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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Women”

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I read an editorial in the last issue of your magazine in which the writer stoutly denounced the policy of the national organization of Future Farmers of America in prohibiting girls from their organization.  Evidently the writer was one of these stalwart women crusaders for the protection & promotion of the rights of the weaker sex.

I happened to be at that Convention and a member of the group that advocated a strictly boys organization.

In the first place, in case they are unaware of the fact, girls have their own national organization–The Future Homemakers of America.  If they would devote their time & talent to strengthening & supporting their own organization, they would have not time to desire to enter our organization.  And once they did join how do we know that they would not try to tear down & bury our fundamental ideals, purposes & objectives? 

The constitution specifically states that only boys over 14 yrs of age can become members.  It was directly & fundamentally intended by the founders to make it a boys institution.  All by-laws & objectives were established on that basis.  For girls to enter our organization it would be necessary to change practically all of our policies.

When one thinks of a farmer he thinks of a man, laboring hard under a burning sun, following the plow, harrowing, cultivating, hoeing, threshing, etc.–earning his living by the sweat of his brow.  Girls should not & fundamentally are not made to do such work.  They always have & shall always be the mistress of the household, ruler of the cradle & mother of civilization.  Thus their own organization is called the Future Homemakers of Hawaii.

At the Convention the Hawaiian who himself was a master at the art of give & take, as shown by the fact that he himself spoke against accepting himself as an American Farmer because of a little clause in the Constitution

[LJAD, paper by LJA, about November 1934]

This afternoon Carol Lynn Pearson came into the office and discussed the role of women in the Church.  She had made a proposal to Brother Ashton that a movie on women’s place in the Church historically and otherwise be made.  She continues to be concerned with the current tendencies which force a woman to decide between two points of view:  (1) The gospel is true and the gospel has clearly pointed out that women have the inferior position;  (2) Women are children of God and should search for self fulfillment, and achievement.  She regrets that one has to choose between these two philosophies.  She thinks there is a third possibility in which women can have both, and I agree with her.  I pointed out the contributions that our young historians are making toward this third thrust:

(1) We have switched from writing elitist history to writing the history of ordinary members of the Church and their concerns—their housing, their food, their clothing, their recreation, their associations, etc.  In all of this, the role of women is clear, definite, and undeniable.

(2) We are more interested in women than before and, therefore, are studying women’s letters, women’s diaries, and the lives of women.

I pointed out that as we emphasize more and more the role of women in our history the women will tend to take pride and emulate and the men will expect them to take pride and emulate and this means according to women a greater role.  She said that I should read Ashley Montigue’s The Natural Superiority of Women and Fascinating Womanhood.  She also had read the gospel according to St. Thomas who has some things to say about women, and she asked Hugh Nibley if the work was authentic.  He replied that it was unquestionably authentic.  She then read to him a selection from it about there being neither male nor female in heaven and he pointed out that this meant that the matter of their sex is not important in the next life.

She had purchased the Belle Spafford book on woman’s place.  The blurb on the desk jacket begins with the piece:  “ever since the time of Adam, woman’s place on the earth has been important.”  She asked, “How would you react to a blurb which began:  Ever since the time of Eve, man’s place on the earth has been important?”

Certainly she is not a women’s lib advocate, but she does look for, hope for, pray for greater recognition of women in our history, in our culture, in our Church.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 23 August 1972]

We sat at the same table with Homer and Eudora Durham, Margaret Hewlett, and her daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. William (Bill) Christensen.  He is a real estate appraiser.

I asked Homer and Eudora who had been outstanding LDS women in Arizona.  For along time they couldn’t think of anybody.  Finally they suggested perhaps Bertha A. Kleinman, Mrs. Jesse Udall, Mrs. Caroline Eyring.  They could not think of any women who had gone far in Arizona politics, or Arizona business, or Arizona art, or professional life, or even in education.  They said that Arizona Mormonism, more than Mormonism elsewhere, was a male-dominated society.  They suggested part of the reason for this was the very straight-laced character of the Mormon community.  The most loyal and obedient Mormons had been called to St. George and the most loyal and obedient of those had been called to Arizona, so there was that tradition of wifely submission and Priesthood domination.  

They made one comment worth remembering.  If we were living in the days of the inquisition and the culture had been Mormon instead of Catholic, Arizona would be the Spain of the inquisition.  I did not venture to ask who would have been the Torquemada.  

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 20 December 1972]

LJA DIARY January 1, 1973

Here is a memo I made to myself about the above date.  I entitled this “Special interests of LJA as Church Historian.”

2.  Keeping alive the important role of women.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 1 January 1973]

Carol Lynn Pearson came in and gave a brief oral report on her experience with the Legislative Committee last Saturday.  She said that the quotation in the Salt Lake Tribune was completely inaccurate, and she was glad that she got no notice at all in the Deseret News.  She said that the crowd were not disorderly—they were courteous, but different groups made comments against different groups that they disagreed with.  Arriving late her statement was the last one favoring ERA, and in essence she asked that men and women call a truce to the battle of the sexes and join together in elevating both men and women.  She said that several weeks ago a group of John Birch-oriented people, learning that the legislation would consider ERA, had met to defeat the amendment.  They formed themselves into a group called the Humanitarians Opposed to Degrading Our Girls or in short Hot Dogs, and they have since been known as the Hot Dog group.  They have taken an extremely opposing position on ERA.

A couple of weeks ago Carol Lynn appeared on a panel sponsored by the American Independence Party in Provo, and they of course strongly opposed ERA.  A few days later the League of  Women Voters in Provo sponsored another meeting of people favoring ERA.  Before appearing before the legislature, Carol Lynn had a telephone conversation with Sister Spafford saying that she had studied  ERA, favored it, and would like to make a public statement favoring.  Sister Spafford responded that she thought women ought to speak up forcefully and clearly on things that they had studied, but as for ERA she had studied it and felt to oppose its passage.  For one thing, she thought that no additional legislation was needed—that the legislation on the books permitted women to achieve, to advance, to become elevated in what was right and proper for them to do, and she didn’t see any purpose to be served by ERA.  She also thought that under present circumstances in the permissive culture of the time and with the student phases of women’s liberation, ERA might serve purposes, which are undesirable.

Carol Lynn said that she hoped her appearance on the panel on the side favoring ERA wouldn’t prevent her from continuing to make her unique contributions toward the building of the kingdom.

Carol Lynn left with me a copy of her original unexpurgated draft of Mormon women of the 1870s, which is due to appear in the February issue of The Ensign.  A number of things in this were removed by editors of The Ensign for publication purposes.  By and large they consisted of items, which would seem to encourage women to leave the home and enter professional or business careers.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 23 January 1973]

I was informed yesterday by Brian Kelly that he had been forced to dump the article on Mormon women by Carol Lynn Pearson that he had previously accepted and scheduled for publication in April.  He did not say how this had happened or who had put the pressure on him, but he did say that he could not run the piece after Carol Lynn had appeared before the public and before the Utah Legislature defending the Equal Rights Amendment.  This had presumably made her a “controversial” character.  Thus, he could not run the piece by her on this subject.

This very much surprised me—even shocked me—because she told me she thought she had previously gotten clearance from Belle Spafford to do this.  Belle Spafford told her specifically that she did not approve of the Equal Rights Amendment, but that she believed that women should speak out on issues that they feel deeply about.  The implication of her remarks, according to Carol Lynn, were that she would not be penalized by so doing, and anyway her statement was so mild that no LDS woman could have disagreed with it.  Nevertheless, her splendid article is now in limbo.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 14 February 1973]

Yesterday when I was in Provo I telephoned Carol Lynn Pearson to see if the information was correct that her article had been withdrawn from the New Era.  She said that it was scheduled in the Ensign, not the New Era, and that it was due to appear in the February issue, and that she had no word to the contrary.  I told her I had heard that it was being withdrawn because of the sensitivity of the subject she wrote about and this upset her very much.  She was more upset by the fact that nobody had told her about the fact that it had been withdrawn.  She thought that Jay Todd would have been more courteous and considerate.  The more she thought about it the more upset she became, and there was some crying.

I told her I would attempt to determine immediately whether it was true, so I telephoned Jay Todd, and he said yes indeed it was true; that it was not his doing but that two apostles had told him to withdraw the article.  Presumably the topic appearing just at this moment was controversial and Carol Lynn having just appeared before the television and the legislature supporting the Equal Rights Amendment was also controversial.

Jay said the necessity to withdraw it after it had already been printed and scheduled for the February issue explains why the February issue has been late, and I see the February issue has just now appeared two weeks late.  He didn’t tell me what he had substituted for her article.  Jay said he didn’t think Carol Lynn knew that it was to have appeared in the February issue, and he hadn’t felt the necessity to tell her because all she knew was that it was to appear in an early issue, and they might very well run it in a later issue when the subject was less sensitive.  However, Carol Lynn denies this.  She said that she had a very specific understanding with him that it was to appear in the February issue.  Apparently Jay forgot that.

When I talked to Jay he said that he would telephone her immediately.  Although I didn’t hear further from Carol Lynn, I assume that he did so.  I did not tell Jay that I had talked to Carol Lynn and told her not to tell him in case he called that I had told her.  Carol Lynn said that it was most upsetting to find that not much progress had been made after all in giving women recognition.  “It looks like we are destined to be just like a bush—just standing there but not allowed to express ourselves nor be regarded as human beings.”

I told Carol Lynn that if the article had been submitted to me for clearance I would have approved it in a minute.  I didn’t see any reason why it should be withdrawn.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 15 February 1973]

Jay Todd came in my office yesterday and wanted to talk confidentially about Carol Lynn Pearson.  Carol Lynn had prepared an article for the Ensign on the struggle for women’s rights in the 1870s in Utah.  It was based primarily upon the Women’s Exponent, which was the organ of LDS women’s rights at that time.  The article had been accepted and had been scheduled for publication in the March issue of the Ensign.  As a matter of fact it had gone through the galley proof stage and was scheduled to appear.  Then at the last moment, I am not sure on whose initiative (Wendell Ashton), the piece was submitted for the reading of Elder Gordon Hinckley who questioned whether to run it because of Carol Lynn’s involvement in the campaign for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  Carol Lynn had been on a TV panel representing forces favorable to ERA, and she had also appeared before the Utah Legislature favoring the passage of ERA.  According to Brother Todd, she is also a member of NOW (National Organization of Women), who are agitating for more women’s rights.  Carl Lynn, therefore, had become a “controversial” figure.

The Church policy on these matters is primarily that of Belle Spafford, according to Brother Todd.  She is the Church’s spokesman on “women’s matters.”  Sister Spafford was out of town, and they could not check the article with her, so at Elder Hinckley’s suggestion the article was pulled and for that reason the March issue was almost three weeks late.  Sister Spafford thinks the LDS women of the 1870s were agitating only for suffrage and not for other rights.

Sister Pearson was not told about any of this.  As a matter of fact, she first heard it had been pulled from me after I had heard rumors about it and telephoned to ask her if it was true.  When I found out she hadn’t been told it was pulled, I told Jay he should tell her personally and officially as a courtesy.  He agreed, but delayed and delayed, I suppose in order to be able to tell her whether or not it would be run at all; he did not see her until last weekend.  He thought badly enough about his failure to talk with her previously that he drove up to Provo to talk with her personally about it.  He did not tell her everything I am recording in this diary.

Sister Spafford now tells Brother Todd that he ought not to run at any time this article by Carol Lynn—that it will be interpreted by many people as implying Church support of women’s liberation and ERA.  Any article by Carol Lynn dealing with the women’s question will have the same effect.  For that reason, no article by Carol Lynn can be carried in any Church magazine for the next few months or so.

Jay says that the general matter of Church policy on ERA, women’s lib, and so on was taken to the Quorum of the Twelve by Boyd Packer.  Carol Lynn had apparently written a four or five page commentary on a draft of the proposed chapter of the Institute text on women—“the yellow peril.”  I gather the letter was not written to Brother Packer and that nobody is supposed to know that he has a copy of it, but in this letter Carol Lynn apparently made some strong statements about the Church being dominated by men, by the priesthood, and that women didn’t have a fair opportunity for expression.  He read that letter to the Quorum of Twelve and they were very indignant about it and that turned the tables on Carol Lynn.  Could this have been a letter to Mrs. Rodney Turner about her husband’s book, which Carol Lynn had sent to her in confidence as the result of her request?  No.  And could it have then been passed by her husband to Brother Packer, and then he takes it to the Quorum?  No.  This helps to suggest the care that one must take in all of his communications even those, which he thinks, will be held confidential.  Taken also to the Quorum of the Twelve was Carol Lynn’s article, the special issue of Dialogue on women, and other matters.  We don’t know what went on in the Quorum of Twelve meeting, of course, but the inference is that the brethren of the Twelve took a dim view of the material, which has been written by the more ardent women’s lib advocates.  Brother Todd never inferred or hinted that my own works were in this category, and I did not ask him specifically about that.  The continued warmth of Brother Hunter and Brother Anderson would suggest that I have not personally been brought into question on this matter.  Nevertheless, I have written several things that might be interpreted as supporting this movement.  It will be interesting to see whether the New Era goes ahead with their planned publication on my paper on Arizona women.

Brother Todd thinks so very highly of Carol Lynn and feels so badly about her having been closed off from access to Church publications and possibly to use of her in any capacity as a writer for the films, manuals, and so on, that he asked me to counsel with her “to help her understand these matters and keep her testimony and loyalty,”  I told him I would do this, of course, but what can I do when I am indignant myself at this kind of narrow-minded treatment?

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 29 March 1973]

Carol Lynn Pearson was in this morning preliminary to a conference with Brother Doyle Green about her exclusion from Church publications.  She is very upset about all of this and primarily because it illustrates the tendency of presiding brethren to make judgments without a full knowledge of the facts and also their lack of compassion.  This comes after a year and two in which she and her husband have been exposed to the “soft-underbelly” of Mormonism—persons addicted to drugs, persons in the penitentiary, women who have come to her because of her participation in women’s movements who have been treated shamefully by their husbands, fathers, father-in-laws, sons, and son-in-laws holding the priesthood.  You would normally think that the presiding brethren of the Church would be compassionate, sympathetic, and understanding—to think in terms of the problems, weaknesses, and difficulties of people.  Instead they seem to be striving to score points with President Lee and with their colleagues among the General Authorities.

Carol Lynn has wept bitter tears over these experiences, but I am hopeful at least that she will not become bitter or cynical toward the Church.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 2 April 1973]

3. Brother Olson suggested that the girls on the fourth floor be permitted to change from dresses into slacks during working hours, inasmuch as these girls work with minutes books, necessitating their doing considerable stooping and climbing. This suggestion was approved.

[Meeting Minutes of the Executives, Historical Department; LJA Diary, 19 Jul., 1973]

Since the last thing I have written by way of family diary would be the Monday before Christmas, here are some random recollections about the past week or so–since my last letter to the children was about December 16. Grace and I went to Cannon-Hinckley Tuesday. December 18 to hear John Edmunds speak on the Son of God. I also attended Rotary Tuesday noon to hear the Highland High chorus sing Christmas music. Tuesday, December 20, we had the Church History Division and their partners at our house for a Christmas party. Everybody was there who is currently employed except Shirley, who said she was tired, and Gordon who had come down with the flu. Maureen came with Dale. We asked each person to tell about their most memorable Christmas and just by coincidence it happened that Maureen was the very last one. She said the most memorable Christmas for her would be this year because this was the year she became engaged. Everybody shrieked with delight and gave her a long round of applause. Apparently this happened earlier in the week. We are not just sure when but this was her first public announcement of it. She told me afterwards she had planned to tell me first but she hadn’t worked up courage enough. I think she was a little concerned about her position here if she should marry. I told her that I thought there would be no problem whatsoever. I told her that it was my impression that Church personnel would raise the question and if we told them that we insisted she remain they would not try to cause problems. And we do insist that she remain!

[LJA Diary, 26 Dec., 1973]

At the end of these remarks, Brother Ashton then said there would be a few minutes for questions to be directed toward President Kimball. Eight questions were asked by the reporters:

6. Women. Will there be a change in attitude toward women? “Not too abruptly,” answered President Kimball. “We believe that the ideal place for women is in the home. She has a sacred responsibility and privilege to be a partner with God in the creation of children and in bringing them up to be fine persons.”

[LJA Diary, 31 Dec., 1973]

We received today the 656-page ribbon copy of the manuscript by Ken and Audrey Godfrey entitled Mormon History: A Woman’s Perspective.  We were amused by the title page which lists that title by Ken Godfrey and Audrey Godfrey.  Davis Bitton said that reminded him of the phrase on the dust jacket or introduction of Rodney Turner’s book Woman and the Priesthood which says, “This is a history of woman from the time of Adam to the present.”  Jill said it reminded her of a letter from Jedediah M. Grant which said with respect to a certain piece of anti-Mormon legislation which said that “The women of Utah are opposed to this bill down to the last man.”

[LJA Diary, 15 Oct., 1974]

Carol Lynn and Gerald Pearson said that we ought to consider doing a biography of Jesse Evans Smith–they thought Jesse Smith was as much of a folklore character among the Mormons as J. Golden Kimball and for significant reason–they think people tell as many Jesse Evans Smith stories as they do J. Golden Kimball stories.

They swear the following is true. That when Jesse Evans Smith was married to Joseph F. Smith she reduced her age by ten years and at the time she was serving as Salt Lake County recorder, and so she went to the records and changed them to read ten years after the real one. Then, of course, Joseph Fielding Smith was Church Historian and they claim that she got access to her birth record and her membership record and she changed these to date it up ten years. Thus, according to official records at the time she died she was only sixty-five officially. Whereas actually, of course, she was seventy-five.

[LJA Diary, 21 Oct., 1974]

Brother Arrington reported having received a manuscript of a book about Latter-day Saint women in the nineteenth century written by a group of sisters in Boston, which has been edited by Claudia Bushman, the wife of President Richard Bushman of the Boston Stake.  It is anticipated the manuscript will be published by Peregrine Smith.  Brother Arrington stated that the book has been dedicated to him and raised a question as to whether this would be proper.  It was felt there would be no objection to this.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 9 Jan., 1975; LJA Diary]

Status of Maureen Ursenbach Beecher

Brother Arrington reported for the record that Maureen Ursenbach Beecher has been chosen to give a forum address at the Brigham Young University on June 17th, which is an honor for Sister Beecher, she being the only sister on the list of forum speakers.

With reference to the status of Maureen following the birth of her baby in August, Brother Arrington read a letter addressed to Elder Anderson signed by Brother Arrington, Brother Bitton and Brother Allen, explaining her importance to the History Division and urging that her services be retained before and after her baby is born.  This is a matter that will be taken to the advisers for their consideration and decision.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 13 May, 1975; LJA Diary]

This morning we met from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. with the advisors to the department from the Twelve—Elders Stapley and Hunter.  Elder Anderson, Earl Olson, Don Schmidt and myself were present.  Florence Jacobsen was in St. George giving the Commencement address for Dixie College. . . .

(5) I brought up the matter of Maureen’s employment.  The matter was discussed in some detail and it was left that I am to write to the Church Employment Committee with copies to Elders Stapley and Hunter signed by myself and Elder Anderson justifying keeping Maureen on the payroll as a full-time employee.  The justification will propose that she be allowed to do some of the work at home and give consideration to reducing her to an 80 percent basis for a temporary period while she is nursing the baby.  At any rate, I am to write a letter of justification hopefully pointing out unique elements in her case, since the general policy of the Personnel Committee is to fire people after they have babies.

[LJA Diary, 23 May, 1975]

Brother Arrington inquired about the continuing employment of Maureen Beecher following the arrival of her baby in August, and requested that she be continued in full-time employment.  He was requested to write a letter explaining this matter so that it could be properly considered.  The letter will be sent to the Personnel Committee so that it can go through proper channels.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 23 May, 1975; LJA Diary]

Dear Leonard,

For caring; for making these difficult weeks easier; for being gutsy diplomatically.  And for wanting the right thing for the right reason.

Many thanks.


[Maureen Ursenbach Beecher to LJA, handwritten note, 24 May, 1975; LJA Diary]

Elder Stapley reported that the Personnel Committee have given special consideration to the continuation of employment for Maureen Beecher after her baby is born, and indicated they are making a special exception in her instance to approve her continued employment.

[Minutes of the Executives of the Historical Department, 10 Jun., 1975; LJA Diary]


Brigham Young University Forum Assembly

June 17, 1975

By Leonard J. Arrington

In the early 1960s Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, senior apostle and long-time Church Historian, decided that the time was ripe to organize the Church Library and Archives on a professional basis. He instructed Elder Earl Olson, who had served for many years as an acting librarian, to visit a number of prominent libraries throughout the nation, to join archival societies and attend their meetings, and to set about the task of properly cataloguing and organizing the Church’s archival materials so they could be used under a program having good security.

