Margins to Center

Posted on May 4, 2009. Filed under: authority, feminism, leadership, suffering, women | Tags: , , , , |

by mraynes

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a presentation to colleagues and members of the community about the ideology of empowerment.  Empowerment is my primary job description so I can give a presentation about the subject with my eyes closed.  Although it is an easy subject for me to discuss, truth be told, I feel that the concept of empowerment in American society is a cop out.  Although I believe that the individual must be an integral part, and even the impetus for positive change, they are only one part of reaching true empowerment.  An individual can change all they want but if they don’t have the structures and support to back them up that change means very little.

When asked what “empowerment” means, most people will say that it is an individual making choices that will improve their life.  An empowered person will pull themselves up by their bootstraps; they work hard and persevere and then are rewarded for it.  Meritocracy is, after all, the bedrock of the American dream and our concept of national progress.  But when the modern idea of empowerment was first emerging in the late 1960’s, it was a response by feminists who were frustrated with the male-centric, establishment public policy being enacted world-wide.  “Women’s Empowerment” was a transformational idea that challenged the existing structures of patriarchy as well as race and social class.

The empowerment movement was supposed to challenge the ideologies that justified social inequality and transform the structures that reinforced that inequality.  This was a very popular theoretical exercise among feminists and much of the 2nd Wave literature addressed these issues.  Feminists, however, are not a monolithic body and so there was no clear definition or agreed upon public policy platform to push those transformations forward.  This allowed the word and its ideology to be usurped from its original purpose of systematic change to the idea we recognize today of individual power, achievement and status.  The power in empowerment was effectively neutralized and the deep power changes that needed to take place in gender
relations and other social hierarchies never occurred.

This brings me back to why I was uncomfortable giving a presentation about empowerment; the empowerment model we have today does not work!  When I first started counseling domestic violence victims the path to empowerment was pretty clear cut.  Clients would get a job and then they would get housing, we would throw in a little counseling for good measure, teach them how to be assertive and how to make healthy relationship choices and call it a success.  And our model was successful, 80% of our clients went down some variation of the path I mentioned before…until the empowerment model failed.

Like so many other subsets of our society, when the bubble burst and the economy crashed, the reality that remained was so much uglier than any of us could have imagined.  Our successful empowerment model had only masked a deeply flawed and pernicious system of structural and relational inequality.  Those of us in advocacy saw in even sharper contrast just how
disempowering our society is.  For example, Arizona recently cut their subsidized daycare program making it impossible for low-income women to work and take care of their children.  For women like my clients, their inability to work makes it impossible for them to obtain housing.  Their options are to go from shelter to shelter, exist on the charity of friends and
family or go back to their abusers.  On top of this, the legislature cut emergency cash assistance by 20%, making it even harder for mothers to stretch their already paltry income to cover the living expenses of their families.  It is pretty hard to feel empowered when you’re worried about how your going to feed your children.

I understand why the Arizona State Legislature cut these programs; women who take from the system go against all of those notions of self-reliance we hold so dear.  It is easy to see them as milking the system and the vitriol in which “welfare moms” are spoken with only further proves how deeply ingrained the meritocracy in our society is.  My clients are literally on the margins of society and their needs are easily ignored or dismissed out of fear of “enabling”.  I don’t believe that people who have power are mean-spirited, I just think they don’t know…they can’t see the human face of disempowerment.

I understand this because I too once believed that people on the margins either didn’t exist or were there because of their own failings.  It was not until I started working in the margins that I realized in order for them to escape, it must be society who changes. I can assure you, as someone working on the front lines, that the women I work with are striving and fighting with everything they have to empower themselves.  They work hard to provide a better, safer life for themselves and their children, but they cannot achieve true empowerment without systematic change to every power institution in this country.  So let me suggest a starting point, bring the margins to the center.  Give domestic violence victims, undocumented immigrants, homosexuals, racial minorities and all women a human face.  Make the individual more than just a number, more than a nebulous concept with a need.  The powerful will not give up their power easily but at least they won’t be able to ignore the problem…And that is half the battle.

