Guest Post: A Peaceful Transition of Power- An Update

by Ellen
Well, you will all be amazed that I can report that the whole peaceful transition of power went exactly as anticipated. Three well-liked men are now the stake presidency. Let me share a brief recap of the weekend with you. The visiting authorities shared their process with the entire congregation at the Sunday morning meeting.

The two General Authorities, and one of their spouses, got to town on Friday night. The GAs got to work, interviewing the entire stake presidency, the High Council members, all the bishops, and those recommended by the stake president. This carried over till Saturday around noon. They interviewed 34 men. After they received the inspiration concerning who the president was to be, they (presumably, I wasn’t there) extended the call to the president and he got busy figuring out who should be his counselors. Saturday afternoon was a stake priesthood leadership meeting. It was a wide ranging question and answer session. I was quite interested in this- have any of you been in a mixed-gender Q & A with General Authorities? Without previously submitted questions? I haven’t. Which led me to wonder- have you ever been in a Relief Society Q & A? I haven’t. Which led me to realize that I have never been in a church meeting larger than the meeting formerly known as “Enrichment,” also formerly known as “Homemaking” that was actually all women. And that I have never, ever been in a question and answer setting when women were “the answerers.” Not only are women seldom, if ever, invited to question, they are never invited to answer.

Then we all were invited to the Saturday evening adults meeting, where we had a rather free-wheeling group discussion with a traveling microphone, seeking ideas for keeping our focus on Christ. Sisters’ ideas were solicited, with a reminder that Sisters should participate in “all our councils.” But not the councils where leadership is chosen, apparently. The evening was interesting and inclusive, and included a 5 minute talk by the GA spouse.

The general meeting on Sunday morning was well attended, the new stake presidency was announced with lots of mentions of the 34 potential candidates (and that they could have interviewed so many more righteous…men). They made an explicit point about how many different perspectives they sought. Then the outgoing and incoming were all invited to speak, including the wives of the old and new stake presidents, and the GA spouse. So there was about 15 minutes of women’s voices during the 6 hours of meetings and 6-8 hours of interviews.

The new stake president looked suitably surprised and burdened, and he delivered a very passionate message about the crucial importance of husbands and fathers. Not a mention of the husbandless and fatherless. Oh, except to state that the pitiful young women raised without fathers will run off with the first sorry male that pays her any attention.

I like all the men in the new presidency. Good guys. I am forced to conclude, once again, that our Institutional Church, while giving lip service to wanting sisters’ voices, does not want us in the room where it really happens. They do love to see our sustaining “votes.” Dang, that peaceful transition of power was so flippin’ peaceful.

We aren’t even on their radar.

Ellen is a seeking, searching, bit of blue in an ocean of red.

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38 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    I feel you, Ellen. How can they not see this as a problem?

  2. Andrew R. says:

    So, if these good men, called to serve the Lord, had doubled their interviewing time and interviewed 34 sisters as well, bearing in mind they were looking for inspiration from the Lord as to which man to call as SP, do you believe the result would have been different?

    Apart from those 34 sisters have to give up their time, and the GA’s spending their time speaking to the sisters, what exactly would have been achieve?

    The sisters were not going to be chosen. Their opinions, although interesting, would likely have had no affect. So the cry could have been, “they just did it to appease the women, the women had not real power.”

    Really, I genuinely would like to know what difference would it make?

    • Patty says:

      Appease me. I would not be offended to be appeased. It would be better than being ignored.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I would. If I was asked to be one of the interviewees simply because the current Stake President thought I would be offended if I wasn’t I would find that a pretty dumb waste of time. As I said in the last thread, this process is about getting possible next SP’s in front of those calling the next SP. It is not about seeking their approval. Sure, the comments help – especially in terms of the conference, but they are not essential.

        The process is quite simple for men – all member of the current stake presidency, all members of the High Council, all unit leaders, a few others who may have recently been released, or moved in.

        Who would you choose from the sisters side – to voice their opinion, since that is the only reason they would be there?

    • ElleK says:

      I would choose at least the stake aux presidents and maybe each ward RS president. Ideally, these women would be invited to share their perspectives not because “otherwise they’ll be offended” but because “women have a unique perspective to offer, they will have to work with the man who is called, and we NEED their insight.”

      I’m sure it is no surprise to you that some men appear to be a great fit but they turn out to be micromanagers or chauvinists or stand up for men regardless of the cost to women or teach their own harmful ideas as doctrine or even abuse their families. Generally speaking, women who have worked with these men have a unique perspective on how they act as priesthood leaders. I know you believe stake presidents are called by God and not by men. I believe that too, to an extent. But I also believe information informs inspiration, and I’d like to think that at least in some cases, women’s perspectives might eliminate some candidates from consideration.

