What’s in a name?

Mr. Always RightMister-Mistress, Lord-Lady, King-Queen, Actor-Actress, Aviator-Aviatrix, President, Boss, Bishop, Deacon, Teacher, Priest-Priestess?, Elder, Provider, Presider, Nurturer, Pilot, Captain, and etc. So many titles. All referring to positions, qualifications, status, or location in a hierarchy. So many attached to men, with lesser, corresponding feminized versions sometimes. Certainly part of our patriarchal heritage, part of our human desire to categorize each other. Labels help us make sense of the world but also put children of God into boxes.

How many titles or boxes contain you? Or do you contain? Surely we all contain multitudes. What names will never be attached to you, perhaps because of gender roles?

If “all are alike unto God,” and we really believe it, we shouldn’t use honorific titles. I’ve long felt that we should all be “brother” and “sister” without regard to callings or positions. Or maybe, in acknowledgment of a non-binary world, “friend” or “sibling.”

And yet…

I was in a youth meeting recently. When the young men’s president turned the time over to the young women’s president, he referred to her as “President _____.” This struck me; I don’t think I’ve heard that before. Usually the man is called “President” and the woman is called “Sister.” It really made me feel something. That something was good. Eventually I do believe we will do away with labels and titles. When we achieve Zion, there won’t be any manner of -ites among us, and we will be one.

But until that time, it was really good to hear the young women’s president called “President.” An easy and achievable step towards reducing the unnecessary boxes around all of us children of Heavenly Parents.

Are female presidents referred to as “President” in your ward? I live in a very conservative area, is this just an issue in Utah?

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10 Responses

  1. Happy Hubby says:

    When I was in some bishoprics, I always addressed the YW/RS/Primary presidents as “President surname”. I told them that when I was addressing them with this title it was “business” as in I was talking about some ward business and if I just called them by their first name it was just me as a neighbor/friend talking with them. Even after this explanation most all of the women said it felt weird to be called that. I do hope this becomes the norm. It seems like such a very easy thing to do.

  2. DB says:

    In my mid-west ward, which is also very conservative but at the same time very laid back, generally only the stake presidency are referred to as “President”. Sometimes auxiliary or quorum presidents, male and female, will be referred to as “President”, depending on the occasion, but usually it’s “Brother” or “Sister” or even just a first name.

  3. Andrew R. says:

    Technically only a President with keys is called president, and in some cases his counsellors also.

    So neither the YM or YW president is President. You will note this in General Conference, and other places, General Presidents are Brother or Sister – so too should stake and ward.

    We do this so that we are acknowledging the keys they hold.

    The President of the Church
    The President of Quorums – Apostles to Deacons
    Presidents of Temples and Missions
    Presidents of Stakes (who are also Quorum presidents)

    ‘ Or maybe, in acknowledgment of a non-binary world, “friend” or “sibling.” ‘

    I am fairly certain the Church only acknowledges binary sexes.

    • DB says:

      Andrew, I’m going to have to technically disagree with you on this. The leaders of RS, YW, and Primary, from the general level down to the ward level are all given the calling and title of president and are correctly called “President”. The same is true for the Bee Hive, Mia Maid, and Laurel class leaders. Being a president doesn’t come from having keys; having keys comes from being a president.

  4. Anon says:

    Don’t choke on the bones that they throw you.

  5. marilynmcphie says:

    When I was Relief Society president, the bishop always addressed me as “President.” It often caught me by surprise, but I did appreciate the thought and the regard that came with the title. This was in Southern California. I also think it’s an easy way to acknowledge the callings that women hold in the Relief Society, Primary, and Young Women.

  6. ZAB says:

    I am the Relief Society president (in a ward outside of Utah) and I am always addressed as president by the bishopric and other ward council members. It is always a pleasant surprise and one that I haven’t quite gotten used to.

  7. Dani Addante says:

    I’ve never heard a female church leader being called president, but it would be great if this became a common occurrence throughout the church. One of my relatives was in a bishopric once and he said he always called the RS president “president.” I’m glad he did that. It doesn’t make sense to only call the male leaders “president.” Female leaders are leaders too and should be treated that way.

  8. Ellen says:

    Thanks for the comments. I don’t know that “President” is only for those with “keys”. Do women ever have keys, for anything? The only female leader of both male and female members that I can think of is the Primary President. I do like happy hubby’s way of differentiating between ward business and friend conversation. It has always felt strange to address someone that I know very well as “President” or “bishop”. Glad to hear your calling was acknowledged, marilynmcphee.

    • DB says:

      It all depends on how one defines “keys”. In my experience, most members of the church, including most men and especially most men who think they know everything about the gospel, don’t understand the priesthood and understand “keys” even less. As used in the scriptures, “keys” can refer to authority, knowledge, or rights. In regards to priesthood, “keys” refers to both specific authorities and to presiding authority. Most members only think of the presiding authority use of “keys” as in a quorum or unit president holding the “keys” for that quorum or unit. In the sense that “keys” refers to presiding authority, it would correctly refer to any presiding authority including RS presidents, YW presidents, and Primary presidents. However, there are many members of the church who are just not ready to accept that amount of light and knowledge so be careful when discussing “keys” openly at church.

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