How do women spiritually override bad Priesthood leadership?

Wrestling with “Women Submit” Language in Personal Scripture Study

One night a decade ago, I sat in a college dorm conducting a Sunday-night Bible study with my boyfriend.  We’d been working our way through the letters of Paul, and now were on Ephesians 5.  In that passage Paul calls for unity among the saints, and reproves various “unfruitful works of darkness” before reaching a famous passage:

Giv[e] thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;  Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. … Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

The passage didn’t strike me as odd; it seemed to exactly track everything I’d been taught in Young Women:  follow the Priesthood.  By divine design, men are the heads of households.  A husband should love and consult with his wife, but he ultimately presides as the Priesthood Holder in the home.  I had learned that even if the husband was falling short in some way, the wife should not undermine his authority, but instead “submit” and “reverence” him even more, in order to inspire him to step up and fulfill the mantle of his Priesthood responsibility.

But engaged in a “deep reading” with my boyfriend, I found myself wrestling with the contradictions in the passage.  Just a verse earlier Paul tells everyone in the Christian community to submit to everyone else; yet Paul still singles out women specifically to submit to their husbands “in every thing.”

My boyfriend was using a different Bible translation, however, and as we parsed the linguistic differences, somehow, a knot unlocked in my mind.

If a man is not following Christ, I don’t have to follow him.

After all, I could not deny that throughout history there have been men who “have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you.”  (Jacob 2:35).  According to Jacob, women have the spiritual power to bear witness against men.

God listens to the women who suffer from and condemn the bad examples of men.

I found this principle further emphasized in the Doctrine and Covenants.  If the Priesthood is not exercised based on principles of righteousness “the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”  (D&C 121:37)

Men who mistreat women do not act with Priesthood authority.

Using Bible study guides and informed by my secular study of the New Testament, my boyfriend and I tried to reframe Paul’s words as radical in historical context.  In an era where women were essentially property, weren’t full persons, weren’t competent witnesses, weren’t able to seek divorce — Paul taught that a husband had a responsibility to love his wife and follow Christ above all.

As one evangelical blog explains, “Paul takes for granted the traditional household codes of the ancient Greco-Roman world and does not seek to overturn them, at least not directly.  Instead, his approach is to accept the traditional household arrangements of the ancient world on the surface while subverting them from within. He does this with his rather shocking instructions to husbands [to love and serve their wives].”

Wrestling with “Women Submit” Language in Gospel Doctrine

For years, this answer about historical radicalism satisfied me.  I parroted it often in lessons and conversations. A woman only must submit to her husband insofar as he submits to God.  God’s will governs all.

The answer doesn’t satisfy me anymore.  Why?  Because there’s no adequate enforcement mechanism.  There’s no way, within our current church structure, for a woman to actually denounce any Priesthood Leader as wrong.

The last time we covered Ephesians in Gospel Doctrine is indicative.  The class discussion cheerfully centered around how Paul aligns with the Family Proclamation’s teaching that “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness.”

After a few minutes, I raised my hand and asked one piercing question.  “What happens when the husband doesn’t submit to God, such as in cases of abuse?”

Hands shot up from around the room.  The first volley of comments centered around how women should go to their fathers, or home teachers, or Bishops, or Stake Presidents, or other Priesthood Leaders with stewardship over them in order to get advice.

That prompted the inevitable follow-up:  “But what if the Priesthood Leaders don’t listen, or give good advice?”

The second volley of answers switched the focus.  Class members emphasized that women can seek divine revelation for herself, and cut out all the middlemen.  The only thing that matters is a woman’s choice to follow God’s will for her, and no husband or Priesthood Leader has the power to override her personal spiritual inspiration.

I love that answer, but it’s stealthily problematic to how Mormonism is actually structured.  If its true that women’s personal revelation governs, that truth threatens to nullify both Paul and the Proclamation on the Family, to say nothing of women’s temple covenants.  If it’s true, then none of the “submit” or “reverence” or “preside” or “hearken” or “obey” or “husband” language should exist, anywhere, in our doctrine.

But that language does exist, as a matter of doctrine, and is emphasized often.

Wrestling with The Practical Effects Of “Women Submit” Language In Cases Of Abuse

The practical effect of teaching that men preside until proven unworthy is that women face an at-times-insurmountable burden in calling out abusive male behavior.[1]

No one disputes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ categorically condemns abuse. Mormon policy states that we do not tolerate abuse in any form. We teach that anyone who abuses wives and family is not worthy of his Priesthood and “may” be subject to church discipline.  We teach that Priesthood leaders who fail to support victims may themselves be subject to discipline. We all agree that the situations described in abundance this week in the press and websites and blogs and social media comments — where Mormon women sought advice regarding their husband’s abuse from Priesthood leaders and were stonewalled — absolutely should never happen.

But these incidents do happen.  We have to admit that they happen.  Victims’ experiences are minimized, abusers are not disciplined, and Bishops do not adequately confront the severity of the behavior. [2]

What are women supposed to do then?

Let’s zoom back to how these situations arise.  They arise as you would except from my Gospel Doctrine’s class first answer.  A woman is in a troubled marriage, and so she seeks the spiritual counsel of her Bishop, her next Priesthood Leader.  [3]

Because of oft-quoted “women submit to their husbands, only so long as the husbands submit to God” language, a woman can’t just declare in the first meeting with her Bishop that her husband has lost the ability to head the family.  (She may not even emotionally have considered that possibility yet — particularly if her husband is constantly emphasizing submission doctrine to gaslight his wife and explain why all of their marriage troubles are her fault.)

Even if she has received a personal witness from God that her husband’s behavior is unacceptable, she culturally can’t just say that either.  She first has to establish she was eligible to receive that revelation, by proving to the Bishop’s satisfaction that her husband acted badly.  If she can’t meet that high hurdle, then her “personal revelation” risks being dismissed as inconsistent with church doctrine.  She is instead counseled to repent, to preserve her eternal family, and to submit to the Priesthood in her home.

If she tries to appeal to the Stake President, now she has to both prove that her husband  — who “presides” by “divine design” —  and her Bishop — who is God’s Judge in Israel with Priesthood keys to counsel her — are disobeying God’s will.

If she tries to appeal to an Area Authority or Salt Lake City, her letter will be returned, unopened, to the very leaders who just dismissed her concerns.

No matter what personal revelation a woman receives, until a woman finds a higher-ranking man to validate her conclusion, her testimony will not be recognized as true.

We proclaim that husbands and bishops who tolerate abuse are subject to discipline, but it requires multiple men believing one woman, after other Priesthood Leaders have dismissed her, to actually put that discipline into practical effect.   No women sit on disciplinary counsels; no woman has any authority to say “amen to the Priesthood of that man.”

Let’s be clear: Bishops all over the world believe women, ask the right questions of women, support women, lovingly apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ to abuse reports, and successfully implement Official Church Policy.  When the Bishop gets it right, the system can work beautifully.  I’ve seen the power of Mormon communities rushing in with moving vans, with food, with shelter, with childcare, with transportation, to assist in cases of familial crises.  It’s a sight that brings grateful tears to my eyes, each and every time.

But if the Bishop gets it wrong, which we must acknowledge happens, the result can be nothing short of catastrophic.

The Practical Aftermath Of Bad Priesthood Advice

Thankfully, many women who receive bad Priesthood advice but who continue to endure abuse fall back on the second answer given by my Gospel Doctrine class.  They rely on their personal revelation, they conclude that Priesthood Leadership and approval is spiritually irrelevant to their experience of abuse, and they turn exclusively to appropriate outside sources.  They seek counseling, leave the relationship, and file for divorce on their own.

But that decision remains fraught.  Cutting Priesthood leadership out of the process may mean that women become social pariahs who do not receive their ward’s help in a time of personal crisis.  The very leaders who failed to listen may conclude the victim was disobedient or at fault, may release her from her calling, may revoke her temple recommend, may refuse to transfer her (or her ex’s) membership records so as to separate them into different geographic wards, and may refuse to support her petition for a sealing cancellation.  It also means those leaders will likely never discipline the abusers, unless the abusers self-confess.  (Of course, if the abusers were capable of that much self-reflection in the first place, they probably wouldn’t have been abusive.)

Most critically, women self-selecting out of continued bad Priesthood leadership means that no account of this tragic tale, including the record of the Bishop’s failure, will ever reach Salt Lake City.

Institutions cannot solve problems they do not recognize exist.  Until women and all victims of poor Priesthood Leadership have a clearer path to report their experiences, these tragic stories will continue, unheard.


[1]  Relatedly, there is almost no way for any woman, anywhere in the Church, to say in any sort of officially-recognized way that a Priesthood Leader was wrong.  The only times I can think of in any church context where women might have any “formal” authority over men at all are in primary, as sunday school teachers, as music leaders, as activities committee chairs (when those existed), and as stake public affairs specialists.  Maybe there are a couple other committee positions.  Can you all think of others?

[2] I am focusing on the women’s experience because of the unique effects “submit to her husband and the Priesthood” doctrinal language wreaks on women’s experiences.  I know many of the principles here, such as the inability to appeal to higher authority, apply equally to men who experience abuse, as well as other concerns within the Church.  If someone would like to submit a guest post on the experience of and unique difficulties of being an abused man within the Mormon church, I would welcome such a submission.

[3] Seeking advice from an outside source, including a Bishop, has the potential to be, and often is, a very good thing.  Victim’s advocates and law enforcement officials have told me that a woman choosing to “officially” consult with someone, anyone, is a positive step.  It means the woman has not been beaten into complete silence and she still feels like there is someone she can trust.  Importantly, it is often Bishops who first validate the woman’s experiences, label it as abuse, and encourage her to seek further outside help and legal recourse.