    • Andrew R., the mission of the Exponent is to promote women’s voices. We believe that women’s voices have value, and that women should be listened to. You aren’t going to gain much support here for your arguments that listening to women doesn’t make a difference.

    • Kara says:

      Andrew, a woman in this group recently commented describing her stake president who is inexcusably sexist– telling women they are selfish/sinful if they leave home for anything other than food and essential errands with their children in tow. Surely this type of attitude would have surfaced in prior leadership positions and have been felt by women he had served over, but probably not recognized by fellow men. It’s absolutely an important reason to interview women about the men who will be selected to serve over them, and one in which the women’s responses should bear sway on the outcome.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Yes, you’re right. Except of course there are a lot of Stake Presidents called who have never been a Bishop or who moved recently into the stake.

        What this particular SP is doing is wrong, but I am not convinced that he would not have been called if women had been involved. It is possible. But it is also possible that being stake president changed him. Unfortunately it happens.

        Hey, I don’t care. if letting an equal number of women to men be interviewed will make you all believe that the process is good – go ahead. I will never have to conduct the interviews, and I will not likely ever be an interviewee. So, of course, I won’t get a say either – as I haven’t for the nine or ten stake presidents I have had.

      • Kara says:

        Andrew, it sounds like your is: While women might have relevant information to add, it’s likely that no one would listen or care enough to allow it to impact the outcome– so, why bother including women at all.

      • Kara says:

        ^^ sounds like your argument is. . . (Hit “post” too soon)

    • Julia says:

      Why interview men at all either, if it is all done by inspiration of the Lord?

      • Andrew R. says:

        As a means of getting the man the Lord wants in front of those being revealed to without being unduly influenced by others. I have explained this elsewhere.

      • Cherisa says:

        Then you agree, Andrew R., that “information informs inspiration”? We must acknowledge that the process of inspiration comes through fallible human beings. It’s filtered through the minds/hearts of those receiving revelation and influenced by their knowledge.

        As the Lord told Oliver Cowdrey, “…you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…” (D&C 9:8) so, too, must our current leaders. If they fail to gather information from half of the leaders of the ward/stake based on gender, can they truly study the information thoroughly? The argument here is that those leaders are lacking information that could be of help in their decision making.

        Your argument that interviewing potential leaders is done so those receiving the inspiration can receive knowledge without “being unduly influenced by others” is incongruent with the current process. Either we need input (influence of others) in the process of choosing new stake presidents or we don’t. You can’t have it both ways. Even the process of interviewing potential candidates creates additional influence.

        When I was called as a RS President, I was asked to choose two counselors and a secretary. I asked for a list of women in my ward and started praying over who I should recommend to the Bishop. A name on the list stuck out to me over and over. I didn’t know this sister and couldn’t have picker her out of a lineup if I’d tried. I submitted her name as one of my counselors, and serving in that calling ended up being a huge turning point for her at that time in her life. If the Lord saw fit to allow me to gather information that way, why can’t our General Authorities? Are my powers of discernment more astute than a GA’s? Maybe the Lord just doesn’t care if I interview lots of people for such a lowly position? It’s reasonable to ask for input from others in our process of choosing leaders, but if we are going to ask for input from those around us, we must be open to the possibility that women, too, have the ability to receive inspiration in their leadership positions as well as men.

        If we truly believe that all things are possible with God, then we must entertain the possibility of seeing changes to how things are currently done. If Joseph Smith had just accepted that the ministers of his time knew more than him, the church might not exist in our time. Maintaining the status quo for the sake of not rocking the boat is an affront to the history of the modern Church.

  3. Dani Addante says:

    That makes me really sad. I wish the men in charge would realize that women should be running the church too.

    When you mentioned the Q&A and said that women are never the ones who give answers, that reminded me of a Q&A I went to once, in which a woman was answering the questions. Julie B. Beck was speaking at a women’s meeting, and after her speech, there was a Q&A and women lined up to ask her questions and Julie B. Beck answered them. It was pretty interesting.

  4. Gina says:

    I was once in a large Stake Relief Society meeting and Sherri Dew did an unscripted Q&A.

  5. Ellen says:

    Hello- The process was not described as an audition or job interview. It was described as “gathering perspectives”. The men being interviewed were asked to bring a list of names. If the stake presidency is to serve the Stake, wouldn’t the perspectives of a representative sample of stake members be useful? More than half the active members of our stake are women. Hundreds and hundreds of them. What about asking stake and ward leaders that are women, what about seeking their input? You can’t have it both ways- saying that women are equal participants in the blessings of the priesthood AND then totally shut them out of every single process. Even if they aren’t “job candidates”. Also, if these leaders are meant to be stewards of the stake, how on earth can the needs and concerns of more than half the members be known without actually, you know, speaking with and listening to them?

    • ElleK says:

      Love this, Ellen.