As a result of this program, the ample materials in the Church Archives have been made available in recent years, and scholars have been turning out books and articles with increasing profusion. We now know far more about Church History and the History of the Saints than we have ever known before. All of this has helped us appreciate more fully those who have gone before and pioneered the way.

Among the benefits of the program initiated by President Smith is a greater understanding of the role of women in Church History. Two sisters were among those who saw the Gold Plates from which our founding Prophet Joseph Smith, translated the Book of Mormon. The sisters assisted materially in the construction of the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples. The sisters demonstrated the same resourcefulness and intrepidity in crossing the Plains to Utah as did the brethren. As one of the sisters wrote, “We had to endure all that the brethren endured, and we had to endure the brethren as well.” 

One of those who has been studying the role of the sisters in Church History is Maureen Ursenbach Beecher.  A native of Canada, a graduate of BYU with a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Utah, a former missionary, a former professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a skilled writer and devoted wife, she is editor of historical publications for the Church.  Sister Beecher, who has just completed direction of a series of lessons for the Relief Society, and who is soon to be a mother, will speak to us this morning on the topic, “Under the Sunbonnets: Mormon Women with Faces.”

[LJA Diary, 17 Jun., 1975]

I should record for the diary an interesting thing that is taking place. Before Maureen [Ursenbach Beecher] agreed to marry Dale, she discussed privately with me the possibility that this might effect her employment with us. She mentioned specifically that their marriage might result in her becoming pregnant and she understood that the Personnel Department would force her off the payroll after she had a baby. I told her that while I thought she should marry Dale if she loved him and without any regard to the future consequences with respect to her professional work, her capabilities were very much needed by the Historical Department and if she should become pregnant, I would do my best to make it possible for her to remain a member of our staff. She did, of course, decide to marry and she did become pregnant.

We were inclined to let the Personnel Committee make the first move to terminate her services, but in preparing the lessons for the Relief Society, she had a number of contacts with Roger Merrill of the Personnel Department. In May, noticing her obvious pregnancy, he told her that the Personnel Department would have to terminate her services upon the birth of her baby unless a special exception was made by the Personnel Committee. He suggested a number of rationalizations which might induce the Personnel Committee to make an exception.

After Maureen came to me with this report, I wrote a letter to Elder Joseph Anderson regarding an exception. Brother Anderson said that it was a matter which should be taken to our advisors. In our regular meeting with the advisors, I explained the matter orally. Brother Stapley, who is a member of the Personnel Committee, suggested that I write a letter to the Personnel Committee asking that an exception by made. I did so. I prepared the letter carefully, had it checked with Davis and Jim and Brother Anderson, who agreed to sign the letter with me as co-author. I also suggested that Maureen herself might write a letter which could be sent along with my letter to the

Personnel Committee. Dale decided he should also like to write a letter as husband and prospective father, which he did. My letter and the letters of Maureen and Dale were then forwarded by Brother Anderson to the Personnel Committee.

Elder Stapley later reported that the Personnel Committee had decided to make an exception in the case of Sister Beecher and that no action would be taken to terminate her services. He said a letter would be forthcoming from Russell Williams, head of the Personnel Department, stating this decision. When we had our next meeting with the advisors, Elder Stapley asked me if I had received the letter, and I said I had not. He said he would phone up Brother Williams to see why he hasn’t sent the letter. Elder Stapley later phoned me to tell me that Brother Williams had decided to ask the Legal Department of the Church to render an opinion as to whether making this exception would set a precedent which would force the Church to retain without termination all women employees who gave birth to children.

We have learned through private sources that this matter was taken to the Legal Department. The Legal Department felt that the Church would be in clear violation if it fired a woman simply because she had a baby and that the Legal Department recommended the Personnel Committee take this into consideration not only in this instance but in other instances which arise. They informed Brother Williams that this was going to be their answer in an informal conference. This response did not please or satisfy Brother Williams. He said, “1 am not going to accept just your opinion. I’ll take it to a national firm which studied the matter for BYU.” This was the firm of Wilkinson Barker, and Cragon in Washington, D.C. Brother Williams is supposed to be in Washington D.C. today talking with them about it. Our private sources tell us that the Washington firm told BYU that it better not disemploy any woman simply because they became pregnant or gave birth to a child.  BYU has been quiet about it and has not made a point of it, but they have not disemployed any of their staff because of pregnancy or giving birth.  Our private sources suggest that the Church may find it desirable to alter its policy to conform with the Civil Rights Act of 1972.

In any case, it looks hopeful that we will be able to retain Maureen as a member of our staff, but if so, we shall probably be counseled to keep this quiet.

[LJA Diary, 25 Jun., 1975]

Employment of Maureen Ursenbach Beecher

Brother Arrington dictated for the record the following information relative to a meeting held with Elder Delbert L. Stapley and Russell Williams where the matter of the continued employment of Maureen Ursenbach Beecher was discussed:

On Thursday, July 3rd, at 1:00, Elder Stapley, Russell Williams, Earl Olson and Leonard Arrington attended a meeting in Elder Stapley’s office to discuss the continuing employment of Sister Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, who is expecting a baby sometime around the middle of August. Brother Williams spent considerable time discussing legal implications and other implications. There followed a discussion of these various implications and the agreement was reached that Brother Williams will attempt to get a decision from the brethren on whether to change their policy of releasing women about to have babies, and he will do this after he receives the full written legal report from the Church Legal Department. He explored various alternatives or options, such as maintaining her on a contract agreement, not as an employee but as a professional person rendering consulting work on a contractual basis. He will inquire on some aspects of this to be sure that there is no objection to following this option in case the brethren decide to maintain the present policy of termination. In the meantime, we are authorized to use means to postpone as long as possible her termination, such as her taking credit for sick leave, annual leave, and leave without pay, which we have the authority to grant, and in case a decision is not made, at the end of that period we will then actively explore a contractual arrangement. 

[Minutes of the executives of the Historical Department, 8 Jul., 1975]

Today Russell Williams called Earl, myself, and Maureen to his office, and he told us that we are at liberty to keep Maureen on as a member of our staff after she has her baby. Her case in my letter caused the personnel people to go to the Legal Department of the Church and to other legal firms to get opinions as to whether they could continue the practice they had been following of terminating the services of employees upon going to the hospital to have their babies. Brother Williams wrote a three-paragraph, one-page letter to the First Presidency reporting the results of these legal decisions, which obviously were that the Church was no longer exempt from the applications of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

The brethren in their meeting apparently decided to permit Sister Beecher to retain employment and to do the same for other female employees who might be pregnant. With such a decision having been made and approved by President Romney in consultation with Brother Williams, it is now up to the personnel people to work out the terms to be arranged—how much sick leave will be permitted and so on before they return to work. Brother Williams is now in the process of working out these details. He wanted to give to us the result of the policy change to assure Maureen that she will be retained, but suggests that not much be said about it yet until there is a public announcement until after the details have been worked out.

Maureen, of course, was very happy as was I and Earl. After our return, Maureen and I had a moment of prayer in my office.

[LJA Diary, 31 Jul., 1975]

Today was Elder Anderson’s birthday, so we all got together before the meeting of executives of the department and sang ‘Happy Birthday.” He was very pleased. . . .

Says they are planning a special women’s issue of The Ensign for March. This will feature an article by Claudia Bushman, poetry by Carol Lynn Pearson, and other things. I suggested Maureen Beecher, and he took down her name; said he would mention it to Jay Todd. Said they would have a special women’s issue once per year. Said also they would have a special cultural arts issue of The Ensign each year, which, though not restricted to women’s cultural art, would perhaps give women more attention than men. This is to take care of some of the needs and desires of women. And he thinks they have got to be less paranoid in what they will accept for publication. There was a poem of Carol Lynn Pearson which they had accepted, ran it thru Correlation, and Correlation came back with objection to a line which talked of people with spears. They didn’t like that line “because she really means women libbers.” He said he told them to get out of the office—that was ridiculous. They also suggested she change a line which said, “and so she had learned that her Heavenly Father was as smart as…”And she will change it to “smarter than…”

He said it is slow to change an institution—to get it moved where it needs to be, must be.

Said he was an adviser to the Relief Society and he urged them to work out the kind of organization and activities they need. Said that their policies were seemingly etched in stone and they need to reconsider who they want for a board, how they want the board to function, what they ought to do, and so on. Set out what would be best for the women of the Church and then consider steps to take toward realizing that goal.

[LJA Diary, 20 Nov., 1975]

Carol Lynn Pearson came in today as did Jerald with Kathryn Sirrine. Among other things he agreed to tell me an un-faith-promoting experience. BYU Movie Studios are doing a movie of the First Vision. Apparently she is the writer. It is a short movie and at the beginning the movie focuses on the mother and father of Joseph Smith and sweeps around to cover the family and ends up by focusing on Joseph Jr. After they had shown the movie to a group of people, among whom were three apostles, the latter were invited to make comments. One of the apostles then commented, “I think it was wrong to give equal attention in the movie to Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith–to give as much attention as you do to Lucy Mack. After all, Joseph Sr. was the father, the patriarch, the head of the family, and you should concentrate on him. He was the priesthood holder in the family. You shouldn’t give so much attention to women since they do not hold the priesthood.

[LJA Diary, 3 May, 1976]

Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – Notebook #21

Also a conference with Personnel people who told us that the Church was attempting to fully comply with all the anti-discrimination aspects of Federal legislation, including equal pay for women, equal opportunity for employment for women and minorities, opportunity for women to work even if they have small children, become pregnant, etc. We regard this as a triumph. Years ago, when I first became acquainted here, no woman could continue employment after she was married; not long ago, no woman could continue employment after the fifth month of pregnancy. Still later no woman could continue employment after her baby was born, Now it’s up lo her (and presumably her husband) if she continues after the baby is born. We can continue to employ only Mormons—and only worthy members, which is proper. So a very interesting policy development. We can still employ the most qualified person, and we can still fire incompetents, but we may not fire them just because they are minorities or women,

or whoever.

[LJA to Children, 14 Aug., 1976; LJA Diary]

Wednesday was the last day for my class on Western history, and I listened to the papers the students had prepared. Friday and Saturday were the days of the Salt Lake Arts Festival and also the International Women’s Year stake conference. I was listed as a speaker in the Women’s History section. I went over Friday afternoon for the first of the two sessions, and then again Saturday morning for the second. We probably had about 300 persons at each of our two sessions, and everything went very smoothly, harmoniously, and friendly. No controversies, no politicization, no harsh words, no paranoia. Mamma went with me Saturday morning, and we went by the Arts Festival first and spent an hour or so before we went over to the Salt Palace for the Women’s conference. . . .

Some reflections on the Women’s Conference. The planning committee, consisting of conservative and liberal LDS, minorities, and non-LDS expected about 3,000 women. A few days before the conference Sister Smith of the Relief Society invited (urged) the RS sisters to attend, suggesting ten per ward. Then we understand another person (name purposefully omitted) sent a letter to the Regional Representatives in Utah saying there was a conspiracy on the part of liberal women to get out recommendations and delegates who represented liberal positions on women’s matters-ERA, abortion, birth control, etc.-and asked the Regional Reps to be sure that the women were forearmed to prevent this conspiracy from accomplishing its purposes. So many of the Regional Reps passed this on to stake RS presidents, and they passed it on to ward RS representatives. So guess in what kind of spirit some of the less politically knowledgeable sisters attend the convention? The very conservative blocs, Birchers and others, held caucuses before the convention, built up the conspiratorial spirit and determination to overcome all obstacles, and nominated conservative slates.

The result was predictable. 13,000 women showed up! And there were enough of the conservatives that they pushed through all of their recommendations and most of their candidates. No non-Mormon was chosen as delegate, and no minority person. And the position on issues was in absolutes, not reason. And there was lots of hostility, discourtesy, name-calling, shouting-down, booing, and so on. It makes you wonder whether the LDS women couldn’t use a good lesson in political courtesy. The moderate LDS women felt they had lost all the good will they had taken thirty years to built up. And when I say moderate women, I’m thinking of people like Belle Spafford, Florence Jacobsen, Moana Bennett, not to say also Maureen Beecher, Jill Mulvay, Carol Madsen, Marilyn Arnold, and others. Pretty devastating. Women are still crying over the Bircher takeover. Now don’t write or phone to ask me more. It’s an unpleasant subject and I don’t like to think about it. We’re going to have to start right now to rebuild. Thank goodness there was none of this spirit in our women’s history meeting, and we de have something there to build on. A really sweet spirit among our women’s history people, and that includes all those who participate, whatever their race, religion, or political position.

[LJA to Children, 29 Jun., 1977]

I’ve been using much of the time this week to work on our one-volume history. Still have two or three weeks ahead of us. The days have been hot and oppressive, but it’s nice to work at the office where we have good air conditioning. Our staff are all doing fine, although I’ve noticed some disillusionment because of the episode of the women’s conference. It’s hard for me to be completely serene. I hate so such to worry about how to say things for political reasons. I felt so much better at USU writing history in a straightforward but friendly manner. Having always to wonder whether the Church Historian should be writing this or that is not my idea of the proper way to write history. I need a little encouragement from someone, but know I’ll never get any. A pretty lonely job. The professionals think I’ve sold out to the church; some of the Brethren think I’m a stubborn and unreconciled secular historian. Well, so much for that. 

[LJA to Children, 22 Jul., 1977]

Yesterday, through the arrangements of Becky Cornwall, Maureen Beecher, Davis Bitton, Becky, and I had lunch in the Hotel Utah with Rodello Hunter. A very short, plump woman of about 45, she said she grew up in Heber City, later worked in Salt Lake City and married here in the temple to an LDS person, who was inactive (she remained active), was divorced, and about seven years ago married a Wyoming resident, not LDS, who is also a writer. Had 3 children by last husband. Her grandfather Hicken apparently had the overwhelming influence on her life. He had a small library, and she devoured all the books in it, and all of the books he or she could acquire. She determined to be a writer at age 9, was certain of it by age 12. I gather that she has reared a family, though am not certain, and that she began her writing as the family left home. HOUSE OF MANY ROOMS has sold millions of copies in the US and throughout the world in other languages. DAUGHTERS OF ZION has also sold well, 7 million copies, although its sale and distribution was held up more than a year by the remainders from Utah, which were sent back something like three months after publication. 2,000 copies, presumably from Deseret Book sent back and remaindered. Somebody decided it was not appropriate to sell at Deseret Book, although she thinks it sells there now. But for a year or two one could buy it only at Sam Weller’s. Her agent is Paul R. Reynolds, in NYC. He is a reliable, honesty.

Daughters is a bitter book. It was difficult for her to write. She went through anguish in writing it. She said she literally spent many, many hours in prayer. What she wrote was the truth, she said, and she finally decided it had to be said. She said she has had many, many letters about it. Some 34 people declared they were converted as the result of the book. Others wrote in strong criticisms; still others wrote her “confessions” as to their own feelings. She feels many Mormon women have strong feelings of guilt.

Rodello has now decided to write a trilogy, a history of Mormon women, with

one volume for three generations or periods. One for the early period, one for the middle period, one for the modern period. It will not be a work of fiction, and no dialogue will be manufactured. She will footnote the material. The work will take her three or four years to write. She does not expect or desire to do the research herself but would like to employ some women to sort out the material, do summaries for her. She is applying for a grant from NEH to do it, and I volunteered to write a letter saying that I thought the plan was practical. She is thinking of asking for $50,000, which would pay the salaries of two women full-time for two years. Roughly $12,000 each for two years. She might pay the money into Mormon History Trust Fund and have us pay out the grants to the persons she employs. Persons who might help her do the job are Gail Casterline and Jessie Embry. 

I was impressed that she is a responsible person, honest, straightforward, pleasant. A professional person who is interested in money, but not a sensationalist. She believes in God, prayer, religious values. She senses that many LDS women today are deeply troubled–they feel guilty that they are critical in their hearts of certain LDS preachments and practices. Many of their husbands, although honoring, as they suppose, their priesthood, treat them like doormats, and they don’t like it. But they feel guilty about rebelling. They finally slip into inactivity. She says she feels the change in attitude began about 1970, may have been the result of the “put down” of the Relief Society by President Lee. Taking away their magazine, their money, their bazaars, their independence in certain matters. Also the watering down of their lessons from solid courses to doctrinal courses–indoctrination. Women stay active in the church for many reasons, she said–social reasons and so on. She did not acknowledge that many get testimonies of spiritual values and retain that testimony–keep their spiritual commitment throughout their lives.

I told her we would cooperate with her if the grant comes through. We all made a few suggestions to her. She is less committed to the church than Maureen or Moana Bennett, but still attached in the same sense as Claudia Bushman, Becky Cornwall, Laurel Ulrich, I feel. I do not see her in the category of an apostate or indifferent believer. She prays regularly, gets answers, responds to the answers, is sad that each of her three girls are inactive. Her daughters: Searle, Bailey & Hunter-all in SLC.

[LJA Diary, 4 Oct., 1977]

I phoned Emma Lou Thayne Friday night to congratulate her and thank her for her excellent article in the Deseret News that evening on “Utah Women Find Harmony in Diversity.” She was grateful that I approved of it and said that before it appeared she had received a telephone call from Wendell Ashton asking her to omit the references to the IWY convention in Salt Lake City and Houston. He expressed the rather naive feeling that Utah women were not really emotionally upset by the IWY convention in Salt Lake City–that most women were really quite thrilled with it. Emma Lou said he was certainly free to omit her essay if he wished but that she preferred to leave the IWY references in if he decided to go ahead with it. Obviously he did go ahead with it. She asked me if I thought she had done wrong. I told her that I agreed completely with what she had done and what she had said and thought it was a great article.

[LJA Diary, 20 Mar., 1978]

The other day when Brian Kelly spoke to us he said that during the first years of the New Era (say, 1971-74) the principal preoccupation of the parents of young girls in the Church was whether or not to approve of pierced ears for earrings. The New Era was in the middle of this controversy because the Church had taken no official stand one way or the other. But the mothers were emotionally concerned in the issue. On the one hand there were hundreds who thought it was a mortal sin, and there were others who didn’t see anything wrong with it. And this indifference on the part of many served to infuriate those who thought it was sinful to pierce the ears. On one occasion the New Era ran a cover picture of a young girl who, coincidentally, happened to have pierced ears, and this was evident to those who saw the picture. The New Era people received many dozen phone calls and many dozen letters complaining of this. On another occasion they ran a picture of Jesse Evans Smith, wife of the prophet, in which it was evident that she had pierced ears. More phone calls about this. The complaining women were irate and one of them said, “If you let her pierce her ears you may as well let her go all the way.” Brian says the controversy has died down a little, but there are still some women who feel very strongly about it. I asked him how he accounted for this being such an important issue. He said he did not know how to account for it. He said I might ask Duff Hanks who, since he was a youth leader and youth editor of the old Improvement Era might have some explanation. Brian did say that the General Authorities were divided on the subject. Some of them agreed that it was not a good thing; others didn’t think that it was an important issue.

[LJA Diary, 27 Mar., 1978]

It is immodest of me, but I should like to put in this journal my own feelings about conference if I were president. (1) I would put the three members of the Relief Society Presidency on the stand so that there would be some women as well as men on the stand. (2) I would have members of the Relief Society Presidency speak so that there would be women speakers as well as men. (3) I would have the Saturday portion of General Conference be a report meeting instead of sermonizing. After the President’s opening address Saturday morning-which I would make a state-of-the-Church address-I would have the heads of various Church departments and committees and organizations make fifteen-minute reports on what is transpiring in their organizations, committees, and departments. For example, reports from the Relief Society, Primary, Sunday School, Young Men, Young Women, and so on; reporting from the Genealogical Department, Historical Department, Financial Department, Welfare Department, and so on; reports from the Church Educational System, Church Building, Missionary Committee, and so on. (4) I would make more General Authorities from other countries. I think it is dangerous to not have a Mexican, for instance, or a single Latin American native. 

[Reflections on General Conference; LJA Diary, 3 Apr., 1978]

With Maureen Beecher’s permission I 

copy the following from her diary.

April 4, 1978

Conference last weekend. Dale, in kindness to me as well as in caring for Daniel, took him to “see the ducks”–Tracy Aviary–while the Saturday morning session was on. I worked around the kitchen with the radio in my ear from the top of the refrigerator. Conference is not always easy, though lately, with my newfound historical perspective it does become more comprehensible. The session Saturday began, of course, with President Kimball’s address, touching as he usually does on many things.

