When people ask me what my dream calling is I sometimes tell them that I’d love to be the Ward Financial Clerk. This isn’t just me being glib. I would love the opportunity to have that calling and I know I’d be good at it.
Nearly every job I’ve had as an adult has involved money in some way. When I returned to work after a six year stint as a stay home mom I went to work for the accounting department of a ski resort. I was in the cash office and part of my job involved preparing the daily deposit. I discovered that counting cash is one of the pure joys of my life. It’s not because of the value of the money – handle enough cash and it starts to feel a little meaningless – it’s because I really enjoy organizing the cash. There’s something therapeutic about stacking and bundling money. Something beautiful in a deposit that balances with the amount recorded. Something fulfilling in knowing I can do a job well.
Some of my other responsibilities involved managing the money in the vault to make sure we had enough currency and coin on hand. I loved the feeling of responsibility for all that money. I was honored that I was trusted with keys to the vault room and with the combination for the vault.
When the ski season ended I continued doing a similar job for a resort in a national park. When that job ended I moved onto a county treasurer’s office. In that position I continued to prepare the daily deposit. I was also responsible for processing high volumes of checks. The amount of money that flowed through that office on a daily basis was almost unreal – but we always balanced to the penny.
These days I’m in charge of the daily deposit for a small business. I also oversee the billing and insurance claims. I don’t handle as much currency anymore, but I never lost my love for counting cash. I actually volunteer as the Treasurer for the Parent Teacher Organization at my kids’ elementary school because I want the opportunity to count large volumes of cash.
If there is one thing I know how to do well it’s handle money. I love it and I’m good at it.
I find it sad that I can’t use this skill in my church life. As things are currently organized I cannot serve as a Ward Financial Clerk. I can’t help prepare a deposit of tithing money after church. I can’t process reimbursement checks. I can’t help distribute fast offering funds. I can’t help prepare the ward budget. The church handbook clearly states in section 32.2.2: “Clerks should hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and have a current temple recommend.” Only men can hold the Melchizedek Priesthood so no woman can be a ward clerk.
I’m curious about why handling money for the church is considered an exclusive male duty. I’ve tried to come up with some good ideas. But most of them don’t hold up after a few seconds of scrutiny.
Someone could say that women can’t be ward clerks because they aren’t good with money. But just don’t. It’s 2023. We aren’t even going to go there.
Along those same lines someone could say that men are inherently better than women when it comes to processing numbers or being meticulous. No, these are not inherent gender traits. Being male doesn’t automatically make you good at the things that a ward clerk does. I once lived in a ward where the clerk over membership records forgot to record the babies blessed in that ward for something like 2 years. When those babies were old enough for nursery, the nursery leaders complained about how there were more children dropped off in the nursery than were on the class list. They tried to blame it on parents dropping their children off before they were 18 months old. I was like, “No, it’s because these kids never got recorded!” Being male had nothing to do with that man’s ability or inability to do his calling.
I’m sure someone could try to say that women serving as clerks alongside men could lead to immorality. If women share the clerk’s office and work closely with men after church it will somehow cause them to develop romantic feelings that can’t be controlled. I guess there’s always a possibility of something like that happening. But let’s be a little more grown up about things like this. Many men and women work together every day and never commit adultery.
Another hypothetical reason could be that if women stay after church to take care of a tithing deposit it takes away time from their families. Um, how come nobody worries about men being away from their families when they are counting the tithing? I think the families will be fine.
Maybe the answer is that God just doesn’t trust women with the church’s finances. But I can’t believe in a God like that. I believe that God has given me the talents and gifts that make me good with money. I felt divine guidance as I’ve followed my career path. I don’t believe that God doesn’t want me counting money for the church.
If there is some sort of reason that the duties of the ward clerk have to be done as a priesthood office then maybe there could be some sort of loophole put in place for women to do it. You know, the way that every other calling women have is now somehow a priesthood calling even though we don’t actually hold the priesthood. Something like, “The Bishop uses his priesthood to oversee the counting of tithes and offerings, and women can do it under his authority.”
I can’t think of a valid reason why women can’t help with church finances. Can you?
