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 announcementLDS Conference Center, Salt Lake City 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.

Libby

On prolonged sabbatical from her career in arts administration, Libby is a seamstress, editor, entrepreneur, and community volunteer. She has a husband and three children.

You may also like...

15 Responses

  1. DCS says:

    I think it is time to start a “Let the Women Speak” campaign – and keep it up until more women’s voices are heard.

  2. Fairy says:

    Hmmm…We’ll see. 🙁

  3. Occasional Reader says:

    I admire your optimism, and I do hope we see more women speaking in General Conference, but I’m firmly in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp. As you’ve noted, church leaders in recent years have talked a lot about needing women’s voices and participation, but I haven’t seen it put into action. Maybe this is the turning point where we actually see that change. But until then, I don’t want to get my hopes up and risk disappointment.

    • Lily says:

      Same here.

      • Tina says:

        Same here as well. I would so love to hear from the speakers highlighted in this post. It would be like finding water in the desert! However, I also can’t get my hopes up and risk disappointment.

  4. Only two women spoke in the last conference. So, unless there has been a sea-change, which would be greatly welcomed, I’m not hopeful for more women’s voices. The cry for more female representation has long been sounded, and has fallen on deaf ears.

  5. Cate says:

    From your keyboard to God’s ears. Or at least to President Nelson’s ears. Hey, you never know – April featured speakers from around the world (well, and a talk on the American Constitution, since THAT’s important for a global church); maybe October really will give us the general presidencies and board members.

  6. Christine says:

    I, too, long for women’s voices to truly be valued. My fear with this change is that they’ll double the number of women speakers—to a whopping one per session—and not appreciate how discouraging and demeaning these little tokens are.

  7. It’d be amazing if it happened, but in the announcement there was one pesky line that dampened my hope: “General conference is an opportunity for church members and friends worldwide to receive messages about the Savior Jesus Christ from living prophets and apostles through ever-expanding technologies.” “Living prophets and apostles” doesn’t include any women at all, so I can’t help feeling our leaders and I continue to perceive the opportunity presented by GC differently.

  8. EmilyB says:

    BYU Coach Lavelle Edwards spoke in general conference (1984), astronaut Don Lind and a young Olympic gymnast named Peter Vidnar did too in April 1985, and the 16 year old son of Jeffrey Holland also got to speak from the conference pulpit in April 1983. None of these men were general authorities.

    But women speakers from the general board–how many of them have had the chance to speak conference weekend, ever?

    I would be interested in a follow up to this article after the next conference. Its laudatory/rejoicing tone appears to be heralding good news for the sisters that the rest of us are not aware of. We should discuss this after conference happens, Exponent.

    • Em says:

      I read it as being ironic and/or persuasive. SURELY the Brethren aren’t thinking of just wiping out women’s voices entirely, because they’ve said how important we are so many times! Therefore there MUST be something big in the works! It won’t be more of same, how could it be after how much they’ve said they need to hear from us! No, no. This must mean they’re actually going to invite women to speak! Can’t wait to see it brethren!

      Surely.

      It can be hard to read tone, so maybe I’m putting my own thoughts onto the post. But that’s how I read it.

  9. I have heard so many times that we can’t have more women speakers in the general sessions because so many of the 9 general auxiliary leaders speak at Women’s Session…. that can’t be the excuse any more, can it? Although it was never as great excuse anyway, because, as you point out, there is no reason at all that they have to draw from a pool of only 9 women. How many women are members of the church? Let’s look at that pool.

  1. July 20, 2021

    […] I said I actually preferred having the Women’s Meeting on its own weekend because once it was moved to replace one of the Priesthood sessions, most of the time was taken up by the three male speakers from the First Presidency, and it felt like there was less time to hear from our female leaders.  […]

Leave a Reply to Christine Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.