I was at a family gathering today. A cousin I'm pretty close to got back from a mission, so we attended her ward and spent the afternoon at her family's house chatting and generally being social.
Her oldest brother is a bishop in his Utah ward, and at one point the conversation turned to who could be called to what sort of position -- according to "the Handbook," he said, either a man or a woman could be called to be Sunday School Pres (though I've never seen a woman as a SSP), only a man can be Elder's Quorum Pres (surprise, surprise), and only a woman can be Primary President. And, apparently, in his stake, only women can be Primary teachers -- a man can only be called to that position if he's team-teaching with his wife.
Why? Naturally, to protect the children from possible abuse. Oh, of course, and to protect the men from false abuse accusations. Ironically, much more time was spent discussing the latter point than the former.
This led to the question: what about the bishop? What steps do we take to make sure the bishop isn't falsely accused of doing things when he has one-on-one interviews behind closed doors with the young women and other women in the ward.
Does this sound strange to anyone? That this was the discussion, rather than asking what steps ought to be taken to make sure there's no real
Or, even better, discussing what got us to the state where concerns over liability issues are more important than preserving the confidentiality of the ecclesiastical confession?
The main suggestion was that there should be a second person in the room to bear witness to what happens: to make sure there are no false accusations (and, I assume, though it went unspoken at the time, to make sure there are no grounds for real ones). Who should that be? A second bishop, with keys to hear such confessions but no authority in the ward? The executive secretary, sitting just outside? If we only trust our Primary children with women, then how about a female bishop?
Needless to say, the final suggestion was only met with laughter.
As a woman, I'm offended at the idea that we mainly need someone to oversee these interviews to make sure there's no false accusations. As a woman already disinterested in discussing my eating and sexual habits with a strange man, I'm frankly displeased at being asked to do so with two
strange men instead.
As an intellectual, I'm a little worried that we play into this game without considering the overall state of society that requires us to worry about liability over letting the kids have the best teachers they can.
As an intellectual Mormon woman, I'm a little worried if (note the if
; my family is hardly ever representative of mainstream anything) our greatest concern is protecting the men from accusation rather than protecting the children/women from abuse.
And I'm curious what the rest of you think.
------------*The grammar nazi inside of me is realizing that the title really should be "Protecting Whom?" but for the sake of not being anal, I refuse to change it. ;)