My Husband's Rise in Church Hierarchy: Thoughts on Being the One Left Behind


A couple of weeks ago, my husband Mike was called to be ward clerk. (I know that doesn’t sound that exciting, but in our ward, a clerk is treated much like a couselor.) I have mixed feelings about it, to say the least. On the one hand, my uber-responsible husband will do a good job and will have opportunities to give thoughtful and sensitive advice to our huge oversized ward’s bishopric. On the other… he’s rising out of a realm of church service in which we can share and discuss everything. I’m sad about this. One of the things I treasure most in our relationship is the fact that we communicate so openly.

In the past, as a gospel doctrine teacher, Mike would often go over his lessons with me beforehand and ask for and incorporate my advice. Likewise as ward employment specialist, he would ask my opinion and talk about some of the people he was helping. In some ways I felt like we were a team with some of these callings. The same went for my own callings, as Mike would come with me every Sunday and help me teach primary kids or give me his opinions on my humanitarian calling.

Now it’s a whole different ballgame. Mike will be gone three or four hours before church starts every single Sunday. (I’m bummed we won’t have Sunday mornings together and that he won’t be around then to help me with our baby that will be born in a month.) And of course, I’m also sad that we won’t be able to share the same types of things we have in the past. He’ll be in meetings for hours talking about how people can help those most in need in our ward. And from now on, he won’t be able to share these things with me, in the interests of protecting people’s privacy. I understand the reason for this and all, but it’s still sad to know that a part of him, a part that will be consumed in a lot of emotional effort and time, will be cut off from me.

I haven’t thought this out deeply, but I suppose in my ideal world husbands and wives could share (leadership) callings. I’ve often thought this would be great. Spouses could work together to serve people in the ward. They could trade off so that one wasn’t always stuck taking care of the kids. Over-extended men who work 80 hours a week could share their church service burden with a wife who very possibly has much more flexible time to serve. Women with children could step away from that role and really feel like they were contributing in another extremely important realm. Members of the ward could choose to counsel with either the husband or wife, depending on who they were most comfortable with. This seems like a winning idea to me.

What do you all think about my ideal world calling scenario?

And moving back to the real world, I was wondering how other women whose husband’s have been in leadership callings have dealt with this. Was it lonely for you? Difficult? Did your husbands find ways of solliciting your opinion and advice, without betraying anyone’s privacy?

Or, if your husband has not been in such a position, how do you think you would deal with it? Also, have any of you women in leadership positions had spouses that struggled with the time, effort, and perhaps silence that accompanied some of your callings?

Caroline

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

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  1. AmyB says:

    Since the ideal mormon woman is dead, I can own up to my not-so-ideal feelings. I must admit to feeling resentful for a lot of the time that DH is away from me to fulfill his calling. When he’s actually out helping people, I don’t feel so bad. I even like to come along and help. But when he is in endless meetings, I’m not so happy.

    I have had similar thoughts about callings being team callings in which husbands and wives serve together. I would love to see bishop, stake president, GA, especially prophet be callings made to a husband/wife unit where each partner contributes and carries the responsibility and has power. I don’t know if that is ideal, because singles would continue to be marginalized, but I think it’s better than what we have now.

  2. Caroline says:

    AmyB,
    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles with this:) I share your concern about the singles and those married to “neighbors” as well. Right after I posted I had to run, but I immediately thought “doh! My ideal plan would leave out the singles.” So there would have to be a way to also incorporate those without spouses in the church. Very possible, I think. They would simply have the same burden that leaders now are dealing with.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had both, a husband who was in Bishoprics and Stake Presidency and myself in R.S. presidencies both Ward and Stake. We share what we could, sometimes leaving out the identifying information and we both tried to include our spouse as much as possible. Did I sometimes wish my husband was with me more? Yes. Did my husband sometimes resent the time I spent on my callings? Yes. Now we share a calling (senior missionary couple) and that too has problems. It’s not always nice to watch someone choose to go to your spouse for info etc. when you think you could help as well or better.:) I have decided that we need to learn to handle the problems and make the best of all situations. I’m not sure your scenario of shared power, in reality, works as well as it sounds on paper but then, we can always dream.

  4. Stephen says:

    uber-responsible husband

    will make a perfect ward clerk. They will be glad of him.

  5. cchrissyy says:

    I actually hope neither of us ever has a career or calling that requires confidentiality. For now, we may not even be able to accept it. Due to life experience fatcors, we have a policy of 100% openness and no secrets or barriers in any realm, and it is working very happily for us.
    Hopefully such a call won’t come unless our set up is changed, or has outlived its purpose. but I rather like it and tend towards believing all marriages would ideally be unified in this way…

  6. Eve says:

    Caroline, thanks for a post that touches on so many vital issues concerning marriage and confidentiality. My husband’s a psychologist, so this is something we’ve long had to deal with in his professional life. (And he was a ward clerk for a while when we lived in a very small branch, where confidentiality was especially vital because we all knew each other. There was no way my husband could describe a situation to me–even without names, I would have known instantly who he was talking about.)

    When my husband started grad school and started seeing clients, I remember something the clinical supervisor said at the initial orientation meeting about patient confidentiality and relationships. Her suggestion was that it was important for couples to develop strong bonds and common threads of conversation in other areas when one partner can’t ethically share certain aspects of his or her work. It was a little weird at first, but I’m completely used to it now, largely because my husband’s very open with me about who he is and what he’s feeling and thinking, even if there are details he can’t get into. So he’ll tell me about his successes and frustrations at work and various ideas he has about changing things and some situations he’s faced with clients, without any identifying details, of course. He’s done a good job at never making me feel left out of his life.

    I can see, though, that especially when you’re so used to sharing your callings and working on them together that could be tough. And in my limited experience, a ward clerk has to be a lot more tight-lipped than even a counselor because while I don’t know any of the people my husband works with at work, I do know the people in our ward.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My husband was called as ward clerk right before I had my second. I have to say there were ugly moments when I felt abandoned and alone with two little people on Sunday. I am sure you will have these moments, but other times it felt wonderful to be alone with my two babies on sabbath. After church I would just make PBJ’s and nap with them. Keep things simple.

    Good Luck!

  8. Cincinattus says:

    Interestingly, in the early twentieth century, it was common practice for the Relief Society (then a much more robust and active organization) president to be the wife of the Bishop. Rhetorically, bishops were referred to as “father of the ward” of the ward, and relief society presidents as “mother of the ward”.

  9. annegb says:

    Bill was on the high council for five years and put right into a bishopric after that for three years, in the college stake.

    I loved it, because he has a really hard time relaxing and he always ruined my Sundays because he’d be cleaning or something.

    So for eight years I had wonderful quiet peaceful Sunday mornings (no little kids, whole different story). Then he got released and now he’s back to driving me crazy.

    I let him cook on Sundays to give him something to do.

  10. Caroline says:

    Stephen,
    That’s what I’m afraid of most. They’ll love him and peg him for even more intense leadership callings. ugh.

    Cchryssy,
    I’m with you. I really hoped neither of us would ever have leadership callings (unless they were joint.)

    Eve, Wow, you really have to deal with this issue on a daily basis. I’m glad you’ve found ways to communicate that protect confidentiality but also share feelings, ideas, frustrations, etc. Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same.

    Anonymous,
    Thanks for being so open about the ugly moments. I’m sure I’ll have those as well, but I hope I’ll also have those moments you speak of of enjoying my time alone with my baby.

    Cincinattus,
    Ahh, the good ol’ days. I love the idea of a husband and wife together really caring for a congregation. Though I realize that there may be problems with concentrating that much power within one family in the ward. (But still overall sounds cool to me.)

  11. Dora says:

    Hmmm … I’m torn. On the one hand, I can see how it would be lonely for you to spend more time alone with the new baby. However, I can also see how Mike would be great in just about any calling. Even more specifically, he would be able to act as a wonderful ambassador between the conservative (from what I’ve heard) bishopric and the more liberal members of your ward.

    I really love the idea of partnered callings. I’m sure there are many who would object … there are a number of things that women with children at home are not allowed to do (work in the temple, teach institute, etc) … but I would think it would be a great way to encourage unity in a marriage and home.

