TQM, Kaizen, and Women in the Church

If you have worked in the manufacturing industry in the United States within the past three decades you have probably had training in Total Quality Management. The principles of TQM were first popularized in Japan after the second world war. Americans, most notably W. Edwards Deming, helped reorient the Japanese manufacturing industry from making planes and tanks to making cars. TQM, or kaizen in Japanese, refers to a process of continuous improvement, and it relies on teamwork and responsibility rather than a top-down command structure. Toyota was the first big success story.

Let’s say that a mistake keeps getting made at the same place on the assembly line. It might be that the worker at that place (let’s call him Mr. Brown, like in the missionary discussions) is incompetent or doesn’t care. But when the same problem keeps happening on different shifts and in different plants, we can know that the problem is not the worker, but the system itself. Kaizen requires us to try to fix the problem rather than try to fix blame. Instead of finding a scapegoat, we need to find a solution. We have identified the problem at Mr. Brown’s place on the line, but since it is a structural problem rather than a personnel problem, the solution requires teamwork. We might need to hire more workers, provide better training, or reconfigure the line. We might need to do all those things, and more, but the key point is this: Mr. Brown cannot implement any of those solutions by himself. Nothing will improve until the suits in the corner offices get involved.

Last week in conference, Elder Anderson said this:

“Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage, and in building the kingdom of God.
Twenty years ago in general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard related a conversation he had with the general president of the Relief Society. There was a question raised about strengthening the worthiness of youth preparing to serve missions. Sister Elaine Jack said with a smile, “You know, Elder Ballard, the [women] of the Church may have some good suggestions … if they [are] asked. After all, … we are their mothers!”.

Apparently, we in the church still are, intentionally or unintentionally, excluding women’s voices, and this has been a recurring, predictable problem for at least the last 25 years.  My guess is that there is a copy of Elder Ballard’s “Counseling With Our Councils” gathering dust on the shelf of the meetinghouse library in every LDS building in the English-speaking world. The bishops in the church are almost overwhelmingly very good men who are trying their level best to do a hard job. It is not productive to lay the blame on them. Some of them are trying, and succeeding, to include sisters in decision-making. Still others might think they are inclusive, but that would come as big news to the women over whom they preside. If we apply the principles of kaizen to this problem, we se a textbook case of a problem that is systemic and structural. The problem might be happening in the bishop’s office, but the solution to the problem will have to come from somewhere above his pay grade.

Comments

  1. Yep!

  2. You’re right but isn’t that the message coming from those above the Bishop’s pay grade? You can look at this two ways:

    1. The system in place isn’t functioning because those below aren’t following the guidelines given to them today

    2. The system is rotten

    But the system is only rotten if you subscribe to the argument that the administrative “powers” need to be spread and possibly separated from the Priesthood (or not depending on where you stand on OW). I’m undecided on both but I can see virtue and a reason why such changes might come forth from the Lord.

    So let’s ask the hypothetical – is it possible what we’re experiencing is a push toward enlightenment for all men to truly live their priesthood obligation and recognize that many of them are doing it wrong:

    That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

    No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    By akindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile….

    Are those at a higher pay grade in the wrong here? Or are the lay leaders doing it wrong? I don’t disagree that the system in place allows for egregious power plays that put women at a disadvantage but is it inherently because men are in charge or would that still be the case if women and men had administrative responsibilities? Recall that much of the outcry against any change is coming from women of the Church who some say feel threatened by a change to the status quo while others would say they are defending their faith in the spirit of Elaine Jack’s statement.

    I fear it is messier than a simple TQM analysis.

  3. I don’t think it’s all that messy. The fact is that there’s nothing in the structure that requires women’s input to be considered. As it stands, the system of councils requires men, whose “nature and disposition,” we’re told, incline almost all of them to exercise unrighteous dominion, to NOT do the thing that it is their nature and disposition to do. If you were designing an assembly line, and you knew there was a mistake that “almost all men” were disposed to make, you’d want to put in some fail-safes. We have none.

  4. When you say “somewhere above his paygrade,” do you have a particular group in mind or are you purposefully leaving it vague?I feel like I’m having a hard time understanding your point because I don’t know what you’re aiming at.

  5. That’s one analysis Kristine but the other read on Doctrine & Covenants 121 is the call for those who bear the priesthood to arise above the natural man, to not set their hearts upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men. That what is called for is an enlightened leadership who overcome that nature and disposition. To bring forth the better angels of our nature?

    Look, I’ll be the first to admit that what I see is a groundwork being laid by which a generation of young women are being trained up to take responsibilities of Church administration in a new direction. That the signs show themselves through much larger numbers of women heeding the call to serve missions and the spiritual deepening that can come from that experience. That the changes to youth lessons can potentially overhaul a perspective on what it means to lead with the Spirit.

    But I don’t think you can discount that what the Savior calls of men and women is to learn to lead and teach in His way, which is to serve and be the least and not the greatest first. Many changes are happening to push in that direction, but that may take a change of the guard (among the membership primarily) before it can fully happen. And I’m not convinced it is so much about changing the system as it is about changing the precedence and the unwritten order of things.

  6. OD, I think many among that army of young women will be disenchanted with the stautus quo when they return home from their missions after having been utilized in creative ways during mission service and carefully listened to.

  7. Excellent point, Mr. Brown! And Kristine, I think you nailed it with the “no fail-safes” point. We have something like an airplane that requires a single pilot to stay awake for 36 straight hours if it’s not going to crash, or a salary payment scheme where people are paid in cash that’s left in envelopes on their doorsteps. Sure, we can say that the pilots should just overcome their natural need to sleep, or that people should just overcome their natural desire to steal money, but in the meantime, while that’s *not* happening, why couldn’t we revamp the system a little to take into account the reality of the patterns of failings we’re going to see in its participants?

  8. In my stake the youth are supposed to “take ownership” of their programs with the expectation that they will someday be leading wards and branches, but in many cases have no say or input into what activities are planned by their adult leaders. This situation is similar to the call for more participation by women in councils, yet very few are invited to attend these exclusive meetings. Without opportunities to actually practice the methods of leadership described in D&C 121, women are denied room for growth and improvement, and the assembly line continues to run with obsolete parts.

  9. Consider it our generation’s Abrahamic test–to willingly forgo the exercise of power when we are called to lead. If we fail, we all go to hell.

    And you thought you wanted to be the bishop?

    (On a completely unrelated note, my Danish ancestors would remind you that Elder Andersen spells his name in the Danish way. You may think that the Danes have shed their ancient marauding ways, but if you’re not careful they’ll once again put out to sea in their longboats and wreak havoc on the softer folk across the North Sea.)

