The Church: Looking for a Few Good Men


There was an Area Authority Seventy who spoke at a recent Stake Conference I attended. It was one of the better conferences that I remember. Unfortunately I do not remember the man’s name, but I remember many of the things he said. He addressed an issue that was bothering me at the time. That issue was proper church leadership.

He told us that with his calling, he goes to Salt Lake a couple of days before conference to receive some training from members of the Quorum of the Twelve. At one of these training sessions Boyd K. Packer addressed the pressing need for the church to find good leaders. There are so many more general leadership callings now with the several quorums of the seventy, many temple and mission presidents, area authorities and stake presidencies. Elder Packer gave an assignment to the group to look for people who had the qualities of leadership that the church was looking for. He asked that when they found such people to send their names to him so that they may be prayerfully considered to serve in these important callings.

I certainly do not give this list, or pass along this information because I am seeking for this type of calling. I have had enough experience in local church leadership to know it aint all it’s cracked up to be. But I think this does give a glimpse of the type of people we ought to be. You may have noticed the title I chose said ‘men’. I was just trying to use a catchy phrase. These principles of course apply to women as well. Here are the qualities that were given:

1. Do they have a testimony of Jesus Christ, and do they bear it?
2. Do they have good judgment, and give good counsel?
3. Are they a good teacher?
4. Have they had good experience in the church?
5. Are they kind?
6. Is their house in order?
7. Are they humble enough to take hard counsel?
8. Do they know which direction they face?

I was very pleased to hear this list. It lets me know that the church is on the right track. It strikes me that many of the top qualities of leadership that may be sought for in the business world are not on this list. I do not see assertiveness for example. Or the ability to set and reach ambitious performance goals. Are there things on the list that surprise you? Anything you think is missing that should be there?

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25 Responses to “The Church: Looking for a Few Good Men”


  1. 1 Dave March 20, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    So is the heavy military metaphor part of Elder Packer’s view of service in the Church, or is that your own addition?

  2. 2 Anonymous March 20, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    so how do you keep the faith when you are asked to sustain men who obviously weren’t called based on the above criteria?

  3. 3 Ryan March 20, 2006 at 8:48 pm

    anonymous:

    My experience has been that the more I realize that this is the Lord’s work and not mine, the more easily I can let go of things that I think are being done poorly or incorrectly.
    In my secular position as a marketing director, one of my responsibilities is geting feedback from the customers as to what the company could be doing to improve our policies, operations, etc..

    I have received no such “satisfaction survey” from the Lord. Only admonitions to improve myself and then let my light so shine.

  4. 4 Eric March 21, 2006 at 5:39 am

    Dave:

    The military metaphore is my own. I was trying to think of a catchy title, and a picture to go along with it. It was not intended at all to be a reflection on Elder Packer or his leadership style.

    anonymous:

    This can be a difficult thing. Kindness and patience need to go in both directions. Hopefully we don’t let the incorrect actions of others stop us from being the people we need to be. I made a statement in a ‘sister post‘ at Small and Simple where I said that there is something Christ-like about sustaining people in their callings even if they are not doing all that well in them.

  5. 5 EmilyS March 21, 2006 at 7:31 am

    Eric,

    The title of your post is actually completely accurate, because, as nice as it is for you to acknowledge that women can have all those leadership qualities for which the Church is looking, the fact is that women cannot hold the positions you’ve mentioned. This comment is not meant in any way to be combative. I’m just sayin’… šŸ™‚

  6. 6 Ryan March 21, 2006 at 8:13 am

    emilys has a point.

    There are a multitude of positions that are unavailable to women and so your title probably is accurate (more than you’d like?)

    Conversely however, there are a multitude of positions men either cannot hold (YW, RS etc…) or are extremely unlikely to hold for sexist yet entirely realistic and understandable reasons – like the primary presidency. I have personal experience with this particular situation.

  7. 7 Eric March 21, 2006 at 8:28 am

    EmilyS and Ryan:

    Yes there is a point or two here. I will admit that the talk I was referring to used the pronoun ‘he’, and I chose to change it to the general pronoun ‘they’.

