Money and Power Within the Walls of the Church

Very early in the Book of Mormon, the Great and Abominable Church is church-budgeting-money-pastor-malphurs-group-300x300described in 1 Nephi 13; it is described in many ways, but specific to fiscal wealth as a church that positions money, the power of money and those beholden to financial overlords as “captive.” Though temporal self-reliance and independence is an important concept in Mormon culture and doctrine, I can’t help but wonder why this is so grossly different to the way the church structures its finances for women. The historiography of the church suggests that the church does not see fit to have women handle money on an institutional level, yet it encourages a degree of egalitarianism between husbands and wives when creating a family budget. For example, the principal website includes a section on temporal self-reliance and well as information on provident living and discussion resources on how to create a household budget. To the credit of the church, much of the budget and household financial materials provided at the website relay a sense that home finances are a joint decision made by “couples” (this is an example of language used to address a ‘couple’ as primary financial decision makers). However, probably as a means of not contradicting the gender-based roles consistent with church dogma, there is still the derogatory placement of men only as primary “breadwinners,” and women as “bread-spenders” (I found this church video particularly shocking). These labels are not only offensive, they are not necessarily reflective of all Mormon households.


Any sense of egalitarian budgeting, however, is institutionally abandoned as soon as this same couple enters the doors of a church building. If the church teaches that men and women (i.e. husbands and wives) are equals in maintaining a household budget, it stands to reason that the Relief Society President and Bishop should be equally responsible for the financing and operations of a ward, and that the Relief Society as a whole should have access and responsibility of at least 50% of the available finances of the church. Yet it is within the walls of the church building that financial disparity is reinforced with men making all of the financial decisions in regard to the ward, creating financial captives of the women who choose to serve callings that need financing in order to be effective, such as those who would organize Primary Activity Days and Girls Camp. J. Reuben Clark seems to be the most-quoted leader on the administrative structure of the church in seeking to provide for the temporal needs of church members, where the finances of the ward are dictated by the bishop:


“The office of bishop is in administering all temporal things … having a knowledge of them by the Spirit of truth.” In his calling he is to be endowed with the spirit of discernment to detect those “professing and yet … not of God;” he is to search “after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud.” (one resource is here)


With a bishop in charge of the finances associated with a ward, his perspective of finances are influenced by his experience as a Mormon male, and likely as the primary income provider for his family. Even in cases where the family has joint income, it is no stretch to presume that the husband’s income is greater than the wife’s income based on any number of studies that prove the fact that men are paid better than women. Additionally, his experience as a young man may have very well been formed in his teen years in the Young Men’s program, and in countries where it operates, the Scouts. If he additionally believes the oft-disproved theory that women are naturally more spiritually inclined than men, he would likely see a higher investment in men, especially the young men in the ward as appropriate and necessary. As a priesthood holder, he would likely also have less empathy for the degree of the work associated in managing weekly out-of-pocket costs linked to primary, Sunday school and youth presidency callings that are often silently incurred by, and burdened upon the women who hold these callings.



With the pre-disposition of men being labeled as the primary breadwinners, partnered with the worldly fact that men are paid better than women, I can’t help but think that income -outright money and fiscal value- is the deciding factor in the financial workings of each ward and branch within the church, as well as the overall financial culture of the church at large. Indeed, although needs and even wants are deemed to be the precursors for church expenditure, income of the ward and of the individuals managing the ward influence the choices made in regard to church budgeting and spending. That is to say, the social capital associated with money is better regarded than the philanthropic desire or position in addressing needs, wants, or equality in ward budgets and spending habits.


Consider this argument of income:  A report from the United Nations states that globally women earn 24% less income than menThis is based on earnings, and not reflective of income. When we consider earnings and income as separate tools for social enhancement and societal progression, we can construct a formula that reflects social capital, or the financial influence that defines the social roles of men and women within a particular unit or society. In Gender and Power, R.W. Connell pairs income to social power; making the disparity between financial influences and social credibility much greater than a mere 24% less. Connell writes:


