Dear Bishop: With Love, Mormon Women

Ward_Council_mtgRECENTLY A FRIEND, whose husband seems always to be in one or the other position of local leadership within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expressed that she tries to help her husband understand how women in the church feel and, essentially, wondered what I would tell him, or other local leaders, if I could. Easiest writing challenge ever. So while I am just one woman and cannot be said to represent all LDS women–not even those of a more feministy persuasion–here’s my Top 10 list of things I’d like to say to bishops and stake presidents about how women in the church “feel.” The list is in no particular order.

First, Bishops and Stake Presidents, thank you for all you do within the bounds of your calling.  I think all members understand your job is very difficult. So please, as you read forward, understand that these ideas are offered with the intention of supporting you in your service to the Lord and not in a vein of criticism. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who takes on your calling is a rock star. Now, here we go!

1. Stop worrying about how women in your ward “feel.” Instead, consider how we think. We are rational human beings and want to be treated as such. We don’t want to be treated like we are one big emotional explosion waiting to happen, particularly when you may not be dealing with us nearly as rationally as you think. This tends to happen in the realm of religion.

2. Remember that you felt inspired to call particular women to the positions you did. Honor the inspiration that led you to call these women. So if we come to you within the bounds of a calling, say as a Primary, Young Women, or Relief Society President, and make a suggestion, offer a name for a calling, or fill you in on a decision, take it as if the Lord were offering it. These women are, after all and according to you, chosen by the Lord. If you cannot take the suggestion or extend a call to someone, then show enough respect to explain why. Yes, we understand that, because of confidentiality, you may not always be able to explain in full, but you can explain that circumstances will prevent you from following up on the suggestion or the extension of a calling. That is common courtesy and respect. Never “go in another direction” without first discussing it with female auxiliary presidents. (See #1.)

Honor the inspiration that led you to call these women.

3. Never say or imply that you are overriding the decision of a female auxiliary president because you are bishop (or stake president) and have greater insight/inspiration/authority than she on a matter.  (See #2.) This is worse than simply ignoring a suggestion because it comes off like a school yard taunt: “Oh yeah? Well, my inspiration is better than your inspiration and God made me boss! So take that!” (See #1.) Remember this, priesthood leaders, because it is vital: if you had the inspiration to call a woman to a position, then you raised your hand to sustain her and you should be the first person to allow the Lord to work through the instrument of His choice—namely the woman you called. A servant of God learns when to follow, even when he’s “boss.” (Repeat: See #2.)

4. You are not the Daddy. It is not your calling to make sure women in your ward are protected. You and your counselors (or other priesthood representatives) do not need to hover over every activity we have, inside or outside a church building. In fact, WE DON’T WANT YOU THERE. We want you to be home with your own family. To behave as though we are in danger without a man around is silly. To think we need oversight is even sillier.

Stop assuming that the words of women are only of value to women.

chieko5. Stop assuming that the words of women are only of value to women. Demonstrate in what you say and do that you respect the intelligence and insight of women, particularly of women as theologians. Stop talking about “Sister Scriptorians” like such people are anomalies. Assign men to give Sacrament Meeting talks based on the words of our many wise LDS women. Assign women to speak last on the program. Start quoting LDS women in your own talks. And if you can’t do that off-hand, remedy that. Start reading LDS women. Read Neylan McBaine’s Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact. Chances are, the women in your ward are or will be reading it soon.

6. Invite the Relief Society president to sit on the stand with you every week. (Her husband can handle the kids.) Imagine the impact on our girls (and boys) if they grow up seeing women on the stand in a capacity other than chorister or organist. Demonstrate the respect you feel for your auxiliary presidents in a visible way.

7. Do what you can to put your foot down on the pedestaling of women. When you support the idea that women are somehow better than men, you rob both women and men of individuality, destroy the responsibility and self-confidence of our boys, and support behavior that contributes to the epidemic of depression among Mormon women.

When you support the idea that women are somehow better than men, you rob both women and men of individuality and destroy the responsibility and self-confidence of our boys.

8. Expand your definition of modesty. Just as “virtue” should not mean “virginity,” “modesty” must mean more than covering a woman’s body. Reduce the body shaming that occurs in Young Women and increase the discussion of responsibility in the Young Men’s program.

9. Learn something about female sexuality, particularly developmental sexuality, and support the Young Women leaders in addressing the coupling of female sexuality and emotional need instead of only talking about conquering The Urges of the Moment. Our girls are, generally speaking, not being well-prepared for what truly entices them toward breaches of the law of chastity.

10:  Be seen talking to women one-on-one. Our LDS culture has evolved into a strictly gendered social arena. Mormon men and women do not interact with the opposite gender unless they happen to be married. This reinforces the reduction of women to sexual objects, temptresses, things to be avoided or guarded against, and, at the same time, reduces men to beings enslaved by their sexual appetites. Please. Stop. This. In populations with high concentrations of Mormons, this attitude IS crippling to a women’s ability to function in the workplace. On the ward level, it further marginalizes women. Truly, it is okay to call two people of differing genders who are not married to be co-chairs of an activities committee. An ill-gotten pregnancy will not occur.

WatChI COULD ADD MANY MORE THINGS to my list. And, in truth, I’ve said nothing new here, nothing that LDS woman haven’t been saying in one form or another for decades.  Bishops and stake presidents, it’s time. It’s time to move beyond listening to women and to take action on what women are saying. You are called to lead and we need you to do precisely that. Starting yesterday. McBaine’s book (linked above) provides some ideas of ways to improve the impact of women today, within the bounds of the current church handbook of instructions.

I welcome readers, especially LDS women, to leave comments about other things they’d personally like to express to their bishops, stake presidents, and fellow ward and stake members about the place of women in the Mormonism. Please keep your comments constructive and aimed at improving the impact of women in your stakes and wards.

