Serving on the Sideline

August 28, 2011 | 77 comments
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Commenting on my controversial/popular (also tedious/stultifying) post “Does Gender Matter?” — asking if it’s reasonable to claim both that gender matters enough to make all sorts of exclusions and that it doesn’t matter enough to require more equal representation — led me to describe a long-held frustration:

Men create worlds, men direct the work of the gospel, men bring to pass immortality. Whatever we see God doing are things men can anticipate doing should they be exalted.

What will women do? Will we still be in the Relief Society room asking the bishop for permission to get someone to teach a lesson? I have no idea and know of no doctrine that gives any clarification on the issue.

Given our penchant for avoiding discussion of Mother in Heaven and the historical absence of recorded female role models, I’ve always been unclear about which gospel principles apply to “mankind” and which only to men. Answers to these questions are often on my mind as I listen to counsel.

Last week in our stake conference, our visiting area authority seventy, Christopher B. Munday, called a new stake presidency. In his initial remarks he told us that there was a plaque on his wall at home in England, that said this:

She who sits and waits, also serves.

He followed the quote by saying, “And we also acknowledge the wives.”

Past experience tells me that many women will not be bothered by this. In fact, some will run to make a similar plaque to hang in their own halls. But my spirit just dropped. Having been wondering for years what eternal role women really do have, to hear the implication from one of my leaders that sitting and waiting was a pretty darn good way for a woman to serve just left me empty.

I’m sure many of you see this in a more positive light. What are your thoughts?

77 Responses to Serving on the Sideline

  1. Kent Larsen on August 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Couldn’t this saying simply be a recognition of those who are ready to serve but never actually asked to serve? I don’t think it has to be a judgment that service should be this way, just a recognition that it sometimes can be this way. So, being available is its own kind of service.

    FWIW, my response to not being asked to serve is often to try and find a project to work on that might be of benefit. If you take the whole “anxiously engaged in a good cause” idea seriously, why would you ever be sitting and waiting?

  2. E on August 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Almost all public acknowledgments of “the wives” bother me. It seems patronizing.

  3. queuno on August 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Is the solution then to simply drop the patronizing public acknowledgments, then?

  4. Ardis E. Parshall on August 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    At least the wives were remembered. The non-wives … ?

    Rather than dropping public acknowledgements, it would be far better to identify ways in which women actively serve, and mention those ways.

    (May be worth noting that the wives of men who are often away from home in the service of others do serve — not by sitting and waiting, but by making it possible for their husbands to serve, by contributing x, y and z types of service.)

  5. Julie M. Smith on August 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I made a comment and then deleted it . . . I’ll blame Google for misleading me!

    The quote seems to come from this poem:

    http://iwvpa.net/kirkmeyermi/she-also.php

    Note that it is there:

    “She also serves who sits in wait”

    in reference to military wives. The change is, I think, significant in that “sits in wait” is not the same as “sits and waits,” at least as I am reading it–the military wife is currently serving through her sacrifice, doing what her husband would have done, and ready and waiting to do more. Not a bad analogy for a SP wife . . .

  6. Bill on August 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Origin of the phrase is a John Milton sonnet:

    When I consider how my light is spent
    Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
    And that one Talent which is death to hide
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest He returning chide,
    “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
    I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
    Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
    They also serve who only stand and wait.

  7. Amber on August 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I was recently called as the Primary President, and my husband does a lot of “sitting and waiting” nowadays. I appreciate him for it because it makes my life much easier.

    I don’t know that I’d put it on a plaque, though.

  8. Dane Laverty on August 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I think this statement offers a great insight into the difference between what women in the church are saying and what leaders in the church are hearing. When women say, “I don’t feel like I have the opportunity to serve…” is the unspoken request,

    - (1) “…so I need you to confirm that what I’m doing counts as service,”

    or is it,

    - (2) “…so I want to be doing work that feels valuable to me”?

    The first is looking for external validation, the second is looking for internal validation. Elder Munday’s statement implies that church leaders feel that women are looking for external validation, that they just want someone to say, “Yes, you’re doing fine,” but the concerns I hear expressed by women lead me to believe that they’re not looking for a pat on the head. They’re looking for opportunities to engage in meaningful work that makes a difference in the world.

  9. Mondo Soria on August 28, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person …. If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve” — Mother Teresa

    Can’t get any more simple than that.

  10. Rameumptom on August 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I think a lot of us still stumble over statements, as we just do not know what Heavenly Mother, or her daughters, will do in the next life. Trying to find something to say, when there is so much unknown, can often leave us feeling empty. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the prophet were to have a revelation, telling us that wives would be intricately involved with their husbands in creating worlds, establishing order, etc.?
    Until we know how things actually work out, there will be no satisfying answer by our GAs. And I’m certain they aren’t satisfied with the current answer, either. But with us, they must await it.

    I think we need now to focus on the efforts of the individual. Whether one serves in a priesthood calling, RS presidency, nursery, or “sits and waits” while the spouse serves, we should all be engaged in a good work. And the day will come, I have no doubt, when both Heavenly Father and Mother will praise us for the good works we have done in mortality.

    And Alison, your posts are awesome. Don’t feel bad about “sitting and blogging.”

  11. Kristine on August 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Probably useful to note that the sonnet is titled “On His Blindess”–he _couldn’t_ serve in the ways he was used to. Unless we’re ok with the idea that Correlation disables women, we probably shouldn’t be deriving platitudes from it.

    And for hell’s sake, who paraphrases _MILTON_???

  12. Ziff on August 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Dane (#8), I like your analysis. I think you’re right on.

  13. MoHoHawaii on August 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I recently wrote about my memory of my mother serving on sidelines while my dad was a stake president. It’s relevant to the subject of this post. (Follow the link from my user name to see it.)

  14. Jax on August 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    They’re looking for opportunities to engage in meaningful work that makes a difference in the world.

    Just because some don’t like their role doesn’t mean their role is meaningless or that it doesn’t make a difference.

    We had Stake Conference last week. Elder Christofferson of the 12 was presiding. He had us open to Moses 6 during one of the trainings. Verses 59-60 talk about water, blood, and spirit.

    He taught about the correlation between those three elements in the processes of ‘Birth’ and ‘Re-Birth’. He said, “Birth and Rebirth are our two most important objectives”. The transfer of life to mortality, and its successul transfer into post-mortality need to be our chief concerns.

    He then asked, “Who is primarily involved in the transfer of life into mortality? In the birthing process?” Then answer of course is women. They are primarily responsible for one of the two great transformation we make. And then he asked, “Who is primarily involved in re-birth {ordinances}?” The answer is men. They are primarily responsible for the other major transformation we make. Now there is some male involvement in birth, and some female involvment in re-birth, but mostly each sex has nothing to do with the others part of the process.

    Now he didn’t say it, but I inferred that he was teaching us this in answer to the female priesthood question. That they have the primary role in one transition, and men have the primary role for the other – and that for either sex to try to usurp that responsibility from the other is foolhardy. If you only consider the post-birth status of women, you could say it is ‘unfair’ that they don’t have the priesthood. But when you look at the whole plan, starting from pre-mortality, then women has just as important a role as the men.

    Men create worlds, men direct the work of the gospel, men bring to pass immortality. Whatever we see God doing are things men can anticipate doing should they be exalted.

    What will women do? Will we still be in the Relief Society room asking the bishop for permission to get someone to teach a lesson? I have no idea and know of no doctrine that gives any clarification on the issue.

