Elder Ballard: “Don’t Talk Too Much”

Today Elder Ballard spoke at the Europe Area Sisters’ Meeting. (Yes, the same meeting with the poster flap.) You can see the video here.

If you go to about 4:05, he says this:

That you will let your voices be heard, we cannot, we cannot meet our destiny as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in preparing this world for the 2nd coming of the Savior of the world without the support and the faith and the strength of the women of this church. We need you. We need your voices. They need to be heard. They need to be heard in your community, in your neighborhoods, they need to be heard within the ward council or the branch council. Now don’t talk too much in those council meetings, just straighten the brethren out quickly and move the work on. We are building the kingdom of God.

 

I can think of three ways to interpret his counsel not to talk too much:

 

1. It was a joke. He seems to smile after saying it and we in the church don’t speak in serious tones of women “straightening out the brethren.” If this is the best reading, I’m caught between two reactions:

a. It’s not a good idea to joke about hot-button issues, especially ones where some people are deeply emotionally invested and/or troubled.

b. It’s a good idea to reduce tension by using humor, especially when it comes to hot-button issues.

But I have to admit that, when it comes to what you want to model for the general church membership, joking about hot button issues is probably on the What Not to Do list, especially if your speaking style is such (as I think Elder Ballard’s is) that it is not entirely clear if you are joking.

2. He was completely serious that women should not speak too much in council settings. This sentiment seems to align with a quotation from him published in this month’s Ensign:

Now, sisters, while your input is significant and welcome in effective councils, you need to be careful not to assume a role that is not yours. The most successful ward and stake councils are those in which priesthood leaders trust their sister leaders and encourage them to contribute to the discussions and in which sister leaders fully respect and sustain the decisions of the council made under the direction of priesthood leaders who hold keys. (cite)

I have previously expressed concern that the approach of Ordain Women would lead to retrenchment and backlash. Given Elder Ballard’s previous support for women’s leadership in the church, a theme he emphasized strongly in his book Counseling with our Councils, I would say that these two statements reflect a desire to encourage women to stay within the boundaries of current church practice regarding leadership roles, at least partially as a response to OW.

3. He was saying, in effect, “don’t spend a lot of time talking about things. Your voice is important but your actions are more important. Even if you have to correct male leaders, get the job of building the kingdom done.” This is not a gendered message that women should not talk a lot; it is rather a general statement that no one should waste words when they could instead deliver their message and then get to work. That his statement appeared to be directed specifically to women is an unfortunate accident. The fact that he gave women explicit permission to correct males in council settings is a big win for those advocating for a greater role for women in the church.

I’m honestly not sure which is the best reading; it seems like you can make a decent case for each of them. I don’t envy anyone who has to speak to an international audience that will parse every word and facial gesture. I join with Joseph Smith in praying that we will someday be delivered from “the little narrow prison almost as it were tot[a]l darkness of . . . a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language” (cite).

79 comments for “Elder Ballard: “Don’t Talk Too Much”

  1. September 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    I am hoping, deeply hoping his “not too much” was in jest. Even more than hoping he was in jest, I hope others see it as jest or light. I worry the heavy hand of repeating that statement alone could be the final straw in a lot of nearly broken camels.

    I wish this was the message that was sent out

    “Women need to see themselves as strong, as capable of hard labor for a goal, as deserving of the pleasures of achievement, as worthy of honor. Their sacrifices need to count for something. They need to see how their efforts are acts of salvation, deeds of redemptive love. They need to see that they are important and that they make a difference in the lives of the people they love the most.”

    -Chieko Okazaki, Boundaries, p. 14

  2. OldJen
    September 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I have an elderly LDS male friend who says stuff like this all of the time. He thinks he is clever and hilarious. I feel kind of sorry for him.

  3. September 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I hope very much that he meant #3, because otherwise he’s being either tone deaf or rude.

  4. EFF
    September 9, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    His statement in this month’s Ensign that you quote sounds like something a parent would say to a child. “Know your place and defer to your betters.”

    At the end of the day, which is more important: keys or wisdom?

  5. September 9, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Having listened to the excerpt, I suspect Elder Ballard was being a bit lighthearted in that particular remark — he isn’t really telling the sisters to talk less in meetings anymore than he is really telling them to correct the bishop. I think that line is just what happens when delivering what looks like unscripted comments on camera. It is clear from the earlier lines in the paragraph that he wants women to speak in meetings and wants their voice to be heard.

    Patriarchal humor just doesn’t play very well these days. Someone ought to pass that message along before the upcoming General Womens Conference and General Conference.

  6. Michelle
    September 9, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    I think #3 is the most likely. That last part of the quote says a lot imo. Move the work on. WE (men and women) are building the kingdom of God.

    And I do think we ought not make him an offender for a word. Elder Ballard is one of the most vocal leaders on the importance of women in councils.

    “Someone ought to pass that message along before the upcoming General Womens Conference and General Conference.”

    I think we have to be good receivers to help the culture along, too. We have as much responsibility in this as they do. If everyone continually assumes the worst, that will continue to be processed into the culture.

  7. Owen
    September 9, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I think Dave is right. In my experience most people talk too much about too little in ward councils in general, and I suspect Elder Ballard is well aware of the difference between the ideal and the reality of how those councils work. So I think he was thinking of how everyone can make councils more effective and that it just comes off sounding patronizing more or less by accident.