And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women. Alma 32:23

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56 thoughts on “Dear Bishop: With Love, Mormon Women

  1. June

    Oh, Hallelujah!!! I can’t tell you how long I have wished for such things to be said! I know that there are many Priesthood leaders who already have a great understanding of how crucial the women are in making a ward and stake run well, so this isn’t to say that all men everywhere are failing. But for those few who haven’t come to this knowledge, this post is crucial. Sadly, many of those men think they understand and honor women perfectly, the poor dears, and they are already doing all of these things… the “right” way. The problem is embedded deeply inside of these leaders. They are prideful and often treat the men who serve in callings “beneath” them in the same way that they treat the women. You nailed it with point #3. When they have the attitude that their ideas and opinions supersede all others, they will not be able to receive counsel from anyone else… including the Holy Spirit. I had several bishops who just didn’t listen to anything I suggested. It’s frustrating to say the least, and devastating at most during those special moments when you know that your ideas and suggestions were given to you by the Holy Ghost. If they would take the time to explain why they are so easily dismissing my point of view, it would help. I feel like the little kid who is told, “Because I’m the Bishop, and I said so.” Maybe he has information that I’m unaware of, maybe he has already considered this idea and just didn’t feel right about it, but maybe I’ve done those things, too! I don’t need to know details, I just don’t want to be dismissed outright. No one does. This is where counseling together would benefit everyone!

    Sadly, these leaders will be held accountable for their inability to receive counsel and to recognize that others can also receive inspiration… as I know I’ll be held accountable for each time my pride took over and made me fail in my callings. Pres. Benson warned us that pride would be the great stumbling block of the church in the last days. So, while we may not be able to affect change in a prideful leader, we can be assured that responding with humility instead of contention is the right course of action. If we’ve said what needs to be said and it goes unheeded, then we need to let it go and let God take it from there. *Deep breaths.* Yeah. Let it go.

    (You’ve just witnessed my own pride cycle… I start with empathy, knowing these are good men who are only human and are simply trying their best. Then I recall all of the times they played the “I’m Bishop/Mormon Manipulation” card to dismiss anything I have to say: “I appreciate what you’ve said, sister, but I’ve been on my knees and know that I am right and that you should sustain my decisions, and I will not even consider your point of view.” Okay, so they don’t usually tack on that last part. Then I get all riled up and angry. Then I remember that it’s the last days and contention is the absence of the Spirit. Then I take a deep breath and pray for help in letting it go… because, after all, these are good men who are only human and are simply trying their best.)

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  2. I am no longer “in” the church, but my daughter and son and granddaughters and grandsons are, and therefore, I care deeply about this. If these basic and few changes were made, perhaps I wouldn’t feel compelled to pray every day that my loved ones were out. I am as concerned about the effects the imbalance of power has on the psyches of men and boys as I am about the soul-destruction of women and girls.

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  3. Wendy

    I’d like to see the bishop extend me a calling without asking my husband’s ‘permission’ first. This is apparently done bc men preside over the family and will know whether or not the calling is one that the wife can handle along with all her other duties. EXCUSE ME??? There is no one who understands me better than me. I know what I can handle. I can accept and reject a calling wholly without permission or the well-wishes of my husband. I am not some stupid waif who doesn’t know what to do, so please stop treating me that way.

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    1. Megan

      I don’t think my husband has ever been asked permission for my callings…I have however been asked if I was ok with some of his, when they require a great deal of time and energy away from our family. I think it is likely just your particular bishop that made that mistake…

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      1. Tricia

        I agree. When I have been given a calling, my husband has been present some of the time but the calling was extended to me and then he was asked if he could support me in doing my calling. No permission was ever asked. I have also been asked with the calling he has been extended to help support him and if there was anything that might prevent him from doing his calling. I do think there are a select few out there who need to work on some of the things mentioned above but there have been great efforts put in to help change views and attitudes towards women in the church and how our leaders interact with all of us. I guess that is part of why we are here on earth to learn, grow and develop. Some are just quicker at this than others.

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      2. Kristine

        This was a policy in the Church Handbook of Instructions for many years. It is no longer in there, but I imagine lots of bishops are still doing it the way they used to.

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    2. Kate

      My husband was inactive for almost a decade and I always had a calling and I never needed his permission. He, in fact, was never there when I was extended a calling, but he was a topic of conversation during the process because I brought him up. I wanted my leaders to understand that my husband did not support me in church stuff and would resent if I had to spend extensive time away from home for my callings. It’s tough when one spouse wants nothing to do with church and the other won’t leave the church. I never declined a calling, and it always worked out, but I can see how it would be nice to get the spouse on board to see that the Lord needs their spouse’s service more than they want their spouse to be constantly available.

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    3. Mary

      A former bishopric member asked my husband if I would accept a calling a couple of years ago. My husband traveled all the time and was only at church maybe 50% of the time, so I’m not sure why he would be consulted on this. I can handle myself as was the one going weekly, dragging the kids along with me, etc. Thankfully my husband told them that they should ask me, not him, about the calling and warned them that I would say no to what they were proposing. When I confronted the bishop about it, he said, ‘That’s the way it’s always been done.’ Leaders, if you feel the need to talk to a husband before extending a calling to a woman, please just sit them both down and talk to them together! It’s patronizing and humiliating to think that someone else should give an answer for a grown adult. My husband is not my boss or my keeper. It’s not his place to say whether or not I should receive a calling.

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    4. Jen

      I have never had a bishop check with my husband before extending a calling to me! That is crazy. I was just put in as assistant Cub Master too. It sounds like your bishop needs a lesson in how to extend callings.

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  4. Kate

    Many of these things a bishop does not necessarily have power over. He cannot call a man and a woman to serve together anymore unless they are married. Also, a priesthood leader is supposed to be in the building when an activity occurs… I’m sure he’d rather be home too, it’s not like our relief society activities are that interesting even to us… but he’s trying to do the right thing and sustain his leaders.