  1. Another ‘fall-out’ of abused women being disbelieved is apostacy. The woman may become less active or even renounce her membership. And it’s not just abusive husband/wife relationships that cause some women to question why men are superior and have the final say. I knew a woman who was converted, moved to Utah from her home state, found the differences (and yes there are differences) in gospel practices (the theology is the same, how that is shared is what is different, apparently) here untenable and thus became inactive. After years away from the Gospel, she wanted to become active again and contacted her Bishop to send missionaries. She was ill and in poverty and had no appropriate clothing to wear to a Sunday meeting. This Bishop told her that she could not attend wearing trousers or a pants suit (which is what she owned). She never came back and died a year or so later, with a still tainted view of the Church. Nobody “in authority” would take her complaint seriously, and yes it is relatively minor. Still a good woman was wronged. I have other examples, including my own personal one. It cost me 32 years as an inactive member. I am thankful to have good Priesthood examples where I am now. Your post was highly informative and answered some questions I’ve had for years. Thanks.

  2. wow! this is really powerful — thank you!

  3. Samantha Ellsworth says:

    This is excellent. Thank you for putting these truths so succinctly.

  4. At the risk of sounding naive, why is it necessary to prove to priesthood leadership that a spouse is wrong or abusive?

  5. @Luke: Because too often the default, based on doctrine and culture and ordinary human psychology, is that the woman won’t be believed unless she has overwhelming evidence to prove her point.

    Take this example published literally today by Pilar on Sister’s Quorum:

    “My bishop had known my husband as a child, knew his entire family well, and didn’t believe my husband capable of my accusations (his confessions). Bishop insisted that his family was strong; his parents had very important, powerful callings in the church. All his siblings were faithful. Maybe this was just a misunderstanding.

    I felt very strongly that God told me to divorce my husband. My bishop gave me a sad smile and replied, ‘That is not God. He would never tell you to break your temple covenants. Pray more.'”

  6. Or to state it more pithily: If the doctrine is “women should submit to their husbands unless their husbands are not submitting to God,” then the woman has to first prove that her husband is not submitting to God before she can justify her defiance.

  7. Ryan Mullen says:

    Thank you for this.

    I’ve spent the last decade re-assessing my childhood notions of prophets–a long, fraught mental and spiritual struggle that ultimately left me with a more robust faith, but very different notions of prophecy than what I had been taught growing up LDS. I guess it’s time for a similar re-assessment of bishops.

  8. This is important. But I would gently challenge the “clearer path to report their experiences” prescription. When I see correct principles (“the Gospel of Jesus Christ categorically condemns abuse . . . we do not tolerate abuse in any form . . . Priesthood leaders who fail to support victims may themselves be subject to discipline”) and yet system failure (the point of the OP) what comes to mind is not band-aids on the margins but revolution.

  9. I have one comment on the point that is emphasized in footnote #1. There is one way to officially say that the bishop is off track. Every member has the opportunity to sustain the bishop publicly in ward or branch conference on an annual basis. There are usually representatives from the stake auxiliary presidencies at all of these meetings. This is highly public and I would not recommend it before appealing to the stake president, but this will get notice and I doubt that all of the other stake leaders will be satisfied with officially ignoring a dissenting vote from an active member. I know several of the female stake leaders here who would not hesitate to call an area authority if they thought that the SP may not be handling a domestic dispute properly.

    Yes, there will be many members who do not think highly of a dissent. But, there will be many who wonder if something is wrong and some who will reach out to try to help.

  10. Paul Ritchey says:


    I’m not sure if any of this post was a direct or indirect response to my question to you in your earlier post on this topic (actually, I’m sure I’m flattering myself to think so). Anyway, here ‘goes:

    Why can’t we describe this as a problem of misunderstanding and misapplying correct doctrine (rather than a problem of incorrect doctrine)? Particularly with respect to the last two sections of your post, it seems like the way things often go (the woman has to prove her case over an over again to successively more authoritative men) is inconsistent with doctrine. Doctrine says that women and men preside over the home as equal partners, with men having primary responsibility for presiding. Why, then, does the Bishop become involved when the man abdicates his partnership with the woman? I understand that she may want (for many reasons) discipline for the man, which necessarily involves the Bishop, but that to one side, what has the bishop got to say about their marriage or about stopping the abuse? It is absolutely her divine right to preside in the home, and to do so alone if her husband will not participate righteously. That is true whether or not she is a member of the Church, and would even be true if there were no Church.

    So I guess I don’t understand what doctrine you think supports the idea that the Bishop and other male leadership should be involved, except after the fact for disciplinary purposes.

  11. “They seek counseling, leave the relationship, and file for divorce on their own.

    But that decision remains fraught. Cutting Priesthood leadership out of the process may mean that women become social pariahs who do not receive their ward’s help in a time of personal crisis. ”

    Don’t worry. We are pretty adept at making people who get divorced in any way, for any reason, feel like pariahs.

  12. @Paul. I’ve been getting many comments from all angles for the last week, this is one of the follow-ups in response to the collective weight of them.

    I personally love your interpretation. Please, proclaim it loudly, everywhere. Get someone to say it in General Conference.

    But right now we don’t say it. Right now women think that divorce is a spiritual crisis for which they must seek bishop support. And doctrine and cultural basically says to seek bishop support about everything, temporal and spiritual.

    You also have to realize how radical it is to preach that everyone can be utterly in control of themselves and receive revelation from god without any intermediaries on any issue. That’s the question on which entire religions rise and fall, across human history.

  13. Not just women… how does a man or woman override bad priesthood leadership?

  14. Hallelujah. I love these words and questions. I refer to this issue of power and institutional structure in nearly every comment I make–not because I want to distract from the OP’s, but because I believe it to be absolutely central and therefore relevant to most discussions of Mormon practice. Also, I feel like I’m on fire most of the time because of my anguish over power issues, and attempt to avoid becoming emotionally incinerated by talking about it.

    I am with christiankimball. If (and IMO it is) the organizational structure is inherently flawed in its distribution of power, then reporting improvements are inadequate. I agree completely that sharing stories of abuse is essential, but it won’t correct the problem. Correcting the problem is simple–women need to stop forfeiting personal power to men, and men need to stop forfeiting personal power to other men of “higher rank.” The hard part, of course, is that our religious culture doesn’t teach emotional and spiritual discernment\self-care–it teaches that exaltation is won through subservience and sacrifice–women are simply asked to be extra subservient. My heart aches, my head throbs, and my spirit wilts and burns all at once.

    If you will permit me, I want to share the burning of my spirit concerning this topic–I take ownership for all of it and understand that my opinions are based on my own experience–I am not in any way suggesting that others handle this issue like I do. I just want to share my struggle and resulting personal conculsions. I’ve started asking myself the question, “If I believe I’m entitled to discern good from rotten in this (and every) situation, what am I going to do RIGHT NOW to honor my best attempt at discernment?” Practicing this has been extremely uncomfortable and awkward. Some examples include: turning down a request to lead a primary song because I thought the lyrics discouraged personal discernment, not accepting a calling for similar reasons, not participating in sustaining at ward conference (where you are asked to sustain like 15 times) because there is no official definition that I believe addresses the issues articulated in this post, not participating in temple ordinances since all of them endorse male power over women, and–most recently–avoiding being set apart from a calling to be a RS pianist. They will probably never notice, but if they do, I will politely explain that I am happy to play the piano but not interested (or willing, if pushed to expound) to be set apart. Why? Because doing so insinuates (at least for me) that mortals–and men in particular–judge my worthiness to make an offering to God, as well the acceptability of those offerings to God. I don’t need a person of any gender to tell me my piano playing (or any other service I feel directed to provide) is acceptable, and only God can judge my worthiness.

    How am I attempting to solve the power problem? I’m not giving it away in the first place. In my opinion, any attempt to override a person’s divine right to discern IS abuse: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse are simply extensions of this first insidious abuse. When I choose to forfeit my power, I self-abuse and invite the abuse of others. What is worse, perhaps, is that I model that abuse for my children and loved ones. Indeed–I feel as though I become a public advocate of abuse.

  15. Thank you, Carolyn, for this powerful and clear-sighted post.

  16. I suggest asking God how to deal with problems brought up in this post. The promise is, he will answer if our heart is right and we have faith.

  17. I should add a little more.

    Life is filled with problems. This post refers to one of many. My experience in life has taught me to not let the problem become my primary focus. Rather, to discipline my focus, so it is on God. It isn’t easy. It takes real commitment.

    When I started to focus my attention on asking God to help me understand and deal with a problem (any problem), I started to receive help.

    When a problem involves another person, I can’t bring about meaningful change by focusing on the problem I perceive the other person has. It is best to ask God to bring about the needed change and to help me bear the burden I am required to carry. The more we submit to a spouse who needs change, the better God is able to bring about meaningful change in both of us.

    If it is a lost cause, I believe God will let us know that, as well.

    This approach has worked for me when dealing with problems of all kinds, including a spouse and children.

  18. Greg Jakubowski says:

    Thank you, Carolyn.

    Our Dry Priest group is discussing the Proclamation On The Family Sunday. May I print your post, not to use verbatim but as notes for me?

  19. Point of order: This causal chain of events, regarding the problems someone faces in escalating up the chain of command, would make a lot more sense of you’re trying to persuade a priesthood holder to take a specific, causal, action.

    But it’s not entirely clear what specific action a hypothetical woman is trying to achieve here: assuming the chain of command worked, and could eventually be persuaded to her viewpoint, what is the endgame supposed to be? Excommunication of the Husband? Smiting him with Lightning? Designating Separate Home Teachers for each of them?

    I don’t think “Pre-emptive Priesthood permission/commandment to Divorce” is technically a thing which can be issued beforehand, so that wouldn’t have been on the table in the first place.

  20. The only solution I know of to override drawing a short straw in the leadership department is to move, preferably right after the abuse is reported to the authorities, separation/divorce papers are filed, & before consulting with the bishop.

