In Defence of our Local Leaders: The Otterson Letter

by: Hedgehog

June 5, 2014

The recent letter from Michael Otterson, public affairs, appears to indicate that only one of the very many issues some Mormon women have with the church has been recognised and acknowledged: namely, difficulties with local leaders. He recommends greater recognition that “we are all human, and occasionally we say things clumsily or we lack sufficient sensitivity or language skills or experience. The Church is a place where we make mistakes and then hopefully learn to do better. It is also a place where we allow others to make mistakes and improve.” Whilst it’s true that this problem does getting an airing online (I’m certainly guilty of this), it’s far from being the only, or even the major problem.

The following comments made over on BCC put this well:

Kristine A : “I get that humans are imperfect. I do. I’ve had knuckleheaded bishops that I give a pass because, hey we’re not perfect. My main source of marginalization doesn’t come from lone, rogue individuals — it comes from the church organization, from the handbook that changes and says women can no longer serve in Sunday School presidencies, from articles in the Ensign, the exhaustive pushing of gender roles down my throat, from the culture that it creates, from the behavior that it encourages..”

Howard : “Yet is wasn’t the local leadership level that “forgot” to invite women to pray in GC for a mere 182 years or continues the troubling temple litany [liturgy?] or limits the number of General Women leaders and female GC talks to a fraction of the male metrics, etc, etc. and generally the slights of local leadership make up only a minority of feminist blog article criticisms.”

To add, it also wasn’t our very local leaders who, for a time during the last couple of decades, originated the instruction that women were not to be permitted to speak last in sacrament meeting, or to give a closing prayer. Those instructions came from higher up the chain of command, whilst the local leaders on the ground had the thankless task of implementation. For all my complaints and frustrations from time to time, I certainly recognise that my current crop of local leaders are genuinely doing their best. They are well meaning, and selfless in their service. They are obedient, trying to get things right, and some of the things they are trying to get right is just that sort of instruction that doesn’t appear in a handbook, but filters down the chain of command nevertheless.

Bro Otterson states that “What this argues for is better training of leaders and members, and more patience, more long-suffering, more sensitivity and Christlike behavior on the part of all of us. Bishops are extraordinarily busy, but like local leaders, should be particularly aware of how easy it is to come across as patronizing or dismissive when a woman wants more than anything to be listened to and feel as if she has truly been heard.”

So let’s ask who is doing the training? How are we training the trainers? Because, worldwide training broadcasts aside, local culture can be heavily influenced by what is going on at area level, local training being something that is passed on and repeated down the chain of command like a game of Chinese whisper. And from what I’ve seen of the Worldwide training broadcasts, one thing they don’t model is how to negotiate disagreement within a council.

We recently had our stake conference. Let me first state that, overall, it was a delight. I attended both the Saturday evening, and Sunday morning. The sessions managed to be Christ-centred, for all they were also about hastening the work. The music was wonderful. There was one thing however, that did disturb me. And that was a presentation by the visiting Area Authority (who was really lovely), in which ideas described as principles in the quotations he was using, he very clearly elevated to the status of doctrine (he used the descriptor both in speaking, and in the headings of his visuals) in his own presentation. Now maybe some will say I am being picky about this. But I think it is important. And it is representative of what can happen. I’m left wondering, are our local leaders, as an act of obedience, going to feel compelled to see and teach these things as doctrine? Or are they going to stick with principle, given that description originated with an Apostle?

Additionally, this sole suggested solution, more training, cannot address the bulk of the problems, explained rather neatly by Kristine commenting on a Julie Smith’s excellent T&S post:

“Local leaders can, perhaps, be trained to be more careful of women’s feelings, but unfortunately, the problem is that women are structurally and systematically marginalized. Training local leaders to address the ways that they “feel” marginalized is like reminding ER docs to call for a psychiatric consult to deal with the shooting victim’s unhappiness about his gunshot wound.”

Another commenter on the same post recently experienced a rare training session by our General Women leaders. I’ve never heard of one being held here, but I can hope. However, the example set by the accompanying male GA was unfortunate.

Rachel: “At a recent training for the RS, YW, and Primary Auxiliary presidencies we were excited to hear from members of the general presidencies of the church who had come in person. The training was scheduled for 2.5 hours on a weeknight. The first thing that happens is that a member of the 70 stands up and gives a very good 1/2 hour talk that does not seem to have any relation to what we are supposed to be discussing. At the end of the talk he asks the members of the GA presidencies to stand and give each other a hug, and tells us that these are spiritually strong women. I guess he was supposed to introduce them but he never mentioned their names or offices. Maybe he forgot them.