“More women than men earn less than a full wage because they are less than full-time workers. [in his study] 36 % of employed women were part-timers, compared to 6% of employed men…Further, a higher proportion of women workers earn no wage because they are unemployed, and many more women than men have very low incomes because they are dependant [on welfare]. …The result is that the average income of women who have any income at all is 48% of the men’s average. And even that overstates the degree of equality, since a higher proportion of women have no income at all. Adjusting for that, the average income of all women is 45% of the average of all men.” – Connell, Gender and Power, Standford University Press, p 6-7 (my emphasis added)


That is a pretty huge income gap, and that is not for Mormon households, but the general public. When we consider that (American) Mormon women are more likely than any other group of Americans to be housewives (i.e. unemployed), the income, therefore social capital (voice) of women in the church is even less. This means Mormon women have an income that is even lower than 45% of Mormon men (see these Mormon Social Capital Tables as constructed by myself and Ziff at Zelophehad’s Daughters). And whilst the argument will be made that a man provides “for his family” and therefore “his” income is “shared,” more than a few men’s blogs (for example this), note how wives tend to ask husbands permission to spend money on themselves and their personal needs; that is to say, women in the church are accustomed to asking for money, even when household and church budgets are declared to be equally managed, and when women are taxed with the stereotypical admonition of “spending less (I seriously hate this video).” In laymen’s terms, if we apply the 45% rule, two women’s voices (90% social capital) are almost equal to that of one male voice (100% social capital) in the church. In reality, however, because women do not have priesthood, and likely have an even lower income than women outside of the church, women’s social capital in the church would be significantly lower than this– i.e. perhaps generously speaking in egalitarian wards, something along the lines of four women’s voices (25% social capital each) being equal-ish to one male voice (1oo% social capital). In other wards and branches with no degree of egalitarianism, the voice of women would reflect 0% social capital.



UntitledThis all connects to the social capital of worthiness within a Mormon context. It is an immediate reflection of the underlying concept that those with higher income are “more worthy” than those with lower income: they simply have more social capital because they have more money, therefore might better be able to “afford” tithing, and thus are in prime position for prominent roles within the church hierarchy. This is evident in that a man who is unwilling or unable to pay tithing is often forbidden from participating in ordinance work, higher-ranking callings, and so on, making his social capital very low: he is emasculated because his financial contribution is lesser, and while he might still serve as a teacher in youth or children’s classes, he is usually forbidden from even the most introductory ordinance work of passing the sacrament. Equally dis-empowered are women, not just because the priesthood title and authority are not available to women, but because women are additionally strongly encouraged to remain unemployed. Without income or with only government-funded welfare-based income, women provide little to no financial investment within the structure of the church.


According to Connell, where money plays an imperative part in social capital, this affords those with higher income a respectively higher social capital, i.e. they have greater prestige in social programs, policies and community development. In applying this concept to a ward, this would influence on how the finances in a ward are distributed among Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, Scouting programs….. and most significantly, in Priesthood/administrative offices. Think about it like this for a moment: only men are called to a lifetime of priesthood services, so those who become full-time general authorities receive a wage, and at the age of 70, are designated as “emeritus general authorities”- the term “emeritus” meaning that the man is retired and receives a retirement wage from the church until death. No such retirement program exists for women in the church to my knowledge. That is just one end of the spectrum. On the other end, we see the commonly noted frustrations of women in regard to the disparity between youth and children’s programs. (see here and here and here and here for previous Exponent posts showing this.)


This was not always the case in the church, where there are significant examples of the Relief Society, when managing its own funds, found itself a benefactor (at best) and exploited (at worst) by the men of the church for its monies.  In the end, the 1971 edict of forced Relief Society membership for all women coupled with general church “Correlation” annihilated any remaining degree of financial autonomy for women in the church. In terms of social capital within the church where women are encouraged to not be employed, and are forbidden any financial position in the church, women have no social capital. 


So what does this all mean? Women are already at a disadvantage in the church because they are forbidden the rights of administering the church through priesthood office. But in further consideration of income, and the ability to be a decision maker (rather than just a voice) in the financial structure of a ward, branch, stake or mission, and its associated contribution in social capital (and its partnered “worthiness” by virtue of paying a “full tithe”),  women are even further disadvantaged within the structure of the church.  This means that although tiny strides are being made by the church to include women’s voices, at the end of the day, women do not have the same social capital as men within the church.  Or, put bluntly, women have NO institutional voice within the church. 


