LDS Public Affairs: Connecting Priesthood Leaders to the Community?

About five months ago, I was called to be our ward’s Public Affairs representative. I was happy to accept. Seeing as I have been the ward’s humanitarian coordinator for the last 5 years, I thought that the two callings would gel nicely together. I was also excited by the thought that I could get more involved in the interfaith side of Public Affairs.  It seemed to me that Public Affairs was one wing of the Church in which gender wouldn’t really matter, in which men and women could work together to build bridges with the community. After all, you don’t need priesthood to do PR work for the Church, right?

Well…. it turns out that gender still is coming into play, in a way I didn’t foresee. At one of our first training meetings I learned the purpose of Public Affairs: “Public Affairs serves priesthood leaders by helping them to form positive relationships with those who can affect the reputation of the Church, or who can help or hinder the Church in its efforts to bring souls to Christ.”

This was typed out on the agenda given to me, and I’m quite positive that our stake PA man didn’t make this up himself. It must have come from higher up.

Needless to say, this statement of the purpose of Public Affairs made me raise my eyebrows. Is it really just about connecting priesthood leaders to opinion leaders in the community? Shouldn’t its goal be a whole lot broader than that, like fostering bridges of understanding and community between LDS people and their neighbors?

At a regional PA training meeting, this focus on priesthood leaders was confusing to other women as well. A friend of mine who is much higher up in PA than I am, told me the story of how an area authority was articulating this purpose of connecting priesthood leaders to other community leaders at this training meeting. One woman who worked in PA asked the authority where women fit in to this stated purpose. The response: women in PA should be trying to connect their husbands to these leaders.*

This was jaw-dropping to my friend. I imagine this was an off the cuff response by the authority that wasn’t necessarily all that well thought out. I’m not sure what to make of it, though I suspect it reveals something about the way this authority’s mind was working. He was clearly connecting the idea of priesthood leadership to a husband/wife relationship.

Perhaps this is common in Mormon thought, but I just don’t see my husband as my priesthood leader. He’s my partner and my friend, not my Church leader. And I really don’t see my job working in PA as being to connect my husband of all people to leaders in the community.

This incident, as well as the stated purpose of PA on the handout I was given, has made me question the place of women in PA. These incidents manifest to me a clear androcentrism in this branch of the Church. Now androcentrism is nothing new in Mormonism. I guess I was just surprised to find it in PA, where it seems so unnecessary.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Is any of it surprising? Is there another way to interpret the area authority’s remarks or the stated purpose of PA?

*I hope I’m not portraying this incident unfairly. This to the best of my memory, is how my friend relayed it.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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56 Responses

  1. Last Lemming says:

    What, you don’t recognized how important it was for Beverly Campbell to get her husband connected to all those opinion leaders?

    • Caroline says:

      Tell us more about Beverly Campball, Last Lemming.

      • Last Lemming says:

        From a 1991 Ensign article about Church public affairs–
        ( http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=6cf2b850e318b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD )

        In the Washington, D.C., area, the public affairs office headed by Beverly Campbell serves as a Church resource for U.S. and foreign media based on the East Coast. It’s vital, she says, to be “available and trustworthy.” This is especially important in dealing with press representatives from other nations, because overseas media organizations, knowing the Church has its headquarters in the United States, often check out information about the Church through their Washington bureaus.

        Sister Campbell frequently makes contact with foreign diplomats and their families. Many of them enjoy touring the visitors’ center at the Washington Temple, which is an area landmark, particularly with its Christmastime displays celebrating the birth and mission of the Savior. These diplomatic contacts can prove valuable when the government of a country where the Church is new or unknown seeks information about Latter-day Saints; the country’s Washington representative may know just where to turn.

        Now do you see how important her husband was?

      • Caroline says:

        Thanks for copying that, Last Lemming. Yes, her story makes that ‘husband’ explanation look ridiculous, doesn’t it?

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is the kind of stuff that really makes my heart hurt – that makes me wonder if all the old stuff (like Fascinating Womanhood) from the 50’s is “true”: is it really just a world of men, and we women exist to facilitate them? It’s such a painful concept that I have to reject it, but when I hear stuff like this, it really makes me wonder.

    • Caroline says:

      “is it really just a world of men, and we women exist to facilitate them?”

      That’s a great articulation of my discomfort, Stephanie.

      I will say, though (and maybe this will make you feel better), that I am pretty sure other authorities would have answered that question differently. That answer is so messed up that I can’t imagine it reflects broad thought on this.

      • Rebecca says:

        I suppose that if we think of a ward as falling under the stewardship of a bishop, then I could see where the PR person is connecting with community leaders on his behalf. In this way of thinking, Caroline is acting in the place of a very busy bishop, who doesn’t have time to go attend inter-faith luncheons, so he’s sending her in his place. He calls someone else to do the PR and delegates that role to Caroline. Still, they need to reword their written materials to be more inclusive of women doing this role.

        Where connecting it back to your husband comes into this is beyond me! I think someone was trying really hard to make the androcentric language work when it just doesn’t. That drives me crazy when people will launch into some apologetics instead of just saying “Gee, we should change the way that is worded.”

