“Parallel” Conference Sessions? Fox News, A Press Release, and the Dictionary
So, it looks like Fox News has picked up yesterday’s press releases on the church’s decisions to both broadcast priesthood session live for the first time and deny entry to the women who will be standing at the door asking for admission. “Male-only Conference Session to be Broadcast Live for the First Time.”
It won’t be the first time a woman has stood outside during Priesthood Session after being denied admission. Frances Monson, the deceased wife of President Monson, wanted to hear her husband give his first talk as an Apostle at Priesthood Session in October 1963. According to the Church Newsroom, “Frances tried to stand in the doorway of the Salt Lake Tabernacle to listen to her husband speak, but the ushers wouldn’t allow it, so she stood as near to the window as possible to hear the talk.”
I’ve already been over my opinions on the reactions from the general church membership to Ordain Women’s agitation (see here)
So let’s take a look at what church spokeswoman Ruth Todd had to say about it yesterday:
“It is the hope of the church that the priesthood session will strengthen the men and young men including fathers and sons, and give them the opportunity to gather and receive instruction related to priesthood duties and responsibilities,” church spokeswoman Ruth Todd said Tuesday in a letter to the group, “much the same way parallel meetings are held for sisters, such as the general Relief Society meeting.
“It’s for these reasons that tickets for the priesthood session are reserved for men and young men and we are unable to honor your request for tickets or admission.”
“…much the same way that parallel meetings are held for sisters, such as the General Relief Society Meeting.”
I’d like to take a moment to explore the word “parallel” as used in this context.
Priesthood Session: held twice a year as an official part of Conference.
General Relief Society Meeting: held once a year, and is not considered to be a part of General Conference, as illustrated by the Conference schedule and press release published yesterday. The Conference schedule mentions all four general sessions and Priesthood Session, but does not include a mention of the General Relief Society Meeting. The press release states that “Five sessions will be held Saturday and Sunday, 5–6 October 2013, in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.” It’s pretty clear that even though the meetings are supposed to be parallel, the church does not consider that women have their own session of General Conference.
Priesthood Session: Created for men (as we now see for sure from the church press release), presided over by men, all-male speakers, all-male attendance. Having the priesthood is not required to attend. You just have to be male.
General Relief Society Meeting: Created for women, presided over by men, male and female speakers with a male keynote speaker, bishops and Stake presidents may attend.
The men go to a Conference session to hear men called by men speak about men with other men. The women’s session is not parallel. A parallel session would be an official part of General Conference in every way, held in the same manner at the same frequency as the men’s meeting, with parallel rules for admission, with women presiding, with all women speakers, with speakers and female authorities being called by other women. This statement is not “agitation” or “contention” on my part. It is a plain statement of the facts according to the dictionary definition of ‘parallel’, which is “1 (adjective) side by side and having the same distance continually between them , 2 (noun) a person or thing that is similar or analogous to another.” The men’s and women’s meetings are not parallel, in execution or in implication.
People keep telling me that I hold the priesthood jointly with my husband. I don’t even know what that’s supposed to mean (and I’m pretty sure no one else does either, since it’s not church doctrine), but apparently it’s not enough to get me a seat at Priesthood Session or even my own Conference session. Others tell me that I have priesthood in the temple (I don’t know what exactly that is supposed to mean either, and neither can they, because again, there is no doctrinal statement on it), but those same people call me “stupid”, “evil”, and “crazy” for wanting to attend the priesthood session.
Still others insist that motherhood is the parallel of priesthood, leaving out the Young Women and single and childless women, as well as undermining the sacred calling of Fatherhood and mistaking mortal theories for the word of God, as there is no doctrine or revelation to back this idea. Yet where is the parallel Motherhood Session of General Conference? Where is the talk of how husbands share the Motherhood with their wives, and where is the month of Priesthood and Relief Society lessons dedicated to defining and supporting the Motherhood? There are no answers, because there is no parallel. As much as we might want to create one, there is no explanation for why women don’t have the priesthood, and no revelation stating that motherhood is anything like it. President Hinckley said himself, as quoted on mormon.org, “Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way.” That is the closest thing we have to a doctrinal explanation of the way things currently are. Trying to create parallels where there are none is causing more chaos and magnifying tension between members, not to mention putting the theories and philosophies of humans in place of the actual word of God.
It occurred to me the other day that The Family: A Proclamation to the World doesn’t even contain the word “priesthood.” For all the talk of women’s roles and men’s roles, and how asking President Monson to pray about women’s ordination or trying to get a ticket to Priesthood Session as a woman is blasphemy against the God’s Plan For The Ladies, there is literally no revelation-not even in THE document on gender roles-that associates priesthood with men’s purpose and “no priesthood” with woman’s. Men use their priesthood to help them do the things listed in the Proclamation, to help their families, to fill and magnify their callings, to comfort others, strengthen their own faith, and make the world a better place. And for women, the natural parallel to that would be…?