    And the women create the spirits to live on them, and teach them, train them, nourish them, protect them, …. Women’s role has a tangible/physical affect on the spirits of men, both by creating them and by nourishing and caring for them. Men’s role in the priesthood on the other hand is mostly just symbolic – baptism, sacrament, etc, just being symbols and having meaning only because God said that they do. We rarely affect things in a physical way (unless someone is moving). So if I were to ask whose role was ‘meaningful’ I’d have to choose the female one, rather than my own.

  15. Alison Moore Smith on August 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Kent Larsen #1:

    Couldn’t this saying simply be a recognition of those who are ready to serve but never actually asked to serve?

    I suppose it could. But, as you bring up, I can’t think of why anyone should ever sit and wait anyway. What’s the point of sitting and waiting — and how is that helpful? When I was the RS president, my husband was in the bishopric (and we had all little kids). It was a lot of juggling, but no one was sitting and waiting. Much more interesting, too. :)

    E #2:
    How does this acknowledgement of wives strike you? (Check out the picture of my mom’s name tag at the MTC.)

    Ardis #4:

    Rather than dropping public acknowledgements, it would be far better to identify ways in which women actively serve, and mention those ways.

    Absolutely. When someone has a time consuming calling, the spouse is usually picking up some slack. Not just waiting around for spousy to come home.

    Julie, I do like that better. As long as we understand that “sitting in wait” has nothing to do with sitting and only a little to do with waiting. :)

  16. Dane Laverty on August 28, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Just because some don’t like their role doesn’t mean their role is meaningless or that it doesn’t make a difference.

    Fair enough, Jax. I should have said, “opportunities to engage in work that they feel is meaningful.”

  17. Alison Moore Smith on August 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Dane, #8 I’m not sure I have a good answer for you, but I can tell you that the head pats nauseate me. PLEASE if I hear one more time how awesome and amazing we women are, I’m going to run off a cliff. I don’t want to be on a pedestal. It’s a rather precarious position. I want to be side by side with my sisters and sisters, working together for a common goal.

    I know a lot of men and women. They both have strengths and weaknesses. And I don’t believe women are any better, we just tend to have different sets of problems. TELL us what to do, TELL us what to work on (even collectively), TELL us how to better prepare for whatever it is our role will be. We can handle it! We aren’t fragile accessories.

    I loved Shari Dew. I think I probably cried every time she spoke in GC. She wasn’t afraid to tell us we were “stupid.” Sure, she also told us we were awesome, but she did it in the context of DOING awesome things, of BEING women of God. She asked us to look at ourselves critically and change what we needed to be “the woman the Savior wants me to be.”

    Neal Maxwell (if memory serves) once gave a talk (I had a cassette tape of it, don’t recall the source) and he said something like this, “We have a lot of men who are scholars and women who are saints. We need a little more crossover.”

    Loved that. He pointed out some strengths, but gave us something to work on. Women need to work on being gospel/scripture scholars. Good. Let’s do it.

    Rameumptom #10, good insights. I don’t know if the GAs actually need to wait, or if the topic just isn’t something they are concerned about. Since almost all revelation begins with a question, someone in authority will usually have to raise the question. If Emma hadn’t asked about the smoking and spitting, would Joseph have ever received the Word of Wisdom?

    And thank you so much for the kind words. Needed that today. :)

  18. Sam Brunson on August 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    I think Dane (#8) is spot on, at least to a large extent.

    But I think the problem is partly rhetorical, too. I think (hope?) that nobody thinks a woman’s role is passive, and that she acts best by not acting. But I think (again, hope?) that part of the problem is that some aren’t really attuned to words: they hear a short, pithy phrase (and, frankly, a line from Milton—even in unfortunate paraphrase—is likely to be powerful and memorable), and don’t think through the implications. I think that’s a dangerous thing, to not think through the implications of what we say, but I’m not convinced that everybody is obsessed with choosing a correct word, especially in semi-spontaneous speech.

    Not that this justifies our poor choices of words, of course. Because words do matter.

  19. Ardis E. Parshall on August 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Whenever I read something like Jax’s 13, I want to ask why boys are given the Aaronic Priesthood and why men hold leadership positions and exercise priesthood functions their whole lives. I mean, since women have a role in God’s plan only so long as they are bearing and raising children, why aren’t men restricted from receiving the priesthood until the first child is born? Why are they called as stake presidents and patriarchs after the last child has flown the nest? It’s only fair that their place in God’s plan lie dormant during the times when women are viewed as useless, too. I suppose they could have their priesthood back during the hours the grandkids are visiting, or maybe while their wives are teaching Primary, but really, why are men valuable their entire post-age-12 lives, but women have no place in the plan outside their maternal years and duties?

    For the clueless, I’m KIDDING.

    Sort of.

    It’s not that I think Elder Christofferson is wrong, so far as Jax has translated him correctly. It’s that such explanations are incomplete, and to the extent they’re incomplete, they *are* wrong.

    But anyone who can say “And we also acknowledge the wives” in a general (i.e., not couples-only) meeting wouldn’t understand that.

  20. Sam Brunson on August 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Just to clarify: I’m not trying to excuse poor rhetoric, of course. But it’s probably worth figuring out which is the problem (or that both are). If the problem is what Dane describes, that calls for one solution: providing women with meaningful ways to serve. But if the problem is rhetorical, rather than substantive, then the solution is teaching speakers to say what they actually mean, and to think through the implications of what they say. And, on the third hand, if the problem is both substantive and rhetorical, we need to attack both problems.

  21. Bob on August 28, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Sam Brunson:
    It’s just poor rhetoric, but some poor thinking. I think most women would just as soon pass on the ‘birthing role’ and have the baby come by UPS???
    “Who is primarily involved in the transfer of life into mortality?” Maybe it’s the baby??? A premature baby can grow a long time outside of it’s mother.

  22. E on August 28, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Allison #14: It’s hard to find the right words to express how your Mom’s name tag strikes me. Because although this picture is worth a thousand words, I am speechless.

  23. Sam Brunson on August 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Bob,
    I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about. I have no patience with the false equivalence between birthing and priesthood; the poor rhetoric/poor substantive thinking divide I’m referring to is more the language of the plaque. (Although, fwiw, and this is probably not the place for this discussion, but I’m not convinced, given the extreme presence of the natural birthing in circles my wife and I run in, that “most women” would prefer to pass on the “birthing role.” That’s not to say that it is pleasant, that’s not to say that most women look forward to the actual giving birth, and that’s especially not to say that somehow it confers on women such an experience that they have no need for ecclesiastical authority or divine power, but I’m hesitant to speak for the druthers of “most women.”)

    But, I think, my analysis would also apply to the motherhood/priesthood divide: is the issue bad thinking or is it poor understanding of the implications of what one is saying? How we can solve the problem depends largely on what the underlying problem is.

  24. Anonforthis on August 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    So Elder Christofferson’s quoting Valerie Hudson, now?

  25. Alison Moore Smith on August 28, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Kristine #11, spot on. On all counts.

    Sam Brunson #17:

    I think (hope?) that nobody thinks a woman’s role is passive, and that she acts best by not acting.

    I don’t know.

    Later in Elder Munday’s official talk, he made a comment something like this (I didn’t write this one down), “These men aren’t serving because of who they are, but because of who their wives made them.” He also said his wife once gave him a card that said “To the king of the castle…from the power behind the throne.”

    I know he’s trying, again, to acknowledge the wives, but I don’t “make” my husband anything. And I don’t want to be the unseen power. It’s like the insipid phrase, “The husband is the head of the home. The wife is the neck that turns him wherever she wants.” Ack!

