Otterson Letter: A Response from Two BCC Bloggers

By RJH and Angela C

Does the letter address Mormon feminists’ concerns?

RJH: Michael Otterson admits that some women feel “demeaned or marginalized” at church but goes on to lay blame at the feet of local leaders, suggesting that better training  is the solution. I doubt that this will allay feminists’ concerns, who mostly see the problem of women’s status in the church as structural. Even the wisest bishop cannot do anything about the fact that the administrative structure of the church does not give women an equal voice with men. A woman at a disciplinary council will still be judged by a room full of men; a fourteen year old boy will still have a public profile at church (sacrament administration, home teaching) that a girl does not share; a Relief Society president still has to have her budget approved by a man; the talks at General Conference are still overwhelmingly given by men. We might argue that these things are the way they should be but that is not the point, which is simply that “local leaders” can do very little about them. I know I try my hardest but the system only allows a tiny bit of leeway.

AC: As far as feminist concerns go, the letter is a mixed bag.  On the upside, it’s clear that blogs are being read, at least some of them, including comments (the quotation in Bro. Otterson’s letter was from a popular comment on FMH blog).  Also, there is a desire to appear empathetic to women.  The word “feminist” is used in a positive way, although that positive view is limited by a tone argument (if feminists ask nicely and are well behaved, we’ll listen to them).  In doing this, Bro. Otterson is making it clear that some feminists are acceptable and will be heard while implying others are not and will not.  The danger is that, like most long missives from the church, there is plenty of latitude in here for local leaders (so easily identified as rogues in section two) to continue to be rogues, demanding temple recommends from women deemed to be the wrong kind of feminist.  My own experience has been positive in terms of local leadership, so to me the focus on local leadership feels like a dodge.  It’s top leadership that has yet to demonstrate a clear understanding of women’s issues.

How much contact with the rank-and-file do senior Mormon leaders really have?

AC: Obviously, they have contact with their extended family members, and I have also observed that members living abroad have more access to senior Mormon leaders than do those living in the US, except those who happen to be related to people who are connected.  It seems to me that they often hold group meetings with local leaders in these overseas trips (a great opportunity to reign in the rogues I would think).  The real issue is that members are very deferential to authority in the church, which partly correlates with political conservative values (according to Jonathan Haidt’s studies).  It is also due to the culture within the church, that I know many senior leaders are eager to dispel, of worshiping our leaders.  People line up around the block to shake their hands, sing “Follow the Prophet” and “We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet,” and gush to one another about brushes with fame when they *gasp* saw an apostle in person (speaking of which, I sat in front of E. Oaks in a production of King Lear once).  Many interactions are fraught with this perception of inequality in status.  All leaders suffer from that to some extent, but in the church there’s an added religious component to the worship.

RJH: By accident of family, I have had contact with senior leaders in greater measure than most (still small), especially for someone who lives outside of the Mormon corridor. They are good men. However, I would not characterise these contacts has particularly “normal.” Our mode of interaction with the Brethren is extremely deferential and so I question the assertion that they fully experience the members’ everyday lives. Again, this is not a criticism, just an assertion of reality. This is why it is essential that Public Affairs play the role of mediator, especially with the “difficult” groups.

Was the defence of male-only ordination convincing?

RJH: No, because of all of the ways Julie Smith has pointed out. An appeal to the New Testament is simply not going to work. The best argument is a Mormon one: only men are ordained because that is how authorised Mormon leaders see the doctrine of the priesthood, and thus we believe it to be God’s will. Given our history of having new light and knowledge revealed to us (plural marriage, blacks), the core request of Ordain Women does not seem unreasonable to me.

AC: This is a church of ongoing revelation.  To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, why quote a dead lion when you have a living dog?  Additionally, the scriptures are not clear on this matter.  Women are called prophetess and apostle in the Bible, which the church hand-waves away as meaning something else, some girl thing not equivalent to the man version; honestly, I don’t think women in the church are buying this explanation, and I’m talking about normal non-fringe women I sit next to every week in Relief Society.  Other churches and biblical scholars interpret these scriptures more directly.  Is it any wonder women want a revelation to clear up the matter?  More disturbingly,  the letter implies that women who seek ordination are unworthy by comparing them to a milquetoast, docile version of Jesus’ female followers, again implying that true followers of Jesus would never ever ask tough questions that make people uncomfortable.  I don’t see these women that way at all, and I certainly don’t perceive Jesus as someone who would disapprove of people asking tough questions.  On the contrary, he exemplified challenging the existing authorities, using his intelligence and common sense.  I suppose that’s because we project the qualities we admire onto them to fill in the gaps in the narrative.  Bro. Otterson’s portrayal of what Jesus would approve and disapprove probably says more about him than about Jesus (as would my own portrayal of the same, I hasten to add).

Should Public Affairs meet with Ordain Women?

