Last week, Dan invited the missionaries over to dinner. Generally, I am fine with missionaries. But one has to admit, some are better than others. Last time we fed the missionaries, the Elders ignored me, but had no problem looking over my DVD collection and asking my husband which movies were good.*
Like most human interactions, though, I find that if I keep my expectations low, I am generally not disappointed.
Monday rolled around, and the new missionaries came on time (bonus points,) and were polite and gracious. I've noticed that missionaries tend to get paired with an opposite. For every gregarious Type A Elder, there is a Type B.
Elder A was charming and funny, he made us answer doctrinal questions over dinner, which I obliged because I was feeling kind, and I understand that in his world, it is the DOCTRINE OF GOD 24/7.
Elder B was quiet. He mentioned that it was hard for him to introduce himself to others. He was shy in a lovable way that suggests he would never want to deliberately offend. He takes deep breaths before he speaks.
I liked him. I remember when I first went away from home on Study Abroad, that I prayed that my roommates would like me. I suspect he might have done the same. While Elder A and my husband talked shop (THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.) Elder B and I discussed our mutual interest in World War I.
At the end of the meal, however, Elder B ended the conversation, turned to my Spouse, and said "As head of the household, would you please call on someone to say the closing prayer?"
Pulling the "male presiding as head of the household" card is like Kryptonite to me.
Normally, I would have informed Elder B that my spouse and I were equal partners in leading our home. If I were feeling particularly vindictive, I may have mentioned that when my husband and I pay our bills, I pay the mortgage on our home. Financially, this household exists because of me. (And all our other amenities exist, including our business, because of my Spouse. Due credit.)
But I didn't. Because I liked Elder B. Because he was kind and sweet and smart, and I knew that he would never deliberately hurt my feelings, or offend me.
He simply thought that because my husband and I were obviously righteous missionary-feeding Mormons living in Zion, that we must abide by the very traditional gender roles of many church members. Perhaps he was raised in a home where loving parents taught this example.
He didn't know, and his reality was different than mine, so I refrained from my usual feminist beat-down, and my husband called on Elder B to say the prayer, and the missionaries went home.
I've been thinking about Elder B all week, because as obvious as it may be to some of you, I learned something not so obvious to me.
Not every male, traditional, gender-is-essential-Proclamation-hanging-in-every-room Mormon is an enemy to me, or my beliefs. We can co-exist. Elder B didn't change my mind, or make me less enthusiastic about gender equality in the LDS Church, but he did help me become a tiny bit kinder, and a tiny bit more Christ-like.
Wonderfully enough, he treated me with more respect, perhaps, than some of his more liberally minded peers.
He saw me as a person, with valuable opinions (on World War I weaponry, to say the least,) and a voice worth hearing.
Isn't that what I've wanted all along?
*Boo. No one log on to tell me that the Elders were just unsure of how to talk to me because I have lady parts. Elders are perfectly capable of speaking respectfully to women without having lustful thoughts. Politeness is not something one gives up when serving a mission. (DVDs, however, are.)