Guest Post: A Peaceful Transition of Power

By Ellen

IMG_1903 (1)In a few weeks the saints of my stake will see another peaceful transition of power. We are following hallowed tradition. Our stake president will retire, after 9 years, and the keys, power, and authority will peacefully pass to someone else. Who will that someone be? Quite a bit of excited speculation going around. My husband is serving on the high council, and informed me about the process. On the Saturday of stake conference weekend, each of the high counselors and each of the bishops, and seven other men (previously listed by the stake president) will meet with the visiting general authorities. They each get a 7 minute interview. They are asked to bring a list of three names that they think would be good stake presidency members.

At the conclusion of these interviews the general authorities will be inspired and choose the new stake president, who will then have a very short time to select counselors. The next day, at a very well attended stake conference, the new presidency will be presented. We all get to raise our hands, in a “not a vote”, congratulatory, “chapel version of applause” sort of way. Stake presidents undoubtedly affect the general priorities of a stake. They, and their presidency, meet with every temple recommend holding member at least every two years. They are call every ward’s bishop, interview, set apart, and release every missionary,and hold disciplinary councils. They serve longer than a two term president of our country.

Not a single woman is asked about this transition. More than half the active members of our stake are women. Not one is involved in this process. Our voices are not sought nor heard. But it will be peaceful. I guess that silence is peaceful.

Ellen is a seeking, searching bit of blue in an ocean of red.

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30 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    I feel I need to point out that there is a slight inaccuracy about this. The wife of the selected president (and those of his counsellors) will most certainly be asked.

    She will be asked about their husband’s commitment to her, and his children. She will be asked about how he lives his life. She will be asked if she can sustain him.

    The most important endorsement will be from her.

    But, yes, they are not interviewed. Why? Because they will not be called.

    Those asked to meet with the visiting authorities are not being asked for their choices so the authorities know who to call – they are asked so that the visiting authorities can gain an understanding of the sustaining nature of the stake’s leaders.

    The interviews are the process by which the visiting authorities are able to know the Lord’s will. Not often, but enough to be significant, they ask to see others because none of those seen are “the one”.

    Since it is not about finding who the stake wants, but about finding who the Lord wants seeing sisters might be considered a waste of time – as the Lord (currently at least) is not calling women as stake presidents.

    • Alysa says:

      That was super mansplainy, Andrew. And you are wrong about the wife not being called. Their husband’s calling affects them a lot. The wife will be asked to speak in conferences and step up in a million ways as their husband serves many hours a week away from his family.

    • Liz says:

      No, but wouldn’t it be nice if they at least talked to the female auxiliary leaders? What if one of them had experienced major unrighteous dominion by one of the men in consideration? What if they had insight into the character of one of the men considered because of their stewardship over other women in the stake?

      I actually lived in a stake where this happened – one of the men being considered (a counselor in the stake presidency) had a habit of being entirely dismissive, condescending, and borderline verbally abusive to the women with whom he worked. Of course, nobody asked their opinions, and he was subsequently made the stake president. That stake suffered for almost ten years because this man micromanaged, ignored, and patronized the women in that stake. And there’s not exactly a complaint box in the stake offices – sure, you can send a message to the area authority (which they did), but in my experience, that doesn’t bring about change, whereas talking to the women who have worked with this man during the ‘vetting’ process might have led to a different person being called as Stake Pres.

      • Dani Addante says:

        That’s awful that something like that happened! And he was in that position for 10 years? I wonder why they didn’t release him.

  2. anonymous says:

    A personal experience: When my husband was called into the stake presidency, we ended up in a room with the three members of the new stake presidency, their wives and the visiting general authority. Since the callings would result in the release of the bishop of our ward, they would need to call a new bishop. The general authority said that he would like our suggestions. And he called on me first, listening thoughtfully to what I had to say. I was surprised since I’d assumed that he’d probably call on just the men. The person I named was eventually called to be bishop (not actually solely as a result of my suggestion, of course, but still . . . ) My words and my presence were given as much attention as those of anyone else in the room. I have always thought that this experience was the Lord’s way of letting me know that I was a valued person in this setting.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks for this post, Ellen. I personally wish women were included more formally in these processes. It would go a long ways toward making me feel like our leaders valued local women church leaders’ expertise and perspectives if RS presidencies, YW presidencies, and Primary presidencies were also consulted.

    I’m very glad to hear that wives might get to share their perspectives sometimes, as anonymous recounts. But I’d love to see such requests for insights extended to women who have been working with these various men in leadership capacities. Andrew’s point about wives being asked about their husbands’ fitness for a possible leadership role is fair. But again, if women could be regularly involved in the original brainstorming of names stage, rather than just the endorsement stage, I’d say that would be a move in a good direction.