      • Caroline says:

        Rebecca,
        Good point about delegation. I don’t mind being the bishop’s delegate. I suppose I’m still wary of the fact, though, that the focus still seems to be on the priesthood leadership, even if we view it through the eyes of delegation. Like you said in your last comment, using language like building bridges between the community and their LDS neighbors seems more appropriate.

  3. s-lpz says:

    How very disturbing this is–Mormon androcentrism at it’s finest. Since you mentioned that you were called 5 months ago, I’m curious about how it’s gone since that first training. Has it turned out to be like you were taught in the training and like your friend was told it should be?

    • Caroline says:

      Well, there are aspects to PA that do focus on that purpose statement. One of our current PA goals in our stake is to reach out to ‘opinion leaders’ in the community. We PA people are to speak to them for 10 minutes about the Church, hand them a pamphlet, and then shake their hand and go. This is not the type of PA work that appeals to me, personally, so I don’t get involved in that stuff. I’m also quite sure that they would be thrilled if a woman (anyone) did this, so I’m not quite sure how such an action would actually be connecting priesthood leaders to opinion leaders. It just reinforces to me the fact that that purpose statement does not accurately reflect what we are supposed to be doing.

      What I do involve myself in is the interfaith stuff. I find that pretty neat, and I love how the interfaith board that I meet with is generally about half women. It does my heart good to meet and talk with these women ministers of other faiths.

      So those statements about what PA is supposed to be has not really been too reflective of my experience. I think our stake PA guy is thrilled if anyone (male or female) takes any initiative or responds to his emails. And our stake has focused recently more on emergency preparedness and interfaith stuff, so these androcentric things aren’t really coming into play.

      But it still bothers me that these are the stated goals of PA….

  4. Corktree says:

    Stunned. Just, stunned.

  5. Perhaps this is common in Mormon thought, but I just don’t see my husband as my priesthood leader. He’s my partner and my friend, not my Church leader.

    This is a lot of what is wrong in the church, that wives do not consider their husbands to be their priesthood and church leader. I might also add that neither does the Church.

    To explain, in the eyes of the Church, the husband is not a priesthood leader with keys, but a quorum member without keys. Leaders have keys, members do not. Because husbands, in the eyes of the Church, do not have keys, they are not leaders.

    Quorum members report directly to quorum leaders. As a quorum member, therefore, the husband is an agent of his quorum president. In other words, although your hubsband may hold the priesthood, he is a subordinate to those who hold positions of authority in the church.

    This view of the Church about the husband’s authority is passed on to the wife. When a wife thinks of priesthood leader, she thinks of someone who holds keys, such as a bishop or stake president. Her husband, in her view, does not hold keys, therefore, he is not a priesthood leader. When a wife thinks of a church leader, she again thinks of someone in the church who directs the work of the church, such as a bishop or stake president. If the husband holds neither one of those callings and offices, he is not a church leader. In the eyes of the wife, then, the husband is subordinate to the priesthood and church leaders found in the church.

    This is why we find wives by-passing their husband’s leadership, guidance and counsel and going over his head to a bishop or stake president. All of this, of course, goes against the scriptures and the gospel of Christ, which is one of the reasons why men and women in the church are miserable.

    The necessary corrective is a proper understanding of priesthood, keys and how the husband’s authority relates to his family.

    A good exercise might be to ask yourself the following questions: Who is your priesthood leader? Who is your Church leader? What is it that makes him your priesthood or Church leader? Is it his priesthood, or his keys and position in the Church? If it is the keys and position in the Church, why does that make him your priesthood and/or Church leader?

    • Caroline says:

      Well, anarchist, this is where world views simply clash. I find nothing inspiring in the idea of my husband being my priesthood leader. I find nothing inspiring in the idea that I as a wife should submit to my husband, when he is under no injunction to submit to me in turn. In my mind, marriage is about partnership — two people working together, compromising, with neither one pulling rank on the other. Maybe your way works for some people, but it would absolutely destroy my marriage.

  6. Whitney says:

    I’ve been lurking for a while; this is one of my first times commenting here. Awesome post, Caroline!
    And I must contend that some of what is wrong with the church is that so many women *do* consider their husbands to be their church leader. What is *right* with the church is that even more women (in my experience) consider their husbands to be their partner, their equal, their companion, and *not* their priesthood leader!

    • Caroline says:

      Welcome, Whitney! Thanks for commenting.

      I agree. I think an unhealthy power dynamic results when women consider their husbands their priesthood leaders. Much better, IMO, for husband and wife to look one another in the eye as equal partners, with neither pulling rank on the other.

    • And I must contend that some of what is wrong with the church is that so many women *do* consider their husbands to be their church leader.

      Whitney, this is often only true insofar as the husbands follow the direction of the ecclesiastical leaders. The instant the husband does something different than what the church leaders council him to do, the wife’s true loyalties manifest and she will often side with the ecclesiastical authority. For example, if the husband is truly her church leader, would she protest if he blesses the sacrament in the home using bread and wine? If he is truly considered her priesthood and church leader, and he has validly conferred priesthood, would she recognize that authority if he did it without the say-so of the local bishop, or even against the bishop’s instructions not to do it? I’d say for many women who profess that their husband is their church leader, it is just lip-service. Only when conflict comes between the church men with the “keys” and a husband, can we see who she really thinks is her church leader.

