Vote for Women!
I’ve lived in Lehi, Utah for over 16 years. If you aren’t familiar with Utah county geography, we’re a city of 60,000 people about halfway between Provo and Salt Lake City. We are also heavily dominated by Latter-day Saints and for the most part, very politically conservative.
I’ve loved living in Lehi and have no plans to move anytime soon. A couple years ago I took some girl scouts to tour city hall with the one and only female member of the Lehi City Council, a capable and smart woman named Paige. During that tour I was surprised to learn that she is only the 5th woman in Lehi ever to hold an elected position. How is that possible in a city of this size, that’s been around since 1852? It’s crazy!
But should I really have been so surprised, though? I’m a woman, yet I never make it to city council meetings. I stopped going to caucus nights several years ago because they were boring and long. I don’t take time to research everybody on the ballot and usually just vote for the people in the big positions. I haven’t done much personally to involve more women in Lehi politics.
I sometimes wonder how much this local dearth of women has to do with our community’s shared LDS prominence, where women are not permitted into any positions of authority. Bishops, stake presidents, high council members, general authorities, and the church president himself – all have to be male, without exception. It’s commonly discussed that children rarely grow up to be something they haven’t seen, and that’s why it’s so important to introduce young girls to women with careers in science, politics and medicine (for example). Do Latter-day Saint girls see women in positions of leadership and final decision making enough, or do they see Relief Society and Primary presidents deferring to the inspiration of their male priesthood authority (usually the bishop or stake president) all too often? Does that keep it from regularly crossing the collective conscience of the women in Lehi that outside of the church walls, no such barriers exist based on gender, and we can even be the mayor of our town if we want?
Those thoughts have been on my mind for a couple years now, and on November 5th we have another election for three open seats on the Lehi city council. Six candidates have made it past the primaries, and two of them are women. One is Paige, up for her re-election. The other is a local ward Relief Society president named Katie. I don’t know Katie personally, but I’ve actually interacted with her in another leadership position she had, and I’ve only been impressed with what I’ve seen. How cool would it be if she became the 6th woman elected to office in Lehi? I surfed onto her Facebook page to learn more about her personal life. Most of her public posts were election related, including the quote by Elder Ballard that I copied at the top of this blog post. His complete quote says this:
“Church members—both men and women—should not hesitate, if they desire, to run for public office at any level of government wherever they live. Our voices are essential today and important in our schools, our cities, and our countries. Where democracy exists, it is our duty as members to vote for honorable men and women who are willing to serve.” (The complete talk this comes from is right here.) (Also, I added the italics.)
One woman commented on Katie’s post of this quote and said this:
“The voices of women should be heard in regards to our community. We hold the key to the future and are raising the next generation. Thank you for running Katie you have my vote!”
I agree, female commenter! Half of the residents of Lehi are female, and we should definitely be represented by more women. Amen. And Elder Ballard, I agree with you, too! Women in our church SHOULD be running for office, just like Paige and Katie are both doing in my city.
But that leads me to my biggest question of all – why do church leaders want women to run for elected office, but NOT to ever campaign for church leadership? Why is it good to want to be a governor, but bad to want to be a bishop? If women’s leadership is such a critical component to governments, why isn’t it considered equally critical to church government – where many upper level councils still lack even one single female voice? My city council might have two female voices soon, and I’ll be thrilled if that happens. If the general councils of my church would begin to include women as well, I’ll be outright ecstatic!
You see, I don’t think that men in leadership are bad or negligent, but they do lack the perspective of literally half of the population. It’s not their fault. They cannot all have lived both the male and female experience. To plan our future – either civically or within the church – without the collective female voice being equally represented in all decisions, is to only reach half of our potential.
Good luck Katie and Paige in my city elections today, and I sincerely hope to see myself represented more everywhere in the future -both within the church and without. Vote for women!