“I just kept thinking, would a member of the 70 ask the first presidency to stand and give each other a hug? Wouldn’t that seem patronizing and disrespectful? And although that was a very good talk, it didn’t have anything to do with training auxiliaries. And if they needed someone to open the training, why couldn’t we have heard from one of the women who had come to teach (especially when we do not hear from them very often)? I wonder how the women felt as they were talked over and talked down to, and if that happened everywhere they went to teach.”

If this is representative of what our General Women Leaders have to put up with day in day out, it’s likely going to be a long time before there’ll be anything like the necessary training for respectful, equal interaction between male and female leaders at the coal face. What we get may depend both on how accustomed our leaders are to working with women in the outside world, and how much they’ve absorbed from the patriarchal culture of the church.

Bro Otterson closes his comments about local leaders with the suggestion that “local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will” and to take your RS president with you, if that’s going to help.

Unless the particular negative experiences were caused by the leader in question, is there really much he can do? Isn’t this simply adding to his burden? As Julie Smith expressed it in her post:

“..to suggest, as Brother Otterson does, that the problem is poorly-trained local leaders and that women should talk to them about their concerns ignores the reality of these concerns. (And, again, creates frustration in the face of his numerous statements that the church is listening to women.) These issues can only be addressed on a church-wide level. …

“Not only does pushing the issue to the local level not address the problem, but it may exacerbate it. I can’t imagine that the church will be a better place if every woman with issues spends a few hours talking to her bishop about it. Given that the bishop is powerless to implement change, it is only natural that he would perceive the woman’s concerns as a worthiness/testimony issue or a pointless complaint. But even if he is completely sympathetic, what succor does that give the woman when it can’t change the policy?” [emphasis mine]

Women have certainly commented on several blog posts discussing the letter how talking to their local leader did not help, and sometimes did exacerbate their problems:

Melissa : “I spoke to my Bishop about my struggles & concerns. I was literally dismissed with a wave of the hand, told that those things weren’t important, and never given a calling again after that.”

Moon River : “I thoughtfully considered speaking to my bishop for a full year before I met with him. I prayed and prayed, and waited until I thought the time was right to bring up my “feminist concerns”. I told him, tearfully, that it is painful for me that if NO women showed up on a given Sunday – Sacrament meeting could still go on. There would still be someone to preside, to conduct, to pass the sacrament. If no men showed up, there would be no Sacrament meeting. He accused me of looking for reasons to find fault with the Church. And questioned my worthiness – I was serving honorably in the YW Presidency at that time, reading scriptures daily and praying daily (as I continue to do). I just wanted *one* person to understand. To say, I hear your sadness and I understand it – your feelings are valid.”

Kelsey : “Having done this with many different bishops, RS presidents, and even temple presidents/matrons/staff, I can say that in the best case scenario I have had leaders be very kind while acknowledging that they have absolutely no insight to offer whatsoever, contrasted with leaders that are quick to assume apostasy and lean towards discipline.”

Amy : “It’s really frustrating that there is this suggestion that if I just talked with my leaders more, everything would get better. The reality is, they can’t fix the problems. These are structural issues, ones that cannot be fixed on the local level. This isn’t about my feelings (though, obviously it hurts them). I don’t need a pat on the head for my woes. I desire change. Even more, when I do bring concerns to my very loving and kind priesthood leaders, the response is usually that I need to have more faith. Even when they suggest that yes, I do have a point and yes, that makes sense, the answer is still the same. It’s my fault for not just not being blind to the problem.”

Maryann responded to Amy with:

“I can only say it is better than the response I received from my stake president when I asked why something was the way it was. His priceless response was “That is above my pay grade.””

Which strikes me as being open and honest. If a little lacking in empathy, at least it refrained from judgement. It’s my favourite.

Kristine A. has jumped right in, and describes her somewhat better experiences talking to her Bishop here. The following was telling I thought:

“At the end he said, “Well there’s nothing I can do about those. Why don’t you write to SLC?” I told him I had written to SLC and received an answer that I should seek answers to my questions through appropriate channels. So here I was. He then counseled me to ensure I was bringing these questions to Heavenly Father in prayer. Done, doing, will do!

