Mitch Mayne and the Church’s PR machine

I wanted to get my two cents in on this topic, including the way the topic is being handled. Thanks to chanson for bringing together the links.

A quick summary: Last month, Mitch Mayne, an openly gay man in a San Fransisco ward was called to be ward executive secretary, a position in the bishopric. I’m assuming he sits up in the front where everyone in the ward can see him and think to themselves, “Wow, an openly gay man is sitting up there. How new.” …Or, being in San Fran, they probably don’t think much about it, and don’t reduce him to being an “openly gay man.”

Some links:

  • Joanna Brooks’ commentary from Religion Dispatches: “[N]ews of Maynes calling is having an impact, revealing continuing divisions among Mormons and questions about evolving Mormon views on homosexuality.”
  • Terry Mattingly’s commentary from “Evolving? Says Who?” “Back that statement up with some on-the-record quotations from people in positions of LDS authority. Where are the crucial names and titles that make these claims matter? In other words, where is the journalistic infrastructure? Is this article news or opinion?
  • Lyman Kirkland’s commentary from the LDS Newsroom: “Look for names, titles and clear statements of attribution …It’s important for the public to distinguish between fact, opinion and personal advocacy.”

There a couple things I’d note in this snowballed commentary. The first is that Mattingly and Kirkland in all their talk about attribution fail to include Brooks’ name whatsoever. For Mattingly, this is unacceptable because he quotes her extensively and goes on and on about journalistic integrity. Kirkland follows suit: he cites Mattingly by name, and refers to him thereafter as GetReligion but fails to ever refer to Brooks by her name, calling her always Religion Dispatches.

(Mr. Kirkland, since you’ve visited and commented here before, I would ask that you step back and recognize this problem — although I’m assuming your intention, whether conscious or subconscious, is try to compartmentalize Brooks’ voice and influence as a Mormon commentator, which you will fail in doing.)

The second thing I’d note is that Mattingly and Kirkland’s arguments against Brooks actually fail to address what she’s saying (and fail to recognize her audience). There is absolutely no doubt that the Church’s policy on homosexuality is “evolving,” if you stand back and look at it. As Connell O’Donovan, a gay Mormon historian, writes:

Has the LDS churchs stance changed or evolved over the years? Absolutely. Even radically. 35 years ago, Anita Bryant, the beauty queen and fruit-juice peddler turned anti-Gay activist, stormed across the US with her Save Our Children Crusade, revoking Gay peoples equal rights to employment and housing virtually wherever she went.

On July 9, 1977, Apostle Mark E. Petersen wrote an editorial in the Church News, praising her actions in revoking such Gay rights and claimed, every right-thinking person will sustain Miss Bryant, a prayerful, upright citizen, for her stand against Gay rights to housing and employment. Pres. Barbara B. Smith of the Relief Society presented Bryant with a commendation for her anti-Gay rights crusade on July 11. Then in November 1977, LDS president Spencer W. Kimball also commended Anita Bryant and told newspaper reporters that Bryant was doing a great service to the nation.

Now we have LDS leaders advocating for equal rights in housing and employment right there in Utah, as reported in the Deseret News of November 13, 2009! And the Gay rights laws and ordinances have passed because of LDS support for them. This 180 degree turn clearly shows that the LDS church has changed its position and has moved from an extremely condemnatory and punitive stance to one of compassion and mercy – a stance its leaders should have had all along.

There is the “attribution” that Mattingly and Kirkland are looking for.

There is indeed an arc of change that you can find church leaders commenting upon, saying things like, “we used to treat the gay issue this way, and now we treat it this way.” You used to be called into a disciplinary council for “coming out,” and now apparently “being out” is not necessarily an offense. I’m yet to be convinced that it’s not an offense Church-wide, given how Church leaders have written things like “It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion” (God Loveth His Children, 2007). Passages like that point to why Mayne’s appointment is being “heralded” as a “change in policy.”

Brooks is right to point out that Mormons have divisions in their thoughts about homosexuality. Some Mormons don’t even think same-sex relationships are sinful at all, and are even to be celebrated. The LDS PR machine needs to recognize the fact that policy (what the Quorum has to unanimously agree upon in SLC) and the beliefs of the membership (which are huge and varied across the country and world) simply do not always match up to a huge degree. Reporting on this is fact. “Fact” is not always what comes out of the mouths of church leaders.

