Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scattered Thoughts As I Preside Over a Relief Society Activity

I didn't ask for this. In fact, I didn't technically even agree to it, but the Bishop had my wife's number and I was working, so it was agreed-to on my behalf and it seemed churlish to back out. It's like those stories you hear about a husband being approached about a calling for his wife, as though she couldn't make her own decisions, but...backwards.... sort of. Anyway, that's how I presently find myself presiding over a Relief Society activity.

Apparently, and I never knew this, it's common to have a Melchizedek Priesthood holder at RS functions, so that the women can bask in the glory of his authority or something. Possibly it's in case someone requires an emergency blessing, though in this era of ubiquitous cell phones a quick call home (or to 911) would generally suffice. I imagine the presiding duty usually falls to a bishopric member, which I am not -- just a guy the Bishop knows. Still, I am uncomfortable with the notion that the ladies require any manly presence to do their thing. Blogging represents a way sort out my feelings and to politely disconnect myself from the proceedings as they happen. This is your show, ladies: take it away.

Nobody asked me to call on someone to pray, thank goodness. It's weird enough to do that when friends come over for dinner -- I much prefer the simple alternating system my wife and I usually use. It emphasizes equal partners rather than the preside bit, which was rather arbitrarily assigned to me on account of a minor chromosome addition a few decades ago.

Should a Relief Society member be present at activities for guys? Perhaps at Young Men, to encourage chivalrous boys to curse more quietly during basketball? Maybe an impatient wife might encourage a long-winded husband to wrap up a tedious Elders Quorum Presidency meeting: "Dear, you've already discussed that. Twice."

It's nice to spend some time with my wife, at least. Left to my own I'd be playing Skyrim or watching episodes of The Wire, which... actually sounds fun, but that's hardly the stuff eternal relationships are made of.

On Sunday we're both speaking in church. I'm up second because, I was told, it's customary for the priesthood to go last. Another head-scratcher. Apart from the mild systematic injustice of it I don't really mind, but my wife is the better speaker so we're potentially losing a stronger, more dramatic denouement to sacrament. Gordon B Hinckley was a fine speaker, but I wonder how he felt having to follow Pres. Monson all the time.

The activity is almost over, and my involvement looks to remain minimal. It was a good activity, clearly well-planned. Glad I could lend some priesthoodness without wrecking anything. And yet, as I ponder my recent experiences in the oft-benign but ever-present system of patriarchy that pervades and to an extent defines Mormonism, I can only help wondering: I get refreshments too, right?


  1. Yes, baby. You get refreshments too.

    I personally always found Hinckley to be a better speaker than Monson. Nothing against Monson, but I prefer the straightforward approach of Hinckley myself...

    I only ever feel bad for whoever has to follow Holland.

  2. I feel bad for whoever has to follow Bednar as well... And I agree about Hinckley's delivery.

  3. I like the idea about assigning Relief Society or female representatives to be present at priesthood meetings and functions. Initially, I appreciate it solely for its capacity to spark defamiliarization--where what is common place and effectively invisible to us is made new and visible. But also, I think there's something to be sad about systems or networks of liaisons.

    Perhaps it's because I'm less invested in my Mormon identity being defined in believing what and how other Mormons do and more about belonging to a community and body of saints, but I feel that for a religious community, we're actually quite disconnected from one another. I think this varies from stake to stake and ward to ward; some might be better at fostering bonds of community than others. I think "presiding priesthood" can easily be offset or balanced by "relief society liaison." Perhaps, as was the inciting incident for this blog post, these could be rotating assignments extended by the Bishop or the Relief Society President. Could be interesting.

    1. Good point, Allan. There is a serious disconnect between each "branch" of the church. Generally, the Primary people know the Primary kids, the Relief Society ladies only know who they visit teach (if they actually do their visiting teaching), and Priesthood gentlemen generally know who they home teach. I've been in some wards that are able to supersede the disconnect in small ways, but not many, and most are worse than this.

      Break the cycle!