More Women’s Voices in General Conference!
During his tenure, President Nelson has made a number of significant changes to the way the Church operates. Especially notable is the reduction from a three-hour block of Sunday meetings to just a two-hour block. But the recent announcement that all Saturday evening sessions of General Conference will be eliminated is another game-changing move for the Church.
Why? Certainly the Saturday evening meeting has drawn some controversy in recent years, first with sisters from Ordain Women being refused entry to the priesthood sessions and ultimately resulting first in Primary girls and Young Women being included in the General Women’s Meeting (and officially making that meeting a part of General Conference), then moving that meeting to the Saturday evening of October Conference and limiting the Priesthood Session to April Conference. That’s a lot of moves for a huge worldwide church to make, especially one that’s managed top-down by 15 men who say that they must be united in their decision making.
But this change, especially coming from the prophet who addressed LDS women in 2015 with, “We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices,” tells me that eliminating the Saturday evening session means just one thing: more women will now be speaking in other General Conference sessions.
It’s quite obvious, if you think about it. In recent years, General Conference has included such homage to women as, “You sisters … do not hold a second place in our Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and well-being of His children,¹” “Our Latter-day Saint women are incredible!²” and especially, “Sisters, you were given the blessing of being daughters of God with special gifts. You brought with you into mortal life a spiritual capacity to nurture others and to lift them higher toward the love and purity that will qualify them to live together in a Zion society,³” all statements that would lead any thinking member of the Church to conclude that the reasonable next step will be to include more LDS women’s voices giving instruction in our most sacred church-wide meetings. As President Nelson said, they need us.
Now I can’t wait to watch the October sessions! To use a sports analogy, something that we currently hear a great deal in such meetings, the bench is deep. Imagine: we could hear from Kathryn Reynolds, a member of the Relief Society General Board who represents the growing numbers of single women in the Church; from Carol Costley, a member of the Young Women Council who is a woman of color and the former CEO of a nonprofit aimed at improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities; and from Salote Tukuafu, a member of the Primary General Board who has spent years teaching English as a second language and could speak eloquently on the ways children learn. untapped by the Church as a whole. These are just three of the strong, capable, faithful women who have a depth of experiences and wisdom to share–sharing that has been, sadly, limited to the circumscribed advisory roles they’ve filled in Church leadership. We’ll all–men and women alike–benefit from hearing about the diversity of their backgrounds, the ways they find to live the Gospel in their daily lives, and their testimonies of the Savior.
The history of women speaking in General Conference is, admittedly, short–but there’s no time like the present to start selecting speakers who look like the Church as a whole. I look forward to the newest of President Nelson’s innovations.