The church has long-held its financing and accounting practices as private, even from its own membership. But in consideration of social capital, the forbidding of any financial autonomy to women is just as restrictive as forbidding women to hold priesthood keys and offices. In this, and within the historiography of the church in cases when it commandeered the finances of the Relief Society can be taken, at least in part, as a reflection of fear held by church administrators of women gaining financial, and therefore social influence to be in equity with, or worse, influence over men within the church. In other words– has the restricting of church finances, priesthood and therefore all social and monetary power in secrecy to men– actually begun to create the Great and Abominable organization that the church so desperately teaches is it’s opposite? I hope not. I do not think this is the church that Christ came to create. I also recognize how generous the church is globally for those in need and in crisis. But until women have priesthood or the authority to create a budget and access to church funds, I can’t help but wonder what financial, and therefore, motivational factors might underlie church administration in regard to the current structure of capitalist patriarchy. Is this what Christ would have wanted? Women utterly beholden to men for all finances and social capital? I don’t think so. And I’d like women to have a voice in regard to all budgeting in the ward, and church at large. 


What do you think? Should women have 50% control of ward finances? Does financial capital hold a higher position than it should in an ecclesiastical organization?

For further reading, please see April’s post, “Can Mormon Women Count Money?”


Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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27 Responses

  1. Spunky, this was an especially powerful statement:

    The forbidding of any financial autonomy to women is just as restrictive as forbidding women to hold priesthood keys and offices.

    Thank you for this analysis of the implications of a male-only money management system.

  2. Jim Thomas says:

    I agree 100% that women should have an equal voice in the administration of ward finances, but I disagree that the relief society president is the female analogue of the bishop. The bishop has ecclesiastical authority over the whole ward, whereas the relief society president by nature only represents a partnif the ward. We would need a position for a woman that is equal to the bishop in stature and authority. Maybe someday when women can hold the priesthood…

  3. Ziff says:

    Thanks for making so many interesting points, Spunky. I really like (meaning I hate) the point about the connection between priesthood and money-handling rights in the Church that you make. It’s not really necessary, but as you point out so well, since Correlation, Church leaders seem really concerned about making sure to define roles that don’t technically require priesthood (e.g., clerks) so that they do require the priesthood, looking for all the world like they’re worried about women getting any hint of real power.

  4. Joni says:

    This gets saved to my Super-Secret Pinterest Board of Reasons Why I Am A Mormon Feminist, In Case My Husband Ever Wants To Understand Me And Not Just “Fix” Me.

    Well done, Spunky! And it’s rather chilling having this laid bare.

  5. dale says:

    Your statistics are false and misleading.

    • JessR says:

      Dale, would you mind providing references? I’d be interested to compare.

    • spunky says:

      I provided references for my statistics, and included tables and formulas in one of the links. I’m happy for you to disagree, but please do so thoughtfully by including references as noted by Jessr.

  6. Beth says:

    I wonder how money is handled in the case of LDS Charities. Sharon Eubank is the director. Does she receive and control a budget? How much influence does she have over how much budget LDS Charities receives? Does she get to decide how it is spent? Can she solicit money from donors and decide directly how it is spent? Could she speak in general conference and encourage members to donate more? I have questions, no answers.

    • spunky says:

      This is an interesting thought, Beth! It does make me wonder as well. I suspect that LDS charities is likely a paid position, and therefore not considered a calling, ergo in the church, but not “of” the church.

      I have your same questions!

  7. JessR says:

    Thank you for this Spunky. I think you bring up some excellent points. It makes me sad that money = social capital, but I hope that by exploring this idea and exposing the inequities we can do better.

  8. BP says:

    So much to think about in this excellent, excellent post. Just when I think I’ve discovered all the ways women are silenced in the church, I discover something new.

  9. eponymous says:

    Annual budgets are allocated to Wards based on attendance. With the allocation pretty much every Bishopric I’ve seen sits down with the Ward Council and together they discuss what each organizational President requires. Outside of the YM to YW inequity – which Scouting causes due to the various organizational costs – an inequity that should be rectified and likely will be if/more likely when the Church abandons the BSA due to Obergefell ramifications – a close examination of those budgets finds that generally they are split more heavily in favor of women led auxiliaries. The EQ and HP Group receive 10-20% of what the RS receive typically as an example.

