The Straw Man That Broke The Deseret News’s Back
In case you missed it, there is an editorial in the Deseret News about the criticism LDS Inc. is receiving over Boyd Packer’s homophobic talk during General Conference. The editorial is both dishonest and weakly argued. Let’s start with the half-truths:
This focused attention on the LDS Church is deeply ironic given the church’s shared condemnation of hate and violence toward gays and lesbians, its mutual support of anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians and its compassionate ministry to LDS Church members who have same-gender attraction.
LDS Inc. makes one step toward preventing discrimination against LGBTQs in housing in Salt Lake City, possibly for self-serving reasons,and they think they can claim to support anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians? This is like a serial killer who targets adult women finding out that a potential target is 17 and deciding to not kill her, then claiming that he opposes murder. LDS Inc. led the fight for Proposition 8 in California (among other states), which is a law enshrining DISCRIMINATION! To claim that it opposes discriminatory laws against LGBTQs is absurd.
Then there’s this beauty:
Interestingly, given the events of this week, Elder Holland spoke about other church leaders: “I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘ We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’?”
Right, LDS Inc. doesn’t “reject” you, they just reject a large part of what makes you, um, you. So, it’s not like they reject “all of you,” just a large part of you. That should make LGBTQs feel better, right? Oh, and of course, the fact that they demand you remain celibate and deny your sexual orientation FOR LIFE is their way of showing you love, not hatred. ‘Cause, well, when someone loves you they deny you companionship and companionate love. You know that’s what “loving” someone means, right?
Here’s the last half-truth:
Perhaps the focused attention has come because the LDS Church continues to assert principled opposition to same-sex marriage, a view shared by most Americans. Indeed, the majority of states have passed legislation clarifying that marriage is between a man and a woman.
So, it is true that the majority of states have passed such legislation. But last time I checked pollingreport.com views toward same-sex marriage were split nearly 50/50 (actually, more like 45/45 with 10% unsure). I guess if you want to fudge the numbers a bit you could believe the claim that “most Americans” agree with LDS Inc., but I think that is stretching the data.
Finally, there is the straw man that is basically the gist of the article (follow this link if you don’t know what a straw man is):
We encourage all to read President Packer’s talk rather than simply rely on the media interpretations and selective quotations. It stretches all credulity to find in President Packer’s pastoral counsel what some are calling a hateful message “that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide.” Contrary to what some have written in provocative press releases, nothing in President Packer’s talk says that “violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.”
Boyd Packer didn’t say “kill gay people.” Yep. That’s true. He didn’t. Yea Boyd! This, of course, is a straw man as no one actually said he did advocate direct violence against LGBTQs. The editorial team at The Deseret News knocked this straw man down pretty impressively. Way to go!
Of course, what critics of his talk have said all along is that his talk is just the sort of rhetoric that leads young homosexuals to feel like who they are is a sin and is immoral, leading to suicide, bullying, discrimination, abuse, and violence. Indirectly his beliefs and teachings lead to violence, but not directly. That the editorial team at The Deseret News and LDS Inc. continue to deny this is basically like flipping the bird to the parents of all the kids who have killed themselves for just this reason, and the numbers who have aren’t insignificant.
Will anyone take the Deseret News seriously anymore if this is the level of writing they have to offer? I have a new slogan for the revamped Deseret News:
Deseret News, where defending The Church is more important than the lives of young people.
Politically what matters is that the LDS is on defense instead of offense. The Mormons got stuck holding the bag for the radical anti-gay agenda. LDS tried to buy the love of evangelicals by focusing–obsessing–on gay equality as the #1 memetic marker of Mormonism after polygamy.
I love that Mormons are embarrassed by their geezer “Apostles,” that they were forced to change the text and got taught doing it. And I am especially glad that Boyd K Packer will always be remembered for the bigot that he is, that in his last days he brought shame on the Saints.
Thank you Heavenly Father for showing me again that the LDS Church is run by stupid men, and not by God.
My favorite part of the editorial was the link to redacted transcript. Clever!
Here, let me “clarify the intent” of the Deseret News’s editorial:
Much better now.
Nice job, prof.
The proof is in the wiggle and this so-called editorial wiggles like over-watered green jello.