    I just want to be a partner with my husband, not a superior, not a subordinate — and certainly not someone feigning servitude while holding the puppet strings.

    What’s so hard about actually acting on the whole idea of partnership?

    Ardis, I want to clarify about acknowledging the wives. Elder Munday had just called a new stake presidency and in the statement in the OP he was specifically acknowledging their wives.

  26. Ray on August 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    So, he acknowledged the wives of the Stake Presidency members – and it was clear he was doing so. He said absolutely nothing about eternal life, but rather was addressing a specific situation where three women literally were going to have to wait for their husbands on many nights while those men were gone as a result of their callings. He said that letting go of their husbands and “sitting and waiting” is a service, as well as actually serving in a calling.

    I was told basically the same thing when I was released from the Bishopric so my wife could serve as the Young Women’s President – that letting go of any desire to serve in a visible calling while she served in hers and taking care of our children at times when she wouldn’t be there to help was a form of service in and of itself.

    I’m not trying to minimize the concerns women have about ways they can serve in the Church. I want those opportunities expanded greatly, for married and single women – for young adults and older adults (and Young Women). I want women to be able to do lots of things they used to do regularly in the Church. I want women to be taught that they hold the Priesthood in a meaningful way when they are endowed, even if they can’t perform ordinances outside the temple currently. I want true unity taught and modeled more than it is right now.

    I just think this particular post is an example of making someone an offender for a word and looking beyond the mark.

  27. wreddyornot on August 29, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Ray, I think the post, at least as I read it, while possibly refelective of the particulars of a specific case or cases, like yours, more genuinely reflects the feelings our cultrual biases in the LDS realmn. Such inequalities leave thoughtful and sensitive folks like those I often see participating here hurt and possibly depressed. Over against our patriarchal past and present, some people genuinely long for deliverance from underappreciation and longstanding subserviance.

  28. wreddyornot on August 29, 2011 at 12:31 am

    Sorry. Left out an “of” between “feelings” and “our”.

  29. Ardis E. Parshall on August 29, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Thanks, Alison. I knew that when I wrote #4, but had forgotten it, I suppose, when responding in #18 to Jax’s blanket “this is what women are good for” comment. It does make a difference.

  30. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 2:17 am

    Ray, in my experience, sitting and waiting aren’t service. They are sitting and waiting.

    If these women are serving elsewhere, it should be acknowledged for what it actually is. If they are taking care of the family and kids, they probably are not “sitting and waiting.” (At least that’s not what my taking care of the family and kids looks like.) Like Ardis said, let’s acknowledge what they do rather than use words that make it sound like they aren’t doing anything but pining away in the parlor gazing out the window.

    If they are really “sitting and waiting” — presumably because they don’t actually have anything worthwhile to take up their time while their husbands are anxiously engaged in the stake presidency — then what good does “sitting and waiting” do?

    As wreddyornot brings up, women’s history (not just in the church) makes the idea that women whose husbands aren’t home are only good to sit around and wait for them to come back more pointed. As Ardis brings up, where does that good-for-nothing-without-the-man idea leave single women?

    I haven’t responded to Jax because I don’t really know what to say. He posted the same comment on another thread recently, I believe. I just don’t know how to process the idea that my role is to carry babies and push them out and then I’m pretty much resigned to the sit and wait role.

    I’m 47. I guess that means I’m out to pasture.

  31. Chadwick on August 29, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Hi Alison:

    My wife and I were just talking about this after church yesterday, actually. When you say that men create worlds, what is your source for that? I hope it’s not the temple video. My wife and I decided we believe creation of any kind in that realm, be it procreation or worldly creations, will be a joint project for both of us. We could be wrong. But it helps us sleep at night to believe it. I love my wife and I certainly don’t want to be off doing cool things while she stays home and knits.

    Hi Ardis:

    I’m glad to see you posting again. You don’t know me, as I’m a long time reader but a recent publisher, but I always enjoyed your comments. I think it’s interesting to note in Elder Groberg’s book “The Other Side of Heaven” that he notes only he had the higher priesthood; his senior companion did not because it was common in those days to give it to the males only after they were married. In Tonga, that is. That was not the practice in the US, obviously, or Elder Groberg also would not have had the higher priesthood on his mission. Not sure if that makes you feel better though. I found that interesting in relation to your comments above.

    I am serving as a YM advisor here in Bangalore and LOVE it (mostly because it’s a Sunday only calling here, no weekday activities, and the YM here are great). I personally wish we could find a way to bring the same responsibilities of the YM to the YW. It’s something I think about a lot in this calling actually. Any thoughts how we can do that, given the framework we operate in?

    I also want to make women in the church feel valued but it seems any attempt to do so may do more harm than good, given the above comments. Allison, any constructive ways to makes this happen, again, working in the framework we are dealt into?

  32. Jax on August 29, 2011 at 8:15 am

    If these women are serving elsewhere, it should be acknowledged for what it actually is. If they are taking care of the family and kids, they probably are not “sitting and waiting.” (At least that’s not what my taking care of the family and kids looks like.) Like Ardis said, let’s acknowledge what they do rather than use words that make it sound like they aren’t doing anything but pining away in the parlor gazing out the window.

    I agree with you here Alison. My wife (mother of 5, soon to be six) does very little ‘sitting and waiting’ and would much rather hear praise for what she does do, raise the kids, teach them the gospel, etc, which is far more useful than sitting and waiting.

    I really like Dane’s analysis in #8. I think the church leadership definitely wants to tell women #1 – that what they are doing IS important and that they don’t need to be apiring to the priesthood. There are many more ways to be meaningful without holding the priesthood. For instance, check out Kent’s list of charities started by LDS people – men and women working meaninfully side by side without priesthood involvement.

    I don’t like the “I want to serve in a way that feels meaningful to me” argument coming from women, unless your willing to allow everyone to make the claim regardless of sex. How many men feel the same way? Probably not the stake president you keep mentioning, but he is only one of a thousand men in the stake (rounding that obviously and including non-actives). After boys get off their missions, or stop passing the sacrament (for those who don’t serve missions), their is almost no use of priesthood for most men. They don’t supervise anything, don’t give blessings but rarely (and then the leaders are asked more often than non-leaders). They could choose to use the priesthood in temple service, where possible, but women can do that too. Like I’ve said, at least women’s “role” is physically necessary and has tangible importance. Men’s role is almost completely symbollic – it only has to be done because God said he wants us to do it, whereas people MUST get physical bodies, and kept alive in infancy. If either role is more meaningful, its the woman’s and not the man’s.

  33. BethSmash on August 29, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Chadwick,
    Why are there no weekday activities?

  34. Jax on August 29, 2011 at 8:46 am

    I haven’t responded to Jax because I don’t really know what to say. He posted the same comment on another thread recently, I believe. I just don’t know how to process the idea that my role is to carry babies and push them out and then I’m pretty much resigned to the sit and wait role.

    I’m 47. I guess that means I’m out to pasture.

    I did post something very similar in the post “the [church] was wrong” about a week ago.

    I doubt very much that you are “out to pasture”

    Let me ask, as a mother, do you feel like its important to your children that they be with you specifically, or would being with just any ‘mother’ do? Because my service in priesthood role could be done by anyone with a pulse, it didn’t “have to be me”. Any of Elder could gather home teaching reports and input in a computer, or said the sacrament prayer, or passed it, etc. etc. – my importance in priesthood roles is because I’m alive, not because I am who I am. But I bet your children want you specifically and not just a generic ‘mother’. And if that doesn’t make you feel important, then having the priesthood won’t either.

