I may have been the last woman to attend Priesthood Session

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Saddle Creek

On April 3, 1993, Jeanette (Waite) Bennett attended the Priesthood Session of LDS General Conference as a reporter.

I may have been the last woman to attend Priesthood Session.

It was Spring 1993, and I was an editor at The Scroll, which was the student newspaper at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). Prior to each semi-annual General Conference, the LDS Church sent packets to news outlets with instructions for acquiring press credentials to cover the five-session, one-weekend event.

Always up for an adventure, I immediately liked the idea of making the four-hour trek to have a seat in the Tabernacle’s press section, which was on the southwest corner of the balcony directly overlooking the junior members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Because I was quasi-dating a member of the Men’s Choir at Ricks, I knew our junior college was providing the music at the Priesthood Session. And I also knew our student singers were a primary storyline and photo opp for The Scroll coming out of General Conference. As I looked at the press credential packet, I looked at my group of all-female reporters and sighed.

I hadn’t yet heard of the Internet, email or cell phones. So I did what any level-headed journalist did back in 1993. I picked up the corded phone and called Church headquarters. I explained that I was filling out the paperwork for press credentials, and I would like to check the box that said I would be attending all five sessions, including Priesthood. Would that be OK?

The man on the other end asked if I had a male reporter who could go to that session instead. I truthfully told him my group of reporters was 100 percent women, and then we shared a light-hearted moment about the male/female ratio at Ricks. I told him our newsroom reflected that percentage, and the male staffers we did have were concentrated in the sales and photography departments.

The man said he would check on my request. When he returned my call, he said he had good news. I had been approved to attend the Saturday evening session, and he encouraged me to dress conservatively so I didn’t draw attention to myself. I wasn’t sure if he said that “officially” or somewhat facetiously, but I took him literally.

And I wasn’t offended. I truly did not want to draw attention to myself. What I did want to do was cover Priesthood session and the Ricks College Men’s Chorus as a writer representing my student body of 8,000ish.

 

Salt Lake or bust

When I walked onto Temple Square just after 5 on Saturday evening, my conservative attire didn’t do enough to help me fit in. True, I wore the black-and-white uniform, but my blonde hair and white-nylon legs were unlike any other guest lining up outside the Tabernacle doors. And let me emphasize I did feel like a guest — I had been invited to this event, and I didn’t take that lightly nor did I want to limit my invitations in the future.

When I arrived at Door 3 to enter the press section, I was greeted with smiles and chivalry. I was handed the press packet, which included transcripts of the talks to be given that night. As I climbed the stairs to the media area, I was escorted by a friendly usher who had previously been made aware of my attendance. “How does it feel to be a rose among the thorns?” he asked.[pullquote]“How does it feel to be a rose among the thorns?” he asked.[/pullquote]

The entire night, I was the recipient of smiles and pampering from the ushers and other journalists. Multiple times I was asked if I needed anything. Nearly everyone who I made eye contact with asked who I was and how I managed to be the only female in the room. I felt curious eyes from the balcony and the main floor staring my direction. 

A radio reporter shuffled down the pew and landed next to me just as the session was about to start. He said everyone was looking at me, including the camera operators, and he was sure I would be on TV. He wanted his own moment of fame, and he figured his best chance was sitting beside this female reporter, 20 years his junior. (His strategy backfired as we never appeared on the monitors.)

As the session began, I watched my friends and classmates sing “See the Mighty Angel Flying” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” I heard more laughter than I had during the daytime sessions — especially during President Hinckley’s remarks. I listened to the all-male speakers instruct the nearly 3,000 attendees, who looked like my balding father and my sometimes-absent home teachers and the new Deacons whose short pants reveal white gym socks.  It seemed as if the men, both young and old, were bonding in their challenges, imperfections and goals as Priesthood holders. At one point, President Hinckley asked the Deacons, Teachers and Priests — and then former Deacons, Teachers and Priests — to stand. I was the only one still seated on the pew.

I was impressed with the strength I felt in the room, and selfishly I wanted those men to listen closely and come away refreshed and instructed so they could fulfill their important roles as my bishop, my uncles, my monthly high council speakers and my son’s future Scoutmasters.