    That has been one of the benefits to me in participating on the ;nacle. I guarantee that 3 months ago I would not have even thought about the gender implications of my title, and would have simply reported the qualities with the pronoun ‘he’. I have gained such respect for some of the women on the ‘nacle that I am thinking about this stuff more than ever. (I won’t mention names but they know who they are.)

    I think the mission president is an interesting calling. From my experience the mission president’s wife is a calling as well. They get a name tag and everything right? I know I was as influenced as much by my mission president’s wife as by my mission president. It seems like it is a dual calling for husband and wife in many ways.

    Also, does anyone see another level of RS presidencies? Like area RS presidencies? Would this make sense?

  8. 8 Wade March 21, 2006 at 9:39 am

    Ryan makes a good point.

    Why can’t a male be called as Relief Society President?

    Have any Mormon feminists addressed this issue through their egalitarian perspective? I am respectfully interested in understanding this disconnect. As Emilys said, this is not an attempt to be combative, just an honest and legitimate inquiry.

    Also, has anyone else noticed the image published with this post actually does contain a female?

  9. 9 Eric March 21, 2006 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for noticing Wade. I went out of my way to find one with a female in it. I think that along with my saying this applies to women as well, and the ‘they’ replacing ‘he’ gives me a few points right?

  10. 10 Ryan March 21, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Why can’t a male be called as Relief Society President?

    Because it would be inappropriate to ask a female looking for counsel on a myriad of issues to have to come to a male. It would also be unfair and inappropriate to ask a male to be capable of empathisizing and advising on such issues. Sexist but totally realistic and understandable.

  11. 11 Ryan March 21, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    putting a male in the relief society presidency would violate quality #2

  12. 12 Wade March 21, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    Because it would be inappropriate to ask a female looking for counsel on a myriad of issues to have to come to a male. It would also be unfair and inappropriate to ask a male to be capable of empathisizing and advising on such issues.

    Oh, come on Ryan, haven’t you heard of the Group Think concept? If people want real advice that will actually help, they need it from a source outside the accepted “group” in order to see the situation from an objective point of view.

    Isn’t this a main tenant of egalitarianism? The norms of our patriarchal society prevent us from being diverse and therefore drive us further into darkness. The only way to be enlightened is to force everyone onto equal plains.

    Who cares about being, as you say, “realistic and understandable”?

  13. 13 Wade March 21, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    Ryan:

    putting a male in the relief society presidency would violate quality #2

    Are you saying that Women should never hold the priesthood and be in positions of priesthood leadership because women don’t have good judgment and give good counsel?

  14. 14 Eric March 21, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    Wade:

    From a doctrinal standpoint, I don’t believe there would be a problem with it. In a way you could say that the bishop is ultimately in charge of all the auxilaries at the ward level, and delegates the day-to-day operation to the presidencies of those organizations.

    Also, I believe there are statements in the church handbook that gives instructions on these types of callings. While the handbook is not scripture, I believe it is approved of by the first presidency.

  15. 15 Ryan March 21, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    haven’t you heard of the Group Think concept?

    I have heard of it. I neither agree with it nor see the applicability.

    A. If I have a group of scientists postulating as to the best way to research the effect of certain cell-receptor blockers on a post myocardial-infarcted heart, asking the janitor who cleans up the biohazard trash can to advise the group is not a very good idea. (Whether all the scientists in the group feel like upsetting “the norm” or not.)
    B. A one on one counseling session hardly qualifies as an example of a groupthink-capable scenario as there is no majority to diagree with. If you disagree with the other person, the “majority” is instantly dissolved.
    C. You limited your “norms” to womanhood. This is fallacious. There are women in relief society from diverse backgrounds and as such the potential for groupthink is greatly diminished.

    Are you saying that Women should never hold the priesthood … …because women don’t have good judgment and give good counsel?

    nope. I’m saying that a male is unable to provide a feminine perspective to female concerns. This makes him unable to give good counsel and by declaration of the aforementioned general authority, he is disqualified from the position of Relief Society president.