  10. Jeannine L. says:

    I’m on jcc’s team here with the RM sisters.

    I know when I came home from my mission 25 (cough!) years ago, it felt like I slammed into a brick wall. No one cared about anything I had to contribute to the church. I still went, but it was a hard thing to realize then that it didn’t matter to anyone else what I had to say–that I was pretty much invisible. Recently, I have had to deal with those feelings of being ignored again. I think that this time, though, I’m going to try harder to make myself heard. It’s a problem with the system, I think. Otherwise, I’d have to be left with the possibility that everyone in “leadership” doesn’t care.

    I don’t want to think that.

  11. Kristine: Ward Council is YW, P, and RS pres as well as B, 1C, 2C, WML, EQP, and HPGL. So women make up 33% of the Council. So while I can agree with the OP, While we could quibble that WC is typically only 1 or 2 meetings out of a four meeting month, I think it would be a big stretch to say major decisions are going on in the other 2 meetings of the month. I don’t think the issue is that women are unrepresented and while you could argue they are under represented, I think the issues are that these meetings are not where decisions in the church get made. THe church, by it’s very design, isn’t a kaizen organization. The Bishop prays to god and gets top-down command. That is the fundamental premise the church operates under, so all these meetings are not counseling with counselors meetings, but are just meetings to make assignments. Gender is not the issue.

  12. I have no idea what Matt W.’s experience in church leadership is, but his “fundamental premise” is completely wrong, and is diametrically opposed to everything that Elder Ballard taught in his “Counseling with our Councils” sermon and to all the leadership training I have participated in during the past two decades. If bishops and stake presidents are as wrong on this issue as Matt is, it’s little wonder that there is frustration among so many in the church who feel that their voices are not heard.

  13. “The Bishop prays to god and gets top-down command. That is the fundamental premise the church operates under, so all these meetings are not counseling with counselors meetings, but are just meetings to make assignments.”

    I think that squawking noise you hear is Elder Ballard choking back his rage. Go read his book, Matt.

  14. Matt W makes a good argument for staying home instead of going to leadership meetings. Why bother sitting through an hour of discussion when the bishop can just email me my assignment?

  15. Jeanine L nails it: “I know when I came home from my mission 25 (cough!) years ago, it felt like I slammed into a brick wall. No one cared about anything I had to contribute to the church.” Me too!

    Matt W.: “The Bishop prays to god and gets top-down command.” You are adorable.

  16. Or Matt W, at least go read Elder Ballard’s General Conference talks from October 1993 and April 1994.

    I can’t tell whether you’re being serious or farcical. If serious then what you subscribe to is not even old school, it’s part of what the Lord was talking about in Section 121. The problem is too many priesthood leaders, Bishops and Stake Presidents especially, act in this way, as Elder Ballard described when Ward Councils were presented with a hypothetical problem to solve:

    Without exception, the bishop took charge of the situation immediately and said, “Here’s the problem, and here’s what I think we should do to solve it.” Then he made assignments to the various ward council members. This was a good exercise in delegation, I suppose, but it did not even begin to use the experience and wisdom of council members to address the problem.

    Eventually I asked the bishop to try again, only this time to solicit ideas and recommendations from his council members before making any assignments. I especially encouraged him to ask the sisters for their ideas. When the bishop opened the meeting to council members and invited them to counsel together, the effect was like opening the floodgates of heaven. A reservoir of insight and inspiration suddenly began to flow between council members as they planned for fellowshipping the less-active family.

    The call of a leader is to spend more time listening and really only speaking as inspired by the Spirit.

  17. Jeannine L. says:

    Matt W. I hope no one ever turns you into a girl. Your head would explode.

  18. When the bishop opened the meeting to council members and invited them to counsel together, the effect was like opening the floodgates of heaven. Humm, I wonder if this would this work at the general level too?

  19. Mark Brown has an interesting point. It may be that men in leadership positions should take into account women’s voices and opinions, they are in no way obligated to do so. What Matt W. has suggested happens more often than not. God speaks to the bishop and the bishop speaks to everyone else as the authority.

    I have watched the dynamics with several bishops at PEC meetings and Ward Councils. The bishop is the center of all conversation. Usually everyone in the meeting addresses the bishop and the bishop, in turn, addresses the attendees, either individually or in groups. The bishop is the presider and the decider. There is little talking around the circle and people do not address themselves to others in the room very often. This is the style of top down management. And when the bishop speaks it is as if God, himself, spoke. So the inclusion of women is a hit or miss deal, depending on the bishop. The bishop has the right to make all decisions in the ward. He shoul
    dn’t do it but he can.

    TQM is a procedure for improving outcomes. If we wanted to apply TQM to the business of the Ward then we would have to set up councils mirroring the TQM model. These councils would have the power to drive change in the Church. In TQM circles every voice counts and no voice is more important than another. This is not the way that Church councils are set up.

    TQM should also set in place procedures to stop problems. The main problem, which the Church is not really addressing, is the vexing problem of getting women into the decision making process. This cannot happen, as Kristine has pointed out. There is no mechanism in place to stop men from exercising unrighteous dominion. There is not enough clout and no mechanism set up whereby the problem can even be presented to the management level where the problem can be addressed.

    So as nice as some bishops are, there will be some (maybe many) to do the wrong thing.

    The way to get women involved is to get them into leadership positions. Unfortunately, to get women included in the management of the Church, or even uniformly listened to, is nearly impossible. Even to set up a TQM system to address women’s problems goes against the top down grain of the Church.

  20. I think the problem with applying TQM or Kaizen or ISO-9000 is that there is a big question about what the product is, what is the outcome. You can’t really measure exaltation. You can look at tithing dollars per capita as an indicator of how invested people are, sort of. You can look at attendance / retention rates, but they are also easily misunderstood. It’s very difficult to measure the quality of decisions. Basically, whatever you can measure can be improved. If you can’t measure it, status quo prevails.

    Plus, retention rates are problematic in that the norm in Mormon culture is to view the person leaving as the flaw, not the result of a flawed process. Aside from E. Uchtdorf, how many were that concerned about attrition at this conference? How many usually are? I heard a celebration of 15M members and a huge increase in the number of missionaries. Several of the talks were perceived as retrenchment, the opposite of welcoming encouragement.

  21. This post nails it.

    Women don’t need encouragement to listen to men in the church precisely because there are systems in place to ensure that it happens. All women’s activities and lesson topics are mandated to get male approval before implementation, texts for women’s classes exclusively quote men, 94% of conference speakers are male, women must be interviewed by men to enter the temple or serve in a calling, women even covenant to hearken to a mortal man in the temple, while men never make such a covenant toward any woman.