I’m seeing all over the TBM chat-o-sphere so much talk about how the church is a strong advocate of free choice and the BKP was just making the choice clear.
I’ll tell you something about this so-called freedom to choose: if your choice, according to Mormon doctrine, is between eternal glory and life with those you love and something less what kind of choice is this? It’s a choice designed to exalt those who choose correctly and condemn (you know, with a condescending “but we still love you because you’re god’s _special_ children”) those who do not. Now and then some one-in-a-million-person might says she chose right over her sexual orientation but does not hold this to be right for everyone — yet this is inconsistent with what Mormonism actually teaches: that it is the one and only true church of God and that if all people want to achieve ultimate actualization they must eventually choose the Mormon way, thus their constant pressure in the nation’s legal and legislative and PR battles around gay marriage. So right there miss one-in-a-million speaks only from her own authority. Unfortunately, this is the only way for a non-heterosexual to come to terms with Mormonism. Sad.
And look at the crowds of TMBs rallying around miss one-in-a-million with their “likes” and shares and comments. This is just what true believing Mormons want to hear. Not that she’s found a way to rationalize Mormonism (they’ll conveniently ignore this point since it comes as a minor cost with a big return), but that she claims to be an example of choice being doable for God.
Actually, now that I think about it, wasn’t there a point in the “For the Young Men Only” talk/pamphlet (or some other talk around that time), where the speaker said or implied that if a gay guy hits on you, punching him is an appropriate response? Am I remembering wrong…?
He said exactly this: “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.”
I also love the line “I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.”
James — Are those quotes from “To the Young Men Only”?
It makes this straw-man just that much more ironic. As ProfXM points out, the critics of BKPs talk from last week didn’t accuse BKP of advocating direct violence against LGBTQs. Though, since Deseret News is bringing it up, to show how much the CoJCoL-dS opposes violence against LGBT folks, maybe they ought to openly repudiate that pamphlet…
As awful and as disgusting and as disheartening and even humourous as these stupid editorials and pathetic efforts at CYA are, I gotta say “keep ’em coming” because more and more people are seeing right through it. It’s driven me to readiness at resignation and my husband is just a few feet behind me.
It’s also making a friend or two of mine think “Uhm, something’s just not right here…”
I especially love the admonition for members to READ the talk instead of watching it, lol.
It would seem that the view that homosexuality is “a large part of what makes you, um, you.” is the crux of the issue. I for one do not identify myself as a gay man. I have had sex with men, and I enjoyed it while it was happening, but that does not mean that it is a large part of who I am. Indeed, each individual gets to decide what they will use to define themselves. The fact of some people choosing to define their lives based on their sexual preferences (wait, does that word imply too much choice?) does not mean that this means of defining themselves should be forced on others.
Perhaps reading the story of someone who is living the other side of the issue will help us understand a little bit better where the others are coming from, and perhaps will foster some civility and understanding from both sides, instead of the seemingly constant pejoratives.
Julie M. Smith, Times & Seasons, An Open Letter to the Deseret News: “Your latest editorial shows a disturbing lack of integrity.”
Thing is, Julie, DN and the LDS leadership know they can get away with it, b/c their readers/followers happen to display a disturbing excess of blind loyalty, e.g.: I Support Boyd K. Packer and WE LOVE YOU – President Boyd K. Packer
By the way, if you’re a FB’er, you’re invited to click and ‘attend’ this ‘event’: BOYD K. PACKER: WE DON’T HATE YOU~WE JUST DON’T AGREE WITH YOU!! and to accept this Invitation to Leave the LDS Church
Julie’s piece is very good. She shows a lot of courage and integrity to be willing to bring this point up and discuss it. The CoJCoL-dS’s media arms are doing a tremendous disservice to those faithful Mormons who want their leaders to show leadership and integrity.
Excerpt from To Young Men Only:
Speaks for itself.
RE: legien #10
I understand that not everyone identifies with their sexual “orientation” (a little less controversial than “preference”), but most people do. I’m a heterosexual male. If someone were to ask me to identify myself using adjectives, it would make the top 20, if not the top 10. Characteristics that don’t differentiate people from others aren’t always given priority in self-definitions. Minority characteristics often are given priority, so it would be somewhat surprising to me if self-identification and self-definition for open homosexuals in the U.S. didn’t include a reference to their sexual orientation. I could be wrong on that, but I don’t think I am.
