General Women’s Session: Carol F. McConkie
Carol F. McConkie gave a sweet talk. As first counsellor of the Young Women General Presidency, she offered a talk that was strong and inspirational. She began with heavy focus on our premortal loyalty to Heavenly Father, and our relationship with Jesus Christ. As usual, her words omitted any mention of Heavenly Mother, or Heavenly Parents, which was noticeable.
But to cut to the chase: The power in this talk was in McConkie’s thesis on striving to be holy. She described holiness as a virtue that brings peace, and that we are all beings worthy and intended to be holy, receive holiness and be vessels of the spirit. I was grateful for her wording on this, and expect to see it quoted in the future; I am much looking forward to the transcript to the speech for the purpose of quoting it! McConkie encouraged listeners to set aside time to meditate, study and pray, and that we should and could rely on the Holy Ghost and the atonement. I appreciated this very much; it seems to me that typical direction is often for us to rely on Christ, usually with a direction to use a “middleman”—i.e. male priesthood leaders for help. But McConkie made no mention of this and encouraged all to be spiritually self-reliant in study, prayer and personal spiritual time, omitting any middleman references. Hallelujah!
The only discomfort I felt in listening to her speech was when she told the story of the Young Woman in Ghana named Angeline. This young woman was Beehive president, and sought to help her fellow Beehives to attend church. It *is* a beautiful story; I wanted to step in and help this young woman and hug her for her spirit. McConkie implied that housework is a cultural expectation for young women on Sundays, so many of this Young Woman’s convert-sister Beehives were forbidden to attend church by their parents, until they completed their requisite chores. This Beehive president, with an eye to help her “less active” sisters, offered to go help her friends with their chores so they could attend church. She spent hours cleaning alongside them, and then they would attend church together.
The service is in the story is powerful! The sisterhood is breathtaking— and it is an excellent story, and Angeline deserves the love and attention of God and the church. The story encouraged all of us to roll up our sleeves and do the work we need to do to help others keep their covenants, return to church and serve. All good things.
Yet it also sounded somewhat familiar to a talk given in 2012 by the second counsellor of the General Young Men Presidency, Adrián Ochoa, called Aaronic Priesthood: Arise and Use the Power of God. This talk also starts with the story of a young man in South Africa who goes with his bishop to visit an inactive young man, compared to the girl in McConkie’s story visits her less active sisters alone. By bringing up sports and mission prep classes, the men connect and inspire a less active young man to return to church. Comparatively, the young woman in McConkie’s story cleans house.
So this is the message I had from these comparable talks: Men back each other up, talk and play sports (soccer), women go alone, do chores and please authority (the less active girls’ parents).
I understand that this is a global church, and that women globally and traditionally have been seen as cleaners, second-class citizens and in poorly regarded social position. But this General Women’s Session is for the whole church. As McConkie’s story reminded me of Ochoa’s story, and Ochoa’s story was focused on priesthood power and male bonding in regard to sports and missions, I mostly felt sad by this choice of story about the poor girl from Ghana who went alone to reactive her sisters, and seemed her only option to help was to do housework (not soccer.) It’s similarity, yet feminine version of the talk given by Ochoa just left me feeling kind of gutted. (Maybe I should stop listening to the men’s sessions?) McConkie did follow with the story of Mary and Martha; it was juxtaposed well to remind us that we are not slaves to housework.
In the end, this was a nice speech. I do think it is worth examining, pondering and celebrating for the choice to teach and remind women that we are holy and worthy of personal relationships with the Godhead.