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THE WINTER 2012 ISSUE OF EXPONENT II WILL BE GUEST EDITED BY
THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT
The Mormon Women Project is a continuously expanding digital library of
interviews with Latter-day Saint women from around the world.
MARCHING TO HER
tiring peace to Ine lives of women around the world. Both
Research Institute at BYU for 16 years, Bonnie has demo
Snare this article: ~| Email
OWER OF A
THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT
Upcoming Salon: Provo, UT Sept. 15th
online at www.exponentii.org
THE MORMON WOMEN PROJECT
Join The Mormon Women Project at www.MormonWomen.com
HABITS OF BEING
MORMON WOMEN'S MATERIAL CULTURE
The things our ancestors leave us are much
more than aesthetic objects. They are physical
reminders of our ancestors' legacies to us -
identities that descend as deep as our DNA,
cultural surroundings as brittle and as beautiful
as fine china, and thoughts as complex as
Continental philosophy. A family Bible, an
heirloom recipe, or a treasured quilt each carry
stories that can influence our way of being and
thinking for generations.
online at www.exponentii.org
AIT TO GET
PUBLISHING THE EXPERIENCES OF MORMON WOMEN SINCE 19
AND THE POLITICS
TO SAY DURING
ON THE COVER:
"In the Room-
WHAT IS EXPONENT II:
The purpose of Exponent II is to provide a forum for Mormon women to
share their life experiences in an atmosphere of trust and acceptance.
This exchange allows us to better understand each other and shape
the direction of our lives. Our common bond is our connection to The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our commitment to
women. We publish this paper as a living history in celebration of the
strength and diversity of women.
JU^tin^ of ojJ^Lcer/y
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR .
f/v Praib& of Potdicat Biver/uty,
FAMILY POLITICS AND THE 04
POLITIC OF FAMILY
Today, most members of the Church find it almost impossible to imagine
a time when Latter-day Saint families were stigmatized as both non-
Christian and anti-American. But the politics of family has not gone away.
WHAT HAPPENED TO POLITICAL 08
COMPROMISE AND COOPERATION
Skeri^t £y. (WLarv
Her following appeal for bipartisan cooperation is especially relevant in
the current political climate.
THE REPUBLICANS' WOMEN
Do Mormon men and women differ politically?
WHAT MORMON FEMINISTS WANT 18
TO SAY DURING THE 2012 ELECTION
Mormon women of all political persuasions are needed to speak from a place
of faith in setting a new course for American politics in the 21st century.
FLANNEL BOARD: WOMAN, ARISE 23
Writing suffrage verses and setting them to well-known melodies that
they would sing at their suffrage meetings was common among Mormon
women in the 19th century.
WOMEN'S THEOLOGY: SOCIAL
WELFARE PROGRAMS: THE GOSPEL
Hart^rv Uixdt JLewm-
We will certainly form a more perfect union as we choose leaders whose
priority is the welfare of the people, who will work towards a goal of having
"no poor among us."
14 Syfarui Ccdwb-
My view of church life in the District is filtered through the political
lens inherent in the nation's capital. Surprisingly however, my ward is a
staunchly apolitical space.
AMERICAN POLITICS, EH? 16
ffy THartu TLefmrv
As the campaign for the 2012 presidency goes forward, Canadians will
hotly debate the various goings-on in U.S. government.
FRONT ROW POLITICS 32
People forget politicians are people. They forget that they have lives, have
families, and are just women and men who are trying to come up with
solutions to the country's problems.
(Ume£y Zvaryy lltck/ruwh
Ttiar^arei OCmjv Uemming/
LAYOUT DESIGNER/ EDITOR
StepznL& Carkwv Tlickjdxmeny
SISTERS SPEAK EDITOR
EXPONENT GENERATIONS EDITOR
BOOK REVIEW EDITOR
SABBATH PASTORALS EDITOR
Rachel Albertsen, Susan Christiansen, Thomas Clyde,
Lisa Hadley, Rebecca McLaverty Head, Mary Kremer,
Kendahl Millecam, Chloe Moeller, Emily Mosdell, Elisabeth
Lund Oppelt, Dayna Patterson, Natalie Prado, Karen
Rosenbaum, Chelsea Shields Strayer, Suzette Smith, Jessica
Steed and Heather Sundahl
Emily Clyde Curtis, Emily Gray, Margaret Olsen Hemming,
Aimee Evans Hickman, Denise Kelly, Linda Hoffman Kimball,
Caroline Kline, Margaret Moore, Jana Remy, Anja Shafer,
Heather Sundahl, Barbara Taylor
Linda Andrews, Cheryl DiVito, Nancy Dredge, Judy Dushku,
Karen Haglund, Deborah Farmer Kris, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
SPECIAL THANKS TO: Anne Gregerson, David Hawkinson,
The Bancroft Library; U.C. Berkeley, Sophie Soprano/Lynn
Farrar, Abbigail Knowlton Israelsen, Pat Langmade, Melissa
Leaym-Fernandez and Patrick Macaulay for the use of their
artwork in this issue.
Exponent II (ISSN 1094-7760) is published quarterly by
Exponent II Incorporated, a non-profit corporation with no
official connection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints. Articles published represent the opinions of
authors only and not necessarily those of the editor or staff.
Letters to Exponent II or its editors and Sisters Speak articles
are assumed intended for publication in whole or in part and
may therefore be used for such purposes. Copyright © 2012
by Exponent II, Inc. All rights reserved.
SUBMISSIONS TO EXPONENT II:
We welcome personal essays, articles, poetry, fiction, and
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to email@example.com or mail them to Exponent II,
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Submissions received by mail will not be returned.
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Letter from the Editor
"Hey, Red Aimee! Have a great summer. Stay cute and cool." This sentiment, or something closely resembling it, fills the pages
of my eighth-grade yearbook. At the time, I tried to think of it as a term of endearment, hoping that it meant I was at least
interesting enough to have been given a nickname. But the truth was, as an inactive Mormon girl growing up in Provo, Utah, in
the 1980s, the last thing I needed was to also be considered a Communist!
Growing up, I had always been vocal about various social causes. At age eight, I joined Greenpeace and circulated a petition
through my elementary school to "help save the whales." In the sixth grade, I chose to research the Soviet Union for our
school's World's Fair. As a child of the Cold War who'd spent sleepless nights wondering when the "star wars" would begin,
I wanted to learn about the children of the U.S.S.R. and whether or not they shared my fears. At age 12, I was too young to
be interested in Communism— I was interested in world peace— but my teacher was uncomfortable with me researching
this "godless nation." In this politically conservative environment, my burgeoning progressive viewpoints were often seen as
radical at worst and marginal at best to many of my peers and teachers. Staged debates in middle and high school on topics
including women serving in the military, capital punishment, climate change, and the welfare system often left me standing on
my own. The fact that my progressive positions could be labeled "Communist" by my peers speaks to how unacceptable and
threatening even a baby Democrat could be to some in this bastion of conservatism.
All of these dynamics were complicated by my outsider status as it related to the Church. While I had developed my political
point of view in Provo, I had done so apart from the LDS Church itself. Because all of my peers and teachers, as far as I knew,
were active Mormons who also appeared right-leaning in their politics, I became convinced that the Church's teachings must
appeal exclusively to conservative Republicans. I resolved that I could never participate in such a religion.
And yet, for the past 18 years, I have been a practicing member of the Mormon Church. While in college at the University of
Utah, I began to engage with LDS history and theology and in that study discovered that the political values I had seen in Provo
were only one possible expression of this religion's rich and complex teachings. Where one LDS practitioner can read Mormon
scripture as a call to personal agency and responsibility, another can read it as a call to social justice where individual salvation
is dependent on the collective spiritual and temporal equality of society. I have found a spiritual home and community in
Mormonism that has not forced me to compromise my political point of view. I wish I had heard more of that political diversity
while growing up in Provo. As it turns out, many of those good Mormon peers and teachers that my eighth-grade mind had
assumed were unflinching conservatives don't happen to be as conservative or intransigent as I'd once supposed. As a religious
community, I wish we would do more to celebrate the diversity our rich theology and history can produce in its members,
rather than finding strength in empty displays of conformity.
In this historic political moment, Exponent II is focused on putting to rest the notion that Latter-day Saints are one monolithic,
Christian Conservative voting bloc. A recent Pew Research poll shows that around 17% of American Mormons consider
themselves Democrats. As a feminist magazine, we know that our writers and readership tend to lean more progressive, yet
the rich diversity of political thought within Mormonism can also be seen on the following pages. From a call to bipartisanship
from former Republican Utah House Representative Sheryl Allen, to Marina Capella's sacrament meeting talk on progressive
environmental stewardship, to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's historical perspective on Mormon politics, we can experience a small
and diverse sampling of Latter-day Saint women's political perspectives.
Though it's sometimes tempting to create an identity for ourselves and others around a label, we know that real people are
more complex, interesting and wonderful than a single word can encompass. For evidence of this fact, we invite you to keep
reading . . .
FALL 2012 3
Tt\Z T^EE Tf^OUSLESOME ChlLOKEtf .
4 EXPONENT II
ree Troublesome Children," a cover illustration from
\e, 1881; courtesy the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley.
POLITItS OF FAMILY
Today, most members of the Church find it almost impossible to imagine a time when Latter-day Saint
families were stigmatized as both non-Christian and anti-American. But the politics of family has not
gone away \ By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich • Cambridge, Massachusetts
//few years ago, I attended a conference in Boise, Idaho.
l/t/f)uring a break in the meetings, I decided to visit the State
Historical Society to do a little family history. Although I hadn't
lived in Idaho for more than 50 years, I was born there and had
deep roots in the state. I knew exactly what I would say when I
got to the information desk.
"I am looking for information on two of my great-grandfathers.
One served in the territorial legislature and the other in the
territorial prison. Can you help me?"
The man at the desk laughed, and pointed me toward the
relevant records. I quickly found evidence confirming the family
legends. John B. Thatcher served a term in the Idaho legislature
in 1882 and Jeppe Folkman in the state penitentiary in 1886.
His crime— "unlawful cohabitation," or polygamy.
With other Latter-day Saints, my great-grandparents migrated
into southeastern Idaho from Utah in the 1870s. For a time,
Idahoans tolerated the Mormon presence, but after the passage
of the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, federal marshals
began arresting polygamists and the Idaho legislature passed a
law disenfranchising Mormons. That is why Great-Grandfather
Thatcher served only one term in the Territorial Legislature
and why my Great-Grandfather Folkman was fined and sent to
prison. Great-Grandfather Thatcher might have gone to prison
too, but his first wife died in 1882, leaving him with only one
spouse. The Idaho Test Act of 1884 went beyond the federal
law in making it illegal for anyone to vote, stand for office,
or serve on a jury who belonged to an organization "which
practices bigamy or polygamy or plural or celestial marriage,
as a doctrinal rite." In essence, it stigmatized belief as well as
action and made affiliation itself a crime.
"Over the years, Mormons have been both
citizens and outcasts, participants and
pariahs in the body politic. "
The stories of my two ancestors suggest the larger history of
Latter-day Saints in politics. Over the years, Mormons have been
both citizens and outcasts, participants and pariahs in the body
politic. From the 1830s onward, people disdained Mormons
because of their habit of hiving together, their clannishness,
their propensity to vote as a bloc, their belief in revelation, and
their supposed intention to take over the country and turn it
into a prophetic dominion. Only later was polygamy added to
the list of charges, but when that happened opponents of the
Church acquired a powerful weapon.
19th century Americans, like Americans today, knew how to
practice the politics of family. Critics of the church portrayed
the church as a den of immorality and licentiousness and a
danger not only to conventional morality but to the democratic
process itself. In the Congressional debate over passage of the
Edmunds Act, Representative Charles Williams of Wisconsin
charged that such a practice "not only disrupts and destroys
the family, but it makes the family impossible. It banishes the
sacred word 'home'. . . It blots out the sweetest phrases in
this world, 'parent and child,' 'father and mother,' in any sense
worth repeating. It does more: it loosens the foundations of
civil government; it takes away the corner-stone of republican
It has been more than a century since the Church abandoned
plural marriage. Given the Church's explosive growth, fewer
and fewer members have any reason to remember our
polygamous past. Today, most members of the Church find
it almost impossible to imagine a time when Latter-day Saint
families were stigmatized as both non-Christian and anti-
American. But the politics of family has not gone away. For
that reason alone, Latter-day Saints might want to consider the
anti-polygamy crusade of the late 19th century.
For my part, I cannot forget it. My great-grandparents died
long before I was born, but my father's father, Nathan Davis
Thatcher, was a great story teller, and he made sure that his
grandchildren knew the family history. As a child I loved to hear
him tell how he outran the U.S. Marshal when he was arrested
for attempting to vote in Idaho in 1888, the year he turned 21.
Grandpa wasn't a polygamist. He wasn't even married. But the
Idaho Test Oath made him an outlaw. As I remember the story,
the United States Marshal found him working in a field on his
father's farm, presented him with a summons, and told him to
show up at the courthouse in Blackfoot the next day. When
Grandpa got to Blackfoot, he found the court house, the jail, and
even the box cars along the railroad siding so full of Mormons
that he knew it would be hours, maybe days, before his case
could be heard. He also knew that if the judge ruled against
him, he too might end up in jail and would have no chance to
vote. So he decided to defy the law and hop a train for home.
