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Portraits of Female Leaders (Finally) Approved

For the first time in forever…they were noticed by someone! (Feel free to sing along.)

Today, Peggy Fletcher Stack reported that the LDS church has made a huge, bold move into the 20th century! They have, for the first time, included…wait for it…portriats of general female auxiliary leaders on the Conference Center walls!

Portraits of Female Leaders (Finally) Approved

According to an LDS spokeswoman (Jessica Moody, the church’s official go to gal for all things feminist):

Conversations about giving more visibility to women have been going on for some years. The decision to have the sister leaders of the church be more visible in the Conference Center is just one outcome of those conversations.

Progress is progress. I’m actually quite happy about this change and — more to the point — glad these issues are on the radar. Still, I’m dismayed that it needed “some years” of conversation to happen rather than being one of those many things that is patently obvious. Within only about one or two LDS conversations or situations, gender awkwardness is all over the place. 

John and Suzy Thompson just got called as mission presidents! I mean mission president couple. I mean mission president and…wife.

OK, so I agree it’s better than when (not so far) back in the day, you would have heard this:

John Thompson just got called as a mission president!

End story. Oh, except that the Church News article raving about the newly called prez’s job timeline, massive church leadership experience, and general overall awesomeness would be followed with a one-line wifey shoutout:

President Thompson is married to the former Suzy Jones.

Even the Church News beefed up the coverage of the President Wife a few years ago by adding some biographical information about her to the news. So, again, progress. Yea.

Is there any way — you know, other than hosting a protest outside of the general priesthood session for which I’d be banned from Temple Square until the millennium — to get some of these basic, simple, obvious things done before I’m 80?

All “they” need to do is read a post or two (or two dozen) by a “radical Mormon feminist” to get some really simple, sound — and mostly easy — ideas. Kind of like the changes in Sacrament Meeting prayers and General Conference prayers. Change a line of code in the handbook and make a phone call to an authoritative sounding gal. Boom. Done.

Here are a few ideas of my own for how church leaders can include women more without any (real or perceived) doctrinal conflicts:

  1. Include the General Women’s Meeting as a real conference session, instead of an aberration that is stuck (out of order) in the back of the Ensign.
  2. Have the General Women’s Meeting include Young Women and adult women, rather than baptized Primary-aged children. (Not just for the sake of parity, but simply to provide a meeting that won’t have to be somewhat “dumbed down” to elementary school addresses.)
  3. Have more than two women speak at General Conference.
  4. Allow Young Women to be assigned as visiting teachers with an adult woman so they can learn the process and get comfortable with it.
  5. If women are expected to, say, move halfway around the world with their husbands, learn a language, and spent full time serving missionaries, give them an actual title and calling (other than “wife of…).
  6. Let sister missionaries (who have long been claimed to be more mature and productive than similarly aged male counterparts) go on missions at 18 instead of continuing to give age preference to elders.
  7. Just as a man gives the “keynote” address at every general meeting for female members, include a female speaker at the men’s meetings. (If gender is as important as the church says, female perspective is needed.)
  8. Hire women to teach seminary regardless of their marital/parental status. (If we call them to teach for free and we hire them to do seminary/church office administration, claiming some kind of moral imperative to keep them away from students is disingenuous.)
  9. Talk about Heavenly Mother. Find out about Heavenly Mother so we can talk about her. (Corollary: stop spreading the myth that she’s “too sacred to talk about.”)
  10. Talk about priestesses/priestesshood. Find out about priestesses/priestesshood so we can talk about it.

Do you see a (real or perceived) doctrinal conflict with any of these ideas? Since the church has said it’s striving to be more inclusive, what ideas do you have about how this could be accomplished?

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Carlie R March 19, 2014, 8:11 pm

    I like your top 10 list there and can’t see anything that would conflict with doctrine at all. What about female Sunday School presidencies or clerks?

    I thought that was pretty funny about your mom’s nametag at the MTC!

  • Angie Gardner March 20, 2014, 4:45 am

    I applaud the church for taking some steps in recent recent years towards women’s equality. They are baby steps, but at least they are forward progress.

    Implied in their announcement is always that they came up with these steps on their own, as if the discontent voices of women have had no sway. I don’t know why it’s so difficult just to say, “Yes, we are listening and we are taking steps to make things more equitable. Here are some ways we’ve listened and we are continuing to do so. We appreciate the open dialogue with our members who are concerned about women’s issues.” But instead, it always comes off as something more like “we really don’t need you to tell us what to do and we came up with these things on our own.” To me, who really cares who suggested it, just acknowledge that changes need to be made, that they are listening, and that they will continue to move forward.