  12. Jamey says:

    I think shared leadership callings would be a total disaster. Not only would it not promote privacy, It would cause tension between the partners.
    I for one would not want my situations being discussed over the dinner table by a well meaning couple.

    The idea of 100% honesty and openness does not sit well with me. Caroline and cchrissyy, are you saying that if I took you into my confidence and told you something that I requested you keep private – that you would tell your husbands? Or would you stop me first and say “if you tell me this, Ill talk about it with my husband”. What do you do in this situation?

  13. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    It gets worse, Jamey. Our ex-bish felt that his wife was a third councilor. He told her EVERYTHING. She can’t keep her mouth shut. The youth in the ward refused to talk to this bish, because he would tell his wife and she would tell the ward.

    When I was bish, I was glad to be able to come home and talk about non-church related things with my DW. I could tell that sometimes it was difficult for her when I couldn’t tell her who I was going to see. I’m glad that I’ve lived so that she can trust me.

  14. Caroline says:

    Jamey,
    How do you feel shared leadership callings would cause tension?

    I still like the idea quite a bit. After all, the bishop discusses people’s situations with his counselors (and prob ex sec and clerk, not to mention ward council and ward welfare) all the time, in order to try to brainstorm ways to best help someone. I don’t see how that is any different than a bishop counseling with his partner/wife. If you were struggling with something (depression, ill health, etc.) and your bishop brought you up in a bishopric meeting, would that be an invasion of your privacy as well?

    Certain confessional things probably would need to be kept confidential, even with spousal shared callings, and I’m ok with that. I still love the idea of a member being able to choose which person to counsel with, depending on whom they felt most comfortable with.

    Floyd,
    Clearly the situation you describe is bad. I don’t see anything wrong with the idea of a bishop treating a wife as a 3rd counselor (I would love for the church to move in that direction), but it’s clearly bad news if she or some other counselor can’t keep his or her mouth shut. That’s totally out of line.

  15. EmilyCC says:

    This is an intriguing idea, Caroline. I agree it does get a little tricky for those w/o a spouse. Then again, I also think the couple approach would be good to alternate with one person holding the calling–depending on the needs of the ward and the individuals beind called.

    As for preparing for the future, (do you really only have a month left? hooray! I figure that ninth month of pregnancy had me so miserable that I was prepared to do ANYTHING to get that baby out!)…

    …anyway, in our last ward, we both had big time commitment callings and a brand new baby. We took Asher to the meetings. We figured if we’re a church that puts family first, people shouldn’t mind having Asher there. And, they didn’t. In fact, another guy regularly brought two babies to PCC on mornings when his wife had a rough night and needed to sleep in. How cool is that?

  16. Anonymous says:

    “After all, the bishop discusses people’s situations with his counselors (and prob ex sec and clerk, not to mention ward council and ward welfare)”

    I dont know where you got that idea, but it really isnt true. Anything that the bishop discusses one on one with a member is almost never brought up with counselors – or anyone else – and shouldnt be.

    There are of course welfare issues at times, and perhaps some general talk about what is going on with members of the ward, but private conversations with the Bishop are rarely shared with councilors.

  17. Dave says:

    Sorry, dont know why that last comment called me anonymous. I must have messed up.

    Conversations in leadership meetings may very well concern ward members. But it is usually about well known issues that anyone who knows the person could easily see for themselves.

    Private conversations with the Bishop – regardless of topic – are in my experience* hardly ever talked about.

    * I have 8 years of experience in 3 different bishoprics all across the country.

  18. Michelle says:

    My husband recently served for about a year in the bishopric, and I was worried about the same sorts of issues. I felt left behind with the kids (esp when the stake president told me to get used to sitting with them by myself), worried about what the calling would do for his spiritual growth while I didn’t have the same kind of opportunites, and wondered what part of his life I wouldn’t get to share with him.

    He was released from that calling when we moved, and overall, I felt like it was really a gentle introduction to a leadership position for our family. We talked regularly about what was going on in the ward, and he shared a great deal with me. I gave suggestions for callings and heard about what was discussed in leadership meetings. There was very little information that he couldn’t share with me. (I think that would generally be the case, except for the bishop, who would have a lot more confidential information.) I was very careful to not share anything I learned from him with others, and felt like I was able to contribute to his magnifying his calling.

    It also felt great to have an advocate in the bishopric who had listened to my endless tirades about women in the church, had struggled through a great many “female” issues with me, and was overall very sensitive to women’s experiences and feelings. He did a wonderful job working with the primary and adding a distinctive point of view to meetings, and I felt like I was a big reason why he was familiar with and concerned about those issues. We need men in leadership who are sensitive and aware of unique struggles that women in the church face, and I’m sure your husband will also bring that viewpoint.

    And, this year’s mother day talks were the best I’ve ever heard. He assigned the topics: “What being a mother has taught me about the atonement,” gives by an experienced mother of six, and “motherhood and discipleship,” given by a new mother in law school.

  19. mullingandmusing says:

    My understanding is that mission pres. and wives can discuss everything in the mission freely, so there’s an example of a more shared calling.

    As for the situations where that is not appropriate, I tend to think about the issue of sacrifice and how it can come into play. Yeah, it can be rough having hubby gone a lot (mine was called into a bishopric three weeks after we got married), and I’ve never been one to like secrets, but sacrifice is part of the gospel, and maybe this is an example of one of those situations where that comes into play. (Imagine the early days of the Church when husbands would leave for years at a time on missions!!) Family is important, but it’s not always the trump card, at least not always in the way we think it should be. (I’m thinking, for example, of senior couples who leave the “family first” life to serve, and, by so doing, bless their family.)

  20. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your input, Dave. Yes, that is my impression too: private conversations with bishops, particularly regarding sensitive things like repentence or marital problems, are kept pretty confidential.

    But from what I understand about how ward welfare, ward council and bishopric meetings work (at least in my area) people’s situations are discussed ALL THE TIME. In fact, that is what they spend most of their time doing in these meetings. Trying to figure out how to help this person who is struggling, that person who is depressed, this person who doesn’t have enough food or money, etc.
    But like you said, these are things that close friends would know about the person being discussed, and I’m sure that often these people/situations are brought up by people other than the bishop.

    But anyway, back to my original point. If a leader can discuss something with his counselors or ward welfare, I think he should also be free to bounce things off his wife, who may very well have some great insight and advice. My opinion, of course.

    I suppose I’m advocating – as a first step – something similar to what mission presidents practice. They are told to use their wife as their counselor, and that to me sounds like a calling that could really bond and unite a couple, as they work together to help their missionaries.

  21. Caroline says:

    Emily,
    Yes, I’m sick of being pregnant! Can’t wait to get this sucker out of me.

    Glad to hear you guys took Asher to your meetings. I think I’ll be advocating that for Mike sometimes…

    Michelle, sounds like you had a great situation with your husband. I love the fact that he discussed practically everything with you. Awesome opportunity for him to get your advice and insight, and you to feel like you were helping him with his calling. This gives me hope. (Though my husband, unfortunately, tends to be very cautious about such things and will probably be much more tight-lipped. The man won’t even tell me what goes on in his faculty meetings sometimes because he doesn’t want to “gossip”:( )

    Mulling,
    You got there right before I did regarding mission presidents.

    I can see how some would find the idea of sacrifice compelling and valid, and I’m glad that perspective has worked for you. Personally it doesn’t do as much for me when it comes down to potentially harming a marital relationship. Thank goodness Mike ultimately feels the same. He’s told me that if this position is really going to hurt our relationship, he’ll ask to be released. Hopefully it won’t come to that though.

  22. mullingandmusing says:

    I can see how some would find the idea of sacrifice compelling and valid, and I’m glad that perspective has worked for you. Personally it doesn’t do as much for me when it comes down to potentially harming a marital relationship.

    I was musing out loud re: the sacrifice concept. My hubby is one of the tight-lipped types, so he often chooses to keep his mouth quiet and sometimes that drives me crazy. 🙂 So, it’s not that I don’t understand or relate to what you are saying. I do!

