Sonia Johnson’s Historic Speech, “Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church”

(otherwise known as “How Women Have Been ‘Made Bootlickers and Toadies to the Men of the Church'")

Date: Jul 31, 2005

Author: steve benson


Introduction: The Sonia Johnson Speech That Blew the Lid Off of Mormon Maledumb's Secretly Organized and Dishonest Efforts to Defeat the Equal Rights Amendment

Sonia Johnson—the courageous, outspoken and excommunicated torch bearer in the ultimately futile battle over passage of the Equal Rights Amendment--was expelled from the Mormon Church largely because of bold and unapologetic remarks she made in a speech to the American Psychological Association (APA) in New York City on 1 September 1979.

Entitled “Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church,” her speech was an unparalled and powerful expose’ of the blatantly illegal, immoral and behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by the LDS Church to prevent passage of the ERA in legislative statehouses across the country.

Linda Sillitoe--Mormon author, investigative reporter, poet, reviewer and mother of three children--explains in her analysis “Church Politics and Sonia Johnson: The Central Conundrum” (Sunstone, Vol. 5, No. 1, January-February 1980), how Johnson’s stunning unmasking of the LDS Church's anti-woman battle plan triggered severe anxiety attacks among its male leadership.

Sillitoe notes that, in Johnson’s remarks before the ABA, she spoke from "pain" and "anger," which were subsequently taken "as polemic and harsh" by many faithful Mormons.

http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue19.asp


Reactionary Mormon Response

A typical Mormon reflexive jerking motion to Johnson's speech came from--not suprisingly--a LDS male in West Jordan, Utah, who wrote:

In the case of ERA, the Federal government has lobbied for its ratification, the Church against it. I think it all boils down to whom do we trust?

The government or those whom we sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators? Who do we consider the wisest--the President of the United States or the President of the Church? Whose motives, goals and objectives do we align ourselves with?

While it's true that members of the Church have a right to be pro-ERA, it is clear to me that this is the same as our right to smoke, drink, be inactive or withhold any contributions to the Church. It is not similar to our right to be a Republican, Democrat, Independent or whatever.

The Church says it is a moral issue, the world says it's political. Who do we believe?

Sonia Johnson and others apparently feel that the Church's opposition to [the] ERA is a "patriarchal panic" based on a chauvinistic desire to keep women under the thumb of men in the Church. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have stated their reasons for opposition and we do them a terrible disservice in discounting their statements and suspecting instead various unholy ulterior motives.

Besides having the right to be wrong, Church members have the right to inspiration from the Holy Ghost (assuming personal worthiness). I submit that we should exercise that privilege rather than the former and find ourselves in peaceful agreement with those whom the Lord has charged with the great responsibility of leading us aright.


http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue21.asp


A Feminist Voice Against Male Dominance and Abuse

Sillitoe reviews how Johnson’s speech served to starkly publicize the cunning, covert and conspiratorial efforts of the LDS Church to defeat the ERA, as well as how her remarks highlighted the Church’s relentless oppression of Mormon women:

The APA speech describe[d] the Mormon anti-ERA lobby in Virginia and the Church's opposition to the Amendment, then broaden[ed] to the discussion of problems among Mormon women. Citing Utah's alarming statistics on depression, "premaritally pregnant" teenage brides, teenage suicide, and rape, Sonia Johnson insist[ed] that "our sisters are silently screaming for help." The next paragraph continue[d]:

"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."


Sillitoe then draws attention to "the key paragraph of the speech [which] center[ed] on [Johnson’s] cause," as laid out by Johnson:

"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."

Sillitoe notes that “[c]opies of the ‘Patriarchal Panic’ speech abound throughout Mormondom,” adding that it was even distributed to the studentbody by Associated Students at BYU.

http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue19.asp


A copy of Johnson’s no-holds-barred rallying cry for women’s rights currently resides in Idaho’s Boise State University’s Albertsons Library, where it is part of a collection donated by the Boise Chapter of National Organization for Women’s (NOW).

