Last week I attended the Rexburg temple with my husband. The Idaho Falls temple is closed for a year and half for renovations so all temple traffic comes north this way. Knowing that we need to show up 45+ minutes before a session just to have a prayer of making it in, we went to do initiatories. I walked in and the wait for women’s initiatories was over an hour and a half. Over twelve women were sitting in chairs waiting their turn to do temple work. I went back to the hallway and asked a temple worker to grab my husband, who as it turns out only had a ten minutes wait. The workers suggested we do sealings, which had no wait.

A photo of a sealing room in the Salt Lake City Temple

Fifteen minutes later we walk into the sealing room. There were five women and four men. After a while a temple worker ducked his head in and the sealer said, “Wait! we need one more man for sealings!” Now we could finally seal sons to parents. One woman was participating in sealing a son to his parents and the rest of the four women sat and watched. Five men needed, one woman. When it was our turn to participate in the sealings I looked down at the altar.

payson lace
A picture of handmade lace before it was donated to the Payson Temple.

It was covered with the lace covering that seems to be the standard decoration on temple altars. As I participated in the sealings I felt an affirmation that priesthood keys seal families together. I also glanced up at the sealer surrounded by two priesthood holders witnessing the sealings, and then glanced down at the lace covering and felt sadness. Each lace tatting represents dozens and dozens of hours of women attempting to consecrate their time and efforts into building the kingdom of God . . . in an absolutely UNnecesary way. Nothing would change our ordinances at all if there were no lace coverings on the altars of the temple.

tattingI thought of all the hours and effort of service of women in the Church that happen in unnecessary ways. I noticed the four women sitting on chairs in the sealing room observing the sealings for 15 minutes; but being limited in the ways they could serve. No logical reason keeps them out of the witness chairs, but they sat patiently there waiting to take turns being needed.  I thought of all the places around the world where faithful women live but cannot be organized in branches and wards because men are necessary to create them. I know deep down that the service of women (mostly mothers) in the church is valued as equally as men’s service is. I doubt many people dispute that. But we are sooo limited in the ways we can serve that often we dedicate hours of service into unnecessary things.

At General Conference Elder Uchtdorf referenced sisters making elaborate handouts and the need to simplify our discipleship. And when Pres. Nelson said, “[Sisters,] we need you to speak up and speak out,” I thought back to my mother’s day talk – when I asked to speak last my bishopric was so concerned about my unorthodox request they asked me to give them a summary of what I was going to speak about. Ummm, “Women of God?” It is my experience that you don’t need to speak to women about the importance of speaking up and out in their wards and stakes. If there are issues with women not speaking, by and large it’s because they’ve been conditioned to listen instead, and to sometimes speak… usually waiting to be asked first (but not too much!).  If women aren’t speaking up enough it might not be their own fault and you may need to look at the cause that created the circumstance, eh? {sigh}

If the voices of women are so needed in building up the kingdom of God, why do we only hear from two (not including the women’s session) of them over the General Conference weekend? There are plenty of General Auxiliary leaders serving on boards in addition to our three female presidencies. There’s nothing but tradition holding us back from having more of our general female leaders from speaking.

So while I value the message of female empowerment Pres. Nelson shared, I accordingly think our understanding of the role of women in the kingdom of God needs to expand to match our “more empowered” women. Is our authority to receive revelation and preach and expound doctrine equal or not? Welp, then…’s really the men with the power to grant women more ways/space to serve, speak, and influence, isn’t it?