Afterward I left the session uneventfully, and I returned to the Tabernacle the next day and sat on the wooden bench in a mixed audience for two more sessions before the 240-mile drive back to Rexburg in my Ford Escort.

 

Jeanette Bennett (who went by Jeanette Waite at the time) led an all-female staff of writers at The Scroll, which is the student newspaper at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). She  wrote about the Ricks College Men's Choir performing in the Priesthood Session of April 1993.

Jeanette Bennett (who went by Jeanette Waite at the time) led an all-female group of writers at The Scroll, which was the student newspaper at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). She attended Priesthood session in the Tabernacle and wrote about the Ricks College Men’s Choir, which performed in the April 1993 session.

 

The aftermath

Early Monday, I was in the newsroom typing up my notes in preparation for my Tuesday deadline. I heard the phone ring for the first time that morning, and our office manager announced that President Steven Bennion was on the line. My heart started pounding. Why would our college president start his week by calling the newsroom?

He asked if I had been to Utah this past weekend to cover General Conference.

“Yes.”

Had I been at Priesthood Session?

“Yes.”

President Bennion then said he got a call from one of the brethren that morning who saw a woman at the Priesthood session. He wanted to know who she was and tracked me down through Church Public Affairs. President Bennion relayed that the caller wondered about my purpose and felt that having me there was a distraction.

[pullquote]I wondered how much dialogue I had been responsible for in the Church Administration Building the past 36 hours.[/pullquote]I explained that I had been pre-approved as a journalist for the evening. The hearty president understood and was not reprimanding. Rather, he was sharing the guidance he had just received from a General Authority he didn’t identify. I wondered how much dialogue I had been responsible for in the Church Administration Building the past 36 hours.

 

Six months later

In Fall 1993, we received the General Conference media packet at our college newsroom. I snatched it, hoping for another trip out of windy Rexburg. As I scanned, I noticed a new sentence of instruction that indicated only male reporters were invited to cover Priesthood session.

My first thought was, “I am responsible for a new church policy!”

My second thought was, “I don’t blame them.”

As much as I enjoyed the content of the Priesthood Session and the palpable strength in the sea of suits, I had garnered far more attention than the brothers by my side — and perhaps more than some of the speakers. I couldn’t deny that my attendance had been somewhat uncomfortable for me and clearly confusing to some men in the Tabernacle.

 

Back in the press box

Two years after my Priesthood appearance, I was in the press area again — this time for BYU’s student newspaper — when President Hinckley was sustained as the 15th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1995. During the Solemn Assembly, groups were asked to stand, sustain the prophet and be seated. The First Presidency stood to sustain him. Then the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Then the Quorums of Seventy, followed by patriarchs, high priests and elders. After that, the Aaronic Priesthood holders were asked to stand and sustain President Hinckley. Then it was the Relief Society sisters’ turn to hold their arms to the square, followed by the young women ages 12 to 18. Finally, the entire congregation stood together to sustain Gordon Bitner Hinckley as prophet, seer and revelator.

We stood symbolically and separately as men and then as women before uniting together to sustain God’s mouthpiece on earth. Gender is clearly an essential and defining characteristic in the way we worship. We are stronger and deeper as a worldwide church — and in our local congregations — when our individual genders stand tall.

Jeanette Bennett was captured by the Ensign photographer standing with the women during the Solemn Assembly to sustain President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 1995.

Jeanette Bennett (curly hair, floral dress in front) was photographed standing with the women during the Solemn Assembly to sustain President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 1995. This photo ran in the May 1995 Ensign.

 

Roses and thorns

After my two separate weekends in the press box, I understand that keeping the “roses” apart from the “thorns” isn’t about limiting the roses. It is about providing the thorns a successful setting where they can learn to soften their mortal “prickliness” and become the best versions of themselves. Women can and do watch the session on TV and read it online and in the Ensign, so it’s obvious the content isn’t exclusive or secretive. It’s the experience of an all-male session that warrants preservation.

And the same holds true for the “roses.” When women gather at the General Women’s Meeting to wage a war on our spiritual wilting, we want to be surrounded by our sisters who know first-hand the joys and struggles of womanhood. Similarly, we strengthen our sisterhood weekly in our all-female, all-personal Relief Society lessons. Men and women are divinely different — and parts of our instruction need to be, too.

