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

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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.”)

Henry B. Eyring: Renaissance of Happy Marriage

EyringI’m sure you’ve seen by now that Tuesday, Pres. Henry B. Eyring spoke at the Vatican Summit on Marriage. This was a historic event, and one that I hope all members of the Church take note of. It was the first time a member of the First Presidency has met the Pope, and it was also historic in that people of many faiths have gathered to talk and teach about the importance of marriage and families to society.

The full transcript of Pres. Eyring’s remarks are (here) and the video of his remarks is (here).

I am a bit of a word-hound. I notice words in sentences and how they function to impart the meaning of the sentence. I am particularly keen on action verbs, as those usually invite us to do something or show how something was done. I’m going to share a few of these calls to action that popped out at me.

2 Nephi 2. 25Pres. Eyring began by stating he was there to, “give evidence that a man and a woman, united in marriage, have a transcendent power to create happiness for themselves, for their family, and for the people around them.” He was giving evidence that we are meant to be in families, and that families should create happiness. Next he stated, “I am an eyewitness of the power of the union of a man and a woman in marriage to produce happiness for each other and for their family.” Here several words are important. First, the “power of union” that is found in a marriage. The verb here is “to unite.” We are to be united to produce happiness. We are to be happy and have joy. I have noticed the theme of joy lately being taught by many of our Church leaders. And we all are very familiar with Nephi’s declaration in 2 Nephi 2:11 that “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Even when things are not perfect, he encouraged us to strive for the ideal, despite slow outcomes and mocking from the world. Continue reading

When the temple helps

This is a guest post by Daniel Ortner, who blogs at symphony of dissent.

Feminist Mormon Housewives has been running a series entitled When the Temple Hurts, in which members of the Church who had negative or conflicted experiences with the temple have shared their experiences. It seems to me that this has been a useful project in creating a space for individuals to share their feelings and their doubts. I have had several close friends struggle with elements of the temple, and so I know that the feeling of disappointment and disillusionment that some experience is very real. I hope not to diminish from those very real lived experiences in any way.

However, reading the series has made it apparent to me that a place is also needed for individuals to share their positive thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding the temple. I hope that those reading this post will contribute to future posts by sharing those stories and experiences. For those who have been comforted in a time of crisis or received personal revelation in a moment of need, I hope that your stories will inspire and help others. For those who struggled with the temple at first, I hope you will share stories of how you eventually came to find peace and meaning in the ordinances of the temple and that your words will be a balm in Gilead for those in pain.

Of course, different individuals have a different understanding of what they are allowed to speak of regarding temple ordinances. Additionally, many temple experiences are so sacred that they perhaps cannot be appropriately shared outside of the temple or in a public setting. Please use your discretion and follow the promptings of the spirit in deciding what is appropriate to share.

I firmly believe in the promise of Joseph Smith’s Kirtland Temple Dedication: “That thy glory may rest down upon thy people, and upon this thy house, which we now dedicate to thee, that it may be sanctified and consecrated to be holy, and that thy holy presence may be continually in this house; And that all people who shall enter upon the threshold of the Lord’s house may feel thy power, and feel constrained to acknowledge that thou hast sanctified it, and that it is thy house, a place of thy holiness.” I feel very strongly that collecting these stories will help strengthen faith and testimonies and helping others feel the power and holiness of the Lord’s House.

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When the Temple Helps: Daniel’s Conversion

This story is part of a new series, When the Temple Helps. Please feel free to share your stories and testimonies of the temple in order to uplift and inspire others.

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