Stake Women’s Conference and the Exponent II 40th Anniversary

ASWCToday in my world was an interesting celebration of women.

This morning I attended my Stake’s Women’s Conference with my autistic daughter, who is now 18. They provided lovely eats–yogurt and fruit, muffins, and water/juice. The conference was set up to explicitly serve both those in the Stake who speak English and those who speak Spanish.

The plenary speaker was a lovely lady who used to be on the Young Women General Board. Unfortunately I was a bit distracted because of my daughter’s behavior. I decided to let my daughter select the classes, so I wouldn’t be faced with arguments.

The first class ended up being “taking a nap in the chapel on the padded pews.” I sat next to my daughter, reading an article by Gary Bergera and listening to a friend who is a professional singer practice Sandi Patti’s “They Could Not”.

The second class was a discussion of how to help loved ones while letting them have their free agency. I later described the class as “how to love and serve without having your soul sucked out.”

The final class my daughter selected was called “Total Body Workout.” I think she selected that one because it was being held in the Young Women’s room, a place where she feels comfortable. A few minutes into the talk, my daughter commented, “This isn’t the class I thought it would be.” The teacher was talking about the body of Christ, and the role we have as women, granted the authority of the priesthood when set apart, to serve with power. It was a super awesome discussion, I thought.

This evening my husband and I attended the DC event associated with the 40th anniversary of Exponent II, a periodical my mother subscribed to in my youth, “By Mormon Women, For Mormon Women, About Mormon Women.” I remember one issue that addressed the topic of Mormon Women and sexuality. My mother, and by extension we children, were astounded that women didn’t understand that sex was a joy, an activity to create unity and closeness in marriage. As we children in the family would eventually number ten, we got that sex was also for procreation.

The DC event featured Claudia Bushman, founding editor of Exponent II and spouse of the noted historian, Richard Bushman. The evening was a delight for many reasons.

I was interested in the discussion of the way women are treated (or ignored) in some parts of the Church. There was also an interesting tension regarding the Ordain Women campaign given that Kate Kelly was in attendance. The tenor of the discussion was inclusion of all, but there was frank (if gentle) questioning of whether merely gaining priesthood ordination would fix the systemic problems. Besides, as one lady said, “I know the women in my ward. I’m not sure I want them in bishopric meetings…”

When the floor opened for questions, one individual asked why Claudia and the other women didn’t just leave the church, presumably to find a church where they aren’t treated like second-class citizens. The ladies’ response was wonderful. “It’s my Church.” “I myself don’t feel oppressed at Church.” “I am committed to the work God does in the Mormon Church, even if I wish the culture would unleash the full power of all individuals in the Church.”

Though I did not chat extensively with Kate Kelly, 1 the sense I had from those I did talk with is that they are committed to the Mormon community. One woman talked about a situation (not related to gender) she is facing, and how they had been tempted to simply go outside Church channels. But that didn’t feel right. The next weekend an apostle attended their ward, and they were able to give documentation of their concerns into his hands.

Good food, good company.

One last note about our day. Like the internet addicts we are, we got on the computers to check mail once we got home. A groan came from my husband. “There’s a 7 am High Priest’s quorum meeting tomorrow.” Apparently they sent the notification out around dinner time.

Did I mention I feel no need to agitate for priesthood ordination?

Notes:

  1. I did get to hold Kate’s phone and snap pictures of her standing next to Claudia Bushman. I mentioned I blog here at Millennial Star. She indicated she’s aware of Millennial Star.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for over four decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation, and is working on a midrashic treatment of the events in Nauvoo associated with early polygamy.

10 thoughts on “Stake Women’s Conference and the Exponent II 40th Anniversary

  1. Oh to have been perched on your shoulder today! :)

    I would have loved to have been in “how to serve w/o getting your soul sucked out” as well. I feel like I need that so much lately.

  2. Hi Joyce,

    It would have been awesome to have you with me!

    One of the themes from both events was taking care of ourselves. Men need a wife to live long and prosper. Women need friends to live long and prosper (and the husband bit is nice as well).

