A list of actionables you can tell my daughter you took when she will soon ask about her place in this church.

remy with net

This is a follow up post from the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago titled, “Men, what will you do when my daughter asks about her place in this church?”  First, I want to say thank you for the dozens and dozens of well-thought out, empathetic and kind comments that so many of you left.  It was heartening to know that in many ways, I can tell my daughter, and in effect, myself, that although things can look pretty dire for women having an efficacious voice in this church, there are at least circles of men and women working quietly and effectively in a myriad of ways for greater equality.  I will try and include some of your suggestions from the comments here in this post, but the thread (at least part of it) is worth going back and reading through for more ideas.

This list, while collaborative, is by no means exhaustive, it is, in fact, just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to hear more from single women, from LGBTQ women, from women of color, single mothers, etc… I am only speaking from my experience and know I’ve missed so much. The issue of women’s experiences, lives and voices being better respected and heard in this church is worth unpacking.  By necessity, there will be many uncomfortable moments as we learn to do the work of having hard conversations. And perhaps even more uncomfortable is resisting the urge to immediately respond or defend, and rather, acknowledge that even if you don’t feel or understand the pain that someone is expressing, it is a real thing. You may even be part of what has caused that pain, likely without meaning to.  As people who covenanted to “mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort,” we owe it to each other to stop and think before reacting. To take time to try and understand, and respond, but do so with empathy, even if you still don’t agree. I am also aware that all the items on this list cannot happen now and may not be up to local leadership, but it’s okay to dream. 

 Read “Women At Church” by Neylan McBaine.  Give a copy to leadership.

Read and use in lessons and talks and FHE Lessons:  “At the Pulpit” by Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook

Give daughters and/or wives full leadership over Family Home Evenings, family scripture study and prayer, etc… half the time.

Are you asking woman to do work they cannot actually do without your help? Like simply “step up” or “be more vocal?”

If you are in a leadership position, are you willing to call women who are concerned about gender equality to church callings or to speak in sacrament?  Are you only calling women (and men) who won’t say difficult things?

Don’t refer to women who express desire for more equality (or posts like this) as “anti-man” or “man-hater”. Not true and not useful.

Don’t assume that greater gender equality in the church will mean that motherhood is diminished anymore that fatherhood is diminished by what men do in the church.

Young women go with the young men to give sacrament to those that can’t come to church. Let the boys bless and the girls sing and read scriptures EVERY time.

Let the young women stand at the doors while the sacrament is passed and let them keep track of who has or hasn’t gotten the bread and/or water.

In a marriage, let women finish school and/or do graduate/PhD work by helping out with child care, being flexible in taking out loans for both partners to finish. 

Take time to really imagine what a dual career home would look like.  If you are male, are you willing to consider taking your wife’s career seriously?  Would you be willing to be flexible in your plans in order to help her achieve career goals?  Are you simply assuming that she will always be home to take care of children? Do you consider your skills and abilities more important and/or necessary than what your wife would have to offer the world? Have you had conversations in which she could voice the desire to pursue further education or career and taken her seriously?  (sidenote: if you are a woman and don’t want a career outside the home, also and obviously totally a valid and wonderful choice.)

If you are a teacher, consider who is speaking most in your classes and work to make sure that both genders are heard and have a safe space in which to speak.

Allow a female leader or mom be in the bishop’s office for interviews with youth and  children (both boys and girls).

A specific and routine acknowledgement of girls when they turn 12 in sacrament meeting. And when they turn 14 and 16.

Take a moment to actively acknowledge your privilege and power as a man in the church.  You don’t need to feel guilt about it, but you must acknowledge that it is inherent and you can make choices in all parts of your life to better include voices, ideas and leadership of women.

Read “A Walk in Pink Moccasins” by Carol Lynne Pearson.

Read “Mother’s Milk” by Rachel Hunt Steenblik.

Equal budgets and outdoor activities for young men and young women.

Consider taking on a girl’s scout troop or enrolling mormon girls in girl’s scouts.

Have the Relief Society President conduct sacrament meeting once a month.

Have female leaders on the stand during sacrament meeting.

If the wives of bishopric leaders have young children and their wives are struggling down in the pew alone, go sit with them, or invite a child or two up on the stand with you.

Make sure that there aren’t leadership meetings without a woman present.

Make sure that both names appear as first and last names on tithing settlements and things sent out in regards to tithing settlements.  In tithing settlement, make sure questions are directed to both people in the marriage.

Keep distinct tithing records for contributions by husbands and wives.

Actively work to change the rhetoric about how we speak about women.  (don’t pedestalize them, don’t speak about what they want until they tell you what they want.)

Actively respond with empathy when they speak of not feeling equal, even if you don’t understand how or why.  Don’t try to fix with words or dismiss.

Speak openly and often of Heavenly Mother.  Seek to know and understand Her and Her place in your own life.

Do exercises that imagine what things might look like if more women were involved and put in leadership positions in the specific areas you are a part of.

When singing primary songs about Heavenly Father, sometimes replace the words with a female pronoun or the plural “they”. (Ditto hymns.)

Go to leaders to voice concern or give suggestions about having more women involved or heard.  Women can’t go to men in leadership roles and ask for more voice or power, but often men can do that work for them in being an ally.

If you know a woman (young or old) who is nervous about taking the lead, even in familial settings, encourage her to try it out and practice leading and using her voice often. Don’t dictate exactly how this is to be done.  Allow her creativity.

Along with a father’s blessing, allow a wife to say or write a special prayer on behalf of a child.

When blessing a newborn baby, ask the mother of the child what she would like included in the blessing.  Pray about it together.  Take time to both write some thoughts.

When reading the scriptures to children, bring in discussion of the women who also may have been a part of the stories, even when there is no mention of females present (they were undoubtedly there.)

Before big decisions are made about anything in the ward, stop and ask if a woman has been consulted, involved or asked what she thinks.

When organizing events, activities, speaking in sacrament, stop and ask if both genders are equally represented, particularly if the single women are represented fairly.  This includes assigning women to be the “anchor” or “keynote” speakers.

