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Scholars pushing for new research on Mormon gender issues

First Published      Last Updated May 14 2014 04:02 pm

More women than ever are serving Mormon missions. They are undertaking new leadership roles. They are gaining greater visibility in church events. Some are wearing pants to Sunday services as a symbolic statement for greater equality. And some are seeking what they see as the ultimate equalizer: admission to the all-male priesthood.

Yes, it's fair to say that gender issues are at the faith's forefront.

That's why a group of scholars has launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a survey of rank-and-file Mormons about their views on the topic.

A primary objective would be to "capture a more nuanced view of gender issues in the Mormon church that is captured by existing (and often-cited) surveys," states an explanation of the project on the kickstarter website. "This survey will capture the views of a wide range of Mormons (not just 'active' Mormons), given that dissatisfaction with gender inequality in the LDS Church often plays a significant role in disaffiliation."

The explanation points to a frequently referenced 2011 Pew Research Center nationwide poll that found 90 percent of Mormon women and 84 percent of LDS men oppose female ordination — a survey that some critics dismiss as dated if not biased.

One of the participating scholars pushing for new research, Ryan Cragun, a sociology professor at the University of Tampa and a former Utahn, noted in an email that the kickstarter campaign already has raised more than $3,000 for at least one detailed survey and that the group hopes to conduct several more.

Other Utah scholars listed for the project include Nancy Ross, who teaches art history at Dixie State University, and Brian Whitney, who is completing his undergraduate work in history and sociology at Weber State University and recently finished a yearlong internship with the History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.