The general sidelining of Heavenly Mother bothers me, but specifically I was taught at girls’ camp by one of the Young Women leaders that we don’t talk about Heavenly Mother because Heavenly Father is protecting her.
On our very last Sunday, after serving for several years in a Young Single Adult unit, I was looking forward to imparting my testimony and love to my dear young friends during Sacrament Meeting. On that Sunday, the new counselor replacing my husband was sustained and my husband came and sat beside me. The imagery was striking– coming down from his raised pulpit of leadership to join me below. This branch is fairly progressive and I even called myself the “Sister Second Counselor,” as did others- which was a completely accurate representation of the work I did. When you are called to serve in a Bishopric or Branch Presidency, BOTH spouses meet with the Stake Presidency, and BOTH spouses become members of the new unit, if you are leading the YSAs. This always felt like OUR calling. We counseled with and about the young adults together, we taught lessons together, we prayed for them together, we made friends with them together, we listened to their heartaches and struggles together. But on that final Sunday, much to my surprise, only my husband was invited back up to the stand to share his testimony. Only he was acknowledged as a leader of the congregation. Only his service was considered ‘priesthood’ service, and that was all that mattered. In the moment, I tried to brush aside my hurt as pettiness, but the more I thought about it, the more it stung and the more invisible I felt.
I had been the ward organist for almost seven years. My husband had been sitting with our young son all that time. When a new bishopric was called, they called one of the past counselors as bishop. The stake president spoke to the ward about the service the counselor had already offered and how he hadn’t gotten to sit with his family for 5 years. I thought, yep, I’m up here too and clearly invisible.
I felt invisible today when I was reminded that the ward boundaries are dependent on numbers of active tithe-paying priesthood-holders in the area, and my presence in our ward boundaries has no bearing.
In my freshman BYU ward, the bishop’s main focus was on preparing the freshman boys for their missions and celebrating their mission calls. From the beginning of the school year, he added an extra 30 minutes to sacrament meeting (bringing the block up to 3.5 hours). The purpose was to create a time for any newly-called elder to get up at the end of sacrament meeting and share his mission call and bear his testimony. Then we would all stand and sing “Called to Serve” at him. Other young men would wait to open their mission calls at Ward Prayer later that evening, when we would all have to sing again. The bishop paid basically zero attention to the sisters, because we weren’t preparing for missions. It felt like we were just there to warm the seats and sing “Called to Serve.” This was twenty years ago, but when I checked in recently with friends from that ward we all remembered that dynamic. None of us even remember the bishop’s name because we had no relationship with him. Everything revolved around the young men and their missions.
My friend is 36 but is small and looks 25. She was called to be a ward missionary and during the first meeting, she offered several ideas and insights. The Ward Mission Leader was annoyed and said, “My, don’t you have lots of opinions for a little stay-at-home mom.
– Meredith Reynolds
Pro Tip: In our culture, men’s advancements, sacrifices and contributions are frequently heralded and publicly recognized while women’s are not. Be aware of this dynamic and make sure women’s work and offerings are recognized.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)