All Is Well In Zion

First, go read Karen’s excellent post. Then return here.

The setting was a Sunday evening stake priesthood meeting, in an affluent stake along the Wasatch front. The stake president announced that the theme of the meeting was administering the youth programs, and he invited all the bishops in the stake to join him on the stand. He asked each man to take a few minutes and speak extemporaneously about what his ward did to honor the young men who achieve the rank of eagle scout.

They all proudly described the elaborate celebrations, and it turned into a good-natured competition where each bishop tried to outdo the ones who had spoken before. There were descriptions of dutch oven dinners for 100 people, professional photographers who donated their time to take pictures and video of the big event, and grandparents coming all the way from California, just to be there for such a significant achievement.

When the last one had spoken, the stake president then asked them each to step up to the pulpit and describe what they did to honor the young women in their wards who earned their YW medallions. There was a lot of hemming and hawing and uncomfortable shifting around in their chairs as they were forced to acknowledge that they didn’t do anything, beyond a handshake and an “attagirl” for 10 seconds in sacrament meeting.

At first I felt sorry for them, because the stake president had very obviously set them up in order to make his point. But upon reflection, I realized that they, and also all the rest of us, deserve to be deeply discomfited by this state of affairs which continues to this day, unchanged. It exposes something very ugly about us, which is deeply embedded in our thinking and culture. We are a sexist people. Period.

Note, please. This has nothing particularly to do with agitating for female ordination or demanding action from the leadership. In this case, the leadership tried to make a change but we in the rank and file were happy and determined to stay where we were, and still are. But I think it does refute the notion that the current status quo reflects the detailed personal wishes of Jesus Christ Himself, so we should all just shut up. We love our privilege and complacency more than we love justice. Those Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon apply to us as surely as they applied to Jerusalem before its destruction.

I fear we are like the people described in Joseph Smith’s first vision, who draw near with our lips and our pretty talk about honoring all these fantastic women, but whose hearts are far from it. Actions matter more than words, and Karen’s experience is the rule, not the exception. We ought to be deeply ashamed of that fact, and never forget it. It ought to motivate us to repent, but the first step in repentance, as they teach us in Primary and Alcoholics Anonymous, is to recognize that you have a problem. I sorrow to say that I don’t think we have hit rock-bottom yet, so there will still be a lot of pain to be borne, almost exclusively by LDS girls and women.

St. Paul’s metaphor of the body applies here. When I had a sudden appendicitis attack, my arms, legs, eyes, and feet were all just fine, but the pain in my lower abdomen told me something was very wrong. We people in the church who are male (and also some who are female) who are the head, back, or colon of the body of Christ need to be mindful and attentive when another part of the body tells us that something hurts. When some of our sisters tell us they are experiencing pain, it behooves us to try to listen. Their pain might be signalling that there is something wrong. We belong to each other, and we are under covenant to bear one anothers burdens, after all.

Comments

  1. bethanyanddaniel says:

    Thank you. That’s a powerful example.

  2. Thanks, Mark.

  3. Powerful and true.

  4. Well said, Mark.

  5. Amazing! Thank you!

  6. Liffey Banks says:

    Thanks for this post. Dalton’s talk and the subsequent discussions were really weighing on my heart. The fact that I’m feeling battle weary from things as innocuous as pants and prayers was starting to amplify my fears that this effort is hopeless. And if it’s hopeless, am I insane for trying? So your words of empathy and validation were much appreciated.

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    Well put, Mark. Thank you.

  8. When my daughter completed her personal progress, the young women devoted their weeknight evening meeting to honoring her. She had a table to display her projects, and there were speeches and refreshments at the end–a beautiful cake. The extended family were all invited. I thought that was typical, as they did something similar for an older daughter who did it under the previous program.

    Here’s the thing though: I do not remember if the bishop spoke. There are two ways to look at that issue: one is that it matters more if the bishop speaks and has an active part in the event. The other is that it is better not to have the bishop, to celebrate womanhood and not make it seem like it only matters if priesthood is there.

    On a similar note, a recent bishop had two of those large plaques made up to honor the Eagle Scouts and YW who completed personal progress. the kind with a small plate with every name and year. Everyone sees the Eagle one, because it is out in the hall, since they don’t have a dedicated room. The Young Women presidency wanted their plaque inside their own room. The plaques are the same size, but it was the YW presidency choice to put it in the room, where it is less visible to ward members.

    As a Laurel, one daughter went on a high adventure trip, a whitewater rafting trip two states away. Another cohort of girls were not interested in doing that kind of thing. Should the YW presidency have forced them? I dunno. I was glad that my daughter was with the group she was.

    I absolutely believe in parity of resources, and I appreciate that many women have been wounded by unfair treatment. But I also think these issues are very complex, with few simple answer.