When teaching YM/YW in a mixed setting, emphasize that spiritual gifts are given to all regardless of sex or gender, and calls us (not just in an institutional setting), and that God empowers people who are called.  

In other words, if the Holy Ghost prompts you to do something, God gives you the power to do that thing, regardless of whether it is your calling or your ordination.

Teach the distinctions between Priesthood as organization of men vs Priesthood as godly power.  Never refer to men as the Priesthood.

Men speaking for women and assuming what is best for them without their direct input is hazardous.

When teaching lessons, especially in priesthood, proactively bring in examples from women’s lives and use quotes from women, whether current leaders or women from Mormon history.

In priesthood quorum meetings, draw attention occasionally to the all-male nature of the space. It isn’t normal, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Reflect on what might be different if women were in the room. Amplify women’s voices into the room, giving due credit for the source of the ideas in question.

When you hear other men in Sunday School or priesthood meeting say things that contribute to the marginalization of women, say something, even if it will cost you social capital.

Women to women, be kind to one another.  Don’t judge or speak unkindly to women who are struggling with feelings of inequality and vocalize them.  Don’t silence or shame each other.

Respect the choices of other women, whether that is choosing a career, choosing to be at home, choosing not to get married, choosing not to have children, choosing to have lots of children, choosing to wait to have children.  Say affirmative and kind words (at least in your mind,) until there is a real love and respect for someone who is different than you.



  1. I would suggest modifying the wording of “Emphasize that a man is not and can never be a woman, and so speaking for women (esp. What’s best for women) is hazardous.” I understand the intent, but this statement could be read to be transphobic in nature.

    Otherwise, as a man who is supporting his wife while she finishes her PhD I very much enjoyed the ideas in this list.

  2. Jared, thank you so much for pointing that out. definitely not what was intended. It is fixed now to better reflect what was meant. and thanks for the kind words, good luck with that PhD! We are living that life too right now.

  3. If they’re planning to have a dual-career household, then men should really think through what that entails in terms of childcare and household responsibilities. I know a lot of men who say they’d be fine with their wife working, but don’t actually make the kind of modifications to their own careers that allow for an egalitarian setup (working fewer hours, being available last minute, budgeting for nannies/housekeepers if those aren’t options, etc.). Many men grow up never really thinking about household labor, so it may be something they have to consciously plan for later in life. Relying on your partner to assign you tasks is not equitable division of labor, either.

  4. megelaineconley says:

    These were all lovely and oh so accessible, sis.

  5. When I was a YW president a few years ago, the RS president and I were collaborating to have Mia Maids and Laurels assigned as visiting teachers, similarly to how teachers and priests home-teach. It was well-received by the bishopric, but then both myself and the RS president moved and I never found out if was implemented.

    In our current stake, the stake president refers to all female auxiliary presidents as “President (Last name) instead of “Sister.” It’s very helpful in establishing their leadership role within the wards and stake.

    Another thing is encouraging sisters to first consult with the Primary/YW/RS president when there are issues within the groups instead of immediately defaulting to a male leader. It honors her stewardship and allows her to serve at full capacity.

  6. Perhaps, when announcing women’s meetings, if you feel you have to say ‘men, make sure you watch the kids so your wife can go,’ say the same when announcing men’s meetings. Or say ‘we encourage you to work something out between you to attend the meetings you feel are important,’ or say nothing about childcare…?

  7. Some of this really is tricky in implemention just because sometimes it isn’t enough. I totally appreciate the intention behind “A specific and routine acknowledgement of girls when they turn 12 in sacrament meeting. And when they turn 14 and 16”. But our ward did this and my daughters hated it. The boys had to go up because of an advancement. The girls just because they had a birthday. They weren’t achieving anything other than surviving another 2 years. They didn’t have to be worthy to be acknowledged, so even though the boys for advanced just because of age they at least had to pretend to be worthy. My girls felt like the acknowledgement for their birthdays just pointed out even more how unequal they were. They were acknowledged simply for existing. It felt empty and pedestal installing to them. Pointless.

  8. Maybe public recognition isn’t the right way to go just for girls’ birthdays, but I’d bet they could tie it to a major Personal Progress goal or something… ? I knew a bishop who gave girls a bishop’s blessing at the time of those birthdays, as he gave the boys blessings when they were ordained. I really like that idea.

  9. I think calling women leaders “President” is just pedastalizing. It almost always feels unnatural and forced. I’d much rather everyone be called Brother and Sister. The hierarchy should be more horizontal anyway.

    Second,Teaching Council meetings should stop immediately. Rather than leaving training and direction of the teachers up to the women who run their organizations, we turn the training over to the (invariably male) Sunday School president? It organizationally undermines the minuscule measure of autonomy that exists in the auxiliaries. As Primary President I always have information and counsel to extend to the teachers, but I can’t even attend the Teacher Council meetings: I’m too busy handling Sharing Time with 45 children and a skeleton substitute crew. This organizational structure is poorly conceived.

  10. I second Rachel’s thoughts on hierarchy. Presiding is overrated, and “presiders” rarely create community. Honor people for being children of God. “Brother Joseph” was good enough for Joseph Smith.

  11. Mean mama jones says:

    Interesting how you put forth lgbt.
    You did know that the church does not support this way of life correct?

  12. Mean mama jones, being LGBT is a personal characteristic, not a way of life. And the church is seeking to support LGBT people. Please see https://mormonandgay.lds.org

  13. I am taking a different approach. Frankly, I have enough to do inside the church and outside of its organization. I am grateful men have some responsibility I cannot fill. If women could do it all, many men would let them. Not me. I am tired. I am grateful for everything they do without me.

  14. Mean mama jones says:

    Not to support IN the sin

  15. Our ward recently has the young women rotating and doing the head count in Sacrament Meeting and reporting that number to the clerk. Also our stake has the stake Aux presidency members (Primary, RS, and YW) on a rotating monthly speaking schedule with the High Councilors. No other ward speakers are assigned that day so both have equal time.

