Poll: Tenure of the Relief Society President
In the early days of the church, the calling of General Relief Society President lasted until death, just like the calling of apostle. Emmeline B. Wells was the first Relief Society president to be released from this calling and she was hurt by the apparent snub. a
President Wells served 11 years. Since that time, there has been a lot of variation in term lengths for General Relief Society Presidents, with President Belle Smith Spafford serving the longest term at 29 years. The three most recently released General Relief Society Presidents all served for five years. b
I see pros and cons to both lifetime and limited terms of office. On one hand, the modern system of shorter tenures gives more women the opportunity to serve, which is important in a church with so few leadership callings open to women. Also, frequent changes expose church members to a wider variety of female views. Again, I see this as important because there are so few female leadership positions. With 15 apostles and up to 560 seventies, we already have exposure to a wide variety of male views.
On the other hand, this shorter tenure may serve to further limit female authority in the Church. The Relief Society President is always relatively new and inexperienced compared with the majority of male apostles. Even more disturbing to me, she can be released from her position at any time if she displeases the men in authority over her, unlike an apostle, who can only lose his position through serious transgression.