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36 Responses

  1. Equality says:

    Since we are taking time to set records straight and all that, could we start with the most basic part of this whole story: Mayne is not in the bishopric. He’s the ward executive secretary. An LDS bishopric is composed of a bishop and two counselors. The executive secretary does not sit up front with the Bishopric on the stand. The Church Handbook of Instructions makes it explicit: “The ward clerk and ward executive secretary work closely with the bishopric, but they are not members of the bishopric and do not need to be released when the bishopric is reorganized.” Church Handbook of Instructions (Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops), at 6 (2010). This guy should quit telling people he’s part of the bishopric–he isn’t.

  2. Alan says:

    Okay, thanks for that clarification.

  3. Andrew S. says:

    That’s one thing that I think is really interesting about a lot of the reporting…depending on who wants to say what, people will highlight different things, cashing in on the ambiguity of the position (that is, apparently, even though it explicitly is not part of the bishopric, a lot of people conceive of it as being informally so, or of having some clout).

    So for example, Scott B at BCC was pretty quick to point out, “Hey, Mitch Mayne is just ward exec sec…that’s not Bishopric.”

    Kaimi Wenger at T&S originally had an article that was all gungho: gay man in the bishopric…and I think after the news he kinda put something parenthetical in the title, but it was still pretty gungho.

    And, as you can see, Joanna Brooks wants to make this seem a whole lot more monumental than it probably is.

    It’s really quite expected if you know the personalities of the people in question.

  4. Alan says:

    And, as you can see, Joanna Brooks wants to make this seem a whole lot more monumental than it probably is.

    My understanding of Brooks is that she plays off what is actually happening out there from underdog positions. In her framing of what’s happening, it can seem bigger than it is, but for people who have been watching the Church on this matter for 10, 15 years or more, they see the little movements differently –they see them and report them as bigger.

    This is not deceptive. If the Church can downplay small changes, then it can downplay medium changes and big changes in order to control the discourse, which makes critical reporting harder. For example, in 2009, Michael Otterson during his speech to the SLC city council said the anti-discrimination ordinances were “entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters.” That is a bogus untruth intended to make the Church appear always on top.

    From the “inside,” I believe there is some monumentality to the matter. Many gays in the Church are interested in space where it’s okay to “out” generally (thinking that homophobia can’t be addressed if everyone is quiet/closeted all the time), and the fact that Mayne is vocal without discipline (so far, it seems) is movement in that regard. Furthermore, from what I read, he supports gay marriage and has no intention to necessarily be celibate his whole life. So, for I’ve-been-chaste-my-whole-life gays in the Church I imagine that Mayne is not quite who they’d hope for, and seems slightly confusing and unfair — a guy who was with a man for many years, does not regret it necessarily (not repenting about it certainly), but appears “rewarded.” He’s merely not with a man right now and agrees to keep everyone in the know if he does get with a man.

    A young gay Mormon man might look at Mayne’s life story and the way the Church responds to it and think, “You know what? I should just find a boyfriend. If it doesn’t work out, the Church will still be there for me.” The fire/brimstone effect is removed, which is an important facet to the Church’s functioning.

    The Mayne situation presents a kind of lackadaisical approach to the policy that folks like Kirkland are trying to pretend is actually just as strong as ever. But I think there’s actually more confusion/variance than one might imagine, and Brooks is merely reporting on this.

  5. Steven B says:

    The corollary to the reception Mayne seems to be describing would be the hypothetical straight couple who are cohabiting, yet are welcomed by the ward members in the hope that the couple will eventually marry and even get sealed in the temple. The difference is that members are supposed to hope that the gay couple will get divorced or breakup. But somehow that attitude seems fundamentally wrong and un-Mormon.

    So what will happen when Mayne gets back into a relationship? Will they dutifully release him from his calling, yet welcome the happy couple to participate in the ward in the same way that the cohabiting couple is? An example of following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law?

    I thought the interview with Mitch Mayne on the Pride in Utah website was very informative about the whole matter:

  6. warmpickles says:

    Besides the issue of whether this was a policy change or not, what I keep wanting the church to acknowledge that this is the first time in the whole history of the church in any part of the world where there has been an openly gay executive secretary. That is notable, and should be celebrated.