[pullquote]Men and women are divinely different — and parts of our instruction need to be, too.[/pullquote]

As we approach the April 2014 General Conference, discussions are flurrying about a group of women who have requested tickets to attend Priesthood session as a symbol of their desire for greater participation. As one who has been there and done that, I strongly support the Church’s decision to keep the gender meetings separate. In a noisy world of distraction, blurred lines and overstimulation, I celebrate that our prophet-led church chooses to instruct men singularly and directly. And I look forward with joy to the separate women’s meeting where I will learn how to honor my eternal role as a woman, helpmeet and leader.

The LDS Church has made generous strides in elevating opportunities for women and will likely travel further down that path in coming days, but I will continue to support a Priesthood session where men spend two hours away from the gender they are taught to cherish, serve and love. And I’m also a raving fan of women having their own session where the sopranos reign and the doctrinal messages are decidedly feminine and focused.

Truthfully, I need strong Priesthood holders who unite to learn and grow every six months. And I want to be a strong and wise woman who focuses on my own spiritual growth and then harmonizes mine with theirs. Separately and together, men and women can stand tall by bringing faith and works to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeanette Bennett (jeanette@uvmag.com) is co-owner of Utah Valley Magazine and UtahValley360.com. She serves in the Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

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73 Comments

  1. Kaylynn Nunn Reply

    What a great perspective on the purposes of the different sessions of general conference. And of course we love the awesome 90s hair and clothes:)

  2. Christa Woodall Reply

    Jeannette, you rock! LOVED this – both the tale of your adventure and the wise, wise lessons learned therein. Thanks for being such a great example and for speaking as one who’s gone behind priesthood lines and can speak with experience so few have.

  3. Tristan John Reply

    Jeannette, you always know how say things the right way. I love reading your articles. I hope that people can take your comments in the spirit they are given.

  4. Dvorah Reply

    Thanks for this excellent article and for sharing your experience! I enjoyed reading your story and I agree with you that the experience of sharing a space with people who share your life experiences is a powerful one. How do you feel about the asymmetry between the truly single-gender Priesthood session and the mixed-gender women’s meeting, where women gather, but men are not only permitted to enter but also preside and give talks?

    1. Bonnie Reply

      I was wondering the same thing. Why doesn’t it go both ways then? If the idea is to provide a completely private men only meeting for the males why isn’t the same provided for the women?

      1. Miriam Reply

        Are you saying you DON’T want to be blessed by the words and presence of PROPHETS in the General Women’s Broadcast? I love having the First Presidency be part of the women’s meeting. They support, honor, and lead us.

        She was a distraction at the Priesthood session. The First Presidency doesn’t distract anyone in the Women’s meeting.

        1. Dvorah Reply

          She was a distraction? Or they chose to be distracted? There’s nothing inherently distracting about a person, male or female, sitting quietly and listening.

          1. Lucy

            Just reading this, Apr 2016. I agree. “She was a distraction “?

            Relief Society classes may be visited by Priesthood at any time, yet I wonder the reaction when a woman goes in to priesthood class.

      2. Sheri Reply

        There is one, actually two. The General YW meeting for girls and the General Relief Society meeting for women. The media wont tell you that.

        1. Chad Reply

          There is only one. The General Women’s Meeting. There used to be two, but they have combined it into one. It’s not a part of General Conference. Men attend, preside, and speak.

  5. Julie V. Reply

    Thanks for the article and perspective!
    It must have been so inspiring to see all the men and young men gathered together as priesthood holders.
    I love attending Relief Society because it is targeted at me specifically as a woman. I look forward to the general woman’s broadcast, and hope priesthood holders look forward to the meeting that tailored for them as well.
    Having taught in public schools, I know kids benefit from having some time in classes that are tailored for their level and interest.

  6. Lindsey Shores Reply

    Jeanette,

    You have a way of expressing yourself. Thank you for sharing your point of view on this. It’s tough to manage all the negativity about combining or “allowing” both genders to attend everything today, yet you spoke up about a first-hand experience leading to the uncomfortableness that you felt as both meetings for both genders, should be kept separately, for many reasons of their own.

    Thanks for sharing friend.

