It’s the Community, Stupid
It was over thirty years ago but I remember it like yesterday. Our daughter was sitting with us in the pews, watching the administration of the sacrament, when it dawned on her: Only boys were participating!
That same day she asked her Primary teacher why girls weren’t also permitted to pass the little silver trays. Her teacher, a kind man with daughters of his own, replied: “Because girls get to have babies.” –Because…what else could he say?
After church she came to me, asking if this was true. I replied, “Well, yes.”—Because…what else could I say? She would never hold the priesthood. But she would “get to” (make that “be expected to”) have babies. Lots of them.
She was just a kid, but she was watching. She saw what I’d been turning a blind eye to for so many years. It felt like a slap in the face. Bottom line, church is about community, and nobody wants to take part in a community that devalues her. Much less raise her child in one. Neither she nor I went back to church after that.
Since that day I’ve met and corresponded with literally hundreds of women and men who have left the LDS Church for precisely that reason. They felt devalued in their community. Members, the young in particular, are abandoning the pews in sizable numbers. Yet the old white men in Salt Lake City still don’t seem to see the problem.
Take this recent ado here in the Bay Area. As reported in the Salt Lake Tribune,** an LDS Church Area Representative banned female ward leaders from sitting on the stand during Sacrament Meetings, a local practice adopted some ten years ago. Another slap in the face.
While the local inclusion of female leaders on the stand was news to me, I’m not really surprised. I’d visited my friend’s Walnut Creek ward during the early aughts. For the most part the congregants appeared well-educated, well-traveled, unbiased rather than tribal in their politics. It’s no wonder they wanted to recognize women, who do the lion’s share of work in any ward.
Church leaders didn’t offer the specifics, but I can imagine their reasoning. Something along the lines of “give them an inch” and before you know it…catastrophe…
Whatever their rationale, it was a bad call, a blow to the local as well as the greater LDS community. Because yanking female leaders off the stand is a mighty strong visual. And the members are watching. The young in particular.
**The article, available to Tribune subscribers only, can be found here: https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2023/11/24/slap-face-lds-relief-society/