    And that scripture about how a wife submits, & her husband stands in the stead of Christ, & he is “to die” for the church? A good evangelical pastor will make your head spin about what it means to “die for” your wife. In brief, it means you keep her happy. Period. If the husband is trying his darndest to keep his wife happy, and the wife is being properly submissive, in righteousness, then both of them are working to keep their partner happy. In my 47 years of being LDS, I have yet to meet a priesthood holder who understood his part of Ephesians 5 or Titus 2.

  21. In your footnote, you invited a guest post. How do I get in touch with you to suggest one?

  22. wreddyornot says:

    Thank you for this post. And thank all of you for the comments and discussion. It all goes to the foundations of equality and inequality. I only hope that this type of conversation can move beyond here to where it might have some positive effect within the patriarchy. I will say that even if it doesn’t, it is helpful to me to see it happening here.

  23. noted that Paul spoke to the people of his day. The Proclamation also speaks in our day. Our understanding of the Proclamation is now moving toward a better understanding of the concept of “preside.” Two weeks ago a General Authority Seventy reorganized our stake. He also gave us instructions which he said he was instructed to give us. One of the instructions had to do with the concept of presiding which was particularly significant in the context of a new stake presidency. He explained very clearly that to preside is to find, not force unity. That is significant to me as I read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians especially the 4th chapter verses 11-16. But more importantly for our day, we are being taught with great effort the principle of presiding with the strong emphasis on councils. This emphasis now permeates every council and classroom from family councils to mission councils, to ward, and stake councils.

  24. @ Greg: anything on BCC is meant to be used for exactly that purpose. (I’m speaking for myself but I’m fairly confident all other authors agree.)

  25. @RH: as an initial matter, I think all women are looking for is what church policy claims we do. (A) believe, validate, and support them without invoking threats that the victim is acting contrary to doctrine or will lose their eternal family; (B) categorically label and condemn abuse; (C) refer to outside professionals and encourage the victim to speak to the police as appropriate (D) impose some sort of discipline on the perpetrator or at a minimum support boundaries between the two including by honoring restraining orders and custody arrangements; (E) support the victim in the various follow-up tasks from a divorce — moving, welfare support potentially, membership record changes, sealing cancellations, etc.

    What we don’t want the bishop to do is any of the stuff covered in the press — tell the victim they’re overreacting, they need to repent for their own abuse, and condemn them for not following their husband, or the Priesthood, or church doctrine.

  26. Why give every.single.idea Paul ever uttered equal credence? He was inspired, yes, but human. He left fingerprints. He also said women should be quiet in church. Paul was a chavanist. Can we admit that? Frankly, I think that we are interpreting these passages as Protestants or evangelicals. Joseph had a completely different relationship and knowledge of Paul, one that helps us understand the human and the servant. Maybe Paul went “meta” and we (99.9% of Christendom) don’t get him and have resultantly caused pain and suffering to women for centuries. God and Nephi supposedly depght in plain and simple truths, but perhaps Paul threw a huge curve ball that we simply can’t catch. Maybe he just got that wrong. Maybe we can appreciate the fact that we have a lifetime of his writings and sermons, all of which are brilliant, but for two-point-five seconds he got a little off- he took the “all submit” just a little too far.

    I’m not being intellectually lazy and taking a shortcut. I’m appreciative for your wrestling and will continue seeking answers myself, but I’m just pointing out Ocham’s razor.

  27. @Mortimer: I’m perfectly willing to filter out the bad parts of Paul! Goodness knows entire theological debates and Christian sects and aspects of the Protestant Reformation hinge on how seriously you take Paul. Those debates are fascinating.

    I’m not sure though I was ready to do that at age 19, and I’m also not sure that the Church writ large and/or the readers of this blog are quite as willing to say “eh, entire passages of scripture are human error or uninspired.” Maybe they’re willing to say that in the abstract — but the second you get to specific passages people tend to get uncomfortable.

  28. Mean mama jones says:

    When you start your lives here a husband and a wife are supposed to unite go away together and start their own family. Looks like it’s done the same way in the eternities.

  29. Great post, Carolyn. If we have to keep the submit language, rather than just dismiss it as time-bound, I agree with your reading of Paul: wives submitting is conditioned on husbands being righteous. But the reality of my own marriage teaches me that submission just isn’t the way to go at all. I don’t want my wife to submit to me. I want an equal partner.

    The family proclamation has contradictory language: husbands preside, but wives and husbands are equal partners. You can reconcile that by privileging presiding, and reinterpreting equal partners to mean only equal insofar is it’s consistent with husband presiding, or you can reconcile it by privileging equal partnership, and reinterpreting presiding to only mean presiding insofar as it’s consistent with equal partnership. That’s what tastes good to me: whatever presiding means, if it can’t mean that a husband’s voice overrules his wife’s voice, it can’t mean anything that would take away equal partnership.

    The idea that a wife would need to go to a higher ranking priesthood holder than her husband to get permission to not submit to him really disturbs me. In my opinion, holding a priesthood office in the church should have no bearing on a marriage. The marriage and the hierarchy of the priesthood should be entirely separate. To the extent that marriage is a priesthood institution, it seems to me that the best way to think of it is as a separate order of the priesthood above or at least not under the administrative priesthood hierarchy. An order of the priesthood that is entered into not by individuals, but by couples, and in which couples participate as equal partners. A bishop or stake president has responsibility for a wife’s or husband’s individual membership in the church, and he can offer advice to anyone that asks for it, but in my view, he has no say in the workings of a marriage, other than to call out abuse when he sees it. The idea that a wife needs permission from a bishop for how she decides to navigate her marriage is not right.

    And aside from all that, my parents taught me from childhood that conscience and personal revelation always trump authority of any kind—legal authority, priesthood authority, whatever. I’m all for deference to priesthood authority, but if a wife feels like she needs priesthood permission to follow her own conscience and personal revelation, something is wrong.

  30. We have thousands of members who were raised with this mentality, and unfortunately it still pervades. The whole article makes my skin crawl, but especially this portion.

    Strengthening the Patriarchal Order in the Home

    “Little scientific evidence is in at this time, but there is concern expressed in some quarters that the growing rebellion of youth is a logical extension of the shift toward equalitarianism. In a new way and in ever increasing numbers, the youth today are demanding a voice in education, marriage, sexual expression, and other significant areas of life. As woman challenges the authority of man, so youth challenges the authority of the family and all other related social institutions.”

  31. At the risk of a thread derail, I read a great article this week in the Atlantic explaining how to look at political issues ( The gist is that, on difficult issues, most people hold internally conflicting views. For some people, the stronger view is the one pushing for a change. For others, the concern is where the change will stop; the proverbial slippery slope.

    Applying the lesson here, I believe the overarching problem is that, as a church, we are not ready to grapple with the question of what to do when the counsel of prophets and apostles is incorrect. We’ve made strides to allow women a “veto” over their husband’s decrees. We’re getting there too with bishops (at least in abuse counseling situations). But the gut opposition to such changes is rooted in unease of how far we can go up the chain.

  32. JKC, in my marriage, we interpret the PotF as positive guidelines to encourage action, but do not adopt the implied exclusionary roles. Fathers are supposed to protect. That’s a good role. But so do women. The PotF doesn’t prevent this, it just doesn’t encourage it. So we make clear to our kids that Mom protects just like Dad does. Same thing with nurturing and providing; we both do it. Presiding is no different. Men are supposed to provide over their families. Kids without direction are awful. But in our family Mom presides equally with Dad. No significant action is ever taken without both being in harmony, and neither ever puts his/her foot down and claims authority over the other.

  33. Authority is such a fraught concept, and as Mormons we really do not do it justice.

  34. Yeah, me too, Dave K. I don’t think a healthy marriage could be otherwise. The equal partners language seems to me like a clear statement that whatever the church says about gender roles in the abstract, they’re not to be taken as bright lines that can’t be crossed. And regardless, that’s how a healthy marriage works.

  35. I know I’m a “blow it up” sort of voice, but the language discussions are frustrating to me.

    We absolutely do have to grapple with Paul. We have to interpret the Proclamation on the Family. They are read and quoted and cited by too many people I care about. So the discussion about language is necessary and unavoidable.

    However, the discussion about language and interpretation happens in an echo chamber. Everybody who participates is taking these issues seriously already. In my opinion, for the large majority who never engage here or elsewhere we need a meat cleaver approach. The “submit” and “preside” and “hearken” language has to go. I’m completely persuaded that every trace of hierarchy, of priority, of men over women, of patriarchy, is not just wrong but dangerous.

  36. Years ago my wife and I decided that the only voice that mattered in our marriage was our unified voice. We both surrendered our right to speak unilaterally on important decisions and vital needs. We strive for the unity that the apostles are supposed to have regarding decisions. We counsel with each other constantly. It was the best decision we ever made. We found that we protected each others’ interests. We have not had an argument in decades. But we have taken long walks together and hammered out some very difficult decisions.

  37. Bravo, Carolyn! A hearty AMEN to you! And thank you!

    This is so problematic because I was trained (and I’m not alone) to see the bishop as one who speaks for God–he makes callings, and hears serious sins. It is particularly painful to feel like one has to convince him to see and believe a situation in order to get the unconditional support or validation that seems totally natural to be expected to be found in the walls of a bishop’s office, the most local servant of the Lord. I’ve been in a terrible situation when a bishop told me that he couldn’t take sides in a sexual molestation situation. He couldn’t take sides? I needed help and support and understanding. My son was three years old. My bishop’s statement was telling and cut me to the heart.

