Call to Action: Write to YW President Elaine Dalton

There has been much talk, speculation and confusion regarding YW President Elaine Dalton’s recent BYU Devotional address. In her talk entitled, “Prophetic Priorities and Dedicated Disciples“, she is quoted as saying:

“Young women you will be the ones who will provide the example of virtuous womanhood and motherhood.  You will continue to be virtuous  lovely praiseworthy and of good report. You will also be the ones to provide an example of family life in a time when families are under attack, being redefined and disintegrating. You will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights.”

Both WAVE (on this facebook link) and Feminist Mormon Housewives posed the question: ”How do you interpret what Sister Dalton meant?” That much does seem evident–President Dalton’s talk is vague enough to leave many different interpretations for listeners among which to chose, as evidenced by the many guesses people have stated. The Salt Lake Tribune also published an article entitled “LDS women’s leader stirs it up with ‘no need to lobby for rights’ remark.”

The board members of WAVE are just as unclear as to President Dalton’s meaning as many responses have indicated, and, given our heartfelt belief that women are vastly unrepresented and marginalized around the world, we would like to better understand whether President Dalton is as opposed to women’s rights efforts as her comments could possibly indicate, or if, like us, she hopes for a time when advocacy efforts for women will become unnecessary.

Due to the vague nature of her comments, it is unsurprising that responses are ranging from confused to angry and hurt. If we were to follow the admonition of Jesus in Mathew 5:24 when responding to a perceived offense, we would seek to “first be reconciled to thy brother [in this case, sister]” and then to approach her in a way demonstrating the virtues of “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42), with the hopes that we may be able to better understand the message she was hoping to convey to the young women of the church.

In it this spirit that we call our sisters to join with us in writing to President Dalton and request clarification as to what she meant about lobbying for rights. Through the gentle power of our voices, experiences and stories, we can share with her why women’s rights are so important to us and attempt to resolve the contention around her comments. As the hymn says, we are sisters in Zion and we have the divine instruction to all work together to build the kingdom where all may be edified (Doctrine and Covenants 84:110).

The church website provides a postal address and email address where you can direct your letters to the Young Women’s President:


ATTN: YW President Elaine S. Dalton

Young Women General Office

76 North Main

Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-1702
E-mail: youngwomen@ldschurch.org

Please remember to speak honestly, from your own experiences and observations that have informed your world view and reach out in the spirit of reconciliation and a desire to understand and attain clarity.

Readers are also invited to make a donation to a not for profit foundation promoting education for women such as Somaly Mam Foundation in memory of President Dalton’s mother who passed away the day before the devotional. Expressions of condolences and sympathy would also be appropriate.

 

 

Comments

  1. Allen says:

    I’m seeing a little bit of irony (?) or at least some “wonderment” when i think about using Matthew 5:24 as a justification for a post entitled “Call to Action.” Was Jesus really encouraging us to make public, petition-style, rally-the-troops announcement about someone’s “offense”? Are your motives really private reconciliation, or is it a way to scripturally justify a demand for a public retraction?

    • Call To Action Committee says:

      The motive behind this call to action is to encourage LDS women to find their voice in seeking clarification on a matter that has direct implications for women’s opportunities. Many LDS women, due to cultural influences, feel uncomfortable being direct enough to seek reconciliation after a possible offense or to seek clarification when something is unclear, and as a result suffer in silence and presume things that may or may not be true. This Call to Action is exactly as it states– an invitation for women to request an answer to something that is confusing and that could benefit from a more substantive discussion.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I think her words are very clear. When women don’t feel threatened by “the world” or men, they don’t need to “lobby” for rights….they have them. And they understand that while men and women are equal, we are different too. We are not meant to be exactly like men, and we are not meant to be less than men. We are meant to human beings with a unique role in this life and focusing our energy on things like whether or not we can wear pants to church is waste of intelligence and energy. The approach to lobby, in the way that this website suggests, is not necessary and seems more like intentional “confusion,” born out of a desire to validate and defend perceived attacks on organizations like this. I am in full support of women’s rights. But I also know that there are ways to make things happen and be heard and recognized, especially in the church, without bombarding Sister Dalton with emails demanding an explanation. Maybe we should organize a “prayer lobbying” effort demanding God explain why plural marriage was instituted….or what he meant by creating Eve second instead of first….