“There was a break in the conversation and I asked him if there were any way we could try to forward the questions up the ladder to SLC? He hadn’t thought of that and agreed that we could try. He would send a copy of my letter to the Stake President with a preface that it was from an entirely faithful, sincere sister in his ward with some questions he was unable to address.”

Yes, it was Kristine who had to suggest her concerns be forwarded. A Bishop doesn’t appear to be trained to do this. A member of my family is currently serving as a Bishop, and he’s expressed frustration about the difficulty he has getting his own concerns about implementing various ideas from above heard further up the chain, never mind passing on those of his ward members. Just maybe, when a local leader suggests greater faith as the solution to these issues, it is because that is precisely the answer they get whenever they try to raise a concern of some sort. There’s a much wider problem in the way in which those lower in the hierarchy are treated by those above them.

In a comment on Julie’s post Dave recommends:

“If they are serious, they need to send letters to local leaders, not LDS blogs. If they are serious, they need to give women who encounter difficulties with local leaders (say a bishop who pulls a woman’s temple recommend for doing what Otterson asks and sharing her concerns with her bishop) an avenue of recourse within the Church system.”

Perhaps so. I’d add, if this is what we have to do, speak to our local leaders, then it’s only fair that our local leaders be forewarned that the recommendation to do just that has been made, and given guidance on how they need to respond, perhaps to forward the concerns up through the chain of command, if we really, really need to take this long route. How many hands will Kristine A.’s letter need to go through before and if it eventually reaches Salt Lake?

  • What experiences have you had taking concerns to your local leaders?
  • Do you feel confident about taking concerns to your local leaders?
  • If you are a local leader, what are your feelings about Bro Otterson’s suggestion that these issues be brought to you to deal with?
  • How would you like members of your ward/stake to approach these issues with you?
  • What have you had been taught during leadership training, and did any training address these issues?
  • How do you feel about the suggestion that there’s a wider problem in the way the hierarchy functions?

Discuss.

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42 Responses to In Defence of our Local Leaders: The Otterson Letter

  1. K76 on June 5, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    More and more I find these matters demonstrating that Elder Poelman knew what he was talking about in his 1984 general conference address.

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  2. whizzbang on June 5, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    I hate to say it but my Bishop is hopeless. I and others are simply waiting him out. He has been doing it for 2.5 years now so we have another 2.5 years give or take. He has been complained to and about and he just doesn’t get it. I give up dealing with him. I expect nothing from him, I sustain him in the sense that I need him to sign off on my recommend but any kind of spiritual guidance, help in my calling etc. Those days are long over. The early sunday morning ward conflict meetings are getting worse, slowly over time. It takes too long to talk about too little. The RS Pres. has tried to make them more productive but with minimal results.Something that gets me is there is no sense of privacy, he says there is but yet he’ll read emails from members to him in our meetings, and you know who they are from without him saying it and other similar things. So again I give up on the guy, just do my own thing. I am done being frustrated, done trying to prop him up when the missionaries complain “Does he not know he isn’t allowed to interview sister missionaries one on one in his office?” I tell them, he’s been on the High Council here in Canada forever but apparently that doesn’t mean anything. So, I expect nothing from him anymore-I look elsewhere

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  3. howard on June 5, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Church solutions rarely match the problems. Daymon Smith (The Book of Mammon, past COB employee) explains one reason for this in his Mormon Stories podcast interview (Episode 4 beginning about 25:50) after making it clear that many members world-wide lack enough food to eat, he talks about the church setting out to make a video with the purpose of training Bishops how to distribute welfare. But due to structural biases within the COB the final video actually taught self reliance in place of distribution!

    How can a kiss-ass COB or PA propose a meaningful solution that dares solve a problem at the top? They can’t! So they quickly switch the blame and blame tends to run downhill and downhill from church headquarters is local. No one in the church hierarchy has the nuts to speak truth to power because they were chosen in part precisely because they are “yes” men and should they eventually find their voice they will be quickly replaced or chastened à la Elder Poelman’s (once) wonderful GC talk!

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  4. Troth Everyman on June 5, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    “If they are serious, they need to send letters to local leaders, not LDS blogs. If they are serious, they need to give women who encounter difficulties with local leaders (say a bishop who pulls a woman’s temple recommend for doing what Otterson asks and sharing her concerns with her bishop) an avenue of recourse within the Church system.”

