Do Titles Matter?

Wife of President BadgeThere is a long-standing tradition in the church to use honorific titles identifying priesthood positions for men at just about every level beginning when they become missionaries. Elder, Bishop, President.

Women — even those who hold similarly named positions — are generally referred to as simply “sister.” In my 45 years in the church, I can recall less than a handful of times when a woman was referred to by title.

When I was 19 we moved to England while my dad took a sabbatical from BYU. My mom soon made a dear friend in the mission president’s wife. We spent hours and hours helping her fulfill her various duties. (My mom out of friendship, me out of a desire to hang out with cute missionaries.) This was more than a full time job.

Upon returning home, I started paying attention to the Church News announcements of new mission presidents. The notices generally told about the man who’d been called, what his career was, what callings he’d held — and ended with something like, “President Jones is married to the former Mary Johnson.”

Years later the husband of a friend was called to serve as a mission president. As I witnessed the preparations to leave for three years, packing up an entire home, learning a new language, leaving friends and family, it was obvious that the woman was making as serious a commitment as the man. But she wasn’t given a calling or title to go with it. In fact, her service was barely recognized other than her support role.

When temple presidents are called, the wife is called the “matron.” I suppose that’s a title (although I’ve never heard anyone in such a position addressed as “Matron Thompson”), but really it just means “sober, middle-aged, married woman.” Which is kind of like giving a guy the title of “geezer.”

When I was in high school my dad was called to be a bishop in a married student ward. My mom was the ward mother, attended both our ward (because I was still at home) and my dad’s ward (as requested). She served tirelessly there, without recognition.

When I was in college, Dad was called to serve as a branch president at the MTC. My mom was expected to attend and serve, and she did. My dad was given a missionary name tag. So was my mom. Hers said, “Sister Moore — Wife — Branch Presidency.”

In the past, whenever I’ve asked someone about this disparity, the answer I get is generally one of these:

  • Why do you want a title?
  • Titles don’t matter.

When I served as a Relief Society president, I was never called President Smith. But I was really too busy to worry about it. But if titles really don’t matter, then why do we use them?

I guess the real question is: Why do titles matter for men, but not for women?

125 comments for “Do Titles Matter?

  1. The association of these titles with Priesthood authority leads to a discourse of distinction that ensures a division between those who Preside and those who don’t. This, I imagine, became more important as the Church hierarchy increased and the necessity of using position rather than personality to enforce of authority. I am thinking that the move away from ‘Brother Joseph’ to ‘President Monson’ is significant.

    I am aware that some female Church leaders in the 19th century did call themselves at least Presidentess but I think this not common-place, but if it was I wonder whether there was ever a specific policy which moved away from this practice.

  2. i know that in some places (spanish and portuguese speaking), some times the relief society presidente is called ‘la/a presidente. like presidente ramos, when talking directly to the woman.

    is that the type of title you were thinking of?

  3. If “Brother Joseph” or “Brother Brigham” was good enough for them, it should be good enough for us. If this is a problem, the solution is fewer titled people, not more.

  4. I was actually called “president” as my title while I served as the primary president. I have to say I really didn’t like it, and I imagine although there are some men who probably have their presidency-ship (or what ever title they have) go to their head, I disliked it because it made me seem like I was above everyone else. I was just another ward member struggling to do my calling as best I could. There were many teachers who made a much bigger impact on the children’s lives.
    I do think the bishop should have his own title. It is good for him to be respected, especially by the children and youth of the ward, and I think the separate title helps, but I don’t think the other auxiliaries (SS pres, for example) need to be called president.

  5. As EQP, I really wish people in the ward would stop calling me President. We’re a ward, a community, and that name makes me uncomfortable. I also dislike being called brother by other people my own age. I feel like both terms instill some distance between ward members who should be on equal terms with each other.
    For some reason, I have no problem with children calling me brother, or the stake presidency calling me president–perhaps because some distance exists there anyway. I also have no problem calling the bishop Bishop, as a signal of respect.
    But I wish other adults in my small ward would just call me Tim.

  6. I get a lot of mileage adding “Esq.” to the names of the men I meet at church.

  7. High Priest Group Leaders are almost never called by that title. Group Leader Jones sounds too much like a line from a bad WWII fighter plane movie.

  8. Did Lt. Gen. Smith really have no use for titles beyond “Brother”? Or the fellow who engraved his silverware with “BYG,” the G standing for governor?

  9. I’m with you, Alison. When my stake did mini-missions for the youth a few years ago, they asked my husband and me to host some YW/missionaries for the night. The YW we hosted were technically “called” to my mission instead of my husband’s. At the stake center before the youth split up for their overnight “mission home” stays, the mission “presidents” had to get up from the choir seats and introduce themselves to the assembled youth. I introduced myself as “Presidentress” of my mission. It got a few laughs, and I think maybe one other sister used that title after me. I remember glimpses of some of the work my mission president’s wife put in, both at his side and behind the scenes. To me, it seems unfair to attach a special (if temporary) title to the work a husband does in a specific calling, while leaving his similarly hard-working spouse with “sister” (the same title she has had since her teen years) or “wife” (a title resulting from an event some years ago). If it is not a devaluation of the roles of “brother” and “husband” to add the title “President” during certain callings, then it should not impact a woman’s status as “sister” or “wife” to do the same.

    (I wish, however, that an innovative title had given me prophetic powers during the mini-mission. How else was I to foresee that the air mattress I provided one of the girls would deflate in the middle of the night, leaving her to cobble together my couch cushions for a bed? So embarrassing…)

  10. Titles do matter to some people and don’t matter to others. I, for one, used to hate being called sister because for a long time it meant that they just couldn’t remember my name (I have 7 sisters and we moved a lot so plenty of wards just never learned to tell us apart). I got over that as a missionary; and the disparity between us and the “elders” became laughable. [Incidentally, in the Nairobi mission, all the young missionaries have “Brother” on their tags because the government could not accept that 19 year olds were “elders;” they have a point].

    I do use the terms “Bishop” and “President” for all the members of the stake presidency–some of that is to teach my kids about the jobs in the Church and some of that is to acknowledge their added responsibility–I know they work extra hard. But I don’t treat them with added deference, I hope I treat everyone with respect.

    It is quite common here in my stake in the last 10 years to hear the female auxiliary heads referred to as “President”–when I was in a branch with several extended families that frequently kept the branch leadership afloat, that caused some confussion– President B. of the RS was mother of President B. of the EQ and President B. of the YM and mother-in-law of President B. of the Primary. Her husband was just the HP groups leader, so not called a President.

    I do think it becomes problematic when you have equals where one is addressed with an honorific and the other not; for examples, I have heard female professors at BYU complain that their male colleagues are called “Professor” or “Doctor” while they are called “Sister.” That would be very galling. But I would totally be one of those professors who asked students to call me by my first name, so I am not sure I would have a leg to stand on.

    It’s all in the attitude: if you call someone “sister” to belittle them or put them in their place, that’s a problem. If you call someone “President” to flatter them, that’s a problem, too. I actually like names.

  11. We recently got a new bishop in our ward, and he would refer to the YM, YW, RS, and Primary presidents all as “President ——“. One Sunday a member of the Stake Presidency was sitting in our meetings and commented to our bishop something along the lines of, “It is traditional to only refer to presidents of Priesthood quorums as a President ———“.

    Personally, I disagree with this tradition, and am fairly confident that it is nowhere recorded as a policy. This may be the one time I am willing to acknowledge an “unwritten order of things”.

    With the exception of bishops, two of the three members of the Stake Presidency, and several of the members of the High Council, I refer to all the members of my stake by first name. The titles I use for those with whom I am not familiar enough to call by first name, or because it is an honourific given out of respect for the calling. My EQ president, though, will probably always be Joe, because that’s how he signs his emails. (I also will initially address someone as Brother or Sister ——– but if they call me by first name, then I call them by first name.

  12. In Italian, the word for “president” in the Church is “il presidente” for men, and “la presidentessa” for women.

    I had one Elders’ Quorum President who insisted on being called “President Cluff”. It was grating to me, I couldn’t stand it. (There were many other things I couldn’t stand about him.)

  13. Maybe the other question we should be asking is why women can’t hold official leadership positions in the church. Well, I guess we know the answer to that. But do we understand the implications in the modern world? Women can hold leadership positions in any other sphere of America or the world. They can be heads of state, CEOs of multi-national corporations, or generals in the military, but if they are in our church they can’t even run their own organization without a man’s approval. Under those circumstances, how are we supposed to reach out to them and convert them?

  14. Some of our obviously-gendered titles like chairman have probably outlived their usefulness. Others like president could be replaced by a more egalitarian title such as leader.