Genealogy is reinterpreted to mean that (1) we need not research beyond the required four generations (2) we must keep personal histories (3) we are to have family organizations (4) we are to write family histories (5) names will be processed for temple work in an organized name extraction program in which we may be asked to participate. I’m glad for the change–it seems much more reasonable to me, and gives solace to realize that I have not been out of line in my own thinking.

On that point, anyway. President Kimball had some things to say about women, among them the point that our women are free to fulfill themselves–as wives and mothers. That was no surprise to me, though. I do wonder how long it will be before someone points out that no one has reminded men that they, too, should (could?) find fulfillment as fathers and husbands. Maybe some do. Though I doubt that many careers would get off the ground if men were in it only as the fund-raising adjunct to the raising of a family! Anyway–I have heard President Kimball on women, and was not surprised. 

Then Neal Maxwell began a lyrical talk about how wonderful our women are. When his historical list includes Esther, Mary, and Lucy Mack Smith and left off Emma, I was saddened. The sadness changed to anger when I heard the old lines from a man from whom I had learned to expect new insights.

The rhetoric was familiar—we men groveling down here in the mud owe so much to you finer spirits–your deeper caring, greater understanding, inherent spirituality. Surely he must have seen the implication of what he was saying–that the Calibans in the muck are the rulers over the Ariels in the world; that the sex differences are fixed; that men will never have the qualities listed–i.e., be as Christlike–as women.

Women’s finer natures, he said, suited them so well to be mothers and nurses. “What more could a woman want? What more could a man want for his wife?”

The reinforcing of the nineteenth century stereotype is not unprecedented– it would be (is) hard to break its chains. But for so good a mind as Elder Maxwell’s to have bought so publicity-oriented a package hurts to the quick. I ache for the Church to accept the social implications of its beliefs!

I wrote and rewrote and discarded as useless mental letters to Elder Maxwell all the time he was speaking. Tears kept smearing my glasses as I worked around cleaning cupboards and washing woodwork. The talk had barely concluded when the phone rang. I tried to ignore it–I did not want the responsibility of Becky’s hurts or Jane’s anger–but it won. Mike Quinn was there–“I just wanted you to know I thought that was a terrible talk,” he began. We sort of met each others’ needs–he to express his relatively recent, I think, awareness of women questions, and I to hear that someone understood and cared.

In the tranquility which followed the storm I told myself that I have little fear for Bronwen growing up under so restrictive an interpretation–she will know enough women who have broken the stereotype to find her own models. But what of Daniel? How will he learn that he might share that pedestal with his wife, sister, mother. That he has just as much obligation to the “womanly virtues” as his sister has. And likewise as much responsibility for the toilet bowl and the baby’s middle of the night cries.

I do not expect a swing in favor of teaching for androgynous personality development, but it does pain to see us slide back to the old “maid” and “macho” routine. 

[Maureen Beecher Diary; LJA Diary, 4 Apr., 1978]

Janath Cannon said that in 1964 the General Board and Presidency of Relief Society inaugurated a series of lessons for the Indian Relief Societies. They were developed on the basis that much of the lesson material was not suited to their life and culture. They were on doctrine–spiritual lessons, more acculturated to Indians. They were used four years. They’re trying to develop something like this for other groups. In Japan, women have traditionally walked two steps behind the men. President McKay was asked if this were according to the gospel. He chose to say something about it. A woman, he said, should walk right beside her husband. This was a part of Mormon culture. The principle of storage applies, but in humid lands we can’t store as in Utah. So, if you can’t you keep it in the ground, or you plant your own crops, or something. They are attempting to determine what is Mormon basic culture which can be applied all over the world.

Janath talked on the Relief Society, which is a response to needs. What does a General Presidency do? Sister Smith supervises the entire program, the General Board, appoints committees. Sister Bayer has charge of the Nauvoo monuments, temple clothing and garments, distribution centers, Relief Society building. Sister Cannon handles printed matter, the lessons, the  production of slides, filmstrips, music, nursery, curriculum. Sister Miltenberger, the secretary-treasurer, is in charge of office personnel, finance, Welfare.

The Relief Society Curriculum Planning Committee expresses a desire for a certain group of lessons. A plan or outline is developed. This goes to instructional development of the Church. They outline it in detail, it goes to the Board for approval, then is written by someone instructional development calls, (these are church calls, not paid). Then goes to the board, to correlation, (not back to the board from correlation), then to editing. Lesson plans are developed eight years in advance. They look for the day when there will be regional lessons for different culture areas, but this is a ways off. They do not expect to allow local teachers and administrators to work up their own lessons.

Janath quoted Elder Monson: I hear, I forget

I see, I remember

I do, I learn

Sis Cannon says the spiritual living lessons are geared to the Priesthood lessons. Not all the writers for Relief Society lessons are woman, though perhaps more than half are. They’re mostly BYU people. After editing, it goes to translation, graphics, printing, distribution. Need deculturizing for translation.

Joseph Smith told the Relief Society they should: “assist by correcting the morals, and strengthening the virtues of the community.” March 1842. Spencer Kimball said in November 1977: To lift up their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting in their communities and beyond the inroads of pornography and the flaunting of the general permissiveness.” Community affairs work: Get information, develop skills, identify where we can serve. Take it as a personal responsibility; do not let the RS become a political forum. Grethe is a community affairs person on the Boston Stake board. Mini-lessons on parliamentary procedure, etc. Heighten awareness about community issues and problems. 

[Boston; LJA Diary, 12 May, 1978]

Yesterday afternoon Alice Smith, our friend of many years from Logan (Mrs. W. Whitney Smith) spent a full hour talking with me about women in the Church. She has been a member of the General Board of the Relief Society for about 18 years and is fairly sure that she will be released in the near future because of this long service. She came in to see me, I suppose, because we were personal friends and because she knew I was interested in the history of women in the Church.

Alice had just returned from regional meetings in Roanoke, Virginia. This plus things she has heard the Brethren say and things she has read give her great anxiety. She is very discouraged and doesn’t see any reason for hope about the future role of women in the Church. She is surely not a feminist; she is very much a traditionalist. But the tradition as she understands it gives women an equal, though not similar, role with men–equal but different. She has read through many times the early minutes of the Relief Society which Joseph Smith made comments. She is also aware of the changes in these minutes that were made by George A. Smith in the 1850s. And it is this revised form that has been published by the Relief Society ever since. It is that revision which the Brethren have read and which they quote from. There are significant differences. She sees the role of women being constricted from the 1850s up to the present. She thinks Joseph Smith’s vision of woman and her role is what should be our guide, and she wishes somehow we could give that particular emphasis.

Alice says that we are gradually losing our women. She says this was clear in Virginia, where the attendance of women at Relief Society meeting and at Sacrament meeting is dropping substantially. She has obtained statistics for the whole church which show the same thing happening. Attendance of women at Relief Society is considerably lower than attendance at Priesthood meeting, and attendance of women at Sacrament meeting is lower than for men. Whereas men run around 40-45 percent, women are now averaging about 35 percent. This is compared with, say, 45 percent five years ago for the women. She attributes this to the Relief Society in particular and the Church in general not meeting the needs of the women. I asked her for particulars on this, and she feels it is not a result of particular things as much as the general attitude of women feeling inferior.

Item: Women are not now permitted to pray in Sacrament meeting. Ten years ago women were permitted to close Sacrament meeting while a man was supposed to open it.

Item: Women used to be permitted to bless other women. This particularly true of midwives who were permitted–indeed, encouraged–to administer to women who were about to undergo childbirth or who had other illnesses. This has not been true for 30 or 40 years.

Item: Few if any bishops or stake presidents would permit a woman to join or to stand as observer at the blessing of her baby. This was once permitted where the woman requested it.

Item: The women once had their own magazine and therefore an avenue of communicating with each other. This has not been true since 1970.

Item: The women once had their own money and therefore had a certain autonomy in what they did. It was hard to get the money; they had to hold bazaars and sponsor stands at fairs and put on plays and musicals and solicit donations, but at least they were permitted to do this and had a certain independence because they controlled their money. The have not had this privilege in the last ten years.

Item: Once upon a time women were invited to speak in General Conference. No woman has been invited in recent years to speak in the open sessions; and despite the importance of women in the Welfare program, only one woman is permitted to speak in the Welfare session of General Conference; namely, the president, who has seven minutes.

Everybody knows that the influence of women on children and young people is stronger than that of men simply because they are around then more. Everybody knows that if the father is inactive and the mother is active, the children will be active, whereas if the father is active and the mother inactive the children will rarely be active. The influence of the mother on children and the youth is determining. If we are denegating women and their position we will soon lose the youth, and when we lose the youth our future is dim. Sister Smith hoped that I could give her just one example of some action in recent years which has raised the position of women in the Church. If I discover any such thing now or in the days to come she wants me to write her. Some of the General Authorities are quoting statements by Brigham Young which suggest the inferiority of women. Alice says that President Lee, under whom the magazine and the money were taken away from the Relief Society, was accustomed to using a quotation from President Joseph F. Smith about woman and her role, and she said that if he had used the paragraph which follows that quotation the net effect of the quotation is nullified. She suggests that Belva Ashton is equally concerned on these matters but that neither Alice nor Belva have any effective voice. She says that neither the presidency nor the board members have access to the First Presidency nor to the Quorum of the Twelve. The advisors to the Relief Society now are this General Priesthood Committee with Dean Larsen as chairman and with Brother Worthlin as the particular Relief Society coordinator or advisor. Brother Worthlin presumably has access to Brother Larsen. Brother Larsen presumably has access to some member of the Twelve, and that member of the Twelve presumably has access to the Twelve as a group, which in turn has access to the First Presidency. But relatively speaking, things do not work that way. Brother Worthlin passes on to Brother Larsen what he feels Brother Larsen wants. Brother Larsen passes on to the member of the Twelve what he feels the Twelve want, and the result is that what the Relief Society really wants is never seen by the First Presidency. Nor are the Relief Society presidency permitted to make an end run around to the First Presidency.  There is the strongest admonition that they must not do that. The result is that the First Presidency are asked to approve policies for the Relief Society on the assumption that they are approved by the Relief Society presidency when as a matter of fact they have been watered down and are not at all what the Relief Society presidency want.

I asked Alice why it was that the Relief Society presidency did not feel like they could go directly to the Presidency on some matters that they feel strongly about and let the Presidency know how they really feel. I said, “I feel sure that Belle Spafford did this.” She said that is true; Belle did. She said Sister Spafford was a strong personality; she made her desires known, and she got away with it. That, however, is not the characteristic of the three members of the presidency. Janath Cannon is scared to death; Sister Boyer is not sharp enough to see all the problems and to be articulate in expressing them. Barbara Smith just is not the kind of a strong personality. Her husband is a strong personality and high in the circle of influential persons in the Church. And he would not be able to understand this problem with respect to women. As for Barbara, she senses, it, she feels it, but she was trained in her home and in her marriage with the idea of women being submissive and obedient. It just would not occur to her to be pushy.

I asked Alice what we could do to improve this situation–to have a helpful influence. She said that it would be helpful if we continue to stress in our historical writing the broader and more influential role of women in early Church history and the views of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But she is inpatient and does not think that influence will be very strong or very immediate. What else? Well, nothing really. I guess she hoped that I would have conversations with people and might express a concern, but she surely does not realize how little influence we have in that way. Alice says that she hasn’t lost her testimony in any way, but she feels depressed about the future of the Church because of the way they are treating women as inferior beings or second-class citizens. I tried to bring up the positive role of Exponent II, and she said that it has so few readers. She said the Relief Society board members were not permitted to subscribe to Exponent II and so she and a few others who want to subscribe do so under the names of their husbands.

Alice loves the Church too much to be unconcerned about this matter. When she is released from the board, which she thinks will be soon, she then wants to publish two or three things, possibly in Exponent II, that will help to call attention to these concerns. 

Alice is not at all exercised over the “priesthood question;” that is, she has never thought that women ought to hold the priesthood, and thinks that that is an extraneous issue. She thinks not any women want to hold the priesthood. It is just that they be regarded as equals–as not inferior. It is just that women ought to participate in the decision-making process that affects them. They ought to have some say in the decisions of the ward, the stake, and the Church generally. There is a statement which Susa Young Gates made in the Relief Society Bulletin–the predecessor of the Relief Society Magazine–in which she says, “Women do not hold the priesthood. They ought to face this calmly and express it thoroughly and calmly to their daughters.”

Whatever problems the Relief Society has today, they are probably not equal to those of the 1920s when they were under the Presiding Bishopric. That, according to Jill, who has studied that period of Relief Society history, was the most frustrating of all–worse than the situation today where they don’t have direct access to the Twelve or the First Presidency.

[LJA Diary, 17 Aug., 1978]

Earl Olson telephoned this morning to say that Elder Boyd Packer had telephoned him to say that he had read the Primary manuscript, thought it was fine, but did have one principal concern, which was that we need to suggest or to say throughout that the Primary operated under the guidance and direction of the priesthood. I told Earl I would take care of it, and I told Carol to put at least one phrase to that effect in every chapter in the book. She agreed to do so. Usually when people keep wanting things like this to be said in a secular institution, this would suggest a certain insecurity. Maybe the priesthood do feel insecure about innovations being made and policies being determined without explicit recognition of the role of the priesthood in doing so. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Aug., 1978]

Maureen came in today and said she had a long talk with Becky Cornwall. They had to “talk through” their positions on the “prayer for the extension of ERA” campaign. Two or three points: First, it was not Becky’s idea. She was put up to it by Jan Tyler and Sonia Johnson, An inner light told her at the time it was not the right thing to do but she was persuaded to do it and thought she ought to “stand out on the front line.” So she went ahead and did it, but as soon as the mail started coming in she realized it was the wrong thing to do, and her inner light told her that she must disengage herself from the movement immediately. She realized this would be a Benedict Arnold thing to do, but her inner light told her it was the right thing and so she went ahead and told Jan that she was resigning from it and that she was now carrying on the campaign in the same way that Maureen and Jill and others are doing. Maureen felt free to tell her about our conversation at the meeting with Lavina and Jay Todd the other day in which I mentioned that I don’t agree with the campaign but defended her staunchly as a person, even though she had done it, and indicated in the strongest language that this did not affect our friendship in any way. Becky was glad to hear that. Becky indicated to Maureen that she missed Grace and hoped to be with her again soon. 

[LJA Diary, 29 Aug., 1978]


2. Proud that we were able to break the old rule of personnel and Church employment which required women to be terminated after six months of pregnancy. We were able to break this rule through Maureen Beecher. Once having been broken, it is now general policy that women may work until they wish to quit. But the next stop was even more difficult–to get Church personnel to agree to allow women a few weeks leave, after which they might resume employment. We were able to get them to do this for Maureen and thus the pattern was set for other women in Church employment as well. And now, of course, the women have medical insurance to take care of this during the weeks they are gone. It is my understanding that they may also use part of their leave time as vacation and sick time so that their salary may go on while they are out for the baby. 

[Reminiscences; LJA Diary, 14 Sept., 1978]

The above is the spontaneous report of Carol Madsen. Let me add that

Grace and I learned that the entire program was being broadcast Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 11. We got home from church at about 6:40, in time to hear most of Sister Ruth Funk’s talk. We then heard the remainder of the program–Elaine Cannon, Barbara Smith, President Kimball, and the chorus. Our impressions were not substantially different from those of Carol, although we did think Barbara Smith was just a little stern–perhaps not as accommodating as she might have been to some of the sisters who do not agree with Church statements on ERA. And we thought President Kimball might have been just a little more conciliatory than he was to the same women. I’ll report in this diary in the days to come if I get reactions from other persons. I’ve not asked Maureen or Jill their own impressions.

[Women’s Meeting; LJA Diary, 18 Sept., 1978]

Friday, September 15, Earl Olson was visited by a security official who asked that the Library-Archives be closed down at noon on Saturday, so instructions were issued accordingly. Earl asked me to inform all of our staff that nobody would be able to get in after 12:00 o’clock. I asked him for what reason and he said, “Security reasons.” Gordon now tells me that he was here Saturday morning and that everything was closed at 12:00 o’clock. In the process he asked one of the security people the reason and the security person replied that Security had heard that there was to be a sit-in of women during the afternoon. Apparently there was a reception at 3:00 o’clock in advance of the evening meeting for women. This was a reception for General Authorities and wives, the officers and spouses of Relief Society and Young Women, and perhaps general boards. (At any rate, I did not receive an invitation and I assume other Church department officials did not.) Gordon says there was absolutely no sign of anybody wanting to sit-in and that this was a false alarm. It reminds me of the many false alarms that came during the period of black difficulties, when we kept hearing that many carloads of blacks from California were headed for Salt Lake City and they were going to “take over” Temple Square. This got so far that priesthood members in various wards in Salt Lake City were mobilized to meet the problem, in case it developed. Of course nothing happened.

[LJA Diary, 18 Sept., 1978]

Alice Smith telephoned this morning, quite discouraged. She called to tell me she did not think the time was ripe to publish a history of the Relief Society. She thought this would be too damaging to the testimonies of LDS women who would read it because, if it tells the truth, it will relate the deterioration of the power and position of women in the Church and will be very depressing to women who care. She gave as examples the following:

In 1964 when she went on the board, the Relief Society visited every stake at least once a year; then as the number of stakes multiplied, they were given permission to visit 60 stakes each year, then still later 24, and the new instructions give them the opportunity of visiting only 12 stakes per year.

Second, the Relief Society has lost its money, its magazine, its lessons, and its semi-annual conferences. The Church correlating group in charge of writing manuals has taken over their manual; the Presiding Bishopric has taken over their money; the Ensign has taken over their magazine, and in no case have they had a substitution for any of these.

When she was visiting the stake in Virginia, she assured the women that they might phone up Barbara Smith and invite her to meet with them, but as they were about to do so, they received a letter which informed them that they were not to invite any member of the board or any member of the presidency without clearing it with the stake president. The stake president had to clear it with the regional representative; the regional representative had to clear it with the area supervisor; the area supervisor had to clear it with the Quorum of Twelve. And because of all this bureaucratic arrangement, it will be impossible now for any stake to be directly in touch with the central organization of the Relief Society. Not only will they not be able to visit the various stakes, but they can’t even correspond with them directly. She says that plans are now to do things at the ward level, which will make it more difficult for the Relief Society to function. She did not reveal what those were, but said that it would occur soon. She is very discouraged. 

She has accumulated over the years a large supply of Relief Society instructions and materials and has written notes and kept a diary, and she called to know what to do with these. I made a number of suggestions to her; the one which seemed most attractive to her was to give them to BYU or USU so they could be used by girls doing masters theses at the university. 

Alice said the deterioration of the Relief Society began under President Lee, under his Correlation program, and that many of his appointees are still functioning and still operating under his philosophy. Dean Larsen, for example, was a Lee protogee, and is now the advisor to the Relief Society. He and those with him are continuing to trim and trim power and authority from the Relief Society. 

[LJA Diary, 18 Sept., 1978]

Alice Smith telephoned again this morning, presumably from Logan. She said she was now free to tell me some things she was not free to mention yesterday. She was released from the general board of the Relief Society about ten days ago. She has known this was coming for some time. She is a confidant of Barbara Smith–probably Barbara’s closest friend on the board-and so has been aware of what was taking place.

When Barbara was made president of the Relief Society she felt that as a relatively new worker in Relief Society she would like to keep all of Sister Spafford’s old board. They would have experience and be able to help her learn all the ropes. The Brethren opposed this but she was able to persuade them to allow her to keep most of the members of the old Spafford board. This meant a board of approximately 40 persons. After some time the Brethren asked her to cut back the board to 30. She did this with tears and travail. Then a year or so ago when they dissolved the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, they asked her to take 7 of them on her board. She agreed to do this. This built up her membership to 37. A few weeks ago they instructed her that she must take 7 persons off the board and reduce it to 30. Presumably Alice and 6 others were a part of this reduction.

Alice has served on the board some 14 years and she believed it was proper for her to be one of those released. When she saw this move coming Barbara told her in a confidential talk that she, Alice, would never be released by her, Barbara. But Alice instructed her never to put her presidency on the line for her, Alice. Alice felt strongly that she had rendered her most efficient and effective service already and that she should be released, and instructed Barbara to release her when the others were released so this has now been done.

The most important lesson indicated by this experience is that the Relief Society are not very autonomous, even within their own organization. The Brethren are not only directing Relief Society policy but also getting into the actual administration of the organization.

Alice says this is confidential to me and I am not to repeat any of it, and I am the first to learn that she has been released; but I will be informed of some of these things later on and she wanted to be sure that I did not think her telephone yesterday was “sour grapes.” I did not regard it that way and would not have done so, since I have great confidence in the integrity and maturity of Alice.

