Recently on BYU-Idaho campus we’ve had a few General Authorities come for devotional. In the BYU-Idaho Center, which is literally a mini-conference center that seats 15,000 people, lately people have been standing out of respect not only for members of the Q12, but apparently they stood for Bishop Caussé and even, last week, Sheri Dew. It made sense to me as in most people’s minds she’s the closest thing we have to a female authority: she has a history of expounding doctrine from being in the RS Presidency (in a more stereotypically male way in our minds – less primary voice, I guess, though I find that category problematic) and as the CEO of Deseret Book it puts her in somewhat of a position of power and close to the top that she doesn’t get released from. I think of her as the closest thing we have as a female GA and I was somewhat pleased to hear they’d stood for her.
And then yesterday happened at the weekly devotional, just seven days after Sis. Dew spoke, President of BYU-Idaho Clark Gilbert decided that he’d had enough of us breaking unwritten rules (?) and while welcoming everyone to devotional, he mentioned that we should only stand for attention/respect for members of Q12. I’m working on finding an audio/transcript of exactly what he said word-for-word. I was a little frustrated that he waited until people stood for a woman to make a point of restricting the practice.
A few of my friends were perplexed because they understood that standing for leaders was to be discouraged, and especially Pres. Hinckley (dating back to then) really didn’t like this tradition (heard he despised it) and kept motioning people to sit down when it was done for him (I just think people found it endearing when he did that, instead of it being specific instruction to stop doing it). My husband thought we were supposed to stand, but only for members of the First Presidency, and that Pres. Gilbert misspoke. So there’s a bit of confusion regarding the details of this tradition.
One of my friends said when she went to BYU she remembers being instructed several times from leadership to quit standing when a Q12 enters the room, but that people kept standing anyways – ignoring instruction. I’ve never heard specific instruction not to stand – and I think people would easily stop if instructed not to do so. We were able to put away the false traditions of deacons standing with their left hand behind their backs or having someone sit facing East while being confirmed….I thought this would be something that would be easy to stop, if they wanted it to stop. What do you think?
Personally after the changes in my faith in how I view prophets and leaders, I think that we do them a disservice when we elevate them to worshipful status. I’ve chosen a few ways in my own life to counter what I believe are false traditions of idolizing our leaders. I started quit singing Praise to the Man (even though I can see it’s value in historical context as a poem of lamentation, it’s not used that way anymore) and this last year I didn’t stand when Elder Cook walked into the BYUI convocation I was attending. It felt really awkward to be the only one sitting (I messed with something in my purse to not be disrespectful), but I didn’t want to perpetuate what I see as a false tradition.
I’m really curious about how this tradition has played out in your life and your opinions and experiences.