      In fact, I’d be willing to wager (a friendly wager, mind you) that if you ask women who make such a profession in your ward, would they allow their husbands to bless the sacrament or baptize one of their children, without permission from the bishop, (in other words, their husbands using his priesthood without the required say-so of his leaders), they would say no.

  7. Justin says:

    Even the Church acknowledges, in word — not in deed, that the family is the central unit in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church is the appendage. Therefore, the priesthood holder in the home is the central priesthood leader — and the Church priesthood holders are appendage leaders — in other words they are secondary as compared to a woman’s husband.

  8. Justin says:

    Also, an understanding as to why the Area Authority would feel that a gender neutral calling, such as Public Affairs, still must be connected to the man-based hierarchy can be obtained by reading the nine-part series on the history of correlation written by Daymon Smith. Here is part one.

    • Rebecca says:

      I see how the Daymon Smith dissertation addresses a shift under correlation, with the centralized church becoming more powerful as the instrument by which priesthood operates. I’m assuming you are referring to his idea that correlation brought on a paradigm shift in the way we think about what priesthood is. As I read it, post-correlation priesthood functions much more under a church hierarchy, rather than as primarily part of a family structure. Also, I suppose the definition of “priesthood” evolving to mean “church”, and that church structure taking on more and more of the power/decision-making/administrative roles in people’s lives, as opposed to personal freedom, personal revelation?

      Even before correlation, we are talking about a patriarchal structure for priesthood, although perhaps there was more autonomy for families. There was certainly more autonomy for local congregations and for auxiliaries like the RS. I see personal free agency as a fundamental principle of the gospel so that part works for me. I’m still not convinced that women were better off before because they were still living under patriarchy, but maybe that’s not your point? Many of us are happy to see women performing various roles within the church where gender should not be important. In your ideal world, I’d assume there is no church outside of the family unit. Is this the primary appeal of anarchy within the LDS context for you?

      • Justin says:

        Rebecca:

        Even before correlation, we are talking about a patriarchal structure for priesthood
        As LDSA points out in his post — the patriarchal structure is only emphasized in our culture because of the existence of the state, which works to dissolve any tribal affiliations within its jurisdiction. In the gospel law and in the priesthood — egalitarianism does in fact exist

        In your ideal world, I’d assume there is no church outside of the family unit. Is this the primary appeal of anarchy within the LDS context for you?

        This is correct — if by “family” it is understood to mean “tribe”. I would make the distinction b/c most use “family” to refer to the monogamous unit they have with spouse and accompanying children.

        But essentially I would say what you wrote rings true to me.

      • Caroline says:

        justin said:

        “In the gospel law and in the priesthood — egalitarianism does in fact exist.”

        I asked LDSA this, but in case he doesn’t respond, I’ll ask you, too. Can you explain in 10 sentences or less – no, make that 5 – how a male priesthood can coexist with egalitarianism, especially given your (I assume it’s yours) strong stance on wives submitting to husbands?

  9. Caroline says:

    Actually, anarchist, I had read 80% of your tribal post before I commented. Ergo the reference to women submitting. (haven’t read the others)

    You wrote:
    “As long as a husband is following the proper manner of influencing a wife, in other words, as long as there is no unrighteous dominion, the wife is to obey the husband. That is the gospel law. He can start drinking and smoking and swearing, he can start growing a beard and stop wearing ties, he can do all sorts of things that his wife may think are incompatible with the gospel, but as long as he is not exercising unrighteous dominion, she is bound by the gospel law to submit to his authority.”

    This feels very, very wrong to me. I don’t see how one can have an egalitarian marriage when this is the basis, regardless of any plural wives combining to over rule the husband. The very language of women being the lower judges and men being the higher judges just reinforces gender based hierarchy. That said, I do sympathize with your points about how wives shouldn’t run to bishops with complaints about their husbands. But for me that has nothing to do with the husband’s “authority” over the wife. Rather, for me, that would just be about maintaining a healthy relationship by trying to avoid manipulating each other.

  10. Caroline, 80% is better than nothing, I suppose. But I still recommend that you read 100% and then go read the priesthood and keys and tribal worship services posts (also 100%). In fact, the links I gave were in the order I thought best to read them, too. I think without a new understanding of what priesthood is, and a new understanding of what keys are, and how many sets of keys there are, understanding the tribal nature of the gospel becomes difficult, if not impossible.

    As Justin stated above, the Church “acknowledges, in word — not in deed, that the family is the central unit in the gospel” and that “the priesthood holder in the home is the central priesthood leader — and the Church priesthood holders are appendage leaders — in other words they are secondary as compared to a woman’s husband.” The operative words, though, are that this is in word, not deed. It is just lip-service, to keep the male population semi-content.

    The priesthood cannot organize itself along tribal lines unless partriarchy/androcracy is recognized and established. In the church, we do not have either patriarchy or androcracy. We have an androcratic oligarchy. Rulership by a few men, the men with the “keys.” These few men rule over both other men and over women. Androcracy assumes that all men rule, while patriarchy assumes the same plus that men have father-right. So, true androcracy and patriarchy does not exist in the church.

