“We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out. …
We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.
Everyone has heard those words. For example:
Yet how many women do you know who feel free to speak out like Bryndis Roberts?
Name five women you know who are involved in demonstrating executive ability to plan and administer in the Church in your area? Now, name a couple bishops and your stake presidency. Easy to think of five or more men. Hard to think of five or fewer women.
The problem has many aspects.
- It leads to self fulfilling prophecies.
- It leads to resentment. Unmet expectations are the number 1 killer of relationships and the number 1 cause of resentment.
- It has steady, constant push-back from people who “know better.” (for example, this). I personally knew a stake president who got himself harshly rebuked by Elder Oaks because he was just certain that he outranked a female general board member and rose to correct her in a leadership training she was conducting.
President Hinckley (when he was encouraging Kathy Pullins in her stewardship over the BYU Womens’ conference) stressed the need for leadership from the women of the Church and the importance of what she was called to do. Yet you won’t find a reference to her at LDS.org. Until recently you didn’t see faces on the stand or pictures on the walls. He knew that the tools had to be built and a groundwork laid. He also knew there was a need.
The issue is that we do not have good role models, any good formal and clear path for local level implementation, and often anything that is intended to focus on women puts men’s faces first. E.g. if you use a cell phone “I was a Stranger” has its first non-illustration picture and its lead statement framed as three men speaking. It is a beautiful project, aimed at encouraging LDS women to take the lead and to minister, and setting up a world wide project aimed at changing hearts and attitudes and encouraging us to act like Christ. It is everything good about the Church. Yet, too many people first comment not on the enabling part but on the picture framing.
If you tell women that they are equal to men (as Paul, Joseph Smith and others have said) and then don’t treat them as equals, you have raised expectations that you do not meet. You are creating resentment where it would otherwise not exist.
We seem to have a huge gap between God, between our heavenly parents, and the way many local congregations run, where budgets for young men and young women are often lop-sided and where many feel constrained. Some are engaging everyone, other places engage few and alienate many.
I don’t have a solution. I am hopeful that things such as I was a Stranger and other initiatives (such as lowering the age for young women to serve as missionaries and church-wide implementation of sisters as mission assistants and zone leaders and the like) will have an impact that will allow us to grow in grace to grace and improve in knowledge and in our closeness to the Savior.
But what else can we do, one person, one family, one ward at a time to meet the needs and expectations of those whose skills and leadership we need and are failing to enable or allow?
One person at a time great things can be accomplished. Each one teach one has so many applications.
What suggestions do you have?
What have you done?
What do you plan to do?
What mistakes have I made in my approach and my conclusions?
In mentioning Paul (all are alike unto God, Male and Female, Black and White) I am aware of other verses attributed to him, but not found in the earliest sources (so that many modern scholars think they were part of the plain and precious things that were lost when people started editing and rewriting the Bible — though there are alternative readings as well). That very example demonstrates just how pervasive and deep the problem is.