[LJA Diary, 19 Sept., 1978]

When President Kimball made his inaugural address as president in April 1974, he stated that not only did he feel his inadequacy, but he would simply attempt to carry out the policies of his predecessor, President Lee. He gave the impression that he would be a caretaker president. One got the impression that he did not expect to serve as president very long, and did not feel complete confidence in making his own personality and policies felt. It seemed evident that the Lord has given him confidence and authority and security. At any rate, he has been one of the most innovative presidents in this century . . . .

* The announcement that women may pray in any meeting in which they are present.

[Reflections on Conference; LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1978]

4. For the first time the general audience will be able to read an extended description of the Mormon concept of the eternal family and its implications for the roles of men and women. Discussions of sex role stereotyping of LDS women, which goes on in much non-Mormon literature, will hereafter be more balanced.

5. This book contains the best chapter-length study of the role of women in Mormon history. Low-key in tone, this chapter makes it clear that Mormon women have had many opportunities for expression and growth and leadership.

[Specific contributions of The Mormon Experience, Arrington & Bitton, 14 Nov., 1978]

I was told this morning by Glen Leonard that he had received a letter from Dennis Lythgoe, who is bishop of a ward in one of the suburbs of Boston, Mass. According to the way Glen understands it, Dennis wanted to appoint a sister as president of the ward Sunday School. He looked through all the manuals of instruction and couldn’t see anything that specifically prohibited it. Upon inquiry with his high council representative and stake president, he learned that they also, could see no reason this should not be done, particularly in view of the fact that one of the other wards in the stake had a black as president of the Sunday School who held no priesthood, and another ward had a person who held only the Aaronic Priesthood as president. After consulting with the stake president, he was given the go-ahead and sustained the woman as Sunday School president. One of her counselors was a woman and one was a man. The Sunday School functioned very well.

Seeing this arrangement functioning so well, one of the other ward bishops decided to do the same thing, and with the approval of the stake president, did so. Some person in that ward, however, didn’t think it was a proper thing to do, and wrote to Elder Pinegar, the area supervisor. Elder Pinegar gathered together information about it and then submitted it to the Quorum of Twelve. The Quorum of Twelve then discussed the matter and informed Elder Pinegar to inform the stake president to inform the bishop that this was not a proper procedure and that he would have to release the sister. Bp. Lythgoe then wrote to the former stake president there, now a member of the Quorum of Twelve, Elder Tom Perry. Elder Perry wrote back a rather curt letter saying that he had not been present when the Quorum of Twelve discussed it but he verified that it had been discussed and that the minutes indicated the decision that Elder Pinegar had conveyed to them. The other bishop also wrote, to Elder Hale, a former regional representative of the region and a former bishop in Boston, and he replied more or less the same way–rather tersely.

So Bishop Lythgoe will be releasing the sister, and, as he expressed, “We have taken a step backwards.” Of course much of it must be to avoid the impression that we are about to turn over certain leadership positions to women.

[LJA Diary, 9 Jan., 1979]

After church Sunday we went to the apartment of Jan Tyler, as the response of an invitation from her and from Carol Lynn Pearson, who is staying with her for two or three days. Just Jan and Carol Lynn and Grace and myself. We had a little Sunday evening snack and talked until after 10:00 p.m. I was happy to get better acquainted with Jan. She has not had employment for several months and doesn’t seem to be able to get any. Her present plan is to sell her condominium apartment and move to California–the Bay area–and see if she can find something there. She is very bright, very honest and frank, very well trained. She has books and articles in her mind that she wants to write. I should think she would make a first-rate counselor, so sensitive to the needs and interests of other people. She has never filled a mission for the Church in a formal sense, but has obviously done personal missionary work. She said she has converted at least one person every year for the last seven years. She really is well versed in the gospel. She was born in Twin Falls, I think, and lived there until she was four or five; then her family moved to Walla Walla, Washington, where she went to school, I think through jr. high; then to Scottsdale, Arizona, where as I recall she did high school and went to Arizona State. Meantime her family moved back to Walla Walla where they still remain. Her father is the twelfth of twelve children–a younger brother of Lyman Tyler. She does not know all her uncles and aunts, but knows Lyman and Jewel very well; those are the two that I am acquainted with, also. I think I had a few dates with Jewel. Jan has a lot to offer and she blames to some extent the patriarchal nature of the Mormon and Utah society for her failure to find work here, plus, I suppose, her active efforts with the IWY conference and campaigning for ERA. As far as Grace and I could tell, she is fairly firm in the gospel although she thinks our society does not offer enough to women. She seemed to be pleasant and outgoing and very cheerful. She is active in the 21st ward, although she doesn’t have much opportunity for socializing, since she is still single. I gather that she is about 30 years old. She is in the same ward with Elder Benson and Elder LeGrand Richards. She has never been to the temple–is waiting for her marriage. I like her very much. I expressed to her my feeling that during the last three years I thought I had observed a loosening up of attitudes toward women and thought we were now headed in the direction of giving them more status and authority. She said her own observations were precisely opposite, that we were tightening up, and closing down opportunities.

Carol Lynn Pearson seems to have become more estranged from the Church than she was when I talked with her a year or so ago. She said Gerald is completely inactive–has been since they went to California. This is amplified by the fact that his job as chief chef requires him to work on Sunday. Carol Lynn attends the Walnut Creek 2nd Ward Sunday School with her children, but I gather she does not go regularly to sacrament meeting, or participate in other activities. She seems not to have socialized much with other people in the ward. She seems a little bitter, a little cynical, about the Church. Things which “bug” her include our claiming to be the only true church, when she believes that there are other churches that have as valid a claim as we. Another thing, of course, is our conservative social stance, which repels her. But she still makes these remarks within a context in which she seems to be eager for my response, so maybe it is just questioning, not complete disillusionment. She continues to enjoy writing Mormon poems and has about finished another book of poems. She read us one of then. “A Motherless Home,” which is about the world without a mother in heaven. She believes firmly that there is a mother in heaven, believes that is a part of the gospel, and blames the Church for not elucidating that principle. I reminded her that President Kimball had mentioned it specifically twice in the last conference, and she seemed to know this, and yet she feels that this doctrine has not been institutionalized–no mention of it by other General Authorities, no attempt to portray it in art, and so on. I suggested she might publish the poem in Exponent II, and see what kind of a reaction she got. She may do so, although she says she has been waiting to put it in the book, and may do so. She said she would like to get out of the field of writing exclusively for Mormons, but I gather she hasn’t tried to do so very hard–yet. She and Eloise Bell have finished and sent to Bookcraft a manuscript on keeping a diary and journals. This is built around her own journals which she kept from the time she was a teenager. They have used extensive excerpts from it. She was pleasant and friendly, but I had the impression a little more disillusioned–and, as I said, a little more bitter and cynical than she was a year ago. She needs to have more contact with people like Maureen and Jill and Carol Madsen, and others of their type. I see absolutely none of that disillusionment in our women historians, who seem to have a more solid faith in  the gospel than ever as the result of their studies, even though they are as interested in the women’s movement as Carol Lynn.

Jan said that she had had a number of spiritual experiences, which she has written up and dated. She wonders why we do not feel free today to discuss and publish things about our spiritual experiences. We do have them, she is sure, but it doesn’t get into the literature in a way that it did in the 19th century. The Lives of Noble Women series and other autobiographical and biographical accounts make frequent mention of these, but nothing in our day seems to do so. Why? and Why not? I pointed out the importance of study groups and mentioned that in these groups people feel free to tell such experiences and that there are hundreds of such groups in the Church, and if she were to attend these she would hear many such stories. So from that standpoint, maybe, the telling of such stories is done in temples and in study groups. That helps to explain why there is not much written about these experiences.

Jan said that when she was 17, President Kimball, then an apostle, dedicated their chapel in Walla Walla. She was asked to transcribe the tape of his talk. While she was transcribing it, she had gotten through one tape and was about half way through the second when suddenly she heard a voice come in, as if a spirit voice, and say, “This man will someday become president of the Church and under his presidency the blacks will be given the priesthood.” She was startled, realizing that it was not President Kimball’s voice. She went back and played the tape again, and did not hear the “spirit voice.” She did write down the experience, however, for future reference. Later on in the day she began to wonder whether she had the experience or not–whether it was just a case of bad hearing. So she played the tape once more and heard the same voice interject with the same statement. Then to make sure, she replayed it again and did not hear the voice. So she heard the voice twice, and of course if anyone else played the tape they would not hear the voice. So it was a special spiritual experience for her and so she has known all along that the revelation on priesthood for the blacks would come to President Kimball. She has had other spiritual experiences of this type, and indeed has had one as recently as early in the month of January of this year. As I suggested, she has written up all of these and dated them, and wonders what to do with it– whether to publish it, distribute it, or keep it to herself. She asked me my counsel, but I did not give her any.

[LJA Diary, 12 Feb., 1979]

Alice Smith telephoned this afternoon to say that she had changed her mind about the advice she gave me a month or so ago. At that time she had said that women’s affairs in the Church in general and the Relief Society in particular were in such a bad state that she did not think it would be desirable to write a history of the Relief Society at this time. It would be too negative. Alice says that she has changed her mind. She thinks women’s affairs in the Church have been down for three or four years but she thinks the pendulum has swung the other way. She had received some confidential information which she cannot reveal to me yet but will later, which suggests that things are on the up in women’s affairs. Some of this will be made clear in the weeks to come–I gather not at conference but over the next few months. She said she would now encourage us to do a good history and thinks that enough positive can be said that it will not be too negative in tone.

She also encouraged us to include in the history the minutes of the first Relief Societies in Nauvoo. 

[LJA Diary, 15 Mar., 1979]

Last night I spoke in the Jesse Knight Building at BYU on the subject “Persons for All Seasons: Women in Mormon History.” The gathering was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center of BYU Library and by the Utah Women’s History Association. The person who invited me was Lavina Fielding Anderson, who I assume is program director for this year. The president this year apparently is Kathryn McKay, although the roles of these two might possibly be reversed. The room held 125 and it was full, and in addition we placed about 30 chairs along the isles and then there were perhaps another 20 or 30 persons outside each of the two doors. So there must have been close to 200, of whom about 90% were women–some townspeople, some university students. There was at least one carload from Weber and at least four or five carloads from Salt Lake City, in addition to those from around Provo. Kathryn McKay made general introductory remarks, then Donald Nelson of BYU Library introduced me, and I spoke about fifty minutes, after which there were prepared comments by Elizabeth Shaw of the Ensign staff and Helen Candland Stark, each of whom spoke about 10 minutes. Both had been prepared without them having seen a copy of my talk, or at least I assume this; both were excellent. Since the last finished about 9:00 o’clock, Kathryn and Lavina decided to close the meeting without any questions or comments from the floor, which was just fine with me. My talk was received enthusiastically. 

[LJA Diary, 22 Mar., 1979]

Maureen came in to say that she had received a telephone call from John Madsen. John said that the First Presidency and “the Brethren” had decided that the Relief Society needed more visibility and that he had been assigned to provide additional input into the Church given to the Relief Society by the Brethren in past periods. He has had Tom Truitt and Anna Mae Robison working on it and he asked for additional help from Maureen. He wants the material by next Tuesday. I told Maureen to furnish him some good quotations that she can get quickly and that in addition she should telephone him and suggest he write a letter to Elder Durham suggesting a more detailed research project to be done by us on women and their role in Church history. Maureen said he emphasized several times that the biggest single problem in the Church is the problem of women and the image of women and that the Church is determined to do everything they can to help everyone understand more fully the importance we attach to women and their work. All of this sounds very much like what Alice Smith was talking about in her telephone call the other day. John Madsen says that he was told to do this by Dean Larsen, and that Dean Larsen appears to be a representative of the First Presidency on this matter and sits in all meetings of the Relief Society and their advisors. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Mar., 1979]

Yesterday I had lunch with James and Ida Smith, the director of the Women’s Institute at BYU. Ida said that she had first met in Independence, Mo., at the meeting of the Joseph Smith Family Association about August, 1973. I seem to have recalled meeting her in Hawaii in 1972 when I was there on the Commissioner’s Lecture Series.

Ida is the daughter of Ruth Pingree Smith and Joseph Fielding Smith, patriarch of the Church for a period in the 1940s. She is one of a family of eight, I believe. She appears to be about 45, has never been married, seems quite satisfied with her life as a single woman, although she didn’t plan it that way. She graduated from the University of Utah in political science and her first job was teaching at the Pahuahua missionary school in Hawaii–Honolulu. Presumably that was at the time that her father resigned from being patriarch and joined the faculty of the University of Hawaii. She says that her family were always poor, so her father must have been paid very little as Church patriarch. He must have been paid better at the University of Hawaii as a professor of speech. After three years at Hawaii she was employed as executive secretary of the National Association of Manufacturers in San Francisco, I think, for 17 years, and then for about the next four or 5 years as executive secretary of a large architectural firm in Palo Alto.

Ida is obviously very intelligent, capable, and had excellent experience in dealing with people. Although she has presumably been active in the Church she has had the same feeling as many single women–sort of outside of things. She is honest, candid, politically astute, with the right attitudes about things. Her principal frustration now is how to get her findings–the findings of her institute–to the right people, the General Authorities. There isn’t any avenue for getting this to them. So far as objectives of the Church and women, she feels that the main thing is for the Lord to declare–the Church to declare–that women and men are equal–not the same but equal in standing before the Lord.

I asked her if she would care to give some examples of symbolic gestures the Church might make to demonstrate that it does in fact accept women as equals. (She had stated that many women feel they’re not treated as equals.) I mentioned a variety of things:

1. Have a woman–say the president of the Relief Society–sit on the stand at General Conference.

2. Have a woman– say Barbara Smith or Elaine Cannon–speak in general conference. 

3. Have the Relief Society president sit in on meetings of the Bishopric.

4. Permit women to stand in the circle when their baby is being blessed.

5. Have a woman sit on the expenditures committee of the Church. 

6. Resurrect the Relief Society Magazine so that women have their own magazine.

She said any or all of those would help. The most important thing, she said, was to help the bishops get the message that women and men are equal in the sight of the Lord, and Church. The problem isn’t with most General Authorities–the problem is with certain bishops, the message they get. She mentioned certain things, like the women’s fireside. Why could they not call it a women’s conference? The mothers’ and daughters’ meeting held in connection with area conferences. What does that do for the large number of women, both young and old, who are not mothers? They do not feel welcome and they ought to be there. She mentioned that President Kimball has brought up in two or three of his last conference addresses the matter of the mother in heaven, but somehow or other this doesn’t seem to go any further. In pioneer days women were regarded as separate but equivalent to the priesthood. Women were given charge of women’s affairs–the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. But now there has to be a General Authority adviser over each, and women don’t ever get access to the Twelve or to the First Presidency. By the time their recommendations go through their priesthood adviser and then to the Twelve, it gets to the First Presidency in greatly diluted and altered form, so that they have no avenue for having direct contact with the people who make the basic decisions.

She asked me who in the Quorum of the Twelve were people who would look sympathetically and favorably upon women’s problems? I had to think a little while and finally I said Howard Hunter and LeGrand Richards in the Twelve, and Duff Hanks, Paul Dunn, and Homer Durham in the 70s. She then asked me who in the Twelve would be least sympathetic. I told her I could answer that very easily and quickly with a lot of names, and I started to do so: Elder Packer, Elder Benson, Elder Petersen, Elder Perry,…She said Stop, you’ve proven my point already. So you see why it is difficult for us to do things that would be beneficial to women?

I asked her how she happened to be chosen for the institute position. She said a few years ago she was in charge of a group in Palo Alto that invited President Oaks to speak. He wasn’t able to and he didn’t do this sort of thing, but by some maneuvering they got an invitation for him to speak to BYU alumni in the San Francisco region. She said President Oaks told her in a subsequent letter that he was very impressed with her and would very much like to get her at BYU when the opportunity arose. Another input was from Marilyn Arnold, who had met her in some connection in Palo Alto. Anyway, she was surprised to be offered the position but feels that she is the right person for it, and that the Lord is pleased to have her there.

[LJA Diary, 24 May, 1979]

Maureen brought in a copy of Sonia Johnson’s talk at the American Psychologists Association meetings in New York on September 1. She says the talk is terrible and not friendly to the Church. She says Sonia Johnson has an Ed. D. degree. She says about 50 people were in attendance for the panel in which Sonia Johnson and 3 others presented papers. She was the only one of the 4 that still reflected a sense of hurt–had not become reconciled. Perhaps for that reason, not many questions were directed at her. In fact, one only, which asked her for some statistics and she had to confess she did not know. The most moving paper was by an Episcopalian woman, priest, which excited the most comment. As far as the person reporting to Maureen could determine, there were no news media–neither reporters for newspapers, magazines, and certainly not Channel 2 which had suggested that it might go back for the paper. So it was a tempest in a teapot. Maureen said that the paper she prepared for the Relief Society would not help in any way in responding to this paper. 

[LJA Diary, 10 Sept., 1979]

The history of the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inextricably connected with the history of the Relief Society. In writing the history of the one, it would be essential to include the development of the other. Both histories, that of the Relief Society, and that of the women of the Church, are needed now perhaps more than ever in the 150 years of the Church in this dispensation.

Contemporary Latter-day Saint women can look for their role models, their examples of righteous womanhood, nowhere better than to the women of the Mormon past. But so little is available in print, and so much of what is available is misleading, that it would be appropriate for the Relief Society and the Historical Department of the Church, in collaboration, to produce a thorough, well researched, well written history of the Relief Society from its inception to the present day. 

There are in existence, though out of print, two previous volumes about the Relief Society, one a centennial celebration published in 1942, the other a more thorough work from 1966. While both of these were well conceived for their time, neither answers the needs of the women today. The present project is not intended as merely an up-date of the 1966 volume, but a thorough consideration of all the aspects of the history, many untouched by the earlier accounts. Included should be consideration of such vital issues as women’s contributions to the family, to education and to the economy; women’s roles in the body politic, and opportunities for advancement in the Church and in the society; and the Church’s role in the promotion of women’s rights–all considered in the context of both LDS history and the national developments. 

Not only an administrative history, the proposed study would focus on what Relief Society meant in the lives of the women of the Church, drawing for its subject matter from ward and stake minutes as well as from general minutes and publications. Closer even than that, it would examine the impact of Relief Society in the lives of individuals, looking into the diaries and letters of women who lived at each period of the Church from its inception.

In all this, the history would be written to reach every woman in the Church. The historical analysis would be just the skeleton on which would hang the real teaching material, the life experiences of women–and men, and children–as they were touched by the Relief Society.

Several factors urge the immediate beginning of this project. The first and most obvious is the need for the book in the hands of the women of the Church, to buoy their spirits and strengthen their determination to direct their lives along gospel paths when so many pressures would tend to divert their steps.

A second consideration is the demand. At no time has literature about women been more sought after by the reading public, within as well as without the Church. The experience of publishers who have produced books by and about women, and their continued search for good manuscripts, gives credibility to the likelihood of sale of a sizeable first printing at least.

Third, there are not many people with the historical training and the writing ability who could produce a history of the caliber we would demand. While lay people could, and would, be involved in the search for materials, they would have to work under the direction of trained historians who know the sources, understand the historical process, and can, in the final stages, do the actual writing of the book. At the present time there are three women in the History Division of the Historical Department of the Church whose research and writing has already covered many aspects of the history we would propose compiling. These three–Maureen Beecher, Jill Derr, and Carol Madsen–are all qualified to direct such a project, but at least two are likely to go on to other things if this project is not begun soon. And such able and experienced historians are not easily come by, especially in so esoteric a field as the history of Mormon women.

Finally, there is the matter of the time involved in researching and writing such a history. Considering the head-start the project would have if it were directed from the Historical Department, at least a year could be cut from the time normally required by such a task; even so, another year at least and perhaps eighteen months would not be unreasonable for the production of a history which would do suitable honor to its subject. Add to that the nine months it takes to publish the manuscript, and the book could barely make a 1951 publication date. The need is immediate; it is not likely to decrease in two years. But the sooner the material is ready, the sooner the lives of the women of the Church will be blessed by the increased understanding of their organization and their own lives. 

