Elder Jensen and the Exploitation of the Sacred Moments

I woke up this morning to find out via Facebook that Elder Marlin K. Jensen had apologized for Church participation in Proposition 8 (the headline was later changed to him apologizing for Prop 8 and later to “personally” apologizing).

I was a tad skeptical. After a bit of digging, I am downright cynical.

This was an apology to a small group… done in private.

Carol Lynn Pearson’s comment  on the Mormon Matters thread is informative:

The headline “Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8″ is a bit misleading. I was present at the meeting. There was a great deal of pain expressed by a number of people about their experiences around Prop 8 and the larger context of church policy regarding gay people. It was a remarkable meeting, and Elder Jensen took copious notes and was visibly emotionally touched as he listened to the stories. At no time did he say anything like, “I know Proposition 8 was a mistake and I apologize for that mistake.” He was responding personally and in general to the extraordinary pain he was witnessing. No one had a tape recorder, but I wrote down the words, “…Do we owe an apology? I will say I am sorry. To the full extent of my capacity I say I am sorry.” It was a sincere and moving statement. It would not be constructive to make his statement sound like something it was not. The meeting itself was an historical event, for which I and many others are deeply grateful.

The thing which gets to me is that this story is not being shared as a way of highlighting the compassion of Elder Jensen (which is this account does). It is instead an attempt to show a crack amongst the general authorities. It is a gotcha moment. However, I think that the event should be viewed as a servant ministering. Will Apostles and Seventies have intimate meetings like this in the future if they will be used for publicity by those that disagree with Prop. 8.

Dehlin thinks that “we should seize this as an opportunity and tell every living, believing member in the church the news. If the church is forced to clarify, all the better. Double-speak must never be allowed again. The Internet can help us make sure that happens. Maybe this really is a new step for the church. Let’s act like it is, and see if we can help to make it so.”

Sure, I understand the desire to use a “sincere and moving statement” for political purposes. I likely do it all the time. However, if ones intent is to change the positions of the Church, this is going to be viewed as an attack. The best that can be realistically hoped for is gradual change. Twisting those small moments and using them against the Church is…well…a jerk thing to do.

There seems to be a hope that the Church will change its approach to gay marriage and homosexuality. I do not think this is likely to happen. My guess is that many are still waiting for the Church to reverse their opinion on the Equal Rights Amendment. I support the legalization of gay marriage. I voted against constitutional amendments banning it in both Utah and Idaho. Maybe I have long given up on wanting the Church to officially agree with me. However, I am also not bothered when they do not.

I applaud Elder Jensen for addressing the issue in the format that he did. He is a favorite in these parts for his role as Church historian and his role as the official LDS Democrats. I hope we can follow his example. This is much better than exploiting it. Of course, if we need a General Authority to tell us to be compassionate and Christ-like, we are pretty useless.

113 Replies to “Elder Jensen and the Exploitation of the Sacred Moments”

  1. Riiight. Because the way to bring about positive change is for on-the-outs rabble rousers to pressure and “force” the Church into things. You go Dehlin. See how that works for ya. (Maybe look up Sonia Johnson, and ask her how well it worked out for her.)

  2. Thanks, Chris – I more or less agree with you, and see John’s crusading as not only probably unproductive, but theoretically misguided. He’s trying to implement the techniques of modern democratic politics – lobbying, grassroots organizing, and so on – and is using political language derived from classical liberalism about equality and individual rights; both of these things run contrary to how the church understands itself. As long as he’s speaking a different language about how the church works from that used within the church itself, I think his rhetoric will rub a lot of Mormons the wrong way.

  3. Good points, Chris. John Dehlin’s history seems to be replete with gotcha or finger in the eye moments re: The Church. He has his audience, mostly ex Mormons who really eat it up–evidenced by many of the comments on his Facebook page. But, as you point out it’s not going to do much for the overall understanding of those with differing points of view. And, like you–I’m not even convinced of the veracity of the account or the email. I think experience has shown that is generally not the way the Church gets its message out to the public. On the other hand, it gets John Dehlin 15 more minutes of sensationalized Mormon talking points for his Amen corner.

  4. It takes a big man to snarkily tell someone off behind a pseudonym, Nitsav. Congratulations.

    Chris, thanks for the post. I share your sentiments. Elder Jensen is wonderful, and his comments at the meeting, as told above by CLP, exemplify why so many appreciate him and his ministry.

  5. Nitsav, I think everyone around here knows who Christopher is, even when he doesn’t link to his Juvenile Instructor page. He doesn’t have to use a second moniker to hide behind when he wants to say something he’s too scared to associate with his real name.