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Persecution and a Small Voice

Posted on April 16, 2009. Filed under: Acceptance, Belief, Family, marriage, Mormon Life, Relief Society Lessons | Tags: , , , , |


by Alisa

Easter Sunday, our Relief Society Lesson from the Joseph Smith manual on the Responding to Persecution. In graduate school, I studied religious persecution in England from the 16th to 18th centuries. It has always saddened me to read the recording of a woman on trial for her life, as she recounted her belief in whether or not the sacramental wafer was the actual body of Christ. If nothing else, this has given me a strong appreciation for the founders of the United States who realized that the government’s non-involvement in religion is what would allow religions to flourish. Because of my religious belief, I want to uphold the separation of church and state, and I guard that freedom most dearly. Sure, I can’t legally force others to believe as I do, but they can’t do the same to me. I glory in that.

During the lesson, I began to feel uncomfortable with the accuracy of some of the ideas suggested, such as the idea that Mormons never amassed weapons to defend themselves against the mobs, that Mormons were the only group severely persecuted for their religious beliefs in America, and that Mormons always went as lambs to the slaughter when mobs came, choosing peace over their own lives. While I don’t necessarily agree with these statements any longer, I understand them. These are the interpretations I’ve heard my whole life in the Church. These are the historical interpretations everyone expects to hear.

The instructor then asked for someone to recite the 11th Article of Faith:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

After the recitation, the instructor then said: “What about modern-day persecution of the Church? What about California’s Prop 8? How does that apply to the 11th Article of Faith?”

My heart was pounding inside. Knocking on my chest. I knew that the answer the instructor expected was not what I felt in my heart. I had sat still during the 19th-century persecution stories, but tying it into this contemporary issue, an issue over which I struggled and mulled over, was hitting me to the core.

No one responded for awhile, and the instructor repeated her question: “How does Prop 8 tie into the 11th Article of Faith?”

Hardly without my knowledge, and without any preparation of what I might say, my hand shot up. When called upon, I said, “Well, some people think that marriage is a religious thing, that it’s part of worship.”

“Yes…” was the instructor’s reply, and some women nodded.

“So…” I said, my heart still pounding, and my hands matching the shaking in my voice, “Maybe we should allow people to marry whom they want?”

My comment hung out there in the silence. I felt on the verge of tears. Nervously, I unwrapped a small bag of chocolate-covered cinnamon bears and started popping them into my mouth, one after another. Anything to distract myself from what I had just said.

The Relief Society president chimed in: “Proposition 8 was a very emotional and personal issue for many people, on both sides of the issue. It affects people’s families, on both sides of the issue. It was a divisive issue.”

A less-active single mother who sometimes attends with her mother then said, “Our purpose here is to love everyone. It doesn’t matter if they are gay or straight. Christ said to love everyone. Period.”

There were several other comments about how we should strive to be less judgmental and more tolerant. For once, I felt like I was not entirely alone in that room with my unorthodox opinions. For once, I felt like a member of my ward’s Relief Society. I felt, for a moment, I had found my voice.

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Posted on February 2, 2009. Filed under: Acceptance, authority, Belief, faith, Family, feminism, Gender roles, history, leadership, Mormon Life, motherhood, religion, spirituality, testimony | Tags: , , , , , , , |


by mraynes

I’ll be honest, sometimes I come home from church half-way resolved to never go back.  (I say half-way because who am I kidding, I will stubbornly continue to go week after week, dragging my family behind me.)

A couple of Sundays ago was one of those Sundays.  I woke up late, only to find that mr. mraynes had gone to do a last minute rehearsal with the special musical number.  That left me with two babies to get ready for church by myself.  When we got to church (late), we had to sit on the metal folding chairs in the cultural hall which, was bad news because Baby Monster thinks that the sole purpose of a metal folding chair is to bang on it as loud as he possibly can.  When told to stop his admittedly impressive percussive performance, Baby Monster threw a series of fits, necessitating three time-outs.  As I was dealing with Monster Madness, mr. mraynes desperately passed off Baby Valkyrie to some random man on his way to play the piano for the aforementioned musical number.  After the music, mr. mraynes and I switched babies and I headed off to the Mother’s Lounge to feed the famished Valkyrie.  After feeding Baby Valkyrie for five minutes, she decided that she really wasn’t hungry after all and spit up all over her pretty red dress.  I made it back to our folding chairs in time to take Baby Monster to nursery which, thankfully, he was happy to go to.

As I sank into a seat next to mr. mraynes in Sunday School and breathed a sigh of relief, the Stake President got up and announced that our lesson would be “how to teach our children to appreciate traditional marriage.”

