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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why I Don't Think Women Will Pray in Conference ... Yet

by Ben Johnson (bio)

When I was in college I took a course called Philosophical Issues in Feminism. Incidentally, it was the only A I received in my four years at the university. During the semester I remember thinking, "This is great and all, but how are you going to reach Sally Jo Smith in Koosharem, Utah? She's not going to care, let alone understand, why women's comportment in magazines is a big deal. Nor is she going to get her dander up over some glass ceiling when she hasn't ever set foot in an office building." My takeaway was that all of this was fine for ivory tower feminists talking to and publishing with other ivory tower feminists, but if you want to call folks to your cause you've got to sell it and sell it well.

Which brings me to All Enlisted. If their goal is to bring about change within the church I think they are going about it the wrong way. I personally think they would have had a better chance getting a woman to pray in conference if they hadn't organized "Wear pants to church day." Whether intended or not, that brought negative attention to the church. In my mind, there was no specific goal (women could already wear pants to church). It seems the sole purpose was to highlight their perceived lack of equality within Mormonism and it gave everyone an excuse to laugh and point. Right or wrong, I think All Enlisted now has a negative 'reputation'. Anything they agitate for now has a stigma attached to it, no matter how noble or right.

Which now brings me to having women pray in conference. A great idea. It is specific, no doctrine has to change to implement it, and you have President Kimball backing you up. I hate to say it, but I don't think it is going to happen because the movement is attached to All Enlisted. It's akin to having a heated discussion with someone you don't like. Even when they make a good point you don't want to yield because you just can't give them the satisfaction. Not to be too crass, but the church has a brand to protect. Do you think they want to be known as the organization that caves to every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a Facebook page and 1,200 likes?

Imagine the mayhem that would ensue if a woman offers a prayer in conference this April. The more liberal members would chest thump and crow about victory and immediately start planning their next attack. The more conservative members would get angry and perhaps even waver, questioning how leaders with a direct line to God could be swayed by a small group of people with Twitter skills.

I don't want to seem like I'm trying to dump on All Enlisted. As I said, I think having a woman pray in conference is a great idea. I look forward to the day. I just think we are farther away now than we were a week ago. Whether you agree or disagree your comments, as always, are welcome.

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