    As long as women hold the view that the husband is not a wife’s priesthood or church leader, power will continue to be centered in the men with “the keys” and tribal authority will remain inactive. The Brethren of the Church know this and so do everything possible (actions, not words) to keep that power centered on them and the tribal authorities dormant. So, we are taught that patriarchy and androcracy exists in the church (which it doesn’t), causing the women look at the androcratic oligarchy we have, calling it “patriarchy” (which it isn’t). They don’t like the “patriarchy” which they see (androcratic oligarchy) and cannot conceive of the solution being to form a true patriarchy, allowing all the men to share the male power and authority, because they see this as being worse than just having a few men with centered power.

    The truth of the matter, though, is that for true equality, matriarchy must exist with patriarchy and gynocracy must exist with androcracy. There must be a balance of power, and power must be shared, not concentrated in the hands of a few. Matriarchy and gynocracy are tribal functions, they typically don’t exist outside of one. Therefore, the tribe must be established. But what has power to establish the tribe? Patriarchy does, which doesn’t currently exist among the members. Therefore, Mormon women have the means (their husband) to the end they seek (equality), but to get there they must acknowledge the patriarchy and work to establish a tribe along matriarchal and patriarchal lines.

    If Mormon feminism seeks any other way, in other words, if it seeks gynocratic oligarchy, then it simply seeks a switching of hats, not true reform.

    • Caroline says:

      LDSA wrote:
      “The truth of the matter, though, is that for true equality, matriarchy must exist with patriarchy and gynocracy must exist with androcracy. There must be a balance of power, and power must be shared, not concentrated in the hands of a few.”

      This sounds good to me. Sort of. (I actually don’t see why we need to have both patriarchy and matriarchy. Why can’t we just have anthrop-archy or something like that, where gender doesn’t matter in determining who rules?) But anyway, let’s go along with what you said above. I like the idea of balance of power. Sounds great.

      But I still don’t see how we can achieve balance of power between men and women when you emphasize so heartily the idea of wives submitting to husbands. Can you explain – in 10 sentences or less – how that works? How can there be equality when you have that in your paradigm?

      (Sorry, I’m under a limited time frame, and your posts are really, really long. much better for me if you paraphrase, though I realize that’s more work for you.)

      Thanks!

      • Why can’t we just have anthrop-archy or something like that, where gender doesn’t matter in determining who rules?

        Because men are men and women are women. Do you want the moon to shine like the Sun? Or the Sun to reflect like the moon? Each has its proper role, power, purpose and way of doing things. Male power belongs to males, and female power pertains to the female. Don’t mix the two together. We come together and become one, joining flesh, but retaining our maleness and femaleness undiluted, untainted, unmixed. It is the contrast between the sexes that creates the joys of life. In fact, the higher the contrast, the greater the joy. As the saying goes, Viva la difference!

        But I still don’t see how we can achieve balance of power between men and women when you emphasize so heartily the idea of wives submitting to husbands. Can you explain – in 10 sentences or less – how that works? How can there be equality when you have that in your paradigm?

        Hmm…okay, I’ll try: #1, Women honor male power (maleness) by obeying them (“if ye love me, keep my commandments”). #2, Men honor female power (femaleness) by loving them. #3, Male and female power have natural checks and balances so that neither tyrannizes the other. #4, Men possess the keys of the priesthood, which allow men to serve women (and men) physically and spiritually for temporal and spiritual salvation. #5, Women possess the keys of the church (or tribe), which authorizes and validates the keys of the priesthood, allowing the power of salvation to go forth. #6, All things must be done by common consent, otherwise tyranny results in all cases, regardless of who is at fault (man or woman). #7, The keys of the church (or tribe) control the keys of the priesthood. #8, Women sin when they do not obey their righteous (qualifier) husbands, (husbands who do not exerise unrighteous dominion), for they do not give honor where honor is due and remove the power of the priesthood. #9, Men sin when they do not love their wives (no qualifier). #10, Men and women are judged by the Lord according to how they use their individual sets of keys and treat each other.

        Now, if that Cliff Notes summary has left you still scratching your head, I suggest you print out the priesthood and keys articles and read them a little bit at a time over a period of days.

        In the meantime, perhaps Justin can give you a better summarized version. He is much more terse than I am, and I believe he comprehends what I’m saying.

  11. TopHat says:

    This hasn’t been mentioned, but what I wondered about that answer, “What about the women who don’t have husbands?” Seems pretty offensive to assume everyone is married.

    • Caroline says:

      I agree Tophat. There are all sorts of problems with that authority’s comment, and the one you named is certainly a big one.

  12. Zo-ma-rah says:

    What I thought was interesting was in the quote:

    “Public Affairs serves priesthood leaders by helping them to form positive relationships with those who can affect the reputation of the Church, or who can help or hinder the Church in its efforts to bring souls to Christ.”

    I thought nobody could stop the work from progressing.

    “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” – Joseph Smith

    I noticed Joseph didn’t tell us to make friends so that they will not hinder the work. But he said that even in the face of all those things the work will still progress. It doesn’t matter if we are looked upon as the vilest of people on the earth, the Work of God will still continue.

