What Mormon women want

Carlos Osorio AP In this Feb. 28, 2012 photo, Ann Romney introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney … Continued

Carlos Osorio


In this Feb. 28, 2012 photo, Ann Romney introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and her son Tagg, in Novi, Mich.

As Mitt Romney becomes the first LDS candidate to secure a major party presidential nomination, Mormon women will be watching with special interest. Then again, we have always been interested in politics. Mormon women in Utah enjoyed the right to vote as early as 1870—a time in American history when many women rejected political involvement as the proper domain of men, and fully five decades before the achievement of U.S. women’s suffrage.

Mormon women know that because of Romney’s candidacy the 2012 presidential election will bring intense scrutiny of our faith. Surveys show that most Americans still know very little about Mormonism: a faith rooted in nineteenth-century American Protestantism that has developed its own distinctive body of scripture, Christian theology, and culture. Mormon women will be watching to see if the national media accurately captures the humanity and complexity of the 12 million LDS people who live across the nation and around the globe and whether our faith—though it is a comparatively young tradition—will be afforded the dignity a truly civil society affords all religions.

Mitt Romney tends to be very private about his faith. Still, we hope that through the publicity of this election season more Americans will come to recognize the Mormon story as part of the American story. Mormon women are proud of our pioneer ancestors who sacrificed material comfort to cross the American plains in pursuit of the free exercise of their religion and in the hopes that they could build a community—a “Zion”–where all could flourish. Just as we own these inspiring dimensions of Mormon history, Mormon women also recognize its human flaws and missteps as our own. We know that the lives of Mormonism’s founders and leaders, its historic discrimination against people of African descent, and its opposition to equal rights for women and LGBT people will come under scrutiny in connection with Mitt Romney’s campaign. We hope to respond with honesty and dignity, as our religion comes of age under intense scrutiny.

In the United States, the LDS faith tends to be associated with conservative Republicanism, but this is not the only way to be Mormon. Progressive Mormon women especially will be watching the 2012 race to see how well Mitt Romney represents the Mormon values we hold close. Our faith has long stressed that parenthood is a divine responsibility. Progressive Mormon women question whether the nation’s current political and economic priorities truly support well-being for children and families. As Mormon women, we belong to a global sisterhood that includes women of every color, economic class, and nationality. Our concern extends to women and families living at or below the poverty line in the United States and around the world, as well as to families divided and punished by harsh anti-immigrant policies. Progressive Mormon women find unacceptable attacks on the dignity and equality of LGBT families, many of whom are also doing the vital work of parenthood but without the rights and protections of civil marriage. And we question whether a nation that starves its schools and its civic, environmental, and industrial infrastructure of badly needed investments can be said to value its children.

Progressive Mormon women remember that in 1976, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball warned members of the church that Americans had become a “warlike people” who “idolized” military and industrial power at the expense of human welfare. Even as we celebrate the historic quality of Mitt Romney’s candidacy, this campaign season, we will be watching to see which candidate offers the best expression of Mormon values of preparedness, compassion, pragmatism, and service to others.

Joanna Brooks is the author of “The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith” to be released in August by Free Press.

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  • KMRA

    I can only hope that a variety of voices from the LDS are heard during this election. It would be interesting to see the plurality of voices from a group that is often viewed as monolithic.

    Thanks for raising the possibility.

  • gwilt1

    The correct number of members belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is actually almost 14.5 million, not 12 million.

  • skigirl16

    Thank you Joanna for being a voice for Mormon women everywhere. There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes given about who Mormons are and I appreciate your balanced approach. I follow your posts and see myself and life experiences in all of it. Keep up the good work! The nation is watching~

  • skigirl16

    That 14.5 number represents every person who was ever baptized. 12 million is a much more realistic figure and even that may be a stretch…


    Because there is not a variety of voices within the mormon cult?

    Harry Reid notwithstanding.

    Face it, mormonism is a 99% republican monolith and the mormon bishops are going to tell every mormon how to vote.