    I have a bigger problem with the Ensign quote–I think there’s far too much of “the bishop says so” in ward councils and too little real counseling. Having one person exercise complete control inevitably leads to failure if only because it tends to lead to micromanagement. I’ve yet to see a bishop who delegates in a serious way even to his counselors.

  8. September 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

    “We have as much responsibility in this as they do.”

    No, we do not. I think that has been made pointedly clear of late! Members very, very emphatically do NOT have as much responsibility as those uniquely sustained as leaders. I am not responsible for what happens in the next stake over. I could actually be excommunicated for acting as if I did. Elder Ballard is responsible for what happens in the next stake over.

  9. E. Statesman
    September 10, 2014 at 12:05 am

    Regardless of how he meant it, it reflects the type of contribution he sees women making–stepping in to correct the men (who are already talking, making decisions, and doing the work). Whether or not he thinks that’s how it ought to be, it serves to reinforce that paradigm. I disagree that this is backlash & retrenchment after OW. It’s more a glimpse into the thought process of a gentleman of a certain age.

    But, wow, at a special women’s meeting, keynoted by male speakers, the presiding (male) authority tells women to be careful not to speak too much in councils? A joke or not, it’s so inappropriate and condescending. Maybe it would behoove some men not to speak too much at certain meetings?

  10. Yes, ma'am
    September 10, 2014 at 12:19 am

    #5 & #6, FYI: There is no “General Women’s Conference.” What you’re referring to is the General Women’s *Meeting*, as clearly printed on my ticket last spring.

  11. September 10, 2014 at 12:19 am

    #7 “In my experience most people talk too much about too little in ward councils in general…”

    Ain’t that the truth about all kids of meetings…

    I’m inclined to take it as meant as a joke.

  12. pete
    September 10, 2014 at 12:40 am

    It shows they don’t know how to deal with women as equals.

  13. Hunter
    September 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

    My vote is #2 — that Elder Ballard is completely serious that women should not speak too much in council settings. Having said that, I also believe that Elder Ballard is in favor of increasing women’s voices in (local) church administration above where it’s currently at. In that same Education Week talk last year, Elder Ballard also said this:

    For more than 20 years I have been teaching the importance of councils, including the vital participation of sister leaders. I acknowledge that some men, including some priesthood leaders, have not yet seen the light and still do not include our sister leaders in full partnership in ward and stake councils. . . . I feel certain that men who demean women in any way will answer to God for their actions. And any priesthood leader who does not involve his sister leaders with full respect and inclusion is not honoring and magnifying the keys he has been given. His power and influence will be diminished until he learns the ways of the Lord.

    Admittedly, it’s hard to reconcile the two ideas in the same man. And yet, I think Elder Ballard’s “more women, but not too much” approach is his principled and genuine view, and not just another version of thoughtless “chicken patriarchy.”

  14. Michelle
    September 10, 2014 at 1:27 am

    “No, we do not. I think that has been made pointedly clear of late! Members very, very emphatically do NOT have as much responsibility as those uniquely sustained as leaders. I am not responsible for what happens in the next stake over. ”

    Sorry I wasn’t more clear, Cynthia. The context of my remark was in response to the quote I included. My point was that the leaders have a responsibility with how they seek to frame their messages, *and* we as members have a responsibility in how we receive those messages. Both ‘sides’ of the dynamic have an impact on our culture.

  15. Hunter
    September 10, 2014 at 1:40 am

    I just listened to the clip. I still think Elder Ballard has a heart of gold . . . but this clip, well, it’s not great.

  16. rah
    September 10, 2014 at 3:12 am

    I think the most plausible reading/listening is that he meant it mostly in jest. However, for me that is actually the most problematic of the readings. It means that the deep, deep concerns and hurt experienced by many women and the scope of those concerns has simply not penetrated his consciousness. Because, I really do believe that if he understood how deeply hurtful making that joke was he wouldn’t have ever used it. Whatever he may be he is not mean-spirited. What this means of course is that even with all the noise, efforts and feedback by women from across the church, he hasn’t received the message that this is not a joking matter for so many. The feedback mechanism must be completely, utterly broken or he must be completely and utterly incapable of hearing that particular message. Heartbreaking.

  17. ji
    September 10, 2014 at 4:13 am

    Poor Elder Ballard — followed by critics “that will parse every word and facial gesture.” Indeed, he is in “the little narrow prison almost as it were tot[a]l darkness of . . . a crooked broken scattered and imperfect language.”

    [H]is statement appeared to be directed specifically to women” because he was speaking at a meeting for women. That’s simple.

    Elder Ballard would likely agree that the men in ward council meetings talk too much and do too little. I suppose that’s the reason for his quip about talking less and doing more.

    I think there is room for a charitable hearing of his words — especially to a Relief Society audience, where the motto is “Charity Never Faileth“. I see no reason for offense. Others choose to see differently.

  18. rah
    September 10, 2014 at 4:34 am

    ji

    Glad to have your input. Just…not too much. Ha, ha.

