How many Mormons seek an expanded role for women?

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A "snowball sampling" from a non-random population in 2013

(courtesy of Nancy Ross)

A "snowball sampling" from a non-random population in 2013

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A "snowball sampling" from a non-random population in 2013

A “snowball sampling” from a non-random population in 2013

In recent (and polarizing) discussions of women’s ordination in Mormonism, one oft-cited statistic comes from a 2011 Pew survey that asked this via a simple yes-or-no question:

“Should women who are dedicated members of the LDS Church be ordained to the priesthood?”

According to the Pew results, only 13% of Mormon men said that they supported women’s ordination, and only 8% of women.

But what if that research is already out of date?

Right now, a team of scholarly researchers is raising money for a more in-depth survey of US Mormons on the question of Mormon women’s religious leadership.

In part, they say, that’s because even in three years the tenor of the discussion has changed, with greater openness to the idea.

And in part, it’s because the Pew question was an either-or proposition — either full ordination now or nothing — whereas many Mormons find themselves somewhere on a spectrum regarding women’s leadership.

In a small-scale survey conducted last year among a non-random population of Mormons online, a more nuanced and detailed question about women and the priesthood resulted in some surprises.

  • 43% felt that women would hold the priesthood in this life and in the next life
  • 26% of respondents felt that LDS women already hold the priesthood
  • 16% felt that women would not hold the priesthood in this life or the next
  • 14% felt that women would hold the priesthood, but only in the next life
  • 2% felt that women would just hold the priesthood in this life

Many of the respondents in that particular survey were likely more left-leaning than a random national sample, due to the survey’s advertisement on Mormon feminist websites, but even considering that factor, the differences with the 2011 Pew results are striking.

How might a more detailed break-out question like that fare in a random national survey?

“The Ordain Women movement has really opened up a space to at least talk about a formerly taboo topic,” says Professor Nancy Ross, a historian at Dixie State who is involved with the effort to undertake a national survey. “Ten years ago you couldn’t get ten people to publicly state that they felt that Mormon women should be ordained. We feel like that the landscape for discussing women’s ordination has shifted really quickly, and we want to capture that.”

Ross points out that there are now more than 350 public profiles of Mormons who support the Ordain Women movement. That may seem small compared to overall church membership, but it’s something that didn’t even exist a few years ago. Conversations about women’s leadership are happening at all levels, among both liberal and more conservative Latter-day Saints.

“Even though Ordain Women is very controversial, it’s really getting people to think seriously about what priesthood is,” Ross says.

There are more than twenty scholars involved in the survey project, which is partly funded with seed money from a Kickstarter campaign that ends Tuesday.

The group started with a goal of $3,000 of public support and have already reached $4,296 — but in case you’re thinking that means it’s too late to donate, think again.

“The more [money] we raise, the more data we’ll have and the better the data will be. More money equals better results,” Ross explains.

The project, which will have matching grants from the team’s universities and from other donors, has two main components:

  1. There will be a national, random survey of US Mormons, like Pew conducted. This is the most expensive part of the project, since the kind of professional research that can be published in top-flight academic journals is costly.
  2. Also, at the same time, there will be a “nonrandom snowball sampling” online. That’s when people take a survey online, and then they might repost it or forward it to interested friends. Snowball Sampling is useful when you have difficult-to-reach populations, like Mormons.

The snowball sampling will likely result in a wealth of qualitative information about what various Mormons think and how that is changing; the national survey will provide a statistical snapshot.

I just made my donation. Whatever the team’s findings turn out to be, I’m a strong believer in the value of information. I’ll look forward to hearing — and sharing — what they discover.

  • Doug2

    The LDS Church has a less than stellar record exploiting women. Allegedly some of the LDS church employed prostitutes and had vested interests in brothels. Allegedly some LDS entities were part of and contributed to political corruption that enabled prostitution.

  • Paul

    Oh wow, I really don’t even know if I would publish the nonrandom snowball stuff, even on blogs. Pew does excellent research, and the disparity of the results between the two studies just shows to an observant reader that non-random sampling is extraordinarily unreliable. Snowball sampling is a red flag, and so are online polls, and by posting that sort of thing here you’re undermining your credibility.

    The large random survey project seems worthwhile, but you’re going to have one major problem.

    Pew is a trusted name, and it has never been suspected of having an agenda one way or the other on LDS issues. This project, on the other hand, has been seeking funding on places like FMH. It’s going to be perceived as having an agenda. Because, let’s face it, it sort of does.

    What would the researchers do if it happened that the Pew results were basically repeated? Would they still publish the results? Would you still write blog posts about it?

  • Great question. We have discussed this extensively. Yes, we will publish them regardless of outcome. We are all committed to the process and the project more than the outcome and whether it’s favorable to Mormon feminists.

    A number of scholars (not me as this is not at all in my area) are intending to try to get the findings published in academic, peer-reviewed journals.

  • Paul

    That’s great. But appearance still matters when it comes to success! If I could make a suggestion, for image’s sake: get better spokespeople than Jana Riess or FH. Otherwise you’ll be written off by believing members.

  • Katie

    Paul, you make it sound like Jana Riess and the people at FMH aren’t believing members, which I know is false. Still, out of curiosity, do you have any suggestions for people you would consider more legitimate spokespeople on this subject?

  • Paul

    Either members who aren’t left-wing or feminist, or else sympathetic non-members who don’t have a dog in the fight.

  • Katie

    Unfortunately, left-wing and feminist tend to be very politically loaded and subjective labels, and for you, they seem to be labels of a negative connotation.

  • Awesome stuff! This is such an exciting time to be a Mormon. Count me in as one who supports an expanded role for women in the LDS church including female ordination.

  • DougH

    Thanks for the heads-up, it’ll be interesting to see the results.

  • David

    Doug, Can you take your foot off the accelerator and lighten up a bit? Your first sentence makes no sense, even afte several readings. The next two begin with “allegedly.” Guess what? Allegedly little green men are living in Area 51. Allegedly the POTUS is not a US citizen. Allegedly Elvis is alive and well somewhere.
    Allegedly letting people voluntarily answer controversial questions constitutes legitimate research.
    In case you are confused, the answers are: False, False, False and False.

