Why I haven’t written a letter

Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Belief | 37 comments

As many of you know, this is the final week of the “Let Women Pray” letter writing campaign in which All Enlisted, the group behind the Pants Day, has asked women to write letters asking general authorities to allow women to pray in general conference.

 

I haven’t written a letter.  I don’t have an issue with the idea of writing letters.  And in theory, I would love to see women pray in general conference.  But I find myself conflicted by the campaign.

 

It starts with the word “let.”

 

While women have never prayed in general conference (see DefyGravity’s introductory post here), I think the reason men pray has more to do with the fact that there are more male general authorities.  The prayers are generally offered by the 70s – serving as an introduction of sorts.  The general auxiliary leaders are given rotating opportunities to speak.  For me, the true balancing act would be to start asking the general board members of the primary, young women’s, and relief society to pray – not the women auxiliary leaders.  Which I suppose would be nice, but to me is a much more radical change – which quite frankly I don’t know that I rank highly on the list of radical changes I want in the church.

 

While I guess I could put some of the above into a letter, my main concern is that I don’t like the method of mass petitioning.  I’ve been put off by some of the Facebook memes.  While I credit the campaign for gaining some media attention, in the end, I don’t see it as being effective. Maybe I am overly skeptical but I am not sure that the general authorities will even read the letters.  I see them putting a wall up when they hear about a mass campaign versus coming across an invidual letter that isn’t as confrontational.

 

It’s possible that in the future there is something that strikes my passion and maybe I’ll change my opinion about letter writing campaigns but for now, I am admitting, maybe a bit unpopularily amongst Mormon Feminists, that I am opting not to participate in this campaign.

 

That said – I do respect the campaign.  I see other people’s passion and smiled seeing Tophat’s daughter’s video.  I think it is good for individual people to express their opinions.  I believe calling attention to matters of equality is important.  And generally, it has made me happy to see All Enlisted take the energy from the pants event (which I saw as a coming out day for Mormon Feminists more than anything) into a specific issue.  I hope All Enlisted and other activist groups like WAVE will continue to tackle specific issues.  Even though I wish there was a way to tackle them all at once.

 

I think a lot about what is the best way to go about asking for change.  I really don’t know that I have better ideas.  And I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I have the energy and passion to fight a long uphill battle.  So for now, I will just say that I respect those who do.

 

In terms of discussion, I’d like to ask why have you or why have you chosen not to participate in the Let Women Pray Event.  What do you think are the best ways to implement change in the church?

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37 Comments

  1. The issue of having women pray in conference doesn’t light my fire, but I do believe in supporting initiatives like this because it makes people think about inequality, many for the first time. It starts a conversation about inequality in the church and opens up a dialogue.

  2. Maybe I am overly skeptical but I am not sure that the general authorities will even read the letters. I see them putting a wall up when they hear about a mass campaign versus coming across an invidual letter that isn’t as confrontational.

    I would like to ask how you justify your support of an institution when you believe that its leaders really won’t listen to its members when a group of them speak on the same subject, and will instead use the fact that many of them are unhappy and saying the same thing as a reason to IGNORE this message they don’t like from the members.

    Seriously. Imagine your statement in regards to any other organization. “The school will put up a wall when parents and children engage in an organized campaign, but they’ll be thoughtful and consider changing things if one solitary student sends a single thoughtful letter.” or “BP will ignore all the concerted action about its dumping billions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but if only one person now and then sends them a letter, they’ll change their practices.” Or “The government will never respond to petitions from citizens–makes you wonder why we even have petitions!” Or “King George would totally ignore an uprising by his subjects in the American colonies. But if just a few people wrote a letter every now and then–why, then of course he’d realize that taxation without representation is unfair, and he’d change!”

    Really? You think that? And you think that’s OK? You think an organization that operates like that deserves your financial, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual support? How does that work?

  3. I find it hard to understand why people value responsive governments and responsive businesses but at the same time, believe the church must avoid appearing responsive. Kelly Ann may be right. Many detractors of the campaign say that women praying at Conference is a good idea but that church leaders won’t do it specifically because the public asked them too. They don’t want church leaders to appear “weak” and to “cave to public pressure.”