  19. AM
    September 10, 2014 at 6:16 am

    I think the reason you can read all three meanings is that all three were meant, in some way. I think he wants more accomplished in council meetings, so everyone needs to spend less time talking. In particular, I think he wants women to say their piece, then let the priesthood holder make the decision. I think he made that more clear in his Ensign article. Finally, I think he was trying to say it in a clever way to make his point a little easier to swallow.

    i also think most members, male and female, will take all three meanings without much offense. However some are being hurt by these comments. I am a man, so I can just cringe and move on. Some women that I care about, though, will be deeply hurt by the sentiments behind these words. It is impossible for them to feel as valued as the men in the room when they are at Church. I wish we heard a less ambiguous message that all are valued and able to receive inspiration and revelation.

  20. September 10, 2014 at 6:46 am

    The problem is that “women” are not uniform. You have those too timid or restrained to speak up, and you have some that breeze in and take over. Men tend to let such women dominate, where if a man tried to do the same, he would be corrected. I’ve seen it play out frequently.

    I think this is more of a “women participate, men make sure you let them, but women be respectful of men’s authority and perspective, because some are unlikely to overrule you even when they ought to.”

    Sort of a caution that including woman doesn’t mean open season on men.

  21. rah
    September 10, 2014 at 7:00 am

    “Let the woman say their piece and let the priesthood holder make the decision” – yep that is exactly what he means. That is exactly how the system is set up. And that does indeed hurt many women. No matter how nicely it is said and how much you praise women that is the nature of gendered decision rights and structural authority. I just can’t imagine that is how the governance of heaven works.

  22. John Mansfield
    September 10, 2014 at 7:04 am

    I’m an American man, so it would be an intrusion for me to parse Elder Ballard’s words to European women.

  23. Brother Brother
    September 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Both men & women need to talk less in council meetings. It appears church leaders have accepted more meetings as its means of “hastening the work”. Should not the emphasis be on fewer and shorter meetings?

  24. Form A
    September 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I guess nitpicking the apostles recent comments is what the blogs are for now.

  25. Julie M. Smith
    September 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Form A, we are frequently counseled to listen closely to our leaders, to take their words seriously, to understand them as best we can, and to apply those words in our lives. That’s what I see the people on this thread doing. To accuse them of nitpicking then seems completely unwarranted to me.

  26. rb
    September 10, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Ahh, yes Form A. Why nitpick over abject silliness like how many earrings, open or closed toe shoes and other fashion styles for women which the Apostles have seen fit to voice an opinion? Perhaps the BYU admins are just nitpicking or cherrypicking the Apostles’ comments and converting them into arbitrary but enforceable modesty standards for 1000s of LDS kids. I suppose it is only the priesthood that is allowed to nitpick or cherrypick among Apostle’s comments. The rest of us should avoid talking too much. Point taken. Or, rather than nitpick, we just ignore/filter to our own liking.

  27. September 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

    If church leaders are concerned over how exactly their words are scrutinized and parsed, they can always do more to chip away at that commonly held notion that they are (nearly) infallible…

  28. AM
    September 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Priesthood leaders have an easy solution when dealing with women who dominate meetings: they do not call them to auxilliary leadership positions. There is no similar solution for women dealing with domineering men. The only check on men is the gumption of the others in the meeting. In fact, EQ presidents and HP group leaders are called by the stake president, who does not need to deal with them in the council meetings. I have seen some very domineering men in meetings. One situation in particular, a man took over a meeting that was supposed to be conducted by a woman. He had no calling that gave him authority over the woman. He just did it. I believe such situations are rare, but they happen. Rhetoric such as Elder Ballard’s do not help rein in men like that.

  29. Joni
    September 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

    What really bothers me about Elder Ballard’s statement is the “othering” of women. When he says “we need you,” he is drawing a clear boundary between the “we” (the Church) and the “you” (the women). It’s like there are two different species here: The Church and The Women. Leaders and “sister leaders.” Male leaders being referred to as “President” and all women being called “Sister” regardless of their role. In my ward a woman can’t even deliver the final Sacrament Meeting address!

    I don’t want to be, in Elder Oaks’ words, “a divinely appointed appendage.” I want to be a part of the body of Christ! And yet, the more time I spend in His true church, especially in the temple, the more I come to understand that I am not a full participant on my own terms but merely a facilitator of my husband’s exaltation.

  30. fbisti
    September 10, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    In general, though I am far from well-versed in Elder Ballard’s long collection of talks and writings, I see him as quite encumbered by the (Mormon and American) cultural baggage of men and women his age. That said, I was really impressed by his book on Councils and his encouragement to have women take a more active role in them. It seems that only recently has that counsel been paid much attention.

    That said, I heartily agree with comment #9…”But, wow, at a special women’s meeting, keynoted by male speakers, the presiding (male) authority tells women to be careful not to speak too much in councils? A joke or not, it’s so inappropriate and condescending. Maybe it would behoove some men not to speak too much at certain meetings?”

    Finally, I have little confidence in our GA’s abilities to actually remember what it was like sitting in Ward Councils some 40+ years ago. And the degree to which they do remember is further relevancy-today-challenged by the culture/tone of those meetings.

