#hearLDSwomen: Women Are Culturally Conditioned to Be Silent

One time I was in a meeting of all the Young Women presidencies in the stake, and we met in the high council room where there were a bunch of tables and chairs. I looked around and realized all the women had chosen to sit in the seats around the outskirts of the room and not at the tables. It wasn’t done deliberately, but it showed the mentality of women in the church. We don’t matter.
– Sarah


I hate that our culture has conditioned women to silence themselves. As secretary in a stake Primary presidency, I would become furious when we were discussing ideas and the president constantly said she’d have to discuss it with the stake president and see if it was ok. And it was never anything unusual and often unimportant details. What the hell?? But he’s the priesthood leader, and heaven forbid we don’t have his stamp of approval on every tiny thing.
– Anonymous


I was a counselor in a Relief Society presidency. I attended a Ward Council meeting when the president couldn’t go. I commented several times on items. That’s what I was there for, right? Word got passed to my husband that I was too opinionated. I ended up resigning from the position. This was at least twenty years ago.
– Anonymous


Pro tip: Women are culturally conditioned to defer to men. Help push against that conditioning by taking the initiative to invite women to speak in meetings and then listening. Encourage women to take up physical space in meetings and to make decisions for their auxiliary independently.

Click here to read all of the stories in our #hearLDSwomen series. Has anything like this happened to you? Please share in the comments or submit your experience(s) to participate in the series.

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)


  1. I have had quite a few experiences like these. The most irksome was when I was a newly called RS Pres attending my very first branch council meeting. I had never been to a council meeting before so i watched all the trainings videos on, which depicted (unbeknownst to me), ideal meeting types that don’t actually happen in rural areas where women’s rights are set back as far as they are in my area. I should have paid more attention and noticed the primary and YW presidents, how they keot their heads bent Low over their notebooks and never said a word, but I, as an enthusiastic greenie president, spoke up and tried to contribute to the meeting. The branch president interrupted me the first time I spoke and sternly said, “Sister, would you please see me after the meeting?” Everybody gave me a look that said I was in trouble. It shut me up. And I was in trouble—I was severely reprimanded after the meeting for driving the spirit away, interrupting the brethren, trying to usurp priesthood authority, you name it. In future meetings I tried more gentle approaches but the result was always the same: I got called into the principal’s office for severe reprimands after. He eventually conditioned me into complete silence. If I had known about Exponent back then, I might not have stood for such treatment, but I was very young, isolated, and scared of losing my temple recommend so I let him exercise all sorts of dominion over me, even though it wreaked havoc on my mental health.

    • Wow, SC, that’s awful that he berated you into silence. It’s no surprise that it wreaked havoc on your mental health to be told on the one hand from the general level that you were supposed to attend and participate in the meetings, but then be told by the person running the meetings that you were wicked to not be shutting up. Ouch!

  2. I have sat in Ward Councils many times over my 40 year membership in the Church. I was a YW president at 24, a Primary president. and am on my 2nd round as a RS president. I always use the most airtime, and most on the Council seem to be relieved if not appreciative of the fact that I come prepared and am interested in solving problems in thoughtful, effective ways. I was even invited to Priesthood Executive Committee when I was first RS President (37 years old with 6 children under 14) because my Bishop considered my voice in that forum important. I think priesthood leaders who do not listen to women are stupid, and it is they who do not know their place or their position. I feel bad for women in the Church who are intimidated by position and I want to say: “push back!” I am proud that I am opinionated, because my deep-held beliefs and opinions come from years of study of human behavior and a solid understanding of doctrine and the scriptures. I do not see women’s roles in the church shifting to this shared leadership until the women desire and expect it of themselves. Believe it or not, it has been women who have criticized and commented on my “place” over the years, far more than men. At the same time, I have worked with a variety of men who have held the office of Bishop and who have been at varying stages of maturity and experience. I have certainly developed my voice over the years, but I have also become more patient and understand “he is just a man,” and he gets to make mistakes. He gets to grow in his calling, too. I will not interfere with this process unless his “mistake” his hurting or abusing me or someone for whom I have stewardship over. Then I will voice my opinion and have a rationale, evidence-based reason for my objection and why this action should or should not proceed. Does pride rear its ugly head from time to time? You bet. Can a man in a position to execute his pride do some damage in a ward? Yes it can. Do I have to sit by docily and watch it happen and not express concern? Absolutely not. Let’s be honest, most of what takes place in the council of the Church is mundane and tedious, and rarely does it rise to the status of doing damage, but when it does, I will not hesitate to speak up.

    • How wonderful that the men you served with responded so well to you. Where I live, branch leaders let me know that my “membership was on the line” if I ever appeared too assertive around “the priesthood,” and my branch is in an era where male-female relations (as well as racial relations) are decades behind those of more educated or urban/suburban areas, but your comment here gives me hope that one day (maybe with younger leaders) things will get better. (Sad, isn’t it, that I long to serve under men much younger than myself in order to enjoy less hostile working conditions?)

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