  16. Ashmae, this list is more expansive and helpful than any other I have seen. You include but go far beyond ideas for Young Women, which is where other lists stop and which are therefore of little benefit to someone like me. You call for a change of heart, an awareness of and appreciation for women as full members of the Church.

    When reading the scriptures to children, bring in discussion of the women who also may have been a part of the stories, even when there is no mention of females present (they were undoubtedly there.)

    This is one of the most personally meaningful suggestions, for me, and I would not limit it to children. In the last New Testament cycle when I taught the Last Supper, I mentioned the women who were reported as being with Jesus when he entered Jerusalem and still with him when he was arrested the night of the Last Supper, and who were very likely AT the Supper because women were always included in Passover meals. One man loudly objected to that idea. I thought I had him pacified, but a couple of minutes later, after I had moved along in the story, he interrupted and literally told me to stop talking about women because he had found the verse that said the Twelve went to that upper room without any mention of women, as if that were an exhaustive list of participants.

    So I can testify to the need for that suggestion and how much I would have appreciated its implementation that day.

  17. This is a good list. There is so much I want to add but all of it requires real structural change, up to and including ordaining women. We aren’t there yet, and these are great ideas for working in the current framework of the church.

    To my fellow sisters – how do you handle sexist comments from women in relief society? For example, I am haunted by a woman telling the class that she quit the high-powered job that she loved because she made more money than her husband and that made him feel bad. How do you speak up against the ideas behind that statement without judging her choice?

  18. How do you handle sexist comments?

    You say something like, “This is my experience….” It is hard to take offense when someone shares an experience. It would be like telling them their life wasn’t real.

    Side note–Here is a recommendation for women who have felt marginalized. Be an articulate single parent working a full-time job.
    Men in the church take you seriously…because you don’t have time for crap-condescension…and they know it.

  19. Tiny, that’s great to hear. I hope the example spreads.

  20. And if you don’t want to get rid of the spouse or jump into a full-time job, act like you should be heard anyway.

    When they gloss over your words, say, “Actually, I wasn’t finished.”

    It takes people aback. But they get over it. Part of having an influence is truly believing you have one, regardless of how you are received by the old guard.

  21. Ardis, thanks so much. Your comment means a lot. I respect the work you do so much. And that Sunday school comment?! A clear example of why we have to keep talking about this stuff.

  22. Some of these ideas have merit, but the list values less important things (public recognition, the chief seats in the synagogue, and having a Ph.D.) over more important things (being a saint, leading a holy life, and seeking the Kingdom of God). It undervalues the power of introverts (a third of the population), e.g., those who actually prefer listening to speaking and who prefer a quiet role, whether they be male or female.

    Bowing to fears of being labeled transphobic, the apparently edited list cannot even say clearly that women have unique gifts and can do things men can never do. The word complementarity doesn’t appear, and there is not even a reference to the Proclamation on the Family.

    And in contrast to the sociology of virtually every nation, tongue, and tribe, ancient and modern, the list implies that any all-male (and by extension any all-female) space or grouping is abnormal or unnatural.

  23. Glasscluster,
    “And if you don’t want to get rid of the spouse or jump into a full-time job, act like you should be heard anyway.” yes! thank you for this point. It’s taken me many years to get to this point and I wish I’d been encouraged to do this sooner.

  24. Gordon Stirling says:

    When I was a DL and a ZL in the mission field, we were leading, but it didn’t really feel like presiding. I think we could find a way to interpret the position so we could have sisters be DL’s and ZL’s.

  25. Thank you Leo.

  26. Leo, I don’t believe Ashmae was “bowing to fears of being labeled transphobic”, I believe she genuinely cares about transpeople and wishes to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. They completely, 100% deserve.

  27. Leo’s right, we should ordain women and strip the priesthood from men so they don’t have to deal with the public recognition, the chief seats in the synagogue, and having a Ph.D., and can instead focus on the more important things of being a saint, leading a holy life, and seeking the Kingdom of God.

  28. Bro. Jones says:

    Marie2: For what it’s worth, in my ward when a young woman recently turned 12, the bishop made a big point of welcoming her to the YW program, inviting her to seek opportunities for service and responsibility, and asking for our prayers to guide her. At least in this case it seemed like something much more than ticking off a birthday, but I understand that it won’t always be executed like this.

    Olea – hah. :)

  29. Leo,

    Where is the all-female space in the Church? There is not a single meeting or activity from which all men are excluded. On the other hand, there are many spaces within the Church that exclude women completely.

  30. Leo, who is it that insists on titles for Priesthood offices in the church? Every woman in the church, regardless of calling, is called ‘Sister’. When is the last time you heard any of the Q12 or 1st Presidency addressed as ‘Brother’? Or any stake president or bishop or male missionary, for that matter? Unfortunately, establishing authority with a title is a big deal in our church culture.

  31. The first time I heard an EQP referred to as “President” I laughed out loud because I thought it was a joke. But I’ve heard it more and more over the past decade or so, even for Aaronic Priesthood quorums. If we’re going to do it, there’s no good reason to do it for relief society presidencies as well.

  32. Leo, I don’t see changing “Emphasize that a man is not and can never be a woman, and so speaking for women (esp. What’s best for women) is hazardous.” to “Men speaking for women and assuming what is best for them without their direct input is hazardous.” as “bowing to fears of being labeled transphobic”. The first sounds like an argument often used against trans women, and could be used to misconstrue (and distract from) what is being put across in the post. The second is much clearer.

    Also, it’s completely possible to reconcile being transgender with the Church and the complementarianism given in the PotF. Transgender people often believe that they have an eternal gender, just that (for whatever reason) their mortal gender does not match. How that will be resolved in the afterlife, including how familiar relationships will be resolved, is between them and God. How they manage their disphoria (feeling of being in the wrong body), whether they transition or not, is also between them and God and whomever else they choose to include in their decision.

    The Church may be inconsistent in how it handle people who are transgender, but the theology certainly has room for them.