    That said, saying that a calling could harm a marital relationship because there may be some things that can’t be shared seems a little extreme to me. Some of that can be dealt with by just adjusting expectations (easier said than done, I know…remember, I’ve been there!) But it sounds like you guys will be able to figure out something that works for you, and can still allow him to keep confidences when necessary. And for the things you do get a glimpse of, you will have the blessing of being able to know who may need some extra love and support.
    Good luck with it all! 🙂

  23. John says:

    Caroline, I don’t mean this as a rhetorical question (you know that we’re on the same page as far as women and the priesthood is concerned), but I’m curious: I’ve never heard you want to be involved in Mike’s career work. There he has a position of authority and power. I assume he spends more time and energy on this work and the people there. What makes your attitudes towards the two so different?

  24. Caroline says:

    Thanks Mulling. I’m sure it will all work out. And it’s not simply the fact that Mike won’t be able to tell me what’s going on – it’s also a time issue. I’m selfishly used to having him around a lot, and I like it that way 🙂

    John,
    Interesting question. First of all, my response is that I do feel involved in Mike’s career. He has me read and critique every introduction to a paper he writes (sometimes more than the intro) and he always tells me about his paper ideas and models he’s creating. He’s good at leaving out a lot of the technical language, so I have a good idea of what he’s talking about. He also tells me about the grad students he’s helping, the faculty who just got paper rejections, etc. I feel like I have a pretty good handle of what he does at work, who he’s interacting with, etc. though occassionally he’ll clam up about faculty meeting in which people are being difficult or unfair (doesn’t want me to have a bad opinion of them.)

    But aside from that, I suppose another thing that bothers me about Mike’s rise in hierarchy at church is that that is an organization in which we are both members and both involved. Whereas work really is his own domain. So it does bother me more to think of Mike having these experiences there that I can’t be a part of, when I am also an equal member of the organization. In my ideal church world, i suppose, neither of us would have callings that require confidentiality or excessive amounts of time away from home. Instead we would have callings we could share and work on togther.

    Or another option I’d be happier with would be allowing women to have similar positions in the hierarchy. That way we could assume that even if at one point one of us had a time-consuming, confidentiality-requiring calling, the other would probably also have one at some point too. So things like child care and the other picking up the slack would balance out in the end.

  25. AmyB says:

    “We need men in leadership who are sensitive and aware of unique struggles that women in the church face.”

    I agree with this, but even more I would love to see women in leadership, because they have first-hand experience and an additional perspective to add.

    I’d also add a point to John’s question about work and church, that work is something for which the husband is paid, and it adds tangible support to the family. Church callings do nothing of the sort, and cut into family time. Comparing feelings about church callings to work positions seems to me to be a bit like apples and oranges.

  26. Dave says:

    “Or another option I’d be happier with would be allowing women to have similar positions in the hierarchy. “

    I dont understand how you cant think being in the RS Presidency isnt an equally difficult, private, and time consuming calling. All the RS Presidents I know spend as much time at it as the Bishop or the EQP.

    As to this comment:
    “work is something for which the husband is paid, and it adds tangible support to the family. Church callings do nothing of the sort, and cut into family time.”

    In my life, the blessings I have gotten from performing a time consuming calling the best I could (even though some family time was cut into) have been worth alot more than a paycheck. You definately get “paid” for having and performing any calling – just not in dollars.

    I find that there is a great deal of time wasted in almost everyone’s life. If I stop sitting on my butt watching some dumb tv show for 30 minutes a day, and work on my calling, no time away from my family is lost. Time I usually waste is lost.

    In every case, when I have had what is considered a time consuming calling, I have been blessed to be able to accomplish more, and spend more time with my family than when I had less intensive callings.

    Dave

  27. Caroline says:

    Dave,
    I do not in any way deny that being a RS president is time consuming, difficult and stressful. But let’s face it, it’s not the same as being a bishop. She doesn’t deal with church discipline, she doesn’t counsel couples regarding marital problems, she doesn’t deal with repentence issues, she doesn’t get to church three hours before it starts every single Sunday, she doesn’t have to attend Young men’s/young women’s activities every Tuesday night, she doesn’t have have to go to priesthood leadership meetings, she doesn’t make very many autonomous decisions – most have to be approved by the bishop, etc.

    It’s just not in the same league, though it’s a great service opportunity. Too bad there aren’t more opportunities like that (and ones involving more autonomy) for women in the church. I think we all know women who would be fantastic bishops and stake presidents (not to mention general authorities).

  28. RoAnn says:

    Wow, I feel very out of step with most of the attitudes and feelings being expressed on this thread. Maybe that comes from being one of the “older generation.” 🙂

    My husband was in a bishopric when we got married, and at various times after that he has had leadership positions which have involved some keeping of confidences, and being away from family for meetings, etc. I often sat alone with our young children while he was up on the stand. But I never felt to complain, because I have always sincerely believed that our family received great blessings for his service. I truly was happy to support him; just as he supported me when I had demanding callings. We know that joy and satisfaction can come from helping others to accomplish great things, even if we are not the ones in the limelight. During the course of a long marriage, both partners usually have opportunities to play leading roles before an audience, and to be members of the essential backstage crew.

    Re partnered callings: Although we often sought advice from one another for our callings, I had no desire to share his callings with him; and, frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted to have him share mine. Even in a very close marriage, I liked the idea of having some areas of stewardship that were separate.

    I know that many young women seem to bristle at the seemingly un-feminist sounding concept of “supporting our husbands.” But, perhaps because of the sacrifice aspect mullingandmusing mentioned, I saw our marriage grow stronger as my husband served in leadership positions. We grew closer, and we grew spiritually in tandem, even though only one of us had the calling.

    In reading about Sister Marjorie Hinckley, can anyone doubt that she was an intelligent, wise, strong woman who was equally yoked to a man who became the prophet of the Lord? President Hinckley is serious when he says that he owes a huge debt of gratitude to his wife. As far as I know, no man is called nowadays to be a stake or mission president, a Seventy or an apostle, unless he has a faithful and supportive wife. (Just as no woman is called to a general presidency of an auxiliary without a supportive husband.)The wife doesn’t share the title, but she knows she is part of the reason her husband was called; and she can definitely find happiness in being the wind beneath his wings.

  29. mullingandmusing says:

    In my life, the blessings I have gotten from performing a time consuming calling the best I could (even though some family time was cut into) have been worth alot more than a paycheck. You definately get “paid” for having and performing any calling – just not in dollars.

    Beautifully said.

    We know that joy and satisfaction can come from helping others to accomplish great things, even if we are not the ones in the limelight. During the course of a long marriage, both partners usually have opportunities to play leading roles before an audience, and to be members of the essential backstage crew.

    Yes! Isn’t this what marriage is about? Give and take, back and forth — working as a team, supporting each other along the way. These are also opportunities for a marriage to grow.

  30. mullingandmusing says:

    One other thing I think is important in all of this is to try to get over the thought that “higher in the church heirarchy=better.” It’s hard in our world not to think of callings being a sort of competition or validation of righteousness or whatever, but we need to remember that regardless of the calling, we are all important to the work. A bishop can be released and be called as a nursery leader. On the flip side, we have had apostles called from the lay membership without any “rise” in the heirarchy. We just serve where we are called. Even without formal callings, there is *much* we can do in our families and wards to further the work. I think we need to think beyond “levels” and remember that a person doesn’t need a leadership position to do good, to make an impact, to serve in the kingdom. We aren’t in competition with each other; I think trying to change callings to be what we think they “should” be misses the point of what service is about. (Incidentally, I’m very grateful that women don’t have callings like bishop, etc.!!!)

  31. mullingandmusing says:

    OK, one more thing. I read back over my comment about my husband who is good at keeping confidences and I think it may have come across wrong. It is hard for me when he knows something I don’t, especially because I like to know where needs are so I can be sensitive and reach out to help where possible. But I also respect the fact that he guards confidences. If I were to share something with my bishop in confidence, I would not want to feel uncomfortable around his wife, concerned he had shared information with her. There is important value in keeping things confidential. I suppose if I ever get in that situation, I can do better than I have by simply praying for those whom I don’t know are struggling, and pray for my husband as he carries those burdens.

    I think it probably helps to remember, too, that callings come and go; it will only be for a time and then new callings will come. I think part of the blessing that can come from this is we learn to adapt and be flexible and to work together, regardless of the specifics of our lives.

    Sheesh, I’m in ramble mode today….Sorry. I’ll stop now. 🙂

  32. AmyB says:

    “(Incidentally, I’m very grateful that women don’t have callings like bishop, etc.!!!)”

    Why? It’s one thing to say you wouldn’t personally want that calling . . . maybe that’s what you meant . . . but I don’t see anything inherent in having a Y chromosome that would make someone a better bishop than someone with two X’s or any reason at all that a woman couldn’t be an excellent bishop.

  33. Tam says:

    …”higher in the church heirarchy=better.”

    I don’t know what is meant by “better,” but hierarchy in the church is accepted by the members to mean more powerful, more authoritative, and more spiritual. This is why we sing, “We thank Thee oh God for a Prophet” rather than “We thank Thee oh God for the ward librarian” (I mean, aside from the fact that it wouldn’t fit the music 🙂

    …“A bishop can be released and be called as a nursery leader.”

    But he is still a bishop. Although not called to act as bishop for the ward, his ordination to that office remains intact and it is still appropriate to call him “bishop” for the rest of his life.

    …“I think we need to think beyond “levels” and remember that a person doesn’t need a leadership position to do good, to make an impact, to serve in the kingdom.”

    I think mullings, that there is some wisdom in what you say. The difficulty, however, is that it’s hard not to think of levels when you are told that you will NEVER be allowed in the “upper” levels. As you pointed out, men can serve as bishop or ward nursery leaders – they can serve at all levels. The same is not true for women and many of us feel uncomfortable to be denied service at certain levels, or to have the levels we are allowed to serve in be considered less powerful.

    I guess some women like, or at least don’t mind being presided over at church and/or in their homes. I don’t have a problem with that as long as such women are being honest with themselves and are truly comfortable. But other women are not comfortable with always being presided over and I think there is a viable reason for that.

  34. mullingandmusing says:

    I don’t see anything inherent in having a Y chromosome that would make someone a better bishop than someone with two X’s or any reason at all that a woman couldn’t be an excellent bishop.

    Except that God has designed that calling for men. 🙂 My comment was more personal (I have no desire to be a RS pres., either), but I also firmly believe in the order of things being God’s will, so I am glad because I think He knows what is best. I also don’t think that has any reflection on what He thinks about His daughters. I’m disturbed by what appears to be a need to get validation of God’s love based on what we do or don’t do in the Church. Think of the body of Christ scripture in the NT. We are all important to the work, men and women, regardless of calling. We *all* contribute to making the body of Christ work.

  35. mullingandmusing says:

    Tam,
    Your comment gets exactly to what I am concerned about. I’m not saying it’s easy to change, but I see a problem in thinking in terms of “rising” in a heirarchy (implying that higher is better), or thinking of positions as “power.” Frankly, I wouldn’t want someone who wants a position (women included) for the sake of having “power” or “authority” to have it, because often, such a person, I suspect, would often want that calling for the wrong reasons, and would easily abuse that position. I would think that nearly anyone who really understands service, humility and the WORK that is involved usually doesn’t aspire to anything — indeed, doesn’t want any type of leadership position (but, of course, will accept one if called). They are willing to serve howeveer and wherever, and, on the flip side, to support those who happen to have positions “over” them. (Even the Savior always deferred to His Father, allowing Him to preside.) I realize it can be extremely difficult to root the natural man view of heirarchy out of our thinking (competition, “promotions,” merit-based reward systems, “levels” etc. — I’m a business person by training, so I know that can be hard), but, IMO, we can’t have a healthy view of the Church or of ourselves (in line with God’s view) without putting on a different pair of glasses. The ultimate goal is not to rise in the heirarchy and to have “power.” That’s missing the mark. The goal is to become like God and return to live with Him again. We can do that regardless of what specific positions we hold. There is SO much more to our existence (and especially to our relationship with and value to God) than just what callings we hold.

  36. Caroline says:

    Mulling, Tam, Amyb, I’m enjoying the exchange and appreciate your perspectives. You all know where I stand, so I won’t say much more.

    But I will respond to mulling by saying that I too am uncomfortable with people (men or women) who aspire to power because they want to control and coerce things/people. However, what about people who want to be available for certain positions because they desperately want to serve and help people in particular ways? I think it’s perfectly legitimate and even noble for a woman to desire the priesthood because she wants to love and serve her fellow humans in ways only available currently to priesthood holders. I also think it’s legitimate for a person to want such leadership opportunities to be available to others. I, for instance, don’t personally want to be bishop, but I would love it if the position were open for some of the spiritual, strong, wise women I know.

    As for God setting it up this way (only men having priesthood and therefore influence and power in the institutional church)…. I’m not convinced of that yet. I think there’s something called institutional inertia that may be coming into play. When our church was founded, women weren’t clergy. And that cultural artifact could very well have simply stuck with our institution. I wouldn’t be surprised if things changed someday. After all, blacks did get the priesthood, and Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith probably would never have thought that a possibility.

  37. mullingandmusing says:

    However, what about people who want to be available for certain positions because they desperately want to serve and help people in particular ways? I think it’s perfectly legitimate and even noble for a woman to desire the priesthood because she wants to love and serve her fellow humans in ways only available currently to priesthood holders.

    OK, I understand what you are saying. The explanations I have heard thus far, however, have been more about not liking to be presided over, about not wanting “less powerful” positions, etc. and being worried about levels, so I’m not sure that is always the motivation.

    That said, while I understand the concept, in practice, I’m not sure how legitimate this argument really is. Can you give me some examples of specific kinds of service that women desperately want to give that is limited by their not having priesthood? (Please leave the “give blessings” thing out of the discussion, however, because that could be a big threadjack discussion that I don’t particularly want to have, and isn’t related to Church position, which is part of the argument you gave.) Just want to understand a little better what you are thinking….

  38. mullingandmusing says:

    p.s. I appreciate you letting me participate in the discussion even though I know we see things differently. I appreciate when that kind of kind dialogue can happen. If I ever say something that isn’t kind, please let me know. 🙂

  39. Tam says:

    Mullings, I don’t think our positions are that disparate. I agree with you that validating our worth in what we do or by what positions attained in a hierarchy is problematic. But it’s difficult to eliminate that kind of thinking when you’re told you’re always “under” the authority of someone else (or that you’re always “over” someone). Members of the church are placed in a position to ALWAYS think in hierarchical terms. I would like for there to be a balance in power and authority between men and women so that we can do just what you suggest, to “…root the natural man view of hierarchy out of our thinking…”

    An increasing number of LDS women are dissatisfied with the way things are, and I don’t think the motivation is for power over other people or to rise in the hierarchy. I think many feel at their core that something isn’t quite right. They want to do just what you said it’s all about (again we’re in agreement), “…to become like God and return to live with Him again.” The motivation is to reach out to God, but many women feel that our hierarchical society places limits how far we can reach. I don’t think we can say that that is a faithless or unrighteous position – it’s simply another perspective and one, I think, that has merit.

    Caroline, I think you and I are in sync on this point: “As for God setting it up this way (only men having priesthood and therefore influence and power in the institutional church)…. I’m not convinced of that yet…” I have an idea I’ve been kicking around. God says he establishes his word in the mouth of two or three witness. It just might be that we have only one witness as to the events after the fall – Moses (who I think is a great guy, by the way). All of Christianity relies on Moses’ account in Genesis for the Adam and Eve story. We have an additional source in the BOM – but…hmmm…where did they get their information? The brass plates of Laban, which include the books of Moses. Thus, their source was also Moses. We also have the revealed book of Moses, which adds in wonderful new information, but that still is Moses’ understanding of events. One witness.

    It’s curious that the Book of Abraham (a potential second witness), stops abruptly before the Fall. It seems likely, given the differences in Moses’ and Abraham’s accounts regarding the creation story, that there would be differences in their accounts of the Fall and the events that transpired after. Why were we not given the information? Or better yet, why wasn’t the Book of Adam revealed to Joseph Smith? What aren’t we ready to hear?