  7. Alan says:

    Steven @ 5

    letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law

    Well, it seems that in the Oakland/SF stakes, the spirit of the law is that the doors are “open” to gay coupledoms. You just won’t be “put to work” if you’re not “living the commandments.” I really have questions about the queer demographics of these stakes, though. How many gay couples (with kids?) actually attend? How many gay Mormons attend singly whose partners are non-Mormons (of the John Gustav-Wrathall variety)? How many are “chaste” and annoyed at Mayne’s calling? How many are in mixed-orientation marriages, annoyed at Mayne’s calling? (Heh, I can’t help but think of people as annoyed.) I think these various families would make for more interesting interviews.

  8. Chino Blanco says:

    I wonder if Bro. Kirkland noticed Richard Bushman’s “Rules for talking with the media” in the Deseret News?

    1. Be generous, not defensive.

    2. Acknowledge problems.

    3. Find new ways to say things.

    4. Remember reporters want to get it right.

    5. Don’t try to prove, try to tell the truth.

    6. Who you are is part of the message.

    7. Speak from the heart.

    Forgetting #6 is a fatal error for an official voice like LDS Newsroom. At this point, Lyman Kirkland & his crew have reduced the LDS church to taking sides in a blog war between the GetReligion wingnuts and the progressives at Religion Dispatches. So much for that vaunted LDS political neutrality — In the sun it melted, small, small, small.

  9. Holly says:

    So, for Ive-been-chaste-my-whole-life gays in the Church I imagine that Mayne is not quite who theyd hope for, and seems slightly confusing and unfair a guy who was with a man for many years, does not regret it necessarily (not repenting about it certainly), but appears rewarded. Hes merely not with a man right now and agrees to keep everyone in the know if he does get with a man.

    I think this is pretty important too. In ye olden days, a year after a gay relationship ended, Maynes would only now be in a position where he could think about getting rebaptized–provided he’d been tried and excommunicated for immorality right at the point when the relationship ended, provided he wanted to deal with an ecclesiastical court on top of a divorce. Instead, a year after that divorce, he’s called to a position of leadership in the ward. I think it’s a HUGE deal–though I admit I think the biggest part isn’t the calling, but the apparent lack of discipline and punishment for the relationship in the first place. (I asked in a forum or two if anyone knew if he’d been disciplined at all; no one even answered, so I’m assuming that he was not, since he makes no mention of it.) Considering that as recently as a decade ago, the church excommunicated gay men for one episode of gay sex, the fact that it really does appear that they didn’t excommunicate someone for a gay relationship is a pretty big deal.

    A young gay Mormon man might look at Maynes life story and the way the Church responds to it and think, You know what? I should just find a boyfriend. If it doesnt work out, the Church will still be there for me. The fire/brimstone effect is removed, which is an important facet to the Churchs functioning.

    Let’s hope so.

  10. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    The thing I get from reading comments at the various sites is how unimpressed some are with a calling as a lowly ward executive secretary. As someone who will never hold any priesthood calling no matter how much I walk on water, I don’t know what I think.
    I thinking maybe the action needed for impression is at the Stake level, because the Stakes are where the stakes are higher. I’m not talking about the High Council or the 1st or 2nd counselors, but the President himself. I knew of a Stake President where I’d bet money(if I could find a beard) on him being one of those homosexuals, but I certainly hope not. The guy was so unpleasant there’s no buying in on that proposition.

    Which brings me to another thing, apparently all these people know of openly gay guys serving in Bishoprics. There are scores and scores of unknown open, out and proud, gay guys in Church leadership positions. Unbeknownst to me, the Church has no problem with de gay, but is also fine with open and Mitch Mayne little problem is not that he’s open but that he’s egotistical.

  11. Alan says:

    Which brings me to another thing, apparently all these people know of openly gay guys serving in Bishoprics. There are scores and scores of unknown open, out and proud, gay guys in Church leadership positions.

    Where have you read this?

    In the older generation, there are out gay married men who got married prior to the 1990s, have been in the leadership for a while, came out in the 90s or 00s (when being “out” began to be a possibility) and wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they weren’t part of the patriarchal system. But people younger than 35 (unmarrieds especially) I’m not as sure about, which is why I’m curious about the queer demographics of the Oakland/SF stakes.