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    1. Lily

      The handbook actually does not say a priesthood leader needs to be in the building when an activity occurs, but that priesthood leaders should discourage members, especially women and children, from being in the building alone. So allowing a large group of women to be in the building together is definitely not in violation of the handbook.

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  5. Thank you so much for writing this. So many times have I wanted to share my thoughts with leaders but felt it would not be received well….this gives me great talking points.
    I believe one great step would be a simple one: Bishops, Stake presidents and other leaders, even home teachers, should start addressing the mother of the family when asked how the family is doing in interviews or other social settings. I adore my husband and believe he does a better-than-most job of keeping track of each family member’s emotional and physical needs, but he’s simply not here all day living in the thick of family dynamics, emotions and struggles….and he mostly can’t remember them! Ha ha. I’d love to see more direct connection from leaders toward the matriarch! Look her in the eye and not expect a sugar-coated answer. Real trust and relationships are built on respect.

    And how powerful a testament to women’s wisdom to hear talks from sisters read and praised at the pulpit….it doesn’t seem right that this is not already the case! I sincerely hope some LDS leaders read your post and take it to heart. Thanks again for your insight.

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  6. The doctrine of women and men rests squarely on the Plan of Salvation–the plan God (Father and Mother) designed for their children to become like them. Divine nature, individual worth, and charity are central in our process of coming to know who we are in this plan while we live on earth–our minds veiled from remembering our former life with God. Ultimately, God’s goal for each one of us is to enjoy full access to the power of creation (of all things, not just babies). This means marriage between a man and a woman, this means subduing the passions and relinquishing the limits of our flesh. And this looks different for every single one of us. Ultimately, men and women are to work together to bring about God’s work. If men or women are doing the work without each other, that’s not the plan and immediate correction is needed.
    I like all of your points very much. There is one more I would add for our male and female leaders: teach rich and true doctrine. Do not settle for socially accepted analogies of doctrine, teach the doctrine and then support individuals as much as possible to receive personal revelation.
    Understanding who we are and what God has for us takes work. It doesn’t happen in 3 hours over 18 years of church attendance. Church is the beginning. Church is the place where we gather and restore. The work happens in our homes, in our temples, and in our hearts. Leaders organize and work hard to provide a safe place for us to gather, they administer, they serve. In essence, they are the shepherds–called to love and care and preserve the flock. Shepherds are always followed out of love. This work must be done with love. (So I guess that’s my second point to add).
    Jesus said, ‘Love everyone, treat them kindly too.’ May we continue to work toward this admonition.

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  7. Peter

    I particularly like the idea you shared of having women in ward and stake level callings, who themselves are presiding over key areas in the ward and stake, to be asked to sit on the stand. It seems we should be seeing this occur in the near term, if in fact what exists at the General Authority level of the church ultimately trickles down to the ward level.

    Many of us remember the day before women’s general auxiliary presidencies sat on the stand at general conference. But now they all sit on the stand in general conference, and I also recall seeing at stake conference the women’s auxiliary leaders sitting on the stand. For consistency’s sake, it’s time to see this at the ward level too, one would think.

    Doing this would emphasize to all ward members the importance of these positions in the ward, as well as honor the importance of the women who sacrifice so much of their time for the well being of ward members.

    Good points. Thanks for sharing! But not sure about having women speak last… that would limit them to the ultra talk condensation that occurs in only the five minutes that are left after the first speaker and music number finally wrap up! 😉

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    1. Dennis Clark

      Why have anyone but the one conducting (and possibly the speakers) sit on the stand? What’s the big deal about sitting on the stand, instead of sitting with one’s family? Why exile the ward’s servants from their families for the term of their service? It is not necessary to have anyone sit on the stand but the one conducting. The organist and chorister can walk up to play and lead the music, and the speakers can walk up to speak.

      For are a lay church with a lay priesthood, we are very concerned with hierarchy. The one conducting in Sacrament Meeting often identifies himself by title and name and states the name of the presiding officer, if not himself. We usually print all of that in the program, for anyone who doesn’t already know it. We emphasize the hierarchical nature of the church rather than its democratic nature in all we do. Look how big “the stand” is getting in the conference center. It won’t be long until all those sitting in seats of honor and prominence will outnumber the Choir and Orchestra.

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  8. Josh Smith

    Very thoughtful post. Thank you. But I do have a couple questions …

    The LDS Church is a male-centered organization. I’m not saying that as trying to attack anyone’s position or faith. I’m a practicing Mormon and have been for many years. I simply see no way of seeing the organization as anything other than an organization where every meaningful decision is made by men. Men are given special social status and power. Women are not. I think it is intellectually dishonest to conclude otherwise.

    For years I went along pretty much happy with the status quo–I’m a man after all. Then, I married. My wife is capable and competent in every way. I value her opinions and she values mine. Then, we had two daughters who we’re raising LDS. Just last week my youngest child asked, “Why are only boys passing the sacrament?” I answered the question as best I know how: “You have asked a very, very good question. It is important to ask that type of question. I don’t know the answer. That’s a very good question.” For several years I’ve been very conflicted about the LDS faith’s institutional practices regarding gender.

    The author of this post frames much of her “solutions” as better training for male leaders. And, that seems like a faithful approach. Better training, better understanding for the lay ministry can’t be bad, right? I agree. We would probably see some improvements with training.

    But, my heart and mind tell me the “solutions” are not better training for men. The “solution” is changing the institutional structure so that women are treated as equals in the Church. The problems the author sees are not ultimately going to be solved with better training. Not really. The problem is a 19th-century institutional structure.

    The riddle I’ve faced for several years is trying to be a loyal member of an institution that has a structure that lifts the social status of men (based simply on gender and age) and not women.