  22. The way to get women involved is to get them into leadership positions. Unfortunately, to get women included in the management of the Church, or even uniformly listened to, is nearly impossible.

    I agree with your first sentence. Disagree with your second.

    I have been in many different kinds of wards with very different kinds of leadership. In some wards, the primary president is little more than the person in charge of baby sitting a bunch of kids for two hours every Sunday.

    I have also been in the type of ward where the bishop genuinely allows the primary president to exercise almost universal stewardship over the primary program…the kind of “get out of the way and let them do their job” bishop I wish we had more of. This primary president was very vocal in ward council, and the proper and necessary crossover between auxiliaries allowed everyone in the ward counsel (men AND women) to have significant influence not just on the primary, for example, but on the High Priests, YM, YW, Elders and on the general body of the church.

    When executed correctly, the leadership positions available to women absolutely provide the kind of inclusion in the “management of the church.” Ultimately, however, it becomes difficult based on what type of bishop you have. If the bishop really and truly has a testimony of stewardship, that inclusion is possible. If the bishop is a top-down, unwritten-order-of-things type of bishop, that’s going to be much harder to achieve.

    In my experience, there are generally two types of bishops: the ones that think their job is to make every decision in the ward, and the ones who understand that there is a difference between deciding and presiding.

    But that distinction makes all the difference.

  23. Getting to my mission and on my mission were the constant brick walls for me…all of her hg branch presidents looking over our heads for the “real” missionaries they had been promised, the investigator asking me why he should listen to a woman- it was a very conservative culture…the stake presidency member interviewing me in the first place, the the group of guys sitting me down and telling me I’d be too intimidating if I served…. My MP and his wife were great.

    Since then, there have been moments, but I have been able to workaround them most recently speaking last sunday with a very understanding bishop who is working with me, listening to me, inviting me to come back and brainstorming with me…open to all of my ideas and considering out of the box thinking..my son may be attending another class receiving a calling in primary, attending another ward, getting new leaders…or a mix…but we will figure it out.

    Having dealt with a completely wacked RSP. It is the nature and disposition of all people not just men, to misuse power. I loved council ing with our councils..great book. Patience and persistence and more persistence and a willingness to keep speaking up and ensuring you are heard.

  24. Geoff - A says:

    There is provision I handbook 1, for the Bishop and Stake President to invite whom they want to Bishopric and Stake Presidency meetings. How about either the Relief Society presidency or the the RS president, YW president and Primary president, be permanently invited.

    I put this idea to both my Bishop and Stake President but I think both would not do it unless told from above, and that is not happening.

  25. Thank you, Britt for your comment about wacked RSP and it “being the nature of all people, not just men, to misuse power.” I think that is why I feel getting more women into leadership positions would not necessarily solve all the problems. That was the point of Elder Uctdorf’s talk, we are all human beings with human failings making very human mistakes, and that is not gender specific.

  26. In some wards, the primary president is little more than the person in charge of baby sitting a bunch of kids for two hours every Sunday.

    Jay, do you mean to sound so dismissive? The _entire_ purpose of ward council and administration in general, after all, is to support the in-the-trenches work of Primary and families and all the other organizations that do the real face-to-face gospel work.

  27. I think that is why I feel getting more women into leadership positions would not necessarily solve all the problems.

    Getting women into leadership isn’t a panacea for the entrenched and impossible problems human beings abusing power any more than giving women the vote was, or is, a panacea for those problems in politics. Why should we expect it to be? It’s simply a solution that makes some entrenched problems arising out of the absence of women’s voices less likely to occur. Like women’s suffrage, it’s a organizational structure of increased justice, but hardly the end of human nature.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Eve, I think the point of Jay’s comment was to hold that up as a negative example.

  29. I did not mean to imply I wanted to continues. Omitted female voice…but develop said it well, increased justice but not the end of human nature. Women do have a unique perspective and voice. Viva la difference…that either gender is potentially proud, does not mean we don’t need the unique perspective of each gender.

  30. Ah. Gotcha. Sorry if I misread, Jay.

  31. Holy need to edit. Sorry.

  32. Just a couple of empirical notes. We know (from studies done at BYU even, and therefore inspired :) ) that meetings in which women are under represented lead women to participate less, men to participate more and overall for women to be less influential. This is seen systematically in a wide variety of settings and persists EVEN with high involvement and gender sensitive leaders. It is so deeply rooted in cognition and culture that the only real fix is structural, by changing the gender balance of the group. Hence, even good bishop trying to be as inclusive as possible face a structurally almost insurmountable challenge in getting women’s voices included in parity. The thing is that in many of these studies the participants all think that there is equal contribution but it is quite easy to show through objective measurement that wasn’t the case. Most of these studies are done in such a gendered and patriarchal context as our church, so you would expect that our results would even be worse.

    I would seriously bet the entire contents of my bank and retirement account on the following:

    1) Run a survey of wards asking the ward council members to rate how equal and inclusive the ward is in hearing and including women’s voices.

    2) Take the wards in the top quartile (self-reporting high inclusion). Randomly select 50 wards among those wards.

    3) Record ward council and do metrics on % of words/time spoken by men and by women. # of concrete suggestions made by men and women. % of those suggestions adopted. Do this with unbiased outside researchers following methodological norms.

    I would bet all my money that women speak less, make fewer suggestions and have fewer suggestions adopted than their base representation (30% of words if women make up 30% of the meeting etc.) by statistically significant margin. Anyone willing to take the other side of that bet? Anyone think you would see either no difference (N = 50 so plenty or room for a null result) or women being more influential?

    For fun if any of you are board in ward council one day you should see if you can keep some data (hard to do well without a recording but maybe you can think of some way to get something somewhat reliable) and then report back.

  33. Wow, I am somewhat surprised at how unilaterally I’ve been dismissed here.

    Mark B.- You tell me how your Ward Councils you’ve been to go?

    Kristine- I’ve read the book. I’ve also read Handbook 2 on councils, and the Doctrine and Covenants on the functional role of Bishop as Judge. One of the above three is scripture that if people don’t read, they at least have read to the every four years. One is the a hand book where a team of lawyers tried to take Elder Ballard’s ideas and merge them with the ability for the Bishop to still be the unilateral judge, and one is a book published by Deseret Bookstore. Elder Ballard’s book (or conference talk, which I’ve also read) does not preempt the common attitude I have observed of all other ward leaders deferring to the Bishop in all matters of import. Who calls people to be on the Ward Council? Who decides who gets Welfare? Who decides if the RS president should be in PEC? Who decides what the ward goals should be? Sorry Elder Ballard. Your book was a good read. Just not seeing implementation in the trenches.

    Mark- so true!

    Angela C.- I am pretty adorable, now you mention it.