    And if a woman is “out to pasture” because you no longer are having children (or infertile), so are the men who never make it to stake presidencies, or bishops, or even EQ President.

    But obviously there are other ways that both sexes are involved in the “role” of the other that are meaningful and fulfilling. But women clamoring for the priesthood is just as silly as men clamoring to have babies – and probably just as pointless.

  35. mel h on August 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Chadwick asks how we can help women feel more valued. I would recommend: don’t focus on making women feel valued; actually value them. Value their contributions. Seek their perspectives. Use their words to teach women and men. Give them opportunities to serve in meaningful capacities, including leadership capacities. Trust them to make righteous choices about their personal and family lives. Treat them as individuals first, not a wife or daughter or mother. Demonstrate at the highest levels that women sit as equals in council with men.

    (Chadwick, please don’t feel like I’m picking on you–I think your question was valid and thoughtful. The wording struck me, but I don’t think you meant it in any negative sort of way.)

  36. mel h on August 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

    And Jax, there’s a difference between saying “I want to serve in a way that feels meaningful to me” and saying “I want to have an equal opportunity to serve in a way that feels meaningful to me; I don’t want to be restricted being considered for certain opportunities merely based on my sex, regardless of whether I ultimately serve in that capacity.” You don’t even have to agree with the latter statement, but don’t confuse the two; they are quite different.

  37. KLC on August 29, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Alison, your #24 shows me why I like the way you think.

  38. Kaimi on August 29, 2011 at 9:33 am

    In Southern California, you’ll occasionally see a bumper sticker which says, “they also surf who only stand on waves.”

  39. Ray on August 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

    #29 – “women’s history (not just in the church) makes the idea that women whose husbands aren’t home are only good to sit around and wait for them to come back more pointed.”

    Where in the original words does it say that the wives of the Stake Presidency “are only good to sit around and wait for them to come back”?

  40. Jax on August 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

    mel h,

    They are different. I used Dane’s phrase from #8, except I said ‘meaningful’ and he said ‘valuable’, but otherwise that wasn’t my phrase.

    Tell me though, how ridiculous would a man sound who said “I don’t feel any value in my God-given role. I don’t want to be restricted being considered for carrying children and giving birth just because of my sex”? Well, I think the church leadership have no more power or authority to grant priesthood to women than they have in saying men can now give birth. I have a role to play (that is very unfulfilling I might add, though I don’t personally want to give birth either) that I can’t change, and so do women. I’d love a calling where my experiences, talents, knowledge, and insights matter, but I don’t have one. The Relief Society President does though, should I petition for her job? We should all get over it I guess, because we’ve covenanted to obey.

  41. Rameumptom on August 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

    When we take the lives of men and women and reduce them down to holding the priesthood or carrying babies, we reduce both of them to just mechanics. It is like a chemist looking at the human form and only seeing atoms interacting. In so doing, we miss the forest because of the one or two trees before us.

    When I think of Ardis, I think: woman, historian, blogger, Sunday School teacher, friend, creativity, faithfulness, daughter of God, and a whole lot of other things, as well. I could do the same for Alison or other women reading this blog post.

    To designate the wives of stake presidents as only sitting and waiting, is to reduce them to less than what they fully are. Hopefully that is not what Elder Munday had in mind. Again, we tend to step all over ourselves in trying to show appreciation. It is a sacrifice (at least for many) for the wives of stake presidents to see them off and running from one thing to the next. Being on a high council, I see just how busy my stake presidency is. That said, I know their wives are also busy in Church callings of their own, one in the stake YW presidency. So, I do not see them as sitting and waiting. At least I hope they do not. They should be growing in their own right.

    For example, my wife serves with me as service missionary in our Spanish Branch. As noted, I’m also on the high council, assigned to the branch. She works as the 8-11 year old Activity Day Girls teacher, and with the Young Women as an advisor. She taught the RS how to crochet hats for Newborns in Need. She has assisted on a variety of projects in addition to these. In the past few weeks, she canned several hundred jars of tomatoes, and will soon work on apples. On her “downtime” she is kept busy caring for her 81 year old mother and her 52 year old husband, who can barely boil water. And yet I still do not describe all that she does. Personally, I think I was rather lucky to snag her. I would not be interested in a woman who only sat and waited while I served.

    Given how amazed I am with what my wife does, I can only begin to imagine the great things that Alison, Ardis and others also do.

  42. Al on August 29, 2011 at 10:53 am

    This again? I thought this was all hashed out and everyone had agreed to disagree.

  43. Rameumptom on August 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Al,

    No, we agreed to disagree with your comment in #41. ;)

  44. dangermom on August 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

    OK, the plaque is weird. Well-meant, but weird. But I also can’t take it as a doctrinal statement. It’s just somebody’s odd sentiment, that may well be applicable in certain situations like Milton’s blindness.

    Otherwise, I think there’s plenty of work to be done. I’m usually more on the ‘overwhelmed’ side than the ‘sitting and waiting to be told what to do’ side (if anyone is on that side). In fact I think our RS lesson yesterday was mostly on not waiting around.

  45. BTD Greg on August 29, 2011 at 11:26 am

    As we study the New Testament this year in Gospel Doctrine, I’ve been struck by how often the failful early Christian women are mentioned (esp. toward the end of Jesus’ ministry through Acts and the epistles). I wish we knew more about these women than their names and a few random facts. I’d like to know what they did in the early Christian and how they impacted the Church. They were important enough to be mentioned, but the details are sketchy.

  46. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I’m slow to catch up today. Thank you all for the great comments! :)

    Chadwick #30:

    When you say that men create worlds, what is your source for that? I hope it’s not the temple video.

    If the temple video isn’t good enough for you, how about Moses and Genesis? ;) Those were men, right? Did women do anything?

    Here are some more sources:

    Gospel Principles, Chapter 47

    Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.

    If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, just like our Heavenly Father. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give his children.

    This says children, but does it really apply to women? Will women become “the Father of spirit children”? Of course not. Will we become “just like our Heavenly Fahter”? Not if gender is really eternal.

    So, does the REST of it apply to women? I don’t know. Are we going to be “creators”? Not as far as the current creation narratives go. Which parts of this actually apply to WOMEN?

    Man, Potential to Become Like Heavenly Father

    If “man” can become like “Heavenly Father,” then we can infer that they can DO things like Heavenly Father does.

    Can “woman” become like “Heavenly Mother.” I assume so, although I can’t find a topic on the church website about it. But even if we do so, we have NO idea what that means.

    It’s like saying, “Yea, Chadwick, you have the potential to become like Marchcanton!” And you say, “Oh…OK. What’s a Marchcanton?”

    And, of course, my answer is, “Well, don’t worry. Stop clamoring to find out and aspire to things. Just sit and wait.”

    Honestly, I think men in the church, generally speaking, don’t realize how male-centric everything is. And I think most women who aren’t bothered by it either are so used to it that they don’t think about it, infer things that aren’t really in our doctrine to make them feel comfortable with it all, or have left it all on the shelf of “I have faith that it will be OK.”

    Faith is a good thing. But, as with so many issues, I wonder why what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander. Men must have faith as well, but they have a much greater idea of what they are having faith IN. For women, the faith is kind of an open-ended, fuzzy, whatever-we-end-up-with kind of thing.

    My wife and I decided we believe creation of any kind in that realm, be it procreation or worldly creations, will be a joint project for both of us. We could be wrong. But it helps us sleep at night to believe it.