  33. JKC, it’s particularly disturbing to me to hear a woman refer to her husband by his church title. This happens a lot in my ward, as it is a central location for mission and temple presidents to meet with stake presidents and area authorities. Often the wives of these men are asked to speak to the congregation, and without fail they address their husbands as ‘President’. These are women who are supposed to be the equal partners in callings of temple matron or ‘mission companion’ (ugh). Even in conversations in the foyer, they retain the formality.

  34. JKC: The upcoming March New Era specifically tells the youth not to call female leaders “President.”

  35. Rachel: would Teachers’ Councils be OK if the Sunday School president were female? (I don’t think there is anything saying that role can’t be female, right?) I’ve actually benefited a lot from the teacher councils in my ward, but that’s because the facilitators of the class (who, okay, were male) had drummed into them that they were not supposed to run the class, just make a space where people could share ideas. (Also we have a bunch of opinionated teachers!) Though your point about Primary is well made; we always have Primary teachers/Presidency who can’t attend for exactly that reason.

  36. Huh. I don’t get that.

  37. Not a Cougar says:

    The only thing I would add is something I try to do as much as possible. Call everyone, male and female, by their first names. It throws some people off at first (the first counselor in the stake presidency didn’t seem to like it at all, but refused to try to correct me on it), but they get used to it quickly and I find a closer bond with everyone especially with the older people in the ward (I’m in my 30s). Even “Brother and Sister” grate on me as they has become mere substitutes for Mr. and Mrs./Ms.

  38. Not a Cougar says:


  39. Not a cougar, I think that is a really great point. I find that I am so weirded out to be called sister, by anyone really. I feel like I am me at church as much as I am me outside of church and the distinction doesn’t feel more spiritual or respectful. Our stake presidency goes by their first name and it’s actually made me feel like I can go to talk to them and I know they will listen, not just preside over me.

  40. cahn– The problem with Teacher Councils is that they strip autonomy from the auxiliaries. I don’t actually care whether the facilitators are male or female or whether the Sunday School President is male or female. Training and leading their own teachers is one of the few ways Auxiliary leaders have leadership influence and Teacher Councils have stripped that institutionally. We should be looking for ways to add more opportunities for our leaders to run their own organizations. But that’s my view regardless: everything should be more horizontal. My experience has been that the best parts of the church are local and not top-down.

  41. Not a cougar and ashmae– true. I would prefer first names all around. I just dislike the trend to push for “President” for women when I think that is going in the wrong direction. Not more formality and hierarchy, LESS. No President for women or men, please.

  42. Not a Cougar says:

    ashmae, amen! My wife gets on me for being a bit too insistent on first names, but it just feels so much more genuine. Back when I still taught Gospel Doctrine, I recall some of the sisters being surprised that I knew their first names. Kinda sad.

  43. Not a Cougar says:

    Rachel, I understand the motivation, but my experience has been that, by and large, auxiliaries do a poor (or more accurately nonexistent) job of doing teacher training and I’ve been in multiple auxiliary presidencies myself (I’m part of the problem, not the solution). I can’t recall ever receiving any real teacher-specific training from a priesthood/auxiliary presidency since I became an adult (I never attended the Teaching, No Greater Call class if that counts). It certainly does/could undercut the efforts of more motivated presidencies who want to mold/guide/instruct their own teachers, but my experience indicates that to be a small minority of presidencies. I personally hate one-size-fits-all solutions, but I understand the motivations from leadership to improve teaching quality.

  44. …that I could tell my daughter…

    All of this is fine when applied generally. But what do I tell my very own daughter?
    I only have one.

    For her, the elephant in the room was the disparity between the number of single men and number of single women in the church. Demographically nearly half of the women are going to be kept in the even lower status of being perpetually single which is a form of inescapable childhood in this church. We don’t have enough apostles to marry all the women who arrive in their late 50’s unmarried and not enough of those holding lesser offices are in a position to step up to the task at any age.

    But that wasn’t all. She is a remarkably talented and energetic woman who went to an ivy league college where she needed 120 credits to graduate and took over 200 credits of classes in 4 years. She never got a B and scored in the 99 percentile on the LSAT but eschewed law school because she “wants to make people happy, not miserable.” She is a professional musician and a marketing genius. Her little team has raised over $30 million for a small but now rapidly developing orchestra.

    Something about her confidence, her swag or whatever it is that drives her to astonishing success (to me) that also scared most LDS guys away. She is a mover and shaker, a thinker and a doer, not submissive and certainly did not want to be a junior missionary companion for life which is how she saw too many Mormon guys approach dating. They get away with it because of the demographic disparity, which brings up the next problem.

    She married a guy outside the church who is much like her. He adores her. Although from the rural south he is a health care professional and has made quite a bit of money at a young age and wisely invested it. He is building her a stunning “starter “house on the banks of a major river that is probably worth over $1 million. The struggling ward in that area doesn’t seem to have anyone even close to their social status, and definitely not at their young age. She currently doesn’t want the bishop of the new ward to know about the house and is pretty much underground at this point.

    What was the Single’s Ward response when she started dating a non-member? They sent her membership record back to us. They made no effort to show friendship or acceptance of her fiance and now spouse. The few times he went, they had cultish chastity and modesty slap-downs, and came across as about as backward as the Amish and as mean as mafia. Not to mention boring to boot. Even then he was willing to convert if my daughter really wanted him to take her to the temple to be married. As long as she understood he was not entirely sincere. But when he found out that they would be excluding his sweet southern mother (who makes award winning quilts) from their temple wedding, that was the end of the conversion discussion. “Not happenin’ ” was his reply.

    While our church struggles with its internal problems and continues barreling down a path that leads nowhere, we miss out on numerous opportunities to bring capable people into the fold Who would greatly enrich our religious life. How many do we raise and then lose? It is not a small number. One thing we used to worry about more- how is this going to impress investigators? What we do now is telling about our ambitions of which direction we are trying to grow the church.

    My daughter has been successful hiding her activity (or lack thereof) from extended family in Utah. But now one of her recently married cousins wants to visit her and she asked me, what is she supposed to do come Sunday morning? I say take her cousin and husband to the biggest Baptist church in town and pretend it is Mormon and see if they notice.

