Mahana, You Ugly!

Let me tell you a little story. Not long ago, we moved to a new ward. After a few weeks, my husband and I were invited to come early to church to meet with a member of the bishopric. We figured, of course, that he wanted to extend a calling to one or both of us. When we arrived, he asked my husband to come in and speak with him first. So I assumed that my husband was getting the calling.

To my surprise, after I was ushered into the room, the bishop’s counselor extended a calling to me. He explained that it was church policy to obtain the husband’s permission before his wife even found out about the calling.

When my husband remarked dubiously that this is the first time he’d ever encountered such a policy, the counselor said (somewhat defensively) that they had been instructed to do it that way by the stake president. According to him, it’s part of an ongoing effort to “help the brethren step up to their responsibility to preside in their homes.”

He didn’t go into the details of how exactly being given control over whether their wives get the opportunity to serve at church helps men to be better husbands and fathers.

Needless to say, I found the exchange depressing, not to mention insulting. To my later chagrin, I didn’t say a whole lot other than accepting the call, partially because I was just floored by it happening in the first place, and partially because I wasn’t sure what TO say.

I found it embarrassingly awkward to be treated like a child who needs permission. Because, um, last time I looked at our relationship, my husband was not my parental authority figure. But how childishly petulant does it sound to stamp your foot at the bishop’s counselor and say, “don’t treat me like a child!” It was obvious to me that at least to this particular man, I would sound like a power hungry insubordinate and a bad wife if I objected to what he evidently considered a divinely sanctioned policy.

My husband and I had a lengthy discussion about it afterward, during which I was eventually able to roll my eyes and laugh ruefully at what had happened, and pass it off as a relatively minor annoyance.

Until this morning, that is, when I was sitting in the pew after Sacrament Meeting, and a brother in the ward came up to our row. He said hello to me, and then promptly turned to my husband, to ask if it was all right if I substituted in his primary class next week. I just stared. To his everlasting credit, my husband simply responded, “she’s her own person. Ask her.”

You’d think I would have come up with some kind of appropriate response myself after my experience a few weeks earlier, but again, I merely said I would do it (once the good brother’s attention had finally wandered back to me, that is, of course).

After I finished crying on my husband’s shoulder in the hallway over the whole indignity of it all, I started contemplating what would be the best/most appropriate response to a situation like this (since it appears that at least in this ward, it happens frequently).

Should I just grin and bear it? Is there some kind of church policy that might actually somehow be construed to mean that a wife needs her husband’s permission before she undertakes to do any sort of positive action? To what ridiculous ends will this lead us? When I call a Relief Society sister to ask if she’ll take dinner to someone in the ward, should I really be speaking with her husband first to see if it’s OK with him?

I should add that the second story did actually have a happy ending. My husband had a lengthy discussion with the offending primary teacher, who said he had only been trying to be respectful (of whom? The “man of the house,” I suppose). He said it was just like when he had asked his wife’s father for her hand in marriage. Sigh. Just like.

I’m not sure if he was convinced by my husband’s energetic explanations, or just thought we were weird, but I was very touched when this same brother came up to me after church and apologized for offending me. He said that he was sorry he had made me feel bad, and grateful he had now been educated so he wouldn’t do it again. He was really humble and sincere, and it made me feel so much better to have my feelings acknowledged. It also made me feel a little hopeful that change might actually sometimes happen, at least on the individual level, if we approach it in a constructive way.

So with that said, what is the most constructive way? What would you say if your husband were asked to speak for you (or you were asked to speak for your wife)? What have you said in situations like these? Do you think it’s more effective when speaking to an intentional or oblivious chauvinist for my husband to point out that he thinks it’s inappropriate to be treated like he owns me? Or should I say it myself?

61 comments for “Mahana, You Ugly!

  1. If I were asked to speak for my wife, I would say, “I will check with her and if she has an interest I’m sure she’ll get back to you,” emphasizing words to strongly imply that if someone wants my wife to do something, they shouldn’t go through me to get to her; I’m an obstacle, not an enabler.

    But I’ve encountered no situations like the calling procedure you describe. I think it’s a local practice. When my wife was called as RS President, the Bishop asked us both in simultaneously and extended the calling directly to her. My part was only to express support for them both. In fact, all of the ward-level callings we’ve been extended in the last 10 years have been carefully and sensitively extended. At the Stake level, it’s another matter, but still not the way you describe.

  2. Say it yourself. You are an agent unto yourself and should be treated as such. The push for brethren to be less lazy has absolutely nothing to do with you and your agency. Pray and follow the Spirit, and the counselor will not be offended.

  3. I think we all might be surprised at how often we unwittingly offend or insult others as we interact.

  4. First, when in regards to accepting the call–I’d have your husband ask to speak to the bishop. Both of you go in and ask where in the handbook it says all dealings have to go through the husband before the wife. If he says it’s from the Stake President, go to the Stake President and ask where it says. If it turns out to be a game of pass the blame, simply ask if they do everything someone tells them to just because they’re in a calling. Surely personal revelation would come into play in regards to common procedure.