    I don’t know if this is also how our leaders think, but the fact that so many members of our church are expressing this sentiment reveals something very disturbing and ugly about our institutional culture that needs to be addressed, especially in light of the fact that most of our leaders our male and the campaign centers on an inequity affecting women. Essentially, the appearance of strength among the men in charge (i.e., pride) is valued above responsiveness, especially responsiveness to women, who “should” appear weak and should not be the ones with the good ideas. Men can act on an idea presented by women, but only if the women present it so quietly that the men can pretend the idea was their own. Hmm.

    • “Men can act on an idea presented by women, but only if the women present it so quietly that the men can pretend the idea was their own. Hmm.”

      Excellent summary, April. This seems completely absurd. Really, how stubborn and proud are men who behave this way?

  4. re: my comment above and April’s–this attitude is especially disturbing in light of Matthew 7:9-11:

    Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
    Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

    Women aren’t even supposed to have the temerity to ask for bread or fish? And if we dare to ask, if we dare say, “Hey! We’re starving over here!” it’s actually RIGHT that our leaders give us stones and serpents?

    People really think that’s how it’s supposed to work? And that women who believe otherwise are selfish, trouble-making shrews who need to be put in their place?

  5. Nothing but respect from me here, Sister. I feel the same way – I, too, have opted not to participate in this campaign. I know, like you, that it’s not a popular position amongst my fellow sisters in arms, but nonetheless it is my decision.

    I’ve been pondering why I was so passionate about Pants, but find myself so apathetic about this campaign, and I haven’t come up with an answer. I would expect myself to approach both campaigns with equal fervor (especially since one leads to actual change), but I don’t.

    I think you had something when you said it begins with the word “let”. I don’t want equality that way – “let” women pray, “let” women vote, I don’t feel any equality or fervor when I beg for permission. Perhaps if we had said, instead, “Brothers, you should invite a woman to pray”, or “Women should be praying in General Conference and here is why”, or simply “Women Should Pray”, I would feel differently? I don’t know. I think there is much to be gained from conducting ourselves like we are equal as we lobby and campaign for rights, responsibilities, and changes. This word, “let”, is one syllable that contains (apparently) a lot of baggage.

    I still don’t know, but thank you though, Kelly Ann, for writing so honestly, even though your opinion (and mine!) is sure to be unpopular and perhaps even treated with disdain.

    • As someone involved in the campaign, we were trying to walk a fine line with the name. I am not in favor of asking for something we should already have, but when creating an event like this you must be aware of your audience. We wanted to appeal to members other than Mormon feminists. Even with the name being “Let Women Pray” we still have people who think it is too harsh, that we are demanding, not asking, that we are telling leaders what to do instead of asking them to consider something. So on one hand, we have members who think we are attacking the church, and on the other we have Mormon feminists who feel that it isn’t strong enough. If we’d gone stronger, with “Women Should Pray” I’m betting the fallout among those who do not consider themselves feminists would have been bigger than it already is, and we would not have the support of members who agree with this particular event, but don’t feel as strongly about women’s position in the church. And if we want to make changes, we have to do more than preach to the feminist choir. I see this as a gateway for people to learn about feminism and women’s position in the church as much as much as an attempt to make a change. We need the support of people outside the Mormon feminist communities, and we didn’t feel that going stronger in our name would reach that goal.

      I understand that “let” is not the best word choice for many of us. But please try to understand who we are trying to speak to, and look at what we are trying to do, not just the name. The truth is, as much as I loathe asking permission, a woman cannot just get up in Conference, go to the pulpit and pray without permission. (Unless she wants to get jumped by security.) This change will not happen without permission from the leadership. As much as that sucks, and as wrong as I feel it is that we need to ask for something that we in theory already have, if we want a woman to pray in conference, it needs to come from the top.

      • I fully appreciate where you (the hosts of the campaign) are coming from. Thank you for explaining it, and for putting so much thought into how to affect change in a way that is gracious and respectful.

        Maybe the problem was never the campaign, or the word “let”. Maybe it was just a reflection of where I’m at on my path. Keep up the hard work, ladies! I appreciate your activism, even if I am sitting this one out.