According to the university’s website, members of that chapter assembled the collection “during the final years of the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, 1976-1982” and included in it documentation of “the role of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in opposing the ERA and the excommunication of ERA advocate Sonia Johnson by the LDS Church.”

www.http://library.boisestate.edu/Special/FindingAids/fa204.htm


Johnson’s speech was anything but conciliatory. To the contrary, it was defiant, accusatory and emboldening.

Indeed, Sillitoe describes it thusly:

[It was] the extreme, not the norm, of Sonia Johnson’s utterances and yet it identifie[d] clearly the heart of what ha[d] become her dilemma. It is in this speech that she crosse[d] the line between equal civil rights and the patriarchal system of the Mormon Church, a border also blurred by the Church by identifying the ERA as a moral issue upon which the Church [was] taking political action (in harmony with the July 4, 1979 statement of the First Presidency which explain[ed] that moral issues, so identified by the First Presidency and Council of Twelve, may be ‘worthy of full institutional involvement’). Thus it is no more possible to remove Sonia Johnson's promotion of the Equal Rights Amendment from a Church context than it was possible for her to remove the anti-ERA petition from her ward lobby.

As Sillitoe notes, it was Johnson’s speech that, in fact, provided the final impetus for the decision of Mormon Church patriarchs to excommunicate her from its ranks.

At her trial, Johnson was accused by her inquisitioners of having "publicly taught that the Church is dedicated to imposing the Prophet's moral directives upon all Americans; when it is the doctrine of the Church that all people are free to choose for themselves those moral directives dictated by their own consciences."

Mormon court prosecutors were referring to the following indisputable points of reality that Johnson made in her provocative remarks to the APA:

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 that "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. Instead, they are directed to say they are concerned citizens following the dictates of their individual consciences. Since they are, in fact, following the very 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.


Johnson’s unpardonable sin (at least to the covered eyes and ears of Mormonism's patriarchal and predatory prevaricators) was to blow the whistle on the Brethren’s secret political designs to torpedo the ERA.

Yet, according to Sillitoe, this is what Johnson had, in fact, been doing all along:

In those paragraphs [of her APA speech] Sonia Johnson [did] what she did in virtually every public statement and interview: breaking the story that Mormons for ERA were determined to make public--that the Mormon Church [was] opposing the Equal Rights Amendment through organized lobbies in various states. By quoting that statement which contain[ed] the central purpose and tactic of Mormons for ERA, I believe that the excommunication letter rebut[ted] the "news" and implicitly denie[d] the validity of the contention. Thus the central pivot between embracing the Church as a whole, politics included, and the division of the spiritual and political Church, justifying allegiance to one aspect and opposition to the other aspect [was], after all, encapsuled in the findings of the court.

http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/searchable/Issue19.asp

*****



The Text of Sonia Johnson’s Courageous Pro-ERA/Anti-Patriarchy Speech

Below is the nearly complete text of Johnson’s remarks before the American Psychological Association in September 1979. (Nearly in the sense that the copy of Johnson’s speech in my possession is a typed manuscript which appears to have been photo-reproduced many times, thus resulting in occasional illegibilities at the top of some of its pages. However, despite these relatively small and infrequent gaps, the meaning of Johnson’s message is not lost).

Johnson’s public exposure of the "panic" seizing Mormon male leadership in the face of rising calls for gender equality became an inspiring cry in Mormonism’s pro-ERA underground--particularly, of course, for women who to this day continue to be suffocated by the Brethren’s patriarchal grip.

