Mother Eve Goes to Relief Society

September 7, 2005 | 59 comments
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The August Ensign reprints a talk prepared by Elder Richard G. Scott for an international leadership training session in 2004; entitled “The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” the piece outlines the functions and footings of the three female-led auxiliaries. The address delivers two admonitions, the primary establishing the women’s auxiliaries’ subordinate position with respect to presiding priesthood authority, and the secondary urging the leaders of these auxiliaries to simplify and downsize the initiatives undertaken. Elder Scott reiterates in no fewer than eleven forms the undergirding and overarching charter of the women’s auxiliaries: that they “operate under the direct presidency and supervision of stake and ward priesthood authorities, who carry the ultimate responsibility for the work of these organizations” (64). (Presumably this describes the relationship of the male-led auxiliaries to priesthood authority as well, but Elder Scott specifically excludes them from this discussion, so it’s not entirely clear.)

Elder Scott’s accent on the female leadership’s subordinate administrative status (is there a more neutral term for this? I’m entirely open to a better suggestion) stands in contrast to Elder Ballard’s recent emphasis on the importance of priesthood leaders’ soliciting women’s contributions in ward and stake councils; Elder Scott mentions councils on a single occasion, and does so to stress the importance of auxiliary presidencies’ obtaining priesthood approval for their plans before execution. The two messages are not contradictory, but they do act as counterweights to one another—the one structured by a hierarchical administrative vision, the other by a vision of participatory collaboration—and, though it is of course far too early to tell, it’s hard not to wonder whether the reprinting of Elder Scott’s talk, together with the Ensign’s ongoing series on priesthood quorums, represent a the beginnings of a swing of the pendulum.

I was struck as I read the article by how closely the structural relationship of the auxiliaries to priesthood leadership—a relationship that, in this article, at least, is explicitly gendered—resembles the traditional interpretation of Eve’s relationship to Adam as a “helpmeet.” Generally (and, as I understand, incorrectly) rendered as a compound substantive, “helpmeet” to older generations suggested a sidekick, a helper, a clearly secondary—though clearly valued—assistant. In Elder Scott’s presentation, the auxiliaries’ functions are never described in terms of responsibility or prerogative, but in terms of helping, aiding, assisting, recommending and serving priesthood leaders; this, of course, is entirely consistent with the administrative structure he lays down in the article.

As the rehabilitation of Eve and the attendant re-reading of the Genesis stories have proceeded apace in recent years, the term “helpmeet” has come in for similar treatment by the Hebraists. It’s more correct, I’m told (and I have no reason to doubt it, except for its convenient coincidence with the feminist revisions), to read the term as two distinct elements: “help,” a substantive meaning something roughly like partner, and “meet,” a modifier meaning something like equal or appropriate. Thus we get Eve as equal partner with Adam, which accords neatly with President Hinckley’s egalitarian vision of marriage as a union of “equal partners.”

There’s an historical irony in all this, of course, because earlier LDS versions of the structural position of wife to husband subordinated the wife quite clearly (though never, I think, maliciously or arbitrarily), whereas earlier versions of the auxiliaries were afforded significant (though never absolute) independence with respect to priesthood authority. It was the wife, in other words, who was “helpmeet”; the Relief Society was “help meet.” To put it in terms of structure rather than semantics, the civil society that surrounded the early institutional Church—those organizations and initiatives culturally attendant upon but institutionally independent of Church authority—has been folded into an increasingly rationalized and systematized priesthood scaffold, whereas the marriage relationship has been largely decoupled from the priesthood context by which it was originally defined and ordered.

I don’t think this reversal has been a coordinated or deliberate process; on the contrary, I think both movements have proceeded independently of one another, though along roughly the same timeline. The auxiliaries’ incorporation into the lines of priesthood precedence and presiding was, of course, one of the fruits of correlation, as Elder Scott explicitly notes. (This is not an anti-correlation critique: I have nothing like the expertise to reach an independent judgment, but observers I trust agree that correlation was a necessary precursor to the Church’s international expansion—though not, naturally, without costs.) The ascendancy of the egalitarian view of marriage, by contrast, has followed the general cultural pressures exerted by feminism. The flip-flop that has resulted, though, is rather complete and, in this article, striking. Mother Eve has found a place on the front row of the Relief Society room.

(As always, I welcome comments, preferably those that presume a prevailing goodwill on the part of the Brethren toward women and the women’s auxiliaries.)

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59 Responses to Mother Eve Goes to Relief Society

  1. Steve Evans on September 7, 2005 at 6:14 pm

    Rosalynde, some very interesting thoughts.

    I have little doubt as to the importance in the Brethren’s mind of the Relief Society. They clearly value it, need it and love the sisters of the Church. That said, it is an auxiliary to the priesthood, which has the privilege of government within the Church structure. It has always been that way, albeit with varying degrees of how much the priesthood government assumed control over the auxiliary. Correlation made the subordination explicit, but I would argue that doctrinally things have always been so. I do find it ironic, and sad, that women now hold more power and sway in their own homes than in their church; one would think that the divine institution of Church hierarchy could do a better job of not respecting persons.

    The tension you outline — hierarchical administration vs. participatory collaboration — is not one uniquely applied to women, however…

  2. Nate Oman on September 7, 2005 at 6:25 pm

    One issue in the organizational history here is that priesthood quorums have followed a very nearly identical track of ‘correlation.’ In the early history of the Church, priesthood quorums enjoyed substantial independence. Over a long period they were gradually assimilated into a single hierarchical structure of stake and word government, being turned in effect into auxiliaries of the presiding quorums of the bishoprics and the stake presidencies. It is worth remembering, however, that when we talk about centralizing authority under the priesthood we actually are talking about centralizing authority under a particular subset of priesthood authorities. In some ways, I think that the subordination of the quorums took longer than the subordination of the RS, and I don’t think it was really completed until the abolition of seventy’s quorums in the late 1970s (or was it early 1980s?).

