Guest Post: Give a Title to the Woman who Has a Mission President Husband

by Frank Pellett

I saw this article about the wives of Mission Presidents in the Salt Lake Tribune this morning, and I wanted to share it with the wider readership of Exponent, as a small but good example of something in the Church doing something right in the way of improving gender issues.

It seems they’re working on having a formal title for the wife of the Mission President:

Don’t call her a “co-president” with her husband, either. Mission president is a “joint calling,” Evans says in an interview from church headquarters in Salt Lake City, but only the man carries the title “president.”

An appropriate moniker for “mission president wife” remains elusive, he says. The church’s all-male missionary committee recently asked the female LDS general auxiliary leaders to come up with one but so far has not settled on any that captures the job.

This is a refreshing change from the oft brought up lack of female voices in the drafting Proclamation on the Family.  No, it’s not a big thing.  Yes, they could probably start by getting some women actually in the missionary committee.  I just like to sometimes celebrate the little things.

So, that brings us to the post.  It’s not merely an attempt at a feel good flicker of hope.  I figure if they’re looking for titles, the least we can do is see what we can come up with on our own.  What would be a good title for what is now the “Mission President’s Wife”?

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51 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    We could start with the corollary of the Temple President’s Wife ie the Matron and have the mission Matron. This encompasses the “motherly” but also the “in charge” aspects of the role. Of course, that title has cultural issues of its own.

  2. Amy says:

    “Presidentess” (a la Eliza R. Snow).

  3. Suzanne says:

    The husband is “President” and the wife is “Matron” or “Mission Mom”…..his title garners respect. The other two in my opinion are condescending. They in no way encompass the vast responsibilities she shoulders. I speak as a returned missionary who was just as much in awe of my mission presidents wife as I was of him. Giving her a title is long overdue. let’s give her the respect she is due.

    • Suzanne says:

      Having said that, I haven’t yet come up with an appropriate title myself. My husband and I were just talking about this the other day. By the way I have never felt comfortable with the term “Temple Matron”.

  4. Yes, Ma'am says:

    Just call them both president.

    • BidTimeReturn says:

      Exactly. I don’t know why an alternate to “President” is under discussion. I live in an area where, culturally, the same ten surnames are ubiquitous. We get by just fine. Confusion over which ‘President’ someone means will be even less of an issue as the rising generation of name-keeping married women are called as mission presidents.

      • Mike R. says:

        I think they’re discussing alternate terms to reserve “President” for the person with keys of presidency over the mission. While there is precedent for holding keys collectively (in the Q12), it requires priesthood ordination. I would love to see co-presidents where both husband and wife are ordained high priests, holding keys, but we probably need a different term to describe the status quo.

      • Tim, has anyone ever said that about you? “NEVER. The moment they make Tim a high priest, I’ll leave my building keys, certificate of ordination, and letter of resignation on the Stake President’s desk as I exit the stake centre for the last time!”

      • Nona says:

        I like patriarch and matriarch.

        I do not like your closing statement, Tim. Well stated response, April.

      • Ziff says:

        I’m sorry to hear we’ll be losing you, Tim. Please, stay in the boat.

      • spunky says:

        Good riddance, Tim.

      • Ziff says:

        My that’s a lot of stereotypes to pack into a single comment! Like I said, it’s unfortunate that you’ve drawn this line in the sand. I hope you have plans for a new church to jump to (or start) when the LDS church ends its female priesthood ban. But we’d still be happy to have you stay at that point if you’re open to changing your mind.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Heres hoping they make a progressive choice.

  6. Cchrissyy says:

    Is she as the title says “the woman who has a mission president husband” or is she a person doing a job in her own right?

    I think reality is the latter. But we don’t lack a term for “a woman married to a mission president” what we lack is a term for “a female person who leads a mission with her spouse”

    • Thank you! I couldn’t come up with something much better than “Mission President’s Wife”, and went with something that places him as her attachment. I’ve been spending too much time looking at tombstones that have set in stone that the woman is “Wife of” her husband, but no mention of her on his stone.

      I would much prefer something that is her own calling, disassociated with being part of his calling.

