A couple years ago, my husband and I gave talks in our new ward. After the meeting, several people came over and spoke to us. As we moved to our next class, my husband said, “Interesting that the guy in the stake presidency came down to talk to us.”
“What?” I asked. “Which one was he?”
“The one who asked us what our callings are,” he said.
Later that week, my husband got a call from the stake executive secretary.
“The stake president would like to come visit you and your wife in your home next Tuesday,” he said.
We didn’t know the reason for the visit, though I had my suspicions: the bishop of our new ward had been serving for five and a half years, so I guessed the stake president was feeling out candidates to fill the spot. I was 10 weeks pregnant and worn down by malaise and exhaustion; the thought of my husband serving in a time-intensive calling was overwhelming to me.
When we opened the door at their knock, I was surprised to see the whole stake presidency standing there suited up and toting scriptures. There was a weight in my chest when I realized that the odds were slim that such a visit would ever be for the purpose of evaluating my potential to serve, except as a supportive wife for my husband’s big calling.
I’m normally chatty and dynamic in small groups, eager to share and curious about others, but that night, I was quiet. I allowed my husband to answer all the questions directed at us, and on the rare occasion they addressed me specifically, I answered briefly. I knew they weren’t there for me. It was sobering to realize that regardless of my talents and desire to serve, my husband would always be more sought after, that his skills would always be more desirable to the church simply because he’s a man. On both the ward and the stake level, there are more than double the amount of leadership callings available to men than there are to women. I felt like to the Church I was just a placeholder, a body to uncomplainingly take care of the children while my husband worked long days and gave his nights and Sundays to the Church. My individuality was irrelevant as long as I could keep a smile on my face and make it possible for my husband to attend meetings.
After they left, my husband commented in frustration on my silence, but I was certain the men in my home hadn’t noticed. I felt keenly that my femaleness was a liability, not an asset, in the work of the Lord, and I questioned why God would give me the strengths and desires I had and then make it structurally impossible for me to use them in the Church.
Pro Tip: Remember that women are not interchangeable placeholders. Make an effort to engage women in the conversation.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)