A new (but actually old) list of suggestions for increasing opportunity for women and girls in the Church


Look at that beautiful missionary choir! How about filling in some of the seats below them as well?

Quiz time!

When was the following suggested?

“Within the Church, changes in four key areas would create increased opportunity for women and girls:

1. Improve women’s access to decision-making forums.

—Examine meetings from which women presently are excluded. If women were to contribute, would it help the decision-making process? If so, open such meetings to women’s auxiliary heads or other relevant women leaders at the ward, stake and general levels of the Church.

—Within the corporate offices of the Church, employ more women in a greater variety of positions.

—Develop and emphasis leadership training skills for women so that they can more effectively participate in meetings.

2. Increase access to ward callings and duties. Several ward callings and offices have evolved into priesthood callings. Such callings should be reevaluated to determine if priesthood is a necessary prerequisite. Where it is not, women should serve in those offices equally with men.

3. Improve women’s influence over their own organizations.

—Create more recognition and communication between women’s auxiliary presidents and Church women by having them travel more widely.

—Revise and streamline the decision-making process. Eliminate layers of decision-makers now required to approve curriculum, programs, etc.

—Support the newly institute regular meetings among three women’s auxiliary presidencies.

—Provide management training for women’s auxiliary presidencies in such areas as communications, delegation, planning, running effective meetings, creative problem-solving

—Institute salaries for all General Board members

—Improve Relief Society lessons by emphasizing teacher development, developing themes rather than lessons, and creating flexibility of choice for what lessons are appropriate for each ward.

—Expand or restore a definition of compassionate service that includes larger, more long-term projects such as hospices, home care for the elderly, etc.

4. Develop greater visibility for women’s activities.

—Give equal space in ward newsletters to women-related activities.

—Give equal recognition to girl’s youth activities.

—In sacrament meetings, have equal numbers of men and women speakers, and men and women prayer givers. End informal practice of men being the closing speaker. Have women speak on scriptural issues.

—In General Conference, have more women visible and participating, and speaking on scriptural issues.

—Develop support for more women’s conferences that include attention to a range of issues, including leadership training.”

Answer: 1985. Fall issue of Dialogue. Please click in to read, the whole article is fascinatingly apropos to discussions swirling today.

So for the suggestions with which you agree, how are we doing?


  1. Dialogue has all the answers.

  2. Thanks, Emily. If nothing else, this ought to help people understand why some of us react badly for calls to a politer tone and more patient attitude. Many of us have been trying to be polite and patient for our entire adult lives.

  3. Additional ideas: Allow mothers/sisters to act as witnesses at baptisms. Allow mothers/sisters/grandparents stand in the blessing circle. Have Relief Society Presidency conduct young women worthiness interviews. Encourage mothers to assist in blessing of their children. All have historical precedent or have no priesthood requirement.

  4. Kristine, I have always found politeness to be over-rated.

  5. I’m sure the church is just waiting for the historic 30th anniversary of the suggestions, to start their implementation. #eyeroll #sarcasm

  6. hubie brown says:

    Brian: Unfortunately, I think each of your suggestions is prohibited by the handbook. If the question is, how to we achieve equality regardless of the handbook — the answer is “ordain women now.” But as I took it the gist of this list was “what can we do to improve equality withing the current church policies?”

  7. Create ad hoc callings for women that aren’t in the handbook, preferably ones that involve leadership over both men and women. If it is in the handbook, it probably already has priesthood assigned or gender neutral. By creating new callings, a new set of expectations can arise.
    find budget and activity parity to boy scouts.
    include girls in the Explorer Program. That is what BSA does. Honest.
    Stop assigning women in GC to speak only on topics that pertain to children and families.
    expand women missions to 2 years and let them start at 18.
    Have women DL’s, ZL’s and AP’s–those are not priesthood callings.
    Temple: let women check recomends at the front desk. Sigh. In the baptistry, let women be recorders, and don’t relegate them just to mopping the floor. If you are going to require them to mop the floor, does it really require an endowed member to mop the floor?
    Bring back the activities committee–that involved a gaggle of callings that were gender neutral.
    Get rid of the padded chairs in just RS. It sends a subtle message of needing a padded pedestal. (Think princess and the pea.)
    Call auxiliary presidents “President Smith” instead of “Sister Smith.”
    Quote local and general auxiliary presidents in talks.
    call Julie Beck, Neylan McBain type leaders who will be quotable.