  9. Thanks to that stake president by helping bishops to see a different perspective — but I wonder why he did it so publicly and why he didn’t try to teach each bishop personally and privately so that the situation never arose in the fist place?

    We ought to be deeply ashamed…” Not so. I am not ashamed of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its members or officers. I love them and us, and I love the Lord.

  10. The denial of the pain felt by many has been the most painful part of the related discussions for me. That’s instructive, in and of itself – that my own personal pain is felt only in the expression and denial of it by others. I simply am not in a position to feel it in the same way as my four daughters – and, as much as I try hard to make sure they know I view and treat them as equal to their brothers, I know they have not gotten, do not get and will not get that same message many times in their lives.

    The body of Christ analogy is spot-on, Mark. I only would add one thing:

    We who are viewed currently as the mouths and hands overlook the simple fact that we really are only one half of most functioning parts – that, in some ways, we are speaking and handling things with the other mouths and hands muted and bound. There is SO much we can change about that situation without denigrating or abdicating our theology in any way – and, in reality, we are living so far below our theology specifically because of things we ought to change but refuse to change.

  11. We have a great young women’s program in our ward. There’s tons of recognition and it’s all well attended. Frankly, with so many daughters (5) I hardly know what’s going on in the young men’s program.

    Yes we need to improve, but the implication that we’re ripening for destruction like ancient Jerusalem is silly.

  12. “but I wonder why he did it so publicly and why he didn’t try to teach each bishop personally and privately so that the situation never arose in the fist place?”

    ji, I have been in similar situations more than once, and I imagine the Stake President did exactly what you suggest should have been done – and only made a semi-public example of it (in a stake priesthood meeting, which is attended only by a self-selecting group of men) when the private approach didn’t work.

    I have no idea if that was the case, but I have known enough Stake Presidents in my years of service in the Church to believe that probably is accurate.

    Finally, Mark never said we should be ashamed of the LDS Church or its members – and he didn’t imply it, either. He said we ought to be ashamed of one particular fact – and I struggle to see any reason why that assertion isn’t true. If something really is shameful, we ought to be ashamed of it – and the specific example Mark cited really is shameful.

  13. “the implication that we’re ripening for destruction like ancient Jerusalem is silly.”

    One more thing the post neither said nor implied. *sigh*

  14. Thank you. Just got back from a meeting talking about how to make LGBTQ feel more welcome whether in or out of the church and similar to the body metaphor for the saints was this discussion that we are all saved together and must be willing to experience what our brothers and sisters do to really be Zion.
    This was lovely.

  15. Mark, well said. Well said indeed.

  16. Chibbylick says:

    Amen

  17. A few years ago our Bishop announced our ward council would spend one Sunday a month devoted to advancing young men through the priesthood offices culminating with missions and our gigantic pool of prospective Elders. After a few moments I asked if we were going to spend another Sunday devoted to the needs of young women and less active young single adult women since they were just as important as the boys. The Bishop thought for a moment and then agreed the young women deserved as much attention as the boys. Our Bishop was a good man who just hadn’t thought things completely through, kind of like the bishops in the OP.

  18. “When some of our sisters tell us they are experiencing pain, it behooves us to try to listen. Their pain might be signalling that there is something wrong. ”

    Thank you for this.

  19. I am the only woman, who is still a member of the church, of the group of young women I started Beehives with. Most of them are very successful, wonderful women, raising their children in a variety of religious traditions, or without religion. I have some contact with most of them. Knowing my treatment as a young woman from my ward, they are amazed that I stayed. Certainly my year my be singular. We were subjected to two ward boundary changes during our time in young women. My younger sisters did not lose as many young women from their cohorts, but all of them lost some.

    It is easy to say, everything was fine in my experience, and I don’t know anyone who is dissatisfied. “All is well in the part of Zion that I know.” All is not well with all the daughter’s of Zion that I know. Some are more willing to talk about their experiences with people who don’t believe they exist, but most of them have learned long ago that those who choose to be blind will simply start ugly gossip, ignore them, and try to push them even further away from the gospel they love, and the church that they find ways to tolerate.

  20. awesome, mark. thank you.

  21. Thank you, Mark.

  22. We have a set of boy/girl twins in our ward, and when the young man received his eagle scout award, the ‘ceremony’ was well-attended, and included a slide show presentation set to music that lasted 10-12 minutes, and a nice array of refreshments. I happened to glance over at his twin, and caught a look on her face that broke my heart. She loved her brother, and I’m sure she was proud of his accomplishment, but there was a longing evident in her features that spoke volumes. When she received her medallion for completing her personal progress program, she got to walk up to the podium and be presented with a necklace by the bishop. No slide show. No refreshments. And I never heard a word from her in protest. Because this is what we expect. This is what we’ve been conditioned to expect. And it needs to change.
    (to be fair, the parents were responsible for the planning of the court of honor, and should have been perceptive enough to realize how it might feel to be the female half of the siblings. But, they as well have been conditioned to expect as much.)

