One area of the Church in which we are leading the world and making great strides is in the treatment and importance of women. This was highlighted during the recent worldwide leadership training on the new instruction manuals. In fact Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve devoted a whole talk to the subject of sisters named “Sisters in Councils”. I am not ashamed to admit that I too will need to make an effort to incorporate these words of counsel into my own stake meetings where sisters are present.
Elder Scott’s words can be read directly from this link:
Below I will quote some of his words and will add my own thoughts in brackets and in italics for your consideration. I have bolded the parts that I as a stake president deem to be especially important. Here are the words of Elder Scott; a latter day prophet, seer and revelator:
“I have observed—particularly in international areas, although it often occurs domestically (and yes that includes
) —that sisters do not participate openly in ward council meetings (this is an excellent point that Elder Scott makes. I would like to add that this occurs at the stake level too where sisters are present). This is most unfortunate, because they have perspectives and experiences that are of immense value. When they can be encouraged to take part freely in ward council meetings, their ideas are always helpful and inspirational. Utah
This challenge can be resolved easily in the following way (listen up Brethren). As the ward council meeting unfolds and specific suggestions are made, the presiding officer can call on individual sisters present by name (this will have the added benefit of making leaders learn the names of not just the brethren, but the sisters too), asking them to express their feelings regarding the matter. They will always respond to such an invitation (I am looking forward to verifying this in my own meetings). As they gain more experience in the environment of the ward council, they will learn to participate actively without the need for such an invitation (this will most likely take a while but will become a great blessing).
There is sometimes a complementary blessing that comes to the homes of priesthood leaders who observe the benefits that result from sister participation in ward council (this is going to be important). These men can become more appreciative of the sacred role of their wives in their own home (wouldn’t that be wonderful). “
During the training Elder Quentin L. Cook reminded us that “Participation from all council members, especially the sisters, is essential if the revelatory potential is to be achieved. Both men and women are encouraged to speak honestly on any issue. All should feel that their comments are valued (even the sisters).”
As I think about my own stake meetings that involve sisters I know I will have to make some changes in order to encourage them to not just attend, but to actually speak. This will be a challenge to all of us, but if the brethren see this as important then we must forge ahead. I have committed to my leaders that my stake will lead the way.
Also on the subject of sister’s participation in meetings and the progress of the church in this matter I would remind readers that the new handbook states in section 18.5 that “Men and Women may offer both opening and closing prayers in Church meetings”. This came as a bit of a shock to me. I was aware that men could do this, but I had always based meetings within my stake on the example set at general conferences where women are not assigned to give opening or closing prayers. I will wait to see if there is a change in the upcoming April general conference and will continue to base meetings within my stake on the example our leaders set before us at that time. Perhaps this April 2011 we will have a sister give a prayer for the first time in the history of the restored church!! Now if that doesn’t silence the critics I don’t know what will.