    Well, as I said, just some ideas to kick around and there’s probably lots of ways to interpret them. What I love about God is that He lets us puzzle these things out and this is a great forum to do it in.

    Arghhh, I’m ready to post and then mullings makes another comment I want to respond to. This is getting loooong.

    “…Can you give me some examples of specific kinds of service that women desperately want to give that is limited by their not having priesthood?” It isn’t necessarily about not having the priesthood. It’s about priesthood leaders who have power over us telling us what we can and can’t do. For example, sisters used to give powerful and wonderful blessings, similar to washings and anointings, to pregnant women. The RS sisters did not want to stop this practice but were told to by those that had power and authority over them. When things like this happen, many women feel that their wings have been clipped and that their avenues of service have been limited. Or that they’re left behind (just a nifty little comment to tie this back into the original post)

    Mullings, your presentation of ideas is always kind – I hope I come across that way as well..

  40. Caroline says:

    Mulling, I also appreciate the opportunity we’re having to exchange ideas, though coming from different perspectives. I think you’ve been quite respectful.

    “Can you give me some examples of specific kinds of service that women desperately want to give that is limited by their not having priesthood?”

    I know a few Mormon women who have felt a real call to minister to others. To counsel people, to pray with and bless people, to help people repent and understand more fully God’s love, to innovatively lead, direct, and inspire a congregation. Some of this can be done (with other women) within our institutional church if one happens to be called to be RS president or more informally as a VT or friend.

    But not all of it is really open for Mormon women. Having the institutional legitimacy to counsel and help people repent or to make decisions about the direction of a congregation is really something only open to a bishop, stake president, etc. So some of these Mormon women friends of mine have chosen to earn theology degrees and use their talents as hospital or military chaplains. One of them has now become inactive because she has felt so institutionally stifled (and this is a woman who had been a RS president, but had a very negative experience since the bishop wouldn’t listen to her or other women.) This is so sad to me. She is a wonderful, caring, spiritual person, but just couldn’t endure her own institutional powerlessness to truly help and nurture others in ways she knew she should. The Church is much the poorer for loosing her.

    Anyway, as for not liking being presided over, I’m actually a realist on that topic. An institution must have leaders. (aside: A family is an ENTIRELY different matter). In order to best help and understand all members, I just want my leaders to come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and I think that necessitates there being some women in the picture.

  41. Caroline says:

    Tam,
    I agree that some of the hierarchy (i.e. patriarchy) in the church can make some women feel stifled and hurt, and this can indeed hinder their relationship to God. I myself really struggle with how the temple presents my relationship to God as being mediated by my husband, whereas his relationship to God, according to that covenant, has nothing to do with me. This has hurt me terribly and has damaged my relationship with God. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have been able to regard that “hearken” part of that covenant as a cultural relic from a Victorian past, and therefore move beyond some of the hurt and distance I felt towards God. (This conclusion really angers some people, but it’s what has allowed me to survive in this Church.)

    Interesting ideas about there only being one witness after the fall, and therefore part of the story being missing/skewed. I myself regard that Adam and Eve story as symbolic and probably not representative of actual events. I tend to think of the story as rich in symbolism, lessons, and morals, but I have no trouble at all believing that a healthy dose of cultural misogyny also was inserted in. Indeed I think it would be virtually impossible for even the most inspired of prophets to separate himself so completely from his cultural milieu and not add in some strong patriarchal elements.

    Thanks for all your ideas and comments. I’m enjoying them. 🙂

  42. mullingandmusing says:

    Having the institutional legitimacy to counsel and help people repent or to make decisions about the direction of a congregation is really something only open to a bishop, stake president, etc.

    Something that I find interesting about this is that this opportunity isn’t open to a ton of men, either. MOST of us are “limited” institutionally in this regard. That’s just built into the structure when only one man is called every 5-10 years in local units.

    One of them has now become inactive because she has felt so institutionally stifled (and this is a woman who had been a RS president, but had a very negative experience since the bishop wouldn’t listen to her or other women.)

    This is a sad example, because that is not the institution that stifled her, but an individual who didn’t understand the way things are supposed to be. When a bishop understands his role, this does not happen, and women have plenty of room to fly.

    However, I do think some of this is a matter of perspective, too. When we focus on what we don’t have, sometimes that is all we see.

    Also, think about it logically. Even if women held positions like bishop, stake pres., etc., the likelihood of someone like you mentioned (a woman who wants a calling like that) actually getting a calling like that is quite small. We are still left with the problem that we don’t sign up for callings. We can’t apply for positions, so our aptitude or desires or hopes have little to no bearing on what our callings are. It seems that the best solution is just to be grateful for the opportunities to serve that do come and to look for ways to serve that don’t require a calling (which are plentiful). I still think that when we want a calling and make that our focus, we are missing the mark.

  43. Juliann says:

    I’d be grateful to have a husband who was around a few *minutes* a day. Mine died and left me alone with a four year old. I’m not saying this to imply that concerns being expressed are not real and are not important. I’m just saying that sometimes perspective is everything. 😉

  44. mullingandmusing says:

    Juliann,
    My heart goes out to you. Indeed, a little bit of perspective goes a long way.
    God bless you.

  45. AmyB says:

    “Something that I find interesting about this is that this opportunity isn’t open to a ton of men, either. MOST of us are “limited” institutionally in this regard. That’s just built into the structure when only one man is called every 5-10 years in local units.”

    I look at this from a different angle. It’s not that I want to aspire to any certain calling. It’s more that I would like to see both women and men in positions of leadership. I attended a Buddhist service a little while ago, and the monk who led most of the service was a woman. It felt so good to me.

    What I hope for is not more power for myself, but for more women’s voices to be in decision-making and authoritative positions.

    m&m, I know we disagree on this point. I simply cannot believe that is it the natural order of things for men to be dominant and women submissive in the church. I don’t think patriarchy is an eternal principle, and if it is, I hope that I cease to exist after this life.

    I understand the function of heirarchy in the institution of the church; I don’t think it is all bad. I do think it is very lopsided and would be much richer if women’s voices were given equal time.

  46. Caroline says:

    AmyB said “It’s not that I want to aspire to any certain calling. It’s more that I would like to see both women and men in positions of leadership.”

    Yes, that’s my perspective too. There are, what? tens of thousands of male bishops in our church? It sure would be nice if some of them were women.

    Juliann, Absolutely. My own mother was widowed when I was a baby, so I know and sympathize with the difficulties you are talking about. However, that does not stop me from yearning for an ideal.

  47. Tam says:

    AmyB said: “I understand the function of hierarchy in the institution of the church; I don’t think it is all bad…”

    Maybe we are using different definitions of hierarchy. One definition has to do with order, as in a series of groupings or roles within a system – it allows for differences without one grouping or role being subordinate to another. Another definition has to do with rankings or a caste system – things ordered above and below. I think, AmyB, that your comments are more in alignment with the first definition, but because the church system places women in a subordinate position to men and never the other way around, I view the latter definition of hierarchy as describing the current state of affairs in the church. I don’t understand the necessity for it and I don’t think it is a healthy system.

    Hierarchy defined in terms of ruling over another is both understandable and acceptable to me when it comes to God ruling over us, for at least two reasons:
    1. God is our superior, He being perfect and we being imperfect.
    2. God rules over us in an effort to make us like Him – to bring us to His level.
    I don’t see either of those criteria applying to the system of male domination in the church or in the home. So, I can’t see hierarchy as it is currently practiced as being a positive thing.

    If we could embrace the first definition of hierarchy – different roles and functions for different individuals (i.e., not necessarily gender-specific roles in all cases) with a balance of power and authority equitably distributed across the different roles, then I could easily accept the concept of hierarchy. I agree that seeing both men and women in positions of authority would bring balance and harmony.

    I don’t know if that is best accomplished by ordaining women to priesthood offices or through the restoration of a female version of priesthood. The temple speaks of priestesshood, but I’m not sure what that means – is it simply ordaining women to existing priesthood offices or does it have to do with a restoration of a “power and authority given to women to act in God’s name?”