  • Can you cite some legitimate peer-reviewed publications that offer evidence to support your statement?

  • FWJ

    1. As with all polling, how questions are asked, how words like “hold” or “Priesthood” are interpreted, and where the samples are form all skew the results. That does not change the fact that it is protestant and human directed churches that govern by popular demand or public opinion. In God’s church and kingdom, He governs, with absolute love, perfection and knowledge no poll or human can equate with.

    2. Had a random poll been taken of the 12 Apostles on that night in Jerusalem, just before Gethsemane, 11 out of 12 would have voted that Jesus not be betrayed, and not be crucified. Thank God ….selfless love prevailed.

  • So, I really hope that I can get a good answer to this…but beyond the vague “equality” what would be the goal of Ordain Women? Does it basically boil down to ‘you’ want to be Bishop?

    Now, I don’t necessarily have anything against the ordination of women any more than I have anything against the ordination of a 12 year old boy. Is the end goal to have a universal priesthood? I’d like to see women elligible for more leadership positions, although I think if we’re being honest the only one that would really open up is Bishop and councelors (and up into Stake positions, certainly), unless we abolish Relief Society and the Priesthood quorums and make the youth organization a single organization.

    I really don’t have anything against ordaining women. I had a ministry advisor at school this semester who was a female minister in the United Methodist Church; she’ll be ordained in 2 or 3 weeks, was on a local license prior. But consider the ordination process…3+ years of education, Clinical Pastoral Education, supervised ministry during the degree program, 3 years of pastoral ministry after the award of degree, then an interview with an ordaination board (and I bet I missed something). There is a much higher standard there. There is virtually no standard for LDS priesthood; in effect if you’re a “good person” you can be ordained. I guess my main point is do we really want a universal priesthood and what would the possible negatives to that be?

  • john

    My wife and I hold hands all the time. Im pretty sure that counts as holding the priesthood.

  • Wendy

    Thanks, John Moore, for your questions and statements. I’m eager to read the responses to them.

  • Well, as this is an academic endeavor, we’re more interested in the results than spinning them to appease more or less believing members or non-members.

  • Katie

    I don’t think the goals of Ordain Women are vague at all, if you take the time to look into them. And no, saying it boils down to wanting to be a Bishop is a gross oversimplification.

    Since this seems to matter to a lot of people, let me start off with stating that I am not a supporter of female ordination. However, that said, I am a supporter of gender equality in the church; I just don’t think female ordination is the only way to accomplish that goal.

    In the LDS Church, the priesthood has become essentially synonymous with leadership opportunities, including callings where priesthood isn’t necessary to perform the duties, such as finance clerk. Mormon feminists (including but not ONLY Ordain Women) feel that the church is missing out by only utilizing half of the talented people available to them.

    The end goal, regardless of how to we get there, is to let women have the same ability to provide input. There are multiple ways we could achieve this even without doctrinal change. For example, see Neylan McBaine’s 2012 FAIR address “To Do the Business of the Church: A Cooperative Paradigm for Examining Gendered Participation Within Church Organizational Structure”.

  • Shelley

    As a fairly traditional, politically moderate LDS woman I don’t really have anything against female ordination…if the revelation for such ordination comes from sustained and ordained prophets. I get the impression that feminist LDS women think that traditional LDS women (sorry about the labels, but there is a distinct divide here) are against ordination in any circumstance, when what we are really against (from my point of view) is using the tactics of the world (protests, online ‘discussions’, media manipulation, and opinion polls) to try and influence what only God has control of.

    Personally, I believe that God knows what He is doing when He selects his messengers, because He is perfect. And if he chooses men to be in charge of church administration, then I assume He has a good reason for it. I don’t really care if the message or administrative duties comes from a man or a woman. In my mind, that is true equality, when I don’t think less of a message because of the gender of the person giving it. When it doesn’t matter who gives voice to a blessing when the words come by revelation, because it isn’t the voice that matters, but the message. When I don’t notice the seating arrangement in the Conference center because all of the leaders are servants of equal merit.

    So, any poll question you ask that does not clarify whether theoretical ordination of women was the result of prophetic revelation is going to be skewed and difficult to answer without a qualifier.

  • Wayne Dequer

    1. I have no problem with ordaining women to the Melchizedek Priesthood, if that is what the Lord decides to do and reveals it through His prophets. After all, it is His priesthood and I trust His ability to effect His will.
    2. I’m sorry to put a small tack in the current trial balloon, but since it is His priesthood to bestow, it doesn’t really matter much what men or women think about it. However, it is possible that like extension of the priesthood to blacks, the Lord is waiting for all of His apostles and prophets to ask and get on the same page. My impression is that the apostles and prophets are aware of these issues and are prayerfully considering them. I don’t believe the priesthood was extended to blacks because of opinion polls or politicking.
    3. I’ve known many women in the Church since the late 1960’s (I joined the Church in 1966 while attending UC Santa Babara), who were deep and independent thinkers and continue to have full lives and do much good of their own free will and choice. They did NOT seem to be constricted at all by their faithful membership in the LDS faith. Perhaps it is different in Utah?
    3. One example of such a woman, although I don’t know her personally, is Shari Dew who does live in Utah. Here is what she has to say on the topic: .
    4. I notice that general men have needed more encouragement to live the gospel and go about doing good than women. That may well be one reason they are called to the priesthood which is a calling to go about doing good and giving service (or it may not be one reason). 😉
    5. While I don’t agree with the Ordain Women movement, I am appreciative of their efforts at a thoughtful and respectful dialogue. They seem to try diligently to avoid inflammatory statements and confrontations. We should NOT be a Church of hostility and shunning. I do NOT view them as apostates or enemies of the Church. They are indeed our sisters, and should be treated with respect by all members of the Church. All of us are sons and daughter of the same loving Heavenly Father, and we should treat all people as brothers and sisters. That is part of the heart of the Gospel to which we all ascribe.

  • Katie

    The problem with labels is that sometimes the label gets applied too broadly. Ordain Women is a recent, small subset of the greater Mormon feminist population which is very diverse and has been around for decades. I know many Mormon feminists who disapprove of Ordain Women’s tactics. I also know “traditional” LDS women who apparently would take the prophet and apostles announcing female ordination as a sign that they were no longer operating as God’s mouthpieces. This leads me, at least, to feel that the divide isn’t as great as some people might think, and labels in general only serve to make it seem like there’s disparity where there isn’t.

