45 years ago today - May 24, 1979-Thursday

[Leonard Arrington]
Yesterday I had lunch with James, and Ida Smith, the director of the Women's Institute at BYU. ... Ida is obviously very intelligent, capable, and had excellent experience in dealing with people. Although she has presumably been active in the Church she has had the same feeling as many single women-sort of outside of things. She is honest, candid, politically astute, with the right attitudes about things. Her principal frustration now is how to get her findings-the findings of her Institute-to the right people, the General Authorities. There isn't any avenue for getting this to them. So far as objectives of the Church and women, she feels that the main thing is for the Lord to declare-the Church to declare-that women and men are equal-not the same but equal in standing before the Lord. I asked her if she would care to give some examples of symbolic gestures the Church might make to demonstrate that it does in fact accept women as equals. (She had stated that many women feel they're
not treated as equals.) I mentioned a variety of things: 1. Have a woman-say the president of the Relief Society-sit on the stand at General Conference. 2. Have a woman-say Barbara Smith or Elaine Cannon-speak in general conference. 3. Have the Relief Society president sit in on meetings of the [local ward] Bishopric. 4. Permit women to stand in the circle when their baby is being blessed. 5. Have a woman sit on the expenditures committee of the Church. 6. Resurrect the Relief Society Magazine so that women have their own magazine. She said any or all of those would help. The most important thing, she said, was to help the bishops get the message that women and men are equal in the sight of the Lord, and Church. The problem isn't with most General Authorities-the problem is with certain bishops, the message they get. She mentioned certain things, like the women's fireside. Why could they not call it a women's conference? The mothers' and daughters' meeting held in connection with
area conferences. What does that do for the large number of women, both young and old, who are not mothers? They do not feel welcome and they ought to be there. She mentioned that President [Spencer W.] Kimball has brought up in two or three of his last conference addresses the matter of the mother in heaven, but somehow or other this doesn't seem to go any further. In pioneer days women were regarded as separate but equivalent to the priesthood. Women were given charge of women's affairs-the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. But now there has to be a General Authority adviser over each, and women don't ever get access to the Twelve

[Apostles] or to the First Presidency. By the time their recommendations go through their priesthood adviser and then to the Twelve, it gets to the First Presidency in greatly diluted and altered form, so that they have no avenue for having direct contact with the people who make the basic decisions. She asked me who in the Quorum of the Twelve were people who would look sympathetically and favorably upon women's problems? I had to think a little while and finally I said Howard Hunter and LeGrand Richards in the Twelve, and Duff [Marion D.] Hanks, Paul Dunn, and Homer Durham in the 70s. She then asked me who in the Twelve would be least sympathetic. I told her I could answer that very easily and quickly with a lot of names, and I started to do so: Elder [Boyd K.] Packer, Elder [Ezra Taft] Benson, Elder [Mark E.] Petersen, Elder [L. Tom] Perry, ... She said Stop, you've proven my point already. So you see why it is difficult for us to do things that would be beneficial to
women? I asked her how she happened to be chosen for the institute position. She said a few years ago she was in charge of a group in Palo Alto that invited [BYU] President [Dallin H.] Oaks to speak. He wasn't able to and he didn't do this sort of thing, but by some maneuvering they got an invitation for him to speak to BYU alumni in the San Francisco region. She said President Oaks told her in a subsequent letter that he was very impressed with her and would very much like to get her at BYU when the opportunity arose. Another input was from Marilyn Arnold, who had met her in some connection in Palo Alto. Anyway, she was surprised to be offered the position but feels that she is the right person for it, and that the Lord is pleased to have her there.

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

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