  7. Robert A. Reply

    My wife and I compare notes on all sessions, including the Priesthood and the General women’s broadcast. (helps me to keep good notes!) We review the talks on-line and read them together from our church publications. As a couple, we are united in our purpose, but also fully realize and appreciate that our Father in Heaven knows us each one individually and cares about us enough to give us instruction that is specific to the challenges and trials we face that are gender specific and role specific. That unity and recognition as a couple helps us stave off the world’s efforts to blur the lines that the Lord has so clearly defined. We embrace and celebrate the differences that God created.

  8. April Young Bennett Reply

    This is gracious of you, but I think it sad that in this modern age, the Church would discriminate against women and prevent them from doing their paid job as reporters just because they are women.

    1. Marie Reply

      I agree. A very gracious story, however I don’t understand why a woman attending as a part of a paid job is distracting.

    2. Miriam Reply

      “Discrimination” & “appropriate” are two separate things. I think that is something that “modern” society doesn’t care to understand. People seem so eager to be offended these days. That doesn’t seem very modern to me. The attitude of entitlement is so annoying! Sometimes, it’s not about you–and that’s ok.

      Why do these women even want to go to the Priesthood meeting? You always hear people complain about having so many meetings to go to. Here’s one where you don’t have to go, and then they complain about that.

      You can’t please someone who is determined to be dissatisfied.

  9. Alisa Reply

    What a lovely experience you had. It makes me wonder if one woman, sitting in the press box, made such a big distraction, what it would be like to have a Church meeting with just women.

  10. Courtney Reply

    According to your argument, men should not be allowed to attend the women’s meeting, which is not the case. I really appreciate reading your story; it’s very interesting, but I have to admit I think if one woman is so distracting to the men, that seems more like the men’s fault than the women. I don’t understand why that’s a reason to exclude women. I think there is a lot of blame places on women for men’s thoughts and actions– this reminds me of the destructive way the church teaches modesty.

  11. Justin Reply

    Thank you. I am unable to explain things clearly sometimes and I appreciate you putting your spin on this topic. It is extremely unpopular these days to back up our church’s position when it flies in the face of modern society. I fully support the brethren and the things they ask us to do as I know they will bless myself and my family. Sometimes that makes me seem a little backward to others so it is nice having another person share those sentiments.

    1. jeannie Reply

      Justin, your holding fast to the teachings of the brethren may make you “seem a little backward” to those of the world, but not to true followers of Jesus Christ.

  12. Abby Reply

    I certainly don’t mind men having a male only meeting, but the Priesthood meeting isn’t called the “General Men’s Meeting”, it’s called Priesthood Meeting, which should be open to all members. The priesthood doesn’t belong to men only. And as others have pointed out, women do not have an equivalent women only meeting. Men can attend ours. In fact, they preside and give the key note address. It’s not the same thing at all.

    1. Brian Reply

      Abby, the priesthood meeting is a general meeting of all the priesthood quorums. It is in fact the equivillant of the general meeting for the different chapters of the relief society organization. The only reason there are apostles and prophets speaking at the General RS meeting is because they are in fact apostles and prophets and have been sustained as such by the women in the church. I think it would be very sad for many women in the church to not have the Lords mouthpiece give them council and instruction, which is a tradition that traces right back to the day the relief society was organized and Joseph Smith gave them instructions.

      1. brooke Reply

        Very well stated Brian. Our prophet is there to preside over and giving instruction from the Lord at the Priesthood meeting AND at the Women’s meeting. He is not at the women’s meeting to make things unfair.

        Thank you for a very well written article!

        1. Kiersty Reply

          Thanks to both Brian and brooke. This is something I have been thinking about lately and seeing your thoughts on the subject helped me clarify my own thoughts.

      2. jeannie Reply

        Thank you, Brian, for putting it so clearly.
        Men’s and Women’s roles in life are different.
        Not to be flippant, but I wonder why the men aren’t protesting because they can’t have the babies.

        1. Joe Reply

          I have. I wish I could have that experience, but no matter what I do, I can’t. I’m grateful to my wife for bearing our daughter and I do everything in my power to raise her equally with my wife.

    2. Miriam Reply

      The General Priesthood Meeting is a meeting of instruction to those who hold the Priesthood. (And men who hopefully are working toward holding the priesthood, if they don’t have it.) Getting all nit-picky about what the meeting is called shows that you are not looking at this with a spirit of understanding.