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    1. Charlotte

      I think it is interesting and perhaps sad that you and others feel that the church is male-centered and is meant to give men high social status and power. As a woman, I feel that this church is family-centered, and that since families are built on the joining of a man and a woman, that it isn’t male-centered. Yes, females do not pass the Sacrament because we do not hold the Priesthood. I am not threatened by this, perhaps because I know who I am and I am great with it. You can tell your youngest that the Priesthood is given to young men to prepare them to become good men–to help them learn and grow and stay close to God, and how to value women with equal importance in God’s plan so they can be strong in a world that ever increases in its objectification of women. The Priesthood is meant to teach men and young men how to SERVE. Women are taught differently, but this is not bad. We ARE different. I am okay not having a unisex world, as long as both genders are taught to love and serve and value each other for the inherently different individuals we are. 🙂

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      1. Josh Smith

        Charlotte,

        When I said I have no interest in attacking anyone’s faith I was sincere. I have no interest in persuading anyone of anything or challenging anyone at all. However, I am interested in your opinions.

        Do you think it moral for someone to hold the opinions I stated above? That is, could a person who holds those views be a decent human being? A decent Latter Day Saint? (Please be honest. Assume for that anything you say will not offend a random basically anonymous fellow on the Internet.)

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        1. emily

          Josh,
          I appreciate your very honest and straightforward approach to a conversation about the church, and especially your honest conversation about gender roles in the church with your daughter. I am still undecided on my own views on gender equality and women holding the priesthood in the church; however, I think that conversations framed in an openminded and openhearted way can be very beneficial to everyone, and could lead to very positive change, whether it is a positive change in behavior and attitude as proposed in this article, or a change in the policies and structure of the church. Not only is it moral and decent to discuss these ideas, I believe it is necessary.

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    2. Donna

      Josh, it concerns me that you were unable to answer your daughters question. To me equality isn’t sameness. Women don’t need to sit on the stand and pass the sacrament to be equal to men. We are not the same, we only have to look in the mirror to prove this. Emotional differences and spiritual differences are also present. We perform different roles in the church, each with the object of helping us become perfect/more like the Savior. For me, a good example is how we learn to sacrifice. For women we very much learn sacrifice by getting up at all hours of the night to tend to children, putting their needs before our own. For men, foregoing what they would like to do and going out to administer to people in need is learning sacrifice. Also missing events or milestones in their childrens day because of work commitments. Again, we have different roles and equality doesn’t mean sameness.

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      1. Josh Smith

        Donna,

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. We agree on many things. Men and women are different biologically. Agreed.

        I don’t want this next question to sound confrontational because it’s not at all intended as such.

        Couldn’t one say that the differences between men and women are precisely why women should hold decision-making power within the Church? Couldn’t the Church as a whole benefit from women decision makers?

        And, why couldn’t a woman benefit from exercising the priesthood as do men? In your view would it be harmful for a woman to give a blessing, bless a baby, conduct a meeting (assuming of course that she received her priesthood from appropriate channels)?

        Again, not intended as a debate. If it feels contentious please ignore this post and have a wonderful evening.

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    3. “I simply see no way of seeing the organization as anything other than an organization where every meaningful decision is made by men. Men are given special social status and power. Women are not. I think it is intellectually dishonest to conclude otherwise.”

      -Yes. Thank you. I am a faithful LDS woman who firmly agrees that it is intellectually dishonest. I am a bit tired of the ‘equality isn’t sameness’ rhetoric that defends all of this. I agree with that comment too, men can’t bear children. But they can be fathers. However, we need to quit trying to make that a catch-all excuse for the inherent sexism of our church. Is there really a reason why girls can’t pass the sacrament? Prob not. Is there a reason why women don’t have calling titles that are actually used? Like the wife of a Mission President: no title. No reason not to have one. Is that equality? Nope. Let’s just all quit pretending like it is by saying things like
      “Equality isn’t sameness”.

      None of us want to be the same as men.
      Let me say it again. We don’t want sameness.
      But an equal amount of recognition, responsibility, voice, and respect would be great. In fact, that’s really what we want.

      It’s not equal. Once we acknowledge it, maybe things can change. But can we all just stop trying to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like saying that tired phrase over and over again will make it better? It won’t.

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  9. Dave K

    There’s a lot of good counsel here, so I hate to focus on a disagreement, but there is a significant conflict between points 6 and 7. A RS president has nothing to accomplish from sitting on the stand during sacrament meeting other than to be put on a pedestal. It’s not a RS meeting. She doesn’t conduct business there or issue speaking assignments. She would do, basically, nothing.

    Moreover, such a practice would elevate RS over other auxiliaries such as primary, Sunday school, elders quorum, etc. Why?

    In my ward, our RS president has a non-member husband who attends only a few times a year. So most Sundays she sits with returning sisters, widows, or others who benefit from personal contact. I’d hate to stop that service just to make some point about her importance.

    And I say all of this as a feminist who supports women’s ordination. I want women on the stand because they are in the bishopric and sacrament meeting is theirs to conduct.

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    1. I’ll clarify, for you, Dave. To put someone on a pedestal means that we exalt that person as if they are the ideal. We pedestal LDS women when we claim they are spiritual superiors to men. This is problematic for the reasons I briefly mention, but yes, the idea deserves more attention. (Find and read my last blog post “The Boys are Fine” for a little insight into the kinds of problems this creates for our boys.) But having an auxiliary president sit on the stand is entirely different, though I can understand the confusion. After all, it puts her front and center and causes people to look at her. But it would no more exalt her than it does a bishop or anyone else on the stand. Remember, in General Conference now, we are seeing women included on the stand. The aim is to offer an auxiliary president as role model, not only for our young girls but our boys as well.

      And yes, as others have stated, most auxiliary presidents won’t want to sit on the stand. I wouldn’t want to. I’d want to be with my family. But bishops and counselors don’t much care for the attention either and yet they do it, and they gain from it. Its a good thing to look over the flock, so to speak. There are many things we do within the jurisdiction of our callings that we don’t want to do, don’t like to do, or that are uncomfortable, but we do them for the good of the whole. Sitting women on the stand is good for our young people. Our girls are growing up in a world without limit–except at church, where they are very limited. I foresee us losing many of our youth (boys too, but girls in particular) if we don’t make changes in non-doctrinal practices. And where the Relief Society President sits has absolutely nothing to do with doctrine. The potential for good is tremendous with this switch. The potential for harm is non-existent. Of course every ward would accommodate specific, family needs–a thing we should be doing more of for the fathers who sit on the stand.

