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Feminism, Sexual Revolution, & LDS Church (Part 2 of 4)

Phyllis Schlafly was an important figure in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, and she convinced LDS leaders to oppose the amendment.  Dr. Taylor Petry will tell us more about how LDS messages have changed over the decades with regards to feminism and the sexual revolution.

Taylor: Phyllis Schlafly becomes the most famous anti-feminist during this time period. Schlafly is a Catholic, and she sees something that had been happening in the broader conservative religious world at the time, where there had been a backlash to the kinds of feminism that was arising.  But it hadn’t really been organized as a political movement. So she sees that evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists and even Mormons, are opposing feminism. She says we need to unite all of these people into a single coalition that will be able to speak for our values. The big issue of the time period is the Equal Rights Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment was hugely popular among Democrats and Republicans.

All the Republicans at the outset of it passing in Congress, were ecstatic about it, and then it needs to march through the states.  Immediately it’s passed by the first 32 states within the first year or something like that.  That’s when the opposition really gets going. When the Stop ERA movement that Phyllis Schlafly is organizing and pulling together–all the sort of anti-feminist groups into a political coalition and the Church gets involved.  [The Church] is specifically recruited by Phyllis Schlafly to get involved in this fight. [The Church] politically mobilizes, for the first time in decades at that point.  The Church had not really seen itself as having a political mission. Even during ERA, at the very beginning, if you asked church leaders in the first couple of years that the ERA was a public topic, in the early 70s–the ERA had been around since the 1920s. But it really kind of gets going in the early 70s. It was supposed to be the sort of follow-up to the civil rights amendments or civil rights movements of the 1960s.  So now it’s the feminists turn, so the Church gets recruited to do this and reverses itself because at first it was a no, this is a political issue. We don’t comment on political issues. We just care about moral issues, not political ones. But Phyllis Schlafly convinces the church that this is a moral issue, that it’s not just a political issue. So the Church decides to mobilize its membership in this political fight, and they start sending members to ERA conventions to shout down the leaders that are there, and to disrupt the meetings. The Church’s, nearly decade long, it lasted about eight years, fight against the Equal Rights Amendment until it was finally defeated in 1982, decisively. This was one of the major ways that the church gets involved in the anti-feminist movement.

We’ll also talk about changing attitudes with regards to birth control, and how feminism was tied to lesbians.  Were you aware that Schlafly changed Kimball’s mind on the Equal Rights Amendment?  Check out our conversation….

Phyllis Schlafly persuaded Pres Kimball to oppose ERA.
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*Why Joseph’s POTUS Run was Downplayed (Part 8 of 8)

Over the years, few people have believed that Joseph Smith’s run for president was a serious candidacy.  Why is that?  Dr. Derek Sainsbury answers that question and discusses the role of apostles B.H. Roberts and Reed Smoot in downplaying Joseph’s POTUS run for the presidency.

Derek:  When the political manifesto is put out, where we’re told [that] the Church will not tell you which way to vote or be involved in politics that way anymore. We have B.H. Roberts, and then several years later, Reed Smoot both not be seated in Congress because they’re Mormon. Roberts is still polygamist.  Smoot is not and eventually Smoot does get seated. But it’s the longest and biggest investigation in senate history, as far as the number of things sent in and the number of things…

GT:  Smoot?

Derek:  So, when the Smoot hearings are happening is the same time that B.H. Roberts, again, the person who didn’t get seated, who won election to Congress, but was never seated, is commissioned by the First Presidency, to write (how do I put this?) the history of Joseph Smith, what we used to know as the History of the Church to re-edit it and add commentary, which he does. Then he writes his own full-scale commentary of the whole thing. In both of those, which then become the backbone for Latter-day Saint historians, in both of those, he downplays it big time. It’s a footnote. “Oh, they were just trying to have a third way or…”  Of course, he’s going to do that.  Think of the context of what’s going on. Literally, the President of our Church is sitting in a Senate hearing, being grilled about everything that he said about whether he receives prophecies or whatever. They’re looking at everything we print, and everything they say. Are we really going to print something that says Joseph Smith wanted to be President of the United States? Absolutely not. So, as those electioneers are all dying, so the living memory of it is gone. At the same time, we’re trying to distance ourselves from politics, is when these books are written. And then those books are used for decades as the launching point if you’re talking about Church History.  So, of course, the narrative has always been “nothing big, nothing big.” Until some non-Latter-day Saint historians and some–they were called the New Mormon Historians in the [19]60s and 70s started to pick up that, hey, maybe there was something more here. It’s just kind of continued to flourish.