  8. Hagoth, I’ve heard that in some missions they are already expanding leadership roles as you outline.

  9. I would love to see some kind of anonymous poll (so the gentlemen in question don’t feel reluctant to be honest) of the GAs as to how they feel about certain key issues around women and their place in leading the Church, and serving with the men in Priesthood roles. Thoughts?

  10. hubie brown says:

    I like many of your ideas. Some responses and data points:
    -Creating callings is a great idea, and one I’ve seen this implemented with success.
    -In our ward, the bishop gives each auxiliary what they request for budget. Currently, the YW budget is more than double the YM and Scout budgets combined (just because the women asked for more than the men).
    -very few wards have explorer programs, because most of our boys have written off scouting by the time they are 16; i.e., there are no explorer programs for the girls to join.
    -my understanding is that conference topics are not assigned; the GAs and auxiliary leaders choose their own topic
    -couldn’t agree more that we should have women DLs, ZLs and APs, but there is an issue that DLs interview for baptism, and this is a priesthood function under current policy. Maybe all DLs are boys but all ZLs are girls?
    -i had no idea that only men check recommends — bizarre.
    -padded chairs — brilliant; never thought of that. I wonder, though, if you polled all sisters over the age of 60 in your ward whether they’d agree with you.
    -totally agree about using “President” for female presidents if you use it with male presidents.
    -totally agree we need to quote women more often.

  11. hubie brown says:

    Here’s my idea:
    Create a “Women’s Executive Committee” on the ward level. It meets monthly, just like the PEC, and consists of the Relief Society President, YW President, Primary President, and other female committee/auxiliary heads (e.g., Service Committee, Activities Committee (where they still exist).). The WEC committee would be led by the Relief Society President. The Bishopric would attend in an advisory role.

  12. There are now women in leadership in the mission, but they lead only women. We have many examples outside of the mission of women leading men–the former activities committee, public affairs, seminary supervisors, primary president, and, let’s face it, every YWP ends up leading the YMP. I like Hubie Brown’s idea for allocating interviewing to either DL’s or ZL’s.
    Perhaps Explorer programs would be rejuvenated if the YW were invited ;-)
    I love the WEC idea, but I like better inviting the WEC participants to the PEC/WC. I don’t think you can effectively run those meetings without having the YWP and PP there. Our ward has always had the RSP at all PEC and all WC meetings–no exceptions. She operates like a third counselor to the Bishop.
    Re women over 60. Are women’s bums over 60 more frail then men over 60? I say give it to all the “old folks” or none. Giving them to just women assumes feminine frailty.

  13. hubie brown says:

    If you invite the YWP, RSP, and PP to PEC, then you just have good ol’ Ward Council, run by the Bishop — which already meets once a month. The point of the WEC is that the RSP runs the agenda, runs the meeting, and the women can make decisions (or at least joint recommendations) without men in the conversation. Would that it were not so, but some women leaders simply are not inclined to speak in a meeting full of men as they are in a meeting full of women. I know some wards basically have ward council every week, but my WEC idea is trying to do something different. One week would be PEC, one week would be WEC, one week would be Ward Council, and one week would be BYC (bishop’s youth committee). Everyone gets a week off except the Bishopric.

    My point about the chairs was not about the actual conditions of people’s bums, just the preferences of women over 60. In the present political context, think of it as a point about the difficulty of taking back entrenched entitlements. The cost is probably not worth the symbolic benefit.