  3. Naomi Frandsen on September 7, 2005 at 6:41 pm

    I wonder how this power differential manifests itself, though. I can think of some obvious ways–the Relief Society no longer has an independent budget, as it did in the days of Belle Spafford, and I don’t think it undertakes the types of ambitious projects like the grain storage of the early 20th century. But when I think about how the auxiliaries and quorums interact in my own ward, it seems to me that the Relief Society and the Elders Quorum have precisely the same amount of power and influence. The Relief Society almost certainly has a larger budget, although I don’t know that for sure. And I’ve never noticed our bishop to take a particularly authoritarian stance in regard to the Relief Society. Perhaps we’re a docile Relief Society–we’re not dealing politically with ERA-era tensions and issues right now–but in my somewhat limited experience with ward leadership, the real decisions and initiatives seem to reside almost completely with the auxiliaries and quorums equally. In fact, our relief society presidency was told about a training at 10 p.m. on the night before the 8 a.m. Saturday training, and the Relief Society president politely told the Elders Quorum president that she already had plans and she didn’t feel comfortable imposing on her counselors at such late notice. So maybe what I’m saying is that Elder Scott’s article might not represent the real culture at work in most wards and with most bishops.

  4. Greg on September 7, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    Steve,

    I think you underestimate the pre-correlation independence of the Relief Society (as well as the Sunday School, Primary, MIA, and, as Nate points out, the priesthood quorums). Each of these entities used to raise their own money, write their own curricula, publish their own magazines, and keep their own membership roles. I was born in a hospital that was originally founded and financed by the Primary organization, without drawing on central church funds (to the extent there were central church funds). I don’t know that any doctrine necessarily precludes this kind of organization, as you seem to be saying. In other words, I disagree that correlation was simply making the administration of the Church more in line with the doctrine. In my view, it was a contingent and pragmatic, not an inevitable and doctrinal, adjustment.

    Interestingly, the new David O. McKay biography indicates that correlation may have originally intended to only correlate curricula, but once the administrative ball got rolling the Quorum of the Twelve decide to revive an old initiative (of Joseph F. Smith’s, I think) and bring all the organizations under its aegis.

  5. Julie in Austin on September 7, 2005 at 7:27 pm

    Interesting post, Rosalynde.

    Another data point is Elder Ballard’s book _Counseling with Our Councils_, which takes a strong stance of criticizing priesthood leaders who don’t take the input of women seriously.

    It may just be a contextual issue: if you are writing a series of articles on priesthood quorums, and one of those is on the auxiliaries, it seems to make a sort of sense to emphasize the relationship of aux. to the p’hood. If you are writing a book about how the ward council should function, it makes sense to emphasize the contribution of the female participants.

  6. Steve Evans on September 7, 2005 at 9:18 pm

    Greg, I didn’t mean to imply that correlation and the corresponding subjection of the RS and other auxiliaries was mandated by doctrine or somehow inevitable. I was just trying to point out that this administrative superiority is in fact doctrinally sound. I realize the historical independence of these differing organization, and in some cases I wish we were back in the good old days, believe me.

  7. Steve Evans on September 7, 2005 at 9:40 pm

    ….and saying that correlation was doctrinally sound is not the same thing as saying it was doctrinally necessary or desirable, just to be clear.

  8. A Nonny Mouse on September 7, 2005 at 10:18 pm

    I want to preface this by saying that I fully sustain and support our bishopric. If that doesn’t sound omnious, I don’ t know what does, but I want to emphasize that I think they are caring and kind individuals who have the best interests of each individual in our ward at heart.

    I recently was able to attend girls’ camp in our ward. It was clear to me that the Bishopric hadn’t clearly heeded what I would perceive (not having fully studied the article in question, but having heard these kinds of talks before) as perhaps an additional but non-ancillary angle to Elder Scott’s counsel about taking responsibility: the Bishopric seemed to have no idea about what regular youth camps were like or what they consisted of. By mandate of the Bishopric both the Young Men of our ward and the Young Women were instructed to hold simultaneous camps about 30 seconds’ walking distance from each other in a public campground. There was no questioning their decision. Obviously, this goes against several long-standing policies about mixed gender camping that have been around for ages, for obvious reasons. The Bishopric, certainly well-meaning men of sound judgment, simply hadn’t ever carefully read the manuals for the Young Women’s and Young Men’s organizations it appears. I wonder if this isn’t one of the main problems that Elder Scott’s counsel is designed to address: People in leadership positions fail to exercise good leadership over auxiliary organizations simply because they’re not used to being informed about what those organizations are doing.

    Now, I know that our Bishops are heavily taxed, another consistently reiterated point by the Brethren over the past few years, and I know they probably have better things to do than read up on all of their church policies all of the time in order to be in strict harmony with the letter of the law, but I wonder if Elder Scott’s counsel isn’t intended in part to gently re-emphasize the need to pay attention and help out the auxiliaries in accomplishing their missions.

    As for Naomi’s point about the parity between Elders’ Quorums and Relief Societies: While I would have completely agreed with you during my time in single student wards, living in a family ward (with an age demographic that skews towards the retired end of the spectrum) I think the Relief Society in our ward enjoys much more relevance and actual power than either of the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums, and that’s just leaving the budget out of it. Perhaps it’s because they care for all women over 18 in the ward, and therefore simply have large numbers of people to worry about, perhaps it’s because they’re just more on the ball, or more caring about those they’re ultimately responsible for, but when the Relief Society wants something done, our Bishop doesn’t hesitate to do it himself or facilitate the completion of whatever they ask for.