    As for the other person, it sounds like you’ve made a change in him but every time someone asked your husband instead of you have him say “Why are you asking me? I’m not her dad.” Sadly in this situation everything has to come from him in order to initiate change. If it comes from the party with breasts it’ll seem like you’re trying to wear the pants in the relationship and/or come off as a controlling wife.

  5. Betty. This post is not so much about the “unwitting offense” as it is about how to deal with the, all to common, culture of male chauvinism in the Church. And, intentional or otherwise, I think it needs to be taken seriously… and addressed.

  6. Based on the title alone, I feel compelled to respond.

    If I were. Husband in this situation, I think I would quote Joseph Smith upon being asked if he had eloped with Emma: “She is of age, ask her.”

  7. Note, capitalization of husband was inadvertent. Dang iPad typing, and then failing to properly review comment for errors prior to submitting.

  8. My wife and I are in a newly formed ward. I was the first to receive a calling. A few weeks later the bishopric asked both of us to come visit them, and I was worried that I was being invited in solely to “give permission.” Instead, they gave my wife a calling and me a second calling. I’m still not sure what I would have done had they asked my permission.

    I did receive a phone call from our Executive Secretary a few weeks ago. He’s a great guy, so I kind of feel bad for how I responded to his question. When I told him my wife wasn’t there, he asked me if she’d be willing to give a prayer in Sacrament Meeting. I said, probably not in the most polite tone, “You’ll have to ask her. I’ll tell her you called.”

    I don’t think my wife cared one way or the other.

  9. A few years ago my friend and her husband were called in to speak with the stake president. They spoke with her alone first and told her that they were going to extend a calling to her husband to be bishop. They wanted to know if she felt like he was worthy and could she support him.

    If my husband were asked if I would accept a calling, he said he would say, “It would be appropriate to speak with her first.”

  10. NewlyHouseWife: “As for the other person, it sounds like you’ve made a change in him but every time someone asked your husband instead of you have him say “Why are you asking me? I’m not her dad.” Sadly in this situation everything has to come from him in order to initiate change. If it comes from the party with breasts it’ll seem like you’re trying to wear the pants in the relationship and/or come off as a controlling wife.”

    I’m sure someone will find a way to label me as a chauvinistic pig for posting this response. If your fondest pastime is getting your undies in a wad over an anonymous message board posting, more power to ya! But “the party with breasts”? Granted, they don’t all lactate and some (perhaps many of us) have lost one or both of them, but don’t MOST of us, irrespective of gender, have breasts? And if I had used that phrase, wouldn’t I pretty quickly be labeled a chauvinistic pig (I don’t care, since somebody’s gonna find a reason to label me a chauvinistic pig ANYWAY, but …)?

    It reminds me of the exchange in the movie “Meet The Parents,” in which Gaylord “Greg” Focker meets his beloved Pam’s family for the first time over dinner, and the conversation somehow turns to lactating felines. Greg claims to have extracted the milk from one such feline. Someone says, “I didn’t know you could milk cats,” to which Greg responds, “Oh, yeah. You can milk anything with nipples.” Whereupon Pam’s father, Jack, responds, “I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?”

    And what if a conversation similar to the one described in this thread were to occur between me and someone purporting to need my “permission” for my wife to do something, and I were to say, “You’ll have to talk to the party with breasts”? It wouldn’t occur to me to define someone, seemingly in her entirety, by that particular physical feature: “You know, the chick with the rack!” I would fully expect to get slugged by that party, or at least to meet with more than mild disapproval if I did that. But whether it’s OK depends on one’s gender? Is it similar to black folks being given a pass for referring to each other using the N-word?

    Yeesh, no WONDER I’ve never been able to attract more than the collective indifference of the entirety of the female of the species! Reading, incredulously, posts like this makes me feel not-so-bad about that, so … thanks!

  11. This post does not persuade me to believe that husbands in your stake have actually been “given control over whether their wives get the opportunity to serve at church.” Maybe you have some extra information that would be more persuasive. I think a woman should be able to serve in the church even if her husband vetoes it, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the husbands input is merely non-controlling input.

    This seems more like a procedure to keep people from accepting callings that they can’t handle and also can’t reject without guilt. I’m thinking of something similar to what frente said in comment #9. Callings are family business, and it’s good to have multiple sources of information.

  12. I had a similar experience a few years ago when I was called to teach early morning seminary; though the calling was extended to me personally (with my husband present, to ensure his support), I later found out that the bishop had talked with my husband a few months before to determine whether my work schedule could accommodate a seminary calling. The bishop then asked my husband not to tell me I was being considered for this calling.

    I know and love this bishop and I’m sure it was an honest mistake, but it still made me furious. Maybe there’s no sexism inherent in this dynamic–maybe the bishop would have done the same if it were my husband being considered–but the emotional effect, to me, was that men in my life were colluding to a. make decisions for me and b. more importantly, keep me ignorant about those decisions. I don’t have a problem with the bishop asking my husband instead of me about my schedule (after all, maybe it was on his mind and I wasn’t around to ask) but I do have a problem with my husband being asked to keep this a secret from me.

