Mormon apostle to women: “Now, don’t talk too much in those meetings”


Remember that European sisters’ meeting whose ad poster I criticized a couple of weeks ago?

Well, that meeting is in the news again, and not because of an unequal balance of male and female speakers. (It turned out to be five to three, by my count, so a much better ratio in the end than the all-male lineup initially advertised.)

No, it’s being discussed because of something Elder Ballard said in his talk.

As I write this I’m mindful of a truth that comes up in one of the other talks at the meeting, when Elder Bednar opens his remarks by asking people to be forgiving of speakers, and not constantly looking out for something to offend.

So with that in mind I hope people will listen to Elder Ballard’s entire talk, which you can access at the 1:19 mark here, rather than just watching the 30-second clip above.

Most of the talk is uplifting, except for a rambling criticism of adherents of other religions, followed by a comment to the same LDS women he has just praised as indispensable to the Church, telling them to be sure not to “talk too much.” (See an excellent play-by-play cartoon about it here.)

I can think of many excuses for Elder Ballard’s statement. He was speaking without notes in a rare “uncorrelated” moment. Maybe he was trying to inject some humor to put the audience at ease.

Or maybe, some people will say, he only sounded sexist toward women, but if anything was actually being sexist to men. The old “chicken patriarchy” approach.

But let’s remember that this statement came just after Elder Ballard’s recent Ensign article about women, men, and priesthood. “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,” he wrote last month.

So the “don’t talk too much” injunction is not so much a random aside as a visible pattern.

[tweetable]Elder Ballard has twice in one month told Mormon women to rein in their voices.[/tweetable]

Online, Patheos blogger Natasha Helfer Parker has been accused of taking Elder Ballard’s remark out of context. She responded that the context is precisely what should be troubling:

I can’t ever recall men in our day and age being told to keep their comments short in a ward council or to make sure they straighten out the sisters. The context is in the many talks that have been occurring in the past year about the “place” and “role” of female leadership within our church. The context has very much been about not only sharing your voice but making sure it’s shared in the “right way.”

I recognize there were many great messages given at this conference. But addressing underlying gender issues and educating ourselves on how these issues come up over and over again, is very much “in context” with our current state of affairs.

Like Natasha, I hope that this odd dance of “women are wonderful, we love to hear from them, but we don’t want to hear from them too much” comes to an end.

It’s hurtful. It devalues women and risks silencing their potential contributions, as they are left to wonder whether and how often their voices will be welcome.