[Memo on Relief Society History, Maureen Beecher, 1 Oct., 1979]

Another observation: I keep being embarrassed for the sisters. The wives of the General Authorities are back in a kind of balcony to the side of the stand where the Brethren sit. One can hardly see them. They are in a place that in the Southern theaters in the 19th century would have been referred to as “nigger’s heaven.” I don’t see any solution to this, but they must feel something like second-class observers of the conference sessions. In a way the same thing may be said of the women presidencies and board members of auxiliaries. They sit near the front on the farthest right side facing the stand. Why couldn’t those sisters be placed in the central behind the regional representatives and in front of stake presidents? Why do they have to be shunted over to the far right? Or why not find a place for the 3 presidents–Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary–on the stand or front row? Another thing that must seem peculiar to some observers is that all of the special guests on the first two rows all the way across the Tabernacle are men. Don’t we ever have any special guests who are women? If not, why not? And why wouldn’t it be a nice thing to have at each conference session one or two of the women presidents speak? Among those attending conference (outside of stake presidents and bishops) there are probably more women than men, so that all told women would probably make up at least 30% of the total audience. And of course the TV audience would probably include more women listeners than men. So why not have a couple of women speakers?

[Reflections on General Conference; LJA Diary, 8 Oct., 1979]

We are all eagerly awaiting word of the trial of Sonia Johnson. By the time this is mailed off, I suppose we’ll have word. Anyway, I learned much more about the case and its complexity while in Logan. Many people were talking about it, partly, I suppose, because Sonia is a Logan native, her parents live there, and Sonia and her husband have been in Logan the past few days. Sonia is extremely effective in using the media to advance her cause, so a lot has been in the papers. A long interview with her father Alvin; a long interview with her husband Dick. And a long interview with Sonia.

As I say, I learned, on a confidential basis, some of the complexities of the case. Sonia and Dick’s son, a 16-year-old is living in Logan with his uncle attending Logan High School. Apparently Sonia is so active politically that she has not had time for the family–has been away much of the time, so the boy has been “farmed out” to relatives in Logan. I don’t know whether the other two children are. I also talked with two people who took classes with Sonia at USU, and told something about her. Very complex. We await the court’s decision with apprehension. Someday there’ll be a play about her. Like Huebner.

[LJA to Children, 1 Dec., 1979]

There are many articles in the newspapers, much discussion over the radio and some TV stories that relate to the Church trial of Sonia Johnson. I thought it might be helpful to some future historian for me to record some personal impressions. Nearly all of the articles in the papers and interviews over the radio and TV have been initiated by Sonia and not by the Church, and it would seem appropriate to give a more balanced perspective. 

It is my understanding that Elder Gordon Hinckley is chairman of a Church political action committee which has been interested in several projects:

1. A drive against pornography in Salt Lake City and elsewhere.

2. A campaign against abortion and birth control.

3. A series of movements designed to prevent the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Presumably this is the same group or a similar group to the one which campaigned against the liquor-by-the-drink referendum in Utah about twelve years ago. It is my understanding that this central Church committee assists with literature, pins, buttons, etc., state groups attempting to influence the legislature against ratification or in favor of rescinding the ERA. Groups of LDS women, in advance of legislative action, are organized and are instructed specifically not to reveal that they are LDS women but simply that they are residents of the state opposed to ERA. They get hundreds of Relief Society women involved and some of their husbands as well. Regional Representatives have given them counsel and support, as have area executive administrators. This has been true in Virginia, Washington, Maine, Nevada, Illinois, and Florida, and possibly in other states as well that I am not aware of. All those participating understand that they are doing what the Church wants them to do. To some extent the General Authorities have been mobilized; Elder Packer gave a talk in Idaho and another in California on the ERA; Elder Neal Maxwell has also talked in at least two locations with the same theme. And of course the theme is carried out in many of the talks delivered by Elder Benson, Elder Petersen, and others.

Not every Latter-day Saint man or woman accepts the Church stand on ERA. I am sure they’re a small minority; I would guess perhaps one-tenth of the U.S. adult members of the Church–something like 100,000 persons, maybe. Because of the First Presidency’s letter on the subject and following-up letters in the Ensign and other publications, this group has not been vocal. It is made up of “liberals” and perhaps in a number of instances people who are never very responsive to Church counsel.

Sonia Johnson, however, made a personal decision to establish a small organization, “Mormons for ERA.” She was able to raise some money, probably from non-Mormon sources and organizations, and has carried out an active campaign. She has made it a policy to follow the Mormons against ERA into a state and has held news releases, appeared on TV and radio, and given talks designed to demonstrate to everybody that there are Mormons for ERA, and she has gotten a good deal of mileage out of this publicity. When LDS people have questioned her she has insisted that ERA is a political matter, not a religious matter, and that she has a right to disagree with the Church and its officials on this political matter, also that she has a right to actively campaign against it. Occasionally in talks she has gotten a little carried away and has said that the Brethren are badly informed and not inspired in adopting the anti-ERA position. She has urged Church members and others to campaign for ERA and by inference campaign against a stand taken by the First Presidency. Her remarks about the Brethren have not been complimentary. She has insisted that she strives to be a loyal Latter-day Saint on religious matters, and that she is free to depart from the church’s political position on this one matter. Non-LDS people have cheered her on and have made of her a sort of heroine for her courage and determination.

Sonia’s activities have not only included campaigning against the Mormon political action group in several states, but also flying pro-ERA banners over the Tabernacle during conference, and news releases and interviews in newspapers in New York, Washington, and elsewhere. Her campaign has been of such a demanding nature that she had her husband have sent their 16-year-old son to live with his uncle, Paul Harris, in Logan while he attends Logan High School. I am not certain whether the other two children are still at home and whether they follow Sonia and her husband on the campaign trail.

LDS officials have been irritated by her activities, which has tended to counter the effectiveness of the Church’s campaign against ERA. Complaints have been made to her bishop, Bp. Jeffrey Hinckley Willis, of Oakton, Va. One wonders whether he is a relative of Elder Gordon Hinckley and if so, how close the relationship is. One speculates whether Elder Hinckley advised the bishop to put her on trial for her membership, or perhaps President Benson; or perhaps the bishop received complaints from people about her behavior and asked the counsel or Elder Hinckley or President Benson or someone else about placing her on trial. It is our information that a woman who is active in the John Birch Society in Utah Valley heard her speak in Provo and was so infuriated that she telephoned Bp. Willis, made a complaint, and said she would like the opportunity of testifying against Sonia at a trial held for her membership. Bp. Willis, incidentally, is said to be the personnel director of the CIA. 

Sonia has declared that the decision to try her for her membership was made on Tuesday, November 13. She said a written notice to her to appear at a bishop’s court was received by her on Thursday, November 15. She said the notice did not mention any specific charges nor any specific complainants. Sonia, immediately upon receiving the letter that she was to appear Saturday, telephoned a number of her friends and supporters and released statements to newspapers in Washington, D.C., New York, and Utah, telling about the trial and indicating how unfair it was to conduct the trial before she had an opportunity of preparing her defense. As she thought about it, she felt she needed people to testify in her behalf and needed to prepare argumentation. She telephoned the bishop and asked him for a postponement. The bishop finally agreed to postpone it for two weeks. The trial was therefore rescheduled for December 1.

Several groups of friends, supporters, and other persons in Utah interested in a “fair trial” met in Salt Lake City and Provo to discuss aspects of the case. Some telephoned her and offered their help and assistance. They talked with her about Church trial procedures, they raised money to send a delegate back to testify for her–a person who was at the same meeting that the John Birch women had attended. I do not know the names of all of these persons, but it is my understanding that they raised money enough to send Jan Tyler back to testify. It is my understanding that they also made contact with Esther Peterson, who volunteered to testify. At the same time Sonia’s mother agreed to testify on her daughter’s behalf. Reba Keele of BYU faculty and Kathryn McKay, of the University of Utah, also testified in the trial on December 1. One group, in which J. D. Williams was vocal, sponsored a large ad in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune of Tuesday, November 27, asking the First Presidency to intervene to prevent an action against Sonia for what they called “exercising her free agency and free speech.” The letter was signed by about a hundred persons of whom a large number were not LDS. Probably more than half were non-LDS. Among the LDS whose names were there, there were many who were dissidents, estranged long since from the faith. On the other hand, there were some who attached their names who were on the road back to activity, and some very active, dedicated LDS. The ad was signed by the “Supporters of Sonia (SOS) Committee”; but that title has been popularized generally with “Save Our Sonia (SOS).” Among the names were some of our own friends: John & Linda Sillitoe, Paul Swenson, Allison Thorne, Olive Peterson, J D Williams, Barbara Williams, Janice Pearce, Carol Clay, Walter Borge, Terry Griffiths, Richard Cummings.

When Grace and I were in Logan Friday and Saturday at the inauguration of Stan Cazier as president of USU, we had the opportunity of sitting at the table with a number of friends, and they chose to devote most of the dinner table conversation to the Sonia Johnson trial. Ron Peterson, professor of ed psych and counselor at USU, says he attended seminars with Sonia and came to know her quite well. He said she was always a bright person, opinionated, and spoke up freely. She was a loyal LDS but did her own thinking. Their 16-year-old son living with his uncle Paul is in Ron’s ward. Ron is currently bishop of the ward. The boy reached 16 and wanted to be ordained a priest. His father was in Logan this past week and the son asked that he ordain him. Ron was certain that the father and mother would tell this widely and he didn’t want to be caught in the middle, so he chose to go by the book, which says that you are not supposed to ordain in the priesthood until you are able to certify to the worthiness of a person. When a person has not been in the ward a year, you are required to contact the bishop of the previous ward, and Ron tried to do that, but was unable to do so. So he chose to put off the ceremony until after the trial had died down a little.

I sat next to Carolyn and John Cragun, and they both had heard Sonia; and John, as a Stake President, had some experience with Church courts. Both of them offered a number of suggestions and impressions.

1. A bishop’s court is often referred to as a “court of love,” meaning that it is not conducted in an adversary manner but as an attempt to reconcile the person with the Church and its program. The purpose is not as much to try a person for his or her membership but to avoid a situation that might lead to a loss of membership. In other words, the primary motivation of the bishop must be reconciliation and expressing love. In that connection, it does not seem that Bp. Willis has done properly in notifying Sonia by letter to report for a trial. If the bishop’s court is a court of love he should have made an appointment with her and come to visit her home and talked the matter through with her and attempted a reconciliation at that point; and if she refused to be reconciled, should have suggested a date for her trial. Of course the bishop may have done this earlier and the public may not be made aware of it. 

(I learned after dictating the above that Bishop Willis did go to her home on the Thursday before the first hearing. There were fireworks and her husband finally invited the bishop to leave. That will explain why the bishop said, at the end of the trial, that he would notify her by letter of his decision.)

2. The bishop’s court is a confidential court, and therefore it is improper for the bishop to make public statements about it. In that sense, Bp. Willis seems to have been correct in his manner. Sonia Johnson is the one who was responsible for all of the publicity. The bishop did Sonia a favor by declaring that he wished to correct a mistaken rumor and declared that there was absolutely no problem of gross immorality involved in the trial.

3. The bishop refused to allow the use of the word Equal Rights Amendment in the trial. He acted correctly in not allowing the trial to become a forum for arguing the merits of ERA.

4. Any bishop would be stupid to initiate a trial like this. This had to be something which was suggested to the bishop by his stake president, area administrator, or General Authority. Our own understanding is that after the bishop had postponed the trial two weeks, Sonia telephoned the stake president to ask that he conduct the trial rather than the bishop. In the stake president’s office at the very moment the telephone call came was Elder Hugh Pinnock, area administrator. We do not know Elder Pinnock’s reaction, but when the bishop learned that Sonia had phoned the stake president he was very angry. Because of that, he insisted that Sonia show up on Saturday, November 17, after all. This was conveyed to her on Friday; and she says that she hardly slept Friday night and was emotionally drained Saturday morning when she had the conference. She was apparently preparing a long statement of her defense–what witnesses she would call and what they would testify. Apparently the conference lasted four and a half hours. What went on there we may only guess. But we did hear Sonia declare what a grueling experience it was for her.

I’m told that a group of thoughtful Latter-day Saints, meeting the Sunday before Sonia Johnson’s December 1 hearing, listened to her talk (taped) from the University of Utah’s women’s conference in October. There she had, rather than voice her own opinions in her own voice, read excerpts from letters received from other Mormon women. Her delivery was much like that of a political candidate, eliciting applause in all the “right” places. With a combination of humor and sincerity, she moved her audience to warm friendship. All, that is, but a row of some four or five BYU women, among them some administrative heads, who neither smiled nor applauded.

The Sunday group, hearing the talk, responded with some enthusiasm to general statements on women’s rights of choice, rights to be equal partners, etc., as they came up, but worried openly about the tactics, not expressed in the talk, of Sonia’s open opposition to Church leaders. The most significant comment was an observation or question which grew out of the possibility that the Church would find it expedient to modify its position on women. Must there be some front-runners, like Sonia, who take the pot shots and become, as it were, martyrs to the cause? To be very pointed, Does the receiving of the June 9 revelation on priesthood owe more to people like John W. Fitzgerald, who was nasty, or to people like Lowell Bennion, who was kind and sweet? The parallels of the two cases were interesting to those who attended.

Apparently the trial conducted on Saturday, December 1, lasted approximately three hours. Starting at 6:00 in the evening, it ended about 9:00 p.m. The bishop then announced that the result of the trial would be conveyed by letter to Sonia “in two or three days.” In a Church trial in which I participated when I was a member of the Utah State University Stake presidency, the trial lasted approximately five hours. We began about 7:00 p.m. and were out about midnight. The stake president conducted the trial. We first had about a half-hour in a meeting of the high council and stake presidency, in which we discussed the procedure. The high council were numbered off so that half were to speak for the accused and half in favor of the charge. After those preliminaries, the “defendant” was brought in, a charge against him was read, and then he was given time to respond. He made a statement which was 20 or 30 minutes, then various members of the stake presidency and high council asked him questions. That went on for another hour or so. The stake president then asked him if he had someone to testify in his behalf. He replied that he did–I think 3 persons: his mother, a former bishop, and a friend. Each of these persons made statements and then responded to questions for another hour or two. The stake president then brought the “defendant” in again to respond to further questions. He remained there for perhaps another half hour or so, and I might say he seemed to be very repentant. However, he did not deny the charge. The stake president then excused him and told him he might wait outside if he wished. The high council and stake presidency discussed the matter for another hour or so, and as we were expected to do, some of us spoke up in his favor and others spoke up in favor of the charge with some discipline “punishment.” The stake presidency then retired to another room and asked the high council to wait. They remained in the room for approximately a half hour, and apparently discussed the matter and prayed. Finally they came back to the high council and the presidency gave its decision, which was that they not excommunicate him but that he be on a probation situation for a period of at least a year, and that he inform his present bishop and next bishop of the action taken against him, and the results thereof. The high council unanimously approved this resolution. The “defendant” was then brought back in and informed of the solution and asked if he had any questions or comments. He said he accepted that solution, was grateful that he wasn’t cut off, and would do as required.

That experience seems to me to be in harmony with the “court of love” concept. I don’t quite understand the legalistic procedure being followed by Bp. Willis. But then, he knows Sonia and her past better than I. He reported he had “worked with Sonia” for eighteen months over her behavior.

The basic question that is being debated by many LDS and apparently by the Sterling Park, Virginia, Ward bishopric is whether Sonia Johnson may conduct a public campaign against a declared position of the Presidency and still be in fellowship. Certainly she has the right to favor ERA even though the First Presidency have declared against it. Certainly she has the right to argue for ERA among her friends and associates. Does she have the right to argue for ERA in Sunday School class, in testimony meeting, in firesides, in public meetings to which Latter-day Saints are invited? Does she have the right to conduct a public campaign against the Church’s position when the First Presidency declared that this is a moral and religious matter? That, it seems to me, is the basic question. She is quite vocal in saying that she supports the prophet in all matters which are religious–in all matters which involve revelation. She declares that President Kimball has never announced that the Church’s opposition to the ERA is the result of revelation; therefore she feels that she is free not only to believe that their advice is wrong but also to campaign against it in the same way that the Church is campaigning for it. It is a political matter, she says. On the other hand, the Church does not like to be embarrassed or humiliated by one of its own members trying to undermine its image and convictions and activities. That, it seems to me, is the basic question. Is the bishop entitled to discipline her for what she has done?

Bishop Willis said the three basic issues in the hearing, mutually agreed upon by himself and Sonia, would be:

1 Have Sonia’s actions influenced members and nonmembers to oppose Church programs, such as the missionary program?

2 Have her actions and statements advocated diminished support of Church leaders?

3 Has she presented false doctrine which would damage others spiritually?

As for Sonia’s response, she has stated the following during the past few days on a talk show interview broadcast by local radio station KSXX or on news broadcasts carried by television stations following her Saturday trial:

1 Her children, as well as she and her husband presumably, have suffered from negative comments and some ostracism in their ward.

2 If President Kimball announced that his opposition to the ERA was based on revelation, she would not accept his statement. She found it impossible to believe, she said, that “so many of us”–she and other like-minded women–have received inspiration to the contrary. She didn’t think God would inspire two opposing ideas.

3 She said that the reason given for whatever action was taken against her would not be “the real reason”–her opposition to the ERA.

4 If an action short of excommunication were taken against her, for example disfellowshipment, it would be the same as excommunication in her mind. It would be based on the idea that she had done something wrong, that she was on her good behavior for a period of probation, and if she remained quiet during that time would be allowed back into full fellowship. But she would find it impossible to accept the premise that she had done anything wrong and would not refrain from exercising her freedom of speech.

5 She denied teaching women that they should pray to their Mother in Heaven, as some had alleged. Coming out from the earlier pre-trial, she had apparently said, “Some people have accused us of teaching that we should pray to Mother in Heaven.” Now she tries to clarify that point by saying that prayer is a private matter and how one prays is up to the individual.

6 She denied that she was trying to urge people to oppose the missionaries. She insists that the focus of her activity is to go into states where the Church’s political action committee is at work in opposition to the ERA, call attention to what is going on, and make recommendations to the ERA advocates as to how they can identify and deal with the Mormons. One wonders how this can go on without causing more than a little distress to the young missionaries as they go about their proselyting. Mrs. Wallace Wright, on television, said that her son, a missionary, had enough problems with doors being slammed in his face without the kind of feeling being stirred up by Sonia. Sonia undoubtedly would respond that it was the Church leaders who chose to get involved in the political arena in the first place.

The Church cannot gain from this entire incident. If the bishop should excommunicate or discipline her, she will become a martyr among pro-ERA women, both Mormon and non-Mormon. Many women who favor ERA will very likely become more inactive, less respectful. At the sane time, there will be some other bishops who will take this as a cue that they ought to discipline the women in their wards who have openly declared that they favor ERA. There might well be trials for dozens of women in that category. On the other hand, if the bishop should not excommunicate her or discipline her, Sonia herself will be the first to say that she has been justified all along in her activities. And this surely will mean a mounting dissidence. People will say that the Church does not hold firmly to its position, that it is not strict enough, that it has not stuck by its beliefs and principles. Press against the Church has been bad and will continue to be. One feels that it might have been wiser from a public relations standpoint to have let the thing die down without having the trial. 

[LJA Diary, 3 Dec., 1979]

Elder Durham said this morning that if people are very concerned about Bp. Willis and the excommunication of Sonia Johnson, they should be referred to D&C 134:10, which says, “We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing…”

I learned that Esther Peterson had complained afterwards about the treatment the witnesses received from the bishop in Sonia Johnson’s trial. In the first place, they moved the location from one ward building to another and the one they went into was completely unheated. They had guards paroling outside and inside the building. They refused to let the witnesses sit together, so that they could talk to each other. No witness could talk to another witness. Esther Peterson, an older woman, needed to go to the bathroom, and they told her she’d have to find it by herself. Since it was dark–no lights–she asked it someone could accompany her. They refused. Directly after they’d been waiting for an hour or so, the pastor of the Unitarian Church across the street saw what was taking place and invited them over to his church while they waited. “Wouldn’t you like to come in where it’s nice and warn and cozy?” Sounds as though the bishop felt he was running a CIA interrogation. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Dec., 1979]

In the past few days I have had the opportunity of talking with two or three people about the Sonia Johnson case. Both of them are “insiders” in a way, and so I have considerable confidence in what they have told me. I’ll convey the information as I recall it without any attempt to organize.

Eight persons were present to testify at the trial of Sonia Johnson, but the bishop permitted only four to testify–three women, one man. Each of the witnesses for Sonia was allowed approximately twenty minutes. Each made a presentation and was then asked some questions. Those who testified were under the impression that the principal complaint against Sonia had to do with talks she had given in Provo and Salt Lake City. But apparently the paper which Sonia gave to the American Psychological Association around the first of September was a principal consideration in the bishop’s court. There were some remarks in that paper which furnished very strong evidence of Sonia’ s lack of confidence in Church leadership, and one could pick out phrases which were unwise on her part to use. It appears that copies of the paper were obtained and distributed rather widely. The bishop had a copy on his desk during the trial, and one of the questions he asked at least one of the witnesses was whether she had heard Sonia deliver the paper with certain quotes, which he then read. This person had not heard Sonia present the paper, so could not say that the duplicated paper was precisely the way Sonia had given it. The paper, I learned, was also duplicated by the Associated Women students at BYU and copies distributed rather widely on the BYU campus. Presumably the object in doing this was to let the women students know just how “far out” Sonia had been in that scholarly gathering. 

