Whether you are 18 or 88, married, single, widowed, or divorced, with or without kids, and regardless of your socio-economic status, if you are an active LDS woman, you are in Relief Society. Not so for the men.
I will freely acknowledge that being a woman in the church and bringing up a question about Priesthood practices would probably subject me to some derisive comment from BY types about how it’s as unseemly as a dog walking on its hind legs or some such thing. I admit up front that I am not an expert in these matters, but I have been a member of the church for my whole life, and have attended many different wards across the US and some outside the US.
If you are a man in the church, you are either in Elder’s Quorum or High Priests, depending on the highest office in the Priesthood bestowed. The lessons taught are the same (the manual is also shared by the Relief Society). If you are in the Elders’ Quorum, you are more likely to be asked to help people move, to participate in ward basketball, and to administer blessings to the sick. If you are in the High Priests’ Group, there are social activities for the men and their wives. Uhm, which group sounds better to you? Basketball + moving people or dinner parties with wheezing fossils (no offense to the wheezing fossils out there)?
Officially, an active LDS man remains an Elder until he is in a calling (such as a bishop or stake leadership calling) that requires him to become a High Priest. However, there are a few exceptions (that I’ve seen in various wards) that can result in someone being moved from the Elder’s Quorum into the High Priest’s Group without having been in a “High Priest” required calling:
- Age. If a man in good standing is over the age of 50 (or lower for some wards), he may be either 1) invited to attend HPG based on age, despite priesthood level, or 2) ordained to the office of a High Priest to move him into the older group officially.
- This seems a little arbitrary and could lead to hurt feelings or feeling disenfranchized for men who are older but haven’t been ordained as High Priests.
- **In some wards, a very young HP will unofficially join the EQ based on age.
- Organization. If a ward has too few High Priests to fill all the roles associated with the High Priests’ Group, additional Elders may be ordained to fill these roles.
- If a ward is too small or has too few to fill one of the two quorums, why not just collapse into one Priesthood Quorum? This feels like ordaining people to justify unnecessary callings. Aren’t there any programs to hand out or Primary classes to substitute for? Is this problematic because the HPG is actually led by the Stake President but the Elder’s Quorum has a ward level leader?
- Discretionary Ordinations. It is not required for some callings, like Executive Secretary, to be ordained High Priests, but local leadership may (at their discretion) decide to ordain someone to the office of High Priest in this or similar roles.
- Not a big deal I suppose, but it seems pretty arbitrary. At least it is restricted to a handful of borderline justifiable positions and is less likely to create bad feelings as a result.
Given that Relief Society is done differently, I have often wondered a few things:
- Why is this forced hierarchy necessary? Doesn’t it bring out the worst in people (envy, pride, competition, and favoritism) where charity should rule the day?
- Do men NEED to feel that they have a goal (aging up into a different class) in order to feel that they are engaged and participating in the church? Is there some legitimate reason the Elders and High Priests can’t meet together weekly?
- Why aren’t the quorums just combined when the group sizes are extremely lopsided? In our ward, there are only a handful of active Elders, but even so, the HP group does not want to combine with them for Sunday meetings. Is this how it happens in most wards?