  9. J. Stapley on September 7, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    I think that it is important to note that the auxiliarization of the Relief Society was directly tied to the schismatic problems of the post-manifesto era. It seems that marriage conceptions and correlation are functions of each other.

  10. Soyde River on September 8, 2005 at 7:18 am

    When who has the power seems to consume so much of our time and attention, I wonder how far we are from a Zion society? How very Americancentric to be so consumed.

    The keys of the priesthood are held by only one man, and everyone else is subordinate. I don’t spend too much time worrying about how much he has given to me, or my bishop, or my stake president, or my elders quorum president, or the Relief Society president. I have enough to do in trying to live by the principles I know to be true.

  11. Gavin McGraw on September 8, 2005 at 9:13 am

    Conjecture Alert!

    I don’t think that there has ever been a danger of direct and vicious conflict between the Priesthood and the Auxilliaries, but with the cultural trend moving toward greater acceptance and power of female authority, perhaps it’s just as well that the Church leadership trend has been to have auxiliaries fall in step.

    Perhaps as women in the church feel more valued and independent in their personal lives and relationships, they don’t feel as threatened by institutionalized subordination. On the other hand, if authority and independence of female-led auxiliaries had kept increasing along with the general social trend of rising female dominance, maybe there could have been problems. Of what kind, I’ll leave to the imagination.

    Because as we all know, if any organization would be able to militarize and stage a coup, it would be the Relief Society. :)

  12. Mark on September 8, 2005 at 9:37 am

    Rosalynde,

    I read this article too, and your post made me go back and read it again. The most confusing part for me is the second paragraph, where elder Scott enumerates all 5 auxiliaries (YW, RS, Primary, YM, and Sunday School), and then, in the next sentence, states explicitly that his remarks are directed specifically to the three female auxiliaries. I think every word of his presentation applies to the SS and YM, too.

    Taken overall, I am a fan of correlation. I can’t remember the bad old days, but my parents have told me that there were often conflicting messages and priorities coming from SLC, with each auxiliary holding its own conference and pursuing its own agenda. They told me that it was common to have heated discussions about what church headquarters really wanted, and which church program was most important – “My general presidency trumps your general presidency!”, etc. I’m glad that the church has reined some of that in. The organizational types in the secular world use the buzz-phrase “getting back to core competency”. The church where you live might be different, but there are enough live wires and wild hares in my ward and stake to keep things interesting, without adding another layer of complexity from the top.

    So I’m saddened that correlation has, for some, become a hiss and a byword, and shorthand for female oppression. I view elder Scott’s presentation as an attempt to at least explain the reasons for it, and I think the reasons are sound.

  13. Bradley Ross on September 8, 2005 at 10:17 am

    About “help meet”: A BYU-Idaho professor of religion and biblical Hebrew, Bruce Satterfield, has said the following.

    The phrase “help meet for him” translates the Hebrew words ezer kenegdo. These words are a little difficult for me to translate. Ezer literally means, “help” and is similar in meaning to the English word ‘help.’ However, kenegdo, translated ‘meet for him’, is more difficult to translate. The root word, neged, literally means ‘opposite’, ‘in the presence of’, ‘over against’, ‘in front of’, ‘corresponding to’, or ‘aside’. Literally, kenegdo means, ‘opposite as to him’ or ‘corresponding as to him’.

    The sense of the phrase ezer kenegdo is ‘an equal but opposite helper to him’. For example, my left hand is the ezer kenegdo to my right hand; both hands look alike except they are exactly opposite. Both hands are equal but opposite.

    An Israeli-Jewish professor tells me that the interpretation is valid if not common.

  14. B on September 8, 2005 at 10:18 am

    “Perhaps as women in the church feel more valued and independent in their personal lives and relationships, they don’t feel as threatened by institutionalized subordination.”

    That’s possible. The reverse is also possible. As women in today’s society feel more valued and independent in their personal lives and relationships, they may feel more confident in rejecting institutionalized subordination. Some may feel they have to remove the Relief Society from their lives in order to do so.

  15. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 10:42 am

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    Nate (#2): Nice comments. Your point about the various priesthood quorums acting as subordinate “auxiliaries” to the leading councils is well taken—although even in their current state they’re not in anything like the position of the auxiliaries: Elder Scott makes the point clearly that the priesthood quorums share the primary responsibility for carrying out the missions of the church, whereas the auxiliaries are merely ancillaries to those efforts. He cites Joseph F. Smith (pre-correlation): “We expect to see the day when every council of the Priesthood will understand its duty, will assume its own responsibility, will magnify its calling to the uttermost. When that day shall come, there will not be so much necessity for the work that is now being done by the auxiliary organizations, because it will be done by the regular quorums of the Priesthood.” He then adds Harold B. Lee’s (architect of correlation) clarification: “This did not mean that we would eliminate the auxiliaries heretofore established, but it meant that we would increase the responsibility of the priesthood quorums in strengthening those exisiting organizations by becoming more involved in order to give priesthood emphasis to every phase of the Lord’s work.” Without more context, I have to say that Lee’s gloss of JFS seems like a misreading—though, of course, possibly an inspired misreading!

  16. Steve Evans on September 8, 2005 at 10:49 am

    Way to skip over my nice comments, Rosalynde…

  17. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 10:56 am

    Naomi (#3): You make a good point about the de facto power of many Relief Societies and Relief Society leaders in their individual wards. I don’t dispute the fact that women have always worked improvisatorily and pragmatically within patriarchal hierarchies to amass and exercise different forms of power—and that those hierarchies often benignly allow or even actively foster such exercise. But my argument here (such as it is) is about authority, not power. If you will allow me to lecture a bit on what you already know: authority is that set of procedures, principles, laws, and formalized relationships that allows power to flow in a systematized and continuous fashion apart from the vagaries of personality and circumstance: the King has power, while the office of King has authority. Without authority, there will be no orderly and continuous flow of power from, say, one RS President to the next (or rather, the power that will flow from on to the next will be limited precisely to the authority accruing to the office)–but, instead, the relative power of the RS will depend on the personal assertiveness of the RS, her relationship to the bishop and EQ president, etc. I’m emphatically NOT arguing here that the RS ought to have more insitutional authority, or discounting the real effect of the ad hoc power it exercises—just pointing out what I see as the difference between the sort of power that the RS pres exercises and the institutional authority of the bishop.

