What Happened, and How do You Feel About it?

Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Belief, Mormon Life, women | 26 comments

Today in General Conference. I’m writing this before Conference starts in my time zone, so I don’t know what is happening.

I was involved with Let Women Pray from the beginning, and now we are at and end. We asked that women pray in this General Conference. So what happened, and more importantly, how do you feel about it?

I can guess at my own reactions. If a woman prays in Conference, I will be pleasantly surprised. I will feel proud of my role in Let Women Pray and what we had a hand in accomplishing. I will be proud of the church for including women for listening to the concerns and feelings of some of its members, and for not balking at listening to public opinion.

If a woman doesn’t pray, I will not be surprised. I will be proud of my role in Let Women Pray and of the members who expressed themselves to their leaders. I will be disappointed that the church did not make a simple change to help some of its members feel loved and included and feel the missed an opportunity to show that they care about how members feel.

How do you feel?

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26 Comments

  1. They just announced a woman will give the prayer. How do I feel? I hope for a spirit of peace. I hope for unity and reconciliation. I hope that this will sooth troubled hearts, communicate that someone is listening, and calm the voices of discontent. Sadly, however, I fear it will not.

  2. I squealed, and I am not a squealer, and then I cried, and I am not a crier either. Now I am grinning in anticipation.

    I really loved seeing Elder Uchtdorf’s smile as he announced the closing prayer.

    • I sobbed and I’m not a sobber. In fact this may have been the first time in my life that I’ve ever sobbed.

    • I was listening on the radio. I would love to see the video of Pres. Uchtdorf announcing Jean Stevens as the closing prayer. Does anyone have a link to this? I really want to show my kids.

  3. A small step for women, a giant leap for equality. Hurrah!

  4. I missed the announcement and so when I heard a woman’s voice I ran over to the couch (I was chopping food while it played on my computer) to listen. I found myself praying along — yes I am thankful for this music! Me too! For me it was the best part of conference so far. Part of that is my fault as I was multitasking and so didn’t pour myself into listening as much as I should have, but I still feel such happiness and gratitude. I love how totally normal it felt. The prayer sounded like all prayers. She looked like most women do in those positions — suit skirt, slightly poofy hair. It was so normal. I love it.

  5. So, so happy. We are evolving as a church, but it’s in a wonderfully normal, non-threatening, organic way. And did anyone else notice that both women in this session toned down the Relief Society voice?

  6. I responded to the prayer on my blog http://bit.ly/10EIkcW

  7. I cried. My heart just swelled with happiness. Women in the church are so important to me – and I’ve put my heart in to so many women-projects. After all the work and conversations … I felt a huge “lightness” like I’d been heard by the church I love …. and the leaders I love.
    Suzette

  8. First of all, it was a lovely and heartfelt prayer. It seems like such a small thing and I wasn’t expecting to be emotional, but I did cry. I kept opening my eyes to sneak a peek until I finally gave up and just watched.

    I admit, I didn’t write a letter. I didn’t think it would make a difference and I even worried that doing so would have an opposite result: that the brethren wouldn’t want to appear to be pressured. I regret my lack of faith in our leaders. Whether this was something that was decided ahead of the campaign or that the letters did encourage them to make the decision doesn’t matter to me. The fact that a women did pray, for the first time, means that we are moving forward. Feeling grateful.

  9. It felt so normal and right – very pleased to finally witness it.

  10. The Church announced before General Conference, like a week ago, that the lineup for prayers were chosen before the letters came in. Now that this has happened, doesn’t it seem that the Lord knows our hearts’ desires and inspired the Church leadership that a woman should give a prayer? I feel that taking credit for this isn’t what we should be doing. I feel that this should be a moment where we realize that God knows us personally. The credit should go to God. Not us. I know people will be using this as evidence for ordaining women and how leadership hears and will answer.. but I don’t think that is the case. If anything, the conference messages told us that the men hold the priesthood to preside and protect the family. Women hold the power to procreate and to nurture children. One without the other is nothing. The Lord is aware of our concerns and trials but we also need to learn to understand His ways. I love that a woman gave a prayer, not because I think it shows that we as humans, natural-women, played the major part, but because it is a testimony that God knows His children– both men AND women.

    • Ginnie – could you please share where you read the announcement that the prayer assignments were made before the letters came in? Let Women Pray was accepting letters until March 1 and the Salt Lake Tribune said women would pray in a March 18 article that also quoted Church spokesman Scott Trotter as saying the assignments had been made some weeks ago (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56026380-78/women-general-conference-pray.html.csp). So it’s possible the Church would have asked women to pray without this campaign, but since Let Women Pray went live in January, I think it’s far more likely that they were aware of the campaign and responded to it. I think DefyGravity and her colleagues should be very proud of their courage, organization, and grace in the way they conducted the campaign – the Lord certainly knows the desires of our hearts, but the leaders of the Church can’t be expected to read our minds.

      I think everyone knows women’s ordination is a completely different animal than asking for women to pray in church. But the fact that the Church leadership responded to stated desires to have women pray gives me hope that they will seek revelation on the question of women’s ordination.

    • I don’t know if the letter writing campaign helped or not. I believe that it did, and I am proud of that. I am proud of expressing my beliefs, of sharing my opinion. I don’t see any reason not to be proud of that. Humility does not mean we ignore the good things we do; God gave us the talents and beliefs we have for a reason, and using them is something to be proud of.