      The whole reason we go to Relief Society is to learn and follow our Heavenly Father’s plan. We receive this information through the Prophet.
      This isn’t some ladies’ night out.
      If you want to leave out the prophets, why are you even coming to the RS meeting? This doesn’t make any sense to me!

  13. Nathan W Reply

    So that’s who changed it all! Always the rabble rouser! 😉 I appreciate the article from a person who is by no means a “just let the men do it” kind of woman. As a man (at least biologically speaking, some would argue the point otherwise) it can be perplexing at times to know of the true stand to take on issues of gender equality in these interesting times of ours. Thanks for giving some female perspective from a credible source to help us knuckle dragger males navigate the storm.

  14. Sonja Reply

    I don’t find the premiss of this article to be valid. In what ways are men “distracted” by the presence of women in their meetings? Men interact with women every day – at work, home, school, church, the grocery store, in the neighborhood, etc., and they seem to function and focus just fine. Men are pretty awesome, after all.

    But if, indeed, the opposite sex is intrinsically distracting, wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should un-invite men from our General Relief Society meeting? So we can learn, uninhibited, just like the men do?

    The truth is, we don’t bar the men, because we consider it a privilege to have their presence and input at our gatherings. We want them there.

    So, we consider them to be a privilege, but, according to this article, consider ourselves to be a distraction. There’s something wrong with that.

    1. Ash Reply

      It’s not about the opposite sex being distracting, it’s about her sticking out like a yellow flower in a sea of violets! She was the only woman in the room… I think that would be pretty distracting! It’s a men’s meeting where they weren’t expecting any women to show up, so they were probably all wondering what she was doing there… wouldn’t you feel distracted if you were at a meeting where you expected only women to be in attendance and then a man walked in the room and sat with you?

    2. Miriam Reply

      It should be obvious that the men are at the RS meeting because we are led by a Prophet. That’s how Heavenly Father speaks to us. So, it’s not surprising when prophets show up to give us instruction.

      Since there is no real reason for a female reporter to be at their meeting, it makes sense that it would be distracting.

      I think that women who are bothered by this should ask themselves WHY it is bothering them so. Remember President Uchtdorf’s council to “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”

      1. Hannah Reply

        “No real reason for a female reporter to be at their meeting”?

        She’s a reporter, covering general conference.

        That’s the only reason needed. She was doing a job. Male reporters attend the RS meeting (now General Women’s Meeting), but they shouldn’t, according to your logic. They should send only female reporters and there should be a policy banning male reporters from the Women’s Meeting. Additionally, no male ushers should be allowed (as no female ushers are allowed in the Priesthood session). Unless a man is the prophet or another GA, giving a talk, they shouldn’t be there.

        Again, this is according to your logic. Unfortunately, that’s not how any of this works, so there’s an obvious, institutional disparity here.

  15. Michelle McCullough Reply

    I’m grateful for the priesthood, and even more grateful for strong men that honor that power.

    I love what Neal Anderson had to say in last conference about no gender owning the Priesthood. It’s God’s power. He goes on to talk about how men may be able to open the window, but we all get the blessings of the sunlight.

    Though I want to be sensitive to how others feel, I don’t desire the priesthood. Quite frankly, I don’t need anything else to do, and I don’t like how this cause makes me feel like I’m not already doing enough. And I want to do the job I’ve been divinely given as a woman in the church.

    Like you, I’m grateful that the men I love get specific council on the importance and discharge of this sacred responsibility. I’m grateful that we get our own meeting about how women can better the church, ourselves and strengthen the walls of our own homes. I’m looking forward to proudly wearing a skirt to that meeting this Saturday.

    It’s sad to me that such an important subject has become so divisive in the church. I know that God weeps when we quabble over his decisions and second guess His power. I would love for us as faithful women to link arms and join together instead of taking sides. I would love for us to work together for the cause of Zion and support each other, instead of judge each other. Imagine the power we could have if we were all on the same side.

    1. Miriam Reply

      Well said!