Also I was told that many of Sonia’s friends regard her as having been “captured” by the women’s movement, and that she has been persuaded by those who do not have her personal interest at heart to do things which would tend to diminish the Church’s influence in opposing ERA nationally. Even her husband, I was told, opposed her succumbing to this strategy, and it led to such an interfamily conflict that she and her husband separated for several months. It was the separation, I am told, which led to the boy going to Logan to attend Logan High. When the bishop decided to hold the trial for Sonia, she went to her husband and in an emotional session persuaded him to come back and stand by her, which he agreed to do, and as far as people know, he is still standing by her at this time.

Another item which I learned was that when Sonia first heard from the bishop about the decision to have the trial, she telephoned the stake president to ask for a high council trial instead. The stake president at first agreed to this and then upon consultation with Church authorities found that it was not proper procedure, and telephoned her back to say that she would have to go through the bishop’s court first and then appeal the case to the stake high council. Apparently there is an ambiguous phrase in the Relief Society lesson presented in October which led Sonia and some of those consulting with her to misinterpret. Apparently there is a phrase which says that a member of the Melchizedek Priesthood should be tried by the high council, and Sonia was saying that she ought to have the same right because her husband held the Melchizedek Priesthood, and if she did not have the right, then clearly women were not equal with their husbands. My understanding of Church procedure is that the only people for whom the high council is the original trial court is with stake officers: members of the high council, presidents of Melchizedek Priesthood quorums, stake auxiliary officers, and so on. All other cases, male or female, as I have always understood it, must first go through bishop’s court. So according to my understanding of Church government, it was proper procedure for her to go first to the bishop’s court, and that would have been equally true of her husband, assuming that he was not a stake officer. (N.B., the General Handbook of Instructions says that a Melchizedek Priesthood holder may be disfellowshipped but cannot be excommunicated by a bishop’s court–excommunication can only come from a high council court.)

My observation of the reception of the results of the trial among LDS in this area is that the overwhelming majority of them believe that the decision could not have been otherwise than what it was. This despite the fact that most of the stories, before, during, and after the trial, have been slanted in favor of Sonia. This is simply because she and her close associates on this matter have used the media to advantage. Our system–our culture–tends to support Church authorities in whatever action they are taking, so that is no doubt part of it. Another factor is that both the father and brother of Sonia, despite their love and compassion for her, thought that she would have to be excommunicated. Both of those and some other close friends of Sonia’s that I have talked with emphasize that she is not really speaking as herself in the extreme statements she has made but has gotten carried away by “the movement.”

I’ve also been told that the bishop counseling with her over the past 18 months has been more directed toward preservation of her family, which was threatened by her total commitment to the feminist movement, than toward trying to persuade her that the Church’s position on ERA was correct. In other words, according to what I have been told, it was not so much her belief that the Church was wrong that induced the bishop to “take up a labor of love” but more her abandonment of her family–her full commitment–her being willing to sacrifice her Church standing in the interests of the movement. There are at least some friends of Sonia who believe that she sought martyrdom in the interest of the Cause.

Well, those are items that I have picked in the past few days, and most of them have been channeled through two people who were very close to the entire episode.

Two hours after dictating the above I read the article by Pat Buchanan in the Salt Lake Tribune for this morning. A copy of that is here attached. 

[Further reflections on the Sonia Johnson case; LJA Diary, 13 Dec., 1979]


Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Meetings, New York City, September 1, 1979

Sonia Johnson, Ed.D.


Sexual politics is old hat in the Mormon Church. It was flourishing when my grandparents were infants, crossing the plains to Utah in covered wagons. Although different generations have developed their own peculiar variations on the theme, I believe my generation is approaching the ultimate confrontation, for which all the others were simply dress rehearsals. Mormon sexual politics today is an uneasy mixture of explosive phenomena: the recent profound disenfranchisement of Mormon women by church leaders, the church’s sudden strong political presence in the anti-ERA arena, and the women’s movement.

Saturated as it is with the anti-female bias that is patriarchy’s very definition and reason for being, the Mormon Church can legitimately be termed “The Last Unmitigated Western Patriarchy.” (I know you Catholics and Jews in this audience will want to argue with that, but I will put my patriarchs up against yours any day!) This patriarchal imperative is reinforced by the belief that the president of the church is a prophet of God, as were Isaiah and Moses, and that God will not allow him to make a mistake in guiding the church. He is, therefore, if not doctrinally, in practice “infallible”–deified. Commonly heard thought-obliterating dicta in my church are “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done,” and “when the Prophet speaks, the debate is ended.” They forget to mention that the debate probably never even got started, since in the church there is little dialogue or real education. Indoctrination is the prime method of instruction, because obedience is the contemporary church’s prime message.

The caliber of character forged by this “education to obey” is illustrated by an encounter we had two summers ago in Lafayette Square after the national ERA march in Washington, D.C. Several of us were accosted by two Brigham Young University students, former missionaries for the church, who tried to tear down our MORMONS FOR ERA banner. During the ensuing discussion, they solemnly vowed that if the prophet told them to go out and shoot all black people, they would do so without hesitation.

Another example. Under the Heavenly mandate against the Equal Rights Amendment, Mormons in Virginia last winter, wearing their EQUALITY YES, ERA-NO! buttons (a typical boggling example of patriarchal doublethink), lobbied not only against the ERA but against ALL bills for women–many of which were models of their kind. 

The political implications of this mass renunciation of individual conscience under direction from “God” are not clearly enough understood in this country. The Mormons, a tiny minority, are dedicated to imposing the prophet’s moral directives upon all Americans, and they may succeed if Americans do not become aware of their methods and goals. Because the organization of the church is marvelously tight, and the obedience of the members marvelously thoroughgoing, potentially thousands of people can be mobilized in a very short time to do–conscientiously–whatever they are told, without more explanation than “the Prophet has spoken.”

But Mormon anti-ERA activity, though organized and directed through the hierarchy of the church from Salt Lake down through regional and local male leaders, is covert activity, not openly done in the name of the church. Members are cautioned not to reveal that they are Mormons or organized by the church when they lobby, write letters, donate money, and pass out anti-ERA brochures door to door through whole states. 1 Instead, they are directed to say that they are concerned citizens following the dictates of their individual consciences. Since they are, in fact, following the very direct dictates of the Prophet’s conscience and would revise their own overnight if he were to revise his, nothing could be further from the truth.

In addition, Mormon women, who make up most of the anti-ERA Mormon army (and the leaders refer to it as an army in true patriarchal style 2) are advised not to tell people that the men of the church have organized them, but to maintain that they voluntarily organized themselves. “People won’t understand,” 3 their male leaders explain, which, in patriarchal doubletalk, means: “People will understand only too well that this is the usual male trick of enlisting women to carry out men’s oppressive measures against women, hiding the identity of the real oppressors and alienating women from each other.”

So many of us in the church are so unalterably opposed to this covert and oppressive activity that one of the major purposes of MORMONS FOR ERA has become to shine light upon the murky political activities of the church, and to expose to other Americans its exploitation of women’s religious commitment for its self-serving male political purposes.

The reaction of the church fathers to the women’s movement and women’s demand for equal rights has produced fearful and fascinating phenomena. In the mid-1960’s, Utah’s birth rate was almost exactly the same as the national rate, but by last year it was double the national average–evidence of a real patriarchal panic, a tremendous reaction against the basic feminist tenet that women were meant by their creator to be individuals first and to fulfill roles second–to the degree and in the way they choose, as men do. In almost every meeting of the church (and Mormons are noted for their much meeting), there is some message designed to reinforce the stereotype of the “good” Mormon woman, acceptable to the brethren and therefore to God, messages calculated to keep women where men like them best: “made” 4 (created) to nurture husband and children, housebound, financially and emotionally dependent, occupationally immature, politically naive, obedient, subordinate, submissive, somnambulant, and bearing much of the heavy and uncredited labor of the church upon their uncomplaining shoulders.

Encyclicals from the Brethren over the past ten years, such as those which took away women’s right to pray in major church meetings,* to control our own auxiliary money and program, and to publish our own magazine for communication among ourselves, have put women under total male control, requiring us to ask permission of men in even the smallest of matters. These rulings–which have seriously harmed women’s self-esteem, lowered our status, made us bootlickers and toadies to the men of the church, and destroyed what little freedom of choice we had–these rulings reveal the depth of the brethren’s fear of independent, non-permission-asking women, the kind of women which are emerging from the women’s movement. And it is no accident that they were enacted just as the feminist tide in the United States began to swell.

But we have other, more direct, ways of knowing how badly threatened and angry our brethren are by the existence of women who are not under their control. In April, we hired a plane to fly a banner over Temple Square in Salt Lake City during a break in the worldwide conference of male leaders being held in the Tabernacle. The banner announced that MORMONS FOR ERA ARE EVERYWHERE. A reporter phoned the Jody Powell of the church to ask how the brethren were taking this little prank, and was told that they found it “amusing.” Then the Jody-Powell-person suggested that the reporter put a cartoon in the next day’s paper showing our plane flying over the Angel Moroni atop the Temple (as the actual newspaper photo had), but, instead of his trumpet, picture Moroni brandishing a machine gun. One does not need to be a psychoanalyst to understand how “amusing” the brethren found our “little prank.” 5

More recently, when an Associated Press reporter interviewed President Kimball on the subject of uppity Mormon women, the Prophet warned that church members who support the Equal Rights Amendment should be “very, very careful” because the church is led by “strong men and able men . . . .We feel we are in a position to lead them properly.”6 The threat here is open and clear. We had better be very, very careful, because the man at the head of the church are strong, and the patriarchs have for millennia crushed those women who escaped from their mindbindings. President Kimball is further quoted as saying, “These women who are asking for authority to do everything that a man can do and change the order and go and do men’s work instead of bearing children, she’s just off her base” 7–a truly appalling revelation of ignorance about the realities of women’s lives. 

But perhaps the image of greatest terror crawled from the psyche of Hartman Rector, one of the General Authorities of the church, in response to my testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights:

In order to attempt to get the male somewhere near even, the Heavenly Father gave him the Priesthood or directing authority for the Church and home. Without this bequeath, the male would be so far below the female in power and influence that there would be little or no purpose for his existence in fact (sic) would probably be eaten by the female as is the case with the black widow Spider. 8 

Given this view of women, it should come as no surprise that, despite the carefully calculated public relations’ campaign which portrays the Mormon Church as the last Bastian (and probably the inventors!) of the happy family and fulfilled womanhood, all is not well in Zion; all is particularly not well among Zion’s Women. 

In recent years, considerable hue and cry has arisen over the subject of depression among Mormon women, inspiring a spate of documentaries and articles. 9 The Salt Lake Tribune in December of 1977 quoted local therapists as stating that up to three-quarters of their Mormon patients were women and that the common denominator was low-self image and lack of fulfillment outside the home. 10 This depression is endemic and begins at an early age: the incidence of suicide among teenaged females in Utah is more than double the national average and rising. 11 Seven of 10 teenaged brides are “premaritally pregnant,” and 40 percent of Utah’s brides are teens. 12 The proportion of teenage marriages in Utah has been greater than for the nation each year since 1960, which might partially account for Utah’s divorce rate’s being higher than the national average. (The time of the beginning of the increase is also significant, as I have pointed out earlier.) Alcoholism and drug abuse among women are problems in Mormon culture, as are child- and wife- abuse. In the last 14 years, rape in Utah has increased 165 percent and the local index of rape is 1.35 percent higher than the national average. Fewer Utah women hold any type of university degree than other American women. 13 Add to this the significant fact that attendance at Relief Society–the church’s women’s auxiliary–and at the young women’s organization meetings has dropped off drastically nationwide. 

What all this says to the patriarchs is anyone’s guess; they are either afraid to talk with those of us who are alarmed at their opinions and treatment of women, or they do not consider us worth their time. 14 But what it says to those of us who have survived being Mormon women is that our sisters are silently screaming for help. And that they are not only NOT finding it at church, but that at church they are being further depressed and debilitated by bombardment with profoundly demeaning female sex-role stereotypes. Their church experience is making them sick.

Because Mormon women are trained to desire above all else to please men (and I include in this category God, whom all too many of us view as an extension of our chauvinist leaders), we spend enormous amounts of energy trying to make the very real, but–for most of us–limited satisfactions of mother- and wife-hood substitute satisfactorily for all other life experiences. What spills over into those vacant lots of our hearts where our intellectual and talented selves should be vigorously alive and thriving are, instead, frustration, anger, and the despair which comes from suppressing anger and feeling guilty for having felt it in the first place.

Last summer, a Utah Mormon woman wrote to Senator Hatch of Utah: “A sea of smoldering women is a dangerous thing.” And that’s what the Mormon patriarchy has on its hands: a sea of smoldering women. Those whose anger is still undifferentiated, who do not realize how thoroughly they are being betrayed–their rage is exploited by church leaders, who subvert it into attacks against feminist causes, such as the Equal Rights Amendment, making scapegoats of women and their righteous desires, identifying women as the source of women’s danger (a patriarchal tactic for maintaining power that has its roots in antiquity), and trying to distract us from recognizing that where our real danger as women lies, and always has lain, is in patriarchy.

But women are not fools. The very violence with which the brethren attacked an amendment which would give women human status in the Constitution abruptly opened the eyes of thousands of us to the true source of our danger and our anger. This open patriarchal panic against our human rights raised consciousness miraculously all over the church as nothing else could have done. And revealing their raw panic at the idea that women might step forward as goddesses-in-the-making with power in a real–not a “sub” or “through men”–sense, was the leaders’ critical and mortal error, producing as it did a deafening dissonance between their rhetoric of love and their oppressive, unloving, destructive behavior.

I receive phone calls and letters from Mormon women all over the country, and each has a story or two to tell: how two Mormon women in one meeting independently stood and spoke of their Mother in Heaven, how they met afterwards and wept together in joy at paving found and named Her; how a courageous Mormon woman is preparing to make the first public demand for the priesthood. “The time has come,” she says calmly, “for women to insist upon full religious enfranchisement.” This statement is the Mormon woman’s equivalent of the shot heard ’round the world!

Our patriarchy may be The Last Unmitigated, but it is no longer Unchallenged. A multitude of Mormon women are through asking permission. We are waking up and growing up, and in our waking and growing can be heard–distinctly–the death rattle of the patriarchy. 

*This right has since been restored. But women will not be safe from the Brethren’s capricious meddling with our inalienable human rights until we attain positions of power and authority in our church. 

[LJA Diary, file 13 Dec., 1979]

Had the opportunity of talking briefly with Glen Taggart [president of Utah State Univesrity] . . . 

President Taggart also said that when the question first arose as to trying Sonia Johnson for her membership, about a year ago, Gordon Hinckley advised that under no circumstances should they try her for her ERA activities. They must get her on a point of doctrine or something similar. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Dec., 1979]

Today there was a gathering of LDS women scholars to coordinate some of their work relating to women’s studies. They included Maureen, Jill, & Carol from our office; Diane McKinney from the Boston women’s group; Margaret Woodworth; Linda Newell; and Grethe Petersen. I happened by just as they were gathering to go out to lunch, and thus had an opportunity of meeting for the first time Margaret Woodworth.

Margaret is about 38 or 39, has several children—5, I think; her husband is a fine scholar himself, perhaps in computer science. With the encouragement of her husband, children, and friends, Margaret decided to go to law school at BYU and is, I think, a third-year law student there. She is obviously very brilliant and analytical. She is also a courageous speaker and conversationalist. I have the impression she lives in Salt Lake City, but perhaps in Provo. I understand she has a bachelor’s from BYU and a master’s from the University of Michigan in social work, which she obtained while her husband was working on his doctorate. (It could have been Michigan State.)

Several months ago she had been in contact with Teddy Wood, Sonia Johnson, and other Mormons for ERA. She felt they were misguided; and eventually was invited back to speak to them. Apparently she spoke to them very straightly and candidly. The conversation went on for nearly all night. She was defending the Church’s point of view with them, as I understand it. While she was effective and felt good about her presentation, the women went ahead with the program they had already planned on. Anyway, I need to get better acquainted with her.

Diane McKinney brought in a copy of a piece which she, Judy Dushku, and others had inspired which appear in the Boston Globe. She indicated the Boston Globe was one of the few newspapers in the east which would be willing to run a pro-Mormon article. I have put that in my diary under date of December 13. 

[LJA Diary, 20 Dec., 1979]

During the past few weeks I’ve given some thought to a leading question on the minds of many of our intellectuals, i.e., the relationship of men and women. Here are some thoughts.

First. In my essay for the book MORMONISM AND AMERICAN CULTURE, edited by Jim Allen and Marvin Hill, I emphasized the program-oriented approach of the Church to the ideological and social conflicts of today’s world. Similarly, in describing the church today in THE MORMON EXPERIENCE, Davis Bitton and I emphasize the program-oriented approach. Are we getting too far away from the doctrines of grace and salvation? Are we neglecting the centrality of the relationship of each individual to Christ? When the Prophet Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he wrote Emma that he had been praying for forgiveness–for his personal salvation. Here was a man who, under every circumstance, demonstrated his absolute certainty that his call to usher in the restoration and preside over this dispensation came from God. “Regardless of my conviction of the divinity of the revelations, I must still steer my own bark safe,” he wrote. Can we not become so involved in programs that we neglect the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord? Is not the development and perfection of that personal relationship primary?

Second. In our emphasis on the family, in positing successful family life as the primary goal of our endeavors, are we not in danger of putting our individual relationship to the Lord in a secondary position? The perfect family has become, for many, a model of salvation. Salvation is getting married and having children. But what happens to people who don’t marry, who can’t have children, who have children that are imperfect? Are they condemning themselves to failure, guilt, damnation? Is it proper for us to countenance that line of thinking?

Third. In the Gospel, as presented and explained by the Savior, are we not all equal before God? Are we not all children of God, loved by Him equally without regard to race, size, sex, age, and status? As to the relationship of men and women, do not the scriptures refer, or infer, men and women, fathers and mothers, priests and priestesses? In the temple, are not women anointed to be priestesses, while men are anointed to be priests on condition of worthiness? Everything in the scriptures suggests that both men and women are bound to Christ, that they consecrate their lives to Him and His purposes. It is the Lord’s plan to exalt each of us–men and women, the married and the unmarried, the educated and the uneducated. Any attempt to degrade any individual must emanate from a source other than the Lord. It is the meaning of the Restoration to exalt all of God’s children. And surely that means men and women.

Fourth. There are several models in today’s world: the liberated women, the fascinating woman, the submissive woman, the working woman, the domestic woman. Surely, none of these is consistent with the Gospel. The Gospel teaches that we must all be consecrated persons. Do we not all make a covenant each time we go to the temple that we will consecrate ourselves to the Lord? Men and women. Old and young. Married and unmarried. Intellectual and non-intellectual. In making that covenant, we are not promising to abide by a particular political system, or ethical code, or particular role in marriage. We are covenanting to strive to keep the ideals of Jesus alive in our hearts, to cultivate a Christian spirit, to try to understand and appreciate our brothers and sisters, to develop the spirit of love and forgiveness and helpfulness. Frankly, I’m uncomfortable with the preoccupation with programs, with behavior codes, with political activities. Let’s cultivate the spirit of Christ! 

[LJA to Children, 9 Jan., 1980]

Yesterday during my day home I listened to the morning rebroadcast of the Donahue show which had been done originally on December 23. Following that one-hour show, with Sonia Johnson as the sole guest, was the Church’s half-hour response in which Beverly Campbell of Virginia LDS Citizens Against ERA responded to questions put by a reporter.

There were several false impressions conveyed by Sonia Johnson and Donahue in the show; first of all, Donahue said that they had invited the Church to make a response–and the Church had refused to do so. This was wrong on two counts; actually they invited Barbara Smith to be on the program and Barbara Smith already had appointments which she could not break, and she was not able to appear, and so she asked that Beverly Campbell represent her. But Sonia absolutely refused to appear on the program with Beverly Campbell. So it proved to be a one-woman show with no Church response. The local Channel 4 station, however, offered the Church “in accordance with the fairness doctrine” to present a response, and that is how the Beverly Campbell interview came to be made.

Sonia herself also made a big point of the judge in Idaho who will rule on the validity of extending the ERA deadline. She said that he was a Regional Representative–“equivalent of an archbishop”–being prejudiced on this matter against ERA because of his Church commitments. Actually, the judge was releasd from his Regional Representative position the previous October and so was not that “very high Church official” which Sonia insisted he was. Of course Sonia might have had no way of knowing this, but she might have done her homework and checked with the judge himself on it.

