My Experience at the Mormon Mecca

For those of you that don’t know, the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in Salt Lake City, Utah. Twice a year, the Church holds an event called General Conference, in which the general leadership of the Church addresses all its members worldwide. The conference is held in April and in October, spanning one weekend, with five sessions of two hours each. Basically, it’s all the old guys that run the Church talking at you for a long time (that’s what it feels like, at least. I always fall asleep…).

General Conference is broadcast via BYU TV, and so usually I will sit at home in my pajamas and watch it; however, this weekend, I had the opportunity to attend General Conference for the first time in Utah, or as I like to call it, the “Mormon Mecca.”

(Click images to make them bigger! Yay!)

I like to call it that because of the sheer amount of people that flock to Salt Lake. I have never seen so many Mormons in my life. They were EVERYWHERE. The Conference Center itself can seat 21,000 people! The thing that I loved about it though was that there were members of the Church from ALL over the world. I saw people from Africa, Europe, Japan (YAY!), China, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, South America… Quite literally, people from all over the world attended the conference. I was in a Mormon bookstore with my friend, and we heard four different languages being spoken, just inside the bookstore! It was so wonderful to see the world diversity of the Church. It was a nice reminder to me that there are people all over the world that believe in Jesus, just like I do.

Like I said earlier, the conference consists of a lot of old men talking at you. There are hardly any women involved. There is a General Women’s Meeting held the Saturday before General Conference happens, but as far as the main sessions are concerned, women are very much underrepresented. I attended the Sunday morning session, and there were nine people total to approach the pulpit: two people to pray, and seven people to speak. Only TWO of those people were women. Just two! A woman said the opening prayer, and then a woman named Rosemary Wixom gave a sermon. I absolutely LOVED what she had to say. She talked about how it’s okay to have questions and that faith in Jesus Christ is something that needs to grow everyday. You can’t have perfect faith instantaneously. Her address was beautiful, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to hear it.

It makes me very sad that women do not have a larger place in the leadership of the Church. Women have unique experiences and perspectives, ideas that aren’t necessarily addressed by the men. I do realize that this is true for men as well; they are unique. However, if the balance were to be equal, I really feel that ALL people would benefit greatly.

Lately, I have been toying with the idea that the Church needs to modernize; being here in Utah has really solidified my belief that the Church needs to do some changing. The Church feels very old-fashioned to me, and this old-fashioned-ness feels really un-Christlike. I will be honest, Conference is always very hard for me. There are always speeches about things like “traditional families,” and gender roles that are “ordained by God.” When I hear about “the traditional family,” it means that a family = husband + wife + children. This is the ideal; the perfect family must consist of all three parts. But it has been my experience that this “traditional family” is not the norm; in fact, this is the exception. Some families don’t have a Dad. Some families don’t have a Mom. Some families don’t have any children. Some families have two Dads or two Moms. Some families don’t have parents at all. I believe that a family can consist of whoever you want it to, and I believe that this is beautiful. If there is love, it is a family. It doesn’t matter who is there. So, it’s hard for me to hear that it is only acceptable to have a “traditional family.” When I hear about gender roles that are “ordained of God,” it means that the man presides over the family as Husband and Father. He is the head of the household. The Mother stays at home and watches over the children, and takes counsel from her husband. But it has been my experience that women just don’t stay at home anymore. In many cases, the Mother/Wife/Woman needs to work in order to support the family; she is needed to help provide for her husband and children. Most women do not have the luxury of being able to stay home and take care of their children. I feel like this belief of set gender roles is really patriarchal, and that it really doesn’t make sense anymore in today’s society.

I heard a lot of that this weekend, and it was hard. But there was also a lot of good. There was a lot of Christ. There were many beautiful sermons spoken of the Savior, and of our celebration of Easter. I felt His love through the words of women and men that have pure and simple testimonies of Him as Savior of the world. I felt His love through heavenly music; the Mormon Tabernacle Choir bore their sweet testimonies of His Divinity.

Christ is why. He is why I go to Church. Quite honestly, He is why I haven’t left yet. Christ is what all of this is all about. I know He lives, and I anxiously await the day when the Church will modernize to reflect more of His love.