    Oh this would be grand. Every time blame gets passed to the local level specific guidance should follow from corporate allowing “passes” to those concerned members who ask questions. Wouldn’t it be great to have official channels for recourse and complaint about those “poorly trained” leaders? If it really were about the poorly trained local leaders central could easily fix it by instituting something like this. But alas, it is almost better to have someone to blame rather than actually change the institution.

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  5. Jeff Spector on June 5, 2014 at 9:51 PM

    What’s interesting to me is that at one time or another (even in this blog post), everyone gets blamed from top to bottom. Except, of course, the injured party.They never get blamed or have any level of responsibility…..

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  6. rah on June 5, 2014 at 10:17 PM

    Ironically, one of the consequences of having an all volunteer, all male clergy is that because the church is so dependent on their good will, service and volunteer effort is that it leads to a natural deference to them with any conflict. In some ways, it is just the members that are powerless in regards to their bishops, I think you can argue that the church as an institution is largely circumscribed in its power to deal with bishops and SPs. Its not like they can go hire people off the market or highly incentivize them to change. Instead everyone tip toes around them. And it makes sense. They are making huge sacrifices to do what they do. They are being put in a position that they are often untrained and unqualified for. It is this very scarcity from which the deference to them derives. For good bishops this may lead to natural human temptations for unrighteous dominion (give a man but a little authority…), for bad bishops its complete liscence.

    I would suggest that one major mechanism by which allowing Mormon women to take on more ecclesiastical roles would curb the instances of ecclesiastical abuse or just more benign poor leadership is by increasing the overall pool of leaders to choose from. Not only on average would overall quality go up (because SP will find they have a better set options) but when unfortunate choices are made the number of available options will make it so replacement will simply be easier. This all without even beginning to talk of the advantages of having diverse gender perspectives in leadership. It can just work on competency alone.

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  7. New Iconoclast on June 5, 2014 at 10:34 PM

    #5 says, everyone gets blamed from top to bottom. Except, of course, the injured party.They never get blamed or have any level of responsibility

    Are you serious? You mean, except every time they mention something they see that could do with improvement and they’re jumped on, marginalized, and sometimes released from callings or have temple recommends revoked for being critical or rebellious, or not “sustaining their leaders”? Or they get called out in blog comments for being too critical, or for being on the road to apostasy?

    I do not believe this to be the case, but it would be hard to fault the more bruised and injured among us for viewing Br. Otterson’s letter as bait, to draw the “critical, rebellious ones” out to speak to their local leaders so that they can be identified and dealt with.

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  8. RockiesGma on June 6, 2014 at 12:50 AM

    #5-Jeff: it isn’t about blame. Trying to say that it is implies whining and childish finger-pointing by those speaking up and speaking out rather than focusing on a very, very, absolutely, true and real fact: Houston, we have a problem.

    Let’s acknowledge the problem(s) and put hearts and souls together in a cooperative spirit of seeking solutions rather than trying to shoot the astronauts down. Apollo 13 would have been lost if NASA handled that mission of their space program the way Bro. Otterson/church HQ is handling this mission of the church—we cannot perfect the saints by ignoring these dangerous issues, or by waving them away, or by implying apostasy, or that these concerns are over-reactions to a “non-issue”.

    We are striving to be saints….. Otherwise, we’re mere Mormons.

    “We are living far, far below our privileges.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

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  9. Hedgehog on June 6, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    K76, Howard, I enjoyed Poelman’s address.

    Whizzbang, oh dear. Best wishes for the next few years. Sometimes all you can do is sit it out.

    Howard: “No one in the church hierarchy has the nuts to speak truth to power because they were chosen in part precisely because they are “yes” men..”
    That is something that concerns me looking at recent changes in my area, since the change in area presidency (admittedly those changes were were due anyway but still…).

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  10. Hedgehog on June 6, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    Troth: “Wouldn’t it be great to have official channels for recourse and complaint about those “poorly trained” leaders? ”
    Or indeed to complain about those wider issues the leaders can’t change. It does look like they’re being squeezed from both ends with the current suggested solution.

