Romney and Exponent II

Peggy Fletcher Stack has an intriguing article on “Bishop” Romney today, including the following:

Not everyone shared that positive view of Romney. Though somewhat progressive in his approach, Romney was still a product of LDS male culture of the time. He didn’t initially believe, for example, that there were any cases of physical or sexual abuse of women in the stake, though plenty of evidence pointed to it.

“He’s not a people person,” says Nancy Dredge, “he’s so much an organization man.”

Yet, Dredge says, she’s seen him learn from his mistakes. “He’s in a much better place than he was 20 years ago.”

While a young bishop, for example, Romney got word that a woman in his ward was considering an abortion. Th! is was the sixth pregnancy for the woman in her 40s, who had four teenage children, and she developed some medical complications.

Romney arrived at the hospital and forcefully counseled her against the procedure. She felt Romney misunderstood and mistreated her. The woman later wrote about the experience in Exponent II, a national newspaper for Mormon women that was published in Romney’s Boston stake. Though she didn’t use her name, many church members knew who she was.

The episode came back to haunt Romney when he ran for Massachusetts governor in 1994 as a “pro-choice” candidate. It also reflected some of the ongoing tensions he had with some Exponent II writers during his tenure.
Regardless, Mormon women in Boston still talk about an extraordinary 1993 meeting Romney called to address the women of the stake.

More than 250 members poured into the Belmont chapel. One by one they called out their issues while he stood at the front with three pads labeled: policies we can’t change, practices we can change, and things we can consider.

Nearly 100 proposals were made that day, including having female leaders give talks in various wards as the men on the high council do; letting women speak last in church; turning the chapels into day-care centers during the week; letting women stand in the circle while blessing newborn babies; recognizing the accomplishment of young women as the church does of Boy Scout advancements; and putting changing tables in the men’s rooms.

Many women left with a new appreciation of Romney’s openness.
He was “so brave,” says Robin Baker, who has worked on Exponent II. Sievers, who worked with Romney to set up the meeting, was ecstatic. “I was really surprised,” she says. “He implemented every single suggestion that I would have.”

I must say, I’d love to have a stake meeting like the one described above. Was anybody there who remembers what happened — or what changes were implemented as a result? Have you ever seen something similar in your ward or stake?


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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No Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I too would love a meeting like this. I give Romney credit – a lot of stake presidents would never consider doing this. Good for him. And good for the women who were honest and open about communicating their concerns.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Cool article. Thanks for the link.

  3. G says:

    oh wow!!!
    wish we could have a meeting like that. so I am curious what the outcomes were. That was an good one about letting women stand in the circle when their infants are blessed. Was that one in the ‘policies we can’t change’ slush pile?

  4. G says:

    … and changing tables in the men’s bathroom too!

  5. jana says:

    I love hearing about the (sometimes radical) history of Exponent II. Fabulous stuff!

  6. makakona says:

    wow! what a killer idea for a meeting and how great that there was such a great response!

  7. BRoz says:

    Yeah, we have changing tables in our mens room. Thanks Mitt!

  8. Char Lyn says:

    Interesting post. As I look over your sample list of proposals, I notice that half of them are standard practice now in the Boston Stake. I’d still like to see the female leaders speak in wards like the High Council does, but it’s nice to know that the changes made have been lasting.

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