  18. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 10:59 am

    Steve, your words were so many glistening pearls strung along a gossamer thread, and to touch them at all would canker their bloom…. but if you insist…. Nice comments! Along those lines, it’s interesting that Elder Scott sets out to outline the “doctrinal foundations” of the auxiliaries, but never goes further back than Joseph F. Smith—no scripture references, no Joseph Smith, no Eliza R. Snow. The doctrinal foundations he’s referring to appear to be of modern origin.

  19. Adam Greenwood on September 8, 2005 at 11:01 am

    “Without authority, there will be no orderly and continuous flow of power from, say, one RS President to the next (or rather, the power that will flow from on to the next will be limited precisely to the authority accruing to the office)”

    I get your point, but I do not think this is precisely true. No one thinks of power and authority with such perfect delineation, so, e.g., the successor of a powerful king will tend to have more power than the successor of a weak king, regardless of the authority of the kingship and regardless of the character of the successor. People will have become accustomed to the way things worked with the previous RS president and they’re more likely to continue working that way then otherwise.

  20. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Julie (#5): (blushing) How embarrassing! It was indeed Elder Ballard, not Elder Nelson, who has done so much work on councils. It’s the whole “Russell” thing—I never get their persons mixed up, but I do often mix up their names. I’ve changed it in the original post. Also, just to clarify, the article in question was not a part of the priesthood quorum series; in August the featured quorum, the seventh in the series, was the Quorum of the Seventy.

  21. Ginny on September 8, 2005 at 11:03 am

    Perhaps my Relief Society is the exception to the rule, but we don’t seem to have any purpose other than having the same three women share Missionary Moments and giggle at in-jokes for the entire session. What are we supposed to be doing?

  22. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Adam, that’s a fair point. I think, though, that the “echo effect” you’re talking about will be most pronounced in those conditions where there are relatively few surrounding check and balances to the exercise of power; and in the Church, with its handbooks and levels of oversight and visiting authorities, there are, thank goodness, quite a few checks and regulations on most offices. I think you’re right, though, that a very influential RS president can create a legacy for her ward—though, I would still argue, the continuation of that legacy will depend on the personal capacity of her successors, without any formal guarantees, and on the continued cooperation of her bishop.

  23. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 11:15 am

    A Nonny Mouse (#8): It would be interesting to know whether the training session for which this talk was prepared included a corresponding address to the bishops making the points you suggest. This article was very clearly intended to instruct the female auxiliary leadership, although the bishops appear to have been present. I’m so, so, so curious about that original context though: was the male auxiliary leadership present? If not, why not? If so, why were they specifically excused from the remarks? One of the Elder Scott’s main points was that the female leaders do not make callings—they merely recommend names to the Bishop, who then makes the decision and the issues the call. Does anybody know if this the case with YM and SS presidents, too?

  24. John Mansfield on September 8, 2005 at 11:19 am

    As Greg points out in comment #4, correlation goes back at least to Joseph F. Smith. One of our current Sunday School manuals mentions that “[i]n 1908 President Joseph F. Smith called Elder [David O.] McKay to serve on the Correlation Committee.”

    Elder Scott’s talk brings to mind the many moves of the last fifteen years to reduce for the Church and its members the expense (including time) of running our programs. It’s something that keeps coming up in Elder Packer’s talks. Unbridled initiative in the auxilary organizations can be an obstacle to not overburdening the members in unnecessary ways. It is an uncomfortable balancing act to magnify our callings and keep them small at the same time.

  25. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 11:22 am

    J. Stapley (#9): Can you tell me more about what you mean?

    Soyde River (#10): In my life I’ve often heard comments to that effect, generally intended, as yours was, to rebuke me or some other member of a currently or chronically out-of-office group for inquiring into the channels of authority. I’m curious: are you equally critical of, say, Leonard Arrington’s inquiry into the economic bases of Mormon power in the Great Basin? That is, is it the perception that I personally have something to gain or to advocate that makes you so hostile to this sort of analysis?

  26. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 11:35 am

    Gavin (#11): Interesting speculations. If history is any guide, however, the more personal self-determination women enjoy, then the *less* likely they are to accept institutional subordination—not the reverse. (There is, however, a persuasive strain of Bakhtinian theory that suggests that certain kinds of ritual “subversions” of power can act a a sort of release valve for the hostilities of oppressed groups, thus allowing them to be all the more securely contained afterward—but I don’t think this applies in any way to the situation at hand.) That said, I agree with you that the Church is in no danger of a Relief Society insurrection. I don’t think there ever was or ever would be that possibility, but it’s interesting to note that now that the women of the church have the ideological resources to think about structural reform (looking, for example, at the changes made in other churches and other organizations), they have been stripped of the infrastructure that would be necessary to organize for such an effort. As Elder Scott emphasizes, the lines of authority run from the ward RS president directly to the bishop—NOT in any way to the Stake RS president or the General RS presidency. (I assume that this was another effect of correlation.) Regional auxiliary authorities do not preside in any capacity—they exercise no authority over ward or stake female leaders, and function largely as an example (and to assist in developing curriculum). One crucial function of formalized authority is to facilitate communication (Elder Scott makes this point, too, to explain why auxiliary presidents only suggest names for callings)—and without that communication and clear line of authority, I think any Church-wide organized initiative by women is exceedingly unlikely.