    My memory/observation of such meetings (having spent about 30 years of the past 40 attending them) is that women have just recently begun to take a more active role. In some wards that reticence could be largely blamed on their personal temerity (but exacerbated by a lifetime of training to be so). In some wards the problem was bishops and the other male leaders paying them little mind and (certainly) not seeking their counsel–if not outright intimidating them.

  31. September 10, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I’m really curious how much is “too much.” More than 10% of the time? More than 50% of the time? More than 90% of the time?

    You may think I’m joking starting with 10% being a possible choice for the definition of “too much,” but if we look to the models were are presented with by Ballard and the 15, General Conference (excluding Priesthood session) has less than 8% female participation (women are 8% of the speakers, but get shorter timeslots than the apostles, so 8% somewhat overstates their share).

    Similarly, you may think I’m joking in listing more than 90% as a possible cutoff for “too much,” but consider that >92% is apparently an acceptable share of the talking for men.

  32. September 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    (I compiled and illustrated the stats on conference speakers here: http://bycommonconsent.com/2014/01/04/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-men-women-general-conference/)

  33. J Town
    September 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    An unfortunate comment. I hate trying to judge someone else’s intentions, it’s usually a losing proposition whether you’re right or not, but I think that it was meant to be both light-hearted and serious at the same time. In other words, “I’m speaking in a somewhat light, joking manner, but you better listen to what I’m saying all the same, my young friends.”

    That might sound contradictory, but if you don’t think older Utah Mormon men have perfected the art, whether apostles or not, then you likely haven’t spoken to as many of them as I have… That kind of tone can be somewhat condescending when pointed at you, so I can certainly believe that the remark can be hurtful to some women, regardless of intention. However, most of the brethren that I have heard tend to speak that way to any audience, regardless of gender so I wouldn’t take it as particularly targeted at women. That’s just how they generally talk, at least in my experience. It doesn’t make it any less of an unfortunate comment, though.

  34. DQ
    September 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    This kind of passive aggressive ridicule feigned complaints are one reason I could see apostolic authority being removed. Oh we listen to their words all right, listen so well we do so without the Spirit for no one, No One guided by the Spirit after listening to his words would follow up with a public passive aggressive complaint/takedown. It’s depressing I’m sure for those who are tasked with the burden to speak to feel so mistreated. There is no wisdom in this post only post modern cynicism and criticism feigning as thoughtful consideration.

    Truly shame on you.

  35. ji
    September 10, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    From my experience in ward councils, women are taken far more seriously by the bishop than men are. Inputs from elders quorum presidents and high priests group leaders, if offered at all, are often quickly dismissed by a bishop, but that same bishop, wanting to be responsive to recent counsel from on high, is very solicitous of inputs from the Relief Society or Primary president — almost fawningly solicitous.

    For men, we already know the gameplan — say very little and let the presiding official make his decision.

    I wish this wasn’t so. I wish ward councils could measure up to the expectations for all participants. Maybe we’re making progress?

  36. AM
    September 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    #34. I do not think you know what passive-aggressive means. I see no murmuring. People are straight forwardly expressing their thoughts about the comment. I believe Elder Ballard himself would correct you regarding the threat that apostolic authority could be removed from the Church.

  37. whizzbang
    September 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Let’s face it, some people men and women just simply talk too much. Everything they feel the need to chime in on and it drags meetings out. They can dominate meetings and it gets to be too much and some just don’t know how to talk within a group, i.e. they interrupt people etc. I can give examples of men and women who do this so I don’t think it’s a gender thing. People just need to learn to keep there yap shut

  38. J.A.T.
    September 10, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    As a sister in “councils” I have not experienced the fawningly solicitous support from the presiding bishop, SP, BP, etc. I have not seen women wield much influence in these councils either, and my experience panned that out as well.

    The current General axillary presidents frequently re-tell the story of the brethren discussing the change in missionary age for sisters. (There is a video interview floating out there where they talk about how important and respected their voices as women are). They choke back tears to tell us that the brethren stopped a key meeting where the topic of sister missionary age was being discussed to hear -one-at-a-time, what the sisters in the room thought about the subject. They cite that the brethren care about their opinions and include them in decision-making.

    I find that story disturbing for several reasons. First, why weren’t the sisters taking the initiative to speak up? Were they purposefully waiting for the golden septre in order to give more weight to their words? Regarding a topic about and for women, why did they not speak up? Do they usually sit silently in meetings? Why did they need to be asked? I’ve often marveled at the eloquence and intelligence of these women and their natural leadership skills, but at the same time a life spent as a stay-at-home mom and an unused bachelor’s degree or associates degree in elementary education does not prepare one well to be pitted against savvy retired Harvard attorneys, state supreme court justices, and seasoned professors who have climbed to the top of their ranks by winning the blood sport games.

  39. Martin
    September 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I think Joni hit the nail on the head. Regardless what Elder Ballard was thinking when he made the comment (I’m guessing he was thinking of long-winded meeting participants), the fact that his whole talk struck me as “reaching out to women” is problematic. It either implicitly creates or re-affirms a divide between “us” (maie leaders) and “them” (female members).

  40. stephenchardy
    September 10, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    I would say a few things about “the comment.”

    First let me say that I have attended thousands of council meetings of various types at the ward and stake level over a number of decades.

