In our mid-twenties my husband, Drew, and I lived near a military base. Our ward was predominately composed of army families. We were but a minor fraction of the membership that was not associated with the military.
Drew served as Elders Quorum President for the majority of our time there, roughly 3 years. He was then called to be the Ward Executive Secretary for just under a year until we moved. I served in the Young Women’s Presidency up until I was pregnant with our second son, and then served in the Primary.
The husbands of the military families were strong, hard working, faithful men. Certainly not perfect, but good men nonetheless. They were gone quite frequently for days, months, or even years at a time due to their military obligations. There was a heavy wave of deployment during our time there and many men left for the Middle East. Some returned broken, and a few did not return at all. In their absence, many women and children were left behind to fill the rows of pews in the chapel.
There were so many women and children and so few Priesthood holders that the weight of the various Priesthood responsibilities fell onto the backs of a select group of men that offered stability to the ward membership. Drew was among them. Over the four years we served there, I watched my husband work rigorously, tirelessly serving in three or four Priesthood callings at a time. Home teaching was extremely time-consuming as he visited up to 8 families a month—most of them husbandless or having severe family issues relating to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There was also a rampant amount of pornography addictions that needed to be addressed as pornography and sexual violence seemed prevalent in the military. As Elder’s Quorum President, Drew was responsible for maintaining a Priesthood relationship with the fathers and husbands that were deployed overseas, while still tending to the Priesthood needs of the soldiers wives and children that were left behind.
I remember one night in particular he received an urgent phone call to help a returned soldier and his family who was having a dangerous outburst of PTSD. Drew offered countless blessings of comfort and many hours of love and devotion, but there was only so much he could do. He is only one man.
I had the honor of serving with some of the most strong, valiant, faithful women I had ever met. Their devotion to their faith and husbands was unwavering as they brought their children to church alone each Sunday, some of whom struggled greatly with depression or mourning the loss of their husband. Every Sunday it was the same story: loyal, worthy women unable to serve in Priesthood positions, men (my husband included) worked raw with the weight of multiple Priesthood callings, and me, powerless to serve equivalently with my husband when there was so much more I could give.
This was not the first time I had observed a group of worthy, capable women left the in the wake of an imperfect system. We were all worthy with the same common goal, but powerless to execute due to gender policies.
We have been counseled repeatedly to practice self-reliance and yet the soldiers’ wives were not given the necessary tools to be self-reliant in our church.