Sunday in Outer Blogness: Damage Control Edition!

This past week the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints learned an important lesson in how the Internet changes everything! Our story begins when President Boyd K. Packer chose to make some rather unfortunate remarks in General Conference. Many have pointed out that — given his earlier statements — these remarks weren’t surprising at all (though many had hoped that the CoJCoL-dS had moved away from making factually incorrect statements about how homosexuality works). As soon as the words were out of BKP’s mouth, the faithful started earnestly trying to figure out what to make of it. Faithful Mormon parents of gay kids explained how hurtful the talk was.

Meanwhile, the folks of Outer Blogness started reacting to the talk as well. Statistically speaking, one might speculate that BKP himself is one of those success stories of overcoming SSA. (And think of that poor, ambiguously- gendered kitten!) Now how do we talk to our LDS friends and family about this? Especially considering that — no matter how wrong BKP’s words were and how much damage they may do — faithful members will take criticism of LDS leaders personally. There was a range of advice: Don’t eat the garbage they’re spewing, resign from the church, move on, and stop enabling bigotry. (Is bullying the problem?) Have a constructive dialog with TBMs — call the talk “hurtful” (not “hateful”). Find common ground on families. Watch Glee. Explain patiently what it means to “resist being gay,” and love the sinner, hate the sin. The results? Well, this conference seems to have added to some family conflicts, been neutral for others, and in some cases is increasing friendship between Mormons and their exmo neighbors. It has certainly brought out the straight allies!

Considering that this talk comes on the heels of a rash of gay teen suicides in the news, naturally, Pride in Utah wasn’t about to just let the talk slide without comment. This being the Internet age, Eric and friends were able to organize thousands in a peaceful, even sweet demonstration.

Once Packer’s talk started to hit the news in a big way (and not a good way), the other shoe dropped. All those faithful Mormons who’d been saying that the brethren are just sticking to their guns, regardless of popular opinion….? The CoJCoL-dS decided to leave them high-and-dry by silently editing much of the unpopular content out of the talk, as though no one would notice or care. Changing the meaning without explaining whether Packer’s original words were doctrinally wrong or not. When asked for more specifics about the changes, the church explained, in essence, that they have always reserved the right to make any changes they feel like without any explanation or accountability to anyone. What does it mean that Packer called the Family Proclamation a “revelation” and now, suddenly it’s just a “guide”? Does it have the weight of scripture or what??? None of your beeswax, says Deseret News (my paraphrase).

I’d been planning to give the CoJCoL-dS a little pat on the back, at least, because in their initial reaction to the above-mentioned protest, they said that “the Church recognizes the right of groups to voice their opinion in the public square.” This is a huge step up from an earlier Temple Square protest, where the church spokespeople dishonestly pretended that a peaceful protest somehow represents an infringement on the Church’s right of free speech. Then they had to go and ruin it with this rant:

Nonetheless, tactics used this week ostensibly to accomplish these purposes were counterproductive. Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church’s support of traditional morality.

The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.

You see, this fiasco cannot possibly be something the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS brought on themselves. By definition, the LDS church is perfect! So, logically it must be someone else’s fault. For taking “a statement out of context.” *Facepalm* Never mind that the video that went viral contained a huge chunk of the talk (about as much is as allowed by fair-use laws), placing the controversial statements in context. Mormons who expected their leaders to hold themselves up to a high standard of integrity and accountability are more than disappointed.

In closing, I commend The Exponent for posting about Loving and Conversing Openly With Those Who Have Left the Church, but did they pick the best week for it? Perhaps…

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13 Comments

  1. 1
    Matt says:

    Nice summation, Chanson. Thank you. And thanks for the link to Doves & Serpents. We’re trying to take a subtle approach to this BKP thing but it sure is difficult.

    You’re point about the church making it extremely difficult to comment positively about them because they say something encouraging one hand and swat it down with the other is just so true. There’s clearly a multiple personality disorder at the fore.

    PS. Though D&S is not solidly in outer blogness, it’s also not clearly TBM. I write there after all. :D I think you’ll find that we’re somewhere in the borderlands.

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  2. 2
    chanson says:

    Matt — That’s cool that you’re involved in the Doves & Serpents project! I didn’t realize it.

    I listed you guys in our “TBM Blogroll” just to be on the safe side. I imagine that exmos are less likely to be offended by being grouped with believers than believers are to being grouped with the apostates. If you want me to switch you from one list to the other, just say the word. ;)

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  3. 3

    Well done! I’m wondering how far they’re going to take this with me.

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  4. 4
    chanson says:

    Eric — great work! We’ll see where this leads! :D

    On a personal note: I was wondering if you remember me from our Student Review days…? I think I remember you, though I knew you only tangentially. Weren’t you friends with my older brother, John Hamer? I went by “Carrie” in those days…

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  5. 5
    Molly says:

    Brilliant. This is a valuable resource for summarising the BKP fiasco. Perhaps we just ought to copy it verbatim onto Boyd’s Wikipedia entry?

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  6. 6
    chanson says:

    Molly — Thanks! I wouldn’t object. ;)

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  7. 7
    Alan says:

    What this fiasco goes to show is that after Prop 8, Mormon leaders can’t say anything about homosexuality without their words going viral and being analyzed from all angles. How much is there a feedback mechanism, though? Changes to Packer’s speech, like the erasure of the Family Proclamation as “revelation” to being a “guide” I can see as something the Quorum decided without any input.

    “Now remember, Boyd, we agreed that this proclamation is not revelation.”
    “Ooooh, all right… It’s just that those homosexuals make me so frustrated!”
    *pats on the back* “We know, Boyd, we know.”

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  8. 8
    Matt says:

    Thank you Chanson. You did the right thing following that insight! ;)

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  9. 9
    Ren says:

    Wow. I had no idea the church had edited the talk. Meh. I’ll take that as a positive sign that they recognize how off the deep end Packer was – and he was.

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  10. 10
    Legien says:

    There are some of us who really liked the talk in it’s original form, as it bolstered our hope for the possibility of bringing our lives in line with what we have personally chosen to believe. It’s not often that you hear from those of us who are Mormon, struggle with (insert whatever term you like here for the topic at hand) and have decided that the struggle is worth it.
    I offer my story, incomplete as it may be, as a means to perhaps understand another side of the issue.

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  11. 11
    chanson says:

    Ren — I’d like to say it’s a positive sign that they recognize how off the deep end Packer was, but looking at Legien’s comment, you can see the problem with refusing to specify what was wrong with what he said (if anything). This allows the CoJCoL-dS to give multiple (possibly contradictory) messages.

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  12. 12
    chanson says:

    p.s. to Legien: I’m subscribing to your blog in order to see your perspective on this issue.

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  13. 13

    [...] previous two editions were pretty lively (if not scandalous) so it’s nice to finally be able to relax and take it [...]

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