    Jeff: Your comment puzzles me somewhat. Blame has been thrown in all directions. Part of the purposes of the post was to demonstrate that.
    As NI pointed out (thanks NI), disaffected women have certainly had blame cast in their direction. Both by the Otterson letter itself, and as explained in the examples the post includes. My purpose of including those examples was to back up Julie Smith’s statement that “Given that the bishop is powerless to implement change, it is only natural that he would perceive the woman’s concerns as a worthiness/testimony issue or a pointless complaint.” Not to blame those local leaders.
    I also wanted to to point out that local leaders are also affected by the structural issues, not just the disaffected women who’ve been directed to speak to them them. How is this a solution? I can have some sympathy with a local leader who simply models the responses he himself sees, if he himself experiences his concerns being dismissed etc…

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  11. Hedgehog on June 6, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    NI, in the end I deleted the final line of my post, which was “Here’s hoping the suggestion’s not some cunning plan to weed out “dissenters”.” The handling of ERA and events of 1993 cast long shadows.

    RockiesGma, exactly.

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  12. IDIAT on June 6, 2014 at 5:39 AM

    I agre with many of your points. A local leader can consider some new ideas and can adapt to the needs of local conditions, but he can’t change structural or institutional policies. If one could take Kristine A.’s letter and meet one on one with the First Presidency, how do you think they would respond to the questions and concerns? Every item in her letter has been discussed ad nauseum on feminist sites and in conversations for years, so it’s not like they’re novel or new. I’m curious to know if there is anything the First Presidency could say that would satisfy your frustration.

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  13. Hedgehog on June 6, 2014 at 8:36 AM

    rah: “I think you can argue that the church as an institution is largely circumscribed in its power to deal with bishops and SPs. Its not like they can go hire people off the market or highly incentivize them to change. Instead everyone tip toes around them. And it makes sense. They are making huge sacrifices to do what they do.”
    That’s a good point rah. They can only go with what’s available (as per E. Holland’s talk) and those that are good at it have to have a break sometime.

    IDIAT: I do wonder, re your question, if they’ve really truly understood the concerns, for all they’ve been discussed ad nauseum for so long. When we hear what they say, it doesn’t sound like it.

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  14. MH on June 6, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Jeff, your comment 5 doesn’t make you sound like a mormon liberal. Just sayin.

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  15. Jenonator on June 6, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    I attended a religious science church for 10 adult years. It’s a beautiful universalist type belief system. When I married, awesome hubby ointed out that the church is dominated by women. Gay men are second class citizens and straight men were third class citizens. Families were tolerated but not celebrated.

    You can imagine my delight at seeing strong men in leadership positions who love their wives and care about the community around them.

    In Seattle, seeing a 25 year old man in a suit with a wife and child was shocking-most secular guys are living with their single moms playing video games all day while their mom is at work.

    Efforts at dates in this area are last minute “wanna hang out?” questions or booty calls from other “adults” we all considered ourselves to be.

    Coming from that experience, my ward felt great!

    I do understand the issues though and hear everyone’s comments!

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  16. Naismith on June 6, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Loved Jenonator’s observation. I am sure that I would see my ward very differently if I lived in another part of the country.

    As an RS president, I was involved in several instances where a sister felt wronged by a priesthood leader. It would not be appropriate to share the specifics, but I can say that I felt glad that the sister could trust me to come to me with such issues. And that it turned out to be miscommunication, for which the priesthood leader apologized for the misunderstanding (irregardless of whether it was the sender or receiver who had faulty interpretation). I am NOT saying that all such problems are due to miscommunication, but I am suggesting that some of them may be, and so when the Otterson letter mentioned using the existing female leaders, it rang true.

    I also have to say that when I have disagreed with a decision from the bishopric, I follow up with them. And as it happened, I have found that just about always, there WERE women in the room when the decision was made. It’s simply that I didn’t agree with those particular women. So I am not sure that my life would be different or better if women served in the same callings men do now.

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  17. Angela C on June 6, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    What are the outcomes of the advice for sisters to go to their local leaders?
    – local leaders begin to understand the issues better and push them up the ladder for change
    – local leaders can identify dissenters and marginalize them further
    – local leaders’ limited time will be taken up with these issues
    – higher up leaders will get more distilled complaints interpreted by a male perspective rather than hearing directly from women
    – abusive local leaders will continue to abuse

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  18. New Iconoclast on June 6, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Re. #17: That’s a one in five chance of a positive outcome, Angela, even assuming equal distribution for the first option. And that option drives change incrementally and over glacial time periods. And there’s significant overlap with Option 4.