  27. Adam Greenwood on September 8, 2005 at 11:53 am

    “One of the Elder Scott’s main points was that the female leaders do not make callings—they merely recommend names to the Bishop, who then makes the decision and the issues the call. Does anybody know if this the case with YM and SS presidents, too? ”

    I believe it is.

  28. Justin on September 8, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    Rosalynde (#23): I’m so, so, so curious about that original context though: was the male auxiliary leadership present? If not, why not? If so, why were they specifically excused from the remarks?

    FWIW, the invitation to the January 2004 broadcast noted that SS and YM presidencies did not need to attend. I do not know why they were excused from the meeting, but I hear that instructions for the leaders of the YM and SS auxiliaries will be given in future broadcasts.

  29. Jonathan Stone on September 8, 2005 at 12:43 pm

    I just don’t see the conflict between Elder Scott’s point and Elder Ballard’s. Auxiliary organizations are, by definition, auxiliary, and therefore subordinate to the presiding authority. However, that doesn’t mean that the presiding authority shouldn’t get input from the auxiliary leaders or take advantage of their knowledge and experience.

    The same person with the same attitude toward this relationship would say two different things to two different audiences. When speaking to the auxiliary leaders, he would teach that they should not let their power go to their heads; they are subordinate to the presiding priesthood authority. When speaking to the priesthood leaders, he would teach that they should not let their power go to their heads; they should collaborate with and seek input from the auxiliary leaders.

    One cohesive opinion, with no contradictions as I see them. I don’t even see them as counterweights. I see them as two different views of the same theory of ideal church governance.

  30. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 12:48 pm

    The amazing Justin! With his ear to the ground as well as his mouse to the pad, it seems…

    Jonathan: You’re reading a polemic into my post that simply is not there.

  31. marvmax on September 8, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    I was never in a leadership position in a Student Ward, but I think that the observation that the RS and EQ were equel in influence in those words seems to be true. I have to agree, however, with the observation that the RS is much more influential than the HPor EQ in a standard ward, at least all the standard wards I’ve been in.

    All I can really remember about the pre-correlation days was bringing my birthday pennies for the Primary Childrens Hospital. I always wondered how they were able to run a hospital with my pennies but I was glad to bring them.

    The RS did resist being brought into correlation more than the other auxilleries. I’ve always thought that they were afraid of the decrease in effectiveness that correlation would bring about. It wasn’t until Pres. Lee, who as someone has pointed out was the architect of corellation, became president that the RS was dissolved as a seperate organization. I have always felt that that was the important thing that Pres. Lee needed to do as president, finish the correlation of the church by bringing in the RS, get it on sound footing with the authority of the Presidency, and lay the foundation for the surge in international growth that would come under Pres. Kimball and his predecessors.

  32. manaen on September 8, 2005 at 2:50 pm

    23 & 27

    “One of the Elder Scott’s main points was that the female leaders do not make callings—they merely recommend names to the Bishop, who then makes the decision and the issues the call. Does anybody know if this the case with YM and SS presidents, too?”

    No local leader in the Church makes the callings for his or her own organization. All ward organizations go to the bishop for approval, issuance, sustaining, and setting apart of their callings. The bishop goes to the stake for his counselors, clerks, and exec secty. The HP group leader (the HP goup in the ward is part of the stake quorum, which has the stake president as its president, similar to the bishop being president of the priest’s quorum) also goes to the stake for his assistants.

    This is why you see the bishopric announce and ask for sustaining vote of new EQ and auxiliary leaders and then set them apart but you see someone from the stake do this for changes in the bishopric. A stake delegate also does this in HP group meetings for changes there. My own observation is that this creates a system of checks and assurances within the organization.

  33. Rosalynde on September 8, 2005 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks, manaen, that was what I had understood.

  34. Space Chick on September 8, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    Ref # 19, I agree that while a strong RS president can set a precedent for the RS to be a powerful organization, a weaker successor can squander that legacy, leaving the RS less influential than before. It is indeed dependent on personalities. That said, has anyone ever seen a mousy RS president?

  35. J. Stapley on September 8, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    John Mansfield, that first correlation committee was charged with curricula of Priesthood Quorums. Here is a little history on that committee.

    Rosalynde, you asked for me to fill out my comments. First, a little chronology:

    1913 – RS is referred to in general conference as an auxiliary as opposed to the semi-independent organization
    1914 – RS overturns decades of policy in a circular letter that says directives are to by sought from local priesthood leaders instead of the RS hierarchy.
    1921 – First RS president released before death.

    It was during this time that the JFS and Grant administrations were fighting groups that retained “traditional” marriage and those who justified such actions based on the liberal endowments of our most holy ordinances.

    So we start with polygamy (with the associated ordinances) and a semi-independent RS that advocated the feminism du jour, women anointing and blessing the sick and a vertical organization. Polygamy is repealed, but die-hards persist. The Church correlates in response. There is no longer independent hierarchy and local priesthood leaders manage the RS. Because of correlation women no longer administer by the laying on of hands, neither with their husbands nor independently. Later, the female prepared curricula pass away.

    It seems that correlation and marriage conceptions feed off of each other.

  36. Soyde River on September 8, 2005 at 4:36 pm

    Not quite, manaen. Elder’s Quorum Presidents are called and set apart by the Stake President. Counselors in the Elder Quorum Presidency are approved by the Stake Presidency and High Council, and set apart by a member of the stake presidency or High Council.