  15. Others like president could be replaced by a more egalitarian title such as leader.

    I don’t know – “presid-ent”, i.e. a person who presides, seems to be about the most egalitarian title imaginable for that kind of position. Not king, not lord, not boss, not dictator, but someone more like an arbiter bound by law and tradition.

    “Leader Obama” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, either (smile)…

  16. I can’t believe that the fact that Joseph Smith was Lt. Gen. of the Nauvoo Legion, or that someone ordered silver for the Young family with BYG on it, is being provided as evidence that those men wanted people calling them by those titles.

    I’ll take Brother Phelps’s evidence: “Millions shall know ‘Brother [not Gen’ral] Joseph’ again.”

    And I suspect that the brethren who get stuck with “President” or “Elder” would really enjoy being called “Tommy” or “Hal” or “Jeff.” And the circle of people who can comfortably call them that is awfully small.

  17. As a side issue, another thing that drives me nuts are the use of initials and full names. Why do we have to refer to the prophet as President THOMAS S. Monson. What’s wrong with Tom Monson or Gordy Hinckley. We criticize the Catholics for “worshiping” the virgin, yet we are just as guilty of MAN worship.

    BTW- Great article.


    We recently got a new bishop in our ward, and he would refer to the YM, YW, RS, and Primary presidents all as “President ——”. One Sunday a member of the Stake Presidency was sitting in our meetings and commented to our bishop something along the lines of, “It is traditional to only refer to presidents of Priesthood quorums as a President ———”.

    Two 70s presided at our stake conference last month, and the one from SLC made a point in the priesthood leadership meeting over SLC’s concern is that members have generally become too casual. We were instructed to use proper titles for all priesthood and auxiliary leaders (I think our RS President loves being called President), both in wards/branches and stakes. He emphasized the EQP and the auxiliaries.

    When I hear someone say “it’s traditional to xyz in the Church”, my ears perk up. Part of the role of our Church leaders is to shake up tradition occasionally…

  19. Why do we have to refer to the prophet as President THOMAS S. Monson. What’s wrong with Tom Monson or Gordy Hinckley.

    It irks one member I know when my email sig contains a denomination-generic inspirational quote from someone like “David McKay”, “Robert Hales”, etc. I used to say as a kid that if *I* were ever a GA, I’d insist on either going with my full middle name or no middle initial.

    Interesting note — I reviewed the sustaining list for our upcoming ward conference and found that it contained the “full” names of each member in the ward. It might be just a local setting — the names of the SP and his first counselor had middle initials and the second counselor (from our ward) had his full name listed, as well as every other member. I think it’d be great to have sustainings in GC of every general authority/auxiliary president with full names read.

  20. But do we understand the implications in the modern world?

    Is this something the Church is supposed to care about?

  21. I live in a stake with a very conservative, follow the rules stake presidency. From the moment I was called as the stake YW president, they have all consistently called me President. It seems I’m the only one vaguely uncomfortable about it. I’d much prefer Sister, so that’s generally how I refer to myself. But every member of the stake presidency takes full advantage of every possible moment to explain that they refer to all auxiliary heads as presidents.

  22. What rules? Something they’ve made up, or something that actually is part of the gospel?

    I’m still looking for the inscription on a rock somewhere that proves that they really called Peter “President.” Or Jesus.

    If we work on it, we can figure out a way that everybody in the whole church is the president of something or other, so we can all call everybody else president.

  23. It’s always nice to hear anecdotal evidence that this is changing “on the ground,” but obviously this issue isn’t just a local one. I really find it kind of galling that someone would print “wife” on a name tag without realizing, “Hey, this seems kind of silly. Maybe we should refer to her in a more respectful way.”

    This is one of those things that may seem inconsequential if you’ve been surrounded by egalitarian leaders or haven’t ever faced this problem yourself, but it really is a sign of the respect the church has for female contributions and leadership.

    It would take the skin off no one’s nose to change this policy, but would be a major symbol to women.

  24. I’m with Brother Joseph, let’s get rid of the titles. (Come to think of it, no one ever addresses anyone around here as President except the SP.)

  25. Mark B., the quotes we have of people addressing Jesus mostly have them calling him “lord” or “master.”

  26. Someone would have to do a lot of arm twisting to persuade me to refer to the President of the Church as “Tom” or “Gordy”. It is not like we go around referring to the President of the United States as “Barack”.

    As far as EQPs and RSPs are concerned, I think they should best be addressed as “President” when acting in their official responsibilities, and “Brother” or “Sister” so and so the rest of the time. It is a matter of respect for the office which they hold.

  27. We should all just address each other as “Your Royal Highness.” We’re all royalty anyway! :)

  28. Oddly, I’ve heard several people call our current Mission President’s wife president also. Don’t know why at all, because as you point out, that it not the Mormon custom.

  29. By the way, the whole “Sister Moore, Wife, Branch Presidency” thing is just wrong, unless it was a joke. Unless the stake president called her to that position, and had her sustained in stake conference as wife of the branch presidency, of course.

  30. Oddly, I’ve heard several people call our current Mission President’s wife president also

    I believe the standard practice is for the spouses of mission presidents to be called and set apart as sister missionaries, and addressed as “Sister” so and so. It would certainly be news if the church started setting sisters apart as (co-)mission presidents.

  31. My MP gave permission for his wife to be referred to as “The First Lady”, but addressed as Sister B…

  32. I usually call female auxiliary leaders “president”, but our ward YW president told me she preferred “Empress”, so that is what I call her.

    President Monson often refers to himself as “Tom” or “Tommy” or “Brother Monson.” In his talks, he often refers to others of the leadership by first name or as “brother”.

    The Church News has changed it custom in describing new mission presidents; in the articles announcing the calls, they are referred to as “brother” and “sister”. See

    Our stake has always had, in the 22 years we have lived here, a tradition that members of the stake presidency and bishops always introduce or refer to themselves just by their first names or their names without titles, including in correspondence or emails. (Members of the stake, though, refer to them as president or bishop.)

    In callings I have had involving other stakes, I have noticed that the custom is that stake presidency members/bishops almost always idenitify self or sign emails with their title. Sometimes I think it is funny. Receiving an email–“David, thanks for sending the info. Regards. President [so and so]”

    I won’t identify my stake, because SLC would probably send someone down here to tell our leaders to get stuffy.

  33. I did a tour of some of the historic black churches in southern Chicago on Monday. I find black denominations so fascinating, because they seem to be the only tradition besides Mormonism that consistently encourages their members to dress up for church and loves their titles. At one of the churches we visited, our guide consistently introduced the people we met by titles: “Dr. ______,” “Reverend Dates,” “Deacon Sawyer,” and yes, “Sister Napier.” They talked about how they enjoy dressing up for church because church isn’t just church; it’s about bringing your best when you present yourself before God on Sunday mornings. Sound familiar?

    I noticed that, even in the more male-headship-oriented churches, the senior pastor’s wife was consistently referred to as “First Lady _____.” I asked why that was, and the student who arranged the tour informed us that since blacks were so downtrodden and marginalized by predominantly white society for so long, they often sought ways of bestowing honor and decorum within their own communities. Hence they began referring to the pastor’s wife as “First Lady,” after the President of the United States.

    At the last church we visited, we received a bulletin advertising a women’s Bible study led by “First Lady Jamell Meeks, Elder Lisa Ballard, Dr. Tara Jenkins, and Pastor Beverly Wilson.” It made me giddy.

    As for white evangelicalism, we’re becoming famous for our informality and lack of decorum. I call my pastor “Pastor Melissa;” most people just call her “Melissa.” I’ve certainly never heard her called “Reverend Wall.” I think I’m one of the few who refuses to ever wear jeans to church. I don’t look down on those who do, but I sure do wish we had our own sense of decorum sometimes. And we don’t even have a board of elders; they’re the “leadership team.”

    I don’t believe titles in themselves matter other than in that they bestow a sense of decorum. But consistency in offering them (or not offering them) to both genders certainly does.

  34. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

    We shouldn’t be casual about things that are important–which means that those of us who are called something other than “Brother” or “Sister” — or our names — need to be very, very careful. Or, ere we are aware, we’ll be sliding down that slippery slope.

  35. That’s all great that we have random wards/stakes here and there using titles for women, even with SLC approval/guidance (queuno #18). But SLC itself does not use titles for women. Google turns up over 400 results on for “Sister Beck” and only 3 for “President Beck” (2 of 3, upon clicking to investigate, seem to be mistakes as they don’t even have “President Beck” anywhere).

    And let’s just say that queuno’s anecdote is the sign of some very recent (last month) change in SLC, that of course doesn’t retroactively apply to archives. Then somebody forgot to tell Deseret News, who as of this week still uses “Sister Beck” (see article about her meeting with Michelle Obama).

