Two weeks ago Heather and I spent the weekend watching the semi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear from the leaders of our church.
One week ago the speakers in our ward/congregation were asked to talk about their favorite talks/lessons from the conference. The last speaker spoke about a lot of different things he had learned from conference and then he extended a challenge to the congregation. His challenge was to help make women more visible in the church. With this challenge he gave us several examples of things we could do to increase the visibility of women in the church. One of his recommendations was to study the words of and quote more frequently female church leaders.
This idea really stuck with me. The visibility of the women in the church is kind of a hot topic in our ward - or perhaps a sensitive topic - so it has been on my mind for some time. I decided to take time this past week to listen to all of the sermons given by women at General Conference and take some time to ponder them, including the ones given in the special women's session. It was such an edifying experience! In the past I have generally read conference talks in the order they were given and since there are so few women leaders their talks are never juxtaposed. Studying them all together it was easy to see that they do a much better job of focusing on the family than many of the men do. I think that is great because the church handbook tells us that one of the basic purposes of the church is to support and strengthen the family.
Not only did they do a fantastic job of focusing on family but they were all very careful to talk about non-traditional families. In our ward we have several single sisters, a number of divorcees, and a few families where children are being raised by relatives because of problems the parents have had. I think most wards in the church have a share of non-traditional families and the percentage is growing. That makes it more important than ever for leaders to understand that simply reading from The Family: A Proclamation to the World is edifying but it is not enough. The Family: A Proclamation to the World presents an ideal that we hope for but we have to be prepared for the curve-balls that life throws. I have been blessed to be raised in a family, and now have my own family, that pretty well fits into the ideal presented by The Family: A Proclamation to the World. That makes it imperative for me to be sensitive to the needs and trials of people who haven't been so lucky.
Speaking of ideals; there are a lot of ideals presented to us in church. I think a lot of us carry around an "image" in our head of what the ideal Latter-day Saint is like. The good thing about having that kind of image is that it helps us to keep our eye focused on the goal of improving ourselves day-by-day. The bad thing about having that ideal is that we can become depressed by how short we fall in trying to achieve it. I know a number of people who have stopped trying because of this depression. I think the only solution to this is to follow the example provided by the people in Sister Rosemary Wixom's talk <https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/returning-to-faith?lang=eng> from this past General Conference. The woman in her talk is not struggling with self-doubt but doubts she has about the church, either way I think that how she works through it, and how the people around her help her work through it, is worthy of emulation when we face discouragement or depression while living the gospel.