    It is extremely rare, in my experience, that someone “straightens” the brethren. This doesn’t usually happen. These meetings are almost never confrontational. The Bishops or SPs that I have worked with are usually humble people trying to figure out how to do the right thing. Comments are usually made to inform the Bishop, or the council, about something that might not be understood. “I spoke to Brother So-and-so and found that he is worried that his son….” Or Sister Whoever is having a hard time attending Sunday School because her son has meningitis, her husband is drunk, and she works the midnight shift at 7-11..” The leaders are almost never being “straightened out” , but may receive “further light and knowledge.” This is why it is so important that women attend these meetings and have the Bishop’s ear. When a policy or decision has a direct affect on someone, and if that someone is a woman, then the Bishop is likely to get more direct information from the RSP, the YWP, or the PP than the Bishop’s counselor who is in charge of those organizations. Remember: these meetings are not antagonistic.
    ,
    I also cringe at the stab at humor, or buying into the stereotype, that promotes the idea that women yak and yak and yak. That isn’t the case and it doesn’t help to have someone from high up promote such a stereotype. His comment is much more likely to result in a woman deciding to not say something that is important, than to result in a yakker holding her/his tongue.

  41. stephenchardy
    September 10, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Another comment… sorry.

    My experience with ward and stake councils is that they allow a person to watch a leader seek information and prayerfully come up with a consensus. They allow a participant to observe inspiration. When information is freely given, and prayer is offered, and the obvious humility of the leader is evident, these meetings provide the foundation for ward unity. They help a ward focus and move forward. Having women present at these meetings allows her the share that experience with her (mostly female) peers and provides “one-ness.”

    For me, these comments about not talking too much, or not assuming a “role that isn’t yours” suggests that these meetings are power struggles. They aren’t helpful comments because, to me, they suggest that women are getting “too uppity” which of course isn’t the case.

  42. September 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Great comment, Martin.

  43. Christian J
    September 10, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I’m always willing to give an 80+ year old a pass on word choices and timing (for jokes or not). Except when I’m told the following:

    “Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.

    As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth.”
    Holland, Oct 2006 Conference

  44. jennifer Ruben
    September 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    my years as a stay at home mom responsible for creating a home for a variety of personalities included working with and through the public school systems to educate my children while maintaining a positive relationship with a variety of medical providers, workmen, and care givers has given me real life experience that makes me an equal in ward councils to any priesthood brother- Having participated in thousands of such councils in a variety of callings I have to agree with comment 41- the nature of these councils is usually most helpful, supportive and more than willing to listen- they are often too long and sometimes poorly planned but so are the committee meetings I attend outside the church setting- I hope the councils, committees I head are meaningful, to the point and well organized and make it possible for all members to express their opinions, give information and counsel with the group. Counseling together is a work in progress and the real masters of that group inter-actions are few.

  45. Mark
    September 10, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    Somewhat off topic but I feel compelled to share my observations about ward council. I find many of the discussions to be inappropriate gossip or bordering on gossip. Disclosure of people’s private problems that they want left private and would be absolutely embarrassed are being talked about happen frequently. I have heard: “This is confidential, so this shouldn’t leave this room.” My thought is “Well you just violated the confidence by telling us.” People’s medical problems discussed in detail – gossip. People’s addiction problems – gossip. Talking about “WHY” people are inactive – gossip.

    We have a “Rescue List” which I find to be an unfortunate name. People are on that list who would be shocked they are on a list titled “To The Rescue”. And when I invite out of friendship these same people to go to dinner and they ask “Are you asking us to dinner because we are on a list?” The answer “No” is a bit disingenuous if not an absolute lie because they actually are on a list.

    Council meetings are long on talk when we should all, whether a member of a council or not, be treating everyone around us as friends and with a Christian spirit of service. Not because by doing so we will convince them to convert or start coming to church again – but because that is how we should treat everyone regardless of their choice of affiliation.

    Once someone said, “We are going to ask less active brother so-and-so to listen to the Spanish speaking missionaries and tell him it’s to help them practice their lessons in Spanish…but not because they really need practice but to try to get him interested in coming to church.” Another time someone said “Inactive Brother so-and-so likes bikes and bike riding so we are going to arrange for you all to take your broken bikes to him to fix so we can get in with him.” I found these to be real examples absolutely dishonest and misguided ideas I sometimes hear in these councils.

    When the priesthood leader directed “Well can someone ask brother so-and-so why he is no longer active”. What difference does that make? To make you able to file away that person’s “reason” into the nice slot in your mind labeled – another unjustified reason for someone leaving activity? Why don’t we just show Christian love to people and let them make their own decisions. Chasing these people in strange and disingenuous ways borders on cult-like behavior.

    So men or women…I hope all of us who participate can try to be true Christians in these councils.

  46. September 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Julie, thanks for your thoughtful analysis. I really like rah’s point (#16) that the attempted joke interpretation might make for the worst message: we don’t hear you women; we have no clue that you’re hurting, or else I would never think of making such a joke.

    Also I love Joni’s comment (#29) about Elder Ballard’s rhetoric “othering” women. What’s striking to me is that what he said was totally in line with how GAs talk to women all the time. The women are *always* other. The men are “us,” and the women are “you.” The women might be highly praised moral forcing incredible “you,” but y’all still don’t fit into most GAs’ understanding of “us.”

