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Women are Greatly Overrepresented in General Conference According to Topic Tags

 

By: Luke Hanson


General conference has been a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) since its inception in 1830. During general conference, the worldwide membership of the Church gathers to listen to gospel messages from church leaders. Within days of each conference, the talks are added to an online library containing over 50 years of general conference messages (1971-present). To assist members of the Church in their studies, tags are added to each talk designating what topics each talk addresses.


Some tags are for topics geared more toward either men or women. The frequency of these tags shows topics addressing women outnumber those addressing men over the past 50 years. The top three gender-specific topics are women, Relief Society, and motherhood with 128, 78, and 62 talks with each tag respectively. The first topic geared towards men is fatherhood with 48 tags.



Note: there are no tags for "men", "manhood", and "young men" corresponding to the tags of "women", "womanhood", and "young women" seen on the chart. Tags are not a perfect measure of the relative prevalence of these topics in general conferences.


Ward Radio interviewed Kurt Framcom about these statistics and the approach taken to men and women in the Church. Francom is the founder and CEO of Leading Saints, an organization dedicated to helping Latter-day Saints become better leaders. "I would say general conference has become more of a feminine experience," Francom said. "The Church generally is becoming more of a loving Greg-Olsen-type Jesus experience... I think women would resonate more with general conference [today] as opposed to the '90s when priesthood meeting was definitely more of a masculine message." According to the Church website, priesthood sessions were held at each general conference starting in 1977. In 2018, the priesthood session frequency was changed to once a year. A priesthood session has not been held since the April 2021 General Conference.


Francom believes more could be done to address the needs of men, "it doesn't necessarily need to be a certain message... to me, the '90s was an ideal example. We gather as a priesthood body... and [the messages] were focused on specific duties and doctrines related to us... but it was more of an experience than a message. It meant something because it was an experience... men desire an experience rather than a message."


A common critique of general conference is that it is too male, with few women speakers relative to men. On a recent "Mormon Land" podcast episode reviewing the April 2024 General Conference, one guest declared that three female speakers was not enough female representation. "We need more women" she concluded. The account called Mormons Speak on X (formerly Twitter), points out that "these talks then become the Sunday School lessons, which dismiss women even more from the #LDS curriculum."


Critiques of the church often focus on the inequalities in power between men and women in the Church, particularly that men receive more leadership roles with more authority than women. Many feel that the Church is effectively a patriarchy that ignores and silences women. This was again demonstrated in the uproar, which included prominent LDS influencers like Julie Hanks, over allegations that the Church was deleting hundreds of critical comments on an Instagram post about women's empowerment in the Church. It was later revealed comments were not being deleted and could not be seen because of a temporary issue with Instagram.


Comments on the 3/17/24 post by the official Church Instagram page

Kurt Francom believes that there are "tons of hidden discrepancies" between men and women in the church that often favor women. He said these include differences in funding for Elders Quorum and Relief Society, and the lack of a presidency or advisory council for adult men (the relief society, primary, young men, and young women all have general presidencies and advisory councils). He pointed out more serious discrepancies as well, "nobody sits and thinks of the discrepancy of mental health. The Elder's Quorum is more likely to experience a suicide than any other group in a typical ward."


"I think we're just looking at the wrong premise...to me, the question is not necessarily who is being seen and heard from, but who is the gospel working for the most. That's where it's way over towards the female experience" Francom argues. "The budgets, the activities, the second-hour experience, the temple experience - if you made me put a needle in each of those experiences, they would all lean towards a more feminine experience. [The gender of who is in charge] is not a useful metric. It has no correlation with mental health or the things that keep people alive and keep families strong."


 

Ward Radio News is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) and does not officially represent the Church. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily represent the position of Ward Radio News

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21 Comments


It does feel sometimes like the Elder's quorum has been relegated to setting up chairs, helping people load and unload their moving trucks, and working at the church farm. I realize that service is an important part of the Priesthood but there are no Priesthood Super Saturday activities and no Elder's Quorum book clubs or something similar. Talks from leaders generally praise women and chastise men for not doing more. I think to point this imbalance out in a ward or stake setting would only result in ridicule but I gotta say that my sons have basically seen their dad's church experience of just being all work and no play. Even when doing things with them in a church set…

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What’s stopping EQ from starting book clubs like RS? What’s stopping the men from having impromptu gatherings? Just friggin DO it!! As far as I know about budget: most men’s activities (if they have them?) are fairly low-budget, whereas the women often do crafty things which require purchasing supplies. I’ve also heard (at least one of my mom’s wards at some point in time) where the men tried to have a male version of what the women were doing, like where they’d teach each other their skills (car repair, or handywork, or something like that), and the men didn’t show up or engage really, so it fell flat. Those men didn’t seem to actually want to bond that way, unlike…


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Sometimes I wonder if the reason Priesthood Session was discontinued was to escape the scrutiny of the Ordain Women movement.

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I think Priesthood session was important. My Stake doesn't even do a Stake Priesthood meeting. There hasn't been one since we started going back to church after COVID.

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Are women overrepresented in church? Yes. Going back to the AZ 1980s the Relief Society had the largest and i mean the largest ward budget. Getting money for boy scouts and young mens and women's was a donation struggle.

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In 1982 I had a stake President in Glendale AZ who chastised the priesthood brethren harshly for NOT attending the mesa temple as much as sisters, a 10 to 1 ratio. I was hurt and upset. I thought about this chasitzement for a long time and revelation came to me for the reasons. The sisters were stay-at home moms and while their kids were in school they all car pool in large groups to mesa temple. The brethren were working 40 to 60 hours a week and did not have time to attend. When Saturday came the dad stay with family for activities or some attended the temple.

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on a similar note we have a small temple and the temple schedule is designed around an empty nester retirees schedule.... trying to get to the temple with your wife and turn it into a date night is nigh impossible with small children and a full time job. The Church has a farm in the area and from time to time we will fulfill assignments starting at 4 am ending at 7 am or starting at 9pm and ending at midnight.. all i ask for is the ability to work in the temple occasionally on a similar schedule before and/or after work hours... but does the temple presidency ever ask if the schedule they are keeping is easy to attend o…

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I liked the two months in 2021 when the Sat evening session was cancelled, just sayin!

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I have mixed feelings about it. I miss Priesthood Session. On the other side I have friends who are full-time custodians at Temple Square and they were looking forward to not working all night long on Saturday night going into Sunday to prepare the Conference Center for Sunday sessiona.

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