally valued in the church? How can they be when we hear from so few women? Honest question.

  138. @Bensen, I agree that we can’t and shouldn’t expect the Church to meet all our social / spiritual / intellectual / whatever needs. But as @Anna points out, I don’t think this is so much about getting all needs met as about being treated with dignity and respect by the highest leadership (who should be setting the example here). What many of the people on this thread have suggested is that leading from the top our leaders are saying (with their actions) that women’s voices don’t matter as much as men’s. That’s not an issue of getting needs met or not or making buddies with your ward members. That’s an issue of actually being harmed and marginalized by *leaders* who are sending the message that women are valued as babymakers but not as leaders and speakers and teachers (except to other women and children). I think that’s an incredibly harmful message both to men and women.

    I also agree that we can always look to other sources to meet certain needs (although I would suggest that Church leadership really does expect that we will find all our *spiritual* needs met at Church). In fact, what I wish more women would do is vote with their feet and spend their time and talents with organizations that value them more than our Church does. I’m not saying resign, but stop the abusive cycle of giving so much free labor and loyalty and energy to an organization that doesn’t give two hoots about your perspective. It’s not healthy.

    So yes – women – please take Bensen’s advice. Go meet your needs elsewhere and see how the Church manages without your labor. See how the men speaking feel when the people whose voices they refuse to allow alongside theirs decide to stop listening.

  139. Do not the scriptures read “and a little child shall lead them?” Or how about “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons AND YOUR DAUGHTERS shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…” It seems that if the daughters in this Church prophesied, they may never have the opportunity to voice it.

    We need to value different voices. The idea that only the institutional leaders will be heard in church is not scriptural.

  140. @Alice – perhaps unsurprisingly, we seem to be talking past each other. The larger point of my original comment is that large-scale changes to Church organization are almost completely outside an individual member’s locus of control. Accordingly, if resentment of that reality is proving corrosive to both testimony and the weekly worship experience, then maybe a tentative solution is more useful and more needed than yet another forum for complaints – even if it’s something as simple as “joining an alumni network.”

    If I’m understanding correctly the primary thread in many of this post’s comments (and the OP itself), women in the Church are not currently being valued (and their contributions are thus viewed as subpar) explicitly because we don’t see them on a stand or hear from them 50% of the time in General Conference. And I don’t agree with that premise at all. The most uplifting and spiritually powerful talk I’ve heard at Church in the last 18 months – GC included – was from a mom of 5 in her 30s in my local ward. She didn’t have a “fancy” or visible calling, yet I know multiple people – myself included – who were indelibly changed from that experience. And I know my experience has been, is, and will be echoed across thousands of classrooms and relief societies and seminaries and families. Is this not extremely valuable?

    @Elisa – relatedly, I don’t agree with the landscape you’ve outlined. If the only “antidote” to perceived marginalization is more female faces at GC, then I think the illness has been misdiagnosed. Somewhat paradoxically, I agree that more women at GC would’ve been nice – but I don’t think it’s worth extrapolating deeper meaning than is actually meant or implied.

    Since my first example is apparently so off-base, I can share a second that has more direct relevance – this from a sister who was once in my home ward, stated after long career success (and who, like before, greatly influenced my life without a visible calling): “my baptismal covenants give me access to *all* the gifts of the Spirit if I seek them. I can literally have the ministering of angels, like Nephi did. I can literally speak with the tongue of angels, saying the precise words (when inspired to do so) that Christ would say if he were here. I can have the gift of visions of what came before and what will be in the future, to see things as they really were and as they really will be. I don’t get all I want right now, but these baptismal blessings ensure my mortal discipleship will be transcendent. And that is worth the effort.” Couldn’t agree more.

  141. Bensen, the problem isn’t that you simply don’t understand correctly. I don’t think many commenting here would agree with your understanding of their posts or their premises. The fault is not a lack of clarity on their part, however, but a lack of understanding on yours, most likely spurred by your unwillingness to understand. Your examples miss the point, further reveal your myopic reading of the complaints, and smack of patronizing platitudes meant to calm down the ‘less faithful’ and ‘unintelligent’ women you are responding to. That you do it with such ignorance and high-mindedness is absolutely disgusting.

  142. It’s “absolutely disgusting” that Bensen has a different opinion? This is where we have come to in our culture. No room for disagreement. Congratulations, o ye enlightened.

  143. Mike, that’s not what I wrote.

  144. Bensen,
    I know that there are profound prophetic (Rev 19:10) messages delivered to and (if allowed) THROUGH women. I hope that in your example the local priesthood leaders and members valued such speech, for it has been sent from heaven. But you are missing the point of this discussion. Why are such messages so limited at the church-wide level? It seems that General Conference should be the example, not the exception of how the body of Christ operates (Ephesians 4:12).

    The scriptures are clear. Members of the body of Christ sustain each other with love and trust. It is a danger if the institutional church engenders such a rigid hierarchy and male-oriented perspective that leaders cannot sustain members (yes, it goes both ways) and men cannot sustain women in the expression of their spiritual gifts. If we do so, we are literally trying to silence the heavens.

  145. Are talking past each other, Bensen? Because feeling heard and valuable in the church is about more than giving talks. I’ve been that 35-year-old mother-of-5 who gave a powerful talk. Many times. I’ve had members suggest I write books! And I’ve also had numerous, painful experiences that have demonstrated how little my opinions and insights, as a woman, are valued in the church. So many. And I know too many women who have similar experiences. But I’ve stayed, hoping and advocating for change. I can assure you my faith is NOT immature.

    (And I recognize many men have also felt marginalized and excluded. But that’s not the point of the OP.)

    But, to respond to your example, that’s great that your ward member’s talk moved you so powerfully. How many more people’s faith could she strengthen if she spoke regularly to all the wards in your stake as a member of a female equivalent of the high council? Might her insight be valuable in a ward council, where currently men out-number women 3:1 or even 4:1?

  146. stephenchardy says:

    Bensen: I looked back because your summation of other’s comments just didn’t read true to me. I think that the way you sum up the comments of others here is not right. Your summations seem to miss the point, even as they appear to address those points. And your tone may not intend to be condescending, but is. For example your suggestions of what a “mature” faith will produce can be insulting. Can you see that?

    You said that:

    “There are so many comments in this thread lamenting the current structure of the Church and how it’s “denying” them all sorts of things.”

    I did a quick search and the word “deny” shows up only on your comment. This is just an example of what seem to be summarizations that miss the mark. You appear to be suggesting that the thread is full of spoiled and entitled people.

Trackbacks

  1. […] number of women speaking compared to men this conference was abysmal,” blogger Emily Jensen wrote on By Common Consent. “The number of times women will be included in the coming Sunday lessons and talks based on the […]

  2. […] number of women speaking compared to men this conference was abysmal,” blogger Emily Jensen wrote on By Common Consent. “The number of times women will be included in the coming Sunday lessons and talks based on the […]

  3. […] number of women speaking compared to men this conference was abysmal,” blogger Emily Jensen wrote on By Common Consent. “The number of times women will be included in the coming Sunday lessons and talks based on the […]

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