    I’m assuming Mayne didn’t attend church while he was in a relationship (just an assumption on my part). To be honest, what I kind of see going on here is older gay men who feel the world treats them rough, are perhaps feeling indefinitely single at the moment, find solace in the faith community of their youth, which just happens to have working space for older single gay men. A couple missionaries brought this type of guy to my apartment once thinking there’d be some kind of intergenerational gay fellowship, but in hindsight, there was very little. Still, there seems to be a kind of acknowledgement in the Church that if a person has been gay for last 40 years of their life, they’re probably gonna keep on being gay for the next 40. So, the policy is reflecting that.

  12. chanson says:

    Where have you read this?

    See the first comment on this post:

    As has already been stated and noted repeatedly elsewhere in the blogosphere:

    1. An openly gay man serving as executive secretary is nothing new. An open gay friend of mine held this calling last year in his ward and nobody thought anything of it. Nobody thought it was newsworthy. Friends of mine know of other gay people whove served in that and other callings. By itself this calling is utterly routine and certainly no new development in doctrine, policy or practice.

  13. Mayan Elephant says:

    Much of this discussion is off the rails. I very much enjoyed the link to Mitch’s interview in Pride in Utah. Thanks for that link, Steven B.

    I went to the Bay Ward this week. It is just like any other bay area ward. this is not the same big deal there, that it is online.

    I have known the stake president for many years. he is a good dude. i have no clue where he was during prop 8, i doubt it was anything but an awkward or unpleasant time for him.

    i want to comment only on one key part of this discussion – the church’s progress. the church has made no progress. what happened in san francisco should be put into proper context. san francisco wards are VERY transient for active mormons. there are a handful of families that have been here for 10 or more years, but it is a small handful. the turnover rate among the members that attend could be compared to a ward at byu. it is that fast.

    also, the activity rate could compare to a ward in argentina or france. it is very low. within the boundaries of the bay ward there are thousands of gay members. if the bay ward were to excommunicate gay members, where would they even start? the church has not made any progress by not excommunicating members or becoming somewhat tolerant of gays. the church has not done jackshit. the bay ward and the san francisco stake have made a small step to change, but the church has not changed on damn thing. the bay ward, and the stake, have adapted to their circumstances, and the bishop has reached out to the gays. calling mayne is not the only thing he has done, he has done much to reach out to gay members and has shown genuine concern for their health.

    but, the church has not changed. i was in a branch in france that had sacrament meeting after the other meetings. there was only one person scheduled to speak at any sacrament meeting, it didnt matter if it was a youth or a stake person. when that person finished speaking, meeting was over. and we had one fewer hymn. we adapted to the circumstances, but it didnt change the church and the church did not change.

    the same can be said about mayne. one ward, and two brave leaders, didnt just change the church. they adapted. the church is still a steaming pile of cultness where leaders are not to be criticized, even when they lead a campaign against gay people.

  14. Alan says:

    Chanson @ 12, thanks for the link. Before I post here I should probably venture out into the greater ‘nacle to make sure (a) I have all the details and (b) I’m not just saying the same thing everyone else is. :p That comment, however, doesn’t quite match up to what Suzanne said @10: “bishopric” and “church leadership positions.” There’s a ladder and no doubt gays have climbed a few rungs. But the word “leadership” makes one conjure a higher rung than might truly be the case. Are there out gays in actual bishoprics? Is there an out gay bishop in a mixed-orientation marriage? Who knows…

    Mayan Elephant @ 13: Thanks for pointing out the transient-ness of the SF wards. That helps put things into perspective.

  15. Alan says:

    Personally I do know of someone who is out and is part of a high council (which I read is a 12-member advice group for each stake). I guess when talking about this stuff, it would help to know what counts as prestige and what doesn’t. But I’m inclined to agree with Suzanne that it all seems silly when you factor in the fact that the ladder is for men only.

