Two anecdotes: 1) Recently our bishop was teaching an Aaronic Priesthood lesson to a small group of young men that included a newly ordained deacon, the only deacon in the ward and the de facto president of the quorum. The earnest (and highly educated) bishop was zeroing in on the deacon, explaining that as the deacon’s quorum president he was one of only four people in the ward who hold the power to turn keys. 2) A (different) bishop was teaching a sharing time lesson in Primary in which some Aaronic priesthood holders were present. Speaking of Joseph Smith’s restoration of the priesthood, he said that the priesthood is the power to act in God’s name, which is perhaps the most common definition of priesthood in the church. He pointed to one of the priests in the audience and said “Matt has the power to act in God’s name, isn’t it great that Joseph Smith restored it?” I happened to be looking at my (9-year-old) daughter, and she was crestfallen.
Aside from the obvious problems of a) how this means the deacon in at least one sense trumps the Relief Society President, b) how easily adopted this kind of rhetoric is in all-male contexts, and c) how characteristically blind men are (myself included) to the way such rhetoric affects non-males, another problem strikes me: that of agency.