      We are a church with wonderful men serving in local leadership. All of my bishops have been great. And they are flawed humans, trying to do their best. Mormons don’t talk about these things and many, many, many women say them privately to one another. I’m just bringing it to the light because I genuinely think most bishops don’t understand what the problems are when their relationships with their auxiliary presidents go south. But this isn’t only about auxiliary presidents. Its mostly about the future of our girls within the church.

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      1. Dave K

        Lisa,

        Before addressing your recommendation #6 again, let me do what I should have done before and lay out some of the many areas we agree. I am with you 110% about women not being spiritually superior to men. I’ve critiqued high counselors and sunday school teachers in my ward who teach this (oddly, I find the teaching mostly comes from men). And as the YM president in my ward, I consistency testify to the ward about how our boys are equal to the YW in spiritual matters.

        I also agree that we unnecessarily limit our YW’s ability to serve. Ultimately, I want YW to have equal access to priesthood office. In the meantime, I encourage YW to be called as VTs, to have equal funds for their program, and to have equal recognition for milestones and accomplishments (i.e., YW medallion is just as important as Eagle Scout). I’ve seen some success in these areas, but oddly most of the push back has been from older sisters.

        As for modesty, whenever I teach the youth on that subject I insist that the first 1/2 of the discussion exclude any reference to clothing. I believe that only after the youth understand what modesty is outside of clothing can they begin to healthily approach the application to clothing. And in these discussions I make sure that at least 1/2 of the applications are being applied to YM-centric situations.

        With that foundation, let me say that I still believe having a RS president on the stand in sacrament meeting is a misplaced, though well-intentioned, idea. The reason women are on the stand in general conference is that they have a reason to be there – some of them are speaking, and all of them are presiding officers of a general church program.

        But that’s not the case with sacrament meeting. A RS president has no more purpose on sitting on the stand for that meeting, than does a YM president have to sit on the “stand” (by the podium) during a RS meeting. Sure, in both cases it may be good for members to see these leaders, but neither meeting is their meeting toact in and so their presence would not be as leaders but merely empty figureheads. That, IMO, is quintessential pedestalness – putting someone up for others to see, but who does not have any purpose or active role in the place they are sitting.

        Let me give you situation where it would make sense to have the RS on the stand – ward conference. But there, I would also have the YW president, Primary president, SS president, WML, EQP, HPGL, YM president, etc. on the stand – namely, all members of the ward conference. This would follow the pattern of general conference. The RS president would be recognized as one of the ward leaders, but not placed in an odd situation of being more of a figurehead than other members of the ward council.

        Let me also ask you this: If it valuable to have the RS President on the stand in sacrament meeting, why stop there? Why not also have the YW President and Primary President?

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        1. Merry

          If you are saying that the bishopric are on the stand during sacrament meeting just to conduct the meeting, then why would all of them be there instead of just the bishopric member who was conducting? I think that all members of the bishopric sit there because they are making themselves visible so people (new members, visitors, people with concerns or special needs) can easily identify and approach them about special needs. And the Relief Society president is in a role where she fulfills special needs for about half of the ward. In addition, she is responsible for assessing the welfare needs for ALL ward members that are in need. She is clearly in a role that would justify making herself publicly available to the ward members.

          Like

      2. Donna

        Lisa, I disagree with, “The potential for harm is non-existent.” I would rather sit with my children and my children would rather I sit with them. I think the benefit for my family is far greater sitting with them then on the stand looking at them. We must be careful we don’t get caught up in the thick of thin things.

        Like

    2. Sis. Howard

      Only one member of the bishopric leads the meeting (speak as you say).
      So by your reasoning there is no point in the others being up there on the stand. I am sure their family would prefer to have them sitting with them, and they would prefer it too.
      I do not think you understand why they are up there, it is not to speak.
      These men are up on the stand for visitors, investigators, new members to know who to go to if they need someone to talk to. It is for missionary reasons not for speaking opportunities.
      A relief society president is the appropriate person for a woman to go to, yet having them in the general audience it makes it nigh impossible to find out who she is unless you are a member of the ward for some time.
      This does hinder missionary work.

      Like

  10. Mrs. A.

    You have raised some semi-valid points, but the fact that this post was dripping with anger, sarcasm and a general lack of respect for the men who serve as bishops, sunk whatever good might have come from it.

    Like

    1. DJ

      I read it and sensed no anger, sarcasm, or lack of respect at all. In fact, it seemed quite calm, candid, and supportive of efforts to build a stronger congregation. If I could ask you to do one thing, please re-read it with those thoughts in mind: that it’s offered sincerely.

      And even if you can’t succeed in reading it that way, you say some points are “semi-valid”. So are there points you’d be willing to support in your own ward? If so, please support them, regardless of the messenger that brought them to your awareness.

      And if you can’t support good ideas because of the messenger, why not?

      By the way, I’m an active church member with a temple recommend, fairly prominent calling, etc. and have no beef against the church, for what’s it’s worth.

      Like

  11. Carolyn

    I love your articulate suggestions. Truly insightful. Wise and important. I would probably add a long-standing grievance I have had, along with other women in my life: Please consider trusting us and restoring to us our own dominion over a course of study of our own, written by women, for women, and rich with fitting and pertinent, meaningful discussions. Maybe even with glimpses or portraits of our great women leaders, as well as profiles of our sisters in other countries and cultures. This is a worldwide church, and we are passing up on a great opportunity to create a true that will weave us together. I think it might be time to return what should be rightly ours, after so many years of studying lessons about men, written by men, for men.

