After reading the recent NY Times article about women's roles in the LDS Church, I was reminded of this experience, and I felt that I should share it.
When I was called as the Sunday School President in my LDS ward a few years ago, the Bishop asked me to pray about my councilors, and then give the names of those people who God brought to my mind to him. I followed this direction, and prayed about who God wanted to be my counselors. One name repeatedly came to mind. This person used to be a seminary teacher, and they had a very very different approach to teaching the Gospel than I did, and they were very opinionated and outspoken about how the gospel should be taught, and wasn't afraid to share their opinions. And their opinions often differed form my own. My approach was very intellectual, while theirs was very emotional. I was sure that their influence would provide a valuable contrast to my thinking. They had been in the ward for many years, while I was new, so they could give valuable advice when it came to choosing new teachers for various classes. They would know the abilities of the people, as well as the needs of the students in a way that I could not. They were absolutely perfect.
The only problem? The person that the Lord brought to my mind was a woman.
Of course, I knew that the answer would be no, but I had to present the name anyway, because she was the one I felt like the Lord really wanted doing the job. Predictably, the Bishop wouldn't let me. But I told my Bishop that the Spirit had called her, and that she was the one the Lord wanted.
There is no real priesthood required to lead the Sunday School, any more than there is to lead the relief society, or the young women. But it didn't matter. Traditionally, Sunday School presidencies were male. And that was that.
Furthermore, mixed gender presidencies are not allowed in the LDS Church. Apparently they trusted me to run the Sunday School, but they didn't trust me to not end up sleeping with a woman if she was in a presidency with me, even if the woman God wanted was old enough to be my mother.
Again, this was all as I expected, and when the name was rejected, I immediately handed in my runner up, acceptably male, name. And the presidency worked relatively well I think, we accomplished many things, and made the ward a better place. But I often wondered how much more good we might have been able to accomplish if the will of God had actually been carried out.
I often remember and think about this moment. It seems important somehow. That moment when bureaucratic dogma took precedence over revelation and The Spirit of God.