    OD- You are confusing me being prescriptive when I am being descriptive. It seems your cohorts have done the same. Maybe you have a D&C 121 issue yourself, eh? Or maybe you just misread me as a complete idiot. Maybe I am a complete idiot… etc etc.

    Jeanine L- I will cancel the surgery, for fear of my head. I hope someone does turn you into a person who isn’t so over the top and unkind.

    RW- finally, somebody gets me!

  34. Let me again state that in my comments to this point, I am being descriptive, not prescriptive. I don’t have a solution to the problems, and agree with the OP that the solution will need to come from a “higher pay grade”. I believe for that solution to work at a universal and sustainable scale, the “pay level” will probably need to be God. Anything lower will probably fail. Of course, that denotes some form of top down command to kick things off…

  35. I’ve seen your descriptive scenario in action Matt W. I got to attend ward council at age 17, and was rather naive about all this. Yelled at in the meeting for questioning the Bishop (along the lines of: how dare you, I’m the Bishop, you are here to do what I say…). To say I was startled would be an understatement. I’ve only been required to attend once in the intervening years, and found I was the ‘wet blanket’ asking ‘have you considered this?’ then too. Mostly my callings have been as auxilliary counsellor. My current calling doesn’t get Ward Council representation, which is doubly frustrating, and it has felt I have to stamp and scream to be heard at all. I think we’re making progress now though. I live in hope.

  36. Matt W, so, let’s see. We sustain the Prophet, the First Presidency and the Twelve as prophets, seers and revelators. But when they collectively release a new set of Handbooks for governing the Church administration at the local level, you call it the work of a “team of lawyers…”?

    From Elder Oaks at the introduction of the new Handbooks:

    While handbooks do not have the same standing as the scriptures, they do represent the most current interpretations and procedural directions of the Church’s highest authorities. As President Monson just said, “They have been read and reread, corrected and reread.” Under the direction of the First Presidency, individual chapters were written, read, and approved by the Presiding Bishopric, by the general auxiliary officers, and by General Authorities assigned to the various Church departments. The proposed text was then reviewed and approved by the Quorum of the Twelve, assisted by the Presidency of the Seventy. Finally, the total text was read, modified, and approved by the First Presidency. Throughout this work we have been guided by a sweet spirit of inspiration. We know that these handbooks and their directions, as President Monson has said and as is stated in their introductions, “can facilitate revelation if they are used to provide an understanding of principles, policies, and procedures to apply while seeking the guidance of the Spirit.”

    So while they are not scripture they do represent what our Prophets, Seers, and Revelators indicate will facilitate revelation for how to administer and minister in councils. Everyone is acknowledging that there is a problem and part of it is leaders ignoring the collective calls from those at a higher pay grade to change their ways.

  37. Sorry, that should be a close quote on the second paragraph – the last paragraph are my own thoughts.

  38. Matt W.: I’ve been to a lot of ward and stake councils in the past 30 years, and there’s been a lot of variation in the way those councils have operated, but I think there’s been substantial movement away from your “fundamental premise.” In fact, the “fundamental premise” that I see councils operating under is that inspiration comes best when issues are fully and openly discussed by the entire council. I’ll admit that my experience is limited–I have only attended meetings of councils that I belong to, or that I’ve been assigned to advise–but I’ll hazard a guess that some sort of council meeting nearly every week for the past three decades is a larger sample than yours.

    And I’ll admit that council members have a tendency to defer to the presiding officer–they’re a little like the folks in the old E F Hutton ads once the bishop speaks. So it takes continuing effort to teach bishops to let others speak, to not state their opinion and ask for comments (which tend toward “ok, bishop”). But that effort continues, from worldwide training meetings to regional and stake leadership training. If bishops or stake presidents don’t think that God has spoken on the issue, then they’re simply not listening.

  39. No worries, Eve. Sorry I wasn’t more clear. Those occasions where the “glorified babysitter” analogy has been apt have been where you usually have either a micromanaging bishop or counselor who gives nothing more than marching orders to the primary presidency, which strips them not only of leadership opportunities, but opportunities for meaningful revelation as well. Certainly not the way (I think, at least) the Lord wants his kingdom operated.

  40. For me the frustration is how widely things vary from ward to ward and stake to stake. Some wards I’ve been in women do participate well in ward and other councils. Other’s can be the “standard” type that Matt W describes all the way down to one ward where we were told that we “could pray about who should be called but it would just be for our own benefit as the priesthood really did the calling”. In that ward we only found out when teachers were changed in Sacrament meeting when releases and callings happened. We were told we didn’t need to know any of that information in advance. Most often I’ve observed things in the middle, women can speak out but most won’t. When they do their thoughts count for less unless supported by a male council member. Once one person makes a declaration everyone else just sits back. I’d love it if things were just consistent and I could predict where I fit into the grand scheme of things. It seems like leaders from Salt Lake prefer to hint and nudge toward the behavior they want rather than just stating it plainly as in years past or defer to “we’ve told you this before” and trust that people will study and change. I even called an upper leader once about an issue where I was being told by my Stake President to do something completely opposite of the handbook and was uncomfortable with it. I was completely dismissed and told that a leader wouldn’t ever direct someone counter to the handbook. Um, yes it happens often in my experience.

    Also, as someone who has been in family wards for 27 years and in Primary for 18 of those years (mostly in leadership) “glorified babysitter” is the most common feeling there is about Primary. That the primary program is there to free up the adults to serve in more important areas without worrying what to do with their children is one way it’s been expressed to me.

  41. “the primary program is there to free up the adults to serve in more important areas without worrying what to do with their children”

    That’s pretty much the sentiment expressed by the early apostles: they wanted to get rid of the children so Jesus could turn his attention to his “real business.” Of course we all know what he said in reply.

  42. Who in the world thinks of Primary as “glorified babysitting?” If anything, it is to teach the gospel to children whose parents can’t be bothered to do so. For years it was held during the week to teach the children, when mere babysitting wasn’t a consideration. So many ward callings are in Primary where are these more important areas the parents need to be? Marcella, whoever expressed that sentiment to you was just wrong.

  43. Mark, sitting here thinking about it, I wonder if the main solution to this problem lies with the High Council.

    Too often, as I have observed, the High Council comes to bishopric meeting and/or the ward council and delivers general news and announcements and assignments from the stake presidency, then either dozes off, leaves or sits there in silence.

    I don’t think enough HC members take the opportunity to instruct bishops on how to hold more effective bishopric meetings. If you look at the pattern of the church, the HC acts much in the same way as the Q12 acts for the whole church. The apostles travel the world, preaching and testifying, but also training stake and local leaders, providing correction and counsel to help the Saints be better stewards over their respective stakes and wards.

