For as long as I can remember as a child and adolescent my mother would care for the linens used at the sacrament table. I don't think anyone asked her to do this. She was never called and set apart, yet she carefully washed, starched and ironed the sacrament linens regularly. The sacrament table, when prepared, was always perfect in a way that only freshly starched linens can achieve. I also have a (vague) memory of her buying linens for the sacrament table with her own money. I don't know if this was standard at the time in the "mission field" where we lived, but my mother made sure that the tablecloths were of very high quality. I remember that they were of a luxurious weave and had white embroidery.
When I became a teenager it was my job as a male, of course, to help prepare the sacrament. I noticed at the time a difference between the attitude of devotion that my mother had in caring for the sacrament linens (I should also mention that she treated the cloth itself with respect, as if it were holy) and the casual, sometimes disrespectful manner of the boys who prepared the sacrament table. This difference in attitude registered with me, but as a teenager I didn't have the maturity to understand what it meant.
I doubt that my mother ever got a word of thanks for the many years of service she performed. I know that she was not looking for thanks. I think it was simply an act of worship.
Today I have mixed emotions about what my mother did. On the one hand, I admire her devotion, constancy and willingness to honor to symbols that were sacred to her. On the other hand, I have a hard time reconciling that with the public gratitude that was often expressed over the pulpit for the pimply, barely interested adolescent boys (myself included in this sorry lot) who performed the ritual. I have a hard time interpreting this as anything other than even more evidence that men and boys are valued and celebrated in ways that women and girls are not in LDS culture.
My mother (who was born in the first quarter of the 20th century) was of another era. She was extraordinarily bright and talented; she gave up graduate school in a scientific field to marry my father (women's options were not then what they are now); she raised five children. She was my father's equal in every way, yet it was my father who as stake president called bishops and organized the multimillion dollar building program of our stake. My father got an incredible amount of adulation for what he did while my mother starched the sacrament linens, unnoticed. I wonder in the end whose act of devotion meant more.
I think the LDS insistence on "eternal gender" is misplaced. There's absolutely no reason to segregate men's and women's ecclesiastical responsibilities. There's no reason whatsoever to value the contributions of one group of people over another and to exclude whole categories of people from leadership. I, for one, would love to see Carol Lynn Pearson called to the Quorum of the Twelve, and I think my mother should have been the bishop of my ward.