    LOL I like your idea. I guess I’ve just come to a place where wishful thinking doesn’t take me very far. I’m not putting down your conclusion or saying that I feel the way I do because I’m more advanced or something. I just can’t get myself to sleep at night by deciding things are really how I hope they are, in spite of the lack of evidence. :/

  47. Julie M. Smith on August 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    “Honestly, I think men in the church, generally speaking, don’t realize how male-centric everything is.”

    Amen, sister.

  48. James Olsen on August 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Men must have faith as well, but they have a much greater idea of what they are having faith IN. For women, the faith is kind of an open-ended, fuzzy, whatever-we-end-up-with kind of thing.

    I very much understand your sentiment here, and am ready to admit that I’m desensitized to the male-centric nature of things (like scripture). But I’ve got to disagree with you here. The most powerful and informative thing we know about our Heavenly Father is just that – he’s our exalted father. We really don’t get much more than that in terms of substantive revelation (however many variations on a platitude our manuels may give us). And we have the same revelation concerning Heavenly Mother. We talk a whole lot more about Heavenly Father and say way too little about Heavenly Mother. This leads to a quite understandable misperception. But if we look to revelations, I think that the metaphysical and the what-I-have-to-look-forward-to bits amount to pretty much the same thing.

    I just can’t get myself to sleep at night by deciding things are really how I hope they are, in spite of the lack of evidence. :/

    I’m very sympathetic to this remark as well. Note that it surely extends well beyond “what I hope my gender does that’s specific to my gender.” This is the rock bottom existential wrestling that we all go through – at least until we succeed in obtaining the sort of revelation Joseph Smith had and did his best to promulgate.

  49. Bob on August 29, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Yes mem, Let’s all give the little woman a pat on the head for her hard work. Show her men give her a value in this world. Tell her you wanted a partner__not what 90% of the other women are__just horse holders for the men warriors. :):)

  50. Mommie Dearest on August 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    With all the gentle patience I can muster in my tone, I would like to say that this bears repeating:

    “Honestly, I think men in the church, generally speaking, don’t realize how male-centric everything is.”

    And I would like to add that most of us women are not clamoring to hold the priesthood. Most of us believe that it’s possible to change the male-centrism without insisting that women be ordained. I know it is, because I myself have made great progress in being able to see the male-centrism. There are many women who are blind to it as well as a significant number of men who are bothered by it. The OP is pointing out a single discouraging example of it, for those who will see it.

  51. Kristine on August 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I think it’s worth mentioning that single examples, like the one in the OP, often seem not important enough to get worked up over. That makes women who point them out easy to dismiss as “making [leaders] offenders for a word” or overly sensitive, or whiny and ungrateful. But the problem isn’t the the annoyance of not being allowed to say prayers to open or close a meeting depending on the arbitrary fashion established by men in any given decade, or the irritation of seeing only token women speakers at conference, or the single asinine thing said over the pulpit that tips the balance for a given Sunday and generates a blog post. It’s the accretion of hundreds of these almost-trivial insults over a Sunday, a year, a life in the Church that erode women’s spiritual confidence and make them wonder if a just God who is no respecter of persons would really want his daughters treated this way.

  52. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Jax #31:

    I think the church leadership definitely wants to tell women #1 – that what they are doing IS important and that they don’t need to be apiring to the priesthood.

    Jax, if you want to get very far in this conversation, don’t start out accusing women of “aspiring to the priesthood” when they ask for clarification. The implication that women who ask questions are sinful and probably faithless isn’t a great place to start the conversation.

    It’s a good (and predictable) example, however, of how men use “they system” to keep women in their place. We are in charge. Accept it. Don’t even so much as ask about it, because if you do you’re a sinful trouble maker.

    And, wow, I sure wish the same standard was applied to everyone who asked for clarification about blacks and the priesthood.

    After boys get off their missions, or stop passing the sacrament (for those who don’t serve missions), their is almost no use of priesthood for most men.

    I actually laughed out loud when I read that.

    (1) If there’s no use for it, whose fault is that?
    (2) No use…except that it qualifies you for all the things women are automatically excluded from.

    BTW, having babies is only “necessary” because God commanded us to multiply and replenish the earth. In other words, “it only has to be done because God said he wants it done.”

    Sincerely, one of the greatest blessings in my life is being married to a man who is faithful and strong in the gospel and is still willing to listen to my concerns, to discuss them with me, to acknowledge when they make sense, to give me a different perspective when he disagrees, to offer solutions when he can and empathy when he can’t, to do what he can in his own callings to help resolve the situation, to be willing to speak up when he sees a fixable problem, and, most of all, to never — in 26+ years of marriage — accuse me of being sinful for my concerns, of aspiring to callings, of being melodramatic, or just having a raving case of PMS. He has always treated me as a rational, valuable, intelligent PARTNER. And he knows if I had to “sit and wait” I’d probably slit my wrists.

  53. Naismith on August 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    “To designate the wives of stake presidents as only sitting and waiting, is to reduce them to less than what they fully are.”

    Well, yeah. But to not acknowledge the years they spend waiting is also rude.

    It would have been less objectionable if in a unisex pronoun. But since English doesn’t have one….

  54. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Jax #33:

    Let me ask, as a mother, do you feel like its important to your children that they be with you specifically, or would being with just any ‘mother’ do?

    I’m adopted. It’s probably obvious that I don’t think a birth mother is the only one who can attend to their children. So, yes, I think any mother (or father…ahem), will do. As long as s/he is loving, caring, attentive, constant, etc.

    Because my service in priesthood role could be done by anyone with a pulse, it didn’t “have to be me”.

    Of course the same could be said for changing diapers and cooking, Jax. But I’m guessing that a mom with only a pulse would change a diaper differently than a loving, caring mother. Just as a loving, caring father would probably give a father’s blessing in a way a pulse-only father would not. And think that would apply to every single other thing priesthood holders alone can do.

    And if that doesn’t make you feel important, then having the priesthood won’t either.

    You’ll note that the OP isn’t about the priesthood at all. And it certainly isn’t about women getting the priesthood. It’s about what women actually DO, both here and eternally.

    As I said above, accusing women of clamoring for the priesthood probably isn’t a great way to have a conversation. But it is predictable.

  55. Kristine on August 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    utterly, depressingly predictable

  56. Kristine on August 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    utterly, depressingly, hideously predictable

  57. Naismith on August 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    “I was told basically the same thing when I was released from the Bishopric so my wife could serve as the Young Women’s President – that letting go of any desire to serve in a visible calling while she served in hers and taking care of our children at times when she wouldn’t be there to help was a form of service in and of itself.”

    My husband was also released from the bishopric when I was called as RS president. Why is it service when men do it but not when women do?

    It’s not that I didn’t have my own calling, because I have. But my calling as a leader’s wife has been at least as time consuming and challenging.

  58. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    mel h #34:
    Thank you for the wonderful input. I wish I had written your comment.

    I would recommend: don’t focus on making women feel valued; actually value them. Value their contributions. Seek their perspectives. Use their words to teach women and men. Give them opportunities to serve in meaningful capacities, including leadership capacities. Trust them to make righteous choices about their personal and family lives. Treat them as individuals first, not a wife or daughter or mother. Demonstrate at the highest levels that women sit as equals in council with men.

    Amen! Don’t TELL me I am valued, while you dismiss my concerns or accuse me of sin for having them! Don’t TELL me what I do is meaningful, while teaching almost exclusively using words of men and stories about men. Don’t TELL me women are super amazing and awesome, but only allow a couple of women to speak (and none to pray) in General Conference.

    Let me tell you what a HUGE breakthrough would look like: When a WOMAN is invited to speak in the priesthood session. When someone actually thinks the MEN *specifically* can learn from and need to hear from WOMEN, it will be a huge shift.

