The Solemn Assembly and Gender Equality

by mraynes

There are a couple of things that I want to discuss in the near future but before I get to those things I want to share my reaction to General Conference. Overall I thought it was fairly innocuous, not much to get excited or worked up over. The thing that stood out the most for me was the Solemn Assembly.

The last time there was a Solemn Assembly, I was eleven almost twelve years old. I remember feeling a little bitter that I only got to stand up with the general membership when I was so close to being a Young Woman (my birthday is toward the end of April). Even then, I felt there was something unfair about the hierarchy that the Solemn Assembly promoted.

I felt a little silly this time around because we were just in our living room; if my parents hadn’t been there, I probably would have remained seated and raised my hand to the square. Nevertheless, we all participated in the ceremony. My father and husband stood with the High Priests and Elders Quorum. My mother and I stood with the Relief Society, then all of us joined with the general membership of the church to sustain President Thomas S. Monson. And once again I felt bitter.

I felt bitter because my vote mattered less than a twelve year old boy’s. My family tried to assure me that this was not true, that each vote was equal. Trust me, I know that is how I’m supposed to feel. I’ve heard it before…preside doesn’t really mean preside, it means benevolent servant leader. But it doesn’t work! Preside will always mean preside and hierarchy is never conducive to equality.

We talk in this church how women and men are equal in the sight of God, that motherhood is the equivalent to priesthood. If that is really true, then we need to start backing our words up with action. Why can’t the Relief Society stand after the Melchizedek Priesthood if they are truly equal? Is the order of the Solemn Assembly based in scripture or is it just tradition? I would argue that if the standing order of the Solemn Assembly is only tradition, this is one small area that could be changed so we could prove our commitment to gender equality.