    • Call To Action Committee says:

      Rebecca, you appear to presume that her comments were related to the recent Wear Pants to Church Day Event, yet there are many other areas of life in which women’s rights are often diminished. Due to the vagueness of her statement, she could be referring to there being no need to lobby for increased prosecution of rapists, or equal pay for equal work. She did not specifically name the rights to which she was referring which is the source of the confusion. Is she saying that women ought not to resist efforts to undervalue their contributions to society or that they ought to meekly submit when they are vicitimized? WAVE’s concern is that people will hear her remarks and assume that any efforts to further the rights of women throughout the world are unconsidered inappropriate and unworthy uses of church member’s time. Clarification is clearly needed so that speculation does not continue to run rampant and people’s assumptions are not used to point fingers of judgement at those she may not even has been referring.

      • Julia says:

        Do you honestly think Sister Dalton would talk about denying lobbying rights for rapists or equal pay for equal work? I think what she is saying, and maybe what you should take to heart, is the lobbying for what you perceive to be “offenses” in regards to not being equal to men in the church, such as not holding the Priesthood, not being able to wear pants, etc…I think she is warning you to stop with these silly non-important “feminist” views that will most-likely end with your being ex-communicated from the church. This organization only serves to hurt the women of the church. Think about what your espousing. Think about your fellow sisters, and most of all think about your Lord, and how sad he feels that you women think you have to raise your voice and lobby because you obviously don’t understand your divine role, as his daughters, in His kingdom. Sister Dalton is trying to say you need to step back and really listen to what she’s saying. Basically it’s this: if you truly understood your role as daughter of God, wife, and mother, you wouldn’t be raising the roof with all your demands about equality.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I actually think that you do know what she is talking about….she’s talking about lobbying for “rights” in the church. And the “wear pants to church” thing was an example of that. The reality is, there is no “law” saying women can’t wear pants to church. So why not do it? You can make your own personal statement, as many women do, without needing to organize a movement. The church is not built on rights. It is built on the gospel of Jesus Christ and revelation from God. Emma Smith did not lobby Joseph for a women’s organization. The relief society was a revelation from God….and that’s how the church works. The church experienced intense pressure to do away with plural marriage in the 1800′s. It even prevented Utah from becoming a state of the U.S. But the political pressure and lobbying did not cause the prophet to change things….revelation did. And it was revelation that came in God’s own time, decades after it would have seemed convenient and prudent in order to become a State and avoid trouble with the law. Again, that is how the church works. Sister Dalton may not be young and hip, but I have an extremely hard time with the suggestion that she is against protection of women’s political, and legal rights. We both know she is subtly decrying “lobbying” inside the church, as seen in the recent the format that you have encouraged with regards to church policies. And I think it is highly inappropriate to “demand” a public explanation – perhaps in hopes she will validate the kind of lobbying this WAVE organization does (inside the Church). As I said before, its as inappropriate as demand God or an apostle explain what they meant by something….it suggest a superiority that maybe be an indication of your true colors and motivations.

    • Stacey says:

      Rebecca,

      I think President Dalton’s remarks were meant to address the women who participated in Wear Pants to Church Day and those who are participating in the Let Women Pray in General Conference campaign. If that is who she is addressing, I think it is important for her to say so. As a women’s leader in a world wide church her remarks will mean different things to different people and I hope women ithroughout the world will not feel disuaded in pursuing the rights they deserve as human beings.

      The church does respond to public pressure – even if that means that our leaders are led to ask questions and look for solutions that they may not have been aware of or considered before. Where do you think the evolution of doctrines on our LGBT brothers and sisters has come from? It isn’t wrong to ask our leaders to think about the issues that we find important. The Primary program came from a woman who felt the church needed it and took the idea to her leaders. I don’t think anyone’s demanding, but respectfully asking, for a clarification. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I were in a personal meeting with Sister Dalton and she made that statement, I would ask her what she meant by it.

      • Rebecca says:

        Stacey,

        Why is it important for her to say so? Can she not have an opinion about these things? Or is she only allowed an opinion when it aligns with WAVE’s position? The funny thing is, its all so silly. There is no church doctrine about who can and cannot wear pants at church. Having lived abroad I can tell you that women in pants is a non-issue in most places outside of the US. So why make it an issue? Just wear pants if you want and move on. I am baffled. And women praying in General Conference??? Seriously??? Its like scraping the bottom of the barrel for inequities.