      This event may be used as an example of leaders caring out the feelings of the members. I don’t think that is a bad thing either. I would hope that they care about the members instead of ignoring them. This may be a step towards leaders truly listening to what members need and giving it to them. Since God wants us to be happy, to take care of each other and to love each other, what could be wrong with that?

  11. How do I feel? Immediate reaction: relief. I admit I was a little worried when the opening prayer wasn’t given by a woman. Although I fully expected women to pray at some point in conference I started wondering if the media predictions were wrong. My expectations were so high that it would have been a real blow to me if women hadn’t prayed. Later reaction: renewed appreciation for the love and empathy of our leaders. The fact that they listened to the cares of all these women means a lot to me.

    • Update on how I feel: This

      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324600704578407020865769616.html

      leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not the article, but the quotes from the Church spokespeople. The Church spokesman can’t confirm that this was the first time women prayed in General Conference? Hey – do your job! The Church spokeswoman says the schedule was made “late last year.” Implicitly denying that the voice of the members had anything to do with women praying. Like they can’t change the schedule, even shortly before conference? What would be so wrong with acknowledging that they listen to letters? The passive-aggressive way of asserting that they’re above being influenced is pretty galling.

      • To be fair, if indeed the decision was made last year, then the statement is accurate and not implying anything. And one reason to think that decision was made last year is that a prayer at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional was given by a woman. That may be indicative that they had made the decision, and were starting right then to assign women to give prayers.

    • I was pleased. It feels like we may be able to dialogue with our leaders after all. The prayers we requested happened; our leaders saw the logic of the request, and did not play any games with us like waiting a few conferences to invite women so as not to appear responsive to feminists. Responsiveness, is after all, a good thing.

      I feel similarly about a 15 minute video released featuring the general auxiliary leaders, quite possibly in response to the ordain women movement. I don’t agree with our female leaders’ opinions about women’s spheres, but I appreciated that they shared more insight into their roles in church governance. This is useful information. For example, based on all of the talk about how the missionary age change was a surprise to anyone outside the 12, I had assumed that women were excluded from this decision. According to the new video, this was misreported. I also appreciated that women were speaking about women’s roles, not men, and that the women talked about church governance, not how wonderful/nurturing/loved women are, or worse, how ladies shouldn’t lobby. I did not agree with the message, but I saw it as a good sign that our leaders are listening and willing to talk with us about the isues surrounding gendered church governance. http://youtu.be/pQbFwbPcr-g

  12. I was delighted with it. It just seems more consistent since women pray in every other meeting. I had to point the significance out to my husband and daughter, who hadn’t realized that women hadn’t prayed in conference before. Not sure what percentage of church membership that they represent.

  13. I was at the Gay Pride parade, so I missed this historic occasion, but I cried when I saw on my phone that it had happened. I feel like our Heavenly Parents and our Church leaders heard our prayers.

    This is a testimony-builder for me.

  14. I was so pleased to hear both women pray, although I didn’t have the emotional response I expected. More than anything, I found myself thinking “yes, we have come so far, and yes, we have so far to go.”

    In terms of GC overall, I loved all of the references to Heavenly Parents, but I just really, really, really wish there could have been one explicit reference of having a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Why can’t we say Her name out loud??

    (that said, it was lovely – I just want to hear about Her so much that it hurts.)

    • Amen on the continued absence of the name, “Heavenly Mother.” It wasn’t always that way. Spencer W. Kimball gave numerous conference talks with explicit mentions to her, and others gave fewer. From my former research for BYU, I actually believe President Hinckley was the last prophet to explicitly say, “Heavenly Mother,” instead of “Heavenly Parents,” and that was in his 1991 conference talk, “Daughters of God,” that suggested members should not pray to Heavenly Mother. And it was before he was the prophet.

      • Exactly! Which is why it’s so frustrating. We’ve eliminated Her from our discourse for no doctrinal reason. Even the BYU Studies article by Paulsen/Pulido (was that part of what you were working on?) shows that there’s no good reason. It’s just baffling to me – it’s like we’re afraid of saying it out loud. And I think we are afraid, because discussing Her could potentially have huge doctrinal implications in terms of patriarchy and gender roles.

      • Liz, that is exactly what I was working on. When it was first presented at a Women’s Research Institute Colloquium in February 2009 I was listed as one of the co-authors, but when it came time to edit it to its BYU Studies version I was off at grad school and unable to contribute as much as I would have liked.

  15. While the prayer is definitely historical and a change that was long overdue, I’m a little stubborn with my definition of progress. I think the prayer is the gate to real progress that needs to take place, progress that works to, as Kristine Haglund said in The Salt Lake Tribune, address the limitations and hardships imposed by “the institutional systematization of patriarchy.” Especially when at that same conference, we had more talks warning us against the “tolerance trap” by a speaker who has been outspoken against the “evils of homosexuality”, and this talk comes during the current climate of the Supreme Court hearings of DOMA and Prop 8, with the potential for the law of marriage to include same-sex marriages.

    I wrote more about this at my blog at http://lgbtvoices.blogspot.com/2013/04/mormons-be-like-progress.html

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