  36. First lady Michelle Obama received five volumes on her genealogy Wednesday morning from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and Sister Julie B. Beck, general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  37. I am interested that sometimes (always? I haven’t paid enough attention) Presidents Eyring and Uchtdorf, when conducting general conference, will say, “President Thomas S. Monson presides at this session. He has asked me, Brother Eyring/Uchtdorf to conduct.”

  38. Yes! Finally someone pointed out my #1 pet peeve with church publications, particularly the Church News. I hate, hate, hate (and will NEVER subscribe the Church News because of it) how the new mission presidents are described. Their wives get one line, at the very end of the notice. Like somehow the dude made himself successful all on his own and she is merely along for the ride.

    I want to see all the callings SHE’S had to prepare HER for the awesome responsibility ahead. The same craziness happens in the Ensign, too and I really have to work hard to let it go.

    Someday, in the next life, I plan on having a conversation with the people in charge and I expect to have all this nuttiness explained.

  39. I completely agree with Mark B. way back in #3, we need fewer titles not more of them.

    Title use seems to be sweeping my stake and ward. I was a substitute in PEC meeting a few weeks ago and the bishop kept talking to the EQP and saying, “John? I mean President Jones…”

    I’m sure he thought he was modeling correct behavior and respect for office, I just thought he was being silly.

  40. It’s true that titles matter to some people and not to others. But the question that was asked in the post is, why do titles matter for men, but not for women (in the church)? And the answer is, sexism.

  41. I want to see all the callings SHE’S had to prepare HER for the awesome responsibility ahead

    Pro forma respect aside, does the wife of a mission president actually have any “awesome responsibility”? As far as I know, the (informal) responsibility of a wife of a mission president is primarily in the hospitality department. And of course spousal support, etc etc.

  42. How about the awesome responsibility of managing all household issues while out of the country. Leaving home and family? Becoming the “mission mother?” Spousal support is hardly something to be cavalier about when it means taking on his share of the responsibility of family life.

  43. It’s not unheard of for the General Relief Society and other auxillary Presidents to be officially referred to as “President X.” See here for an example from the Ensign:

    Of course, “Sister” has always been much more common, and I can’t say whether the use of “President” as a title is any less common that it was in the past.

  44. Alright, here at the very end we’re finally starting to discuss the real issue raised in this post: the institutionalized chauvinism rampant in the church, that even the most faithful of us have a hard time understanding the rational of. Let me be clear: I rarely (though it happens) come across persons who are explicitly male chauvinists – that is, will outright own up to it or describe men as inherently superior or of greater priority (and those rare persons who I do occasionally hear, quite tragically, are women more often than men). By institutionalized chauvinism, I mean that it’s ingrained in the institution itself. While we don’t declare men as superior, and often take pains to declare the opposite, we sure do conduct ourselves quite frequently as though men are. And usually we do it without even noticing (and sometimes, quite embarrassingly, our institutionalized chauvinism is clearly on display when we declare how valuable women are).

    It’s analogous to the fact that most teachers teach to the side of the room that corresponds with their dominant hand. If you ask a teacher “Do you think that the students sitting on the right hand side of the room are more important than the left?” they would obviously answer, “Of course not!” But video record them and you’ll see it’s true. The unfortunate part is the rest of the sociological data that goes along with it: students on the dominate hand side of the room enjoy class more and score better. The negative effects of our institutionalized chauvinism are likewise damaging.

    We occasionally get hints concerning this from over the pulpit – such as when Elder Scott recently asked Bishops to honestly examine their dealings with couples in their ward who come in for counseling, to see if they didn’t side more easily with the men than the women. But this isn’t the sort of thing that can be changed by prophetic fiat. We rank and file member have got to root it out ourselves.

    Protesting to the Church News – which DOES list the callings that the wives of MPs have had, but painstakingly refuses to ever acknowledge that careers that many of them have had – is one thing we all ought to do. Having more candid discussions about honorific titles is another.

  45. I noticed the same thing when a GA spoke at our stake conference last week. The paper we got the week before outlined his career achievements and callings in the church then said, “His wife is _________. They have five children”.

    I’m still trying to figure out why I have such a visceral reaction to that. I suppose that if my husband is ever a GA, his description would be much the same. And I chose that. All I do is take care of our family and our five kids while he’s off in his career and in church callings. It would definitely be accurate. But it sort of makes me feel like our lives are all about him, and I am just here for the ride.

  46. #42 Mark D

    I like you and all, but that is probably one of the most patronizing and misinformed comments I’ve seen in a long time.

  47. “It is traditional to only refer to presidents of Priesthood quorums as a President ———”.

    Clearly not true. Mission presidents, temple presidents, counselors in stake presidencies, and counselors in the First Presidency are all traditionally refered to by the title of president.

  48. James (45) I tend to speak to those on the right because I’m blind in my left eye and I sometimes forget that there are people and objects on that side of the room. It is also the reason why I tend to walk into things on my left side (like doors). I try to remember, though, which is why I also try to move around the room as much as possible.

    Left Field (48) I believe he was speaking about those in ward leadership positions.

  49. I find it even more amusing when the wife of a priesthood leader refers to her husband in the third person and by his honorific priesthood title as in “The President/Bishop is not here right now, can I take a message” or even better “I’ll have the President/Bishop call you back as soon as he gets home.” I often want to ask is the President/Bishop the same person as Mike/John/Bill otherwise known as your husband? If the wife can’t bear to use her husband’s first name can’t she at least call him her husband instead of “the President/Bishop?”

    Fwiw my wife recently finished up a 3-4 yr stint as the SYWP and I swear I heard her referred to as President X as well as by her first name at several meetings, but I have to confess I don’t always pay close attention to these things and may be imagining-wishing-that’s how it went.

    My Bishop often introduces himself by his first name when we talk on the phone as in “This is Chris/Steve/Gary . . .”

  50. rbc, I know what you mean. My friend always refers to her husband as “Bishop _______” when talking to me, and he’s not even my Bishop. Half the time I call him by his first name and half the time I call him Bishop, but it seems weird. Are you supposed to call a Bishop who is not your own Bishop, “Bishop”?

  51. The instructions we received from a member of the presidency of the 70 several years ago (also in instruction not to be so informal) was to address those holding keys by President, with the exception of the bishop, whom we call Bishop. That would be Deacons, Teacher, and Elders Quorum presidents and bishops at the ward level. I don’t know the source of the custom to refer to members of the stake presidency as president, though the stake president clearly holds keys. In our stake, our patriarch is also referred to as “Patriarch ….” from the stand.

    Mission and Temple presidents also hold priesthood keys.

    I have also noticed that members of the first presidency and the quorum of the 12 often refer to themselves and their fellows as “Brother”.

    When I was called as bishop in a US ward, I resisted referring to myself as bishop (as in, “Hello, Ralph, this is Bishop … calling”). My first counselor’s wife and my wife convinced me that it was still important for me to do it, even if it made me feel uncomfortable, and I eventually learned to do it. A friend who served as bishop in a nearby stake laughed when I told him that and said if he referred to himself as bishop in his ward, he’d be laughed out of the building.

    Go figure.

  52. You know how we sometimes refer to a man as bishop so and so, even after he has been released? I am aware of wards and branches outside the U.S. where literally all the adults in the ward retain their highest titles for life. If you were YMP or RSP 15 years ago, you are still called president today. So everybody in the ward is President ________.

  53. You know how we sometimes refer to a man as bishop so and so, even after he has been released?

    If I am not mistaken, “bishop” is a priesthood office that is independent of whether one is actually a serving bishop _of a ward_ or not. Hence “once a bishop always a bishop”. The offices of “patriarch”, “seventy”, and “apostle” are similar. No one is ever unordained from a priesthood office (as we define them) unless he is excommunicated, and those four particular roles are both callings and offices. So the office outlasts the calling and you end up with people in emeritus or inactive status.

  54. I don’t know the source of the custom to refer to members of the stake presidency as president, though the stake president clearly holds keys

    According to D&C 107:22,24 the First Presidency is composed of _three_ “Presiding High Priests” or “presidents”. The same rule is followed for stakes, which are like the Church in microcosm, hence the title for all three members of a stake presidency.

  55. My bishop in high school later became the stake president. Once I graduated high school and came back to my home ward as an “adult”, I always called him by his first name. He was a great bishop and a great guy. I felt like he was my friend. His wife called him President. Even when she was talking to him.

    A few months we attended a new ward for the first time. I turned around and introduced myself to a woman who looked about my age. I introduced myself with my first and last name. She in turn said “I’m Sister____”. I found it a little off-putting.

  56. I wonder how this lines up with the “women are more spiritual” trope. Do men have the titles to make up for their lack of spirituality? Or should they be forced to give their titles to women, who can better cope with the spiritual challenge of not becoming high-falutin’ about things?

