On a trip to visit my brother, I was seated in the back of the plane where the flight attendants sit. The two rows of seats in that area face each other.
I introduced myself to the people sitting around me and then mentioned that I would be attending Brigham Young University. A man sitting across from me said his daughter had a good friend who had just left on a full-time mission. His daughter knew a little about the Church, but he knew almost nothing. The flight attendant immediately proclaimed that she wouldn’t want to belong to “that church” because it opposed women. The man said he had heard something similar—that Latter-day Saint women were considered less than men, that they couldn’t hold the priesthood or preside in meetings, and that the Church was male dominated.
Then, turning to me, he asked, “How do you feel about that?” All seven people turned to me and waited.
My heart began pounding. As a child I had memorized the Articles of Faith for just such an encounter, and as a teenager and young adult I had practiced bearing testimony of Joseph Smith’s vision and of the Book of Mormon. But I didn’t have the faintest idea how to answer the man’s question. I prayed silently for Heavenly Father to guide me.
Then I said the first words that came to my mind: “You simply don’t know about Relief Society.” The looks on their faces indicated that they didn’t.
“The priesthood functions in conjunction with the women, all of whom are members of Relief Society,” I explained. “We have a woman Relief Society president who guides the activities of the women in the Church all over the world. The responsibility of the women is to bring tenderness and charity into the lives of the members and especially into the lives of their families.”
The people around me listened attentively.
“We live in a strange time when some women want women to act and think and be like men. But we believe God divides tasks. We expect women to be leaders among the women and joint leaders in their homes. The men lean heavily on us for counsel in these areas. It is a righteous balance. It makes our Church organizations and our homes successful. And we truly believe that the man is not without the woman, nor is the woman without the man in the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 11:11). We believe we are not whole without each other. We do not believe we were created to compete with one another but to complement one another.”
I felt blessed when I had finished. I knew the words I had spoken were from the Spirit. Every person seemed satisfied with my explanation. Then the man said, “Tell us more about your church.”
Then, for the next two hours, I had the joyous opportunity of talking about the Restoration, answering questions, and bearing testimony of the gospel I love.