    Like

  12. Geoff - Aus

    Mrs.A I didn’t get that from the post. Josh I feel similarly, but in the mean time, how can we improve the place of women within the present bounds.

    I agree with the post generally, and have a couple of others to add. My daughters often asked, how many High Priests does it take to conduct a sacrament meeting. We usually have at least 4 suits and sometimes as many as 8. Hint it only takes 1. the others can sit with their families.

    In the handbook it says the Bishop can invite whoever he wants to Bishopric. Why not the RS president, and perhaps presidency, permanently.

    The handbook is written in such a way that if it does not prohibit something or say the priesthood is required, than it is OK. If you look up conducting Sacrament meeting it says the Bishop can, it says his councillors may, it doesn’t say you need the priesthood, or that anyone else is prohibited. If the RS president permanently attends bishopric, could she also conduct Sacrament meeting, in rotation with the bishopric? The handbook doesn’t prevent it.

    Like

  13. First, in reference to an earlier comment, my experience was that my husband was always approached first for any calling that was going to be extended to me. I remember specifically answering the phone one night to find the bishop calling for my husband. When my husband got on, he listened for a few minutes and then said that yes, he thought that would be a good idea. He then passed the phone back to me and the bishop arranged an appointment. So, my husband could know ahead of time, but I had to wait for an appointment??? I was not happy.

    Anyway, the other thing that bothered me had to do with blessings that I received. Emphasis was always put on my role and duties as a mother even when I had much more pressing needs to be considered. It was like the men only look at women as 1 dimensional, and don’t recognize that we have concerns outside of our immediate family.

    Oh, and I love point #4; we don’t need a man hanging around our meetings.

    Like

  14. I love these ideas. I would also add, please always have a woman in the room in any worthiness interview with young women. It could be the YW president, their mother, a trusted friend, etc. teenage girls discussing sexual matters with an adult man in a closed room is at best inappropriate and at worst a recipe for abuse. It’s unnecessary and easily fixed.

    Also, please ask the input of the female auxiliaries presidencies in selecting topics for sacrament meeting, as well as the ward yearly theme, etc. This is the central meeting for the ward, and wouldn’t you want women’s input on what topics half your ward might want addressed?

    Ask the YW to “usher” during the sacrament. Even standing at the door could be a powerful moment for girls who are otherwise told their contribution to the ward will be nothing at all until they reach adulthood.

    Like

    1. Sis. Howard

      If the catholic church has taught the world anything is that children should never be in a room alone with an adult at church, or scandals and lawsuits will happen.

      Worthiness, callings, or whatever there should be at least two adults and one should be the same sex as the under age person, and someone that the child trusts like a teacher or leader. Even adult women should be given the option to have someone in the room with them during an interview of any kind.

      The church at this point had internally handled all these kind of issues, but so did the Catholic church. Sooner or later things will come to light if policies are not changed.

      I worry that when the day comes it will set the missionary work so far back it will take generations to recover, just like the Catholics.

      Like

  15. Lori

    I LOVE #5. Have US be the key speaker, the area authority, the expert. Have US be the go-to. We are very intelligent, spiritual, gifted, and inspired.
    I love #6. How about we consider looking at all the church callings, and decide which ones are held by tradition and which ones are current doctrine. When we sustain callings at conferences, put Relief Society and other women’s callings before the male children’s.
    Love #8. Can we make it a hymn?
    Ok I love all of them, but those are my favorites. If I could add to the list (not suggesting you should, just dreaming here), I would add:
    *Please don’t interview us (any age but especially children/YM/YW without an advocate or support present.
    *stop with the guilt trips about what we (all of us, not just women) should be doing better. We already have the guilt trip gene firmly planted. Don’t perpetuate it.
    *tell us that even tho our perspective may be different or even offensive to some, that it is still needed. My bishop has told me that several times..that the ward needed my take on things too (he was talking about feminism and LGBT issues), and that if others didn’t like it, it was their choice.
    *Educate us all as you spiritually feed us. Put in the science, facts, and data about issues like equality and sexuality. A LOT of us STILL don’t know about that and are still perpetuating benevolent inequality and bigotry.
    *talk about LGBT acceptance and equality.
    *face issues head on, use unambiguous language, and stop with the passive aggressive messages.
    *reenforce the idea that prophets and leaders can make mistakes. Huge ones. Like racism. And marrying 14yr old girls.
    *educate and focus on women in the scriptures.
    *Quit saying “The Brethren.” Seriously.
    * teach us to focus on our own sins, and stop talking about “those” and “others” etc.
    *dont sweat the small stuff. Like wearing pants, or flip flops, or sleeveless clothes on our youth. They are HERE at church! Celebrate that!
    *love us and listen. We will try to do that too.
    *go home. You’re not a superhero. You’re a person who needs privacy, boundaries, and time. Set that precedent and make that the standard instead of the perpetuated idea that we always have to give more more more.
    *remind us that we are all human..in any capacity.
    *talk more about Christ. Enough with religious freedom, staying in the boat, and closing or opening drapes.

    Like

  16. Seripanther

    #(what number are we on? Fourteen?): Always address the sisters in your ward by last name and title, unless given explicit permission to do otherwise. Old or young, married or single, RM or not, honor their calling, status, accomplIshments, maturity and worth by giving them their deserved title of Sister or President. Nothing says “I don’t take you seriously” like my unpermitted first name, as though I were four years old. I feel comfortable and safe respecting a leader who addresses me as “Sister” because he has shown he will take the necessary trouble to treat me as an adult.

    Like

  17. Josh Smith

    “Josh I feel similarly, but in the mean time, how can we improve the place of women within the present bounds?” –Geof

    Right? How does one work within the given framework to make changes? I think that is the right question.

    I think first, we need to stay. I’ve known many who just get fed up and leave. Good heavens, I appreciate that sentiment, and I respect the courage that often takes. But, as for me, for various reasons, I’m staying. I’d like to see strong minded, independent individuals who are willing to stand for their own ideas stay.