AC: I can’t help but think of the quote from 1776:  “Well, in all my years I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.”  In my experience as a business executive, I often had to meet with groups of employees who were unhappy with various things or wanted their needs to be known.  It’s tricky because you want to meet all reasonable needs, you want to create an environment where the things that are bothering people don’t get in the way of them doing their job, and you also want to have time to do all the other things that are on your plate. Meeting with Ordain Women would be a fairly easy thing to do, and it would clarify the common ground.  Ignoring discontent only makes it grow due to speculation.  I’ve had lots of groups I dreaded meeting with that turned out to be quite reasonable in person.  There’s something about sitting in the same room together, in this case I assume opening with a prayer, and seeking to understand their needs and find common ground.  It takes a little time investment, but it saves so much time.  The other comparison I keep thinking about is being a missionary.  I talked to all kinds of people who were on the fringes of society:  drunk people, prostitutes, the mentally ill.  That’s the beauty of the gospel.  You meet people where they are.  Why don’t we do that within the church as well as without?  If the members of OW are apostate (an assertion I question), then all the more reason to meet with them.  Don’t we want them to stay in the church, even if they make PR’s job more challenging?  My husband and I love all our children, not just when they do what we say and don’t challenge our authority.

RJH: Yes. The meeting with Mormon Women Stand was very unfortunate because it signalled, intentionally or not, that the church is only interested in dialogue with “good” Mormon women. Even the the refusal to  name Ordain Women is disrespectful. The letter calls for civil dialogue but cannot help itself from getting jabs in with words such as “apostasy” and “extreme.” The unwillingness to engage is not only upsetting to Ordain Women, I imagine, but also the many women who may not share the desire for ordination but who are sympathetic to their basic starting point: that certain women’s voices are not valued. It’s not fair, perhaps, to compare the church with a world faith of the scale of the Roman Catholic Church, but it may be worth pondering for a moment the incredibly positive impression that Pope Francis is making. The Catholics are not formally liberalising their teachings in any way, but Francis (prompted in some ways by his PR advisers no doubt) has shown a willingness to engage with people beyond the safe halls of the Vatican: interviews with secular newspapers, impromptu press conferences, phone calls to ordinary Catholics whose lifestyle choices have been less than ideal. There is something to learn here, perhaps. Beyond OW, I would suggest Public Affairs meet with some Bloggernacle women too, given that they seem interested in Mormon blogging. I can think of  five who should be top of the list.

Comments

  1. Great job, RJH and AC.

  2. Really good assessment. Very fair.

  3. Martine S says:

    I agree. Otterson’s deliberate refusal to name Ordain Women while indirectly referring to them is disrespectful of fellow Saints. Although, perhaps that will give some OW supporters an argument against local leaders anxious to take action against them. “How do you know Michael Otterson called OW apostates? He didn’t name anyone.”

    A face to face meeting might go a long way to tone down the rhetoric. I’d like to believe that would certainly be the outcome but given Otterson’s tone and his continued insistence on mischaracterizating OW’s polite request as a non-negotiable demand, I’m not sure. Kate has stated it’s PH she’s asking President Monson to pray about. My interpretation, and I’M NOT speaking for Kate Kelly or OW is that, this is what is non-negotiable. The answer might be no, or it might be “later, be patient.” But what I get is that she’s not asking for President Monson to pray about policy changes, or incremental moves to female equality.

  4. Mark Brown says:

    Good work, both of you.

    Best part of the letter: the institutional church is trying to understand.

    Worst part of the letter: It shows that the church, to this point, has utterly and completely failed to understand both the nature and scope of the problem. It is not a matter of training bishops to be nicer or have better listening skills. The problem is structural and therefore must be addressed on that level. We must stop pretending that band-aids heal broken bones.

  5. Yes, it’s difficult to name all of the mixed emotions brought on by the letter. They acknowledged some validity to mormon feminist concerns and desire to listen. They very clearly described there are bad, apostate mormon feminists out there. It made me feel like if I want to be one of the “good feminists” that is listened to, I’ve got to throw my sisters under the bus. Or it leaves me wondering, wait, which do they think I am? By calling all some mormon feminists apostate, strident, and extreme – every single fellow member of my church is given further latitude to paint me with the same brush.

    Great job, every word.

  6. Fair responses, you two, though I disagree regarding an official meeting with Ordain Women. I would think, however, that meeting on an individual basis with Kate Kelly and other OW members would be worthwhile.

  7. “Ignoring discontent only makes it grow due to speculation.”

    Yes, this. When will Public Affairs finally figure that out?

  8. Great responses! I particularly appreciate your discussion of how our deferential church culture probably prevents GAs from having much contact with ordinary members in ordinary ways. Certainly, it’s my impression that this is true from the way they (GAs) often talk.

    Also, I love this, Angela:

    “Bro. Otterson’s portrayal of what Jesus would approve and disapprove probably says more about him than about Jesus”

    I think it’s a sign of the weakness of a position when you have to fall back on saying, “I’m sure Jesus would disapprove of you.”

  9. it's a series of tubes says:

    “Bro. Otterson’s portrayal of what Jesus would approve and disapprove probably says more about him than about Jesus”

    Ah, come on! I liked it much better when RJH was calling Otterson a blasphemer for that one. Thought better of that kind of language, huh?