    • Lily says:

      “Women are SO different from men they can’t hold the priesthood. No, wait. . . they are just like men so we don’t need their input.”

      Which is it?

    • Ziff says:

      Well said, Ellen.

    • Andrew R. says:

      What we need is an online voting system at where everyone in the stake can submit their thoughts on possible stake presidents.

      The list of contenders (anyone with more than 5% of those responding indicating them as a possible SP) could be listed and members could make their comments about the contenders’ suitability.

      The visiting authorities can them come ready to call the top of the poll (or maybe the top three, just in case the Lord wants to have a say). Bingo – process complete.

      I believe this works well for employing priests/pastors in many other faiths – you know, the ones without the Lord’s priesthood authority.

  6. MDearest says:

    I have always wondered why we couldn’t have seasoned, experienced women who’ve served in executive positions and are now released, called to serve on the stake high council. Like the wives of returned mission presidents and such like. And not just a single token female, but several, because the female members have so much variety (as do the men) that it takes several viewpoints to represent them fully. Of course, the M. priesthood requirement would have to be waived. Because we don’t ordain women to priesthood offices.

    What a waste of untapped resources.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Please tell exactly what you think the role of a high councillor is? I ask because by in large the role is about training and advising Melchizedek priesthood leaders. Yes, there is one who works with the Primary presidency, and one that works with Young Women presidency. But that is just about it. Their main role is to represent the stake presidency in the quorums and groups in the wards.

      The training of ward RSPy, YWPy and PPy is done by the types of sisters you speak of. Having said that we do not have a single returned mission president in our stake. In fact it is only recently that I have known anyone personally who has been a mission president. In our stake we have had, in the 19 years I have lived here, only 3 temple sealers (we have just the one at this moment in time).

      We only have nine members of the stake high council – finding one more may be possible, making 12 not so much. I am stake clerk and stake Sunday school president (with no counsellors), after 14 months of also subbing as executive secretary we have finally called a replacement. And after 14 years of being Technology Specialist we finally called a replacement – and he has two other callings. (and yes, assistant technology specialists can be sisters, but there wasn’t one I could have considered).

      But we don’t have women who could serve on the high council either. Our Primaries are struggling for teachers. Not all YW presidencies have three members – YW advisers do not exist.

      In wards of 200+ active members maybe what you speak of would be possible. We have 7 wards and 2 branches in our stake with an average sacrament meeting attendance of 597 across the entire stake.

      • MDearest says:

        Whatever duties a high councillor fills, including the ones you listed, can be done by a woman. There is no gender requirement inherent in the work, and I think it would be helpful to have a woman who could train and advise Melchizedek priesthood leaders in their service to other women in the wards of the stake.

        And in sparsely populated stakes, if some of the high councillors are women, that might free up a few competent men to be Primary teachers.

        It’s just a hypothetical exercise, AR. If it works in real life, it would be because of the determination and creativity of the people involved. If it fails, it could be because a person nitpicks details in a negative spirit, looking for a way to cause it to fail, until it falls apart.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I’m not nit picking. What made me a good EQP was working with the RSP where her skills complimented mine. What made me a good HC was having been an EQP for 3½ years and helping the EQPs I was working with know what their role was, and how I had solved issues.

        As you say, it is hypothetical since a High Councillor has to be a High Priest, as per the Doctrine and Covenants.

        I wasn’t saying a sister couldn’t do it.

      • MDearest says:

        Andy, I am a well-bred Mormon woman which means my instinct to avoid conflict has been well-cultivated, to the point of ignoring my own interests. So I must excuse myself from engaging any further with you, as you steadfastly refuse any PoV other than your own and hone in on unimportant points of contention which results in a breakdown of real communication. I’m easily fatigued by pointless contention and it’s not my job to educate you. Also, bye Felipe.

  7. Ellen says:

    Thanks, ElleK. You nailed it with “Ideally, these women would be invited to share their perspectives not because “otherwise they’ll be offended” but because “women have a unique perspective to offer, they will have to work with the man who is called, and we NEED their insight.” Andrew seems to think that a female perspective would be a token, pacifying, time waster. I have a really radical idea. What if, in that biennial temple recommend interview, the final question was “how are you doing? Do you have any questions or issues that you are struggling with? Is there anything you would like to send up the chain of command? How can our stake better meet your and your family’s needs?” Imagine the wonderful informed inspiration could arise from that sort of insight and perspective. The last time I had a TR interview I mentioned my frustration with the outsourcing of Activity days to Pinterest. The stake presidency member said, “I understand, but there really isn’t an avenue for me to forward that information”.

    • ElleK says:

      That whole “remember which way you face” directive to leaders is so discouraging for us at the bottom sometimes. I don’t understand why the hierarchy is so adamant that information and ideas can only flow from the top down.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Do you need to be asked if you have a question to ask one? I think using TR interviews as an opportunity to ask about how things are going is great.

