Last year, Mike said something to me about Church leadership that I found radical. This was a surprise since Mike isn’t a radical kind of guy. We were talking about things done by our Church that I (and he) had problems with, and I asked him how he could remain so calm and unaffected.
He replied with, “How can I expect more from my leaders than I could expect from myself.”
This blew me away. I had grown up in the Church expecting that leaders would indeed be more spiritual, closer to God, stronger, etc. than the rest of us. Of course I expected them to be more in tune with God than I.
But Mike’s comment exploded that perspective, and it immediately resonated with me. It struck me as a beautifully generous and a beautifully egalitarian way to view my leaders. That they are just like me – strong is some ways, weak in others, and generally trying to do their best.
Given this idea that leaders are simply humans, bound to be fallible personally, professionally, and even ecclesiastically, I sometimes ask myself what I should expect from a Church leader. It’s been a rough road these last few years, but I’ve come to accept that I shouldn’t expect them to see the world as I do, or to perfectly understand my perspective.
But what should I expect? I recently told a good man in our ward, a man who I think will be our bishop someday, what I as a feminist hoped for from a leader. I emailed this to him: “In the past, facile explanations from leaders about why women don’t have the priesthood have been hurtful to me. In my opinion, the best thing they can possibly say is, ‘We don’t know why. Maybe it will change. I hope so. But in the meantime, I want you to know that we love you and want you here with us.'”
Maybe it’s too much to hope for this kind of response from every leader, but I still do. I continue to expect leaders to care, to want to understand even if they can’t. In the end, I simply expect sympathy and goodwill.