  10. Everyone likes to cast Jesus in their own image and perhaps that is correct. So, you get very divergent views on what Jesus would and would not do. So, in many cases it is really a reflection on what we would or would not do.

    I also think the post is a bit dismissive of the role that local leaders really play in regard to inclusion in the councils of the Church. I know from my own experience that some are much better at it than others. And the stories I hear prove that some local leaders are really bad at it. Not for lack of training from SLC, But personal desire, understanding and motivation. Actually, not uncommon in most organizations.

    I’ve been amused at the notion that some seem to have a line of how inter-workings of the Church really operate, when claiming that this female leader reports to this Elder, or that Quorum, presupposing there is no interaction with the First Presidency or Q of 12. That all information is filtered, cleansed and presented to the top councils. And yet, the training that we receive shows otherwise, at least in theory. Those trainings are an attempt to model the behavior that is expected locally.

    And lastly, as Angie knows, I harp on the fact that all organization’s budgets, not just the Auxiliaries are approved by someone higher than the organization itself. That the Priesthood organizations somehow run open-loop by themselves, while the women-run organizations are kept on a super tight leash is just not true.

  11. Yes, there are enough scriptures out there to prooftext a Jesus in our own image.

    Even if my local leaders improve things on a local level, the churchwide structure, policies, and procedures that don’t change still send me a message about my place, voice, and value in the organization.

    Jeff, the assertion never was that women’s budgets are on a leash and men’s budgets aren’t. The assertion is, women raised their own funds with their own priorities and females sat in council to determine how, where, and when to use their funds for their organization. Appendagizing the RS literally told those women, “Those funds you raised are now ours, we will let you know when and how much you get in the future.”

  12. Steve, a distinction without a difference!

    I mean, if they meet with “Kate Kelly, human being,” I will be happy enough, even if it seems petty to say they’re not meeting with “Kate Kelly, leader of OW.” But ultimately it’s that pettiness that has to stop.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, it’s a distinction with a huge difference IMO, but point taken.

  14. But a distinction with a big difference if it results in such a meeting.

  15. Hey, I’m all for Realpolitik if it’s smart.

  16. I just fear hamfistedness. If the meeting were all about “we are NOT meeting with OW, really, we’re NOT, NOT, NOT” it would be lame. Just meet with Kelly as fellow Latter-day Saints and don’t try to spin it.

  17. It might be a Christlike way to separate OW’s politics from it’s member’s concerns, hate the demand love the demander?

  18. Sure, just don’t make a song and dance about HATING THE DEMAND.

  19. “females sat in council to determine how, where, and when to use their funds for their organization.”

    Again, this is antedodal, and largely myth. RS, the other auxiliaries and the Priesthood departments were always “supervised” and had their plans and budgets approved at the highest levels of the Church Leader. No one was and is autonomous. Today, the RS in our ward designs a budget based on how, where and when to use those funds and the Bishops approves it

  20. Now now, the church was against plural marriage before it was for it and then against it. We were for black ordination before we were against it and now for it. We’ve never been for female ordination, unless you count keys, priests, and ordaining as being for it before we were against it. Sometime in the future we might point out that we were always for it to the point of having forerunners, but not now.

    Actually, I think the duality of the distinct roles considering the nature of life, with respect to priesthood assignment makes sense. I’m ok with some nuance and don’t hold to a strict fundamentalist consistency that liberals paradoxically do in this regard.

  21. Bryan H. says:

    My guess is the reluctance to meet with OW is fear of legitimizing their tactics. In the past the church has been open to official meetings with other groups (like LDS Affirmation) that are not necessarily the “good kind” of Mormons.

  22. Again, this is antedodal

    Not a complete antidote, but it would help a lot. (Yes, I know that’s not what you meant.)

    I think that Br. Otterson and probably some of the top-level leaders think that the issue has been settled by revelation. Elder Oaks’ talk could certainly be construed as saying that, and so can some lines in Br Otterson’s letter. That said, I’m thinking that there must be some disagreement or discussion at the highest levels. They’ve traditionally been unwilling to show any face to the world but unity, even when that created or allowed some confusion and bad feeling. The thought could be that the price of public disunity is higher than the price of being unclear.

    (Given the history of the first prophetic succession, and to some extent the second, this is an understandable notion – having people kiting all over the country claiming to be Joseph’s true successor was not a great thing for the Church.)

    That said, how hard would it be to be clear? Something that says, in essence, as far as it’s been revealed at this time, this is how it goes; if further light and knowledge comes to us we’ll share it? (I recall one Handbook phrase that impressed me once, that abortion was not the same as murder, insofar as it had been revealed at that time.) At least that would take some of the pressure off the Brethren and put it on the Lord, from an ordination standpoint, and leave us to work on our culture.

  23. Angela C says:

    Bryan H: I don’t disagree that this could be a motive, but their tactics become unnecessary if there is a face-to-face meeting.

