Livin' on a prayeeeeer . . .

from By Common Consent

Remember that one time a year ago when I talked about being a Mormon Feminist Crazypants Manhater? This is something I said:

One thing I notice now is that there are some habitual practices regarding women's participation in church. They do not appear to be policies or rules--just habits. I do not think it would be a harmful thing for leaders to consider whether there are ways for the sisters of the Church to be better represented. My concern is that when women's voices are unnecessarily absent, not only do leaders miss out on an important perspective, but the resultant (and likely unintended) message could be that this is because their perspective is not important.
So. Here are some things I would squeak for:
How about asking a sister to give one of the prayers in General Conference? Doesn't it seem kind of weird that this doesn't already happen? And, to sweeten the deal, we promise not to do that whole giving-a-closing-prayer-that-is-really-a-talk thing that some of our dear brothers do.

Turns out I wasn't the only one who wondered about the GC prayers. Some folks organized an activity, encouraged by a 1978 statement from then-President Spencer W. Kimball, who said that it is "permissible for sisters to offer prayers in any meetings they attend." Those who wanted to express their feelings on the subject in a faithful and respectful way could submit letters that would be handed directly (along with the other letters) to several General Authorities who may be in a position to discuss and influence such things. (They were not sent through the postal service because mail is sent back to local leaders, who have no authority over what happens at General Conference.)

Here was the letter I wrote to Elder Holland. I also wrote a similar one to the General Relief Society President (Linda K. Burton).

Dear Elder Holland,

Thank you so much for your service, and for the messages of faith and love that have helped me so many times as a young woman, a young single adult, and now as a young(ish) mother. I thank you also for your special love and concern for the women of the Church and the world.

I am writing to ask that those who make the prayer assignments for General Conference consider inviting sisters to pray as well. Since I first noticed their exclusion (which does not follow the pattern of our other meetings), I have been puzzled and saddened by it. It would mean so much to me to hear a sister's voice offering the prayer at General Conference.

Thank you for reading this! I send my prayers and best wishes up for you and your family.

Most sincerely,

I have no idea if he read it or not, but guess what! Rumor is that sisters are being invited to pray in April. 

This, to me, is a great example of a practice or tradition (whatever it is, it's not doctrine) of exclusion that can easily be examined and adjusted. I have no idea if this "adjustment" was already in the works or if the letters helped influence it and I don't really care. 

What I do care about is that we will hear sisters pray and I will possibly do a fist-pump and maybe a Snoopy Dance right afterwards if I can't control myself. 

(Note: And no, I don't consider it problematic or uppity or apostate to ask a question or to share my perspective or feelings as a member of my church. Studying and teaching the Doctrine & Covenants this year gives me a weekly reminder that you have to ask questions to get answers, and that members (and leaders) frequently must gather information before expecting inspiration.)


Bridget said... [reply]

I am excited beyond all reason for this. On the one hand, it's not really a big deal, but also, it totally IS, you know? I also don't care if it was a result of the letter campaign. I don't think it matters. What matters is that it's finally going to happen (if PFS is correct)!

Señora H-B said... [reply]

I should not be as thrilled about this prospect as I am. I love the letter that you wrote. Clearly I do not keep up enough with my feminist Mormon card because I somehow missed ALTOGETHER that there was a letter writing campaign. Rats!

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

Hm . . . after that last e-mail exchange I expected something a bit more fiery. But this is delightful and I'm in complete agreement. We can't always change that which we don't see. Even church leaders are subject to blind spots.

Liz Johnson said... [reply]

I have a feeling I'm going to do an ugly cry if this actually goes down. It's just... I feel like it's so past due, and it means so much to me, and I've watched like four years of GC hoping every time that it might happen... sigh. I just. I'm so glad. Whether or not it matters or means anything to anybody else, it means a lot to me.

lilcis said... [reply]

I have to admit, it's an inequality that I'd never really noticed. I'm sure for a lot of the Elders it's been the same, not intentional just traditional. I'm glad people are taking the lead on this, and in a positive, happy way. Now if only we could get some garments designed with younger women in mind! I don't know about you, but I hate having my garment waistband around my waist when all my pants rest just over my hips!