  57. Re: 53

    It seems silly to call 12-15 yr old boys President, especially since, in practice, they do not make a single indepedent decision or have any authority notwithstanding the fact they have “keys.”

  58. rbc – the young men who serve as quorum presidents in my ward make all the decisions with their quorums, with their advisors doing just that: advising. (And even though the bishop is the president of the Priests Quorum, his assistants make the decisions for their quorum, as well). It is pretty awesome, and it definitely a testament to the fact that they are being taught that they are the quorum presidents, not their advisors.

  59. “Others like president could be replaced by a more egalitarian title such as leader.”

    Leader = Führer. Works for me!

  60. #42 Mark D

    You are:
    A. Young and Single
    B. Old and Single
    C. Married with a very unhappy spouse
    D. Soon to not be married with a very unhappy spouse

    You wouldn’t last in my ward for more than one Sunday School class. We eat uniformed folks like you at our after church potluck.

  61. Oh, I meant to say, my daughter serves in one of the smaller MTCs as the wife of a branch presidency counselor. It is her official calling. I think her nametag just has her name.

    It’s a bit different because she is an alumnus of that MTC, while her husband had served elsewhere.

  62. Thank you all for the comments. :)

    DavidH (#32), I am all about Empress.

    sister blah 2 (#36), bless you. A couple of years ago I ran through the “Beck check” on, but was lazy writing this up in the wee hours and didn’t bother. Thanks for adding that good research.

    living in zion (#39), you might be glad to know that the Church News actually gives the mission president’s wives more print time now than they used to. They are still just wife-of-mission-president material, but at least they act like she’s actually going.

    James Olsen (#45), I was pretty much cheering in my seat. Not because you called out chauvinism (I am SUCH a man lover!) but because you expressed the problem so well. I have met few men who are real pigs and most men I know in the church are really decent men. They just don’t see it.

    After Sam and I had four daughters, he attending a stake training meeting (he was the high counselor and was in charge of the YW program). At the meeting, the man giving the training to all the youth leaders showed up in his scout uniform and talked about scouting an YM. When he asked for questions at the end, my husband asked, “What about the Young Women?” The man (not a pig, a good-hearted man) was absolutely mortified. He hadn’t thought about it. And my husband said, “You know, if it hadn’t been for you pointing these things out to me all the time — and thinking about my girls — I might not have noticed either.”

    We need to notice!

    Now I’m looking forward to General Conference (which I LOVE, even though it’s on Easter) so I can be annoyed at the Ensign conference issue. Again.

    All the sessions appear in the magazine in the order they occurred. Except the general YW/RS meeting. IT occurs first is always printed at the end. Because it’s not a “real” session or something.

    Oh, and in the YW meeting next week, listen for the song Be Strong! These words in the second verse are sung by my 16-year-old daughter, Alana.

    When the world tries to convince you to make the wrong choice — be strong. Be strong.
    If in the noise that’s all around you can’t hear the Spirit’s voice — be strong. Be strong.

    She recorded it a few weeks ago, but they didn’t tell us what they were using it for. A video or something? I won’t be bugged about that. :)

  63. Hah! I just noticed this in the right sidebar under “Notes from All Over”:

    Elder Oaks, Sen. Reid, Julie Beck, among others, present Michelle Obama with her family history…

    How about:

    Elder Oaks, Senator Reid, President Beck, among others, present First Lady Obama with her family history… :D

  64. I enjoyed reading the post by Alison, and have been interested in the comments. In response to the overt question “Do titles matter?” My answer is: Sometimes and in some places, yes.

    But I don’t think that is really what this is all about. The implied question has more to do with how men in the church (including those who presiding) relate to women in the church.

    I would like to relate a personal observation, but I must include a disclaimer: I recently published a book, “Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations” that I worked on with my friend James N. Kimball. Since it came out, I have had the opportunity to visit book clubs and Relief Society groups to talk about the experience of working on it. This observation comes from those meetings.

    I often describe the process of doing the interviews for the book, and ask the women “How many of you have had the experience of sitting down with a couple of men and have had them be interested in what you have to say? How often have you had an experience in which you felt men were not judging or measuring you, but were listening to your story, and even asking questions eager to learn more?

    Typically, in a group of 30 or 40 women, at most one or two women raise their hands to indicate that this was a familiar experience, and usually the men who listened to them were remarkable fathers and husbands.

    This tells me that in this Church we don’t do a very good job of communicating between genders. It points out a specific area of social interaction we need improve upon if we are to become comfortable in the presence of our Heavenly family. I think the implied question behind “Do titles matter?” is really about our ability to listen to one-another.

    “That’s all I have to say about that…”


  65. I think the Lord’s use of the titles of ‘woman’ and ‘mother,’ along with apostles’ descriptions of the preeminence of women in God’s plan, should suffice.

    I suspect that the reason for formality these days is because the church is so large that church leaders can be correctly identified, so both false and true accusations of misconduct can be easily discerned. I do long for the days of ‘Brother Joseph,’ though. =)

    Also, I can’t imagine General Authorities enjoy those introductions at every fireside they speak at. I appreciate the conversations series, because I get to know the apostles so much more intimately.

  66. I like you and all, but that is probably one of the most patronizing and misinformed comments I’ve seen in a long time.

    I never said that the wives of mission presidents couldn’t do any number of important and effective things on their own initiative. My claim is that they have little in the way of _formal_ responsibilities.

    And if anyone can quote any publication or authoritative statement of the Church to the contrary, please do so. I am sure it would be quite informative.

  67. I should say formal responsibilities beyond those of a missionary. That is what a wife of a mission president is set apart as. And of course the responsibility to be a full time missionary, bear testimony, etc. should not be discounted.

  68. You wouldn’t last in my ward for more than one Sunday School class. We eat uniformed folks like you at our after church potluck.

    No doubt your ward’s hospitality leads to an overflowing of faith and belief. I hesitate to mention that I lived overseas for three years while my father was a mission president, and my mother a sister missionary, and I never saw any indication that she had any _formal_ responsibilities beyond those of a mother of eight children and the sister missionary that she was. Informal responsibilities and personal initiative notwithstanding.

    And if the wife of a mission president should have formal responsibilities in addition to that of a regular missionary, which no doubt would be a good thing for equity, etc., perhaps the Church should document a word or two about them in any official publication whatsoever. You shouldn’t assume that my claim that there are no such formal responsibilities is an endorsement of a belief that there shouldn’t be any.

  69. Mark D, I apologize for my unnecessarily snippy tone in #47. But I still disagree with your #42.

    I appreciate the clarification in #72-73. I have no idea if there is any kind of authoritative statement available to be quoted. I doubt there could be one given that a mother of 8 would have a completely different experience than that of a mission president’s wife who didn’t have any children to care for. And I don’t know that there is a written “formal job list” for the mission president’s counselors, either. But you probably wouldn’t call what they do merely personal initiative.

    I think the mission president has a lot of latitude in assigning “formal” responsibilities– to his wife as well as to his counselors. Some wives almost act as a 3rd counselor with responsibilities for training meetings, speaking assignments, office management, etc. as well as the hospitality duties. And mission medical is almost a full time job in itself and is usually assigned to the wife.

  70. C Jones, I should not have quoted the word “awesome”. I should have said formal, and added more clarification. In no way am I opposed to giving the wives of mission presidents more formal responsibilities. Certainly many of them have _assignments_ to do special things.

    My mother worked a lot with the welfare (sister) missionaries, gave plenty of talks, including in some _very_ large regional conferences, and was at least informally responsible for preparing a large number of meals (she did have assistance), especially for arriving and returning missionaries. I am sure she would have had more assignments and reponsibilities if she did not have eight children under the age of fifteen or so.

    I confess that my gut reaction to the word “awesome” was based on the experience of seeing my mother almost all the time but my father gone for sixteen hours a day. And I must say his assignment wore him down in a way that my mother’s did not. And that is not to discount the value of everything she did do, which was considerable.

    This post is about titles. Some have commented that they are not important. I disagree. One of the most effective ways to increase the respect for the wife of any mission president would be to give her one or more that correspond to the actual responsibilities she is assigned. Because in my opinion, “mission president’s wife” is entirely lacking.

  71. Following Mark D. (#55), I would add that ‘Bishop’ and ‘Elder’ are both offices in the priesthood (D&C 107: 17 and 7, respectively), though they do/can function as titles as well. Thus we would call someone ‘Bishop X’, though it seems odd to refer to someone as ‘Deacon Y’. ‘President’, admittedly, functions differently; it’s not an office. But since it’s used for both men and women, the gender discrepancy is, it seems, elided. (At least in terms of the applicability of the title. The tendency to apply it more regularly when referring to one gender or the other is, of course, a separate, if related, matter.) Since female missionaries are called ‘sister’, does this mean ‘sister’ is, or can be, an honorific title?