  16. chanson says:

    Honestly, I have no idea how accurate the statement is. I’m just reporting where it came from. 😉

  17. Mayan Elephant says:

    “Are there out gays in actual bishoprics? Is there an out gay bishop in a mixed-orientation marriage? Who knows”

    Clearly there is not an out gay man that is a bishop or a counselor to a bishop. If there was, the church would have him released immediately. There is and have been lots and lots of closeted gay men, or men that were in heterosexual marriages but later came out of the closet. I attended a wedding of a gay couple where one of the fellas was a former bishop and his children all attended his wedding and were very supportive. I asked him if he knew he was gay when he was a bishop – yes, absolutely, but he thought he could and should walk a different path. The same for a lesbian that served in stake leadership positions for relief society and primary.

    this is the problem with the church and why, while a few leaders have made progress, the church has made none. the church is not honest about gays, and expects them to be dishonest to the community and to themselves. it is not healthy – it is disgusting.

    the church is actually getting worse. some members are improving, more are leaving, the church is getting worse. the only progress that has been made on this topic, is by ex-mormons who have created an online community, and a larger message, and real communities, where it has become clear that leaving the church is okay. sure, some families may take it harder than others, but overall, there is light in leaving the church, and for gay people that is probably the right thing to do. even mitch left, he chose later to go back, that is okay too. but leaving was beneficial.

    it is boards like this, and boards not like meridian, that have advanced the prospect of a healthy life for gays still in the church. the church has fought that progress, and as long as tommy and boyd are in charge, they will continue their stupidity and ignorance.

  18. Mayan Elephant says:

    here is a bigger question – would the church, or byu, hire a qualified gay candidate for a a position of employment?

    no. they would not. if some bishop here and there is kicking against the system, great. but the church is going backwards on this topic.

  19. Suzanne Neilsen says:

    In response to your question in #11, Darned if I know. I’m away from my computer for a couple of weeks and can”t check my history , so I don’t know where I read it. (So a big thanks to chanson)
    So the best I can say, at this point, if people can have imaginary friends then I can read imaginary posts.
    My infallible memory precisely records that it was on one one blog where two different people said they knew of a Bishops counselor who happened to be openly gay. Or was that the same person in two different places or maybe ??? (And a question I do have– is openly gay a more subdued form of out?)

    But one thing I don’t find silly is– Mitch Mayne wasn’t called despite being gay, he was called because he was gay.

  20. JJL9 says:

    “I am committing to adhere to the same standard of behavior that we require of any single, heterosexual man in a priesthood leadership position.”– Mitch Payne

    In other words, he is living the law of chastity just the same as any other worthy temple recommend holder would be expected to, something required of any executive secretary in the Church.

    He also said, “Up until a year ago, I was in a committed, monogamous relationship with my partner of several years.”

    Alan said, “Im assuming Mayne didnt attend church while he was in a relationship…” At least he clarified with, “(just an assumption on my part).” But what are you even assuming? He did in fact attend church while he was in a relationship, a relationship with his wife. He said so himself, “I wore a wedding band. I attended church and held callings within my ward.”

  21. Alan says:

    Up until a year ago, I was in a committed, monogamous relationship with my partner of several years.

    A male partner, JJL9, not a wife.

  22. Mayan Elephant says:

    The comments made here validate Terry Mattingly’s position. There are too many assumptions made, and the church still has a strict code on what is acceptable and not acceptable. That code, and church doctrine, has not evolved in the slightest. Aside from the two people mentioned in the article, (Carter and Fletcher), I do not see anything but the status quo. Carter and Fletcher also went by the book.

  23. JJL9 says:

    Alan, I stand corrected (I think).

    If so, strike the words “a relationship with his wife” from my comment and the rest of it still stands.

  24. Alan says:

    Elephant @22:

    The comments made here validate Terry Mattinglys position.

    I’d take Brooks’ commentary over Mattingly’s any day. The difference between Mattingly and Brooks is that Mattingly thinks you must go to church leaders to get the scoop on “real” Mormonism, whereas Brooks realizes that what’s happening on the ground is more nuanced.

    Yes, the actual policy is stuck. But given how gay sex/intimacy is not an excommunicatable offense anymore (a kind of move toward “mercy” instead of “wrath”), there is agitation at the borders instead of a simple insider/outsider dynamic. 20 years ago it would be unheard for a man a year out of a long-term same-sex relationship to be baptized and receiving callings (as Holly noted @9). No one is saying that this Mayne scenario represents any fundamental policy shift, but I do think it’s worth noting how it surfaces cultural shifts (which will eventually affect the policy). In the end, that’s all I read Brooks as saying.