    I’m blessed to be in a congregation where the women do take care. We still have the various interest groups from years ago when the Church temporarily abandoned “homemaking meeting,” or whatever it was being called at that time, in favor of small interest groups based on whatever the ladies in each congregation cared about. We’ve got a knitting group (daytime and evening), two book groups (at least, maybe more), a scripture study group, play group, and others. At least one of these groups got “excommunicated” from being an official Relief Society group, even though the stake patriarch’s wife, me, a Primary counselor and the Relief Society president continued to participate, to name those ostensibly sage and wise. I forget which book we read that caused the flack. When one of the members of our book group died suddenly, two of the ladies in book group spoke at her funeral, and one of the most delightful anecdotes related to a book group field trip.

    There’s also a “empty nest” family home evening group, which allows for nice social interaction among those who are older.

  3. Where in the Handbook of Instructions does it say we can’t get together and study the scriptures? That would be really odd.

    We have a lovely individual who used to be part of the bishopric who would field the “can we do this?” questions. He’d go to the handbook and find the appropriate section and let you know what bounds were in the current Handbook.

    You know, they issue new versions of the Handbook periodically to correct problems. Some recent corrections include removal of the requirement that a man offer the closing prayer and removal of the requirement that the sacrament prayers be repeated if the one officiating in blessing the sacrament includes a minor error that didn’t affect the sense of the prayer.

  4. Meg, you write:

    “One woman talked about a situation (not related to gender) she is facing, and how they had been tempted to simply go outside Church channels. But that didn’t feel right. The next weekend an apostle attended their ward, and they were able to give documentation of their concerns into his hands.”

    I think there is a perception among some people that the leadership is out of touch when it comes to what is happening in wards and stakes, and I think the truth is the exact opposite. Just one quick story: when I lived in Brazil we had apostles and Seventys comes to our stake all the time. I was the first counselor in the bishopric and was presiding over Sacrament meeting one Sunday because the bishop was out of town. (I had, at this point, been a member of the Church for about two years). As I was about to start, Neil Andersen (before he became an apostle) walked in to our ward and introduced himself. Flustered, I look at him, and he said gently and kindly, “please announce that I am presiding.” Very nervous, I continued on with the Sacrament meeting. I think Elder Andersen did this all the time so that he could be in touch with different wards in Brazil while he was serving there.

    So, I feel very confident that the Brethren have intimate knowledge of what is going on on a ward and stake level, and Meg’s story illustrates that.

  5. When the floor opened for questions, one individual asked why Claudia and the other women didn’t just leave the church, presumably to find a church where they aren’t treated like second-class citizens. The ladies’ response was wonderful. “It’s my Church.” “I myself don’t feel oppressed at Church.” “I am committed to the work God does in the Mormon Church, even if I wish the culture would unleash the full power of all individuals in the Church.”

    The answers you quote strike me as ranging from the mealy-mouthed (“God works through it”) to the downright depressing (“it’s my church!!!”).

    Did anyone go out on a limb and say “Because I believe the Mormon Church fundamentally is what it represents itself to be: the kingdom of God on earth, the only true Church of Jesus Christ that is led by an actual prophet of the Lord and holds the sole and exclusive claim to God’s priesthood authority”?

  6. We’re women, though, and this was the Exponent II reunion. It was not a place or time to be exclusive and confrontational, though in context Claudia et al. were pretty much saying “The Mormon Church fundamentally is what it represents itself to be: the kingdom of God on earth, the only true Church of Jesus Christ that is led by an actual prophet of the Lord – and we just want all members to be able to move the work forward to the fullest extent of their capacity.”

    Claudia had issued a call for art produced by women, edgy stuff. Therefore I made a comment about my hypothesis about Eliza, which was possibly the most confrontational moment of the evening. I think an Eliza who had been victim, but then consciously reclaimed her innocence through the atonement of Jesus Christ, is a powerful message to women. Potentially overthrowing the current understanding of our history qualifies as edgy, but I’m not doing it for the sake of art.

    As for apostles visiting congregations, we once had Elder Oaks pop by. It was particularly memorable because that was the only Sunday I know of in decades attending this congregation when no one had brought bread for the sacrament. We all sat around until someone could run home and get some. It was a lovely, peaceful, reflective time. But for some reason I never want to repeat that experience ever, ever again.

  7. We still do our little groups in our area — on our own, outside of RS. We divorced ourselves from being associated with RS though, which made our book group way more fun. Not that reading church books was a drag, but not everyone was interested in those all the time. We also continued on with our play group, exercise group and our broom hockey group (yes we are that awesome to play hockey). And now that our ward is split, our little groups have been a great way to get the whole gang together on a regular basis.

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