    If the church is reasonable and willing to listen to them, after which OW is revealed to have been acting in bad faith, then they (OW) would lose the support of non-OW feminists such as myself. So far, OW has acted in better faith than the church has from what I can see. That’s why I’ve advocated all along for the calling of bluffs. That’s one way that trust is eventually established between two wary parties.

    Another is simply to find common ground, which I would think would be easy to do: both want women to be retained and engaged members of the church; nobody wants women to leave the church (I have to assume charitably that even Bro. Otterson would prefer they not leave, even if they make his job harder). So far, only the church’s stance is limiting the involvement and engagement of women in the church, creating both attrition and disengagement among women (who don’t fit the MWS mold) and the younger generation (who are accustomed to equality as the norm).

    I worry that church leaders feel they are protecting a certain kind of woman from the feminists’ agenda, as if feminists pose a threat to stay-at-home-mothers, for example. Certainly, second wave feminists such as myself do have a certain disdain for the traditional model, but third wavers are far more respectful of personal choice than my Betty Friedan generation. The church actually has more common ground with young feminists than with the crusty old feminists like me (and yet, ironically, I’m not leaving while many young feminists are). Seriously, though, let’s get over this idea that women of any stripe need protection from ideas. We are as capable as anyone of owning our choices and finding social support.

  24. Excellent response from both of you. But 1776 FTW.

  25. Jeff – I challenge your comment on RS funds. I’ve checked with my mom, who was one of the last RS Presidents under the old method, the financial autonomy, the RS magazine, even the events they chose to host really did fall to the ward RS Pres. Yes they had budgets, and book keeping to turn in, but if a ward chose only have one bake sale and add it to the personal monetary dues that each woman paid – then that’s what they had. On the other hand if a ward was gang busters and had two Bazaars a year, a Harvest party where you needed purchase tickets to attend, and a fashion show (also a money earner) – Then good on you. Now all of that money went to your ward coffer and you could spend it as you saw fit. Humanitarian aid, cool classes, so on. In a way there was Priesthood oversite, but it had much more of a Little Red Hen option to it then it does now.

    On a final note as a previous YW President – ward and stake level – YW never gets the budgets or permissions that YM do. Period. We can’t fund raise or fix it. Every year they asked me to submit a budget request. All line item broken down. Every year, it was slashed. Every year YM’s had more funds because they had scouting.

    There is some huge discrepancy. The old method worked better in my opinion.

  26. Carrie, why are YM/YW budgets always seen as trump cards that prove something? A few years ago, like 4 or 5, when I was the ward Exec Sec the EQ budget was $50/year, the HP budget was $50/year, the RS budget was $900/year. I think any discrepancies between YM and YW were more than made up by their mothers.

    I once made this comment on another blog and I was informed about all of the great works the RS did that demanded that money and snidely told that maybe the men ought to just step up their games and do more, and then they would need more funds. Balderdash. As far as I could see, the lion’s share of that budget went toward the RS throwing several elaborate parties for themselves throughout the year.

  27. One inequity does not justify another inequity. Yes, patriarchy hurts men, too. I’d love to see funds spread equally by person, regardless of the organization.

  28. Also a lot of women have issues that their “relief society” has turned into a social party machine instead of a world relief machine. I’ll stop there.

  29. I have often reflected that the RS/MP budget differences may be something of an unspoken local response to the inherent gender inequalities we experience in our wards from an organizational standpoint.

  30. When I was the ward clerk and helping to plan budgets, I deliberately gave the young men and cub scouts larger budgets than I gave young women and activity days, respectively. But that difference was to cover the added costs of awards associated with running the scouting programs. So it really only amounted to several dollars per participant. After that, young men and young women got the same amount per person to fund their activities.

    I ran into problems in managing the Elders Quorum and Relief Society budgets one year. I slashed the Relief Society budget from $800 to $600 (I know, a man exerting control over the women’s budget…but the discrepancies in the ward budget needed addressing). I used the difference to increase the Elders Quorum budget from $200 to $300 and the rest went to funding the youth programs. The Relief Society wasn’t happy, and I heard about it from the bishopric counselors(surprise! one of the counselors was married to a counselor in the Relief Society presidency). In the end, I had to increase the RS budget to $700 to keep the peace. The following year I was able to reduce it again by centralizing the purchase of paper goods and everyone seemed happy after that.

    Sadly, at the end of the year, 75% of the Elders Quorum budget was always unspent. And I’d usually confiscate it and buy something new for the ward that we couldn’t always afford on the normal budget (like folders for the choir, or a pressure canner). If anyone can figure otu a way to get the Elders Quorum to actually go do things, please let me know. I hate that their budget always goes unused.

  31. Please let us disengage from BSA. It is possible to create an uplifting active structure for our boys without sending so much cash to BSA. I promise, it is possible.

  32. it's a series of tubes says:

    On a final note as a previous YW President – ward and stake level – YW never gets the budgets or permissions that YM do. Period. We can’t fund raise or fix it. Every year they asked me to submit a budget request. All line item broken down. Every year, it was slashed. Every year YM’s had more funds because they had scouting

    Here’s an anecdote from my western US, non-Utah ward. It’s held true for the last 7 years that I have had specific visibility into these issues:

    YW gets the largest portion of the budget – 35+%. YM is next at about 25%. Primary is third at about 15%.