    It just shows me how much the Church is focusing on the acceptance of the world, when they think that we need PR to keep the world from stopping the work.

    • Caroline says:

      Zo-ma-rah,
      Good point. I hadn’t thought of that angle. This just goes to show how much of an assimilation phase the church is in right now, vs. the differentiation phase of prior eras.

  13. Mydearuniverse says:

    “I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Is any of it surprising?”

    BAHHHH! This post reminds me of a passage from the book ‘Nine Parts of Desire’, specifically the part where Geraldine Brooks goes to meet with a local religious leader, who has never met a female outside of his family (so he needs a mediator). When Ms. Brooks asks the mediator, ‘How he can lead without ever meeting half his village?’ The mediator replies, ‘The women send their husbands to him with their problems.’ Ms. Brooks asks, ‘What if the husband is the problem?’ This thought have never occurred to the leader.

    Of course, comparing Mormon hierarchy to third-world Muslim hierarchy isn’t fair. BUT left unchecked… Who watches the watchers to tell them when they’ve crossed into ‘unrighteous dominion’? Hmmm… *MR.* LDS Anarchist?

    • Who watches the watchers to tell them when they’ve crossed into ‘unrighteous dominion’? Hmmm… *MR.* LDS Anarchist?

      Why, that would be you, my dear.

    • Caroline says:

      What a great anecdote, mydearuniverse. I think that actually is a really provocative analogy. Who does watch the watchers? LDSA says that the women do, but I don’t see what real power we Mormon women have (or these other women in your anecdote) to stop unrighteous dominion, or get our voices heard by leadership. Particularly when we women are conditioned to agree with what our church leaders (maybe even husbands?) say and do.

      • Pedro says:

        “women are conditioned to agree with what our church leaders (maybe even husbands?) say and do.”

        The exercise of agency is not a mindless process of simply following another person regardless of who that person is. Viewed from the standard of eternal truth the three acts of “just do what the brethern say”, “just do what your husband says” or “shut up and just do everything Lucifer says” (a phrase probably common among the 1/3 who didn’t keep their 1st estates) vary only in degrtee not quality.
        If you notice even as a person who is determined to just do everything Father wants will that Father very often requires that you study, ponder and try to work it out yourself before He validates or even gives new knowledge. This is because He is not so concerned about you making mistakes. His real goal is that you become as Him self governing, possessing the same knowledge and wisdom that He has.
        The conditioning you speak of is the Satan inspired Babylonian world view we are all exposed to. It is the “Matrix” we were born into. It is our job to break free of false traditions whether their source is the world or the LDS church or our parents. So even when you work in harmony with your husband it will be with a self possessed understanding of what is right and wrong continually taking responsibility for the personal exercise of your agency.

  14. s-lpz says:

    Caroline, I’m glad to hear that things aren’t turning out to be following the “guidelines” as they were quoted to you. And, right on for doing your calling your way and using your passion and strengths to forge interfaith connections. I think that if Christ was the PA person, he would have a similar focus to you. He’d be more intent on building, understanding, and connecting, rather than handing out pamphlets, avoiding uncomfortable conversations, and after 10 minutes saying, “Gotta run.”

    I also like your comments about your egalitarian relationship with your husband. That’s my idea of a true partnership.

  15. CatherineWO says:

    My husband has been the stake presidency representative on our stake PR council for the past eight years, and I can tell you that I have never heard of this aproach to church PR that you describe. Here, the goal is to build bridges with the community. My husband attends the monthly community ministerial meetings and our stake members participate in several interfaith events each year, especially at Christmas time. We also sponser a couple of annual events for the community, where missionaries are not even allowed to attend. Women are the leaders and the main participants in most of these activities. I see no link to priesthood at all.

    • Caroline says:

      CatherineWO,
      Can you show your husband that purpose statement and ask if he’s ever seen anything like it? It could be that this rhetoric is widespread, but that no one thinks about it and everyone ignores it. Or it could be that our region is just particularly priesthood leader focused.

      • CatherineWO says:

        Caroline, my husband could not find that statement in either the old or the new handbook, but he did find it on the Church website. If you go to lds.org/serving in the church/public relations, you’ll find it. However, you will also find a lot of other information, including a video that talks about “building bridges” in the community. That quote, which is from Elder Ballard, is only one aspect of Church PR. Public relations may “serve priesthood leaders” but this is not its sole purpose. My husband was quite incensed that someone would interpret it that way and thought you had every reason to be offended.

  16. Justin says:

    Caroline:

    You said to me: “Can you explain in 5 sentences or less – how a male priesthood can coexist with egalitarianism, especially given your (I assume it’s yours) strong stance on wives submitting to husbands?