        And I disagree that the church responds to public pressure and changes or “evolves” doctrine as a result. The doctrine on homosexuality is still what it always has been: It is wrong to act, and doing so is a sin. And while the church may have softened the edges with gentle words about it’s origin in people, and re-enforced a long held position of loving all people, at its core, the doctrine has not changed…and will not change no matter how much social or public pressure conspire against it. The prophet Joseph Smith once caved to the “social pressure” of Martin Harris and essentially pressured God for a favorable answer. He learned a hard lesson. One we would be wise to learn from as well. The Lord and his apostles act in no ones time, but the Lord’s. And wasting time conjuring up nonsensical examples of inequality in the church is just that, a big waste of time. Show me an an example of real inequality and we have a different story. But this silliness – including demanding clarification to something we already know the answer to – is too much for me.

    • Katie says:

      “I actually think that you do know what she is talking about….she’s talking about lobbying for “rights” in the church.”

      See, that’s the problem, Rebecca. We DON’T know that. I assumed Sister Dalton was talking about the wear pants to church event, and shared the video with a friend. She watched the WHOLE THING (not just the relevant quote) and said “I think it’s pretty clear that she’s talking about women’s rights generally, not within the church.

      So none of us really knows, unless we are Sister Dalton :)

      Remember that the Church officially opposed the ERA. This is an incredibly nuanced and complex issue — my point is not to discuss the ERA, but to point out that it was a rights-related issue outside the church, so there is precedent in the Church for taking a position on things happening nationally, not just within the church.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I won’t begin to speculate what Sister Dalton was speaking to in her talk. Whether or not she herself was focused on female members wearing pants to church or bigger issues that face not only female members of the LDS Church but every female in our country I don’t know. Whichever the case may be I feel that people in Sister Dalton’s position need to think long and hard before they speak on such matters. Statements such as the ones made by Sister Dalton further alienate women and girls in the church that already feel less than equal. Whether or not they should is not the issue. I know several women who have left the because they have felt they are not respected and looked at as equals. Peoples feelings are all valid and based on perceptions. In my opinion the church has a long way to go. I would wear pants every week if people didn’t judge and think me disrespectful and disruptive. I believe that people are born gay and reject the notion that homosexuality is a choice. I feel that they should be able to have equal rights under the law and in the church. Things don’t change unless people stand up and make change happen.

  5. jane says:

    I find this so SILLY! WAVE seems like it is the house of many intelligent women. However, I must ask, do you not have enough other things in life to worry about…please look around and realize there are many who could benefit from your time and energy!

  6. Rachel says:

    I for one am grateful that you are offering a way for us to ask questions. Rebbecca said “Emma Smith did not lobby Joseph for a women’s organization. The relief society was a revelation from God….and that’s how the church works.” When in fact it was Eliza R. Snow who presented the bylaws and constitution of the Cook-Kimball group of sisters that had organized in Nauvoo to the Prophet. Eliza did not lobby for the Relief Society, but she certainly didn’t wait for a revelation to come to Joseph first. She, and the other women involved, organized it, created it, and called it to order, then they asked a blessing on it. Much the same way we are asked to make decisions. Joseph saw that the organization was good, and then at that time, he inquired of the Lord on their behalf and organized the women’s group we know as Relief society. (history from “Women of Covenant: the Story of Relief Society” by Derr, Cannon, & Beecher) If we want questions answered then we need to ask them. Simple as that. There will always be people upset by those questioning the status quo. If we need to ask our leaders then we should ask! If we need to help our sisters find a way to ask those questions then we should help. I have mourned with my sisters who feel oppressed by the non-doctrinal traditions that have been perpetuated simply because we do not have the will to change. I don’t demand anything of God, but I will plead and get on my knees to beg. I pray daily that the leaders of this church will ask the questions that God wants them to ask, and to act on the impressions that He gives them. I have my witness, but it means nothing to anyone else but to me and my stewards. If we are to hope to see change we cannot sit idly by and hope for a miracle. God will help only after all that we can do.

    • Rebecca says:

      “In that era, it was a popular practice for women to form their own organizations, often with constitutions and bylaws—sets of rules to govern the organizations. The women who met at Sarah Kimball’s home decided to establish a constitution and bylaws, and Eliza R. Snow accepted the responsibility to write them. Then the women asked Joseph Smith to review them and give his opinion of them. After the Prophet read them, he said they were “the best he had ever seen. ‘But,’ he said, ‘this is not what you want. Tell the sisters their offering is accepted of the Lord, and he has something better for them than a written constitution. I invite them all to meet with me and a few of the brethren … next Thursday afternoon, and I will organize the women under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.’ Rather than pattern a Latter-day Saint women’s organization after the women’s societies that were prevalent and popular at that time, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized them in a divinely inspired and authorized manner.”

