O’Dea’s The Mormons Part I: Strain and Conflict in the Church

July 14, 2006 | 32 comments
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Thomas F. O’Dea’s The Mormons (1957) is a classic text in Mormon studies. So much that the Mormon Social Science Association is currently putting together an edited volume of essays that retrospectively assess O’Dea’s analysis (see Part II) that is to come out next year in celebration of the 50th anniversary of O’Dea’s book.

Sociologist O’Dea is amazingly insightful for a non-LDS, and his text is still recommended reading for social scientists who study Mormonism. In 1966, Leonard Arrington stated that O’Dea’s works “offer unquestionably the best ‘outside’ view of Mormon thought and practice now available.”

But instead of reviewing his book here, I want us to engage his analysis. (See Michaelson, Dialogue, 1978, for an earlier assessment.) In particular, the last substantive chapter of his book lists ten potential sources of strain and conflict that the LDS Church could face in the then near future. I will list them below with some corresponding quotes (I’ve tried to be as representative as possible given space constraints) of O’Dea’s analysis. I’ll add my own comments later.

My questions to you:
Q1 Of what he identified, which do you think have turned out to be sources of strain and conflict since 1957? Which didn’t?
Q2 What did he leave off the list?
Q3 Of the sources he identified, which do you think still are sources of strain and conflict in the Church today?
Q4 Overall, how would you rate O’Dea’s list and assessments?

——————-

(1) THE MORMON ENCOUNTER WITH SECULAR THOUGHT. “Mormonism, which a hundred years ago began with such high hopes for education as a solution to the problems of mankind, finds itself today with uneasy intellectuals in Zion itself. They have followed the admonition of their prophet and sought wisdom, but the result of their quest has placed them in opposition to many of his most important doctrines.” (240)

(2) RATIONALITY VS. CHARISMA. “[T]he emphasis upon charismatic phenomena in popular Mormonism is considerable. Such an attitude offers obstacles to the beliefs and loyalties of the more rationalistic…” (242)

(3) AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE VS. DEMOCRACY AND INDIVIDUALISM. “In terms of church government, there has resulted a democracy of participation within the context of hierarchical organization and authoritarian operation. … [I]t remains a potential source of strain…” (243)

(4) CONSENT VS. COERCION. “Government and leadership have been a source of strain in Mormon history, as shown by the apostasy and grumbling that accompanied all Mormon efforts.” (245)

(5) PLURAL MARRIAGE AND CHANGE OF DOCTRINE. “The continuation of this proscribed tradition is a considerable embarrassment to the church and to those middle-class Mormons who desire respectability…” (249)

(6) FAMILY IDEALS VS. EQUALITY OF WOMEN. “This apparent contradiction in doctrinal emphasis [patriarchal family and equality of women and men] has been a source of strain in the past, but, since the abandonment of polygamy, it has become unimportant.” (250)

(7) PROGRESS VS. AGRARIANISM. “The carry-over of agrarianism from country to city conditions resulted in a conflict between the orientation to progress accepted by the Mormons, but hardly possible today without industry, and the preference for agriculture and agrarian ideology that has come to characterize the Mormon outlook.” (253)

(8) POLITICAL CONSERVATISM VS. SOCIAL IDEALISM. “Mormon social values play but little part in aiding the church in its confrontation with the gentile world today. The conflict between social idealism born of Mormon beliefs and political conservatism remains a real one.” (255)

(9) PATRIOTISM VS. PARTICULARISM. “The Mormon will engage in cooperative enterprises within the Church while he pursues laissez faire methods in the secular sphere. … [O]ne wonders whether or not it will divide the Mormon psyche.” (255)

(10) BELIEF VS. ENVIRONMENT. “Since many Mormons do not like to leave the Mormon region, this necessity to move is a source of dissatisfaction. … There is some indication that migration can lead to apostasy and thereby create further problems for the Church.” (257)

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32 Responses to O’Dea’s The Mormons Part I: Strain and Conflict in the Church

  1. J. Stapley on July 14, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    (1) – I think this is largely past. There were times when things like evolution ellicited public consternation; this is now quite rare.

    (2) – rationality has largely won the day. Much of the transition to rationality had occoursed before O’Dea’s book. The charismatic gifts are…shall we say…less sought after.

    (3) – Charismatic vs. Institutional has ceded to democratic vs. institutional. This is a much smaller fight.