    (For those of you who don’t know, a man always speaks in the general YW and general RS meetings. It’s a member of the first presidency and he’s always the “keynote” (in the LDS tradition).)

    KLC #36:
    Thank you so very much. :)

  59. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Kaimi #37: that is beautiful. :)

    Ray #38:

    Where in the original words does it say that the wives of the Stake Presidency “are only good to sit around and wait for them to come back”?

    Ray, it’s the typical, constant exclusion. What DO we do? I don’t know. The only thing MENTIONED was that we sit and wait. What does Mother in Heaven do? I don’t know. We don’t talk about it.

    I’m hoping for insight and last week the new insight was that I serve by sitting and waiting.

    Rameumptom #40:
    I love the description. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Thing is, if a man was off doing all sorts of good work and his wife really was “sitting and waiting,” I would think that was a terrible example of service and good use of a life.

    BTD Greg #44:
    It’s true that the New Testament mentions women relatively often. Ann Madsen wrote a paper for FARMS that referred to them as “cameos.” Accurate.

  60. Alison Moore Smith on August 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    James Olsen #47:

    The most powerful and informative thing we know about our Heavenly Father is just that – he’s our exalted father. We really don’t get much more than that in terms of substantive revelation…And we have the same revelation concerning Heavenly Mother.

    James, every time there is an interaction between men and God, it is evidence of what man AS God can do. When we read about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost DOING something, we have input. When we read authoritative sources declaring what men do (as above), we have input. I realize we don’t know everything men do in the afterlife. But we sure have a bigger picture than we do for what women do.

    And what are the “same revelations concerning Heavenly Mother” that you’re referring to?

    Julie M. Smith, Mommie Dearest, thank you, thank you. :)

    Kristine #50:

    It’s the accretion of hundreds of these almost-trivial insults over a Sunday, a year, a life in the Church that erode women’s spiritual confidence and make them wonder if a just God who is no respecter of persons would really want his daughters treated this way.

    Yes, yes, yes. Yes.

    Naismith #50:
    When my husband has served in leadership, I wasn’t ever sitting and waiting. And I bet you weren’t either. :)

  61. Jacob on August 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    I don’t know of anything in the gospel that explicitly teaches that a single man or a single woman can become exalted. Quite the opposite. The two become “one” and only then can they become exalted together. I agree and lament with you about the dearth of hard doctrinal information on our Heavenly Mother. However, there seems ample evidence that Heavenly Father is not an exalted single male entity. The best I can think up right now is from the hymn (which is also scripture) “O My Father.”

    Also, I think that we need to be careful about how pronouns get applied. In many languages third person male pronouns are applied to mixed gender groups (another example of male-centric-caused confusion, I know). Creation is most definitely not a males-only activity. (I think the patterns to support this claim are quite obvious)

    Two final thoughts. There is an oft referenced analogy of the complete gospel truth as a mirror. It get’s dropped and shatters into innumerable pieces. (this next part is usually skipped in the analogy, which usually jumps to the restoration) Various groups clung to and held sacred what they valued, understood, or felt was important. Many of them did a magnificent job of keeping their sliver or chunk of the truth clean and pure, even if they lost track of the complete truth. There are groups/religions/cultures out in the world that understand and teach certain principles much better than the available official LDS doctrine. Although, I would caution to take only a little bit and ponder it and ask for clarification in prayer and study. We often joke about introducing someone to the gospel of Jesus Christ by talking about Kolob. But we forget to apply it the other way. We find out a little of something and want it all now. Personally, I have had to wait decades for answers and insights to what I thought were silly questions and issues.

  62. Jacob on August 29, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Just realized that I forgot the second “final thought.” The concept of Yin and Yang is of two separate entities that form a greater whole. Together they are a greater “one,” not a singular one. They are balanced. If you take any one moment in time, their push and pull may look out of balance, but that is the nature of progression. Like walking is a constant falling, being out of balance allows us to move from A to B.

    So, now I’m totally self-conscious about going way off topic, but I hope some of my comments are helpful for someone.

  63. Chadwick on August 30, 2011 at 4:23 am

    Thanks Allison for this topic. It’s made me stop and think a lot about things.

    Firstly, BethSmash, I’m not entirely sure why we don’t do weekday activities. I think part of it is that all the YM go to different schools and so their schedules are all very different. I think another part of it is laziness on everyone’s part (thinly veiled with the excuse everyone, including the YM, are just too busy, busier than their US counterparts that have weekday activities). I think another part is coordination. Ward boundaries are big here, transportation issues abound (and I thought LA was a mess), and the general infrustructure is just plain intrusive. Seminary is on Saturday afternoon only.

    mel h: Thanks for the suggestions. Not much I can do to give women meaningful callings, since I’ve never been in a position to give callings, other than assign home teaching, so I’ll log that one away for a potential future date, but otherwise thank you. It’s the art of validation all over: appreciating someone genuinely without overdoing it. A fine line indeed but something we all work on.

    Rameumptom: I appreciated your post, and I soundly respond with a hear, hear!

    Allison: Not sure I’d read too much into Moses and Genesis either. Didn’t Nephi have sisters? How many times did he mention them? Once, right? And not by name either. So given this, isn’t it possible Heavenly Mother was-slash-is intimitely involved in things that happen, but never gets name recognition? Not sure if you buy that, or if it makes you feel better or worse. But given how little role women are given in scripture in general, I suppose a healthy dose of reading between the lines is apropos. Again, maybe just wishful thinking on the part of the Chadwick family.

    Once again, a question for you and Julie. If the church is too male centric, and I’m willing to agree with you here, what can we do about it? And by we, I mean me, a male card-holding member not currently participating in any sort of calling with any real clout/power. If you can let me know, I’m happy to assist in a grass-roots movement here. I want my wife and daughter to feel like the church offers them just as much as it offers me and my son.

  64. chris on August 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I just wanted to toss up something from the eternal perspective that might help shed some light on the question…

    “Whatever we see God doing are things men can anticipate doing should they be exalted.”

    I think this is reasonable, considering the verse “this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life…” that a God who enlists faithful members of the church in that aspect of his work here in this life would also continue in that work but on a higher level in the life that comes next.

    The Savior spent a lot of time teaching and preparing others who where of this world to be taught, both in his pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal life. I don’t see why the same wouldn’t be true in the case of an eternal relationship as an exalted husband and wife — being involved in the teaching and preparations of what is to come and what is taking place.

    Unfortunately, we don’t go too much in depth in this publicly. I speculate because one we’re waaaaay jumping the gun to start preaching or revealing what we will do “then” when we can’t even handle what we need to do “now”. Revelation comes line upon line, as we are faithful to what we have. But I do not believe these things are unknowable on an individual level, especially in and through the temple.

    So I’ll just give a couple more verses that we do have, of what I think is possible a woman and a man can expect….
    From D&C138
    “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth”

    Someone prepared you and I. I would presume if the Savior was ministering unto this world as his pre-mortal self, and living/ministering in this world as his mortal self, etc. that others were not only enlisted but perhaps even presiding over the individual premortal teaching of our spirits. Of course, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t also do two things at once, and we also know from other scriptures he was involved in the spirit world among spirits and not just directing the work as a spirit among those in the flesh.

    I like to think of our Heavenly Mother preparing, instructing, and making many arrangements before our entrance into this life. What difference would it make if we don’t remember it now? Because it’s often the case that when we look back after going through an experience we can behold the evidence of things not seen. I like to think the experiences we have in this life, when combined with the lessons and teachings we received before this life are united we will truly have our eyes opened and combine the premortal teaching from Mother whom the world knows not, with the mortal experiences and light we received from the Father and the Son.

