The last session I listened to for the General Conference Odyssey was full of talks for men. This is natural, I thought, for a Priesthood session. But then I realized that this week is actually the priesthood session, and last was a general session even though it was geared so heavily towards men.
Both last session and this are incredibly male-centric. All the talks are by men, to men, and for men. Women may be able to extrapolate something useful from them, but it is clear that women were not a primary focus.
It struck me as I was listening how very different our church is now than it was before. Conference now is peppered with feel-good talks. Things to tell us we're doing okay, that "[the Savior] knows when you are lost,"and that "we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed." Even the Priesthood session urges men to "be good followers" so they can lead, and that priesthood comes with a price.
By contrast, the talks of the Priesthood session of the April 1972 General Conference are laden with telling men that they are strong, that they must take responsibility, that they "have a right to preside".
As hard as it is to be a woman in the Church in many ways these days, in others we are the center of focus. While there aren't many women who speak in Conference these days, there are some. And the message from both women and men is clearly geared to those who feel overwhelmed by the gospel. They exhort us to serve, yes, but even those talks are softened with ways we can manage to serve in our otherwise already overwhelming lives.
I don't know what to do with that. Yes, my life is overwhelming. I have to shoulder most of the burden of two parents. I don't do nearly as many things as I feel like I should. But it's just life. I've gotten to the point where I'm numb to it. Being encouraged and told I can do it doesn't help me actually do it. Being told I'm a beloved spirit daughter of Heavenly Father doesn't help me feel like I haven't screwed it all up. I felt the Spirit this time during Conference, I did.
But then what? What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to change? I've been praying that liturgy for years, but with little effect. I feel what I could change, but I'm not capable of changing it.
I listen to the talks from decades ago, and in some ways they resonate with me far better than the ones that are supposedly for me. They had a cultural understanding of hardship. It wasn't just a busy schedule for them. It was fighting war. It was coming home to a land economically devastated. Service wasn't just about lifting up the heads of people who were depressed. It was about giving away half your food without knowing where your next meal would come from.
I'm not a man. I will never have the priesthood. I believe that in this life (at the very least) I will never be what I was supposed to be in the Kingdom of God. In a man's world, I am a single woman, nothing but a burden. Yet I wonder. Have we lost something?
General Conference Odyssey
- The Position of the Church by Nathaniel Givens
- Vaunting by G
- The Power of God Resting upon the Leaders of this Church by Daniel Ortner
- Remembering the Stranger by Walker Wright
- A Woman-centered Church by SilverRain
- We Are a Peculiar People by Chastity Wilson
- The Priesthood: Three Reasons to Honor It by Jan Tolman