  7. Naismith says:

    Irregardless of what you call her, this shows that a wife makes a huge difference in whether or not a man can serve in a calling. And if/when women also have priesthood, it is likely that their spouse also is a factor in who can be called.

    I don’t want to horribly threadjack, but I had to laugh at the first-world centrism of the proposed solution in the linked article. Microwaves in West Africa, really? My guess is that within a year, half of them will be toast. In second- and third-world countries, the electrical system is not something to take for granted. One may only have electricity for certain hours of the day, and the browning of the current may trash appliances. This is why when we lived in South America we didn’t have a washing machine or dishwasher. People did have convenience for cooking food: they used pressure cookers for beans and rice and tougher cuts of meat, something that I brought back to the US and has blessed my life. But nobody had a microwave.

    Although maybe missionaries are only in very developed areas in West Africa…..

  8. Mike R. says:

    I’ve heard lots of people calling the elderly sisters who serve in the temple “Temple Matrons,” apparently unaware that there’s only one “Temple Matron” at a time per temple, and that it’s a leadership position. I think there’d be the same risk with “Mission Matron” — if you introduce the term, people would start using it to refer to any senior sisters serving missions.

    Mission Prime Minister? Mission Chairwoman? Mission Manager?

  9. Violadiva says:

    I really like the respect, dignity and description of responsibilities found in the title of “Matriarch” in that she has the type of “mission mom” responsibilities, as well as occasionally her own children in the home, in addition to ecclesiastical leadership over the missionaries’ spiritual welfare and the missionary work of the area they are called to lead. We would think of a “patriarch and matriarch” as the most senior members of a family, given deference and respect, and whose council should be followed. In the temple we have “President and Matron”, I think we could easily adapt our vocabulary to refer to mission couples and “President and Matriarch”. Particularly because there isn’t already some other official way that “matriarch” is used as a title in other church leadership positions.

    • Corrina says:

      I agree w/ Violadiva–Matriarch, as a title/role seems appropriate (and palatable).

    • kelly ann says:

      Technically she already has a title. Sister. At the last stake conference I went to she was introduced as Sister X of the Xx mission (who spoke along with the temple matron – neither of their husbands spoke). This was done by a conscious member of the stake presidency. What needs to change is the common reference to her as wife. If you are introducing both you can say President and Sister X of the xx mission. But I look forward to another title that can curb the bad habit and better recognize her position. I do like the title Matriarch. For both the mission and the temple.

      • kelly ann says:

        Although I think the title Steward would also work.

      • Hedgehog says:

        “What needs to change is the common reference to her as wife.”
        Yup. And not only for those married to mission presidents. GA wives (irony) suffer from this as speakers too.

  10. Em says:

    My first thoughts were Madam President or First Lady of the Mission, but I’m guessing that sounds too political. Maybe it would make a lot more sense to clearly define her role and base the title on that. If she is in charge of training and overseeing sister missionaries, maybe her job is Director of Sister Service, or Director of Service and Health or something like that. A job title that isn’t just defining her as her relationship to her husband, even in more official sounding words. If she had a job title she might feel more empowered and have a clearer sense of what her role and stewardship is.

    • Anarene Holt Yim says:

      My first thought was political too: Queen (First name). 🙂

      I think coming up with a job title is much easier than deciding what to call her.

  11. Olea says:

    Call ’em both president. If we need to elaborate because context isn’t clear, we can say “Sister President Smith” and “Brother President Smith”, or we can say “President Emma Smith” and “President Joseph Smith”.

    Titles are super weird. I don’t like reinforcing the hierarchy.

    • Hedgehog says:

      “I don’t like reinforcing the hierarchy.”
      Me neither.
      I don’t have any suggestions. Yours sound as simple as we can hope for probably really.

  12. WI_Member says:

    President for both. All members of the First Presidency (and stake presidencies) are referred to as presidents, even though their responsibilities/keys may differ. If it truly is a joint calling, then I don’t see what the problem is with the term president. If ordination is required to receive the title of president, then let’s really explore/develop the concept of priestesses. If it is to mirror the desired equal partnership of parents in the family structure, we don’t refer to fathers as ‘President dad’ and ‘President dad’s wife’. The term president connotes authority and invites respect, which should be equally afforded to both spouses serving in that capacity.