    So much we don’t know. This discussion has been very interesting on several fronts – why do you suppose we can’t talk like this in RS? My thanks to everyone for sharing their perspectives…

  48. AmyB says:

    Tam said “If we could embrace the first definition of hierarchy – different roles and functions for different individuals (i.e., not necessarily gender-specific roles in all cases) with a balance of power and authority equitably distributed across the different roles, then I could easily accept the concept of hierarchy.”

    Tam, I agree with your points on heirarchy, especially that the system in the church is unhealthy. That said, I don’t think what you are describing in the above quote is heirarchy, it’s heterarchy. As wonderful as it sounds to me, I’m not convinced that the church could function that way. I think the current system is broken, but without heirarchical leadership in some form it can’t remain the large institution that it is. (And maybe it shouldn’t . . .)

    It’s interesting to me to read the very early history of the church. It was more egalitarian then, and that is what attracted people to it. Joseph Smith wasn’t considered above the others in the first few years. Priesthood power structures came later when the church grew and Joseph wanted to maintain control.

  49. mullingandmusing says:

    It was more egalitarian then, and that is what attracted people to it.

    But that couldn’t have been all, because otherwise the church would have ceased to grow. And yet, still it grows.

    Priesthood power structures came later when the church grew and Joseph wanted to maintain control.

    I take the position that Joseph didn’t “come up” with these things. God did. Priesthood has always been part of the Lord’s system. Its roots are ancient. It’s purposes are eternal. What that will mean in the next life, I don’t know, but I know it will be perfect and we will be perfectly happy with it. 🙂

    All of Christianity relies on Moses’ account in Genesis for the Adam and Eve story. We have an additional source in the BOM – but…hmmm…where did they get their information?
    As a side note from a while back re: Adam and Eve, I don’t think the one witness idea holds because prophets repeating a concept and teaching qualifies as multiple witnesses. Besides, the temple ceremony was received by revelation, and that also retells the Adam and Eve story. Joseph knew the location of the Garden of Eden and talked of the meeting Adam had with his family as well. Sure, there is symbolism embedded, but I think it’s problematic to dismiss the whole story, because, by so doing, we would have to dismiss lots of prophets’ teachings about the reality of the Fall. But I realize there are differing points of view on the ‘nacle about this, so….

  50. m.b. says:

    This has been an interesting thread.

    Getting back to Caroline’s real world question: “wondering how other women whose husband’s have been in leadership callings have dealt with this. Was it lonely for you? Difficult? Did your husbands find ways of soliciting your opinion and advice, without betraying anyone’s privacy?”

    Just my experience: My husband has served (with breaks in-between) in a bishopric (3 years, children very small) as a bishop (5 years, with children in elementary school and middle school) and as a stake president (children in middle school and high school when he started, now they are in college and beyond, and he’s still serving)

    To answer briefly:

    Lonely? Not really, though it was occasionally overwhelming being so thoroughly outnumbered by cranky, hungry little children.

    Difficult? No, but challenging, yes, for both of us, on various fronts (time away from family, communication, etc.) I have found that if he and I see difficulties in daily family life as challenges to our creativity we both can come up with some pretty cool and innovative solutions.

    Did my husband find ways of soliciting my opinion and advice, without betraying anyone’s privacy? Absolutely. Though we do not share all the details of things entrusted to our confidences we do share with each other the principles, hopes, perspectives, concerns, brainstorming, ideas, questions, theories, wonderings, writing etc. etc. that we find in our minds and hearts and hands in the process of our callings.

    Did it take a while to figure out how to keep the sharing and communication that comes with being a team, without betraying confidences? Yes. It takes a while to find the balance and I did have to deal with disconnection that was a bit dismaying until we figured out what we needed to do get reconnected.

    So, if you find it reassuring, know that at least in our case the communication, connection and teamwork has grown deeper and stronger while my husband has served. Though you may have difficulty seeing how now, it can be done, the Lord can teach you, and it can turn out deeply satisfying.

  51. Tam says:

    From AmyB: “As wonderful as it sounds to me, I’m not convinced that the church could function that way…”

    Maybe not now, given the current mindset, but I am optimistic we will be able to eventually.

    From M&M: “I don’t think the one witness idea holds because prophets repeating a concept and teaching qualifies as multiple witnesses. Besides, the temple ceremony was received by revelation, and that also retells the Adam and Eve story.”

    You may be right – it’s certainly another way to look at it. However, it still strikes me that, prophets repeating a concept they have learned is not the same as independent or new revelation. If a prophet who had never heard of Moses or read anything he wrote came up with the same story, I would find it more credible. As it stands, I think there is a lot more to the Eden and Fall stories than we currently have. I don’t think my position in any way undermines prophets – it just recognizes that they are human like the rest of us. Honest, I like prophets. I hope to be one some day (Numbers 11:27-29, just one of the many reasons I like Moses so well).

    m.b. – good job getting things back on topic. I hope my comments haven’t derailed it.

    Cheers…

  52. Kiskilili says:

    Even though I’m single I’ll cast my vote as very much in favor of certain callings being held by wife-husband teams working in concert.

    When we talk about women and priesthood, it’s worth remembering that the priesthood is much more complex and nebulous than a calling. I think a more apt comparison than priesthood to calling would be priesthood to gift of the Holy Ghost. I doubt we would be suspicious of someone who expressed interest in having the gift of the Holy Ghost and the increased opportunities for service and relationship with God that membership entails. I doubt we would tell such a person to focus on the positive, on how many blessings God had already given them, and not what they lacked, or warn them against seeking worldly validation by joining the Church and thereby accepting callings (i.e. positions potentially entailing some authority). So I’m not sure why we’re suspicious of women who show an interest in fuller participation in their own religious tradition (through priesthood).

    It’s also interesting that there is currently no official document limiting the priesthood to men, anymore than we have an official document insisting that by eternal unchangeable decree fast Sunday must be the first Sunday of the month.

    If Joseph Smith’s attitude had been to just accept the spiritual gifts already available (through other churches), no one would have the priesthood. 🙂

  53. Dave says:

    “But he is still a bishop. Although not called to act as bishop for the ward, his ordination to that office remains intact and it is still appropriate to call him “bishop” for the rest of his life.”

    While it is true that he is still a “Bishop”, the church issued a letter quite a while ago asking members to only use the title “Bishop” when refering to currently presiding Bishops.

    “An increasing number of LDS women are dissatisfied with the way things are…”

    I do not believe this is true, and have never seen any data to support it. While I do think it is easier to find opinions from dissatisfied LDS women (blogging etc.) I do not think the number is increasing by any means. Where did you get this information?

  54. Tam says:

    Dave, thanks for the clarification concerning the appropriateness of calling a released bishop by the title “bishop.” I had not heard of the letter you mentioned. I’ll keep it in mind next time bishop…er…brother Sharp walks by 🙂

    As for my comment, “An increasing number of LDS women are dissatisfied with the way things are…” – it comes from personal experience and observation. As for official data, I know of none either but suspect it would be rather difficult to directly obtain. It’s difficult for women to express ideas that can be interpreted by many to be in conflict with church doctrine and with the norms of our church society. Expressing them often results in some level of ostracism and sometimes even more extreme measures of official reprimands/excommunication. Even when the church solicits anonymous feedback, women can never truly feel it’s anonymous because they have been taught that God is watching them and so they “know” that He will judge them for their responses. Thus, many women are rather quiet about their feelings regarding their status/role as women and aren’t comfortable sharing their dissatisfaction in general church meetings, unit activities, or even with anonymous surveys.

    Maybe an indirect way to officially ascertain whether or not dissatisfaction is increasing would be to look at the number of women who have left the church over the years to see if that’s on the increase. Anyone know if such information is available?

    I understand that you don’t believe there is a growing dissatisfaction among LDS women regarding women’s issues, and perhaps you’re right. But I think it is accurate. Time was when I mentioned concerns about women’s issues only to be scolded whereas now I can make comments in various settings and many women either agree or are at least sympathetic. Despite the fears and discomforts of expressing unpopular ideas, more women seem to be doing so from my perspective. That causes me to conclude that attitudes are changing and more LDS women are taking a closer look at the “and he shall rule over thee” clause and its implications in their lives. But I see that as a positive, hopeful thing.

