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TOM - What's your take on the Mormon feminist group that is trying to petition for women to be able to pray at General Conference? Seems to me that they truly do not understand and have faith in a living prophet??? Why don't women pray in conference? Does the D and C speak to this?
JOEL - Tradition!!! (I'm thinking "Fiddler on the Roof"). I don't think there is any doctrinal reason why women don't pray in conference. It is probably mostly based on tradition, the same as when women did not pray in Sacrament meeting until 1978. Because the Sacrament is a priesthood ordinance the early church leaders probably reasoned that it should be priesthood brethren that give the talks and prayers. The Patriarchal (aka male dominated) nature of the society back then probably added to the establishment of the policy. Then in 1978 the following announcement was made:
“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. Relief Society visiting teachers may offer prayers in homes that they enter in fulfilling visiting teaching assignments.” (Marvin K. Gardner, “News of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 100)
The Doctrine and Covenants contains scriptures that would suggest that General Conference (at least in the early years) was also considered a Priesthood meeting:
61 The several elders composing this church of Christ are to meet in conference once in three months, or from time to time as said conferences shall direct or appoint;
62 And said conferences are to do whatever church business is necessary to be done at the time.
67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.
81 It shall be the duty of the several churches, composing the church of Christ, to send one or more of their teachers to attend the several conferences held by the elders of the church, (D&C 20: 61-64, 67, 81-82)
Therefore perhaps the early church attitude was that only priesthood holders should pray in them. Over the years the purpose of General Conference has changed to include the entire membership of the Church. And of course women do speak in General Conference now and they do say prayers and speak in the General Women's Conferences. So probably the same reasoning as the 1978 announcement about Sacrament meeting prayers could be applied to General Conference and we may soon hear a woman give a prayer. I don't see any reason why that could not happen.
Policies, traditions and even doctrines in the past have been changed by someone simply asking why something is done or why something can't be done. ("Ask and ye shall receive") For example, Emma Smith complaining to Joseph Smith about the mess the brethren made with chewing tobacco on the floor and smoke in the air, prompted Joseph Smith to ask God about it and the result was the giving of the "Word of Wisdom" (D&C 89).
But I don't think we need an LDS women's feminist group launching a letter writing campaign for all the world to see; in effect trying to put social pressure on church leaders to change the policy. That could come across as murmmuring; a practice that gets unwanted media attention and is clearly discouraged in the scriptures:
"Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves."John 6:43).
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"(Phil 2:14)
In my opinion it is not a very faithful nor respectful way to bring about change nor is it a proper way to "shine as light in the world". Rather what could happen is someone like the General Relief Society Presidency could simply ask the prophet to ponder and pray about it to see what God has to say about it. When it's time for a change He will let us know.