#hearLDSwomen: My Bishop Calls People–Even My Own Husband–to Primary Without Consulting Me, the Primary President

A man stands at the pulpit in front of a congregation.Today was hard. I’m the Primary president and struggle with a bishopric that will randomly call people to Primary without my knowing at all. It’s like they throw people my way and more or less say, “figure out where they’ll go”. It’s frustrating and annoying because, believe me, I’m well aware of holes and calling needs and have already been formulating the best possible plan for our needs. I would say they do this about 40% of the time. The rest of the time, they are usually respectful of names I submit.

I tend to be a roll-with-it type of person and haven’t made waves regarding this issue, but today, I reached my boiling point. My husband came home from his bishop’s appointment and told me he has been released from Young Men and called to Primary. So basically, a calling to the auxiliary I’m supposed to be the head of was extended to my own husband behind my back. They couldn’t bother to tell me their plan this time, even when it involved my own husband? And what frustrates me even more is that the second counselor to the bishopric popped into the Primary room to check in with me today. I point-blank asked him, “My husband is meeting with the bishop today. Is he being given a calling to Primary?” Second counselor said, “I don’t know…” Well, guess who ended up meeting with my husband an hour later to extend the calling? That second counselor. I felt blatantly lied to and purposely kept in the dark.

My question is, would you say something and what would you say? Am I making too big of deal about this? It’s so hard to know if my reaction is valid when the women I shared today’s frustrations to (my presidency and mom/sisters) all pretty much tell me it’s not that big of a deal and it’s just how the bishopric works sometimes, and just be grateful the calling was filled, etc.

Sidenote: I AM happy to get my husband in primary with me. It is a win. It just felt like a double slap of disrespect.
– HS

 

When I was in the Primary presidency years ago this (the bishopric calling people to Primary without consulting us) happened over and over. We (mostly I) discussed it with our bishopric counselor many times. Nothing changed, I was abruptly released, and I didn’t have another calling for two years. That was the last time I let myself get emotionally invested in church duties and it was the end of my belief that God was running things in the church.
– Anonymous

 

This is unfortunately all too common. In my third week as Relief Society president, my visiting teaching coordinator (before the change to ministering!) was released, and I found out over the pulpit. She was so upset with me but I hadn’t requested it! Another time, I had an assistant compassionate service leader called without me requesting it, so I had to scramble to figure out opportunities for her to serve in her new calling. In hindsight, both of these turned out to be blessings in disguise BUT in the moment I was very upset! I told the bishop that can’t happen anymore since he’s trusting me to run the auxiliary how I see fit. No slip-ups since then. I understand they have a lot on their plate – I’m fortunate to work with really great men who treat women much better than a lot of places, but they still need correcting at times! Don’t get me started on when I hear about people becoming new auxiliary presidents and bishoprics telling them who their counselors will be. That kills the whole process for me. Luckily that hasn’t happened to me.
– Anonymous

 

When a super-orthodox, super-controlling bishop called me to be music chair and told me my “number one job” was to make sure only hymns were ever performed in Sacrament Meeting, I smiled my best Concerned Mormon Woman FrownSmile and told him that if he wasn’t going to follow the handbook I wasn’t going to be able to accept the calling, because I was uncomfortable “going against the brethren.”

He blinked for a few seconds, scrambled to explain that he would of course NEVER go against the brethren, and just wanted to make sure all the music for Sacrament Meeting was “appropriate” and he thought I was the right person to do that. I accepted the calling on the strict understanding that I would be following the handbook’s suggestions that a variety of sacred and inspiring music be included in meetings, and we had three months of the best musical numbers that ward had ever seen before I moved away. 😂

We are volunteers. They can take our volunteer labor how we choose to give it, or they can find someone else.
– OM

 

Pro Tip: The way the church is structured, the default setting is disenfranchisement of women. It takes a lot of extra effort for leaders to respect women’s stewardships, to implement policies that empower and utilize women, and to seek out, listen to, and incorporate women’s input. It can be tempting to make staffing calls, policies, and changes without consulting women because doing so takes more work, but it is the right thing to do. Constantly look for and rectify blindspots in your congregation’s policy and practice that needlessly overlook and marginalize women.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)

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9 Responses

  1. Kaylee says:

    The first time this happened to me as a RS president, I rolled with it. It didn’t work out too well. I realized that if there was a next time, I would have to use the “no” vote during sustaining. That’s what it’s for!

  2. Andrew R. says:

    “The way the church is structured, the default setting is disenfranchisement of women.”

    Of course it is, because this never happens in male callings – you know, Young Men where the president can not even suggest counsellors, and Sunday School where teachers can be called without knowledge.

    And stakes do it to Bishops all the time. They wanted X as the new Ward Clerk, X received a call to the High Council (thanks for letting us know he was up for a calling change, we took him), and they then call Y as Ward Clerk.

    Failure to communicate happens everywhere, unfortunately.

    • ElleK says:

      This reminds me of when white people try to claim that because they have experienced bias for being white before, reports of racism and oppression by people of color aren’t valid.

      What this comparison fails to account for is the systemic component of institutionalized oppression. While men may have experienced some of the things these women have, the power dynamics and contexts are completely different because women are systemically marginalized in the church and men are not.

  3. Miriam says:

    Some bishops and bishoprics “get it,” and some don’t. It’s a crapshoot. God will direct you to what to say in every circumstance, but there is no harm in communicating how it makes you feel to have the bishopric disregard your stewardship. They may or may not accept your position and you may or may not get released, but hopefully you’ll be guided as to what is best. And, of course, opting out is always an option. You have every right to receive your own revelation, and the Lord just might tell you that you do not need to be in that calling anymore. He has told me that before. Agency is a beautiful thing.

  4. Kell says:

    Can I just make one suggestion to the Pro-Tip. Instead of saying “it takes a lot of effort for leader to respect women’s stewardship”, it could say “it shouldn’t take a lot of effort…”. This way it’s less of a request that women deserve basic respect and more of an expectation.

    • ElleK says:

      Thanks, Kell–that’s a fair observation. My point, though, was that in the system as it currently stands, it DOES take a lot of extra effort for bishops and stake presidents to “respect women’s stewardships, to implement policies that empower and utilize women, and to seek out, listen to, and incorporate women’s input.” You’re right that it SHOULDN’T take a lot of effort, but in order for that to be the case, the system is going to have to change and become more equitable. Until then, I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s actually much easier for them to cut women out of the loop and do their own thing.

  5. EmilyB says:

    If men were treated this way in their callings by their fellow brethren, they would not tolerate it for a second. But read how these women downplay the damage to themselves and try to explain away the men’s lying and manipulation of the sisters (“I should be grateful that at least the calling was filled”). No man would ever do this–men would never put up with this sort of degrading treatment of people who are generously donating precious time. Why do the women of the church not only put up with it, but excuse it?

  6. marcellatp says:

    I was in a ward where we in the Primary presidency were never told nor consulted when callings or releases were made. We were bluntly told by the Bishopric counselor that we didn’t need to know until it happened in Sacrament meeting. He also stated that we could pray about who should be called all we wanted but he did the calling and didn’t need to hear what we thought “but go ahead and pray all you want”. It was awful. Nothing like having multiple people released without warning and trying to find subs between Sacrament and primary!

    But what upset me more was all the times he sustained people to callings without talking to them first. They found out when they were called. Then they would complain to us! Not One Person would go back to the Bishop and state that they had been sustained without being talked to first! They preferred to tell us that they wouldn’t be doing the calling and leaving us to deal with it. This bothered me more than one bone headed counselor.

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