You may have heard that Julie B. Beck, former Relief Society General President, offered the opening prayer at the Trump/Pence rally held in Utah last night.
This is problematic, but not for the reason you might first think:
First off, as the Church reminds us every year: “While the Church affirms its institutional neutrality regarding political parties and candidates, individual members should participate in the political process. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues.”
Thus leaders of the church, speaking as leaders of the church are not supposed to weigh in on candidates. Now that gets to the heart of most obvious issue. Julie B. Beck is not a current leader of the church nor was she introduced as representing the church last night.
So telling us “this isn’t that bad because she’s a former RS leader” reminds us all that women in the church, even the highest woman calling, are but auxiliary leaders who serve for 5ish years. As women who know the history of the church, General Relief Society Presidents used to serve until their death. No longer. Sister Beck is a former auxiliary leader. She can be described easily as an “individual member” choosing to participate in the political process. You just cannot compare her to anyone in the Twelve or First Presidency doing the same because she has been released and they are not.* In the hierarchy of the church, her former position was still lower than a deacon.
It wasn’t that long ago that Julie B. Beck was strongly (she has been described as one of the women who did not use “Primary Voice” in testifying) advocating for women and their role in the church and entire world. She promoted the Daughters in My Kingdom book and asked us to learn from our foremothers. She described the Relief Society as “a sacred work.” And she traveled the world speaking about women to women, of many nationalities and cultures.
And now she is endorsing a candidate who is so egregiously, anti-women, anti-immigrant and straight up racist who wants to trample others in the world to “Make America Great Again.”
As a woman who studied her words, who promoted Daughters in My Kingdom, I am now questioning whether or not she was truly invested in women as a leader. Because she can vote however she wants to, personally thinking that one candidate is above another for whatever reasons, and privately vote. But to publicly promote with a prayer Donald Trump, someone who has done and said unspeakable things about women, as someone who led the”oldest and largest women’s organization in the world” is completely shocking. Does she not see that many of the women that she served would not see this as traitorous? Or, in the least because of the way Trump speaks of and treats women and minorities, make one wonder if the church structure that she promoted/imagined (and somewhat controversial described in her “Mothers Who Know” talk) was one of not equal treatment for all, but one where white males could lead comfortably.
Julie B. Beck publicly praying at the Trump/Pence rally was sad/diasppointing/confusing. As a former leader of the church, she is one who should know better.
*If you check out the just released Fall Dialogue Issue, Gregory Prince, Lester Bush and Brent Rushforth discuss the importance of emeritus status for the Twelve and First Presidency.