    I doubt my little contribution to this thread does much to resolve the larger issue of discrepancies in how men and women are treated, talked about, or dealt with, or how they engage with each other, in the context of the church/gospel. I confess my own sensitivity to those concerned/troubled with issues like this one. Why, indeed, would we not refer to a Relief Society president as ‘President’?

    In my heart of hearts, I believe men and women are loved equally by God, even if our spheres of service in the plan of happiness differ. In the end, each of us must work out our own salvation, but, in a very real sense, we do so bound by covenants one to another. That, and the second great commandment, should be more than enough for me to treat everyone with love and deference.

  72. Kent Miles (#69), I appreciate your input.

    Typically, in a group of 30 or 40 women, at most one or two women raise their hands to indicate that this was a familiar experience, and usually the men who listened to them were remarkable fathers and husbands.

    I give full credit for my sanity (if I can, indeed, claim such) to my husband, who is such a man. This is such a sad statement but, in my experience, spot on — as far as church goes.

    I just finished performing in a musical. Almost the entire cast was in their 20s and younger (yes, my character is a cougar). On the last night, one college guy came up to me backstage and said, “You know, I thought you were just a Mormon mom. But, well, you’re, well…you really think about stuff and you’re really smart.” It was very funny and very cute.

    But at the same time sad that he was SURPRISED that “Mormon moms” would be smart. I know lots of smart Mormon moms and have lots of great conversation with them. But I don’t know very many who get into intellectual conversations with Mormon men. Because, frankly, Mormon men — at least in a church setting — often don’t take it very well.

    That said, today we has a RS lesson about the fall. It was, honestly, one of the best RS lessons I’ve attended. BUT there was more than a little “Eve was the wise one” and “it was the woman who figured out what was going on” and “it took a woman to get things going” and “women are the most in tune so the men have to have the priesthood.” I am so uncomfortable with that, but today it was fascinating. I live in a “white shirt ward.” Utterly by the book. And these aren’t women tend to follow the traditional roles without much push back. So, being rather new in this ward, I was surprised to hear this defensiveness. Maybe that’s the way they feel comfortable expressing frustration about it?

    I’m kind of rambling and can’t refine this tonight. Just wanted to throw today’s experience into the pot.

    Thanks for all your thoughtful insights.

  73. My wife and I travel to Hawaii frequently and attend church there. The wards run by the transplanted Mainlanders all want to know what our church callings are. The wards run by the local Hawaiians are just glad that we are there. It was very easy to feel the Spirit in the one and not so much in the other, and painfully obvious, too.

  74. Dan, we had a great experience in the Hau’ula 4th Ward and I love Polynesian culture in almost every respect. My husband served a mission to Samoa and lived there for three years as a kid, too. That’s where we want to serve or old-age mission. :)

    But in my limited experience, such culture isn’t remotely devoid of class issues or titles. My husband was made a chief while on his mission and they treat missionaries (and all religious leaders) with great respect and higher ranking than “average” folks. (Whether it’s good for 19-year-old egos to be treated like royalty by accomplished adults is another discussion. :) )

  75. The titles are so………..uh….Mormoney! I dislike them immensely. It’s kind of like when I go down town and see men dressed up in suits and ties headed out to lunch, I think, boogey man!

  76. When D&C 121 talks about the disposition of almost all men to abuse power, it doesn’t refer explicitly to women. Do women not need such caution, or are they naturally inclined to avoid abuse of power?

    In a church where no one gets paid for any church callings they fill, with a few exceptions, mainly late in life after years of unpaid service, putting too much weight on titles (either as things to be proud of or to denigrate) looks like overkill to me.

    According to the definitions in US tax law, all of the women who work in RS, YW or Primary would qualify as “ministers” if they were being paid for their work. I think any man who actually has an ambition to be a bishop or stake president is so vain that he ought to be disqualified. A woman who is mad at the Church because she can’t be a bishop or stake president has, in my view, equally disqualified herself. If your goal is to have a title and lord it over people, you don’t deserve the priesthood. If your goal is to serve the Lord and your neighbors, you can do that as a brother or a sister. After all, no one can have a career as a Mormon pastor. You aren’t being prevented from earning a living if you aren’t a priesthood holder.

  77. RTS–wanting female leaders to receive the same respect as male leaders receive is not remotely the same as being “mad at the church because she can’t be a bishop or a stake president.”

  78. Also, there’s a third possibility for D&C 121–women are almost never explicitly included in scriptural language. What’s your warrant for reading them as explicitly excluded in this case and not (one hopes), in verses like “Men are that they might have joy”?

  79. My wife tells us that when her YW president’s husband was called as bishop of her ward (thus becoming “The Bishop”) the youth all started referring to her as “The Janet.”

  80. And when I was a missionary, our mission president’s wife declared our zone to be on “the high road to apostasy” because we didn’t find new apartments after she decided that ours were not good enough for servants of the Lord. “When you raise your hand to sustain me at mission conference, it’s not ‘unless I don’t feel like it'” was one way she described it. Of course, I don’t remember ever hearing her name come up in said conferences, let alone having a sustaining vote for her.

  81. Kristine–I have every bit as much respect for our various Relief Society presidents over the years as I do for the Elders Quorum presidents I have known (or been). While I have heard of some who were abusive with their authority, or in one case obsessive-compulsive about not delegating any responsibility, I have personally never met one who was not fully deserving of all possible respect and gratitude for the watchcare she and her organization provided to the ward, including my own family. And we have lived in 8 different states, and twice that many wards (including in Japan). By and large, bishops don’t have to get involved with the detailed operations of the Relief Society, and have more pressing issues they have to work on themselves, so the presidencies have a great deal of autonomy, comparable to the independence that a vice president in my company enjoys over a division, with broad authority, budget, resources, and periodic reporting.

    Personally, I have no personal ambition for that kind of responsibility. Serving in quorum presidencies, a branch presidency and a couple of high councils has been as much as I could stand. I prefer teaching, something that sisters do as well as I.

  82. “When you raise your hand to sustain me at mission conference, it’s not ‘unless I don’t feel like it’” was one way she described it.

    That is funny. Every wife of a mission president I have ever met was more or less at the opposite end of the spectrum. Either way, I would be more than a little disturbed by any leader who made a similar claim, no matter how popular the vision of the priesthood as a hierarchical dictatorship was a few decades ago.

  83. Raymond, I generally enjoy your comments — and you’ll never hear a snark from me over comment length, because I’m as verbose as anybody. But I really don’t understand your point. I assume that you weren’t just coming out of nowhere to make those comments. Right? But I can’t pinpoint what you are referring to.

    Did you get the impression that someone is “mad at the church” because women can’t be bishops? I don’t recall anything like that. I do, however, have lots of questions about the division of responsibility. Just as you wondered aloud if women are excluded from the scripture you cited, I wonder how to distinguish when women are included/excluded on many scriptures, including those of priesthood office. I don’t know if that puts me in the category of those who have “disqualified” themselves — as if I had a shot anyway — but I’d be interested to know.

    If I got to choose a calling, it would be among these four: Gospel Doctrine teacher, Relief Society teacher, Relief Society 1st counselor, Relief Society president. Which I favor depends on the day, but I have utterly, thoroughly enjoyed those four callings.

    I suppose preferring those callings is aspiring to them, but I think it’s probably a lie if people claim not to have some callings they’d love to have and others they’d be happy to avoid. If the callings they love happen to be leadership callings or callings of responsibility and “position,” who cares? I just don’t see the big deal about it.

    I’m with Kristine on both comments.

  84. As a woman, what I don’t particularly want:
    a. a title
    b. the priesthood authority
    What I would like:
    1. the opportunity to to use my time and talents to the fullest effect in the kingdom of God
    2. my views be respected as an equal.

    Problems seems to me that in many situations you can’t have 1 and 2 without a. and b. in the church.

  85. All bets are off when you’re at BYU, I guess. Asking for a title is entirely out of the question here, even for a guy. You take your calling as assistant bulletin board coordinator and LIKE IT, dang it :)

    In all honesty though, I don’t see why ‘Sister’ isn’t a legitimate title. Everything I ever needed to know in life I learned from being a sister and a Sister, so why not embrace it?

  86. Raymond, I’m sure you are perfectly respectful. What we’re talking about here is institutional, structural respect–the kind that is manifest by titles.

  87. I’m sure most of the difference is that we think of men and women differently in relation to authority and hierarchy. I have no problem with that.

