Situational crisis communication theory (SCCT), experimentally created by W. Timothy Coombs in 2007, is designed to help crisis managers evaluate a crisis situation and craft an effective response strategy based on the organization's crisis history, the crisis type, and prior reputation with stakeholders.This thesis examined the November 2015 controversial handbook policy update from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which ruled same-sex marriage as grounds for excommunication. Exploring the policy change as a crisis in the context of SCCT and comparing the Church's crisis response strategies with the recommended strategies of SCCT exposes a gap in current SCCT literature—the theory does not lend itself well to crises where an organization's values or guiding morals are under attack. In these scenarios, the organization is unlikely to apologize for or acknowledge the crisis. The study results demonstrate substantial shifts in stakeholder attitudes following certain strategic statements from the Church even though the Church did not strictly adhere to SCCT's guidelines. According to SCCT's guidelines, because the stakeholder groups framed the handbook change as a crisis of organizational misdeed with injuries the majority of the time, the Church should have responded with third-tier strategies that bolstered its reputation and apologized or compensated those harmed by the policy. Instead, the Church has never apologized for the policy change and specifically reminded stakeholders of its past policies regarding same-sex marriage. Although the Church used the same strategies throughout the entire crisis, the Church's relatively larger use of crisis basics, justification, and protection in its second wave of statements on November 13, 2015 shifted the crisis framing and sentiment of bloggers and John Dehlin from negative sentiment with frames of high-level crisis responsibility to neutral and positive sentiment with a majority of blogs and social media posts not framing the policy change as a crisis.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





crisis communication, situational crisis communication theory, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints



Included in

Communication Commons