  • Katie

    Wayne, while there are some things we’re not on the same page about, I love your #5 comment. 🙂

  • Mona

    As we were reminded in G.C. recently, YOU (and other men) are not the priesthood, just holders of the priesthood.

  • Shelley

    “…sometimes the label gets applied too broadly”

    This is a fair point, I have been so disgusted by OW’s actions that I think I have lumped all LDS feminists in the same category. It doesn’t help that OW frequently links back to other feminist websites, so those sites get evaluated in the context of association with OW.

    I think you are right, the divide is not so great, since I believe your poll would show huge support for female ordination, but only if the question was qualified that such ordination was theoretically a direct result of revelation from the prophets. Those who reject the word of the prophets (who are speaking as one and acting as a quorum) under any circumstances run the risk of apostasy.

  • Katie

    I agree! I think that’s why the project sounds like such a fantastic idea. Instead of offering only two answer options that don’t allow for prophetic influence, the researchers intend to break out the topic into further clarifying options. That increases the probability that it’ll be a more accurate snapshot of what people think on the subject, so I’m really interested to see the resulting survey and answers.

  • Michael Nielsen

    Paul, your concern about snowball sampling is a good one. We plan to use two methods in order to examine just how representative the two samples are. An important part of this is that we will be implementing a more “respondent driven sampling” technique, than a classic convenience “snowball” sample. That approach, described by Heckathorn (2011, Sociological Methodology, v 41 no. 1) indicates that there are conditions under which this practice can result in good quality data, much better than what a traditional snowball sample provides. Unfortunately, the two terms often are used interchangeably, even among professionals (as Heckathorn points out), as this is a relatively new distinction and method. It remains to be seen just how effective this will be, and this is one of the reasons we are using the random sample in order to augment the random sample.

    Your question about our agenda is a fair one, too. As a group, we are interested in the project for a variety of reasons. We include people with professional expertise in sociology, gender studies, statistics, psychology, and other areas. Some of us are working on this for purely academic reasons, and others are interested for more personal reasons. Together, we share a goal of doing the best job we can, given the resources we have available. Regardless of why we are interested in the subject, we share a recognition that our own, personal goals are best served by completing the project with as much care and professional rigor as we can.

    The reality is that conducting a random sample is a very expensive endeavor. We deeply appreciate the support we’ve received from people, and are committed to conducting a first-rate project.

    Thanks for your interest in the project.

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  • boom

    Allegedly, allegedly, allegedly…

  • boom

    Calm down Mona… obviously a joke.

  • Christopher

    Congrats to the backers for reaching their kickstarter goal! I hope the results prove useful for ongoing dialogue

  • Is it really possible that God changes His mind according to the desires of men (and women). How about what the Scriptures teach us that God doesn’t change. Or that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

  • DougH

    God is indeed the same yesterday, today, and forever, but He does make allowances for our own limitations. Consider Matthew 19:

    3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

    7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

    8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

    Do you think that all the Israelites that divorced under the laws given to them through Moses sinned? No, they were following the law they’d been given according to their strength. But you cannot say the same about the Christians, in this respect we have received a higher law.

  • Robert Wing

    Can someone tell me how many people responded to the small-scale survey referenced in this post?

  • Poqui

    “In a small-scale survey conducted last year among a non-random population of Mormons online…”

    As a researcher, this tells me all that I need to know.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    But you want to keep the “snowball” component. See, I think that’s contradictory.

  • Michael Nielsen

    Robert Wing and Poqui, I was not part of the small-scale online survey mentioned in the post, so I don’t know how many respondents participated in it, nor do I put stock in those results. They (the results) are interesting in that they do illustrate that a question with more nuance may be more informative than a simple, yes/no, dichotomous choice. The funding we seek will go toward asking a random sample that type of nuanced question, so that we can learn more than the existing data tell us.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Yes John was obviously trying to be funny. But Mona’s point is a good one anyway. The joke “works” (if it does) because of a tendency by many in the Church to use the phrase “the priesthood” as equivalent to “the men.” “The priesthood will put away tables and chairs after the social,” is an example. This is a disservice to the idea that there are now, and have been anciently, priesthoods and priesthood orders established for specific purposes that worthy members can hold. And I say “members,” not “men,” because anyone who has been in an endowment ceremony knows that sisters can, do and will exercise priesthood powers. Elder Oaks recently made it clear that this is true outside the temple too.

  • Doug2

    @ John Moore

    You seem to be a deceiver.

    Jesus was crucified by peer review.

    Being Christian isn’t a popularity contest. Doing God’s will and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus is often very unpopular.

  • Doug2

    @ boom

    Hypocrisy. Many cultists present allegations as facts, instead of as allegations.

  • MWM

    The Kingdom of God on earth is not a democracy—you see, that is why it is called a kingdom. There are no organizing efforts of the grassroots. There is no lobbying God to change his mind on doctrine he has set forth. There is no day at the ballot box when we vote on these things. Truth is not determined by majority vote. Of course, he may change his mind, but he isn’t relying on you to bring him to his senses, and I’ll bet on prophets, seers, and revelators before you to receive any change in God’s will.

    So, anyway, get out there and do some agitating. And if you want a new church, one that satisfies you and your friends, one that is not so behind the times and led by prophets who “just don’t get it,” you are free to break away. The history of the LDS church is littered with the departure of those who knew more than God and his prophets. Join their example of splintering away with a harrumph and a feeling of righteous indignation if you choose, but don’t imagine you belong to some sort of groundswell that changes the Church from the bottom up. Such an idea is a basic misunderstanding of life in all dispensations of the gospel.