    I love the way you think but holy buckets, that’s discouraging.

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  19. Jenonator on June 6, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Granted, we only attended two years, the bishop was a little offensive on accident but when we mentioned it to the former bishop-all was handled diplomatically.

    I considered that this was a great man and God wanted him in that role to develop more skills.

    While women would often be great at many of these leadership roles, I feel men can learn from them in a way that is more beneficial to community.

    At my old church I got so involved that the lines between my new family (two little kids and hubby) and my congregation got blurred. I over-volunteered at the detriment of my family. Thank God my kids are too young to remember! Women were so involved that the gay and straight men were somewhat marginalized!

    With my compassionate heart, I want to take care if everyone but my husband helps me learn better balance if my compassion and my time.

    I think this generation of men are likely to be great leaders who are very sensitive to the needs of their wards when following God. I’m just so very sorry my husband lost his testimony. Now his leadership is limited to only our family.

    By the way, he does not domineer over me in any way at all. I was also an angry feminist many moons ago! I still want the best for women I just think its men who get the shaft in this country-particularly if they are Caucasian.

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  20. Catherine on June 6, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    I’ve had some very good experiences with local leaders, and some very bad experiences with local leaders. My current bishop is kind and supportive, but I don’t talk to him much about the structural inequality I see in the church because 1. we both know there’s nothing he can do about it and 2. he’s very busy and is not paid for his church service, so it seems disrespectful to him and his family to spend hours discussing things he cannot help with.

    He hasn’t questioned my faith or worthiness, which I appreciate.

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  21. howard on June 6, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    Naismith,
    You seem to have captured my attention, in spite of our frequent differences I’m really beginning to enjoy your comments.

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  22. Frank Pellett on June 6, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    Naismith (16) – “I am sure that I would see my ward very differently if I lived in another part of the country.”

    Most everyone thinks their ward looks better viewed from a distance. ;)

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  23. Jeff Spector on June 6, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    “Jeff, your comment 5 doesn’t make you sound like a mormon liberal. Just sayin.’

    And the snark continues…..

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  24. Kristine A on June 6, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    Naismith, I’m pretty much going to guarantee that any women put into a position that I’m advocating for ie temple, missionary, welfare committees will not agree with me on a large variety of issues. But as women are more fully integrated in the structure (i’m not seeking ordination) eventually a wide enough net snares enough different perspectives that harmony is achieved.

    I’m really interested what my Stake President will say about my letter, as my bishop forwarded the link from BCC to him. So . . . interesting. Don’t know if I should wait to hear from him/my bishop or call for an appointment…..

    I am not sure if I will be doing good. I hope I can. Sometimes hope is all ya got.

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  25. Kristine A on June 6, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    I keep on going back and forth on if I feel I’m wasting their time or if this is the only way anything will get done. It’s fraught with landmines, that’s for sure.

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  26. Jeff Spector on June 6, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    Hedge,

    “Jeff: Your comment puzzles me somewhat. Blame has been thrown in all directions. Part of the purposes of the post was to demonstrate that.”

    Yes, partially. What I think I wanted to say is that it is easy to point fingers. Whether it is at the “Church” meaning the General Church Leadership or at the local level. What is more difficult is to take that selfie and ask, “is it me, Lord?”

    Judging by the comments i have seen over in blogs, Facebook pages and such, i am not fully convinced that all the folks complaining have really experienced their complaints firsthand.

    Many of us have had bad experiences dealing with the leadership, both males and female leaders. I have no doubt of that. There may be just as many problem RS, YM and Primary Presidents as Bishops, Stake Presidents and such. No gender has the market cornered on poor leadership skills.

    but I am convinced that some folks who complain are “bandwagon mad,” have jumped on without having a real experience.

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  27. Kristine A on June 6, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    Jeff, in my experience. . . before I had a personal revelation that conflicted with gender roles being taught in the church that precipitated my faith transition . . . I would have been one of the founding members of MWS. And I had accrued a great many experiences of bad interactions with leaders and marginalizing experiences as a YW and RS, but I was pretty vociferous in my non-questioning. The leap from one side to the other doesn’t happen without something jarring IMHO. For all the dozens of people who I discuss issues with and who approach me . . . do you know how many I have been able to get to “join” my bandwagon (which isn’t my purpose, I’m seeking for understanding)? 0. The people reaching out to me for conversations and understanding were already there. To the rest of my family, neighbors, and friends? I’m the crazy lady they want to pretend isn’t really there. . . .