    • Rachel says:

      I feel very similar. It’s heartening to hear anonymous’s personal experience. Still, I wish there were structures in place for women to be involved more formally.

  4. spunky says:

    Powerful words, Ellen. I agree with you, the way in which women are ignored in these processes is shocking. With the power that the stake has in church management, the process is neglectful to say the least. Your writing is beautiful, and I hope you feel inspired to contribute more!!!!

    (Slight pet peeve: “…in our country.” Not all church members are Americans– not everyone who reads this blog is American. “…in the United States” might better suit. )

  5. Ellen says:

    Hello- Andrew does have a good point. Consulting with sisters in the stake might be considered “a waste of time” since none of them are being considered for a leadership position. Since only 9 women are among the stake’s leaders, their “sustaining nature” is not relevant to the decision making process? Shouldn’t they be in the room where it happens? Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask about the experiences of the auxiliary leaders? The input of women is irrelevant in this transition, irrelevant to the leaders that claim to serve them. Is it any wonder that the priesthood leadership feels increasingly irrelevant to women? Until, of course, a woman needs a signature, a letter, a permission for something. Anonymous- asking a wife if she will sustain her husband isn’t the same as being asked her opinion. Putting a stamp of approval on a decision is not being a part of a decision.
    Caroline- yes! it would be great, and make sense, to seek insight from all the leaders, not only the priesthood leaders.
    Spunky- thanks for your kind words! I stand corrected- I apologize for the USA-centric sentence. I promise it wasn’t a stealth “America First” bit of propaganda!

    • Dani Addante says:

      “Is it any wonder that the priesthood leadership feels increasingly irrelevant to women?”

      I loved this point you made! This is how I feel about it, and I didn’t know how to put it into words. If the priesthood leadership treats women this way (as if their input is not needed), then of course the sisters will see the priesthood leadership as irrelevant!

  6. Andrew R. says:

    Anonymous said she was asked her opinion about who to call as Bishop.

    I suspect you simply read what I said as my thinking that the input from women is irrelevant. I didn’t say that.

    So let me boil it down.

    The Lord makes known His choice for stake president through an interview process with “possible” candidates. Currently women are not possible candidates for Stake president.

    The only opinion on whom to call that is relevant is the Lord’s.

    • Ziff says:

      Andrew, as always, I am surprised at your belief in the infallibility of the Church system.

      • Andrew R. says:

        And maybe now I am starting to see a good reason for maybe having some more sisters involved – so that they too could see that this is a process that works. It’s not about the infallibility of the Church system. It is about the Lord leading His church.

        I don’t believe the system is infallible. However, I have seen this process, I have worked closely with three different stake presidents and I know that they were called of God.

        I am happy with a system that presents, within those invited, the most likely candidates for the next stake president in front of those whom the Lord has called to receive the inspiration.

        I would not be happy with a straw pole of the stake members – that seems to be the way that many other churches do it though.

        None of this means I am opposed to women being heard in the church, I am not as I have repeatedly said here.

  7. Ziff says:

    Wow, Ellen, this is powerful. And so sad. Thanks for making this point so strikingly.

  8. Lily says:

    My experience with effective revelation is that you do all the research you can. I have rarely seen a case where the Lord just pours information into your head. I had a very spiritual blessing given one time by Bishop and he questioned me for a long time about my concerns before he gave the blessing. Don’t tell me the input, whether male or female, of the members is not relevant. If these gentlemen are working with inspiration they need all the facts they can get. Yes I am bitter. We just got rid of a very abusive second counselor in the stake presidency. If they had been listening to the members he would never been put in.

    • Andrew R. says:

      “Any opposed please manifest it”

      If I knew of a reason why someone shouldn’t be called I would say so.

      Common consent.

      • If someone votes no, they are publicly removed from the room for a one-on-one interrogation about their lack of support. This is not at all like casting a ballot in an election. The sustaining process, as it is practiced in our church today, is not actually intended to be a vote of public opinion with the option to dissent.

  9. Nathan Whilk says:

    I was a very close witness to the selection and calling of our current stake president. It was one of the most sacred experiences of my life.

  10. The comments here are very typical of what we see when a woman points out the exclusion of women from decision-making processes in the LDS Church–whether the process in question be extending callings, holding disciplinary councils, policy-making or any of the many other processes that are operated virtually or completely without female involvement. Several men swoop in to say that they have been involved, and so they can personally attest that the whole process was inspired, and women’s needs were met, and the complaint is unfounded, and we should take their word for it. And they tell us women that we don’t have the right to critique because we are too ignorant of how things work–and the reason we are ignorant is because we were excluded! And that is our complaint!