    Second, I’ve made the decision to speak my mind. This takes a certain amount of tact and humility, … and humor. Personally, I’m prepared to have my views rejected 99 times out of 100. I’m prepared to often keep my mouth shut and remember that a meeting is not mine. But, I’m also prepared to stand entirely independent of everyone else and express what I believe to be right. That’s all. Nobody has to act on anything I say, but everyone should know that there is at least one person within the ward that is not afraid to follow his own conscience. Speak up.

    Third, dilution. It’s my view that undiluted Mormonism isn’t good for the soul, especially Mormonism’s teachings on gender. I think any mother or father can improve the place of women in the Church by ensuring that their daughters are exposed to the vast opportunities this world offers women–academics, athletics, public service, law, medicine, arts, leadership, etc. Make sure our daughters are exposed to the vast opportunities available to them outside of the Church. I like the idea of a diluted Mormonism where the Church is but one institution in one’s life.

    Fourth, appreciation for what is being done. This last week at church I was amazed at the efforts being made for young women in my own ward–young women returning from missionary service, wonderful young women’s camp planning, young women involved in music for the ward, public presentations for the Young Womanhood Recognition award, young women presenting lessons in their classes, tireless young women leaders, etc. There is so much being done by individuals. Thank you.

    And fifth, to those hardy, daring souls, like the author of this post, one can even try to give a man some training. This is a fool’s errand . Best of luck. I’ll help if I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jeremy Barnes

    1. ‘Feel’ is synonymous with ‘think’. If you take it a different way, all for clarification.
    2. The bishop is the priesthood leader and is accountable for what goes on in the ward. If you suggest things, good. He should ponder it and pray about that suggestion, but if the Spirit prompts otherwise, it is up to us to sustain that.
    3. Any bishop who says that is using unrighteous dominion. There’s a scripture about that…
    4. Church guidelines require a priesthood brother to be at ANY activity or meeting at the church. This includes exercise classes. One very real reason is for security.
    5. I don’t know who separated the inspired words of a woman, but I love hearing from my wife what she learned at all her meetings.
    6. Relief Society doesn’t preside in sacrament meeting. Again I defer to the leadership handbook.
    7. I do put my wife on a pedestal. I will sing her praises to the world. That doesn’t make her better than me, it shows everyone else how awesome she is.
    8. Virtue and modesty are for both the young men and young women.
    9. Some men sent comfortable discussing women’s sexuality. That is up to the parents to teach and the leaders to reinforce.
    10. Not all men are uncomfortable talking or interacting with women. I for one am not. I h grew up with 6 sisters and no brothers. There is literally no topic that would make me uncomfortable talking with women about.

    Overall, it sounds like from your post, unless I’m misunderstanding, that you have your own miscommunication issues, and a few selfish desires for the church.

    Like

  19. Pingback: Juvenile Instructor » A Love Letter to Mormon Women on the Anniversary of the Relief Society, from a Mormon Historian and Feminist

  20. So many great ideas here. I’d love to write a similar letter to my own current and most of my former bishops. Things are changing, but they are not changing as fast or as much as they need to. We simply do not respect women in this church. Period. Some women might *feel* ok with that. Some women might even be *thrilled* with that. I am surprised that not many people have really commented about #7. (And actually, #7 combined with #s 8&9 are creating a monster problem with our young men and the way the view women) I feel like that is actually one of the most damaging things in our church right now. Possibly because it is so accepted and widely taught and even embraced by the women in our church. Let me just give an example. In our ward last year, the women were given cheesecake as a gift for Mother’s Day. Really a fab idea. I love cheesecake. However, when all the women were given two cheesecake slices, they realized that there was an abundance of cheesecake. So then they gave them out to the YW. Still, they had cheesecake. So they went into Primary and pulled the girls out a different door where they were given cheesecake, and told that it was for them to celebrate Mother’s day, because they would be moms one day. This is a huge problem for me. My 7 year old daughter should not be ‘celebrating’ Mother’s day with me. In fact, it’s kind of disturbing. I know not every ward does this. Our Gen Y ‘everyone wins’ mindset combined with the Mormon mentality of ‘every woman’s a spiritual or future mom’ plus extra cheesecake created the perfect storm of extreme pedestalization that made me realize just how ridiculous it is. Mother’s day is for moms. It’s not a day to give gifts to every member in the ward boundary who posseses a uterus. Women should not want to be worshipped or told that they are ‘more righteous’ or ‘more nurturing’ or ‘more…’ whatever. Men and women both have the same capacity to love, nuture, cuddle… or to hit, or to be vulgar, or to swear like a sailor. It has nothing to do with gender. However, I do find that (probably in a subconcsious need for equality) embrace being placed on a pedastal.

    Pedastalizing women is so damaging. For women who can’t live up to the impossible standards, it is overwhelming and depressing. We forget that they are still human and we start to treat them as objects. We stop seeing them as human females with flaws. When we combine that with the way we teach modesty (some common themes in our culture are that women shouldn’t be ‘walking pornography’, lds women have a very defined dress code, we do not stress self control to the boys as much as we stress girls abiding by the dress code in order to ‘help the boys’) and then also the lack of teaching/talking etc about female sexuality… These things combined are beginning to shape our young men and boys in ways that were not intended. We are deifying motherhood yet ignoring female sexuality. We are teaching boys that women are spiritual in a way that they will never be capable of. We are teaching our boys that it’s the girls’ responsibility to cover up their bodies to avoid temptation. We don’t have women in places of power, respect, authority or strong religious education. Our GC speakers have Minnie Mouse voices and generally make their messages child-directed.

