On Tuesday, November 6, 1984, I was a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, 18 years old, and excited to cast a vote in my first U.S. presidential election.
My parents lived in Arizona at the time and I remember the telephone conversation that evening. Dad, the conservative parent, and Mom, the liberal one, were both on the line.
“Who’d you vote for, honey?” Dad asked.
“She doesn’t have to tell us,” my mother scolded. “You don’t have to tell us, Chrisy.”
It was a big year. Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice presidential candidate, was Walter Mondale’s choice on the Democratic ticket. Incumbent President Ronald Reagan was a shoo-in, though.
“I voted for Reagan,” I said.
Simultaneously, Dad cheered and Mom groaned.
I’ll never forget the sense of responsibility I felt as I pulled the curtain closed after I entered the voting booth. And the sense of pride and contribution as I whipped the curtain open after voting.
Almost 30 years later, I appreciate my right to vote exponentially more. And the truth is, even though Mondale was a snore and President Reagan was so charismatic and President-like, it was inspiring as a young woman to see a female candidate on any ticket.
We’ve yet to see a woman hold the office of president or vice president, and the possibility of witnessing that event in my lifetime is exciting. I’m fortunate to have grown up with examples of strong, intelligent, compassionate, productive women. As an adult, I have girlfriends in a variety of age groups who model tremendous character. And, over the years I’ve seen groups of women come together to accomplish what, to me, seems like the impossible.
So, this election year, I’m considering a write-in candidate: Relief Society.
Many women’s groups and clubs are worthy of my consideration. However, my experiences with and attentive gawking at Relief Society actions and behaviors over the past year leave me no choice but to cast my “she-delegate” vote in their direction.
Because I’ve seen the Relief Society’s ability to complete a task, solve a problem, extend help to the sick, sad, and suffering, feed massive amounts of people on a budget, stick to a budget, clean up giant messes, mend fences with one another (or fake it in the name of accomplishing a goal), work together in spite of differing ages and opinions, and hit a deadline.
The beautiful and integral part of the group’s effectiveness is that goals are accomplished even when a couple of women might be in the midst of a personal tiff. I’m aware of the rare and occasional Ward Hopper who buckles under offense and punches out entirely, but overall it appears that disagreements and personality clashes are set aside. Undercurrents be damned! The project will be done!
An example of Relief Society’s resourcefulness, my friend and neighbor fed approximately 5,000 youth healthy snacks for three days during the Book of Mormon Live production in our area. She did this for around $200. (My numbers might be exaggerated.) The event wasn’t a Relief Society-specific responsibility, but I consider her success a result of Relief Society training.
Another example: Last spring I spoke at a Relief Society meeting in Provo. The lovely refreshments – three different parfaits – appeared the moment my talk ended. Several women worked in a complimentary and synchronized fashion to ensure everyone had their preferred parfait in hand. The ease and coordination of the evening impressed me. Young mothers with babies, mature women who moved a little slower, all worked efficiently together.
I helped a friend with a local poetry gala in March. At the end of the evening we were cleaning up. I noticed my friend washing a tray that I had brought food on.
“You don’t need to wash that for me," I said. “I’ll do it when I get home.”
And although the gala wasn’t a Church-related function, my LDS friend grinned and said, “Oh no. That’s not the Relief Society way.”
I knew it. There is a way.
Regardless of political affiliation—I know that not every Relief Society member in Utah votes red—women compromise on defining objectives while managing budgets and deadlines. And by golly, they cross the finish line.
That’s who we need running this country.
Read more “To Mormons” articles by Chrisy. You can also check out her great book, To Mormons, With Love, available at Deseret Book.