    I don’t think it takes much imagination for a bishop to consider how he would behave if he was married to the woman sitting across from him and I think he can find it much easier to justify the actions of her mate. I can imagine a bishop thinking that this woman is over-emotional and must be exaggerating the situation. I can imagine that a bishop could find himself wondering how much sex her mate is getting, because a low diet of sex seems to justify a whole lot of bad, bad behaviors–in some men’s minds. If there was a man sitting across from a bishop telling him that his wife was unfaithful, this would be an entirely different conversation. And again in that situation, I would bet that it would be difficult for the bishop to imagine being in her situation.

    It is way past time to throw out the “hearken to your husband” words in the temple. It’s way past time for women to be officially involved and endorsed to minister to the needs of the congregation. I think think of Batson vs. Kentucky, what happens when a man is not tried by his peers? Subsequently, what happens when a woman is judged by a man? It’s easy to say that these men mean well, or they aren’t trained or they are not perfect until you or a loved one finds themselves hurting on the other side of that big bishop’s desk.

  38. Amen, Christian.

  39. This was wonderful and I really enjoyed it. I do disagree with note 1 however. I don’t think there are any places where women honestly have any authority over men. I’ve been Primary President, I’ve been Scout Committee Chair. When men behaved badly I had zero authority to remove them. In one ward I had no say at all about who was called and in fact only found out in Sacrament meeting when someone was sustained. I was told I didn’t need to know before then. Just because I handed them a manual or worked with them didn’t give me any actual authority over them. The buck in a ward really stops with the Bishiopric.

  40. Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating that Priesthood Leaders sometimes threaten to take away women’s temple recommends for not obeying their counsel on divorce…this story just broke today.

  41. Carolyn-I read the story at kutv before reading your comment. I think there are two points that need to be made.

    First, temple recommends of men and women can be taken away. Your comment makes it appear as though this happens to women only.

    Second, Why did Priesthood Leaders feel it necessary to take this kind of action? According to kutv printed article early this morning Ms. Hadlock was creating problems in the ward by continually talking about her divorce. Even to the point of disrupting sacrament meetings.

    However, kutv redacted the news article and removed the piece about disrupting sacrament meetings. I wonder why kutv changed the story?

  42. No clue. I fully confess that I don’t have all context. But “disruptive” is a hugely subjective term — I’m curious what the objective behavior was. (I say as a First Amendment lawyer )

  43. Paul Ritchey says:

    If it’s desirable to emphasize the separate domains of power between family and Church (a la JKC above), how do we do that? As Carolyn points out, even though that interpretation seems correct, no one is saying it in General Conference. Why is that?

    Is it perhaps because men drive the doctrinal narrative, and men don’t get much practice making the Church/family distinction because they tend to preside in both? For the historians out there, do we see the women-presiding-in-the-home narrative being taught by women in the early restored Church? Or by priesthood leadership?

    Sorry – too many questions. Stopping now.

  44. Old Man, your example is the ideal, and the one my wife and I practice. I was given the same example by my parents. And temple ceremony aside, it is the example that counts.

  45. It’s no wonder that so many members turn to bishops when things aren’t going well. We’ve been marinating in this counsel for generations.

    Example of the church asserting that bishops have authority over marriages.

    Seek Out Your Spiritual Leader

    One of the great blessings of this church is that everyone has a spiritual leader to whom he should direct himself. In the case of a father, his children and wife will want to consult him as the spiritual leader in their home. If the matter needs further attention, the wife and children do not go to a priesthood quorum leader, as the husband might on some priesthood matters. They counsel with the bishop or branch president. If there is a problem in the marriage, the husband and wife go to their bishop for he presides over both of them as the bishop and presiding high priest over the ward. They need not go elsewhere, unless otherwise directed by the bishop, for additional guidance.

    Remember that at times your local priesthood leader may truly see things differently than you do. Disagreements seem to come over details and methods for performing given tasks, but almost never are based in differences over gospel principles. Your leader has a right to function with his own unique personality and in his own realm of experience, and it may be in detail somewhat different in practice from the exact way you would perform. Nevertheless, counsel from a priesthood leader in the proper spirit is of the Lord and binding.

  46. Carolyn et al.: Thank you for the thought-provoking article and comments.

    Just to provide an additional data point: I can’t speak for other stakes, but the training I received while serving in bishoprics was (in my words) that a bishop was never to instruct a member on whether to marry, leave a spouse, or divorce. That was a personal decision outside his jurisdiction, and he should tread carefully to avoid exercising unrighteous dominion. Instead, he was to support the member and help her or him receive personal revelation on how he or she should act, providing resources as possible and needed. (Of course, this didn’t change the bishop’s obligation to convene a church court or call law enforcement if certain misbehavior required–or indicated–it.)

  47. Pete, the very mention of Barlow makes me cringe. The other talk your shared about “seeking your spiritual leader” does a excellent job of describing the issue at hand–and with a vomit-inducing flair, I might add. His argument about leaders being more than “just men” is classic and disturbing: all of this hinges on the degree that people believe others stand in for, speak for, direct for, discipline for, and advise for God. I don’t know how it can be perceived as anything but natural for members to feel obligated to follow any and all council of their “superiors” when the theology includes the assumption that mortals can act for God in these ways. This goes way beyond the language of the Family Proclamation and temple ceremonies. If the root is addressed, all of that will naturally shift. Personally, I think we channel the power of the heavens every time we act in love, and that our power grows as our proficiency to love purely increases. When I hear even benevolent versions of the argument for a hierarchy of spiritual power, it sounds something like this: “To love completely and to honor God, it is required to be overpowered by others and also to overpower them in your respective stewardships. Because, after all, it’s just God talking, and God intends for our health, safety, peace, salvation, exaltation, and ties to our most beloved to be at the mercy of called mortals.” Am I oversimplifying?

  48. Jon, your experience is consistent with my experience in a half a dozen different stakes in widely different areas all outside Utah.

  49. Paul, The Proclamation alludes to it: “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.” No reference to leaning on church leadership there.

  50. Bravo, Old Man

  51. There are practical reasons for a woman to appeal to priesthood leadership for help, but I think the most powerful reason so many do it is just plain habit. Well-trained, enforced habit. This sentence from the OP is critical here:

    “No matter what personal revelation a woman receives, until a woman finds a higher-ranking man to validate her conclusion, her testimony will not be recognized as true.”

    This is not just true in the context of a potentially abusive relationship. This is true *throughout the entire structure of the church.* So of course, if a woman is not sure what to do or what’s really happening in her relationship (as is very, very common in abusive relationships – a major component of them is rattling your sense of what’s real), she will go to a male leader for validation and advice. Because those are the most reliable voices of reason she has. Women can say what a man has affirmed for her; a priesthood leader can just declare things.

    If we want women to use a different avenue in these situations, we need to actively work against that habit. Maybe it starts with opportunities for women to practice declaring their own truths, or maybe it’s creating a female calling that stands outside the ward’s leadership structure (like how the Elders Quorum President technically reports to the Stake President), I don’t know. But we have to at least acknowledge that the structure of the church trains women to need male validation before acting on their own instincts.

  52. Pete, I first read your last two paragraphs as your own words, and thought such a tone-deaf comment would cause some anguish on this thread. A bit later, I checked your link and found that the words are from a 1978 conference address by Gene Cook. A set of quote marks bracketing the quote would’ve helped clarify, but didn’t lessen the sick feeling. I used to believe such things, and took too many problems to different bishops over the years. And though they were all good, earnest guys, they didn’t have the slightest training to provide what I needed, and so my needs went unmet, and I did my best to keep things calm until it became a major urgency that required addressing. Only then did I seek a professional. And bypassed the bishop entirely.

    The sick feeling comes from the knowledge that husbands and bishops presiding over all manner of problems is by design from the top, with not a peep about listening to what the woman involved has to say, instead her authority as an adult is nullified and she’s categorized with the children. And this is internalized by women in the church literally weekly, and it causes great harm to her capacity to address her life when it’s on fire. It’s one of the worst flaws in the way we administrate priesthood authority in the church, and many women have the choice of leaving to protect themselves from the negative consequences engendered by this flaw. Or they stay, and endure pariah status, as Kristine commented.

    There’s such a wide gulf between our noble aspirations and the reality lived by too many.

  53. MDearest, I’m so sorry. I wrote my comments on a laptop, not phone, and didn’t realize the html formatting wouldn’t transfer to mobile. Sincerest regrets for causing stress.

  54. MDearest, I appreciate what you say about the internalization that happens for women on (at least) a weekly basis. While it certainly wears on the women, it instructs the girls. I don’t want my daughter to internalize these messages. I also don’t want to tell my orthodox husband that I won’t support my children going to church. He isn’t open to discussing messages in the home after church in ways that are contrary to the norm, because he is comfortable with the norm–but I don’t think I can live with myself if I don’t share a portion of my heart and explain at least some basics about my beliefs, such as, “I know Sister so-and-so said that men are the spiritual leaders of women, but I believe everyone is intended to seek the Divine individually and support each other. No one else “holds” power that should override the whispering of your soul.” I feel as though I have to find a way to share with my children, but I might end up divorced as a result.

  55. Pete, no worries. You aren’t the cause of the stress. You brought forward an authoritative Gen Con address that we’ve been using for 40 years to repeatedly teach a flawed approach to priesthood administration, which often has terrible consequences. Though surely it’s not the only statement of its kind, it’s germane to the comments.

  56. Josidave, I hear you on the bishop imagining his own marriage, as he looks at some across his desk.

    In our stake, we were told in the late ’80s to leave the bishop alone. His most important task was the youth. We adults were supposed to solve our own problems (or take them to quorum leaders, with no guarantee of confidentiality, ha!). I must have missed the swing back to calling on bishops.

    On the home front, the phrase “If a man is not following Christ, I don’t have to follow him” seemed fair and right when we started our marriage. My husband looked like he was “following Christ” when he insisted on scripture study or on lengthening our spiritual to-do list. It took years to see that his approach was actually manipulative and driven by his anxieties.