    • Interesting sentiments! The let has bothered me; however, I felt like, for me, I should participate in this one though I felt differently about the other (although I’ve since worn pants to church). I love this community because I think we honor each member’s choices as right in their own situations

  6. I think you had something when you said it begins with the word “let”. I don’t want equality that way – “let” women pray, “let” women vote, I don’t feel any equality or fervor when I beg for permission…. This word, “let”, is one syllable that contains (apparently) a lot of baggage.

    Yep. It acknowledges the ugly truth: that LDS women and women in general do have to ask–indeed, beg–for permission to do what men are allowed, permitted, to do.

    Perhaps if we had said, instead, “Brothers, you should invite a woman to pray”, or “Women should be praying in General Conference and here is why”, or simply “Women Should Pray”, I would feel differently?

    Would you? Neither of those statements asks anything. Neither of those statements demands anything. How do either of those statements create a situation where women are “conducting ourselves like we are equal as we lobby and campaign for rights, responsibilities, and changes”?

    Would you feel different if you read LET not as a request but as a demand, from people who know they are being denied a right they should possess?

    What do we do here, sisters? If we plain old ask, we’re weak and not conducting ourselves as equals. If we ask in unison, we’re giving the monolithic male power structure a reason to ignore us. And if we demand, we’re….?

    • You ask some good questions, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure i have a good answer for you.
      Demanding is better than begging, but I don’t really like either one. I think that I want it to be as simple as stating a truth or a fact or asking a question, and all of us (male or female) reasoning together to make things right. I recognize that is idealistic and maybe naive, but in a community of people trying to be better than they are, I think I can hope for something better, too.

      I don’t know what to do, but I’m confident that together we will figure something out that fits the unique personality of the Feminist Mormon community.

  7. I wrote a letter but felt ambivalent. We’re so deeply ingrained about never doing things like that, especially putting our name to it, that I felt frightened. I know that isn’t the reason you chose not to, but it is the reason I nearly chose not to. It is also why I don’t participate in bolder initiatives, like taking action to push for female ordination. I’m just scared. I’m afraid of the repercussions for me with my family, my ward, and my membership.

    That says something about the church too. I’d like to think the church isn’t what it was in the 1990s when they purged the feminists en masse, but the leadership remains mostly the same.

    Sometimes I compare myself to my heros from the suffrage movement and ruefully realize that I am probably like those feminists you scarcely want to call feminists. So timid, so willing to play along with the status quo, asking for crumbs from the table. I guess I’m not Alice Paul, but I wish I had the guts to be.

  8. I agree that church leaders tend to dig their heels in in the face of events like this (which, as Holly said, is an issue in and of itself, to care more about saving face than about what your members are feeling.) But, if not this, than what? Individual questions or concerns are ignored, passed down to local leadership who can’t do anything about them, or thought of as just one person’s gripe. Large numbers of people asking questions put leaders on the defensive, and put members off as well. So, what do we do? How do we make changes?

    • Ditto. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been told that when letters are sent to GAs they are automatically returned to the letter writer’s Stake President, unread by the GA. If that’s the case, then much of the value in this campaign lies in getting the letters actually into these people’s hands. I’d bet my letter has a much better chance of being read as a part of this effort than if I wrote something independently.

  9. I personally love the idea of a bunch of women standing outside the conference center with duct taped mouths. Radical… But it would certainly get attention. You can put letters in binders, but not a bunch of women (unless, of course, you are a Romney).
    I’m not participating either though I’m supportive. I’m just too damned tired and depressed about it all. I don’t think I was meant to be a long term activist.

    • I personally love the idea of a bunch of women standing outside the conference center with duct taped mouths.

      I do too…. but it’s also not “conducting ourselves like we are equal as we lobby and campaign for rights, responsibilities, and changes.” Instead, it’s calling attention the ways we are silenced and forced to beg for permission. It makes explicit a painful truth by giving people a visual representation of it, and if there’s anything Mormons want to hide from, it’s truth of the uncomfortable variety.