  13. It’s not a procedure to keep “people” from accepting callings they can’t handle or reject without guilt ceej@y. It’s a procedure to keep WOMEN from accepting callings they can’t handle or reject without guilt. They should ask women permission to extend callings to husbands, to make sure the husband can handle it, and give him a chance to reject the calling without guilt.

    (Note- I don’t think asking husbands for permission has anything to do with giving the wife an out if she can’t handle a calling)

  14. This happens to us over and over again. My husband just replies that they have to ask me first and then I will take them to task when they call me in to accept the call and ask if it is their policy to ask wives for permission before issuing callings to husbands. Mostly it’s been well-received and policy changes. Even when it isn’t they don’t do it with us again.

  15. Ken, I am deeply sorry my attempt at pig-humor failed you.

    I was writing with the mindset that in today’s society those who go to the husband first generally don’t see females as being someone who has worthwhile input. Since the easiest way to separate women from men is by cleavage, I assumed all of us would understand that in today’s culture the proper term for male breasts is “man boob”, and for women “boobs” or “breasts” is sufficient.

  16. “I do have a problem with my husband being asked to keep this a secret from me.”

    I had this happen and simply shared that frustration with my bishop. I didn’t like feeling that frustration toward him and figured for me, it would be better just to talk about it. He was very kind and appreciative of me saying something (we had a good relationship, so that helped). It gave him a chance to explain why he didn’t want me to know (it was my favorite calling and he didn’t want me to be disappointed if it didn’t happen…and it didn’t). He honestly meant no harm. I still didn’t agree with his approach, but I understood his heart and it helped me realize that my getting upset was only hurting me.

    Like Betty said, we all probably inadvertently do things that hurt people. I know that I have been on the other end of this, where I somehow offend someone even when doing my best with the best of intentions. I’ve been grateful when people will be honest and patient rather than be angry. So that makes me want to do that for others, too.

    BTW, I also asked if this was in the Handbook and I think the answer was that it was a ‘you can do this’ not a ‘you must do this.’ (This was before the new handbook.) I don’t think the intent (assuming it’s still there) is to treat women as children. I think there is something to having the head of household have a finger on the pulse of his/her family…as the contact point for the family unit with the Church organization. But I think that comes coupled with the idea of partnership, so I’m not a fan of the ‘keeping secret’ side of it.

  17. My husband has never been given a calling without the person extending the call asking me first – and vice versa. In both cases it has always been to make sure that the calling would not be too onerous for the spouse before the person receiving the calling is put on the spot. In those circumstances – and given the equality of asking both spouses – I’m fine with it.

  18. I was in a situation where the bishop asked me if he thought a certain calling would be good for my wife, and I told him no. So the calling was not extended to my wife. If it had been, my wife would have accepted it out of guilt, and it would have been non-stop torture for a few years. I didn’t tell my wife about it, but if I had, she would have thanked me. I was glad to have been given the opportunity to give my feedback before the calling was extended.

    This “policy” (if it is an official policy), is probably less an attempt to keep women and men in their place, as it is a pragmatic way to deal with the lack of communication between men and women in the church. The priesthood do not know how to communicate with women, and the women don’t know how to communicate with the priesthood. Women do not feel comfortable being honest and open, and the priesthood treat women either in an overconfident way, or else they feel intimidated about actually probing for their honesty.

    So to alleviate the situation, it’s much easier simply to ask the man, who will want to protect his wife from undue pressure, and who will often be more honest about things than his wife. (The same could be said if women were asked about their husbands.) The priesthood ask these questions because they are genuinely concerned about the feelings of the women. They know they are often overwhelmed in their responsibilities and sometimes feel insecure about themselves. (Not all women, maybe not Sara Familia, but many others.)

    I think the policy is not ideal, but it is a step in the right direction. The priesthood is actually trying to exercise more discernment and sensitivity before extending callings, rather than muscling them out in an overconfident way without doing any exploratory “study it out in your mind.”

    The next step is to try and find better and more honest ways of communication between women and the priesthood. Right now, there is a serious disconnect.

  19. Everyone commenting must be under the age of about 40. The CHI used to require that a husband be consulted in connection with extending a call o the wife. It wasn’t that you needed the husbnd’s permission to extend the cll. It was to ascertain if there were circumstances going on in their family life that might be relevant or whether the calling would impose a hardship on their. family. Sometimes stuff is going on that, for whatever reason a sister might be uncomfortablle telling a leader. The practice was eliminated about 20 years ago.

  20. A woman whom I know was selected as the seminary teacher in her ward. (This was early morning seminary.) The bishop asked her husband (an active high priest) if they could call her. “No way” was his reponse, for a number of reasons. The same reasons would have applied to anyone else receiving the call: It was time-consuming, she had to get up early, someone else would have to cook breakfast, etc.

    Because he put the stop on it, she didn’t hear about it… for years. She eventually learned about it, and I think that it really hurt her feelings. She would have enjoyed the calling.

