#hearLDSwomen: Not Allowed to Teach Again After My Lesson About Women and Priesthood
Four years ago, I volunteered to teach Relief Society for a friend. Her husband left the church many years ago, and it would have been her second lesson in a couple months teaching about the priesthood. It has become a difficult topic for her.
Teacher training in the church indicates that a teacher should cater the lesson to the needs of the class. As I was teaching a class composed entirely of women, and the only mention of women in the lesson manual was “Brothers and sisters…,” referencing the audience to which a particular quote was directed, I decided to talk about Joseph Smith’s vision of how the priesthood would bless women. I decided to read directly from the minutes of the founding of the Relief Society.
This was during the height of tensions surrounding the Ordain Women movement. I also wanted to help the sisters of my ward understand why some women felt the way they did in the context of our own history. I didn’t advocate one way or the other in the lesson, but did point out the use of the word “ordain” from the minutes—indicating that it wasn’t what we were used to hearing in association to women. It didn’t help matters that it was the same week that Kate Kelly was excommunicated.
In the lesson I also added some context regarding the history of women giving blessings and the church’s movement away from it.
Shortly thereafter, there was an edict that came down to the leadership of the ward (I found out because my husband was in the Elder’s Quorum presidency) that only teachers who had been set apart as such, and members of presidencies, were allowed to teach in our ward. Period.
I also found out (innocently and inadvertently), and it was confirmed by a second source, that a woman in our ward had told the bishop I had taught from the Ordain Women website.
I didn’t feel like I could go to this woman directly because it involved the confidence of a second friend. I decided to try to clear things up with the bishop. I emailed him a description of my concerns and my lesson notes. We eventually met.
He didn’t even bother to read my lesson or want to discuss the content in any way!
He said it was really important that we stick to the lesson manual and threw in a couple platitudes about how he knew I was a good person and sent me on my way.
A couple of my good (women) friends were released from high profile callings around the same time for, what seemed to them, similar reasons.
Within a year the church published its Gospel Topics essay, “Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, Women,” which was almost identical to my lesson in content.
Pro Tip: Don’t listen to (or spread) gossip. Make sure you’re working from the facts before punishing someone — or changing the entire ward policy — over a lesson plan. Resist the urge to feel threatened by historical information that isn’t part of the traditional church narrative.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)