  11. Violadiva says:

    Thanks, Ellen. It’s hard to be excluded at so many levels, over and over again.
    When one of my close relatives was called as stake president, his wife told me that once the visiting authorities had made their picks, but before he callings were extended to the men, that the wives had to be “vetted” to find out if they could hold up to the rigors of their husband’s new calling, I.e. Take care of everything at home since he’ll be a lot less available than he used to be.
    It feels bad to me that these great opportunities for local impact and service are limited to the men in these circumstances, and that the women are are only expected to carry on in their homes.
    Wouldn’t it be a nice change if bishops and stake presidents were called like mission presidents? A husband and wife duo to serve together and share the load? Goodness knows the wives Already do that sort of thing, but without any official recognition. Imagine the impact They could have to visit and serve the members together, so that members felt they had a “parent” type unit as their spiritual leadership. I wish this were modeled from top to bottom.

    (And wow! Got some pretty hefty mansplaining from our pal Andrew. He really put you in your place, didn’t he?! He comes on board to make sure we all know how wrong we are. You’ll know better next time.)

  12. Liz says:

    This is a beautiful post, Ellen, and I totally agree that we seem to prioritize silence/peaceful transition at the expense of women’s voices. As I mentioned above in my reply to Andrew, so often we think that because women are excluded from being called, that they have nothing to offer from the process, and I think that’s entirely to our detriment. Women should at least be interviewed and given the option to suggest candidates who would work well for *all members* of the stake, not just the one who gets along with the dudes.

  13. Maegan says:

    Oh, whatever would we do without men like Andrew to constantly remind us how wrong we all are? #blessed

  14. Andrew R. says:

    Why don’t we just elect stake presidents. That seems to work well in other contexts. Sure to get the right person that way, and everyone would get a say.

    In fact, we are all so enlightened we probably don’t need God any more.

    You see the point for me it’s that I don’t care how many people, and of what gender, the visiting authority, assigned to reorganise the stake, sees. I believe the result world be the same. The Lord calls stake presidents, not men and not women.

    Does this mean they are all wonderful and good in their callings? Unfortunately not, because not everyone lives up to the call as they should.

    • ElleK says:

      No one is suggesting we elect stake presidents, or that everyone should have a say, or that we don’t need God anymore–that was a pretty extreme escalation.

      The Lord may call stake presidents, but He calls them through priesthood leaders who don’t know the “candidates” personally. All anyone here is suggesting is that it would be prudent to interview the stake auxiliary presidents to ask them if there are any brethren they would/would not recommend for the position and why. Information often informs revelation, and women would offer a different (and desperately needed) perspective.

  15. Ellen says:

    Hello- Aren’t we to seek inspiration/revelation using our minds AND our hearts? Wouldn’t that explain the information requested by the visiting authorities? They requested not only names, but brief bios and photos. Shouldn’t those seeking inspiration that potentially affects thousands of people for a decade use their brains? How could the information gathering not be improved by considering the ideas of women? More than half of the population to be served? I believe we need to do our part when seeking divine guidance. Also, we all know that “common consent” does not exist in this church.

  16. UnnamedSource says:

    My husband investigates criminal fraud for the US government, and this job is one he excels at and loves. Much to his dismay, they investigate a disproportionate number of Latter-day Saints relative to the general population here. He says the first time he served an arrest warrant on a Stake President, it shook his faith in the process. He’s come to a more mature understanding that until Christ reigns again, the process is unavoidably flawed because we are flawed. He believes most all leaders try their best, but not everyone called will be Godly men.

  17. Heather says:

    Ellen you are a mind reader. We recently had a switch and I talked with so many men who told me about being interviewed and asked about the new SP. All men. No women. A stake president’s attitudes towards women can make a MAJOR difference in one’s church life. How would it frustrated God’s plan to get the perspective of women? If it’s all divinely ordained than why bother asking any men for their input? And if input DOES matter, then include women’s. I don’t attribute nefarious motives to women always being left out of “the room where it happens.” It’s a tradition masking as doctrine. And one that needs to change. We all know men who are radically different in how they treat their male peers v how they treat women. It is so painful to end up with one of those dudes as your SP. It makes everything harder. Women need a seat at the table. Now.

  18. Lee Udall Bennion says:

    My husband served on the High Council for a number of years. I remember him coming home from one of those meetings and telling me that the Stake President or of one of the councilors (in casual conversation) said that a man will never be called to be stake president if is wife is a casual or sloppy house keeper. My instant come back was “You owe me big time,” and thankfully my husband agreed.

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