I was not surprised to see that conservative Mormons had a negative response to the actions of Ordain Women over the weekend. But I was curious to see what specific issues would come up in the conversation about it. Toward that end, I read a 203-comment thread on a popular conservative Mormon website, created some general categories, and categorized the comments. This is a brief overview of what I found.
Top Five Responses
1. This is sad / This makes me sad. (25)
This ranged from a tone of “this makes me sad because they are hurting,” to “they are going to have to pay for their sins, and that makes me sad.”
2. Elder Oaks satisfactorily addressed the issue. (17)
The talk given by Oaks was described in highly positive terms as having resolved any questions that OW had raised.
3. This is apostasy. (15)
The most common label given to OW was that of apostate.
4. They are disrespectful. (15)
A frequently mentioned concern was that OW had acted disrespectfully.
5. I’m praying for them / We should pray for them. (13)
As is the case with #1, the tone of this varied widely.
I noted three general approaches to the issue:
1. A focus on what is wrong with the members of OW. (89)
This included comments along the lines of, they are apostate, disrespectful, lacking testimonies, blinded by worldly values, and lacking in understanding.
2. A focus on one’s own understanding of the issues. (82)
This included comments along the lines of, this is how the priesthood works, the value of gender roles, the importance of motherhood, and the value of women in the church.
3. A focus on one’s own feelings and intentions. (46)
This included comments about sadness, the intent to pray for them, and the need to show charity.
I was struck by the prevalence of expressions of sadness, but for the most part, a lack of explicit mentions of anger, although anger was clearly reflected in the tone of many of the comments. Several commenters said flat out: I’m not angry; I’m just sad. I see this as being in line with Mormon cultural norms.
Given the general orientation of this site, I was not surprised to find the belief that Elder Oaks had adequately addressed the issue. In reading the reactions of OW supporters, by contrast, I found an overwhelming sense that the Oaks talk did not in fact satisfactorily address their concerns. Whether or not the talk can be seen as a success, then, depends on whom you believe to be its intended audience.
The concern that OW had acted disrespectfully generally appeared to come from the Church’s description of what had happened. The Church’s strategy of describing the event in the way that they did, then, was clearly effective in shaping people’s perceptions. Since this account differed significantly from the accounts of the people who were actually present, I find this discouraging.
I noted two major (and possibly competing) views of OW: they are apostate, and they lack understanding. The first perhaps sheds them in a more negative light, in that they are seen as deliberately rebelling against the prophet and church teachings. The second construes them as simply not grasping basic gospel principles, and being in need of enlightenment.
This includes every category that had at least five comments. (It adds up to more than 203 because some comments included multiple categories.)
|Number of mentions||Comment|
|25||This is sad / This makes me sad|
|17||Elder Oaks satisfactorily addressed the issue|
|15||This is apostasy|
|15||They are disrespectful|
|13||I’m praying for them / We should pray for them|
|12||Separate but equal roles & responsibilities|
|11||They don’t understand the gospel, gender roles, etc.|
|11||This is God’s decision and can’t be changed|
|10||I’m happy with the current situation / Don’t want priesthood|
|9||Women have motherhood|
|9||They’re only a tiny group / Don’t represent the majority|
|9||They don’t believe, have testimonies / Not faithful|
|8||We need to follow the prophet|
|8||Satan is behind this|
|8||Need for charity, kindness, etc.|
|7||They’re following worldly values|
|7||This is a sign of the times / Last Days|
|6||Women are necessary, important, valued|
|6||This isn’t the way to bring about change|
|6||Need to focus on responsibilities, not rights|
|6||They could watch the priesthood session elsewhere|
|5||Separation of wheat & tares, faithful & unfaithful, etc.|
|5||They are divisive / contentious|