  16. 16 Wade March 21, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    For clarification, I am making the majority of my arguments for the sake of argument.

    As a self-proclaimed subscriber to orthodoxy, I am completely comfortable with the roles of men and women in the Church.

    Moreover, I firmly believe that because men and women have innate and fundamental natural differences, their roles in society are, and should be, different.

    I have laid out my arguments for men to be leaders of the Relief Society to illustrate what I think is a clear double-standard espoused by some Mormon Feminists (the argument is for one-sided equality). And furthermore, to illustrate the absurdity of the argument for actually allowing men to lead a “women’s organization”.

    So, in short, I actually agree with Ryan, I’m just flushing out the clarity I see from my perspective in his argument.

  17. 17 Chad Too March 21, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    If we are imagining a truly egalitarian LDS hierarchy, wouldn’t that mean women would have the priesthood – and then be required to attend Priesthood meeting – so there would be no need for Relief Society as an organization any longer? We’d all be part of the priesthood quorums.

  18. 18 Wade March 21, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    Chad:

    Assuming the Relief Society doesn’t serve any purpose beyond what the priesthood provides, you are correct.

    However, it is my understanding that the RS exists to accomplish things that the priesthood is unable to. But, I suppose if the priesthood is given to women and the RS disbanded, the priesthood, ipso facto, would then have the ability.

    I guess my question is: why is it that Mormon feminists view holding the priesthood as “better” or a “higher calling” than having authority in the RS? Why is it that Mormon men don’t advocate for making the priesthood one big relief society?

  19. 19 Jettboy March 22, 2006 at 7:50 am

    I believe, Wade, the answer to your questions is about Power. Feminists believe that men hold more “power” to dictate to the Church. On the other hand, the Priesthood is based on a familial organization with men as the head (see, for instance, Paul’s explanation about the roles of husband, wife, and God), and women as subordinate to them as they are subordinate to God. As much as I think the Temple adds priesthood “power” to women equal in opportunity to men, it also upholds the hierarchal relationships.

  20. 20 Ryan March 22, 2006 at 8:06 am

    Jettboy

    Main Entry: subĀ·orĀ·diĀ·nate
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English subordinat, from Medieval Latin subordinatus, past participle of subordinare to subordinate, from Latin sub- + ordinare to order — more at ORDAIN
    1 : placed in or occupying a lower class, rank, or position : INFERIOR
    2 : submissive to or controlled by authority (no emphasis added)

    What is… the incorrect adjective?

    How about something more like:

    Main Entry: helpĀ·mate
    Pronunciation: ‘help-“mAt; Southern often ‘hep- also ‘he&p-
    Function: noun
    Etymology: by folk etymology from helpmeet
    : one who is a companion and helper; especially : WIFE

  21. 21 Eric March 22, 2006 at 8:36 am

    So, did I chose the wrong Title here? It certainly seems to have turned the discussion a certain way.

  22. 22 Ryan March 22, 2006 at 10:01 am

    I noticed this discussion went a weird direction. I’m guessing it’s because feminism is a hotter topic than elements of leadership. It reminds me of the concept of teaching a class and letting the discussion go where it will vs. sticking strictly to the lesson at hand. As the post-er do you have the obligation to let the discussion evolve as it will or force it onto the posted topic.. or a little of both… or neither?

  23. 23 annegb March 22, 2006 at 11:20 am

    This makes me feel really bad for my husband because he is such a faithful soul and I smarted off to him once in front of our bishop who is now in the stake presidency and he is sort of chauvinistic, so he will think my husband is a weeny when I think he loves me and respects me. Isn’t that sad?

    I feel like I’m bringing him down with my big mouth. The poor man.

  24. 24 Wade March 22, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    I take full credit for the thread-jack. Sorry Eric!

    I will preserve the issue for another post.

  25. 25 Eric March 24, 2006 at 9:31 am

    In this blog world, the poster really can’t have much control I don’t think. Unless you delete comments. I have a job and a life for instance. It is impossible to stay on top of a discussion like in a sunday school class where it is continuous.

    I am only able to check in every few hours and so have always let the comments go wherever they go.


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