#hearLDSwomen: Shut Out

by Megan

I’m a single, childless, middle-aged woman, so there are plenty of things, pricks big and small, that I could share, but this is the one that always sticks out the most. This experience happened a few years ago. At the time I was, for various reasons, living back in my parents’ ward which was also the ward I grew up in. I was a ward missionary and the ward mission leader happened to be my own father. My dad and I have always worked well together, so I was functioning as a kind of unofficial assistant ward mission leader, mostly of the “running correlation meetings when my dad couldn’t be there” variety.

At one point my parents decided to take a month-long vacation to visit my brother and his family in Australia which would leave us ward mission leader-less during that time. I mentioned to him that, since the ward mission leader doesn’t exercise any priesthood keys, maybe I could sub in for him during the duration. Unbeknownst to me, he brought the idea up with the bishop who gave his approval and so for about a month I was the acting ward mission leader.

There were ups and downs, like there are in any calling, but one of the ups was when I had the chance to organize a day of multiple baptisms. I organized the program, filled the font, asked brothers to be witnesses, and, because attendance at one of the baptisms outgrew the normal venue, had the chance to conduct a meeting from the pulpit in the chapel.

I felt so useful, so fulfilled. It was just so good to stretch myself in new ways, ways I’d never had the opportunity at church to explore.

My parents returned home when they were supposed to and things continued as they had before. But a few weeks later something new happened. One Sunday we were asked to sustain a brother, new in the ward, as the assistant ward mission leader. No one, in my memory, and it goes back a ways, had ever officially been called to that position, there’d never been a need. But now we had one.

I knew it wasn’t personal, but it felt like a punch in the gut, all the same. I even mentioned it to my dad, whose reply was pretty much, “It’s not about you, Megan.” But, you know what, it kind of was. They had certain expectations of who could lead, and I, because I couldn’t attend PEC, because I didn’t attend Elders Quorum, because I didn’t hold the priesthood, didn’t meet those expectations. And they acted to make sure that such a situation would never arise again.

I can’t and don’t know their reasoning, I wasn’t involved in the calling process. And since they didn’t even have the common decency to give me any kind of explanation, the only conclusions I can draw are from my own observations and experiences. Everyone involved was a nice guy, up to and including the guy they got to replace me, but they never once thought to consider my thoughts, opinions, or feelings on anything that happened. Because my opinion didn’t matter.

 

Pro tip: Create opportunities for women to contribute to the ward in ways that feed their spirits, even if that means going outside the usual gender box prescriptions. Consider women’s feelings when they are replaced; talk to them about their feelings and preferences.


Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. If you would like to submit an experience, please do so here.

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

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14 Responses

  1. Ari says:

    Here’s the secret. You can’t do the job because there is something very important that you lack. It starts with a P. In our church, only men have it. It’s called a “penis.”

    • Rita says:

      My five-year-old son would say that no, that P word is actually “pockets.”

      • Ari says:

        He’d be right. It’s really hard for women to find clothes with pockets! (I think it’s because we’d be more dangerous if we had pockets. Who knows what we’d have in there?!)

  2. SC says:

    This is ridiculous. Women serve equally as missionaries in the mission field. In fact, on my mission we out-baptized the elders every single month by a very large margin, so their penises basically only qualified them for dunking duty while we Sisters did all the hardest work: reacting, teaching, and commuting people to baptism. We Sisters also had the highest reactivation numbers compared to elders because elders never visited less-actives as much as we did (they were more focused on numbers and reactivating didnt help their stats). We Sisters visited them out of sheer love and it often resulted in a friend or nonmember relative joining the church, so we were always rewarded for our attention to ALL of God’s sheep! Church leaders who discriminated against you and nudged you away from your ward mission leadership calling in this way were absolutely wrong—sisters are THE most effective missionaries in the church and deserve to lead as such.