  10. If you haven’t seen it, BCC’s lis of those who have prayed since 2002 http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/01/16/conference-prayers-2012-2002-a-reference/. For the last three years (2009-2012), every man that has prayed in General Conference has already spoken in General Conference. This includes Marlin K Jensen who spoke 5 times, John B. Dickson 3 times, W. Craig Zwick 3 times, Gary J Coleman 3 times, F. Michael Watson who has given the statistical report 23 times and spoken once, H David Burton who spoke 14 times and Richard C. Edgley-14 talks in General Conference. So the explanation going around (by members since we haven’t heard why from leaders) that they must be reserving prayers for the Seventy because there’s more of them and it gives them more opportunities to speak/pray, is actually false if they are doubling duties and giving some members of the Seventy multiple chances to do both. Especially when there are many members of the Seventy that have never done either, so it’s not like they’ve run out of men who haven’t prayed or spoken.

  11. Thanks for opening up this discussion, Kelly Ann. As a Mormon feminist I feel passionately about any movement that may lead to greater equality between the sexes. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be discerning about which actions within that movement feel the most authentic to us or which actions we believe are the most likely to achieve the end goal. Looking back on any feminist movement (be it suffrage, second wave feminism, the ERA, etc.) one indisputable fact is how divided the movement could be about which actions would produce the result most feminists ultimately desired. Healthy debate about what actions are most likely to give women greater visibility and voice in Mormonism is a long-standing tradition I’m glad to see you and others be a part of.

  12. True, All Enlisted may not be going about this the perfect way. They may not have used the wording you would have in creating the campaign. There may be things that even they would do differently next time. Many don’t agree with this particular issue being a big enough problem to warrant attention. There are lots of ways to be critical of All Enlisted while still wanting more equitable treatment for men and women. I don’t even think any of us really know if it will even work–if the letters will actually get into the hands of those selected.

    And of course you have the right not to participate–no questions asked.

    However, I applaud any group who is willing to take a risk, even if they’re not doing it “perfectly.” Or with the right words. Or using the right medium (that goes to all the people who say, “I support your efforts but don’t think you should be using Facebook/other social media to organize.”) Not that you are criticizing them, per se. I just think it’s all too easy to let other people get into the arena, get messy, fight and fight again without admiring them for taking the risk, and supporting them in their imperfect means. If the campaign succeeds, we will all benefit from their labors, and for that, the group deserves our admiration (even if, as noted, maybe even especially if, their methods make us too uncomfortable). And if the campaign doesn’t succeed, we will still owe them for taking the risk to find out that letter-writing WON’T work, so that we can find another forum that might.

    • I just think it’s all too easy to let other people get into the arena, get messy, fight and fight again without admiring them for taking the risk, and supporting them in their imperfect means. If the campaign succeeds, we will all benefit from their labors, and for that, the group deserves our admiration (even if, as noted, maybe even especially if, their methods make us too uncomfortable). And if the campaign doesn’t succeed, we will still owe them for taking the risk to find out that letter-writing WON’T work, so that we can find another forum that might.

      amen.

      The prissiness of Mormon feminists, the expectation that we can affect major change without ever raising our voices or making anyone uncomfortable or being the least bit confrontational, just makes me nuts.

      Mormon feminists often cite Gandhi and Martin Luther King as their models because they brought about great change through non-violent means. These men and the movements they led were indeed non-violent–but they were highly confrontational. They were messy and they made a lot of people profoundly uncomfortable. The people they led were unwilling to inflict violence–but they had to be absolutely willing to be on the receiving end of it, and they often were. Mormon feminists can’t even tolerate a stern talking-to from a pompous dude in a suit.

      • should acknowledge that it’s not ALL Mormon feminists who are prissy and are often all-talk-no-action because they fear reprisals…. but it’s still too many.

  13. http://believeinchange.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/keep-your-coins-i-want-change-meek.jpg

    I desperately want equality within the church, but I have not written a letter asking for women to pray. I have too much to risk (family, community, membership) to take action asking for chump change.

    Nothing short of ordination will give us equality.

  14. Thank you for writing this, Kelly Ann. I think we all have battles to fight in the war of equality, and we each must listen to our conscience and the Spirit to decide which ones we should fight.

    I don’t usually participate in petitions in my feminist activism. I think my reasoning echos your’s. But, I’m grateful and supportive of those who are able to participate in this way.