    YW fundraises more successfully than any other auxilliary. One year, they were so successfull that girls camp was free for all attendees. Most years, it runs about $50.

  33. As a YM leader, I agree with Kristine A. BSA sucks so much money and time out of the boys. The usual summer scout camp costs 3x girls camp, in some cases at the same location. I am baffled as to why we haven’t stopped paying the professional scouters and gone with a donated/reimbursed model that the girls use.

  34. Nourish and Strengthen says:

    “Also a lot of women have issues that their “relief society” has turned into a social party machine instead of a world relief machine”

    Amen! It means almost nothing to me what the Relief Society budget is. Almost all of the original charitable work of the Relief Society has been outsourced to the big, invisible arms of the humanitarian program. Mostly we just write a tithing check and maybe occasionally donate to other church funds, while eating our weight in “refreshments.”

    The YM/YW budget discrepancy is so often employed in arguments not only because it’s an obvious, easy target, but because of the impacts it has in perpetuating inequality. Being told again and again that they can only do certain kinds of activities and with a smaller budget that they can’t supplement, unlike the Young Men, teaches the Young Women and their leaders that girls’ training and preparation for adulthood and sainthood can be accomplished through a suffocating, narrow range of developmental activities, and that their efforts to expand themselves will be met with refusal. By the time they get to Relief Society, parties and refreshments are all they expect anymore.

  35. Kristine A,

    As much as I despise the way scouting is run in the church, I actually disagree with you on breaking from the BSA. But only because the training, insurance, and physical resources of the BSA are so much better than anything I think the church would put together. In fact, if it were up to me, I’d want the church to increase it’s participation in scouting–by enrolling the young women in venturing programs (as long as they could find a way to get the BSA to allow the 12 and 13 year old girls join as well).

    I’d also want the church to make scout troops run like community troops. Including raising their own funds.

    and now you see why people think I’m crazy.

  36. it's a series of tubes says:

    Being told again and again that they can only do certain kinds of activities and with a smaller budget that they can’t supplement, unlike the Young Men,

    If the YW and YW leaders in your ward are being told that they cannot supplement their budget via fundraising, they are being given wrong information. The YM and YW are both free to fundraise for camp and camp equipment. See Book 2, 13.6.8, 13.2.8, and 13.2.9.

  37. Tubes: We’re also told in multiple wards I’ve been in we can only have one fundraiser per year. So they let YM/YW hold a joint one plus YM and their US flags. I don’t like the defense of primary getting a large budget, because the lion’s share goes directly to BSA coffers.

    Benjamin: Only US saints get the BSA activity program. All other youth *around the whole world* only participate in Duty to God. I think Boy Scouts operates in Australia, but they don’t separate activity by gender. The Church has chosen not to participate there as mixed genders. While I see your point, the BSA sucks so much unnecessary $ and is so needlessly complicated. At the very least scratch Cubs. That’s a good place to start. Easy peasy to have Activity Days for boys and girls that are equal in structure and funding.

  38. I really appreciated your points of view. I do think that this is a very promising response from Brother Otterson. I didn’t think so initially, but then I read some BCC posts from 2004 and 2009 and well, we’ve come a long way baby!

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2004/06/23/the-brain-drain-or-where-have-all-the-women-gone/

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/21/pragamatically-reframing-the-question-of-women-and-the-priesthood/

    BCC is naturally ahead of the curve, but it took them a while to get to this point too!

  39. I feel like I should clarify that over the years I see a shift from” wouldn’t it be nice to see some improvement” to “we demand some real change”!

  40. Nourish and Strengthen says:

    tubes: That’s a good point–your comment and Kristine A’s jogged my memory a little. In my experience, it seemed to vary quite a bit. At one time, we were told that we could not fund raise so as to not burden ward members with feeling like they had to contribute to scouting *and* Young Women’s. One year we were allowed to hold a joint yard-sale to raise funds. Which brings up another interesting point, though tangential, that fundraising does give affluent wards a serious leg up in the kinds of activities the kids can do. If memory serves, in our Stake, which had a mix of affluent and working-class wards, the Stake Presidency disallowed fundraising to equalize budgets between wards. There was even a time when the boys’ flag program got scrapped.

    But regardless of fundraising, I have also experienced several instances where we had the money for a proposed activity on a level with activities routinely pursued by the Young Men, but were vetoed at the Stake or Ward level with little explanation.

    My broader point is that it drives me nuts to see the kinds of things we spend our ward budgets on, especially in the singles’ wards. So many activities and refreshments, so little service! It would suit me just fine if the RS and EQ both had a $50 annual budget for a get-together and equal access to the ward “service fund” to do some real good!

    I do think there might be some connection between the RS’s loss of autonomy and its current anemia. I’ve only ever lived under the present way of doing things, but I’ve read some pretty compelling accounts by older Mormon women of the kinds of things they used to accomplish as a Society. We’ve had a pretty serious paradigm shift, and I’m not sure what all went in to it, but correlation seems to have had a significant impact in moving us from society of relief to a society of socializing.