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  28. alice on June 6, 2014 at 10:29 PM

    But as women are more fully integrated in the structure (i’m not seeking ordination) eventually a wide enough net snares enough different perspectives that harmony is achieved.

    Precisely!

    If there are family, neighbors and friends who discount you, Kristine, there are also many, many more of us for whom you’ve become a genuine hero and leader. You have vision, clarity, a resounding reasonable voice and tact and grace in boundless quantities. If that doesn’t speak of the inspiration of the Spirit, I don’t know what does.

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  29. Kristine A on June 7, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    Wow, that was a very nice thing to say. I appreciate it, I do need positive feedback sometimes….. And also I need to make sure it doesn’t go to my head !

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  30. Naismith on June 7, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Re. 25 Of course you should be doing this. And this may come as a surprise, but a lot of us have been doing this for years, decades. We are not “lucky” to live in a ward that has equitable funding for YW and YM, but rather we have made that happen by speaking up relentlessly.

    I am a convert, and when I had been a member for just a few years, I was chatting to the RS president, who said she had written the stake president about the order of sacrament meeting vs. other meetings. I asked her if that was okay, to write the SP. She said that it was our duty to let them know how we felt. So I always have.

    I do not share your optimism about the positive effects of having women integrated into leadership. In my experience in other settings, I have not found it helpful at all. I am not opposed–I am very ambivalent on these issues and can see plusses and minusses in any direction–but I do not share that assumption. My most nightmarish experiences with supervisors and physicians were with females who did not share my views.

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  31. Angela C on June 7, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    I agree with Naismith that simple affirmative action / quota stuff doesn’t mean we get better leaders. There are awful women just as there are awful men. That’s the beauty of equality. Everyone has an equal opportunity to suck! But their gender isn’t a shorthand for failure or success.

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  32. Keno mayor on June 7, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    So if this isnt just about ordaining women, can we summarize?
    My two years if ward attendance wasn’t enough reference point….

    I can only think if some I’ve seen listed in this thread and others…

    Equal funding for YM and YW
    Females involved in sacrament
    Women involved in giving blessings (in which capacities?)
    Roles within the presidency and the stake leadership?

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  33. Angela C on June 7, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    I would add to that list: talks and lessons that are written from or include a female perspective, particularly about women’s experiences, but also about life in general. Women in a position in the church of leading and teaching men, not because women need to lead or teach men, but because men can learn from women, and women may have great leadership skills that would improve the organization and the men they lead. Young women being encouraged to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential, not just being told to be one thing and nothing more.

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  34. Jenonator on June 7, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    That Keno Mayor was me-typo on my iPhone….

    Angela-I think the priesthood could benefit from female guest speakers.

    not sure I would want my son (ir YM) taught by women. Seems women already dominate the teaching profession and I’d want him to see the male role models the church provides-also because they set an example of how to love their wives and kids and participate in community. He wouldn’t get that so easily in the secular world and I’d want such back up to what his father would teach him. Can’t learn it the same way via female teachers and much of it is through osmosis. Teen years are a time where this is so very important. Boys have been inundated with women in charge of them via moms, teachers, and older sisters. As they come into manhood, extra role models of men in leadership over them up close are awesome.

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  35. Jenonator on June 7, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    Angela I agree about YW being taught more diverse things- perhaps enjoying life to the fullest with classes on

    Self care to avoid depression and handle stress (correlations with outdoor time, exercise, and pets).

    Managing heavy class loads during education.

    Budget and money management
    Financing travel, college, and your first home.

    Pursuasion classes.

    Creating change in life that you want.

    Many classes would apply to YM too. I still like segregated teaching though.

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  36. el oso on June 7, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    Jenonator #34,
    Amen to the many positive male role models for boys and YM at church vs. the secular world. Many boys get exposure to a few athletic coaches and a random male school teacher but not much else. Most athletics is segregated, so adult male-female relationships are not on display much. Male aggression and physical prowess is the dominant subject in most lessons.
    Schools are frequently limited in what can be done especially lately. I remember a male HS teacher throwing erasers to wake students up in a class of 25. In church, there would be multiple teachers and likely fewer students with a more professionally handled reprimand. You can also get 2-5 years with some of the leaders at church, plenty of time for long-term lessons and bonding.

