40 years ago today - Jun 25, 1981.

[Lavina Fielding Anderson]

At about 9:30 a.m. the managing editor of the Ensign, Jay M. Todd, ushers me upstairs to the office of Verl Scott, where I am informed I am being "summarily terminated for distributing confidential material to unauthorized personnel."

Background: Elder Hartman Rector had delivered a conference talk in April containing a list of sins of the last days (abortion, homosexuality, birth control, and sterilization, among other things) that was "toned down" for publication. Peggy Fletcher, publisher of Sunstone, had said the magazine would run parallel before-and-after versions transcribed from the videotape. I offered to supply her with a copy of the old text, then sitting in its pigeonhole waiting to be thrown away, since the conference Ensign had been published in May. I photocopied the lowest (earliest) version and put it the interoffice mail, addressed to a Sunstone volunteer who was a church employee in another department. Jay later told me that he saw the envelope in the out-going mail and felt inspired to open it.

While I understood that conference talks were confidential before they are delivered, I asked for clarification about how a conference talk could be confidential after it is delivered. Verl Scott assured me that a manuscript of what the Ensign actually printed would still be considered confidential. Jay and a representative from the Personnel Department escorted me to my office, supervised the packing of my personal effects, and took me to my car. The whole process was over before noon. Jay also informed me that the earliest version of the Rector talk, which I had not read, actually contained additional material that did not appear in the delivered version.

I expected to feel traumatized by being fired. To my surprise I didn't. I felt cheerful. I received dozens of calls from friends who were angry, sympathetic, grieved, and hurt. I appreciated their concern, but we usually ended up laughing together. Judy Dushku offered to organize a legal aid fund so I could sue. I told her I didn't want my job back. Marybeth Raynes said, "You'll probably crash in a couple of days. Call me, day or night, if you need to talk." I never did. Linda Sillitoe sent me a poem that instead captured my feelings precisely:

One by one they throw us from the tower.

And we spread our wings and fly.

I have never experienced a moment of regret for the almost- eight years I spent at the Ensign nor one moment of regret that I am not still there; but I interpret these feelings purely and wholly as a blessing bestowed upon me. As a result, although I sometimes disagreed with Jay's management style and felt considerable frustration periodically at the correlation review system, I have only the best of memories about my work there. The next day I went in, shook hands with Jay, assured him that I held "no hard feelings," and asked him to communicate my farewells and best wishes to the staff.

Jay probably had reasons for feeling that my value as an employee was marginal. Although Christian was born three months earlier, I had no plans to stop working. Jay strongly disapproved of working mothers. I not only attended but persistently participated in academic and scholarly conferences and argued, I'm sure at wearisome length, for bolder editorial treatments of "sensitive" issues. In January 1980 Elder Boyd K. Packer had warned church employees that "keeping confidences" is "a condition of our service," adding, "an incident . . . traced to you, or to someone you are responsible to supervise . . . could be of most serious concern." Jay would certainly have felt that responsibility heavily. Furthermore I "offended" Elder M. Russell Ballard, the magazine's managing director, and Amelia Smith McConkie, wife of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, by giving a paper at a BYU Women's History Archives conference which suggested that their grandfather (Joseph F. Smith) characterized Mary Fielding Smith's wagonmaster with inaccurate harshness. Jay had accompanied me to the interview with Elder Ballard and was almost certainly embarrassed by the situation.

[Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1]

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