LDS women should join me in skipping church on Sunday

Send church leaders a message on March 17, the 182nd Anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) LDS faithful walk to the Conference Center, for the Women’s session of LDS General Conference, on Saturday, April 2, 2022.

This past December, I suggested women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should stay home from church March 17 as a way to highlight the crucial, yet consistently undervalued, role we play in the faith. I selected that particular day because it would be the 182nd anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society and if any group in our church deserves some relief, it’s the women.

A month later, the church announced a Worldwide Relief Society Devotional and Testimony Meeting to be held March 17 to “commemorate the purpose and founding of the Relief Society.” Coincidence? Perhaps. The only other time the church has observed the Relief Society’s birthday via broadcast was in 1992 for the 150th anniversary — and even that wasn’t a stand-alone event. It was in coordination with the April session of General Conference. But who knows? Maybe the leaders just feel really strongly about the 182nd anniversary of stuff.

Either way, the anniversary is fast approaching and there are several ways to observe the event.

Take a break

I will stay home March 17. Instead of waking up with the sun to make sure my family of four gets fed, dressed and out the door on time, I’m going to buy some earplugs and try to get five hours of sleep instead of the usual four. I might also go for a walk, read a book or invite other women over to my house for some good food and company.

I’ve asked my husband to take our two kids to church. I know this will not be easy or fun for him, as I do a good deal of the child-wrangling during services. That’s the point, however, and he is supportive.

I’ll email my bishop to let him know I opted out of church to bring attention to the struggles women in our church are experiencing, including myself. I plan on sharing some of my own experiences, as well as some ways I think we can better represent women in our church.

Attend the Devotional and Testimony Meeting

Women ages 18 and over are invited to gather to watch a prerecorded message from church President Russell M. Nelson and the Relief Society General Presidency after which “women will have the opportunity to participate in a testimony meeting.”

This testimony meeting would be a great time to share your experiences as a woman in the church and your hopes that the church will work to improve the lives of Latter-day Saint women.

Send a Message

A lot of women reached out to me after I published my first article. I heard a lot of stories of women being belittled, maligned, insulted and ignored. I heard a lot of concerns about raising daughters in an environment that so obviously favors sons. I heard a lot of heartbreak. Even women who didn’t feel the same way as I did acknowledged there is a problem.

Many women told me, “This is why I left.”

These are stories that need to be heard.

In the announcement for the devotional, women are encouraged to use the hashtag #JesusChristisRelief to share testimony and connect globally with other sisters on the day of the broadcast.

We know that the eyes of the governing First Presidency and the Relief Society General Presidency will be on that hashtag to see what women share. I suggest that, on March 17, we use #JesusChristisRelief to send a message to the First Presidency. We can tell them the stories we’ve been sharing among ourselves. We can tell them why we decided to stay home from church that day. We can share the ways in which we’d like to see our church become a more equitable place, which include:

  • Allowing women to sit in the stands.

  • Allowing women to hold their babies in blessing circles.

  • Requiring that women be part of disciplinary councils involving other women.

  • Adding more artwork of women in our church buildings.

  • Instating a female Sunday school president or a male Primary president.

  • Using more quotes from female leaders in church lessons.

Many of these ideas come from Neylan McBaine’s “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Woman’s Local Impact,” so perhaps include a recommendation for that book in your outreach.

Send leaders the message that, while we appreciate the celebration, what we would really like is some parity.

I know it can be scary to speak up or step out of line at church. But to quote Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Latter-day Saint Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”

However you chose to observe the 182nd anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society, I hope you have a happy March 17.

Kierstyn Kremer Howes, LMHC, is a licensed therapist specializing in women’s issues. She is a member of the Utah Mormon Diaspora, having been raised in Taylorsville and currently living in Seattle.

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