“I’ve never been a politicized person before,” begins writer and artist Linda Hoffman Kimball. But when faced with a contentious election year and challenges to her values, Sister Kimball joined a group of her fellow sisters to found Mormon Women for Ethical Government, a cohort of LDS women primed for political activism and ready to champion the causes upon which the country was founded.
Mormon Women for Ethical Government, or MWEG, is a nonpartisan group founded in early 2017 by Sharlee Mullins Glenn and some of her friends as response to the frustrations of sisters who saw their principles come under fire by the government. MWEG members see themselves as both “watchdogs and activists,” according to their welcome statement, “guided by our discipleship to Jesus Christ and His teachings. Our goal is to oppose unlawful and/or unethical proceedings and to promote positive change.”
The group upholds the ideals of nonviolent resistance and civil discourse promoted by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi. Instead of rancorous name-calling, the sisterhood is quick to promote understanding.
“We take our former First Lady’s mantra as our battle cry,” Sister Glenn explains on the MWEG website. “’When they go low, we go high.’”
Two foundational questions anchor the group’s beliefs: “Is it legal? Is it ethical? If the answer is no to either (or both) of those questions, then we move to oppose it.”
Causes near and dear to the hearts of MWEG members include health care, immigration, discrimination, foreign affairs, the environment, and constitutional violations, among others. Twenty subcommittees focus on these target areas, and state-specific MWEG chapters are popping up throughout the nation, including Arizona, and across the world as far afield as the Middle East. The group has a growing social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sisters stimulate positive action by engaging more fully in the political process. This includes postcard and phone call blitzes to elected representatives, increased attendance at Town Hall meetings, and special events to encourage understanding between communities, like a recent “Meet the Muslims” night at the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy, Utah.
The MWEG’s Effective Action Committee also supports a Daily Call to Action, providing addresses and phone numbers of elected officials along with prepared talking points and social media hashtags to promote awareness.
Sister Hoffman sees such participation as vital. “We have moved beyond our own comfort levels and engaged in the civic process . . . . We have called and contacted our representatives to voice our opinions. We have aided refugees, defended anti-discrimination causes, studied health care, welfare, constitutional issues and more,” she says.
“We are putting voices and legs to Elder Nelson’s plea: ‘We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.’”
Some of the issues most recently dealt with by MWEG include the detention by ICE agents of a Utah mother protected under the DACA agreement (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a number of refugee advocacy events, and a call to action concerning an April 2017 executive order that would allow national monument designations to be canceled or else diminish the size of those sites to open up more federal land for mining, drilling and other developments.
MWEG keeps members engaged at the federal and state level, encouraging women to do what they can within their communities to support the causes that they love.
“Local governance doesn’t get nearly the attention as national, and yet our state legislation affects us as much, some argue more,” says Arizona chapter leader Kendra Worsley Kellis on the chapter’s Facebook page. “This is a great place where you can ask to see the legislation you are passionate about and stay updated on relevant materials.”
MWEG has attracted a wide range of LDS women. A recent demographic survey indicates that members take a wide variety of political views, from staunchly Conservative to resolutely Liberal and everything in between.
“Being a non-partisan group, we try to connect at higher levels,” says Sister Kimball. She recognizes the presence of political differences as an opportunity for growth, both individually and within the group. “Good is not always consensus. Good is still loving each other while holding differing opinions.”
MWEG members are lawyers, homemakers and stay-at-home moms, Ph.D. economists at Ivy League schools, data analysists, opera singers, social workers, currently-serving missionaries and calligraphers. Some are career politicians; others have never contacted their representatives before joining MWEG.
“I must say,” says founder Sharlee Mullins Glenn on the group’s Facebook page, “we’re a pretty impressive bunch.”
Sister Kimball finds strength in MWEG’s diversity: “There is nothing quite as satisfying as navigating differences of opinion and ending up at a place of charity, appreciation and understanding,” she says.
“We start with assumption of respect and insist on listening to—rather than judging—others’ opinions. There is an overall tone of gratitude, support, drive and good will among the group.”
MWEG held its first retreat on April 1st, 2017, in Utah.
“We left with a sense of unity, motivation and support,” affirms Sister Kimball. “We included a diaper drive for refugee families and created a mountain of boxes for this good cause. It was especially satisfying to put faces to the names we had only seen online.”
Sister Kimball views MWEG as an extension of the early Relief Society efforts to provide benevolence to the needy and a voice for women.
“Utah women were among the first to vote and advocated for women’s rights and suffrage with vigor and voice. MWEG continues that same pioneer spirit, commitment and zest for me.”
Arizona MWEG member Holly Urbancic has found new purpose in her political activism, saying, “The church has always wanted us to be educated voters and that certainly aligns with MWEG goals.” She has participated in phone call and letter writing campaigns.
Sister Alesha Ramos, also of Arizona, agrees.
“We have been commanded to serve in our communities, to participate in ethical practices, to be politically educated,” she says.
Sister Kimball hopes this spirit of activism is contagious. “As co-founder Melissa Dalton-Bradford, summed it up so well, I ‘will not be complicit by being complacent.’”