My reaction can be summed up like this:


Most of you can probably guess what was said so I’m not going to rehash it here.  Suffice it to say, as I was sitting there shaking my head in amazement that those words could be spoken in public almost a decade into the 21st century, I had an epiphany.

They are scared!

This is something I had never considered before.  I had always been caught up in their claim to authority and the execution of that power.  It had never crossed my mind that the leaders of our church have a vested interest in maintaining their power and there is a very real fear that they are loosing grip on their way of life.

I’m sure I am not the only one who has noticed a stronger focus on traditional lifestyles recently.  Many Mormons, whether liberal or conservative, have questioned why things like “Mother’s Who Know” or our involvement in Prop 8/Prop 102 was necessary.  What have we gained from them?  Many of us have seen these forays into social morality hypocritical at worst, useless at best.  I think that even the General Authorities would admit that these have been Pyrrhic victories.  In the end, the sacrifices of time, money, reputation will be useless; women will continue to leave the domestic sphere and gays will eventually get the right to marry.  The slow march of progress is unstoppable.

So the question remains, why?  And the answer is…because they are scared.

The neo-traditional mindset of the correlated church is slowly dying.  With every passing of a member of the Greatest Generation, the strangle-hold of “Father Knows Best” patriarchy loosens.  And so it should surprise no one that we are seeing one last push for patriarchy.

The General Authorities are right, we are on the cusp of great social changes and those changes do have implications for the morality of our people.  I can understand why our leaders fear these changes; it is always disconcerting to see an old way of life disappear.  But if we are to have faith in God then we have to believe that God will provide a way for us to be moral when the social landscape around us changes.

And there are plenty of examples where God has done this.  Somehow we have managed to stay strong in our faith without destroying every man, woman and child who disagrees with us.  As far as I know, we don’t make animal sacrifices outside our temples.  The fact that Joseph Smith re-imagined the God of the Nicene Creed to that of an anthropomorphic being hasn’t deterred any Mormon I know.  The priesthood didn’t cease to exist in 1978 when the ban on black members was lifted.

My point in citing these examples is that it is hubris to believe that God is fully represented by our present morality.  Truth is always larger than our partial vision of the present.  We don’t kill people who disagree with us because we now believe that murder and genocide are wrong and that human life is sacred.  We don’t withhold the gifts of God from black members of the church because we now believe that God is no respecter of persons.  God “changed” because we changed.  We are now in a time of transition and our view of God’s plan will change again.  The time is coming when that change, too, will have to be embraced.

“Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.  If your time to you is worth savin, then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone …For the times they are a-changin.”

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A Snowflake in the Global Patriarchal Tradition

Posted on December 1, 2008. Filed under: Acceptance, authority, Doubt, feminism, Gender roles, marriage, Mormon women, religion, women, world news | Tags: , , , , , |


by mraynes

As a feminist, I have been encouraged by the Church’s rhetoric on the equality of women and men, especially as it relates to marriage.  I think that we can all agree that an increase in egalitarian language is a good thing and benefits both men and women.  But language can only take us so far and I am truly afraid that the church’s language on equal partnership is just empty rhetoric.

Since the 1970’s, the Church has steadily become more progressive in its treatment of women…allowing women to speak in most meetings and giving them an increased presence in leadership councils.  Church leaders also started promoting the idea of equal partnership in the home and then subsequently backed off draconian birth control restrictions and limits on women leaving the domestic sphere.  But I have to wonder how much of this has been done out of political necessity; American women saw greater equality in mainstream society and so the church had to follow suit.

Before I go on, I want to say that I sincerely hope the church believes its own rhetoric and that it isn’t a ploy to mollify us Western women.  I want to believe that our leaders have been inspired by God to reach for equality because that is the kind of God I believe in.  Perhaps I am, as my brother-in-law lovingly suggests, a “fringe” Mormon but even so, I love my religion just as much as any true-blue Mormon there ever was.  I have stayed a Mormon because I believe that progress is slowly being made and I want to be among the snowflakes that finally break the branch of inequality in our religion.  Mostly, I want to live the religion of my heart.