  6. I’d like to add “Mine are negative. Though I sometimes (often?) agree with John in principle, I strongly disagree with his methods.”

  7. Nitsav, as you well know, my real name is indeed Christopher and I comment here and elsewhere under that name regularly (and have been for roughly 4 years). I am admittedly inconsistent (and usually unintentionally so) with leaving a link to JI.

    Chris H., I apologize for the threadjack.

  8. I support John Dehlin’s decision to publicize this semi-private conversation, if only because it could provide comfort to those who suffered because of the Church’s actions supporting Prop 8. Why should Elder Jensen’s message of reconciliation and compassion be heard only by those lucky enough to be in his presence?

    “I applaud Elder Jensen for addressing the issue in the format that he did. He is a favorite in these parts for his role as Church historian and his role as the official LDS Democrats. I hope we can follow his example. This is much better than exploiting it”

    While I applaud Elder Jensen for addressing the issue, it’s disingenuous for the Church to take a hard line on political issues and then, behind closed doors (so to speak), to take a softer approach. That said, I didn’t hear Elder Jensen say that he regrets the Church’s involvement such that Prop 8 was a mistake, so even if the Church had been “nicer” in its approach (i.e., not lying about the effects of Prop 8), the marriage rights of California’s gay and lesbian couples were still attacked and undermined by the Church’s political machine.

  9. I unfortunately would have to agree with the original post here. The last thing I want is for Brother Jensen or any other general authority to be afraid of showing compassion or sincere personal apology because they don’t want their personal apology to be confused with an institutional reversal of policy. Is that what we want? General authorities aren’t allowed to feel sorry anymore? Brother Jensen shouldn’t have apologized because his apology might be perceived as misleading or deceptive?

    So many people base their testimonies (and hearts, minds, and strength) on the idea that God has established his Church in the Latter Days and leads it through apostles and prophets. Dehlin says he loves the Church, but wants to undermine the idea that apostles and prophets lead it from divine revelation. He doesn’t see that by removing or eroding that foundational belief, he’s indeed easing those on the margins, sure, but he’s potentially creating a psychological rift in an even larger group of people. I don’t think he’s just trying to increase his potential client base but that might be the result.

    I get the feeling that Brother Dehlin stays in the Church because he knows that change in any organization comes from the inside. But he disbelieves or is ambivalent about so many key foundational principles of the Church that nobody is really fooled. Martin Luther was a credible reformer because he really DID believe in God, Christ, and the unity of the Catholic fellowship, just that the Roman Church had strayed from Christ’s original teachings. What if Martin Luther was on the fence about Christ being the Son of God?

    I’m not saying this as a person who dogmatically accepts many tenets of Mormonism either, but I’m not trying to change it to fit what I believe. Even after all that, I want to be clear that I love John dearly and would give everything I have for him and his well-being and happiness.

  10. Saying “I’m sorry” means a lot, especially when it comes from church leadership. Was this stake conference supposed to be a secret meeting where information about it was not to be disseminated? Should the church do a better job indicating that they feel bad that people’s lives are hurt by the positions they take? As I said elsewhere, this is a step in the right direction.

  11. #11, 13: I don’t see the original post as arguing for secrecy. It is just decrying the misleading, politicized way Dehlin was going about doing the publicity. I think it is a moving, deeply important story that should be shared. That’s precisely why it is a shame to see it shoehorned into an ill-fitting soundbyte.

  12. I want to clarify what I said above. I’m not just trying to trash John or his beliefs. I’m just saying why I think his post today failed. The misleading content of the post was just a symptom of the foundational problem with his methods and/or goals… using man-made political activist strategies to influence an organization that members don’t believe is man-made. I’m sometimes not good with words so I hope nobody thinks I’m criticizing John as a person.

  13. I’m SO glad someone posted about this. Thanks, Chris. Along with these thoughts, I think it’s unfortunate that one of the most insightful (if not the most) comments on that thread by Brad at BCC was removed. It was neither nasty nor disrespectful, but rightly called the wisdom of the post and its author into question. I hope he’ll expand on those thoughts at BCC.

    I agree with my JI fellows, but I’m not sure what the history is that informs the reaction to Nitzav. My feelings are pretty well analogous to his if not stronger.

  14. Chris,

    “specially arranged meeting” means absolutely nothing to me. Is it in the handbook? Does it have certain parameters? I mean, I wouldn’t probably disclose what is discussed at the local Ward Council meeting, but this seemed like a public meeting.