    (5) I think this, fundies aside, is quite largely, history.

    (6) as evidenced by T&S this week…

    (7) Despite Kimball’s gardening to the contrary, agrarianism is dead.

  2. Wilfried on July 14, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    Just as a thought, more than half of Thomas O’Dea’s challenges pertain to the Catholic Church of that period as well. In his “American Catholic Dilemma: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Life” (1962) he identifies and analyzes in great detail similar quandaries in Catholicism. Vatican II next opened the floodgates, which Mormonism never saw to that extent. Seems our Jesuit projected much of his own concerns into Mormonism, but that the extended conflicts and major consequences were rather Rome’s, certainly in some (formerly) Catholic countries. See also his own “The Catholic Crisis” of 1968. Gerald Bradford reviewed it in Dialogue (p. 81).

  3. Rosalynde Welch on July 14, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Very interesting, Michael. Just off the top of my head, O’Dea didn’t seem to predict the problems of global growth and retention or of the Mormon encounter with fundamentalist Christianity.

  4. Caroline on July 14, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    1.) I think there is still tension here. After all, who can forget Packer’s three great threats to the church?

    5.) I agree that polygamy is still a source of embarrassment in today’s church, though I’m not sure of the extent of the strain and conflict about it these days. In fact, it seems like it’s quietly accepted and doesn’t bother too many people when a widower marries a 2nd wife eternally.

    6.) I would disagree with him here. I think women’s issues are a definite source of strain and conflict still. Certainly they were 15 years ago when the crack down occurred against feminists.

  5. Mark Butler on July 14, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    There is no question these tensions are real, but it is a practical article of faith in Mormonism that none of them are *neccessary*.

    True spiritual gifts strengthen the institution, not oppose it, because gifts come according to the will of God, and it is his will to build up the Church, not tear it down nor split it apart.

    Same deal with “secular” thought – any thought that contradicts the plan of salvation isn’t really true at all. There are natural truths which are unavoidable, and then there are various ideas for the salvation of mankind. The latter are not truths in the absolute sense – they are only true to the degree they are compatible with God’s plan for us – the plan that we agreed to before we came here.

    And so on…

  6. queuno on July 14, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Re #4′s comment, I would agree with O’Dea’s comment in (6).

    I’m not unsympathetic to #4, but does the existence of a very vocal and minority in just one or two countries — right or not — constitute a “definite source of strain and conflict”? Perhaps better phrased as a “source of minor-to-moderate strain in conflict in certain circles”? Does (3) assume (6)?

  7. Michael McBride on July 14, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    Q1 & Q3. I think O’Dea correctly identifies the confrontation with secular thought (1) as a source of strain and conflict, but he overstates the case here. Over the last fifty years, LDS have been both highly educated and highly devout (though there are differences across the academic disciplines), so it has not derailed the Church as he expected.

    (5), (7), and (9) don’t appear to problems at all.

    Regarding the equality of women, O’Dea couldn’t predict the women’s movement or else he would have claimed (6) to be more of a problem. That said, his prediction would have been overstated just like (1).

    Caroline, it is clearly a source of tension for many individual women, but it doesn’t seem to being slowing down the Church. Or would you debate that?

    (10) is also mixed. Participation rates among LDS are higher in UT and the western US than in the eastern US, but the Church is probably stronger than he would have predicted there, too.

    Q2. O’Dea also TOTALLY missed the civil rights movement or else he would have predicted the race issue to be a problem.

    Rosalynde, I think you’re right. He totally missed the global growth and the impact it would have on the Church. Speaking from a 21st century perspective, this might be his most glaring omission.

    Q4. I think O’Dea did a relatively good job, although I couldn’t help but think as I read his book that he relied too heavily on some UT LDS intellectuals and that they influenced him too heavily.

    He was also constrained by the sociological theory on religion in his day, e.g., his analysis is tainted by his understanding that many churches must transition from high tension sects to low tension churches to survive. The LDS Church has clearly not followed that path, and it has still retained its vitality.

  8. Michael McBride on July 14, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    Rosalynde, what sort of strain and conflict do you think is generated by the Mormon encounter with fundamentalist Christianity?

    Wilfried, you sound familiar with O’Dea. Do you think that he, if he were here today, would agree with your comment that he was too influenced by his thinking about his own (Catholic) Church? He certainly would have to admit that the LDS Church has had no Vatican II, and he’d have to answer why.