    It’s a fair argument to ask that women have more ownership in the finances aspect but the inequities in finances under the current system – excluding the YM/YW piece – aren’t generally there.

    • Spunky says:

      Thanks for your comment, eponymous (your moniker made me think of the REM album of the same name).

      I think that is the core issue:

      It’s a fair argument to ask that women have more ownership in the finances aspect

      My issue is that women have to “ask”– we aren’t included in budgeting. And I’m on the fence about more and less for activities– I agree that in many cases, the women have more money allotted to them by virtue of the fact that women are generally called as primary presidencies and always in Relief Society and Young Women presidencies. But I’ve been in wards where the bishop *assigned* the Relief society, YW and primary activities they were allowed to do- else they were not allowed to do them, and can make a decision as to whether or not the ward will reimburse the expenses. This is not egalitarian, and a symptom of the problem– we place women in the position of gamblers even when they have “permission” to spend money on certain things- because the bishop can refuse to reimburse the expenditure if he so chooses. And since the end of the Activities Committee, in the wards and branches I have been in, the Relief Society has been the group that has been given the task of creating and executing activities for everyone.

      I also don’t think you’ve taken into account things like building maintenance (upkeep, landscaping), heating and cooling, and other costs that are associated with the functioning of a ward building as a part of the ward budget. I’d like to think that if women had more autonomy with church finances that we might create a community garden, or have fruit trees, etc. on the church property that can be used for ward functions and activities.

      Social capital is about the whole picture; not just what looks like is more- generous spending habits on behalf “of women led auxiliaries”- but the authority (social position) to make choices and be a part of the decision-making machine when it comes to overall church financial management.

      • KLC says:

        I have to agree with eponymous, every ward budget I’ve been involved in was generally decided by consultation between the bishop and ward council members. And every budget I’ve seen was hugely in favor of the RS. For example, $50 for the EQ, $50 for the HPG, $50 for the ward mission, $900 for the RS. Those are real numbers from my ward a few years ago. And YM and YW have been generally equal as well. The reason for that is that much of the higher administrative costs associated with scouts is paid by the stake or paid out of a different budget than what is available for local spending by ward members.

        • Spunky says:

          That’s interesting KLC. Does the Relief Society do things like host the ward Christmas party and so on? That would take a chunk of the budget and I don’t think it would be just spent on the women.

          And– if this is the way the ward budget is arranged, isn’t this just a model of the men as tithe payers (i.e. income generators) and women as “spenders”? And if so, what social capital is afforded to women, especially if the stake, in your case in the US- has a specific set of funds for all of the Young Men to do scouting? To men, that is to say that the higher authority (in your case, the stake) values Young Men in such high regard that includes combining funds to increase and invest in the social capital of Young Men, whereas women are deemed a less important investment.

      • KLC says:

        Scouting has administrative fees like annual charter expenses that the stake pays. That’s why it’s a little misleading for people to talk about the huge money differences between boys and girls programs, scouts vs other programs. Yes, scouting costs more money overall but the boys usually don’t see that extra money, most of it is administrative money that goes directly to BSA national and council overhead. The actual funds that they get to spend each year from the ward budget is pretty equal to the girls in my experience. Both go to a summer camp, both participate in youth conference and trek. Scouts do go camping each month but I’ve never seen ward budget money used for that, it comes directly from the scout’s family.

        No, ward parties were not part of that budget, it was for RS use only. My adult experience in the church is that any priesthood social activity automatically includes the spouse but any RS social activity, which are many and well funded, automatically excludes the spouse. And I agree, it is kind of like an extravagent gift of money to the women from the sugar daddy.

      • Archie Dunbar says:


        If you are still interested in this, I am not going to read further down the thread.

        The big dollar things that you are asking about are not even decided by the Bishop. The big dollar thing you are not asking about is Fast Offering funds. In most wards, I would guess that the Bishop is in control of disbursing more there than the total “Ward Budget” which is typically around 7-9 thousand dollars. Back to the big dollar items like building, even the Bishop has no control and little input over that. Theoretically the building management paid staff works for the Stake President. There also is a budget that the Stake must stay inside of and most of the expense is on autopilot because it is governed by multi year maintenance schedules.