    This discussion all seems like band aids on slashed throats to me. It is not going to matter how we treat people when they are no longer with us.We need fundamental changes on how our young people date and how our marriages function between husband and wife from the beginning before we can expect any changers in the community to be substantial and lasting.

  45. Not a Cougar: I am sure there are variances among Sunday School Presidents and Bishops currently re: Teacher Councils as they stand. Some do them well and regularly while others do not. The impulse to pull responsibility away from auxiliary presidents damages their authority and autonomy.

    By the way, I held regular, spiritual teacher training. Before general conference I would ask each teacher to listen to conference with their calling or class members in mind. After conference I would meet with the teachers in a group (senior and junior) and we would discuss our thoughts. I got to slip in guidance/advice in a casual, non-threatening way. Teachers felt listened to and valued. But there are a million different ways to do this. Teacher Councils just means no auxiliary president ever feels responsible to influence their own teacher training. How is that going to go?

  46. Thanks for this post. I agree with those calling for less hierarchy overall…and also started using only first names to address people. I think we are way too attached to labels: “Unfortunately, establishing authority with a title is a big deal in our church culture.” I understand the suggestion to use similar labels for women as men, however, because if we’re going to use labels, we had better at least use them for both genders–but I think we’d be much better off to release the preoccupation with division in general.

  47. Rachel, I’m not arguing against your model. I can see it working quite well actually. Most of the following is a nitpick over a minor detail, but I want to make sure we’re actually talking about the same thing.

    I don’t think what your are advocating for is a horizontal organization, but a more strictly vertical organization with more decentralized authority.

    A horizontal organization is one with only a few levels of authority while a vertical organization has many tiered levels of authority. Honestly the Teacher Councils as designed (I won’t speak to how they’re actually implemented) is a very horizontal idea with the Teacher Council as a body composed of teachers from across various auxiliaries and supposedly empowered to direct their work with input from the Ward Council. However what you are advocating is a vertical structure where the teachers in the Primary are entirely under the authority of the Primary President and only the Primary President.

    I think what you’re actually looking for is a decentralized vertical structure where each auxiliary is empowered to run their organizations as they see fit without much interaction with the other auxiliaries.

    What I think we actually have in the church is relatively horizontal structure but with highly centralized chokepoints of authority – Bishop, Stake President, Area President, First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve.

    Again, the above is mostly a nitpick. What I’m trying to do is make sure we’re talking about the same thing because I believe we have the same overall goals.

  48. Paul Ritchey says:

    I really enjoyed reading your suggestions, ashmae. You’ve made me think (and particularly about how I teach my daughters about the Church).

    One thing, though, sticks in my craw. Can you talk more about why you see a necessary connection between economic choices in the home and equality in the Church? That is, why is it useful, for purposes of pursuing equality in the Church, for people to make particular judgments about which spouses have careers, which spouses pay tithing, etc.? It seems to me that the reasons for those choices (that is, utterly personal reasons, to be made between the spouses and God) don’t line up with the reasons we want to encourage more leadership by women in the Church.

    On names, btw, I vote for “Sister/Brother” + “[first name],” as in “Sister Emma.” Familiar, but respectful.

  49. Jared vdH– I love Mormonism best when the ward unit is healthy and free to make ministering choices without excessive oversight. When I say “less hierarchy” I mean everything from Stake up. More decentralized authority sounds right. I like having a prophet and that’s about it, essentially. I’m not saying my preference is the correct structure for Mormonism at large, but it’s what I prefer and advocate for in the wards where I reside.

    I was under the impression that Teacher Councils operate under the leadership of the Sunday School President (transferring authority for training from auxiliary presidents to the SS President). At least that’s how it works for all practical purposes in our ward. I don’t see any horizontal or decentralizing happening, just a shift away from women leaders. There’s still one vertical line, but it not longer leads to a Primary President or Relief Society President or Young Women’s President: it goes to the SS President instead. What else is new?

  50. Paul Ritchey, why does the use of only first names feel disrespectful or at least “less” respectful than using Bro. or Sis.? I think there are many who share your opinion, but I don’t get it. For me, it just creates distance. I can imagine some people arguing that such distance is important for avoiding overly familiar relationships between unmarried members, but I don’t agree with that–I think people are fully capable of having lots of meaningful relationships with adults of both genders without compromising marriages.

  51. Olde Skool says:

    I pretty much insist on being called by my first name, and I only address my ward members by their first names (including the folks in leadership positions). I have a name, given to me by beloved parents. It is the name that people I love use to refer to me. If my family calls me by my name, shouldn’t my ward, which aspires to approximate familial relations? I was once told that the “Sister”/”Brother” honorific was a way to recognize that we are children of God, and I responded that if we are going to unironically refer to the cashier at the supermarket, or to the public figure we disagree with, or anyone else we cross paths with, as Brother or Sister, I’ll consider that reason a valid justification. But if it’s simply something we say at church, I can only read it as a cultural thing, a weird tic that “feels” respectful but is actually distancing.

  52. Paul Ritchey says:

    CJ: Maybe respect was the wrong word. Integration? Recognition? For me (though, to be clear, I’m no linguist) the Brother/Sister title conveys a sense that the relationship is more than merely personal, but part of a larger web of relationships (the collective or community). First names alone can’t convey that. And it’s consistent with the use of similar terms in other communitarian settings (“Comrade,” “Goodwife/Goodman,” and “Sir/Ma’am” all come to mind). I’ve never thought of the titles at Church as being about sexuality, and rarely thought of them as being about social intimacy. Perhaps others do, though.

  53. Rachel, at least according to the manual and the video introducing the program by Elder Holland the meetings are “overseen” by the ward council with the Sunday School president acting as a discussion leader or moderator. The members of the teachers council are supposed to choose the topics discussed and determine the agenda. It’s explicity not supposed a training class but a cooperative comentoring council of teachers.