    Quenuo, Perhaps your language is useful. Instead of saying these are sources of strain, we each could rank on a scale of 0 to 10 how much we think it is a source of strain on the Church.

    Here’s my attempt:
    (1) – 4
    (2) – 3
    (3) – 3
    (4) – 2
    (5) – 1
    (6) – 3
    (7) – 0
    (8) – 2
    (9) – 2
    (10) – 3

  9. Michael McBride on July 14, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Funny how the (1) to (10) list reads like the program at a Sunstone Conference…

  10. J. Stapley on July 14, 2006 at 9:41 pm

    After all, who can forget Packer’s three great threats to the church?

    Guess I have. Goes to search the internet…

  11. Russell Arben Fox on July 15, 2006 at 12:18 am

    “Despite Kimball’s gardening to the contrary, agrarianism is dead.”

    J. Stapley, this is, unfortunately in my view, almost certainly correct. (And Michael clearly agrees with you.) I think it’s unfortunate, though, not because I think our doctrine or idealized sociality necessarily obliges us to live agrarian lifestyles (though there are arguments which suggest that possibility), but because it seems to me that if Mormons, as a whole, are not even particularly perplexed by the question of “progress,” then our ability to respond to numerous other potential sources of conflict, particularly 1-3 and 8, will be greatly hampered. Which, perhaps, it already is.

  12. Wilfried on July 15, 2006 at 12:56 am

    Wilfried, you sound familiar with O’Dea. Do you think that he, if he were here today, would agree with your comment that he was too influenced by his thinking about his own (Catholic) Church? He certainly would have to admit that the LDS Church has had no Vatican II, and he’d have to answer why.

    When I found the Church in 1964, O’Dea was one of the many books I got acquainted with. At the same time, in our Catholic home, my parents were heavily involved in the aggiornamento of Vatican II. I saw things in stark contrasts then, on the one hand the power of the Restoration and the principle of Revelation, on the other hand a searching Catholicism in turmoil. O’Dea’s analysis of Mormonism did not impress me, I read him then already as a Catholic looking at Mormonism through Catholic glasses and concepts. When I studied, ten years later, the way Catholic analysts had looked at Mormonism in the 19th century, I found similar reflections colored by their time. Catholics, like Dupanloup, viewed Mormonism then in the light of positivists’ claims of the natural genesis of religions and reacted accordingly.

    So yes, I think O’Dea, when writing about the challenges of Mormonism, was influenced by his own insights on the brewing crisis within Catholicism in the mid-1950s. Would he admit it now? No idea… Also, would he be able to recognize a certain Mormonization of Catholicism after Vatican II — think of the development towards lay leadership, the reconciliation of faith and science, and the shift from an unmovable theology to the acceptance of a process theology…?

  13. Michael McBride on July 15, 2006 at 2:07 am

    Russell #11: “[I]t seems to me that if Mormons, as a whole, are not even particularly perplexed by the question of “progress,â€? then our ability to respond to numerous other potential sources of conflict, particularly 1-3 and 8, will be greatly hampered. Which, perhaps, it already is.”

    Could you elaborate here? It seems to me that perplexion over progress can actually be quite independent of agrarianism.

    Wilfried, I’m surprised that you were not impressed by O’Dea given the high praise his work has received by both non-LDS and LDS. Of course, it certainly has its flaws, and the O’Dea retrospective I’ll talk about in my Part II post will try to identify and elaborate on those errors. So in that sense, your lack of impression must be testimony of your own insight.

    One of the things that LDS and others like so much about the book is that O’Dea took Mormonism seriously as a topic of study. Of course taking it seriously doesn’t mean his analysis was correct.

  14. Dave on July 15, 2006 at 2:09 am

    I think the only category which has really generated persistent conflict has been no. 1, the encounter with secular thought. For Evangelicals, that conflict has been a fight between evolution and special creation. For Mormons, that conflict has been between particular LDS doctrines such as excluding some men from holding the priesthood on racial grounds (from the 50s through the 80s), then a conflict between the “continental geography hypothesis” and secular theories about migration to the Americas.

    Looking down the list, I’m surprised really at how little conflict there has been in the other areas.

  15. Michael McBride on July 15, 2006 at 2:13 am

    Mark #5: “There is no question these tensions are real, but it is a practical article of faith in Mormonism that none of them are *neccessary*.”.