    Good luck with your campaign. Do some push-polling, even though the polls are meaningless. Even if you agitate to 98% of the Church membership while the Lord and his prophet disagree with you, you are still wrong and dangerously so. One would think that finding oneself campaigning against the prophet would cause most people to reflect a little, but, if you feel you are right, contrary to all Church teachings and instruction, well, print up some campaign posters, get media sources who don’t know or understand the Church to print your articles, and make a career out of being victims. You are off to a great start. You could be the next Sonia Johnson. Woohoo. Congratulations.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    John Moore, I write to commiserate with you over Doug2’s non sequitur response to your question to him. We should acknowledge that, like “downtown dave,” Doug2 is a troll. That is, he’s not interested in the subject of the article except as it provides an excuse to begin declaring his own nutty ideas. It is ironic that he says all of these crazy things and then, when you invite him to back them up, he calls YOU a “deceiver.”

  • Larry

    I found this one in about 30 seconds of searching. It is less alleged and more established history.

    “In every populated area since the beginning of recorded history–and Salt Lake City, high-toned protestations to the contrary, is no different–there have always been “ladies of the night.” …Ogden struggled with its notorious Twenty-fifth Street while Salt Lake City blushed over its own red light district on Commercial Street and later at the Stockade.”

    “But W.W. Drummond, associate justice of the Supreme Court of Utah, earns the dishonor of having imported the first known prostitute to Zion. “

  • Larry
  • Sheryl

    I share Paul’s reservations about the snowball survey. I agree that it would be interesting to see a more nuanced question than the Pew survey used, but I would rather see a strong, thoughtfully-worded random sample survey than any number of snowball surveys.

    I wasn’t quite clear on why you were bothering with the snowball. Is it primarily to save money? Were you planning to compare the results of the two methods to see if this respondent-driven approach is more accurate than the usual snowball survey? If you just want “a wealth of qualitative information about what various Mormons think and how that is changing;” you could read all the comments on articles on female ordination and get an earful 🙂

    Personally, I would be more confident about the value of this project if you dropped the snowball portion and focused all the attention on the (admittedly expensive) random sample.

  • Larry

    In other word, people who just confirm your own point of view.

    No desire to hear things that from people who think differently than you?

  • Doug2

    @ downtown dave

    God does seem to change his mind, but I think it’s jumping to conclusions that he changes his mind because of desires of men.

    Do we still live by some of God’s first dietary laws? Some of the first dietary laws was in the days before proper sanitation, refrigeration, distribution and cooking. I think those first dietary laws were to protect us, as God’s children, now that we have better sanitation, refrigeration, distribution and cooking we have been able to safely expand our diet.

    Therefore I think we are supposed to use our wisdom and judgment like Jesus; rather than to blindly follow dogma.

    In biblical days, civilization numerically was dangerously close to collapse and extinction; therefore reproduction was a very high priority and it was more important that men and woman fit into sexist roles. Now that the world is somewhat overpopulated, reproduction is not such a high priority and some of those sexist roles are no longer necessary.

    In biblical times there was slavery, incest, polygamy, racism, pedophilia, etc. So do you think that we should still go by those old laws?

    I feel that God sent us Jesus to try to help us grow closer to God.

    I think there was too much Old Testament thinking, so Jesus was sent to temper some of those abuses and so that we could ascend as a society closer to God.

    I think women should be considered for leadership and ordained positions. If they have a desire and a gift for such positions, it might be wrong to deny it to them.

    In some Scriptures, God is referred to as mother. Something that I think modern-day sexists try very hard to ignore. Sexists seem to cherry pick Scriptures to advance their own agendas.

    Life is change. I think God is a living God, therefore he/she must change.

  • Kingsfold

    The original claim above by Doug2 is that members of the LDS Church employed prostitutes. I read the article and unless I missed it, it doesn’t support that assertion. The existence of prostitutes in territorial Utah doesn’t constitute employment by the Church, nor does it imply the Church’s endorsement. Finding articles on Google is easy and quick. It takes a bit longer to make sure they say what you hope they do.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Don’t feed the trolls.

  • Earl Parsons

    Our history has lots of examples of grassroots efforts and people “lobbying” God that have led to great blessings.

  • Michael Nielsen

    Thanks, Sheryl. We are grateful for the generous support that people have offered us, but the funds will not allow us to generate a random sample that is as broad as we would like it to be. (No survey company we have found has the ability to randomly sample only LDS Church members, and to do a nationwide random sample with the hope of finding enough LDS members to generate meaningful analyses, is unlikely, given the percent of LDS in the US.) Therefore we are likely to use a more defined geographic space for the random sample, and have a much broader geographic space with Heckathorn’s approach. The approach outlined by Heckathorn also will enable us to use more complete measures, as its cost will be very small.

    If the results of the two samples are consistent, great! In that case we will have greater nuance and a more complete picture, because the expensive random sample will be augmented by the less costly respondent driven sample. If they are not consistent, then we will know that the approach Heckathorn and others propose isn’t as robust as it might appear, and we can publish a paper saying as much.

    If others are able to do a better study, they have my support! The more better-quality data we have, the better we will understand the subject. That’s my goal.

  • SanAntonioRob

    The historical society doesn’t dispute what things???

    This article says Judge W.W. Drummond was the first to bring prostitutes. Judge Drummon was not only NOT “some of the LDS”, it is well-established history that he was dispised by the LDS for his tawdry life and he hated Brigham Young because everyone followed the Prophet instead of Judge Drummond.

    Then the article seems to say prositution really took off when U.S. troops occupied Utah.

    This is no way supports Doug2’s assertions. Try again.

  • MWM

    I’m not talking about humble personal or organized prayer—which, by the way, does work. What I am suggesting does not work is grassroots agitating to change a doctrine that a few assorted murmuring Lamans and Lemuels—oops, bad example: they were also members of the evil patriarchy—find not to their revealed, elevated standards of right and wrong.

    The former way involves silently getting on your knees and asking for forgiveness, understanding, guidance, and help. The latter involves polling, grumbling to the religion editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, probably speaking as a victim at the Sunstone Symposium, marching around Temple Square with armbands, banners or placards, and generally pretending to receive revelation in unauthorized manners for the totality of the church.

    The former works; the latter leads to self-pity, disaffection, and frequently excommunication.

  • Katie

    How is doing a survey to see what people think (which is something the LDS Church itself has done in the past) “agitating” or “campaigning”? It sounds to me as though you’re conflating this survey project as being associated with Ordain Women, when it’s not.

