Who Thinks Women Should Hold the Priesthood? Men, Apparently
Dr. Grant Hardy, LDS author and history professor at UNC Ashville, has a guest post up at Jana Reiss’ Flunking Sainthood: Why Do Mormon Men Want Women to Have the Priesthood More Than Women Want it for Themselves? Money quote:
Authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell asked a wide variety of Americans their opinion about women leading churches. They report that “by 2006 majorities of every religious tradition except Mormons had come to favor women clergy,” including 93% of both Mainline Protestants and Jews, and 75% percent of “Anglo” Catholics (p. 243). Even 66% of Evangelicals agreed, as compared with 30% of Latter-day Saints. In fact, only 10% of Mormon women favor female clergy in their church, which in an LDS context means giving women the priesthood. As Putnam and Campbell note, “Mormons, and especially Mormon women, appear to be the only holdouts against the growing and substantial consensus across the religious spectrum in favor of women playing a fuller role in church leadership.”
Yet the most remarkable finding is that within Mormonism itself, there is a significant split by gender on this question. The number that looks the most extraordinary to outsiders–that only 10% of Mormon women want the priesthood–seems pretty predictable to those inside the faith. But the finding that 48% of Mormon men say they favor female LDS clergy is truly startling.
Grant offers a number of possibilities for this disparity, many that seem reasonable. I would add this to his list: It is more “dangerous”/heretical for a Mormon women to support female ordination than it is for a Mormon man to believe the same. Caroline’s blogpost: “Good Mormon Feminists vs. Bad Mormon Feminists: The Dividing Line” addresses this aptly. A recent Ask a Feminist post at LDSWave.org — while not specifically addressing the issue of female ordination –brilliantly describes the tightrope of working as a faithful feminist within to church to make “doable” changes that support gender equity. The feeling among many of my “faithful Mormon feminist” friends is that once you publicly state that you think women should hold the priesthood, you’ve lost some leverage for working from within; you’ve aroused suspicion. It’s a dividing line.
I’d love to hear your reaction to this poll. Do you really think 48 percent of Mormon men are okay with women holding the priesthood? And only 10% of Mormon women? Do Hardy’s conjectures about the cause of this discrepancy resonate with you? Do you think it is “safer” for men to hold this opinion than women in our culture?