  23. Ray (no. 12) — In addition to not being ashamed of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its members or officers, I am also not ashamed of the First Presidency for assigning the General Conference prayers to the Seventy.

    And I’m not ashamed of local bishops who don’t perfectly balance prayers and time and assignments and so forth among various categories of people. I wish them happiness as they try to magnify their callings and minister to their members. They’ll learn and grow as they serve.

    I am grateful that the First Presidency has taken steps to help teach local leaders of the need to be sensitive to the needs of all members.

  24. Thank you for stating this so clearly and so beautifully.

  25. I was honored greatly for receiving my young woman recognition award. We had a get together where my entire branch came. We had treats and the Branch President spoke about what I had done. My parents and grandparents were all there. I felt special. Maybe it is just a Utah cultural thing to not honor the Young Women who achieve such an honor. I do not think this “problem” happens everywhere…..

  26. Paraphrasing #23: ” and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee;”

  27. Wow, Kristine (no. 26) — I don’t detect any charity or even truth in your comment…

  28. Thank you. Important perspective.

  29. ji, I also am not ashamed of those people, and I read nothing in Mark’s post saying he was ashamed of those people. Mark identified a shameful practice – or, rather, the Stake President in the story identified it for the men in his stake.

    Sincere question, asked honestly in an effort to understand and not assume:

    Are you saying the Stake President was wrong to highlight the difference – that the difference is not a shame – that young men’s accomplishments should receive exponentially more attention than young women’s accomplishments?

  30. Mark Brown says:

    ji,

    I am asking you to give it a rest for a while. You have made your perspective clear, repeatedly, and there is little chance of finding common ground by repeating it some more.

    Please sit this one out.

  31. Yup.
    I believe it is also pertinent to note how different the two programs are.

  32. Sorry, Mark. I posted my comment without having read yours.

  33. Mark Brown says:

    Ray, no worries.

  34. In our ward, the young women receive their awards from the pulpit in sacrament meeting. I was under the impression that this was a new policy?

    ji – women aren’t one of “various categories of people”, we’re people and we make up at least half of the members of this church. We’re not a special interest group.

  35. When I was in Young Women’s back in the day, I honestly didn’t notice that I wasn’t getting the same recognition from my Bishopric because I was so desperate to get attention from my fellow YW. Even if I had received such a ceremony (which I totally think they should do those!) I don’t know that anyone my age would have attended to congratulate me. It might have been weird. (wow, that’s whinier than I meant it to be… my life is awesome these days, I swear.)

    There are so many different angles, but every stake should start from square one like this Stake President did. I love the lesson here and I hope more wards/stakes take note.

  36. In my home ward, the YW got just about as much recognition for their medallion as the boys did for the Eagle: Slideshow, quick talk by the parents, refreshments, a cool display table set up with pictures of their projects…often extended family would attend, just like an Eagle Court of Honor. I have a suspicion that a few brave, headstrong, female leaders are the reason that I got to be a part of what sounds like an exception to the norm.

  37. Thanks for this, Mark.

  38. Brad Hawkins says:

    I had no idea that scouting was such an integral part of the church. I think I fuddled around in scouts as an adjunct of church (that’s pretty weird in itself) and never made Tenderfoot. On the other hand, I was heavy in the music and lived on a farm, so I kind of figured it wasn’t really for me and my parents never put pressure on to do anything with it.

    I would much rather have my kids play music and do theater and science projects than the odd little pre business degree that scouting has become. That and the ridiculous misogyny and bigotry toward to the LGBTQ community by Scouts, just makes me want to downgrade any of that graduated church advancement business. Perhaps after Monson dies, we can get rid of this scouting stuff. It just seems to teach the wrong things and creates people who are dilettantes, spending so much time on canvassing over many subjects that they don’t get good at any one thing.

    But those are just personal feelings. I have seen major differences in terms of budget and focus on the boys. What if scouts were co-ed or if there were just plain old activities that both sexes could take part in together that doesn’t involve dressing up in pioneer drag.

  39. KerBearRN says:

    @Josh B. (#31)– you bring up an important point. After having two sons in young men’s (where they were expected to read a different standard work each year, completely), I was shocked when my first daughter entered YW and I read through their handbook. Their expectations of the YW and scripture reading was limited to several thematic chapters and verses. I was kind of gobsmacked. We arent even setting equally rigorous academic/spiritual expectation for our YW? Sigh.