      This is a direct quote from “Daughters in my Kingdom: The history and Work of the Relief Society.” Rachel, I think when you attempt to one-up someone on a historical reference its wise to be sure you keep things in context and do not erroneously twist them to suit your own purposes.

      Women’s organizations were common at that time in history, which is wonderful. Women have always found way to support and look after one another. But the “constitutions and bylaws” were not presented to the Prophet by Sister Snow in an attempt to “not wait for revelation” and ask him to “inquire of the Lord on their behalf” – That may be your interpretation Rachel, but it is not the factual recorded one….And sadly we cannot write emails to Sister Snow demanding she clarify just why she ask for the Prophets opinion on her organization’s rules. :)

      What we do know is that Sister Snow presented them hoping for the Prophets opinion – not asking him to consider her opinion. There is a BIG difference. I agree that inspiration comes in many ways, as does change. And Sister Snow may have helped play a role in that inspiration….but the evidence we do have clearly states that it was not her intention to feed inspiration to the prophet, so she wouldn’t have to “wait for Joseph to get revelation first.” What a presumption! But presumptions aside, I think we would be wise to focus on the last line of the excerpt – “Rather than pattern a Latter-day Saint women’s organization after the women’s societies that were prevalent and popular at that time, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized them in a divinely inspired and authorized manner.” Quite simply, I disagree with the methods suggested in this website. As a woman(and one who happens to work in a male dominated field) I am well aware of male-dominated traditions that exist in the world, that are not divinely inspired. But demanding explanations of remarks that you personally have chosen to see something negative or evil in, is not the method and means to effect change. And organizing protests rallies may be effective in the national government….but the church works in a different way. That’s all I am saying. I am not opposing women’s rights and Sister Dalton was not either. Its true I am not her personal interpreter, but I am a faithful church member who is NOT looking to find drama and fault in a passing statement made by church leaders, to forward my own means. And I can see her statement, as we all can, was meant to address the needless “calls to action” perpetuated by groups like this.

      One final thought. Would all of you who support this “call to action” do the same thing if the you were asked to email President Monson demanding a clarification on something he said? Or are you bullying Sister Dalton because you are as sexist as the “non-doctrinal traditions” you oppose….because she is a woman, and a “lowly” Young Woman’s President at that. And don’t say its different. Its not. I ask you to consider why you feel this approach is acceptable for her….but in all likelihood would not dare do the same to the Prophet, or any G.A. for that matter. (Bearing in mind that all church leaders are people too and they do not speak as the mouthpiece of the church, or the Lord, 100% of the time.) Just some food for thought.

      • Dan says:

        Rebecca,

        Thank you for comments, but I am afraid that I disagree with many of your conclusions. The Relief Society according to your citation, was initiated only after serious planning and actions by some of the women members of the church. While the form of the society was modeled after God’s revelation, the institution came immediately after a lobby. Keep in mind also that we teach in the church that the Word of Wisdom was revealed after Emma lobbied Joseph for some sort of resolution. Personally, I do not feel we should ever chide those who wish for a simple clarification or open discussion from their leaders – especially in a form which was written so eloquently and thoughtfully as WAVE’s. Also, as a man in this discussion, I feel that this is not only an issue that concerns just the women in the Church, but anyone who is interested in how gender differences factor into church doctrine and observation.

        • Rebecca says:

          Dan,

          You missed the point – they were NOT lobbying or even asking for a woman’s organization, They were simply asking the Prophet for his opinion of the “laws” they had created for a woman’s organization they had already established. I do not question that their hard work served as a framework….but the KEY point I was trying to make, is that the Relief Society did not come about in the form of a demand for revelation, or a lobby of any sort – again – there were no lobbies and no demands. That’s the point you missed.

          And I take ZERO issue with asking for clarification. But lets call a spade a spade in this particular “call to action” by this WAVE organization. Here’s what I see is really going on:

          The WAVE organization prides itself on activism for women…which is great. Truly. But then Sis Dalton makes her now “notoriously vague” comment about women understanding the worth in their roles as women and not needing to lobby for rights – which is obviously, to any intelligent person, a response to recent “calls to action” by various groups (like the wear pants silliness). As well as the standard LDS encouragement for women to embrace our unique roles as women. And you can all piously take a stand “refusing to interpret” what she meant…. but we all know exactly what she meant. It was not an attack on women’s rights by any stretch of the imagination.

