This guest post comes to us from a ZD reader and commenter who goes by Thokozile. Thokozile studies cell biology, which mainly involves looking at tiny things and describing them in complicated ways. She has also been known to play the organ, wear purple pants, and lick banana slugs.
I was expecting the General Women’s Meeting to alternate between sappy, offensive, and boring. I can’t say I was wrong, nor can I say that it was historic, but my low expectations made it easy to notice the good things that happened.
- A 12-year-old young woman said the opening prayer. I think young women praying is typical for the general YW meeting, but it’s good to be reminded that teenage girls are special enough to talk to God on behalf of tens of thousands of people.
- They showed a medley of I Am a Child of God being sung by people in eight countries in nine languages. Just based on appearances, it seemed mainly to feature people in the Global South. This was a beautiful illustration of unity in diversity.
- Sister Oscarson’s talk. She emphasized that we should learn from each other in spite of our differences, and gave concrete examples of how the church facilitates this. She went out of her way to give insightful, inspiring, relevant quotes from women (Patricia Holland, Marjorie Hinckley, and Bonnie Parkin). I know this isn’t an accident or an isolated incident because I recently heard Sister Oscarson talk at a fireside in my area and she quoted Virginia Pearce, Sherri Dew, and Camilla Kimball.
- This is the best thing I have to say about the incredibly sappy and unsatisfying video montage of women in covenant-centered lives: In the opening scene, the girl being baptized was wearing pink fingernail polish. When I was a young woman, we often worried about whether it was acceptable to be baptized for the dead in the temple while wearing nail polish, so I’m glad to see this longstanding question resolved.
- To illustrate her point that we should use our talents to help others even when we have significant obstacles, Sister Burton told a story about a Japanese woman (who knew no Korean) teaching a lesson to missionaries in Korea. It was lovely to see the picture of a woman teaching a room of elders.
- President Eyring used the term “sister-leaders.” A dichotomy of leaders versus sister-leaders is no good, but taken at face value, this is a beautiful, non-hierarchical term. It’s like being a singer-songwriter or a prophet-historian – these women think of themselves as both our sisters and our leaders, and I think those complementary roles synergize quite nicely.
- There were multiple examples throughout the talks featuring people with disabilities and single sisters giving valuable service. The obsession with marital status is weird, but this is good because it highlights a part of reality that may be overlooked: people with disabilities and single sisters do valuable things.
- We didn’t sing As Sisters in Zion.
- The talks were not reactionary. I’m sure these leaders have been thinking about Ordain Women, but they didn’t say anything that seemed specifically aimed to dismiss the concerns (like Sister Stephen’s talk in October).
- The talks were not narrowly focused towards women of one age bracket. Instead all the speakers seemed to be aiming their messages at the entire audience. At the fireside I attended with Sister Oscarson, she mentioned that the brethren remind the Primary, YW, and RS presidencies that they are general officers of the church, which means that Sister Oscarson doesn’t represent only young women but can speak generally to broader audiences. This seems like a positive step towards a culture where female leaders are expected to say important things and be listened to.