    As for your list, I agree with most of them. A few more I would add:
    -Making budgets more equitable (and yes, this might mean EQ and HP get higher budgets so they can put doilies and bouquets on their tables too, or even have padded chairs haha!)
    -As Carlie mentioned, women being able to serve in callings traditionally held by priesthood holders but that do not require priesthood keys. As far as that goes, I’m also fine with men serving in traditionally female roles too. Bring on the male activity day leaders and Primary secretaries!
    -Representation for women, by women, in church disciplinary councils.
    -I’m not sure what to call it, but I really feel we need a female option for ecclesiastical counseling. Whether this is filled by the female auxiliary presidents or another calling entirely, sometimes a woman just needs a woman to hear her in an “official” capacity, especially regarding marital, mental health, sexual, abuse, etc. issues. If the issue involves sin, at that point a priesthood leader could also be involved, but with a female as an advocate.
    -Along the same lines, I think we need some changes with how our youth interviews occur. It’s very awkward for a teenage girl to speak about private things with a much older man.
    -Female auxiliary leaders given more autonomy in their organizations, particularly regarding budgets and staffing.
    -Female auxialiary leaders invited to more decision-making meetings. PEC and bishopric meeting are power meetings and they involve no women, other than the occasion where the bishop feels inclined to involve the RS president in PEC. I don’t know how many bishops are doing this, but I think women should always have a seat at the table.

    Those are just a few things. I think there is so much that can be done.

  • jennycherie March 20, 2014, 5:38 am

    You know, I’m just surprised this was a change that was needed. We know that portraits of all church leaders are done, so it wasn’t that no official portrait of the female leaders existed. I don’t live in UT so I have never been to the Conference Center, but if there was a place for such pictures, I would have expected all the General Auxiliary presidencies to have been displayed, much as they are on the church website.
    jennycherie recently posted…Black History Heroes, part 2My Profile

  • Martine March 20, 2014, 7:08 am

    I’d take one of your points one step further: it’s inappropriate for anyone, male or female to ask questions about private things. So, I wouldn’t want a YW leader asking inappropriate questions–about masturbation or what goes on during a date–anymore than I want the bishop to. Let’s stop dwelling on sex so much.

    I’m glad the “women leader”—I hate the terminology–pictures have been hung in the Conference Center where many more members will see them. Portraits of the RS presidents have always hung in the RS building where few members ever saw them. I also think this hanging of portraits demonstrates how women, even those in leadership positions, HAVE NOT been the leaders in these conversations because I’m pretty sure they weren’t in the room when this was brought up as a priority. I cannot imagine these women or those who preceded them sitting there and saying, “Darn right we want out pictures hanging in the Conference Center!”

  • Dottie Walters March 20, 2014, 12:52 pm

    I think we have more to worry about in this world than feminist issues in the Church. I am proud as to where women stand in the Church and have never felt inferior in anyway. Our role as women in the Church is just as important as the men as we have always been taught. Who cares where the messages are in the Ensign; they’re available to anyone who wants to read them. The statement regarding this seems very petty and childish. Posts like this belong on an anti-mormon site.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 20, 2014, 3:26 pm

    Dottie, I’m so happy that the self-proclaimed “faithful” are once again resorting to name calling and belittling! It was pretty funny that your comment showed up JUST as I was pasting some OTHER name calling crap form OTHER “faithful” members for a post next week.

    Does the irony really escape you?

    I think we have more to worry about in this world than feminist issues in the Church.

    Let me get this straight. I should stop worrying about feminist issues in the worldwide church but it’s fine for you to be worried about what I post on my blog???

    I am proud as to where women stand in the Church and have never felt inferior in anyway.

    Good! And that pride leads you to put others down for their thoughts and feelings? Does that sound über Christlike to you?

    Our role as women in the Church is just as important as the men as we have always been taught.

    I guess you better call up Salt Lake then and tell them to stop all those ridiculous conversations about “giving more visibility to women.” And, yea, no more female prayers or talks in General Conference or Sacrament Meeting! (Are you old enough to remember that? I am.)

