For Latter-day Saints, yesterday’s heresy is today’s orthodoxy


Final month, I printed a column about how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had simply added an editorial be aware to a February 1973 article titled “Strengthening the Patriarchal Order within the Residence.” That article, the journal editors’ be aware instructed, was not absolutely according to the church’s values or teachings.

“Articles within the magazines archive might replicate practices and language of an earlier time,” the editors stated, earlier than redirecting readers to a few of the church’s newer statements on gender and the household.

Properly, it seems there’s fairly a backstory right here.

Poet, memoirist and performer Carol Lynn Pearson contacted me to share that story, by which she was instantly concerned.

Pearson was speculated to have the quilt article in that month’s challenge of the Ensign, the church’s official journal for adults. She had written a pleasant, fats, well-researched piece on the Mormon girls of a century earlier, exploring all of the marvelous issues that they had accomplished. When Jay Todd, the editor of the journal, first learn the submission, he purchased it that exact same day for publication within the February 1973 challenge.

The article was edited, typeset and despatched to Pearson for proofreading, as was the standard development of occasions.

After which … she heard nothing. The problem by no means arrived. Busy together with her kids and pregnant with one other, she didn’t have a lot time or vitality to pursue it, however she did place a name to her buddy and advocate Leonard Arrington, the official church historian. She had a imprecise sense that maybe one thing was fallacious.

That suspicion was confirmed on Valentine’s Day, when Arrington known as her again.

“His first phrases had been, ‘I’ve dangerous information for you. Your article has been pulled from the Ensign,’” Pearson recorded in her diary. “As he went on speaking, I began to cry, solid once more into that blackest of pits that claims, ‘Mormon girl, get down, down, down, down, down. Let the brethren do your considering. Quit. Don’t attempt.’”

So, what had occurred to Pearson, a revered and oft-quoted writer the church was proud to publish? Apostle Boyd Ok. Packer had quoted her poetry in Basic Convention as lately as 1971.

Right here’s what: Pearson had testified earlier than the Utah Legislature in assist of the Equal Rights Modification. And the mere truth of that — extra so than something she really stated — was sufficient to make her a mormona non grata in a single day. Pearson says she additionally, round this time, had been requested by the Church Instructional System to guage some curriculum that was supposed for the younger girls of the church, and he or she had the audacity to inform them it wanted enchancment.

“It was actually simply terrible,” she informed me this week in a Zoom interview. “‘Younger girls, don’t be seduced by the wiles of the world. You’re to be a homemaker.’” So Pearson wrote a letter outlining the place the curriculum might be worded in a different way, and her letter was handed up the chain of the schooling division till it reached the desk of — look ahead to it — Boyd Ok. Packer, the identical apostle who had quoted her so approvingly in Basic Convention.

Pearson made an appointment to attempt to discuss to somebody within the hierarchy about why her Ensign article had been pulled and to see if there was something she may do to rectify issues. That man, Doyle Inexperienced, was the supervisor over the church’s magazines. He was a fan of her writing and appeared embarrassed by the church’s resolution, however he additionally defended it. She stated he informed her, “We’ve loved your poetry for thus lengthy, however now that you’ve got joined the ladies’s lib motion, the church will not assist you.”

Pearson nonetheless has copies of the correspondence about this, together with the Ensign editor’s pleading letter to Belle Spafford, the final president of the ladies’s Reduction Society, attempting to reverse the choice to tug Pearson’s article.

“As , we practically printed within the February challenge an article by Carol Lynn Pearson entitled, ‘The Mormon Girl of 1872 Speaks Out on the Girl Query,’” he wrote to Spafford. “We pulled the article as a result of Sister Pearson at the moment was acquainted in some folks’s minds as a proponent of the ERA motion. We mentioned the subject with a member of the Twelve [apostles] and he was adequate to learn your complete article. He felt that it was a very good article, however beneficial that you just learn the article and indicated you may be inclined to recommend a unique ending.”

Spafford was unmoved. Pearson’s “interpretation of the place of early day leaders didn’t coincide” together with her personal, she stated. Furthermore, she maintained that she had “no authority in any respect to direct the editors of the Ensign” about what to publish — despite the fact that the editor-in-chief of the journal had written to her two days earlier than to enlist her assist.

The lengthy and the wanting all that is that the article was by no means printed. What was printed was the “Strengthening the Patriarchal Order within the Residence” piece that the church has now accompanied by a black field warning.

Practically half a century later, it’s placing how a lot what Pearson wrote conforms to the church’s present method to girls’s roles — the concept being that ladies can do or be something so long as they perceive their highest and finest function will at all times be that of mom. Even essentially the most progressive pioneer girls, Pearson wrote, “weren’t abdicating their duties to their households”:

“They believed strongly in being loving, nice, supportive wives and in operating cheerful and environment friendly households. They admonished one another that above all a lady ought to take pleasure in the fitting to ‘fill the noblest, holiest and most exalted place occupied by humanity on the earth — that of moulding pliant, tender beings for lofty functions in time and an exalted immortality hereafter.”

Not very radical stuff, that! However as Pearson says, it was guilt by affiliation with the ERA, quite than the content material of the article per se, that obtained her in hassle.

The article was by no means printed, although Pearson ultimately was allowed to jot down for church magazines once more (“besides with reference to girls,” as Doyle defined when he informed her the information). So I’m attaching it right here together with her permission as a downloadable PDF.

After 49 years in a file cupboard, I’m completely satisfied it may now see the sunshine of day — a reminder not solely of the power of Mormon girls from the 1870s however of the resilience and charm of 1 from the Nineteen Seventies as effectively.

(The views expressed on this opinion piece don’t essentially replicate these of Faith Information Service.)

Downloadable PDF of 1973 article: “The Girl Query” by Carol Lynn Pearson.