    JJL9 @23: I’m not so sure it still stands. Mayne was in a same-sex relationship, attended church and received callings?

  25. Mayan Elephant says:

    Mattingly makes NO SUCH claim. He does not say one MUST go to the church leaders. He says if you make a claim about church leadership – back it up. She did not do it. What you (Alan) are attributing to Mattingly, is actually something said by Brooks:

    There is, in fact, no consensus Mormon view on homosexuality. While most Mormons view homosexual sexual activity as a sin, Church leaders have expressed divergent perspectives on LGBT issues, ranging from condemnatory and derisive to ameliorative and compassionate.

    Brooks says there is divergent leadership, Mattingly asks “who?” My point in saying that these comments support Mattingly, is that these discussions fail to find any support for Brooks claim, instead, there is much debate about what some unknown bishops may be or may have done. There is NO evidence of a shift in church policy, or church leadership.

    Brooks, and another author in a link by the original poster, claim that the church has changed and that the acts and positions in 1977 compared to now, support such a claim. The above link fails to compare the actions of the CHURCH and its leaders. the church participated in a multi-million dollar campaign against homosexuals, that is unprecedented by any single church. if the church has changed at all, it is MORE hostile. (see recent court decisions and admissions by the church regarding campaign participation.) Brooks points out that the position of the Church was strict, and created divisions among families. (which contradicts her other claim that the leaders are divided, ugh)

    Brooks is not saying that this is how church policy works. She says nothing of the sort. In fact, such a claim is ridiculous. Last I checked, the church was led by priesthood holders, who are sustained, including 15 prophets, seers, revelators. They could shift or change the policy anytime. I do not see where mormons believe prophecy, revelation and a glacial cultural shift that ultimately leads to a change. Sure, the church was embarrassed enough that Kimball finally acted like yoda and not like a grand wizard, there was outside pressure for that, and not a public grass-roots change among the members.

    there may be open-minded mormons, open to the possibility of letting homosexuals fully participate in the church, including attending the weddings of families, for example. but there is NO cultural change that amounts to a policy change or would lead to a policy change. The church will change when they risk losing members and risk losing money, then the revelation will come.

  26. Chino Blanco says:

    Kinda cool how it’s because of tmatt/GetReligion that the LDS Newsroom now links directly to a blog post showing two dudes in missionary outfits enjoying a kiss. I’m meh about Mayne’s calling but heh about the ensuing brouhaha.

  27. Steven B says:

    Regarding the church’s “evolving” position/attitude/understanding/policy of homosexuality, I would point us to a very good articulation of the changes in the church’s position regarding homosexuality by Ron Schow.

    He assembled this piece in 2007 after the release of “God Loveth His Children.” The most significant change we have witnessed since that time, also mentioned by Connell O’Donovan, is the support of Utah’s 2009 limited “equal rights” legislation. Earlier, not only did church leaders praise Anita Bryant’s 1970’s anti-gay crusade, but in 1992 the church participated in and encouraged its Colorado members to pass that state’s Amendment 2, which stripped LGBT citizens of the state from all anti-discrimination protections and forbade state and local governments at all levels from enacting future protections. Amendment 2 was not about marriage, but broadly denied any protections for LGBT people, including employment, housing and public accommodations. So the change in the church’s position (not touching on marriage rights) seems striking.

  28. Steven B says:

    One additional comment about the church’s current position. I would note that technically the pamphlet God Loveth His Children” encourages gay people to be closeted and not disclose or talk about their sexual orientation. In this respect, Mitch Mayne is clearly pushing the limits of church tolerance.

    From “God Loveth His Children,” page 9:

    “It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion.”


    “It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings.”

    Here too, the Bay Area outreach to the gay community, to be in line with church policy, really should be a clandestine affair. Only closeted gays need apply.

  29. Alan says:

    Elephant @ 25:

    The Church’s policy on homosexuality is both “wrathful” and “merciful.” Wrathful in the sense that there’s a border you’re not allowed to cross without discipline and exclusion — merciful in the sense that if you do cross the border, the discipline and exclusion is not quite what it was before (excommunication on this issue is a dozen times less likely than it was in the 1970s).