    • Wondering Why says:

      ” nudged you away from your ward mission leadership calling ”

      She didn’t have a “ward mission leadership calling”. She was, and could remain, a ward missionary. Her Bishop was not wrong, he acted according to the instructions in the handbook. Why vilify him, the writer doesn’t. Vilify the policy. Since there is no longer a ward PEC maybe the ward mission leader, or at least assistant, could be a calling for sisters.

      And Elders and Sisters do not serve equally. Sisters can not be ZLs and DLs, and therefore do no interview for baptism. Again, maybe that could change.

      • SC says:

        No, she stated that she was unofficially her father’s assistant. I am in a branch where women fill a lot of “unofficial” roles not allowed to them in the handbook but which we allow due to the “smaller wards and branches get to do things differently because they are so short on manpower” clause

      • Darren says:

        But they can be Sister Training Leaders, basically women Zone Leaders. My daughter’s mission president confided that they were as or more effective than the ZLs.Maybe that will change. Next weekend works for me.

      • SC says:

        Ah, and in my day we didn’t even have that! We Sisters weren’t allowed to even speak in zone conference, despite our outpacing the elders in the work. Yes, SO much change is still needed

  3. DT says:

    Sisters are able to serve as District Leaders and Zone Leaders. https://universe.byu.edu/2018/03/30/temple-square-missionaries-general-conference1/
    Kind of like the policy of civil marriage and then temple sealing without a 1 year delay that exists in some countries. If it is okay in that context and it doesn’t really affect the power of the ordinances, why not everywhere else?

    • Megan says:

      There’s a crucial piece that’s missing there: Sisters are able to serve as District Leaders and Zone Leaders when there aren’t any elders around. That’s pretty common in the Church, women can be leaders, they just can’t lead men.

      Back during my month as acting ward mission leader, I remember thinking how neat it was, that maybe Neylan McBaine was right and there was a chance for sisters to lean into leadership roles. And then I was clearly reminded why that approach is only possible in an environment where it is accepted and understood that women can be in leadership positions over men. Right now we exist in a space where it is commonly understood that men are naturally and rightfully ordained as leaders and that women can never exist in that same sphere because that’s what God wants.

      Now, I don’t agree that that is what God wants, but that is the way leadership and ordination are understood in the LDS Church. And until that changes women will always be seen as subordinate, fit to preside over other women and children but never over men (or even teenage boys).

      Sorry to slam down so hard on your comment, it’s just something I find really frustrating. And women in leadership positions over other women is always what’s thrown out when leadership wants to pat itself on the back for being open-minded when really hasn’t done anything at all.

      • Wondering Why says:

        I would have no problem whatsoever with a female Ward Mission Leader. No priesthood keys are conferred. Same with Sunday School presidency. In both cases, just like the women auxilliary leaders, the Bishop holds the keys and delegates their use to the person in the calling.

        I think that is often forgotten. I am the stake Sunday School president, I might as well be a woman because holding the priesthood makes not one jot of difference in terms of how I am treated by comparison to the female Auxilliary presidents. The main difference is that they all have two counsellors each. I have none. Hard to find men, so bring on two women counsellors, please. Or even an all female presidency.

  4. Mary says:

    I was once an “unofficial den sister”. My mother didn’t want to get a babysitter when she was a den mother, so she sewed me little uniform that was just like hers and I became the den mascot. I had a great time doing all the activities and requirements with the boys!

    However, when pack meetings came, month after month, I saw the boys in my pack go up and get awards. Sometimes they’d ask for all the members in a den to stand in front and I remember being expected to stand in front, as well. They would pass out awards for all the boys and skip over me. I asked quite a few times and quite a few people where my awards were. They told me I would never get any because I was a girl.

    So, yes. Girls can do anything in this church. They just can’t be anything. It’s the very definition of “unofficial”.

    • ElleK says:

      Mary, this breaks my heart! Your last paragraph really hits the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing.

      • Mary says:

        Thank you, ElleK. I did end up getting a service star as a consolation. It really did feel like a consolation prize.

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