Leadership and Inclusion

I live far from Utah, but Joy Jones (current General Primary President) is sister to my sister-in-law. In this time of transition, some small glimpses of inner machinations have become apparent, despite the appropriate caution and probity exercised by anyone in such a rarified position.

My husband visited in Utah this past week due to family health concerns. While there, my beloved had dinner with Joy’s sister, who is married to a Stout.

Joy’s sister loves Joy, and had eagerly anticipated Joy’s release from one of the General Boards. The sister was very upset when Joy became a member of a General Presidency, because where others see prestige and access, this sister knew that her sister would become even more tasked in ways that would preclude many family activities.

It’s been good to hear that this family sacrifice has been “worth it.”

Someone who presumed women in Church leadership are mere token participants asked if Joy and her female colleagues ever meet with the First Presidency. Joy’s reported answer?

“Every day.”

In another anecdote, Joy was told that President Nelson wished her to participate in a committee.

When Joy arrived, the four individuals in the room (all male), were surprised and wondered aloud if Joy was in the right place. She assured them she had been assigned to participate in the committee. Shortly thereafter, President Nelson arrived. He affirmed Joy was there at his request and acknowledged the other committee members had not received prior notice of this addition.

Then President Nelson said, “I’m going to do a Moses…” He asked the four men to shift so that Joy could sit in their midst. Then President Nelson addressed Joy, letting her know that he expected to hear her opinions on all the matters they would be addressing. If she didn’t offer an opinion, President Nelson assured her he would be asking for her opinion.

Now, I’m telling you these things as they were related by my husband, who heard the incident recounted by Joy’s sister and brother-in-law. I missed the family gathering where my husband met Joy, so she hasn’t ever met me. Yet history is often not reported real time by those who are direct participants. Time that could be used for such real time reporting is more appropriately spent with family over good food amidst discussion of family-specific concerns.

I look forward to a time when those involved with recent decisions might have a chance to explain the inspirations and processes involved. Until then, these tales delighted me, and I felt others might find delight and inspiration therein as well.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

9 thoughts on “Leadership and Inclusion

  1. Along a similar vein, the lds.org site is currently featuring President Nelson’s gratitude for and promises to women.

    [As to the graphic, I wanted something that could represent the “Moses” moment. I decided to represent the wonderful male members of the committee as honeybees, laden with the honeybee equivalent of good works. I represented Joy’s addition to the committee with a female butterfly. Both honeybees and butterflies play a crucial role in the world’s ecology, but where it is possible to connect honeybees directly to product (honey), the contribution of butterflies is not as easy to quantify with respect to the dinner table. On the other hand, the reaction most individuals have to a proximate bee is not positive, where their reaction to a proximate butterfly is often joy…]

  2. I heard essentially the same story directly from Sis Julie Beck, when she was serving as President of the Relief Society. Her brother was living in New York at the time and she came for a visit, and she told of some committee she was on, chaired by Elder Packer, that she was expected to come prepared to speak on every item on the agenda–whether it directly affected the Relief Society or not. And he basically chewed her out for coming to the first meeting of the committee ready only to be taught.

  3. I loved hearing this! I get weary of hearing other women, often not even LDS, make comments regarding women being “below men” and being treated like “servants” and “second class citizens” because they don’t hold the priesthood and choose motherhood over careers, when possible.

    Just for the record, my husband is not a member of the church, and I’m a convert.

    I have never, ever in 42 years of being a member of this church felt like anything other than an equal to anyone in the church. I’m happy, no blessed, to be a woman – and ecstatic to read your family anecdote! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Meg, not to complain, but FYI, the placement/alignment of this post’s image got grunged somehow, and is covering up the title.

    Net: it confuses the blog’s main page, making it look like a continuation of the previous post, and users may not know to scroll down and click on “5 replies” in order to get to the post’s own page in order to comment.

    I looked at the code, and did not see any obvious glitches, not that I’m a WordPress whiz anyway.

    Suggestion: put some text in front of (ahead of) the graphic, and see if that fixes it.

    I’m using a tablet, but the glitch shows on two different browsers. I don’t know if the glitch shows on a desktop browser.

  5. Thanks Meg for sharing this. It helped me deeply. It’s something I struggle with deeply. I wonder why in my ward does the RS president have to turn a report to the Bishop stating the purpose of the activity to which he almost every time returns with an simple email stating “not approved” as we are only allowed 2 activities per year regardless of what she feels her sisters need. When she was called he apologized and said he felt like he was feeding her to the wolves. I know the doctrine and what it says and I see the treatment from the top but sometimes the power hunger lower down and disrespect to women is more than I can bare.
    I used to defend the treatment of women in the church until I was blue and still defend the actual doctrine but unfortunately the choices of a small group has effected my ability to uniquivically proclaim the women are treated well in our church at a local level. Maybe someday it will all trickle down. In the mean time I will hold to stories like this.

  6. Hi Kit,

    I think of humanity as a tangled set of different strings, with each string of its own quality.

    Part of my own youthful struggle with the Church was informed by being a victim of physical and emotional violence at the hands of my father, with reason to think there was another instance in a family that was well-regarded at Church. When I married for the first time, I again became the victim of brutality and infidelity at the hands of the male adult in the household. The thing I remember most, however, was the time my first husband refused to let me fix something around the house. In his mind, only men could use hammers and screwdrivers (even though in those years he was inept at using either). I eventually felt prompted to leave that marriage.

    Despite this history, I tend to find that men at Church are becoming more delightsome. There will be the occasional throwback. But I suppose this is where I reflect on the training I’ve received in how to react in a hostage situation. Resist, retain your humanity, but keep yourself safe.

    My husband now is a delight. Too often I take his virtues for granted, focusing on the few flaws he has. And sometimes I even realize I have reason to repent, likely far less often than I beneficially could.

  7. I woke up this morning and felt I should add that both my father and my first husband had circumstances during their formative years that contributed to the way they chose to act as adults. Though their actions were not appropriate, I have compassion for why they acted as they did. The same Christ upon whom I cast myself for forgiveness is able to be merciful to them, and I can be healed of harm they inflicted on me.

  8. “I wonder why in my ward does the RS president have to turn a report to the Bishop stating the purpose of the activity to which he almost every time returns with an simple email stating “not approved” as we are only allowed 2 activities per year regardless of what she feels her sisters need. ”

    I wonder why, in your ward the RS President would share that with you, or why, if you’re in the president’s confidence you’d share it publicly online.

    Well, actually, I don’t have to wonder. It’s quite clear.

    I truly hope that whatever hurt you’re experiencing, you can either overcome, or have your faith increased as a result of enduring.

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