"Binders full of women." I want to thank the online community for creating such a plethora of belly laugh material, centered on Mitt Romney's self-aggrandizing faux pas from the October 18, 2012 debate. The visual potential of this phrase was greeted by bipartisan, freewheeling cartoonists who, overnight, churned out some of the only laughs I've had all year in politics. And this before SNL gets a hold of it...
But, as we all suspect, it is no laughing matter when a Presidential candidate has to turn to a recruiting specialist to hire into a demographic that makes up half of the U.S. population. Why would anyone in today's world need a binder full of women -- or blacks, Asians or Latinos, for that matter? Don't we all have a rainbow of individuals in our pool of friends, colleagues and board members?
I am the CEO of the Women's Investment Network, and I don't have to hire someone to find me a binder full of men... Men contribute every month to my ezine. Men sit on my board and are part of my professional team. Men invest in the company's financial literacy projects and offer compelling sides to the story that I'd never experience without them in the room. About 40% of my readers are men. If there was ever a business where you might think men weren't needed it would be in the Women's Investment Network, however, the masculine voice and the male perspective are imperative to the vision of the company -- transforming lives on Main Street -- and I welcome their valuable insight and participation.
I'm not saying this to brag. I started out targeting my business exclusively to women. Men wanted to have access, and we let them in. Period. But that is not the case when you peel back the undertones of Mitt Romney's comment and look more closely at the culture of Mormonism.
Mormon doctrine itself provides a key clue into why Mitt Romney needed help finding qualified professional businesswomen. In short, women are excluded, absolutely and 100%, from the leadership of the Mormon Church because it is the way God wants it. According to the LDS website, "UNDER THE DIRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST, the Church is led by 15 apostles, who are also regarded as prophets, seers, and revelators. The man who has been an apostle the longest is the President of the Church, and by inspiration he selects two other apostles as counselors."
The president of the Mormon Church is a white man -- currently Thomas S. Monson. There has never been a woman or a man of color who has served as the president of the Mormon Church. I was not surprised when I discovered that two other white men, president Henry B. Eyring and president Dieter F. Uchtdorf, were divinely inspired to become the two chief counselors to president Monson. The Quorum of Twelve Apostles ("the 2nd highest governing body in the church") consists of 12 white guys.
Men are the presidents, the apostles, the bishops, the stake presidents, the seers, the prophets and the head of the family in the Mormon Church. Only men can hold the priesthood. Men can heal. There is not one female voice -- not even a saint -- in the mix.
Women don't even have decision-making power in their own homes, because "woman was given to man as a helpmate" and created to be "wives and mothers." You might think this is an outdated quote, however, current church doctrine still teaches women to give to the family first -- before selfish personal considerations. The Young Woman's handbook on a women's "divine role," reads, "The worldly view of women's roles is false partly because it is self-centered. It focuses so much on a woman's rights to receive that it almost ignores her opportunities to give... By cheerfully and enthusiastically supporting our husbands and by bearing, nurturing, and teaching righteous spirits, we can experience the greatest fulfillment." Men can even have multiple wives in heaven (however women cannot have multiple husbands).
Women will continue to be subservient in the Mormon Church until the "living prophet" -- the president of the church -- receives a divine revelation. Social change, via revelation, does occur. If history is any model, women may be due their turn at token power within the next few decades. African-Americans received the right to vote in the U.S. in 1869, but they could not "receive the holy priesthood" from the Mormon Church until June 8, 1978, when president Spencer W. Kimball extended "all priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church." If it takes a century for the Mormon Church to catch up with the times, women, who got the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920, might finally receive a say in the church after 2020.
Why is it important to examine the moral doctrine of a political candidate? Open-minded persons might say that it isn't, particularly if it is clear that the candidate is truly for the people, and not just for the church. Romney doesn't play by that standard, however. In his speech to the Clinton Global Initiative on September 25, 2012, Mitt Romney called out newly-elected President Morsi of Egypt, saying, "The president of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood." This was part of a litany of "developments" in the Middle East, including Iran and the assassination of the Libyan Ambassador, that have Romney "troubled." Romney failed to mention that President Morsi is a USC Trojan alumnus and a former professor and head of materials engineering at Cal State Northridge in Southern California, or that Morsi vowed that there will be no "minority," in Egypt -- not women or Coptic Christians. In his speech at CGI, President Morsi was able to name his female colleagues at the university. They weren't binders.
With only 16% of representation in Congress, 16% on Fortune 500 boards, and zero times a woman has been President, America needs real women sitting at the table of power. That requires conviction, not token representation (which we already have).
Should women be worried that Mitt Romney has been trained by Mormon doctrine to tune out women at home and at church, and that in his years as a Mormon stake president he excluded women from all leadership and decision-making? t minimum, we should be troubled. Binders of women won't crack the glass ceiling at the Mormon Church.