  37. A Nonny Mouse on September 8, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    Manaen and Soyde River: Also, I’ve been in wards where the Elders Quorum has issued callings that are “Elders Quorums callings only” which they only present to the Quorum itself, i.e. “Elders quorum pianist” “Elders quorum hymnbook distributor” “hometeaching coordinator.” It’s interesting that those aren’t sustained by the whole ward…
    I don’t that this is always the case, but…

    J. Stapley, I believe in something like unto “Answers to Gospel Questions” Joseph Fielding Smith stated that he didn’t have any problem with women laying on hands with their husbands as a show of faith… That would have been after the begining of the correlation struggles you mention, wouldn’t it? Of course, I’ve never heard of anything like that since, so I think your point is totally valid, I just wonder culturally how long the practice subsisted. As a sort of cheesy, anecdotal cultural remnant in Mormon literature, I present Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” wherein he makes mention of Ender’s Mormon mother giving him a blessing at some point in his early life. I wonder though, how valid a data point that is, because clearly Orson Scott Card is down with being a bit on the fringe of mormon culture.

  38. Gavin McGraw on September 8, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    Rosalynde,

    I was surprised, then flattered to see your lines (all 27 of them) dedicated to my reply. Thanks!

    I suppose I’ve gotten used to people not taking my comments seriously, because of my tragic birth defect. I was born with a tongue in my cheek.

  39. manaen on September 8, 2005 at 6:50 pm

    36.
    Soyde River, I remembered after I’d posted that all Melch.-Priesthood-leadership callings come through the stake. Unfortunately, work interfered with a timely correction so thx for handling it.

    37.
    Nonny, I suppose that those are more assignments than callings to be vetted and extended by the next level of leadership. Maybe not.

  40. LisaB on September 9, 2005 at 10:43 am

    How did I miss this post? We’re thinking along similar veins, Rosalynde. See my FMH post on The Fall yesterday. I promise I didn’t poach. I just saw this today. I’ll have to read the Scott article. On second thought, perhaps I shouldn’t.

  41. Mike on September 9, 2005 at 1:43 pm

    Fascinating discussion and very informative. I have vaguely thought much along these same lines but never had the tools, knowledge of history and how organizations work, etc to understand and express it so beautifully and accurately. Real church history in the theoretical sense.

    What a wonderful church y’all must belong to. Is the rest of the church really this rosy? I know it is suppose to be. Is it only my ward that seems to function more like a bunch of Neanderthals clubbing each other over the head in comparison?

    How many specific examples would you like? Do you have all day?

    My son is now a deacon. But last year he was a very disruptive primary boy who was kicked out over 20 times. He was bored and would do anything, suffer any punishment later to relieve the tedium of the correlated material he described as being on the sunbeam level. Initially the Primary did not tell us that he was being disruptive and he being rather clever did not tell us either. Week after week he came with us to church, suffered through Sacrament meeting as most children do, was kicked out of Primary, wandered around outside for two hours and went home with us. We sensed something was wrong because he was often at the point of tears right after church for no apparent reason.

    His teacher repeatedly told him he was not welcome, that he wished my son did not come, he should just stay home. It was sort of a power struggle and the teacher finally just would kick him out after a few seconds for the most ridiculous infractions. When we found out about it we tried to resolve the problem and we ran into a brick wall.

    First the Primary teacher would not return any of my phone calls. I did not even know what he looked like, we have a somewhat transient ward, and despite some effort I could never manage to track him down at church. I was teaching gospel doctrine at the time. I went to the Primary President. No other solution had been considered, beyond kicking my kid out every week. No one considered what he was doing unsupervised for two hours. I was willing to sit with him in his class but they said that was not to be allowed. I offered to teach the class but that was not accepted. We have a small ward with 4 boys in the oldest three years of primary at the time so another class did not exist. I did not inquire whether we could put him in the deacons quorum at age 11. I punished him but that did not work and only made him more resentful and rebellious and really seemed to make the problem worse. I tried bribes to no avail.

    The Primary President eventually acknowledged that there might be a problem with this teacher. But she said that her hands were tied because the teacher held the Priesthood and hence out ranked her and since he had been called by the Bishop, she could not do anything to go against that revelation. The Bishop told me that it was the Primary President’s responsibility to select the teachers and he could not run the Primary. He would look into the the possibility that the teacher was a problem, but nothing else was ever done. I tried to get my good friend the Elder’s Q. President to help and he told me that it was the consensus of many in the ward council that this teacher was a problem but since he was planning to move in a few months it was best to do nothing. Rather than sitting down with this teacher and working out some sort of plan that might actually stand a chance of working or else kicking the teacher out, we did nothing. My anger toward this teacher grew to the point I was not even sure I could control myself if I ever did meet him and not end up smacking him. Ever left a ward and wondered if the whole ward was glad you were gone?

    For the last several months of his 11th year my son did not attend Primary at all. Twice he went to work with me and I forced him to sit in an empty room for about 6 hours and read scriptures. He didn’t mind. I had him sit in my adult class and he was fine. He belongs to a non-LDS Scout troop and he went camping once a month on Sunday. He attended church with my wife who goes to another church, without incident. Can you imagine going to a church where you did not feel safe leaving your children in the Primary?

    I asked my son a few weeks before his 12th birthday if he was aware of and willing to take on the responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood? I had meant to have an in depth discussion about the responsibilities of the Priesthood. He replied with bitterness, cutting through all the grap, ” Does it get me out of Primary?” He would have been willing to sign up in the French Foreign Legion at that point. What a great reason to become a Priesthood holder, it gets you out of Primary.

    Examples 2-12 deleted.

    Come on now folks, I’ve been an Elder’s Q. President twice for 10 years and a varietry of other positions. We have a lay Priesthood, not very well trained and it often shows. My wards function like any other human organization with all varieties of back stabbing and petty quarrels and politics and sucking up and general stupidity. Once in a while the Lord comes through for us and we do remarkable things. Most of the time we flounder along. I much prefer to teach any class, including the nursery and not have to put up with all the nonsense associated with leadership.

