An Open Letter to Claus Inc. North Pole
A recent video mashup of male LDS leaders providing instructions to LDS women on how to be LDS women, left me longing for gender parity in General Conference speakers. The ratio of two female speakers to 36 male speakers documented here is devastating to those like me that hunger for messages from Heavenly Parents spoken in a female voice of leadership.
An English speaking woman of modest means or a non-English speaker is restricted to the meager rations of LDS female leader voices doled out in increments of two every six months (with a once a year bonus of three additional talks by women in the Women’s Session of General Conference). That’s an annual total of seven talks by women translated in a variety of languages and available for free. Half the membership of my church is represented by seven voices in a year!
Those privileged as English language speakers with money and means may hear from the female auxiliary leaders and some other LDS female role models at BYU’s Women’s Conference sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society. Last year over 11,000 women attended. Early registration for 2015 will cost $52 for two days of predominantly female voices with additional costs for transportation and lodging ($92 for a stay in Helaman/Heritage Halls). That’s half a million US dollars in registration fees for 11,000 attendees! I wasn’t part of the elect 11,000 this year, but I caught most of the talks for free online.
Thank goodness I speak English! My Spanish speaking grandmother struggles to understand spoken English, but has no trouble with a written English language copy of a talk. Sadly, no free transcripts of the 2014 BYU Women’s Conference are available for printing at home. You might want to pay the $24.99 to buy a copy of the 2014 talks from Deseret Book. I think she’d really like this gift, but this is not what I want for Christmas.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus it must be obvious to wise personages such as yourselves that there is a significant demand for communication from LDS female leaders and role models. Deseret Book has found this market. They don’t just profit from my abuela purchasing an annual copy of BYU Women’s Conference. They have something called Time Out for Women. It is a tour sponsored by Deseret Book that brings a cast of mostly female LDS entertainers, authors, professors, leaders and celebrities to women seeking the voices of LDS female role models. The privilege of being an English speaker with the means to travel to tour locations delivers four to six female voices for the early registration fee of $69 US dollars. There is also Time Out for Girls to meet the needs of the younger female market. Online access (English only) is available for $10 to stream the 2014 Salt Lake City Time Out for Women but doesn’t come with the cool tote bag that lets everyone at church know you are privileged. This system of spiritual pearls for English speakers with money does not seem fair to my global sisterhood of spirituality seeking sisters on the two-talks-every-six-months diet.
Why do LDS women have to pay for the privilege of feasting on the words of Christ with insights from LDS female leaders? And what about the good brothers that are unsatisfied with their annual ration of talks by LDS female leaders? I recall Jesus Christ responding forcefully to those that set up a market where worshipers sought sacred meaning. He flipped over some tables. Jesus got angry!
Might your elves craft a remedy in their workshop?
While your team in tinkering with LDS gender parity in the workshop, could you touch up the racial diversity? At LDS General Conference the male leadership we hear from is composed of the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This group is exclusively white and with the exception of Elder Uchtdorf, native to the United the States. There is some diversity in skin tone and country of origin among the Quorums of the Seventy. A portion of the Seventies infuse the conference with diverse voices from around the globe providing insights derived from experience with regional/local leaders. If only there was a quorum of lady Seventies. (You might want to put that in the stockings of those Ordain Women girls).
My Christmas request is simple. No female ordination is required.
I love each of the female leaders I hear from in General Conference. Although they are not very diverse and we don’t look much alike or have a lot in common, I love hearing from them. I know it is hard to have diversity in tiny numbers. How can two women at each General Conference represent the diversity of sisters in the Church? They cannot adequately do so. That is why the the general auxiliary boards of the Church must be called upon to speak. The auxiliary boards draw their membership from the Wasatch front, with the exception of the international Young Women’s General Board. But despite the Utah roots, the board members reflect diversity in country of origin, profession, education, cultural background, and include a few single sisters. We need their voices. I need their voices.
I would like to hear from these female board members at General Conference. For free. In lots of languages. I want to be able to read their words after conference in the Ensign and use their talks to prepare lessons. I don’t need a commemorative tote bag. Just words and voices of female leaders.
Specifically, I would like to hear from: Robin F. Bonham, Anne H. Clegg, Ana Gaertner deAgostini, Stacey H. Edgington, Sandra Rogers, Elizabeth D. Rose, Laraine S. Swenson, and Maria Luisa Torres from the General Relief Society Board.
I especially want to hear from the international General Young Women’s Board: Carmela Melero de Hooker, Leslie Pope Layton, Denise Posse Lindberg, Dorah Mkhabela, Janet Matthew Nelson, M. Lúcia Silva, Susan Saxton Taggart, Rosemary Thakeray, and Megumi Yamaguchi.
I promise to take notes in my journal and not get up for a second helping of pancakes if Reyna I. Aburto, Jean B. Bingham, Mary R. Durham, Joy D. Jones, Cecilia T. Plascencia, Larraine A. Rowberry, Erin C. Sanderson, Virginia U. Smith, or Janice P. Taylor from the Primary General Board should accidentally slip into “primary voice” while speaking in General Conference.
Finally, I’d like to hear from the two women that serve on a board with men! And even though they are a mixed gender board they all remain active in our church!!!! Namely, Ann Madsen and Amy White from the Sunday School General Board.
Most of these women are mothers and homemakers, some are single sisters, some are grandmothers. Professions and academic achievements include: hospital management, non-profit administration, computer scientist, math teacher, English interpreter, master’s degree in teaching, interior designer, public health faculty, vice president of sales, nurse, professor of ancient scriptures, masters degree in applied linguistics, speaks seven languages, international business leader in software industry, city council member, travel agent, and Church translator. These women also have mission or member experience in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, and Spain. They sound marvelous to me!
I’m starving for an equitable share of spiritual nourishment from LDS religious leaders in female bodies. I need relief from the money changers marketing the balm of female leader voices exclusively to the privileged.
Let the members of General Auxiliary Boards speak in General Conference.
Delivery in April or October of 2015 is perfectly acceptable for a good girl with years of practice in waiting and paying for voices from God’s chosen daughters.