But recently I have felt my heart break because I am not sure that I can continue to believe in the slow progress.  Yes, we have seen an increase in the language of egalitarianism but the Church’s actions do not back it up.  Until recently, most of us believed that the Church remained neutral in political matters, however Mormon activism to protect the traditional family around the world has been going on for at least a decade.  Mormons have played a leading role in a global alliance of conservative Muslims and Christians who have joined together to defeat threats to their patriarchal tradition.  Perhaps you have heard the now folkloric story of the BYU professor who attended a United Nations conference and gave a speech based on the Proclamation on the Family and changed the anti-traditional family course of the conference.  Spurred on by this success, BYU created the World Family Policy Center, holding annual conferences for “pro-family” entities around the world.  The Church also became involved with organizations such as United Families International (UTI) and the World Congress of Families (WCF).  In fact, the Church is a major funder of the World Congress of Families and sent Bruce C. Hafen to speak at their conference in 2007.  (As an aside, the WCF’s screed on feminism and the family is the funniest thing you’ll read all day). 

It is the mission of these organizations to influence international policy in pro- traditional family and anti- gay marriage and abortion ways.  I am not against protecting, supporting and promoting the family; generally I am pretty pro-family, as evidenced by my two children in three years, but families that do not guarantee an equally beneficial experience for all those involved should not be supported.   These organizations have, unfortunately, targeted International treaties like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which call on signatory countries to foster equality and make progress towards eliminating sexism in both national laws and cultural practices.  CEDAW is basically the international bill of rights for women.  As somebody who practically ate, drank and breathed CEDAW in college, I know the immense good this particular convention did for women around the world but also how ineffectual it could be because of the conservative factions of signatory countries that refused to follow all of the guidelines. 

The executive director at BYU’s World Family Policy Center told a reportert hat the United Nations conventions are an issue because they “appeared to be a pretty concerted effort to shape customary international law into, essentially, the Equal Rights Amendment.”  But is anyone else wondering if an Equal Rights Amendment for countries like Saudi Arabia and India would be such a bad thing?  Would it be such a bad thing for female fetuses to be guaranteed the right to life or for little girls to go to school without acid being flung in their eyes?  Is being able to escape an abusive marriage really a threat to the traditional family?  The answer is, of course, yes; any gains made in the rights of women are a threat to patriarchal tradition.  The question is now, does our church really want to follow this tradition?

It would seem that the lack of answers is really the answer.  Of course our church leaders could change things if they wanted to.  The preside language is incomprehensible and could be gotten rid of tomorrow without changing the majority of Mormon marriages.  Likewise, the “hearken” covenant could be done away with without fundamentally changing the endowment.  And yet neither is likely to happen; they are not likely to happen because their is no desire or impetus to change.  Instead we have gotten into bed with facets of religion and culture that hold equal partnership between men and women in complete disregard.  I am afraid that here, actions speak louder than words.

As for those of us on the fringe, all we can do is keep hanging out on that tree branch and hope that God sends an avalanche some day soon.

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Mormon Privilege

Posted on November 14, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |


by Zenaida

Mormons often assume that everyone within the faith around them believes the same way they do, as evidenced by the way we talk about missions, politics, and other moral issues. We are also under injunction to not take offense to people, so how do we deal with insensitive comments, political statements, false doctrine, and other statements spoken from the pulpit? I recently attended sacrament meeting and heard a member of the bishopric take a swipe at our new president elect, which elicited a laugh from the congregation, but I was shocked and embarrassed. Aside from my belief that the pulpit is not the place for professing political preferences (which could be seen as heretical after the recent election), I do not think it appropriate to undermine authority in such a way to people who would be led by example.

This talk by Elder Bednar invites us to not only cease to be offended, but to invite those who are inactive due to offense to reconsider. From the beginning, this talk implies a direction specifically toward those who are less active. Finding myself drifting closer to this status by true doctrine, occasional assumptions about me, and my own defensiveness about my doubts and my relationship with a non-member.

He paraphrases Neal A. Maxwell: “Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of ‘perfecting the Saints.'” I have always felt guilt over using others as guinnea pigs in my laboratory and prayed that they will be compensated for my short-comings. However, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and I wouldn’t want to anyway, but is there a place for people with different opinions? Where is the line between tolerance and expulsion?

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The Personal and The Political

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: Family, feminism, health, motherhood, parenting, women, work, world news | Tags: , , , , , |

By: mraynes

Tomorrow we will elect the next president of the United States.  In honor of this occasion and as a tribute to that old feminist adage that “the personal is political,” I am re-posting something that I wrote at my personal blog, First Fig.  It reflects on one point where the two intersect for me.  I would love to hear where the personal and political meet for you.  Oh, and go vote!