    I recall going to a special ward leadership meeeting about 7 years ago with one of the 70′s. as our visiting guest; can’t remember his name, might have been Gene Cook. Anyway he gave a short introduction and then opened it up and asked us to “frankly share” with him our problems and challenges. The Stake President who was conducting asked the person sitting next to me to start and they would go around the circle so that I would be last. This was not by accident. I could not believe the wonderful pictures people painted about how our ward functioned, to the point of flat out lying. When it was my turn the time was more than gone. I looked around with utter disguist at these my enraptured friends and fellow Saints. I said that perhaps I must have been drunk this morning and walked into the wrong church. I scarcely recognized it anymore. I don’t know about the rest of this ward but frankly my Elder’s Quorum is going to hell in a handcart. The Stake President interrupted me at this point and said something along the lines of one thing we really like about Bro H. is his honesty and bluntness, but the time is far spent so we will close with….

    BTW. If you as a woman (or a man) want to call someone within your organization you do not actually need the Bishop’s approval. You simply call the person and ask them to be a “substitute” and then “suggest” or tell the Bishop. After about 3 to 6 weeks or however many long weeks it takes the Priesthood to get their rears in gear, they get the official call. Or rarely you get vetoed, but usually for some good reason.You release people by a similar process. A lot of people want to be released. You can play all kinds of semantic games and quote scriptures to back up any action. When I was younger I found these political machinations to be quite exciting. Everyone is so busy being really nice in the church that it doesn’t take much creativity to get around any one of these barriers.

    They only have as much control over you as you give them. Do what is right and let the consequences follow. Not what you are told unless it happens to be right. I call this effective leadership. I see many excellent managers and yes-yes men in the church today, I rarely see any real leadership.

  42. Mike B on September 9, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    #32 manaen: “No local leader in the Church makes the callings for his or her own organization. All ward organizations go to the bishop for approval, issuance, sustaining, and setting apart of their callings.”

    That doesn’t always apply for every calling in an organization. In our HP group, we have called our own instructors, with approval of the bishop. The only involvement of the bishop was approval of the name. We called the persons, sustained them, and set them apart. Whether that’s according to official protocol or not, I don’t know.

  43. Gavin McGraw on September 10, 2005 at 5:01 am

    Mike, it seems like your ward is small enough not to have redundant classes and quorums (I know there are some with 3 sunbeam classes and two or three Deacons’ Quoroms), but large enough that remaining functional has never really been an issue.

    In our ward we cannot possibly fill all the callings necessary for a “fully-staffed” ward, and can run with a skeleton crew, so it forces us to correlate more effectively (actually correlate instead of just hold meetings) and think creatively about what to do and who to have do it.

    Now that I think about situations like yours, it seems like a blessing in disguise. I’m sure I’d be inactive by now I had to put up that kind institutionalized incompetence.

    I feel like the phrase “think out of the box” comes to mind more and more. In the church we sometimes just create more boxes.

  44. Gavin McGraw on September 10, 2005 at 5:06 am

    I meant to say “can barely run on a skeleton crew.”
    This is not to say that we don’t club each other over the head now and then, but necessity really is the mother of invention.

  45. Gavin McGraw on September 10, 2005 at 5:18 am

    It seems we could really use an exchange program.

    Members from areas where the church is small (and who don’t know anything else), would spend a year serving in a large ward to learn how it ideally works.

    Members from areas where the church is a well-oiled machine (and don’t know anything else) would spend a year serving in a tiny branch to learn to work creatively, and to appreciate their resources at home.
    But then that sounds a lot like a non-lay-clergy.
    I guess missions fulfill that need to some degree as well, but how quckly we forget!

    Is this what is meant by “…differences of administration,” and, “…the diversities of operations,”?

  46. LisaB on September 10, 2005 at 11:30 am

    My understanding was that “diversities of operations” referred to the spiritual gift of discernment between the way God administers things (with love, guidance, and responsiveness to the needs of those being led) and the way Satan does (with hatred, division, coersion, and completely self-pity and selfishness). Yeah, we’re human and we administer and serve in both ways, in our homes, in our church classes and organizations, even in the temple sometimes unfortunately.

    Mike, we have also had a situation in which we had concerns about our child’s safety in Primary. In fact, we went to class with him (did not ask permission) as long as he needed, or allowed him to come with us whenever he wanted or when we had responsibilities elsewhere in the building. Eventually, we got permission to change wards (the request had to go through the First Presidency) in spite of our Stake President’s reticence to forward our request. We wondered if it would have been better for us to inform the ward and then Stake Primary President rather than the bishop, as we did. I am not sure what we would have done had our request not been honored. I believe the work of Primary is sacred work, but still that parents inspiration in the needs of their own children trumps the revelation that a ward leader receives about how to run the Primary as a whole.

  47. LisaB on September 10, 2005 at 11:42 am

    But back to the auxilliaries vs priesthood quorums thing… Perhaps the auxilliaries will be disolved when the women’s priesthood quorums are formally established? JS seemed to indicate in his meetings to the newly formed and “empowered” RS that the restoration would not be complete until women took their equal place in the work of the kingdom as queens and priestesses.

    As the church organizations are currently constituted, I don’t see how the priesthood quorums could take care of the work of the kingdom which is currently performed by RS, Primary, YW, and SS (isn’t YM now under the quorums of the priesthood rather than auxiliary umbrella as the name has been changed to “Aaronic Priesthood”?). Also, what about other ward committees–activities, missionary, fellowshipping, welfare, ward music… Is it assumed that priesthood quorums would take over all of their duties as well?

    Also, I don’t see why there is any more difficulty over leaders with divergent views (“coming from SLC”) now than when RS was more autonomous. Because of our differing roles on earth and ostensibly in the eternities as well, why shouldn’t women priviledge instruction about essentially women’s roles that comes from women, and men priviledge instruction about essentially men’s roles that comes from men, with a healthy dose of opinions from “the other camp” for the sake of balance and perspective? How else can we ever acheive a unity which values and holds in equal power these opposites–male and female–as we claim divinity does?

