I don’t think women are after the authority. I think they are after the blessings. And they are happy that they can access the blessings and the power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most women, I think, are happy to have all the blessings. That’s what matters most to them. —Sister Burton
SALT LAKE CITY — Referring to their participation in the highest administrative councils of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “an ennobling experience,” the three women who lead the church’s women’s auxiliaries share their views on church leadership, priesthood and the different roles men and women play in the church and in the home in a new “World Report” video posted Friday afternoon to the LDS Newsroom website.
“I think that if people could sit (in those councils) and realize how into the details our brethren are, how aware they are of individuals, of issues, of trends, of things that are taking place that really affect families, women and children, they would be absolutely astounded as I am,” said Sister Elaine S. Dalton, president of the church’s Young Women organization for teenage girls. “I have to run to keep up.”
The video features Dalton, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton and Primary general president Rosemary M. Wixom in an interview setting with Ruth Todd of the church’s Public Affairs Department. During the course of the interview all three women stressed the respect and value they feel from priesthood leaders as they meet together to consider issues facing the church.
Sister Burton recalled a meeting during which the recent reduction in minimum age for full-time missionary service for both young men and young women was being considered.
“At one point in the committee meeting Elder (Russell M.) Nelson (of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) stopped and said, ‘We don’t want to hear from anyone except the sisters,’” Sister Burton said. “One by one he asked us our opinion. ‘How do you feel about this, Sister Dalton?’ ‘How do you feel about this, Sister Wixom?’ ‘Sister Burton, what is your feeling? Tell us your honest opinion, and if you have concerns we want to know.’
“And we were very frank,” she added.
“The thing that is nice about it is, you don’t have to feel alone because you’re counseling together,” Sister Dalton said. “You come to the right decision unitedly together. You don’t have to worry, ‘Did I make the right choice?’”
Sister Burton said that kind of “counseling together” should happen at every level of church administration, including in the wards and stakes of the church.
“We are asked to model what we hope happens on every level, which is what the brethren do,” she said. “They don’t talk about, ‘We should hold councils.’ They demonstrate it and try to help sisters in wards and stakes see that they are an important part of that council.”
In addition to serving on general church councils, Sister Wixom pointed out that she feels empowered to direct the Primary organization according to the inspiration she and her counselors are given. She tells of meeting with Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles two weeks after she received her calling as general Primary president. At one point Elder Hales asked her: “What is the tap root that will anchor a child in the wind?”
“I leaned back in my chair to think about an answer,” she said. “He said, “Sister Wixom, you’re going to think about this. And what’s more, you will get the answer to that question. I won’t, because you are the Primary president.’
“I left his office that day feeling the mantle of my calling,” she said. “He was allowing me to carry that mantle, telling me that I would be the one – with the help of my counselors and the board and above all, inspiration from our Heavenly Father – to come to the answer of that question.”
Sister Burton also responded to Todd’s question about women who are concerned that they don’t hold the priesthood.
“I don’t think women are after the authority,” she said. “I think they are after the blessings. And they are happy that they can access the blessings and the power of the priesthood. There are a few that would like both. But most women, I think, are happy to have all the blessings. That’s what matters most to them.”
Equality, Sister Burton said, “doesn’t always mean sameness. But we are of equal value no matter where we are — in the church or the home.”
“We can have equality having different roles,” she continued. “We each have strengths that we need to bring We don’t necessarily have to be equal in the same roles. We need to have differing roles to bring that strength and bless the church. So I would hope that those who don’t feel that way, that they would feel that they are needed for the strengths and gifts they bring.”
All three women leaders stressed the importance to LDS women of remembering always that they are daughters of God and that they have a direct connection to their Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We get into this perfection model and we think we have to be perfect all at once and all right now,” Sister Burton said. “We’re a hospital here. We aren’t a hotel for perfect people in the church. We’re a hospital. We’re all flawed. And we all need each other for the gifts and talents we bring.”