    But now I’m afraid I’ve strayed far from the topic at hand in the OP, so I’ll clam up with a thank you to the writers for their good observations.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    Tubes: We’re also told in multiple wards I’ve been in we can only have one fundraiser per year. So they let YM/YW hold a joint one plus YM and their US flags.

    The one per year statement is accurate, but round our neck of the woods, the language, “one group fund-raising activity annually” is understood to mean one per year per group, i.e., per organization. This reading seems to be the only one consistent with the other places in the handbook that refer to fundraisers in the plural, for example “Contributions to fund-raising activities are voluntary” and “Stakes and wards that sponsor fund-raising activities should not advertise or solicit beyond their boundaries.”

    If your local leaders are forcing the YW to join with the YM in a single fundraiser, I believe that is a misreading of the handbook, and I’m truly sorry that your YW are being slighted in favor of the YM. That’s not right.

  42. In my ward YW and YM budgets are the same and both are free to have 1 fundraiser. The YW choose not to usually because camp is so much cheaper because it is held on LDS property.

    Yes RS gets far more budget than EQ and High Priests. I don’t understand that you can claim that as evidence in your favor also (RS getting far more than EQ) because Patriarchy… what what?

  43. Patriarchy puts women on a pedestal and elevates women in ways that aren’t always equitable to men, sometimes their advantage or disadvantage. You tend to get less complaints if you even out the advantages on both sides instead of just treating them both equitably.

  44. budgets…as Primary president I wanted to take on the cubscout budget…which is 5 times the activity days budget for the same amount of children…the problem? Cubscouts HAVE to have books, have to pay a certain amount for awards, have to have a registered day camp, have to have uniforms, and a monthly party. Shall we put the burden on parents and say THIS church thing costs so much money, your child HAS to have it to participate?

    Then with activity days we have less than half the meetings. No book, no awards (discouraged actually), no uniform and possibly one party a year…maybe. No camp unless you are in that one stake or ward I heard about once.

    That is how the activities are designed. That is how the programs are made. How do you equal those budgets?

    At the same time I have 8 daughters who would love to have a monthly program with awards and parents and family invited to come watch them perform and receive awards.

    Our ward tries to include activity day girls in the pinewood derby.

    I don’t think all these awards are good for the kids. a good deed for an award doesn’t is scarcely a good deed.

  45. Our YW and YM both participate in the same fundraiser, namely selling food items at a community festival. It is very successful. None of the youth have to pay anything out of their own pockets. The problem comes along in that the girls are mandated to attend a Stake camp (always done on a shoestring in a miserable swampy camp), but the Scouts are free to choose the location of their BSA-run camp, plus an additional High Adventure trip. So the amount spent on the Scouts (for two events) ends up being roughly 6-7 times the amount spent on the girls’ camp. The Stake sponsored ‘High Adventure’ for the girls is a joke. Plus the Scout budget is supplemented by a substantial yearly corporate donation (several ward members work for a large company that donates funds for volunteer service), but those funds may only be spent on BSA activities/equipment. We inquired about registering the girls as a Venture crew but were told the Church will not allow it.

    Our ward and stake spend all kinds of time on Scout committee meetings, Scout training, etc. and they run a very good program. I would love to see the quality of activities and amount of resources allocated to the YW raised to the level of the Scouts. It’s been brought up with local leaders to no avail. It is very frustrating having to explain to my daughters that there is nothing to be done.

  46. Lesson, I know – when as Primary President people tell them it’s my fault I don’t equalize the budgets I laugh in their face (figuratively). Like we could, you can’t follow handbook instructions and get even close.

  47. KLC – My comment was meant in relation to Jeff’s about RS funds, especially in the past when RS was autonomous. I probably shouldn’t have mixed the two. It became a sour cream/yogurt connection that didn’t turn out as my head imagined it. Since I was responding to Jeff I won’t completely rehash my thinking again. I might really mess it up this time.

    What I do find interesting about this conversation and organizational history is the initial block program plan. Originally I believe it was called the Consolidated Program. It happened in 1980 when we went from attending church 2 to 3 times on a Sunday to the present 3 hour block. At the time of the block program inception, all midweek activities ceased to exist. No primary – which forever had been midweek, no YM/YW, no RS meeting. Nothing. That part didn’t last long. If it had though, all the discussions of budgets could be eliminated. Then we could build…. Never Mind.

  48. “The Catholics are not formally liberalising their teachings in any way, but Francis (prompted in some ways by his PR advisers no doubt) has shown a willingness to engage with people beyond the safe halls of the Vatican: interviews with secular newspapers, impromptu press conferences, phone calls to ordinary Catholics whose lifestyle choices have been less than ideal.” While it is true that the Vatican has a public relations department, to say that it is the public relations department that is the impetus behind Pope Francis is completely speculative. The Vatican has had a press and public relations bureau for as long as I can remember, and yet each of the Popes has been unique in his character and public face.

