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
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.