      I agree with a blog I read that pointed out that when people say women should have the priesthood, it discredits the awesomeness of being a woman.
      What, the wonderful roles I have aren’t good enough–I have to try to steal someone else’s to feel like I am enough? It sounds to me that they are confused about who is discriminating. I think it is so sad that they don’t understand the value we as women already have. I honestly think that it’s a sneaky plot of the devil. I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, but think about it: if you’ve got a bunch of ladies with awesome talents and roles and power to influence, teach, and uplift in all the things you want to destroy, wouldn’t you want them to believe they don’t have that power? Wouldn’t you want to distract them by telling them they need something else? He’s just still mad about Eve getting the upper hand.

      1. Chad Reply

        I feel sorry for all those men who hold the priesthood. It certainly discredits their awesomeness as a man to have the priesthood.

  16. MagpieLovely Reply

    So “the brethren” made a call to bar you from fulfilling the duties required by your job? That’s just creepy 1) that he noticed you and 2) that he made a call about it. I’ve never been in favor of the movement to Ordain Women, but this article certainly pushed me in that direction.

    It doesn’t sound like the male priesthood leaders involved were using kindness, meekness, or love unfeigned to request only male reporters. It sounds like they were throwing around their power and authority in a gross display of hierarchical oppression. This is depressing.

    1. Monica Reply

      I hope it takes more than just this article to push you towards OW. Seems silly to place your reasonings on the thoughts of someone else. I suggest you do much soul searching before making that jump.

  17. Kim Reply

    Some of the comments on this message board and others regarding the same topic are so disturbing to me. This is the Lord’s church. He is the one who directed the organization of things such as General Conference. He is the one that set up the hierarchy of the church and directed that priesthood holders were to hold the positions such as Bishop, Stake President, Prophet and were to preside at meetings. You may make any argument you want, but realize who you are arguing with. The Lord loves us. Our Father in Heaven loves us. Trust Them and Their ways. We should focus on the blessings that each one of us individually has been given. Let’s not focus on what we think we don’t have for it may not have ever been meant to be ours. Let’s engage ourselves in serving in the capacities we have been asked to serve in and molding our hearts and will to align with Christ’s. I am grateful that we have all been given minds to think for ourselves and agency to act for ourselves, and with those gifts, we are still told to keep the commandments and follow the prophet. I believe we have righteous leaders, both men and women, who while are still human, are leading this church is a manner that is not only pleasing to the Lord but is in accordance to His will. This is His church and I pray that we as members will continue to open our hears and seek to follow His will as we are all on this journey together trying our best to return to His presence. I hope all of us are able to enjoy a spiritual feast this coming Saturday and Conference weekend. We do not have to be in the Conference Center to be uplifted and receive counsel from the Lord.

    1. Dave Wilson Reply

      Please show me were The Lord directs who can go to what meeting of GC. There is no revelation or scripture to support this. Please show me a talk by President Monson stating this. Show me any thing that is not just man’s opinion on this subject. Do you really think God cares who go to this meeting? If there is something good or praise worthy, we should seek after these things.

      1. Miriam Reply

        “But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?” -Alma 30:44

        Heavenly Father gave us prophets and leaders to teach and organize his church. If this is how our prophets have it set up, I am confident that it is the will of the Lord.

        1. Chad Reply

          That’s exactly what Jared and company told the Brother of Jared about having light in the barges: “Stop bothering the Lord with your pestering! If he had wanted us to have light, he would have told you what to do. Put those rocks down!”

