Men at General Relief Society Meeting

Women are seeking to attend Priesthood Session during the upcoming General Conference. (You can read more about these plans here.) The main purpose of this action is to show support for the ordination of women.

While not the main focus, these plans have illuminated the differing policies toward gender at Priesthood Session and General Relief Society Meeting.  Great lengths are taken to ensure that Priesthood Session is a male-only space.  In contrast, not only do men attend Relief Society Meeting, they preside over it and offer the keynote address.

Priesthood Session General Relief Society Meeting
Presiding Officers Men preside over Priesthood Session, both at the Conference Center and at satellite locations. Men (not women) preside over General Relief Society meeting, both at the Conference Center and at satellite locations.
Speakers With one notable exception in 1946, women do not speak at Priesthood Session. Men speak at every General Relief Society meeting.  A male General Authority gives the keynote address (the longest and final talk).
Staff Female tech crew, ushers, and other female employees and volunteers may not work in the Conference Center during Priesthood Session. Both male and female employees and volunteers work in the Conference Center during General Relief Society Meeting.
Public Accessibly Priesthood Session is the only session of General Conference that is not broadcast live via Internet, radio or TV, thus limiting live viewing to church facilities where local leadership may govern entry. General Relief Society Meeting is broadcast live via Internet, radio and TV.  Anyone, regardless of gender, may watch the meeting live.
Henry B. Eyring giving the keynote speech at the 2012 General Relief Society Meeting

Henry B. Eyring giving the keynote speech at the 2012 General Relief Society Meeting

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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17 Responses

  1. Sherry says:

    Thank you April for this succinct look at the differences between the two. Last year my stake had it’s annual RS conference. Because I don’t often attend church, my daughter brought home a flyer for me. As I read it, I laughed and laughed. When I caught my breath I showed my daughter what tickled my funny bone. A MAN was giving the keynote address AND all the workshops were taught by husband/wife duos. My daughter chuckled and said, “Mom, that is ridiculous! No wonder you don’t go!” How infantile and demeaning it is to ALWAYS have men “preside” or “teach.” What are they so DAMN afraid of???

  2. Katy says:

    I honestly don’t know enough about the PH meeting to know — can any man/boy/etc. attend, regardless of his PH standing? Can a man without the priesthood attend?

    • Christi says:

      Yes, any man can attend. They don’t check or even ask if the man holds the priesthood. I know this because my husband attended when he did not hold the priesthood. It was a non issue.

  3. JayJay says:

    I’d like to know more about the woman who spoke at Priesthood session in 1946. Do you have a link to the speech or the back story?

  4. Ziff says:

    They just announced that the priesthood session is going to be broadcast for the first time. I wonder if this is a response to OW.

  5. Olea says:

    I just read today that the written request for 150 tickets was denied, with the ability to attend Relief Society general meetings and others like it offered as an alternative. It would be great if the RS general meeting was afforded the same level of import as Priesthood session, but it isn’t classified as a session of general conference, and only occurs every second session (swapping with the YW meeting).

    I don’t know how I feel, besides frustrated, and a little surprised – I’ve never been turned away from local Priesthood lessons/meetings. If the Priesthood is important to us all, and women are just as blessed by the Priesthood as men, even if we can’t be ordained, why turn women away? What if a single mother wanted to attend with her son? Is it just that it’s linked to a “movement”?

  6. Caroline says:

    Brilliant chart, April. It shows crystal clear that RS general broadcast is NOT parallel to the GC Priesthood session. I find it half laughable half tragic that they don’t even let female tech workers in there during the Priesthood session.

  7. Jill Bateman says:

    I think it is up to the prophets or to those they delegate to decide the length of the talks.

  8. jg says:

    Just a minor note- female ushers, tech crew, and security do work at the Priesthood session. The female ushers stay inside the main auditorium at the Conference Center right up until the opening prayer, at which point they all go outside and sit in the larger foyers outside of the main auditorium.

  9. Jacob H. says:

    I think the Relief Society auxiliary leaders should set the agenda of their meeting, and allow whomever they desire to speak do so for however long they decide. They should also decide who presides and who gets to sit in as guests.

  10. Rebecca says:

    Do you have the source for the table above? A family member is arguing with me, saying men cannot attend the general RS meeting, even though it’s obvious that GAs/Prophet are there. Thanks!

    • April says:

      With the new General Women;s Meeting, they have changed the rules and only allow “presiding” men and those who are working there to attend General Women’s Meeting. However, until now, men have been allowed.

  1. October 7, 2013

    […] Saturday night, myself and about 150 other Mormons (and over a hundred more whose names were carried on cards by proxies) individually requested entrance to the tabernacle on Temple Square to wait in the standby line for the Priesthood Session. The last 30 or so were not able to request entrance as a garbage truck was driven in front of the door and the line closed soon after, since it was 6:00pm and the session was beginning. I compiled a post on Friday in preparation for the action here, you can read about Ordain Women here, news articles about the event here and here, a personal blog post about the event from OW founder Kate Kelly here, and you can see pictures of the event- including of each person being denied entrance- here.  Church spokeswoman has stated that the Relief Society meeting is a corollary to the Priesthood session of conference, but this answer is unsatisfying even on its face. […]

  2. July 23, 2016

    […] them from the room.  There are no LDS meetings for women with similar restrictions against men; General Women’s Session is presided over by men and the concluding speaker is always male. While the concession to allow women to listen over the Internet is small, it does have one […]

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