Ten Cultural Insights from 2013 Weekend Polls

By: hawkgrrrl
February 18, 2014

We’ve been conducting a weekend poll regularly here at Wheat & Tares.  Some of the insights are no-brainers. At times, there is a result that takes me by surprise.  Here are some of the most surprising insights (to me) from a year in polls:

For Whom the Wedding Bells Toll

“Is it my turn to put the recycling out or yours?”

68% of readers believe Jesus was married.  I was actually slightly surprised this wasn’t higher given the intersection between traditional Mormon views and The DaVinci Code.  My guess is that this number is somewhat lower for most other faiths, but higher among readers of Dan Brown’s books.

Lust, Actually.

49% of readers believe Oliver Cowdery’s assessment, that Joseph Smith had an affair with Fanny Alger.  The surprising part was the gap between this fairly high percentage and the much lower percentage, only 23%, who believe polygamy was motivated by Joseph’s strong sexual appetite. Why buy the cow?

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

42% of readers believe the three Nephites and John the Beloved are walking the earth today.  Incidentally, only 8.6% believe Cain is still walking the earth.  So much for “only the good die young.”

Sorry, Oliver Stone.

Nearly twice as many of our readers believe George W. Bush misled people about weapons of mass destruction (35%) than believe there was a larger conspiracy surrounding JFK’s death (19%).  I thought everyone believed there was a larger conspiracy surrounding JFK’s death!  Color me surprised.

Take Me to Your Leader.

16% of readers think the wrong guy was picked to succeed Joseph Smith.  (Brigham’s still got 84% of the vote, though).  Clearly this isn’t something people are going to share in Gospel Doctrine class anytime soon.  It probably doesn’t help that we keep disavowing so much of what Brigham Young said, or that so much of what he said (that is repeated on the internet anyway) is racist, sexist, or ludicrous.

No Flipping Way!

One in three voted these shoes off the island.

People predictably didn’t think a hot dog costume was appropriate to wear to church (67% balked at this), but I was shocked to see that one of the most objectionable items to wear to church was flip flops (31% said no way)!  Living in hot climates, these are more common than women wearing pants which only 6% found objectionable.  Just to put it in perspective, the percent of readers objecting to flip flops was nearly the same as those objecting to visible back hair (34%)!

Follow the Prophet, Maybe.

We indoctrinate our kids with the cult-like chanting of “Follow the Prophet / He knows the way” from age 3, we frequently hear statements that “When the brethren speak, the thinking is done,” and yet, we don’t really believe it.  Only 25% of readers said that whatever the prophet instructed in terms of change would be OK by them.  I’m glad this wasn’t much higher, but I suspect it would be higher in many wards (not in practice, but in how people would poll).

For specifics on changes people would welcome, readers would be thrilled if more callings were extended to women (80% wanted women to be called as clerks and Sunday School presidency roles) or even ordaining women (61%), but not so excited if polygamy were reintroduced (93% opposed its reintroduction) or we were instructed to gather in Zion (88% did not want to pull up roots and head to Missouri).  73% wanted an overhaul of church manuals, a number I’m surprised wasn’t higher.  I suppose a few manuals were just redone.

The Cleaning Crew

87% of readers feel pretty strongly that the church should be hiring janitors again rather than relying on members to do it; 71% felt hiring janitors was important in this economy,  and an additional 16% felt it should be done as paid work by members receiving church welfare assistance.  There was also a strong dislike for leaders assigning church cleaning to members rather than having members sign up (75% said it was either inappropriate and presumptuous or that it was ill-advised and would backfire).

Conversely, the majority of readers felt that it was mostly OK to ask people to do for free as a calling what they do professionally:  57% said yes within reasonable time limits, 34% said anything goes unless the member objects, and 29% said it was OK so long as it didn’t hurt their professional business.

Janitors must be a special case then, or it could be related to it taking work away from professional cleaners.  Maybe if it were a calling this view would change.

Goodbye, MPAA

Only 12% of readers made the decision to not see a movie using “no R-rating” as a proxy.  Between 60 and 65% made their decision about movies based on content (violence and nudity), quality, or which actors were featured.

Permissible =/= equal.

O Ye of Little Faith!

Less than 9% of readers thought that a woman would pray in General Conference in 2013.  Yet one did at the very next General Conference.  Women praying in General Conference is the definition of baby steps toward treating women as equals, but we’ve become so jaded we don’t even expect tiny gestures anymore.  When it comes to progress, maybe we should aim higher after all!

What new insights about Mormon culture did you gain in 2013?




11 Responses to Ten Cultural Insights from 2013 Weekend Polls

  1. Toni on February 18, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    I really like your surveys, but have not been able to participate in many of them. I often get, “failed to verify referrer.” If others have this problem, I wonder how your numbers would be different.

    Thanks for the post, though. It was very interesting.

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  2. New Iconoclast on February 18, 2014 at 7:31 PM

    Can I wear flipflops on those days when my back hair shows?

    I believe, in light of the evidence available for what Joseph seems to have planned for and supported prior to his death, that Brigham (as president of the Quorum of Twelve) was the rightful successor to the leadership of the Church. The fact that he is often quoted when his foot is in his mouth in no way lessens his utility to the Church and to the Lord as the hammer by which the Church was forged on the anvil of the Exodus. In addition to his shortcomings, he said many great and wonderful things as well. Wallace Stegner, who takes the Mormons very seriously as a historical phenomenon even if he gives little or no credence to their beliefs, very eloquently expressed his opinion that Joseph, great visionary though he was, might not have had the organizational skills to lead the Saints through a complete uprooting and the trek West. Brigham, on the other hand, was exactly what was needed.