    I haven’t found myself in the bishop’s office, seeking counsel on life-threatening matters (see above). But when I read here about the women who have, I believe them because I’ve experienced the same headwinds at home.

    I have found adulthood to be a long tutorial in learning to trust my own impressions and observations. Blindly following my husband’s whims has proven to be unwise. This marriage needs two hard-thinking people.

  57. After reading this post and comments I recalled something I read recently. Just fill in the blank.

    If you’re more attached to _______________than you are to your membership and your discipleship of Christ it’s not going to be easy for you in the church.

  58. JK, that’s an interesting consideration. Do you think membership and discipleship are synonymous? Or at least that commitment to membership is a prerequisite for committed discipleship of Christ? Perhaps that’s a poor question, because the blog is centered around the Mormon faith, so I imagine the majority of the audience perceives Mormon membership to be necessary for proper discipleship of Christ.

  59. CJ-Good question. Scriptures teach discipleship takes root with baptism by priesthood authority. We’re also taught that if the priesthood holder who baptizes us is unworthy the ordinance is still valid because of our faith.

  60. I had similar thoughts, CJ, in that I think of membership and discipleship as separate, but connected. Discipleship is administrated by individuals themselves with influence from authority (scriptures and leadership come to mind) but little intervention. Membership is is all about outside intervention, and since it’s administrated by mortals, has flaws— like the flaw examined in this OP and comments. It’s a bug rather than a feature when membership issues come into conflict with discipleship issues, and it’s quite painful to manage, on top of the problems that caused the conflict.

    When women are not taken seriously, either not believed or not understood (often because the women themselves have internalized their own lack of power to effect change), and when there is no other avenue for women to advocate for their lived experience, it’s not surprising that many, when faced with urgent life-threatening problems that they can’t find succoring from leadership, opt for a painful break between their discipleship and membership.

  61. I think the key in all of this is faith in Heavenly Father. He delegates flawed mortals with priesthood authority. What other choice is there in a fallen world. Should that priesthood authority be in misused or in error then scriptures teach that Heavenly Father will consecrate our afflictions for our gain.

    When things don’t go well we have the choice to murmur or exercise faith (for me it has been a combination of both).

  62. The story of Ms. Hadlock’s recommend being revoked is very unsettling to me, not because it is so unbelievable, but because I made the mistake of reading the Facebook comments connected to the KUTV article. What IS unbelievable is how many are defending the bishop’s actions. I’ve read through many comments on different forums over the years suggestion that this ganging up against the victim is exactly what can happen, but it is something else to see it happening firsthand. Listening to the audio of the SP sweetly gaslighting her that it was for her own good to not talk to anyone about the things her ex-husband had done and was doing to her, I just thought, Wow, this guy has so obviously never been a woman. It was Exhibit A of The Problem with All-Male Clergy.

  63. JK–do you see, though, that it’s problematic to give men a pass on unrighteous dominion, because the suffering they cause will redound to women’s good? I believe that God can redeem suffering, but my hunch is that he’d prefer that we not use that as a reason to not worry about the harm we do…

  64. At some point, a woman in crisis will choose–

    To keep seeking validation from a man–

    Or to walk alone.

    She can go to the bishop or her home teacher.

    She can talk to well-meaning leaders who try to give some kind of counsel to help her walk in the dark.

    But they don’t live her life. She won’t be believed. An abuser might call her crazy.

    They can’t fix that. Until she cares enough about herself to stop looking to men to validate her feelings…she won’t find a way out of the cycle.

  65. (Speaking from experience.)

    Thank God for bishops who pointed me in the right direction…who taught me to care enough about myself to walk away.

  66. “Should that priesthood authority be in misused or in error then scriptures teach that Heavenly Father will consecrate our afflictions for our gain.

    When things don’t go well we have the choice to murmur or exercise faith….”

    There is something highly disturbing to me about this attitude. I, too, believe the Heavenly Father can consecrate all of our trials for our gain. However, these seems to imply that after a victim is dealt with unjustly, she has two choices: suffer in faithful silence or be accused of “murmuring.” No. No! No more of this. One can remain a faithful follower of Jesus Christ while speaking truth.

  67. In Hadlock’s case, from what I’ve read, she didn’t just murmur, she made a public issue of a personal matter. Telling her story to the news outlets defines her faith, in my opinion. Revenge is mine saith the Lord.

    I wish her the best in her very trying circumstances. Maybe in the end, she, and everyone else will learn a valuable truth and be better for it.

  68. Not sure where you’re coming from on this, JK. I find your comments very odd.

    “When things don’t go well we have the choice to murmur or exercise faith.”

    Yes, I suppose that’s right, if by “exercise faith” you mean “fix the problem.” On that other hand, if you think that exercising faith means praying for the strength to take a beating without complaint, then no. It’s just stupid to sit around suffering the abuse of priesthood authority while repeating the mantra that God will make everything right in the long run.

    As for your comments on Hadlock, I think this post and comment thread illustrate that trying to shut her up on the ground that it’s a “private matter” is part of what created the problem in the first place. If a public reckoning is required, then so be it. It’s not as if the church is going to wilt from the heat of these public comments. There’s a real problem here, and the church will be stronger for dealing with it.

  69. I’d like to soften my comment about how it’s stupid to sit around suffering. I don’t want my words to hurt people who feel that they have no other choice. It is common for people who suffer trauma to do things that are self-defeating or self-destructive. That can include passivity while being abused. We learn these poor behaviors as a way of coping, and overcoming them is part of recovery from abuse. I hope that discussions like this one inspire abused people to know that there is hope. I have little patience with people who tell us to do nothing in the face of abuse, but I don’t want my impatience to discourage anyone.

  70. Many years ago I had a Jewish friend who married a gorgeous Jewish woman. She bore 3 children but never really kicked her heroin habit. Eventually she left him with the children and renounced the Jewish faith.

    I might not have the details exactly right, but these children were not considered to be fully Jewish after that, even though their father was faithful and their grandparents had tattoos on their arms from the Nazi camps. They had to go through some conversion process. But if the man had been the one to recant and leave faith and his family, the children would not need to convert as long as their mother remained faithful. This, as explained to me, was because 4000 years of experience had taught the Jewish people that a mother usually has far more influence on the faith of her children than the father.

    We Mormons cannot escape the law of the harvest. We continue to sow these seeds of wickedness and they sprout and harm more and more women. The next generation of boys who behave in compliant ways that result in leadership callings cultivate these seeds and more women are going to be hurt in the future. Many women leave, others hunker down, or complain or murmur. Little by little, the trust in the church erodes away. Faith is diminished and the religion loses its vitality.This the harvest we sow.

    I applaud the efforts of Sister Carolyn and many others to halt this wickedness. But I honestly don’t see it doing much good so far. Not that they should stop trying. But the patriarchy is too stubborn and clueless and powerful. Those who would like to see Mormonism destroyed must be rejoicing at these difficulties.

    What I hear the brethern say indirectly and ever so nicely: Let’s merely placate these women and pretend all is pretty much well in Zion (and let the devil cheat our souls and lead us carefully down to hell).

    Humorous afterthought: I think J. Golden Kimball once said- Sooner a man preside over the entire d****d church, than to preside over one wife in righteousness.

  71. keepapitchinin says:

    There is no one in Mormon history who is more often maligned by false “quotations” than J. Golden Kimball.

  72. Samantha Ellsworth says:

    Thank you, thank you! Well said

  73. Loursat- it may be that we are not in disagreement. Let’s see. You wrote:

    “if you think that exercising faith means praying for the strength to take a beating without complaint, then no. It’s just stupid to sit around suffering the abuse of priesthood authority while repeating the mantra that God will make everything right in the long run.”

    To me, faith is enduring difficulties when needed and standing up against difficulties when necessary. The key is receiving guidance from the Lord. But as we all know, sometimes guidance comes and sometimes it doesn’t come. When guidance comes then we need to act on it. When it doesn’t come then we are left with the decision.

    In this case, seeking counsel from our Bishop is a smart thing. For example, if I go to my Bishop about my husband being verbally abusive on occasion and he gives me counsel to see if I am doing something to trigger my husbands verbal abuse, what should I do? Reject his counsel or follow it?

    The choice is mine. I can take the Bishop’s counsel seriously and do some introspection or reject it. IMHO, it is smart to take his counsel. In so doing, I could open the door to inspiration. If I reach the conclusion I am not creating a trigger for contention, then I can tell the Bishop, and continue working on a way to find a solution to strengthen my marriage.

    Those who follow this pattern have saved their marriages. Some who have followed this pattern have ended their marriage and are at peace about their decision because they were faithful and sought help through prayer and priesthood guidance.

  74. A serious issue is not only women who are marginalized and minimized when they report abuse but those who are abused at the hands of their husband who is a bishop/stake president/ecclesiastical leader, who convinces friends and family that the abuse was manufactured by his wife. To anyone who is abused, I would recommend that they obtain police and/or doctor’s report whenever possible and that they protect themselves from further abuse with or without the approval of an ecclesiastical leader. What the Church needs is an ombudsman hotline where women can receive help when their abuser is an ecclesiastical leader. However, since the Church protects its leaders so well and silences victims of abuse so profoundly, I do not imagine that will ever happen.

  75. What could the phrase from handbook “protect the innocent ” mean accept protect a person who is being abused? I think there was initially a good discussion going on here, but I also suspect it has attracted some provocateurs who are knowingly staking out strange sounding “straw man” positions to provoke gratifying responses. Is that possible?