  15. I am not saying the content of the meeting should never have been made known (Cynthia addressed that). It was not meant of a public pronouncement. My guess is that a GA (heck, anyone can) without is being in the CHI. Though my guess is that many Mormons never go to the bathroom because it is not addressed in the handbook.

    This is also not a matter of whether he had a legal right to disclose the information.

  16. Without context, how can anyone know what Elder Jensen was empathizing with — or indeed, whether his statement, if repeated accurately (which is in doubt, since Dehlin had to supply words to make a coherent sentence) stretched beyond empathy to an apology, and if an apology, for what, exactly? Even CLP, the only commenter at MM who was actually there to hear the statement, called Dehlin on his spin. This is obvious manipulation and self-aggrandizement.

    As for Nitsav, while I wouldn’t know him if he knocked on my front door, I “know” him as well as I know most other bloggers. His steady use of that moniker makes him a known persona and anything but anonymous.

  17. I’d like to address the larger subtext of this discussion, which is how one goes about advocating for change in the church. I really haven’t looked into this specific instance well enough to have an opinion on it, but I am interested in some of the assumptions behind the criticisms.

    It seems to me that a few things seem to be in general agreement. 1) publicly exposing disagreements between GAs (assuming it really exists, which may or may not be the case in this instance) constitutes public pressure. 2) publicly exposing disagreements between GAs harms the faith of the “center” 3) public pressure does not lead to changes in the church 4) the faith of the “center” is more valuable than the faith of the “margins,” therefore 5) one should not make disagreements among GAs public.

    There seems to be another assumption about public speech vs. private speech here too. I am not sure that I am convinced at all that there is such a thing as private speech, especially when one is meeting in ones official capacity as a public spokesperson.

    Again, I have absolutely no opinion about the details of this instance, but I am not sure that I accept any of these premises, nor the conclusion in any absolute sense. All of these seem to be based on somewhat specious distinctions between outside and inside, and public and private.

    It seems to me that the only completely foolproof argument is that one should not distort the words of GAs to make them say more (or less) than they actually do.

  18. For me it is not so much private speech in the legal sense, but intimate speech in a communal sense.

    I would LOVE it if we had more public disagreements among the general authorities. I love the debates of old about evolution and the League of Nations. That said, TT, I do not think that disagreement amongst the GA’s was part of my post and I had not given it thought until your comment.

    I think the public pressure can have an impact on the Church. However, not all such efforts are effective.

  19. Chris H., love the post.

    TT, in this context the issue doesn’t seem to be what to do with the disagreement; rather, it is the possibility that Dehlin has created the illusion of a disagreement (where in fact there is none–at least, not one that can be substantiated) for his own political ends.

  20. Sure, I understand the desire to use a “sincere and moving statement” for political purposes. I likely do it all the time. However, if ones intent is to change the positions of the Church, this is going to be viewed as an attack.

    Excellent point, excellent point.

    For me it is not so much private speech in the legal sense, but intimate speech in a communal sense.

  21. Chris, thank you very much for this post.

    I think the following two things are relevant.

    This post that has some thoughts from Elder Oaks on how he will give a different talk depending on the willingness of his audience to respect his words as being intended for them and not the world

    and

    – this snippet from a letter that was reiterated after a “transcription” made by a few well-meaning members from a Pres Packer talk in Stk Conf were transmitted worldwide by email, to the point where the Church had to make an official statement that that meeting was not an official statement — it really was inspiration for a particular audience of people.)

    “…members of the Church [are] to never teach or pass on… statements without verifying that they are from approved official sources… Any notes made when General Authorities, Area Seventies, or other general Church officers speak at regional and stake conferences or other meetings should not be distributed without the consent of the speaker. Personal notes are for individual use only.” (See also: Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1 (2006), pg. 173.) (First Presidency letter of May 13, 2004)

    This is true whether the intentions are benign, or whether they are riddled with personal or political or other agendas.

    I think we greatly reduce our leaders’ ability to talk in tailored, personal ways to local audiences when we treat any of their words as fair game for the world. Posts like the one in question could likely hinder our ability to have more such ministering, which I think is ultimately not what John or others would want to see.

  22. Interesting that the link that was provided mentioned the following:

    “Elder Jensen made some comments that made me feel that to record a large percentage of his words would be inappropriate.”