    Is it really any wonder that so many of our men are addicted to porn? In an effort to create some sort of example or ideal for a mormon woman, we’ve turned female perfection into a frigid child bearing goddess that wears ankle length skirts and cute shirts with 2 undershirts to hide any cleavage or shoulders, bakes wheat bread every day and has a to do list about a half mile long. Obviously she has no time for sex unless it’s to create baby #7. Is it any wonder that they don’t respect female authority when we propogate the idea that a 12 year old boy with the priesthood outranks a grown woman? Is it a surprise that after all the pressure to live up to our pedastalization, mormon women struggle with depression and feeling overwhelmed? Last time I heard the study- (I’d have to get sources) but Utah ranked at the nations’ top in depression, plastic surgery and pretty close to the top for porn consumption. Let’s reigh in some of this madness. Women are humans who shouldn’t be given the responsibility of sitting on that pedastal. Women shouldn’t bear the responsibility of dressing for the comfort of men. Boys should be taught that women are strong, able, smart, and just as good at teaching and speaking as the men are.

    We do this by actually having 50% women speakers in General Conference and in our wards. We stop telling our girls to cover up and start telling our boys the story of Joseph and how they should leave. Quit telling our girls that they can’t wear shorts at girl’s camp because it would make the priesthood uncomfortable. How about telling the men that if they are uncomfortable around naked girls’ legs that they aren’t welcome at a GIRLS camp? How about having women come in and teach an occasional lesson in priesthood? The bishopric teaches RS- how about the RS presidency teach an equal number of lessons to priesthood? How about dropping the double-speak and quit using the words “preside” for men and just use “co-parent” or some other word that sounds equal. How about having female voices in addition to the high council? Have a female rep from each ward be present in high council. How about having women teach merit badges or classes at scout camp? Have women teach a class on cooking for an EQ activity. Have the men teach car maintenance or lawn care at an RS activity.

    Whether or not women want to sit on the stand, speak last, speak to male audiences, cite scriptures…. they need to be seen doing it.They need to hear our strong women’s voices teach and preach the gospel. We desperately need female examples for our girls and for our young men. And to all the women who are commenting about how they don’t want to sit on the stand or whatever… I gues I’d have to say: suck it. I don’t want to make meals for sick people, we do it because THEY need it. And so it is with the other stuff. Nobody wants to sit on the stand. Nobody wants to have to teach the deacons. We do it because they need it. 🙂

    Like

  21. Agnes Schliesser

    More and more women are trying to change the church standards and this is so sad. You are the ones that need to get closer to Heavenly Father and learn from Him and get your frustrations to Him and ask Him about this things with a humble heart to accept the answers. When all you do is criticize and say what the bishop or whatever lider should do you are being against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Get down on your knees to pray and have a deep real conversation with Heavenly Father about what you feel and think.

    Like

  22. I loved this post when it first went up. I thought about #10 again this week when a female colleague told me that her father expressed concern about her upcoming two-week trip with a male colleague. The male colleague happens to be in a long-term relationship with a boyfriend, so the concern from the father was doubly misplaced. As a resident of Utah and a female engaged in the professional world, I would love to see less of a concern with men and women working together.

    Like

  23. Morris Thurston

    Excellent ideas, Lisa, and well put. I particularly like the idea of assigning men to give Sacrament Meeting talks based on conference talks of women. And it would be great if Bishops would quote women from time to time in their own talks.

    You also hit the mark about bishops not micromanaging everything auxiliary leaders do. Whether or not that is a problem varies widely depending on the bishop, but I’ve seen plenty who feel they need their fingers in every little decision.

    Like

  24. Geoff - Aus

    Jeremy, the handbook does say the Bishop presides, but is less clear about who conducts and it could be the RS President. Wouldn’t that make a difference.

    Agnes, most of us are here supporting each other and putting forward ideas on how the church could be improved. This is one way to sustain your leaders.

    I’m sure you believe you are offering advice on how we might improve our relationship to the church and our Saviour. You may not have considered that most of us have been where you are and have found that way wanting.

    I have a sister in law who had this black and white, all or nothing, obey or leave view of the church. She has just come to us and said she is leaving the church because she has found out the church has been lying to us all for years. Her black and white view has been shattered, she could not be persuaded that the Gospel was here, and that if the conservative culture being taught as Gospel were removed, the truth could still shine through.

    We are questioning the culture, we share with you the faith in Christ. The result of our ongoing prayers is that we discern that the culture needs to change because it is smothering the Gospel.

    Like

  25. Pingback: Best of Dialogue 2015 | Dialogue – A Journal of Mormon Thought

  26. Sherri

    D&C Section1 -13 And the anger of the Lord is kindled , And his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.14. And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord , neither give heed the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people 15.For have they strayed from my ordinances , and have broken mine everlasting covenant; 16. They seek not my righteousness , but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world , and those whose substance is that of an idol , which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon the great, which should fail. 17. Wherefore, I the Lord knowing the calamity which should. come upon the inhabitants of the earth , called upon Joseph Smith , Jun , and spake into him from heaven and have him commandments . I wanted to share the Book of Doctrine and Covenants . I know that if you to to your Bishop and confess your apostasy from the Church and desire to destroy the Lords Church He will be able to guide you safely back to the fold.The Bishops in the Church of Jesus Christ are sacred in the eyes of the Lord .The first step toward apostasy is criticizing church leaders .If you would like to make a complaint that the Lord will accept and hear you , You must to to your Stake President, You can choose to not follow the true servants of the Lord and not Honor the Holy Priesthood , You cannot choose the consequences I know Heavenly Father is not the one inspiring your letter to murmur about sacred matters. I testify to all who have been influenced to not listen to the Prophet and partake in speaking ill of the Lord’s annointed Servants . The Lord will not be mocked , I say these things that I know are true by the Power of the Holy Ghost that testifys of all truth .In Jesus Christ the Savior and Redeemer of the world Amen

    Like

  27. Christine Reich

    I have a problem with #10 it should never be just two on a committee. It’s always safer to have 3 or 4. Happened in my ward in Utah ym pres and yw pres had several planning meetings and soon they had an affair and broke up both families. It was very sad. better to be safe than sorry. Just saying.

    Like

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