  47. Juliet
    September 11, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Joni (#29), thanks for your comment. You hit the nail on the head.

  48. September 11, 2014 at 2:50 am

    “Don’t spend a lot of time talking about things. Your voice is important but your actions are more important.” Let’s start with the high council members…

  49. Michelle
    September 11, 2014 at 5:51 am

    Joni and Ziff I don’t think you are being fair. I think the leaders are hearing some people talk about how “the Church” and “its leaders” allegedly don’t care about women, which is in and of itself setting women up as being the ‘other’ in relation to the Church. I get that some don’t like how the leaders try to address these concerns, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that ‘nacle conversations otherize women in their own kind of way. It feels to me like you have created a no-win situation for women in pain and the Church alike.

    You also haven’t considered the fact that many women don’t feel otherized in the Church, which otherizes those women. ;)

  50. Steve Smith
    September 11, 2014 at 7:07 am

    DQ (34), listening to the spirit doesn’t mean blindly accepting everything the apostles say as absolute truth. My impression is that the apostles are trying to encourage discussion and do not expect that members unquestioningly accept everything they say, and even discourage them from so doing. There appears to be a Danite-like cult of hero-worship emerging in the bloggernacle that goes around trolling on reasonable believer sites.

  51. September 11, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Well said, Steve Smith!

  52. Laurie
    September 11, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Whether he meant it as a joke or not doesn’t actually matter to me. Most things that are covered with “I only was making a joke” are at least a partial representation of how the speaker feels. I don’t think this is something that should ever be joked about, and I think that the deeper problem is that there are men who think it is perfectly ok to not only say something like this, whether in jest or not, but also think it is their job to tell women how much talking is acceptable, or when it is OK for women to talk. If women are actually considered equal, then men would not think it is their job to tell us when or how much we are allowed to speak. The whole notion that women are equal in the church is an absolute untruth. Not in practice and not in theory or attitudes or policy either.

  53. The Other Clark
    September 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Fifty comments on, and no one has thought to point out that the “joke” makes caricatures of the men at least as much as it does the women:

    Women are chatterboxes whose natural inclination is to talk too much, but they have an unerring spirituality which allows them to correct the leaders of the ward.

    Men are good-natured, but generally clueless, oafs like Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker who need the influence of women in order to even become aware they’re in the wrong.

    I don’t know which is more belittling. Frankly, I hope one of the (female) general auxilary heads “just straighten the [brother] out quickly and moves the work on.”

  54. April Young Bennett
    September 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    It was numbers 1 and 2. Lots of people do this. You want to say something offensive, but you want to be pleasant about it, so you say it jokingly. Hah, hah. Now, if the listener is offended by your offensive statement, it is their fault for lacking a sense of humor.

  55. April Young Bennett
    September 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Hence, even though you said it in joke form, you got the point across, and you absolutely meant it.

  56. Josh Smith
    September 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Dave #5 “patriarchal humor” — I was looking for the term. Thank you. I think that’s the term–“patriarchal humor.”

    I’m not going to speculate about whether Elder Ballard’s comment is “patriarchal humor.” I’m certainly willing to err on his side–councils would be better with less speaking on everyone’s part, no?

    I certainly hope he wasn’t dusting off the tired, old “we-men-sometimes-need-the-women-to-set-us-straight” joke. That joke just isn’t funny anymore. (See Joni’s comment #29).

  57. September 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I’ll probably get filleted and barbecued for this, but, whatever … (Fillet and barbecue away; I don’t spend a lot of time in this corner of cyberspace, so if you all want to say, “That Kenngo1969’s such a Neanderthal …” “I know! I can’t believe anyone would say anything like that!” “I don’t know who’s worse: Elder Ballard, Kenngo1969, or the Devil Himself …” have at it.

    Assuming, arguendo, that Elder Ballard completely “stepped in it,” “put his entire foot in his mouth,” (and heck, maybe he even put his entire foot in his mouth AFTER he stepped in it … Ewwww! But anyway …) we have at least three choices: we can (1) make him an offender for a word by imputing the least charitable meaning possible to his words, as though none of US has ever put a foot in our mouths (whether before or after stepping in it); or (2) treat it as the opportunity to forgive and to develop charity that it is (assuming, arguendo, that that’s what it is), remembering that the Lord will forgive whom he will forgive, but we are required to forgive all men and women; or (3) opt to judge with the same judgment with which we would like to be judged, and mete with the same measure with which we would like to be measured.

  58. Kristine
    September 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Kenngo1969, this is in a week where he also explicitly said that women shouldn’t “assume a role that is not [theirs]” in Ward Councils, so it’s not exactly making him an offender for a word, or a single stupid joke. If an elderly leader had made a joke appropriate to 1955 in a church that was generally progressive in its policies and attitudes towards women, it would be easier to laugh it off.

  59. lawguy
    September 11, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    You’re kind of missing the point of most of the criticism, Kenngo1969.

    As I understand it, most people aren’t after Elder Ballard in a personal, he-must-repent kind of way. Sure, he said something mildly offensive. But even the angriest of the commenters I’ve seen here and elsewhere still seem willing to say that, all in all, he’s still a pretty good guy. This was far, far from the worst thing any of us have ever heard.