PATRIARCHAL PANIC: SEXUAL POLITICS IN THE MORMON CHURCH
September 1, 1979
Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Meetings, New York City
Sonia Johnson, Ed.D
Chair, MORMONS FOR ERA



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 [1977] 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 [1978], 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 for 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 thorough-going, 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 by 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 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 doublespeak 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-1960s, Utah’s birthrate was almost exactly the same as the national rate but by last year [1978] 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 [next several words illegible] "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 naïve, 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 [1969-1979] such as those which took away women’s right to pray in major Church meetings (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); 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—those 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 [1979], we hired a plane to fly a banner over Temple Square in Salt Lake City during a break in the world-wide 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 [Jody Powell was then-President Jimmy Carter’s White House press secretary] 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 had) but instead of a 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 [Spencer W.] 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.

[Illegible] the men at the head of the Church are strong and the patriarchs have for millennia crushed those women who escaped from their mind-bindings. 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 revelations 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, [he] 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 bastion (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 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. (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 wifehood 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 [1978], a Utah woman wrote to Senate 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 having 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.


Sonia Johnson
[former address and phone number deleted]

[Endnotes]



1. "New York State women’s meeting: 8,000 converge on Albany: local woman creates fracas." The Daily Times, Mawaroneck, New Jersey, July 1, 1977.

The local woman who created the “fracas” was a Mormon, Sherlene Bartholomew, from the Westchester Ward in Scarsdale, N.Y., who would only say that she was "a member of a loosely-organized group of mothers of small children." The article goes on:

Later, in a private interview, Ms. Bartholomew continued to insist she was not affiliated with any organized group. Yet in the next 90 minutes or so during which we accompanied her . . . she came in contact with a dozen or so women who greeted her by her first name, many of whom refused to identify themselves.

From the “Supplementary Data Sheet” regarding the Albany International Woman’s Year Conference, sent to "all Bishops, Branch Presidents and Concerned Members" by a New York Stake Relief Society Presidency:

The First Presidency [includes the Prophet and two counselors] urges full attendance and participation. Elements capable of destroying family unity . . . must be opposed. We should act as individuals—as citizens and residents of New York State—and not as any church or organization.

From the recorded and transcribed minutes of the first organization meeting of the Potomac Regional Women’s Coalition (later known as the LDS Citizen’s Coalition), at Vienna, Virginia, November 8, 1978, p. 13:

If you go to your state senator and say that he should be against the Equal Rights Amendment because the Prophet is against it, your are going to get nowhere. That may be why we are against it, but when you trying to convince a legislator, you better talk his language, not yours.

2. From the Virginia organization meeting minutes, p. 17:

You have got to take this seriously as a calling . . . When the call comes, you march with your forces. In other words, you are being made a general of a force.

3. From the Virginia organization meeting minutes, p. 2, Regional Representative Julian Lowe speaking:

Experience shows that if the Brethren are out beating the bushes it looks like, in the eyes of some, that we are trying to keep women subservient [note the word "keep"] and it is far from that. This is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do but it is always interpreted that way. Why don’t I quit while I’m ahead. [!]

4. Wertz, William C., Associated Press "LDS President opposes ERA, encourages women to be wives," The Rexburg [Idaho] Standard, Tuesday, June 19, 1979.

Quoting President Kimball: "The woman wa made to be the wife, the one who teaches and trains the children."

5. Oral communication.

6. Wertz, William C., Associated Press "LDS President opposes ERA, encourages women to be wives," The Rexburg [Idaho] Standard, Tuesday, June 19, 1979.

7. ibid.

8. Correspondence from Hartman Rector to Teddie Wood, August 29, 1978.

9. A few of these are:

--Degn, Louise, "Mormon Women and Depression," KSL [Salt Lake] TV commentary, February 17, 1978.

--Cardall, Duane, "The Three Faces of Depression: Teenage Suicide," KSL TV documentary, February 10, 1979.

--Burgoyne, Robert H. and Burgoyne, Rodney W., "Belief Systems and Unhappiness: the Mormon Woman Example," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1978, 3, 48-53.

--Associated Press Provo, Utah, "Depression Among Y Students on Rise, Health Director Notes," Salt Lake Tribune, March 14, 1979.