  54. Regarding teacher council meetings. The instructions for this say that the meetings are to be overseen by the ward council, “with assistance from the Sunday School presidency.” It is suggested that a member of the Sunday School presidency lead the discussions, but that’s not required; it can be anyone else the ward council identifies, man or woman. In practice, there is great variation in the way this is handled across different wards. In my experience, the most successful teacher council meetings happen when a member of the bishopric takes a particular interest in making it work. My personal view is that teacher council meetings are the best thing the church has done in a long time to create a space for quality teacher training.

    Teacher council meetings should not preclude teacher training within the various ward organizations. Primary presidents and other organization heads still can and should work on their own with teachers.

    As with all things in the church, your mileage may vary depending on local leadership.

  55. Paul Ritchey says:

    Jared vdH is exactly right about what the teacher counsels are supposed to be like, but I’ve never really experienced that, and I’ve never hear of it actually happening that way. I wonder if that feedback is filtering up to the Q12.

  56. The success of teacher council meetings depends enormously on the commitment of a key person in each ward to organize them effectively. In that respect this is not different from everything else in the church that requires organization. Wards that do not make the most of the opportunity they have here for good teacher training are missing out. Apologies for extending the threadjack.

  57. Jared vdH and others– It is disingenuous to say that Teacher Councils discussions are meant to be “led” by the SS President but maintain that they are “overseen” by the Ward Council. All visible authority is the SS President’s. Similar to the way we magnify bishoprics by seating them on the stand and minimize RS presidents by NOT seating them on the stand. I stand by my assertion that this shift is bad for female auxiliary presidents and their ability to lead and their perceived authority within a ward. Women aren’t making much progress in terms of leading in the church and we never will if we keep losing ground like this without saying a word. These kinds of structural inequities are not doctrinal and minimize women at church.

  58. Rachel in my ward, the SS president has zero visible authority over teacher council. It really seems to work as a council overseen by the ward council. I didn’t even know the SS president had a specific role. I do not see teacher council as taking anything at all away from the auxiliary presidencies. I see it as something added that didn’t replace anything.

  59. E, I genuinely want to know: who conducts your meeting? Who schedules the room? Who schedules the date for the meeting? Who determines the topic and who tells the group what the topic is?

  60. Rachel, in my ward I was previously the Sunday School President when this was being planned in Ward Council, but I have since been released and I am now the Primary Music Leader, so I don’t know how the meetings are actually being done now.

    The room was determined by the ward council. The date was determined by the ward council. The initial plan discussed in ward council was that the Sunday School President or one of his counselors would conduct the meeting as follows:

    First, give a quick summary of what was discussed last meeting, analogous to reading back the minutes of the previous meeting. He would then briefly introduce the topic that was decided on by the members of the Teacher’s Council at the end of the last meeting and then open to the room for discussion. He would then act as a moderator to nudge the conversation back on topic should the group drift too far off topic and take notes. He was also welcome to participate as a member of the group. But he was not “teaching”. He was to act more as a facilitator to the group. At the end of the meeting the members of the group were to decide as a group what the topic for the next meeting would be.

    There was also talk that the person who conducts the meeting might instead be a rotating member of the ward council, but I was released before things were finalized. I don’t know how things have ended up. Originally they were planning on meeting monthly as recommended in the manual, but I believe the ward council decided to have them meet quarterly instead. I’ve only heard announcements in Sacrament meeting about the meetings a few times. I’m also fairly certain that the Primary President has opted out of the meetings for her teachers because they haven’t arranged weeks for the primary teachers to go to these meetings during the 3 hour block while I’ve been in the Primary.

  61. Even if the meetings are directed by the Ward Council, that takes them out of the purview of the Primary, RS, or YW President, and involves men with final authority over all decisions. It is a net loss of women’s authority for auxiliary presidents not to be able to oversee training of their own teachers.

  62. Teacher council meetings should not replace training and oversight by presidencies of the Primary, Relief Society, YW, YM, or priesthood quorums. Those presidents should still have the same responsibility as before toward their teachers. Teacher council meetings should be an additional resource. How well that vision is implemented will vary widely among wards, but no organization president should assume that she or he no longer has this responsibility.

  63. The teachers council meeting is conducted by the facilitator. In our ward that was a woman for the first few months and now it is a man. The room, date, and topic were chosen by the ward council. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Sunday school president at a teacher council meeting. It is a council meeting attended by men and women, and I’m not seeing the applicability of “final authority over all decisions”, since it isn’t really a decision making council but a…”counsel together”, share ideas and support type of meeting. As Loursat says, it doesn’t replace training and oversight by auxiliary presidencies. It is its own thing.

  64. Lindsey Smith says:

    Just throwing it out there. I have a friend who is currently the RS President of her ward. She has expressed a desire to conduct an RS committee meeting during Sunday school to discuss goals, do some teacher training etc. during Sunday School, but her Bishop says it’s a no-go. However, the Sunday School Presidency can pull her teachers out during Sunday School to train them how to teach during RS, but she cant. Once again, this is a case of ward roulette, but I think it’s illustrative of how authority doesn’t necessarily rest with the presidents of the auxiliaries, which is a bummer.

  65. Aussie Mormon says:

    It seems strange that a bishop would stop that from happening (assuming it’s an occasional thing rather than every week) unless the other committee members have callings in that hour that it’d be hard to find temporary replacements for. But that’s just going from my experience with bishops over here. Having read stories of bishops over there, it seems you have some that forget that delegation exists for a reason.

  66. As a Gospel Doctrine teacher, Lindsey, I complained about all the things going on during the Sunday School period — the RS was doing what your friend proposed, the bishopric was pulling people in and out for appointments, the “Linger Longer” committee was fixing food in the cultural hall, anything and everything was going on at the same time, and I complained about the lack of support for Sunday School. I don’t like that the Teaching Council takes so many people away from any of the regular meetings, but most of that sort of thing seems to happen during Sunday School. Sunday School should be more than a last resort for the few adults in the ward who aren’t pulled out for meetings that frankly don’t have to be held that hour.

