An introductory note- This is neither a protest, nor a forum for complaint, but an awareness and letter writing campaign. Please see the event page for more information, as well as some suggestions for how to set a positive tenor and tone when writing letters.
“Just because women do not currently pray in General Conference, it does not mean that is how God wants it. What if God is waiting for us to care enough to ask?”- Facebook comment seen on Let Women Pray’s page .
Church history is full of examples of members caring enough to ask. From the Relief Society, Primary, & welfare program to Church magazines, Mutual organizations, & changes to the design of the garment- our church is one that not only welcomes feedback and ideas from members, but historically, expects it. After all, Zion will not be achieved by idleness.
We recognize that the good, patient, and Christ-like women & men that lead our Church have dedicated themselves to executing the Lord’s revealed will. We also recognize that they continue to seek for further light and knowledge regarding “great and important things” He has “yet to reveal.”
An important part of this experience is that of the leaders creating administrative policies and procedures that are set up to ensure that the Lord’s will and His gospel are effectively disseminated throughout the world. The policies and procedures our leaders implement have changed many times during the existence of the institutional Church. We would never wish to deny our leaders their agency by assuming that when they got their current callings, God took away their ability to make mistakes. As fallible human beings, they would surely be the first to acknowledge that mistakes are made in this arena and oversight has happened. We believe they are doing their best to fulfill their callings, and the realization that they are just as human as we are might be a source for empathy towards our leadership, enabling us to more fervently sustain them.
While our Church doctrine clearly states that women and men are equal (but different), there are some policies that do not reflect that truth. One of these policies is that of not allowing women to pray in General Conference. While women are now scheduled regularly to speak in conference, and have been invited to sit on the stand, a woman has never given a prayer in General Conference. The letter campaign outlined below seeks to understand the apparently non-doctrine administrative policy of not allowing women to pray in General Conference, and ask for a reevaluation of the policy, thus allowing for greater gender equality. We believe that the prophets have already made it clear that a woman’s prayer is as efficacious as a man’s, and even in our most sacred meeting, Sacrament, women are allowed to pray.
A description of the upcoming event:
Please join in a letter-writing campaign appealing to the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to invite a woman to pray in the April 2013 General Conference. We appeal to the leadership of our Church to show their support for greater gender equality by recognizing the ability and worthiness of LDS women to represent their church in prayer.
We will be writing letters to the following General Authorities:
– Linda K. Burton, Relief Society President
– Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women General President
– Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President
– Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the Twelve
– Elder David F. Evans, member of the Quorum of the Seventy
– Elder Anthony D. Perkins, member of the Quorum of the Seventy
Our group will be delivering them to each General Authority; we ask that you do one (or more) of the following:
1. Hand-write a letter, or a series of letters to the above General Authorities and send it to:
Let Women Pray
PO Box 3833
Salt Lake City, UT 84110
2. E-mail letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Sign our cover letter here
We will copying and re-print your letters to be distributed to other General Authorities. To cover the cost, please send in $1 (or anything you can) with your letters.
Lastly- a bit of historical context for the history buffs.
July 1967– The Priesthood Bulletin, a church-wide newsletter for priesthood leadership, announces that women are not to pray in sacrament meeting. (Mormon Hierarchy- Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn)
This was reiterated a year later, on page 44 of the 1968 version of the General Handbook of Instructions, under the section titled “Prayers in Church Meetings”-
“Prayers in all Church meetings should be brief, simple, and given as led by the spirit by the one who is voice. Their content should pertain to the particular matter at hand. Brethren holding the Melchizedek or Aaronic Priesthood should offer the prayers in sacrament meetings, including fast and testimony meetings. Those praying should use the pronoun forms of Thy, Thee, Thine, Thou in addressing the Lord.”
June 1975– The Ensign’s “News of the Church” section seeks to further reiterate and enforce the ban-
“Prayers in Sacrament and Priesthood Meetings. Attention is called to the following instruction which appeared in the July-August 1967 Priesthood Bulletin. The First Presidency recommends that only those who bear the Melchizedek Priesthood or Aaronic Priesthood be invited to offer the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meetings, including fast meetings. This also applies to priesthood meetings.”
November 1978– A short three years later, President Kimball was quoted in the Ensign’s “News of the Church” from a message he gave at a Regional Representatives seminar on September 29-
“The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have determined that there is no scriptural prohibition against sisters offering prayers in sacrament meetings. It was therefore decided that it is permissible for sisters to offer prayers in ANY meetings they attend, including sacrament meetings, Sunday School meetings, and stake conferences.” (Emphasis added.)
Fall 2010– The new Church Handbook of Instructions repudiates the unofficial practice of having only men give closing prayers in meetings with the concise statement seen below-
“Men and women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings.”
April 2011– In the May Ensign report on April’s General Conference, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve said-
“From our earliest history both men and women pray, perform the music, give the sermons, and sing in the choir, even in sacrament meeting, our most sacred meeting.”