As he took a seat, he looked up to see the U.S. Marshal entering
the same car. He quickly slipped into the next car. The Marshal
followed, but Grandpa stayed one step ahead of his pursuer
until he got to the end of the train. Then he jumped off into the
night and walked the rest of the way home. He went to the polls
and cast his vote the next day.
"Grandpa's lesson in civil disobedience didnt
teach me to disdain government. It taught
me to cherish my right to vote. I think it also
prepared me to identify with others denied
the rights of citizenship as I grew older. "
Grandpa's lesson in civil disobedience didn't teach me to
disdain government. It taught me to cherish my right to vote.
I think it also prepared me to identify with others denied the
rights of citizenship as I grew older. I was in high school when
the Supreme Court ruled school segregation illegal and in
college when the Church's denial of full membership to African-
Americans became an issue. Later, I discovered the history of
Mormon feminism and learned that the same federal legislation
that sent Jeppe Folkman to jail banned women suffrage in the
Territory of Utah. As I researched and taught American history,
the story broadened.
I sometimes tell my students that the history of the United
States is a terrible/wonderful story, an account of a sustained
struggle by ordinary people to help the United States fulfill ideals
often violated in practice. The United States wasn't created by
a small group of "Founding Fathers," however important their
work might have been, but by generations of Americans who
cared enough about their country to vote, stand for office,
protest, demonstrate, and sometimes go to jail.
Some of my Idaho relatives weren't happy when I defended
Martin Luther King in the not-infrequent debates that took
place around the family dinner table in the 1960s. They
thought he was a Communist. But they had forgotten their own
history. An especially poignant part of that history was the
association between Latter-day Saints and suspect racial and
ethnic groups. Benjamin B. Ferris, a federal official who spent
six months in Utah in the 1850s, argued that although God
had allowed the ancient Jews to practice polygamy due to
the "hardness of their hearts," such a system now belonged
only "to the indolent and opium-eating Turks and Asiatics,
the miserable Africans, the North American savages, and the
Latter-day Saints." The only solution to polygamy, he argued,
was the "ultimate disorganization of the Mormon community."
In 19th century novels, newspapers, political speeches, and
even in academic journals, Mormons were linked with Muslims,
Jews, African slaves, American Indians, and with heterodox
ideas like socialism, mesmerism, mysticism, and even feminism.
Writers simply couldn't make up their minds about Mormon
women. In 1857, one writer lampooned polygamous wives for
dressing in a kind of bloomer costume and for being "strong-
minded." More commonly writers portrayed them as victims
of patriarchy, an assumption that allowed the abrogation of
female suffrage. Ironically, Mormons didn't differ a great deal
from other Americans in their racial assumptions. In his 1852
defense of polygamy, Parley P. Pratt assumed that in distributing
pre-existent spirits God favored the mostly Caucasian converts
to Mormonism over "the Hottentots, the African negroes, the
idolatrous Hindoos, or any other of the fallen nations that dwell
upon the face of this earth."
On both sides, such arguments were promoted as defenses
of "the family." Mormons wanted to preserve what they
considered to be the true blood of Israel. Their opponents
wanted to keep Mormons and other
minorities from tainting the American
polity. The same congressional jj
session that passed the Edmunds
Anti-Polygamy Act passed a Chinese
Exclusion Act that banned further
immigration of Chinese laborers
and the naturalization of those
already here, and that, through court
interpretation, prevented the wives
of already resident Chinese laborers
from joining their husbands. To do so,
one judge explained, might allow the
Chinese to bring their minor children
into the country. The goal was to
reduce the Asian population, not
we should be proud
OF THE FACT THAT AN
AND A MORMON
can become standard bearers
FOR POLITICAL PARTIES
that once disdained them.
AND FOR THE RECORD,
both men are descended from
A cartoon published in a San Francisco
newspaper in 1881 shows how the so-
called "Mormon question" intersected
with concerns about other minorities. It portrays the United
States as a household inhabited by a negligent "Uncle Sam" and
his harried wife "Columbia." Distracted by politics, Sam is unable
to assert his authority over his family, leaving his obviously
overwhelmed spouse to cope alone with "Three Troublesome
Children"— a Chinaman, an American Indian, and a Mormon.
Although the cartoon is crudely racist, it wouldn't take much
to shift the labels to convey some of the more extreme forms
of present-day political rhetoric. While Congress dithers, some
argue, Americans are left to cope alone with threats from illegal
aliens, Muslim terrorists, and gay activists.
I do not mean to suggest a one-to-one correlation between 19th
century issues and those that animate political debate today.
Nor am I condemning those who oppose gay marriage, worry
about terrorism, or favor stricter immigration laws. I do mean to
question simplistic notions about the nature of the "American
family." In the heat of contemporary politics, I think it might
be worth remembering that Latter-day Saints, too, were once
considered a danger to the body politic.
It says something about the strength of our democracy that in
this year's presidential election, an African-American will face
a Mormon. The two men have a lot
in common. Both are graduates of
Harvard Law School. Both have lovely
wives and impressive children. Both
have reputations for honesty and hard
work. Both want to make the country
stronger, encourage economic
growth, protect the environment,
and preserve liberty. It doesn't make
sense to demonize either one of them
in the name of religion. I have no
more use for partisan commentators
who use Romney's Mormonism as
a charge against him than for those
who use Obama's Muslim heritage
or his membership in a militant black
church as a reason to mistrust him.
Neither man is a racist. Both men
represent the ascendancy of once-
stigmatized minorities in American
political life. As Americans we should
be proud of the fact that an African-American and a Mormon
can become standard bearers for political parties that once
disdained them. And for the record, both men are descended
Second LDS Church leader Brigham Young had 55 wives
FALL 2012 7
Anne Gregerson ■ "In the Same Boat" • Provo, Utah | Photographer, David Hawkinson, www.HawkinsonPhotography.com
COMPROMISE AND COOPERATION?
Sheryl Allen served for 16 years in the Utah House of Representatives. She also served as President of
the Women's Legislative Network of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Americans for the
Arts honored her in 2006 with the National Award for State Arts Leadership. Her following appeal
for bipartisan cooperation is especially relevant in the current political climate.
By Sheryl L. Allen \ Bountiful, Utah
/lyj yKy would a lifelong Republican
VV and 16-year veteran state
legislator run with a Democrat for
Lt. Governor in America's reddest
state, Utah? I am that Republican,
and I don't ask myself why. I know
The seed was planted when I was a
student at the University of Utah. A
sorority sister, Jodi King, invited her father to come speak one
Sunday night at the sorority house. Everyone came. How often
do college girls get to listen to a U.S. Congressman? Democrat
David King from Utah packed the room and spoke eloquently
about the need for balanced government. "The United States
needs the compromise demanded by a balanced government
between not only the executive and legislative branches
of government but between political parties. It's what the
Founding Fathers intended."
Compromise! Balanced government! Forty-five years later
that still resonates, and I ache for it. Republican commentator
and speechwriter Peggy Noonan agrees. In Patriotic Grace
she writes, "We're going to get through the difficult times as
Democrats and Republicans together, as Americans together.
We knew this in our bones after 9/11. But time passed, things
happened, and we forgot Our pointless enmity must end."
I entered the Utah House of Representatives in 1994 when
Republicans dominated, but the split between parties was
64 percent Republican and 36 percent Democrat. Democrats
had enough votes to block controversial amendments to the
state constitution, an act that requires a two-thirds majority.
Democrats could join with moderate Republicans, of which I
was one, to demand compromise or force amendments to bills.
As a freshman legislator, balanced government seemed to be
working even with majority Republican governance. Utah had a
strong Republican governor who was moderate in his approach
to public policy, and he worked with members of both political
parties. He understood that his office was co-equal to the
legislature. I didn't have to give much thought to Rep. King's
remarks of so long ago, and enmity did not reign.
But things began to change. Through a combination of
redistricting, the sheer power of political money, and political
savvy, Republicans won an even larger majority in the Utah
legislature. The moderate wing of Republican members
became ineffective as the Patrick Henry Caucus, an offshoot
of the Tea Party, expanded, wielded considerable power, and
demanded loyalty from other Republicans. If a legislator didn't
"go along," she often found herself not "getting along." Her bills
were frequently defeated, held (a legislative maneuver to bury
a bill), or they were lost in sifting during the last days of the
legislative session. I know a lot about that. It was not unusual
for me to be the recipient of these not-so-subtle techniques.
Compromise not only suffered; it was practically extinct.
The demise of cooperation between political parties or political
philosophies within the same party is often gradual. However,
in Utah, a big shift came in 2007, the year of school vouchers.
Vouchers allow parents of students who attend private schools
to use public money issued via a voucher to pay all or part
of student tuition. It's a big part of the national movement to
privatize public services such as prisons, school lunch, and even
some social services.
The battle to pass school vouchers in Utah started in the 1980s.
Conservative Republicans supported the idea while moderate
Republicans and Democrats typically did not. Candidate
positions on school vouchers became a topic in every Utah
legislative election, and it often became the defining issue in
Republican primary elections. If a candidate supported school
vouchers, they could depend on significant political donations
and campaign assistance from pro-voucher supporters. If a
candidate opposed vouchers, they could depend on modest
campaign donations and campaign assistance from educators.
Most legislative districts in Utah are not competitive between
political parties, but legislative seats are competitive in intra-
A legislator's position on school vouchers influenced everything
from her election to membership in caucuses within both the
Utah House and Senate, but particularly in the House. By 2007,
legislative leadership was determined to pass a school voucher
bill. There was backroom arm-twisting and offers of political
rewards for a vote switch to support school vouchers. After
weeks of tense debate and by a 38 to 37 House vote, the Utah
Legislature passed the nation's first state-wide school voucher
bill to allow the use of state money for students to attend
private schools— even religious schools. For years I had worked
to rally the Republican moderates to oppose school vouchers,
but it was legislative leadership that had the muscle.
Immediately after legislative adjournment, opponents of the
bill organized to conduct a rare referendum, a public effort to
recall the bill. The referendum required getting the signatures
of 10 percent of the electorate in 15 of Utah's 29 counties within
45 days, a Herculean task. The effort was led by dedicated
individuals primarily affiliated with the Utah Education
Association and the Utah Parent Teacher Association.
Along with thousands of volunteers, I assisted this work, and
the petition drive miraculously succeeded. In the November
election, after a campaign that totaled $8 million in expenditures
from both sides, school vouchers were defeated by a 62 percent
majority, a mandate in political terms.
However, the political war was not over. To marginalize the
influence of public employees, the legislature has since
banned payroll deductions to public employee political action
committees, and there have been legislative attempts, some
successful, to minimize the membership and influence of the
Magnified by the recession, there has been a significant decline
in the effort for public education funding. I believe that had
there been more balance between political parties, the voucher
fight would have been avoided, and education funding would
likely be healthier.
Political rhetoric in Utah is not as harsh and divisive as we
hear coming from Washington. Utah Democrats are such a
small minority that their oratory is necessarily and frequently
tempered in order to be admitted into political discussions.
But more balance is needed to ensure that public policy more
accurately represents the general public interest. At present,
public policy often represents only political conservatives.
Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and author who bravely
supported the cause of the American Revolution while serving
in the British House of Commons, wrote, "All government—
indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and
every prudent act— is founded on compromise and barter."
Yet what we are hearing in both Washington and the halls
of our state capitols is overheated
rhetoric for the purpose of electoral
dominance rather than prudent acts
for the benefit of the general public.
When retiring U.S. Senator Olympia
Snowe from Maine was asked why
she was not seeking reelection, she
responded, "Unfortunately, I do not
realistically expect the partisanship
of recent years in the Senate to
change over the short term." Extreme
partisanship soured her willingness
to serve. What a tragedy to lose an
experienced Senator who was willing
to work across the aisle in an effort
to solve the challenges in America. Will her replacement be
another partisan purist and serve a political party or serve our
country? Whom will your elected representative serve?
In the 2010 Utah election I ran for Lt. Governor on the
Democratic ticket with Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
I did not change my party affiliation. I am still a registered
Republican. One does not run for any office without a spark of
optimism, but I well understood the Republican dominance in
my beloved state. However, I recognized the need for balance
and for working together for the common good. In my opinion,
the incumbent Governor initially bowed too frequently to
the demands of the Legislature rather than standing as a co-
equal branch of government. Bills were often passed without
due consideration to the minority party or even the obvious
sentiments of the public. Balance and compromise were
needed, and I wanted to be part of that message.
Peter Corroon was not only a proven, capable administrator,
he was a practicing Catholic. LDS Church members dominate
in Utah. When the Church has a political interest, the Church
influences legislation by working directly (and quietly) with
legislators to sponsor, amend, or defeat bills. For example,
Church lobbyists are known to have been repeatedly involved
in liquor control legislation. Liquor is sold only in liquor stores
owned by the State, and liquor licenses for restaurants and bars
are strictly limited, perhaps to the detriment of tourism.
A wise, pragmatic Catholic governor would have been
a refreshing change to the LDS
dominance in Utah and a balance to my
active LDS faith. Think Mitt Romney.
