Can Mormon women count money?
Can Mormon women count money? Of course we can! But here is another question: Do LDS Church policy makers know that Mormon women can count money? Based on church financial policies, it does not appear that they do. Only men may collect, count, distribute or audit LDS Church funds.
Consider these policies:
- The Deacons Quorum is assigned to collect fast offerings (and consequently, tithes and other donations as well, since they are included on the same tithing slip). Deacons are required to be male and are usually 12 and 13 years old.
- At church services, members must physically place their tithing slips in the hand of a bishopric member. Bishopric members are required to be male.
- Church funds are counted and tracked by Stake and Ward Clerks. Clerks are required to be male.
- The computer equipment and software that stores church financial records is managed by the Technology Specialist. Technology Specialists are required to be male.
- Church funds are audited by Stake Auditors. Stake Auditors are required to be male.
- While female Relief Society presidents may visit families to assess their welfare needs, their authority stops short of approving the dollar value of welfare assistance. Only Bishops may allot fast offerings to needy members. Bishops are required to be male.
- While their council members (a small minority of whom are female) make budget recommendations, decision-making authority over local congregational budgets lies with Bishops and Stake Presidents. Bishops and Stake Presidents are required to be male.
- The Council on the Disposition of the Tithes governs church fiscal policy. It is composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric, all of whom are required to be male.
If it is true that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” the heart of our church is clearly with its male members. Women aren’t allowed to touch the church treasury.
Institutional inertia is not solely to blame for the LDS Church’s policies of male-only money management. While many of these policies are artifacts from an earlier time when finances were considered men’s work, the ban on women as stake auditors was invoked in 2010. Prior to that time, women who were certified public accountants were called as stake auditors, only to be released in 2010 in accordance with the new ban on female stake auditors. Reference A
Some people point to the early years of the Church as a golden age of money management for Mormon women. Indeed, before the church correlation program, women had more opportunities to demonstrate their proficiency at managing money in the course of their church duties than women today. Our foremothers demonstrated admirable financial prowess. However, while men and women are both required to give one tenth of their incomes to the church as tithing, prior to correlation, none of these tithing dollars went toward the Relief Society or other female programs. It was more expensive to be a Mormon woman than a Mormon man because women had to pay for their auxiliary programs with additional funds above and beyond what they were already paying for tithing and fast offerings. The funds that women were allowed to collect, use and manage for the Relief Society were raised by women through dues, donations and fundraisers. A system in which women are required to donate a tenth of their income to the church but not allowed to use any of those funds in women’s programs cannot be praised as progressive toward women.
Even these separate, non-tithing funds that women raised themselves were only precariously under the control of women. All church funds were subject to confiscation by male priesthood leaders who were under no obligation to use these funds for their originally intended purposes. Consider these instances:
- From 1896 to 1909, the female Relief Society raised funds to build a headquarters building. After the Relief Society had collected 70% of the funds necessary to build, male priesthood leaders decided to use the Relief Society’s building fund to build the Bishops Building instead. Reference B
- From 1876-1918, the female Relief Society managed a grain storage program, including fundraising for supplies and real estate. During World War I, male priesthood leaders sold the Relief Society’s entire supply of grain—the work of four decades—to the United States government without permission of Relief Society officers. The funds from the sale were placed into an account controlled by the male Presiding Bishop, not the Relief Society. Reference C
- Upon instigating the correlation program in 1978, male priesthood leaders required the female Relief Society to turn over all of their assets to male priesthood leaders. Reference D
When Mormon women like myself express concern about church policies that ban women from money management, a typical response sounds like this, “Why do you care that you can’t be ward clerk? Who wants to do all that tedious work anyway? Focus on real problems, like poverty or violence.”
Addressing world problems takes resources. Mormon women are already required to give at least a tenth of our incomes to the LDS Church for the implementation of God’s work, but once our money is in the hands of male church members, it becomes invisible to us. Not only do women lack authority to allocate church funds to address “real problems,” we do not even know how much money is available.
Within the church setting, money management is not just a temporal matter. Christ has said, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual.” (D&C 29:34) Church fiscal policy has spiritual consequences. How should resources dedicated to God’s work be allocated? Do we contribute to food banks? Political campaigns? Educational funds? Recruitment ads? Are girls worthy of the same fiscal commitment as boys? By barring women from managing money, church policymakers are not simply saving women from a temporal chore, they are excluding women from participating in God’s work.