Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Letters and Prayers

After a controversial letter-writing campaign in which faithful Mormon feminists (male and female alike) expressed heartfelt desire for women to offer prayers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' semi-annual general conferences (a mouthful, I know) - Salt Lake Tribune has confirmed that women are on the schedule to pray at the upcoming conference in April.

For those wondering why something that sounds basic would be controversial or groundbreaking in 2013 - well, that's still a little unclear to me. The Trib's article suggests that the tradition of only men praying in conference comes from the its history as an event that was once only attended by men, while women attended a separate conference all their own. When women joined the male-led conference, apparently some old habits just never died.

Frankly, most Mormons are surprised to learn that women haven't prayed in general conference sessions before now.

There's much that could be said, but here's what I'll say: in Utah Mormon culture, protests are often looked down upon. I don't fully understand that aversion to protests even though I lived in the state for 8 years. My New England upbringing and education looked at protests as a way for groups to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and desires to leaders. In a democracy, I see protesting as essential.

Still, because some perceived the letter-writing campaign as a form of protest, some members - some of my friends who consider themselves feminists, even - worried that the campaign would backfire or argued that it was inappropriate. I disagreed then, and I disagree now. Organizing an effort to communicate a heartfelt desire is not the same as attacking an organization.

If I didn't trust that the leaders of my church were interested in hearing from members and that they were more invested in the well-being of members than in being seen as infallible (which, doctrinally, Mormon leadership is not) - if I didn't believe all that, I wouldn't still be a member. But I do, and so I am, and so I rejoice in this news because I know it's the result of good people, with good intentions, listening and correcting one of their oversights as a result. As a Mormon, I also believe God is playing a hand in all this, but even through a secular lens this is good all around.

Communication, how I love it.

EDIT: 3/21/13 - Looking back over this post, I think it sounded like I support the idea of using protests to effect changes in the church. I actually don't support that, but I don't think that any and every organized effort to communicate a group's desires to leaders is itself a protest. So, I supported the letter-writing campaign, insofar as it was about communicating heartfelt desires to leaders whom we trust to have our interests at heart.

I think we need a lot more trust in the Mormon church (note my use of the lowercase there - I'm talking about the people in the church in general). We need more trust between members so that those with kooky ideas or weaknesses they're ashamed of can be open and honest in sunday school classes. We need trust from those who've been hurt by church policies that most leaders are inspired by God. And we need trust from those leaders that communicating openly and respectfully with those who feel hurt is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and confidence in the lord.

1 comment:

  1. I can't agree more :) It really aggravates me when members call heartfelt requests from faithful and so often underappreciated Latter-Day Saint women. "protests" or "rebellion". I swear, it's like the intellectual equivalent of the Catholic Inquisition.