    You might say that possibly their marriage was dysfunctional, but I knew them well and don’t think that their marriage is particularly dysfuncitonal.

    I have extended many many calls over my life, under the direction of a half a dozen bishops. They all gave similar advise, but sometimes specifics differed. I have always prefered to allow the person time, a day or several days, to come up with a response. Others feel that this approach lacks faith: I should ask them to serve and get the answer immediately, because people accept callings based on faith. However, giving someone a day or two to relfect on the calling would allow them to discuss it with their spouse or other loved ones and then either accept or turn it down based on their collective reasoning. This allows a couple to consider the calling carefully.

  21. Steven, you’re right, and I’m certain that it was less than 20 years ago that the practice changed. The 1991 Handbook still contains this instruction in the “Callings and Releases” section: “When a sister will be called to a Church position, it may be desirable to confer with her husband first.”

    The current handbook is gender-neutral in its phrasing.

  22. If a husband’s permission is needed before a wife is called to some job in the ward, should it not also be required that a husband must either give permission or at least be notified when his wife is to be released? This is not a frivolous question. My wife used to teach Young Women, a job she loved and took quite seriously and, if I say so myself, was darned good at. One Sunday she showed up as usual with a lesson all prepared only to be told that she had been released and someone else would be teaching that day. Why do we make such a big deal about calling anybody to a job if we are going to simply throw them away like a used Kleenex when we don’t want them anymore?

  23. “The priesthood do not know how to communicate with women, and the women don’t know how to communicate with the priesthood. Women do not feel comfortable being honest and open.”

    If this is the case, I advise the “priesthood” to start to try understanding the opposite gender BEFORE getting itself into a serious relationship.

    A left-over policy from an era in which a significant number of men boasted that they never changed a diaper is definitely not a “step in the right direction.”

  24. Thanks for all the comments! One of my reasons for not protesting to the counselor in the bishopric immediately was that I thought it might actually be in the handbook. It makes sense that instruction from previous handbooks is still floating around. In our experience, it definitely doesn’t go the other way. I was called in to the High Council Member’s office to be present when my husband received his calling, but certainly not before he spoke with my husband.

    And yes, this is part of a larger problem of general chauvinism in our ward/stake, which is why I think the “trickle-down” effect happened, with the brother asking my husband’s permission for me to substitute in Primary.

    Interestingly, some of the most disturbing comments happen in Relief Society, with sisters talking about how important it is to defer to our husbands and do what they say, in the exact same way as we would follow the bishop of the ward.

    I think it’s partially because we live in an older ward (and also in the South). Maybe I’m just experiencing culture shock, having come from Southern California. I used to read about experiences like this in the Bloggernacle, and wonder what bizarre corner of Zion people were living in. Now I know!

  25. Kristine – I think it was the 1998 handbook that eliminated the language completely. The example of the unextended seminary call is an example of the challenge of extending callings. Sometimes there is an unsupportive spouse. Other times the spouse knows the other spouse well enough to know the stress it would put on the other spouse but he or she will accept the calling anyway. Now for my sexist opinion. If a sister is stressed out in her calling she will vent to friends and husband, but she will keep doing the calling. Brothers, on the other hand, will simply slack off or cease serving well. Back in the day speaking to the husband first was a chance to teach the husband what it meant to sustain his wife and it alo gave a chance to get a feel for what was going on in the house. I don’t think it was ever an attempt to “get permission” but occasionally the husband would either disclose significant information or would blatantly indicate his lack of support. By the way wives were consulted in connection with extending time consuming priesthood callings, also, so it sort of cut both ways. Either way, if the OP’s stake president is requiring bishoprics to do this he is not following current instructions in the handbook.

  26. “By the way wives were consulted in connection with extending time consuming priesthood callings, also, so it sort of cut both ways.”

    This wasn’t policy, though, just the individual courtesy of some leaders.

    And, yeah, your opinion is sexist :)

  27. “I don’t think the intent (assuming it’s still there) is to treat women as children.”

    I agree completely with this statement, but I think we need to add a caveat. While it may not be the intent, it is very often the practical effect, not only with this particular policy, but also with others we continue to follow.

  28. Asking husbands permission before calling their wives was common practice in the 1980s. Things have changed since then. Asking wives if they will support their husbands before calling Bishops is not quite the same thing. It saves her from voting against him in front of the entire congregation. ;-)

  29. Ray (22) It seems wrong that she was just released without any notice. Shouldn’t a member of the bishopric (or at least her YW president) give a heads up and thanks for the service before a person is officially released in sacrament meeting?

    We’ve had home teachers who insist on only talking to my husband to schedule their visits. And every time, my husband tells them to talk to me. One of them would always apologize to me for having not scheduled the appointment with my husband. I think he was genuinely uncomfortable with not going through what he thought was the proper line of authority.

    When I was called as primary president, my husband was present, but not approached beforehand. It took a good hour before I got over the shock (I laughed hysterically when I heard what calling the bishop wanted me to do) enough to consider accepting.

