The Inaugural LDS Women’s Meeting–Part 2

Like Mraynes, I was eager to experience the first LDS Women’s meeting, and was curious to see how the wider audience would be addressed. I watched it in a stake where I used to live, and was surrounded by women and girls I admire. Several of those women and girls took turns holding my little babe, which allowed me to listen attentively, and take notes to boot. I will offer my report on the second portion of the evening.

My first note is small, and personal. It involved one moment right after I walked in the chapel that gave me pause. The Stake President was present, and said the single word, “Welcome.” I thought briefly that perhaps it should be I, welcoming him to the Women’s Meeting, rather than the other way around. My second note is also small, and personal. It involved the delight I felt at seeing all of the purple in the choir, and thinking that many of my friends and co-bloggers were in good company. Now to the presentations:

After President Oscarson’s talk, another video was shared. I am not quite sure how to describe it, but it seemed to show a progression of events a Latter-day Saint woman might experience in her life. Several were spiritually focused, but there was also a tender (and physical) depiction of a mother helping her young daughter ride a bike, another woman studying intently, and a very cute baby with a very cute wide open mouth.

President Linda Kay Burton, the General Relief Society President, spoke next. The very first thing she did was express love. The very second thing she did was ask a question in reference to the video: Did we see our own hand reaching out to help others along the covenant path? Then she mentioned Eve, and Sarah, and other women in the scriptures who knew their relationship to God. Like them, we can know of our divine heritage as daughters of God. Next she delved more deeply into the scriptural story of the rich young man.

Soon after this, her themes became clear. They were helping hands and willing hearts. They were knowing our divine heritage and identity as disciples of Christ. We need all of these things for ourselves and for others. She quoted Elder Maxwell as stating that everything easy the Church has had to do has already been done. What is left is high adventure! We will need help, and we will need to help. Correspondingly, she shared a story of a woman who gathered food storage. When others asked her about this, she said, “At least I’ll have something to bring.” President Burton confirmed that disciples of Christ give, often without thought of what they will receive.

At another moment she suggested that the way to strengthen a home is to keep covenants and promises with God and with each other. I wish I could have heard more about what she meant by this. Still at another, she encouraged all of us to visualize ourself and other women going forward, helping. She mentioned the bright yellow helping hand t-shirts that have been worn by so many members in so many instances, and then added that there are other ways to serve. If there was a “Help Wanted” ad, it might be for mentors, those who listen to the Holy Ghost, missionaries and members who share the good word, and those who keep covenants.

My favorite part of her talk was at the very end. She referred to those who have walked before, and testified, “We are devoted disciples who reach out and offer a hand…we hasten the work of salvation,” and in doing so, “become like the Savior.”

President Henry B. Eyring was the representative from the First Presidency. Fairly early in his remarks he offered a testimony that the words we heard are what the Lord would have us hear. He also hearkened back to many of the evening’s themes of covenants, helping others along the path, and journeying back to Heavenly Father. For me the most beautiful part of his talk was when he mentioned the feelings that we are wont to feel when ordinances are performed and covenants are made. He spoke to the 8 year olds who were recently baptized. Their memories and feelings may be fresh. Then he spoke to all of us. ‘Some of those feelings come back when we take the Sacrament.’ Further, “No two of us will have the same memories.” Still, he believes that “we each felt God’s approval” and an increased dedication to do what is right.

He also spoke of his mother, and how she had a heart like Alma, who at the waters of Mormon taught his people about the importance of bearing one another’s burdens tha they may be light, and mourning with those who mourn, as we rejoice with those who rejoice. The people actually clapped for joy. It is our choice to make covenants. Only a few of God’s daughters even have this choice. We are favored, or perhaps chosen.We are covenant daughters.

Things will not necessarily be easy, but we will have support. President Eyring spoke about Ruby Haight, the wife of a former apostle. She was once called to be the Mia Maid advisor to girls 40 years her junior. Years later she remembered and loved them as if they were her own daughters. She would clasp their hands in hers, and pronounce tenderly, “My Mia Maid.” President Eyring’s own wife was one of those girls. This anecdote seemed to match one of my favorite themes from the evening. It is the idea that this support, and learning, and love should cross generations. Older women can learn from younger women, and even small girls, as small girls can learn from young women and older women. We are bound together.

Sometime later he mentioned the support of parents, and the potential that they can see in their children. He specified earthly mothers here, and then paired it with the “glorious potential” that Heavenly Father sees in us. For me this was the place that I would have loved to hear Heavenly Mother (or even “Heavenly Parents”) spoken of most. She would have fit in swimmingly there, and it would have been a seamless transition from talking about a loving, seeing mother here, to talking about a loving, seeing mother there. I yearn for language about my Mother in every church meeting, but experience it even stronger in women’s meetings. The absence feels more stark.

Still, President Eyring’s take away from the potential God sees in us is a lovely one. It means that we can practice seeing that potential in others, and that we can try to treat every person we meet as a child of God. These are some of the reasons why God invites us to love others as ourselves, and why we are asked to be kind to others and to forgive. Each person we meet is also loved by God. They are also viewed with a perfect and charitable sight. Significantly, we are more like one another as God’s daughters, than we are different. This too seemed to hearken back to an earlier theme of the evening, that we should not harm or judge one another, but love. The capacity to see what we can be also happens in families and in church.

He referenced the many sisters missionaries serving across the world, and the leadership skills they are exercising. They are ‘powerful proselytizers and nurturers.’ Then he referenced Eve, the mother of all living. ‘We don’t know all of the help Eve was to Adam and her family, but we do know that she helped them see the path home.’ She very clearly recognized the way home to God. This did not keep her from facing sorrows and disappointments. Neither will it keep us. Sorrows and disappointments will come. President Eyring closed by testifying of Christ, the Holy Ghost, and by offering “words of comfort and hope.”

Rachel

Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

You may also like...

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for the very thoughtful notes on the meeting.

  2. liz johnson says:

    I felt that same yearning for words about my Heavenly Mother in his talk. It was almost funny to me, because he was talking all about how we were taught and nurtured in our premortal life by our Heavenly Father, and all I could think was, “AND OUR MOTHER.” I also wish he would have used the parallel “Heavenly Parents” as he discussed similarities with our earthly parents.

    But it was such a lovely meeting. I was so uplifted, particularly by Sis. Oscarson’s words.

  3. Audrey says:

    I had many feelings similar to yours about the meeting. I understand what you felt when you encountered your stake president, it was a WOMEN’S meeting. But as a woman whose husband has served in many very time-consuming callings, here’s another perspective: Maybe his feelings of stewardship, or his desire to welcome you, came after some preparation. He was away from his family. He was probably there an hour earlier than you– unlocking the building, turning on lights, setting up the audio/visual, etc. It’s OK to appreciate HIS prep on YOUR behalf.

  4. Audrey says:

    I guess I just mean, he surely prepped the environment, so it would have felt natural to welcome you to that environment.

    • Jessica says:

      I think it makes sense to do a mental double take at a man saying “welcome” to all the women at a the beginning of a womens’ meeting. No matter what he did to prep the place or his “stewardship over” them….it seems kind of strange when you really think about it.

    • Christi says:

      I get what you are saying, but why is a man the one ‘prepping the environment’ in the first place? At my meeting, the stake presidency was going around welcoming and talking to all of the women. While nice, where was the Stake RS presidency? Shouldn’t that be their thing? It’s the General Women’s meeting for crying out loud! It’s our meeting, but all we’re responsible for is showing up.

Leave a Reply