In D&C 58, we read that we all “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” D&C 58:27. We are further taught that we are “agents unto [our]selves” and that “the power is in [us]” D&C 58:28.
We believe one critical opportunity for godly service is overlooked by most members of the Church. In the General Handbook, we are instructed that “Church members are encouraged to consider serving in elected or appointed public offices in local and national government” General Handbook, 38.8.35. We believe now is a critical time for more women members to step forward for political service. We need faithful women to bring their considerable skills as listeners, gatherers, consensus builders, decision makers, etc. to the difficult civic and government questions facing our towns, counties, states, and nation.
How can Church leaders help encourage women members of the Church to consider running for office?
In January of each year (or some time meaningfully prior to local election filing deadlines), local Church leaders can read aloud a letter in sacrament meeting, Relief Society, and/or Sunday School that encourages the women members to pray about whether this is the year they can step forward for political service and run for office.
The letter should express that the congregation cannot endorse individual candidates. It can direct interested potential candidates to the relevant sections of the Church Handbook, which describe the prohibition on individuals’ using ward resources—such as member directories or church facilities—for campaigning and fundraising purposes. But it can serve as a regular reminder, just like the First Presidency’s yearly letter about the importance of voting, that God not only approves of women running for office, He encourages them to faithfully consider whether doing so may be part of their discipleship. [Here’s a template of a letter.]
When women Church leaders are released from time- and energy-intensive callings, they are often left with two assets critical to community service: freed-up time in their schedules and significant leadership skills. Your Relief Society presidency, bishopric, ward council, stake council, or stake presidency could decide as a formal policy or an informal policy to help women make space for this kind of community service just by not calling them to other time-intensive callings and by clearly encouraging those sisters to find a community organization with which to share her time and Church-honed talents.
The primary benefits of this are not political, of course; they are the benefits of greater interfaith unity and community energizing. But the way this can encourage women in their efforts to run for office is that it can help member-women strengthen their connections to organizations outside the Church community. It will also give them Church-sanctioned permission to develop experience and relationships that can strengthen their ability to be a good candidate—board membership positions, committee leadership positions, and greater budgeting and fiscal decision making responsibilities. It’s a win for everyone.
Each time a woman member is released from a leadership position in the ward—whether Primary presidency counselor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Relief Society president, or ward activities committee chair—any ward member can present that sister with a written certificate that announces her qualifications to run for political office. As an example, the certificate may say, “As a former [insert calling], Julie Olson learned or strengthened her ability to [insert leadership skills, such as “listen to diverse opinions,” “organize gatherings,” “make tough decisions,” “counsel with others,” “speak publicly,” “prioritize funding decisions,” etc.]. Therefore, she is now qualified to run for political office.”
This kind of in-writing encouragement may be a durable reminder to that sister of the ways in which the Church leadership skills she’s developed might be a gift that she can develop and share with her larger community. [Our website has a tool to help you create and send a certificate.]