    I know from experience that, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak when it comes to leadership at the bishopric level. Many times you have an influx in enthusiasm and excitement when a new bishopric is called, and they are all into the handbook, trying to do things the right way. But soon that enthusiasm fizzles and you get settled into a routine where you sometimes are doing things just because you think you’re supposed to do them.

    Instead of just being the Stake Presidency’s messenger system, I wish the HC would provide more training on the ward level to bishops and their counselors, with more observation of what is going on in meetings, who is participating, who is not, who is talking over whom, etc. Taking time during bishopric meeting to say “You know, Bishop, I notice that your primary president doesn’t speak up much during ward council. What can we do to make sure her voice is more heard?” or “You know, Bishop I’ve noticed that you often interject your thoughts early on in a discussion, which seems to really influence the way other people view things. Maybe you might try withholding your thoughts until everyone who wishes to have input has done so, in order to encourage more open dialogue.”

    Is this not precisely the reason we have a High Council?

  44. OD- you are right, the Lawyer comment was over the top. Otherwise, since you are pointing to the handbook, I take it you agree with me. Also, since you point out the top down commands of a general authority I take it you agree with me. Also, since the handbook is where the amount of male to female representation is outlined for meetings, I take it you agree with me.

    Mark B.- Since you agreed that culturally the church defaults to deferring to the bishop, then are you agreeing with me that this isn’t an issue solved by simply having more women in the room more often? That was my point, after all. Can we also agree that major categories of decisions are by their very nature not topics of council discussion? (church discipline, whether or not to administer church aid, who gets what callings, rules of engagement between HPG and EQ, etc) I guess my question is what sort of representation are we looking for. In my exp. Kaizen is about taking a target and improving on the how-to via collaborative but facilitated discussion. My understanding of your point is that women are not given enough of a voice in church decision making, and that it will take institutional change management in order to improve this. I agree with this point. What I am attempting to contribute is the observation that any individuals excluded from the leadership process are excluded from the process because there is an institutional conflict between asking God to reveal the way (top down) and working together as a team to come to a solution (Kaizen). Our church generally is a proponent of both, where it wants to be modern in decision making but also give the bishop institutional authority as the judge in Isreal. I think there is a natural tension between these two concepts.

  45. What if the goal of the council was to achieve consensus? Everyone would need to present their views in a discussion. Instead of automatically deferring to the Bishop for the solution to a problem, everyone would need to come to agreement on the course of action. The bishop becomes the facilitator of the discussion and keeps it on topic. It’s a messy way of getting to a decision, and quite different from merely having passive (and at times resentful) nods of agreement.

  46. Good “discussion.” Many comments I can relate to.

    As a male, leader or clerk, I attended Ward Council meetings off and on for about 30 years. As an “enlightened’ (by my wife and daughters, as well as changing societal norms) man with regard to the value and worth of women (and their thoughts) both at church and at work, I have long bemoaned the lack of attention/respect for women’s thoughts in leadership meetings at church.

    Two observations: 1. Over the course of this 30 years, all but one of the 7 bishops “leading” these meetings made no overt effort to include/exclude the women from contributing/speaking up. That one bishop was a “chauvinist pig.” and, 2. Women rarely spoke up to any meaningful degree regarding issues (as contrasted with assignments) that arose.

    My current working hypothesis: Women in the church that are given leadership roles are, mostly, uncomfortable “speaking up” and need to be constantly encouraged to do so.

    Lastly, Ballard’s book was published in 1997. He gave conference talks about his concepts/advice as early as 1994. Why did it take our inspired leaders over 13 years to endorse those concepts and include them in the General Handbook? Have they been clueless, or was God clueless, or was God not talking to them?

  47. Matt W. Having more women in the room more often isn’t likely to change things, although Mark (no B.) raises an important point–requiring unanimity is one way to avoid marginalizing certain viewpoints. And unanimity has both scriptural and academic support.

    Other than church discipline and the administration of fast offering funds or bishops storehouse goods, I’m not sure why those topics you mention would not be proper matters for discussion in ward or branch councils. And administration of assistance to the needy (either F.O. money or storehouse commodities) should be determined in a council of two–the bishop and the relief society president. Any bishop who doesn’t counsel with the RS president in those circumstances is a fool. (I could have put that more gently, as in “is depriving himself of the best advice available,” but I trust you catch my drift.) Same with extending callings–there is great safety in counseling with the auxiliary head making the recommendation–perhaps even more so when the inclination on the part of the bishopric is to reject the recommendation. Note that these might not involve the entire ward council, but the principles of counseling together are just as applicable.

    As to the “top down” model, I don’t think that’s the message we’ve been getting for years. As Elder Ballard taught, “When the bishop opened the meeting to council members and invited them to counsel together, the effect was like opening the floodgates of heaven.” The message to bishops and stake presidents is, “If you want inspiration for your ward/stake, you’re most likely to receive it through your ward/stake councils.”

  48. Regarding “speaking up”, this is something that can affect men as well (though I strongly suspect what we see is a conflict between gender-based communication strategies, as socio-linguists like Deborah Tannen have argued.)

    Elder Maxwell, by way of complimenting Pres. Faust, was quoted as saying “’There is a tendency among some at Church headquarters to be so obedient that people don’t speak up.’ He praised Elder Faust for his willingness to be candid with the Brethren.” James P. Bell, In the Strength of the Lord: The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 146.

    I suspect many of us need to follow and pray the Mormon Serenity Prayer and speak up.

  49. Since I’ve now read through this entire discussion, here are some thoughts.

    I’m glad to see that rah and Mark B. mention the Chris Karpowitz (Mendelberg, Shaker) study. (pdf) Simply having a woman at a meeting does not mean that her point of view will be heard.

    I don’t know that Matt W’s description of how some believe the Church operate is an isolated case. Many church members, male and female, may never attend a ward council during their entire lives. It’s been a concern for my husband, so while he was serving as EQ Pres several years ago, he made sure that both of his counselors had the opportunity to attend. And even if members do attend, if they’re in a top-down kind of ward, they might never see the true power of a collaborative council.

    I’ve worked in presidencies in the women’s auxiliaries that worked both ways: top down and collaborative, and the collaborative presidencies allowed for some memorable revelatory experiences during presidency meetings. The top-down model tended to become irritating pretty quickly, and led to significant burn-out.

    About speaking up in ward councils, if you’ve been treated in marginalizing ways your whole life — either subtle or blatant — suddenly being expected to speak up and have an opinion can be a difficult thing. If you’re expecting the bishop to make a unilateral decision anyway, why bother speaking up; if some aggressive male in the group disagrees with you loudly, or if the decision goes the other way, you could risk looking like a fool, or risk losing some of your limited social capital. And if speaking up is perceived as being disrespectful to the bishop’s “direct line to heaven,” that could jeopardize your social capital even further.