        Here is the bottom line for me. We all must approach every issue from the point of “wanting” to have faith or not. In most North American Wards and Stakes the official “Ward Budget” is a very small fraction of what the members donate. We see very little evidence of what happens to the rest. This is not necessarily due to some nefarious plot. There are several reasons for the church to be circumspect in explaining how the dollars are spent. Lawyers and lawsuits, member jealousy… We each make a choice to have faith or not.

        Finally, if we listen carefully to what we are taught and what is written in our manuals and handbooks. We should be teaching frugality and resourcefulness. The leadership would be really happy for the youth activities to be local and inexpensive and totally funded out of the ward budget with no need for additional fund raising. Yes scouting from a non LDS perspective is a roaring good buy. From within the church it is a budget buster.

  10. Naismith says:

    It is true that the budget is part of the bishop’s stewardship. But this doesn’t make all men more advantaged; the number of men in a ward who lack “control” over the budget is only one less the number of women. This was demonstrated a few years ago, back when women had “Enrichment” meetings. The Elder’s Quorum thought this was great and wanted to replicate the idea as “Menrichment” to teach men various life skills. But they hadn’t budgetted for it.

    One reason your statistics may be suspect to a US audience is your use of the term “unemployed.” In the US, “Unemployed” has a precise definition of “without a job but looking for work.” This is why economists were actually happy to see an uptick in the US unemployment rate, because it indicated that discouraged workers were perceiving conditions to be positive enough to start applying for jobs. The term for someone who chooses to be at home full-time is “out of the workforce.” I appreciate that you aren’t in the U.S. and thus can’t be expected to know this.

    Speaking of statistics, I am one of those women who is employed part-time and thus messes up the statistics and assumptions. My part-time salary is right about the median family income in my state; it is more than a starting-out school teacher. I don’t need more money, so I feel it is a better use of my time to earn the lower salary and have more time for family, community service, and church callings. I haven’t bought into the notion of “social capital” and power that underlies much of the OP. I reject that in favor of being a disciple of Jesus Christ and relying on the power of the Holy Ghost instead.

    In my employment, I submit a budget for every project I manage. It gets submitted to a director for final approval. I haven’t found the church to be much different. I’ve never had a RS budget changed, but I realize not everyone has that same experience.

    In the home, I do NOT ask to spend money any more than my husband does. Never did even when I was not earning a paycheck. We are a partnership, all resources are shared. We’ve always had a limit on personal spending that BOTH of us agreed to adhere to. So you are getting this offensive subservient “asking” notion from men’s blogs? Why do you believe men more than women? And in the video that you hate so much, I appreciate that the “husband” acknowledges that she works hard, too.

    You have very well laid out the world’s view of social capital. I don’t think for a minute that is how the church operates. I would be the first one running out the door if I thought it did. Instead, I believe that we do things through stewardship and inspiration.

    Although some wards have horrifying discrepancies between YW and YW programs, and I believe every word that people say about what goes on, this isn’t entirely* true everyplace in the vineyard. My daughters had great camp experiences and went on high adventure (whitewater rafting two states away) and participated with the YM in a lot of the coolest activities (archery, moonlight canoeing). So perhaps it would be worth examining how things are different in wards that have more parity. Is it fueled by capitalism or humility? Are some rich women slapping the bishop down, or is the bishopric spending time on their knees praying about what is best for all the youth in their ward? I put “control” in the paragraph above, because really the bishop is just a steward of the Lord’s money.

    The * above regarding parity is due to the boy scouting program in the U.S. which is very expensive to participate in. On paper, it may seem more is spent on YM because of the higher cost of awards, etc. although the YW have a budget sufficient for their program. But the church doesn’t participate in that program everywhere.

    My girls loved the level of involvement that they had in planning girls camp: designing t-shirts, finalizing a theme, choosing what classes to offer, having responsibility over younger girls. Whereas their male counterparts attending a scout camp had everything served up to them, with no input or responsibility.

    As far as women being better served if women were in charge, I am skeptical. I’ve had some female workplace supervisors who were the worst ever. Also, female doctors have tended to write off my (very real) health issues as being due to neuroses or whatever because after all, I was a mere housewife. For pregnancy, I got the best care from a male physician whose wife also suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (severe nausea and vomiting).

