“We need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices.” Elder Russell M. Nelson, October 2015 General Conference.
It was wonderful to hear this from Elder Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, in his recent Conference address, “A Plea to My Sisters.”
In his remarks he quoted Elder Boyd K. Packer:
We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out.”
Elder Packer said this in General Conference in October 1978, 37 years ago.
Elder Nelson also shared these encouraging words:
My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as “a contributing and full partner” as you unite with your husband in governing your family.
The part in quotations is from the Women’s Fireside, September 1978 by President Spencer W. Kimball.
As those of us women who work diligently and devotedly in the Church know – even those of us old enough to have heard Elder Packer’s and President Kimball’s quotes the first time around – we have, of course, been doing all of these things. For all these years. We organize, administer, teach, lead and in all manner of other ways build the Kingdom. It’s what we do. Even if, alas, like holograms, it takes the correct angle to recognize exactly what we’re up to.
The “speaking up and speaking out” part may be where the emphasis is stronger now.
The extra punch to this, I believe, is that despite the title, it is a plea to our brothers, too. It is a plea to men and women to honestly expect, encourage and welcome the counsel of women.
So much depends on the personalities of the leaders. One bishop’s attitude toward a woman “speaking out” in a ward council meeting could be to cheer her on, to “hearken” to her counsel, so to speak. That’s what Elder Nelson is championing, I think. In another ward the bishop might subtly or not-so-subtly caution her about “overstepping her bounds.” (See Muffins and Miracles: Church Service in the Real World, Cedar Fort 2013., Linda Hoffman Kimball; p. 62, p.80, p. 126) Ward and stake roulette can be so difficult.
One woman’s participation may be articulate, confident and persuasive. Another woman, raised with a cultural expectation to “defer to the priesthood” may be hesitant to voice her opinions since she believes she has no “clout”.
In a Sunday School class with all the adults in a Utah ward I attend, one of the General Seventy recently spoke about how eager the First Presidency is to get women to participate in ward counsels and leadership meetings. The General Authority also wanted to ensure that the message of involving the sisters is “trickling down” to the local units and that their perspectives are heard. One class member said that he’d attended counsel meetings but getting the women to speak up was “like pulling teeth.” Other wards may have an opposite issue to deal with.
Have your wards, like mine, been emphasizing observance of the Sabbath Day in your sacrament meetings? It’s a high priority to the First Presidency, and another one they are eager to have reach every outpost of the Church. They want the women’s input on this topic. It is one thing to emphasize having more spiritual Sabbaths and quite another to envision, for example, how that impacts a busy mother-of-many. With little kids it’s constant calf-wrestling anyway. If we assume that the mom, too, deserves a day of rest, what might that look like? Or maybe it’s the dad who deals more directly with the children. How can couples develop a “contributing and full” partnership in this situation – and in myriad others?
We have some growing pains ahead of us (and behind us as well).
While we sort out (decades’ old and days’ old) applications of Elder Nelson’s “A Plea to My Sisters,” we can focus on the plea of another apostle, Paul in Ephesians 4:
… I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all… So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. …[W]e will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:1-5,11-13, 15-16 (NIV)