    I would personally be all for some sort of co-ed program that offered useful achievements and life skills (I’m not convinced Scouting’s focus is very relevant any more, and definitely much of YW is mired in the 50’s…or worse). Cooking? Car maintenance? CPR/first aid? Survival skills? Seems like they’re all gonna need it. Why not learn it together? If I were king of the forest…

  40. Both brilliant and painful at the same time. In my current ward (which was the ward I attended as a teenager) my maiden name is on a plaque outside the bishop’s office indicating the year I earned my medallion (along with other girls from years after) and there are Eagle Scouts all the way back to the time of Paul. However, that plaque with my name on it did not exist 15 yrs ago when I earned that medallion, and there was no “atta girl” in Sacrament Meeting either. Much like Karen my Personal Progress went unnoticed. I had done it for myself, but it did sting a bit to see such a fuss made over the boys while us girls were alternately ignored and shamed. I am grateful for my current bishop for the sake of the YW–he would be the type of Stake President to ask those bishops what they do for their girls/women.

  41. Wow, good for this Stake President for noticing something that many people overlook at doing something about it. I think a similar question he could have asked is “What is the role of the YM in the ward? How do they serve the ward?” I imagine the answers would be something along the lines of: bless and pass the sacrament, collect fast offerings, accompany the adult Priesthood leaders in home teaching assignments. Then he could have asked, “What is the role of the YW in the ward? How do they serve the ward?” This question is a lot harder to answer. While YW may serve the ward in some ways, there is much less frequent and systematic ways to include YW in the running of the ward. I struggle when people talk about “separate but equal roles” when the YW don’t really have a specific role in the ward the way the YM do.

  42. I’ve always felt the YW program was an after-thought anyway. When the church adopted BSA as the framework for YM and didn’t have to “create” a program for the men it was a sweet deal. Bam! The whole package: done. How convenient. You would think the spirit might move inspired leaders to create progams for both YM and YW that address the very problems we are seeing right now – inequality and its resultant hardship on sisters and brothers in the world. Mosiah 29:32 32 “And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people . . .”

    Come to think of it, even GSA may have been an afterthought following BSA . . . Women as an afterthought: a problem as as old as the Garden Myth. It stinks.

  43. My father was bishop and scout master (not at the same time) of our ward and my mother was relief society president, young women’s president and in charge of girls’ camp (also not at the same time, thank goodness). Having observed both of them and their counselors in their callings, it often seemed like the girls actually had superior treatment (not that I’m complaining–I had a very good time growing up in the church). My main example probably being the quality of the young women lessons compared to ours. I personally never had an eagle scout plaque, I never had a missionary plaque, I just had a lot of dental plaque (TMI?).

    The BCC seems to be mainly conjecturally and anecdotally based, which is maybe a little bit disappointing coming from a bunch of pseudo-scientists! (I mean that facetiously). Why don’t the writers do more surveys or polls on topics like this? Are there any out there already? It’d be great if we could get a geographic distribution data as well. Go for it!

  44. Wow. Shameful practice indeed…. in my home ward we were lucky to have semi-annual Personal Progress evening celebrations, complete with slideshows, refreshments, a good sized audience, etc. I felt like we did get fair recognition, but I never liked the differences between the Duty to God and Personal Progress pamphlets: a guy could mark off things like getting a part-time job or physical exercise as achievements while I was expected to learn homemaking skills or “reflect” on a passage of scripture for three consecutive weeks.

    That metaphor about us being the body is so fitting. We need to listen to each other instead of dismissing the other’s concerns as petty or heretical.

  45. What? Young women get medallions?
    I wonder if lowering the age for sister missionaries will help with this neglect. Of course, there is much more to do before Mormon women will feel equally valued. The pedestal approach doesn’t work. Thanks for the excellent post, Mark.

  46. Mary Siever says:

    Thank you. Very well said.

  47. We like to see cultural threads as revelatory threads.

  48. Excelent post.
    On the status quo, friend of mine said the following.
    “If there’s one thing Mormons excel at, it’s enshrining the status quo and assuming that if we do anything, there must be a good reason for it, and if there’s a good reason, it must have been revealed as the only way to do it, and if so, then it must have always been that way in all dispensations.  And a lot of people’s faith can be shaken when it turns out not to always have been that way, which unravels that chain of reasoning back from that point until you doubt the premise, i.e., that any of it was revealed at all.”

    I suspect there’s a lot of regional variation on this. My Midwest ward had no missionary or eagle plaques, and nothing more than the BSA court of honor for Eagle Scouts. I remember first encountering those plaques in Utah and being a bit confused by them. I also recall YW going to the pulpit to receive their medals.

