I have looked forward to this historic women’s meeting for many months despite sharing the concerns of some that the audience may be too broad. I arrived at my stake center, wearing my subversive purple dress, vowing to keep an open mind and to stand with my sisters, no matter what.
I will be sharing my thoughts on the first half on the session but I have to say, I loved every minute. I was moved and inspired by each talk, I found the videos and music uplifting and heart-expanding. I am grateful that I live in a time where a meeting like this can be held and that we can be taught powerfully by the women leaders of my own faith. I look forward to the time when my daughter can join me.
I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into planning and executing this meeting. This was shown right off the bat as the introduction to the meeting was done by a woman, though it must be said that the first featured speaker listed was a member of the first presidency and all of the men in attendance were noted by name while the women did not receive the same treatment. Another particularly sweet moment was the prayer given by a brand new Beehive. It was powerful for me to hear the trembling but powerful prayer of a young woman, sure of her relationship with God, over the conference center pulpit. I hope more young women are given similar opportunities.
The first speaker was the general president of the Primary, President Rosemary Wixom. She immediately proclaimed her love for the women of the church and the sisterhood that she feels. President Wixom spoke of the covenants that unite us, pointing out that all of the women and girls in attendance have made covenants of one kind or another. She taught that all of us have individual journeys but we also walk in the light of the love of God. Most moving to me were the stories of the four women and girls she told. I saw myself in each of those stories, something that is unfortunately more difficult outside of this meeting. Women’s stories are powerful and I applaud the effort by President Wixom to make them the central feature of her address.
A video presentation came next of women and children singing “I am a child of God.” I sing this song every night to my three year old son, it is deeply written upon my heart and hearing and seeing those powerful, yet simple words from my sisters around the world was deeply moving.
President Bonnie Oscarson, General Young Women’s president, was the next speaker. To me, her sermon was just about perfect. She proclaimed that we are sisters despite our differences. Our bond reaches across, age, race, language, individual circumstances and personal opinions. President Oscarson said that the term sisters implies an unbreakable bond and that the adversary will try to break this. She taught that judging and comparing ourselves to our sisters is the tool that Satan uses to diminish our compassion for one another. One thing I really appreciated about President Oscarson’s talk is that she went out of her way to quote women. Each of her quotes was from a woman, which is unfortunately more remarkable than it should be. The first quote was from Sister Patricia Holland who said there was no criticism or judgement worth losing our sisterhood over. She also quoted Sister Hinckley in her statement that women need women. She used a beautiful story of feminine nurturing to illustrate her point. She spoke of how heavy the burden Mary must have carried and how much support she received from her cousin Elizabeth, noting the mercy of the Lord for providing a sister to bear one another’s burden during this difficult and miraculous time. President Oscarson pleaded with us to tear down the barriers that keep us from connecting to our sisters, ending with a quote from another woman leader urging us to not only love each other more but to love each other better.
President Oscarson’s talk was exactly the balm I needed to soothe the rawness I feel from the unkindness and judgement that has recently been spewed at some of our sisters in the gospel. I am so grateful that the focus of this session was on building a stronger sisterhood, a message that was both inclusive and empowering. If I have one complaint it was the continued prohibition of Heavenly Mother. If ever there was a session to speak Her name, this was it. Her absence is becoming more and more bizarre, especially as our leaders spoke of Heavenly Father’s love for us. Telling us that we are His daughters and that He personally schooled us in how to be women. I am hopeful that future Women’s Meetings will provide the space for our leaders to explore the female divine and provide the sisters with a better model of our divine nature and future potential. I hope the leaders of our church recognize our deep hunger for doctrine that speaks to our humanity and our unique experiences as women. I left this meeting feeling hopeful for the first time in a long time that our leaders are listening and are trying to make the church a more empowering space for women.