  23. I am really of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I do want Elder Jensen’s statements to get the widest possible dissemination, if only because it could help set an example for sanity and compassion––sorely needed in regard to this issue, which so often leads to the demonization of those who disagree (on both sides: it’s gay-suicide-encouraging bigots vs. abominable-crime-against-nature child predators). On the other hand, if Elder Jensen’s comments are shared within a divisive framework, I suspect many of the Brethren will feel the need to close ranks, and so take three steps back from what (to my mind) seems a MAJOR step forward (both in the sense of other GAs not following suit, and maybe in the reining in of Elder Jensen personally; even if other leaders don’t take him as a model, it would be a real shame to lose his voice in this arena––among others).

  24. I read and commented on Dehlin’s MM post and he made it clear from the outset that Jensen’s comments were

    a) Not an official apology.
    b) Not to be construed as an official apology.
    c) From someone so low on the hierarchy as to be considered “expendable” (granted this elicited laughs as truthful humor often does)

    I agree that this was a “gotcha” moment as pointed out in the original post, but not because it was presented with a political slant by Dehlin, but rather because it seemed so unlikely that any one representing the Church would show compassion to those hurt in the Proposition 8 fight.

    By all accounts what Marlin Jensen did was show sincere compassion to people who are in emotional pain. This is the thing I find most amazing — a religious leader shows compassion and somehow this seems up for debate, discussion and dialog about doctrinal implications and about whether the display should be disseminated.

    As long as sincere compassion appears to be inconsistent and hypocritical, then the Church is in for a lot more gotcha moments.

  25. When it comes to politics, IMHO, Dehlin is helping the CoJCoL-dS more than anything else. If the leaders can simultaneously apologize to the people they hurt while telling the conservative wing that they’re not at all sorry that helps their PR goals all around. So they apologize privately and let people like John Dehlin and Carol Lynn Pearson spread the news.

    The result? Outsiders who follow Mormonism tangentially get to hear about it and decide that maybe the LDS church isn’t so horrible after all. And the conservatives will immediately conclude that Dehlin is just a bitter old apostate out to make the church look bad, so there’s no worry that they’ll be distressed by this apology.

  26. Chason, that was as harsh as things I’ve heard said about the French (though when I took my wife to Paris we encountered one rude person the entire time, no smokers and had a delightful time, so I’m not endorsing harsh things being said about the French).

    Elder Jensen made some comments that made me feel that to record a large percentage of his words would be inappropriate.

    That statement got my attention as well.

  27. To anyone who sees this as “progress,” I would hold off until you reconcile it with this:

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/50309838-78/lds-mcmullin-conference-evergreen.html.csp

    and of course this:

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/50307880-90/oaks-marriage-constitution-federal.html.csp

    I respect and admire Elder Jensen greatly, but to view this as more than just him speaking for himself is folly. Elder Jensen has made similar statements in the past, and is well on his way to becoming the patron Seventy for liberal Mormons (which is to say that he will not likely be speaking for the church as a whole). When a member of the Twelve apologizes, even in his personal capacity, or even expresses regret the sorrow of those who were hurt, that will indicate that something is actually changing, whether in substance or tone.

  28. Given that John Dehlin shut down his comments last night (and also took down related discussions on FB). I personally feel that both the die-hards and the disaffected make me want to pull my hair out (and I have nice hair despite it being gray).

    For those who care about gay marriage: focus your efforts on the public square. Anti-gay marriage arguments are not going to carry the day for long. Reversing Prop 8 would be possible if the pro-gay marriage side organized in the way that the Church and her allies did in 2008.

    Within LDS circles, I think this is a hopeless issue.

  29. “it seemed so unlikely that any one representing the Church would show compassion to those hurt in the Proposition 8 fight.”

    That’s ridiculous. Say what you will to about General Authorities’ political positions–some of them are loathsome–but they are decent and kind men, and you have to have gone off some ideological deep end if you think they’re monsters incapable of responding to suffering.

  30. Reposting my comments at T&S here:

    I’ll just say the following:

    1) I never, ever intended to imply that Elder Jensen’s remarks amounted to a church-wide apology. I really regret that misunderstanding, and as soon as I learned that folks were concerned (including CLP), I changed the MM title, and deleted the Facebook posts (since you can’t change the titles of FB posts once they’re posted). It’s a bummer that the comments got deleted w/ the post, but I didn’t know of another way. I certainly didn’t delete the FB post to get rid of the comments.

    2) The only comments I deleted on MM were the ones that I deemed offensive — including a few of my own. Rory, you’ll notice that I left your main criticism up, along w/ the criticisms of others. I have no problem with criticism. But just like BCC and other blogs — when people go too far, I reserve the right to moderate comments on my own blog. For the record, I regularly try to delete “anti-Mormon” comments that I deem to be non-constructive as well. Just ask the DAMU folks who despise me.

