Ask Ann Cannon: My church leader berated me for taking my career seriously

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a little over a year ago I was called in to meet with one of our bishop’s counselors about a potential calling (job) in our congregation. We have lived in this neighborhood for over a decade, as has this counselor, and I have always liked him and his family. When he told me about this calling, however, I had to regretfully decline, or at the very least I would have to wait months to start. The bulk of this calling was overseeing a weekly activity on Wednesday nights, right during my children’s piano lessons, which could be rescheduled, but not until the fall.

But the real problem was that I had just gotten the schedule for several weeks of traveling for work. I do 90% of my job from home, but the other 10% requires travel, which usually ends up being in one big chunk. It’s stressful for my family, but this is my dream job, and I love it, and they are all very supportive and proud of my success. So, I explained that I already had about three months of commitments lined up with my family, work, and following the work travel, a long-planned trip with extended family.

To my shock, this counselor couldn’t believe I said no. He told me to go home and “tell my husband to tell me to say yes.” I laughed at the idea that my husband wouldn’t support my decision, which made the counselor mad. He dismissed me to go home and tell my husband. I did go home and told my husband, who agreed that I couldn’t accept.

When I walked into church an hour later, the counselor was standing just inside. “Did your husband tell you to say yes?” He shouted this at me, in front of a handful of people! I said, “No, I told him about it and he said, ‘You can’t do that right now.’ Just like I told you!” He started shaking his head, over and over, and said, “Women think it’s fun to have a job, it’s nice for the family to have extra money, but the next thing you know you’re all about your job and your family is suffering!” And then he walked away.

I was aghast but tried to shrug it off. And then I was, indeed, very busy. But it’s been over a year now, and every time I see this man, he makes a sarcastic remark about how busy I am. “I’m glad you’re not too busy with your career to come to church today.” I dropped my daughter off at their house for a party last week, and when he saw me chatting with his wife, he shunted me out the door saying, “She can’t talk! She’s too busy doing other things!” It’s gone from, “Wow, did he really say that in the 21st century?” to “This is exceptionally toxic, what do I say?”

So, what should I say? My husband just wants me to ignore him, but when it’s happening in front of other people, especially my young daughter (and his!) I find this incredibly inappropriate!

Still Shocked

Dear Still Shocked • Wow. And also WOW! In all my many, many years of dealing with many, many Mormon men, I have thankfully and honestly never had an experience like the one you describe. But that’s not the point. The point is that you have. In the 21st century even! So, what should you do?

Generally speaking, I like to ignore mildly bad behavior. It seems to me that making a deal about it only gives the behavior more power than it deserves. And that’s what I would tell you to do … if this was just a one-off experience. HOWEVER! Since this individual is both disrespectful AND persistent, I would say to him (preferably in front of your daughter), “Dude. Just stop.”

If you’re lucky, he’ll quit speaking to you altogether.

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.