  30. I’m clearly under 40 (though the clarity of that is diminishing by the moment) but, in the several wards I’ve been in since I was married, I’ve never been talked to about my wife’s calling before she was called. Generally speaking, the bishopric member has tried to have us both in the room when she or I received a calling—and our current ward generally functions in the same way—but I’ve never been given a preemptive veto over her callings, nor (AFAIK) she over mine. Of course, I’m a big fan of not letting stupid past rules cloud up current better rules. There are advantages to living in a place where the leadership is generally young (virtually all of our ward leadership is in their late 20s to mid-30s, probably because 85-90% of the adult members in our ward are in that age range) and uninfected by earlier ways of doing things.

  31. This sort of thing doesn’t normally happen in my ward, so presumably it is a local presiderer thingie and not a church-wide policy.

    I was trying to think as to whether I have ever experienced anything like this, and I think maybe I have a couple of times, although the details are foggy in my memory. I think maybe it happened both with the first time my wife was called as a Primary President and when I was called as an EQP. I don’t recall whether they talked to the non-called spouse first or spoke to us both simultaneously. But my impression at the time was that these were considered heavy-lifting callings and they wanted to make sure that the spouse was supportive of it.

    I do recall making a big mistake along these lines once. My wife was Webelos leader, and the wife of a bishopric counselor wanted that calling and was angling for it. I was Executive Secretary at the time and so attended bishopric meetings. They asked me whether I thought it would be a problem if they released my wife, and I said no. Now, I was thinking from my own vantage point, because to me getting released from a church calling is always a good thing. My preference would be to never have a calling at all. But it turned out my wife loved that calling and was upset over the release. So I learned my lesson, never ever to presume to speak for my wife in a church setting ever again. And since that blunder I haven’t.

  32. Or there’s this: My brother and SiL were called in to the bishop’s office and my SiL was asked to fill a big calling. My brother, who had to take Interferon that year because of a disease, was non-functional every weekend because of the med. He said that he couldn’t not be without his wife. He could not take care of the children and genuinely feared for them if his wife was gone. The bishop insisted that the calling came from God, and should be accepted. Wisely, my SiL declined.

  33. The questions asked at the end of the OP are great food for thought. How do we respond to such things? Hopefully, we’re all slow to take offense, and with a lot of patience, long suffering, and love. I guarantee you at some point in your church calling life, you will offend someone somehow. And, in all likelihood, you will at some point be in need of correction, and it might come publicly or it might come privately. I have rarely seen anyone offend purposefully, so we should be able to lovingly offer suggestion and/or counsel to someone serving in their calling. First, make sure you have a handle on the issue and what current church policy and/or instruction is. Then, it should be done privately and individually, as was done with the brother who asked her to substitute primary. Sometimes the “unwritten order of things” can take on a life of their own, not to mention traditions of a ward and/or stake. Some things are innocuous, others more relevant and important. In this particular case, I don’t impute any evil intent on the part of the stake or ward in discussing callings with the a husband first. However, I do think there should be some gently push back and questioning, especially since Handbook 2 is available for all to see and it clearly does not suggest that leaders extending callings discuss them with a spouse first or “get permission.” See 19.1.1. If this truly was a policy to “get permission” from the husband and was something encouraged by the Stake President, I would be a little surprised that bishops in the stake wouldn’t have expressed resistance to the concept. I’m also in the south, but haven’t been trained to extend callings that way since the handbooks changed. The approach has been officially out of vogue for some time.

  34. My wife was recently called to be the RS President in our ward. The Bishop called us in together and extended the call to her directly. I was not asked permission or anything, really. I kind of wondered why I was there. Had I been asked, I would have said, “It’s her decision.” Had this story happened to me or my wife, it would have bugged us both.

  35. I’m of two minds about this–our ward does this, and when I first encountered it, I was a little put off, especially as it was explained to me in an apologetic way by the (much older and much more doctrinaire) member of the bishopric who was asking my permission to call my wife as the Primary chorister. Because it was so off-the-wall (to my experience), I told him I’d guess she’d be okay with that. She wasn’t, really, but said yes because you’re supposed to say yes, and her calling was pretty difficult for both of us for a while. She eventually grew to enjoy it, but it still took a lot of time and worry for her to fulfill.
    However, contrast that with my next experience with this policy–only a few (less than six) months from when my wife had been called as the Primary chorister, I was approached by the same bishopric counselor, who asked if I thought it would be okay if they also called my wife to be a YW camp counselor. After I got through laughing (a couple of minutes, tops), I explained our circumstances: Both of us work full time, and we own exactly one car. (Beyond that, my wife hated camp–and most things YW–so that was right out.) She wasn’t called, and was happy that I’d deflected that for her. I don’t know that she would have accepted had she been called, but it certainly would have been harder for her to turn that calling down than it was for me to do it for her.

    So there are pluses and minuses for this to me, but I certainly think that if spouses are to be consulted, it should work both ways. I’d like to think that when I was called as the EQP, my wife would’ve had my back and told the stake that there are better guys in our ward who would do a better job (I’m a terrible EQP, but most of that is my natural introversion.)