    What’s driving the criticism is something else. It’s the sense that his [mild slip-up/unfunny joke/whatever else you want to call it] was emblematic of the larger gender problems within the church. In other words, the issue we’re talking about isn’t Elder Ballard as a person. The issue we’re talking about is what his comment says about the church’s current gender practices, as well as what it portends for the future.

  60. Steve
    September 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    People just need to be mindful that the Church is led by imperfect people who are not polished politicians saying only politically correct things. And thank goodness for that! Attempts to shame or parse statements of General Authorities will only lead to extra caution in their public statements. What do you like better, a scripted General Conference talk read verbatim from a teleprompter or a more extemporaneous talk, with spontaneous attempts at humor? I’ll take the latter any day. Humor is always risky, since it often walks a fine line between provoking laughter or offense. If you don’t find a joke funny, the least you can do is not take offense where none was intended.

  61. Mark
    September 11, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I agree with Steve #60 – I hate the General Conference talks too!

  62. Naismith
    September 12, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Hmmn, it is going to be interesting to see how the humor thing plays out now that people can speak in GC in their native language, with different sensibilities of humor in different cultures.

    I can believe the #3 if he also gives the same advice about not speaking too much to the brethren. We are only seeing one part of the equation, so I am not sure it is fair to judge.

    As for the laughter….I am reminded of a ward council meeting a few years ago at the beginning of August. As I got ready to leave for the meeting, I felt prompted to grab one of the colored folders that served as a newcomers packet. I didn’t know why I grabbed it, I figured that I would run into someone new in the hall as a I left or whatever.

    So we got into the meeting and the EQP commented that we were getting a lot of move-ins (which we do every year as a college town) and should we prepare something to welcome them? I said that yes, we had found that helpful in RS, and showed them what we did every May–the folder included a map from the chamber of commerce, info about the library system, voter registration card to mail in, welcome letter from RS presidency, list of ward leadership and roster (as it may take a while for their records to arrive and have access online), articles from ward members such as “10 fun things to do before you move away” and other helpful stuff.

    They were kind of blown away. And decided to just ask for a few extras from us for families who did not have an RS sister. And there was some of that same laughter you heard at the “straighten the brethren out” comment. I am guessing that folks in the audience were thinking of their own experiences along those lines.

  63. Segullah
    September 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Why are we approaching the words of church leaders with a myopic view that our sensitivities must be reflected there? When even an off-handed or ill-timed remark or joke becomes “hurtful?” Have we become more concerned with the memes of modernity than the Gospel of Christ?

    I don’t believe his comment was hurtful. And I doubt that anyone lost sleep over it. Let’s stop the pattern of victimhood. LDS women are intelligent enough and strong enough spiritually to deal with an awkwardly stated idea or joke in what should have been a private meeting. As members, we all have to overlook the flaws of each other. And I know quite a few members that need to be told to shut up and get to work, and most of us are in the bloggernacle.

  64. ji
    September 12, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Have we become more concerned with the memes of modernity than the Gospel of Christ?

    Yes.

    LDS women are intelligent enough and strong enough spiritually to deal with an awkwardly stated idea or joke in what should have been a private meeting.

    Well, the evidence here suggests otherwise, at least for some LDS women (and men).

  65. Lily
    September 12, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I would hope that being respectful of others is always part of the Gospel.

  66. Chet
    September 12, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I have been in council meetings in two different wards where the Bishop’s comments were quasi-political in a Savage/Beck kind of way so I did my best to keep my mouth shut.

  67. September 12, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Lawguy, Re: Your #59.

    OK.

  68. Hedgehog
    September 13, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Segullah, it was hardly a private meeting. Whilst it was directed at the Europe area It was widely advertised on social media, broadcast over the Internet as it happened, and available to watch on lds.org afterwards.

  69. Seeker
    September 16, 2014 at 11:20 am

    The Church promotes the concept that men and women are different, but equal, in the organization of The Church, and in families. Men ultimately preside in both. From The Proclamation on the Family it is repeated: “fathers are to preside over their families…, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” I have pondered this instruction and have never quite settled on a conclusion of how this is supposed to work, especially when there is a disagreement. I’m just hoping that *fathers* don’t use Elder Ballard’s counsel for meetings as a model for presiding in their homes.

  70. J Town
    September 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    “What’s driving the criticism is something else. It’s the sense that his [mild slip-up/unfunny joke/whatever else you want to call it] was emblematic of the larger gender problems within the church. In other words, the issue we’re talking about isn’t Elder Ballard as a person. The issue we’re talking about is what his comment says about the church’s current gender practices, as well as what it portends for the future.”

    Ok, I would call that unfair. If you aren’t talking about Elder Ballard as a person, you’re reading WAY too much into the comment. One man (even an apostle) who makes one awkward comment on a topic that is very sensitive right now in a church meeting is not “emblematic of the larger gender problems within the church” unless you decide to make it so.

    This is the very close to the textbook definition of taking offense unnecessarily. Could the remark be interpreted as offensive? Sure. Lots of remarks could be taken that way. Odd are someone may well take my comment that way. But it could also be read (or heard) much more charitably. I think we all have some accountability there. I think the way the comment was phrased is unfortunate, because it probably allows for some ambiguity as to his intent, but that’s nothing nefarious.