    But there is reason to be optimistic. Change is possible. The new youth program, “Come, Follow Me,” very much emphasizes the principle of having every person in the group speak up, participate in teaching and leading, and being heard. If the recommendations are not ignored by youth leaders and teachers who want to keep doing things the old way, it could result in a dramatic cultural shift over the next few decades.

  50. No Matt W, your interpretation of the manual leaves something to be desired and is off the mark when compared to how the training was presented and how those who authored it have directed Bishops and Stake Presidents to operate.

    Does the bishop have administrative and spiritual stewardship for the Ward? Yes. But not to rule it by fiat. Presidents of quorums and auxiliaries have the rights to revelation for their specific stewardship. Decision making is distributed. No bishop should come in and tell a primary president who to call for a specific calling. Instead, it is the primary president who submits a name that she has prayed over and received revelation is the person to call. A bishop confirms and only if there is a concern then the bishopric and the president counsel together why the request might not be appropriate – perhaps information to which the president might not be privy – and once they agree on the right course of action the president continues consideration and returns with a different name or the bishop may receive inspiration that the call was correct from the primary president.

    This is where the gentle persuasion part comes into play. It is never by fiat that a Bishop should attempt to make changes that impacts an auxiliary or quorum.

    As a bishopric we rarely overturn a calling request and largely that is because first, we recognize and honor their stewardship and second, we counsel together with the Presidents and their Presidencies on a regular basis so that collectively we understand the objectives that we’re trying to achieve because collectively we have developed those objectives and agree on them.

    As for welfare needs, again while the bishop has oversight of welfare matters, I would suggest you need to go back and reconsider Hanbook 2 Section 6.2.4 where it explains that much of the welfare support, especially for long term needs, is handled by the quorums and the Relief Society. Following the training as explained by Elder Cook:

    The primary effort of the ward council is the work of salvation in the ward. Many issues now come directly to the bishop. Hopefully this will change as bishops delegate more matters in ward council meetings and/or privately to individuals, including such items as welfare, retention, activation.

    While the bishop will continue to handle problems that require a common judge in Israel he can, with the consent of the member seeking repentance, delegate to others the extensive counseling that may be necessary to assist members recovering from addictions or who need help with financial issues, family matters, or other problems.

    The bishop has the keys but much of the ministering and administering, including the decisions need not come directly from him. We establish welfare councils that bring in members of RS, EQ or HP, the Ward employment specialist, and a member of the bishopric who collectively work together with a member who is struggling with financial needs. The bishop has oversight but he doesn’t make all the decisions – in fact, that’s part of what delegating that responsibility is all about.

  51. 1) Sometimes, just waiting for leaders to speak and then doing what leaders say is a bad idea and, at the extreme, an acceptance of Lucifer’s plan.

    2) Sometimes, just understanding and doing what our leaders have been asking and counseling us to do for years would solve so many problems.

    Greater participation in the Church by women is something we need to increase greatly, but examples like how to run a Ward Council properly and how to use fast offering funds fit the second statement above very well.

    Also, when men have authority that women don’t have, those men generally won’t give women new authority if those men aren’t already willing to work with women as those women use the power and exercise the authority they already have. Too often, however, the men don’t even understand the power and authority the women already have. I think if all men in the Church understood what power and authority women have been given already (that which with they have been “endowed”, and not just in the temple), the men would be more open to women exercising that power and authority in more ways – and also be more open to not seeing that exercise of power and authority as “new” and, therefore, threatening.

    I don’t think women in the Church need more theoretical power, per se. I think women in the Church need more authority to use the power they theoretically have already in ways that aren’t open to them currently – which, naturally, would increase the practical power they possess. The central issue, I believe, is less one of personal power and more one of institutional authorization – and I think we don’t make that important distinction enough.

  52. I think y’all are doing a little too much posturing in your righteous indignation over Matt W’s comments. For the last 40 years the church has become more and more hierarchical with independent action on the local level being replaced with top down instructions and management. Area authorities and stake presidents regularly unilaterally assert their authority in stake and ward management. Who is to blame if a bishop copies that model in his ward? As the OP is pointing out, maybe it’s not the bishop’s fault, maybe it’s a structural fault.

    If shared decision making by inspired councils is the law of the Lord why aren’t there stake councils made up of bishops to share management with the stake president? Why aren’t there area councils made of stake presidents to share management with the area authorities? To tell Matt W that we are shocked and outraged that unilateral management styles by bishops is common in many wards is to ignore the structure that models that style of management.

  53. Frustrated says:

    I can’t even remember the last time our presidency submitted a name for a calling that was accepted. My experience is that we are asked to submit names, those names are rejected with no explanation, and then we play guessing games for weeks as to who the Bishopric will accept. The last time I was asked to submit a name, I asked if we could cut to the chase and to give me a few names who we could pick from. I was told that’s not how the process works. Whatever.

  54. It seems to me that there is a tendancy for “weak” leadership (that is, leadership that is not particularly interested in hearing opposing views) to put into place weak auxilliary leaders (that is, yes men and women). An insecure bishop may, for example, place a young and inexperienced sister as the Primary president, a particularly obedient or compliant sister in charge of YW, or men unlikely to ruffle feathers as his counsellors. These are leaders, good competant people, I’m sure, who are unlikely to participate in ward council beyond attending and agreeing. I am sure a good many of us opinionated people have felt voiceless because we are not likely pickings for those callings. The odds for being rotated into service are much better for active opinionated men of a certain age than they are for active opinionated women of any age.

  55. KLC, there several councils within the Stake, just like there are in the Ward:

    1. Stake Council – This council is composed of the stake presidency, high council, stake clerk, stake executive secretary, and stake Relief Society, Young Men, Young Women, Primary, and Sunday School presidents. Meets regularly to discuss matters at a Stake level similar to the Ward Council’s mission.

    2. Stake Bishops Welfare Council – Includes all Bishops and a member of the Stake Presidency – meets regularly to coordinate efforts, share best practices, screen community resources, evaluate the Stake’s resources, and coordinate efforts.

    3. Multi-Stake Coordinating Councils – Stake Presidents are members and the councils are led under the direction of the Presidency of the Seventy or an Area Seventy. They focus on missionary and welfare coordination generally.

    4. High Council – comprised of representative High Priests from each Ward and meets independently as well as the Stake Priesthood Executive Committee with the Stake Presidency.