He selected an active Catholic, Paul
Ryan, as his vice-presidential running-
mate. LDS members recognize the
importance of religious balance on the
national level. Shouldn't that balance
exist on a state level in Utah?
The Democratic ticket of Corroon/
Allen was soundly defeated during
the Republican conservative surge
that swept the country in 2010. Utah
became even more conservative. We
accomplished little in altered public
policy, but we pointed the way toward improved, balanced
It's time for a rebirth of political cooperation and negotiation. I
hope the message of a Democratand a Republican campaigning
together will resonate in the future. I hope we elect more
Olympia Snowes who will reach across the aisle and then
persevere in that endeavor. Partisan enmity must end if we are
going to effectively resolve this country's challenges.
... what we are hearing in
both Washington and the
halls of our state capitols
is overheated rhetoric for
the purpose of electoral
dominance rather than
prudent acts for the benefit
of the general public. U
10 EXPONENT II
Women's liberation march from Farrugut Square to Layfette Park
Mormon women have been active in politics since the beginning of the Church. In the first piece from The Woman's Exponent, Laura
Miner emphasizes the importance of women taking their recently won voting rights seriously. Judy Dushku reflects on the impact
of Sonia Johnson's excommunication of Mormon women in the wake of the fight for the ERA in the winter 1980 issue of Exponent II.
Meghan Raynes' final piece from The Exponent blog describes the potential impact of current proposed legislation on women's health
and reproductive freedom.
Loura A/I. Miner \ Salt Lake City, Utah \ March 8th, 1874
The election has come and gone, and how often has been
heard from women the remark, "Oh! No thank you, I did not
vote, I am not strong-minded." Poor, silly things! Did you not
know that by such a speech you called forth pity for yourselves
and the male members of your families, from every thoughtful
person? Acknowledge, if you will, that you are indifferent to the
interests of the community in which you dwell, or, that you are
too ignorant to understand the social and political questions
involved, but do not say it is because you lack moral strength to
express those opinions in public.
There is no misery entailed on the other sex by marriage so
great as that of being united to a weak-minded woman. Fancy
what a safeguard the counsels of a woman would be to a man in
the temptations that beset him in his youth, what a comforter in
the hour of adversity, how unflinchingly she could bear poverty
by his side and help him to meet, with indifference, the scorn
that the world heaps upon failure. Better! Ten thousand times
better be strong minded, the true companion of your husband
and brothers, the guide and promoter of your children's welfare,
than the puny, inane creature who has not the strength to think.
I do not advocate the claims, of a masculine woman, to
admiration. On the contrary, I think she should be sweet,
and womanly, and not flaunt her opinions in every one's face
because she knows enough to form them; no more than a man,
though he be an athlete, should attempt the role of a bully and
prize fighter, yet who sometimes might realize that strength
was a Godsend to him for the defense of those he reverenced or
loved. So should we consider and guard the elective franchise,
using it conscientiously, as a God-given privilege, and when
men are placed in nomination, of rulers or delegates who would
rob us for our rights, our united ballot should be against them.
But, methinks, I hear the gentlemen say, "We will restore the
right of dower." Sirs, are you so ignorant of the doings of the
Utah Legislature that you do not know that at the same session
during which they took away the right of dower, they gave us
the right to hold property exclusive of our husbands' control?
So that an industrious woman, with a trade or business, though
tied to a thriftless man, need not be despoild of her earnings
to supply the needs of his lazy existence. And the heiress,
who would fain be loved for herself alone, need not fear the
advances of the fortune hunter, for her possessions are still hers
after marriage, if she chooses to retain them; it is only through
her affections that she can be reduced to beggary.
But here is where Legislatures, Congress and Presidents have
failed to repeal the flat given to women by the great Law Giver, in
the day of her creation, "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and
he shall rule over thee"; and every loving wife feels the force of
it as strongly now as she could the day it was promulgated and
she would not have it otherwise. But for any upstart demagogue
or unprincipled libertine to claim the right to legislate for, and
govern a woman's heart and conscience, simply because he is a
man, is what no strong-minded woman will concede.
Should such men succeed, however, in disfranchising us, we will
continue to study the art of self-government and the principles
of religion and so instruct our children that it shall not be said
"Her pride was crushed,
Her sons were willing slaves, nor blushed
In their own land, no more their own,
To crouch beneath a stranger's throne.
Where slaves, converted by the sword,
Their mean apostate worship pour'd,
And cursed the faith their sires adored."
simply long for clarity.
But of all the groups that concern me, I have thought most about
the impact of this event on LDS women. Women have indicated
by their intense curiosity, by their tearfulness in discussing
the subject, by their often fierce reactions to Sonia, or by their
own statements, that the excommunication of Sonia Johnson
means something to them personally. Even those who insist
that this is a singular and specific case outside the stewardship
of all onlookers often comment that perhaps it should be taken
as a warning to other women in the Church to more closely
follow Church leadership. One friend wondered if she would
be forced to curtail her activities in behalf of daycare centers.
Another half-jokingly warned me that she might one day be
excommunicated for protesting the absence of changing tables
in the men's rooms of LDS chapels. I smiled at her statement,
but at the same time it occurred to me that many of us have
taken this situation personally.
ASSESSING THE SITUATION
Judy Dushku \ Watertown, Massachusetts \ Winter 1980 \ Vol. 6.2
The excommunication of Sonia Johnson is a complicated event
and will continue to affect the lives of many. Much has been
said about how Sonia and the Mormons for ERA have negatively
affected potential converts to the Church by exposing the
Church's political activities. It is a sad irony, however, that
many more might be discouraged by the now widespread
image of the Church as anti-feminist, or as unsympathetic to
women. Many of my women friends who had never heard of
Sonia Johnson and probably perceived the Church— especially
since its highly successful TV ad campaigns on family life— as
the great American family-centered church, now have a new,
more negative view of the Church. For the first week after Sonia
was excommunicated, I felt defensive and embarrassed by
all the comments from these friends. But now I just feel sad,
and I pray heartily that women will have successes in teaching
the Gospel to other women as President Kimball, in his recent
Women's Fireside address, said they would in these last days.
It will require the support and efforts of many of us to counter
the effects of the Church's bad image caused by the current
In addition to potential converts, Mormons themselves have
been affected by Sonia's excommunication. For some
people, what they perceive as the "calling on the carpet" of
an outspoken LDS feminist has been a comfort. They see in
Sonia's excommunication an affirmation of the traditional
family style and clear-cut sex roles. Still other Mormons are
concerned about church/state questions. Many members
Without forgetting the seriousness of the problems this issue
has created, I have had some very good feelings, too, about
what all this means for LDS women. Official statements have
urged well-informed action by Church members on matters
political. Many of us have paid only lip-service to this notion
with regards to the ERA. The current publicity has found many
of us unprepared for the questions being asked of us by our
friends. Several women have told me that because they have
been asked tough questions about why the Church has taken an
anti-ERA stand, they are seriously reading and thinking about
these issues. I believe in this process of gathering information
and thinking through our position on issues which have become
important nationally and in the eyes of the Church.
In the Gospel Doctrine class which I teach, I have been struck
with the example of Joseph Smith as the truth-seeker. So often,
beautiful revelations came to him only after he struggled with
a problem and faithfully questioned the Lord. For the last 10
years, people have raised rhetorical questions about what
the women's movement means for LDS women and what the
special challenges are for women in these last days. Because of
the events of this past month or two, such questions have been
treated with a new seriousness which I find very reassuring.
I am excited by the fact that this new
decade seems to be dawning with
these questions clearly before us.
I personally have had some very
meaningful discussions with
LDS women over what Sonia's
excommunication means to each
of us. I have also talked more with my non-LDS women friends
about differences and similarities in Mormon and non-Mormon
perceptions of women's roles, callings and goals than ever
before. I feel good about having been forced to consider my
own views on the ERA. All the confusion I have experienced
over this issue has brought me more frequently to my knees
than has been my recent custom. While I cannot report that
this has brought me the clarity of insight that I had sought on
the specifics of this case, communion with the Lord has its own
Despite my fluctuations of feelings about the subject, right now
I sense that it is worth the frustration and turmoil to see this
crisis through— to pray, to continue our usual Church service, to
have faith in the process and in the outcome. Perhaps this is all
just part of our own special refiner's fire. Surely great challenges
and great rewards await us.
Meghan Raynes \ Denver, Colorado \ Combined from two blog posts
originally posted on March 26th and April 4th of 2012
I was seven months pregnant in October of 2010 when my
midwife alerted me to the fact that my chosen post-pregnancy
method of birth control, a copper IUD, might not be available.
A proposed amendment to the state of Colorado's constitution
was seeking to codify the rights of the unborn at the moment
of conception. If Amendment 62, or the "Personhood"
Amendment, was passed many forms of birth control, including
the IUD, would no longer be available for fear that they would
prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman's uterus.
The Personhood Amendment had already been defeated by the
people of Colorado in 2008, yet the backers of this initiative had
the hubris to believe that they knew better than the electorate
and that they had the right to make women's reproductive
choices. It wasn't enough for these people to not use those
forms of birth control themselves; they actively sought to take
away my right to make medical choices regarding my own body.
For a variety of reasons which I won't explain and shouldn't
have to explain, the copper IUD was the only form of birth
control that would work for me. But those who support policies
like the Personhood Amendment don't care about individual
circumstances. They don't care about medical realities. They
don't care about a woman's quality of life. They believe that
protecting even the remotest possibility of life is more important
than all of the collateral damage it does to those lives already
I have heard some argue that the term "war on women"
is overblown and irresponsible political rhetoric. Such an
argument is the privilege of those who have full control over
their bodies. Had the Fetal Personhood Amendment passed in
my state I would not have had full control over my body. I can
tell you, that felt like an attack. I felt like my very life was being
Research has consistently shown that women's empowerment
and reproductive freedom are inextricably tied. With the advent
of affordable, easily accessible and reliable contraception
pregnancy is no longer the defining fact of a woman's life.
Control over reproduction has opened worlds for women that
were formally dominated by men. Threatening reproductive
freedom also threatens the gains women have made and once
again, biology may become our destiny.
Peer-reviewed research shows that the status of women,
which includes women's autonomy and reproductive freedom,
dramatically predicts the incidence of violence against women.
States that have the highest number of restrictions on abortions
and contraception also report the highest rates of violence
against women. The message society sends when women are
given full bodily autonomy is that we are fully human and have
the right to physical integrity. There is legitimate fear that this
sustained "conversation" about reproductive freedom has cast
doubt in the minds of some on whether women have the right
to bodily autonomy and are thereby, fully human.
Indeed, America is already seeing the consequences of this
play out in legislation that threatens the physical security of
women. It is no coincidence that what started as a coordinated
effort against reproductive rights has taken the country to
a place where the decriminalization of domestic violence in
Topeka, Kansas, is seen as an appropriate mean to solve fiscal
problems, and where the Violence Against Women Act can
go un-renewed because of the opposition and posturing of a
mainstream political party.
We do not have data yet on whether there has been an uptick
in violence perpetrated against women, but it will be surprising
to no one if there is. While male pundits and politicians have
been arguing over whether women have the right to control
their own bodies, perpetrators have already decided that they
don't. And the fact that this is even an issue up for debate only
validates the misogynistic worldview of abusers and rapists.
This fight is about so much more than reproductive freedom.
This war is about our humanity and it is personal to us. If we
lose this war, we will have lost everything.
Do Mormon men and women differ politically? \ By David Campbell • Granger, Indiana
/s there a gender gap among Mormons? Every election season,
pundits remind us all that there is a gender gap among
American voters, as women favor Democrats over Republicans.
The root cause of the gap is the Republicans' women problem.
It is not that men have flocked to the Republicans, but that
women have left their ranks to join with the Democrats. With
Mormons in the national spotlight like never before, this raises
the interesting question of whether we see the same gender
gap among Latter-day Saints. Do Mormon men and women
The short answer is: Yes, they do. But the gender gap is less
in the party they support than the positions they hold on the
major issues of the day. While Mormon women are mostly
conservative, they have a more moderate— one might even say
compassionate— flavor of conservatism than Mormon men.
All of the results I report here come from a nationally
representative survey of 500 Mormons that I conducted in
January of 2012, along with my colleagues Quin Monson (BYU)
and John Green (University of Akron). Five hundred people
may not sound like a lot, but for a scientific poll of a smallish
group like Mormons, this is a large enough sample size to have
statistical confidence in our findings. (Eventually our findings
will be published in a book, tentatively titled Seeking the Promised
Land: Mormons and American Politics).
The first thing to note about Mormons is that they are heavily
Republican— more so than any other religious group in America.