    You make an interesting point, and I appreciate it. Yet, I think a more interesting issue is not whether the tensions are necessary but instead how the tensions affect the Church and/or how the Church uses these tensions to its advantage.

  16. Michael McBride on July 15, 2006 at 2:21 am

    Dave, Here’s a quote from the book relevant to your point:

    “On the whole, it must be said that Mormonism has successfully handled the dilemmas with which history has confronted it. What really remains is that problem with … the encounter of Mormonism with secularism.”

    O’Dea thought (1) was the most significant source of conflict and strain on the list of 10.

  17. Kevin Barney on July 15, 2006 at 8:59 am

    1, 5 and 6 strike me as those areas on his list exhibiting the most continued ongoing strain.

    I agree with the church growth comments.

    Another area of strain that O’Dea could not have foreseen is the Internet, which is both a tremendous engine for good but also a real problem for the Church (missionaries begin teaching family; family runs to computer, googles “mormonism,” is horrified and promptly tells missionaries to go to hell. We had the elders over for dinner the other night, and I asked them how often that scenario plays out, and they told me all the time.)

  18. Russell Arben Fox on July 15, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Michael,

    “It seems to me that perplexion over progress can actually be quite independent of agrarianism.”

    If by agrarianism you mean some sort of comprehensive socio-economic and/or theological system which rejects modern technology and society entirely, then you’re right. Just because you’re not Amish doesn’t mean you can’t fret over MTV. But I take O’Dea’s meaning to be the question of an enclosed and humble social or economic world vs. an open, expansive, progressive one. The Mormons who came to Utah, even if they were prevented from building a kingdom unto themselves, still went a fair ways towards creating a society unto themselves: an rather traditional, regional, adn well-bounded one. That society was never entirely self-enclosed, of course, but neither was it ever really cosmopolitan. But over the last several decades, the church’s (and thus many Mormons’) self-image and everyday practice has incorporated tremendous diversity and a lot of faith in technology. We have become wonderfully adaptable problem-solvers. This is fine and dandy, except that such a pragmatic, progress-and-growth-minded attitude is not always or exactly compatible with, say charismatic religious experiences, or prophetic revelation, or the authoritarian demand that the membership stay clean or removed from this worldview or that trend.

  19. Bored in Vernal on July 15, 2006 at 12:06 pm

    Bored in Vernal gets out O’Dea and reads the chapter, having nothing else more pressing to do at 10:00 on a Saturday morning.

    O’Dea writes: “A SLC Mormon intellectual once remarked to me that the Mormon religion has provided the basis for a satisfying life to the great majority of its followers. He added: ‘Only the questioning intellectual is unhappy.’”

    What do you think about this statement? I would tend to agree, additionally opining that many intellectuals in the Church consciously refrain from questioning and criticizing, thus feeling little conflict with the Church.

    Also, O’Dea opens chapter 9 by saying “The Latter-Day Saints have successfully created a Mormon community with its own values and social structure, although it is no longer a separate entity but is rather very much a part, both geographically and sentimentally, of the larger secular society of the U.S. Yet Mormonism retains much of its old peculiarity…”

    Today I see very little peculiarity within Mormonism compared to the larger community of the U.S. (I have no idea how it fits in to other cultures) To me, this very change is the reason there is so little strain and conflict in modern times. The average Mormon fits in so well! Take charisma, for example. Although it still exists and is valued in the Church in the form of laying on of hands and healings, we are skilled in couching our descriptions of these events within the bounds of rationality.

    Am I the only one who feels we have lost something by losing our peculiarity? I’m seeing that most Mormons are pleased that we fit in so well. (No wondering why early Saints spoke in tongues, digging around in the ashes of the polygyny doctrine, longings to live in a commune…)

  20. Caroline on July 15, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    J.Stapley,
    I’m sure you’ve found this by now, but the three great threats that Packer outlined (I believe in the 80′s) were feminists, homosexuals, and intellectuals.

    Which actually brings up a good point. I think there is significant tension between homosexuals’ desire for equal marriage rights, and the Church’s insistance on marriage being only between men and women. (Not to mention other issues regarding members who are homosexual.) I guess this is just one area it would have been nearly impossible for O’Dea to foresee.

    Mike said:
    “Caroline, it is clearly a source of tension for many individual women, but it doesn’t seem to being slowing down the Church. Or would you debate that?”