    It’s disrespectful of the preparation of Sunday School teachers male and female, but it seems especially pernicious to disrespect women teacher’s callings with the excuse that some other woman’s stewardship is more important! I worked hard on my lessons, and they were worth attending.

  67. Lindsey Smith says:

    Ardis, I’m currently serving in primary and miss Sunday School tremendously. Our ward has some excellent SS teachers, and although I love the little people I work with, I miss very much learning from teachers, who like you, work hard on their lessons. I agree that often Sunday School is often ditched, which is a shame. My above comment was not intended to be dismissive of Sunday school (I’m sorry if it came across that way) but was an attempt to agree with some of the previous statements articulating that teacher trainings done outside of the organization to which someone is called (by the SS instead of the RS, Primary, YW) can have the affect of lessening the authority of those who lead those organizations. Especially since each of those organizations most likely has unique teaching challenges.

  68. Weighing in on the titles – I’m with Rachel. I don’t like them. (https://wheatandtares.org/2014/04/24/titles-help-or-hindrance/)

  69. I don’t have much more to add than what I’ve already said but these recent comments all reinforce my impression that the Teacher Councils are just a new way for the SS President to visibly lead (regardless of what influence the ward council has behind the scenes). It restructures the responsibility for teacher training and redirects it away from women’s auxiliaries. It is absolutely disingenuous and outrageous to claim that two training meetings can still take place thereby somehow restoring auxiliary president’s influence: 1) her leadership visibility is already diluted 2) for all practical purposes that is never going to happen. At some point the children need to be taught and shepherded and there just isn’t enough time to hold training with the SS *and* with the Primary President (also see Lindsay Smith’s comment). Also Jared vdH: you say the “ward council” plans, schedules, and decides topics. Who exactly on the ward council? It’s never true that the whole ward council schedules the room. Who does it? Whose voice claims the topic? It’s not the Primary President 100% of the time. When teacher training happens in auxiliaries, it reinforces women’s leadership and autonomy. Teacher Councils diminish women’s voices at church. That’s the reality.

  70. The tension between SS and Primary/YW/YM seems to come from wondering who is in charge when these overlap. Technically, all classroom lessons are part of SS (primary would have Jr SS), but since the block merge, responsibility has been taken more by the Primary/YM/YW. Since SS is 99% of the time lead by men and 2/3 of Primary/YW/YM is 99% of the time lead by women, this adds a gender aspect to the argument.

    As stressful as it is, I’m kind of glad the problem is being exposed. It gets people thinking about it. My vote is for paring down the SS to only the adults (and maybe YM/YW), or removing it altogether and going to the 2 hour block.

  71. And I’m on the side of Brother/Sister for anyone older than 10. I also use a title, if they have one, including for the YM/YW youth leaders. Using first names is a level of closeness I’m not comfortable with, unless I’ve developed that friendship close enough to warrant it, which is admittedly rare.

  72. I’m with Frank on this one. Brother/Sister Last Name, except for close friends, who use my first name. Most of the people at church are just acquaintances.

  73. “fatherhood is diminished by what men do in the church.”

    As one in favor of women exercising priesthood power and authority, I have to say that I think church service does diminish fatherhood.

  74. Interesting ideas, similar to Liz Layton’s 95 Theses. My ward has done some of these with pretty good success. The RS president attends Priesthood Executive Committee meetings every week in addition to ward council meeting. Also once per quarter the men teach YW and substitute in all Primary positions so that all women can attend RS meeting.

  75. E and Jared vdH: The whole ward council does not schedule the room. Who exactly does it? If you don’t know, I guarantee it’s a man (it’s probably the ward clerk). Which voice exactly on the ward council claims the topic? I guarantee it’s not the Primary President 100% of the time. This results in minimizing women’s voices at church. When the SS President conducts the meeting, he is visibly leading, regardless of discussions that have taken place behind the scenes. These facts all add up to the reality that Teacher Councils result in less leadership by women at church.

    Second, it is disingenuous and outrageous to claim that an organization can still hold a second teacher training meeting. The auxiliary president’s authority in this realm has already been diluted and for all practical purposes there just isn’t time to make that happen.

    I stand by my assertion that Teacher Councils minimize women’s leadership voices at church.

  76. Rachel I’m on the ward council. The conversation was, “Where should we hold the teacher council meetings?” We decided to use the chapel overflow because it wasn’t in use. Again, in my ward, the SS President does not conduct the meeting. I have no idea how classrooms are scheduled/assigned otherwise; I assume the SS President and the Primary president each have so many rooms and they decide who goes where. I agree with you that women’s leadership voices are very limited in the church. It bugs me every single week and at every single church event. But I really don’t see the teachers council meetings as a factor in that.

  77. I guess the scheduling of rooms works differently in your building than in mine. Since the meeting is held during the 3 hour block the ward council simply chose which unused room to hold the meeting in. That was about it.

    As for the teachers council diminishing the leadership voices in the church, I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. In my view the meetings are certainly better than the previous teacher improvement curriculum that was to be taught in classes outside the 3 hour block with variable success. But I also obviously am not in your same situation, so I may just be missing something that you have a much better view of. Hopefully it is not ultimately as damaging as you make it sound. That would truly be unfortunate.

  78. Yeah, the teacher council meetings are so much better than any other LDS attempt at teacher training in my lifetime (in that teachers actually like and attend them!) that I’m inclined to work on making them as gender-egalitarian as possible, rather than picket them in protest.

    I don’t think it’s disingenuous to point out that presidencies still have the authority (and maybe the responsibility) to run their own teacher training. Nothing has really changed there; the church has always held teacher improvement stuff on ward and stake levels, right? The virtue of the teacher councils is that they let teachers share experience and ideas from across organizations, and that’s a forum that an individual auxiliary has no way to provide. It stands to reason that, if presidencies have training needs on issues specific to primary or elders’ quorum or whatever, they would hold that separately.