In 2008, of those Mormons who cast a ballot for either John
McCain or Barack Obama, 83 percent chose McCain. There
was a hint of a gender gap, as 85 percent of LDS men voted for
McCain compared to 81 percent of women, but that difference
is obviously minor. Similarly, Mormon men are slightly more
likely to identify as Republicans than are women, although
the difference is mostly in the strength of their attachment
to a Republican affiliation. Forty percent of LDS men describe
themselves as strong Republicans, compared to 29 percent of
The gender gap is slightly more pronounced among Mormons
who believe that women should have more say in the Church, a
question meant to gauge attitudes toward gender roles among
Mormons. Among women who would like more say, 30 percent
voted for President Obama. Among men who think women
should play a greater role in the Church, 20 percent voted for
While these results suggest a whisper of a gender gap, the
headline story is the overwhelming Republican-ness of Latter-
day Saints. This is not to say, though, that LDS women and men
always share the same political views. On virtually every issue
that might matter in the 2012 election, Mormon women are to
the left of Mormon menfolk. And unlike the differences in party
preference and the 2008 presidential vote, these gender gaps
do not vary according to one's opinion on the role of women in
For example, LDS women are more likely than men to approve
of abortion, although the differences are slight. Borrowing
from a standard question used by other pollsters, we asked
our respondents whether they would approve of abortion in a
series of circumstances. On two situations in which LDS policy
approves of abortion — rape and endangerment to the mother's
health — men and women are equally, and overwhelmingly,
likely to approve of abortion. When "there is a strong chance
of a defect in the baby," women are eight percentage points
more likely to approve than men (37 versus 29 percent).
14 EXPONENT II
While the level of approval is markedly lower, there are similar
gender differences for the other situations polled: the woman
is unmarried, she is poor and cannot afford another child, she
is married and does not want more children, or she wants the
abortion for "any reason."
The story is similar for the other "sex and family" issues in the
current political ether. I suspect no one would have predicted
that we would be debating birth control in 2012, but between
the health care reform law's contraception mandate and
Rush Limbaugh's subsequent comments on the matter, the
issue is on the table. Virtually all Mormons approve of birth
control for married couples, but LDS women are more likely
to approve "strongly" of contraception. While Mormons as a
whole express strong opposition to same-sex marriage, LDS
women are slightly more likely to approve (15 percent) than
are men (eight percent). Mormon women are also more likely
to agree that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.
Gay adoption is an especially interesting issue, since unlike
marriage, LDS leaders have not taken a visible public position
on the subject. Presumably this is the reason that Mormons are
more supportive of gay adoption than gay marriage. Among
LDS women, 40 percent approve of adoption by gay couples,
compared to 27 percent of men who approve.
However, the biggest gender differences are not on issues that
deal with sex and family, but guns and butter. LDS women
are more likely to favor the Palestinians over the Israelis and
support government help for the needy. They are more likely
to support environmental regulation and to believe that
immigrants strengthen the U.S. They are less likely to favor
the death penalty and repeal of the new health care reform
law. But the widest gender gap is on the central issue of
the 2012 presidential election— the size, scope, and purpose
of government. While 74 percent of Mormon men completely
agree that "the government should be smaller and offer fewer
services," only 56 percent of women do. This difference of
opinion mirrors the gender gap in the answer to the statement,
"most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're
willing to work hard"— 48 percent of women agree, compared
to 60 percent of men. LDS women, it appears, are more likely to
favor a publicly provided safety net for those who are met with
What does this all mean for election night in 2012? Republican
candidates are certain to win big among Mormons once
again. This will be the case whether candidates have the last
name of Romney or if the voters are Mormons that have a Y
chromosome. Yet at the same time, LDS women are much
less supportive of the sharp turn to the ideological right that
the Republican party, including Governor Romney, has recently
taken. Republican candidates, especially those running in
districts with many LDS voters, would be wise to take heed, lest
they end up with a Mormon women problem.
The Mormon Gender Gap
Dave Campbell is a
professor of Political
Science at the University
of Notre Dame. He is the
co-author of American
Grace: How Religion
Divides and Unites
Us. His current
project, Seeking the
Promised Land: Mormons
and American Politics, is
forthcoming in 2013.
Voted for John McCain in 2008 (%) Most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard (% Agree)
AMERICAN POLITICS, EH?
As the campaign for the 2012 presidency goes forward, Canadians will hotly debate the various goings-
on in U.S. government. Those of us in Alberta will likely hear a lot of support for Romney and Republicans.
By Marta Nelson ■ Calgary Alberta, Canada
/recall having an argument about politics with my father
when I was 16. I had just learned about the Vietnam War
in school and was outraged. Back and forth we went, he the
conservative political philosophy scholar and I the starry-eyed
feminist left-winger (well, as much as you can be at 16). We
reached a point in the argument where we had gone over the
usual suspects of 20th century atrocities enacted by the United
States government. By then I doubt we knew what the original
fight was even about. I don't recall the context this comment
came from, but I remember taunting my dad by saying, "Well,
who was Joseph McCarthy, then?" He responded by turning a
dark red, then sputtering and shouting, "A loyal American!"
One factor that makes American politics so fascinating to us
is the conflation of religion and government. It rarely happens
in Canada. In fact, religion is considerably downplayed. Our
current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is an active Christian,
but I can't even imagine him or another prominent Canadian
politician admitting that his or her decisions are based in
theology. There's no doubt it does influence his or other
politicians' motives, but it's far more subtle. The majority of the
country simply wouldn't stand for it. And when I say majority,
I am of course excluding the southern portion of the province
Southern Alberta houses the largest concentration of LDS
people in Canada. A group of Latter-day Saints were sent from
Utah to settle in Canada in the late 1880s and 30 years later
they built the first temple outside of the U.S. As a result, the
rural communities and larger towns and cities in the area have
a very high Mormon population. As religious people often fall
on the right side of the political spectrum, it's no coincidence
that the politics in that region tend to
run more conservative than the rest
of the country. For example, Alberta
recently held a provincial election.
A colour-coded map showing how
each region of the province voted
was marked by a pocket of bright
green in the southern-most part of
the province, indicating the more
extreme right-leaning party, the
Wildrose. To most people, especially
Mormons, this was not a surprise.
' the U.S. presidency has undoubtedly
Dfile worldwide, and in Canada this will
g Mormonism with conservative politics
of Alberta. Being the most conservative
ntry's financial powerhouse, thanks to
tends to be Canada's political whipping
help to think of Alberta as the Texas
of the north.) People already associate Romney with the more
negative or unusual aspects of Mormonism. In Canada those
feelings will likely be transferred to Mormons and consequently
Alberta in general.
The fact that Mormonism is an American-based religion,
combined with a Canadian preoccupation with U.S. politics,
variations on this scene have likely
played out numerous times in U.S.
cities between other naive children
and their jaded parents. The only thing
different about my scenario is that
we weren't in the U.S. Our argument
took place in Canada. So why were we
passionately arguing about American
Canada is of course affected by the
United States; there's no way around
it. We get a lot of American media and
it would be impossible to block it out entirely. But Canadians do
pay a lot of attention to American politics. Despite the fact that
we have our own rich political history, a completely different
system of government, and our own cherished celebrities and
scandals, it's a relatively benign (read: dull) political climate
compared to the U.S. American politics are simply more
salacious and exciting. Sorry, Canada, but you know it's true.
MORMONS ARE A PEOPLE
with a history of passion and
action, and I would love to see
GETTING MORE INVOLVED
in their country's
DIRECTION AND FUTURE rr
Mitt Romney's bid foi
raised the Mormon pr
mean further identifyin
and again the province
province with the col
the oil sands, Alberta
post. (Americans, it m
16 EXPONENT II
means that Canadian Mormons tend to especially latch on
to American political topics. There are of course Canadian
Mormons who are interested and active in Canadian politics,
but in my experience, they are not the majority. I find it
discouraging that when discussing political issues with
other LDS Canadians, we are far more likely to debate about
personhood arguments and health care rulings in the U.S. than
similar concerns affecting our own country.
I wonder if this is due to the fact that a lot of the "hot button"
issues such as universal health care, abortion, and gay marriage
are not up for debate in Canada. Everyone has medical
coverage, women can have at least partially if not fully-funded
abortions, and gay marriage has been legal since 2005. (That
sentence is of course subject to a lot of "yes, but" arguments,
but that's a much longer discussion.) And even if there's a hint
that someone is stirring the pot, it's usually ignored. Recently,
Motion 312 went through Parliament. This bill was to introduce
a study to determine when life begins, and it was assumed the
findings of this study would be used in future abortion debates.
The motion was quickly dismissed and struck down, but even
among Mormons of my acquaintance it wasn't a big topic for
debate. However, had it happened in Montana, I imagine such
an event would have made national waves. Perhaps Canadian
Mormons become interested in such topics because, given
current Church teachings, they already have strong views
on issues like gay marriage or abortions, and in the U.S. the
possibility exists that the rulings could change the laws to their
liking. In Canada, Mormons already understand there's little
chance of that happening.
In my experience, conservative LDS Canadians are very
enthusiastic about having a Mormon in the running for the U.S.
presidency. It raises our profile, for better or worse, and there
is an assumption that an LDS president would lead the U.S.
according to his religious beliefs (aka the "right" way). I would,
however, be surprised to hear anything about any developments
in Canadian legislation. I do like that Canadian politics don't find
their way into our church meetings very often, but as Canadian
Mormons I think our disinterest and apathy toward our own
government is a failing.
I don't care that Canadian and specifically Albertan Mormons
are more conservative; that would be an exercise in futility.
However, I do care that we focus more on what's happening
next door instead of in our own backyards. Because we tend to
focus on our American-based church and a large portion of our
media is from the U.S., we come by our obsession honestly. But
we do ourselves a disservice.
Mormons are a people with a history of passion and action, and
I would love to see Canadian Mormons getting more involved
in their country's direction and future. I eagerly await the day
when I have heated political arguments with my future children.
I'll discuss any topic they wish, so long as we make sure to
include Canada. $\
WHAT MORMON FEMINISTS
wunbt& &aw duri
THE 2012 EKCTIO
My goal is broader: to argue that Mormon women of all political persuasions are needled to speak from
a place of faith in setting a new course for American politics in the 21st century
By Joanna Brooks • San Diego, California
/Js I sit to write this, the two most powerful Mormon
wtyjboliticians in the country are engaged in very public verbal
fisticuffs over a set of tax returns. One man refuses to release
a full set of his returns, as has been customary for presidential
candidates, and the other refuses to let the issue drop. In the
course of the exchange, the men and their political operatives
have called each other "liars" and "cowards" and "henchmen"
and even "pederasts." I wish I were kidding.
But the interests of children are hardly setting the public
agenda. In the state where I live, there is not enough money to
properly staff and run the public schools. The college students
I teach at an affordable public university (now largely defunded
by the state) are facing terrible employment prospects. And
40 percent of American children live beneath the poverty line.
These are the things that worry me, as a Mormon, a feminist,
and a mother, every day. I know they are on the minds of other
Mormon women too— across the political spectrum.
It is a moment of jarring disconnects in American political life.
Serious challenges face this nation on every front, from financial
to foreign policy. Our old assumptions about plotting prosperity
and our old American models for interacting with the rest of
the world are in need of retuning. The fruits of failed policies
of intervention and neocolonization in Iraq and Afghanistan
are incredible debt and maimed and disabled young men and
women. These are bitter fruits to leave to our children. This is
precisely the kind of historical moment— a time of realignment
and reorientation of our priorities— when faith should play a
role in helping us find our moral and political bearings. This
year, Mormons have the historic opportunity of seeing a
member of the LDS Church run as the presidential candidate
of a major political party, and perhaps even winning the office.
But as someone who has watched this race in the making
closely— every day— for the last three years, it feels to me that
Mormonism and faith in general are deeply disconnected from
Yes, LDS people have lined up to support Governor Romney,
and they have donated handsome sums to his campaign.
But as I scrutinize his policy positions, I find that none of
Governor Romney's stances— aside from his opposition to
civil same-sex marriage— bear any special imprint of Mormon
doctrine or values. In fact, on matters like Islamic relations
and immigration, Governor Romney stands to the right of the
dispositions modeled in official LDS Church statements and
reiterates positions taken by his Republican predecessors,
such as George W. Bush. His policy on foreign relations is
hawkish and neoconservative, and his chosen advisors have
indulged from time to time in open anti-lslamism. The Church
has called for comprehensive federal immigration reform that
supports the needs of families and encourages neighbors
to love one another, but Governor Romney supports self-
deportation by undocumented immigrants, an unrealistic
answer to a complicated problem. His policy on economics is
not just aggressively anti-regulation, but anti-state, a legacy of
the political lobbyist Grover Norquist, who famously quipped
that he'd like to shrink government to the size where he could
"drown it in a bathtub."
I say these things not to attack Governor Romney, though it
is true that as a long-time Democrat I won't be voting for him
this fall. Nor do I wish to claim that political stances associated
with the Democratic party on issues like foreign policy and the
18 EXPONENT II
environment and health care are inherently more aligned with
My goal is broader: to argue that Mormon women of all political
persuasions are needed to speak from a place of faith in setting
a new course for American politics in the 21st century.
The most Mormon thing I've identified about Governor
Romney's campaign is the nervous and defensive way in which
he has conducted it. Governor Romney is notorious among the
press assigned to follow him for refusing to engage directly,
to entertain open questions, or to
dialogue. This, I strongly believe, stems
in part from his longtime experience in
LDS hierarchy and his fear as an LDS
person that his faith will be ridiculed
if he opens himself to more robust
exchanges. That's a 170-year reality
for Mormon public figures. Indeed, the
political history of the Mormon people
often finds us voting defensively
against an array of perceived threats—
to establish and protect our autonomy
and security during the 19th century,
to make sure our families had enough
resources to survive during the Depression, and then, in the
later 20th century, to defend what we were led to believe were
secular assaults on Mormon concepts of home and family.