They really need to stop publishing To the One. Words have consequences.
One has to give the brethren credit for trying to respond to gay suicide responsibly. On the other hand, the steps that they have taken are modest. Modest might be too big of a word, actually. Incremental or tiny are more accurate.
But the fact remains, that the brethren have made an about face. They do recognize that they have an obligation towards their gay members and that the LDS Church has to become a safe place for our gay children and neighbors, which also implies an acknowledgment that it is not a safe place currently.
That gives us a lot of leverage to demand change. When we do, the brethren are now in a position where their past actions commit them to acknowledge the merits of our case.
They will move as slow as possible and consider every tiny step a major concession and a tremendous sacrifice, which is, of course, ridiculous. In turn, that gives us more leverage to demand more change.
The handwriting is on the wall, however. The brethren themselves may not be willing to change themselves but they have flipped the switch so that their successors can align the Church with its host culture when bigotry becomes too costly.
The church responds to an HRC petition.
Anyone want to pick it apart? I will if no one else wants to, but I’m short on time at the moment.
By Common Consent is taking a crack at it. MoHoHawaii’s #83 captured the highlights:
I’ll try to post the video from the HRC presser once it’s available (the LDS presser is already online at Kuri’s link above).
Looks like KSL is first out of the chute with video (pls notice links on right side of video story box to the ‘LGBT press conference’, etc.). Equally impressed that KSL ran this as HRC’s highlighted money quote:
One thing I found interesting about the press release is that it seemed to incorporate some of the criticism leveled at the Deseret News editorial. The Des News mentioned “[the church’s] mutual support of anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians…,” which was roundly criticized (including in this very post) because of its open call for discrimination in the case of Prop 8, etc. But the church’s release added a qualifier: “…while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.”
It’s as if the Deseret News editorial was a trial run for the church’s press release. Run the editorial, read the criticism, and then try to head some of it off in the official church statement. I wonder if that’s how it works.
Kuri — I was thinking the same thing. Send out the first draft as a Deseret News editorial (so it’s not officially the church talking, sort-of), then get a free online critique from the Bloggernacle in order to write the official version.
They might not have planned it that way, but they almost certainly took the criticism of the DN article into account when writing this new statement.
I’m just beginning to listen now: the latest from Doug Fabrizio over at KUER (featuring Dialogue’s Kristine Haglund).
Update: Only halfway through at this point, but already I’ve no qualms heartily recommending that MSP readers take the time to listen in. Whether offered up almost sotto voce (as ‘nacclers like Kristine tend to do) or as a cri de coeur (no apologies from me or the DAMU for that tendency, thank you very much), we do seem to be approaching something like an event horizon on this topic, where our faith (and stylistic) differences cannot escape the gravitational pull of the truth about our LGBT brothers and sisters (they’re as good as any, often better than most, and entirely deserving of our unconditional love and acceptance).
That said, I’m content leaving the task of mapping inconvenient ‘inclinations’ onto Mormon theology to its believers. My own interest has always been in simply goading the LDS leadership into making some reasonable accommodations in the public square. Requiring that similar accommodations be made in Mormon theology is admittedly above my pay grade (or at least not an authentic concern of mine as a non-believer). In other words, for any believers out there, this is my personal invitation to bring your unique cartography to MSP in a guest post.
Final update: All done listening. Great discussion. Some excerpts from the last few minutes:
I think maybe I’m gonna take back what I said about not wanting to take on Mormon theology (or at least, mark me down as now interested in taking on Mormon deference to General Authorities). I’ll leave it for now, but does anyone else wanna take a stab at unpacking Kristine’s last three comments? As far as I can tell, there’s a lot of tension in her bewildering triptych: our kids trump theology; BKP never meant to suggest otherwise; but even if he did, he should be pardoned for being that cruel OT God’s biggest fan because he’s getting on in years.
By the way, for anyone who followed those rah rah BKP Facebook pages, this anecdote probably comes as no surprise:
What I’m wondering is whether such Mormon behavior is a bug or a feature? Is it the result of Mormon group polarization? (a term I first noticed here)
FWIW, I just recently wrote a post about how I think gay marriage and Mormon theology can be reconciled.