  14. Molly Bennion says:

    Thanks, EmJen. Nice reminder that Dialogue has so often been out in front with loyal but inventive solutions to problems.

    I don’t see a lot of reason for the women auxiliary presidents to meet monthly (they should just be encouraged to consult with each other when necessary because we are about “meetinged” out) but I do feel strongly that Ward Council should be the norm. I see little need for PEC. It excludes not only most of the women but also the SS President. As a RS Pres I attend all PEC meetings in our ward (because my Bishop is wise but I am there “by invitation” when all RS Presidents should just be part of the group). I have found we often deal with questions whose answers would benefit from input from the other Ward Council members.
    I once had a creative Bishop who called a woman as his personal secretary. She sat in most Bishopric meetings and was really there as a female counselor. The RS Pres is usually too busy to add those meetings to her schedule so this calling served the ward well. Some such calling would be great.

  15. I’ve never seen the particular article from Dialogue but we do many of the things that it outlines in our Ward.

    It is not uncommon that I organize sacrament meetings where the sisters say both prayers, all of the talks, and perform the intermediate number. There is strong encouragement, if the priesthood leaders and women leaders were listening, in the training that has been delivered through the worldwide training over the last several years, calling for equal voices in leadership meetings. We work extensively to ensure there is proper training for women and men leaders in our Ward and encourage each auxiliary president to see themselves as having stewardship over their organizations. As a Bishopric we are very hesitant to turn down a calling request where a sister President provides a name she has prayed over. The only cases where that happens is where there are multiple requests that overlap or there may be a need for further consideration given circumstances in the individual or family’s life. And then it is an effort of prayerfully counseling together with the President to figure out the best approach to take.

    We also have an Activities Chair, who coordinates the activities and works with the various auxiliaries to oversee responsibilities are handled properly. It’s all managed through the Ward Council – as called for in the Handbook – but she has oversight.

    I think there is a great deal of effort being made by the Twelve and the First Presidency to drive these insights into the Stakes and Wards but inertia can be a difficult thing to overcome. That said I have seen a great deal of open minded progress in our Ward and Stake as a result of carefully pondering how to strengthen the voices and increase the visibility of the women in our organizations.

  16. Outside of the priesthood specific things (like young men, Elders, or High Priests), I’m not sure which auxiliaries aren’t women specific, outside of Sunday School. However, while I admit I have never seen a female Sunday School President, I was once second counselor in a Sunday School presidency, where the first counselor and secretary were women. We were set apart as such. On my mission, (back in ’95) the Mission President created sister roles of responsibility equivalent to the Elder counterparts: Sister Coordinators (equivalent to District Leader), Senior Sister Coordinators (Zone Leader) and Sister Assistants. They handled everything, short of baptismal interviews, and co-presided with DL’s, and ZL’s at the respective District and Zone conferences. I get the feeling this is a mission by mission thing, since Mission Presidents have some autonomy on how they organize their mission structure. Also, this article does (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-10/how-the-mormons-make-money) does hit on some of the corporate holdings where women obviously take leadership roles.

    The best solutions would to resolving a lot of issues would be rather simple: allow women (at least those in active auxiliary roles, who are presumably endowed) to take part in functions that allow them to exercise the shared priesthood responsibility they gained when they received their endowment: act as witnesses at baptism or sealings, conduct interviews with young women and members of the relief society, participate in the blessing of children, to name a few. However, I predict functions such as these aren’t too far on the horizon.

  17. 1985? Depressingly little change since then.

  18. According to the Handbook, sisters cannot serve in a Sunday School presidency. In fact, although a sister served as secretary in my Sunday School presidency just six or so years ago, they aren’t even allowed to serve in that position any more.