Among Mormon women, though, I find the capacity to think
more grandly and courageously about the role of our faith in
politics. In May, visiting a Mormon feminist retreat in the Rocky
Mountains, I asked the women gathered what was the most
important political message Mormon women had to convey to
the world. After a few minutes discussing amongst themselves,
they were univocal and firm: We believe that every human
being is a child of God and deserves a chance for a decent,
healthy life. That's a message that resonates deeply with me, as
a Mormon, a feminist, and a mother.
The role of faith in politics has been narrowed over the past few
decades to a few hot-button social issues, such as reproductive
choice and same-sex marriage. While these are important
issues, there are much broader questions that we've lost our
footing on as people of faith. Political think tanks who follow the
Grover Norquist school of thought have been on an extremely
aggressive mission to defund and destroy government, arguing
We believe that every human
being is a child of God and
deserves a chance for a
decent, healthy life. That's a
message that resonates deeply
with me> as a Mormon, a
feminist, and a mother. n
aggressively that no government is good government, even
though the historical record of the 20th century clearly shows
that government has played a crucial role in fostering economic
development, improving living conditions, developing
infrastructure, providing education, and offering health care to
seniorcitizensand the poor. Government hasalso been receptive
to the influence of faith communities, who have been able to
interface, lobby, and exert influence to advance civil rights,
human rights, environmental justice, and women's rights. How
successful have people of faith been in convincing corporations
to pursue these values? Yet Grover Norquist and his anti-tax
allies have manipulated people of faith
to believe that government opposes
our interests and is hostile to religion
in general. They've focused all of our
energy around a few narrowly defined
hot-button issues and left us fighting
with one another over fiercely personal
choices. Meanwhile, on much broader
political landscapes— landscapes
that determine the movement of
resources and the distribution of life
opportunities— our voices are muted,
if not absent.
I love the courageous global vision of the Mormon feminists who
told me that our message should be that every human being is
a child of God and deserves a shot at a decent life. This is a
clarifying, reframing vision that transcends the futile fistfights
of partisanship and draws from our deepest commitments as
women and mothers.
This is the kind of vision that's missing from politics in this
Mormon moment. Perhaps when Mormon women have our say
... or, rather, perhaps it's time for Mormon women to just say
that we can— and we must— do better.
VX*> % -J;
* * ★ ★
AND HIS NOMINATION
Since Mitt Romney became the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, Mormons in their
many varieties have received unprecedented attention from the media. A recurring question
Exponent II has received from numerous media outlets concerns how Mormon feminists feel
about Romney as a representative of their religion. Now is the time to make your voice heard!
How do you feel about Romney's nomination and the fact that he and his family will become the most
recognized representatives of Mormonism in the United States? How do or don't his policy positions
represent core Mormon values you cherish?
SHERRIE GAVIN | QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA
From a non-American perspective, I am quite excited to
have a Mormon president. Prior to this year, the majority of
Mormon content in the media was based on male American
missionaries. This year, however, with Romney in the spotlight,
I have seen quotes by Ardis Parshall, Margaret Toscano, and
other Mormon scholars discussing women's issues. I personally
cherish Mormon academia and smart women, and as Mormon
historians and academics are being asked for their thoughts
on Romney, their media presence has delighted me to no end.
So with Romney comes an entourage of academia that to me
represents a component of Mormonism that speaks to me. As
such, Romney and his family are a powerful vehicle for Mormon
academic and feminist values I cherish, even if these values are
not necessarily represented by the Romney family.
ANDREA ALEXANDER | WINDHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Although I'm socially liberal, I'm a fiscal conservative. I am
ecstatic about Romney's nomination. I don't want our country
to follow down Europe's path to bankruptcy driven by socialist
principles and the entitlement mentality. For me, it's all about
the economy. I do care about pro-choice issues and marriage
equality, but I don't believe Romney is as conservative on those
issues as he would like the Religious Right to believe. I was a
resident of Massachusetts when Mitt was governor. He's an
astute centrist on most social issues. Unfortunately, playing up
conservative social values is a necessity for any Republican on
the national stage.
I believe Romney's economic policies will represent the
economic principles taught to me by my parents: hard work,
self-sufficiency (whenever possible), ingenuity, living within
your means, etc. I consider these values to be as much American
RACHEL HUNT STEENBLIK | LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Part of me loves the idea of having a Mormon in the presidency.
From many stories I've read quoting people who actually
know him, Romney seems like a decent enough person, and
sometimes even a surprisingly giving person when it comes to
real relations and real caring service. Those articles make me
proud, and the attributes they describe are attributes I would like
in a president. I feel less proud, however, when I read Romney's
statements about the poor, and how he is not concerned about
them. I understand that the snippet shared everywhere was
just a snippet and belongs to a greater context. But, some of his
policies, including those to weaken "safety nets" that he says
the poor may rely upon, are part of that context. Deep down
I think he is a true moderate, and I would find it much easier
to whole-heartedly embrace him if he let those colors show.
20 EXPONENT II
Sophie Soprano/Lynn Farrar • "Broody Hen" • Spring City, Utah
Unfortunately, he has not acted or spoken like a moderate as
On a final note, I do like that he is running, if only because
the increased scrutiny on the Church resulted in the clearest
statement from the Church against harmful folk beliefs
concerning blacks and the priesthood. If it could bring additional
examination with additional positive changes, then I am all for
my interests. And that is okay; that does not make him the
villainous caricature often portrayed in the media. I'm not voting
for Mitt, but I think he is a good person. He proved as governor
of Massachusetts that final results were more important than
partisan politics. Mitt is a product of his generation, education,
gender, and socioeconomic status. I don't share his same
economic, social, or foreign policy opinions, but I do think that
many people in the nation do and that he will represent their
In the near decade that I have gotten to know him, Mitt has
proven time and time again his generosity, pragmatism and
fierce loyalty. His entire life is service-oriented, from his
religious dedication in volunteer leadership to his commitment
to public service in state and federal government. It is difficult
to watch someone who has volunteered so much of his time
and energy to making the world a better place be criticized in
the public eye. That said, I'm not voting for him in November.
We live in a liberal democracy, which means that rather than
voting on every issue individually we elect people to represent
our interests. As a middle-class feminist, woman, mother,
scientist and academic, who has spent significant time living in
developing nations outside of the U.S., Mitt does not represent
MARY J. GEORGE | ATHERTON, CALIFORNIA
This is the second presidential campaign in which I have
volunteered for him, and most of the people I work with aren't
Mormon, so rarely does his religion come up as a topic. Instead,
what comes up is the fact that Mitt is a man of character, inner
strength, and tremendous ability. My coworkers see him as a
man who loves the United States, believes its best days are
ahead, and wants every individual to have the freedom to mold
their own life according to their choices. I have had the privilege
to sit in strategy sessions with Mitt and have been so impressed
with his leadership abilities. He is an amazing listener, and he
especially takes note of what women have to say. Not only does
he listen to women, he is well known for appointing women
to high positions, such as his Chief of Staff while Governor of
Massachusetts. No candidate is ever perfect, but in my opinion,
Mitt Romney it the right person to be president at this very
JUDITH DUSHKU | WATERTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS
As Mormons, we should be confident enough in 'The World's"
ability to sort out what each of us stands for that we should
not fear that one man's image will destroy the good reputation
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But it is
understandable why we feel self-conscious about the new
high-profile of Mormonism because Mitt is running for public
office. After all, before this year our fear had been that we
were unknown to everyone around us. Our wish was for people
to notice and understand us. Now we feel that everyone
"understands us," but in my opinion the understanding is not
"us" at all! I have known Mitt personally for decades and to
me Mitt represents materialistic, elitist privilege— his behavior
with regards to tax-paying goes beyond being disreputable but
also mocks any purported LDS support for respecting the law
of the land. Why would any loyal citizen urge wealthy outsiders
to not pay taxes when we are in a widely-publicized deficit?
Actually, why would anyone running for President admit he
wanted others to be tax evaders even if we did not have a
deficit? Whose side is Mitt on anyway? And for those I know
who are passionate about reproductive freedom and other
women's rights, Mitt is problematic to say the least. Bishops
in LDS wards do not question couples about birth control
choices, so why is Mitt willing to bring the government into that
conversation? Any Mormon woman who is concerned with
advancing women's rights and protecting their health choices
would justifiably be expected to criticize our fellow Mormon for
such political positions.
I grew up with my parents' shame at publicity about polygamy.
I fear my children's generation will grow up feeling shame for
being presumed to be arrogant, self-centered, and oblivious to
the conditions of the lives of most Americans because people
got acquainted with Mitt Romney and associate his actions and
policies with Mormonism. I feel burdened and sad. It is not just
that I want to distance myself from Mitt Romney's candidacy
and what he has come to represent, but I want to speak up for
Mormonism among decent Americans who love this country
and want to see it thrive and return to a day when we felt
optimistic about our future as a nation.
D.H.R. | SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
As a Mormon woman I have been raised to believe in certain
core beliefs, not the least of which is the importance of
honesty, hard work, family, and service to our fellow man. As
I look at Mitt Romney and his life's history I see a man with
the integrity to be bishop and stake president for obviously no
monetary gain. He opted out of two years of college to serve
a mission for no remuneration. He was governor for the state
of Massachusetts and accepted no salary. Although his service
record is exemplary and his financial feats nothing short of
amazing, the real value of his character is shown in the love he
has for his family and the fact that he helped raise his children
with the help of his wife who suffers from MS. The fact that he
has brought Mormonism under the spotlight is only a bonus for
our Church as thousands more will be interested in investigating
further into Mormon beliefs. Truly a win-win!
EMILY GILKEY | EUGENE, OREGON
When I first heard he was running, I was glad because I felt like
he was a candidate I could live with, unlike many others in the
field. I'm still not going to vote for him, but I thought if he won
I could be okay with it. I was thinking of old Mitt, the one who
was more tolerant, who could appeal to middle-of-the-road
voters. However, the more I hear about his economic plans for
the country, the less appealing I find him because I believe that
his program would drive us deeper into the recession, if not into
an outright depression.
I don't feel like his ideals are particularly in harmony with gospel
principles. I don't see much compassion (as manifested by
action or plans of action) from him for the poor or marginalized
in our country. I see his economic programs as contrary to our
obligations to the poor. I think he has it somewhat backward
from King Benjamin— he would enable people who already
have riches to seek more riches, and claims that this would
somehow help the poor and everyone else.
In general I think the Romneys' lifestyle is a bit of an affront in
these deeply depressing times. I recognize they have a perfect
right to spend their money how they choose, but to me it
underscores how out of touch he is. I realize that a president is
never going to have the same kind of intimate awareness as a
bishop might about his flock, but I can't help but feel he is so far
removed from my life he can't begin to imagine how his actions
help or hinder it.
I minding editor of Woman's Exponent, Louisa Greene Richards, wrote this song to the tune of "Hope of Israel,"
(/ which was included in the Utah Woman Suffrage Songbook, published in 1870. Writing suffrage verses and setting
them to well-known melodies that they would sing at their suffrage meetings was common among Mormon women
in the 19th century. Today, Exponent II continues the tradition of singing this song at our annual retreat and we
proudly stand together each time we sing the chorus.
Louisa Greene Richards
See the cur - tains
Temp - 'ranee lib - e - r
Through long suff - 'ri - ng
are with -drawn
y and peace,
wor - thy proved.
Which so long thy
Light shall shine and
With the fore - most
mi - nd h - as shroud - ed
da - rk - ne - ss van - ish.
cla-im th - y par - don,
Lo! Thy day b - e
Love shall reign, o
When earth's curse sh - all
gins to dawn,
pre - ssion cease
be re - moved.
Abbigail Knowlton Israelsen • Bloomington, Indiana • www.abbigailisraelsen.com
Urn tk& TfUfitarip
INFLUENCED MY POLITICS
/ came home from Iraq with widened eyes and an open mind. \ By Genevieve lore • Tempe, Arizona
/T)n January 3, 2001, 1 took an oath to defend the United States
v/against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I was nervous,
excited, and completely unprepared for the culture shock that
would come as I broke free from my insulated LDS world. It
was the last thing my ward and my family expected of me. The
adults in my ward were convinced I would become an apostate
if I joined the military. I didn't listen to them.
During basic training (six weeks of folding t-shirts perfectly,
learning to march, and qualifying on the M-16), I met people
from all over the country. There were conservatives, liberals,
Jews, Protestants, atheists. Everyone was different. I spent a lot
of time trying to do missionary work.
I trained as an Arabic linguist, which meant spending 63
weeks in California at the Defense Language Institute. All of
our instructors were native-born Arabic speakers from the
Middle East and Africa. These teachers often expressed strong
opinions on the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I watched
a lot of Al Jazeera, one of the largest news networks of the Arab
world. Israeli retaliation for a suicide bombing often took the
form of large-scale arrests or even the destruction of entire
Palestinian neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the Israeli government
continued to expand their own neighborhoods onto confiscated
Palestinian land. I couldn't understand how Americans could
justify supporting Israel while they were committing atrocities
against the Palestinian people.
