#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.
– Anonymous


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.

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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7 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    This is just sad. You needed to add something to your pro tip. “Don’t be an idiot.”

    Seriously. The whole point of the new “balance between home and church” is that we should be putting things into context. In order to have context means looking at the detail.

    This bishop was an idiot. Whether he was acting as he thought best for him, or as he had been told, is irrelevant. What he should have been doing was acting in the best interests of you.

    I am sorry this happened to you, and the others you mention.

  2. SC says:

    I am SO sorry this happened to you!

  3. Darci says:

    I wish I could have sat in your lesson! It is so frustrating that people often don’t seemed to be willing to think about anything beyond the usual platitudes and “primary answers” or anything different, really. For me, it feels like more of a betrayal when women are unwilling to face truths that are not often discussed (e.g. Heavenly Mother, past power of earlier Relief Society, more encompassing understanding of the word “priesthood” etc)

  4. birdsmith says:

    How horrible. That is so maddening. But how validating to your excellent teaching that even church historians show you were in the right! Thanks for that link, BTW–I will now be able to share it with my seminary class just in time for DC 20 week and give a little love to the sisters. What a great resource; such a shame that the brethren who supervise us never once pointed it out as a teaching aid. Go figure.

  5. Ziff says:

    I’m sorry this happened to you, anon. This sounds immensely frustrating.

  6. el oso says:

    God help your ward primary presidency. Do they have 4 or 6 extra teachers called to help fill in for the absent teachers?
    Of course, some wards seem to have an abundance of people to fill certain callings and leaders can make arbitrary decisions like this without massively crippling the effectiveness of the ward auxiliaries. Our ward, (the most active in the Stake according to the SP), has struggled to completely fill the needed leadership and teaching callings without some doubling up. The new 2 hour schedule is going to cause some strong members to be without a calling, unless they are teaching EQ or RS once every other month. For one or two, that may be a welcome break if it only for a short while.
    Yes, I think I have won the ward roulette and have had good leaders.

  7. Jim says:

    The use of the word ordain in those early documents has been replaced by the words ‘set apart’ in more modern usage within the Church to avoid confusion.
    Men and Women are ‘set apart’ for their callings rather than being ordained to them.
    Ordinances like baptism, confirmation, endowment, etc. are meant to reach into the eternities for our salvation whereas for our callings we are only set apart for a season.
    Anyone who accepts a calling and is set apart is done so by priesthood authority and therefore operates with priesthood power in that calling if they are in Relief Society, Primary, Young Women’s etc.

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