by Allen Leigh, contributor
I’ve been thinking about this topic for several days, and Roger’s post earlier today about women in the church helped me galvanize my thoughts.
Giving women the Priesthood would be a significant change in the church, and I think that if that does happen, it won’t happen for a relatively long time. In general, people don’t like to change their habits and behaviors. Leaders of organizations don’t like to change the mission statements of the organizations. Each organization has a culture, and leaders are hesitant to change that culture. Because of this, I’ve been thinking of ways the church could give more responsibility to women without changing the nature of the church, that is, without giving the Priesthood to women. In presenting these ideas, I’m speaking for myself. I’m not suggesting that the General Authorities, stake leaders, or ward leaders adopt my suggestions. I’m not even hinting that they consider my suggestions. I support the leaders of the church as they strive to fulfill their callings. In discussing giving more responsibility to women, I’m just thinking out loud about possibilities.
Each geographical unit of the church is presided over by a person holding the Priesthood and the keys to that unit. Everything that happens to members of that unit is done with approval of the presiding authority, either direct approval or indirect approval through delegation to others such as counselors. As a politician said, “The buck stops here!” Here are some ways that more responsibility could be given to women without giving the Priesthood to them, and in every case the performance of women as well as of men would be supervised by the Priesthood. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t have the Priesthood. I don’t know about that. That depends on what Christ wants to have happen in his church.
- Many church functions are planned and carried out by committees. Socials for ward members. Stake dinners for seniors. And so on. These committees could be chaired by women as well as by men. The church could easily make changes of this type without changing the basic nature of the church. Of course, I’m talking about church activities that involve all unit members, and my comments don’t apply to committees organized for particular quorums, Relief Society groups, or Primary groups.
- I don’t think the scriptures require that the president and counselors of the Sunday School be men, and those callings could be opened up to women. When I was young, Primary was held during the week, and children went to Junior Sunday School on Sundays. Song practice was held in Sunday School each week to help members learn new songs. I think in the 1980s, changes were made to delete the Junior Sunday School and to have Primary meet on Sundays. Song Practice during Sunday School was deleted. These changes were more significant than having women serve as presidents and counselors in Sunday School would be.
- Changes could be made to have men, as well as women, serve in Primary presidencies.
- Special assignments, such as A/V equipment used during stake conference could be managed by women as well as by men. I presently am helping my stake prepare for radio communications via amateur radio during emergencies and disasters. My stake communications director is a man, but a woman could perform just as well in that assignment.
- Assignments not under the jurisdiction of stakes or wards, such as humanitarian assignments, could be managed by women as well as by men.
Fifty years ago, women weren’t in leadership roles like they are now. The type of assignments that I’m suggesting be given to women as well as to men are commonly given to women in the business world. I’m a retired engineer, and during my 44-year career in engineering, I’ve had several women managers and women colleagues, and those women performed very well as my managers. I can’t think of any good reason why the church shouldn’t follow society in this matter.
Some people might say that these changes are trivial, and that significant changes will happen only if the Priesthood is given to women. Of course changes like the ones I’m discussing are trivial in the sense that they could be made under the present framework of the church. They are the “first step” of bringing the organization of the church into the 21st Century. As I said above, I don’t know if the Priesthood should be given to women. That would be a significant change in the organization of the church, and that decision, whether “yea” or “nay” must be made by prophets of God, not by lay members of the church.