Sonia Johnson, a vocal supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and a founder of Mormons for ERA, was excommunicated from the church in 1979. Judy Dushku did not know Sonia Johnson personally, but Judy was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and other social issues, and the national news flurry around Ms. Johnson struck Judy to her core.
In the midst of swirling emotions, Judy received a phone call from her bishop, Gordon Williams, asking if she would meet with him that coming Sunday. It seemed a confirmation of Judy’s worst fears. Would she be reprimanded? Would she be asked to stay silent on matters she cared deeply about? Would she be asked to relinquish her membership in the church altogether?
Full of trepidation, Judy walked in the cultural hall after Sunday services concluded, just as her bishop had asked her to. There on the gym floor were two folding chairs facing each other. Bishop Williams sat on one and beckoned Judy to join him.
As soon as she was seated, Bishop Williams smiled. “I just wanted to talk to you to let you know how much you’re appreciated in the stake and in the ward. I want you to know how much we love you, we care for you, and we need you.”
Over the years, Judy has continued to speak out and for social and political issues she cares about. She is an academic, the founder of a nonprofit in Uganda that works with survivors of war, and most recently served as stake Relief Society President. To this day, that conversation in the empty cultural hall remains dear to her heart. “He just called me as my bishop to tell me I was fine. That was one of the sweetest things.”
With today’s swirling news cycles, may we each be careful about the assumptions we make and find ways to reach out with love and sensitivity the way Bishop Williams did.
We love you, we care for you, we need you.
References: Dushku, Judy, interview by George McPhee. August 13, 1997. Watertown, MA: The Clayton M. Christensen collection of Boston Latter-day Saint Oral Histories, MSS 7770, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.