On the other hand, I had grown up with a strong belief in the
"chosenness" of the Israeli people. Didn't God give them that
land? My cognitive dissonance was resolved only when I came
to the personal realization that God would never have approved
of such retaliatory tactics, and that promised lands were
reserved for the righteous. I jokingly proposed to my family then
that the best solution to the Israel/Palestine problem was to
send a bunch of missionaries there and just convert the whole
place to Mormonism. My conservative family usually talked
about Arabs using terms like "raghead" or "camel jockey," and
proposed that the best solution to the problem was to launch
nuclear warheads and turn all that sand into glass. I realized
that my politics were starting to stray from my family when for
the first time I really began to think about their "solution" and
see the utter horror of it.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
"Genevieve! Are you watching TV? Do you see what's
"What are you talking about?"
"One of the World Trade Center towers just collapsed!"
I hung up the phone and ran to the common room to turn on the
news while I finished getting ready for class. And there it was:
a smoking pile of rubble, with inset video of a plane crashing
into the enormous building. My heart seized when I realized
how many people must have been killed. Even the reporter
lost control and started crying. I walked to the CQ (Charge
of Quarters) hallway, and stood outside an office where my
superiors were watching the news. I got there just in time to
see the second tower collapse.
The following days, weeks, and months were a patriotic revival.
I had every intention of getting revenge on the bastards who
attacked us, and I couldn't understand why anyone was hesitant.
I held on to my sanity enough to realize that not all Muslims
are terrorists— after all, most of my language instructors
were Muslim and they were just as horrified at the death and
destruction as I was.
I arrived in Tikrit, Iraq, in the middle of the night. It was cold
and dusty and I was nervous about creepy crawlies. I got five
hours of sleep that night, huddled on an army cot and listening
to distant explosions. I was there for six months. I spent most
of my time on military bases, shrieking at camel spiders and
diving into bunkers if some of the explosions got too close.
Most of the soldiers around me despised the Iraqi people. They
had all lost friends in the violence that rocked the country during
those years. I tried to remain objective and look at my job as
protecting coalition troops. I didn't think too deeply on the fact
that my job was contributing to the deaths of real people— they
were just insurgents, lackeys of the big-name terrorists who
wanted to hurt us. I was a patriot!
MARCH 16, 2006
Five minutes after a friend left our work station to wait outside
for transportation to the mess hall, a mortar round hit the
cement barrier in front of the building I worked in. The entire
building shook, and I remember looking up and wondering if the
ceiling was going to collapse. My OIC (Officer in Charge) came
running in and looked at me with a pale face. "They got Pinson."
My friend and another co-worker had both been killed.
The next few weeks were somewhat blurred with grief and
anxiety, and I found myself truly understanding how hatred for
another nationality worked. Too many of the Iraqi people were
facilitating the activities of the insurgents without standing
up for themselves. We were fighting their fight for them, and
people were dying. I hated them.
It took me months to come to a mental and emotional place
where I could stop actively hating Iraqis. The teachings of Jesus
on forgiveness and love worked on me slowly, but surely. His
words on love and forgiveness sank deeper than they ever had,
because I had never needed them so much. Those words stayed
with me and made me truly question the nationalistic values I
had grown up with.
I came home from Iraq with widened eyes and an open mind.
I married a registered Independent. I lived in the southern
United States for a while, and heard the rhetoric of staunch
Conservatives both within and outside of the military
community. At the same time I was making politically liberal
friends who were vocal about their political views. I started to
"Hi, my name is Genevieve and I was just wondering which way
you intended to vote for Prop 8 So I can put you down for a
yes, then? Thanks so much for your time."
tailor-made for leadership positions in the military.
I also began to consider politics from the perspective of the
teachings of Jesus: "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell
whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have
treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
(Mark 10:21) He didn't say "Go thy way, keep all of thy things
and create jobs," or "Go thy way and keep thy things because
thou hast earned them and it is theft for the government to
tax thee," or "Judge the homeless and poor, for they have not
pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and therefore have
not earned a place with thee at thy table."
I hung up the phone, feeling numb.
Why wasn't I feeling the same
soaring inspiration that seemed to be
glowing from the faces of the callers
around me? We sat in the bishop's
small business, using his phones
to "collect data" on public opinion
while also encouraging people to
get out and vote. Priesthood leaders
had come to the ward and strongly
encouraged us to become active
politically. I had several gay friends
at the time, and I could not support
any of the arguments that claimed
that if my friends got married it would
somehow destroy families. The only
thing I used to justify my participation
was the philosophy that government
shouldn't interfere with marriage.
Only churches should have the right to marry people, and the
government could perform civil unions. I felt sick to my stomach
while I manned those phones. I couldn't muster a smile to my
face. My heart was literally hurting. I really believe now that the
Spirit was telling me not to facilitate this hateful law.
I separated from the military to have my son. My heart and
mind were full of the things I had learned while in service to
my country, and had left me ready to learn about feminism and
equality. I had worked with several excellent superior officers
who were not only female but mothers and wives. They didn't
destroy their families by going to work. In most cases, they had
enough money to stay home if they wanted to. But they were
very good at their jobs. Their personalities and talents were
THETEACHINGS OF JESUS
on forgiveness and love
worked on me slowly, but surely.
sank deeper than they ever had,
BECAUSE I HAD NEVER
needed them so much.
THOSE WORDS STAYED
with me & made me question the
I HAD GROWN UPWITH. rr
I went back to school. Because I had
already been studying tribal cultures
of the world, I chose to major in
anthropology, and thus seemed to
seal my fate as a liberal. My eyes were
opened to the suffering and crushing
poverty experienced by people in
my own country. It wasn't laziness,
greed, or a poor work ethic that kept
them living in hovels or violence-
ridden areas. It was politics. It was
a lack of opportunity and education
resulting from mismanaged or
insufficient funding. Small charities
and philanthropy are not enough.
One starving child is one too many.
Today I am a registered Independent
with strongly liberal views. I am a feminist and an intellectual.
Every chance I get I try to repent for my actions during Prop 8.
My Facebook page is peppered with links to websites reporting
on feminist, pro-gay marriage, and environmental issues.
The military has my eternal gratitude for pulling me away from
my emotional and physical dependence on my conservative
family and for introducing me to the bright and colorful world
of diversity. I thank God/dess that my insulated world was
destroyed and I could finally see the precious humanity around
me without the blinders of righteous bigotry or privilege. )£.
26 EXPONENT II
SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMS:
Z£h& Qmi&tt tiv CLctwrv
We will certainly form a more perfect union as we choose leaders whose priority is the welfare of the
people, who will work towards a goal of having "no poor among us".
By: Karlyn Hiatt Lewis ■ Fairfield, CA
In today's political debates, we hear a lot of banging on the
"Constitutional drum." 'That's unconstitutional!" or "We need
to return to the origins of the Constitution!" Of course, these
statements imply that "they" know what the Founding Fathers
Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers aren't here to take
sides. Even if they were, they had a pretty hard time agreeing
amongst themselves back in their day, so it's unclear if they
would help or hinder modern-day disagreements regarding
constitutionality. And what about the definition of "Founding
Fathers"? Are we talking about those who signed the
document, those who helped write it, those who influenced
its tenets, those who fought for the independence that made
it possible, or all of the above? Regardless of who's a Founding
Father or what one's stance is on the Constitution, it really
boils down to a political interpretation.
As Latter-day Saints, we learn that our Founding Fathers were
inspired by God to create a framework for our nation that
would establish a state conducive to the restoration of the
Gospel. The LDS Church's First Presidency has counseled its
members to study the Constitution: "[We] should be familiar
with its great fundamentals: the separation of powers, the
individual guarantees in the Bill of Rights, the structure of
federalism, the sovereignty of the people, and the principles
of the rule of the law. [We] should oppose any infringement
of these inspired fundamentals." 1
In addition to learning its fundamentals, if we as Church
members believe that the Constitution was "suffered to be
established" by the hand of the Lord (see D&C 101:76-80),
then we also ought to understand its purpose. President J.
Reuben Clark declared, "The Constitution was framed in
order to protect minorities. That is the purpose of written
What we do not believe is that the Constitution is perfect.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has stated:
Reverence for the United States Constitution is so great
that sometimes individuals speak as if its every word and
phrase had the same standing as scripture. Personally, I
have never considered it necessary to defend every line
of the Constitution as scriptural .... President J. Reuben
Clark, who referred to the Constitution as "part of my
religion," also said that it was not part of his belief or the
doctrine of the Church that the Constitution was a "fully
grown document." "On the contrary," he said, "we believe it
must grow and develop to meet the changing needs of an
advancing world." That was also the attitude of the Prophet
Joseph Smith. He faulted the Constitution for not being
"broad enough to cover the whole ground." 3
The idea that "We believe [the Constitution] must grow and
develop to meet the changing needs of an advancing world"
is anathema to many "Constitutional Drummers" who call for
a rollback of the Constitution to the end of the 18th century.
So what do we need to know in order to continue "form[ing]
a more perfect union?" As members of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a wealth of information
contained in our teachings. Serious scripture study can help
us learn about what makes righteous and effective leaders or
societies, and that study can aid us as we prepare to cast our
A single leader can have a profound effect— for good or for
bad— on any group of people. As we evaluate candidates for
leadership, the Book of Mormon can serve as a guide for our
President Ezra Taft Benson once stated:
The Book of Mormon was written for our day .... Not only
should we know what history and faith-promoting stories
it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we
really do our homework and approach the Book of Mormon
doctrinally, we can expose the errors and find the truths to
combat many of the current false theories and philosophies
of men. 4
The Book of Mormon presents us with two prominent leaders
who were polar opposites: King Noah and King Benjamin.
King Noah "placed his heart upon his riches." His only goal
was to accumulate riches for himself and his cronies. These
were not noblesse oblige aristocrats; they were lazy and
idolatrous, they spent their time "in riotous living," and used
lying, flattering words to deceive the people. To pay the taxes
that funded his extremely lavish lifestyle, King Noah's people
had to "labor exceedingly" (see Mosiah 11).
King Benjamin, on the other hand, "labored with [his] own
hands that [he] might serve [his people], and that [they]
should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing
come upon [his people] which was grievous to be borne . . .
." He did not seek "gold nor silver nor any manner of riches"
from his subjects (Mosiah 2:12, 14). In fact, he saw himself as
a servant to his people, and emphasized their commonality
by asking, "are we not all beggars?" (Mosiah 4:19) He further
taught them that in order to "walk guiltless before God," they
"should impart of [their] substance to the poor, every man
according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry,
clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to
their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their
wants" (Mosiah 4:26).
For King Noah, it was all about money— money for him
regardless of its effect on others. His lack of concern for
the welfare of his people set them up for destruction. King
Benjamin viewed himself as no different and no better than his
people. He saw the welfare of others as the most important
concern they should have. By promoting a broad social welfare
program to meet the temporal and spiritual needs of his
people, he led them to prosperity and happiness.
The concept of an ideal society has been widely discussed
through the ages. Both ancient and modern scriptures call
a perfect society "Zion." When Zion is mentioned in the
scriptures, it doesn't say anything about individual liberty,
free market economy, or limited federal government. Instead
we read, "there were no poor among them" (4 Ne. 1:3, Moses
7:18), and "they had all things common" (Acts 2:44, Acts
4:32, 3 Ne. 26:19, 4 Ne. 1:3).
In addition, the Doctrine and Covenants continually cautions
against inequality within a society. Two examples are: "For
if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in
obtaining heavenly things" (D&C 78:6); "... in your temporal
things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise
the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be
withheld" (D&C 70:14). (See also D&C 49:20, D&C 51:9, D&C
If we take these passages at face value, what are the first
steps to eliminating societal inequality? Let's begin with the
question, How much should the poor receive? Minimum wage,
poverty wage, a living wage? No, according to the scriptures,
they should receive "according to their wants." I have heard
discussions regarding whether "wants" in this context
means the poor's desires or their needs. Perhaps we should
ask ourselves, "What does it really matter, as long as I have
enough food and raiment?" If we are content with that (see
1 Tim. 6:8), there is no need to be caught up in a semantics
Then, How do we go about acquiring the funds to lift the poor?
"... by humbling the rich and proud." (D&C 84:112)
"... the poor shall be exalted in that the rich are made low."
These scriptures suggest a redistribution of wealth, and I don't
see any "free will" constraints to the concept as outlined in the
Doctrine & Covenants. In fact, the verb choice in "humbling
the rich and proud" not only gives the sense of being contrary
to the will of those people but also a blow to their self image.