  • Rameumptom

    Thanks, Joanna. However, we must couch President Kimball’s statement in the context noted in his discourses, which included statements against the ERA, homosexuality, etc.
    I agree we cannot be a warlike people. That said, we must note that President Hinckley noted that Americans had reason to go to war against terrorism. How well/poorly presidents deal with that war is for future historians to determine. Since it is not just a George W Bush issue, but also a Barack Obama issue, who recently approved the killing of American terrorists overseas, may someday be seen as warlike. Or not.

    They are complex issues, and not easily dismissed one way or the other by quoting a statement made over 30 years ago in regards to the MX nuclear missile system that government wanted to deploy in Utah on rail cars, but was scrapped in part because of President Kimball’s statements.

    As for “starving” our children because we are not investing in schools and everything else….Really??? We spend trillions on these investments, and it isn’t enough? Really? Are you giving us factual statements, or just showing that progressive Mormon women are motivated by emotional speeches instead?

    What will “starve” our children? How about a deficit that is reaching into the trillions of dollars? Each household now owes over $540,000 in federal debt. George W Bush spent almost $5 trillion in deficit spending over eight years. Barack Obama will spend over $5 Trillion in 4 years. If Mitt Romney were elected, would we expect him to spend that much deficit money in only 2 years, or be found starving children?

    How about the reality that we are starving children right now, because government is sucking the life out of the job market, leaving parents unemployed and unable to take care of their own kids? How about the fact that prices are steadily going up at the grocery store and gas station, a hidden tax which takes purchasing power away from parents? How about the government subsidized unions that will no

  • Rameumptom

    Actually false. Mormon bishops are specifically told by church leadership to not endorse anyone. A letter from the First Presidency is read over the pulpit every election year, insisting that the Church and its leaders are not to promote anyone for office.

  • clop1255

    I hope everybody understand that Ms. Brooks is speaking for herself and not for the rest of us mormon women. She’s entitled to her opinions and liberal agenda.

  • RickH4

    Title: “What Joanna Brooks Wants Mormon Women to want”

  • 28cjrp

    No, she very clearly stated that it is what “Progressive Mormon Women” want. As one who knows many in this category, she is correct.

  • ccnl1

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion to include Mormonism:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • snorton243

    Once again Ms. Brooks masquerades as a spokesperson for the LDS church. She is very good at doing that, and the media seems to eat it up. Be assured that her extreme liberal opinions represent only a very small fraction of total LDS church members.

  • snorton243

    A voice for Mormon women everywhere? Be careful, that is saying a lot. Maybe a voice for the small minority that happen to agree with her agenda, but that is all.

  • brownies4breakfast

    I would ask Joanna do all children need a mother and a father? It looks like she would answer no they don’t need a mother and a father. Most Mormon women would say that families do need a mother and a father. Mormons will continue to support gay rights so that all people are treated with dignity. We will also oppose gay marriage because it means that families with mothers and fathers is optional and not a requirement. That will always be a deal breaker for the vast majority of the members of the LDS church. Successful families are built upon mothers and fathers who love and respect each other with complete honor and fidelity.

  • commonman1

    Sister Brooks,

    You need to re title this article “What progressive women who think like Joanna Brooks want from Mitt Romney.” Keep it honest.


    “The Church is politically neutral in regards to candidates”

    No one believes that. It’s Teab*gger Republicans from top to bottom and every single one of them is in the bag for Romney.

    That’s because he’s a Mormon. He’s a proven coward and bully, he cheats on his taxes, and he is a proven job destroyer. But that’s OK with you people. Because he’s a Mormon.

  • bytebear

    SODDI, it’s funny that you fall for stereotypes. Didn’t a liberal Native American just leave the Obama administration to become a church General authority?

  • Dorsettgirl

    Noun: Put an end to; dispose of decisively.
    Synonyms: nonsense – boloney

    Wow, way to offend billions of people. Sorry, there’s more to reality than Google.

    Noun: A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

    Last time I looked, Mormons worship Jesus Christ, so I guess that makes them Christian. As far as being a relatively small group, I believe it’s the 4th largest Church in USA. And the Mormons I know are definitely not strange nor sinister. In fact, they’re some of the nicest people I know, devoted to their families and one another and seeking, above all else, to be like Christ.

  • persiflage

    ‘Even as we celebrate the historic quality of Mitt Romney’s candidacy, this campaign season, we will be watching to see which candidate offers the best expression of Mormon values of preparedness, compassion, pragmatism, and service to others.’