I look forward to reading it when I get back home, Kuri. Your site, like too many others, is inaccessible from behind the Great Firewall of China. MSP and Reddit load, no problem. But there’s no YouTube, no Facebook, no Twitter, and no access to half the bloggernacle or DAMU. The waxworks running the show here on the mainland make the Mormon gerontocracy look like progressive heroes.
Yeah, that last bit was really lame. It wasn’t the final question I was expecting, and I was really tired and not very smart by then. What I wish I’d said was that President Packer is facing the end of his life, thinking about his legacy, and he feels that the moral universe he has spent his entire life describing and defending is under siege. It’s not surprising that he’d be even more combative than he always has been.
Something like that.
Oh, and I do think that BKP might choose defending principle over responding to a flesh-and-blood child–what I wanted to say is that we shouldn’t. Even if we can’t solve the theological dilemma Packer points to, we should be able to respond with love on an immediate, practical level. Mormons love their families, yes, but sometimes they love their ideal of the family more–when parents choose to leave the comfortable realm of families-are-forever certainty to respond in loving ways to their gay children, they are living out the best of Mormonism (and Christianity more broadly). I hope that Otterson’s remarks encourage more parents in that direction.
Kristine – You were impressive (as always) on Doug’s show. What I can’t figure out is why he gets a full hour of your brilliance and MSP can’t even get a guest post?
ah, resorting to public shaming, huh? As soon as I think of something worthy of your august readership!
Chino @23 — I’m listening to the radio interview, too — it’s great.
My favorite point so far has been noting that in Otterson’s statement, he finally grouped Mormons with other minorities like gay people — instead of pretending that Mormons are somehow uniquely persecuted but the mainstream (and lumping gay people into that mainstream). This is the one thing I’ve been trying for years to get across to Mormons, and I’m so glad it’s finally coming from someone that the faithful will listen to!
Kristine — We would love it if you could write us a guest post!
“Boyd Packer didnt say kill gay people. Yep. Thats true. He didnt. Yea Boyd! This, of course, is a straw man as no one actually said he did advocate direct violence against LGBTQs. The editorial team at The Deseret News knocked this straw man down pretty impressively. Way to go!”
Actually profxm, reading the news coverage, and chatter in the online gay community every day, I would say you’re off base here.
This is exactly what Packer has been accused of – repeatedly. They are pretty-much saying he advocates direct violence against gays. I read it just about everywhere I go.
Can you give examples? I’ve read a lot of coverage of this so far and have yet to see anyone say as much (aside from our discussion on this page where he clearly advocates punching a gay man who comes on to you if you’re a missionary, which even we haven’t equated with a general advocacy of violence). Show me a few links and I’ll be convinced.
“They are pretty-much saying he advocates direct violence against gays.”
But he pretty much has. In a General Conference talk. That was published by the church as a pamphlet for decades.
Seth, read the most offending statement again:
That says that some have written (in “provocative press releases”) that Packer said (in this Conference talk) that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.” I’m with ProfXM — find me these press releases and/or show me evidence that they exist.
This straw-man is actually kind of insulting because it implies that the critics haven’t even bothered to read or hear the talk, which is not true.
Well, if I’d known I was going to be asked for examples one day, I would have kept a log or something.
Since I didn’t, you’ll have to just settle for one man’s opinion and take it for what it’s worth.
@Seth R #32:
surely if you read just about everywhere you go that They are pretty-much saying he advocates direct violence against gays, you could retrace your steps and find a few examples? Or do a google search? or something? Surely you wouldnt expect anyone to accept your OPINION that what you said was a fact, if you cant actually produce evidence that what you said was anything but a completely groundless assertion?
Holly, I don’t expect you to take my word for it. If you simply keep your eyes open for this kind of behavior in the future, that’s more than enough for me.
Not that I have any stake in this issue at all (honestly!), but I just clicked in and saw these comments, which reminded me of Eric Ethington’s comment here from Pride in Utah:
“Packers hate-speech and others like it are directly responsible for the deaths of LGBT teens everywhere.”
