Thank you for your feedback. I have finalized the report and sent it to my stake president. I am pleased to report that he has agreed to send it on to General Authorities. The original text of the post is below for historical purposes, but the final version, incorporating  feedback I received from Exponent readers and others, is available at

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti

Jesus Christ set an example of open communication. He said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man [or woman] hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) During his ministry, he communicated with women others considered unworthy and occasionally changed his positions in response to women’s pleas. (Luke 7, Matthew 15)

In contrast, women who attempt to bring their pleas to church leaders under current policy are referred to local stake presidents who have no authority over church policy but expansive authority to punish women for expressing opinions and advocating for change.  Although church leaders frequently interact with people of other faiths who disagree with the Church on many issues, Church spokesperson Michael Otterson has reported that General Authorities and church employees “do not engage” with certain members of their own church to avoid hearing “non-negotiable demands” they assume members will make—an assumption that cannot be confirmed without attempting to engage.[1]

Elder Richard G. Scott has observed with concern that “sisters do not participate openly in ward council meetings.”[2] Scholars at Brigham Young University and Princeton have found that women are less likely to contribute to meetings when they are outnumbered by men and when they perceive that they cannot influence the decision. [3] It is not surprising that female participation is low, given that women are barred from many governing quorums and councils of the church and when they are included, church policy dictates that men outnumber women by a ratio of at least three to one and decision-making authority is assigned to males with priesthood keys.

Including women in all governing quorums and councils of the Church, in approximately equal proportions as men, with equal authority, would ensure more consistent inclusion of women’s perspectives through all stages of the decision-making process. Under the present system, at men’s discretion, women may be invited by men to give feedback about policy matters after ideas are formed by men and before decisions are made by men.[4]

Everyone above ward auxiliary leaders in the chain of command—bishops, stake presidents, Area Authorities and General Authorities—is male. Since female General and Stake Auxiliary Leaders have no direct line of authority over the people they serve, lines of communication may not be open to them. Auxiliary Leaders are selected by and accountable to men, not women, facilitating a role as spokespersons for the brethren rather than as advocates for women.  Revise the chain of command to include women at the general, area and stake levels with authority to select and supervise local leaders.


[1] Michael Otterson, An Open Letter from Michael Otterson, 3/30/2014

[2] Richard G. Scott, Sisters in Councils, 2011

[3] Study: Why women speak less when they are outnumbered, 9/18/2012

[4] Michael Otterson, An Open Letter from Michael Otterson, 3/30/2014

LDS women with children now eligible for full-time seminary, institute jobs, Deseret News, 11/14/2014

Top Mormon Women Leaders Provide Insights into Church Leadership and Women’s Perspectives, 4/5/2013

This post is a section of my draft policy analysis, a Values-based Approach to Woman-friendly Policy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have completed as much policy research as I can alone and now I am asking for feedback from the Mormon community before I finalize and submit the report. All draft sections will become available at the following links when they are posted:


Charlotte du Val d'Ognes by Marie Denise Villers, Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Introduction


800px-Andrea_Solario_002 Womanhood
The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet Opportunity
Jesus and the Canaanite Woman by Mattia Preti Communication
The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch The Golden Rule
The Woman with an Issue of Blood by James Tissot Protecting the Vulnerable
Esther Denouncing Haman by Ernest Normand Transparency
Jesus Tempted by Carl Heinrich Bloch Agency

Policy Suggestions

Family Portrait by Lavinia Fontana Introduction

Missionary Work

Youth Programs

Women’s Programs

Church Participation

Priesthood Interviews

Callings & Employment

Leadership & Policymaking

Temple Worship

Gynecologic Health

Church Discipline

Access all posts here.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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6 Responses

  1. CatherineWO says:

    April, your words are so articulate and right on point. I don’t hear anger, but strength. I’m so glad you mention the idea of chain of command from female ward leaders to Stake and General female leaders. Stake and General RS, Primary, and YW leaders used to have more authority to advise and make decisions concerning the local organizations. This was the case when my mother was part of a Stake Primary Board in the 1960s and also when I served as a ward RS president in the mid-1970s. When I had questions or concerns (or one of the women in my ward came to me with a question), I could take it to my Stake RS President, who could then contact a RS General Board member if needed. We also held leadership meetings without men present. Honestly, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to invite them. Of course, women could only make decisions about things that concerned women or children, but at least those decisions were honored.

  2. Anarene Holt Yim says:

    This expresses one of the things I’m most confused about: Why on earth don’t the church leaders want feedback from members?! Don’t they want to know if their messages are perceived in the ways they intended? Don’t they want to know if there’s a gap somewhere or something they’re missing? Don’t they want to know how they can improve the organization? Don’t they want to know members’ needs? Don’t they want to be able to honestly evaluate how the church is doing?

    It seems so basic to me that if you want to make any organization the best it can be, you would ask for and welcome feedback. We regular Mormon members seriously need a suggestion box. One that goes not to our stake presidents who have very little control over anything, but one that goes to SLC to decision-makers.

    April, you’re doing a worthy work here with this project.

    • Ziff says:

      Amen, Anarene. This is something I’ve wondered about too.

      I wonder if GAs (in the main) have come to enjoy being seen as infallible, and they realize that permitting, or (heaven forbid!) soliciting feedback from the rank and file wold puncture that illusion. It would be a lot harder for members to smack questioners down with the argument that the status quo is God’s very will and mind if GAs were interested in feedback from members about what might be improved.

      Or I wonder if it’s just inertia. The Church got big and corporate and the distance between members and leaders got larger over generations, and once they started with Correlation, it just got easier to just dictate everything from the top and not bother with hearing any feedback from the rank and file. This also fits with Correlation in that Correlated history also attempts to erase the possibility that any ideas for improving the Church ever came from the bottom up.

      But of course these are just my wild speculations. I have no idea what the truth is. 🙂

  3. Pbj says:

    Just a typo in the last sentence of the first paragraph. ‘in response TO women’s pleas’.

    Other than that this is wonderful!

  1. August 30, 2015

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