    5. Stake Aaronic Priesthood – Young Women Committee – comprised of Stake YW and YM leaders, Stake Presidency, High Councilors assigned to YM and YW, and youth invited to participate. Focus on activities at the Stake level.

    Councils really are supposed to be the center of inspiration and decision making for most of the ministration and administration of the Church from families all the way up to First Presidency.

  56. I think that D&C 121 is just as applicable to Area Authorities and Stake Presidents as they are to bishops and elders quorum presidents. And my experience in working with them has been that they’re trying to follow those principles in carrying out their duties in the church. I’m sorry, KLC, if your experience has been otherwise. You might want to consider moving to a place where the church is actually true.

  57. *”it is”

    That’s what I get for rewriting on the fly and not re-reading carefully.

  58. KLC, for the past 20 years or so, the top Church leadership has emphasized making as many decisions as possible at the lowest level where it is appropriate. That instruction has been explicit and repetitious.

    I can remember when a Bishop whom I knew quite well was called. He asked the Stake President what his responsibilities were – what he should do. The Stake President replied, “Make sure your ward has Sacrament Meeting every week. Pray and consult the handbook to figure out everything else.” The Bishop then asked about a specific situation. The Stake President replied, “I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m not the Bishop. You are.”

    That conversation was representative of most of the Stake Presidents I have known in my life – and I have know quite a few.

  59. OD, I’m aware of the councils you list; Mark B. I’m aware of DC121; Ray I’m aware of statements like that to bishops. But in every ward and stake I’ve lived in the stake president may solicit comments, he may involve others, but ultimately his word is law. He does what he wants when he wants to. Area authorities do likewise. They don’t couch it in those terms, they will tell you it’s inspiration, but unilateral management styles are alive and well at all levels of the church. It’s baked into the system.

  60. If that’s true, Ray, it’s no wonder that so many wards and presidencies seem to revert to a top-down style of leadership. People need better training than that.

  61. Amy, I never said or implied there was no training and no follow-up – or that the training was bad. I believe we need better training, in almost all situations and callings, but my comment didn’t address that issue at all, really. I’m saying the philosophy hasn’t been, “Do what I tell you to do” – which was the gist of KLC’s statement.

    KLC, you said, “Area authorities and stake presidents regularly unilaterally assert their authority in stake and ward management.” I don’t know the last time, in multiple locations around the United States that I have seen an Area Authority or Stake President “regularly, unilaterally assert their authority” in ward management. I know it probably happens occasionally, but I’ve not seen it, and I’ve not heard of it where I’ve lived – and I’ve been in callings where I would have heard about it had it been happening.

  62. Ray here’s some examples off the top of my head. 30 years ago the ward I grew up in managed youth temple baptisms as it saw fit. They scheduled them after consulting the leaders and coordinated them to fit the needs of the ward. Today my ward gets the word each year that we are assigned to be at the temple for youth baptisms on these days at this time, end of discussion. These assignments do not come from the stake, they come from higher up. A few years ago we were assigned to do them on a Wed afternoon at 3:30pm, which meant dealing with rush hour traffic in West LA, gathering the kids from schools that got out at 2:30pm. Plus it was the first week of school and the first day of early morning seminary. Could we change that given the circumstances? Of course not, this is the Lord’s will, the Lord’s work, the Lord’s house, etc, etc, etc. In other words, we have decided for you, and who are you to question?

    Second example, the ward I grew up in scheduled ward temple trips in the same manner, as needed based on local circumstances. Today my ward is informed by the stake that we will have 8 ward temple nights per year, end of discussion. They made the decision, we deal with it.

    Third example, I’ve always been able to discern what kind of scripture study I need or want. A few years ago our stake president decided it was his stewardship to set scripture study goals for all of us. This year he wants us to read the Book of Mormon. If it were just a suggestion that would be fine, but instead it is hammered home in every High Council talk and every stake conference that it is our duty and responsibility to faithfully read the BofM because he decided we should, after consulting with God, of course. Who am I to argue with god and the stake president?

  63. KLC, 30 years ago, making sure all youth in a temple district could attend the temple, particularly more than once a year, was no big deal. Literally, it was easy. That is not the case anymore. It is a logistics issue now, not an example of negative intervention – and it is not unilateral decision making, either.

    Stake Presidents asking members in their stakes to read a particular volume of scripture is not an issue of “ward management”. I don’t like it as a practice, but it’s not a good example of your actual charge – and it has happened to varying degrees all my life.

  64. Let me clarify, KLC.

    I see a Bishop asking all the members of a ward to read a specific volume of scripture in the exact same way I see a Stake President doing it at the stake level. I don’t like either one as a practice. It is an example of asserting one’s self into personal lives, but it is not an example of asserting one’s self into ward management.

  65. *inserting

  66. KLC, in 25 years I’ve never seen it managed by a Stake President or Area Authority in the manner that you describe. And I’ve lived on the East Coast, Mountain West and the Midwest.

    As Ray said, much of the direction around temple visits, especially youth temple baptisms is driven by the Temple Presidency working to establish a schedule that they can manage. Which isn’t “higher up” but instead from the authority who actually has responsibility for managing the availability of the temple and the workers necessary to support it. Youth temple baptisms are particularly challenging because there is only one font and generally only one or two youth groups can use it at a time because the seating in the baptistry can only accommodate so many. With so many temples you now have more direct access to the temples but this means for each temple district a deeper level of management is required.

    As for Stake Presidencies setting the number of Ward temple trips? That’s overstepping the bounds. Discussions can be had and recommendations can be made. We schedule one every month with Stake temple days once a quarter so it equates out to 8 times a year. In fact in most Wards I’ve attended that’s the general schedule. We work to offer members once a month they can go with the Ward if they choose but we and the Stake Presidency are expressly taught that requiring any specific number for temple attendance is overstepping.

  67. it's a series of tubes says:

    Third example, I’ve always been able to discern what kind of scripture study I need or want

    This year he wants us to read the Book of Mormon. If it were just a suggestion that would be fine, but instead it is hammered home in every High Council talk and every stake conference that it is our duty and responsibility to faithfully read the BofM because he decided we should, after consulting with God, of course. Who am I to argue with god and the stake president?

    Has your “discernment” coincided with the express direction of a prophet WRT daily BOM study?
    https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1988/10/flooding-the-earth-with-the-book-of-mormon?lang=eng

    Very rarely do we get such express “must not” or “He has revealed to me” statements from the very top; it seems disengenuous to suggest there is much wiggle room in those statements.

  68. tubes, if you want to equate your stake president with the prophet be my guest, but I won’t join you in that exercise.