I was not favorably impressed with Sonia and her presentation. Her statements critical of the Church were pretty strong, and she seemed to be playing to the audience, most of whom were obviously militant feminists, and applauded her frequently. Sonia seemed to be enjoying holding the church and its officials up to ridicule. It is difficult for me to believe, on the basis of her performance, that she regrets for one minute her excommunication from the Church. It was pretty obvious that she was wanting it, was doing everything she could to be sure that they would excommunicate her. I can understand now why the bishop finally gave up laboring with her and decided to go through with it.

Beverly Campbell talked very fast and said a great deal in the half hour she had. What she said seemed to be both reasonable and accurate, and also honest and forthright. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Jan., 1980]

Last Wednesday, after writing you all, I listened to the rebroadcast of the

Phil Donahue show that featured Sonia Johnson. Originally broadcast on Dec. 23. A full hour show. I must say I found it very difficult to be sympathetic with Sonia.

Item: Phil Donahue said the Mormon Church had been invited to send a representative to appear on the program with Sonia but they had refused. This was not true and Sonia knew it was not true, and she didn’t correct 

him. The truth is that the Church had appointed Beverly Campbell, of Virginians against ERA, to appear as their representative and Sonia absolutely refused to appear on the same program with her. So Sonia had her moment of triumph without opposition. 

Item: Sonia wade a big point of the fact that the case involving the constitutionality of the extension of ERA was being tried by Judge Callister of Boise, “a very high official of the Church- the equivalent of an archbishop.” True, Judge Callister had been a Regional Representative but had been released in October. Sonia should have checked on this if she was going to make such a big point of it.

I try to be sympathetic with women’s goals and movements, but I must say that I was tuned off by Sonia’s hour. She stretched and exaggerated criticisms against the Church, she was enjoying making her criticisms against the Church and its leaders, she seemed very pleased that she was excommunicated so she could be the big hero. I did not like the tone; she was obviously using the Church and those who were inclined to go along with her to support her and her cause–and I find it difficult to be sympathetic with those who use others. I can see why those who knew her well and who were still believers (I’m referring to intellectuals) did not feel they could protest her excommunication. They were saddened, no doubt, but as much by her intransigence and insistence on putting The Cause ahead of her faith, as much as by the Church’s necessity of treating her the way it did. It’s one thing to work for the cause of women, as I hope all of us of are doing; it’s another to exaggerate and stretch points and get so carried away that you bring disrespect upon the cause. In short, while one regrets her excommunication, it was clear from the program why the Church had found it necessary to do so. To say it another way, she had brought it on herself. She is a slippery character and I find it difficult to be sympathetic; I also find it easier to understand why the women who are also working for women’s welfare, find it difficult to be sympathetic with her.

[LJA to Children, 23 Jan., 1980]

Last night Grace and I watched TV from 8:00 p.m. to 11:15. At 8 o’clock was the Voyage of Charles Darwin–a beautifully done show. At 9:00 was Masterpiece Theatre–The Duchess of Duke Street. At 10:00 was the news, followed at 10:15 by Take Two, which featured an interview between Pat Greenlaw and Sonia Johnson. Sonia was out here to deliver two or three talks. Listeners could phone in questions. Of the eight or nine questions which they had time to handle, all but one were from men. The woman’s question was worded in such a way that it was obvious she was anti-ERA and anti-Mormons for ERA.

Sonia clearly was trying to be more humble and sincere and sympathetic toward the Utah climate than when she appeared on the Donahue show in December. She handled herself well and became flustered during only 1 moment.

The station had invited a representative of the LDS Church to appear with her on the program, and they had appointed a woman to do so (name unannounced) But Sonia had refused to appear with that person. When Pat asked her why she refused to appear with the LDS person she said she refused to appear with anybody who was not a policy-making authority, meaning presumably a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve. She did not want to give the impression, she said, that women were against women. She would appear only if a man were present. One of the listeners telephoned in to ask if that wasn’t sexist. In her comments and responses she specifically mentioned “Hinckley, Packer, Maxwell.” Apparently, according to her information those are the people who are directing the Mormon efforts against ERA.

Sonia said she was continuing to visit in states where Mormons were conducting campaigns against ERA in the legislature and trying to make clear to the legislatures that these are not representative citizens but Mormons told to lobby by the Church.

Sonia said she still had a testimony of the gospel and still believed she was a Mormon, although excommunicated. When asked if President Kimball announced that his opposition to ERA was based on revelation would she then accept his view, she fumbled around awhile and said she couldn’t imagine this happening and she would have to think very hard before she would give up her intense belief in ERA as the instrument for bringing about equality. She was asked about women being drafted and she said she thought it would happen with or without ERA.

Yesterday morning on a talk show on Channel 19 in Denver appeared some persons to discuss the Jean Boyd affair–Jean Boyd had sent a letter to the Church resigning because of the excommunication of Sonia. Appearing on the program also was the head of the RLDS Church and another local minister; I think Presbyterian. 

[LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1980]

I appreciated finding on my return a nice Valentine card from Susan and Dean, and also a nice fat letter from Chris with lots of very welcome enclosures, some of which dealt with the Sonia Johnson story. I’ve perhaps said too much about that already in what I have said to you earlier, but I do want to make one additional comment. I think perhaps many observers have gotten the impression that The Church excommunicated Sonia. I may be quibbling, but this is not strictly true. To be more precise, she was excommunicated by one of the 6000 bishops of the church, and she is still in the process of appealing the case to one of the 1200 stake presidents of the Church. Prior to the trial the bishop would have been foolish if he had not consulted with his stake president, and the stake president would have been foolish if he hadn’t consulted with the Regional Representative, and the Regional Representative would have been foolish if he had not consulted with the Area Executive–a Seventy. And he may or may not have consulted with one of the Twelve. But my own experience–an experience confirmed by reading the minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve throughout most of our history–is that when consulted on these matters the advice of the Twelve is simply, “Bishop, she’s in your ward. It is up to you to try her and make the judgment in the light of prayer and inspiration.” In all of the years of the Church I have found the Twelve excommunicating one or more persons on only two kinds of occasions: (a) another member of the Quorum of Twelve, or (b) the perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I know of instances of the Twelve counseling a bishop to hold a trial but I have not heard of instances where the Twelve counseled them to “cut the person off.” I’ve found instances of the expression “He ought to be cut off” used rhetorically, but not found instances where this was followed up unless upon the initiative of the local bishop. I don’t know how this compares with other churches, but an analogy that I do know about is the Baptist Church, where it is up to each congregation to determine the status of any member of that congregation. While a given excommunication may hurt the general image of the Church, just as a given book might or a given sermon, or a given action like the murder-suicide of the David family, I do not think it is proper to regard any excommunication as an act of The Church. In this sense I suspect we are analogous to the Catholic Church–but I’m not sure, since I’m not fully acquainted with all things involved in a Roman Catholic excommunication. My impression is, however, that it is more generally arrived at–going through a number of clearances, whereas that is not true of our Church. 

[LJA to Children, 19 Feb., 1980]

Mary Bradford came by the office yesterday afternoon. Her parents have their 50th wedding anniversary today, and she came out to surprise them. In the meantime, she was visiting a number of people in connection with Dialogue business. I discovered that she had taken part in the day-long interview between Chris (Arrington) and Sonia Johnson and that Chris had spent the night with her (Mary) in Washington, D.C. She said Chris was doing the interview for a possible article in Savvy. Mary was doing the interview for possible use in Dialogue. Mary said she had not yet decided how to handle this but she felt she had to have some kind of treatment of the Sonia Johnson affair in Dialogue. The next Dialogue is at the press and will be out shortly. The one to follow is the international issue. She wants to have an article on Africa and doesn’t have any. I mentioned that she should probably talk with Jannath Cannon and with Spencer Palmer. She thought the Africa picture would be very positive and encouraging and thought nobody could criticize Dialogue for running something about it.

I asked Mary some questions about Sonia Johnson, and here are some things I learned. Sonia, Mary says, is a very good example of a very orthodox Mormon; that is, in terms of beliefs and doctrines. She is a straight arrow. She has never been plagued by doubts. From this standpoint she is a very sincere, believing, confiding, practicing Latter-day Saint. After the ERA business came out, as one who believed that Mormonism had given women an elevated status, she thought ERA was quite consistent with the gospel. She accepted it on the basis that it was in line with gospel principles and Church practices. Some of the women in Sonia’s ward had gotten together for “awareness” meetings. Most of these women who were regular attenders–“activists”–were women who had had trouble with their husbands. They were divorcees or separated. The principal ones, Mary said, were Teddy Wood, Maidia Withers, and Sonia. Teddy WOOD, Mary said, was bitter and angry; neither Maidia nor Sonia were. This little group, presumably the one to which Margaret Woodworth spoke several months ago, were very upset when they discovered that certain elements in the Church were conducting an intensive campaign against ERA. This group interpreted that as beyond the proper limits of Church activity and felt that if these Church “right wingers” could carry out a campaign against the amendment, they (the Mormons for ERA) could seek to counteract them. They did organize “Mormons for ERA.” After long discussion they decided that Sonia should be their front-person. They decided this because she was the one person in the group who was not divorced, she had a reputation for being a straight arrow and orthodox in her doctrines and beliefs, and she was a sincere, intelligent, and dedicated person.

Most of the members of this group now feel that it may have been a mistake to have chosen Sonia to be their spokesperson. They had not counted upon her excommunication. The excommunication would not have hurt the others as much as it hurt Sonia, and of course Sonia subsequently had the divorce from her husband–something they had not expected. Mary said that some of the things that were done by Mormons for ERA were the ideas of Teddy Wood. For example, the idea of running the airplane over conference in October trailing the banner Mormons for ERA was strictly Teddy Wood’s idea.

Mary says that this thing went farther than any of them expected—especially farther than Sonia expected. Mary says that she does not believe Sonia is on an ego trip and that she has reveled in the wide publicity and place in the national news which she has come to have. Mary said this whole business, as far as Sonia is concerned, started with her questioning by Senator Hatch. If that episode had not occurred, none of the rest that followed would have; but Hatch sort of dared her and she was courageous enough to take the dare. Mary says Sonia has ego, but not nearly as much as people have supposed. Mary says that while Sonia has been excommunicated by her bishop, the other sisters, Teddy WOOD, Maidia Withers. etc., have spoken up in their wards and have not particularly had any trouble with their bishops. Mary thinks that Sonia could have lived in a dozen wards in the area and never have been brought to trial. Mary does not suppose that Bishop Willis was put up to this; he was simply a person who perhaps showed an excess of zeal in doing what he thought was the right thing. Mary said she would not be surprised if the stake president decided to suggest a new trial or to overrule the bishop’s judgment. Mary says that Sonia has repented of the extreme things she said in her Montana talk and in the paper she gave to the American Psychological Association. But she of course has not repented of her opposition to ERA. Sonia is delighted with one development. She has gotten the Church to openly state that one may speak up for ERA without jeopardizing membership in the Church. It is just the extreme of her speaking against President Kimball and urging people not to accept the missionaries that got her into trouble. Mary things that Sonia’s mother’s support of her is undoubtedly due to her knowledge that Sonia is basically an orthodox girl.

Mary says that she finds these angry LDS women who favor ERA to be made up almost exclusively of women who had highly orthodox, stern fathers and who had husbands who were not considerate. Sonia’s husband had carried her here and there to various places in the world in connection with his work, and she thought that her family was of the size that another move would not be good for them. So when he told her they were going to Africa for eight months, she refused to take the family and go with him. Mary thinks during that stage he found another woman and that was the basis of their divorce. I didn’t get a change to ask Mary how she explained that temporary reconciliation of Sonia and her husband during the weeks of the trial and preparation for the trial. 

[LJA Diary, 20 Feb., 1980]

I just learned from a more dependable and informed source more about the preparation of the ERA pamphlet in the March issue of the New Era and Ensign. The question of what to do about the Sonia Johnson affair had been discussed among the Twelve. That this had been going on was mentioned in the First Quorum of Seventies meeting. Elder Ballard, in trying to think of something that the Church magazines could do for the Church, conceived the idea of including this pamphlet in the two issues. He convened a meeting of Jay Todd and Brian Kelly, at which he instructed them to prepare such a pamphlet and to put it in the March issue. “But the March issue is due to go to press in two weeks!” “Yes, but we can still make it. You have a week to prepare a first draft and then we can have a week to refine it in the final form and send it to the printer.”

Those involved in the preparation of the pamphlet were Jay and Brian, Vivian Paulsen of the New Era and Elizabeth Shaw of the Ensign. They held conversations with Barbara Smith, with Elaine Cannon, with Rex Lee, and Beverly Campbell, and possibly others. The original idea was to have the pamphlet be a kind of supplement to articles by Barbara Smith and Elaine Cannon. But as they probably anticipated, those two articles were not good and so the pamphlet really took the place of those two articles.

The first draft went through Jay and Brian and Elder Ballard. The seventh draft went to Elder Hinckley. His judgment was that it needed to be a little more pointed, or emotional, or propegandizing in nature, and they ended up with the 9th draft being published. On the other hand, those who prepared it would have much preferred the 7th draft. It was more matter-of-fact, more factual; on the other hand, it could have been far more defensive and forensic than the draft finally approved. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Feb., 1980]

Thursday night I picked up Davis and Maureen Beecher and drove to Provo to hear the Redd Lecture of Eugene England. It proved to be the most scary driving I’ve done in several years. Very heavy snowfall and rainfall nearly all the way so that visibility was very poor. I was so nervous when we returned home Thursday night I couldn’t go to sleep for a couple of hours. But we had nice conversation going and coming, and that made it much easier. Moreover, the lecture by Eugene England was superb–well worth going for, even under those driving conditions.

Maureen said that the insert on ERA in the March New Era and Ensign was done over a weekend on a hurried-up basis by staff members of the Ensign. Brother Ballard told them to do it. Presumably he had instructions from Elder Hinckley. Lavina Fielding Anderson was not involved. Presumably it was Jay Todd, Janet Brigham, and one or two others. Maureen emphasized the hurried nature of it.

I asked Maureen on a confidential basis how she felt personally on the issue of ERA. She of course defends the Church in a public capacity and tries to put the best face on the Church posture, but as for her private opinion, Maureen said she thought it would be helpful for ERA to pass. It is a symbolic thing to a large number of “angry women”, including a few angry LDS women. Maureen said that things have now developed to the point that it will not make any difference legally whether or not ERA passes. What would be accomplished by ERA has already been accomplished in other ways. What would represent a problem for ERA will be a problem anyway. So Maureen thinks it will not make any difference one way or the other to the status of women–that it would be a psychological matter to help quiet the vociferous minority. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Feb., 1980]

Thanks for your letters. I just wanted to say on the Sonia Johnson case being “local only,” maybe Bishop Willis would argue that he made the decision independently (I’m not sure he would) but he contacted a General Authority on the question of excommunicating Sonia a year before the trial. He used newspaper clippings from all over the country in the trial–clippings obtained from a Church clip service in Salt Lake City. Her lawyer, Mike Barrett, by observing Willis’s behavior and remarks agreed with several other observers that just before the trial, Willis went from harried to calm, as though he had gotten Salt Lake City backing on what he was doing. Regardless of whether or not he decided alone, the church has clearly jumped on the bandwagon by appointing Beverly Campbell to stump and paying her expenses and running that gigantic thing in the Ensign. So they have embraced whatever Willis did. If you meant to imply that maybe he acted wrongly but alone, clearly the Church approves of what he did.

I would be interested in your response to this and the points I raised in my last letter. Our women’s group is meeting with Steve Coltrin, the Church’s east coast press agent, this Thursday night. Should be interesting. 

Love, Chris

[Chris to Family, 4 Mar., 1980]

I asked Maureen this afternoon if she was aware that Sonja Johnson had met with Elder Hinckley when she was here a couple of weeks ago. Maureen said yes, and said that she had been filled in on that meeting. Here is the way she described it.

One of the NBC people had asked Elder Hinckley why he wasn’t willing to meet with Sonia Johnson. He said, We’d be delighted to meet with her. That word was passed on to Sonia by the NBC person and so when she came she wanted to take Elder Hinckley up on the offer. She worked through Jan Tyler, and Jan was able to get things so that a meeting could be held. Present in the meeting were Elder Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, and Jan and Sonia. Maureen understands that Jan had very little to say and that Elder Maxwell had very little to say. It was essentially a confrontation between Elder Hinckley and Sonia.

Sonia had insisted with Jan that they refer to them as Gordon and Neal rather than as Elder Hinckley and Elder Maxwell, and that they be called Jan and Sonia instead of Sister Tyler and Sister Johnson. Sonia had prepared a list of six things to bring up with them, but the confrontation was so intense and so unfriendly that she didn’t get more than two covered. Just which two we’re not aware, nor what the six were. Elder Hinckley on his part had insisted that he would grant the interview only on condition that the subjects discussed not be made available to the press. But of course there was nothing wrong with them telling their friends, which is how we have the account of it.

Jan reported that Elder Hinckley was not in the mood to listen. He took it as his task to “give counsel.” Sonia for her part was not seeking counsel but trying to persuade Elder Hinckley and Elder Maxwell to give consideration to various points. It was, as stated above, a confrontation and not a friendly exchange. He was not sympathetic with Sonia’s concerns or the problems of women, and for her part Sonia was not in a mood to tearfully express repentance. Jan said it was the most excruciating experience she had ever had in her life. She thought absolutely nothing in terms of policy would come as the result of the meeting. It was excruciating to Jan partly because of the cruel way that Elder Hinckley treated Sonia, and partly because of his complete unwillingness to listen to the expression of problems and concerns and frustrations.

Jan, who was going to begin her writtens the day she was to have flown back for the trial of Sonia, passed all of her exams and now is busy finishing her dissertation, which ought to be completed in a matter of three or four months. Maureen said she felt closer in terms of communion to Jan in her feeling about the excommunication than with any other person. 

[LJA Diary, 10 Mar., 1980]

Chris responded to a previous letter of mine in which I had inferred that the Johnson affair was “local only,” the excommunication coming independently from Bishop Willis. Your points are well taken, Chris. I suppose I was arguing primarily that most bishops wouldn’t have touched the Sonia Johnson case with a ten foot pole. I recall a case where President Reed Bullen (certainly orthodox and a conservative) had a case, went to SLC for conversations, was told to “cut him off,” came back, held the trial, and did not cut him off, but simply counseled him. So the last decision is up to the local officer, and whatever the local officer decides, the central church will certainly tend to support him or her. As I say, most bishops, in my opinion, would be very slow to prosecute, very slow to judge, and very slow to take serious action. At least that is my experience. Most bishops, in my opinion, are very understanding, very helpful, very patient, very forgiving. 

Our love to all of you.

[LJA to Children, 12 Mar., 1980]

Last night Grace and I went to dinner at the home of Eldred and Hortense Child Smith. We found them to be charming, unpretentious, friendly, and interesting persons. We stayed until 11:30–the latest we have stayed out for years. We had interesting conversation and Eldred showed us all his treasures. . . .

We also found out interesting things about Hortense. She is a great granddaughter of Goudy Hogan. She attended Utah State University and lived in Logan several years. She taught school. She married Robert Child, son of Thomas R. Child, of the General Welfare Board. Her husband was a building contractor and well-to-do. It was her home that we went to last night. Her husband had been a bishop and her father-in-law as well. Her husband died maybe eleven years ago; she went back to teaching and education, and married Eldred about three years ago.

Hortense was on the General Board of the MIA with Margaret Jackson and a good friend of her, and of course served as a counselor to Florence Jacobsen with Margaret, of the MIA. Then President Lee (then apostle) put her on the adult correlation committee and she served there several years. Under her direction they worked out the Aaronic Priesthood MIA program. For its approval, President Lee invited her into the temple with him when it was presented to the general authorities. Some persons present there thought this went too far–to invite a woman into their meeting. She also had a subsequent meeting to which she was invited there. While President Lee was the one responsible for putting the Priesthood clearly in charge, he insisted that women be made a part of the planning process, and so he was not demeaning women. Just the subsequent people who didn’t have his vision have left women out of the decision-making process.

Hortense was in the WAVES during World War II, but that fact was never mentioned in any of the references to her in Church publications, as if this was something the Brethren did not want people to know. She was stationed in Washington, D.C. during the war.

