Sometimes I wonder if I belong to the same church as other members. But then I have to remind myself that because I'm a 'tad' older than some, I might be aware of just a few more facts about my faith: Mormonism. 

For example, not once have I ever questioned my discipleship -- I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. Such a designation has nothing to do with gender but covenants. Therefore, when President Dieter F. Uchtdorf during the October 2014 General Women's Meeting referred to the women of the LDS Church as "blessed disciples of Jesus Christ" I didn't give it a second thought -- of course we are. Duh. Did I think it was a lovely way to address the sisters? Yes. But that's where it ended. Now, what are you going to teach me?

No disrespect intended, but upon initially hearing that President Uchtdorf's simple reference got picked up by national media as a big deal I had to laugh. I mean, isn't the definition of disciple, from a Christian perspective, a follower of Jesus Christ? And then I recalled that many don't consider Mormons Christian so perhaps that was it?

Nope. I was totally wrong. Apparently, Mormon feminists had an epiphany about a few things said during the meeting. (Pertaining to priesthood and gender equality.) When they heard President Uchtdorf address the women of the Church as disciples, they were floored. He also referred to our having "heavenly parents" -- part of Mormon doctrine. Anyway, with that and a few other tidbits off they went to noise abroad their new discoveries! Here's how the Huffington Post reported the good news:

"Mormon feminists may have been surprised by some subtle changes in vocabulary and approach Saturday (Sept. 27) at the church’s general women’s meeting.  
Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed the audience — sitting in the giant Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City or watching via satellite in chapels of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints across the globe — not just as “sisters” but also as “blessed disciples of Jesus Christ.”  
In a speech about living out one’s faith joyfully, Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency, referred twice to women as “daughters of heavenly parents,” alluding to the Mormon belief in male and female deities."

Not to be rude, but no changes occurred. Nothing new. Nada. The earth hasn't shifted. Rather, the gospel is consistent, steady, reliable --  firmly rooted in eternal doctrine.

In fact, addressing the membership of the Church in the April 2010 General Conference President Uchtdorf said this:

"Let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn. We are commanded “to mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”" (You Are My Hands)

Ironically, and apparently missed, Linda K. Burton, general Relief Society president during last April's General Women's Meeting referenced the women of the Church as disciples, too.

"As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work." (Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work)

Elder L. Tom Perry, Special Witness: Being a Disciple of Jesus Christ, The Friend 2003.

"The central purpose of our [life] is to prepare to meet God and inherit the blessings He has promised to His worthy children. The Savior set the pattern during His earthly ministry and encouraged those who followed Him to become His disciples..."

"As true disciples of Christ, may our lives reflect His example. May God bless us that we will earnestly desire to do our spiritual housecleaning, getting into all the corners, cleaning out all those things that would [keep us from being] a disciple of the Lord so that we can move forward in our service to Him who is our King and Savior."

President Henry B. Eyring, A Voice of Warning, October 1998
"Our ability to touch others with our warning voice matters to all who are covenant disciples of Jesus Christ. Here is the charge given to each of the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81)."

I could share so many more references but hopefully you get the idea.

And then there's the revelatory reference to us being "daughters of heavenly parents." Think of it, every time The Family: A Proclamation to the World is referred to by a leader of the Church, the doctrine that we have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father is officially reiterated. That we have heavenly parents is commonly referenced throughout LDS teachings. All one has to do is go to and run a search for "heavenly parents" to reject the ideas advocated that this is a remote doctrine of the Church -- it's not. Or that women being referred to, as disciples of Jesus Christ are new vocabulary -- it is not.

What we need to be watchful for and see, as suspect in this kind of media hype, is feminist advocacy -- plain and simple. The Church is politically neutral and nothing that takes place in a session of general conference, which the General Women's Meeting is, is intended to make a political statement of any kind. Nor is it meant to pander to select groups that desire policy changes in the Church.

What was taught during the General Women's Meeting that truly deserves a shout out? Everything! Meaning, every word uttered meant to instruct the sisters of the Church how to return to our Heavenly Parents -- this is where women of covenant focus their attention. Not on how some interpret what happened surrounding the meeting.

Everything worthy of our attention and application pointed to holy temples and the making and keeping of sacred covenants. Anything that distract us from inspired messages is contrary to the purpose of the General Women's Meeting, thus to God. Reject it. 

Here is what I heard and hold in my heart. (My notes.)

The truth about discipleship is that it brings divine power. Knowing who we are is directly related to temple attendance and faithfully keeping our covenants. Keeping commandments is God's way to show His love and bless us -- it will reveal our divine worth. Commandments mark the path to our eternal home. The perfect pattern of becoming like Jesus Christ is the temple. If we are to be a light in the world, as He is, and assist in the work of salvation, like the temple, we must be light. Go to the temple. Our divine origin is that we are daughters of God. His divine plan for us to return to His presence requires the choice to keep covenants. Meaning, our divine destiny must be claimed through the righteous use of agency. The influence of good women is sorely needed in the world today. We have made a covenant to stand for Jesus Christ and that requires courage and action. Living the gospel is not a burden -- it is joyful! Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us -- remove the umbrellas of doubt. God knows things we don't! Only through the atonement of Jesus Christ can we overcome our weaknesses. We must humble ourselves. If we want to give light, we must glow ourselves. (Monson) The Spirit speaks of eternal promises. Temple covenants lay the foundation of an eternal family. Sacred temple covenants give us strength and power. There is peace, power and protection in making and keeping covenants. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. We are His and we have made a covenant to remember Him always. Joseph Smith desired that those who enter the temple would feel the power of God. Those who wish to receive exaltation are required to receive a higher standard of living. Make sure our homes are places to feel the Spirit and then we will be at home when entering the temple. The oil of spiritual preparation cannot be shared... We can do small and simple things to add oil to our spiritual preparation. The best way to strengthen a home current or future is to keep covenants.

I know this counsel is inspired and if we are faithful to these teachings and continue to trust in the Lord and diligently keep temple covenants we will have happiness and peace in this life and the next. We will come to a true understanding of our equal standing before God and with all those who walk this same path - male and female. This, is the good news of the gospel that deserves our undivided attention and efforts.

Kathryn Skaggs

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