    Like that physician, I find male church leaders to have learned from and care about the women in their lives. Although of course there may be exceptions, I find that they do NOT invest more in men. I would hope that if a woman is every in that position of stewardship, that she would do exactly the same.

    • Spunky says:

      Thank you for your comment, Naismith!

      I have never heard of “menrichment.” Perhaps that was a US thing?

      The term “unemployment” was used in academic context, as quoted in Connell’s Power and Authority. I understand that there are nuances in terms in various places, but as this is a worldwide church with the majority of the membership not being in the US, I still stand by my use of the term which is to mean those who do not gain an income, male or female. Your condescension in the last sentence of your unemployment paragraph is noted, but unnecessary.

      Based on your paragraph that begins with, “Speaking of statistics…” it seems as though you did not look at the tables in the attachment? There are different formulas that can be applied to individual wards. Your part-time income is included in the models there. It is appreciated that you make different investment choices for your time, and do not regard social capital in terms of financial capital. But when women do not have priesthood, and are encouraged to not create an income (at this time– historically, the Relief Society was an active money-earning organization), what else is there to give women position in the church? This is the core argument. We cannot compare your Holy Ghost income to my Holy Ghost income, and to do so would be ridiculous of not blasphemous. You might not enjoy the thought of social capital, but it is contextually applicable to the church organization because the church does not offer priesthood to women.

      Re: So you are getting this offensive subservient “asking” notion from men’s blogs? I think LDSLiving is an LDS blog, I do not think it is gender-specific. I use the term “asking” here because women are NOT the decision makers in the church budget, the male bishop is– see the J. Reuben Clark quote for this.

      It sounds like you have been blessed to be in very prosperous wards for your Young Women (in your terms, this would not relate to capital, but the determination and testimony of leaders who work hard to create and active and exciting experience for their youth.) But is also sounds like the Young Men programs you discuss could use your help!

      Re: although the YW have a budget sufficient for their program Huh? Are you a representative for the church who can make this kind of a statement about all YW programs in all of the church? Because I’d like some reimbursement from money I laid out for a girls’ camp I managed from a few years ago …

      It sounds like you have had a hard time dealing with women in positions of authority your life. I am truly sorry for that, but I also think that if we encourage women to be in better places professionally, privately and personally, we might all come to a better understanding of each other. I personally have a female doctor. My husband went to her, and raved to me about her. He was right. I find her to be better understanding of my stress levels and needs on an emotional level and in ways I have never had a male doctor consider. If you are ever in Australia, I’ll give you her number. She is fabulous.

      Good luck to you as you navigate the challenges in your life-

      • Naismith says:

        “But when women do not have priesthood, and are encouraged to not create an income (at this time– historically, the Relief Society was an active money-earning organization), what else is there to give women position in the church?”

        Why do they need “position” in the church? What is it that you think they should be doing?

        If they have sufficient funding and authority to do what they need, why is this a problem?

        An RS president is a manager of the social services agency for the ward. A lot of money flows through her. She makes huge recommendations about how to help whatever family. It was interesting that when dealing with a male-only family, I would sometimes teach and send someone from the EQ presidency to do an assessment, but they were not authorized to fill out the food order or whatever. They had to report back to me to continue with the process of actually getting what was needed, which ultimately the bishop signed off (okay back in the paper days, I would take a blank form from a pre-signed stack that the bishop had given me, but don’t tell anyone or he’d get in trouble even though lots of wards did that). I was able to play an important role and have the resources used where I determined they were needed, without having priesthood.

        And I would posit that the men in the church are not actually the decision-makers, either, and certainly should not “dictate” from their own whims. They should only do what they are inspired to do. It is the Lord’s church, after all.

        I do not object your characterization of the bishop as having ultimate authority over the ward budget. Of course he is responsible. I objected to the idea that women who are not wage-earners in their family have to “ask” their husband for money and this acclimates them to asking at church.

        My statement about YW having a budget sufficient for their program was only a recognition of the higher cost of Boy Scouting. If one tried to prove equality by having the same YM and YW budgets for a US ward, the boys would get less from their dollars because of the high costs of participating in BSA. So it is possible for a YW budget to be less in dollars but still deliver what is needed and equally in value to what the YM have.