    How much of this is Utah culture being exported?

  49. Sharee Hughes says:

    I haven’t read all the comments yet (I have to hurry to get to church right now), but I think all those who read BCC would have been to Karen’s recital. That means we have to be the ones to ensure that our Young Women are honored as much as our Young Men.

  50. Don’t all polygynous cultures devalue women? And correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that “principle” still on the books (though not currently practiced except for sealings)?

  51. RE: BenS, #48, Your friend’s comment is the best description and critique I have yet seen/read/heard on the inspiration vs culture (folk belief, folklore) issue.

    “….which unravels that chain of reasoning back from that point until you doubt the premise, i.e., that any of it was revealed at all.”

    Our (Mormon) beliefs and practices are often (certainly not always) useful, effective, or beneficial. But, the unquestioned, ipso facto, belief that, due to their source (current or past church leadership) they must be from God is definitely not.

    Just because our formal leaders don’t grasp the current lack of true equal valuation of males and females in our “culture” and its inherent damage, doesn’t make their actions/lack of action inspired.

  52. I am not sure in how many countries of the world that the church uses scouting as an integral part of the YM program. In the country where my husband served a mission, scouting is co-ed and I am not sure that it is part of church activities there.

  53. Mark– Thank you for saying something so succinctly, powerfully and charitably. While I served as a counselor in a stake YW presidency in Nebraska back in 2001, one of the wards put on a full spread for two young women who had received their medallions– table displays full of their accomplishments, testimony-bearing, the presence of the bishopric and ward members, honoring the parents, and the young women’s plaques being displayed in full foyer view. When I suggested such an approach in my current ward, I was told that it wasn’t necessary because they lumped it all together at the YW in Excellence meeting in January. So I’m wondering if this the “policy” now– to honor all the YW at one meeting? But is there a similar policy for Scouts, where everyone gets honored at one Court of Honor per year? It doesn’t seem so. Perhaps this problem is more amplified in certain Wasatch Front/Mormon Corridor wards with higher numbers of Scouts? In reality, the Personal Progress program is not even the equivalent to the Scouting Program at all, but to Duty to God. So, how does one find any parity, when the young women get one program, and the young men get two, including one that receives astonishing amounts of money and support (with very little return on its investment, considering the ratio of beginning Scouts to those who actually achieve Eagle)? Perhaps the only two possible solutions would be for the Church to sever its relationship with the BSA altogether, or to add an outside organization like the Girl Scouts for young women, neither of which are a realistic possibility in the current climate. Your post just reminds me that if handfuls of leaders over time have creatively imagined forms of gender inclusion, then why can’t more people do it? Because the separation and tradition is too ingrained and too institutional to be overcome by the isolated actions of a handful of progressive bishops and young women presidents here and there.

  54. Last week in our sacrament meeting (Wasatch Front ward) all the speakers were women, including the youth, and that’s not unusual. No question–we need to give our daughters more attention when they reach their goals. Brigham Young said that when you educate a girl, you educate a family.

  55. I love this blog post. Amen, Amen, and Amen!

  56. That last paragraph was perfection.

  57. @54: I don’t think that’s the best approach. Boys and girls should be treated equally. Boys are struggling enough as it is (re: Zimbardo).

  58. What a brilliant Stake President! I don’t mind that he did it in public… he didn’t do any criticizing or shaming of the bishops (according to the OP), he let their consciences do it for them, and probably to every man there who held the position in the past or would hold it in the future.

  59. Ray,

    I was responding to this: “We love our privilege and complacency more than we love justice. Those Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon apply to us as
    surely as they applied to Jerusalem before its destruction.”

    Maybe your reading of Mark’s post is a little more charitable than mine. But it sure seems like there’s a nice little barb in there — you know, that we, because of our complacency towards sexism might be in need of the same correction that those wicked folks in Jerusalem needed; the ones who were ripened for destruction.

  60. wreddyornot says:

    Nice post. I agree with Josh B.: boys and girls should be treated equally. Now since that hasn’t happened during our history it’s time to start healing our body from this great defect. By the way, where’s my Mother?

  61. I don’t remember getting recognized when I received my medallion. My name is on a plaque somewhere, though. I do remember going to all 3 of my brothers’ Courts of Honor.

    My stake growing up is one of the last holdouts honoring 5 year Girl’s Campers with the Liahona award. I vividly remember recieving that. All the other women who had recieved their Liahonas would come on the last night of camp (before testimony meeting) and the new Liahonas would be inducted in to their sisterhood in front of the entire camp. I looked forward to this more than anything else in the church as a YW. I’ll never forget how connected I felt to nature, to my sisters, to God.

    Between the Liahona and the Personal Progress award you had something approaching the Eagle Award. But even so, the Eagle Award was/is still more rigorous.