  71. Ardis
    September 16, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Could a paper cut be interpreted as a sting? Sure. What about a thousand paper cuts? Is that still just a sting?

  72. Scott Lloyd
    September 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I’m reminded of the prophecy that includes “making a man an offender for a word” on a list of latter-day evils. It seems to me the conscientious avoidance on the part of listeners of such a propensity would eliminate any potential problems or backlash.

  73. Julie M. Smith
    September 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I strongly object to framing this as an “offender for a word” situation.

    Here’s an example of making someone an offender for a word: when Elaine Dalton said that women with their priorities straight would see no need to lobby for “rights,” the only reasonable interpretation of that statement was that she was talking about Ordain Women without wanting to mention them by name. To suggest that she thinks that, for example, women shouldn’t try to push for prohibitions against child brides (something that the DNews recently did a piece on) would be nothing other than a willful misreading of her words. Someone who claimed that Sister Dalton approved of child brides based on her statement would clearly be an offender for a word.

    On the other hand, there is, as this thread evidences, no one obvious meaning of Elder Ballard’s words and at least three possible interpretations. So, Scott Lloyd, when you try to shut down the conversation by claiming that those people who are interested in trying to figure out what he was saying are guilty of being “offenders for a word,” this is your message: if you don’t understand what a church leader says, you aren’t allowed to try to figure it out by discussing it. I’m not OK with sending that message. Rather, I think that when counsel comes from a church leader, we have an obligation to try to figure out what it means. So do not criticize those people who are trying to do just this.

  74. Julie M. Smith
    September 17, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I probably could have explained that better and more succinctly:

    If I could talk to Sister Dalton privately and ask her to clarify, I have no doubt that she would detest child marriages and think it perfectly appropriate for women to work to end them. Therefore publicly discussing whether her statement might have applied to child brides would mean trying to make her an offender for a word. (In other words, her wording was ambiguous but her intentions were perfectly clear.)

    On the other hand, if I could talk to Elder Ballard privately and ask him to clarify, I honestly and sincerely have no idea which of the three interpretations I offered would be the one he would tell me he had intended. Therefore, by exploring the three interpretations, I am not trying to make him an offender for a word. (So his wording was ambiguous and his intentions are not clear.)

  75. Josh Smith
    September 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Julie, maybe you’d agree with Scott Lloyd if you imagine his comment being read in the voice of Liam Neeson???

    It always works for me. If I read some comment on a blog and think to myself, “Well, now that sounds like horse sh!t,” I’m almost always able to nod my head in agreement if I imagine the author as Liam Neeson. Just sayin’.

  76. September 21, 2014 at 2:05 am

    How do General Authorities, and other Church leaders, receive healthy feedback on what is going on in The Church, and how they can be more effective as Leaders, if discussing anything about Leaders can be “nailed” as Criticizing The Brethren, etc? I remember being traumatized as a missionary many years ago when no ouctions.ne would discuss what was going on in our Mission? 2 General Authorities had contradicted each other in their instructions to us, and there was no discusiion about how to follow both sets of instructions. One Apostle not long after that said that anyone who brought up “supposed” discrepancies between brethren had sinful motivations. I’m glad for the Blogs which encourage respectful discussion–as an inexperienced member on my mission, I felt CRAZY and emotionally very upset by such situations. How DO General Authorities get feedback if members are so easily labeled as having attitude problems simply observing realities? I appreciate comments here–it helps me feel more sane with my current thoughts. Inspiration and Silliness can exist in the same situation. . . I don’t want to miss the Inspiration because I’m overwhelmed with the Silliness. . .

  77. September 21, 2014 at 2:07 am

    end of 3rd line–“when no one would discuss”

  78. WI_Member
    October 3, 2014 at 7:23 am

    How do we reconcile these statements?

    The first is from Elder Ballard about women’s contributions/participation in councils. “The participation of women in ward and stake councils and in general councils at Church headquarters provides needed insight, wisdom, and balance. For more than 20 years I have been teaching the importance of councils, including the vital participation of sister leaders. I acknowledge that some men, including some priesthood leaders, have not yet seen the light and still do not include our sister leaders in full partnership in ward and stake councils.”

    The second is from an article in the Deseret News today. “Every major decision in the church is made on Thursday mornings in the temple by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve,” Elder Hallstrom said.

    And there’s this from the SL Trib.

    “Is there any better term than “mission presidents’ wives”? Could the women be called co-presidents?

    No, I don’t think they could be called co-presidents.

    Not long ago, we asked the three [general women’s] auxiliary leaders to meet with us about mission president wives and sister missionaries. One of the questions we asked them: Is there a better title? We think there might be but we don’t have one yet to announce.

    Many of the wives and mission presidents and their wives actually think “wife” is an appropriate title because their husband is called as the president and they are called as his “companion.” That’s one of the sweetest parts of this calling, to have a calling where you really do serve together.”

    So women are perpetually consigned to the role of counselor, but never decision makers.

  79. OlleS
    February 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I think we, here, just “talk too much”. Who could we write an encouraging e-mail or talk to for 5 minutes instead of discussing ONE comment in ONE talk to ONE group of members at ONE time? I can think of several I could have needed a call. Will I call? Hope so, or this comment is totally vain as well.

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