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 Chronister

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.

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32 Responses

  1. Jan Signore says:

    Thank you for this post, I find it not nitpicking at all, and in fact essential that the voices of women are present at all levels and in all discussions. In the interview you referenced Sister Okazaki was asked if she felt women leaders should be included in bishopric meetings. She said yes. I wish she was still with us, it feels to me that we might actually have gone backwards since her time. I too am hopeful that women’s voices will be as strong and present as men’s voices in our church.

  2. Moss says:

    This is lovely. I think we need to ask our Relief Society leaders for an annual Women’s Conference broadcast so we can learn wisdom from our entire Relief Society Presidency.

  3. Dot says:

    I think it’s a wonderful sentiment but see no reason why the first presidency would listen to them. There certainly is no precedent for it. If anything, women are going backwards. In this conference alone there were fewer women speakers than maybe ever before, and then women were further silenced with the request (if you want to call it that) to remove themselves from social media for ten days,

    • Wondering Why says:

      Yes, it was to “silence” them. Not to help them re-think their possible addiction to social media, or the role it plays in their life.

      If it was to silence them, make it a month, three months, a year.

      We have so many young mothers in our stake who can’t hold a calling because they don’t have the time – and who spend HOURS posting nonsense on Instagram, Facebook, etc. seemingly oblivious to the fact that the rest of us can see it!

      It is time to take a step back and refocus our lives – especially if we need to spend more time teaching our children the Doctrines of the Kingdom in our homes. Something women will want to be heading as the presiding officers (joint) in your home. Time to study, ponder, pray can be found in spending less of it posting inane nonsense.

      • Ziff says:

        “Time to study, ponder, pray can be found in spending less of it posting inane nonsense.”

        Pot, meet kettle.

      • Wondering Why says:

        I don’t really call this “social media”. You may feel my posts are inane. But I am not telling how wonderful my life is (when you may know it isn’t), or what I am having for breakfast, or “sharing” a cat video.

        There is a difference between reading and posting that, and trying to understand Mormon Feminists – which I am genuinely trying to do.

        I think the intention of the request to “Fast from Social Media” is one that could be beneficial to a great many people (male and female). I don’t believe it is intended to silence anyone. I also believe (as I already posted) that Fast is what you make of it – especially since we are not talking about food.

        But even with food there is a lot of difference between fasting and starving. One has a purpose, the other is foolish, and potentially damaging to health.

      • HHB says:

        I am the rare millennial who is not on any social media—chalk it up to being an extremely private introvert and a semi-Luddite.

        That being said, I would never trust in my (or anybody else’s) ability to assess and evaluate somebody else’s use of their personal time by perusing their social media accounts.

        Even though I am largely out of and oblivious to the Facebook/instagram/Snapchat world, the call for a fast immediately made me wonder whether this was going to become yet another new way for sisters in the church to uncharitably observe and tsk tsk over one another’s lives. What a sad, self-defeating outcome.

      • Ziff says:

        I should be more complete, Wondering Why. You see value in what you’re doing, but you don’t in what these other people are doing on Facebook and Instagram. From my position, it’s unclear what value comes from your constant naysaying on this site. Has it occurred to you that when others post “nonsense” on Facebook and Instagram, is it possible that maybe they’re accomplishing something with it (like maintaining relationships, maybe) that you’re just not aware of?

      • Wondering Why says:

        Ziff, I get that you think I’m an idiot, but in reality I’m not. I don’t have to go too far to see what I have recorded. I have children, and I know them very well, and I know that they waste a lot of time. Not just in the posting, but in the ensuring that it is splendid, better than the last, or their sisters’ posts.

        I also did not suggest cutting it off completely. But often in order to take stock of what is, and what isn’t, worthwhile a break, a stepping back, can be useful.

        For those who believe the Russell M. Nelson is an inspired Prophet of God (Our Heavenly Parents) he is asking them to do something they believe came from God.

        For those who believe he is the Prophet, but not so much on the inspired side, they will choose if this is a time when he is correct.

        And for those who believe he is just the more recent in a long line of Patriarchy not interested in what God wants at all, and is only concerned with keeping women silent, they will make a lot of noise about it, and see no value whatsoever.

        But as with anything we are asked to do by Prophets, it is up to us whether we do it, and how we do it.

        For the single sister, living alone, with no family, Social Media could well be a life line. For some, I submit, it is a barrier to living life to the full.

        And everything here applies equally to men, as it does to women. And both Young Men and Young Women were given the same advice (10 day fast) just a few weeks ago.

      • Moss says:

        “We have so many young mothers in our stake who can’t hold a calling because they don’t have the time – and who spend HOURS posting nonsense on Instagram, Facebook, etc. seemingly oblivious to the fact that the rest of us can see it!”