I’ve used the word I a lot in this essay. And it’s true, this is a deeply personal topic for me. But this is about more than just me. I would be perfectly content to never actually be called as the Ward Financial Clerk. However, I would appreciate if it was at least an option for me and for all women. If the Bishop could look at women and consider us for more callings than just ones that involve other women or children.
It would be wonderful to see women counting tithing money. To have a woman hand out a check for a family’s power bill. To see a woman reimburse receipts for a youth activity. To really involve women in creating the ward budget.
To see all that would be a dream come true.
Every position within the church could be performed perfectly fine if it were woman serving.
Thank you for this excellent post.
I’ve been thinking lately that a woman could be the executive secretary and the ward cheek and not need the priesthood to do that. That way women would be represented in bishopric meetings and be able to provide valuable input into the day to day operations of the ward. Our Bishop bishops remotely (works out of town and travels a lot) and we have been without a ward clerk for almost a year. Our membership rolls are a mess. We have a number of 20 year olds who were baptized during Covid that are still members of record for example. I’m thinking this change would make a nice post Covid reboot.
YES! There are so many things that women could do that don’t necessarily need the priesthood. And the thought of your ward membership rolls being so out of date makes me feel disappointed. Why are these things allowed to go on for so long? I’m sure there are many women in your ward who could get those rolls whipped into shape in no time.
10 year olds. Not 20 year olds.
“But just don’t. It’s 2023. We aren’t even going to go there.” It seems to me that, being 2023, there are a lot of callings women can and should be doing that we currently are prevented from doing because of outdated rules. Thanks for bringing this topic up.
I think intimately associating women doing their church callings involving money is more about misgivings in culturally empowering women and some men than anything else.
But then, I don’t value hierarchy well. I also tend to walk into the room considering myself equal or there as a subject matter expert consult as my personal default (which is not properly deferential for a church-going female).
Women can have financial callings, but it happens mostly away from the intermountain west. My grandfather called a woman as his Stake Auditor in the late 70s, early 80s. My mom was a stake financial clerk in the 2000s. There were complaints each time. In the early 1900s there was a woman who was elected county treasurer (later mayor of Kanab) and was also a stake clerk so knew the differences between what was claimed on taxes and paid in tithing. 😉 Just from these examples off the top of my head, this is mostly a cultural tradition. So, why isn’t that made clear??
I believe that they did recently make an official change so that women can serve as stake auditors. I wonder how many units have implemented that change with extending the call to women.
Marianne, yes the handbook was recently changed to allow women to serve as stake auditors. It’s a step in the right direction. I hope that it’s a sign of things to come.
I’m an accountant and asked our stake 2nd councilor to consider me for a stake auditor position. His problem was that I don’t meet the requirement to have a temple recommend. Just another rule that allows men to exclude women.
Traci, that’s great. I’m especially encouraged by your mom serving as stake financial clerk in the 2000’s. That’s so recent. I’m hoping that opportunity is available to more women in the future.
Ugh, you nailed it, Ann! Sometimes, we get so used to the status quo, we forget to question outdated practices. You sound like just the person to be ward financial clerk. I hope one day soon that calling is available to you.
Also, I have to tell the story of when my great grandpa was the ward financial clerk and later for the stake. The only ironing he did in his life was ironing the bills to mail to SLC. I don’t know how he figured that was magnifying his calling, but he did it!
Thank you. And wow, ironing checks. Somehow I never learned about that trick in all my financial training. I wonder what that would do to todays heat sensitive security features.
When I enquired several years ago at my ward level, I was told that the financial clerk and the bishop are often the only two people left after church alone when everyone leaves. Since men and women can’t be alone together (eye roll) and women definitely cannot serve as bishop (double eye roll), the clerk must be male.
Ultimately, it’s about consolidating power and control.
“Maybe the answer is that God just doesn’t trust women with the church’s finances”
This gets me thinking.
Women are called to care for primary children, typically without any assistance.
But church money-care requires two-deep leadership, zero exceptions allowed.
Assuming that God values children more than money, a woman entrusted to care for children by herself should be more than trustworthy to perform money-care with an assistant.