  • MWM


    Come now. You response is a little disingenuous or a lot naïve. I don’t know which. Read the original article again. Look back at the writings of Jana Riess.

    She is not interested in measuring what Mormon society thinks. She is dedicated to changing it to the way she thinks. This isn’t a class in statistics or sampling she’s giving; it is community organization.

  • Sheryl

    A few months ago a close relative of mine wrote a small article that was posted online. She didn’t write about female ordination, but about a topic which some people believe is related–and she was positively vilified by individuals who held a different view of the subject. I suspect that you’ve been disappointed to see similar attacks on people you care about.

    Her experience leaves me skeptical about your ability to control the way your data will be used. No matter how carefully you present the respondent driven sampling, it’s likely to be misunderstood and misrepresented by people who “have a dog in the fight.” Under these conditions (which are obviously not of your making and are completely out of your control), I continue to prefer the very strongest and most objective type of survey, even with the limitations you’ve outlined.

    What about Paul’s suggestion that non-members help design and administer the survey? One strength of the Pew survey is that there’s no suspicion that Pew distorted the results in favor of some preconceived result because no one believes that Pew cared about that particular question. Right now many LDS people have taken a stand on female ordination (and related issues), often publicly. Turning the survey over to some objective third party would increase the perception of even-handedness and the credibility of the whole project.

  • Michael Nielsen

    Thanks for these ideas, Sheryl. I share your belief that the results – no matter what they are – will be spun by people who have taken a position on the subject. That’s how it seems to work, with an issue that people feel intensely about.

    If you know of someone who might be interested in joining our group, and providing some outside perspective, please send me the name(s) and I’ll share them with our group for a vote. You can find my email address at the psychology department, at Georgia Southern U.

  • Katie

    Can you genuinely tell me that if the results of the survey support those found in the Pew survey that the Church PR department wouldn’t use them? Considering that the Church quoted the Pew survey in their PR statement to Ordain Women, I find it disingenuous or naive on your part to suggest that the Church doesn’t use survey results when it’s to their advantage.

    Jana Riess is writing about the survey project, but she isn’t one of the researchers. She may have her own personal reasons for being interested in the project, but it’s impossible to interpret how the results can be used until they’re in. The researchers are interested in doing a survey of academic peer-review publication quality, which means they’re interested in using rigorous methods.

    I think of it like climate change. 97% of climate scientists are in consensus about anthropogenic climate change, but their results make no comment on what policy makers should do about it, and you can see the spectrum of opinions on what the data means there.

    You can speculate and pass judgment to your heart’s content, but I prefer to wait until the eggs have hatched to count my chickens.

  • Doug2

    @ Kingsfold

    You are a deceiver.

    Brigham Young Hampton and other Mormons hired prostitutes to entrap political opponents and other authorities, as a scheme to try to promote polygamy. Allegedly church funds were paid to prostitutes and a brothel to entrap and be paid informants/witnesses. Some might call it a blackmail scheme. Allegedly church funds have been used to bankroll/loan to brothels; and some of profits have gone to church funds. Since prostitution is mostly considered illegal, it’s done under the table off the books/records. Though some of the LDS church’s complicity with prostitution has come to light.

    The LDS Church has been in bed with the Mafia. Much of Las Vegas has been bankrolled with LDS church related loans. The LDS church has had its hands in gambling, alcohol, prostitution, and illicit drugs.

  • MWM


    For some reason, I am not allowed to comment on your last response, so I will have to place it here.

    As for counting chickens before they are hatched and other cliches, well, is that what is going on? Is Jana Riess, judging from the completely one-sided article she wrote here, with all sorts of input from the Ordain Women faculty hack from the 14th best college in the state of Utah (Wow, now there is a go-to source for information. Whew. Couldn’t she find a polygamist from Ephraim, Utah or did she have to find someone who was leaving the church instead of someone who had already been excommunicated?), and none from an opposing point of view suggesting that such an “impartial study” done by people with such obvious biases would be impossible, really interested in a fair calculation of LDS women’s opinions on this issue or is she attempting to alter those opinions by manufacturing statistics from a phony poll?

    Is she, as you believe, a reporter of just the facts, or does she have some political goal to reach with this push-survey? Please don’t tell me that–as long as we are using cliches–that Jana Riess doesn’t have a dog in this fight. She does and that dog is named “Women Must Have the Priesthood.” That is her goal. Those are her politics. That is what she stands for. Read her articles, if you can stomach them, and then come back and tell me different.

    She has an agenda, and her agenda is significantly different from that of the leadership of the Church. And, as is usually the case with those who find themselves on the outside looking in, she is going to make a big noise until no one is facile enough to listen anymore. Apparently there are still those who believe she is a reporter of the news, that she has no axe to grind, and that she is impartial concerning the hatch of the eggs. The results of her survey will be counted before she sends any of these “independent surveyors” into the field.

    Good luck with your beliefs concerning this woman’s virtuous independence in the face of the evil male hierarchy—and good luck on keeping your belief alive in Santy Claus.

  • Doug2

    @ SanAntonioRob

    You are also a deceiver.

    LDS Church members hired prostitutes in scheme to try to promote Brigham Young’s and Joseph Smith’s polygamy agenda, which was the church agenda at the time.

    Brigham Young Hampton and other Mormons hired prostitutes to entrap political opponents and other authorities, as a scheme to try to promote polygamy. Allegedly church funds were paid to prostitutes and a brothel to entrap and be paid informants/witnesses. Some might call it a blackmail scheme. Allegedly church funds have been used to bankroll/loan to brothels; and some of profits have gone to church funds. Since prostitution is mostly considered illegal, it’s done under the table off the books/records. Though some of the LDS church’s complicity with prostitution has come to light.

    The LDS Church has been in bed with the Mafia. Much of Las Vegas has been bankrolled with LDS church related loans. The LDS church has had its hands in gambling, alcohol, prostitution, and illicit drugs.

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  • MWM

    I found another glaring misstatement of the facts or perhaps just an obvious desire to obfuscate the facts in this article:

    Jana Riess states:
    “Professor Nancy Ross, [is] a historian at Dixie State who is involved with the effort to undertake a national survey.”