Richard E. Johnson, formerly a professor of Sociology at
Brigham Young University, makes the case that socioeconomic
strife may well be the "unprecedented evil" that plagues the
last days, even more so than obvious sins like crime, violence,
sexual immorality, and drug abuse. He states:
It seems to me that the most powerful and consistent
scriptural warning given to those who live in the "last days"
(as found particularly in the Book of Mormon) center around
a single set of interwoven evils— the evils of materialism,
consumerism, worldly vanity, and socioeconomic
inequality. These traits and conditions are unequivocally
condemned throughout the Book of Mormon. Moreover,
they are generally described as the root from which the
more commonly viewed "sins" take nourishment and as the
ultimate cause of both personal and social destruction. In
short, the prevalence of selfish striving for the "lifestyles
of the rich and famous" (by both those who succeed and
those who fail), and the consequent inequality that results,
appear to be the most appropriate as criteria for assessing
a society's moral climate. 5
This is certainly supported by what students of the Book of
Mormon know as the "Pride Cycle," the course a society follows
from righteousness and prosperity, to pride and wickedness,
to destruction and suffering, to humility and repentance, and
then back around to the beginning. We get so outraged over
the problems we feel surround us today— sexual immorality,
crime, governmental malfeasance, a decaying educational
system, illegal immigration— but talk little about poverty.
Our government defines poverty as "lacking the resources
to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient
income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to
preserve health." 6 And each night we sleep soundly while
one in seven American citizens, many of them children,
live in poverty. 7 We do exactly that which King Benjamin
cautioned us not to do: We shake our heads, assume that
people have brought their predicament upon themselves,
and stay our hands (see Mosiah 4:17). We have also allowed
our government to create policies that exalt commerce while
undermining the economic stability and therefore the general
stability of families.
My family does what we can to help out others. But I also
want my tax dollars to be used to help those in need. In fact,
the welfare of others is the highest priority "moral value"
that I consider in determining my vote. When I vote, I want
candidates (and laws) that will support families and work
towards eliminating poverty. Policies that support families
and the poor include, but are not limited, to:
■ wage structures that assure that those who work will not live
■ tax law structure that places the greatest burden on those
who have the most and closes tax loopholes that allow the
wealthy to avoid paying their fair share
■ consumer protections that include not only product safety
but re-regulation of credit (mortgages, credit cards, payday
loans, etc. that are designed to entrap)
■ affordable, universal healthcare that will prevent illness from
ruining families financially
■ education reform that values and recruits the best and
■ governmental spending on items that have demonstrated
ability to promote economic growth (e.g., infrastructure
projects, unemployment benefits, food stamps) instead of
those which do not (e.g., corporate tax cuts, tax cuts for the
wealthy, eliminating capital gains taxes)
■ changes in aid to the poor that would 1) allow workers to
transition back into jobs without losing their benefits until
their employment supplies a commensurate amount, and
2) allow mothers with preschool children to stay at home if
When I read the scriptures, I am led towards liberal attitudes
and ideas. We have a God who gives to "all men liberally"
(James 1:5), and we have His son, who ministered to the poor
and the needy, the sick and afflicted, and who gave His life in
atonement for others. I'm taught that I should beware of pride
and its socioeconomic consequences, that I should be content
with "food and raiment," serve others, succor those who stand
in need of succor, and impart of my substance to the poor.
Nowhere in the scriptures do I find any passage that says
promoting the welfare of others can only be accomplished
as individuals or as religious groups and should never be
attempted by a government. Nowhere in the scriptures do I
read that a "free market" is God's true economy.
On an individual's Facebook profile, one can state his or her
"political views." For mine I have used Alma 1:30:
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not
send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or
that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been
nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches;
therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both
bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the
church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to
those who stood in need.
Each of us decides on our own whether we are in prosperous
enough circumstances to share with others. Years ago my
husband said, "I think I would consider us independently
wealthy if, when one of our kids needs new shoes, we could
just go out and buy them." And the time came when, by our
own definition, we were "independently wealthy." We should
be careful to not define "prosperous circumstances" as an
income bracket we never attain.
Remembering to count my blessings rather than numbering
my needs is a daily struggle, and I wonder if I might not be
better suited for a Law of Moses regimen. I do know that from
the Ten Commandments to the Law of Moses to the Law of
Consecration, God's laws address the shoulds and shouldn'ts
of our socio-economic circumstances. To me it follows that a
God-inspired United States Constitution not only supported
the restoration of the gospel, it also supports putting the
restored gospel into action through government program^
that serve the social welfare needs of a growing and diverse
population. We will certainly form a more perfect union as we
choose leaders whose priority is the welfare of the people,
who will work towards a goal of having "no poor among us."
1. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, February 1992,
2. J. Reuben Clark: Selected Papers on Religion, Education, and Youth, ed. David H.
Yarn, Jr., Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1984, p. 165.
3. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, February 1992,
4. President Ezra Taft Benson, "First Presidency Message: Jesus Christ— Gifts and
Expectations," Ensign, December 1988, p2.
5. Richard E. Johnson, "Socioeconomic Inequality: the Haves and the Have nots,"
BYU Today, September 1990
6. Since the 1960s, the United States Government has defined poverty in absolute
terms. When the Johnson administration declared "war on poverty" in 1964, it
chose an absolute measure. The "absolute poverty line" is the threshold below
which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet
the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food,
shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.
7. Erik Eckholm, "Recession Raises Poverty Rate to a 15 Year High," The New York
Times online, September 16, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/17/
Pat Langmade • Paradise Valley, Arizona
A/Iy view of church life in the District is filtered through the political lens inherent in the nation's capital.
However, surprisingly, my ward is a staunchly apolitical space. \ By Sylvia Cabus • Washington DC
/live in Washington, D.C., and feel lucky to belong to a diverse,
urban ward. I first came to the District as a graduate student
in international relations, and had recently returned to the
United States after working in West Africa. My view of church
life in the District is filtered through the political lens inherent
in the nation's capital. Surprisingly, however, my ward is a
staunchly apolitical space.
Like most members with families, the majority of Mormons
involved in politics live in the suburbs, but our inner-city ward
still hosts quite a few political connections. For example, our
bishop is the Chief of Staff for a member of Congress from Utah,
and the Congressman himself attends our ward. Our ward is
also the longtime home of the widow of another prominent
member of Congress. Her children attend the ward as well, and
one of them is a senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton. Senator
Reid's chief lawyer has been a member of our congregation,
as well as a brother who works for CNN Espanol. The ward
also boasts a large contingent of Arabic speakers working in
academia and the public sector.
The 2010 Congressional elections brought a slew of presumably
Tea Party visitors to the ward who had won their local contests,
but none of them seem to have made their home within the
ward boundaries, perhaps because finding affordable "family-
friendly" real estate in the District is more challenging than in
the Maryland or Virginia suburbs. Ward attendance ebbs and
flows with the Congressional calendar; some members absent
themselves during campaign season, and every summer the
congregation seems to double due to the influx of interns,
pages, and graduate and law school students. Like other wards
with transient populations, the question is always, "How long
30 EXPONENT II
will you stay?" rather than what brought them here.
One of the most remarkable aspects of our ward is that
the "political" members include both progressives and
conservatives. For example, my visiting teacher works for
the National Council of La Raza, which is the largest national
Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United
States. The conservative members are open-minded enough to
commit to living in the District, which is not the easiest place
for Republicans because of the city's liberal tendencies, or for
larger families due to the limited housing stock.
Despite the ward's location in the
most political city in the country, and
despite the fact that a large number
of people in the congregation have
some sort of political connection,
partisanship rarely seeps into talks,
lessons, or testimonies given in our
ward. Perhaps partisanship does not
surface in these areas because ward
members tend not to display political
affiliations except in incidental relation
to their work, such as in 2008 when
one of my teachers excused himself
from the ward to volunteer on the
first Romney campaign, or when
one of the compassionate service
opportunities was to help a sister pack
up her apartment before she moved
to Nevada for her new position as the
deputy state director for the Obama
campaign. When a political speech
writer and his wife spoke in sacrament meeting, the bishop
introduced the brother and said that he "writes talks for a living"
without mentioning who his boss was.
Whenever a politically charged statement is made, it's usually
via one of the missionary couples who are only assigned to our
ward for a short period of time and are unaware of how diverse
our congregation's political views are. Shortly after President
Obama's inauguration, when one half of a missionary couple
implied that Obama's administration was an impending sign
of the apocalypse, a collective shudder of unease seemed to
pass through our congregation. As politically active as our ward
membership is, we know better than to talk politics at church.
In order to function as a
cohesive religious body, we must
all come together and offer
our talents and resources to
one another for the benefit of
the whole community. Failing
to contribute or to accept the
contributions of others because
we dont share the same political
point of view is trumped by our
Because of the physical distance, the discussion on California's
Proposition 8 did not seem to publicly divide opinion in
the same way it did on the West Coast. Probably the most
contentious event to take place in our ward was when Glenn
Beck came to visit. As far as I know, no one said anything
confrontational to him, although some members told me that
it was difficult to think charitable thoughts. One sister actually
bore her testimony the following fast Sunday, saying that his
visit was a real exercise in self-control and compassion for her.
The day of his visit, everyone who blessed and administered
the sacrament was African-American. I'm not sure whether
or not this was a deliberate choice, but I felt it was the ward's
statement, and by extension, the
Church's, regarding diversity and
tolerance. Brother Beck's reaction was
not recorded, but I imagine that he
focused on the sacrament itself, and
not so much on the priesthood holders
- like any good Mormon, regardless of
commitment to each other and
our shared faith.
My overall sense is that politics in
the ward is somehow subsumed
by the great needs of members in a
diverse inner-city congregation and
by our primary goal to build a strong,
cooperative religious community.
Our ward membership is not only
comprised of politicos but academics,
artists, actors, and people who work
for the government and non-profits.
The ward is also distinguished by a
high number of members who live in
subsidized housing and benefit from social programs from the
Church or the government. Some of our members lack basic
job skills, and speak English as a second language. In order
to function as a cohesive religious body, we must all come
together and offer our talents and resources to one another for
the benefit of the whole community. Failing to contribute or to
accept the contributions of others because we don't share the
same political point of view is trumped by our commitment to
each other and our shared faith. One benefit of a geographically
assigned ward structure is that people of many socioeconomic
backgrounds are forced to cooperate and support each other
in a way that's blind to color, money, or politics — just as the
Gospel intends us to live/v-
Caroline, John, and Jackie Kennedy in March 1958 • LIFE George W. Bush and Family Barack Obama and Family • Election Night, 11/04/08
(Front Rmr PoiitLay
People forget politicians are people. They forget that they have lives, have families, and are just women
and men who are trying to come up with solutions to the country's problems.
By Heather Bennett Oman • Williamsburg, Virgina
/was 17 the first time I saw my dad's face on a bus. I knew
the campaign was kicking into high gear, but nobody had
ever actually said, "Hey, Heather, guess what? We're putting
your dad on BUSES now." I was driving somewhere in Salt Lake
City, and the bus pulled up right next to me, leaving me face to
face with my father. He was huge, larger than life, and I had a
hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that other people
would be meeting him like this, too.
It's not that I minded other people meeting my father. I like my
dad. He's a good dad, and a good man. But to see Dad on a
bus— well, it made me feel kind of naked. Like that dream when
you are at school and you forget your pants and everybody is
looking at you. When my father decided to run for the United
States Senate, suddenly everybody was looking at us.
Tje~alhe^ma^a~n~d her son on stage before Obama's inaugurate
32 EXPONENT II
I have often been asked what it was like to grow up with a
Senator for a dad. I'm never quite sure how to answer that
question. What exactly do they want to know? What am I
supposed to say? What kind of life do they think a Senator's
family leads? All I can really do is shrug and say, "Pretty normal,
I suppose there are some things that happened in my family
that don't happen in other families. During the 1996 presidential
election, for example, I had to say to a friend on the phone,
"I've gotta go, Bob Dole is calling." I've had a conversation with
Michelle Obama about her arm workouts. But on the whole, I
feel like our family is a normal family who does normal things.
People are always surprised when they run into my father doing
things like grocery shopping. I can't tell you the number of
people who say, "I saw your dad in Smith's buying dog food.
Just like a regular person!" Other people ask me how my dad
gets around town. When I tell him that he drives himself to
work in his own car, they are a little disappointed that it's not a
more dramatic story. And on 9/11, when the entire family was
calling him, frantic to know more information, Dad simply told
us that he was learning everything from CNN, same as us.
People forget politicians are people. They forget that they have
lives, have families, and are just women and men who are
trying to come up with solutions to the country's problems.
I'm constantly amazed at the demonization and deification
that happens to politicians. I'm not sure why people think that
Mitt Romney and Family President Bill Clinton and
a certain somebody is the devil, or conversely, that the other
person is the country's would-be savior (and sometimes I think
the deification is a little scarier). They're just people, and don't
have nearly the amount of power we think they have.
Also, people forget that they aren't getting the whole story if
they are getting it from the media. I'm not talking about specific
media outlet biases (although those exist); I'm saying all media
has an agenda: to get the story out fast and keep the message
simple. Dad used to tell me that the negative impact of a
political mistake is directly related to how easily the mistake
is understood. For example, remember Whitewater? Yeah,
nobody else does, either. It was a complicated real estate
scandal surrounding the Clintons that involved loans and the
SEC. And while it's possible that the Clintons actually did
something illegal, the details don't easily fit into a 30-second
sound byte, and so the story didn't have much staying power.
They caught some backlash for that, but compare Whitewater
to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Not everybody understands
or really cares about complicated real estate transactions. But
everybody understands and cares about sex.