  76. Here is a whole new view of how the sins of the parents are visited upon the children: On the off chance that some of those supporting the few bishops who may against adamant and very specific church counsel to “protect the innocent” in cases of spousal abuse, counsel pray, and patience only. I recommend a close reading of “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity ”, by Nadine Harris. For me it explains well why “…parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another…” The Familiy: A Proclamation to the World.
    “Natalie Harris writes ‘The body remembers. Twenty years of medical research has shown that childhood adversity literally gets under our skin, changing people in ways that can endure in their bodies for decades.’ Indeed, adversity ‘can dramatically increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes—even Alzheimer’s.” In a winning conversational style, Harris explains how adversity ‘harms development and regulation of the immune system throughout someone’s life’ and the ways in which doctors now screen for and treat childhood trauma—sleep, mental health, healthy relationships, exercise, nutrition, and meditation. She notes that adverse childhood experiences affect people of all socioeconomic levels (they are often disguised out of secrecy and shame), and their harmful effects can be passed on from one generation to another. The author’s work has won wide attention through a New Yorker article and a TED talk. This important and compassionate book further sounds the alarm over childhood trauma—and what can be done to remedy its effects.” — Kirkus Reviews

  77. “What could the phrase from handbook “protect the innocent ” mean accept protect a person who is being abused?”

    It means to protect men from being falsely accused. (Alas.)

  78. “In this case, seeking counsel from our Bishop is a smart thing. For example, if I go to my Bishop about my husband being verbally abusive on occasion and he gives me counsel to see if I am doing something to trigger my husbands verbal abuse, what should I do? Reject his counsel or follow it?”

    No one who knows the first thing about abuse counsels a victim to work on not triggering her abuser. Such counsel is itself abusive.

  79. So much to say says:

    Thank you Kristine, for that comment on triggering abuse.

  80. For those interested, I recently read the following article about relationship triggers. That’s why I mentioned triggers in my example above. Also, my daughter is a LCSW and we’ve discussed triggers.

  81. JK, I just read the Psychology Today article. It was highly interesting. My takeaway is that we all, at times, “read” events incorrectly based upon our own triggers. We should work to recognize those triggers and how they may impact our interpretation of a situation. Nowhere did the author advocate that it was an abuse victim’s job to stop triggering her abuser.

  82. Ardis E. Parshall says:

    There is an unbridgeable gulf between misinterpreting your partner’s intentions because you’re unaware of what triggers your own poor response (that you can and should work on) and wrongly believing that you can control someone else and are responsible for not triggering your partner’s abuse (he is the only one who can control his behavior and the only one responsible for abuse).

    Go back to your daughter and learn the difference. If she doesn’t appreciate the difference, her certification should be yanked.

  83. Amen, Ardis E. Parshall!

  84. First a little bit of my background, because I understand that has an influence on my viewpoint. I grew up in Utah but spent most of my youth an inactive member of the church, I was taught church principles and attended seminary but we didn’t go to church on Sundays. With that in mind, I don’t feel like I was ever taught to be submissive to my future husband. I was always taught marriage was a partnership and I was the only one who could get revelation for myself. I had heard the saying of wives being submissive to their husbands but thought it was viewed differently and never took it to heart. I have also, as a young single adult relief society president, voiced my concerns across two different bishops over some callings that were made. (Anybody who knows me would say it is not in my nature to to be that bold I am a shy intervert in most situations). To their credit the bishops listened to and addressed my concerns, we talked for a long time. In the end, the two individuals served in those respected callings and served well. The problems that I addressed may have helped that or my concerns were premature. I wanted to share this because yes relief society is still overseen by the bishop, but they can have a voice. Hopefully my experience is not the exception.

    Additionally, relating to the counsel of bishops. In situations of abuse or mental health I actually would have never thought about turning to my bishop until the stories this week. Those situations call for more training and experience than a bishop has or could get in his trainings. Maybe the answer lies in referring those situations to outside resources without a bishop stepping in and giving too much, possibly harmful, advice.

  85. Recently President Nelson said, “Members should know the difference between what is doctrine and what is human. All humans are imperfect, so give your leaders some leeway to make mistakes.” This suggests a woman should know better than to follow a bishop’s mistaken counsel. But when she does know better, she is accused of apostasy (to her face, in Ms. Hadlock’s case).

    I triggered my dad’s verbal and physical abuse all the time. It was not for lack of self-reflection about how I could avoid it. One time he even told me, in a rage, that I had 30 seconds to explain to him what my ulterior motive was for behaving so well for the last few weeks. I couldn’t win. People who are abused are already constantly looking for ways to avoid the abuse. They don’t need someone reinforcing that the abuse is their own fault.

  86. I don’t know who Ardis is, but unkindness and intolerance is evident.

    It appears that some who have commented are troubled by my support of the church and the priesthood that is at its foundation. It appears that only one point of view is welcome here.

  87. JK: Ardis is a leader in Mormon thought, and her reply was appropriate and not intolerant.

    The entire point under discussion here is that Priesthood Leaders make mistakes and are not always inspired. We are under no obligation to follow the counsel of Priesthood Leaders who, as humans, give bad advice.

    The sort of marital advice that is appropriate and measured in generally healthy relationships — such as “when you and your spouse have conflict, do you react with anger or kindness? Do you assume the worst or best about them? I would advise you together to strive for mutual patience and understanding.” — can be utterly destructive in abusive ones. It can accidentally teach a victim that even though their spouse is acting with anger, the spouse is never allowed to get angry in return and just needs to be more kind and gentle. Abusers seize on and manipulate that reaction to further perpetuate abuse.

    Both Bishops and victims need to be able to exercise discernment about the distinction between healthy and abusive relationships, and realize that advice appropriate to one is not god-inspired for the other.

  88. Carolyn- maybe Ardis is having a bad day. As leader in Mormon thought, as you believe, she should be more understanding of points of view that may differ from her own.

    My comments, as they clearly show, were addressed to mild forms of “abuse”, not those that require criminal intervention.

    In the Hadlock case, what has been in the news, left me thinking that her priesthood leaders were counseling her correctly. How can church leaders do anything else when Hadlock was disruptive in sacrament meeting.

  89. JK, I am concerned for you. Please do not believe that supporting the church and the priesthood means that we must submit to abuses of authority. That is not the Lord’s way.

    You asked this question: “If I go to my Bishop about my husband being verbally abusive on occasion and he gives me counsel to see if I am doing something to trigger my husbands verbal abuse, what should I do? Reject his counsel or follow it?”

    You should reject his counsel because it is wrong for the bishop to blame you for triggering your husband’s verbal abuse. The way you have phrased this scenario makes you sound like a person who is apologizing for her abuser.

    As Carolyn’s comment points out, advice can be heard differently in different contexts. I am concerned because as you have chosen to state the scenario–putting responsibility on a wife for her husband’s lack of personal control–it is a classic example of blaming the victim.

  90. So much to say says:

    Thank you Anon and Ardis and Laurel and Carolyn. I just read the article too. The article did not upset me, but I did feel upset by the scenario JK suggested where the bishop tells the abused to consider how they might be triggering the abuse.

    Meant with all respect and courtesy: Not knowing JK, I cannot be sure, but it seems that JK may be new to the terminology of triggers. It can definitely be helpful to all of us to learn more about psychological theory. However, most abused partners know that their abuser has triggers, although they might not know the clinical term or underlying psychological theory. Most abused live their lives trying to figure out how to avoid the next episode of abuse. Especially with emotional abuse, this is what makes the abused feel like maybe they just do not see things clearly, maybe if they just tried harder. And harder and harder. This perpetuates the abuse, and for a bishop to add authority to that would be awful.

    Sure, it can help an abused person to understand, as JK’s linked article points out, that triggers arise from guttural limbic responses. The abused then understands the cycle a little. But the abused is NOt responsible for these triggers. She is NOT responsible to always try to avoid the triggers. How can she know what the triggers are when the abuser himself does not? And, the triggers are anything—one day one thing and one day another. The triggers can be basic life tasks. The trigger could be getting sick.

    To say it again: even if the abused could figure out the triggers, it is not her fault, not her fault, not her fault. Not her responsibility.

    This can be very complex stuff. Even licensed therapists have specialties. Even one of the most highly regarded couples therapy programs currently (emotion focused therapy) could be a horrible thing for a couple with abuse issues.

    So, this gets at the basic discussion of the OP. For a bishop to suggest his own understanding of triggers or any psychology for that matter, has a good chance of being the wrong thing. Even if the bishop is a trained clinical counselor, it could take months of focused discussion with a therapist to fully understand the issues. The abused may have just wanted to talk with someone they could trust—because the bishop is supposed to keep things confidential. The conversation with the bishop would be just a starting place. Superficial psychological advice is especially damaging in the cases of emotional abuse where the lines are harder to see. A bruised eye is obvious abuse. Emotional choking is not so obvious.

  91. JK, suppose you had framed your example differently:

    A couple goes to the bishop for advice. The husband at times verbally abuses his wife. The bishop counsels the husband to reflect on what triggers his abusive behavior, recognize those triggers when they occur, understand that his feelings of anger or frustration emerging from the triggers–while they may feel real–are not based in reality (i.e. wife isn’t diabolically trying to make him mad), and stop his gut-level response (verbal abuse), replacing it with a calming activity where he can cool off and examine how his triggers are impacting his emotions.

    A couple goes to the bishop for advice. The wife is upset because her husband is sometimes curt. The husband admits he can be curt occasionally, especially when he’s had a bad day, but he loves his wife and isn’t deliberately trying to hurt her feelings. It turns out, the wife grew up with a verbally abusive father who belittled her for years. Every time her husband is curt, she is fearful that her husband is really just like her father. He counsels the wife to recognize her trigger, understand that her husband is not her father (i.e. the feelings of dread emerging from the trigger are not based in reality), stop her gut-level response (panic that her husband, deep down, is abusive), replace it with a calming activity where she can cool of and examine how her triggers are impacting her emotions.

    Do you see the difference between these examples and the example you provided–one in which the abused person was made responsible for her abuse by not correctly controlling her abuser’s feelings? Do you see how we can and should work to understand and deal with our own triggers, but that we can’t do that work for someone else?