There are very few things in this world that I feel more passionately about than pregnancy and childbirth.  My own experience with both have been so emotive, terrifying, joyous and overwhelming; rarely have I felt more powerful and vulnerable than when I am pregnant or giving birth.  These have been transcendent experiences for me.  I am a better person for going through the indignities of being pregnant and giving life to two beautiful children.  I am a better person because pregnancy and birth require sacrifice.

Obviously the sacrifice of the physical body is necessary when pregnant.  A woman has no choice but to share food and nutrients with the growing child.  Often times that foetus acts like a parasite, leeching calcium from a woman’s bones.  In my case, my babies stole my thyroid hormone, making it difficult for me to function normally.  As the baby grows, you helplessly watch as your body contorts and balloons into a shape that is so unrecognizable that you can’t help but question whether it is your reflection in the mirror.  Then, of course, there are the hormones.  The hormones that make it difficult to string together a coherent sentence.  The hormones that create bone-deep weariness.  The hormones that make you question the intentions of every one around you, including those who are closest to you.

But perhaps it is the smallest indignities that hurt the most.  Like not being able to tie your shoes or the constant heartburn.  Like having to say no to chocolate cake because of the gestational diabetes that makes your babies gigantic.  Like not being able to get out of bed without assistance or having your back ache so badly that it brings tears to your eyes.  Like being unable to pick up your oldest child and hold him close to you.  Like foregoing sex with the father of your children and the man you love more than anything because you are so big that he can’t get within an arm’s length of you.

This doesn’t even take into account what happens during birth.  Nobody tells you about the doctors that treat you like a mentally challenged child.  Nobody tells you that  your legs will be forced back to your ears, exposing your most vulnerable parts to the cold air and the stares of anybody who passes by.  Nobody talks about the blood and the shit, the fluid that comes erupting from you like Vesuvius.  You don’t know desperation until you have felt the crowning of your baby’s head ripping apart your most delicate tissue.  And when it’s all over there is the stab in the leg, the pummeling of your stomach, the stitching and the weeks of bleeding to look forward to.

And I will do it all again.

I will do it again because the sacrifice is worth it.  It is worth it to me to bring children into the world who will know what true love is.  I sacrifice my body, my mind, my dignity, my free will so that a few spirits will know light and truth.  It is a sacrifice I freely give to my children, my husband and my heavenly parents.  It is not a sacrifice, however, that I give freely to the world.  The price I ask for re-populating our society with decent citizens is for the society that I willingly contribute my time, money and resources to respect the sacrifice I make.

I have a few dreams in which society could respect me for this sacrifice: free maternity care would be a good place to start.  A lot of western and non-western countries provide free health care to pregnant women, making the infant and maternal mortality rate significantly lower.  As a working mother, I would love to have real paid maternity leave so that I could be more of a presence in the most formative years of my children’s lives.  Even affordable daycare would go along way to helping mothers who have to work spend more time with their children.

But today, I’ll settle on just one way this country could respect the sacrifice I, and all mothers make…Respect our lives.

I took it for granted that most Americans, most politicians, even the Mormon church agreed that the life of a pregnant mother is of value.  That a mother’s life should be protected at all costs, even if that cost comes at the expense of the child she is carrying.  I am hopeful this is the case but it scares me that a man who could be elected president of the United States could go on national television and say that exceptions for a woman’s “health” are an extreme pro-abortion position.  As a childbearing woman, to have concerns about my health so openly and condescendingly sneered at, was beyond horrifying.

So to John McCain and all those who believe like him, I have this to say:

My life is of value.  My health is of value.  This is personal to me.  I am not part of an extreme pro-abortion conspiracy to murder all the unborn children that take up residence in my womb.  I am a wife and a mother.  A woman who comforts and cares for the abused and outcast of society.  I am a woman who has served my country bravely, just like you have, sir.  I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death twice to bring children into this world.  Children who will love their country and protect her freedoms.  Children who will be part of the next generation of American goodness.  We have both sacrificed for our country, sir and though you may not believe it, our sacrifices are equal.  Just like the value of our lives are equal.  I respect the sacrifices you have made for this country.  And now I ask the same respect from you.