  62. When I was in the bishopric in our Wasatch Front ward, we adjusted the budget to make sure there was the same amount of money spent for young men and young women, per capita. As I recall, the first year we did that it actually DECREASED the YW budget. We included the Boy Scout budget in that amount, so the YM did not have a YM budget AND a BS budget. We took the total amount of money allotted for YW, YM and BS and divided it by the number of youth. Some time after that a father in the ward complained, after a father and son outing, that there was nothing like that for the YW. I told him that the father/son activity had been planned by the YM leaders, and that if the YW were interested in doing something like that they ought to talk to their leaders because they were all getting the same amount of money.

    Having said that, I agree that there is a disparity in the energy put into the Eagle and the YW recognition.

  63. Jack, of course there is a call to repentance in the post – but nowhere does Mark imply we are “ripening for destruction”. That is a stretch way beyond what he actually wrote. He simply points out an area of our culture that needs to be addressed.

  64. Amen.

  65. A Nonny Mouse says:

    The setting was a Sunday evening stake priesthood meeting, in an affluent stake along the Wasatch front.

    The setting already tells you everything you need to know. Holier than thou? Check. Amazingly vain and materialistic? Check. Self-righteous beyond belief? Check.

    Mark, you might find that elsewhere in Zion, things are different.

  66. #57 I don’t mean give girls more attention–i.e. budget or fanfare or whatever–than boys. I mean equalize budget and attention to their accomplishments. Discussing this with my YM president son-in-law, we agreed that there’s a fine line to walk. Some teens–maybe a few shy ones–may not be earning Scout or YM awards because they don’t want the attention they get for meeting the requirements and achieving the goals. We assume kids are goal oriented, but not all of them are, and they may feel threatened at the prospect of being in the spotlight. Of course, they would do well to learn poise and grace in speaking to adults if they’re going out of missions sooner, but that’s another issue. By the way, I’ve heard more than one bishop say the best teachers should be in the Primary, and I teach Primary in a ward where we have a lot of men–good role models for the handful of hyper, ADD, disruptive boys with minuscule attention spans. Many of those men say they love it and don’t want to be anywhere else, even the one who was pulled out to be the new EQ president.

  67. Maybe that is because the scouting program is not a church program. Scouting has a national charter, organization, supporters, award system etc. The church could do the same for the YW if they wanted to. The YM get about the same recognition for the Duty to God (or whatever it is called now) award as the girls get for the Medallion. Also the parents put on an eagle award ceremony not the ward so they can do whatever they want. Our ward does not spend any money on an eagle court of honor. This commentary does not compare apples to apples.

  68. Thank you, Mark. This was balm to my soul tonight.

  69. #65, A Nonny Mouse—
    I would venture to say that the body of Christ analogy pertains just as much to a unity between Utah/non-Utah saints as it does to the equality of boys/girls. It does no good for the “body” of the Church when we divide ourselves into us vs. them camps. If you perceive an infection somewhere in your body, it is probably better to ask what you can do to help it rather than to expound on how infected that part is. (And I say this as a kid who grew up outside Utah and spent plenty of time making fun of “Utah Mormons.” It has been humbling but good for me to have the chance to live in Utah for some years now and learn that just like everywhere, Saints here are trying to do good, are struggling, are failing, are real, and they certainly don’t need me to tell them how they are automatically corrupted just because of where they live.)

  70. Thank you for this Mark. I feel less alone in raising my three girls to know their value within the paradigm of the church. I wish every stake president…every bishop…every man could feel the hurt a girl experiences when her male counterpart receives praise and pomp when she gets a wink and a nod. My eldest daughter said to me one day “Why is it the boys get to do cool things like overnighters and pinewood derbies and learn cool skills and we get to cut out puzzles that were copied in the library.” I had no answer for her. It breaks my heart that she even had to notice the discrepancy. We have since submitted our request and hopefully we will get funding and approval for our daddy/daughter pinewood derby night for Activity Days. Baby steps.

  71. You are so right, Craig! Just as the post title says, “All is well in Zion!”

  72. Caroline Kline says:

    I love this post, Mark. Thank you.

  73. In a former ward when we attended tithing settlement, we were asked to donate to friends of scouting. When my husband and I replied that we would not because we have no sons but could we donate to Activity Days or Young Womens programs we were told a resounding no and crickets chirping. I feel the arguments regarding scouts not being a church program would hold more water if the church either embraced Girl Scouts with the same regard it does the Boy Scouts, or the church or stepped away frok the Boy Scout program altogether. The fact is there is an extra program for boys. Leaders are called from our congregations. Members are asked to donate funds and support scouts. Why, just two weeks ago members in our ward were asked to be merit badge counselors to support our young men in achieving their badges. If it isn’t a church program then it needs to stop being treated as such.

