I just finished listening to Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk on “the moral force of women”. It was a great talk. He will be both applauded and maligned in the media before the night is over. Much has been shared in the media lately about women and the priesthood in the LDS Church. I’ve read some wonderfully expressed and very heartfelt views on both sides of the issue. From what I’ve read, there are very few people on either side of this issue that wish to do harm to the church (though it is obvious that some do). I don’t really want to discuss all of the arguments (or all of the arguing), because for me, things boil down to one issue. So I’ll save that post for later. And by later, I mean probably never. If God reveals to the prophets that women should be ordained to priesthood offices, I’m sustaining it. If not, I’m sustaining that. You can fill in the rest…
I want to address one sentence that I read on one blog in the comment section of that blog. A blogger had expressed feelings on the issue of women being ordained to the priesthood, and the comment section heated up–people coming down on both sides of the issue strongly. But one comment grabbed my attention and I’ve been thinking about it, and my personal experiences as a bishop, for a week now.
When it comes down to it, I don’t care about attending priesthood meeting as much as I want the priesthood so I’ll be as important as the men in my ward!
I know this sincere woman does not speak for most members of my faith*, or even most of the women in my faith. Her view doesn’t bother me; she is more than welcome to desire to hold the priesthood, and she is welcome to think that one day she will hold the priesthood. But it is the line about being as important as men only after she holds the priesthood that has me thinking.
I spent a little over five years as a bishop. I wasn’t the best bishop our ward had, not even close. In fact, I left much to be desired as far as what the ward should be able to expect from their bishop. But I loved it. I really loved serving as bishop and for all kinds of reasons. I want to zero in on what is probably a little-known fact about bishop-ing (if that is a word).
Simply put: I didn’t make many major decisions about the ward without the counsel of the Relief Society President. Maybe I didn’t make any major decisions without her help.
Surely I made some decisions without consulting her. I made many decisions without consulting anyone in the ward. Heck, I made a number of decisions, regrettably, without even consulting with the Lord because I thought I had things figured out. But when it came to decisions that would affect the entire ward–big stuff, long term stuff–I always, always asked my Relief Society President what she thought the ward should do. To some extent, the same goes for our Primary President, Young Women President, and other women in the ward. But our Relief Society President held an influence that was so far-reaching and that touched so many families, it would have be inappropriate to make a major decision without her counsel.
Let me also be clear on something else: My Relief Society President’s vote was usually the direction we went as a ward. It wasn’t that she was overbearing, or power-hungry, or louder than the rest. She was just bright, wise and inspired. That goes for every Relief Society President I worked with, without exception.
And while I’m at it, I’ll try to be clear on another matter: This blog-commenter brought up the fact that the Bishop ultimately presides over the Relief Society. As far as the organizational chart goes, that is technically true. But reality? I didn’t make decisions for the Relief Society. They didn’t ask my permission to do much, and didn’t need to. They counseled together in their presidency and followed the Spirit and their own combined intellects. There were times that the President counseled with me about Relief Society matters, but I would, in turn, counsel with her about other ward matters (including issues relating directly to the Melchizedek Priesthood). We counseled together and made decisions together, relying on the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Finally, I know that my experience as a bishop was different than other bishops. Other bishops have, I’m sure, not shown as much deference to the Relief Society President as they could have. I’m sure I could have done better. Bishops are just people who, with little training, have been thrust into a situation which is usually out of their league. I’ll give them all a break. My ward was certainly patient with me.
So, who was more important in the ward? Me, the bishop, or her, the Relief Society President? First off, the question doesn’t make sense. At all. Who was more influential? Well, that question might be equally nonsense. The bishopric made decisions under the influence of the Ward Council, with the individual counsel of the Relief Society President (and other auxiliary and quorum leaders), and the Spirit of God.
*This information has been widely reported on, the fact that most Mormons (and 90% of LDS women) don’t think women should have the priesthood. This blog post addresses the study that determined the information. I’m not sure if the blog is something I can recommend or not, since I only read the parts that dealt with my subject.
These views are personal, and are not the official views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints...