Changes in temple ceremony leading to changed Mormon attitudes toward gender roles?

Changes to one of the special ceremonies held at the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) that extensively revised and eliminated references to traditional gender roles have been favorably received by church members and may result in more egalitarian attitudes toward gender roles among them, writes Benjamin Knoll in the blog Religion in Public (January 10). The revisions were made to the endowment ceremony held in Mormon temples, which liturgically reenacts the creation of the world and humanity, the Garden of Eden, and God’s establishment of a covenant relationship with Adam and Eve. The ceremony, which is meant to represent God’s covenant relationship with humanity that enables them to return to God’s presence in the afterlife, was revised to elevate the role of Eve to be equal to that of Adam. The responses to these changes among members are reported to be favorable, especially among LDS feminists. Knoll predicts that the revised endowment ceremony is likely to shape Mormon gender attitudes, especially among girls who are more sensitive than boys to the depiction of female role models.

Knoll tests this hypothesis by analyzing the 2016 Next Mormons Survey he conducted with Jana Riess, finding that participation in the endowment ceremony affected attitudes toward gender roles in marriage and church leadership. For instance, 75 percent of those respondents who participated in the endowment ceremony believed that a male-only priesthood was God’s will compared to only 58 percent of those who had not participated; and 69 percent of those participating in the ceremony preferred traditional gender marriage arrangements compared to only 49 percent of those who had not participated. After controlling for church attendance and other demographic factors, participating in the endowment ceremony was still found to increase the difference in preferences regarding gender roles in marriage by 20 percent. Knoll reasons that since the previous endowment ceremony may have raised the level of support for traditional gender roles, this liturgical revision will likely “lead to a gradual shift toward much more egalitarian gender norms among Latter-day Saints.”

(Religion in Public,