Author Date


Degree Name



Political Science


Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Chris Karpowitz

First Faculty Reader

Rachel Cope

Second Faculty Reader

Amy Harris

Honors Coordinator

Quin Monson


women, church, deliberation, political theory, equality, religion


This thesis examines deliberation within ward councils of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My findings suggest ward councils can fall short of the democratic ideals articulated by church leaders. This ideal is captured in Jane Mansbridge’s conception of unitary democracy, which emphasizes friendship, equality, and consensus in decision-making regarding common goals. Ward council members report feeling friendship and unity, but reserve authoritative executive power for the bishop alone. This hybrid dynamic creates potential challenges and tensions with the unitary ideal as participants seek to both express their unique perspectives and defer to one authority.

My interviews show that as in any unitary democracy, there are distinct preferences linked to gender and calling. Certain callings are considered more influential; some women expressed reluctance to share openly, press critical issues, or share negative experiences. Perceived authority and jurisdiction also made some women feel less relevant than men. Notions of respect for authority made women and men less comfortable voicing dissenting opinions or concerns. Finally, women’s advisory role meant that women were not required to assent to a ward council’s plan of action, leaving some women feeling frustrated or powerless once a decision had been made. These factors may inhibit full expression from council members and impede united councils. It is my hope this paper can help men and women listen for and invite female participation in settings where men and women are called upon to “reason together” at church (Isaiah 1:18).