    Who cares where the messages are in the Ensign…

    Someone does apparently. I don’t think the general female meeting transcripts always end up in the back by coincidence.

    The statement regarding this seems very petty and childish. Posts like this belong on an anti-mormon site.

    Thank you for your example of love, kindness, and sisterhood! Kiss kiss!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…The Obvious Thing About Childhood AccidentsMy Profile

  • Amy March 20, 2014, 3:42 pm

    I haven’t been to the conference center, I knew their were portraits ung, didn’t know whose. I actually assumed that they were there if they had other auxiliary leaders hung. I haven’t seen an answer to this anywhere- does anyone know if the General YM and Sunday School Presidency’s portraits were already hung up and they just added the women or where there no auxiliary portraits at all hung before and it was just the 12 and 70?

    Any which way, it seems sad to me that years of discussion result in portraits being hung. Especially if other auxiliaries were already hung before. Shouldn’t the women auxiliaries be obvious then?

  • Amy March 20, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Oh my. I need to proof read better. there, hung, etc. . . sigh. . .

  • Denice March 20, 2014, 3:44 pm

    I see comments all over facebook like Dottie Walters and I am ashamed.

    I am not part of Ordain Women. I am a faithful LDS woman and to be honest I like having men take more responsibility than women. I get that means we don’t have a much say in things, but I’m OK with it.

    But when people act as if they are defending the church I love by being vile and hateful, it makes me want to scream.

    Allison, I know you aren’t part of Ordain Women, either, but I just want you to see we are NOT all like Dottie and others who use such disparaging words. I love all my sisters and hope they can someday feel the same peace I do in the church, no matter how that comes about.

  • Dottie Walters March 20, 2014, 3:59 pm

    I don’t belong in this group. There was no name calling; just a difference of opinion and stating where I stand. You all sound much more like Hillary Clinton than members of the Lord’s true Church. (ie. Marjorie Hinckley, Sheri Dew, Sister Kimball) Proud? Yes, to be more like them. Yes, faithful, to the end to the teachings of our leaders. I thnk the name calling is coming from you. I’m out of here. No longer coming to this blog. You can discuss this among yourselves. Please, no more email links.

  • Angie Gardner March 20, 2014, 4:00 pm

    Alison, I was going to send some comments from here to you for your post next week. Glad you saw them! Can’t wait to see it! 🙂

    Amy, great question! I am hoping and praying that no auxiliary presidencies photos were displayed prior to this, because if the men’s were but not the women then I’m going to be really sad!

    Denice, thanks for your comments.

  • Alison Moore Smith March 20, 2014, 4:29 pm

    You’re right, Dottie, you didn’t actually call anyone a direct name. You just, as I also said, belittled. Here, I’ll give you a sampling and then you can come back to tell me how you are Christlike. OK?

    I think we have more to worry about in this world than feminist issues in the Church.

    Who cares where the messages are in the Ensign

    The statement regarding this seems very petty and childish.

    Posts like this belong on an anti-mormon site.

    You all sound much more like Hillary Clinton than members of the Lord’s true Church.

    Do you really think this sounds like Marjorie Hinckley?

    Please, no more email links.

    I don’t know what you mean by “email links.” If you’re getting email notifications of replies to your post, it’s because YOU subscribed to them when you commented. If you don’t want them YOU will need to unsubscribed. It’s an automated process.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Videos of Jesus Christ – Ye Have Done It Unto My DaughterMy Profile

  • Oregonian March 20, 2014, 4:33 pm

    the thing that kills me is that dottie really does think she’s the most righteous person here. killer funny.

  • Mandy March 20, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Along with Amy above, I am interested if the YM and Sunday School auxillary leadership portraits were already present or if the five portraits were hung at the same time. It came up in a discussion and none of the articles I have read clarify. Does anyone happen to know the answer to this?

  • Joni March 21, 2014, 5:05 am

    While we’re at it, maybe we can call the organizations within the church traditionally headed by women something other than ‘auxiliaries.’ If YW and RS are auxiliaries, why are YM and EQ not given this title as well? And if YW/RS/Primary are so important, why give them a term that basically casts them in the role of accessory?

  • Angie Gardner March 21, 2014, 5:58 am

    Joni, I am not 100% positive, but I think YM and SS are also considered auxiliaries. EQ is priesthood quorum. But I agree, I don’t like that term either. It makes it seem like an unnecessary afterthought – organizations that exist to help strengthen members but not truly fundamental.