  13. I am exasperated that they ruled out my preferred choice, “Co-president”. For both. But of course, that would imply equal partnership, and they currently don’t have that in policy. But they should.

  14. Marilyn says:

    +1 for pastor. As mentioned before, 6th article of faith uses it. Alongside the elders, Sister missionaries are preachers, teachers, and evangelizers of the gospel. Why not women leaders being called to be pastors over those missionaries?

    • Pastor is growing on me. It’s differentiated enough to connotate a different job while still being gender neutral. 6th A0fF is also a big plus. The simplicity of the definition also helps:

      “a person having spiritual care of a number of persons”

      • Marilyn says:

        “spiritual care of a number of persons” – I think that describes what these women do.

        Pastor feels closer in leadership to president, it seems authoritative. Yet it also allows for all the other ways in which they minister. I also like the connotation of pastors giving instruction.

        Ideally I’d like to see them be called president as well. However, pastor may be a middle ground that expands their roles yet doesn’t get into issues of priesthood.

      • MargaretOH says:

        Great points Frank and Marilyn. I’m also just now thinking about how Paul’s epistles are sometimes referred to as pastorals, and those letters remind me of missionary letters home. I like Mission Pastor more and more!

  15. EFH says:

    Maybe Mr. President and Mrs. President.

  16. Ziff says:

    This isn’t something I hope for, but I fear someone might take a page from the Family Proclamation and call the man the presider and the woman the equal (i.e., not equal) partner.

  17. Jenny says:

    Why do we need to call her anything but president? I think this only stems from the idea that women can’t preside. If we are going for equality, then the titles need to be equal. If you’re going to call him president, call her president. If you are going to call her matriarch, call him patriarch. If you insist on calling her mission mom, call him mission dad. Mission dad sounds utterly ridiculous so why shouldn’t mission mom sound ridiculous too? I realize that calling her president may not be very palatable for our Mormon culture, but that’s the point, it needs to become palatable.

  18. spunky says:

    I love this discussion and have loved reading the comments.

    I dislike Matron for the reasons other have noted–but mostly because it is Mormon-y and that bothers me! I know that Mormons are against “Father” as a title (as per the New Testament)- but I still like that, Father Smith and Mother Smith just sound warmer to me than Patriarch and Matriarch (because we don’t call the temple Matron, “Matron Smith”– she is still “Sister Smith who is a Matron”– so it really doesn’t change her title.)

    I don’t really like President for both if only for practical reasons– being married, many people share the man’s last name– so which president are you speaking to, President Smith or President Smith? Its a bit confusing.

    What about Chaplain? I kinda like the sound of that. The militarist styling of mission structure sort of suit President Smith and Chaplain Smith, IMO.

    • WI_Member says:

      How about Brother or Sister X, president of the X Mission? It’s how we currently refer to the auxiliary presidencies. While we’re at it, can we revisit the use of the word auxiliary? I hate it. If we’re really serious about the Relief Society being a parallel organization to the current priesthood orders, why is it called an auxiliary?

  19. Brenda says:

    Here are my suggestions:

    Lady-in-Waiting
    The Woman Formerly Known as The President’s Wife
    President

  20. Ziff says:

    After thinking about this question a little longer, I wonder if the problem with this exercise is that if you have two people kind of running things together and you call one of them president and you rule out calling them co-presidents, it’s difficult to come up with another title that has the same heft to it. I like lots of the other suggestions, but they all pretty much sound like someone who reports to the president. It seems like a difficult problem to solve as long as we insist on calling the husband the president.

  21. Mark B. says:

    We have way too many people with titles in the church already, and the solution isn’t to give more and more people titles (do not, for example, start calling the RS President “President Smith;” instead, go back to calling the EQ President “Brother Smith”). So, my vote is to call them “Brother and Sister Jones, president of the X mission.”

  1. September 29, 2016

    […] policy, such as my post The Mormon Underwear Monopoly and guest Frank Pellett’s post Give a Title to the Woman who Has a Mission President Husband—an issue that was in the news again just recently because we still haven’t resolved […]

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