Neylan McBaine is the founder of the Mormon Women Project (www.mormonwomen.com), a non-profit creating a continuously expanding digital library of interviews with LDS women from around the world. She blogs at neylanmcbaine.com.
Although it’s been almost a year and a half since I spoke at the FairMormon conference and introduced the term “cooperative ministry” in the context of gender relations in LDS church governance, I still receive emails from readers citing how the talk affected them. Sometimes, a reader will share with me a story from his or her personal experience at church in which men and women worked collaboratively and cooperatively to make sure all members feel seen, appreciated and included. These are stories of frustration turned into innovation, voicelessness turned into respect. I treasure these examples of how our local leaders, male and female, are using their spiritual imaginations to create a new gender culture at church, all within the approved Handbook structure to which we are currently bound.
I’d like to share these stories. I know they’re happening around the church, in ways many of us have not ever thought of. The Mormon Women Project is planning to launch a repository of stories that demonstrate how women and men are cooperating in church governance at ward, stake or mission levels. The purpose of publishing these stories is to draw attention to the many grassroots initiatives that make Mormon women more visible and involved in their local communities. We hope that these stories will instill hope and confidence that much good is happening, and that they will give specific ideas for how we can each improve in our own spheres of influence.
To this end, I am launching an official call for submissions: share your story with us. Has a woman been used in a unique way in your ward leadership? Have you as a leader included women in innovative positions? Do you have an example of how a male leader highlighted the voices and contributions of women? Email me at email@example.com. Our official guidelines and requests are below.
The Mormon Women Project, which I founded four years ago on Sunday, offers a continuously growing library of women who successfully navigate the intersection of life and faith. Once we collect these stories, we will be adding a new resource to the site that is a continuously growing library of stories that demonstrate the successful navigation of gender and governance. Please take a minute to join us.
Guidelines for submitting a story or example to the Mormon Women Project collection:
1. Your suggestion must be in line with the 2010 Church Handbook.
2. Your suggestion should not demean, criticize or express anger towards men or male church leaders.
3. Please email your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that submissions are anonymous. The Mormon Women Project reserves the right not to publish a submission.
For specific submission ideas, please consider the following examples:
I particularly recall an occasion when the Bishop announced in Sacrament meeting that the young men in the ward would be given the opportunity to raise money for their activities by placing flags in the front yards of homes within the ward boundaries. All members and neighbors were invited to give a particular amount of money to the young men and in return, on special national holidays, the flags would be placed in their yards. I had recently been released from serving in Young Women and I well knew how little money there was available for their activities. I was upset. And during the week, as I thought about the announcement, I became more upset. Finally, my husband said, “Kathy, go talk to the Bishop. He’ll listen to you.” So, I called his office at work and made an appointment to visit with him. I laid out my concerns and my rationale for why the planned money-raising activity for the Young Men seemed unfair. He listened, asked some questions, but made no commitments. I could do nothing more. I wondered if my meeting had done any good, and when I heard nothing from him, I began to think that the original decision would stand. But, a week later the Bishop sat down next to me before Sacrament meeting and said, “Kathy, I just want you to know that we are going to involve the young women in the project. And you were not the only woman who came to see me. I heard from several!” Courageously, but courteously advocating for those we are called to serve had made a difference. I have consistently found that to be true.
By a mission president via personal correspondence
My wife and I just returned from [a major U.S. city] where we presided over the mission. Right from the beginning I determined that it would be our mission and that my wife would be included in as many ways as possible. She’s a very capable person who’s been an early morning seminary teacher, YW leader, etc and mother of six. She’s also a convert with a different perspective than me. In nearly every training session with missionaries she was a teacher, not stuff like recipes and mending socks, but doctrinal or whatever she felt they needed to hear. She regularly counseled with missionaries on emotional and motivational issues – both sisters and elders. When we had our meeting to decide on transfers and leadership callings she was there to give her counsel. She many times knew things or had impressions that hadn’t occurred to me. We didn’t have zone leader councils but changed them to mission councils and always invited four sisters to attend along with the zone leaders. We made sure the sisters knew we wanted them to participate and give their counsel. We found that there were many ways to include the sisters more and hold them up as examples of faithful, diligent missionaries (which they were). We had more sisters than most missions. I felt like we were blessed to have that many.