    Policy is not just about the border, but also about how that border is maintained. All I read Brooks as saying in her quote about church leaders “expressing divergent perspectives” is that depending on the church leader’s personality, more “mercy” or more “wrath” might manifest. Ultimately, the Church strives for a balance, because if it becomes too merciful, then there’s a fear the mercy could turn into acceptance; and if it’s too wrathful, there’s the risk of seeming heartless and lacking empathy.

    The thing is, when you phrase the situation as Brooks’ did, that church leaders are *gasp* individuals, all the patriarchs are gonna rise above the crowd and point to how everything is actually static and controlled (when of course it’s not). I read Mattingly as totally missing Brooks’ argument, and calling for attribution where none is needed.

  30. Mayan Elephant says:

    actually, there remains a need for attribution for the claim Brooks is making. Reading your comments and hers, one may come to the conclusion that there are multiple accounts of changes and a sea-shift among mormons. that is not the case at all, there is ONE case of a ward sorta doing something a bit different, and you and Brooks (among others) are pretending that the entire church has shifted. Your defense of this, and your claim that there is some pool of mercy being shown throughout the church is dishonest.

    there is no evidence, outside of the ward in whose boundaries i live, of such mercy or any local leaders showing any resistance to the hard lines given them by the 15 prophets. you say there is some big movement, there is not. you may like for there to be a movement, there is not. some members may have issues with the way they are told to think and believe, but there are no local leaders or bigshot leaders doing anything about it. if there are, show me.

    these are the realities, the church, since the 2007 piece that was linked to above, asked for money and time to fight prop 8 and propositions in other states. the church members and leaders have chosen to become MORE active AGAINST equal participation in society by homosexuals. their acts in 2009 do nothing to repair what they did in the year before that. I see nothing by the church that says homosexuals should be welcome to be happy, themselves, un-closeted, married, educated at their schools and given all the benefits and opportunities that a straight person would have in their church and community.

    again. i know it is harsh. you are not being honest. there are no examples of this so-called change in the leaders or the church, except for the mayne example. or, at least you have given no examples here.

  31. Alan says:

    you are not being honest.

    “Dishonesty” is an interesting way of putting this disagreement.

    I assume you would say Brooks isn’t being “honest” either. Perhaps you would agree with this comment after the Voice of San Diego interview of her:

    If Ms. Brooks were as committed to her political convictions as this article would suggest, her only logical course of action would be to remove herself from this utterly regressive institution and fight on the side of justice and democracy – two concepts usually sorely lacking in organized religions.

    Okay, this is one possibility. But another possibility is to work within the institution and change it, which begins by creating space for alternative perspectives, create space for change, which is what I see Brooks as doing.

    Prop 8 was definitely more aggressive than Prop 22, indeed. At the same time, you couldn’t expect the Church to sit on its hands as the country moves toward gay marriage, could you? I think of it more along the lines of Newton’s third of law of motion (opposite, equal reaction). It is what it is.

    You say BYU would never hire an openly gay teacher, but how many openly gay people actually apply to be faculty there? Similarly, when it comes to the church’s policy on gayness generally, it’s pretty obvious that celibacy/hetero-only marriage is not an “open doors” policy, no matter how much people like Mayne say it is. So, I don’t quite see how I’m being “dishonest,” since I’ve got the facts and demographics down (mostly).

    It’s what I’m doing with the facts that you don’t like. Consider Brooks’ book American Lazurus, which is about how black and native authors in early America used the “dominant religion and language to construct the terms and reality of their own survival, redemption, and regeneration.” There was no choice but to do this work, and although one can put one’s energies into exodus (for example, the back-to-Africa movement), plenty of people choose to stay where they’re at and work within a system.

    Mormonism is not a faith that people can just drop and exit easily. So, unless you want insist every gay Mormon exit immediately (which would be itself a kind of injustice), then the system has to be worked from the inside-out. You might be comfortable with “Nope, it’s the same as always, even worse,” but I’m more comfortable with “Change is afoot and there’s no stopping it.” (Although, admittedly, I have no intention of ever returning to the Church myself.)

  32. Andrew S. says:

    Since I’m on my phone right now, I can’t really reply that much, and neither can I shamelessly link to the article I’m going to peddle. (it’s at Wheat & Tares… Please check the one about the strange bedfellows…)

    But I think the discussion about dishonesty, change, etc., is interesting…

    The issue is that when we talk about what the church does, we also can talk about what else the church could be doing… But it needs to be pressured. People like Joanna Brooks turn the discourse to make bigger changes possible. They drum up the changes that the church would like to keep hush hush or deemphasize.