  36. A bit of a tangent but please indulge this pet peeve of mine:
    “the priesthood” is the power to act in God’s name.
    People are not “the priesthood.” People may *hold* the priesthood, people may *use* the priesthood, people may be served by the priesthood. But the priesthood is not a person or a group of people.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled program…

  37. If the justification of this is that it’s easier for a husband to deflect a calling for his wife than for her to say no, we have a serious problem. Wives are generally grown ups and able to speak and think for themselves. If the church culture is such that they cannot say no, or express their own genuine concerns or reservations when extended a calling, that is the problem we must address. The idea that we are protecting them from speaking for themselves because if they were to be honest and open it would be seen as disrespecting the inspiration of a priesthood leader, but that someone else can do that for them, is twisted.

    Also, they did this once to my parents. They spoke with my non-member father who is fairly hostile to the church before calling my mother to be RS President. It reinforced all his worst suspicions about the sexism in the church and he was appalled. He told them she could very well speak for herself.

  38. My husband can be clueless and gets lots of details wrong. I love the guy, and he honestly tries to understand the real me but only comes to an approximation of understanding. Anyone who thinks he can competently speak for me is a complete idiot.
    I mean, yeah, he knows that I will always say yes to a calling and happily serve. So he could probably get that far. But ask him how I feel about a calling he won’t give a complete picture, in fact, he could just give you the opposite. Just a couple weeks ago I was a little miffed that he told the bishop we weren’t really doing anything for the scout auction except planning to bring the checkbook. He should have just spoken for himself, not for his wife or son.
    I am amazed that people would think he had the pulse of what is going on, when he is gone at work or at the gym or even sometimes at church. When we are together I try to give him a summary of the whole household, the finances, the four different children and their education and development. Big surprise he doesn’t remember every single detail and doesn’t really have the pulse!?!
    It may sound like we live separate lives or something, but we are just busy parents. And I am an extremely open person so he can get a little too much information to process sometimes.

  39. Well, after reading the post I would probably respond with a couple of statements followed by a question:

    You’ll need to consult with her as I cannot speak for her. It’s strange to me you would think my wife needs my permission regarding this matter. Don’t you think that could easily come across as sexist and offensive to some of us?

  40. I’m surprised and confused at the feedback offered by H.Bob and nate above. If the church has a culture where people think they can NEVER say no when they maybe should, well, I personally don’t think the best way around that is to make up some means whereby a husband can say no on behalf of the spouse and that someone doesn’t count as saying no and we’re all off the hook. Perhaps a better response would be for the church at large to clarify how/when to say no.

    While I’ve never said no, I once reminded a First Counselor of my two other callings when he tried to give me a third one. He thought about it, then asked if I would take on the third calling for a short period of time to fill a need while a better solution was found. I’m not sure he remembered the other callings so I’m glad I spoke up. I didn’t say no; I merely reminded him of all the circumstances before I would say yes.

  41. While it used to be policy to get a husband’s permission – not just request his support, but permission – that is no longer the case. Men (women don’t extend callings, do they?) who continue to ask husband’s permission for wives to serve are in error and need better leadership training, but probably don’t know that yet.

    Often men who issue callings to women this way are completely unaware that they are at least puzzling and at most hurting the women they are called to be shepherds for. Not pointing out the problem is doing them a disservice (as well as creating problems for the next woman in line for a calling).

    Some thoughtful, private re-framing might help:

    If they were assigning a job to a co-worker or an employee, would they seek permission of the co-worker’s peer before divvying up the duties?

    If they were asking for volunteers to serve in the PTA or the Rotary Club, would they call husbands before asking wives to head up a project?

    Why do women at church need personal spokesmen but women in the community do not?

    Women receive inspiration and revelation directly from the HG, don’t they? They can (and do) make decisions about running a household all the time. Certainly they are able to make decisions about their abilities to serve the Lord.

    Or, LDS women and their husbands could just explain, “Gee, it would be nice to serve, but my husband won’t give his permission. Next time ask me directly and don’t bother going through that channel. If I feel like I need to run it past him before accepting/refusing the calling, I’ll do that.”

  42. Ken, since you testily pointed out to Newly that both male and female mammals have breasts, I will testily point out to you that “the female species” is not scientifically accurate because male and female humans belong to the species homo sapiens.

    Here, here, Gina! Especially first paragraph.

  43. Slightly off topic: These types of interactions don’t just happen in the south. They DO happen in California. They happen everywhere, I’m sure. When YOU show your bias against another society, you are the one that comes off as backwards. I think you can find what you are looking for (or not) in any society and it’s all about blooming where you are planted.

    As to “how to deal with the, all to common, culture of male chauvinism in the Church,” I choose not to see myself as subjugated, to respect myself and to foster empathy and patience with the weaknesses of others. I would not call someone out at church for trying their best. But, if I had to make the choice, I’d do it before I’d want my husband to because I certainly don’t need him to speak for me on this subject either.