      And I think the stake presidency member was way off bat with that. He should have taken action to at least find out what was happening. Of course there is an avenue – it’s called the Stake Primary Presidency, direct or via Stake Council.

      • At the temple recommend interview, a man questions a woman about her worthiness, not vice versa.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I didn’t read into what I responded to that it was hoped we could interview the stake presidency. I thought what was being said was it would be nice if the interviewer asked more than the set questions so as to ask about the individual, how they are, their calling, etc. Or if they have any issues they would like to discuss.

        And to be correct, a man – representing the Lord, asks a woman or man some yes/no questions. He may ask a question to ensure the person understands the question, but that is all. Unless the interviewer is the bishop or stake president if a person responds in the negative the interview has to stop. And if the interviewer is the bishop or stake president they again, representing the Lord, may take a confession. Women do not represent the Lord because they do not Lord His priesthood. The same is true in the temple.

        Women, correctly, present at the veil. We all bring souls to Christ. They do not represent the Lord and receive.

  8. Ellen says:

    The example with Activity Days was merely to illustrate the one-way channels in our church. Activity Days, which is only given a 21 page “Faith in God” booklet as a resource, is a church wide problem of institutional neglect. Which is a different post! I just wanted to make the point that even if we do voice a concern, the wards and stakes have very little autonomy. But think how much richer our ward and stake councils could be with full participation of women. Broader insights and different talents brought to the table could ease burdens and improve the service we give to each other.

    • Andrew R. says:

      The stake council of which I am a member gives full participation to the women present. Our High Council remain virtually silent while the sisters speak for the majority of the time. Voices concerns about the faith of the sisters, the problems of staffing the Primaries, etc. As a result of this we have enlisted the help, in a few wards, of the High Priest groups to assist in ensuring that Primary classes take place, giving the Primary presidencies the time to ensure that Sharing Time is working.

      If it is not happening in other stakes I am not convinced it is a problem at the institutional level, but at the level of those stakes.

  9. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Ellen. I think your conclusion is spot on:

    “I am forced to conclude, once again, that our Institutional Church, while giving lip service to wanting sisters’ voices, does not want us in the room where it really happens.”

    • MDearest says:

      Thanks for distilling the truth of Ellen’s essay for my edification, Ziff. I got lost in the weeds again, for a bit.

  10. Cherisa says:

    “information informs inspiration”

    I’d like to stitch this on a pillow, but, alas, I’m not a good Mormon woman and never learned needlepoint. ?

    Some of the discussion here has been about installing women in positions held only by men. But the point of seeking women’s opinions is of far greater importance to me. In ward council, women are present, but the men still outnumber the women about three to one (perhaps more or less depending on the unit). And a good number of women who have grown up in the Church​​ are still hesitant to speak up in such council meetings. The expectations and culture need to change. But those are predominantly driven by a patriarchy unconcerned about the lack of women’s input.

  11. Ellen says:

    Surely there are many possibilities between “on-line elections for stake president” and the current system. There are many ways to be far more inclusive and to provide more perspectives for informed inspiration. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

    • Andrew R. says:

      But unless you include everyone in the conversation you will always be excluded someone. It might be a step forward for an equal number of intelligent, faithful sisters as brothers to be interviewed. But what about those who happen to be teaching in Primary, or have been serving as Primary pianist for the past fifteen years?

      I am not the one arguing for a change. I like the current system, which ends in a sustaining vote. If I knew of a reason why someone might not fit the bill (like extreme sexist views) I would make it known. Women have as much of a voice as I do in this matter.

      But if the system isn’t picking the man you want, and you believe that it should be down to the people, and not the Lord’s choice, then you have to allow all people a say. Some of the most Christlike people I have known will never be Bishop (or even a counsellor), let alone stake president, simply because of personal situations – often beyond their control. As such their view would not be considered anymore than a sister’s.

    • Cherisa says:

      You seem to be missing the point, Andrew R. Perhaps it’s your male privilege or a desire to be obtuse, but, again, no one is suggesting that ALL members of a stake provide input into calling a new Bishop/Stake President. The suggestion has been to merely include women of equivalent positions to males in the discussion when gathering perspectives and input (e.g., if you’re asking past/present Elders Quorum Presidents for their input on the next Bishop/Stake President, also ask current/past RS President).

      There are many simple ways to increase the input from current/past leaders in wards/stakes who happen to be women without upending the apple cart. You obviously see it as an appeasement, but just consider that there is the potential for increased knowledge and insight for those in the position of selecting new leadership. In addition, more women would feel heard and involved. Considering women represent more than HALF the members of the Church, I can’t see where anyone loses in this possible change.

      As I said before, maintaining the status quo for the sake of not rocking the boat is an affront to the history of the modern Church.

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