  49. I don’t doubt that, EBRown, and may have overstated things.

  50. The ‘talk to local leaders’ part of the letter is an understanding suggestion, but not a very workable one. As has already been stated, many of the problems being brought up by sites like these and OW are not local, but church-wide (and if you have local problems, chances are your local leadership might be part of the problem). And even though I have a loving bishop who has never been anything but kind, I am afraid to approach him with thoughts on these matters as I’m getting married in a couple of months. What if he revokes my recommend or delays the sealing?

    A way of submitting thoughts or suggestions to the leadership of the church would mean a great deal to me, and I don’t think I’m the only one (letter writing campaign anyone?). In the meantime I’ll wait until after I get married to bring up concerns.

  51. Rachel, you bring up a good point. It’s not a great system when the person we are supposed to be bringing these concerns to is the person who holds a considerable amount of ecclesiastical authority. The bloggernacle has plenty of tales of people who’ve been threatened (by having their temple recommend revoked, for example) in response to honest inquiry. For Otterson and PA to refer us back to these people – who are also, as it happens, unpaid and untrained – shows a severe lack of understanding.

  52. Hedgehog says:

    Jeff “That the Priesthood organizations somehow run open-loop by themselves, while the women-run organizations are kept on a super tight leash is just not true.”

    At a ward level the EQP and HPGL are stake callings and answerable to the SP, not the Bishop. They need to work with the Bishop, but he has no authority over their decisions in the way that he does those of the RS, Primary or youth leaders. This puts them in a much stronger position.

  53. Hedgehog, effectively everything is still run through the Bishop as the presiding High Priest, and there is really no difference between how strong their position is relative to the RS Primary or youth leaders. Every calling they make in their organizations, every activity they do and every expense they have are still subject to approval by the Bishop. The Bishop still does all of the budgeting for the entire ward also.

  54. Hedgehog says:

    JTB, An EQP can stand up to the Bishop when the Bishop makes requests of the EQ. My husband has served as EQP 3 times, and was very clear on his rights to do just that, and in some cases acted to buffer his quorum members from requests he regarded as wrong or unreasonable. He has also commented that too many EQPs don’t understand they are able to do this. He hasn’t yet served as HPGL leader so I am somewhat less clear on that, but given the SP heads HPQ I don’t see where the Bishop has jurisdiction. He might be presiding HP in a ward sense, but it’s the Priest’s quorum he heads. My point is that the EQP and HPGL are both in a much more equitable position when it comes to working and negotiating with the Bishop than is a RSP, and the youth and primary leaders.

  55. Yes, when my husband was EQP he counseled with the bishop on who to call as a counselor, was counseled not to, but he followed his prompting and ignored the bishop and turned the name into the Stake.
    As primary president I started by requesting callings – after turning in 7 names and having them all turned back to me I said, “tell you what, it seems you already have someone in mind, will you give me a few names to consider that you’d be willing to put there and we’ll discuss those.” They were aghast, “that’s not how this works!” Yes, well I don’t have 6 months for my primary callings to stay empty while we play racquetball with submitted names.

  56. Steve Evans says:

    With Primary, I wonder if the problem is finding people who’d be (a) willing to do it and (b) ok to do it. Bishops frequently hear from people that they don’t want a Primary calling, and sometimes they are aware of circumstances that would keep a person out of Primary. But the guessing game is ridiculous.

  57. Okay perhaps I stand corrected. Perhaps I’ve just never seen disagreements between the Bishop and the EQP. It’s never happened in my ward with the current bishop and yes Steve is right that often (always) other things are going on behind the scenes with callings.

  58. Yes that requires a lot of understanding from everyone involved. Which is why we compromised. I submitted a list of names 4-6 for each spot open, except for nursery; where everyone said no and we had an open invitation that we would take any breathing person who showed up on sunday. I went two years where there was never a time we had all of our callings filled. I know it was difficult on the bishopric as well, but we did start getting more callings filled once I brought the bishopric to observe nursery from the hallway and it sounded like we were waterboarding in Gitmo there. Within a few weeks we had nursery callings filled.

  59. Nursery would be a lot easier if we were allowed to use manacles.

  60. “I talked to all kinds of people who were on the fringes of society: drunk people, prostitutes, the mentally ill. That’s the beauty of the gospel. You meet people where they are.”

    You use this to argue that the Church, through Public Affairs, should meet with Ordain Women. To suggest, and you did, that the three groups – drunk people, prostitutes, the mentally ill – are in any way analogous to Ordain Women is very insulting.

  61. She doesn’t think that, Brian, but Public Affairs sometimes gives the impression it does. That is all.

  62. RJH, Public Affairs did not use that language, she did.

    This analogy is offensive on several levels.

    Think of the well used and extremely offensive racial profiling analogy of crossing a quiet street at night if one see a person of color coming in the opposite direction, as one would cross the street if one sees a coming pit bull.

    Think about why those missionaries meet with those drunks and prostitutes. Never to have an open dialogue to share points of view, as perhaps the missionaries could be convinced on the merits of drinking or having sex for money. Missionaries meet them to change them, to preach to them. And to mention the mentally ill is beyond explanation.