          1. Jayne

            The roles that women and men have is actually what you are questioning, not whether it is equal or fair to have a man in a ‘Meeting for Women’. The women’s organizations within the church are not entities unto themselves. They work together with the men and the children to fulfill all of The Lords work within His church. It would seem rather foolish to have a Primary Meeting without someone responsible for the building to unlock and lock it up. How about without having someone responsible for the projection of the broadcast there to set up and provide the technical assistance to maintain the feed throughout the broadcast. I also wonder about those responsible for teaching these sweet amazing individuals who have the responsibility to research and prepare pertinent lessons, quality activities who also not only pray for but carry their personal concerns and love for them throughout their days in their hearts. It seems very appropriate that they would be allowed to gather with and have the opportunity to not only serve but seek guidance and direction in their responsibilities in regards to those present through that same sweet spirit that permeates the meeting. We can all see how very appropriate the presence of each of these individuals attendance is even at a meeting strictly for the Primary Children. None of these roles are those of babysitting, providing refreshments or even bathroom breaks for the little ones and we feel they are appropriately attending the meeting. If you now replace the word Primary Meeting with a General Women’s Meeting you will see that despite gender the individuals present in a service capacity are there out of love and with a desire to learn how to better serve and be taught through the spirit just as the women present how to best serve as the Savior would have us do. The question you have posed is whether it should be a man in that capacity or role of serving in front of the group, at the podium, and behind the projector or whether it must be woman for the Women’s meeting. Sounds a little ridiculous to require only females when the responsibility lies sometimes only on men within the church. The division of the responsibilities is the question you argue not the logic of having those responsible present. Let’s be upfront. Continue asking questions and please always ask, “Who made this decision and what was the intent when the decision was made?”. Currently it is Jesus Christ at the helm and with the flaws of all of us He is able to captain this ship despite us. I do believe if I do all I can to stay safely centered inside the vessel I will be on board WHEN it makes it to its destination. If I am running about questioning the how’s and why’s about who is in the crow’s nest at the moment, I’m liable to miss something wonderful planned for me and the position He is depending on me to fulfill. I will listen intently to what is hollered from that crows nest and respond appropriately to all that pertains to me and my responsibilities. I am assume you are willing to do the same but just have a question or two about why. Good hunting-I hope you find the perspective you are seeking by going to the true source. He loves you and as I have found He will lead you to your answers as you follow Him.

  18. amy Reply

    I find it disingenuous that you present priesthood session and women’s conference as being equivalent. You know what the differences are, so why not address them? I’ll be supremely impressed the day a woman speaks to the men at priesthood session, as the closing speaker, and then all the men post her quotes like crazy for the next week. Show me men sitting up and paying attention and taking down notes when a women speaks to them in ps session, and I’ll agree that they’re the same.

    Until then, this article is just more of the same.

    1. Elizabeth Reply

      It’s all gods will and his timing. It’s just like blacks in the priesthood. The priesthood was always meant for all but at that time the current setting would never have accepted African Americans in it. Although it’s hard to understand and hurts my heartt, thinking of the inequality from that, I remind myself Things change over time and become how they are supposed to be. If women later receive the priesthood, awesome. If not then that’s is great too. God is all knowing, all seeing, and all loving. His will shall be done.

      1. Rosie Reply

        Blacks being denied the Priesthood (males) or Temple ordinances (all blacks) was not about the will of God or his timing. It was racism of the leaders at the time, and their will. The Church even made a statement about it on Gospel Topics.

    2. Jayne Reply

      Why on earth does it have to be a Woman who gets to do everything?? There are a few things men simply cannot do and there is very little griping and moaning from that corner. But we as women are portrayed to feel we are somehow not equal if at the moment a woman is not in every role or position or capacity avaible in the world. It has taken me many years to understand myself and now I am slowly beginning to see that I am enough. With or without a prestigious title, calling, leadership position or huge responsibility I am and have always been enough. So to fight the ‘good fight’ on behalf is women is to say that you believe that as a gender women are not enough as we are. It is the same logic your middle school child will try to explain when you want to step in for them each time they are not treated as if they are enough. When you step up to that plate you are stating that you feel as well that they are not enough on their own and ‘need’ more. I and all of the women who have ever lived are and will always be beyond price with a value beyond measure and most definitely enough. Thanks for the concern but I don’t want to waste anymore energy on proving why I don’t need you to prove that I not enough by fighting for my recognition. The definition of ‘cool’ is already knowing you are.

  19. Heidi Reply

    Thank you, Jeanette. I enjoyed your article and appreciate your approach to this subject of “equality”. I feel sorry for women who are insecure with their womanhood and feel they are not equal with men unless they are given the priesthood. In my mind sisterhood is truly a blessing. I love our women’s meetings and am grateful the men have their separate priesthood meetings. We share equally the instruction given and don’t have to be there in person to enjoy the messages.

  20. Bruce Reply

    Thank you for an excellent article. Your unique experience, thoughtful reflections, and articulate writing are delightful. You may have felt your presence in 1993 was a distraction, but it todayprovides perspective to give pause and minimize the distractions caused by a small but vocal minority. Thank you for giving voice to the thoughts of the women in my life!

