SUNDAY REVELATIONS: I just love Mormons so much I hate to see us all represented by Mitt Romney. It reflects so badly on a religion that stands for better things.

“It was not that I had specific horrible stories to tell, it was that I felt people should know that he was not a caring man, particularly when it came to women. He once said to me, “Judy, I don’t know why you keep coming to church. You are not my kind of Mormon.”

Judy Dushku, a Mormon feminist, and a member of the ward Mitt Romney governed a bishop, talks about the ward  and its leader:Based on an interview by Joanna Brooks (excerpted)

“If you were ever at a ward party and sat down with your plate of food and found yourself at a table with Mitt and five other men, you would just expect that you wouldn’t be in the conversation. No one was particularly unkind, but there was an in-group made of up those who were in the circle of male leaders—many Harvard Business School types—and their wives. I was spouseless, and I didn’t live in Belmont, but Watertown, which is economically less privileged. I tried and always came to church, but it was often awkward.”

Mitt was my bishop and stake preside…, it meant that I should be respectful and welcome him when he came to my home and that I should accept callings (church service assignments) from him. I’d had other bishops I’d felt comfortable talking over personal or spiritual issues with. I learned, though, that probably Mitt was not that person.

Mitt was … adored by many people in our ward, especially many who wanted to learn to be in business. He was a great influence in that regard. Some successors even emulated and reflected his style. My family was a bit different, though. It was the 1980s, and I was a divorced single mother—not typical for Mormonism—and I felt that in the Belmont, Massachusetts ward where the Romneys and others lived, my children were not perceived as useful or as having any contribution to make. I considered moving to a different congregation where they would be valued, but was told by my bishop that Mitt (then the stake president) felt my moving away from Belmont would be a disservice to my sons because in the Belmont ward, they had role models for being good Mormon men.

My gut told me differently: that if I kept them around Belmont, they would leave the Church because this group made them feel unusual. There were times when I would ask the congregation’s Boy Scout troop leader how my boys were doing, and he would say “pretty good, considering.” And I would ask, “Considering what?” and he said, “Considering they don’t have a father.” This was in the 1980s.Mitt Romney came up through this highly conventional, by-the-book LDS environment where young men are groomed for leadership from the time they are 12 years old, if not younger.

Yes, he was very invested in the grooming of young men, and the families most valued in the ward were cohesive and had successful strong husbands. I do know Mitt took his home teaching [an LDS program that assigns male members to visit families in the congregation monthly] very seriously and there were families who loved him because he would really go out of his way for them. But I was different, somehow. I was not “weak” in terms of “to be worried about in a pastoral way,” but different in that I had needs, but had some idea of ways I might be served. I felt that he wanted to tell me what I needed without my input. He did not want to hear what I said.

(When Mitt ran for Senate, the media wanted Ms. Dushku’s thoughts n his attitudes toward women)  I .. called Mitt’s home, and Ann answered. She encouraged me to go down and visit with him at the campaign office. When I entered the office, there was a table to my right where I saw women from the ward working. I said, “Hi,” and he asked, “What brings you here?” I told him I was interested in politics, that I heard he was taking a pro-choice stance, and that I was wondering if, as a Democrat and fellow Mormon, maybe I could work for him. I wanted to understand his stance better. “Yes, I’m definitely for choice,” he said. And I said, “Great, we agree on that.” Then, he said, “In Salt Lake, they told me it was okay to take that position in a liberal state.”

I asked, “What about women who might be on public assistance?” He said, “I would never have the state provide for abortion.” I said, “For a lot of Massachusetts women that won’t work.” He got very restless and stood up and said, “I am pro-choice; is there something else?” And so I asked him how he planned to address the recent excommunications of Mormon feminists, which had been covered in the New York Times and Time magazine. And he said, “What’s your question?” I said that a lot of people think they were not excommunicated for misconduct but for their views. Mitt said, “With any bishop who excommunicates a woman, I will not question his reasoning. I will support the bishop.” Then, he said, “Well, I don’t think we have much to talk about,” and I told him that I had at least wanted to try, and I gave him my best wishes. But I realized that I could not work for him.

Dushku related Mitt’s comments to the media>, Mitt said, “What are you trying to do to me? I thought we were friends. And now you’ve come out from the woodwork. You’ve never been active in politics.” I told him, “I’ve been very active in politics; you just don’t know what I do. I teach politics, my office is next door to the state house, I’ve been in the Massachusetts women’s political caucus.” Mitt said, “Well, I didn’t know that.” I said, “That’s not a surprise; you’ve never asked.”.

Once Mitt called me and demanded, “Why does the press always go to you and not to women who admire me?” I told him, “I always give them five or six names and numbers, and the press says, ‘we’ve gone to them, and they won’t talk.’” I said to reporters, “I can only tell you my experience, and my experience is that he’s not accepting of people who are different, particularly women who are single who he has to deal with one-on-one.” Lots of women told me, “Don’t give the press my name anymore,” some because they had negative things to say and were afraid; others were just afraid because they didn’t want to talk to the press.

For example, I went to the gym one day, and in the locker room met up with two young Republican Mormon women from our ward. I said, “How are you? What’s new?” And they said, “We’re working for Mitt at headquarters.” “That’s fabulous,” I said. “It’s a great way to get to know Massachusetts. Are you having a good time?” One told me that he put Mormon women to work only in a particular place in the campaign. She said, “Sister Dushku, you’re right. He treats women from outside [of Mormonism] wonderfully and with such respect. Women from the New York Times and businesses in Boston come, and he is the most respectful and relaxed person. He says ‘hi’ to us but we are so clearly on the sidelines. We’re not criticizing him, and we still support him, but we do think of you when it happens.”

Someone called from Mitt’s inner circle and told me that the inner circle had met the night after the election and decided that more than anything else, I had ruined Mitt’s chances. “Thank you. That flatters me to think that I had that much influence over a whole state of voters. I’m flattered you think I’m that powerful. I think there were a lot of things in the campaign that fall on Mitt’s shoulders and yours.” “But why did you fight him so much?” the inner-circle guy asked. “Because we disagree,” I sai

I would like for the Mormon Church not to be associated with the “war on women” because my experience is that some of the strongest and most powerful women in my circle of many friends are well-informed, active Mormon women: lawyers, writers, poets. The idea that Mitt has come to represent Mormonism makes it sound like the church has no progressive women, and I would like that misrepresentation taken away. Mormon women in my experience tend to be quite active on the same kind of issues that progressive women around the world are: women’s health, education, being at the table for policy making, ending abuse.

I don’t like it that we have come to be represented by a man who has no interest in a social safety net and blames those in need for being in poverty or without work. Mormons don’t believe that. He is not us.

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