    It is a source of tension for individual women (a minority, no doubt) but I think there is unease in the upper ranks of the leadership about the topic of women’s equality in the church. Otherwise we wouldn’t get so many conference talks insisting that women are equals (though, puzzlingly, to be presided over by their husbands.) Seems like they have some issues to work out on this topic.

    Have women’s equality issues held the church back? I think it very well might be doing that. I hear about a lot of branches out in the mission field who have a good core of faithful, capable women, but no men to speak of. Thus, some branches are reduced to calling 20 year old missionaries to be branch presidents. Seems to me that if women had the priesthood, some of these branches might be able to function a lot better.

  21. Michael McBride on July 15, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Russell, “We have become wonderfully adaptable problem-solvers. This is fine and dandy, except that such a pragmatic, progress-and-growth-minded attitude is not always or exactly compatible with, say charismatic religious experiences, or prophetic revelation, or the authoritarian demand that the membership stay clean or removed from this worldview or that trend.”

    Maybe I’m misreading you, but it seems your comment proves my point. You didn’t mention agrarianism conflicting with progress once in this quote but instead refer to other possible sources of stress that result from progress. If you mean to say that there can be stress and conflict due to progress, then I agree. But I don’t think that in the past 50 years or in the future it has had or will have anything to do with agrarian ideals. Are you defining agrarianism too broadly?

    Kevin, I hadn’t thought of the internet as a source of strain and conflict, but your example does sound realistic. I take it that these missionaries also say that those people who peruse the internet also become less interested. I wonder how many people would have gotten baptized if there was no internet. Some, I’m sure, but I personally know of one recent convert in my ward who searched the internet, looked at a ton of stuff, and still was baptized. Then again, maybe he’s an outlier. What’s your sense on the significance of the internet effect?

    Bored, Some questioning intellectuals are unhappy whereever they are, whether in or out of the Church. So it’s no surprise that many questioning intellectuals that are unhappy in the Church. In that regard, the quote has bite. But, I still think of myself as a questioner, and I’m happy in the Church, and I know of other questioners who are overall happy in the Church. Perhaps O’Dea should have said “some questioning intellectuals,” but that’s not a very bold statement at all, is it?

    Regarding “Am I the only one who feels we have lost something by losing our peculiarity?” I think it’s about maintaining the right balance. We need to be not too peculiar or else the Church would not succeed, and we need to be not too much the same or else we don’t have much to offer. If true, it suggests that as the outside environment changes, the Church will change as well. And many of those changes will be disliked by many in the fold. Sad, but true. We’ve lost some good things. I wonder what good things we’ll lose in the future? What good things will we gain?

    Caroline, Valid points about women in the mission field and homosexuals. Homosexuality was one of BKP’s big three, so it does deserve to be on O’Dea’s list.

  22. Wilfried on July 15, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Michael (13), thank you for wondering why I was not impressed by O’Dea. I read him somewhere towards the end of the sixties as a young convert. The sphere I was in – a primitive, enthused Mormon unit on the outskirts of the Kingdom – was totally at odds with what O’Dea was analyzing on his terms – mainly in Utah. It does not mean O’Dea was wrong, only that from our perspective much of his approach was dissonant.

    BIV (19) quoted the following from O’Dea:

    “The Latter-Day Saints have successfully created a Mormon community with its own values and social structure, although it is no longer a separate entity but is rather very much a part, both geographically and sentimentally, of the larger secular society of the U.S.”

    Exactly. But my Belgian Primitive Church in the sixties was far from that reality. By the same token, BIV, your interesting remark:

    “Today I see very little peculiarity within Mormonism compared to the larger community of the U.S. (I have no idea how it fits in to other cultures) To me, this very change is the reason there is so little strain and conflict in modern times. The average Mormon fits in so well!”

    is indeed of little application to many Mormons in the international Church, in faraway mission fields, in different cultures. Strain and conflict at will.

    My impression is that analysts of Mormonism, including major ones like Jan Shipps, still focus too much on Utah or U.S. Mormonism. More than half of the membership is now outside the U.S. You cannot assess Mormonism correctly anymore without that dimension, which continues to grow but presents major challenges as well to the Church. I don’t think Thomas O’Dea ever considered that aspect in his projections.