  15. Its almost funny that something as simple as a prayer can become so very controversial. Like you, Kelly Ann, I chose to not write a letter, it just didn’t sit with me, though I am not sure why. In part, I am unfamiliar with All Enlisted, so am hesitant to follow.

    But my real thing has to do with an aspect of Social Darwinism that is not resolved in my mind. See, I wonder about when the Priesthood was extended beyond whites. Were there letter writing campaigns? Were there protests? I am not suggesting that we follow the exact model of the Priesthood for all men path, but it makes me wonder at what cost I might finally be “allowed” to pray, or to finally be ordained.

    In my mind, Kimball further imprisoned Mormon women with his insistent anti-abortion, anti-ERA rhetoric, but somehow he is lauded as being a liberator for allowing all men priesthood. In my mind, he oppressed one group (women) and lifted another (men of colour). Perhaps this was incidental, but I still wonder if it was more about increased control of church membership at large and less about increased, pious priesthood on earth.

    So if this model is accurate- that one group must be lowered in order for another group to be lifted– then, if women are to be ordained, which “group” would be lowered? My only thought is that homosexuals would be further oppressed in and by the church (and I can’t imagine it worse, so I dunno… is there another group in the church’s headlights?). I am not saying this is a perfect parallel, or even right. But I do see this- the oppression of one group, when another group is spotlighted for upliftment in social status. Seems pretty worldly to me, and much more to do with human fallacy than with God’s plan.

    With that, I don’t see the prayer thing as being quite the right pace for me because I question the bait and switch thing– if my Kimball model is correct, then *if* women are allowed to pray, then some other *privilege* may be likewise removed.

    So again, it makes me wonder what church members did to encourage leadership to lift the ban on blacks and priesthood, and how we can model this, yet do it BETTER, so another group does not need to be oppressed. I want progression, and I do not intend to be a martyr, but I want real progression for all church members, not the Kimball model of Social Darwinism. In summary, I am not sure the “Let Women Pray” campaign avoids this type of Social Darwinism, but I do wish them proper success without retaliation.

    • See, I wonder about when the Priesthood was extended beyond whites. Were there letter writing campaigns? Were there protests?

      Yes. I know people who took part in them. It distresses me that anyone could now think that highly political move, done in response to a great deal of political pressure from both inside and outside the church, was some sort of spontaneous thing.

      So again, it makes me wonder what church members did to encourage leadership to lift the ban on blacks and priesthood,

      Did it really not occur to you to google the topic?

      Among other things, Stanford University refused to play BYU sports teams. Athletes who did have to play BYU wore armbands in protest. Fans other other teams threw rotten at BYU students and athletes. BYU was a pariah for the ten years before the lifting of the ban.

      I’m shaking in astonishment at this glib ignorance. You’ve got to be kidding.

      if women are to be ordained, which “group” would be lowered? My only thought is that homosexuals would be further oppressed in and by the church (and I can’t imagine it worse, so I dunno… is there another group in the church’s headlights?).

      Homosexuals? Or lesbians? After all, gay men already have the priesthood. Heard of Mitch Maynes, the gay member of a bishopric?

      You might seriously consider that the revise of what you fear is already happening: that the LGBT community is winning respect and recognition at the expense of women.

    • For what it’s worth, Spunky, I didn’t know about sports teams refusing to play with BYU, either.
      Holly – let’s let people ask honest questions without accusing them of glib ignorance – OK?

      • Thanks, Emily U. I have no issue with political pressure, and I appreciate, support and understand that gay men do have priesthood. I do not fear this. I’d also like LGBTs to be able to be married and sealed to partners of their choosing. The choice of group was purely conjecture, not malice. It is interesting to consider sporting side of the BYU armband thing. At a glance, it only appears to assert a position of Masculinity, which is not necessarily a position of equality, as it leaves the issue of Social Darwinism at large.

        I just support Kelly Ann’s decision, and appreciate and support her in pointing out the issues she has with the letter writing campaign.

      • Didn’t seem like an honest question to me, since despite Spunky’s wondering, there was so little effort to figure out what was different about the effort to extend the priesthood to black men–just a pronounced sense that Mormon feminists now are Doing It Wrong.