          Yet, as a result of this comment, WAVE seized an opportunity to get a little extra attention and chose vocally feign a “Call to Action” born of self serving intentions. Perhaps they did choose to feel insulted/offended/mad etc, at the suggestion that their noble purpose in defending women’s rights, might perhaps, at times, go to far. But either way, this “call” solves nothing. The way I see it, demanding clarification of Sis Dalton’s comment, is like a bully who asks the demanding question “What did you say??!!” of the kid they are already intending to punch in the face – as if they really didn’t hear the feeble protest or whatever. That’s what I see really going on here.

          I suppose that’s what bugs me about this “call to action” – is that’s its nothing more than either “picking fight” or a grasping attempt to ask for validation. Both of which have NOTHING to do with defending the cause of women. A spade is a spade.

  7. You could also try to message her on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000210918443

  8. Patty says:

    Rebecca,
    Thank you so much for your support and clarification of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I support everything that you have said.

  9. Ashley says:

    I think that if women want to wear pants to church, they should be able to do so without being looked down upon. Nice dress pants follow the LDS modesty code so I’m not sure what the problem is. The fact that people would look down on a woman just because she wanted to wear pants to church is so unchristian. If she is otherwise following the gospel why does it matter? Not being able to wear pants to church is only one of many inequalities faced by women in the church. It’s about time they stood up for themselves.

  10. Sherah says:

    I would actually now like President Dalton to clarify her statement so that people like Rebecca don’t co-opt it and interpret for us. Speaking of superiority. What gives you the right of interpretation here? NOTHING in President Dalton’s talk gave any indication that she was referring to the pants event, and certainly not to anything WAVE has done. This implication of yours about WAVE’s “true colors” is nothing short of sinister. The fact that you can manage to see something evil in this extremely respectful and well-reasoned request tells us something about your own true colors.

    Just because you are satisfied with your own interpretation of the talk, and of the church as we now know it, doesn’t mean that you need to tear down other people’s honest and faithful, attempts to gain further understanding and clarification.

    • Rebecca says:

      Easy there Sherah. What gives YOU the right to ask someone to clarify their statements? Seriously. Sister Dalton wasn’t speaking for you, or making a statement of policy on behalf of the church. So again, what gives YOU, or anyone the right to demand she clarify anything?

      Even phrased as a “respectful well-reasoned” request, this whole call to action is pointless. And so, what if she responded, “I think women should have no rights.” What then? A call to action for her to step down? Is that how the church works? Should we protest someone we disagree with, and force them out of a leadership position they received by inspiration…simply because we don’t like the way they think? Is that how the church works? To quote Elder Faust “Where will it lead?”

      And again, who are you demand any of it? Last time I checked, she’s entitled to her opinion. She doesn’t owe anyone an explanation…not me, not WAVE not even you Sherah. And although you’d like to paint me as “sinister” – I’m not the one assuming she’s attacking women’s rights. I’m standing up for her by choosing to understand that she’s addressing silly little “protests” that serve no purpose and are a distraction from the real purpose and role of women. You simply choosing to understand something different – hence demanding clarification.

      Its nice of you to assume I’m satisfied with the church as we know it – but actually you are wrong. I am satisfied with the gospel…and mature enough to understand the difference between the two. And I am confident enough in my beliefs, that I don’t feel threatened by imagined attacks of my “rights” or even silly cultural norms like wearing dresses. I am not afraid to speak out when I see something amiss (which is why I am here questioning a “call to action” I disagree with) – but I chose my battles, rather then floundering for something imagined to be mad about. Cheers!

      • LLH says:

        Wow, if it is so pointless in your opinion, then just let it go. YOU might think it is pointless, but others do not, and everyone is entitled to their opinion on the matter.

  11. Olive says:

    I’ll be sending a copy of Half The Sky with my letter. Maybe if she gets multiple copies, from multiple people, she’ll actually be interested enough to read it! (and then she can give away her extra copies to others to read, ya know, because she’ll have a life altering event while reading it and then want to share feminism with the world, lol!) ;)

  12. Sharee says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Sister Dalton doesn’t even know what she means. Often times it seems as if speakers are instructed by their superior’s to say something that the higher-ups want to be said, the vaguer the better. I see no issue with respectfully asking Sister Dalton to clarify. The fact that she is over the Young Women means she should make a statement such as that VERY clear. Those young girls are taught to take everything their leaders say to heart– and the fact that this woman is appointed by God to be their role model means that saying something such as that, regardless of whether it’s about women wearing pants or not– is a giant step back. I agree that pants are not the issue. Something as trivial as wearing pants should not require a movement, for goodness sake, wear pants. It’s sad that the church’s stance on feminism is so dated, that the first movement that caused any stir was about this “issue.” Pants is the least of your worries, ladies.

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