    The difference between progressive Mormons and disaffected Mormons, then, is that progressive Mormons believe the church can still be changed and that the discourse can be changed, whereas disaffected Mormons believe the system is too rigid. But since the two groups do want to see much of the same changes in the church, really, the two groups are strange bedfellows. I wrote about it more at Wheat & Tares.

  33. Alan says:

    There, I peddled it for you. =)

  34. Mayan Elephant says:

    oh boy. let me spell this out very plainly.

    brooks said there was disagreement among the leaders of the church. brooks failed to provide any evidence of that. those that support this claim of hers, have also failed to provide any evidence. it has been pointed out that she has no evidence, and those that say she is telling the truth have no evidence, and so now, your argument is that the end justifies the means. a little lie here and there, if it keeps the dialogue going, is good for the church.

    i have absolutely no expectation for brooks to leave the church or stay. i couldnt give a damn what she does. i dont think she should report one way if she stays and another if she goes. my expectation of her, is that if she is reporting about the church, or about the frequency that blue whales copulate, she should use facts and tell the truth.

    if she wants to change the church from within the church, then go for it. but she is still lying in her articles online and in the newspaper. she is doing exactly the opposite of what you say. she is not creating space for change. exactly the opposite, she is trying to convince the outside world that there are changes in the church, when there is not. this does not make it easier for change to happen, it hinders it. if she told the truth, it would lead to change faster. if she told the truth, the real world would know what it really is like for gays in the church, rather than think there is some actual progress.

    Yes. i expected the church to mind their own business about gay marriage. they may vote how they were going to vote, but i did not expect them to finance a campaign of uneccessary fear and cause hurtful divisions in their families. my hopes were for decency, but under monson, one should rightfuly expect a hate-filled campaign and a failure to report campaign activity.

    Gays do not apply at byu because they wont be hired. your argument makes about as much sense as saying that there are no gays in their right minds that would want to be an executive secretary.

    i have not read any of your links, but if there is one where blacks or any other group of people stayed put, and lied about their conditions (specifically saying “its all good now” when it is not) please refer me specifically. i suspect your links are more along the lines of people adapting the christian religions, incorporating their african music, and changing the system, including becoming leaders of their own church. what is the point you are making?

    you are being dishonest again, by suggesting that I am suggesting that all gays leave. YOU came up with that conclusion, not me. I am insisting that people tell the truth about the conditions within the church, conditions that lead you to leave forever. if people choose to stay, tell the truth of what is going on inside, where there is no room for gays unless they are silent and celibate. there is no other way for them anywhere within the church.

    What change is afoot and where? and yes, i still expect those changes to include the leaders, because they control the church. but, if there is change, and people are calling attention to changes, events or acts that are contrary to what is expected by the church, let me hear it. if there is anyone within the church that is condemning the acts of the leaders, i wanna know.

    and by the way, not excommunicating gays and lesbians is not really one of those changes. i have probably excommunicated more people than you have, i would suspect i have anyways. no church units are excommunicating people as often as was done decades ago, even for crimes and heterosexual sins. excommunication or discipline is mostly a threat, and is more often used to control a group by example. it doesnt happen often over anything anymore.

  35. Alan says:

    i have probably excommunicated more people than you have, i would suspect i have anyways.

    That’s a funny way of revealing details about yourself.

    she is trying to convince the outside world that there are changes in the church, when there is not.

    You mean, she is proselytizing in a progressive Mormon sense? That’s an interesting reading. I find it more likely that she’s simply carving space for difference that already exists, including herself. Her audience isn’t just non-Mormons.

    silent and celibate

    Silent and “chaste,” you mean. (Technically, gays can still have sex with opposite-sex spouses.) On the point of silence, I guess I just see too many anecdotes of gays coming out in the Church and claiming they’re happy in the Church, whether they’re Mitch Mayne types, or Ty Mansfield types (the latter of which there are plenty — just visit North Star’s website). That’s the reality we have to contend with — that the way the Church treats gays is more than just a solid “evil” when taken from a variety of perspectives.

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