I somehow got roped into attending the RS General Broadcast last night. I had a decent time at the pre-conference social and was able to chat with some old friends I hadn't seen in a long time, as well as make some new friends.
The speakers were (in order), Pres. Beck, Allred, Thompson, and Monson. Generally speaking, I felt that the talks improved over the course of the night, although everything said in the first 3 talks I felt I had heard 10,000 times before - do your VTing, its important to strengthen families and be in the home, people sacrifice alot to go to the temple, pray, read scriptures, be obedient, serve, etc. Nothing new. Although Monson's talk was good, a friend best summed it up best as "good topic, wrong venue, poor delivery, horrible examples". More on this later.
Onto specifics. . .
The first speaker was Pres. Beck. The first half of the talk focused on how we are in the last days and evil abounds, but how Mormon women are blessed with the knowledge that we should accept our female identity (she used the word "identity" in ever other sentence) and embrace our "divinely female role" to strengthen families. Some ways in which we embrace our rightous roles: we love our husbands (WTF??), teach our children the primary songs, teach YW to be chaste, attend the temple. She did not mention any other examples of our roles, except to say that the world would have us "mistaken our identity" or distract us from our responsibility to "strengthen families in Zion" (In other words, marry a Mormon, pop 'em out, and stay at home, woman!)
She gave two examples of righteous Mormon women who were notable for having Church manuals and materials in their home, on their walls, and on their bookshelves (which I am sure the COB was glad to hear - free advertising for Cobbage!).
She made some comments about how changing the name of "Enrichment" to "Relief Society Meetings" strengthens member's testimonies and helps women know their divine purpose - Um, bizarre. How does a name change do that, exactly?
Also, I swear she must have ass-kissed the first presidency more times than I could count. Some examples: how since its organization, the RS has "always" been under the direction of the PH; stating that Pres. Monson asked her to speak first (because, you know, you really need to point that out. And women can't handle those scheduling things); stating that all changes to the RS are "primed" (??) by the First Presidency; etc.
The main point of her talk seemed to be that we should study the history of the RS to better understand ourselves, our righteous roles, and our identity. (As I said - female identity was an obnoxiously resounding theme). She stated that RS will have a new manual on the History of the Relief Society that we will be studying from in the coming year. I have to wonder how much actual RS "history" will be reflected in the new History of the Relief Society manuals she mentioned.
Will we discuss more than one wife of each prophet, or will all of those faithful second, third, fourth, etc., wives be thrown under the bus?
Will the book mention how women once gave blessings to each other?
I agree that the history of the RS can be empowering. But a white-washed, correlated history? Not so much.
Her final tid-bit also annoyed me. She talked about how "the world" does not value what Mormon women do, and would teach us that we are undervalued in our Church (which, in my mind, we are). She states that the scripture of how we "pray in secret and are rewarded in secret" applies here. We should not be expecting rewards of the world or others, but that God will reward us for our sacrifices. I find this sort of thinking really damaging. Only Satan would have you be unhappy with your "divine role". If you don't find satisfaction, its not because you need something else or that the system is fucked up, its because you are being led astray by "the world". Sigh.
Next, Pres. Allred spoke. She started her talk by asking, "What helps you to be steadfast and immovable in righteousness," thus conjuring wonderful thoughts of Pres. Beck's "Mothers Who Know" and "What Latter-day Saint Women do Best" talks.
In case you missed it in the first talk, Allred makes it clear from the get-go that the "divine attributes" of women are to bear and raise righteous children (I am not sure how a role is the same as an attribute, but whatev'). If you aren't married or don't have kids, just keep trying to find a man and God will bless you in the next life. These sorts of condescending messages are so damaging to a woman. They teach her that to be of ultimate worth, of greatest joy, they MUST have the approval of a man. I can't overestimate how incredibly powerless this concept makes women. We are never enough, unless we have the approval of another mortal, specifically penis-bearing, person. As always, the things women who are unmarried should do are relegated to second-tier status. Women are increasingly being taught at Church that all of their personal achievements, unless they are aimed at marriage, children, or service, are of no worth.
Next, Allred shared a absolutely horrifying story. A family of mom, dad, and two infants had gone on an arduous 27-h trip (each way) to be sealed together in the temple. On the way back home after the temple, the couple's two young children got sick and died. The parents were not sad, because they knew that they would have their children in the next life. My immediate thought was, "Perhaps if you didn't take a rough 27-h trip, you would still have your children in this life, too." However, that was probably wrong of me to think. It may have been a complete fluke that the children died en route, and had nothing to do with access to health care, hard conditions, sanitation, etc.
Pres. Thompson spoke about the importance of visit teaching. I didn't take many notes on this talk, except that she noted that early in Nauvoo, the sisters acted as visiting teachers and took food to one another and had compassion on them. I kept wanting her to say something about how they administered to them when they were sick, giving healing blessings. But of course, she did not.
Finally, Pres. Monson. Ah, Pres. Monson, can't you realize how incredibly sexist all of your jokes and stories are? If you take out all of the horribly sexist stories and comments (nice one, throwing his mom under the bus), I actually really liked his talk, which was about not judging based on outward appearances. I think we need MORE talks like this. However, I did feel like this talk would have been better at General Conference, directed at both men and women. His stories all reiterated this idea that women are the only ones doing the judging, which is a sexist assumption in itself.