    Ray and OD, we’re getting sidetracked here, quibbling over definitions. Let me draw back and try to return to the bigger picture. Matt W. tried to use the handbook and the scriptures as evidence that a unilateral style of management was ingrained in our church. I tried a different approach to arrive at the same conclusion. Rather than scriptures and handbook I think that our organizational structure teaches a unilateral style of management. The higher you go in the church the more unilateral it becomes. If the prophet or the Twelve or the area presidency or even your stake president say, “Do this and do it this way on this timetable” do we quibble or wonder if they are overstepping their boundaries or ask if they have the blessing of a council to support their decision? Not in my experience. When they ask something of us we do it, and we do it willingly. And I’m not saying that is a bad thing, I’m just saying that is how it is. It is also how it is with our temples and our full time missions, when the authoritative leader says, “We’ll do this” we follow. All of my examples may not fit your definition of asserting authority but they are examples of unilateral decision making. No council gave input to the temple or the stake about reading goals or baptism trips, no one asked for our opinion, no surveys were taken, no alternate points of view were solicited. We got the word and we were expected to follow. That is how our church is organized, those are the covenants we make in the temple. So why are we surprised when a bishop emulates the leadership style that is followed every where else in the church? Is the fault in the bishop or in the organization that has taught him?

    And I’m not saying that councils aren’t a good thing, and that the voice of everyone, male and female, is not important or valuable. I’m only saying that if we want that kind of leadership on the most local level perhaps we should re-evaluate the examples given at higher levels.

  69. “I’m only saying that if we want that kind of leadership on the most local level perhaps we should re-evaluate the examples given at higher levels.”

    and I’m saying the actual examples at higher levels more often than not actually are council-driven (whether that be the FP – which is a council in and of itself – or the Q12 – which is another council – or any other presidency or broader council) – and that the difference is almost completely individual personality based – and that the top leadership has been trying for years (decades even) to get the lower-level leadership to get away from unilateral decision-making and use the council model as the default.

  70. Ray, I certainly agree that they have been trying for years to get us to use councils instead of unilateral decision making. I don’t agree that our leaders do such a great job of following that advice on their own levels. For every group decision like the Proclamation on the Family, I see too many unilateral decisions like the member of the 12 who visited our stake and gave very specific instructions about music which could not be found in any handbook. And that brings me again back to the OP,

    “Let’s say that a mistake keeps getting made at the same place on the assembly line. It might be that the worker at that place (let’s call him Mr. Brown, like in the missionary discussions) is incompetent or doesn’t care. But when the same problem keeps happening on different shifts and in different plants, we can know that the problem is not the worker, but the system itself.”

    Thanks for taking the time to engage and discuss.

  71. “I don’t agree that our leaders do such a great job of following that advice on their own levels.”

    As individuals, like an apostle visiting somewhere, I understand and agree with what you are saying – and I don’t disagree with the section from the OP that you quoted. We absolutely do have system issues that still need attention and correction. I just think we are moving to a more council-based model of decision-making as an organization than we have been and that organizational decisions at the higher levels generally are council-driven rather than unilateral – and I missed that in how I read your previous comments.

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion, as well. Thanks.

  72. it's a series of tubes says:

    tubes, if you want to equate your stake president with the prophet be my guest, but I won’t join you in that exercise.

    That’s a fine recasting of my comment into an unrelated straw man.

    Here are exemplary quotations from the linked general conference address by ETB in 1988:
    “At present, the Book of Mormon is studied in our Sunday School and seminary classes every fourth year. This four-year pattern, however, must not be followed by Church members in their personal and family study. We need to read daily from the pages of the book”

    “He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner”

    If you prefer your “discernment” as superior to these clear statements from a prophet that daily BOM study is the expectation, be my guest, but I won’t join you in that exercise.

  73. tubes, the stake president didn’t encourage us to maintain an ongoing study of the BofM, he didn’t even ask us to set a goal to accomplish that. I think that is what President Benson was instructing us to do in that talk, which I heard first hand by the way. Instead he specifically told us that he wants us to read the BofM through during this year from cover to cover. I can accomplish President Benson’s counsel without heeding my SP’s. I can decide what is most important for me to study based on the counsel of my leaders and my needs. I don’t need my SP setting those goals for me. But I think you knew that. Putting scare quotes around discernment and berating me for thinking myself superior to the prophet are much more fun, aren’t they?

  74. it's a series of tubes says:

    KLC, I don’t disagree with what you just posted. But look at your original post that I quoted. As you phrased it, you appeared to be disagreeing with your SP because “he wants us to read the Book of Mormon”; had you provided the clarifying details in your last post in the original one, I think your disagreement with the SP’s approach would have been clearer while also making it clear that your didn’t disagree with ETB’s prior clear counsel on the topic.

  75. You’re right, I didn’t explain myself. I’ll keep this in mind for next time.

  76. Are we really debating the merits of our church leaders encouraging us to read the Book of Mormon?

    President Benson wasn’t just “encouraging us to maintain an ongoing study of the Book of Mormon.” The talk was about “flooding” our lives with the study of the Book of Mormon.

    Take this statement from his talk, for example:

    “And when we are called upon to study or teach other scriptures, we need to strengthen that undertaking by frequent reference to the additional insights which the Book of Mormon may provide on the subject”

    I read that as, “Hey, feeling inspired or prompted to study the Bible? Great! But while you’re at it, pull out your Book of Mormon and use it to help you in your study of the Bible.”

    But this isn’t some casual suggestion. As tubes noted, this is one of those talks that is as close to “thus saith the Lord” as you can get in our modern prophetic age.

    In that context, I find no offense with a stake presidency manifesting Pres. Benson’s request to “flood the earth with the Book of Mormon” through a challenge to read the Book of Mormon within a certain time frame any more than I took offense at Pres. Hinckley’s various specific missionary challenges. I see that as a stake president doing his part to flood his stake with the Book of Mormon.

    Too often, I think we dismiss the counsel of our leaders in favor of “personal revelation.” Could it not be that, when we kneel down and ask the Lord for guidance on what we should study, perhaps he delivers it in the form of those he has chosen to lead us at the local level?

  77. Jay: “Are we really debating the merits of our church leaders encouraging us to read the Book of Mormon?”

    No, I don’t think we are.

  78. “Are we really debating the merits of our church leaders encouraging us to read the Book of Mormon?”

    No, we aren’t.

    “In that context, I find no offense with a stake presidency manifesting Pres. Benson’s request to “flood the earth with the Book of Mormon” through a challenge to read the Book of Mormon…”

    Nor do I find offense. In fact this has nothing to do with why I used it as an example.

    “Too often, I think we dismiss the counsel of our leaders in favor of “personal revelation.”

    Agreed, but too often we dismiss counsel in favor of authoritarian unilateral decisions.

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