    I’ll do it in five statements [a little more than five sentences — sorry]:
    1) The church of Jesus Christ is governed by two sets of keys: the keys of the priesthood [which you lament to be largely controlled by men] and the keys of the church [which are exercised or manifested thru the law of common consent, being a majority vote of baptized members].
    2) Recapping LDSA’s post on the alternate view of the keys — Who decides who gets the priesthood? The church does, by vote. Who decides who gets what office of the priesthood? The church does, by vote. Who decides which priesthood holder receives a license to perform the duty of his calling? The church does by vote.
    3) Thus, the keys of the church have been placed firmly in the hands of the women of the church. This is by divine design, just as the keys of the priesthood have been placed firmly in the hands of the men of the church.
    4) I don’t know what LDSA’s point-of-view is on the matter, but I understand women to hold the keys to the patriarchal priesthood, while men hold the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. I’m sure that you are tired of links to read — but they will help — this is a commentI made on the subject of tribal worship services in which I asked concerning the ability of a tribe to recognize the priesthood held by women, whereas the Church chooses to ignore it.
    5) So — according to the doctrines of the priesthood of God — all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities — for that is egalitarianism.

    Further, you said to LDSA: “but I don’t see what real power we Mormon women have (or these other women in your anecdote) to stop unrighteous dominion, or get our voices heard by leadership. Particularly when we women are conditioned to agree with what our church leaders (maybe even husbands?) say and do.

    A) I don’t see what real power we Mormon women have — you have the keys of the church. Tell me, the last time there was a calling extended to a man who’s wife had just had a baby and you thought, “Gee, he should probably not have that new calling so he can spend sometime at home giving his wife a break,” and then still voted in the affirmative [or some similar situation]? Insofar as you do this, you are handing your power over to the priesthood holders as rubber stamp for them.

    B)Particularly when we women are conditioned to agree with what our church leaders — you are an agent of change Caroline, you ought to be conditioning them otherwise. Besides, all bets are off for submitting when the priesthood holder is utilizing unrighteous dominion — so that kind of solves in right there.

  17. Jessawhy says:

    Caroline,
    Wow, I’m so surprised and sad to read this.

    Our stake recently sent out an invitation to a inter-faith Thanksgiving celebration. I was so excited about it that I posted it to Facebook and found out that a friend of mine on the Hemophilia board of directors attends the church that the event will be held at. Small world!

  18. Elder Chantdown says:

    5 sentences would be a wordy explanation for a very simple thing that is demonstrated literally everywhere throughout the natural uni(multi)verse.
    But speaking directly to the question.

    Wives submit to your Husbands. Husbands submit to your Wives.

    That’s it. Where there are Adolph Hitlers, there will be Eva Brauns. Where there are Eva Brauns, there will be Adolph Hitlers. Where we find Jezebels, we find Ahabs. Where women play the role of weaklings, men assume the role of tyrants. Where men play the role of weakling, women assume the role of tyrant. Behind every Hillary Clinton there is a Bill (Doing heaven knows what with heaven knows who) and visa versa.

    If that is all you can see then I suppose there will be a persistent power struggle at best for you. But, where there are Gods there are Goddesses. In(side) Truth, there is no power struggle, only POWER (The Only Power) If one really does consider their spouse to be their partner, their equal, their companion they should have no problem leading and being led. Until men & women work together as Kings & Queens, wickedness will reign on Earth.

    I understand time constraints (The World is full of them) but if you don’t read anything else from Brother Anarchist might I suggest http://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/the-split-brain-model-of-the-gospel/
    For individuals and couples out there who cherish balance, you will love it.

    An interesting thought that came to me after visiting the temple one day was that Priesthood = Manhood or Womanhood as the case may be. FatherHOOD or MotherHOOD are callings and indeed qualify as two distinct priestHOODS which work together. Both HOODS are mantles and are also signified by physical HOODS placed by GOD. The foreskin hoods the penis or symbolic sceptre of the male or potential priest. The clitoral hood covers the symbolic orb of the potential priestess. The Orb & Sceptre are supposed to be sacred symbols to LDS.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zeus_Hermitage_St._Petersburg_20021009.jpg
    These are the “priesthoods” that Lucifer CLAIMS to possess and suggests be hidden underneath an apron similar to his. He is afraid of men and women living eternal principals of tribal anarchy. And he DAMN WELL SHOULD BE! It is powerful stuff.

  19. Justin says:

    Caroline [or anyone for that matter]:

    I’m curious how you deal with the scripture that says:
    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    Is this “not translated correctly” — was Paul a crazy McConkie-ite — or is this one of the epistles not even written by Paul [as some scholars claim]?

    Just wondering how you deal with that being in your standard works.

    • Caroline says:

      Pure cultural byproduct, IMO. I have no problem chalking that up (and the submit stuff) to its time and place. I’m quite happy to not be a biblical literalist. I think Mormonism leaves plenty of space for that.

      And thanks for your 5 point explanation. One of the problems I have with your paradigm is that it seems like you are saying that women have veto power, but in your explanation I see no real seat at the table for women when it comes to proposing ideas or administrating. We seem to just be roadblocks that can occasionally pop up to say no or step quietly to the side.

      And one of you guys (was it LDSA?) described the situation as: wives submit to husbands, husbands love wives. That just doesn’t cut it for me. I need mutual love and mutual submission. (I think someone else – Elder C? did mention mutual submission). I have very negative reaction to the idea that I might be under some constraint to obey a husband, no matter how loving or righteous. This reduces women to children, IMO. Makes me nauseous the think about.

