Thursday, May 3, 2012
Feeding Sheep at Women's Conference
Now you might wonder why I would blog about a women’s conference. I had only a very tiny bit to do with this one. I did not present (though I did, with my wife, two years ago), but my lovely wife is in our stake Relief Society presidency, and she helped to plan and execute it. And she conscripted me to set up and take down tables and chairs…
But she and my daughter also told me about what went on there, and it was awesome.
Since I am not a woman, I do not know first-hand what kind of talk there is around here about what perfect women are supposed to be like, but I do hear that there is that kind of talk around Mormon culture. And there seems to be plenty of guilt among really good sisters because they somehow don’t match the perfect image. Hopefully those who attended our stake’s women’s conference left with a more realistic view of things.
The theme of the conference was the spirit of faith. And throughout the conference there were stories of faith – not stories of horror turning to gold or happily-ever-afters at the end of the rainbow, but real, gritty, in-your-face stories of how normal women work day-by-day to exercise faith to put one foot in front of another and keep moving toward honoring covenants in the face of adversity, rearing children in imperfect families, coping with difficult choices in life, and generally trying to do good things.
One of the activities that moved my daughter was the program over lunch. Certain sisters were invited to consider a particular statue from the Nauvoo Women’s monument, to write a brief essay describing the significance of that particular statue, and to re-enact the statue while a narrator read her essay. (My daughter was one of the narrators.) What could have been a rather pedestrian “here’s what the statue means to me” exercise turned out to be filled with personal stories of faith as sisters described their connections to one of the monuments or another. The sisters did not choose their subject; they were assigned. And still, each had a personal connection, a personal experience, a personal story to tell which allowed the spirit of shared experience to permeate the program.
As is common in women’s conferences, sisters could choose from a variety of workshops where they learned about subjects ranging from teaching faith in the family to learning faith in the temple, from studying faithful women from the scriptures to learning about offering help vs. co-dependence.
I wondered aloud to my wife why the sisters had such a conference and the men do not. My wife pointed out that she did not know why men did not have such a conference, but that the Relief Society program has long provided for such conferences at the stake or local level. (I found myself wondering if men would show up.)
My wife (who sat on the stand for the opening session of the conference) said as she watched sisters stream into the chapel (about 200 sisters attended), it occurred to her that each one came with a particular need to be filled; each one came to be fed spiritually. And my wife hoped that what they had prepared would fill that need. That is surely at least one reason why this particular conference was a success, because those who planned it prayerfully considered the needs of those who would attend and sought to feed them as the Savior taught Peter to feed His sheep.
It occurred to me that I could do better at adopting that attitude in my church service. I could do a better job of feeding my home teaching families, the classes I teach, and, of course, my own family.