    I guarantee you that I support the church and the priesthood. I do not, however, support abuse or blaming the victim, regardless of the status of the person who gives bad advice.

  92. “if I go to my Bishop about my husband being verbally abusive on occasion”

    My training and experience — almost all about my own problems, incidentally — tells me that the appropriate response is either:
    (a) Advise counseling with a professional who knows what they are doing and who is free to advise across the whole range of possible responses. (Which may well mean completely outside the Mormon hierarchy.)
    (b) If I’m really going to respond, as bishop (or brother or friend), to suggest that you think about the possible triggers with an eye to “measured and balanced” vs “over the top.” A trigger usually means that there’s a disproportionate response, and if that’s happening, then back to (a). The word “abusive” is already a strong signal, and I’d be fully expecting to hear an over-the-top story.

  93. “We absolutely do have to grapple with Paul. We have to interpret the Proclamation on the Family. They are read and quoted and cited by too many people I care about. So the discussion about language is necessary and unavoidable.”

    Amen. As Carolyn explains, we are reluctant to discard biblical and other theological declarations, but we’ve done it before: we’ve cast out the notion that women shouldn’t speak at church, we don’t prohibit women from entering temples or consider them unclean after birth (or consider them extra unclean after birthing girls), and we’ve never embraced the idea that marriage should only be pursued if you can’t hack celibacy. Somehow, we’re comfortable discarding such things as rubbish. We’ve also definitely seen greater (though very modest IMO) acceptance of egalitarianism in official church teachings and culture in the last 30 years. At this rate, we just might get rid of presiding language all together by the turn of the century.

    “People who are abused are already constantly looking for ways to avoid the abuse. They don’t need someone reinforcing that the abuse is their own fault.”

    It’s already been well articulated by others, but I just want to reiterate that, even if abused individuals AREN’T doing everything they possibly can to avoid abuse, the abuse is never justified. Additionally, if by some miracle an abused\marginalized person manages to start caring for her or himself in even small ways, those acts of self-care will likely be interpreted as “triggering” to the abuser–because they threaten the abuser’s perceived entitlement to abuse.

    “I wanted to share this because yes relief society is still overseen by the bishop, but they can have a voice. Hopefully my experience is not the exception.”

    I have no doubt that many bishops and as well as many men in all our accepted leadership positions “grant” women a voice and do their best to support women. I too have been fortunate enough to experience it personally. But, as the OP explains so well, the issue is that we don’t currently have any safety mechanisms in place to avoid or at least repair misuse of authoritative positions. Even if instances like the heart wrenching examples that have been shared only happened 1% of the time, it would be too often–especially when we can’t point to the ways we are doing our best to prevent it. I would find the “we just have to do our best and leave the rest to God” position more palatable if I could lean on evidence that demonstrated we are–in-fact–doing our best. Surely we are capable of finding ways to correct this with the light that’s already been given us.

    “A serious issue is not only women who are marginalized and minimized when they report abuse but those who are abused at the hands of their husband who is a bishop/stake president/ecclesiastical leader, who convinces friends and family that the abuse was manufactured by his wife.”

    I’m training to be a Marriage and Family Therapist, and live in very Mormon-saturated area. The stories I’ve heard second-hand from practicing therapists are horrifying–I’m a bit terrified to start gathering them myself in a few years. Stories of physically abusive stake presidents, sexually abusive bishops, husbands that pressure their wives to do unspeakable things in the name of loyalty\sexual intimacy, such as eating their shit as part of foreplay. Literally. I know that’s an explicit and repulsive example to share, but it speaks to how repulsed we should be about the explicit ways our current setup fails to condemn\repair abuse.

  94. JK, I appreciate your courage in engaging here in spite of your minority viewpoint, and I think your viewpoints are insightful, even if I don’t agree. Now to the part where I disagree with everything you said:

    I understand you are differentiating between milder forms of verbal abuse and criminal abuse. I would say I’ve inherited a portion of my dad’s verbal abuse and there are things my husband does that triggers it. However, that’s on me. I am learning ways to respectfully voice when he is doing things I find to be disrespectful or selfish rather than lashing out. Would I appreciate a leader telling him to be more involved with the kids and housework? Certainly. Would I think it appropriate for a leader to tell him to evaluate his culpability in my temper? No. I need a partner, not an enabler.

    I listened to one of the two audio recordings and read both letters from the Stake President. The “disruptive” accusation didn’t come along until after the recommend was revoked, so it was not at all a factor. She says she had only told a handful of people — her sister, her visiting teacher(s), and maybe one or two others. The SP seemed to hold her solely responsible for all the gossip getting back to him, even though it is hard to imagine a ward in which the scenario of a priesthood holder trading in his wife for the woman he home teaches would NOT launch 1000 tongues. The “other woman” in the ward was saying things about her as well, so much so that it got back to Ms. Hadlock’s workplace. A unilateral gag order meant she was unable to defend herself from the rumors. She cited an example where the ex-husband was verbally (textfully?!) abusive to her over the matter of fulfilling his child support obligation — a matter of relevance to temple recommends — and the SP was completely disinterested, said he didn’t want to take sides. Just told her that she needed to move on, forgive, and stop talking about it. Is this a matter of gender differences, where a man genuinely doesn’t understand how cruel it is to expect a woman to not talk through what’s going on with her?

    Giving the bishop and stake president the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume she was, in fact, opportunistically running her mouth to anyone who would listen. If so, that’s kind of what you do when your husband leaves you for someone else. (Cue examples of Sister Classy who nobly refrained from that.) How severely should someone be punished for not being classy enough in that situation?

    As for her going to the press, if you get gaslighted enough you can get desperate for validation that you’re not the crazy one. It’s entirely possibly her motives are not any purer than that, but I don’t know why they should have to be.

  95. I think respectful disagreement is the soil that germinates growth in human understanding. I appreciate the thoughtful responses of those who are trying to engage the topic at hand with an open mind and heart.

    In my hypothetical meeting with a bishop, I chose to create an example that highlighted examining what is in my heart and motivating my actions. Why? Because I take seriously the Saviors teachings. Remember where he teaches us to look first to ourselves before we seek to correct others saying, “cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” This approach to life has worked well for me and those I know best.

    Regarding Laruel’s thoughts about Hadlock’s circumstances. I see it differently, though Laruel’s presents a well thought out explanation why Hadlock did what she did. Hadlock, I believe is only exacerbating and already heartbreaking life event. Her thoughts were only for herself. She apparently didn’t take into consideration her children, extended family, neighbors, and ward members well-being; let alone the negative impact to the church’s image. She could have embraced the Lord’s counsel to turn to him and seek his comfort and blessings.

    When life has dealt my family heart-breaking trials of faith we’ve turned to the Lord and found his healing and blessings. Hadlock could have done the same. She took another path.

    I wonder how many here think Hadlock took the high road. I doubt every many committed Mormons would think she did.

  96. Perhaps this has been said (I’ve read a lot, but I’m not confident I’ve read everything in this long comment string), but I would like to address the obvious issue raised by Sister Hadlock’s story. Not directly about her or her Stake President (I don’t know anything more than everybody seems to know from the public record, and not enough to have an independent opinion about the particular circumstances), but about the confluence of Rob Porter’s former wives speaking up, and the reported reaction to Sister Hadlock speaking out.

    The Rob Porter situation is a black eye for the Church. There are a number of reactions possible. Including nothing changes, including new instructions to bishops, including real training, including a more victim-oriented hotline. And including a crack-down on women speaking up.

    That crack-down possibility is threatening. It has happened elsewhere. The Sister Hadlock story raises the specter no matter what the details of her situation.

    So let me say that (trying to) silence women would be a mistake. It would be the wrong thing to do as a matter of principle and of caring for the victims, which is what we ought to be about. And (in my opinion, reading the tenor of the times) it would backfire terribly. It would play big in the press and make the Church be viewed as a systematic abuser.

  97. JK I have some respectful disagreement.
    First, thank you for identifying your situation as hypothetical example. I thought that was the case, and want to address this tendency we have to create a “pattern” for women in “similar” situations (and their bishops) to follow. In my real, lived experience, the issues are so complex, assigning blame so fraught with error, the utility of these hypothetical patterns is so low that it makes them a cruel game for everyone not involved, and useless to the point of harm for those on the front line. Truly, when the crisis comes, there is no substitute for a professional, trained advocate who is able to take the side of the person in peril. When I experienced this, I didn’t go to my bishop, who I barely knew, at all. It was a great blessing to call a trained counselor who was already knowledgeable about my individual issues and she gave me excellent advice: “don’t make any decisions about this for a while, attend to healthy self-care,” and more that was specific to my individual needs. It has, so far, had a huge positive impact on both of us in the marriage, but I would never think to offer my specific counsel to another person in crisis, anymore than I would share a prescription drug.

    Further, I don’t have any idea whether Hadlock took the high road or bushwhacked her way through the undergrowth to reach The Road To Hell, or did something neither of us have contemplated. This is a bad sport, judging people we read about in the news. We all do it, but it’s better discipleship to recognize it as uninformed and not at all fair. One look at the comments on the news stories tell you how much we need to be taught this notion.

    My point is that in people’s real lived experience, there often comes a time when our templates and patterns for priesthood admin break down. We as a people need to quit clinging to hypothetical patterns and our need for priesthood administrators to always be inspired, because in many cases it’s just dangerous and it leads to judgementalism in the uninvolved hoi polloi.

    I would love to see the commonly taught notion that priesthood presiders must always be inspired, refuted from all the pulpits in the church. Yes, the office should be respected, but people shouldn’t submit all judgement to their bishop. And in marriage, both adults should approach the other as equal. Submission based on gender is poison.