      But thanks, all you guys, for coming over to play ball. You’ve been very civil, which I appreciate. We’ll just agree to disagree.

      • Justin says:

        no matter how loving or righteous.
        Since we are agreeing to disagree — I’d like to clarify, just for a smooth conclusion, that a women is under no obligation to obey a husband regardless of his righteousness.

        If anything — I should be upset. A woman sins when she does not obey her righteous husband/s, [i.e. husbands who do not exerise unrighteous dominion]. While a man sins when he does not love his wife/ves [with no accompanying qualifier].

      • And one of you guys (was it LDSA?) described the situation as: wives submit to husbands, husbands love wives. That just doesn’t cut it for me. I need mutual love and mutual submission. (I think someone else – Elder C? did mention mutual submission). I have very negative reaction to the idea that I might be under some constraint to obey a husband, no matter how loving or righteous. This reduces women to children, IMO. Makes me nauseous the think about.

        You asked me to summarize a comprehensive article of thousands of words into 10 or less sentences, which I attempted to do. Is it my fault that you don’t understand what I mean by husbands loving their wives? But on this one point, I will explain more fully what I mean. Then if it still makes you nauseous, so be it.

        The scriptural (not cultural, which is what you assume it to be) pattern is that God is the head of Christ (1 Corinthians 11: 3) and Christ shows the way. So, Christ gives honor to God the Father. And how does He do it? By obeying or submitting or subjecting Himself to God the Father. The Father honors the Son (Christ). And how does He do this? By loving Christ. And how does the Father love Christ? What is the love of the Father called? It is called charity. And how is charity manifested? By the Father’s willingness to give all he has to Christ. Christ has shown us the way.

        Christ, then, is the head of the man. Using Christ as our pattern, the man gives honor to Christ. And how does he do it? By obeying or submitting or subjecting himself to Christ. Jesus taught this divine principle when He stated, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14: 15.) Jesus honors man. And how does He do this? By loving man. And how does Jesus love man? What is the love of Jesus called? It is called charity. And how is charity manifested? By Jesus’ willingness to give all that He has to man. Jesus taught this principle when He stated, “And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84: 37-38.) Thus man becomes a joint-heir with Christ. Christ has again shown us the way.

        Man, then, is to be the head of the woman. Again using Christ as our pattern, the woman is to honor the man. And how is she to do it? By obeying or submitting or subjecting herself to the man. The apostles Peter and Paul both plainly taught this principle. (See 1 Peter 3: 1-6; Colossians 3: 18; 1 Corinthians 11: 3; Ephesians 5: 22-24.) The man then is to honor the woman. And how is he to do this? By loving woman. And how is he to love woman? What is the love he is to show called? It is called charity. And how is charity manifested? By the the man’s willingness to give all that he has to the woman. Thus woman becomes a joint-heir with man. All of this is patterned after the Christ example.

        Taking it further, the woman is to be the head of her children. Her children are to honor her by obeying, submitting and subjecting themselves to her. The woman is to honor the children by loving them, which love is charity, which means her willingness to give all that she has to her children. The children then become joint-heirs with the woman.

        In one direction goes obedience, in the other direction goes charity, or sharing all that one has. Obedience does not go in two directions. God is not to obey Christ, He is to share all that He has with Christ. Christ is not to obey man, He is to share all that He has with man. Man is not to obey woman, he is to share all that he has with woman. Woman is not to obey children, she is to share all that she has with children. Obviously, not everybody is willing to receive all that each of these is willing to give.

        This is the actual law of the gospel, not a customary law only applicable to saints of the primitive church. As you can see, the above not only “reduces women to children,” but it also reduces Christ, man, and children to children, which follows that other gospel principle of becoming as a little child (3 Nephi 11: 37-38.) Okay, now go puke, if you still have the urge.

      • Caroline says:

        I do still find it nauseating, LDSA. Sorry. You’ve established a very clear hierarchy, with God above Jesus, Jesus above man, man above woman, and woman above children.

        No thanks. My husband and I are equals, answerable to each other and to God. There is no hierarchy between us, and certainly no obedience. And that’s the way I think it should be. Equating a wife’s relationship to her husband with a man’s relationship to Christ is highly offputting to me. Not that you made that up yourself. I know that’s scriptural.

        Thanks for explaining your views. I guess some people are comfortable with hierarchy between spouses and some people aren’t. To each her own.

  20. Maren says:

    Okay, I’ll probably regret this, but I can’t help but add three comments to your statements, Justin:

    1) I admit its been a lot of years since I attended sacrament, but I took a little informal pole & in a combined 118 years of attendance, guess how many times, when asked to sustain a calling in sacrament meeting, someone actually raised their hand as opposed? Once. In a congregation where conformity is valued, you risk a lot by being the one scandal-causing person that says, ‘No, I happen to know that guy beats his wife & kids & shouldn’t be holding the calling of XX.’ So lets be realistic about that (and the fact that this voting power belongs to men and women members equally, so its not the power that the women have to balance men’s priesthood.)

    2) “#3, Male and female power have natural checks and balances so that neither tyrannizes the other.” You’re really, honestly going to assert that? What natural checks and balances do women have on men so that we don’t get paid 2/3 of what they are paid, so that we aren’t raped when we choose to withhold sex, so we can get men to attend to the needs of the family before their own individual gratification?