  19. Mary Jo Anhalt says:

    How about sharing responsibilities? Men can help cook and prepare meals at funerals. Men (fathers) can be part of Primary officialdom at every level. Men can be Cub Scout leaders. Men can CHAIR the responsibility to be sure the building is cleaned before Sunday. Or how about Co-chairs for traditionally held by women positions. Both can be at ward Council meeting, or Daddy can stay home at get the kids ready for Church.

  20. Hagoth, hubie, in my building everyone has cusioned chairs. They were all replaced last year, so now we all have even nicer cushioned chairs. (Well apart from the really tiny chairs in nursery.)

    Mary Jo, our EQ has had quite a few catering assignments. And I’ve done a fair ammount of chair-stacking and table-hauling in Primary and RS.

    But yes, it’s grim that the stuff in the OP was raised as long ago as that.

  21. Hagoth, you can have the padded RS chairs over my cold, dead butt. The way I see it, it’s compensation for the temperatures we women have to endure – the thermostat is set by men in long sleeve shirts and suit jackets, so we ladies are FREEZING by the end of three hours.

    #2 above is probably my favorite. Why does the Sunday School president need to be male? It’s not a calling that involves the priesthood; in fact, it’s not a calling that involves anything at all, from what I can tell. (I’ve yet to see a SS president that actually, you know, does anything. Fluff calling.) For that matter, I’m not sure why the Primary president needs to be female, and I wish we didn’t treat Primary like a “female auxiliary” when it involves both genders equally.

    Actually, I think that the Primary is the most important organization we have in the Church, but that’s a rant for a different day.

  22. Female voices speaking on doctrinal topics to men as well as to women and children from the GC pulpit.

  23. We are too obsessed with titles already. The solution is not to start calling a whole flock of women “President” but to quit calling a whole gaggle of men by that title. I’m willing to accept “Bishop” and “President” for heads of congregations, “President” for stake presidents and the president of the church, “Elder” for the counselors in the First Presidency, the Twelve and the Seventy, but everybody else gets “Sister” or “Brother.”

    If you walk into a room and say “President,” there’s something wrong if 10 people turn their heads.

  24. As to topics, what makes you think that the women who speak in General Conference are assigned topics? My understanding is that Conference speakers are trusted to select their own. As should be the case, of course, in our wards and branches, despite the implications in the handbook.

  25. I’m with Mark on this one, and I already see this in my area: the Presidents are the stake, temple and mission presidencies (and mostly only the presidents themselves), Bishop is Bishop and everyone else is pretty much first-name and/or titleless-family-name material with maybe a nod to a calling they hold if its seen to be important for what they are doing.
    In my last ward I served as the Primary Music Leader along with 3 male teachers, but the ward couldn’t quite let itself consider having men on the presidency. Similarly we had (and she might still be there) a female Sunday School President. We had a small number [read about 20] of worthy [adult male] priesthood holders as well so it was surprising so many had callings involving the young children of the ward at the cost of filling all the roles on the EQ, HPQ and YM presidencies.

  26. I agree with Hagoth and others that there are some callings that are defacto given to men that I think women could do and do well – such as my dream calling of ward membership clerk. How I would love to clean up the mess that are our ward records! Not sure why some of those clerk jobs like that and financial clerk have to be men only.

    Once upon a time (late 90’s) our stake tested a program for SL and had monthly “womens council” made up of the RS, YW, Primary president plus the Activities committee chair since it was a woman at the time and a couple of good strong women in the ward the Bishop called to join. We discussed open callings for women as well as any issues that were women focused – like how to be inclusive of single mothers or single sisters – and any special needs of any sisters in our ward. There was also a mens council where they did similar and the callings part of Ward council meeting went away so they had more time to discuss the business of the ward. We loved it but it didn’t fare as well in other wards and clearly hasn’t become a church wide thing.

    I’d love to see men and women working together. I cannot for the life of me understand the fear of men and women working together in Primary or Sunday School presidencies and other callings. It’s time to treat adults like adults as they are in the rest of their lives. I find it rather insulting actually.

