This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The LDS Church is far from the only tradition faith or otherwise to be faulted for its habit of telling women that they should be content with what are seen as minor or supportive roles and be happy to leave more weighty matters to the menfolk.
Even accepting the argument that raising children and keeping home and hearth together can be about the most important things in life, traditions that hold that women have no other choices before them are, quite rightly, losing their standing in cultures across the globe.
It is in that context that the (all male) leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has called upon female members of the Utah-based religion to lead out on a new effort to provide assistance to the world's refugees.
Sure, the idea that the church's female-only Relief Society has been assigned this task could be dismissed as yet another stereotypical decision that assigns the caring, nurturing parts of life to women so that the men can go out and, oh, hunt saber-toothed tigers or something.
Except that the church's "I Was a Stranger" initiative comes at a time when guiding, protecting and resettling refugees is suddenly among the most urgent tasks facing the civilized world. It is no job for the faint of heart or the weak of spirit.
At least some of the LDS women who have been calling for their church to take women more seriously and make more use of their talents and energies have been heartened by the announcement.
War and unrest in Africa and the Middle East, hardly new phenomena, have metastasized in resent years to dislodge millions of people from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and other nations, mostly into nations of the European Union that have not always been up to the task.
Any real response to the crisis by governments or from churches and charities will not involve sewing circles and funeral potatoes. It will demand devotion, determination and skills that include politics, finance, logistics and a total refusal to take no for an answer, even especially from the powerful.
Utah's very founding was a relocation of refugees, and neither the church leadership nor the state's secular officials have forgotten that.
The state has long been a beacon for the storm-tossed of the world, and Gov. Gary Herbert bravely stood against his own party's national tide, offering to receive refugees from the war in Syria while other Republican governors were bluntly and cruelly trying to close their doors.
By offering not just moral, but practical, assistance to the world's refugees, the LDS Church, the Roman Catholic Church and others are doing much to make their faith traditions more relevant to a new age.
If the effort in the LDS Church also proves to be a trend toward a wider role, with greater impact, for women, that will also be a great step forward.