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LDS women's leader stirs it up with 'no need to lobby for rights' remark

Published January 22, 2013 3:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Elaine Dalton, general president of the LDS Church's Young Women's organization, is drawing flak from Mormon feminists for suggesting that young women who understood their "roles" and "responsibilities" would not need to "lobby for rights."

During a Jan. 15 Brigham Young University "devotional" address, Dalton, who oversees all young Mormon women between ages 12 and 18 in the 14 million-member LDS Church, said the following:

"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."

When Dalton's quote was posted on the Feminist Mormon Housewives Facebook page and later discussed on the group's blog,the two sites elicited more than 600 comments, many of which noted the discrepancy between what Dalton said about women's rights and what early Mormon feminists had to say.

In the 19th century, several of the Utah-based church's top female leaders worked tirelessly for women's rights that went well beyond motherhood. Among them was Susa Young Gates, daughter of Mormon prophet Brigham Young and an accomplished writer and editor who launched the Young Woman's Journal.

"Susa Young Gates served as her father's secretary for a time, and was sometimes jokingly referred to as the "13th Apostle," writes one commenter. She "was personally courted by Susan B. Anthony to serve on the National Women's Suffrage Association."

Gates declined to join the suffrage board because she refused to disavow polygamy, but she did serve "as a delegate to five Congresses of the International Council of Women."

It is unclear whether Dalton was referring to women's rights in general, such as equal pay for equal work, or whether she was reacting to recent campaigns in which Mormon women wore pants to church and members urged LDS leaders to let women offer prayers during the faith's semiannual General Conferences.

Neither Dalton nor the LDS Church had a response.

Peggy Fletcher Stack