        Spunky, I’m old enough to remember the 70s and the church’s fight against the ERA and the day the 1978 revelation was announced, and I’m telling you, your Kimball model is wildly off the mark.

    • I think those are good questions, Spunky. I had heard of external pressure against BYU athletes, but I too was wondering about internal pressure. A quick google search did little to enlighten me, other than a sentence or two in Wiki about a couple of African American Mormon men who protested and were excommunicated.

      Though now that I think about it, Armand Mauss did talk about this in his book All Abraham’s Children. If I remember right, it was the temple in Brazil that was a turning point. Church leaders down there couldn’t figure out who was of African descent and who wasn’t. It was a mess. Missionaries and mission presidents would write to Church leaders about the disaster the racial policy was down there. Eventually, Kimball privately spoke to every single one of the apostles about lifting the ban, in effect preparing them all to be on the same page when they went to the temple to pray about it.

      That model is an interesting one to consider. If we could capture church leaders’ attention about the real harm the gender priesthood ban was causing to women, how we were losing women right and left because of it, how there are places in the world where the church can barely function because the membership is heavily heavily female…. well maybe that’s one avenue.

      But I also endorse this letter writing effort. It brought me out of my comfort zone to do it, and having women pray in GC is not on my top 10 list of changes I would like to see, but I want to support efforts to agitate for change. Any move to make women more visible, to hold women up as spiritual authorities, is progress in my book. But I do understand your hesitancy and questions, Spunky, and I think your ideas about the Church slamming down one group if it lifts another is intriguing.

  16. Not all men can pray in general conference if they want to either. Only GAs . So the idea that praying in GC is something that is open to men generally, but not women generally is incorrectly.

    Moreover, not all women care about this issues. My guess is that among those that do not care are those in the General Auxillary Presidencies – the very women that would most likely get an invitation to pray. All Enlisted is pushing to make some of the women most likely not to agree with their positions and highly likely not to want to pray in General Conference the symbols of All Enlisted’s struggle. I mean, seriously, do you think Elaine Dalton is going to want to pray in general conference as a result of a bunch of lobbying?

    If for no other reason, I tho I that this is why the initiative is doomed.

    • No one claimed that praying in General Conference is open to all men. But it is still true that it is has not historically been open to ANY women.

      Similarly, no one claimed that every woman (or man) cares about this. But that does not negate the fact that many do, and that those individuals also matter: it is their church as much as it is those who do not mind.

      I am confused as to why you assume that those in the General Auxiliary Presidencies are among those who “do not care,” and are are “highly likely not to want to pray in General Conference.” I on the other hand, assume that they would be both honored and humbled, as I suspect they are when they are invited to speak. It is not clear to me why they would have an aversion to praying. And if the policy were to change, I trust that they would trust the wisdom and revelation that brought it about.

      • Elaine Dalton is on record as not supporting lobbying. I don’t think that she will want to pray in General Conference as a direct result of a lobbying effort by Mormon feminists.

      • Yes, i dont envision Sister Dalton being the first.

  17. I see great value to this initiative, even though inviting women to pray in general conference is such a small concession if it does happen. I think the campaign is valuable even if it is completely unsuccessful in achieving this modest goal, and even if church leadership purposely refuses to allow women to pray for many more years to teach us ladies a lesson about not organizing, like many people predict they will.

    At the Let Women Pray Facebook page, someone commented, “I never even noticed that women don’t pray in General Conference. That is what it is like to be a white male.” Bless him for daring to see his privilege and bless All Enlisted for pointing it out. Women are so underutilized, so invisible in our church that we don’t even notice their absence in our rituals. And we women choose to be complicit in this invisibility by conforming to our own culture’s social stigmas against “lobbying” or “being annoying activists” or “protesting” or “organizing” or boldly saying what we want instead of being the meek, longsuffering, passive creatures we are trained to be.

    I have never even met most of the folks at All Enlisted, but I like them because they are opening their mouths and choosing not to be accomplices in the silencing, hiding and erasing of Mormon women. They are making people see us.

