In the intensive media coverage of all aspects of Sonia Johnson's position as a "Mormon for ERA," nothing has been said as to the position of Mormon women who do not share her views.
While riding the tide of a favored political position, she has painted a glorified picture of herself and a distorted image of church leadership, and has presented the women in the church who disagree with her as mindless sheep. This is a curious paradox for one who claims to love the church.
The dogma of the feminist view Mrs. Johnson has embraced has its own narrow catechism. One is to insist that the Equal Rights Amendment if the only route to achieve equality for women, and another is to debunk all patriarchal orders, even if it means abandoning traditional Christian and Jewish beliefs.
Choosing a set of social values, cloaked in the language and even the sentiments of equal rights, has had some misleading effects. Mrs. Johnson claims the church can't tolerate dissent, yet she has elected to follow leaders who forcefully seek to boycott states that have not ratified the ERA. They have made it virtually impossible for women who do not agree with their position to obtain meaningful government positions, thereby stifling dissent in an attempt to impose what they claim to be good for all.
The Mormon Church has always been for women's rights, but does not think the ERA is the best way to achieve those rights. It is concerned that the uncertainties and potential dangers inherent in the ERA outweigh the good it will achieve.
I know of no church that gives women the leadership responsibilities or opportunities to develop that the Mormon Church does. Almost every active Mormon woman is an officer or teacher in one of its organizations. Many of its most important auxiliaries are almost completely staffed and led by women. Girls and young women are given leadership training and a position of leadership at an early age. My experience has been that this develops strong women.
It is true that Mormon women do not hold the priesthood. So far as we know, neither did women hold it during Christ's ministry. However, they do share it with their husbands. The church teaches that the family is the fundamental unit in God's plan, that exaltation is obtained through the love that results from the external companionship of man and woman.
Passage of the ERA has moral as well as political implications for us. Men and women are not the same. They differ physically, in life patterns, and in division of domestic responsibilities. We should have flexibility to enact laws that recognize "rational differeces." The ERA would not permit such differences. Church leaders are concerned as to what impact this may have upon the family, the cornerstone on which our social, spiritual well-being is based. Thus for us, it is a moral issue.
Most of the important objectives of the women's movement can be and are being achieved through legislative and judicial processes -- case by case -- which is the safest and, in the long run, the best way of obtaining justice. We should accelerate enforcement of existing laws and press for enactment of state laws to remove continuing inequities.
There are men and women in the church who favor the ERA and have no fear of rebuke. Sonia Johnson was excommunicated for apostasy, not for her position on the ERA. She chose to attack the church and its leaders and urged non-members to reject its missionaries. That was her right; but in so doing, she could not expect to remain a church member in good standing. It also should be made clear that, despite all her diatribe, the door is open for her to come back and have her membership restored. f the broadcasts the Soviet Union has been beaming to Iran from its Baku