        You would probably think my sister is guilty of this. She is home with littles all day and never doesn’t post a picture she takes. I was irritated for quite sometime at this behavior, it looked like ‘innane nonsense’ to me, too. Until my mother told me this is how she is dealing with depression and anxiety. This is what is keeping my sister, literally, out of the hospital. So now, I am happy to see all her posts.

        Maybe we don’t have the full picture about everyone. Maybe we should extend more charity. And if we want to learn about people maybe we should listen.

  4. Ari says:

    You’re right. You’re not nitpicking. Women have no voice in our church. We’re just there to look pretty and have the babies.

  5. Wondering Why says:

    “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.”

    So I understand by that statement that you don’t believe the Saviour can really be the Saviour for women? He can’t fully appreciate that which the Atonement is supposed to reach, because He is a man?

    I do believe that, and that He can, by the Spirit, fully convey that to Prophets, Seers and Revelators when required. If not, then the Plan of Salvation is not all it is cracked up to be.

    Ask yourself this question. If a couple separated and they were going to be living on separate continents. All else was equal (money, living standard, possibility to visit, etc.) but their two year old twins (boy and girl) had to live together, with one of the parents, who would you, as judge, order the children to live with?

    It would be the mother. Why? Because she’s the mother. You might want it to be the father, but it would be the mother.

    I don’t know why men and women are different. I don’t know why the plan has differing roles. I don’t know why they seem imbalanced. It would be great if over the last 33 years of marriage, and the growing up of my seven children, if I had been at home each evening.

    If the 5,000+ hours (208 days, over half a year) I had spent in church meetings had been done by my wife how much better would my life have been? And that is a realistic (low side) figure – and I haven’t even been a Bishop. It doesn’t count the time spent working, serving on the school board (23+ years), or in the business community.

    And I know my wife would not want it any other way.

    • Pete says:

      Please explain your theory on why we are cut off from Heavenly Mother if mothers are more nurturing. We can’t worship her, pray to her, or learn of her at church.

      • Wondering Why says:

        I guess we could do all three.

        However, there is no way to worship her, we are also not commanded to do so.

        We could pray to her, but we are commanded to pray to the Father, so maybe she is busy doing other things and doesn’t spend her Eternal Life answering prayers.

        We could could try to teach and learn of her at church. However, what source materials do we have in order to do that? We teach revealed Doctrine. And not a whole lot has been revealed.

        I tend to think of God as the combination of our Heavenly Parents. We understand from our Doctrine that it requires both in order to have an Eternal Life – so they are God.

        We come to earth with certain innate abilities and, for want of a better word, talents. I am not so sure why I can read music and play the piano and organ and my wife can not. She didn’t have the opportunity to learn, but neither does she have the desire to. She can not read music, and doesn’t want to. Does that mean she doesn’t have that talent – EVER? I don’t know. Maybe, rather than give us talents to come to earth with, maybe as Eternal Beings we will have them all – but we were only allowed to come to earth with some of them.

        Built into all Eternal Beings maybe there is Nurturing – certainly we see HF and Jesus in these terms – compassionate. There are a great many men with a lot of nurturing, and many women with none.

        But if we come with what we were allowed to bring maybe one of the parts of the plan is women in general got more nurturing than men.

        If however, women eternally have a lot more nurturing maybe Heavenly Mother would not be able to let us follow this harsh, difficult, often soul crushing plan and would always be intervening. Maybe she would have not allowed her Son to suffer the Atonement. I don’t know of course.

    • MJ says:

      Why would it automatically be the mother? Yes, the court systems still lean toward placing children with the mother, but, if it were up to me, it wouldn’t automatically be the mother. This kind of “all women are automatically more nurturing and suited to be parents than all men” crap is part of the problem. I’m glad your wife got the life you know she wanted. I would have made lots of different choices had I known, growing up in the church, it was okay to chose things I loved rather than just things that were easily compatible with motherhood. I want more for my daughter. And yours.

      • Wondering Why says:

        I am sorry that you didn’t believe you had the right make those choices. From what I have gleaned from reading here despite constant reassurances that we are a global church and that it is the same all over, I don’t see that.

        So many here seem to have been poorly taught, for the most part by YW leaders. These are not the experiences in the UK. Convert sisters teaching theirs’ and others’ children were not coming with the “old ways”. My sister went to university, became a teacher, then met her husband. She had maternity breaks, out mother helped with childcare, she worked part-time, and when the children (three) were old enough she went full time.

        My daughter married, had a child, put her in childcare and just graduated from university with a First Class honours degree.

