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