    I think you, in fact, could very well extend various analogies and metaphors with the priesthood or womanhood and gain some further personal insight. And I’m not suggesting a woman’s eternal place is in the mansion, creating spirit babies while the father is out working “in the field” as it were… although in reality there are two ways to bring souls to Christ that I see… Raise them up and teach them, or go out into the world and teach them. They are both extremely important to the church, in a gospel sense, in a scriptural sense, but one has been called the most noble and exalting calling of all, notwithstanding the divine importance of Christlike missionary work.

    I’ve said a lot, and don’t want to say more, but I hope my views don’t get attacked and various feelings over a why a “silent” Mother, etc. Because these things are quite personal to me, and while I’d never suggest I know all things regarding what comes next, I have received some cherished personal revelation in this matter.

  65. Raymond Takashi Swenson on August 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    In the military, much of “service” is “standing and waiting”, being ready to be deployed to where your unit is needed. The extreme example of that are the strategic nuclear forces (with whom I served for 5 years), including those who man nuclear missile launching submarines, those who man nuclear missile silo command posts, and those who “stand alert” waiting to fly nuclear armed bombers (this includes women for the last 15 to 20 years). Men and women in the military have served twenty year careers without ever firing real weapons. Strategic Air Command asserted that this was a desirable state of affairs with the motto appearing on its shield: “Peace Is Our Profession”. (I used to tell my family that the corollary of that is “War Is Our Hobby”.)

    While military members “stand and wait”, they also train and prepare, they ensure their equipment is ready to be employed, they ensure their planes are fueled and loaded with weapons.

    The parable of the ten virgins is about the virtue of “standing and waiting” productively, with readiness to respond at all times, no matter when the call comes to be active. In that sense, all the Latter-day Saints are asked to “stand and wait”.

    Standing and waiting can be an active pursuit, one that engages your best thought and imagination and your full energies.

    Now, in a real family, no one is just standing around and waiting. Every day involves planning and effort just to cope with living, and raising children magnifies that task. Just getting a family with kids together so they can peacefully “sit and wait” in Sacrament Meeting is a major task, and most wives and mothers have their own tasks, large or small, within the ward or stake. Sometimes a spouse cannot share the burden that his or her partner carries in their job (such as confidential legal work, or national security classified military work), and in some cases that goes for certain aspects of Church service. On the other hand, when that is not a constraint, failing to seek counsel and encouragement from one’s spouse is a manifestation of foolish pride. If the spouse not directly involved in the problem refuses to support and aid the one who is dealing with it, out of disappointment that they are not getting the opportunity to receive public credit for doing that work, then they are putting themselves ahead of their spouse.

  66. Naismith on August 30, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    “When my husband has served in leadership, I wasn’t ever sitting and waiting. And I bet you weren’t either. :)”

    I wish. I subscribed to Netflix first when my husband was called as bishop. I have spent a lot of time waiting for him. I did try to go to the baptisms, funerals and weddings with him, but I can’t always take time off. He insists that someone else be in the building when he counsels a single person, so I can bring a book for that. But the most wasted frustrating time has been the many many phone calls when we are out together or on vacation.

  67. SusanS on August 30, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I loved that during the televised world-wide leadership training meeting they had a council of three GAs to discuss the doctrinal importance of sitting in council. This council consisted of two of the Apostles and Sister Beck, and Sister Beck did most of the talking and administration. Legitimacy and reaffirmation.

  68. Wesley Dean on September 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Maybe you could write to someone like Patricia Holland, or Kristen Oaks. They might be able to give you some good perspective.

  69. Paula on September 1, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Somewhere in my teens, I developed a vague sense that I did not want to go to the Celestial Kingdom but could not put my finger on why. I went off to BYU and felt it more strongly. Then I heard the talk that would be somewhat modified and published as the Proclamation on the Family and it came into focus. As noted, there isn’t a whole lot said about what women will do in the CK, but what is said is very depressing to me. The divine role of women is to be mothers. For those who don’t like motherhood, that’s bad news. But I’ve always liked kids and I love being a mom, so I should be happy, right? Actually, if I raised kids and only raised kids 24/7, I’d go crazy. But when I had kids, it became even more depressing.

    The example we are given of what women do in the CK is Heavenly Mother. I cannot even imagine as a mother who loves her job as mom and takes it very seriously sending my children off to the most difficult and important period of their entire lives without any contact. I don’t send them off to a day at school without my love, encouragement and the knowledge that whatever happens, I will be there to talk to about it and rejoice, commiserate, advise or whatever else is needed as they work through all that life hands them. The Proclamation tells me that it is work only a mother can do. Fathers are not nurturing enough to be the homemakers, I am supposed to do it. Until I am exalted, at which point it’s, go talk to your father, even your older brother, but I’ve got nothing to say to you. The explanation is that any mother would put being protected from having her name taken in vain or whatever else ahead of being on the front lines for her children when they need her most is absurd.

    That’s not heaven, that’s hell. It’s weird to spend so much of your life being told that you should work your butt off for an eternity of what amounts to boredom at best and torture at worst.

  70. NateT on September 2, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I have been standing and waiting in the church for most of my adult life. I have gone for 2 years without a calling before, and basically feel like I am standing and waiting in my current situation. It drives me crazy, but it is what it is.

    Plus people saying insulting, insensitive things at Church? Par for the course. It is one of the main reasons people go inactive in my experience.

    Call me cynical, but what is described throughout the post is just how the Church is, a grindstone to one’s humanity and sometimes dignity, punctuated with brilliant flashes of spiritual uplift.

    I am not saying “So don’t complain.” What I am saying that it is inherent in the system as presently constituted and it exists far beyond the questions of gender that Alison raises.

    Do you think it is just with women?

    Why are most Elders Quorum Presidents I have seen (post-College) young dentists, Doctors, layers, MBA’s or consultants. Why are most Stake presidents the same sort of person only at about 50? There is a socio economic type to Church leadership (in the US at least) and men who do not fit that type tend not to have as many opportunities to serve. While this rule is not allways true, it is true in the vast majority of time.

    God might not be a respecter of persons, but I suspect his servants very often are.

  71. Rameumptom on September 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Paula #69,

    Wow, you sure interpret the Proc on the Family very different from me. I see it as telling us about our current role, and almost nothing about eternal roles.

    why is it that people read negative concepts into such a vague proclamation? Why is it that they imagine the worst, rather than the best? You really think that heaven will be that bad? Or is it that it justifies some inner fear or complaint you may now have?

    I guess the Celestial Kingdom won’t be for everyone. But if someone imagines it to be “boredom at best and torture at worst”, then I guess it is good there are other options. I hope you can find something better to suit you.

    But I think you probably are allowing fears and prejudice to cloud your eyes to what women will really do in the heavens.

  72. Tachyon Feathertail on September 3, 2011 at 3:57 am

    @71

    Do you think that because you read and took the time to understand what she’s saying, or do you automatically assume based on the fact that she reached a different conclusion from you?

    Maybe she doesn’t have any “fears and prejudice” or unresolved sin that’s making her unworthy of the light and knowledge that you clearly have. Maybe she’s looking at the eternal role that your church’s female deity seems to have, and the guidance that she’s been given, and it’s making her sad in spite of herself.