        These are the Latter-day Saint women I know, and I know those who taught them. My wife’s Young Women president was Sister Gong, when Elder Gong was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. Even she doesn’t seem to have taught that the girls only had one choice, and purpose, in life.

      • MJ says:

        Wondering why:I actually have a master’s degree and had my first child at 30. I didn’t think my one and only pupose in life was to be a mother and nothing else. The problem is in the more subtle messages girls are given in the church. The message I received was “It’s fine to get an education, but you shouldn’t WANT to use it”. My best friend was accepted into a prestigious graduate program as she was getting serious with her now husband and thought she had to chose between school and getting married. My sister moved across the country for her husband’s graduate school and it never even occurred to her that she could continue her education, too. The message girls too often get from church is that a certain type of motherhood is what you make the rest of your life fit into, not that you can shape your experience as a mother into the kind of life that will make you happiest. There are as many ways to be a mother as there are mothers. I think men could benefit from a similar message.

        I’m not even going to start on the rest of your comments—I’ve read enough of you comments on other posts to know that is beating a dead horse.

        And now I’m done threadjacking. I got a bit triggered. Sorry, Sara! Excellent post! I think the messages we would receive as women would be different if delivered by women. I’d like the opportunity to see that.

    • Violadiva says:

      Andrew R., we have already explained to you, at great length, the many reasons why you are in permanent moderation. The new IP addresses you are using to leave these comments will also be placed in moderation. It is expressly forbidden in our comment polices to sock puppet multiple monikers. Furthermore, it’s dishonest of you to continue to circumvent our moderation policies and harass us with your endless mansplaining. You may continúe to comment as Andrew R., and your comments will not be immediately punished. Each author may choose if she wishes your comment to appear on her post or not.
      Furthermore, changing identities and deceiving to post on the blog without moderation violates our collective consent. This flagrant disrespect of the authority of women to determine who enters and has a voice in our protected space is exactly why all of your identities will be moderated.

      If you continue to deceive us as a way to circumvent this moderation, we will ban you outright. Every time. Without engagement in your comment.

      Also, your obsession with reading and commenting on this blog is worrisome. It’s strikes me as troubling when you try to shout down every post and every comment. Perhaps a 10-day commenting fast would do you some good.

      • Wondering Why says:

        Violadiva,

        No, I haven’t had it explained. No, email, just nothing. I did not hide who I was at all. Everything I have said about myself gives me away – how many fathers of six daughters and one son have you had post that information. I realised that it was impossible for me to post from a certain IP address (my home IP address is not static, I wish it could be) – it doesn’t go into moderation, it simply does nothing!

        And moderation is pointless, even those who would generally not mind my posts miss them (I know because Spunky told me in private email that she had missed one). And by the time they are moderated (April usually allows them) it’s too late for responses because the latest news is gone.

        You all talk a good talk, but the reality is that quite a few here seem to not care what it would do to the vast majority of women in the church if what they seek came to pass.

        If we had a paid ministry (which we don’t by revelation) I could see the case for female ministry. But we do this on our own time. The vast majority of women (those in my family included – mother, wife, daughters) would screen WHY? We have enough to do, please don’t make us Bishops.

        I know this is frustrating for those who seek these things. But it is the reality. Outside of this forum I have yet to meet, in real person, anyone like you, Spunky, April, et al. I am not obsessed, I find it interesting as you are all so different from the 50 years of LDS Women I have encountered. If that’s wrong, I’m sorry.

        I don’t know if this will be seen by all, but if someone can ensure that Violadive sees it I would be grateful.

      • April says:

        *TERRORIST fist bump* Thank you.

    • HuffleStuff says:

      Woof. Where to start.

      1. Don’t use Jesus as a straw man. The Atonement is not what this discussion or problem is about.

      2. I actually agree with your 2nd paragraph, I just have a really different interpretation of what that looks like. Revelation is the result of experience and QUESTIONS. God generally doesn’t just pour down knowledge unless we specifically work and ask for it. “ASK,and it shall be given you; SEEK, and ye shall find; KNOCK, and it shall be opened unto you.” To think that God will just passively tell men how women feel undermines the concept of agency and our responsibility to learn to help one another. Remember that classic example that you can’t refuse to study then just ask God to help you on that test and have Him tell you answers you didn’t study for? Same idea here. Our male leaders must work and listen to women to be able to understand their needs. And many women want to hear from their own.

      3. I’m lost with your example with the kids and separated parents. It doesn’t make any sense and you explanation is horribly incomplete. “Because she’s the mother” holds no persuasive merit here. Come back with specific reasons and evidence to back it up if you’re going to insist on saying it.