People also forget that politicians have to work with other
politicians. The year my father was voted out of office, a lot of
people were mad about a lot of different things. One constituent
said to him, "If you had worked harder, you could have defeated
Obamacare!" My father tried to point out that his wasn't the
only vote that counted— there are 99 other people in the Senate
who have a say in how things go, not to mention the nearly 450
folks in the House. Politics is a team sport, and sometimes, no
matter how hard you try, your team loses.
And sometimes, if you want to get anything done, you have to
compromise. There's a saying in D.C. that if everybody is mad
when the bill passes, it means that the job got done right. But in
politics, compromise has become a dirty word. It suggests that
people are selling out, laying down their principles, giving in
because they don't have the moral strength to stand up for what
Family • 1993 • by Alfred Eisenstaedt Richard Nixon and Family
they believe. But in everyday life, real people compromise all
the time. When I buy a car, I expect the transaction to be one of
compromise, where the seller and I can come to an agreement
that suits us both. I compromise with my children— if you want
to watch this movie until bed, then no TV time in the morning. As
a nation, we make deals all the time with our friends, our family,
and in business. Why are we so upset when our politicians do
it? And we do get upset, because nobody votes for the guy who
says, "I'll look at the issues from all angles, see how I can get
the best deal in the end that most benefits our state, and then
vote accordingly." Nope, we want ideological purists, and are
constantly disappointed when ideological solutions don't apply
to complex situations.
But for all the media hype about dishonest politicians, and the
end of the world as we know it, I still believe in our country, and I
have a hard time believing that our public servants want to hurt
it. Having a father for a senator means that I've had a front row
seat to a lot of political maneuverings. I have met the people
the country vilifies up close, and it has taught me that while
there is more than enough ego to go around, I don't believe any
of them are out to hurt America or the American people. Sure,
politicians pander and they flirt with the camera and some of
what they say is motivated by gross egomania. But at the end
of the day, most of them vote how they vote because they think
it's the right thing to do. You may disagree with them, you may
think that they are picking the wrong battle or the wrong way to
fight it, and in some cases, you may be right. But I have yet to
meet a politician who hates America.
My father lost his re-election bid in 2010. That's the way the
system works— if you don't like the guy who is in, you vote
him out and let somebody else take a turn. His life in politics
is over, and that's okay. Our family will continue much as it did
before, with perhaps fewer trips to the White House. And with
fewer buses with his face on it. For the first time in almost two
decades, nobody is looking at us.$£.
SACRAMENT MEETING TALK:
My goal is broader: to argue that Mormon women of all political persuasions are needled to speak from
a place of faith in setting a new course for American politics in the 21st century. \ Given in the San Pedro
Ward on September 11, 2011 \ By Marina Capella • San Pedro, California
I have been moved to speak on a topic near and dear to my heart,
and which I feel is somewhat neglected over our pulpits and in
our lesson manuals. The topic is environmental stewardship.
As a pediatrician I have chosen to dedicate myself to the health
of children. As such, it is my responsibility to care for children
suffering from the effects of pollution and environmental
degradation. It is well established that children living in
agricultural areas are at high risk of exposure to pesticides,
and therefore at higher risk of diseases like asthma. Closer to
home, according to the American Lung Association, the city of
Los Angeles has the worst air quality of any city in the United
States. Although things have improved during the past decade
in L.A., based on current levels of pollution, 310,000 children
will develop asthma before the age of 10, and over 1 million over
their lifetime. Overall in this country, the percentage of children
with asthma has doubled over the past two decades.
I not only care about children, but about all living creatures. My
husband Christian is a marine biologist. Part of the research for
his dissertation involves studying the 19th century otter trade.
If you have ever seen a sea otter then you know how intelligent,
playful and charismatictheseanimalsare. Someof you may also
know that in the 19th century, American fur traders snuck into
Spanish California and illegally killed hundreds of thousands of
these beautiful creatures (the equivalent of 300 Exxon-Valdez
disasters). They only agreed to stop 40 years after the otters
were believed to be extinct. This problem extends to practically
everything large and awe-inspiring in the ocean: Of the 256
species of ocean fish and mammals that are more than three
feet long, their numbers have declined an average of 90 percent
in the last 50 years. At the current rate of fishery collapse, there
will be no wild-caught fish in our markets by 2047.
THE SPIRIT AND THE BODY ARE THE SOUL OF MAN
I think most people would agree these are all bad things, but
are environmental issues relevant to our salvation? I believe so,
and that God has made it clear in the scriptures that we have
obligations to be good stewards of our environment.
In Section 59 of the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord teaches us:
Yea, all things which come out of the earth, in the season
thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of [humankind],
both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to
strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things
unto us; for unto this end were they made to be used, with
judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion [emphasis added].
In Section 104, this theme is expounded upon:
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every [person]
accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I
have made and prepared for my creatures.
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I
prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men
to be agents unto themselves.
These scriptures exhort us to be responsible stewards of our
physical environment. This is not some general duty we have
34 EXPONENT II
Melissa Leaym-Fernandez ■ "Mother & Calf in Tall Grass/' "Love, Etcetera," "Mother & Calf in India" • Fort Gratiot Michigan • www.elephantworkstudio.com
as good citizens, but a commandment for us as Christians,
a key part of our soul's progress back to heaven. Just as our
adherence to the Word of Wisdom is tied to our spiritual well-being
and our worthiness to enter the temple, I believe that our responsible
stewardship of this earth has profound implications for our souls.
Indeed, all ordinances are, by definition, physical acts that
change our spirits in some way. Why is this? Because "the
spirit and the body are the soul of man" (D&C 88:15); as Latter-
day Saints we believe that there is nothing we do to our bodies
that we do not also do to our souls because our bodies are
our souls. This is true not just of our individual bodies, but of
also collectively as a Church. In D&C 103, God explains the
conditions under which we can return to the promised land
of Zion (Missouri, not Salt Lake). He says, "I have promised
[you] the land of Zion. . . . Nevertheless, if [you] pollute [your]
inheritances, [you] shall be thrown down; for I will not spare
[you] if [you] pollute [your] inheritances" (D&C 103:13-14).
And how are we doing as stewards of our inheritances? Well,
we haven't been asked to gather at Missouri; draw your own
WHAT CHURCH LEADERS HAVE SAID
Many modern-day prophets and Church figures have sought
to teach us about environmental stewardship. The Church has
a long history of being engaged in particular environmental
issues, and many leaders have spoken on the subject. Speaking
in 1988, Ezra Taft Benson taught us: "Physical and spiritual
laws are interrelated. Pollution of one's environment and moral
impurity both rest on a lifestyle which partakes of a philosophy
of 'eat, drink, and be merry'— gouge and grab now, without
regard to consequences. Both violate the spirit of stewardship
for which we will stand accountable .... The Church has urged
its members to be efficient users of resources, to avoid waste
and pollution, and to clean uptheirown immediate environment
or that over which they have control."
Speaking just a few years earlier in 1984, Gordon B. Hinckley
warned: "This earth is His creation. When we make it ugly, we
offend Him Let us live with the certain knowledge that some
day 'we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even
as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt'
(Alma 11:43)." 1 President Hinckley, who frequently encouraged
members to live within their means, also liked to remind us of
the old pioneer adage, "Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do
Many Church leaders have also been staunch advocates of
kindness to animals, including domestic animals, wildlife and
even insects. In the earlier days of the Church, Brigham Young,
Wilford Woodruff, and George Albert Smith (among others)
frequently admonished Church members to treat animals with
kindness and mercy. Speaking in a General Conference, Wilford
Woodruff told the Saints: "My soul has been pained a great
deal by the treatment which man extends to the beasts of the
field. The Lord has given us horses and cattle and other animals
for our benefit. Not one of these animals can talk to us, and
I therefore look upon their ill-treatment as a great evil and a
sin." Treatment of animals was at one point such a concern that
the Church held annual "Humane Days" beginning in the 1890s,
1 "What Shall I Do Then with Jesus Which Is Called Christ?" Liahona, Apr 1984
2 "I Believe", Ensign, Aug 1992
and in the 1950s the Children's Friend
sponsored a "Kindness to Animals"
club. In 1947, Joseph Fielding Smith
wrote a lesson for Sunday School
classes in which he condemned hunting
for sport. David O. McKay argued
against wearing fur and feathers, and
in the 1951 General Conference said, "A
true Latter-day Saint is kind to animals,
is kind to every created thing." Heber
J. Grant and George Albert Smith took
their humane treatment of animals to
yet another level— they were virtually
vegetarians and encouraged members
to heed the Word of Wisdom by eating meat sparingly in
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Knowing all these things, how can we become better stewards
of our environment starting today? There are countless books,
websites, and entire organizations devoted to answering this
question. I encourage you to seek out information from any and
all of these. Here, I will mention just three basic ideas, in no
particular order, for how to be a more responsible steward. I
don't think these are necessarily the most important things you
can do; they're just three ideas.
1. Consume less: I'm not talking about calories here. I'm talking
about anything and everything. Remember what D&C 59
taught us? "[God] hath given all these things unto us; for unto
this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to
excess." Picture the average American woman's shoe closet.
A survey of American women in 2007 found that women,
on average, own 19 pairs of shoes. The survey also found
that women, on average, bought four pairs of shoes per year,
wear only four pairs of shoes regularly, and have worn one
quarter of their shoes only once. Where do these shoes end
up when their owner decides to make room for a new pair? A
minority end up being recycled or given a second life as part
of someone else's shoe closet, but the vast majority end up as
non-biodegradable waste in landfills.
Shoes are just one example of a product we could easily do
with less of, but there are countless other things that we
probably have filling our homes that we could stand to do
is kind to animals,
-DAVID 0. MCKAY
without. The concept also extends
to non-material things like energy.
We can turn off the lights when
we're not using them. We can
choose more fuel-efficient cars and
even bike and walk places when
feasible. We can turn off the faucet
while we brush our teeth. We can
wash a fork or cup instead of using
a disposable one. There are a million
little things we can do to cut down
on our consumption of material and
2. Be a conscientious consumer. Once in a while, we all do need
a new pair of shoes. When that happens, there are various
things we can do to ensure that our purchases are responsible
in terms of environmental impact. I've recently adopted a few
simple strategies when it comes to buying shoes: I search for
well-constructed, comfortable shoes that will last me at least
a few years. I buy shoe polish in various colors to try to keep
them looking presentable. If the lining gets torn or worn, I try
to replace it instead of tossing the entire shoe.
In this regard, I think discount stores and retail sales are a great
thing in that they make needed products such as clothing
and furniture affordable for everyone. However, it pains me
to see cheap items lining store shelves that will inevitably
end up filling a landfill within a matter of years, or months, or
sometimes even days. It's easy to pick up an item that costs
only 99 cents and think, "I don't care too much if this gets
dirty, or torn, or broken, because I can throw it away and buy
another one." And thus our landfills continue to fill up, and
more material resources are used and more energy is used
to make the things that will replace the ones we threw away.
I think we can do a better job of thinking through the impact
that our choices have on our world. Where does an item
come from? Was it made using methods or chemicals that
pollute the air, soil, or water, even if that air, soil, or water
happen to be in China? Did it have to be shipped all the way
from Indonesia to get to me? Does the company I patronize
treat and pay its workers fairly? Am I going to use the item
long enough to justify the purchase? Where will the item end
up after I'm done with it? Is it recyclable?
3. Eat less meat. Yes, as a vegetarian and animal lover, I am
undoubtedly biased in this regard. Nevertheless, I do invite
you to review and seriously consider what Doctrine &
Covenants Section 89 has to say on the topic. "Yea, flesh also
of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained
for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to
be used sparingly. And [this is the part we often ignore] it is
pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times
of winter, or of cold, or famine [emphasis added]."
For me, I decided to eat less meat, and eventually abstain from
meat entirely, after learning about factory farms, which keep
animals in fairly gruesome conditions before the slaughter,
but can also exploit their human workers to a shocking
degree. Another reason to consider abstaining from meat is
how inefficient it is to produce: Every pound of meat requires
many pounds of grains and/or vegetables and hundreds of
gallons of water to produce. (In fact, it accounts for eight
percent of all human water use.) If everyone ate less meat
there would be more food for everyone, more wild space, and
less environmental pollution in the form of nitrogen runoff.
I mentioned earlier that President Grant was a near-
vegetarian. In 1937, at the age of 80, he said this in a General
Conference: "I think that [a] reason I have very splendid
strength for an old man is that during the years we have had
a cafeteria in the Utah Hotel I have not, with the exception
of not more than a dozen times, ordered meat of any kind. .
. . I have endeavored to live the Word of Wisdom, and that,
in my opinion, is one reason for my good health." President
Grant remained strong and active until his death in 1945 at
the age of 88.
Even if you decide vegetarianism isn't for you, you can strive
to have the same kind of loving regard for animals and wildlife
that our prophets demonstrated and advocated.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not consider myself a
paragon of ecological virtue. But, this is what we do in Church:
encourage one another to become better. I pray that we will
all take seriously the call from scriptures and prophets to be
responsible, caring stewards of our earthly environment.)!^
Melissa Leaym-Fernandez • "Pool Play" • Fort Gratiot, Michigan • www.elephantworkstudio.com