10 Ways to Improve General Conference for Women This Weekend

A message came through for the youth one General Conference, inviting them to join a challenge. They could earn prizes by watching Conference, recording their thoughts, and submitting them. Simple and straightforward, right? Except, they included one caveat: The Young Men could opt to watch Women’s Conference or choose to watch old Priesthood sessions instead.

            This exception puzzled me. Why exactly wouldn’t Young Men benefit from watching the Women’s Session? Is it because watching a session for women might make men uncomfortable? Or is it because messages by women are only for women? Maybe messages for women aren’t significant to men? Perhaps it’s because female speakers don’t have the authority to speak to men?

            I haven’t seen a message for a Men’s Meeting Conference weekend, so perhaps the Young Women will receive the same exception? Except it’s not quite the same, is it? In fact, men do attend the Women’s Session. They preside over the session, are praised for gracing the session with their presence, and they are always the final speaker, offering the last, and most important, word.

            This is just one example in a series of, presumably unintentional, sexist moments that persist each General Conference. As a feminist, I’m frequently told to pick my battles, to be grateful for small changes, and to acknowledge good intent. This is difficult because I’m also often told that my “demands” are too high to be realistic or, paradoxically, too insignificant to be bothered with.

Despite this challenge of making just right suggestions, I genuinely believe we can have a more Christ-centered and inclusive General Conference if we adjust some our common language choices and ingrained cultural habits.

10 Ways to Improve General Conference for Women This Weekend

  1. Call women by their titles. Just as you reference men as “President,” or “Counselor,” do the same for women. If you call a man “president” long after his term as Bishop or Elder’s Quorum President has ended, do the same for women. This small change is a significant way to indicate respect for a woman’s authority and contributions.
  2. Create Conference Packets that Include Female Speakers and Female Representation. Any packet given to keep children engaged in Conference should include sections for female speakers, highlights of female leaders, and coloring pages and word searches that include visuals of women. Otherwise, the message that men are the main/only authority figures in the LDS church is reinforced.
  3. Listen to Female Speakers. The popular joke when I was younger (no kidding!) was, “Oh. It’s a woman speaker. Time to get a snack or go to the bathroom!” This went along with criticizing female speaker’s for using “Primary voice” and, therefore, making listening to them unbearable for any serious thinker. Can we just let go of these tired tropes in 2021? If women truly have authority in the LDS church and if no position/calling is above another, then female speakers should be given the same attention and respect as their male counterparts.
  4. Quote Female Speakers. When General Conference is over and members begin filling talks with quotes, make a special effort to include female speakers. This will admittedly, be a challenge because of the limited number of women speaking in the four main sessions, but do it anyway. Otherwise, the promise that women have a significant, important voice in the LDS church is an empty one.
  5. Study and Teach from Talks by Women. Given the small number of female presenters each conference, it makes sense that the next 6 months of lessons for women and men should include every female talk from the previous conference. Cover these and you’ll still discuss the words of far more men and Priesthood holders.
  6. Avoid Referring to Someone as “So and So’s Wife.” Being the wife of a prophet, an apostle, a Mission President, or Bishop is not a title. Introduce them as individuals with contributions and selfhood independent of their martial status. If we believe they are being called to serve alongside their husbands, then let’s call them officially and give them a title that reflects their authority.
  7. Have Women Speak at the Men’s (Priesthood) Session. Better yet, invite them to speak at the Men’s Session and have them speak last. Are women’s issues important to men? Can women speak on all issues? Do women share in the priesthood? If yes, then why don’t LDS female authorities speak to male-only audiences?
  8. Use the Term “Heavenly Parents.” They Young Women’s theme declares, “I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents.” This seemingly small change makes my heart beat a little faster with joy whenever I hear it. As someone seeking and longing for the feminine divine, I love to be reminded that I come from Heavenly Parents and have a Heavenly Mother.
  9. Ask the Young Men to Help Babysit. Whether it is the Women’s Session or Men’s Session, many parents need help minding children during conference. Don’t just ask the young women to provide free service on a Saturday night. This is an excellent service opportunity for the future fathers of the church.
  10. Make Women Donuts. This may not apply this weekend, but plan ahead for October. If the women in your life have a lovely tradition of making donuts or treats for you to enjoy when you arrive home, do something special for them next session. PS. Watching the kids doesn’t count (that’s fatherhood).
Mindy May Farmer
Mindy May Farmer
Mom of 4, librarian, writer, feminist, retro style enthusiast, bookworm, felter, and crocheter.