    Professor Ross, although I doubt she is a professor–probably an associate or assistant professor, if the truth be known–is not a professor of history, thereby making her somewhat capable of going into the political realm of polling political and religious subjects with a history background. Nancy Ross has a background in, get this, Art History. That’s it. That’s all. She is qualified to talk about paintings and perhaps illustrations in medieval books.

    Taken from her vitae: “Her current research interests include women and gender in Early Christian Art…”

    What a pathetic joke to present this woman as a historian and leave it at that, just as it is a pathetic joke to present this proposed survey as anything other than a hit-piece against the LDS Church with the patina of research to accompany the phonied up numbers and misstated credentials of the operators.

    Thanks, Jana. Always hiding the facts for the sake of the agenda. That’s good work. Remember, the ends justify the means.

  • Kingsfold

    Repeating an unsubstantiated claim doesn’t make it any more true.

    Evidence. Sources. Proof. This is what you lack.

    I’ve never been called a deceiver before, though. That was pretty cool. Thanks!

  • Doug2

    Regrettably many LDS members don’t look beyond dogma. Missionaries tell me they can’t even search the Internet outside of It’s cultish to isolate followers from the facts. Cults often do that because it is a way to control with brainwashing. Dogma doesn’t hold up to logic or facts.

    [This comment has been edited to remove an unacceptable personal insult.]

  • Kingsfold

    And having conceded the point, he moves onto another….

    Yes, I know how to use Google. Do you? Give it a try. Please provide some reputable sources for your assertions.

    Two “Deceiver”s in one day? How did I get so fortunate!

  • mwm

    How about allowing for another answer and probably the best one for any member of the Church to give:

    “My opinion on woman and the priesthood doesn’t matter at all. We don’t run the church by polls or elections or by public opinion. The Church is run by God, and when his opinion is revealed on the matter by a prophet and apostles—as I think it has been—that is good enough for me.”

  • Sure. That’s a fine answer for a church member to give.

    But this group isn’t the church. It’s a group of academics trying to gain greater understanding of Mormons’ attitudes re: gender and the priesthood.

    Two separate, but related, discussions.

  • That response ended up in the wrong place and now I can’t see how to fix it.

    Sorry. :/

  • mwm

    I think you were trying to link to the possible answer I provided, the one that most Mormons would give if the choice were provided.

    Once again I am flummoxed by your response. You refuse to allow the response that most members would give, yet at the same time demand that you are “just hardworking academics” or some such, trying to get to the truth. You want to go from a simple yes/no phrasing from those awful (and professional Pew people) to one that allows—let’s see, what is the cornball term used by most prevaricating academicians? Oh yes, I have it now: “more nuance”—yet you would not allow in the survey an answer that you admit would be a “fine answer for church members to give.”

    What kind of nuance do you want? Skewed nuance? Parsed nuance? Manipulatable nuance? This whole exercise is a tiny money grab from leftists to promote a survey by the unqualified to result in something that will get published in religious journals that are anti-LDS for the purpose of stirring up a controversy brewing now just within the minds of a tiny minority. This truth in this matter, even if it had any importance—which it does not—has been established by a real research company, but that isn’t good enough for those who want to bring down the evil patriarchal order.

    Go out there and get some nuance with your carefully crafted questions. Interpret the crap-in, crap-out, get yourselves published by some fifth-rate academic journal, and then be crusaders against “The Man.” What could be more heartwarming, more political, and more phony?

  • mwm, whoa, whah?

    The people working on the survey (not me) are plenty qualified.

    You seem awfully invested in criticizing this project. So much so that it’s just, well . . .odd.

  • Katie

    You’re choosing to focus on one of the multiple researchers involved in the project. Please review the credentials of the other involved parties before making such broad claims.

    I never purported to say that Jana Riess was a reporter of just the facts. This is a blog, and of course she writes about topics that are of personal interest to her. I personally happen to stomach her articles just fine even if I don’t always 100% agree with her, but you’re making some pretty huge assumptions about what I think and are doing so in a very rude way. If you can’t be civil with me, it makes it difficult for me to take anything you say seriously.

  • Katie

    This comment shows a lack of understanding regarding how tenure and the academic hierarchy works at American universities and colleges. Assistant professors are entry-level but fully qualified professors, while associate professors are mid-level positions. Besides that, yet again, you’re choosing to focus on only one of the multiple researchers involved in the project. I really don’t think that a doctorate in art history renders her nearly as unqualified as you’re painting her, but I find it a little ridiculous you’re dismissing the entire project based on your bias against one of the researchers and a blog author.

  • Nancy Ross

    MWM- Today, art history is an interdisciplinary field that is very much involved with issues of history, politics, and religion. I’m an assistant professor, because that’s how the system works. No one will be writing a hit piece on the LDS Church from this data. We’re all academics on this project and we’re interested in finding out what the LDS population thinks about women and ordination. This is a highly controversial topic, as the tone of your comment suggests. And no, I’m not a pathetic joke, but a real living breathing person with qualifications and experience. May you find a better target for your ire.

  • I know he’s a troll. That’s why I didn’t really engage him other than to say “prove it” which he still has not done. I’m actually kind of thrilled that I’m the first person he called a deceiver on this thread.

  • Doug2

    [This comment has been deleted by the blog editor because it contained personal insults directed at other commenters.]

  • Doug2

    @ Kingsfold

    The deceiver you are, you do keep on trying to change the point. You are so hypocritical it is funny. You have a negative reputation, you don’t give any sources for your assertions, yet you want to scrutinize other people sources that are much more credible than you.

    You’re too busy judging the speck in your neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the plank in your own eyes.

    As I have pointed out, the Latter Day Saints have been well documented having ties with prostitution. In trying to entrap their opponents with prostitutes, the LDS church inadvertently made its own connections with prostitution more well known by the public.

    I recommend a book that is much more credible than you and your sources.

    Prostitution, Polygamy, and Power: Salt Lake City, 1847-1918
    By Jeffrey D. Nichols

  • MWM

    The only thing that doesn’t seem odd and stacked about his whole charade is that you, as a family member, would see that is as being a wonderful thing.

