The Dilemma of Wanting/Ignoring Women’s Voices at General Conference
I am caught between longing and a confession.
Ever since I began seriously considering women’s place in God’s plan, I have felt keenly the scarcity of feminine voices in my faith community. I long for more of them.
As I finish writing this post, the next General Conference weekend is just hours away. During eight hours of church-wide instruction, following precedent of recent years, two women will speak. Two.
Many of the male speakers will undoubtedly have good things to say. But this is a church that insists that gender is eternally important, with roles clearly defined for men and women. And against that ideological backdrop, a female perspective on the Gospel will not even be given the floor once per session.
This leaves me knee-deep in melancholy.
I lack appreciation for the few female voices I do hear at the pulpit.
I want to appreciate their voices. But in years past, I’ve partially tuned them out, often because of their tone or register: a half-hushed, saccharine voice that suggests I’m four years old and must be spoken to with gentle encouragement.
Even if Mormon Sister Voice does crop up in Conference, I’m embarrassed by this—disregarding a woman’s message because of the sound of her voice. There’s nothing new about picking apart a woman’s tone or verbal tics (in or out of the church). And Sister Voice may not even be female-specific; it may just stand out when the women speak in Conference because we hear from so few of them.
Regardless, I’m stuck between longing for wise female voices in church, while being guilty of not taking seriously the limited voices I do hear.
How to bridge the divide during Conference
When one of the two women speakers stands at the Conference Center pulpit, I won’t get up to grab a snack. I’ll pay attention to her words instead of her tone. A small step.
I’m not dismissing that delivery is a vital component of public speaking. But for me, this time, I’m counteracting my long-standing dismissal of my Mormon sister’s voice by focusing on her words. If I love her talk (or hate it), I’ll let that reaction be based on the merits of what she’s actually saying, not the pitch of the voice she says it in.