  55. Wes says:

    I have really enjoyed finding this site and spending a while reading the comments left here. I would like to start by saying that I would not have any problem with women holding the priesthood should the Lord decide to do things that way, though I do not think it is appropriate to demand a change like that. An earlier post mentioned that a major change took place when black men were allowed to hold the priesthood. That is true, but it came in the Lord’s time. Perhaps He has in mind to give the priesthood power to women as well as men. But if you really believe in the church, surely you know that if that were the Lord’s will today, President Hinkley would not be able to stand in the way of it. So to assume that women do not hold the priesthood because of of the men in leadership could simply not be true. Also, we never know what the Lord is going to do. I think it is unfortuneate that there would be many men who would prefer to leave the church rather than see women hold the priesthood. On the other hand, there may be many women who would leave as well should the Lord reveal that women were never to hold the priesthood. Either way, I think it is important that we be willing to accept the Lord’s will. If women are to hold the priesthood, it will certainly happen in the Lord’s time, and no one will stand in the way of it. Until then, we must be content to do things the way the Lord has set them up.

  56. Kiskilili says:

    I appreciate your comment, Wes, but I have to admit I’m not as convinced everything the Church does is necessarily inspired. President Kimball prayed a long time before OD-2, and as he himself described it it was hardly a revelation out of the blue, but rather a divine confirmation that his desire to ordain blacks had God’s approval (in spite of statements by Bruce R. McKonckie that blacks would never hold the priesthood!). In other words, he thought the issue out himself (as a result of cultural pressure brought to bear on the matter), reached a conclusion that made sense to him, took it to God, and felt a divine green light. I doubt anyone among our current leaders is giving more than a passing thought to the issue of women and priesthood.

    However, statements explaining resistance to women’s ordination in terms of motherhood have only developed in the last few decades, which I interpret as a growing unease with and need to explain to ourselves a situation which was previously taken for granted.

  57. Caroline says:

    Kiskilli,
    You’re brilliant 🙂 I agree with everything you’re saying.

  58. Wes says:

    kiskilili,

    Actually I agree with you concerning the manner in which the church changed its policy concerning Black men receiving the priesthood. But again, we know the Lord is in charge. Perhaps the Lord always intended for black men to hold the priesthood but was simply waiting for a time when the cultural tolerance would accept that. Remember when the church was organized there was still legal slavery in this country. By the same token I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord is watching and waiting for the right moments to inspire the hearts of his leaders to make other changes as well. One thing we know is that if women holding the priesthood is an eternal principle of the gospel, it has not yet been revealed. Until then, the safest thing to do is be patient. The Lord loves us all!

  59. Wes says:

    One additional comment. I don’t believe the statement that none of our current leaders give a passing thought to the issue of women and priesthood. I believe they love us and are doing their best. As a Sunday School President I often feel inadequate to meet the issues that are raised often by members who are concerned about Sunday School content. But I love my ward and the church and I am truly doing my best to do my duty. I can’t imagine everything that must be addressed by the prophet concerning the church. But I can’t believe he doesn’t care at all about women’s questions concerning priesthood or other issues.

  60. JKS says:

    Well, you could have married an immature, lazy husband who no one would bother to call to a high office.
    You made your bed, now lie on it.

    But seriously, I think many couples would not work well together. Sometimes sharing a household and raising a family is about all the combined responsibilities a husband and wife can handle.

  61. Dave says:

    “In other words, he thought the issue out himself (as a result of cultural pressure brought to bear on the matter)…”

    This statement is not accurate. The social pressure to give all males the priesthood was 1000 times greater 10 years earlier. Social pressure had very little to do with the final revalation. If it was driven by social pressure, it would have happened in the 60’s.

  62. Ziff says:

    Kiskilili:
    In other words, he thought the issue out himself (as a result of cultural pressure brought to bear on the matter)…

    Dave:
    This statement is not accurate.

    This statement is completely accurate. The cultural pressure of the 1960s started the process. It’s just that the intertia of the Church is so great that it took a while to make the change. Do you really think that there would have been impetus for President Kimball to seek out the 1978 revelation without what happened in the 1960s?

    Wes:
    I don’t believe the statement that none of our current leaders give a passing thought to the issue of women and priesthood. I believe they love us and are doing their best.

    I believe that the ideas that our current leaders love us and are doing their best does not necessarily mean that they think about women and the priesthood. I think they are probably doing their best, but I agree with Kiskilili that they don’t appear to give the issue of women and the priesthood a passing thought. I don’t think they even take it seriously. It’s not that they’re being malicious; it just doesn’t occur to them that it could actually be a real issue.

  63. Dave says:

    I was there in the 60’s and in the 70’s. It was a constant issue in the late 60s, almost never mentioned in the late 70s.

    “Do you really think that there would have been impetus for President Kimball to seek out the 1978 revelation without what happened in the 1960s?”

    Yes I do, It was being asked about in the 50s, before the civil rights movement had any effect at all.

  64. mullingandmusing says:

    However, statements explaining resistance to women’s ordination in terms of motherhood have only developed in the last few decades, which I interpret as a growing unease with and need to explain to ourselves a situation which was previously taken for granted.

    The question I would ask is is this alleged “unease” due to our leaders’ erroneous views, or erroneous social perspectives that don’t like the Proclamation-type doctrine that has always been taught? There’s an awful lot of Babylon that shouldn’t be embraced, and this is one of those areas that we are told we need to be careful about. (Consider Sheri Dew’s forceful talks about this as an example.)

    I don’t think they even take it seriously. It’s not that they’re being malicious; it just doesn’t occur to them that it could actually be a real issue.

    I am completely confident that they are more than aware of these issues, that they care about them, but that they aren’t going to budge on the way things are (gender roles, priesthood, etc.) Their repeated teachings about these things testify to their awareness of these issues in my mind. These teachings come from both male and female general leaders. I’m afraid that this concept of our leaders “‘needing’ to take these things seriously” equates in some minds to them changing things. What if that never happens? What if the reason we don’t hear more about women’s “issues” (as often discussed in the ‘nacle) is because we are constantly being invited to embrace the way things are, to find the light in what IS — because we have so much already that God wants us to see and enjoy and be grateful for. Or because we would simply hear more of the same things we hear now? Why blame our leaders for some women’s discontent (esp. when the majority are fine with the way things are!) instead of realizing that the responsibility may lie more with us?
    I just ache for my sisters to be at peace with things as they are…we have so much and there is so much wonder and beauty in the gospel and the Church as it is now — why wait for something that may never be the way we think it “should” be? Isn’t it possible that all of these “issues” are a distraction from other wonderful elements of the gospel?

  65. Caroline says:

    Mulling said:
    “The question I would ask is is this alleged “unease” due to our leaders’ erroneous views, or erroneous social perspectives “

    I suppose either is a possibility. But I know that I personally have a soul deep, (spiritual) conviction that things should and will change for women in the church. I know it with the same fervor that most Mormons know the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Of course, my soul deep convictions about things needing to change doesn’t preclude others from having sincere soul deep convictions that the status quo is God’s desire. And i think both feelings should be respected.

    I have no doubt rhetoric and ideas about women will evolve. They’ve evolved for the last 180 years, and I can’t believe they’ll stop evolving now. In some ways I think we’re heading in a positive direction. Hinckley’s talk to the young women telling them that a nurse with three children who works when she wants is a woman of whom they can dream to be someday was, I think, a watershed moment because it really opened up the option of women being moms and working. I expect more and more comments like that, and maybe in a couple of generations, I expect women will have much more of a say in the governance of the institutional church. That is what I hope and pray for.

  66. Seraphine says:

    I’m afraid that this concept of our leaders “‘needing’ to take these things seriously” equates in some minds to them changing things.

    I, like Caroline, hope and believe that things *will* change for women in the church, but often when I express a concern that church leaders “need to take things seriously,” I am expressing a desire that they don’t dismiss my complaints or concerns as “childish” or “of the world and not of God.” Sure, I’m a liberal feminist, but my beliefs stem in a large part from a conviction in the divinity of women and the importance and equality of human beings in the plan of our Heavenly Father. While I recognize that many things will not change immediately (though I believe they will eventually), what is often the hardest for me is when others (including church leaders) call me to repentance for struggling with these issues.