Hortense thinks that the Brethren are afraid if they give women a little authority they’ll grab it and predominate. Hortense said that each year at conference time the Regional Representatives are invited, with their wives, to a testimony meeting in the temple. For several years, the Presiding Officer always stipulated that the bearing of testimonies should be restricted to Regional Representatives, but on this one occasion the presiding officer failed to say that. So most of the testimonies were born by women. Eldred says nine to one were women. Many of them Latin American women, whose testimonies had to be translated. The Brethren are afraid that women will just take over if we give them a chance, she thinks. Then it will turn into a women’s church like the Catholics.

Hortense has in her mind an article for the Ensign on “Jesus Christ–Ennobler of Women.” Many instances of this in the New Testament. Women held a high place traditionally among Jews, but this place, under the priestly and Pharisee dominance, declined. So Jesus showed his respect for women in several ways. Talk with the Samaratin woman at the well, appearing first to Mary after his resurrection. Hortense said President Kimball at the dedication of the remodeled St. George Temple has a paragraph or section on women that is just great. Mentions Mary, Martha, Hulda, and a couple of others I don’t remember. Hortense was very pleased with this mention and wrote him to thank him for it. Hortense’ s article for the Ensign would build on this a full article. After working out her title on Jesus Ennobler of Women she found that used as a chapter heading in Talmage’s Jesus the Christ, so she thought she’d have to work out a different one.

Hortense said that many agree with her that “this women thing” is not just a matter of Sonia Johnson and will pass. It’s pretty general in the Church. They don’t want the Priesthood; they just want to be consulted. They want to have some voice in matters which affect them. There ought to be one or more women present in meetings of the Quorum of Twelve when they talk about women’s matters. (Hortense thinks Barbara Smith has never been in one of these temple meetings.) Hortense thinks the General Authorities never learn the complaints which the women have, because there is no pipeline to them except through stake presidents, etc., who often do not hear themselves. And they tell General Authorities what they want to hear. Hortense hopes she will some day be able to tell Elder Hinckley of her concerns. Says Elder Hinckley is one of the few among the General Authorities who keeps telling them that this is not a Sonia Johnson affair, but quite general.

Hortense has written some of the manual, used for Aaronic Priesthood MIA, after being reviewed by 25 persons, she jokes. She got into this writing business because she had to in order to fulfill her assignments.

Grace and I liked Hortense and Eldred very much. As I say, charming, intelligent, concerned, articulate, honest, friendly, unpretentious. And they’re right on so many issues confronting the Church. Perhaps Eldred has been a little outspoken, but I doubt that he has ever done harm to the Church. The testimonies of both seem to be very sound.

[LJA Diary, 14 Jun., 1980]

The other interesting item occurred Saturday afternoon when they were sustaining the officers. When President Romney read the name of Spencer Kimball to be prophet, seer, revelator, and president of the Church, virtually everybody held up their hand to sustain him, and when he asked for the negative vote, 3 women in the rear screamed out No. They were three women from the California Mormons for ERA, lead by a Sister Dalton. They did not scream out no on any other vote. Quite possibly they left the meeting and went out to meet the media which they had called in advance. They appeared on evening broadcasts and the statement of Sister Dalton essentially said that they were active, believing members who fully supported President Kimball as president and prophet of the Church, but did not accept him in a political role fighting ERA. The Brethren must have been tipped off on this by the media, because as soon as they screamed no, Brother McConkie was at President Romney’s side and said something like the following: “President Romney, we note for the record that there were three negative votes. The three sisters who cast these votes are invited to meet after the meeting with Elder Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve Apostles.” The news media showed them going into the Church Administration Building for that meeting after the conference was over, that afternoon. No reports as to what transpired, but based on other meetings, Elder Hinckley no doubt heard them out and then dismissed them. We do not assume that they were asking to be excommunicated, or that any excommunication will take place, unless other factors than the ERA advocacy were involved.

One other interesting item was the row at the front in which the Relief Society presidency, the Young Women’s presidency, and the Primary presidency sat facing the audience. Unfortunately the media did not make much of that, as they might have done. Elders Benson and Petersen and Richards, the three oldest members of the Quorum, looked hale and hearty. Elder Hunter was absent from most of the sessions but attended the final session without speaking. All of the prayers were by members of the First Quorum of Seventy. Elder Hanks, who had been released as president for his mission in the Far East, was present and sat immediately next to the 7th of the seven presidents. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Oct., 1980]

I’d like to deal with the basic problem–How does one explain the remarkable achievements of Utah’s people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? I would give some evidence that the achievement truly was remarkable. I would then mention the studies of Marian Winterbottom and David McClellan who explain the existence of superior cultures and civilization by singling out the role of the mother in implanting high achievement motives in children. I would give evidence then that Utah was not in a proper sense a male-dominated society and still isn’t. Particular reasons for the importance of women in pioneer Utah were the husbands often being away on missions–gospel missions, colonizing missions, Church administration, etc., and the institution of plural marriage in which a large number of women managed an independent household. Women were in a leadership position in their families, on farms, and in small business establishments. They often worked closely with their sons and daughters in running the farm, the shop–in making a living.

The above will probably take five or six minutes. To the extent to which there is time, I might mention examples of some ‘independent” women: Susa Young Gates, Lula Greene Richards, Julina Smith, Ellis Shipp Roberts, and Martha Hughes Cannon.

[Comments proposed by LJA for BYU Women’s Conference Panel, 5 Feb., 1981]

In the evening Grace not feeling like it, I went to the home of Maureen and Dale Beecher to hear Gordon and Carol Madsen speak on the relationship of the sexes as given in Church doctrine and in the temple ceremony. How is the role of woman presented in the temple? There were about thirty persons present, who included the following, besides Maureen and Dale and Gordon and Carol:

Dean and Cheryll May Chase and Grethe Peterson

John and Linda Sillito Jack and Linda Newell

Lowell and Merle Bennion Brook and Jill Derr

Richard and Julie Cummings Ron and Judy Esplin

Linda Wilcox Marybeth Raines

Wayne and Marlene Owens Paul and Lavina Anderson

Stuart Poelman (brother of Lloyd and Ron)

Gordon began by saying that he thought it was a mistake for us to be so hush-hush about the temple, so that those going to the temple for the first time have not the foggiest idea what it is all about. Indeed, he said, one can often find more in non-Church publications than in Church publications. For example, he found an article on the Mesa temple in Arizona Highways that was more explicit than most of the things one can  pick up in Church publications. In his experience as bishop of a university ward, he found that the biggest single complaint of the women was that they had not been prepared to go to the temple, and almost to a woman were disappointed in the experience. And yet, as they came to know later, there was no reason for that disappointment if they had been better prepared for it.

Gordon then read various quotations from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball about the endowment and the priesthood.

He then read from Nibley about ancient temples from Syriac, Coptic,

Dead Scrolls, Jehu, and the gospel of Philip, as appearing in Nibley’s The Egyptian Covenant.

He pointed out that most of the statements of Joseph Smith could be found in Words of Joseph, the recent publication of Andy Ehat. He was quoted from an article in the Millennial Star, “The Idea of Temples in History,” presumably by Nibley, appearing about the time that the British Temple was being dedicated. The quotations from early Church leaders were as follows:

Joseph Smith: design of Council of Heaven…ordinances instituted…build a house to prepare for. June 11, 1843, discourse. Ordinances and principles.

.Joseph Smith: If a man gets the fullness of priesthood…

Brigham Young: Ordinances of children of God.

Joseph Smith: Keys given. Priesthood everlasting ordinances and priesthood.

Brigham Young: Endowment to receive ordinances to enable you to…

Joseph Smith: There are certain key words and signs. Lucifer written up…signs in Heaven, Earth, and Hell…

Heber C. Kimball: Think of holy endowments…imitate Christ. Rem.

Heber C. Kimball: You have received your endowments. What for…

Here are the notes that I made of the rest of his talk. To every person there the most interesting, of course, related to the Second Endowment or Second Anointing. He said that he had not received it but that he had read about it in the journals of Heber C. Kimball, in minutes of Joseph Smith’s clerks, the journal of William H. Smart, and others.

His principal point was that the male and female–husband and wife– are not equal, are not the same–but share the priesthood. Section 121 has no gender; it is a joint injunction to both man and woman–husband and wife. It is as much for the home as for the quorum. The priesthood councils have authority, give blessings. Women share with men the counsel and the blessings, but the authority to organize the church comes through the men. Only the authority is male. As for the office of the women, they are priestesses and queens and the elect of God.

Comments afterward: Stuart Poelman said he was present when his brother Ron was ordained as a general authority and member of the First Quorum of Seventy. He noted that in the setting apart he was given all of the keys except the patriarchal keys (which are held by the prophet) and the authority to perform Second Endowments (which is retained by the prophet). Ron Esplin pointed out that the first part of the Second Anointing is done by the prophet, and the second and concluding part of the  endowment involves the female (the wife) anointing the man.

Another pointed out that the priesthood is given to the men to perfect them–the women don’t need it; they are already more perfect. This is, in a way, a sexist statement–women can be evil also.

Ron Esplin pointed out that the Second Anointing is not necessary to receive one’s calling and election made sure. This can be done through the Holy Spirit in the same sense that one may receive the Holy Ghost without It having been conferred, or one may be given the Holy Ghost and may not have It. Ron pointed out that Heber C. Kimball had been given his calling and election made sure in 1839 and was not given his Second Anointing until 1844.

Gordon pointed out that the Second Anointing gives one the promise of a personal manifestation of the Savior, and how exalting it is to a woman to have a room in her home dedicated and then dress in temple robes and be given authority to anoint her husband and the opportunity of receiving answers to spiritual questions (D&C 132).

Gordon, in referring to Section 121, said the word dominion is often misused or misinterpreted. It is no arrogant assertion of the will, in a matter of commanding. He discussed the dilemma of being “sealed up” vs. free agency, as given in Section 132.

Chase Peterson offered a biomedical comment: The difference between men and women, except for, of course, testicles and ovaries, is a matter of endocrines. The difference is testosterone and estrogen. If you give testosterone to a man, nothing happens; if you give it to a woman, she becomes more aggressive and masculine. If you give estrogen to a woman,  nothing much happens, but if you give it to a man, it is a soporific. Testosterone, to women, is a aphrodisiac. Someone commented that some men must be subject to testosterone poisoning.

Lowell Bennion commented that his principal criticism of the temple ceremony is that there ought to he more of Christ, that, in a way, the ceremony is directed towards a selfish purpose–committing ourselves to our own exaltation. There ought to be a part of the ceremony which commits us to the ideals of Christ–to Jesus, to his purpose.

Another person said that there is a legal concept that an agreement is not binding if a person does not understand the agreement or if he has not entered into it with good preparation and good faith or if he has entered into it under duress. In that case can the agreements when young people going through the temple for the first time make covenants–can these be binding since they are doing it without adequate knowledge and under duress– parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents–present?

Gordon feels very deeply about the importance and meaning of the temple ceremony and presented it with considerable emotional impact. We left after about two and a half hours.


Trying to teach us something of men-women relationship. Men’s washing different from women’s. She’s clean, men through faithfulness. Anointed to become kings and priestesses. Commitment of obedience. Women to men on condition of righteousness. Man’s unconditional obedience and wife as he follows Lord. If not, amen to priesthood. 

Women–childbearing painful. Men–sweat. Women painful to preserve chastity.

Eight-hour ceremony originally. Used to be five ministers; now only one.

Nibley for Cresimir Cosic.

In lecture, should be some explanations. Fall in whole human family, not just Eve.

Why, when praying, women veiled, not men?

Women receive ordinances from women, and men from men.

Having authority, women clothed in, signs of in veil, same signs.

Wears veil in terrestrial. On other side of veil, needs no veil. Has priesthood, married.

Woman taken through veil now by husbands-to-be. Heber J. Grant took friends and daughters and sons-in-law through veil as surrogate of God. Every Thursday. Fatherhood and motherhood and one priesthood, not priesthood and woman.

Joseph Smith: Melchizedek, Aaronic, and patriarchal.

Hugh B. Brown: Woman stand side-by-side.

D&C 132, pronoun is plural, men and women.

Anthony W. Ivins. Adm. to men and women the same. Women share priesthood with husbands. Equality with men. Single men and women both denied.

Joseph F. Smith. Wife shares priesthood with husband. 10 (1906) Era, p. 308. 

Brigham Young: Man that honors priesthood, JD 17:119. 1948, Thomas Bullock minutes. 

Nibley on Facsimile #2. Obedience, appropriate formula, and priesthood endowment. Formula for moving K. to kingdom.

Clothed in garment of priesthood. Fullness of priesthood when married and confirmed by one more ordinance.

Patriarchal priesthood and go through veil.

Only by sealers. Key from prophet.

Baptism. Three pivotal ordinances.. Entrance to celestial. Entrance to exaltation. Confirm that that has happened. All three in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost. The Three, if gods, all have wives. Went through same experiences. Second Anointing or Endowment.

Joseph Smith: Making calling and election sure, sealed to eternal life.

Millennial Star on.

W. H. Smart journal, May 31, 1901. John 12:1-8, account of Mary anointing feet of Savior.

April 1, 1844, H. B. Kimball journal, Vilate journal. Millennial Star, December 12, 1886. John Taylor, English sister.

George Albert Smith and Bathsheba Smith, January 31, 1844.

Promised Messiah, three chapters. Exaltation assured. Washing feet. Only by prophet or his surrogate. Final ordinance. Wife performs on husband. Anoints him so he can become clean. She anoints him and got from another woman. 1+1=1. That is priesthood unit they share. Without it, neither can be exalted. Crowning ordinance performed by woman on her husband. 

[LJA Diary, 9 Mar., 1981]

Friday I remained at home, as per usual, read some and worked on a talk

I gave that evening to the College of Religious Instruction and wives at BYU at their annual banquet, which was held in the Lion House. Thanks be that we didn’t have to go to Provo. About 100 persons there. Talked on Brigham Young and the Lion House. Talk well received. Enjoyed sitting at the table with Neal and Ann Lambert, and Ellis Rasmussen and wife and Eldin Ricks and wife. (Why can’t I remember the wives’ s names?) (And, while I am at it, how come there is not a single female instructor in the College of Religion at BYU–all the professors are male. Of course, there are lots of women who teach religion at BYU–nearly all the faculty teach religion courses, off and on. But in the College of Religious Instruction, proper, no women faculty. I told Neal Lambert, the BYU vice prest, they must tend to that. He said they’ve been working on it but haven’t found a likely candidate yet. Maybe we can work Maureen into that.)

[LJA to Children, 22 Mar., 1981]

I have heard several things that perhaps ought to be recorded somewhere for the benefit of future researchers who need to know. I have been told that Adele McCollum, after her divorce from George Mortimer, began associating with the NOW people. A very “in” thing with them is lesbianism. Whether it was that influence or not–and Adele certainly had a better effective relationship with women then with men–she has taken up with a 24 year old female lover. She is now said to be shocking people by openly professing to be enjoying a lesbian relationship now.

She also claims that she has written a book on her experiences in Mormonism, although my informants think that there mostly written in her mind and as she may content herself with an article or two somewhere on the subject. She, of course, has completely broken off with the Church, but her younger daughter who lives with her former husband is said to be still going to Church.

I have been told that she is trying to get herself excommunicated from the Church and so she has boasted of the lesbian relationship to some people who will tell the bishop. If she went to the bishop and asked for excommunication it probably would happen, but since no one is apt to press any charge against her it is very doubtful she would be excommunicated. The Church had enough experiences with Sonia Johnson!

[LJA Diary, 27 Jul., 1981]

Some personal reflections on the conference just past.

It seems that just when one’s hopes for the future of the Church are at the lowest ebb, a surprise comes that revives them. The creation of the Historical Department in 1972 (when everyone was deploring the sustaining of Joseph Fielding Smith as Church President). The revelation on giving the Priesthood to blacks when everyone had given up hope that it might happen in our generation. Four women invited to speak in conference when everyone had decided it would never happen as long as certain authorities are still alive. God bless the authorities! Or, to put it their way, praise be to God who inspired it.

With the possible exception of one conference in 1920, it marks the first general conference where women have spoken. History-making! Revolutionary! And we were all delighted.

Our friends are unanimous in praising the appointment of Ardeth Kapp as presiding of the Young Women. She is intelligent, energetic, a talented speaker and writer, and, I remind them, descended from John P. Greene and Brigham’s sister Rhoda, the grandparents of Lula Greene Richards. Our friends are less than enthusiastic about the appointment of Barbara Winder as Relief Society President. She is not particularly well educated or intelligent, they say, too fond of the Brethren, they say—sycophantic, a “Barbie Doll,” not a real leader at this time when the women need a strong, resolute leader. I tell them to give her a chance. What did people say when Truman succeeded Roosevelt? And yet he became a great president. Sometimes people can achieve by appointing competent leaders to work with them as counselors (Dwight Eisenhower, for instance). We’ll be looking carefully at the women she chooses as her counselors and  secretary.

[LJA to Children, 9 Apr., 1984]

Conference was not completely satisfying to me. None of the talks were intellectually exiting—usually one or two are, but not this time. No new program announced. There was some reshuffling of General Authorities, but no new appointments. Some were put on emeritus status, but only Seventies—no apostles. President Benson did not speak, but his message was read by Pres. Monson. It dealt with being kind to old people, so take due heed. The best talks, I thought, were those of Russell Nelson on women and Howard Hunter, who I’ve always liked and who, I think, would make a great president if he lives to become one.

The shortcomings of the conference, from my point of view, were two. Having only one woman speak, and as a Primary officer she told a story. Told it wonderfully, but why not a woman to give a substantive talk as well. The other problem, in my judgment, was an excess of adulation for the president. Worse than the Catholics for the Pope! They got carried away, I think. It is unhealthy, I think, to adore the President, as if he is not capable of human error. As a historian who has seen human error in all the Prophets, both early and recent, I think this is not a healthy trend.

[LJA to Children, 2 Oct., 1989]

Barbara Winder was released after six years as Relief Society president; replacing her is Elaine Jack, a native of Cardston, Alberta, who is an English major and teacher. We like her. She is forceful, imaginative, and energetic. She showed a certain independence–with her counselors. One is Chieko Okazaki, a Japanese American who has been a teacher in Salt Lake City and Denver, and the other is Aileen Clyde, from Springville, who, I think, has been in the Legislature–a striking blonde. I knew Mrs. Okazaki–interviewed her on the Topaz pamphlet and also on Harold Silver. She is intelligent, charming, fully capable, with some independence. So, a real step forward in women’s affairs, I would say. 

[LJA to Children, 2 Apr., 1990]

Dear Children:

Although I wrote earlier in the week, I thought I’d send a couple of things, and write a report on our Alternative Women’s Conference held Wednesday at the University Park Hotel here in SLC. Harriet and I went with Bernard Silver, and we very much enjoyed the day—a full day. Heard some splendid papers, including Linda Sillitoe, Lorie Winder Stromberg, Vella Evans, Janice Allred, Carol Lynn Pearson, Linda Newell, Martha Esplin, and some wonderful music from Lisa Arrington. Approximately 350 persons were there. Most of them were young mothers—25 to 45. Some were angry, but most simply wanted to find kinship with other women who were not fulfilled with Relief Society. The lessons don’t do it for smart women, educated  at BYU and elsewhere, who do independent thinking and want an opportunity to express themselves but don’t find that opportunity in Relief Society lessons, Sunday School lessons, and perhaps with women in their neighborhood. Some of them have bishops who do not permit them to teach because of their feminist point of view.

Harriet and I are glad they had the conference, and are hopeful that they will have it every year. I feel strongly that they need an outlet for their feelings and ideas. Exponent II is one outlet, as are Sunstone and Dialogue. This conference gives them an oral outlet, which I think is healthy. Some of their complaints are justified. There are some abusive husbands, even bishops and stake presidents. They are not recognized in the blessing circle for babies. They are not encouraged to mention our Mother in Heaven. And of course the failure of the Board of Education to invite Laurel Ulrich to the BYU Women’s Conference was the immediate reason these women decided to have an Alternate Conference. Harriet and I felt the same way about the snub for Laurel. And by the way, I had nominated Laurel to be a member of our Society of American Historians and she has been elected! So there are now three Mormon historians who are members of this select group: Richard Bushman, Laurel, and myself. I take considerable pride in this since I was the first and had the opportunity of nominating the other two.

[LJA to Children, 30 Apr., 1993]

Of all the conference speakers we enjoyed most President Hunter, Jeff Holland, and the two women. None of them, however, excelled the Relief Society presidency the previous week. The women outshine the men most every time! We did not like the Sunday morning session in which many speakers emphasized the theme, Quit Thinking; listen to the Brethren; do what they say; be obedient and submissive. We thought this violated President Hunter’s theme of Saturday morning. The glory of God is intelligence; use it!

[LJA to Children, 6 Oct., 1994]