    I also think that in this forum, to call out someone’s speaking up as murmuring is toxic victim-blaming and poor debate form. We badly need to have this conversation.

    ‘Victims of abuse should seek help immediately, normally from their bishop or branch president.’
    Honestly, he’d be the last person I talk to about this topic.

  99. I don’t care whether Hadlock took the high road. She deserves help and charity, more than ever if she’s on the low road. It’s obvious to everyone that her situation means a lot of grief for everyone involved, high road or not. Criticizing her for being less than perfect feeds abused people’s fear that speaking up about their suffering will lead to their being isolated and ostracized. There’s nothing Christian about that; we must do better.

  100. I hope no one abandons, isolates, or ostracizes her. I hope we can all learn from her. If we want the Lord’s peace we need to invite him into our lives. Should we chose the worlds way of coping with pain and suffering we can’t expect to have the Lord’s peace.

    Someone send me this link. It may be of interest to others.

    Click to access february-2018-liahona-magazine-mormon_1991955.pdf

  101. I’m really grateful that my counselor doesn’t follow the principles of the world outlined in that link, JK. Somehow, without ever being LDS, she practices with the good bullet points on the right side under the Peace in Christ heading. It makes me feel like Christ cares about her, and through her, me. And everyone else, male, female, bond, free, etc. I don’t think not consulting with my bishop on matters that he has zero training for means I’m choosing the world’s way of coping with pain and suffering.

  102. I think this looks like a pretty clear abuse of power (AKA “unrighteous dominion”) on the part of the Stake President. Most of the discussion seems to be on what the correct response should have been on the part of the woman who was the unfortunate target of this behavior. My thought is, what an uncomfortable situation the Stake President finds himself in, but in reality what a blessing. He seems to have felt totally justified in his behavior until it was made public. He likely would have continued this pattern to the detriment of the entire Stake and instead has been given an opportunity to change. If he conducts himself in the future with the idea that what he does with people behind closed doors may be made public, he is likely to behave much better.

  103. If we want the Lord’s peace we must reach out in love to those who need us. Singling out Hadlock as someone whose mistakes we can “learn from” is the opposite of that. Let’s treat her as our sister, not as an object lesson.

  104. wreddyornot says:

    I appreciate this discussion. In this situation I think it’s fine for individuals to learn at the lower levels of the patriarchy, both those inside it and those outside (women and girls and nonmembers), and to gain from such insights and make necessary changes in themselves and how they apply it to their power and/or position and care. Change has to start somewhere and that’s laudable if its inclusive and charitable. However, isn’t the contributing flaw in such abuse the inequality in the patriarchal structure itself? I believe it is, and I see in many comments some agreement with that. Is it appropriate to raise that issue? Or not? Can the status quo in the patriarchy be defended?

  105. My kids hate for me to make them into pity cases and this is all very old. But I think it is illustrative of the depth of this problem. My daughter was sassy as a teenager. Maybe according to some other family rules she deserved to be slapped in the face for some of her smart remarks. I never hit her but tried other tactics. Mostly at that age, giving her a phone and a car.The deal was pretty simple, keep mom and dad happy, keep phone and car. No discussion. She knew what we expected after more than 10 years of being in the family. It only took quietly opening up the cabinet and putting the car keys in my pocket to shape her up. And usually only for a few minutes.

    But at church some people, men and women both, did find it necessary to rebuke her, engage her in arguments and to slap her in the face. I am not claiming she was innocent. But this was not right. I had words with the bishop over it more than once.This mild physical abuse continued even when I threatened to exercise the gift of the laying on of hands myself upon the perpetrators.

    It didn’t stop until her pesky little brother grew into a beast with the physique of a college football player and the looks of his Viking ancestors on his mother’s side. He is the strong quiet type and lucky for me very well mannered. He seemed to learn from his sister vicariously and seldom caused any trouble beyond the primary years. He never exercised the gift of the laying on of hands, he had developed a better gift. The gift of the raised eyebrow with the scowl of the evil eye. You had to see it to fully appreciate it. He could melt ice. Everyone knew that as a teenager he would not get into much trouble and he could mess a large man up. People left his sassy sister alone.

    Some abusers understand only one thing, fear of being abused themselves. It is the law of the street and the law of the jungle.They recognize physical strength and retreat. I am saddened that sometimes it oozes into the church. It is why the police need to be involved in serious cases and why it is so difficult that professional therapists are required. It is why I have little hope that even after over 100 comments very little will change. Women have few options; leave, stop the money, train up the next generation to not be submissive. Maybe we can convince a few to change their attitudes, but look how well that is going with our friend and brother JK.

  106. What’s the justification for revoking a temple recommend even if someone is spreading malicious gossip about a former partner? I don’t remember a questions about that in the interview.

  107. Sorry Michael, any adult striking a youth better be prepared to discuss their actions with law enforcement, not the Bishop.

  108. Segullah:

    I agree.

    Back then it seemed it wasn’t so long ago that Mormons were being killed in the South. Law enforcement we expected would only be concerned with making us look bad. So we had this belief, founded in our persecution delusion, that we had to solve our problems ourselves in order not to tarnish the reputation of the church.

    The reverse of what you state is the basis of the threat of the raised eyebrow, Any youth whooping the arse of an adult will get little more than a stiff discussion from law enforcement, especially if he claims he was defending the honor of his sister.

    He also went through this stage at about age 11 where he would give someone a big hug and then just “accidently” fall on them and his hammer elbows would end up in their gut. We called it “aflection” and made him stop it, it wasn’t nice.

  109. omjs, I don’t understand the perceived justification either. I second MDearest’s comment:
    “I don’t have any idea whether Hadlock took the high road or bushwhacked her way through the undergrowth to reach The Road To Hell, or did something neither of us have contemplated.” Regardless, I don’t see how disciplining people for speaking serves the church or its members–no matter what they say.

    “My point is that in people’s real lived experience, there often comes a time when our templates and patterns for priesthood admin break down. We as a people need to quit clinging to hypothetical patterns and our need for priesthood administrators to always be inspired, because in many cases it’s just dangerous. I would love to see the commonly taught notion that priesthood presiders must always be inspired, refuted from all the pulpits in the church. Yes, the office should be respected, but people shouldn’t submit all judgement to their bishop.”

    This comment succinctly reiterates the OP–over-reliance on mortal authorities (of any kind, but especially religious, IMO) is dangerous, and sitting on the sideline waiting for changes seems unethical. So the question remains: what do we do about it? MDearest’s assertion that “the office [of the priesthood] should be respected” probably reflects the opinion of most members, so how do we balance the majority’s belief in deference with helping people become strong enough to avoid following council when it isn’t spiritually nourishing?

    I typed some ideas several times, but erased them because I realized none of them would appeal to or be considered possible by people not already sympathetic to notions of equality, self-protection, right of personal discernment, etc. in the first place. Christian already alluded to this, but none of these ideas are palatable to people who have been successfully indoctrinated by our obedience\fear culture. Perhaps it would be useful to break it up into two parts:

    1) What can people (like many of us in this thread) do to gently but meaningfully model self-care and respect in our hierarchical religious environment, and

    2) What can we do personally and collectively to “build children instead of repair adults”; what are specific ways we can encourage the youth to avoid at least part of the misery we experience\witness.

  110. Heather Arnita says:

    I’ll admit I didn’t read many of the comments. There are a lot! But to me this whole premise is problematic. Every time I read anything about the husband being the head or submitting to him I just ignore it. The way I reconcile my temple covenants is that hearken just means listen. And sure, I listen to my husband just like he listens to me. Neither of us operate under a belief that he has anymore leadership or authority in our family. I’ve never been an a position where I’ve had to go to a priesthood leader for problems with my husband. But if there ever was abuse I wouldn’t feel the need to go to my bishop or to get his approval to leave.

  111. As a divorced LDS woman in her 60’s, I am extremely disturbed to think we are teaching our women to go to their bishops for permission to divorce. I never even considered consulting my bishop when I needed to make a decision to stay or go. I did consult my priesthood leader, my Father in Heaven. Once I had His approval, I went forward with the choice I had made. I believe the real problem here is that we have raised a generation of women who would vote for Satan if the pre-mortal choice was given to them here in mortality. We chose the freedom to make our own choices, including our own mistakes, once. Why do we have such problems accepting that responsibility here in mortality? Why would we even countenance teachings that seek to overthrow that fundamental principle? What whacko doctrine is being spread in the teachings to the youth that they feel the way they do? The women I know who are equal partners in their marriages are so because they refuse to be treated any other way.

  112. I had a simultaneous conversation with my bishop and a member of our stake presidency Sunday in reference to the recent high profile abuse issue. Both assured me they are mandatory reporters – that they are required by law (presumably Illinois) – to report adult abuse to authorities. They assured me they would never ignore the requirement. They said it’s a requirement in the US. Without getting into specifics, I noted I had read too many stories of priesthood leaders ignoring women.

    We agreed we are imperfect and do our best. I’d like us to do a lot better. Can’t we be perfect in just this one area?

  113. Anonymous Again says:

    As an abused woman, I find it sickening that abuse is casually discussed and dispatched in a Sunday conversation with the justification that priesthood leadership is just doing the best they can. Lives are shattered and ruined by leadership who are just doing their best.

  114. Heather Arnita,
    In the Endowment, when sisters are told to “hearken” unto the “counsel” of their husbands, I teach my family that the word “counsel” is derived from from Latin “consilium” which means to consult the oracles of God. A husband may not offer “counsel” unless he has approached the oracles of God, in which case it is offered in gentleness and meekness and it is ratified by the Holy Spirit. Every wife is entitled to confirmation through personal revelation and any husband who offers words of counsel not ratified by the Spirit or in a manner in which the woman cannot freely and lovingly seek confirmation and have a voice with her companion is exercising unrighteous dominion.

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