That’s a very interesting thought. I think of all the times I’ve been in over my head in a room full of children. That never would have been allowed if money was involved.
I think we all know by now that the church values money more than children.
Great post and great points. I suspect one reason that GAs aren’t comfortable letting women into callings where they handle money is that when they (the GAs) were young, it was the norm for men to do the money handling. Russell M. Nelson, for example, was born in 1924, and Dallin H. Oaks in 1932. To them, changes like the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act that made it possible for women to have their own credit cards probably still feel kind of new and radical. Their adult views of the world were likely already firmly in place before changes like this. So to them, it would be just unthinkable to allow women to handle money in the church!
To me, this is like reason number 10,000 why we need a reasonable retirement age for GAs. Maybe 70 or something.
Thanks Ziff, I never really thought about how the age of the first presidency would factor into all of this. You bring up some good points. They were definitely raised in a different era.
Because the Mormon Church is sexist and their entire organization is patriarchal and designed to elevate men and denigrate women. You can see it. There isn’t anything to wonder about. They are sexist, racist, and homophobic, and classist. It is awful.
I am a trained Accountant with an auditing background. I also think that every time a mechanic is called for that position.
Oh Mechelle, you get it. My husband is a mechanic and a darn good one, but he doesn’t have much experience for some of the callings he gets put into at church. Sometimes that’s a good thing because he’s learned new skills and/or brings a fresh perspective. But other times he feels way in over his head. I don’t know what I’d do if he was ever called to be the ward financial clerk.
My husband loved being the financial clerk. He said it’s the only calling in the church where a person can be “finished.” If the books balance to the penny, there’s nothing more the clerk can do to magnify the calling.
I suspect there is a really hefty dose of “but we’ve always done it that way,” in this situation. I used to be that only Melchezidek priesthood holders could scan recommends at temple entrances. Then, during the COVID outbreak, when temples were finally allowed to reopen, everyone scanned their own recommend to avoid people touching the same objects. There was a complete and total lack of lightning strikes as women scanned their own recommends. So now, at least at the temple where I work, persons of either gender are allowed to say, “Please scan your recommend here.”
Yes, I really hope this is something that changes in the future. I doubt there would be any lightning strikes if a woman handled church money.
Amen. A reasonable change IMO.
There are no rational grounds for excluding faithful LDS women from ordination to any position in their church, including prophet, seer, and revelator. The secular and political worlds arrived at this position some time ago, although there is an ugly sexist tradition that militates against it perpetuated by primarily older males. If, as the LDS church claims, it is led by God, then we can only conclude that its God is the embodiment of a divine aging white, pinched, and conservative male who has to be persistently nudged along by the prayers of progressives and realists to abandon anachronistic, archaic and sorely dated policies that have their basis in misogynistic mythology that dates back to the Garden of Eden where Eve is presented as the weaker vessel that succumbs to the will of the adversary and becomes the Christian model for women as the weaker and more vulnerable sex.
Amen! Changing the policy so that women can be financial clerks (or any clerk, or Sunday School president, or executive secretary) is such low-hanging fruit that it’s mind boggling it hasn’t already happened. These callings so very clearly don’t require priesthood. So why not let women participate through these callings? I’m guessing it’s our highest leaders rooting themselves to tradition in a way that’s totally unnecessary.
Actually, I was the Ward Assistant Financial Clerk when I was at BYU in 1983. I was in the BYU MBA program at the time, so they must have assumed I knew something about handling money. So, even though it’s rare, it’s not impossible….
That’s great! It makes me wonder why the church was allowing that in 1983, but has made sure today’s handbook limits the role to only men.
I think it will change soon. When I worked at the temple women weren’t allowed to work the recommend desk. No one had a good reason for excluding women and now it has changed. I think just bringing up the subject often leads to discussion and realization.
I’m a tad jaded. I think some men hold onto the patriarchal structure (although it ultimately hurts them, also) because they don’t want to be the ones stuck at home with the never-ending and under- appreciated work of being the caregivers to little ones if the women were busy counting cash or presiding over others at church. I know other men who would be relieved to not have to do so much of the administrative work at church and would rather be at home. Either extend priesthood ordination to women or eliminate the priesthood requirement for callings.