General Women’s Session: Carol F. McConkie

Carol F. McConkie gave a sweet talk. As first counsellor of the Young Women General Presidency, she offered a talk that was strong and inspirational. She began with heavy focus on our premortal loyalty to Heavenly Father, and our relationship with Jesus Christ. As usual, her words omitted any mention of Heavenly Mother, or Heavenly Parents, which was noticeable.

 

But to cut to the chase: The power in this talk was in McConkie’s thesis on striving to be holy. She described holiness as a virtue that brings peace, and that we are all beings worthy and intended to be holy, receive holiness and be vessels of the spirit. I was grateful for her wording on this, and expect to see it quoted in the future; I am much looking forward to the transcript to the speech for the purpose of quoting it! McConkie encouraged listeners to set aside time to meditate, study and pray, and that we should and could rely on the Holy Ghost and the atonement. I appreciated this very much; it seems to me that typical direction is often for us to rely on Christ, usually with a direction to use a “middleman”—i.e. male priesthood leaders for help. But McConkie made no mention of this and encouraged all to be spiritually self-reliant in study, prayer and personal spiritual time, omitting any middleman references. Hallelujah!

 

The only discomfort I felt in listening to her speech was when she told the story of the Young Woman in Ghana named Angeline. This young woman was Beehive president, and sought to help her fellow Beehives to attend church. It *is* a beautiful story;  I wanted to step in and help this young woman and hug her for her spirit. McConkie implied that housework is a cultural expectation for young women on Sundays, so many of this Young Woman’s convert-sister Beehives were forbidden to attend church by their parents,  until they completed their requisite chores. This Beehive president, with an eye to help her “less active” sisters, offered to go help her friends with their chores so they could attend church. She spent hours cleaning alongside them, and then they would attend church together.

 

The service is in the story is powerful! The sisterhood is breathtaking— and it is an excellent story, and Angeline deserves the love and attention of God and the church. The story encouraged all of us to roll up our sleeves and do the work we need to do to help others keep their covenants, return to church and serve. All good things.

 

Yet it also sounded somewhat familiar to a talk given in 2012 by the second counsellor of the General Young Men Presidency, Adrián Ochoa, called Aaronic Priesthood: Arise and Use the Power of God. This talk also starts with the story of a young man in South Africa who goes with his bishop to visit an inactive young man, compared to the girl in McConkie’s story visits her less active sisters alone. By bringing up sports and mission prep classes, the men connect and inspire a less active young man to return to church. Comparatively, the young woman in McConkie’s story cleans house.

 

So this is the message I had from these comparable talks: Men back each other up, talk and play sports (soccer), women go alone, do chores and please authority (the less active girls’ parents).

 

I understand that this is a global church, and that women globally and traditionally have been seen as cleaners, second-class citizens and in poorly regarded social position. But this General Women’s Session is for the whole church. As McConkie’s story reminded me of Ochoa’s story, and Ochoa’s story was focused on priesthood power and male bonding in regard to sports and missions, I mostly felt sad by this choice of story about the poor girl from Ghana who went alone to reactive her sisters, and seemed her only option to help was to do housework (not soccer.)  It’s similarity, yet feminine version of the talk given by Ochoa just left me feeling kind of gutted. (Maybe I should stop listening to the men’s sessions?) McConkie did follow with the story of Mary and Martha; it was juxtaposed well to remind us that we are not slaves to housework.

 

In the end, this was a nice speech. I do think it is worth examining, pondering and celebrating for the choice to teach and remind women that we are holy and worthy of personal relationships with the Godhead.

 

 

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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7 Responses

  1. jksdfs says:

    Interesting difference between the two stories. But you are right that we are a global church so that means that the experiences of young women in Ghana and how they try to live the gospel need to be represented, even if they are in societies where they have so little freedom and options. This is something the young lady did on her own and was within her power. She was able to do something in this story and be the hero of the story. It is stories like this that empower women to slowly change the world around them. Africa is generations behind what women in the US can do.

    • spunky says:

      I agree with much of what you’ve written, but I’m not sure that “stories like this empower”. I didn’t feel empowered, probably because it reminded me of the other talk so much. But I also don’t live in the US. Do American women feel empowered by talks like this?

  2. Joni says:

    I’m always really uncomfortable with stories that make youth responsible for reactivating their peers. I remember feeling that that was a crushing burden when I was Mia Maid president a hundred years ago – these people weren’t going to go to the Celestial Kingdom and it was MY FAULT. At worst, it doesn’t respect people’s agency; at best, it creates a situation ripe for a LOT of anxiety.

    Yes, it’s sweet that the Beehive president helped these girls with family chores (and I appreciate that within the framework of the story, parental rules are respected). But, what was the opportunity cost to her of all the time spent doing other people’s housework?

    • spunky says:

      Joni, that wasn’t your fault. I’m so sorry you were made to feel that way.

      And yes. I think this girl is a hero, to be sure! I also suspect that her leaders are overburdened with their own culture and family life to try and fit in all that the church demands, so she may be going unnoticed.

      I further worry about the implications, and the safety of other girls who might feel obligated to put themselves in this situation, and for leaders who will impose this upon the Young Women in the wards and branches.

  3. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for this write-up, Spunky. I loved Sis. McConkie’s talk on prayer in October; I look forward to studying what she has to say about holiness.

  4. MB says:

    The conflict between the stories doesn’t bother me because I remember a story told in a previous conference about an priesthood leader who got up before 4 am on Sundays to help two boys in a quorum finish their farm chores so that they could be finished in enough time to be able to attend church.

    And I remember a story about a lone YW in a branch who, with her YW leader visited and fellowshipped less active members to create a small group of supportive YW in their branch.

    So, historically, both kinds of stories have been told about both genders of young men and young women.

    It just so happens that this one was used in this talk. And actually, though I have respect for both, I have greater respect for a person who does tedious housework to help someone to be able to attend church than I do for someone who engages others in fun social or athletic activities to help them be able to attend church.

    Both are good, but the housework and early morning farm chores are remarkably generous and kind in my opinion.

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