    But part of the explanation is that we make a distinction in titles between priesthood offices and auxiliary offices, and women with office are always in auxiliary offices. The EQ President is often addressed as President, the YM President and the Sunday School President hardly ever so.

  88. UKAnn, well said.

    Paradox, “sister” may be a “legitimate” courtesy title, but it doesn’t explain why it’s generally used to address female presidents, while “brother” apparently isn’t “legitimate” for male presidents.

    Adam, that is what I was referring to in the first sentence with “There is a long-standing tradition in the church to use honorific titles identifying priesthood positions for men…” I understand your point, but it doesn’t explain why there IS a distinction.

  89. Re sister blah 2 (quoting the Deseret News):

    “First lady Michelle Obama received five volumes on her genealogy Wednesday morning from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve and Sister Julie B. Beck, general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    I just received my copy of the same story in the Church News, where the photo was captioned with a reference to “President Julie B. Beck of the Relief Society” and to “Sister Oaks”, wife of the apostle. Do you think the same person wrote both stories? Do you think there was any particular intent in using one title or the other about the same event? Does it make any difference to President Beck?

  90. “Adam, that is what I was referring to in the first sentence with “There is a long-standing tradition in the church to use honorific titles identifying priesthood positions for men…” I understand your point, but it doesn’t explain why there IS a distinction.”

    Because the priesthood is God’s divine authority? That seems pretty obvious to me.

  91. While it may be true that the articles on the husband and wife at the time of their call as mission president may have at one point been as unbalanced as Alison suggests, I have to say that it is no longer the case.

    I have to also say I liked the longer reports that they used to have that listed the full schooling of the people involved, but can also understand why they give the shorter reports now.

    I will show two reports from over the years to illustrate my point. Here is the first one, which is the first one in the March 20, 2010 edition of the Church News:
    “Bradford James Brower, 53, and Tamara Ballard Brower, eight children, Canada Toronto West Mission; Elk Hollow Ward, North Salt Lake Utah Stake. Brother Brower is a stake president and former bishop and counselor, high priest group leader, high councilor and missionary in the Canada Toronto Mission. Owner, Stephen’s Gourmet. Born in Riverside, Calif., to Leslie Myrl and June Marie May Brower.

    “Sister Brower serves as a ward Primary teacher and is a former stake Primary secretary, counselor in a ward Primary presidency, stake Young Women camp director, ward Relief Society teacher and ward activity committee chairman. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Melvin Russell Ballard Jr. and Barbara Bowen Ballard.”

    I did not realize until after I had posted it that the wife in this case is the daughter of Elder M. Russell Ballard of the 12. It is true that they list the age and occupation for Brother Brower which they do not do for Sister Brower. The age is probably because women are most sensitive about such subjects, and the occupation in this case is probably because Sister Brower has been a homemaker at least since she got married. They list six former callings for both of them so that is equal. They do not mention that Sister Bowers’ father was mission president in Canada.

    Interestingly enough with Brother Brower being 53, that means IF he went on his mission at age 19, that would have been in about 1976, at which time Elder Ballard was president of the Canada Toronto Mission.

    The other one I choose to examine is the bio from the Feb. 29th, 1992 Church News of Jeffry A. Allred and his wife Silvia Henriquez, in this case I picked it because I do know who Silvia H. Allred is. Here it is “Jeffry A. Allred, 49, Vicente Lopez Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina North Stake; high councilor, former mission president’s counselor, high councilor, and branch president; served in Central American Mission, 1962-65; South American South Area director of temporal affairs for the Church; received associate degree from Dixie College, bachelor’s degree from BYU, and attended the University of Arizona; born in San Diego, Calif., a son of C. Price and Enid Seeley Martin Allred; married Silvia Henriquez, eight children. She is a stake Relief Society president, former stake and ward Relief Society president, stake and Primary president, and gospel doctrine teacher; served in Central American mission, 1962-64; attended BYU; born in San Salvador, El Salvador, a daughter of Carlos Florentino and Hilda Alvarenga Henriquez.”

    There are several differences. I would have to say the change of placement of the listing of children is good. I also prefer the current name listings. I do miss the degree listings, but I can see why not to include them. On a side note, I read through the whole page and there was one listing of one of the wives being a piano teacher, so it does appear even the occupations of wives would be listed at times. I also know they do not list all of Sister Allred’s previous callings, since her first calling after being baptized was serving as a Relief Society Secretary, but there are space limitations and that was when she was a teenager, so I am not surprised it was not mentioned.

  92. Raymond,
    It is possible that different people wrote the Deseret News and the Church News stories, but I do not think that is the route of the difference, but I do think I know what it is.

    The Deseret News does not in its regular reporting speak of people by Church titles unless that matters in the story or they hold a full-time Church position. Thus at least Deseret News produced stories will always say “President Monson”, “Elder Oaks” and such. However they will refer to Matheson, Bennett and Becker. In a Church News article the references would be to “Brother Matheson”, “Brother Bennett” and “Mr. Becker”. So in Deseret News parlance Sister is an honorific, but in Church News parlance sister is shorthand to make it clear who is and who is not a Church member.

  93. “Sister” with regard to the wife of a mission president is not a courtesy title. It is, when preserved in a broader secular context, an indication that the person named is a sister missionary, which is correct.

  94. Adam #96:
    The priesthood is God’s divine authority and women don’t have it. So female presidents aren’t generally addressed as president because… ???

    John, you’ll note I addressed that a bit in #67. I’m older than you. Interesting to see the incremental changes.

  95. There’s a historical problem, too, if it’s priesthood keys that are at issue, because ERS and other early RS presidents were routinely called “Presidentess” when they were publicly introduced. And I don’t think you want to go where title of President=priesthood keys would take you in that case. I’m sure Adam doesn’t want to go there!

  96. Is there a way to get the numbers posted by each post, or do I have to just count throug, with numbers like 67 I would rather not count through.

    I believe I have heard relief society presidents called President, and I know I have done so. However, how often are elders quorum presidents addressed as such, at least I have always called them Brother Maahs, Brother Stephenson and so on.

    I think Presidentess would be a good title for mission president’s wives.

  97. Alison,
    I do not think it is true that Mormon men do not take women getting into intelectual discussions “very well”.
    My favorite talk of the conference where Sister Allred spoke was the one she gave. It was refreshing to hear a sister give such a strong pro-missionary service talk.
    When I am at institute I proactively try to figure out how to get the sisters in the room to make more comments. My favorite institute/seminary teacher was Sister Corless, I had her for both. One of my three favorite religion professors at BYU was Dr. Fronk (now Olson).

    All the comments I have ever cringed at have been made by brethren. I can not speak for everyone, but I certainly have no objection to sisters sharing their insight, and wish they would do so more in Church.

  98. “Alison,
    I do not think it is true that Mormon men do not take women getting into intelectual discussions “very well”.”

    May I ever so gently suggest that Alison might be in a better position to observe this phenomenon? And even, perhaps, that your dismissal of her report performs precisely the problem she is describing? (That is, you universalize her experience and expect her to accept your account as authoritative, at the same time as you refuse to accept her description of her experience as authoritative or universalizable.)

  99. To Allison about the Church News “at least they act like she’s really going”,
    I still think you need to read the most recent entries on the newly called mission presidents. If you glance through the articles it may appear that there is a lot more on the brethren, but this is a deceptive result of the curent pargraph system. They list the President, his age, his wife’s name, number of children, misssion assigned, ward and stake from. Essentially except the presidents age that info is all joint, but it is the same paragraph as the info on the president. I did a word count on one article and found that there were more words refering to the wife than the husband.

    On the issue of “like she’s really going”, you do have to bear in mind that when Heber J. Grant brought along his wife Augusta with him when he presided over the European Mission Francis M. Lyman thought this was highly irregular. True, that was in about 1903 and by the 1920s the wife of the mission president was the presiding authority over relief society and primary (if the mission had it, primary that is) in missions without stakes (which was all except for one at that point, but that is another story), however the fact that for a long time mission presidents often did not bring their wives needs to be considered.

  100. We have tradition and it serves us well in the church. The issue is tradition sometimes becomes gospel and then the supposed need for revelation and self-thought are banished by some or frowned upon by others. Others simply rebel (like some posters here). Often titles are granted in order to convey respect, thus I use them when appropriate. Yes, sisters also have titles and thus should be used to convey proper respect when appropriate. I do not wrestle with such things…

    Speaking of young men. The titles for the deacons, teachers and priests should absolutely be used for those young men fulfilling their duties. They do have keys and authority gifted to them, and no where in the church handbook of instruction does it say that young men advisors are to preside at young men (deacon, teacher) functions. Those young men in presidency roles are to lead and act as one having authority and keys (I remember another young man of 14 years some thought was too immature to have seen what he said he saw). The young men advisors are there to teach the young men the significance and responsibitity of using and holding those keys.