--Warenski, Marilyn Patriarchs and Politics: the Plight of the Mormon Woman, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978). See especially Chapter 4, pp. 81-106: "Double Dose of the Double Message."

10. Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, "Utah Women: A Profile," June 1978, p. 42.

11. Cardall, Duane, "The Three Faces of Depression: Teenage Suicide," KSL TV documentary, February 10, 1979.

12. Associated Press, Logan, Utah, "Utah Weddings 40% Teens," Salt Lake Tribune, April 8, 1979.

13. Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, "Utah Women: A Profile," June 1978, pp. 23-46.

14. Recently, when a Stake President in Provo, Utah, suggested to the Regional Representative that a woman speak in Stake Conference about women in the Church, the Regional Representative replied, "We can’t have a woman talking about women in Conference."

This fear—and disdain—is, I believe, prevalent among men in the Church and has accounted in the last few months for a truly incredible phenomenon: a book entitled, WOMAN, published by Deseret Book, which has as its authors 15 male leaders of the Church—not a single woman!

*****




Conclusion: Sonia Johnson Had Amazing Heart for the Battle but Will the Mormon Church Ever Change?

Sonia Johnson was a courageous, outspoken and inspiring advocate in the cause of equal rights for the millions of oppressed women of Mormonism. She reminded people everywhere of the power of purpose that comes through individual commitment. As she herself declared:

We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/s/sonia_johnson.html


Nevertheless, can genuine gender equality be realistically achieved in the Mormon Church’s permanent patriarchal prison? Jessica Longaker, in her analysis, "The Role of Women in Mormonism," offers a decidely grim assessment:

The Mormon Church of today is still clinging to the beliefs of the nineteenth century; ideas which are becoming more outmoded every day. A few women in the Mormon Church are trying to make a difference but they are usually swiftly excommunicated . . .

In Mormon magazines, which are full of advice for women from the heads of the Church, the message has changed in response to the feminist movement. In 1964, advice on marriage and divorce was fairly dispassionate; by 1972, these topics were addressed with increasing panic and harshness. . . . Feminists are described as “the Pied Pipers of sin who have led women away from the divine role of womanhood down the pathway of error.” . . .

Obviously, the Mormon Church is not going to alter its views on women in the immediate future. It is questionable whether it is even possible for Mormonism to equalize the roles of men and women because the oppression of women is so integral to the religion. Men and women cannot truly become equal in the Church, for the basic tenets of Mormonism are so fraught with sexism that equality would change the religion beyond recognition.


http://www.exmormon.org/mormwomn.htm


One should never forget the heroic and lasting contributions of Sonia Johnson in the fight for equal rights. In that fight, she has been a rare and shining light in the dark cell of the Mormon Gulag. In the end, Sonia Johnson reminded those who viewed her struggle against patriarchy of the inherent power, dignity and justice of the feminist movement.

But the brutal, costly, inhumane war of thought control and emotional abuse waged against millions of women by the guards of Mormonism’s patriarchal concentration camp continues unabated to this day—and will into the foreseeable future.

So the question arises: Why spend the rest of one’s life fighting to reform an unreformable beast?

Perhaps those lingering behind the Mormon Church’s electric fence should seriously consider making a long-overdue break for personal emancipation--and encourage as many of their fellow inmates to join in the rush to at last breathe free.

 

Subject:

Where is Sonia today?

Date:

Jul 31 06:34

Author:

Turnip


Steve, do you know if she is still writing and speaking? I saw her in the early 90s I think speak at a local Unitarian Women's Festival, but at that time she was in some kind of extreme radical lesbian commune and not making a lot of sense. (They did not believe in indoor plumbing or committed relationships, nor did anyone ever have to do a chore they did not like. I believe the commune disbanded in chaos shortly after I saw her speak but I never heard of her again and she has no new info or books on google.

