Wolf Pack Patriarchy

Earlier this year I helped my 1st-grader make a wolf habitat diorama and discovered that wolves take their pack hierarchy very seriously.

Remember Benevolent Patriarchy and Chicken Patriarchy?  Today we’re adding Wolf-Pack Patriarchy™ to the list.

Wolves are highly social animals that live in extended or intimate family groups. The pack is led by a mated pair: the Alpha male and female. These family leaders can bond for their lifetimes and are the only breeding members of the pack allowed to reproduce.  The Alpha male breeds with the Alpha female when she is in heat, then guards her from all other interested lower-ranking wolves by biting, barking and growling at them to stay away.

He similarly deters any possible suitors away from lower ranking female wolves when they are in heat (but does not mate with her himself.) This makes sure that only the Alpha genes continue in the pack. Controlled access to females limits which males are allowed to mate.  All other wolves in the pack are single and not allowed to mate with each other.  (with an occasional exception for the Beta male and female)

Lower ranking single wolves often stay at the den to babysit the pups when the Alphas go out to hunt with the pack.

Alphas establish the rules of the pack: who eats first, where each wolf sleeps, who stays with the pups and so on.

Wolves hunt as a pack so they can take down larger prey animals together, since no single wolf can hunt a deer or elk alone. Packs are territorial in where they live and hunt, rarely overlapping with other packs.

The lowest ranking wolf of the pack is the Omega. This wolf is picked on, bullied, teased, dominated and forced to submit.  The low-ranking wolves can be ousted from the pack and forced out on their own. (The “lone-wolf”)  Without a pack, these lone wolves can starve to death.  Sometimes lone wolves or other outcast Omegas band together and become their own pack, with a former Omega male and female becoming the Alphas of a new pack.

The Alphas use the lower ranking wolves for help raising the pups and for hunting as a group, but low-ranking wolves are significantly underprivileged with restrictions about eating, sleeping, procreating and general status in the pack.

Similar hierarchy systems exist in Mormonism, with Alpha male and female – or AlphaMormons (monogamous couples sealed in the temple, one or both returned missionaries) being the acknowledged “ideal” and given leadership callings within the church. Bishops, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents and Temple Presidents, Area Authorities and Apostles must all be temple-married at the time of their calls.  Individuals married to a non-member are like BetaMormons: allowed a few more privileges than single people, but still not fully respected or allowed to lead. Single people are the Omega -automatically lower ranked and not considered for leadership callings, with the exception of single women being called as auxiliary leaders at local and general levels.  Like members of the wolf pack, childless women are told that they are “all mothers” as they nurture other people’s children.

The “Patriarchy” part of this analogy is that the AlphaMormons in power are the ones who control access to reproduction and the raising of children. For example, chaste single women in the church are discouraged (and sometimes disciplined) by church leaders and handbook policies from having a child via artificial insemination and raising them as a single parent.  Single people are discouraged from adopting or fostering children. Through church policies, it is dictated that same-sex couples may not marry or raise children.  No exceptions seem to be made for single people who are exceptional nurturers or who would make excellent foster parents, nor for committed same-sex partners to experience the joys of family life. The “joys of family life,” it seems, are reserved only for AlphaMormons, and the rest of the pack is barred from full participation.  Even those who have chosen a satisfying and fulfilling life without spouse or children are told that they’ll get those “blessings in the next life” as though it’s automatically assumed they want those things and are missing out on something in the meantime.

Children aside, the Wolf-Pack-Patriarchy mentality means that any non-Alphas are forbidden from having any sort of sexual expression as a part of their single life. (ironically one of our “God-Given” inclinations)

By extension, AlphaMormon Heaven is exclusive of single people, relegating them to the status of “ministering servants” to the fully exalted couples, as though heaven didn’t have enough room for everyone to have full privileges.