  27. Hmmmm, lately I’ve actually been looking at the Catholics. When do WE get a pope like that?!

  28. I am not one to denigrate Pope Francis, he is a great man and clearly embodies many humble Christ like qualities that the one who leads his faithful flock toward the Savior should have. I rejoice at the change he represents when compared to his predecessor.

    But I think this attitude of comparing him to our own Prophet(s) and somehow finding the Lord’s own anointed as lacking is just very sad. Could it be that familiarity breeds contempt? Could it be that we don’t really pay close attention to what our own Prophets do/have done because their actions are not as broadly reported in the popular media?

    I think President Monson’s life of service toward the sick and the downtrodden exemplifies exactly the kind of attitudes we should each attempt to emulate. Maybe you don’t like his folksy stories, maybe you feel he’s not in tune with your needs. But he clearly has his heart in the right place and his service demonstrates how much he cares about his flock. There can be no doubt about that.

  29. edited for tackiness


  30. Yeah OK, noted & apologies – but PLEASE: “A new (but actually old) list of suggestions for increasing opportunity for women and girls in the Church” !!!!

    Reading between those lines, the author seems to be talking about almost 30 years w/o leadership on this issue. As a result, a significant number of LDS females are today in at least soft revolt, with many (esp. singles) leaving. Is this a good thing? I live in very conservative east Kansas, and the undercurrent here amongst the educated sisterhood is rather shocking.

  31. I don’t know when the rules changed to exclude women from being Sunday School President. We had a woman as SS President in a singles ward I was in some years ago. She was great! Sometimes I think the handbook is written by a committee that does not necessarily run everything by the Brethren. My ward does not always follow the “man always speaks last” rule for Sacrament Meeting and we do often have just female speakers. The last time I spoke in Sacrament Meeting, my fellow speaker was another woman. The youth speaker that day was a boy, though. Most of them are, as I think we have more boys than girls in our ward. Speakers can be assigned a topic or can chose their own. I chose my own. And when did the activities committee get done away with? We have one in our ward, and the chair is a woman. She plans great parties, except for last year’s Christmas party where the Costco ham was bad and nearly half the ward got sick. Church that Sunday was dismissed following Sacrament Meeting because hardly anyone was there!

    As to women being in more decision-making positions, I think input should be taken from both men and women, but ultimately, I believe the decisions are made by the Lord.

  32. Does increasing opportunities increase respect?

  33. Sharee, the Handbook is written by and thoroughly reviewed as described by Elder Oaks in the 2010 Worldwide Leadership Training:

    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”

    Nothing is slipping by the Twelve and the First Presidency. What may be happening is interpretation and living outside the handbooks by individual leaders, Wards and Stakes.

    Further, there is no rule the man speaks last. That may have been the case once upon a time but it hasn’t been the case for a number of years.

    Finally, the Activities Committee was absorbed into the responsibility of the Ward Council and the Bishop as Elder Cook explained at the same training:

    There is no longer a permanent activities committee at the ward level. Section 13.2.1, in the middle of the second paragraph, reads: “When an activity is for the entire ward, the bishop may assign responsibility for it to one or more organizations represented on the ward council. He may also assign responsibility … to other individuals or to a committee.” Normally these assignments are for a specific activity or event only.

  34. I think some of us are asking the church, a global institution, to resolve local and personal issues. Some of us are also judging a timeless Gospel and an institutional church that spans generations from 21st century liberal or feminist perspectives.

    With that said, I believe that we are individually and collectively responsible for the local church culture and society that we create today. What are we doing to create a Zion culture?

  35. After serving in the YW organization of the church from Beehive instructor to President, I can definitely say there is not equality between the young men’s and young women’s programs. Under the guise of Scouting, the young men enjoy far more activities including camping & biking trips, outdoor skills training, travel to distances beyond that slowed by the guidelines,etc. I had many discussions with Priesthood leaders on this
    topic, but nothing has changed over the years.

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