    Please do not try to defend the indefensible, whether intentional or not.

  63. Angela C says:

    brian: Many of the OW women were missionaries, just like me, and as missionaries they routinely reached out to those people as I did. Why did we do that? Because the worth of souls is great. Because “the Lord looketh on the heart.” How is it then that the church wouldn’t even sit down with OW? It’s not an indictment of the OW women to say that. It’s pointing out the hypocrisy of where the church has drawn the line.

    The drunks, prostitutes and mentally ill people I met with as a missionary were disenfranchised. Prostitutes aren’t doing it because they loved the job description! These women have no better alternative and no support network. It’s not just a matter of “changing” them. It is an open dialogue to help them, to listen to them, to find alternatives. The church calls OW apostate, and then gives that as justification not to meet with them. Well, since when did that ever stop us? That was our bread and butter as missionaries.

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    That was our bread and butter as missionaries.

    Your bread and butter as missionaries was meeting with apostates? ;)

  65. Angela C says:

    We would meet with pretty much anybody who would talk to us.

  66. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    If a meeting with the prophet occurs and the prophet is faced with the question why do YOU as prophet, seer, and revelator not bring to pass the extension of priesthood to all worthy members regardless of gender, then there are 3 responses I could see that he has:

    One: he hasn’t asked the Lord the question.

    Two: he has asked but has not received an answer
    or

    Three: he has asked but the answer is no.

    Thinking about this, I’m not sure an outright statement–other than striking out the possibility of response #1– is going to benefit the church as a whole.

  67. Angela C says:

    Rigel: I’m not sure about that. I think answer #2 is not bad really. Women in the church, feminists, and OW, pretty much all of us, would (I think) be really happy to know that this is a matter that has been taken seriously enough to be taken before the Lord. Answer #1 feels dismissive. Why not ask? Are women not taken seriously? Answer #3 feels like some sort of further information would be needed: exactly what was asked, what exactly was the answer, did the answer come with any sort of explanation that we can understand, was it a “no, never” or a “not yet”?

  68. Angela C says:

    I should add that I have wondered if answer #1 could be given in a way that would still be helpful, such as “the steps to prepare to ask are x, y, z and we are still at step x” or “the prophet is not physically able to make this request right now.”

  69. Your bread and butter as missionaries was meeting with apostates? ;)

    By definition, yes. The victims of the Great Apostasy, in my case – my Catholic brothers and sisters in Italy.

    Brian, I call shenanigans. You’re tossing out a red herring to distract from what you know full well Angela is trying to say – not equating OW with the mentally ill, but saying that if we as missionaries (and the Savior in his ministry) met with people who were far outside the pale, why is PA so reluctant to give any time to active members of the Church with whom they disagree? “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” If, as you say, missionaries met with the marginal to change and convert them, all the better reason for PA to sit down with OW, if they think those women need to change.

  70. it's a series of tubes says:

    Note the smilely face at the end of my question. As Angela’s response seemed to catch, the question was asked tongue firmly in cheek. I spent my time meeting with the Anglican victims of the same :)

  71. Angela you and others – I’m not calling you out directly but just responding to your example of this reasoning – seem fairly confident on how the revelatory process should function for the prophet when it seems the request is to gain access to his private struggles with questions he may or may not be exploring.

    The historical documentation on how these revelations are sought is diverse in the depth of personal experiences to which the Church membership has access. The previous priesthood question that Pres Kimball struggled with is relatively well documented thanks to his son. But how much was shared and at what levels by him during that time before an answer was received?

    It “seems” reasonable to request that the prophet brief us on his progress. But if the issue of extending the priesthood to all men was an effort so sacred that he dared not even share it with Camilla, what makes us think President Monson would do differently now?

  72. I made no comment on you, Angela C, just on your offensive analogy. And I am not suggesting it was intended to be insulting, but it was. You can continue to defend the analogy, what you called a “comparison.” But, that is not a comparison, but is a contrast in the extreme. To suggest otherwise is, well, silly.

  73. Brian, to quote Frozen: let it go.

  74. Steve, to quote the Professor Peter L. Strauss: let us not be children and let us deal with facts, and troubling analogies are facts.

  75. OK, so subtlety didn’t work. How about this: nobody cares. Please shut up about it already.

  76. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I think answer #2 is not bad really.
    Angela, not so sure. That response is now tagged to David O. McKay forever pertaining to the racial ban and as the years from his presidency go farther, it will increasingly become his most remembered action, or as some readers could conclude, inaction. Those who conclude inaction without understanding the context may feel disaffected from this servant of God. That occurrence of such reactions may not be good for the church as a whole–particularly if they are felt in relationship to a sitting prophet.

  77. FWIW, our ward fundraises for both YW and YM. Any “difference” is that the camps cost different. Non-camp funds are equalized per capita. Young Women are given adult callings in the ward (ok, minor ones, but adult callings all the same – like family history consultants/teachers, the music, the program, etc.).

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