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For people to change their minds, first, the Church needed to....

is this a correct usage?

what i am trying to say is people will change their minds if the Church does but the Church's changing is a necessity...

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To get people to change their minds, first(ly), the Church needed to ... avoids the ambiguities that using for. –  Edwin Ashworth Feb 26 '13 at 23:34
    
It doesn't seem correct to me for one reason: your example sentence is past tense ("the Church needed to...."), so it's talking about something unreal in the past, but your explanation of what you want it to say is in the future ("people will change their minds if the Church does"), so it's talking about what the Church still needs to do before people change their minds, so it becomes a present conditional, not a past unreal conditional. The grammar of the example sentence is fine, but the question is contradictory. –  user21497 Feb 26 '13 at 23:39
    
How about "If the Church changes its mind, the people will follow suit"? –  rhetorician Feb 27 '13 at 2:10
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1 Answer

I believe that your usage is correct. For clarity, you could add the words that are assumed in your example, i.e.

In order for people to change their minds, first, the Church needed to...

You could also use "before" in its causal sense, i.e.

Before people could change their minds, the Church would need to...

Not a grammarian, just like writing. Cheers.

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I like the first one, but without the word "first". It's clear that "in order to" means that something has to happen first. IMO, assuming it has already happened, "In order for people their minds, the Church needed to .." reads the most naturally. If it hasn't happened yet, the second reads better (or use the first but change "needed" to "needs"). Also, "For people to change their minds, the church (would have to) / (had to) ..." –  David Schwartz Feb 27 '13 at 0:49
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