Guest Post: They Forget That We Are There
A letter I wrote Sunday evening after watching General Conference.
To the Primary Presidency, General Young Women Presidency, General Relief Society Presidency, and First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I am writing to express gratitude for the messages shared by Sisters Craig and Franco and Presidents Jones and Cordon during this most recent General Conference. I was inspired by their words, experiences, and testimonies about living their faith and striving to become like Christ.
I am also writing to plead with you to advocate for more women’s voices throughout General Conference. It was disheartening to hear only one woman during any of the general sessions and to have half of the women’s session speaking time occupied by men, even when those men are the members of the First Presidency. There are many qualified and inspired women available to choose from, and many women of the Church hunger for the feast their words can provide. This includes the leadership of the General Relief Society Presidency which we did not hear any addresses from.
President Nelson spoke emphatically about the necessity of women in the gathering of Israel. During the women’s session he said, “We need you. We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. We simply cannot gather Israel without you.” Chances for women to lead and share our voices are so limited. It is not enough to be told that our voices are needed if we are not given the opportunity to speak.
In an interview from 2005, Sister Chieko Okazaki commented on the introduction of the Family Proclamation. She was serving as a counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency in 1995. The Family Proclamation was presented to the General Relief Society Presidency as a completed document and the only input requested was when it should be introduced. Her question was why the women were not consulted. She reflected on this experience that, “Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there,” referring to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. This is a sentiment that, sadly, still feels true today. I believe that the male leadership of the Church care deeply about us, but that they are not fully comprehending our needs. They are forgetting women are there to consult with on the needs of the women of the church.
There are many who disagree with my perspective and who might say this is an unnecessary nitpicking. A common counterpoint is that all speakers are called and inspired to speak and that the focus should be on the message not the gender. I don’t disagree that all speakers receive inspiration in preparation for their remarks. In many instances I have been uplifted and prompted by the words of the brothers speaking. However, President Oaks emphasized multiple times throughout the conference that gender is eternal and essential. If that is true, then it is necessary that the women of the Church hear the inspired words of their female leaders.
Revelation is inspired and driven by experience. Regardless of how much men empathize with women they can never fully comprehend what it is to be a woman in the Church and in the world. As such, the messages shared by our female leaders are that much more critical for the women of the Church to hear.
I again want to thank those sisters we heard from and you for your strong and steady leadership. I pray that voices like mine can be carried by you to the men who lead our Church so that we are not forgotten.
With love and hope,
Sara is a YSA in the Phoenix area and works in public health. She’s all about feminism, a good book recommendations, and outdoor adventures.