  79. Rachel I don’t wish to argue with you. Like I said before, obviously we see differently on the issue. Your responses also seem to be ignoring the majority of my comments, cherry picking particular things to argue against and repeating questions I’ve already answered. I’m sorry that this program is causing you pain. If there was something I could do to change it to make it work with your concerns I would. But I’m powerless to do so in as I’m not in your ward. I will try to use whatever meager influence I have in my ward to try to make meaningful change while keeping the issues you’ve brought up in mind.

  80. I love this list, Ashmae. Thanks so much for posting it! I hope to use some of your suggestions that I’m able to.

  81. Great ideas. I would clarify:
    “if you are a woman and don’t want a career outside the home, also and obviously totally a valid and wonderful choice.” Well, the one point on this that I feel I have to add is that it’s only a valid and wonderful choice if a person’s situation is privileged enough to afford that choice. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And it may be a “wonderful choice,” but by contrast, it’s a terrible assumption. I know a lot of single or divorced women who balk at the idea of being a SAHM as a wonderful choice. They don’t have the privileged circumstances required to have that choice, and there are many other women who don’t either.

    Here are some I would add:
    – Be sure sign up assignments for bringing food or feeding the missionaries are given equally to the men and the women.
    – Avoid assigning couples to speak on the same day so that singles are remembered and included.
    – Have women speakers be the final speaker 50% of the time. Have women say the closing prayer as often as men do.
    – Spend as much time talking about fatherhood with the YM as we do talking about motherhood with the YW. Talk about how YM can beautify their future homes in equal amounts as the YW hear it.

  82. Angela C: I heartily endorse your added list. Ten, or so, years ago official word came down that we in the bishopric were to avoid assigning couples to speak together or give the opening and closing prayers–so as to avoid leaving out the singles.

  83. Typical man-hater.

  84. Jake Milley says:

    After reading through this article and all the comments I can only laugh with wonder. All this hand wringing over how “the church” needs to change this and that, and you’re all so oppressed. None of what the church does matters when you realize that joey smith made it all up be there weren’t any golden plates.

  85. Not a Cougar says:

    Wow, thanks Jake! That’s a real load off my mind. And I have you, Jake! to thank for it.

  86. Angela C, I like your list. Not long ago one of our YM leaders had one of the grandmothers of the ward teach the boys how to sew for activity night. Interestingly, the most pushback he got was from the woman he asked — she didn’t understand why the young men needed to learn. (I believe he eventually convinced her by pointing out they might well need to know when they went on missions — you do what you have to do, sometimes :) )

    (Rachel, I also just wanted to say that I’m so glad you train your Primary teachers. I never got any training at all either time I was a Primary teacher — even teacher’s council, which didn’t exist at the time. Both of which times the kids completely overwhelmed me, which led to my release very shortly after, and is probably why I haven’t been called as one since.)

  87. I attended our ward council this morning (not a usual thing for me, I’m a 2nd counselor). They were deciding topics and speakers for the next month. Seems to be the goal to have one brother and one sister speak each week that they get to schedule (good). The sister was always, without really a second thought, slotted into speaking first (not so good).

    They were deciding our “Easter” program (on Palm Sunday this year), and were having trouble picking a brother. I suggested they be “radical” and have two sisters speak, since the first witnesses to the resurrection were women.

    My suggestion got a quick chuckle and then they immediately picked a brother to speak.

  88. Well, that’s kind of scriptural, too, bbytheway–the men following Jesus have apparently never really been all that great at listening to women…

    10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

    11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

  89. “Seems to be the goal to have one brother and one sister speak each week that they get to schedule (good).”

    “My suggestion got a quick chuckle and then they immediately picked a brother to speak.”

    They seem to be committed to the goal of having one male and one female speak. You approve of that goal. What’s the problem?

  90. KLC – the problem is that two men speaking is the default, one man and one woman a compromise, and two women is laughable.

  91. Frank, that may be the problem in your ward, that may be a problem in other wards supported by anecdotal evidence, but it is expressly not the problem in bbytheway’s ward. She told us they have a ward goal to have a man and a woman speak each Sunday, so that is not a compromise, it is the default. She told us she agrees with that goal. She gives evidence that despite good natured pressure to ignore that goal the WC chose a man and a woman to speak. It sounds admirable and a good example of how things should be. What’s the problem in bbytheway’s ward? I only ask because her comment doesn’t seem to be offered as praise but as another example of how wrong things are.

  92. KLC, that’s how I see the problem in bbytheway’s ward, that though it’s a goal, getting to that goal is seen as a compromise, hence the mirth at the thought of two women speaking.

  93. We had two women speak in our ward yesterday. They were wonderful. As were the two men that spoke the week before.

  94. So, I think it is good that their default is having both a brother and a sister speak (and they aren’t generally a couple, helping to include singles).

    But they only really plan 2 Sundays a month. High Council I would guess is 2 men speaking the majority of the time. I don’t think I can remember a time when 2 women spoke in my ward, but I also haven’t been paying close attention.

    I don’t think my ward is any worse than the average, just represents the current state of things. More work to do.

  95. (Also, just for clarification, I’m a guy.)

  96. I’ve had four church callings which have been eliminated church-wide while I had them! (“You know that thing you’re doing? Well, we don’t need that ever again.”) Three of them were in-service callings. I think of myself as a fairly good teacher, and I tried — and I used, as required, Teacher No Greater Call,” but I always felt that the results were just okay. I see what commenters are saying about authority and taking away the work of the women-led organizations, but practically speaking, I’m not experiencing it in my ward. The teacher council is a rather free-flowing egalitarian meeting that lets teachers talk, give ideas, compare experiences. “How do you prepare your students for general conference?” “Here’s what I do with cell phones.” “Do your class members bring physical scriptures?” “I’m having trouble with . . . . ” That sort of thing. Very helpful.

    And as long as I’m commenting, I’ll say that I kinda liked being occasionally called “President” when I was RS or Primary president. Also, in our ward, when the two adult speakers are a man and a woman, it’s just as likely that the woman is the final speaker as the other way around. Last Sunday, our sacrament meeting had two women speakers. Not unusual. My ward’s not perfect by any means, but some significant things are going well.

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