    You are allowed your inside opinion. I hope I am allowed a more objective outside opinion, having seen this kind of amateur, shoe-string, slap-dash, agenda-driven mock-science take place before. No doubt, noticing the nuanced, pre-ordained, snowballed results, some pitiful little journal will publish it and those who have an argument with the church will have their tiny, false victory.

    Keep up the good work. This is your family. You have to defend it.

    By the way, I am “awfully interested” in criticizing shoddy work, especially when the shoddy nature of the work and its naked, albeit denied, agenda is glaringly visible even before the shoddy work begins. Those involved in shoddy work or related to its producers might find that “just, well . . . odd.”

  • Kingsfold

    Love it! Thank you!

    For those of you still tuning in, the “Mormon scheme to snare polygamy-busting feds backfires” article is by Pat Bagley. This should let you know what to expect. The “Mormon” scheme in question was not planned, financed, or endorsed by the Church. But hey– if it will buy me a few more readers, let’s throw the “Mormon” adjective for good measure. Oh, and by the way, this was 130 years ago. (Shrugs.)

    A précis of the Nichols book can be found at

    I haven’t read the book, but similarly, it doesn’t seem to assert that the Church officially (or unofficially) sponsored, sanctioned, or even approved of the practice. Its only association with the Church (again) is that prostitutes came to Utah, and Mormons lived in Utah, so Mormon law enforcement officials went about enforcing the law (including regulating prostitution) in different ways. To ascribe some conspiracy theory of Church backing seems intellectually irresponsible.

    I am going to sign off now, but I have had tons of fun. I sincerely sincerely wish you, Doug2, all the best, and hope that you find the peace that you seek. May God bless you and keep you.

  • Wow, would you look at that. He actually listed a source by a reputable writer. I’m impressed. Thing is, I’m not an apologist. The history can stand on it’s own and some of it is pretty crappy looking. I admit that.

  • Doug2

    @ Kingsfold

    You are a deceiver that discredits yourself with your diversionary and dishonest posts. Repent.

    Mormons owned many of the brothels.

  • Doug2

    @ Kingsfold


    “Brigham Young, second president of the Mormon Church, owned whiskey distilleries, a beer hall, tobacco farms, and rented out houses as brothels in Salt Lake City while he was Church president.”

  • FWJ

    There is only one absolute way to determine who is the deceiver and who is telling the truth, and that is definitely not by relying on some biased book written by an enemy to the Church. Trusting some flawed human writing, by a clearly biased writer, based on revisionist history is like trying to determine the truth about the Jews and Israel, through reading a book authored by Al Qaeda. The only way to know the truth about this and any other claim, is by revelation from the unflawed, and pure source of truth, God. He will reveal to the sincere truth seekers, that the Church had nothing to do with prostitutes, no matter how much the detractors want it to be so. D & C 121:17 reveals why others make such claims. They have used the same flawed techniques, inspired by the same source, since the Garden of Eden.

    However, I really enjoy this exchange because it demonstrates how Ordain Women and Anti-Mormons follow the same tactics, techniques and procedures, and are, in my view, inspired by the same source!

  • FWJ-I can’t tell from your post and blog if you’re a hardcore apologist or just a satirist. I’m really hoping for the latter.

  • FWJ

    Thanks for acknowledging the limits to human reason and understanding, and for demonstrating how personal desires can skew how we see things. Human reason and flesh based methodologies are simply not enough to know absolute truth. However they are always the basis for all those who want to be truth as opposed to discovering it.

  • Katie

    MWM, forgive me, but what exactly are your qualifications that you claim to be more objective? Everything you’ve said so far has only come across to me as the biased and subjective opinion of one person.

    What are your qualifications that you claim to be “outside”? Your comments seem to suggest that you consider yourself a faithful active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    What are your scientific, research, academic qualifications that give you any level of expertise to call this project amateurish, slap-dash, agenda-driven, and a mockery of science?

    While it’s fine for you to see yourself in that light, I must say the evidence you’ve presented so far isn’t very convincing.

  • FWJ- I get it now. You’re just an anti-intellectual and, truthfully, just as much a troll here as the others. The anti-intellectual part is interesting to me since, according to your bio you have both law school and seminary education, though I’m not sure what I think about that since you say you are a “Mormon pastor.” I’ve never heard of a Mormon pastor, myself. But, you’re welcome, I drove up your page views.

  • FWJ

    1. Your use of the word troll here, and in prior posts, constitutes the fallacy of Argumentum Ad Hominem, and is invalid, though it is a common throwback for those who are flesh reliant and who have no other way to respond when the weaknesses of that methodology are exposed.

    2. It does not logically follow that pointing out the flaws in a flesh based approach to finding truth, or recognizing the weaknesses of purely human based methodology, means one is Anti-Intellectual…… any more than my declaring Fried Chicken to be far superior to Pizza, makes me Anti-Pizza. I can like them both, while honestly recognizing the inferiority of one. (2 Nephi 9:28-29)

    Thanks for boosting my site visit numbers 🙂

  • MWM


    I, once again, was not allowed to answer you directly, so I will have to put my answer on my own remarks. I hope you can follow.

    As for your reasoning, well, let’s take a look seriatim.