  101. Another thought, my mission president was virtually always there. Having served part of my mission in his ward, I know first hand there was a period of time when his wife went back to Salt Lake City to care for their daughter.

    This is not to say Sister Tate was not inportant, she clearly was and she did a lot, but President Tate was still the president.

    People brought up how the Temple President’s wife is the matron. This was not always so. At least until 1910 and maybe even later the matron was a distict calling, and not neccesarily held by the temple president’s wife. This is partly because some of the early matrons were widows (I want to say Emeline Wells was such at the Salt Lake Temple for a time, and her husband Daniel was dead by then) and probably more so because with Wilford Woodruff, the first temple president ever, and many of his successors having multiple wives, designating one of them as matron could well have been a way to insult the others. While some men had a clear first wife, so such might have not involved any more granting of status than alrady existed, Lorenzo Snow, the first president of the Salt Lake Temple, married his first four wives all on the same day. Since one of his later wives was Phoebe, a daughter of Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Church, it can be understood why President Woodruff did not designate any of these wives as matron.

    In Robert L. Simpson’s article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (pubished 1992) on Temple administration he says the wife wife of the Temple President is usually called as the matron. Elder Simpson had served as president of the Los Angeles Temple from 1990-1992 (while he was a member of the 1st Quorum of the 70). Interestingly the executive council consists of the Temple president, temple matron, the counselors to the temple president and the recorder. So the assistant matrons are not in the executive committee. In the temples built on President Hinckley’s smaller temple plan, the 1st Counselor is the recorder, and since the Encyclopedia of Mormonism was published in 1992 I have no clue what the modern temple executive committee, especially in temples where the recorder is a counselor, is like.

    Another interesting thing is that while the temple matron has assistant matrons who are wives of the counselors, as far as I know the wife of a mission president does not have any formal assistants. Her husband has both counselors and assistants, but to my knowledge my mission presidents wife had neither.

    On the other hand mission presidents counselors are a unique case in and of themselves. Early in Church history it was regular for mission presidents to have counselors, but from about 1850-1955 it was extremely rare. In the late 19th and early 20th century even some mission presidents were young elders. Hugh Nibley’s father had served for about a year as president of the Dutch mission before Hugh’s parents married.

    When John A. Widstoe was called as president of the European Mission he managed to convince the First Presidency to call someone as the president of the British Mission so he could be in practice what he was in theory, the presiding authority over all misssion presidents in Europe. This allowed him to work closely with Arthur Gaeth who was the first mission president in Czechoslovakia. Gaeth was one of the few missionaries then serving who had a parent born in that country (his mother was born in a place that in 1929 was in Czechzlovakia). Gaeth had been serving as a missionary in Germany and just extended his mission. After being a mission president for two years he got a “special dispensation” from the Widtsoes to go get a wife. This indicates that at this time such behavior was not common. He went to Chicago, baptized Martha K. Picha, a native of Czechoslovakia, then went to Salt Lake City and the two of them were married in the Salt Lake Temple. This was before one had to be a member a year to get endowed. They then spent three months in Salt Lake City, where Martha was trained by experience and by Sister Widtsoe in running church auxiliaries, and then they all returned to Europe, where the Gaeths would preside over the Czechoslovak Mission for another five years. My source on this information is Alan Parrish’s biography of John A. Widtsoe, especially page 442.

    Starting in the 1950s or so mission presidents have generally had counselors. Early on many of these counselors, at least in Latin America, were 21-year-old missionaries. I had a room mate at BYU who served a mission in Russia in a mission that did not have any counselors. Most missions do, but it is interesting that counselors differ from mission presidents more so than counselors in most other cases.

    To began with, this is the only case I know of where being the president is a full-time calling but being a counselor is a church service calling. In Area Presidencies, it is true that at times the president is a full-time General Authority while one or both of the counselors are part time area authority seventies, but those are callings distinct from the Area Presidency calling.

    With the mission president, the calling is such and full time while his counselors are called on a church service basis. While in some areas where the Church is extremely undeveloped the counselors to the mission president are senior brethren serving a mission there with their wife, in general the counselors are local brethren, while probably over 80% of mission presidents are called from outside the mission boundaries. I can think of exceptions like President Joseph in Haiti, the newly called president of the Copenhagen Denmark mission and Richard G. Hinckley when he served as president of the Salt Lake City mission, but even the multiple cases of Brazilian mission presidents in Brazil I know of all involve men serving in places other than where they are from in Brazil.

    In the mission I served in our mission president had three counselors. Another interesting fact is while in my general observation counselors normally serve the same time or less as the president/bishop they are a counselor to, counselors in the mission presidency often serve longer than the mission president they serve under. Here in the Detroit Mission where I live one of the counselors in the mission presidency has held that position for almost five years.

  102. Kristine,
    I think you are far too combative.
    I may have not made my point clear, but I figure that as a Mormon man I have more insight on the thinking of Mormon men, since I am one, than Mormon women do.
    I also intended to point out that I thought that it may be a generational issue. I know some Mormon men who have quite backward thinking, but while I never heard a woman at BYU say their father opposed them going to college, I did hear a non-Mormon, non-Muslim women at Wayne State University express that her family held such a view. I added the later because people who know Wayne State will know at least 15% of the female student body are Muslim women who wear the hijab (another 10% are Muslim women who do not wear the hijab, but we assume their famiies have different views on women and education, quite possibly falsely, because the prevalence of hijab is a cultural thing, and the various Muslims come from various countries, including many who are American-born converts to Islam or children or grandchildren of such).

    Also, Kristine, if you want to have Mormon men and women involved in discussions, than you have to stop assuming that disagreeing with a woman on the part of a man is somehow based on her gender and degrading it. As long as you assume that gender is the controlling factor in discussion you will be able to support that theory, no matter how inaccurate it is.

    Personally I look to Sister President Mackey as one of the authortative and insightful voices in my institute class. I use the double title half to make sure you realize she is a sister, and half because if I said President Mackey alone I would feel I was referring to her father who is first counselor in our stake presidency.

  103. In the January 30, 2010 Church News interview with Russell T. Osguthorpe, general president of the Sunday School, they refer to him as “Brother Osguthorpe”. This is done all three times that he is refered to by just his last name.

    While it is true that when Sister President Mackey’s mother was Stake Young Women President we always called her Sister Mackey, we also referred to Brother Nelson and Brother Bishopp who were the stake young men presidents at the same time by those titles and never as president.

    Thus is seems with branch presidents, stake presidents, mission presidents and the president of the Church they are refered to as president since they are presiding over an eccesiastical unit of the Church. Men who are presidents in auxiliaries seem no more likely to be called president than women who preside in auxiliaries. The full count on men as presidents of priesthood quorums is hard to figure, but at least for elders quorum presidents it might be a little higher than for relief society presidents, I have to admit speaking of President Seibold more than President Jensen, and for some reason President Gertsch comes to mind faster than President Corless, but this might be partly because President Corless is at some level her husband who used to be in the stake presidency.

    I am all for saying Presidentess Corless, but are the relief soceity presidents themselves really inclined to be refered to with titles?

  104. You read rather too much into what I said, John. And I think you’re still misreading Alison, but I’ll let her speak for herself.

    Congratulations on your enlightened appreciation of Sister President Mackey. Maybe you’ve hit upon a solution for the title problem!

  105. Of course neither keys nor actually presiding explains why all members of a stake presidency or mission presidency are refered to as president. Yet, even more interesting is that President Ellworth’s coulselors in the Belle Isle Branch presidency are Brother Black and Brother Warner (I might be wrong on the second name, but my point is the titles).

    Still I am hoping to hear from someone who would be refered to as presidentess how they would like the title. Also, is presidentess like Empress, the wife of the emporer (or even episcopa, the title for a bishops wife in France in the 6th Century), or is it like poetess and belonging to a woman who holds the title in her own right?

    Should we then use it only for such women as the mission presidents wife who hold their position by being the wife of a president but actually have a clear function and role in such a position. So should I start speaking of Presidentess Tate and Presidentess Rawson?

  106. John, whether women prefer to have titles or not is really not the point. The church insists on certain titles, and this conveys a certain message about the structure of the institution. The fact that all women, even those who are theoretically at an equivalent level on the org. chart to men who are addressed by titles, is what’s at issue here, not anyone’s particular taste. We call bishops “Bishop”, whether they like it or not.