  • Barklee March 21, 2014, 7:51 am

    I love the idea of finding out about priestesshood. It’s very weird because we have CLEAR doctrine about this, but NEVER talk about it. Even bringing it up people act like you are a crazed power-hungry loony tunes.

    How do we change that?

  • Lorian Dunlop March 21, 2014, 9:08 am

    I love this post, Alison. I think women need true equality in the church (and the church *needs* women to be truly equal), but even if the church is not prepared to grant women ordination, there are still so many areas where it appears that women are deliberately “dissed” by excluding them in ways in which inclusion would cost the church little or nothing. If the church is even concerned about the “optics” of this situation (as it would appear they are), it would behoove them to take suggestions such as yours to heart, to provide some level of acknowledgement of it’s faithful women members beyond a mere photo hanging in a hallway. As nice as that photo may be, it seems stingy payment for all the work and support women provide in the church.

  • Dave K March 21, 2014, 12:52 pm

    Joni, before answering your question regarding auxiliaries, let me be clear that I’m explaining how things are, not necessarily that I agree with how they are. With that said, here is the answer.

    Priesthood is the one and only governing authority in the church. All other organizations are temporary supporting appendages – auxiliaries if you like. In a ward, there are four people with priesthood keys – Bishop, EQP, TQP, DQP (sometimes the stake president if he lives in your ward). All other groups are mere supports. That includes Sunday School, Primary, YW, RS, and YM. The YM president is a support to the deacons, teachers, and priests quorums. He does not run those organizations. He simply helps guide the young men who have the keys, but not yet much maturity.

    So long as priesthood is the sole governing authority, all women’s roles will be limited to supporting the priesthood. Thus, the DQ is an eternal central part of the church organization. But the RS is only a temporary helpmeet. That’s why, if the DQP shows up in Primary (which happens sometimes if he is still 12), he is the presiding authority.

    Again, I’m not saying this is a good situation. Nor that it was intended. (when the AP offices were first created, they were only given to men). But it is our situation. If that situation is going to change there are only two ways I know. Either (i) women must obtain the (“a” ?) priesthood, or (ii) the centrality of the priesthood for church organization must be broken.

  • Cristina Pebley March 24, 2014, 9:03 am

    It is a priesthood meeting, not a men’s meeting, so I think the Prophets of the Lord can handle the issues the priesthood holders need to hear without a “women’s perspective.”

  • Alison Moore Smith March 24, 2014, 10:24 am

    And there you have it. Women not needed by men, because they have the priesthood and we don’t. Final answer.

    I would like to point out that the General Women’s Meeting if for WOMEN, not MEN. And the General Relief Society Meeting was for members of the RELIEF SOCIETY, not PRIESTHOOD HOLDER the General Young Women’s Meeting was for YOUNG WOMEN, not MEN/PRIESTHOOD HOLDERS.

    But never mind. Men can handle it. Women cannot. Nothing to see here.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Simple FHE Ideas: FastingMy Profile

  • Cristina Pebley March 24, 2014, 1:39 pm

    I think it is a wonderful blessing from our Heavenly Father to be able to have a Prophet, and I would never want to exclude the prophet from any meeting nor miss a chance to hear him express Heavenly Father’s love for me. I know Heavenly Father loves me with or without the Prophet telling me but as a strong woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I thrive on listening to the Prophet’s voice.

  • Angie Gardner March 24, 2014, 3:30 pm

    I enjoy listening to the prophet as well. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I’ve always read the priesthood session talks first when I get my conference Ensign.

    I think you are missing the point though. Men always speak at women’s general meetings, but a woman has never spoken at a priesthood meeting, nor are they even invited to attend. If they are interested, they can read it or watch it online/tv if they so desire.

    On a local level, bishops are often invited to speak at women’s conferences, New Beginnings, and even sometimes in YW or RS lessons. I have never heard of a woman being asked to address an audience of only priesthood brethren. Oh, I take that back. There was a group of women once who attended YM mutual to teach them how to cook and iron shirts for their missions.

    Point being, women don’t seem to have anything to offer men other than how to do homemaking tasks, but men have a consistent audience of women wanting to hear from them to impart their wisdom. I’m not saying I have any problem with that wisdom – in fact, I love it – I’m only saying that women have wisdom too and could be a valuable resource far more often than they are invited to be.

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