      4. By re-emphasizing that men and women are different, you are re-emphasizing my point that both men and women should be able to hear from women in General Conference (and at all levels of the church) because what they have to say will be different. Women’s experiences and voices matter just as much as the men’s do in general, but even more among women.

      5. You and your wife are happy with all the work you’ve done outside your home in your community? Cool. I just don’t understand the point of why you brought it up in this context except that you think women should always stay at home? Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, but if I am correct in that assessment, I wholeheartedly disagree. I think women should have the ability and support to do what they want without judgment or pressure. And that men should be as flexible in their life plans as they expect women to be.

      6. We’re asking to hear from women more often. For men and women to share responsibilities, including family and home responsibilities. Not for men and women to switch places. Surely even you would concede that you wouldn’t want to be a woman in the church. I challenge you to think of why, and then maybe you’ll understand why this is all so frustrating.

  6. Lily says:

    Wondering Why: The Savior knows what its like because he suffered all the pains of every human. Otherwise, no. Its the human condition to view things from your own perspective. So, until you have actually had a menstrual cramp, no you don’t know what they are like.

    • Wondering Why says:

      Yes, my point entirely. Somehow Heavenly Father was able to transmit the suffering to Christ. Maybe such is possible, in a much, much smaller way from God to humans. I don’t know, and nor does anyone who hasn’t been a prophet. And just as no explanation has been given by Christ, nor would a prophet.

      But even if a prophet can’t, we know Jesus could, so His word to His prophet should be enough, no?

  7. Chiaroscuro says:

    I would love to see women’s voices more equally represented in the general sessions of conference. Women are just as capable of seeking revelation and speaking to the membership of the church. what a missed opportunity for the leadership not to call upon more women to speak; and SHOW both men and women that women’s voices are needed and valued

  8. Nicole says:

    Amen! 1000% amen. How do we get the leaders of the Church to read this and get this message to the general authorities and the First Presidency? We need the leaders to recognize how many women feel this way….it’s not just one or two here and there. I am deeply concerned that if these kind of issues are left ignored, that many young women and women will leave the Church as current actions do not match up with the words. And then the women whose voices are indeed so needed will not be there.

  9. April says:

    Whoops. Meant for my comment to post under Violadivas reassertion of public rules.

  10. X2 Dora says:

    On another level, I think it’s pretty funny that WW thinks he has a chance of changing kids with his outrageous mansplaining. If anything, his blatant sexism is the thing that turns reasonable people away from his line of thinking! 😉

  11. MrShorty says:

    I don’t know if this will add anything to the discussion — and it is a man’s experience interjected into a feminist space, so it may not even be of interest to the group. Your comments that you might have made different choices if someone had indicated that you had other choices to make is a reminder that I, too, might have made different choices. As I approach middle age (maybe this is just part of a mid-life crisis), there are many days when I look back and think that I would have really liked the opportunity to be a stay at home dad. Of course, growing up I was always working towards a career and marriage — assuming that if anyone stayed home with the kids, it would be my wife. All of this could be mid-life “crisis” type “what could my life have been” and “the grass would have been greener on the other side of the fence.” kind of things. I just wonder if I would have made very different choices if I had had the opportunity to make different choices.

    • Violadiva says:

      Man, it’s comments like this that are a real heartbreaker for me. Men can be such good nurturers. But growing up being told that it’s a woman’s sphere to nurture can shut it down in men so unfairly. This is one of the awful consequences of toxic masculinity, and an example of how patriarchy hurts everyone.
      Maybe you can teach your kids differently.
      I think my husband felt that kind of pressure to be a sole provider before we had kids, but also a draw toward being there for our kids. It has been one of our best marriage decisions for him to get a job that allows him to work from home, and I work part-time. We both have to deal with the struggle and the joy of keeping track of our kids all day.
      There are options for couples to figure out an equitable balance!
      Good luck in your mid life crisis.

    • MJ says:

      MrShorty: 100% agree! I think my husband would have been a better stay at home parent than me. I know a couple stay at home dads—they’re fantastic! It never occurred to me growing up that that was a thing. I’m glad my sons and my daughter get to see that!

  12. MrShorty says:

    I thought I was replying to MJ above — if my comment seems a little out of place in the discussion threads.

  13. Rachel says:

    I was a writer for the Church for four years. During that time, I wrote conference talks, commencement addresses for Church-owned schools, BYU Tuesday devotional remarks, and other public speeches and presentations. For men. I am a woman. I often felt inspired while working, and the general authorities I wrote for even prayed for me to receive the revelation I needed to write what God wanted their audience to hear. So, clearly Church authorities believe women are capable of receiving the necessary revelation to speak for the Church. It makes the lack of female speakers all the more appalling and infuriating to me. Thank you for this article. 💓

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