Did you realize politics played a role in the Church downplaying Joseph Smith’s POTUS run?

We talk more about Roberts’ failing to get seated in the House of Representatives.  But remember, you have to be a newsletter subscriber to hear the conclusion of our conversation.  Sign up for free at https://GospelTangents.com/newsletter and I will send you a secret link!

BH Roberts downplayed Joseph’s POTUS run to help Reed Smoot get seated in the U.S. Senate.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Sainsbury.

424:  Why Joseph Destroyed Expositor (Sainsbury)

423:  Theo-democracy in Deseret (Sainsbury)

422:  Anti-Slavery Missionaries in the South (Sainsbury)

421: Bobby Kennedy-Joseph Smith (Sainsbury)

420:  Electioneer Missionaries (Sainsbury)

419:  Mormons: The Original Swing Voters! (Sainsbury)

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Anti-Slavery Missionaries in the South (Part 5 of 8)

In 1844 when Joseph Smith was running for president of the United States, he proposed a system of gradual emancipation for all slaves.  How did that message go over in the South?  Hint:  not well.  In our next conversation, Dr. Derek Sainsbury will tell us some of the stories of these missionaries, and some of the surprising receptiveness to the message in some cases.

GT:  I think the interesting thing for me, especially I served my mission in South Carolina, so I’m very familiar with Southern Baptists and Pentecostals and all sorts of things. But, in 1844, slavery was legal and Joseph Smith is talking about freeing the slaves. I don’t think that went very well in the South.

Derek:  It didn’t. The one blind spot that I have is, as a historian with this is none of the ones that went in the deep South kept a journal.

GT:  Oh really?

Derek:  Here’s that same George Miller, a couple days later is walking and a guy stops him in the street and he says, “You best get out of here, because my slaves have been told if they see you, to lynch you, to put you up on the tree and lynch you.”  So he’s like, “hmm, I’m moving on to the next town.”

It wasn’t always violent however opposition.

Derek:  Right, but this is when it started was in the 40s, 1840, 1844. They’d have these huge barbecues and whiskey and get people to show up and listen. Well, he goes to the other end of the square and stands up on a tree trunk and starts…

GT:  The stump. That what they actually called a stump speech.

Derek:  That’s right. He starts preaching Joseph Smith, he’s not preaching the gospel. He’s doing electioneer stuff about General Joseph Smith’s run for the presidency. By the time he’s done, the entire crowd is shifted, and is listening to him. When it’s over, they’re saying, “You don’t want any of this guy’s barbecue,” and they take him to the tavern, give him a big meal. He writes about how many of them liked the ideas, even though some of them disliked, well, a lot of them disliked Joseph. This was a common thread not just in the Upper South, but everywhere.

GT:  What state was this in?

Derek:  This was Kentucky, but even as far up as in Massachusetts, in Boston, there were a lot of people that liked the ideas in the pamphlet, but not so much, Joseph. They would have these conferences where they would come up with these resolutions, for lack of a better word, and they were both Mormon and non-Mormon together, that agreed with these principles. So there was more acceptance than we really knew. Not overwhelming, but there were some out there that also didn’t like the two-party system, didn’t like the Democrats and the Whigs, were looking for another way forward.

Are you surprised to hear about some successes?  Check out our conversation….

Joseph Smith’s anti-slavery message didn’t go well in the South, but there were some surprising successes too.

Don’t miss our previous conversations….

421: Bobby Kennedy-Joseph Smith

420:  Electioneer Missionaries

419:  Mormons: The Original Swing Voters!

418:  Views of General Joseph Smith