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  3. Geoff - A on February 18, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    I have begun wondering whether the leaders are transitioning us from “Obedience is the first law of heaven”, to “love is the first law of heaven”.

    Obedience is the first law, also includes unquestioning obedience to anything that comes out of SLC, no differentiation in value between Declaration, Proclamation, conference talk, or other teachings from GAs, need to believe that all Apostles have the same views on everything, and that they are infallible, need to sanitise history, because some of it does not fit with everything from SLC is unquestionably good. No differentiation between Gospel, Church and conservative culture. This is an exclusive (there is a tendency to exclude those who do not conform, or at best see them as spiritually inferior) situation. You can obediently hate the people I hate. There is also no communication allowed from members to top leadership.

    This is the view of most of the good people in my ward/Stake.

    What evidence is there for this transition? It started with a number of talks about the Church being different from the Gospel. In the obedience paradigm, church and Gospel are the same, so there is no need to differentiate, in the Love paradigm, the church is here to help us to live the Gospel, to carry forward the priesthood, and administer the ordinances necessary for exaltation. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/converted-to-his-gospel-through-his-church?lang=eng

    In the last conference there was not one repetition of “obedience is the first law of heaven” and a number of quotations of the Saviour saying “Love is the first law of heaven”.
    There were a number of talks about inclusion, though still some excluding. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/ye-are-no-more-strangers?lang=eng

    The statements that are being put out on LDS.org relating to the history of the church are much more honest than they have been in the past. There is still some way to go, but a great step forward. The one on race and the priesthood is particularly important because it undermines many of the assertions of the “obedience is the first law system”. For example; that everything an apostle says is Gospel, it is acknowledged that the denial of the priesthood to Negroes was purely the culture of the time (racism) and had no foundation in the Gospel, or the Lord. “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present in any form.” There were conference talks by Apostles defending racism. (not Gospel, in fact the opposite). It also raises the relative value of proclamations because there was at least one in support of racism. https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng
    Who would have the authority to approve the changes to church history on LDS.org. Surely it would have to be the First Presidency, which means they are initiating this change of direction. This transition is incredibly exciting, but many people have a great deal invested in the obedience paradigm, and may find the transition difficult

    There is obviously going to be some push back, but I’m hoping I’m right

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  4. hawkgrrrl on February 18, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Geoff A – I believe you are right. Time will tell.

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  5. rah on February 19, 2014 at 4:34 AM


    I am glad you are hopeful. However, your view would still require a very forward thinking and united quorum acting with a big long-term plan. I don’t think there is much evidence for this view, sadly. I think they are good, aging men, trying their best to respond to complicated circumstances with attitudes and experiences forged in a very different time. For every step that appears in the love over obedience there is another reinforcing obedience, conservative politics etc. Whether it is Bednar’s latest broadside against the universal power of sealing or Callister’s take on morality to the church’s doubling down on gay marriage you can read the tea leaves the other way as well.

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  6. Jeff Spector on February 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    I think we are seeing a move toward the real application of “Love the Sinner, hate the sin” and more about the sin and less about the sin. I don’t think any fundamental changes in doctrine or principle is at work here, but merely a stronger message sent to members in that regard. Which means the tone of communication from SLC HQ needs to change. Some have not quite gotten the message yet.

    OTOH, out in local leadership, we are going to see changes come a bit more slowly as the council given to those leaders from on high changes. We’ll still have jerks around, because you can never fully purge the system of all jerks, just like in our areas of life.

    In fact, I think there are more good leaders than bad ones, we just hear about the bad ones.

    Now, are some people going to get all the changes they wish for? Probably not.

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  7. New Iconoclast on February 19, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Geoff, I hope you’re right. You’ve put into words something that’s been kind of tickling my mind since early in the presidency of GBH. It seems to me that it will be a fairly long, slow process, not least because of the resistance; the last thing they need to do is start up another few flavors of fundie schisms.

    In a gospel sense, moving in that direction slowly would seem to be the epitome of “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness.” Hopefully the Church learned a lesson by being very far behind the curve on same-sex marriage. They didn’t see it coming, whereas many of us who actually live out in the world knew we had lost that battle a long time ago, and they put themselves in the position of trying to mandate by force of law what should have been attempted by moral suasion and spirit. That was pretty uncomfortable for a lot of folks, especially for people with a history like ours.

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  8. Hedgehog on February 20, 2014 at 2:49 AM

    On the ‘cleaning crew’ v. other professions, I think the within reasonable time limits is the important factor. I also think it would make a very time consuming calling, especially so in buildings used by several units with week night meetings and activities etc. When janitors were employed it was a full-time job.

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  9. Geoff - A on February 20, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Jeff Spector, This concept that you can love the sinner but hate the sin has been devised so that people can still hate whom they want, but claim to be following Christs teaching to love. It’s a lie.

    I’ve been on the receiving end (to a small extent) and there is no love received.

    I think you may be expressing some doubt about it too.

    Yes some of the actions from SLC of the last few weeks do make it harder to have hope for the future of the church.

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  10. […] reports on paternity pants, Brandon had an amazing voyage, Knotty is stepping out in red, and hawkgrrl drew some conclusions from her weekly […]

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  11. Ziff on February 24, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    I don’t have anything to add, but I love this look back, Hawkgrrrl!

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