How did Jesus treat single people, or those with differing marriage practices? We know Mary and Martha (single women and sisters living together) were his beloved friends and disciples.  The Samaritan woman at the well had been married 5 times and was cohabitating with a man to whom she was not married but was the first to receive his declaration of his divine mission.  The woman taken in adultery was not condemned, but forgiven and excused to go and sin no more.  For those who will argue “it’s not man’s prerogative to change the patriarchal structures God has put in place,” let’s reaffirm that Jesus is not the source for discriminatory actions against single people, nor does he place restrictions on who can care for children, so long as they don’t abuse his “little ones.” Jesus declares himself both “Alpha” and “Omega” – showing that his empathy is for both leader and outcast.

It’s time to abandon the language of hierarchy and superiority when it comes to marriage, children and sexual expression.  In our deepest hearts, we know this exclusive mindset is discordant with the wishes of a loving Mother and Father God for their children. Salvation is individual and unique!  It’s time to make our worship services and church fellowship fully inclusive of all individuals, without teaching that some members have more ideal lives than others. Nobody should be judged for having a “counterfeit” lifestyle when they are in the pursuit of what brings happiness and goodness to their lives.

This analogy shouldn’t have been so easy to write.



  1. All that we are missing in our actual church structure is the reformation of the omegas into their own Alpha groups! Why do we not do that, but continue to stay and subject ourselves to constant grinding under the thumbs of the Alphas? It can be so debilitating, spiritually and mentally (I can attest to the mental health toll that it takes) and is causing suicides for some demographics.

    I have been watching omegas in other faiths break away and form their own new Alpha faith communities, led by the likes of Glennon Doyle, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Shane Claiborne, and more. They are amazing, inspired–truly Christ-centered leaders. Even now, while other protestant leaders stay silent on issues like #MeToo and/or the children being ripped away from their parents at the borders (evangelical powerhouse Beth Moore chose to discuss cheesecake baking on her social media with her nearly million followers as this news is unfolding), Glennon Doyle et al are mobilizing: donations, congressional leader-writing campaigns, prayer circles, Bible verse corrections for those swayed by Sessions…all sorts of advocacy going on among this amazing group of omegas-turned-Alphas. But where is *our* LDS omega-turned-alpha pack? Why are we silent and not ministering to the downtrodden? Why are we turning our faces away from the “stranger” in their time of need? Sure, we have a few LDS people who were excommunicated who have smallish followings and speak out on social justice, but nothing like the protestants have–they have people of great faith who broke away on their own (not excommunicated first) who declared: “Christ lived a higher law, I plan to live it too; who is with me?” If somebody were brave enough to do that among us, I would want to join them. Because Christ cares about women, refugees, gays, and those families at the border. Our church is silent and not showing much care or concern for any of the above. Show who is out there ministering in Christlike ways to those who need it most and I will follow (bringing my Book of Mormon with me). For now, Glennon Doyle & Co are all I have, but they are not an organized religion; they’re more of an online movement.

    • Really good points! I would even take it a step farther and say that the most prominent post-mormon groups are no upgrade, they’re still patriarchal wolf-packs.
      I love your examples of post-Protestant women leaders who are actually taking their followings and enacting real change in meaningful ways with a partnership model. Their kindness still speaks as truth to people who earnestly wish to follow Christ in their actions, which makes them figures that believing Mormons could get behind.

    • We do have our Glennon Doyle-esque leaders–they just aren’t allowed to get to vocal or they risk losing their membership. For example, the founder of Encircle in Provo is a woman. But I couldn’t tell you her name–I never hear her using her voice for advocacy, because I assume it would sound too much like apostasy, and that could put her membership in jeopardy. So she performs her service, stays offline–no loud Doyle-esque publications, rallies, campaigns–but she is in the trenches radically serving like the Savior the way Doyle is.

    • “the most prominent post-mormon groups are no upgrade, they’re still patriarchal wolf-packs.”

      This is exactly what I’ve seen too. It’s super depressing to me that even people deciding to discard Mormonism are typically so unwilling or unable to discard one of its most toxic aspects: patriarchy.