  21. jeannie Reply

    that’s a well-written article, Jeannette!
    I had not previously been aware of you and your writings, but now I will seek them out. Thanks

  22. Bonnie Reply

    Why do people feel the need to take sides on this issue??? Has everyone forgotten that we are all on the same side!!! One of the most beautiful aspects of the Mormon faith is that we believe in asking questions. We believe in modern revelation directly from God. That’s amazing! I am thankful to the members of the church who ask questions (just like Joseph Smith did) because they want to know God’s will, not because they want to be labeled as questioning. It doesn’t really matter whether you think you’re too busy to hold the priesthood, or you don’t want the responsibility, or you would hate to be a Ward Mission Leader, or a ward clerk. The only thing that matters is what God wants. If God wants women to have the priesthood or hold more leadership positions in the church (even if only a small majority supported it) then it would happen. I think these conversations would be much more constructive if people focused less on picking a side and more on remembering we’re all on God’s side and its o.k. to ask for revelation on these kinds of topics. “We believe all that God has revealed and we believe that he will YET reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” So hello, things can change, and so lets embrace the questions (and eachother) we have and lead with our our faith.

    1. Rebecca Reply

      Beautifully stated! I totally agree. Our church should be able to embrace ASKING QUESTIONS, but sadly, many members act as if we have all the answers already. Instead of ‘being disturbed’ by others’ perspectives, we should try to understand them and love them as our fellow saints.

  23. Jay Ruth Reply

    Interesting through the end of the “Six Months Later” section. Derivative and shallow after that. On days like this I miss print–a better editor would have axed the navel gazing that turned a moderately engaging anecdote into trite blather.

  24. Camdon Reply

    I have a testimony of this Church. I believe in this gospel. I believe in the peace that it is destined to bring and that it had already begun to bring to this world. I know that God lives, that He loves all his children and that each of us have different tasks to perform. I have seen the power of the Priesthood benefit all of God’s children regardless of gender, occupation or nationality. I see the opinions and veiled insults and above all there looms a palpable air of contention. We are turning on each other and fighting ourselves. We may have conflicting opinions but we don’t need cause conflict. There is a divine organization to this church and I believe in and support its leaders and will cease to do so. I know that God directs this church and its leaders, male and female. I know that all of the members of the church know that the Prophet and General Authorities (including the Relief Society, Primary and Young Women’s presidencies) follow divine guidance as they create and implement policy. Sometimes we lose sight of the fundamentals of our faith when we try to analyze a particular situation, I hope and pray that this issue will cease bring strife and rather bring understanding. I love this gospel and I urge all of you to ponder your testimonies and fortify them against the contention that seems to be forcing its way into our gospel’s peace. Sisters, brothers, I love you all and i say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

  25. ZooZoo Reply

    I teach my children that angels are just people, both mortal and otherwise, who are strategically placed where we need them, chronologically and geographically. Parents can fit that category. That is also my view of a helpmeet: someone who is a guide, who can help someone perceive and reach what they could not otherwise achieve.

  26. Terry Reply

    Rosalind Hall, the conductor of BYU’s Men Chorus, attends every Priesthood Session in which her chorus sings. I would say she was the last female to attend.

    1. Dvorah Reply

      Terry, are you sure about that? I read that they were performing at the priesthood session last October, and a (male) guest conductor was brought in to lead the chorus because she was not permitted to enter.

    2. Dvorah Reply

      Sorry, not last October. This happened in April of 2007. Rosalind Hall rehearsed the chorus for their performance, but Ronald Staheli conducted during the performance itself.

  27. Jan Lewis Reply

    Jeannette,
    You are amazing! I loved your article and I thought it was appropriate for all audiences. Your Young Womens Presidency is outstanding, cretive and fun. Best wishes to you and Matt. You are both doing a remarkable job! Jan

  28. Keith Tintle Reply

    Jeanette is a wonderful example of a sister that exemplifies the co-mingling of a gospel commitment, successful career, and dedication to family. Having worked with her professionally I have found her to be an amazing example of womanhood and one who personifies all that is good and wholesome with a stable balance in life.
    This article is one that demonstrates a sense of gender maturity that is remarkable and I am proud of the continuing example she portrays along with so many Latter-Day-Saint women to include my wife, Trish.

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