    Unfortunately it won’t be Mitt – who is guilty of selling out to GOP ideology, lock, stock, and barrell. Compassion, pragmatism, and service to others is nowhere to be found on the republican party platform – quite the opposite in fact.

    Not only that, but white males predominate in a very big way in the GOP – rare indeed are minorities and women, when it comes to visible leadership or forging republican policy. But why go on? The GOP doesn’t even bother to hide their allegience to the financial fate of the wealthy few, rather than the long term well-being and destiny of the many.

  • Jeannie

    Did I miss something? What is LGBT?

  • Rita14

    lesbian gay bisexual transgender

  • Rita14

    So what is your criterium for legitimacy regarding religion? Since what we have as proof from most religions is what has been written by people who said they saw something or heard about someone’s existence is not proof, what would be adequate? What do you know about Charlemagne, or Confucius, or anyone in history, other than what they wrote or what others wrote about them? Joseph Smith is at least contemporary with American history, was written about and wrote himself. Jesus was written about by people who claimed to have seen him, as was Abraham. Can you prove that George Washington existed? All we have is what is written by and about him, and some paintings that could be of anyone. Is the only proof someone YOU have personally seen?

  • Rita14

    Not everybody who voted for BO is pro-abortion. A significant number voted for him because of his mantra of “hope and change” and his skin color. Historical proofs of Jesus, Abraham and other religious figures are pretty firm. Angels, not so much. But the historically proven people said they saw others, so are we to discount everything someone said because historians can’t prove things one way or another? For centuries, “contemporary” historians discounted the existence of the city of Troy, claiming it was nothing more than fables told by ancient Greek storytellers. It was not “proven” until 1868, when Heinrich Schliemann dug it up and proved it had existed and that the stories were true.
    You state that there was no Gabriel, so what Muhammad said was obviously untrue; no Moroni, so what Joseph Smith said was obviously untrue. Joseph Smith said he saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He also said he saw John the Baptist, the apostles Peter, Paul and John, Elijah the prophet and many others. You can discount the existence of all of them, because you have not seen them. Joseph said he did, many believed him, and a growing, thriving church is the result. He died for his beliefs, as have many others. Would you be willing to die for yours? Is your testimony of what you believe to be true something so important to you that you would be willing to give up your life for it? Are you living the law you know in your heart? That is the ultimate “proof”. You have been taught to be honest. Honesty is a social law; without it, a society can’t function. Are you loyal to your friends and family? Loyalty is a law. Are you kind to those who need it the most? Kindness is a law. All of these “noble attributes of civilized society” are laws; breaking them creates pain and suffering and, if broken by enough people, will prove the downfall of any civilization. “Religion” doesn’t even enter into it. The Ten Commandments aren’t just an ancient religious rulebook; they are the foundat

  • Rita14

    She does not represent my voice, nor the voices of my daughters, or the sisters in my ward, or 98% of the sisters in my stake. She is the voice of a tiny minority of LDS women.

  • Craig Jay

    Brownies4breakfast – Your view does not make any sense. When you say Mormon women would say families do need a mother and a father, are you trying to say there is no single parents in the Mormon church? And “successful families are built upon mothers and fathers..”..Seriously? So you are saying children from a single mother or father are not considered to be from a successful family? Wow. I am sure you also think that only Mormons belong to the only true and living church? For someone to belong in this church, you sure have done great job in judging others Feel sorry for Mormons like you. Btw. I am an active Mormon.

  • Craig Jay

    snorton243 and Rita14, there are more mormons who live outside out Utah, Idaho and Arizona combined. Majority of Mormons live in countries that are tolerant towards LGBT. Get out of your bubble and your will quickly realize how views are not shared by majority of other Mormons across the world.

  • Craig Jay

    And out of the 14 MM only 40% – 45% are active members. Just FYI.

  • FlaxenMane

    The greatest predictor of poverty is single motherhood. Most of the people in prison came from single parent family, and I think it’s was around 70-80% in prison who grew up without a father. Children typically earn to identify with the same sex parent and learn to relate to the opposite sex parent.

  • jdoug94

    Please title your column correctly: “What Progressive Mormon Women Want.” We don’t find out this is the case until halfway through it.