I say this not to demean lesbians....my lesbian friends in the audience who lead ordinary lives thought she was off the wall too. But her writings on the ERA and her early books were so wonderful and brave. I hope she is OK and can understand why she went to extremes after how she was treated.

 

Subject:

Re: Sonia Johnson’s Historic Speech, “Patriarchal Panic: Sexual Politics in the Mormon Church” (otherwise known as “How Women Have Been ‘Made Bootlickers and Toadies to the Men of the Church'")

Date:

Jul 31 09:17

Author:

wings


Thanks for this post.

It was a trying time for women active in the Mormon church who were involved in "Mormons for ERA". I wish I had kept the buttons.

The line in your post, "a few women in the Mormon church are trying to make a difference but are usually swiftly excommunicated"----is EXACTLY what happened.

The covert operations by the men to organize an army of Mormon women, many who really did not want to follow, but knew the backlash that would cost them dearly should they not was something to watch. In RS, SM, hallways, and homes, women were organized into the army spoken of.

I lived it as well as a few who post here. I was one of those active, TR holding, Mormon women "swiftly excommunicated" Sonia Johnson spoke of. It was not just ERA for me, but the Black PH stand, the Joseph Smith true history I found in Fawn Brodie's book. I just had too many issues I could not resolve. The hot button at the time was the Mormon for ERA which was the real nail in the coffin.

Thanks again for the post.

 

Subject:

Thanks, Steve. Reading about this disgusting display of misogyny perpetrated

Date:

Jul 31 17:41

Author:

Free Mowomen


by the momen rekindles memories I have of that time. I, too, worked tirelessly for passage of the ERA only to see it go down in flames. I was a questioning, perplexed mowoman at the time and that disburbing and deeply hurtful episode hastened my departure from the woman-disparaging cult.

 

Subject:

Timely post, I just finished watching Mona Lisa Smile

Date:

Jul 31 09:28

Author:

cousin


which stars Julia Roberts as an art professor at a womens prep school in 1953 who tries to get women to think out side the established roles which todays Moron Church wants them desperately to remain in.

The more I read on this board the more amazed I am to how much info the Latter Day Sociopaths kept hidden and how much my thought process conformed to their world view.

 

Subject:

This all brings back such bad memories

Date:

Jul 31 09:51

Author:

NoLihoma


OMG... I have never read this quote before but it sure struck a chord with me.

>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. Instead, they are directed to say they are concerned citizens following the dictates of their individual consciences. Since they are, in fact, following the very 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.>


I've written here several times about how I felt when I was smack dab in the middle of the mormon church's efforts to defeat the ERA. It was early 1978 and I was living in Nevada and it was one of the big battlefields in the end when they only needed a few more states to ratify, especially since the church had such a hold in Nevada.

We (Mormon women) were the little puppets and it felt exactly like that. I was VERY active and a TTTBM (truly, truly, truly brainwashed mormon) at the time. But it all just felt so wrong and almost sinister. I hated that not only were we "invited" to attend "community" meetings but we were called over and over and over to make sure we'd be there. We were told there would be babysitting if we had to bring kids. I was pregnant with my first baby at the time.

These "community" meetings just happened to be held at all the mormon churches. The "community" leaders who were there to put the fear of God into us and convince us that the government (secret code word for "mormon patriarchy") would collapse if women had equal rights all happened to be bishops and stake presidents of the mormon churh. The "community" boundaries that we were asked to canvass just happened to be drawn according to the mormon ward boundaries, etc. Yet, like Sonia said, we were told that we were not doing it as a church effort, more as our patriotic duty to the "community."

I canvassed three doors on my assigned block, talked to one person who asked me what wording in the ERA I opposed (I had no idea what the wording of the ERA said) and I finally decided no one would know whether I'd passed out my brochures or not, I was close to delivering a baby and didn't feel good, so I thought that was a good enough excuse to burn the rest of the literature and call it quits (but I felt guilty for a long time--thought I'd have to answer to God for it).