  74. I love my Bishop with all my heart. He is a good, caring, righteous, compassionate man who loves the YW just as much as the YM. I can’t say enough good about him. I really like our Stake Presidency, also.

    We had a talk in Sacrament Meeting today that basically was a fundraising spiel for the upcoming friends of Scouting breakfast, which each ward in our stake holds on the same day. We also had an announcement about the upcoming “Scouting Sunday” in Priesthood Meeting delivered by a member of the Stake YM Presidency, and, since a member of the Stake YW Presidency attended our ward, as well, I assume a similar message was repeated in RS.

    Not a church program? If it walks and quacks like a duck . . .

  75. I think the point is, it’s not a church-designed program, and it’s not a church-wide program, because it is not used outside the U.S. It’s not even a church-based program; religion and spirituality are not a big part of its makeup. Yes we still use it as “the activity arm of the aaronic priesthood,” but it’s losing its effectiveness and relevance and I think its days are numbered.

  76. I am glad to hear of a leader actually leading and showing others, with kindness, that the YW are treated inferior to the YM.
    My daughter would love it if the church supported something like a girl scout type program integrated into the YW program. We tried Girl Scouts of America but where we live it was awful as they did nothing. A woman in another ward in my stake started a program called “Venture ……… (I can’t remember the whole title). It is a scout like program for girls and they actually do things with the Boy Scouts of wards where they have their friends. It is by invitation only and entrance is who you know, which to me is wrong. It should be offered stake wide to any girl. But where I live this type of exclusiveness is common among the Mormons.
    We live in a small town that is now about 45% LDS. (I am from another state; it is my husband’s hometown and I was forced to move here) . My husband is on the list of merit badge counselors for all scouts in the region, LDS and non-LDS. He has worked with Methodist kids but the Methodists are the only other church that has scouts besides the LDS. The local Methodist church scouting program puts the local LDS scouting program to shame. The Methodists are impressive and I wish they had Girl Scouts so my daughter could join.
    @48. Right @65. Right @73. Right
    Unfortunately there is a LOT of apathy and complacency in the church as a whole (reflecting society?). It is ingrained in all church members where I live and in order to function as a church member and not go crazy dealing with members I have no expectations whatsoever from any member or leader in the region.

  77. The Brother of Jared says:

    @JR Ventures is a branch of the Boy Scouts of America that allows young men and young women between 16 – 20 to have high adventure activities and outdoor experiences. I truly wish the Church would let the young women join or charter a girls only venture crew in each ward.

  78. The theme of our stake – for quite some time – has been all about “shepherding”. At home, in the community, in our ward family. If one person or a group within the reach of our influence are not be shepherded – *of course we should speak up about it*. Why raising this issue breeds defensiveness is a mystery to me. Why a call to recognize the YW in our ward is met with outrage is very depressing.

  79. Wow, Nonny. Your post was exactly as self-righteous and arrogant as you accuse others of being. It sounds like you had a painful experience, but your post was meanspirited and unnecessary.

  80. I’m speaking as a woman who feels pain of sexism from certain members of the Church.

    BUT. I think we make a mistake when we take individual, personal pain and try to deal with it publicly. Public concessions will never take away personal and private pain. I have found that in personal interactions with leadership and individuals, the Spirit has been able to use my pain to edify me and my leadership. Change in the Spirit is drop by drop, through a series of personal interactions. All the edicts from above will do far less to change individuals.

    I also think we do ourselves a disservice when we allow our pain to magnify in our consciousness. We allow it to eclipse the other aspects of the gospel, and cut ourselves off from the very tools that can bring us healing, the tools which are already available to us if we choose to use them.

    People cause pain. The only way to avoid pain from others is to be a hermit. But the pain doesn’t have to rule our lives and our actions. We can put it in perspective, use it to inform our decisions, but not make them. We can choose to own our pain, rather than holding it hostage to others’ behavior.

  81. SR, we receive counsel from our general and local leaders warning us of actions and beliefs that can harm us and our families spiritually. Why is it suddenly off limits when it involves sexism?

  82. CTJ. I never said it was off limits.

  83. SR, sure, people cause pain. But your perennial insistence that speaking up and advocating for yourself in an assertive manner is never an option that’s on the table is wrong and, frankly, disturbing. Smart, level-headed, proactive, solutions-oriented negotiation isn’t a guarantee of happiness in life. But it’s effective enough that it ought to be embraced at every relevant opportunity. Here’s some good reading for you: Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation.