  2. It’s an interesting analogy, and I agree that there is not an equal (nor viewed as equally valid) place for anything other than the standard ‘ideal’ model of mormonism. Are you simply pointing out a problem? Or are you also advocating for something specific should be different?

    For example you say, “the Wolf-Pack-Patriarchy mentality means that any non-Alphas are forbidden from having any sort of sexual expression as a part of their single life.” Are you arguing that extra-marital sex should be endorsed?

    Or, “AlphaMormon Heaven is exclusive of single people, relegating them to the status of “ministering servants” to the fully exalted couples”, do you believe marriage is not necessary to live the highest degree of heaven?

      • I’m not sure what that is, but I can see if you don’t know me how that might look like some sort of entrapment question. If you check out my blog or personal description, I think you’ll see I’m not the type of person interested in trapping someone in their words or beliefs. I’m genuinely interesting in a variety of views and opinions, and from this piece alone I couldn’t tell exactly what you were aiming for / what you believe.

        • Thanks, helpful. I googled ‘sealion trap’ and didn’t see a description. Yeah, that’s not what I’m doing here, I think the fact that the author is part of the ‘Alpha’ demographic and I am not, further highlights this.

      • Steve, I’m not sure what ‘Alpha’ demographic you are putting me in. I’m just choosing not to engage your question because I think it will go nowhere.

        • Yeah, you don’t know me, no pressure to share your views if you don’t want to. I thought it was relevant to the post and I was trying to understand better what you were getting at. I see that you are married with children, which was the primary Alpha demographic you mentioned. I am not married, I very much feel like a second class citizen so to speak, like it seems you are pointing out in your analogy, so your thoughts on single people and potential implications are what interested me.

      • Steve:
        Okay, I understand better now. I can let my heretic flag fly a bit, I suppose.
        I look at it this way: how does a person square how they feel about section 132? It’s got some pretty hard to swallow doctrine. Many folks who fundamentally disagree with the premise of 132 as being “not god’s will” can throw that section out of the canon as an error on the part of JS. (like Carol Lynn pearson’s Book illustrates)
        However, in doing so, does one also throw out the principles of eternal families, marriage and increase along with it?
        I think the church as a whole has made the “ideal” (cis-het-monogamous marriage + kids) a false idol, to the point of emphasizing eternal families over being like Jesus. Sometimes it seems like I attend the Church of the traditional family of Latter Day Saints. I don’t like how we worship family like a deity.
        That doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids or spouse, but I don’t see heaven as a tiered place where only cis-het-monogamous or polygamous people can do. I think heaven has plenty of room for single people, gay people, and so on. I think heaven has room for whoever wants to be like Jesus.
        I think we overemphasize Hetero marriage as a qualifier to get into heaven. I doubt that’s how it will actually be.

        Jesus said:
        “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life”

        I think we would be better served to focus on following him than enforcing our strict Mormon way of looking at marriage and family relationships.

        • I have no problem with heretical views, especially when a person is sincere, and find it a shame when they are so quickly condemned. Exploring different views really helps me think through and refine my own, and I really appreciate you sharing yours.

          “Sometimes it seems like I attend the Church of the traditional family of Latter Day Saints.” – made me smile. I understand the importance of the family, and never more so as I witnessed my own break and the fallout of that reality. At the same time I totally agree we’ve overemphasized the nuclear family unit, and at our own expense, everyone suffers, especially at the fringes. I get where it’s coming from when I look at our development as a church and people, I think we are growing; my hope is our theology will continue to mature and respond to the suffering that is happening. I believe a greater truth can encompass all that we now believe and come to the healing of those who hurt on the various and many margins that exist today. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. The great paradox of the patriarchal wolf pack is that it is based on something the church does not believe. It is based on Eve “sinning” or “transgressing” and, therefore, being put second in the couple hierarchy. How absurd is it that the church does not believe that Eve did something wrong, but goes all in on the patriarchal order?

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