        “It sounds like you have had a hard time dealing with women in positions of authority your life.”

        When a woman is raped on a date, do you also think she has a hard time dealing with the men she dates?

        So it is MY fault if I have female colleagues and supervisors who think I should “lean in” and be a normal woman who works a normal 40-hour shift?

        I have worked for some wonderful women, but I have worked for enough who were not wonderful that I don’t assume a woman in leadership would be automatically better for all women.

        I totally encourage other women to be where they want to be, personally and professionally. I cannot say that I have received that kind of support and respect from all other women. And when a female supervisor appointed me to a full-time position after agreeing in person that I could do part-time the first two years, she said, “You can thank me later. You’ll find out that your family doesn’t need you as much as you think.” She genuinely thought that she was helping me find a better way. And when I finally gave notice, she lied to other people about why I left, making it harder for me to find a new position. I overheard her tell another researcher that my “husband didn’t want me to work.”

        • Spunky says:

          Oh, dear Naismith. I do not think you’ve read the OP. I highly recommend you purchase a copy of Gender and Power and Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism.

          Why do they need “position” in the church? What is it that you think they should be doing?

          Why do men need position and priesthood titles?

          If they have sufficient funding and authority to do what they need, why is this a problem?

          It is about social capital that comes from egalitarianism. “Sufficient” for one is not so for another. What authority do you think women have in the organizational church?

          RS president is a manager of the social services agency for the ward. A lot of money flows through her.

          I’ve never been in a ward where this is the case and am unfamiliar with handbook instruction that ascribe to this. This is contrary to what is described in the handbook, though I have known of cases where the bishop “assigns” the RS president with the Bishop’s Storehouse tasking in communities affluent enough for there to be a Bishop’s storehouse (notice the name of the church ‘storehouse’?).

          So it is MY fault if I have female colleagues and supervisors who think I should “lean in” and be a normal woman who works a normal 40-hour shift?

          I’m not saying this is your fault any more than I am discussing rape in the OP, nor am I saying that women in leadership are superior to men. I am discussing social capital, and how the ability to be in position as a policy and decision makers is absent for women within the context of the administrative church.

          I totally encourage other women to be where they want to be, personally and professionally.

          Excellent. Then you do not object to my analysis of the lack of social capital of women within the church. How do you think you could make this better for the worldwide church, and not just your utopia-sounding ward?

  11. Emily U says:

    Thanks for this very well documented and provocative post, Spunky. I feel like BP above, just when I think I’m aware of all the ways patriarchy affects the Church, there is something like this to surprise me.

  12. Naismith says:

    “I’ve never been in a ward where this is the case and am unfamiliar with handbook instruction that ascribe to this. This is contrary to what is described in the handbook…”

    I would direct you to section 6.2.4 of Handbook 2, which states:
    “The bishop normally assigns the Relief Society president to visit members who need short-term assistance. She helps assess their needs and suggests to the bishop what assistance to provide. The bishop may ask her to prepare a Bishop’s Order for Commodities form for him to approve and sign.”

    And section 9.6.1 is clear that her duty to perform this assessment is to ALL families in the ward, not just those with women:
    “If there is not a woman in a home she visits, she takes one of her counselors, the Relief Society secretary, or the compassionate service coordinator with her.”

    It goes on to say,
    “The Relief Society president evaluates the family’s resources and prepares an itemized list of the family’s basic food and clothing needs. She gives this list to the bishop. She also may prepare a Bishop’s Order for Commodities form for the bishop to review and approve.”

    This is why I feel it is fair to say that “A lot of money flows through her.” Because she is making those assessments and recommendations and filling out the forms, and after approval may be carrying out the process of purchasing things like prescription drugs, hotel rooms, and food if it is an emergency and there is not a Storehouse nearby.

    “…notice the name of the church ‘storehouse’?”

    Yes. In Section 6.1.3 the section heading is “The Lord’s Storehouse” and notes that “The bishop is the agent of the Lord’s storehouse.” I love the model of the bishop being an “agent” acting on his Master’s behalf.

    • spunky says:


      Those are the same references I would use to illustrate the point of Social Capital and Patriarchal Capitalism. Please read the OP with an analytical mind aimed at recognition and hope for improvement, rather than an outwardly defensive stance.

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