    One thing I would not do is allow my husband to speak for me on this subject. I

  44. My husband got a call from the bishopric shortly after we moved to a new ward in Virginia and they asked his permission to call me to be the choir pianist. He misunderstood and thought they were just trying to figure out if it was a calling I wanted, so he said no, she’s kind of sick of music callings. They tried again a week later and he realized that they were really asking permission, so he told them to just ask me. We both agreed it was weird and a bit sexist.

    Well, a few weeks later, my husband got called to be the second counselor in the bishopric and the bishop told him that when he extended a calling to a sister, he was expected to talk to her husband first since he was her priesthood leader. He was young and had never been in a bishopric before and so he felt like he had to do it and couldn’t say anything. I was so mad because I knew that he completely disagreed with it, but he didn’t want to cause waves.

    A few months into the calling, he needed to extend a calling to the Stake President’s wife who lived in our ward. When he called to ask permission, the Stake President totally chewed him out, saying that it was completely inappropriate and that he should be extending the callings to the person who would be serving them and the spouse should only be asked for their support afterwards, including the wives of the Stake Presidency. My poor husband. :)

  45. The bishopric did get some training afterwards. I don’t know if it stuck because we moved a couple of months later. I had said something to the RS president about it, and she said that it was how they had always done it, so who knows.

  46. I keep hearing stories like this and I think if it ever happens to me, I will purse my lips, tell them that they ruined their chances for getting me for that calling, and to try again in a few weeks.

  47. It is not Church policy, rather it is a stake or ward level policy.

  48. John, is that supposed to be an argument that it should not be addressed at a worldwide leadership training meeting? Have you ever been to a worldwide leadership training meeting?? Stamping out errant local practices/ traditions and other gum under the Lord’s supper table that “is not Church policy” is pretty much exactly what they are for. This would be a great topic, as it is clear there is widespread confusion about it, and, especially harmful, widespread belief by actual leaders, who should know better, that this *is* policy.

  49. RE: Cynthia L.
    My comment was only meant to clarify that this is a local made up policy, not a Church one. I agree that addressing it in a WWT session would be useful if it is wide spread. I have and currently do attend these training sessions.
    Referring back to the old Handbook, the question was whether the spouse could support the other in the calling, it never directed the person extending the call to ask for permission. That was from the late 1980s to early 1990s Handbook, older versions than that one may have been (probably were) different.

  50. “would be useful if it is wide spread.”

    Right, so, reading this thread, one would then conclude that it would be useful, since many experiences have been shared. Unless you were operating on the assumption that all the people who have shared experiences in this thread are living in the same stake.

  51. I think it’s rather disgusting that there are comments defending this behavior. There is no metric under which it is acceptable. None.

    As for who should address this issue? You both should. Husband because he is the one being contacted first and can very clearly explain that it is inappropriate and questions in this vein should be directed to the relevant individual. And you (wife), because you ARE capable of speaking and making decisions for yourself. Claim your full-personhood by defending yourself.

    Frankly, I see little reason to worry about upsetting the world order of someone who is denying you adult autonomy because you’re a woman.

    In my house, we treat people like people. Not property.

    That’s exactly why my husband never thought to ask my father for my hand.

  52. I think the guy looking for a primary sub was an anomoly…the ward character. We all have guys and gals in our ward that seem to be pretty quirky and socially awkward. I don’t think this guy is learning this behavior from anyone but himself. He’s an odd duck.

    The bishopric member, on the otherhand, seems like he didn’t get the memo (read the handbook) about the change in policy. I think there is plenty the church could do to train our leaders (on how to help members that have been victims of abuse, for example) and I guess part of the reason that that they sometimes seem unprepared is because we have a lay ministry, people lead by the example they saw, and callings change so frequently.

  53. If the spouse is never consulted, particularly if he/she is less-active, we are in danger of creating a rift between the two. I’ve seen it happen.

    I’m uncomfortable with priesthood leaders calling sisters to interviews without their husbands somehow notified or involved AND VICE VERSA. Married couples are single entities of two parts. I think both voices should be sought for, truly valued and heard. Calling a married person to any calling IS a calling for the spouse as well. Even if a calling is extended to one, the marriage covenant should be respected. The marriage covenant far outweighs anything the Bishop or Stake President can ask an individual to do. Our primary duty is to our spouse and family. A stressed wife should have a voice and priesthood support when her husband is considered for such a calling. A brother deserves that same voice. It is not sexist. It is respectful.

    And how in the world can a husband “preside” without giving that man the opportunity to support his wife and have a greater voice than a sustaining vote with the rest of the congregation? How can a wife support her husband under a similar situation? Respect the voices of both and the covenant they have made in the temple to each other and to God.

  54. Newlyhousewife: Ken, I am deeply sorry my attempt at pig-humor failed you.

    No you’re not, but I suppose pseudo-apologies are good for “something,” so whatever they’re good for, congratulations on accomplishing that.

