What Thanksgiving Means to Me

400 years ago, King James I encouraged his fellow Brits to worship in any church they wished, as long as it was the Church of England. Everyone else was persecuted.

One group, the Separatists (whom we usually call Pilgrims) left England for the Netherlands, in search of religious liberty.  In the Netherlands, they did have religious freedom, but were treated as second class citizens; they did not have economic freedom.  The Separatists decided there was only one final option: travel to edge of the world.  Obtaining financing and a charter to establish a colony in the Virginia area, 102 people set off on the tiny ship, the Mayflower.

The voyage was not an easy one. Miraculously, only two people died on the crossing. One of those was a sailor, who swore and cussed frequently. The Separatists warned him that he would bring a curse upon their ocean voyage, but he did not listen.  He was washed away during a storm.

A similar incident occurred to John Howland, my ancestor.  He was an indentured servant to John Carver. During a major storm, he was on deck trying to take a message from Governor Carver to the ship’s captain.  A large wave hit the deck and carried him overboard.  By a stroke of Providence, he was able to grab hold of a rope as he was swept overboard, and held on underwater for several minutes until the sailors could haul him back aboard.

Arriving to the Americas, the Pilgrims found the storms had pushed them further north than they planned. It was too late in the year to travel down to Virginia, and so they established a new charter for the group: the Mayflower Compact. This covenant was signed by 41 men. In William Bradford’s handwriting, the charter reads:


In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, 1620.

John Carver
William Bradford
Edward Winslow
William Brewster
Isaac Allerton
Myles Standish
John Alden
Samuel Fuller
Christopher Martin
William Mullins
William White
Richard Warren
John Howland
Stephen Hopkins
Edward Tilley
John Tilley
Francis Cooke
Thomas Rogers
Thomas Tinker
John Rigsdale
Edward Fuller
John Turner
Francis Eaton
James Chilton
John Crackstone
John Billington
Moses Fletcher
John Goodman
Degory Priest
Thomas Williams
Gilbert Winslow
Edmund Margesson
Peter Browne
Richard Britteridge
George Soule
Richard Clarke
Richard Gardiner
John Allerton
Thomas English
Edward Doty
Edward Leister
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Another Approach to Addressing Gender Concerns

Taylor_wivesIn light of the recent discussions about Joseph Smith having many wives and the gender issues survey, I think it’s not inappropriate to bring up the impact beliefs about polygamy have had on the way men and women behave towards one another in the Church.

One thing that I have found quite striking in my discussions with Mormon men about Joseph’s polygamy is the large number who cannot wrap their minds around a Joseph who might have remained physically faithful to Emma, or at the very least didn’t go to bed with every woman he could corner into having sex.

When I talk about this to non-Mormons, they get the implications of the small number of children and the fact the DNA data fails to prove any of the children were engendered by Joseph. They get the idea that there wasn’t effective birth control in 1840.

But Mormon men, in particular, are very invested in a Joseph who was sexual in his plural marriages. Why? Why is my hypothesis on this point treated with derision by some Mormon males who have studied polygamy? What does the “traditional” view of Joseph do for them that they are so invested in protecting it? Continue reading

On Social Science and Bias

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I wanted to venture once more into the contentious subject of the recent survey that has been distributed across the internet, ostensibly to learn more about the beliefs of members of the LDS church with regards to gender roles within the church. Earlier this week, we posted some initial concerns we had about the survey. Yesterday, Dr. Andrew Auman shared his thoughts as well.

The concerns expressed so far have ranged from the biases of the researchers to the construct validity of the questions on the survey. The accusation is that the survey does not objectively measure what it claims to be measuring, that the results will not be analyzed objectively, and that the research in this and other ways fails to meet the standards of rigorous research that good scholarship generally ought to have. All of these concerns are legitimate. I just wanted to contribute a critique of the project from a slightly different point of view. Continue reading

Research Integrity in the Social Sciences: 5 Things The Mormon Gender Issues Survey Group Can Learn from Pew Research Center

This is a guest post by Dr. Andrew Auman, who holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics from Utah State University, and a Ph.D. in astrodynamics from the University of Surrey. His research interests include geometric integration, geometric estimation, and attitude and orbital mechanics. He is also a semi-regular contributor to the blog Just An Average Mormon


Recently, a survey by The Mormon Gender Issues Survey Group (TMGISG) has been floating around social media, and I have accepted an invitation to write this guest post as I wanted to weigh in on the discussion surrounding this survey and TMGISG’s approach to their research.

To those unfamiliar with the online dialogue surrounding the research being performed by TMGISG, many individuals are calling into question TMGISG’s research methodologies. The concern is that the wording used in the TMGISG’s survey shows a bias in support of the ordination of women to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—whose members are commonly referred to as Mormons. Individuals have also expressed concern in the ambiguity of some questions; e.g., what constitutes a “good Mormon”? And there are further concerns that not only do the answers provided on the survey not reflect the most commonly held views on the topics in question, but that at times the only answers provided contain views with which respondents cannot fully agree mixed in with those views to which they do ascribe. That this is the case is acknowledged in the survey. But as these biases, ambiguities, and false dichotomies could easily be removed by the inclusion of additional choices and/or the rewording of current answers, why was the effort not made?

The purpose of this post is to discuss research ethics, and apophasis is not my intent in the above expression of concerns being brought up in the dialogue elsewhere regarding TMGISG’s research practices. May the interested reader peruse the survey and what has been said on the matter for themselves, thoughtfully reflect, and then draw their own conclusions about its phraseology. I simply mention these issues as they are pertinent to the matter of ethics in research, and will be referred to herein without rehashing them for the sake of brevity—brevity being an admittedly relative term.
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A survey about the biased gender survey

If you, like many of M*’s readers, found the recent gender survey being passed around very biased, you may find this one a bit better.

Take this this survey instead.

(This was sent to us by M* reader Sydney Bone, who said the following: “I created a survey about the methods used in the Mormon Gender Issues Survey, in a large part in response to your article about said survey. My survey provides a way to collect data on people who responded to the Mormon Gender Issues Survey on whether or not they felt the survey was biased. In the event that the Mormon Gender Issues Survey is used to spread false information about the church, it will be nice to have data about how many people expressed concerns about the survey methods. I would appreciate it if you could promote my survey to your readers.”)