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Good Cop-Bad Cop on Women’s Ordination

General Conference is just around the corner.  Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women website is promoting the idea that women should be ordained to the priesthood, and has organized a campaign to try to get admitted to the males-only General Priesthood Session this coming Saturday night in Salt Lake City.  While some women wouldn’t mind being ordained, not everyone agrees that this is a good tactic.  The Deseret News has recently published a Pew Research Study stating that 90% of LDS women do not support female ordination.  Grant Hardy writes about the gender gap on the issue: nearly 50% of LDS men support female ordination.

It’s hard to argue that Kate Kelly hasn’t spurred some changes.  The LDS Church announced last week that the General Priesthood session will be broadcast on the internet for the first time in history.  The movement to Let Women Pray also caused Church Leaders to call women to pray in General Conference for the first time back in April.  “Wear Pants to Church Day” has drawn attention to the issue of female ordination; it caught the attention of the New York Times.

BYU adjunct professor Margaret Young has a different approach than Kate Kelly.  Young is trying to follow the more moderate process that her good friend Darius Gray used successfully in the late 1960s-1970s.  Darius Gray and a few others didn’t publicly protest the temple and priesthood ban.  Instead they approached church leaders and asked what could be done to prevent blacks from falling inactive.  Junior Apostles (at the time) Gordon B. Hinckley, Boyd K Packer, and Thomas S. Monson organized the Genesis Group and put Darius and a few others in charge of this outreach program.  Margaret believes this quiet approach was more helpful in overturning the ban via revelation in 1978 .  Certainly there were loud protests among the NAACP and other civil rights groups, but those protests had calmed considerably by 1978 when the ban was overturned.

This brings to my mind the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine in which

Darius Gray and Margaret Young are the "Good cops" on the left.  Does Kate Kelly's activism make her the "bad cop"?

Darius Gray and Margaret Young are the “Good cops” on the left. Does Kate Kelly’s activism make her the “bad cop”?

The ‘bad cop’ takes an aggressive, negative stance towards the subject, making blatant accusations, derogatory comments, threats, and in general creating antipathy between the subject and himself. This sets the stage for the ‘good cop’ to act sympathetically: appearing supportive, understanding, in general showing sympathy for the subject. The good cop will also defend the subject from the bad cop. The subject may feel he can cooperate with the good cop out of trust or fear of the bad cop. He may then seek protection by and trust the good cop and provide the information the interrogators are seeking.

Could it be that the combination of tactics–in this case the “bad cop” Kate Kelly promoting protests, and the “good cop” Margaret Young who acts sympathetically for the church is a better way to accomplish female ordination–a method that will work better than if Kate or Margaret acted alone?

The Wikipedia article also talks about how to disrupt such tactics.

  • An experienced subject may choose to deliberately bait the ‘bad cop’ with provocative behavior of his own short of violent provocation (such as derogatory remarks about the bad cop or his family, racial, ethnic and gender slurs if applicable, offensive gestures), hoping that the ‘bad cop’ will lose self-control and react violently towards the subject.
  • Severe verbal abuse or otherwise insulting behavior targeted at the ‘good cop’ has also proven highly disruptive on occasion.

When the ERA amendment was going strong in the 1970s and 1980s, the Church excommunicated Sonia Johnson (the bad cop), and they have also excommunicated some who might be considered good cops such as Lavinia Fielding Anderson.  Do you think the church should/would go after either Kate Kelly or Margaret Young in order to disrupt a movement such as this?

RLDS/CoC historian David Howlett argues that Female Ordination in the LDS Church won’t happen in our lifetimes.  

“I’m terming structural forces–LDS leadership succession practices, internationalization, correlation, continuing revelation, peer pressure, and a desire for social acceptance–drive current ordination policies and make women’s ordination relatively unlikely within any living person’s lifetime.”

However, it seems to me that many of his arguments would have applied to the priesthood/temple ban on black members as well.  I don’t believe that Margaret and Kate are working together.  However, I do think there is a symbiotic relationship going on there.  What do you think?

One comment on “Good Cop-Bad Cop on Women’s Ordination

  1. I think…this article is well done MH!

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