    “If something Church leaders have said makes you sad, it’s your fault?” Goddess, do you even realize what you’re saying? How little empathy do you have? And how often do you pray and thank your god for making you the kind of person who knows that he’s going to the Celestial Kingdom and looks forward to it? I seem to recall Jesus saying something about that kind of person. :P

  73. Ray on September 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

    #71 – Paula might be off a bit on one reading of the Proclamation (“The Proclamation tells me that it is work only a mother can do. Fathers are not nurturing enough to be the homemakers, I am supposed to do it.”). I certainly don’t read it that way. However, she has an excellent point about knowing nothing concrete about our Heavenly Mother and no way officially to communicate while in mortality with anyone but a Father and Brother. That might be no big deal to some men, but remaining totally silent with your children is not an ideal for almost all women OR men – and that really is the practical result of our lack of understanding about Heavenly Mother.

    Before dismissing Paula’s feelings as a result of fear and prejudice, it might be good to consider if your own wife believes she will be completely silent and unable to communicate directly with her spirit children throughout mortality – if she believes it will be just fine for that communication to be coming strictly from you or one of tyour spirit sons. Knowing her, I doubt it (he says with a HUGE smile, acknowledging he might be totally wrong) – and if she (and/or you) don’t believe that, it’s worth considering Paula’s concern about our lack of understanding about our Heavenly Mother.

    To try to make a somewhat tangential comparison, the Priesthood ban was bad enough in many people’s eyes – but the justifications that arose from it were FAR worse. I have a feeling the same is true with regard to this issue – that it’s bad enough that we don’t really understand Heavenly Mother’s role in our mortal existence (and, by extrapolation, throughout the eternities), but the justifications and explanations that have arisen from that lack of understanding are FAR worse than the lack of understanding itself.

  74. Rameumptom on September 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Tachyon #72,

    Had you read my earlier posts, you’d see that I’m not the ogre you seem to make me out to be. I’ve been very supportive of seeking a better understanding of what roles we all have here, as well as in the next life. “Sitting and waiting” is not what most sisters in the Church do, and motherhood is hopefully just one aspect of who they are here. The Proclamation on the Family only speaks to one aspect of who we are in regards to family. It doesn’t speak to other aspects (education, service, etc), nor does it speak concerning our future eternity.

    What my point was is that she seemed to read too much into the Proclamation. I agree with Ray #73, that we know almost nothing about Heavenly Mother, and so we cannot determine what her role is in the eternities. That said, we know very little more about Heavenly Father’s role, so it keeps us all guessing on what we will be doing. I personally believe that there is an extended Godhead that includes Heavenly Mother and others. And when we pray to Father (or pray/speak to Jesus, or any other member of the Godhead when they are present), we speak/pray to all of them. We receive answers through the Holy Ghost, Jesus, angels, etc. Seems like it is not just a stovepipe prayer/answer system, but that it goes out to all divine beings to be involved.

  75. Paula on September 4, 2011 at 5:47 am

    rameumptom @71,

    I cannot read your mind or heart so I don’t know your intention, but your post came across to me as condescending and not at all understanding. When someone who was a stalwart in the Church from birth tells you that she spent decades trying to reconcile what she was taught in numerous church settings about her role here and in the eternities with anything that would register as an eternal reward rather than eternal punishment, the response that there are other kingdoms to go to is not helpful. That is precisely the problem. When was the last time you were exhorted to work toward something other than the Celestial Kingdom? I worked my butt off anyway and went to BYU and married in the temple and did all I was taught to do on faith, praying fervently the whole time that I was misunderstanding and it wouldn’t really be that way when all was said and done. That is an incredibly painful experience, and the tendency of people like you in the Church to act like I somehow wanted to be at odds or am stirring up trouble only makes the wounds deeper. I would have given anything to hear a reassuring conference talk about gender roles or Heavenly Mother, but I haven’t. It doesn’t seem like you have, either, because you rely on what you imagine to get you through rather than discussing actual teachings.

    You imagine the Proclamation is only about current roles and not eternal roles. But it talks about gender differences being eternal. They have repeatedly said we will have the same plumbing so as to be able to eternally procreate and need not proclaim that, so I have to assume they are talking about the gender role differences they talk about in the Proclamation. We are also taught that our time on earth is a learning and testing period. Why would we be learning and be tested on one basis if somehow what we are being prepared for is totally different? It seems to me that would have to be the case in order for the Proclamation to be only about here and not hereafter, as you believe. When you look at the one example we do have, Heavenly Mother, it doesn’t look good for us women that I can see. I prayed so hard that the important advanced teachings. I would get in the Temple would reassure me. The lack of any mention of Heavenly Mother along with what place in the hierarchy is given to women instead reinforced the idea that for women, eternity means eternal absence. I’ve loved many homemaking meetings, but I can’t craft for eternity while my children wonder if I am there and if I care.

    When I divorced (my husband’s choice after I was in a very bad car accident, not because I was a bitter, angry feminist or something), it was astonishing to me not only how many women told me they envied me, but which women these were. The Stake President’s wife, who had just been on the stand weeks before with her husband looking like the model temple married Mormon married couple. Maybe it’s just her husband and mine. Or maybe there is something about the church teachings in general that result in even the stalwarts quietly crying and praying this is not all there is for them that results in the high depression rate among LDS women. “Some inner fear or complaint” sounds so dismissive from you. For me a fear of having no identity for eternity and having my spirit children believe I abandoned them when they needed me most is a paralyzing fear. Even so, I did not freeze or run away, I prayed and studied and studied and prayed. And I got the Proclamation on the Family (actually, I got the original, since I was at BYU, which was worse) and Julie Beck’s “Women Who Know” and stories of women who dared to pray to their mother being excommunicated.

  76. chris28 on September 8, 2011 at 1:07 am

    My heart goes out to the wide range of people and perspectives in this conversation. One theme I’ve noticed is a longing for a better understanding of Heavenly Mother. You’ve likely all heard of this or even read it, but I cannot strongly enough recommend a recent BYU Studies article entitled “‘A Mother There’: A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven.” Several key quotations are lifted directly from former prophets and apostles, if GA authority is what you need in terms of validation. Early female leaders in the church are also quoted. The article had me crying (on the bus, no less) as it discussed my role and potential as creator (of worlds and spirit children), among other things. I don’t claim to suffer the anguish many of you have described (at least not to that degree, being too young to have accumulated as many frustrating experiences)–but I feel overwhelming empathy for that pain. Please go read this article. It helped me feel like I had a concrete, specific role model for my eternal progression. I still struggle with the prophetic counsel not to pray to Heavenly Mother. I honestly don’t get why. I definitely find it easier to discuss things with my mom than my dad (although both are wonderful), so why shouldn’t I also seek to develop a spiritual and emotional connection with my HM? Any ideas? Regardless, this article at least helped flesh out more (beautiful, moving, empowering) details of my eternal destiny and my eternal, Heavenly Mother. http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=8669

  77. Jared vdH on October 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I thought of this post and discussion during Stake Conference this past Sunday. Elder Oaks was the visiting authority and made what I thought was a relevant comment at the end of his talk. I thought you all might be interested in hearing it, even if this discussion is over a month old. (Obviously I’m paraphrasing because I wasn’t exactly recording the talk, but I wrote it down as soon as he said it.)

    “We have a Father in Heaven who loves us very much. We also have a Mother in Heaven who loves us very much. We don’t know much about Her and we don’t know why we don’t know much about Her, but we do know that she is there and that she stands beside the Father with the same quality of glory as He. We don’t know much about Her, but someday we will know more.”

    He also spoke a lot about personal revelation, and that he receives revelation in the same way he did when he was a youth, just that the topics and purpose of the revelation is different now.

    Not sure what you all might make of that, but I thought I’d share it.