  84. Cynthia, I’m sorry. I should have remembered how difficult it often is here to be read for what one is actually saying. Suffice it to say that what you think I’m saying isn’t it. But thanks for the reading material. I am always grateful when someone smarter, more level-headed, proactive, and solutions-oriented than I am deigns to educate me.\

  85. “Thanks to that stake president by helping bishops to see a different perspective — but I wonder why he did it so publicly…”

    It’s a stake priesthood meeting (presumably a leadership meeting?). That’s an ideal setting because it not only hammers home a point to those bishops but also future bishops. I definitely think a lot of changes of heart are in order across many areas on the church. So I appreciate the “non-partisan” (for lack of a better word) approach this post takes.

    There is a lot more we can and should be doing to support and show value to women, especially the YW program. A huge part of that would be in enabling them to take more of a lead role in meaningful service opportunities. Being responsible for bringing the treats is nice, but that’s not what I mean.

    In general though, I’d say most of our organizations and/or quorums are under-utilized to provide effective, substantive service. That’s not to say on an individual level there aren’t some amazing examples, but it seems like most organizations are on auto-pilot and just doing the normal things to fill time — not that the activities aren’t fun or even helpful, just not living up to our potential.

    I see this “time filling” focus, where we aren’t living up to our potential organizationally, as the ultimate reason for waning activity (not lack of female GC prayers or mia maids passing sacrament) in some areas.

    Of course, my personal theory is that we suffer so much as a society because we often aren’t doing much meaningful with our lives — just filling time with stuff.

    Anyway, thanks for this article, it’s a good way to remind us we can do better with what we have.

  86. Leadership is meaningful service, perhaps the most meaningful in our church.

    I think when there are institutional policies and practices that are flawed enough to cause pain to a few (or a lot of) individuals, that one should be able to speak about it publicly. Otherwise, how are those who are unaffected going to know that there is a flaw in the policy or practice they are assigned to implement? Remaining silent about one’s pain perpetuates a flawed status quo and makes it impossible for improving changes to be made. #83 is correct in asserting that speaking up about your personal pain is an art with elements of negotiation “that ought to be embraced at every relevant opportunity,” and it’s wise to be “smart, level-headed, and solutions-oriented” as you go about it. As a well-bred Mormon woman of (ahem) a certain age this art is foreign to me, and being such a stoic, when all around me I see change, no longer works.

    Mark’s OP very gently makes some important points that shed much needed light on one aspect of the problem of institutionally supported sexism in the church, and showed one solution a frustrated stake president used to teach about it. And his last paragraph is indeed a brilliant statement of doctrine that applies to the problem of institutional sexism in a church full of people who are under covenant to follow the Lord.

  87. I don’t think those bishops were deeply and personally inivolved in planning the Eagle Scout recognition activities. That was done by the people in their YM/Scouting programs. My guess is that if the bishops asked the YW leaders to do soemthing similar for the young women, it would happen. But I also think that if the YW leaders in a ward had taken the initiative to plan and execute a recognition program, that most of the bishops would have supported it. This is an area where YW leaders can do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness. You don’t need to wait for your bishop to have a moment of enlightenment (or embarrassment). Fully staff and prepare a program, and most bishops will be happy to support it, since most of them have wives and daughters.

  88. You are so right, coltakashi! Just as the post title says, “All is well in Zion!”

  89. So much clarity in the closing paragraph. Thank you for spelling it out that way.

  90. After consulting the “info and contact” section for some insight about posting etiquette, I’m rather surprised ji would be excluded (#30) for his/her comments, none of which ran afoul of said etiquette. What is more, ji has not commented again, as per Mark’s request. I can’t decide if that’s a tribute to ji for not wanting to stir the proverbial pot, or an implicit censure of those who run out of town those who disagree with them even when those who disagree with them remain civil.

  91. Oh, and for the record, I happen to think the leadership meeting is the appropriate place for the stake president to have addressed this case of institutional blindness.

  92. Ryan, ji was banned. You should probably go with the second of your two choices.

  93. Mark Brown says:

    Nope, ji has not been banned. His comments *on this thread* have been moderated because he apparently lacks the reading comprehension skills necessary to understand a polite request from the post author to refrain from playing his same note over and over on this thread. So his subsequent comments, and theresa’s where she acts as his sock puppet, have gone straight to the mod queue. Call it running out of town, or censure [sic] of those who disagree, or whatever. He had already made his point, such as it was, several times, so it is difficult to say that he was silenced, and I saw no reason to allow him to say the same thing repeatedly.

    You might not like that, and that’s OK. After seven years of blogging, I have a pretty good idea when a commenter is going to take the whole thing off the cliff, and I did not want to let that happen. It’s a big old Internet out there, and ji and anybody else is free to go find a forum where his “shoot the wounded” approach is more welcome.

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