    3) Women are commanded to ‘obey’, while men are commanded to ‘love’. One of these can be clearly & objectively measured, and is quite a bit more difficult to do when you feel the person is in error. The other, is pretty subjective & hard to pinpoint & easy to use to manipulate others. So, sorry to call the bible into fault, but that’s an unequal balance of power right there. One party either clearly obeyed or didn’t obey, while the other party gets a big gray area to work with in their commandment.

    Your theories are very romantic & idealistic. And like all those other great idealistic theories are confounded by the fact that men and women are sinners, we rarely live up to our own ideals, and our incredible powers of rationalization most often outweigh true justice and equality. Given our flawed natures, biblically-based political theories aren’t particularly realistic to put forth. I can’t help but think that the realistic scenario of your theories would be a decentralized tyranny of very pompous, self-righteous men exercising self-righteous dominion over their families. I’m not sure I would trade that for a centralized church leadership’s more mild tyranny.

    • Justin says:

      Maren:

      I certainly hope that you don’t regret this — but:

      1) Guess how many times, when asked to sustain a calling in sacrament meeting, someone actually raised their hand as opposed? Once. — that’s my point.
      you risk a lot by being the one scandal-causing person that says, ‘No, I happen to know that guy beats his wife & kids & shouldn’t be holding the calling of XX.’ — The leaders are often witch-hunters who look for someone to judge as unfaithful, apostate, etc. The only valid reason, in their minds, for voting against a calling is for worthiness issues. If one were to be taken aside privately and interviewed by a leader concerning a vote against, as soon as it was known that worthiness was not the reason for the vote against, the worthiness of the voter would then be brought into question. Although the scriptural law is innocent until proven guilty — when the leaders see dissension, they take a guilty until proven innocent stance. And it seems that they have been successful in getting you and the sisters you know to believe likewise.

      Since (2) and (3) address something written by LDSA — I will only respond to your first point.

      You concluded:
      Your theories are very romantic & idealistic. And like all those other great idealistic theories are confounded by the fact that men and women are sinners
      “Idealistic” and “romantic” theories such as tribal anarchy — do not require perfect people.

    • Caroline says:

      Maren, you’ve made great points. Your number 3 is right on, I think.

  21. Rebecca says:

    Their written materials could be rewritten to read –

    “Public Affairs serves the local LDS congregations by helping them form positive relationships with those who can affect the reputation of the Church, or who can help the Church in its efforts to bring souls to Christ.”

    Personally, I’d add something about promoting understanding, ecumenical dialogue and service within our community.

  22. s-lpz says:

    In regards to the “vote” for proposed callings, I have a story to tell. Back in the mid 90s I was in a Sacrament meeting when the name of our new bishop was presented. Based on some very unpleasant experiences with this man when he was our home teacher and deeply believing that he might be verbally abusive to ward members in this new calling, I made the choice to not raise my hand in support. I also chose not to raise it in opposition. I essentially refrained from voting.

    About 6 weeks later my husband and I were called into the stake president’s office. First he talked to my husband alone, and then me with my husband present (if that isn’t sexist right there). He told me that someone in our congregation reported to him that I hadn’t voted in support and that he was calling me to repentance and was prepared to take my temple recommend if I didn’t say I sustained the new bishop. I asked him why he waited so long (6 weeks) and he answered that he was waiting for me to come in on my own. I can promise you that I had no plans to do anything of the sort. I eeked out a very wimpy comment of support for the new bishop, one that didn’t make me feel too compromising of my values. It was good enough for him.

    It turned out that the bishop was verbally abusive to ward members, myself included. After one very abusive encounter when he arrived at my home unannounced and told me to send my kids outside so he could talk to me, I turned to a member of the stake presidency (not the president) who supported me and requested that the bishop apologize to me. From that time on, I only met with the bishop with another person present (usually the RS prez).

    So, I don’t actually call it a “vote.” It’s a rubber stamping ceremony, and by golly, you better vote in the affirmative, or else.

  23. Justin says:

    s-plz: Amazing story. Thank you for sharing it. It is very telling indeed.

  24. css says:

    Caroline this is an amazing post with a fascinating example of the gender inequality we face every single day in the church that goes unnoticed and yet causes great proximate and ultimate damage.

    I think the conversation has been usurped a little. This post wasn’t about submission, it was about gender-neutral callings that would benefit the entire congregation being approached through a male biased hierarchy. This post communicates to me that your leaders do not think a) female leaders are important in the community, b) that female members are not “good”, “powerful”, “prestigious” (idk) enough to meet with these community leaders and make their own connections with them, and c) that women leaders in the community and in this calling do not have the power to affect the reputation or help/hinder the church on their own! All of which are extremely problematic!

    This stance reeks of historical and cultural relativity and I’m sure no one in those callings (even feminist males) probably recognizes and/or tries to change the problem. It is just so sad….

  25. s-lpz says:

    Excellent points, css. Thanks for adding your comments.

  1. January 25, 2011

    […] [from the-exponent blog] once asked me: In your ideal world, I’d assume there is no church outside of the family unit.  […]

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