40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Feb 25, 1980-Monday

[Leonard Arrington]

I just learned from a more dependable and informed source more about the preparation of the ERA pamphlet in the March issue[s] of the New Era and Ensign. [[The pamphlet, The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue, was inserted in the March 1980 issues.]] The question of what to do about the Sonia Johnson affair had been discussed among the Twelve. That this had been going on was mentioned in the First Quorum of Seventies meeting. Elder [M. Russell] Ballard, in trying to think of something that the Church magazines could do for the Church, conceived the idea of including this pamphlet in the two issues. He convened a meeting of Jay Todd and Brian Kelly, at which he instructed them to prepare such a pamphlet and to put it in the March issue. "But the March issue is due to go to press in two weeks!" "Yes, but we can still make it. You have a week to prepare a first draft and then we can have a week to refine it in the final form and send it to the printer."

... The first draft went through Jay and Brian and Elder Ballard. The seventh draft went to Elder [Gordon B.] Hinckley. His judgment was that it needed to be a little more pointed, or emotional, or propagandizing in nature, and they ended up with the ninth draft being published. On the other hand, those who prepared it would have much preferred the seventh draft. It was more matter-of-fact, more factual; on the other hand, it could have been far more defensive and forensic than the draft finally approved. ...

Maureen said that the insert on ERA in the March New Era and Ensign was done over a weekend on a hurried-up basis by staff members of the Ensign. Brother [M. Russell] Ballard told them to do it. Presumably he had instructions from Elder [Gordon B.] Hinckley. Lavina Fielding Anderson was not involved. Presumably it was Jay Todd, Janet Brigham, and one or two others. Maureen emphasized the hurried nature of it.

I asked Maureen on a confidential basis how she felt personally on the issue of ERA. She of course defends the Church in a public capacity and tries to put the best face on the Church posture, but as for her private opinion, Maureen said she thought it would be helpful for ERA to pass. It is a symbolic thing to a large number of "angry women," including a few angry LDS women. Maureen said that things have now developed to the point that it will not make any difference legally whether or not ERA passes. What would be accomplished by ERA has already been accomplished in other ways. What would represent a problem for ERA will be a problem anyway. So Maureen thinks it will not make any difference one way or the other to the status of womenthat it would be a psychological matter to help quiet the vociferous minority.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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