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Guest Post: My Thoughts on Sarah Palin

Posted on September 3, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

by Kelly Ann L.

My sister and I share many of the same political opinions but she identifies herself as Republican (voted for Bush) while I have become a “liberal Californian.”
Don’t get me wrong – I identify myself as a Conservative Democrat or a Moderate Republican – one who is dis-satisfied with both political parties.  I am actually technically registered as a Republican (because that is what a good Mormon with no political opinions at 18, does).  However, I like to joke that “I am in the  closet” because for the truly liberal, it is unthinkable (you know, worse than being Gay if you are conservative).
Anyhow, my sister and I discuss a lot of issues – I have developed some fairly strong political opinions while she generally goes with the Mormon Republican Norm.  So when she told me she was PSYCHED for John McCain’s announcement of Sarah Palin, I wrote up the following response …
No, No, No. (more…)

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What I Would Say To My Bishop About Prop 8

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |

by Caroline

(Painting: The Marriage by Casey Matthews)

Hello Bishop,

It’s been a difficult month for me at church, since I am terribly saddened by the Church’s decision to mobilize the rank and file members against what I see as a civil rights issue.  I also have a deep moral conviction that my duty as a Christian is to reach out my arms in love to those who are most despised, most rejected, and most vulnerable in our society.

I see Prop 8 as pushing these vulnerable neighbors away, as drawing ‘us vs. them’ boundaries. as telling them that they are not worthy of the same privileges as we are. (more…)

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Not Very Political

Posted on July 10, 2008. Filed under: marriage, Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

Posted by Zenaida

Not long ago, I was surprised by a friend’s announcement that his political views were “liberal.” I never would have guessed that this friend would be so pro-choice, pro-free health care, pro-immigration reform in his views being from Provo, UT. After having my assumptions thrown out the window, I asked what his opinion was of me. His label for me was “not very political.” (Please note that this discussion was prefaced by an acknowledgement of the uselessness of labels as they carry different meanings for different people, but that’s another post.) (more…)

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Romney and Exponent II

Posted on January 11, 2008. Filed under: Exponent II, feminism, history, Uncategorized | Tags: |

Peggy Fletcher Stack has an intriguing article on “Bishop” Romney today, including the following:

Not everyone shared that positive view of Romney. Though somewhat progressive in his approach, Romney was still a product of LDS male culture of the time. He didn’t initially believe, for example, that there were any cases of physical or sexual abuse of women in the stake, though plenty of evidence pointed to it.

“He’s not a people person,” says Nancy Dredge, “he’s so much an organization man.”

Yet, Dredge says, she’s seen him learn from his mistakes. “He’s in a much better place than he was 20 years ago.”

While a young bishop, for example, Romney got word that a woman in his ward was considering an abortion. Th! is was the sixth pregnancy for the woman in her 40s, who had four teenage children, and she developed some medical complications.

Romney arrived at the hospital and forcefully counseled her against the procedure. She felt Romney misunderstood and mistreated her. The woman later wrote about the experience in Exponent II, a national newspaper for Mormon women that was published in Romney’s Boston stake. Though she didn’t use her name, many church members knew who she was.

The episode came back to haunt Romney when he ran for Massachusetts governor in 1994 as a “pro-choice” candidate. It also reflected some of the ongoing tensions he had with some Exponent II writers during his tenure.
Regardless, Mormon women in Boston still talk about an extraordinary 1993 meeting Romney called to address the women of the stake.

More than 250 members poured into the Belmont chapel. One by one they called out their issues while he stood at the front with three pads labeled: policies we can’t change, practices we can change, and things we can consider.

Nearly 100 proposals were made that day, including having female leaders give talks in various wards as the men on the high council do; letting women speak last in church; turning the chapels into day-care centers during the week; letting women stand in the circle while blessing newborn babies; recognizing the accomplishment of young women as the church does of Boy Scout advancements; and putting changing tables in the men’s rooms.

Many women left with a new appreciation of Romney’s openness.
He was “so brave,” says Robin Baker, who has worked on Exponent II. Sievers, who worked with Romney to set up the meeting, was ecstatic. “I was really surprised,” she says. “He implemented every single suggestion that I would have.”

I must say, I’d love to have a stake meeting like the one described above. Was anybody there who remembers what happened — or what changes were implemented as a result? Have you ever seen something similar in your ward or stake?

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