I think that we just need to acknolwedge that there are a whole range of opinions, representing more than two “sides.” We aren’t all responsible for Packer and Ethington because these aren’t the only two options, and we don’t need to pretend that everyone on the other “side” is responsible for it either.
What to make of this kind of behavior over at KSL? And here’s an example of what I’m talking about … they can’t report on a suspected arson without including this gem:
Is that graf responsible journalism?
Maybe I’ll let the Stake President who just lost his Mukilteo meetinghouse answer that one:
If anyone in President Lee’s stake received his memo with the above advice, please take a moment to forward it on to Mary Richards (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sarah Dallof (email@example.com) over at KSL.
Heckuva reporting job, Mary and Sarah.
Chino, should I hold the Huffington Post responsible for its comments section?
KSL was just doing what media outlets do – letting people on the scene talk about the subject. That’s hardly uncommon.
Seth R.: Ms. Berman’s speculation regarding motive was included in the body of the KSL story not in comments.
Also, the Bermans were not “on the scene” … the KSL reporters called them up and got these quotes for their story:
Timothy Berman: “I’m angry. I’m mad. I’m upset.”
Rebecca Berman: “I understand there’s not a lot of tolerance for different religions. Just because we don’t believe the same doesn’t mean we can’t live in the same world and that’s what bothers me most.”
The reason KSL’s reporters chose to contact the Berman’s for their reactions is because Timothy is an LDS writer and blogger who resides in the Pacific Northwest.
What passes for journalism these days … Gah.
Ah, I see.
I never follow TV news (aside from the occasional Frontline documentary). I get all my news from National Public Radio.
Well, don’t put too much stock in my version of events as described in #42. Looking at the KSL video report, it was apparently local Seattle KING5 reporters who taped the Bermans and KSL just ran with that tape.
In any case, as reported both by KING5 and KSL, the story includes unfounded speculation that responsible news reporting should avoid.
It reminds me of the way that bogus “California Anthrax” story was reported in the Deseret News one week after the 2008 elections: Powder scares at 2 LDS temples
These misleading stories get published and then there’s never any follow-up in the subsequent days, weeks, months to correct wrong suspicions or impressions. KSL and Deseret News ought to take their own church’s advice:
I’m not exactly sure what your objection is in the KSL story. It was arson, according to the police, so there was definitely some motive. The Berman quote didn’t accuse any particular group, but suggested that the motive was ‘intolerance.’ Do you think that is really an unfair leap?
I totally agree with this. However, the claim “Packers hate-speech and others like it are directly responsible for the deaths of LGBT teens everywhere” and the claim that ‘[something] in President Packers talk says that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable’ are two very different claims. Ethington’s comment (especially the word directly) may be a bit of exaggeration, but he’s talking about making people feel worthless enough to commit suicide, which is not the same thing.
Anyway, that Deseret News article was superceded by an official statement by the CoJCoL-dS (which had a much more civil and conciliatory tone), so there’s no need to try to resuscitate the DN editorial at this point.
And for the record, I probably spend more time on queer-friendly sites than you do; I went to the HRC press conference last week, and the protest at Temple Rectangle the week before. I haven’t heard, seen or read any of the types of claims you say you’ve seen “just about everywhere you go.”
But sure, I’ll keep an eye out for these statements. I’m expecting to see several this week if not today, since you say they’re so commonplace.
I hope it’s not too much to ask in return that in the future you be more responsible in your statements and keep in mind the need for evidence and corroboration, particularly since you’re frustrated that people have accused Packer of saying something you think he didn’t.
TT: Yes, I really think trotting out “intolerance” is an unfair and unfounded leap. In terms of probable motives, I’d put that a distant third after 1) this is the latest in a string of local arsons, and 2) kids from the high school across the street treated the back of the church as a late-night hangout and got criminally stupid the night of the fire.
And I suspect that LDS Public Affairs agrees. As far as I can tell, all the reporting after that early KSL story has carefully avoided making the same mistake, and a local member adds this comment:
Good for them. And for once, I’d like to see an actual prosecution for this criminal behavior. Actually, I’d love to see a single prosecution for any of the supposedly rampant anti-Mormon criminal behavior that took place after Prop 8. Just one.