Amanda Ball said... [reply]

Lilcis I agree! I was just telling (complaining to) my husband that no woman (at least none in the past 50 years) was consulted in the design of women's garment bottoms.

I may have squealed a little bit when I first heard the news/rumor about the prayers. So excited!

Kayla @ Freckles in April said... [reply]

Ditto above- I don't think women have had anything to do with the design of women's garments. Tops or bottoms!

I am SO excited about the prospect of a woman praying! I wrote letters as well and I really hope that those letters helped the leadership to see that we're not a bunch of rabid angry feminists who want to coerce them, but rather a group of faithful women who are simply hoping to see their gender better represented.

Can't wait for conference!!

CAW said... [reply]

I also wrote a letter for the Let Women Pray "campaign", but was surprised that I don't feel happier about the news that a woman will (hopefully) pray in Conference. I want to be more excited and thought I would be, but I honestly feel a little pathetic being excited about something that we never should have had to ask for. Perhaps not a perfect example, but it seems sort of like thanking the kid who takes your lunch every day for letting you keep a grape. :) I don't know. Maybe I'm just being cynical...

Nemesis said... [reply]

Bridget, where will you be watching? On the computer at home, or will you get together at your Sharjah villa or trek to the nice new building?

Senora, I will totally let you know about the next one!

STM, I think we ALL get the blind spots, since it took forever for some of us to even NOTICE that women have never prayed, and are people out there who insist that they must have!

Liz, I think you hit the nail on the head. Different things matter to different people, and just because it doesn't matter to someone else does not mean it doesn't matter a LOT to you.

Lilcis, yes (about not noticing, traditional rather than intentional, etc.)! And hoo boy, look at the G-can you just opened.

Amanda, I know women are involved somehow because I had a sister in my Murray ward who would get up for "Good News Minute" and talk about the new garment designs that were coming out. But yeah, I don't know how much input the higher ups are getting about, like, actual bodies of women and the part where we don't LIKE having waistbands up above our navels.

Kayla, this is my ditto to you. I love the indicator that 1) things can and do change, and 2) people actually do care if there is something that causes hurt feelings.

CAW, I hear you. Honest. But I think this is encouraging.

abby said... [reply]

I'm in the I didn't notice camp, but I did notice that the new RS president didn't speak in the conference when she was called. I sat in the RS Gen Conference thinking who is this woman who has been leading the women's RS for the past 6 months. I didn't even know her name. I thought it was kind of a standard to talk after being called RS General Pres.

At book club, we talked about what is tradition in the church and what is doctrine/handbook. Someone mentioned that the Church handbooks in the individual wards aren't always up to date. I also noticed in my ward women don't give the opening sacrament prayer. I guess my bishop better read the Kimball quote you posted.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Abby, I noticed that too right when she was called and thought it was really lame. I realize that they wanted to give Sister Beck an "exit talk," which is fine, but I couldn't believe we didn't even have 5 minutes to put a face or voice to this woman who is now our President but who wouldn't get to speak to us for another 6 months.

Desmama said... [reply]

Trying to decide if this letter (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/opinion/56041564-82/women-conference-woman-34-35.html.csp) is satire or not. I'm in the "not" camp because I think if it were, it would've been laid on a bit thicker, but then I'm only left with the conclusion that someone out there actually thinks this. Which, GAH!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Desmama, according to other regular commenters at the Trib, that dude is for real and that's the kind of stuff he says. Blah.

Scully said... [reply]

A member of my stake presidency (although I first heard it in the Institute classes he taught) said that "Why?" is always a great question to ask because it is the question that most often precedes revelation. Therefore, respectfully asking "Why?" is part of our job as gospel learners, whether it is asking Deity or our leaders. Which is awesome, when you think about it. So, yay for asking questions!

Monica said... [reply]

Maybe it's because I'm a convert, but I always noticed the lack of women praying in GC and it has always bugged me. So, lots of awesomeness with the change. Desmama, I always wonder how guys like that letter-writer find women with low enough self-esteem to marry them! :P

liesel said... [reply]

I'm very proud of you for taking action. I need to be more politely vocal. And not just privately snarky. Phenomenal news about the GC prayers (and yet also disappointing to be happy about being thrown such a small bone, that should have never been an issue at all). But hey, progress is still progress even in small steps.

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