    If the stakes were higher, maybe it would be important to fuss about strategy before acting. For a very important initiative, such as seeking female ordination, I can see why this would be important. But the only risks here that I see are annoying church leaders and continuing to have only men pray at Conference. These risks are so minor compared to the greater good All Enlisted has already accomplished by making people actually notice that women aren’t up there praying. Thanks to them, Mormon women are already slightly less invisible than we were a few months ago.

  18. Thank you everybody for your responses. It is interesting to hear varying perspectives.

    De Pizan, Thank you for sharing the link listing those who have said prayers. I had not seen it. However, I am still under the impression that a prayer and a talk aren’t offered by the same person in an individual conference. So in that sense, I still see it as increasing the exposure of the various male general authorities. Although given the fact that the women don’t speak every conference, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to increase the presidencies visibility. But I think the point that we are asking women to pray who might not want to, particularly seeing it as a cave to pressure, is an interesting one. As I mentioned in my post, I still think it would be awesome if Salt Lake decided to highlight members of the auxiliary boards.

    DefyGravity, thank you for giving a little bit of background about the name of the campaign. I do appreciate the fact that the groups’s efforts are getting the attention of people across the spectrum and making a universal name and memes that won’t bother someone is impossible. It has made me rethink the word “let” a little bit. I do respect that the group is trying their best to do something they believe in – even if far from perfectly.

    Emily U, I see the point how the value lies in getting the letters to the leaders. I commend those who don’t feel passionate about the question of women praying but who are supporting the cause none the less. I like Kari’s point about needing to respect the group for taking the risk to see if letter writing works. I do respect everyone who is putting themselves out there. But I suspect it will take multiple letter writing campaigns about many subjects to even be able to tell if the technique is effective or no.

    I agree with Em that the baggage from the feminist purge is indeed still present. I think the hesitancy that many have to participate due to fear of repercussion and that leader’s won’t listen is a huge problem (even having cited the latter as part of the reason I am reluctant to get involved). I am lucky enough to say that I don’t fear repercussion but that has taken a long time to develop.

    Holly, I don’t believe that individual letters are the right way to agitate for change either. That is why I am at a loss. I really don’t know what will work. Perhaps the letter writing campaign or demonstrations are the best bet. But either way, I will be honest in that I am not sure that the institution “deserves my financial, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual support.” In truth, that plays into my reluctance. It is hard to want to give energy that I don’t have knowing that it is uphill battle no matter what. And that I don’t see divinity in aspects of the system and maybe I am better off leaving.

    But as others have said, maybe there is something to supporting a movement that calls attention to gender inequality even if it is per say unsuccessful. I don’t believe we can affect change without raising our voices. And so here, I sit thinking about maybe writing a letter. Not necessarily a typical one – but more of an encapsulation of the points of the post – that I don’t really care whether or not women pray in general conference, but I hope seeing the letters will make them think about how they can address gender inequality. And that if I decide not to, that perhaps I will try to find something that does spark my passion to lobby for in some way.

    Genevieve, the duct tape would definitely get attention. But I think there is the line that those who protest would seem too radical. But that is part of why I like it. I guess I am a mix of contradictions.

    Spunky, the comparisons that you make and others discuss in regards to Blacks receiving the Priesthood is interesting. I have always known there was agitation but I don’t know enough to make a direct comparison. And even if I could, I wonder a lot how modern instant press scrutiny and the role of social media changes the way people will see any changes in the future. I would like to think that the role of the international church will affect a lot of changes. Notably how it has recently impacted the missionary age. Your point regarding social Darwinism is also interesting. But I really want to believe that improvements won’t come with weird costs. Although I do find myself thinking that if it does – that one giant change would be far better than a bunch of small baby steps.

    Finally, as Aimee said, I thank everyone for the “healthy debate about what actions are likely to give the women the most visibility.” As indicated, my opinion is ever evolving and it is good to know that there are a range of opinions out there.

  19. I haven’t written a letter. I don’t think anyone will listen to the needs of women until we stop showing up. Voting with our feet will work. Imagine if not one women or very, very few attended General Conference in SLC.

    I would think the leaders would want to pay careful attention as more and more young women are leaving the church.

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