    1. What are my qualifications for being on the outside? Well, that is simple enough. I am not a member of this group of people begging for a couple of thousand dollars to do a tiny, questionable survey. That make me an outsider, you see, because I am not on the inside of the group.
    2. All opinions are biased and subjective. For that reason each person has opinions. The difference between me and Jana Riess is that I am not pretending to be a reporter of fact. For example, I am not hiding my agenda: I am against this sort of pretend objectivity masquerading as scientific research done by “academics.” I am against the idea of writing an article and then hiding the qualifications of the main person quoted, breathlessly calling some sort of associate professor of Art History at East Overshoe State University a “professor of history.”
    3. The difference between me and the stellar team assembled to do this “research” is that I can see the flaws in their methodology and apparently they cannot or will not. Nobody with any credibility in sampling goes out and does “nonrandom snowball sampling.” That is just a howler of a joke.
    4. No group of people with $4000 and a big and obvious bias does anything but pretend to go out and complete “a national, random survey of US Mormons, like Pew conducted.” This is another big laugher. The people you mentioned will be able to go out and do a cheap survey with questionable methodology and a built in bias because such is their funding and so evidently deep is the bias of so many within the group. I wonder if Pews’ interviewers had such a vested stake in the outcome of their survey. At least half of the people in this august group of “researchers” are self-identified movement feminists. Are they really the people to trust to do a survey on Women and the LDS Priesthood? Just think about that for a second. Or don’t.
    5. And how can I call this a mockery of science? Well, look at the team assembled. Look at the proposed methods. One doesn’t have to be a 4-star chef to notice that when others in the kitchen are making beef jerky out of pressed, dried, and heavily peppered cow excreta that something is wrong with the recipe.
    6. Somewhere on this Quixotic quest, someone mentioned “the kind of professional research that can be published in top-flight academic journals.” Who are you or they kidding? This is an idea that just stinks out loud. Why would any journal of any name—unless it is anti-Mormon—be interested in a grudge survey?
    7. If this survey had any relevance, if it were worth doing, if its workers were capable of pulling it off, if they were deemed impartial and trustworthy, they would have received something in the “academic community” called a grant. To go out begging for nickels shows that this research is more akin to a teenager fundraising for his Eagle Scout service project than an academic project of any weight or substance. The paltry extraction of funds from the feminist faithful, even with Jana Riess’s advertising, is perhaps a better measure of the popularity of this issue than the actual survey will be.
    8. Finally, I don’t have to convince you. You have apparently convinced yourself that this is wonderful thing. How anyone could come to such a conclusion has me scratching my head. You may be the only person who isn’t on the payroll who agrees with the researchers/perpetrators. Everyone else who agrees with the effort in this line of comments seems to be on the payroll.

    Okay, now that I have answered, it is time for you to say that you have been irreparably hurt and insulted by what I have written and to report abuse. Undoubtedly you can say you are still not convinced. The Force is strong with you.

  • MWM


    I chose to focus on the person Jana Riess put forward as the spokesperson for the project. Can you see why I might have done that? This is the “go-to woman” for Jana. This is her expert. This is her knowledgeable source.

    And this is the one of the misrepresentations in a story full of fluff.

    Yes, I know exactly how tenure and hierarchical status work at American colleges. That is how I knew beforehand that this “academic” was not a “professor,” but some sort of lesser being in the academic food chain, but, alas, she was not represented as such. Jana Riess withheld the facts so as to make her expert look more expert.

    And for Nancy, I know you are a real person, but don’t suggest that art history is anything but art history. I didn’t say you are a pathetic joke (it’s funny how a professor couldn’t read my sentence properly); I said that the way you were presented in the article was a pathetic joke. I am sure you have experience and qualifications in art history. For that reason you were hired for your job as an assistant professor of art history at Dixie State University in Saint George, Utah.

    Come on, people. Be happy with what you are. I played little league baseball, but I never told anyone I was in the Big Leagues. Let’s not get a Paul H. Dunn Syndrome about our qualifications. I know enough about college professors to know that they are about 75% of what their vitae says they are. Be satisfied. This $4000 survey will be another proud feather in your cap.

    These words from Katie come the closest to agreement we’ve had in a couple of days: “I really don’t think that a doctorate in art history renders her nearly as unqualified as you’re painting her. . . .” Okay, she’s not completely unqualified, just mostly unqualified. We agree.

    By the way, I now sign off. I can hardly wait to see the results of the magnum opus. I’m all tingly.

  • Katie


    I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, so why you think anything you say could “irreparably hurt” me is beyond me. I can observe that you are using insulting and offensive language, but my feelings are not hurt since the opinion of someone I don’t even know isn’t a factor in my emotional or mental well-being.

    I feel a great sense of pity for you. I can see that it would be a waste of further energy on my part to attempt to dialogue with you, so I going to respectfully disagree with you and wish you well in the future.

  • Nancy Ross

    We had 1,862 respondents for that survey.

  • Katie

    MWM, allow me to correct you: I didn’t say she was mostly unqualified. In fact, considering that she is not the lead researcher nor the only researcher, I find her qualifications perfectly satisfactory in conjunction with the rest of the project team. So, no, we do not agree.

  • TomW

    Excellent comments, Shelley! You hit the nail on the head. For believing Latter-day Saints, the question is “What is God’s will?” and the answer to that question is “He revealeth His secrets unto His servants the prophets.”

    If it’s His design, it will happen. If it is not, it won’t. And political agitation isn’t going to move Him.

  • TomW

    Totally agree with your comments as well, mwm. None of our opinions matter here.

  • TomW

    Too bad the part about his #5 comment which deals with thoughtfulness and respect went out the window when some of the OW folks rejected the church’s formal request to abstain from persisting in their actions vis-a-vis the Priesthood Session of the last General Conference. It isn’t particularly surprising that this action resulted in a declaration that the organization will have no part in continuing discussions about the roles of women in the church.

  • Doug2

    @ TomW

    You worship LDS hierarchy and dogma instead of worshiping Jesus and God. You are doing what Jesus chastised. Jesus chastised heretics, Pharisees and hypocrites.

    LDS leaders like Brigham Young have led the LDS church away from Jesus and God.

    Bringing Young supported racism, slavery, prostitution, and even seemed to advocate genocide.

    The LDS Church is still straying from the path. The LDS church and priesthood is not true. It needs to repent. It needs to reform.

    The “political agitation” is not to move God, it’s to try to move the LDS church and LDS leadership to repent.

  • Katie

    Considering Wayne’s comment was written well after General Conference, I’m not sure your logic applies here.

  • Robert Wing


  • Shauna

    Good grief. Go to a church that ordains women. If you want the gospel of Jesus Christ stay in the Church.

    What possible use would it be to have an ordination of a priesthood. Are we less than men, that we can not function properly without some kind of extra ordination?

    No women function at the highest level now the way we are! It is an insult to think we need special permission for what we already have!

    It is just an insult to say my mother, and her mother and her mother had some lessor gift because they were women rather than priesthood holders!!! That is just an insult!!!

    If you understood the purpose of the Priesthood you would realize that what you are suggesting is stupid on it’s face.

    Stop thinking so little of your spiritual gifts!!!! You are a Woman! The pinnacle of creation! You lack nothing.

    Stop thinking the way the world has taught you to think. Think how God sees you! Women have every gift the way they are born.

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