  107. Kristine,
    Your probably right on many levels. Of course, I am willing to use the double title becaue I have a precedent in Mrs. Dr. Ash who I refer to as such to distinguish her from Mr. Dr. Ash, her husband, both of whom were professors I had at Wayne State.
    Ms. Dr. Fronk (now Mrs. Dr. Olson) actualy discoraged students from refering to her as such. However, since we always spoke of Brother Woods, Brother Marsh, Brother Esplin and Brother Ball there was consistency in refering to virtually all BYU religion faculty in a uniform maner regardless of gender. I only had one female professor at BYU who was not a religion professor who had a doctorate, am I really never spoke of her at all, so I can not build an adequate counter-database to Dr. Shumway and Dr. Hereld.
    The fact that Brother Ball and Brother Duval would regularly mention serving as a bishop never prompted us to refer to either as bishop. I have always heard references to Brother Skinner, Brother Millet and Brother Matthews instead of then being refered to as Dean, while Dean Maglby of the College of Home, Family and Social Sciences is normally referenced as such. I think the normal reference is to President Sharman, but you do want to show proper respect to President Samuelson’s sister, even if she has been president longer than he.

  108. Since John Pack Lambert did such a great job demonstrating that the Church News gives equal print to both mission presidents and their wives, I will now retract my earlier (much, much earlier) statement that I would not purchase the Church News because of that inequality.
    I feel better now.

  109. And John Pack Lambert’s iteration of the abundantly titled people he knows clearly shows that there’s nothing for me to worry about and all is well in Zion, or at least at BYU. I feel better now, too.

    Thanks, Brother Lambert.

  110. Kristine,
    You are right that personal preferance is not an issue here. Sister President Mackey dislikes us calling her even Sister Mackey, because it makes her feel like she is still a missionary.

    Interestingly, in Brazil sister missionaries are “sister” while the Portuguese word for sister is used to speak of other sisters in the ward.

    However, as the example of Brother Osguthorpe brings up, it is not clear that we are calling people with equivalent titles by non-equvalent name.

    The Fact that the Church news refers to Young Men General President David Beck as Brother Beck and to Young Women General President Elaine Dalton as Sister Dalton is clearly a case of equivalency.

    You can find none equivalnce before 2005, but Young Men General President Elder Goslind was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy so he was being called Elder based on a calling other than that of Young Men General President.

    Before we can talk of “equivalency” we have to figure out what is actually equivalent. I am not convinced we have a clear case of equivalency for any except the Young men and young women presidencies.

    Also I would say that the President and Sister Schilling title (Detroit Temple President and Matron) in some was is influenced by Mr. and Mrs. Schilling, especially in the form of Mr. and Mrs. Andew W. Schilling. The fact that writing “I saw Mrs. Neal A. Maxwell, the widow of the late apostle, at General Conference in 2010” is a doable thing, and until 45 years ago or so was a standard way to refer to people, and since then we have gone to newspapers saying things like “Pelosi and Obama are hoping to cinvince Stupak to change his mind”, that is to say the total abandonment of titles, means that at a level we do not realize our language is still influenced by 1850s English where It was perfectly acceptable to write “I saw the Arthur Smithes in the carriage to Columbus and then a few miles forther on my way to Otterbein came upon Arthur Smith riding furiously upon his horse to catch up to them”. In the 1850s you could speak of a family using the pluralization of the husband/father’s name, even if he was not in the group refered to.

    This is not to say that I am any way think this is how things ought to be, but that we have to realize that the roots of some seemingly irregular practices in the Church are found in secular culture, some of which has passed out of being.

    It is also interesting that Translation processes are uneven. The fact that this debate has slightly different parameters in any language other than English should cause us to recognize two things. One is that we have not fully envisioned a worldwide Church and the other is that any rules of speaking in the Church are language specific, and if they are language specific they are a case of the Lord speaking to us in OUR language and manner, and so are inperfect, inconsistent, changable and quite probably time and cultural region and feeling sensitive.

    Interestingly enough, until the segregation of the presidencies by John Taylor in about 1885, Presidentess E. R. S. Smith, as she would refer to herself, was not the Relief Society General President per se, she was the “President of Women”, having supervisory responsibility over Primary, Young Women and Relief Society.

    Then there are Brother Joseph and Brother Brigham.

  111. Personally I think we are far too quick to see some callings as better than others. I have to admit to falling into this trap often, especially as a missionary who was called to serve as a junior companion to several missionaries who had been in the field less time than me, including one who came out about six months after me.

    I would say both in action and even more so in speech we confuse the ordered nature of the Church with being hierarchical. As my mission president said “you do not advance in rank in the mission, being relesed as a district leader or even being reassigned from being a senior to a junior companion is not a demotion, it is a change in calling”. He said that precisely because so many of us felt that a district leader being released was a sign that they had lost the approval of the Lord.

  112. A note on mission presidents’ wives. It was mentioned that Heber J. Grant’s wife accompanied him to Europe in 1903. She had also joined him in Japan, where he served from 1901 to 1903, with some hard slogging making no progress on learning the language.

    When apostle David O. McKay visited Japan in 1920 on his round the world tour, he recommended that new missionaries called to that land be married, and accompanied by their wives, because they were staying for many years because of the perceived difficulty in becoming fluent in Japanese. Alma O. Taylor, one of the original 4 misisonaires with Grant, was there for 9 years, becoming mission president and translating the Book of Mormon into Japanese. When I was on my own mission in Sapporo in 1971, one of those original missionary couples came for a visit, and found one of the members from their original mission in the 1920s, Sister Kumagai, still alive and active in the church.

  113. I have found that if I just shut up, Kristine will come in and post what I would have liked to say — and in a much more succinct, lucid, and tactful way than I would. That might teach me a lesson, but probably not. Still, thank you, Kristine!


    (1) The comment numbers show up to the left of each comment. Perhaps you missed those or have a browser issue?

    (2) I’m glad you accept female intellectual discussion. My husband is the best example I’ve ever known (and my dad is great, too). But it’s not universal. Try to trust me on that.

    **Sorry, we are mid-move and my notes are all packed but I will be happy to get specifics when we unpack this summer, so I’ll paraphrase without names, in case memory is incorrect.**

    I was at a the Young Women open house on temple square a few years ago (I was in YW leadership at the time). The final speeches were given by the general YW presidency. One of those three women told a story of having a meeting with one of the 12 (I think I remember, which, but not sure, so won’t say now). When she got done and was preparing to leave, some men came in for the next meeting. The GA made a comment along the lines of (I have the exact quote in my notes): “Now we can get on to the real business of the church.”

    The woman told us that she turned back into the room and, basically, told him off. OK, so these women never tell anyone off, but she firmly questioned what he had said and noted how offensive it was. He apologized profusely, immediately.

    Point being, this is a GOOD man, a loving man, a decent man. And even then his initial reaction to meeting with women was that it was trivial.

    In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t something that shocked the ballroom full of women. It was a lot of head nodding and “I know just what you mean” laughter and knowing glances.

    (3) I have read the most recent Church News, as in this week’s Church News. Yes, they include info about her now. That’s great, but she’s still “wife of mission president,” as I said.

    Yes, at one time wives may not have gone, but that changed long before I was born. Trust me, I didn’t read the Church News before I was born.

    (4) I have no idea what it means to say that “his wife was important but the president was still the president.” Of course he was. But that has nothing to do with whether or not the woman who leaves her home for years to serve might not be given a title — considering the fact that we apparently think the man doing it should have one.


    designating one of them as matron could well have been a way to insult the others.

    As if designating the others as “wives” didn’t already drive that little wedge into that relationship. :P

  114. Alison–the problem you describe with the YW leader is an old one:

    (Luke 24) 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
    4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
    5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
    6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
    7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
    8 And they remembered his words,
    9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
    10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
    11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

  115. Oh, yes, Kristine! Spot on!

    The way I’ve usually described it is as the men—how to describe this visual?— waving their hand in a circle, urging us to hurry and get over our blathering and emoting so they can get back to their business. Oh, we are so tolerant of all the estrogen hysteria and sit politely and endure to the end. Yes, yes, yes. Ah, now let’s get to work on real issues.

    Sincerely (ask my husband) I am a great defender of men. I love men. :) But there are times when the balance is very skewed. If this doesn’t apply to you, please don’t take offense and please know your real respect is appreciated. But I do hope all men will at least look at themselves with a critical eye. Just as I how all women do on issues that they generally have trouble.

  116. I wish I did not have to mention it, but since Ron Walker has pointed this out in his writtings on Heber J. Grant, and since it will give added insight on what I was saying about different wives, I will mention it.

    When Heber J. Grant went on his mission to Japan he brought along his wife Augusta. When he went to preside over the European Mission Augusta stayed in Salt Lake City and President Grant brought along his other living wife Emily. From 1884-1893 President Grant had had three wives, but his first wife, Lucy, died in 1893. President Grant had married Augusta and Emily one day apart. President Grant’s wife Emily was a daughter of Daniel H. Wells.

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