When I got home, I went to the library to find out what the ERA wording was. I found out it was a one-sentence proposed amendment that said: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." In all the literature we'd been given, all the propaganda we'd been fed, I NEVER ONCE saw that sentence. But of course, if we actually knew what we were fighting, we'd probably stop and go, "gee, what's wrong with that."

The tactic they used that really worked as far as putting fear in me was not even their rhetoric about having to share bathrooms with men, or women having to be drafted and fight on the front lines or that alimony and child support would be a thing of the past, etc. It was when we were told that the church would collapse because their charter would be revoked since they would be required to give women the Priesthood and God wouldn't allow it. So God would hold us mormon women responsible for letting the church collapse.

When the whole Sonia Johnson thing came up and even women in the church were dissing her, there was something in me that just wanted to know her, that just wished I could be more like her, that was glad we had someone like her on "our side," and that was truly saddened when they ex'd her. I read her book as soon as it came out and that was probably the first time I realized (although I probably didn't cognitively realize it) that I was a feminist at heart.

 

Subject:

"God wouldnt allow it"

Date:

Jul 31 13:00

Author:

Lilith


You'd think that part would have given the women a clue.

 

Subject:

Re: This all brings back such bad memories

Date:

Jul 31 14:55

Author:

winter


NoLihoma wrote:

> The tactic they used that really worked as far as putting fear in me was not even their rhetoric about having to share bathrooms with men, or women having to be drafted and fight on the front lines or that alimony and child support would be a thing of the past, etc. It was when we were told that the church would collapse because their charter would be revoked since they would be required to give women the Priesthood and God wouldn't allow it. So God would hold us mormon women responsible for letting the church collapse.


Those scum-sucking toads! My apologies to toads, which are noble and useful animals, especially in comparison to the Suits.

The same tripe was trotted out as reason to fight the Civil Rights bill in the late 1960s, and I imagine it was used to fight same sex marriage, though I suspect they decided to stick with the equally lame argument that it would destroy marriage, rather than argue it would destroy LDS Inc, because they would be required to perform same-sex marriages in temples.

Yep, pressure people by telling them that if they don't do what you tell them, it will destroy TSCC, or destroy the family, or, in the case of a marriage "proposal" from JS, it will keep your entire family out of the CK if you don't agree.

Stupid cult.

winter

 

 

Subject:

Ah, thanks for the blast from the past . . .

Date:

Jul 31 14:42

Author:

winter


I left TSCC while still a BYU student just as it was firing up its anti-ERA campaign. This was a fairly traumatic, lonely endeavor back then, pre-RFM and pre-internet. Sonia Johnson and Mormons for ERA was my first clue that I was not alone in feeling something was seriously weird and warped about Mormonism. I remember her courage and eloquence with fondness and gratitude. I enjoyed reading those words again.

At the time, my DW was very upset that I left TSCC, but then she, in the RS presidency, was recruited to lobby against the ERA. That kicked one of the major supports in her "testimony" out from under her, and within a year she left TSCC too, so I guess I should be grateful for the Patriarchal Panic of the Suits.

winter

 

Other Benson Topics

 

409 Ezra Taft Benson - Racist Prophet

407 Benson - What do Mormon Leaders Really Know?

419 Looking Inside the Mind of Ezra Taft Benson Through His Personal Correspondence

415 Benson: Sonia Johnson's Speech "Patriarchal Panic..."

424 Benson:  Mormon Handcarts 1800's

420 Benson: Post-Manifesto Polygamy - Pathetic Response of Two Mormon Apostles to Quinn’s Expose’

418 Steve Benson: "Good-bye to God": My public testament to leaving Mormonism...

421 Benson: efforts by the Benson family to silence their "disloyal" own

427 Benson:  Patriarchal Abuse at the Hands of Mormon Church Leaders



Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church  www.exmormon.org

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