A friend of mine used to sometimes start discussions with the turn of phrase “…” “is a what?” — Kind of a way to approach the question of just what something meant beyond what people were thinking.

So, I thought I would approach the issue of female General Board members the way she would have.

The general boards of the Church remind me, in many ways, of the assistants to the quorum of the twelve that the Church had as a step between the quorum of 70 and the modern quorum of 70 or the bridge between regional representatives and area seventies.  They are an authoritative group with some sort of authority.  Men and women serve on them.

The only criticism that has leaked out about women on the general boards is those who have been chastised for not being aggressive enough.  I should note that very little leaks out.

From interactions with stake presidents at regional training events, we do know that the apostles at least consider them general authorities of some sort that definitely outrank stake presidents and are not shy about explaining where things fit to stake presidents who have a different idea.

But, just what are they?  What kind of authority do they have?  Other than “by inspiration” how are they called?  Just what is a general board (like the one for the Sunday School)?  What does it mean that in the hierarchy that we have women who outrank stake presidents?  Where do they sit vis a vis area authority 70s?

And, in case you are wondering, I’m asking these questions because I don’t know the answers.

But I do think that it gives interesting meaning to the modern Church.  President Gordon B. Hinckley was known to communicate that he and the brethren felt it was important that there be more leadership in the Church from the women in it.  Obviously an increased role in general boards (vs. the old, pre- correlation auxiliary limited entities — which had a great deal of autonomy but no authority outside of their own lines) appears to be a part of that.  But what does it mean?

Anyone have answers?