    Why blame our leaders for some women’s discontent (esp. when the majority are fine with the way things are!) instead of realizing that the responsibility may lie more with us? I just ache for my sisters to be at peace with things as they are…we have so much and there is so much wonder and beauty in the gospel and the Church as it is now — why wait for something that may never be the way we think it “should” be? Isn’t it possible that all of these “issues” are a distraction from other wonderful elements of the gospel?

    I strongly, strongly believe that these issues are in no way a “distration” (though I recognize you may disagree). My feminist convictions come from my belief that God has created his daughters to be equal participants in his church and Kingdom, and that we are of equal value to Him. The reason I struggle so much with “women’s issues,” is because I do not feel like an equal participant in the Lord’s church and in many ways I do not feel equally valued (though there *are* many ways that I do feel valued).

    Yes, there are many things about the Gospel that it’s important for me to not forget while I struggle with these issues, but my belief in the equality of women and that that they are equal in God’s plan is a central part of who I am and what I believe, not a “distraction” from other things that are more important. My struggle with “women’s issues” are central to how I navigate the world and inspire myself to be a more God-like person (which seem to me to be one of the central purposes of God’s plan).

  67. Caroline says:

    Fantastic answer, S. I feel exactly the same.

  68. mullingandmusing says:

    Caroline and S.
    Thanks for explaining your thoughts to me. I suppose on some of this we will have to agree to disagree, but I do appreciate understanding your points of view.

  69. Mike says:

    was called to be ward clerk. (I know that doesn’t sound that exciting…)

    Yes, Caroline, I agree it doesn’t sound exciting. But that was before I learned that bpric mtgs are like guys night out. Laughing, joking, belching, and near beer. Except it’s at 8 o’clock in the morning.

  70. Mike says:

    Seriously, though, I’ve been following this post and have never been quite sure what to say. I appreciate people’s comments as they display a variety of well-considered views.

  71. Caroline says:

    Mike,
    You could talk about how I’ve been dealing recently. How I’ve called myself to be The Special
    Assistant to the Ward Clerk; how I’ve decided to hang out with you and the old clerk men in the clerk’s office during SS and RS; how I’ve decided to win you over (and ellicit info from you) by packing you lunches on Sunday that we can eat as we ditch SS together. I think i’m coping admirably 🙂

  72. Mike says:

    Caroline, I’m not sure what your exact responsibilites are as Sp Asst to the Clerk. But perhaps food is not only the quickest way to a man’s stomach but also the quickest way to a loose tongue…

    You are coping admirably!

  73. Darryl says:

    “how I’ve decided to hang out with you and the old clerk men in the clerk’s office during SS and RS”

    I have been a clerk before, and while having wives in the clerks office is very common, I have to admit having someone there constantly (wife or not – in fact gender is irrelivent) would be uncomfortable for me. There are things being done that do need some bit of privacy.

    “how I’ve decided to win you over (and ellicit info from you)”

    I am afraid I also have to admit I find this comment extremely disturbing. Perhaps it is worded incorrectly (I hope it is). Ditching the classes we have been asked to attend in order to dig up gossip about ward members leaves an incredibly bad taste in my mouth. I do hope that I have read this wrong and that you meant something else.

  74. Caroline says:

    no need to be disturbed Darryl. I’m speaking tongue in cheek. Trust me, Mike’s not going to tell me anything he shouldn’t.

  75. harijan says:

    Both of my mission presidents were teamwork oriented. The husband and wife did preistood interviews, always bore their testimony together standing side by side at the stand, and the missionaries were equally comfortable going to one or the other for advice or help.

    When I have had the misfortune of serving in leadership roles Emily and I also take the team approach. As Elder’s quarum president I often counted Emily’s visits with ward members as home teaching, and I would stand in as baby sitter for enrichment night for her.

    The world calling is, can and should happen at all levels. Members of a ward should feel just as comfortable going to a wife or husband of the person with the calling.

    Now for a little rumor-mongering. I will keep my sources confidential, as well as the names of the individuals. Several years ago a young missionary serving in the Cambridge Stake was privy to a conversation in which the area presidency was discussing who should be called as the next stake president of the Cambridge stake.

    Every person considered also included a seperate discussion for the wife of the man being considered. At least one man was excluded from consideration out of concern that his wife would not be able to work well with him in that calling.

    I think the church intends couples to work closely together in callings. How closely they work together, and what is shared depends on the individuals involved.

  76. Harijans says:

    Dave said:
    [i]This statement is not accurate. The social pressure to give all males the priesthood was 1000 times greater 10 years earlier. Social pressure had very little to do with the final revelation. If it was driven by social pressure, it would have happened in the 60’s. [/i]

    There are numerous instances both in and out of the church that invalidate this comment. Let’s start with the word of wisdom, a revelation that was asked for as a result of social pressure. We can go on and on about early revelations now included in the D&C that were received after Joseph Smith was asked to inquire of the Lord on different issues by one or more members of the church. Revelations are definitely sought after as a result of social pressure. From the Israelites in the desert, to Paul and the Ephesians, prophets often seek answers after their followers exert social pressure on the prophet. With that point established, lets move on to the timing.

    A sociologist would be much better at this than I am, but the inverse relationship between the size of a social group and the rate of change in that group is a well documented theory.

    An example specific to the church; the outrage against the practice of polygamy began when Brigham Young was alive. At one point, in an attempt to satisfy the growing number of unhappy polygamist wives he issued a period of amnesty in which plural wives who were unhappy and wished to leave their husbands could do so without repercussions from the church. It was another 15 years before the practice of polygamy was thrown out.

    Moving forward in time, under intense social pressure, Joseph F. Smith would not cave into accepting the theory of evolution. In fact, he stated that “Evolution in no form ever has been or will be true.”

    Fast forward to the 1990s when the heart doctor Apostle (name blanking, sorry) said in general conference that some aspects of evolution are, in fact, correct. The social pressure concerning evolution subsided decades before, but it was not until the 90s that the correlation committee would allow the church to at least acknowledge evolution.

    For an example on the flip side; debate concerning the role that men and women should play in the family has been under intense pressure for going on 3 decades now, yet The Proclamation was not issued until 2000ish.

    I know it is currently more popular to read The Proclamation as a treatise concerning gay marriage, but when The Proclamation was released, gay marriage was as distant a possibility in America as women having the priesthood is in the church.

    Even when the church is moving farther to the right the delay between social pressure and change is often 10-20 years.

    I can understand why it is scary for many people to think that the prophets often go to God with questions as a result of social pressure, but this is the prophet’s job, it is their calling. The reason why is frightens people is because the inference is that prophets change or administer doctrine as a result of social pressure. This is simply not true. There are instances such as blacks receiving the priesthood where it appears that the prophet changed doctrine as a result of social pressure. A more accurate interpretation was that the social group let the prophet know that they were ready to accept that blacks should receive the priesthood, and so God allowed us to live a higher law. Line upon line, precept upon precept.

    If we were to cohesively tell the prophet that we were ready for any doctrinal change then the prophet would go to God, find out if doctrinal change is also what God has in mind, and then it becomes doctrine. This is one of the most simple and common doctrines of the church that it often amazes me how readily we forget that any doctrinal question we have can be answered through prayer. The hard part is accepting the answer we receive.

  77. Dave says:

    Harijans,

    You took my post somewhat out of context. I was commenting on the fact that President Kimball did not receive much social pressure – not near as much as earlier Presidents of the Church.

    With regard to your evolution statements, the Church has no official opinion on the matter, and never has. Your qoute from Joseph F. Smith is also interesting – “Evolution in no form ever has been or will be true.”
    I have never seen it before – what is its source? While President Smith obviously thought little of evolutionary theories, I have never read anything like that quote. Even the First Presidency Statements in the early 1900’s say that Gods method of creation is unkown.

    “but it was not until the 90s that the correlation committee would allow the church to at least acknowledge evolution.”

    This is an interesting committee, could you expound on it more.

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