    Newlyhousewife: Since the easiest way to separate women from men is by cleavage …

    Hmmm … that’s funny. The scriptures speak of men and women cleaving to one another and becoming one flesh, and they tell us that if we’re not one, we’re not the Lord’s (which I would think should particularly apply to marriage) so I’m not sure why you’re trying to separate them, but whatever …

    Newlyhousewife: I assumed all of us would understand that in today’s culture the proper term …

    Congratulations on drawing a big circle into which you’ve invited the intelligent (read, “everyone ELSE who got the ‘joke’”), from which I am now pointedly excluded. You’re not the first person to conclude I’m stupid, and you won’t be the last. Get in the back of the very long line, and I’ll get to you when I get to you. Hope you’re the kind of person who enjoys long waits! `

  55. Ug, Sarah. It just disgusts me that this happened recently. Did we time warp back to the 1800’s when women were seen and not heard? It certainly isn’t church policy to approve the wife’s callings with the husband beforehand. The CHI (chapter 19 of Handbook 2, available online to anyone), says that callings to young women or young men are to be approved with their parents first. That’s the only place I can see where they have to get someone else’s approval before issuing a calling. As far as having a spouse in the room, the leader extending the calling may “invite the the spouse of a married person to be present and give support when the calling is extended.”

    I think you should approach your bishop, armed with the information from CHI chapter 19 and say something along the lines of “It’s not church policy for my callings to be cleared through my husband. He is not the executor of my agency. If it’s a matter of him supporting or not supporting me in a calling, that conversation should happen privately between he and I, not you and he. By asking a husband first, you are unwittingly undermining a wife’s opportunity to choose for herself. If she is unsure about her husband’s support, she should neither accept nor reject the calling until she has had a private chance to speak with her husband about the matter.”

    By way of personal experience, this same thing happened to my mom in the early 1990’s…the bishop asked my dad if he could call my mom to be Primary Pres. My less-active dad at the time said, “no.” and my mom was devastated. If she had been given the calling first and the chance to pre-empt my dad about how he could support her in this calling, she would have been able to do it. Because dad said no, they didn’t even bother asking mom.

    Fast forward to now….when the bishop called me to be Primary President, the whole conversation happened with my husband in the room. After a lengthy conversation and my acceptance of the calling, looking over and asking my husband if he would support me in the calling seemed a little unnecessary, but courteous.

    I think you should say something to the bishop before this made-up church “policy” hurts a woman or her marriage, like what happened with my parents. The conversation about spousal support should happen between spouses….duh!!!

  56. I haven’t read all the comments, but I do think it is important as church members to address problems like these. Clearly talking to the husband and asking permission and so forth is (finally) no longer church policy. (I love how many church members seem to like to pat ourselves on the back for being so gender equal as church. “Heavens we stopped officially treating women as minors in the 80!”). The issue here is that the bishop presented and defended this action AS church policy. It seems possible that it is being presented this way at the Stake level. While I agree getting really angry about this is counterproductive so is silence and avoiding the responsibility to help the leadership understand why this “policy” is inappropriate. Remember they are systematically not only defying church policy but being condescending and hurtful to women across the ward and stake (regardless of their intent) and perpetuating the socialization of women as appendages, not equal partners, to their husbands. I think it is our duty as members to speak up and seek to change such hurtful local practices when we are confronted by them. In love, but with backbone. The church would be a lot better off if we helped eradicate harmful practices instead of meekly submitting to them.

  57. Actually, I vastly prefer my husband be present when bishops extend callings. And I also vastly prefer other men talk to my husband when they’re asking me to do something.

    Reason One is that I have a history of abuse, and also have had a couple of bishops who were very, very unkind to me, but without witnesses around.

    The church IS a male hierarchy–when done well, it’s terrific, but all it takes is a few scary run-ins with unrighteous dominion, and now I am not at all comfortable meeting with a leader without an advocate or witness with me.

    Reason Two is that due to many factors, my husband and I have a mutual policy of not talking to people of the opposite sex without each other present. I don’t advertise this fact, because in the past we’ve gotten a lot of flak–“What, don’t you trust each other?” “What are you, a little girl? Grow up!” etc.–but the bottom line is, it’s what we need to do for our emotional, spiritual and marital health. It’s essential.

    And it’s been really unhelpful in the past when other men at church have taken me aside to talk to me about things–to ask me to do things for them. I find this really inappropriate, especially when it’s “advice” on how to make my husband more spiritual or improve my marriage, things they wouldn’t say if my husband were present.

    I don’t know if this is geographical; I think there are boundary-crossers everywhere on the map (if you will :)).

    Basically, my husband and I love the gospel, and really are trying at church, but since we’ve already been labeled “less active?project material” it’s socially a really uncomfortable situation, and we like to know we each have each others’ backs.

  58. I received a stake calling not too long ago. They called my wife in first and asked her if she would support me. Then they called me in and extended the calling. So it may not be a sexist thing, just a get the spouses approval thing, because they will be sharing some of the commitment by losing time away from the spouse.

    This is a late post, but hopefully it helps. It seems your husband is the one who should be offended, being told he wasn’t an adequate husband.

  59. I too have never encountered anything like this in the Church. I can’t imagine this will go on for very long before someone makes some corrections…

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