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  37. Jenonator on June 7, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Well said el Oso

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  38. Hedgehog on June 8, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    First, thank you for all the comments. Not sure I’ll be able able to respond to all of them, but I’ll give it ago.

    Jenonator,
    #15, thanks for that experience. I’ve grown up LDS, but my kids attend a CofE school. From the services we’ve attended there, men seem to have an established role.
    +#19 Personally I think the lack of direction faced by many young people (and I see it in both sexes) is influenced by the very different economic climate and job market to that experienced by those growing up in the 1950s, for instance (when kids leaving school would join a company, start at the bottom, and rise through the company, receiving relevant training and investment in them as employees, cf. now when employers demand their employees come ready packaged with the appropriate experience, and are seen as expendable). I can see it is difficult for many young people to see how they can settle down and raise a family when they are finding hard enough to earn enough to enable them to leave home. This is a problem that is now beginning to affect university graduates as well as those who leave education earlier. And it certainly isn’t a problem limited to white Caucasian males. I think the church helps both by encouraging education, but also by acting as a support structure. Both men and women can benefit from the confidence and learning experience serving in callings provides.
    #34, I believe boys and girls, YM and YW would benefit from seeing more male role models. Girls also suffer from not having male role models in their lives. But this would call for more men as primary teachers, and youth Sunday school teachers, which is often not the case because those not serving in a bishopric. YM, or as clerk EQP, and HPGL tend to be called to fill the Stake High Council, or other exclusively male Stake positions where interaction with the children and youth is extremely limited. Whilst I am not currently signed up to OW, I can see that this is something that would free up the men for greater involvement with the youth and children.

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  39. Hedgehog on June 8, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Naismith #16, it sounds like you were a wonderful RS president, and it’s great you were able to support your sisters in that way. I’m glad it worked well. Thank you for sharing that experience.
    I do agree miscommunication can often be a problem. This is especially the case when required to work with inexperienced counsellors, and messages can get garbled as they are passed back and forth. I also agree with you that women leaders would not necessarily be better leaders. I’m sure I’d be fairly bad at it myself. Including women in the available candidates would increase the number of those available to choose from however.
    #30, great that you speak up. And I’m pretty sure I can be a nightmare to work with at times…

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  40. Hedgehog on June 8, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Catherine #20, thanks for your comment. I’m with you on feeling not to want to waste a Bishop’s time with things he can’t change.

    Kristine #24&25, Keep us posted on how things progress. I’m finding it all very interesting to see whether the proper channels will actually work. And well done btw.
    #27, yes. In my case there are those who seem to think I’ve been got at somehow by the ‘feminists’, but as I tried to explain to a couple of my brothers, I’ve always felt this way. Right back when I was in YW. Now, there are others who feel the same I can talk to about it.

    Jeff #26, I’m with Kristine on this one (see above). Certainly not jumping on bandwagons, and if I share other’s stories I do point out that the story isn’t mine.

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  41. Hedgehog on June 8, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    Angela #17, That’s some list.
    +NI #18 Add in that it likely faces this assessment at every stage Bishop, Stake President, Area President… and even if the message gets through, it could be quite garbled by that point. I think it’s great that Kristine sent a letter, which if it makes it to the top in one piece, will at least retain her words as she originally expressed them.

    Angela #33, “Young women being encouraged to follow their dreams and achieve their full potential, not just being told to be one thing and nothing more.”
    Agreed.

    alice #28, Indeed.
    “You [Kristine A] have vision, clarity, a resounding reasonable voice and tact and grace in boundless quantities.”
    And these are doubtless required. Not so good on the tact and grace myself.

    el oso #36, thanks for commenting. For my views on role models see my comment #38.

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  42. howarddirkson on June 8, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    The lists are good and they are likely all that we will see this round BUT speaking as a man it is very easy for men even good well intended and loving men to take women for granted and forget to invite them at participate for another 180 years or so, they allow it and so do we. This problem has a natural offset, it is to share church leadership with women even to the highest calling! The church will benefit from it because true revelation has become very rare and infrequent and truth be told we have been running on inspiration not “thus saith the Lord” revelation since Joseph died. Since inspiration is far more man that God, the church would benefit from inspiration via. both women and men given the high mortal mix with God’s will.

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