  1. I was really loving this list until it got to “make women doughnuts” and then I imagined the mess I would have to clean up after the boys had a male bonding experience in my kitchen. How about a real treat and come home to a spotless house with the dishes done and the kids their bath, homework, and ready for bed.

    But the idea of women giving talks in priesthood session is one I really like. Have the women teach them how to be good husbands, fathers, and priesthood holders. That bit of education would go a long way in improving women’s experience in the church. Men teach each other far different lessons about what it means to be a man. They teach more about male competition, earning a living, and how to be strong. But those are not traits that make a loving husband or father.

    • I resisted the urge to add “And don’t eat them all before she comes home OR leave a mess.” (Not that this happened to me or anything). Maybe I should make it clearer that donuts are symbolic and can be something else? 🙂

      • No, I understood that you were making the suggestion as “celebrate the women meeting together the same way the women are taught to take efforts to make priesthood session special for the men.” I think many families have special traditions for the men after priesthood meeting, such as going out for ice cream or coming home to apple pie. These traditions celebrate priesthood and honor those who participate, even if it is just a little thing. Meanwhile, the women are expected to hurry straight home because their husbands are helpless taking care of home and children. Same reason we have father/son campouts and never mother/daughter escape for a weekend. We don’t celebrate women being women, the way we celebrate men having priesthood, but expect the women to always be at their men’s service.

    • When one of my girls was four or five she got to stay up late and watch a little bit of the first part of the women’s session with me. She was fascinated with seeing all the women and asked if there was only women there. I told her no, usually one of the men from the first presidency gives the last talk. She asked if a woman gives a talk in the men’s conference. I told her no. We watched for a little bit more and then she said: “I really want the women’s president to talk at the men’s conference!” I’ve got to agree with her. If even a little girl can see it…

      It really hurts when the new Area Seventies, who are too numerous to name individually, rank higher than the women of the new Primary General Presidency in terms of the sustaining vote.

  2. Love this. Shortly before the pandemic started and rendered all such decisions moot, our elders quorum president announced that the EQ and RS would study the same conference talks at the same time so that husbands and wives could discuss them together, and, further, that all the talks would be those given by apostles.

    I’m not interested in debating the merits of one talk over another. But his declaration certainly begged three questions:

    1) Why did he think it was his prerogative to dictate the Relief Society curriculum?

    2) Why did the Relief Society president go along with it, no questions asked?

    3) Why, as the OP mentions, do men not think they can learn from women? Not just at conference, but the rest of the time as well. Since October 2019 I’ve heard multiple talks on women and the priesthood from men, including our area authority, but it wasn’t until our stake women’s conference last year right before we shut down that a sister from our stake gave what is probably the best talk on the priesthood I’ve ever heard, one that I wish our men could have heard as well.

    So thank you for this post. I think your suggestions are great, and much needed. (Although I’d be okay with “buy women doughnuts,” but in general I love the idea of doing something special.)

  3. Great list, Mindy. Most of the things you listed are locally controlled too, so anyone who participates at church can (sometimes) affect them. Like referring to women leaders by their titles. Or quoting them and teaching lessons from their talks.

  4. The first year my daughter was invited to women’s session in 2018 (when they lowered the age to 8) I was excited to create a mother-daughter tradition and really celebrate it. Instead, I shooed her out of the room so that her tender heart was not bombarded by messages by men (who spoke for much more time than the women) putting in her place and telling her to marry young, have a lot of kids, and be totally responsible for teaching her kids the gospel.

    The next year I was out of the country and my (very TBM) MIL was watching my children. When friends started texting me in distress about what Pres Oaks was saying about LGBTQ folks, especially transgendered people, I frantically texted my MIL: “Are you watching the women’s conference? If so, please turn it off now. I do not want my daughter to hear these hateful things and I do not understand why he thinks these remarks are appropriate for an 8-yr-old audience.”

    My new tradition is that we don’t watch. I would consider asking her to watch to be spiritual abuse.

  5. This list makes me so happy, and sad at the same time. Conference is a hard weekend. I’ve already found myself putting up defenses. If only this list wasn’t so painfully necessary.

  6. Add to that list: reach out to LGBTQ and former LDS loved ones well ahead of time. Because they suffer horrifically on conference weekend due to LDS relatives whose agenda becomes apparent when they only think to call them right before, during, or after conference and we know why and it creates an unsafe and/or unhealthy situation

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