Sunday after church, my children occupied themselves by making paper airplanes with scraps of paper while waiting for my meeting to finish. Monday morning, while tidying up, I found one of their airplanes, made from a copy of the First Presidency’s invitation to the General Women’s Meeting later this month.
The first thing I noticed about this was the “To:” line. It addresses groups of men, from general authorities to bishops and branch presidents before Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary Presidencies. Then the letter starts, “Dear Brothers and Sisters:”
For an invitation to a General Women’s Meeting, addressing men first seems a little off. Whose meeting is it? Who is it for?
Midway down, it states, “The stake president, in counsel with the stake Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies, should oversee all events related to this meeting.” Our local women’s leaders aren’t even given full authority over the meeting in their meetinghouses. Additionally, not listed in this letter, if you live in Utah and want a ticket to the event at the Conference Center in Salt Lake, you have to go through your stake president.
At the end, there are the facsimiles of the First Presidency’s signatures. The people inviting us to this meeting are not the Auxiliary Presidents, our female spiritual leaders.
So our women’s meeting is extended to us through men and by men.
Now I know that post is going to sound nit-picky. And I know that these little things are not anything in the long run and almost not one will ever remember how they were invited to the General Women’s Meeting. In the long run, it won’t have much affect on a woman’s relationship with God or the Spirit or the Church. But yet, it represents so much more.
There is a concept described by the phrase “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Meghan explained it in her first comment on this post. There are so many of these little “paper cuts” and you can’t point to one for the blame, but taken together, it is damning. Over and over, we erase women. This letter reminded me of Helen Claire Sievers’ article on page 18 of the Winter 2014 Exponent titled, What Women in the Church Have Lost in my Lifetime; I highly recommend reading it.
The first paragraph of this invitation letter mentions “a spirit of worldwide sisterhood.” I believe in that spirit. Can you imagine how empowering it would be for our General Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary Presidencies to be the ones signing this letter? If it were first addressed to women, who are ultimately the intended recipients of it? What if the stake Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidents were the ones who got to distribute the tickets to the event, and “oversee all events relating to this meeting?”
It would be a breath of fresh air! And what an easy change that would be. I hope we get to see it soon.