  48. Seth Rogers on September 10, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    Mike, I’ve sat through two years of Bishopric, Priesthood Executive Committees, Welfare Meetings and Ward Correlation Meetings in a previous ward. I’d typically sit through at least 5 hours of church meetings each Sunday (6 if you count Ward Choir).

    I can honestly say that the ward you described doesn’t match the one I served in at all. And I’m outspoken enough that I would tell you if that wasn’t the case.

    We had an excellent Bishop who, while being very decisive in his leadership role, was always intensly concerned about what his auxilliary leaders thought. He was very deferential to our RS President (or her counselors if they were filling in for her). He also adhered strictly to the handbook while keeping in the spirit of the latest GA sponsored leadership messages.

    There were problems, to be sure, but our leadership in Primary, Young Women, Young Men, RS, Elders Quorum, High Priests, Sunday School and our Ward Mission was simply outstanding.

    I always used to think that annectdotes like this couldn’t be “for real.” They are. There really are wards out there that get it right.

    I don’t discount the possibility of wards like the one you described (though I’d like to hear the whole story … ). But be careful not to generalize the situation of one nightmare ward to the rest of the church.

    My stay in the ward I just left were three of my most fabulous years in church service (except maybe my mission). It was the kind of thing that made me EXCITED to get up at 5:30 Sunday morning in order to be on time to Bishopric meeting at 6:30 am! I feel like I had a wonderful apprenticship in gospel service and I’ll miss that ward a lot.

  49. GeorgeG on September 10, 2005 at 1:11 pm

    Eve may have been the first to transgress but most of the sins that we emphasize are associated with the male nature. Sins that we may ascribe more prevalently to women don’t get that much air time. (e.g. contrast the airplay for masculine adultery and fornication with feminine envying and strife)

    The religions of the world (except for that perversion Islam) seem to deal with this by making men into women. Real masculinity and real femininity are part of our god-like essences and cannot be denied so religions that don’t deal well with masculinity don’t have a lot of appeal to many men.

    I feel that the gospel addresses masculinity and how men can serve and be exalted very well. But when we put it up to the standards of the world it is just too stinking patriarchal…not enough emasculation going on in the church for some women. It’s tense. Some men give up and surrender their masculinity (or try to unsuccessfully). Some give in to the weaknesses of masculinity . But the strong stick it out. They don’t back down to Mormon feminists and they don’t surrender to lust or domination. They practice Christ-like love and leadership. These are my models. They usually have happy, productive families that love God and are bound together in service.

    I know that this is loaded with stereotypes. Try to deal with the essence and understand my point.

  50. LisaB on September 12, 2005 at 5:43 pm

    New thought on eventually getting rid of unnecessary auxilliaries. Since marriage is the highest order of priesthood, and Pres Benson said that the Patriarchal Order should more appropriately be called the Family Order, perhaps one day it is the family that will replace the auxilliaries, not the currently set up priesthood quorums. ??? Just speculating here of course.

  51. Jed on September 15, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Was the broadcast an international broadcast? We must remember that the American women’s movement is far in advance of women’s movements in other developing nations where the church has congregations and where, in fact, most Mormons reside. One of the lessons of our history is that we cannot move faster than the surrounding culture. When the surrounding culture is global culture, the message invariably plays to the most conservative common denominator. Pity the apostle who has to be Jew and Greek at the same time, who must speak to countries where anything less than full equality draws ire, and at the same time speak to countries where patriarchial systems of thinking and feeling are deeply ensconsed among LDS members, governments, and public relations officials.

  52. GeorgeD on September 15, 2005 at 3:35 pm

    An apostle Jew or Greek at the same time? Heaven forbid! All he is called to do his to be a friend of God. That should do it anywhere, anytime and with anyone.

  53. Sophia on September 18, 2005 at 4:02 pm

    GeorgeD,
    Would you call Jesus Christ emasculated? Would you say that he has surrendered his masculinity? I think he is indeed the best model for how humans – men and women – should treat each other. Respecting one another and acting in Christ-like ways has nothing to do with “not backing down to Mormon feminists.” It’s about listening with compassion and empathy to those that are marginalized. It’s about looking for the powerless and the agonized and helping them to empower themselves and find peace. It’s about striving for peace and social justice for everyone, despite their race, gender, or class.

  54. GeorgeD on September 18, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    Or anyone who says in a shrill enough way that they are marginalized…?

    Please read what I really said not what you think I said. And please put down the scissors.

  55. Sophia on September 18, 2005 at 8:25 pm

    I read you loud and clear. To what scissors are you referring?

  56. Kristine on September 18, 2005 at 9:15 pm

    George, I really don’t think you get to toss around things like “not enough emasculation going on in the church for some women” and then criticize other people for being shrill. Loaded, hyperbolic rhetoric tends to elicit response in kind. Sophia’s response seemed quite measured to me.

    And, by the way, I’m not sure there’s currently anything in our comment policy that would forbid you from calling Islam a perversion, but I wish there were. That is an incredibly tasteless slur, unworthy of a believer in the gospel of Christ.

  57. Ben H on September 18, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    LisaB, have we talked about that auxiliary thing? You said what I think, for my part. Heck, the family will replace the whole church in heaven. (grin)

  58. GeorgeD on September 18, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    Kristine, Sorry for not being PC but I study Islam. There are millions of Muslims who are ordinary decent people but Islam as a religion is a monstrosity.

  59. LisaB on September 19, 2005 at 7:59 am

    No, Ben, I think that fell under the conversation-long-gone category. I keep trying to resurrect discussions that are really interesting to me by posting on threads that have passed into oblivion, but apparently I don’t have power to raise the dead. Thanks for asking, though.