  23. Mark Butler on July 15, 2006 at 10:02 pm

    The good part about the growth of the Church temporarily slowing due to the Internet or whatever, is that we have to “grow up” in terms of the way we present our doctrines. Teachers who present prima facie contradictions cannot be taken seriously – you want to teach a paradox, you had better give some hint to as to the resolution.

    One has to tone down the absolutist rhetoric which implies either that God is irrational by nature (e.g. doesn’t hold to the Law of Non Contradiction) and realize that much theological language has deeper semantics that a naively neo-Hellenist interpretation would imply.

    All in all it is a wonderful thing – it helps resolve the issues of both members and investigators alike, in part by backing off from a overweening confidence that one has the last word on everything – something that no mortal has ever had. A little mystery is a healthy thing, too much is fatal.

  24. Bis on July 16, 2006 at 2:11 am

    #20 “Have women’s equality issues held the church back? I think it very well might be doing that.�

    I appreciate your branch example. Another example plays out in urban areas. Women who are excelling in their careers develop a strong voice and are accustomed to contributing, if not driving, decisions that have big impacts in their communities, industries, in the marketplace, etc. The contrast between one’s voice and potential impact at church vs. in their field really stands out. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed quite a few women grow frustrated and discouraged. I wonder if any men feel this way.

  25. annegb on July 16, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    I agree with Wilfried about his points being pertinent to Catholicism.

    It seems like we discuss a lot about #1 on the bloggernacle. I don’t have much of a problem with it, but many seem to.

    On the other hand, I only know a few women personally who honestly struggle with feminism. Most of us are just getting through our busy days.

    #9 sort of sticks with me. Because I see a lot of people doing “good” here to be seen of men. To please their leaders in the church. Because the church is very powerful in Utah. I would like to see a good sociological study out about the affects of living in Mormon country. On everyone, members and non-members. There’s a lot of pressure here.

  26. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 11:31 am

    –”longings to live in a commune”

    Yeah, having some inchoate desire that way myself, I’m surprised how little attracted most Mormons are too it.

    –on foreign branches with few women

    It’s all about trade-offs, of course. Women outnumber men in this Church everywhere, but our ratios tend to be better than in lots of other denominations. Valorizing manhood through the Priesthood may be part of the reason why.

  27. bbell on July 17, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    I am hearing the internet stories myself from local elders. (who by the way have been very productive baptized good people here recently)

    The recent internet stories that I am hearing though sound just like the stories from my own mission. Prospective convert family starts meeting with the elders and is given pamphlets by a friend or pastor full of anti mormon lit and tell us to go away.

    The internet seems to speed up the process of getting the anti lit thats all. But the internet also gives them if they are truly interested the tools to counter the anti-lit as well.

  28. Michael McBride on July 17, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Adam #26. “Women outnumber men in this Church everywhere, but our ratios tend to be better than in lots of other denominations. Valorizing manhood through the Priesthood may be part of the reason why.”

    I agree. I’ve also heard/read about the ratios being more equal in LDS than in many other churches, and it’s got to be because men play such prominent and public roles in local church life. Unlike any other church, I’d say.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 17, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    “Unlike any other church, I’d say.” ???
    Is this sarcasm, or is my tin ear betraying me? I have the idea that conservative Protestant groups like the Southern Baptists make a big deal about only men being reverends, but my ideas on this are fuzzy. I know that Catholics have a male-only priesthood. I wonder if one difference might be, however, that most men have our priesthood.

    I’d be interested in looking at the ratios across denominations and congregations, contrasting the more theologically conservative ones with the more theologically liberal. I’m also curious whether its a relationship that holds elsewhere (though I’m not sure you have the mix of theologically liberal and theologically conservative denominations/congregations elsewhere that you do here).

  30. bbell on July 17, 2006 at 12:41 pm
  31. Michael McBride on July 17, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    “Is this sarcasm, or is my tin ear betraying me?”

    None intended (but maybe my sarcasm runs at the subconscious level). Whereas other churches might have male only priesthood, mem play big roles in our church not only because all men hold priesthood office, but also because all men have callings (some of which aren’t directly priesthood related). I don’t even think you have to rely on claims about the patriarchalness of the religion to have the more equal ratios (although it probably does have an effect).

  32. Michael McBride on July 17, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    After seeing bbell’s link, I think I might have been misunderstood. My comment about “unlike any other” was not with reference to the ratio but to the extent of male participation in church callings. The fact that we all have callings (men and women) really makes LDS different.

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