    3) I fervently stand by the decision to publish the notes from Elder Jensen’s visit to Oakland. I loved his remarks, was excited/encouraged by them, and sincerely felt/feel like all the church is entitled to hear them. He was speaking as a general authority of the church, after all. Too much pain has been caused by Prop 8 in my opinion for only a privileged few to be entitled to hear these comments. Since they were forwarded to me by others, I knew that they would be made public eventually anyway….if they hadn’t been already (I didn’t search first to find out). Anyway….we need less private assurances in my opinion, and more public accountability on the part of the church.

    When the church continues the practice of polygamy after it promises to stop (post 1890)….or covers up a massacre…..or blames dark skin (black and hispanic) on cursings from God….or claims that polygamy is no longer doctrinal (even though it remains the the D&C)…..or publicly distances itself from Theosis (”I don’t know that we teach it….I don’t know that we emphasize it”)……or (for decades) encourages electric shock aversion therapy on its gay members…or encourages gay men to get married, with the promise that it will “go away” if they pray hard enough….or uses its power and influence to impose its religious views on a sovereign state, and take away the civil rights of another minority…..

    ….then I believe that it needs to be held publicly accountable for those teachings/actions. That’s just how I feel.

    4) For those who have accused me of harming Elder Jensen, or of being the cause for him not becoming an apostle someday (something several of you have either publicly or privately accused me of)….I would respond by saying that you clearly have little faith in your God, or in your leaders. If Elder Jensen is not called as an apostle because I quoted his own words publicly…..then he either shouldn’t have been saying those words….or the people in charge of those decisions (about who becomes apostle) are not acting on God’s will (if it ever was His will). Either way….I refuse to accept blame for that potential consequence (which I think is completely silly and insulting, by the way).

    Other than that…I’m sorry to have caused pain. It wasn’t my intent. I was genuinely excited about Elder Jensen’s beautiful comments, and I wanted to share them. I also felt that maybe if his comments became broadly known within the church, that it could possibly lead to discussion that would maybe help us (culturally) move the needle a bit in a positive direction. I am also tired/angry for the pain that the church causes people on the margins (gays, feminists, intellectuals), and I do not believe that quietly working behind the scenes is the only way to achieve progress. I believe that sometimes — open, public discussion (sunshine) can be very, very effective.

    I still retain this hope.

  31. Chris H., I will say that you are not the only one who is pulling out your hair.

    I wonder if John D. would like to be held publicly accountable for his actions behind the scenes at Mormon Matters this evening?

  32. John, I think that your call for sunshine is somewhat complicated by the appearance of also being two-faced.

    When the church continues the practice of polygamy after it promises to stop (post 1890)….or covers up a massacre…..or blames dark skin (black and hispanic) on cursings from God….or claims that polygamy is no longer doctrinal (even though it remains the the D&C)…..or publicly distances itself from Theosis (”I don’t know that we teach it….I don’t know that we emphasize it”)……or (for decades) encourages electric shock aversion therapy on its gay members…or encourages gay men to get married, with the promise that it will “go away” if they pray hard enough….or uses its power and influence to impose its religious views on a sovereign state, and take away the civil rights of another minority…..
    ….then I believe that it needs to be held publicly accountable for those teachings/actions. That’s just how I feel.

    Sure…because people like Kristine and I do not care about these things.

    It…is…on.

  33. “I do not believe that quietly working behind the scenes is the only way to achieve progress”

    Can you point to a time when other methods, like the public shaming you’re advocating/performing, were more effective?? If the motivation is really to create change, and not just to demonstrate the righteousness of your indignation, doesn’t it make sense to look at how the organization works and try the sorts of tactics that have worked in the past?

  34. What Kristine? You are saying that the who DAMU method of obsessively demonizing Mormonism isn’t an effective tactic to create change in the Church??

    Ruh-roh. Maybe it’s time for Dehlin to reconsider his shtick…

  35. John, you didn’t answer my question–can you point to an instance where anything other than working patiently behind the scenes has been effective at creating significant change in the institution?

  36. Don’t put words in my mouth, Geoff–I’m asking a specific, pointed question, not making sweeping generalizations about the DAMU.

  37. Kristine,

    As you and I have discussed, I think that we’re all speculating when we think we know what (in the end) does and doesn’t positively or negatively contribute to change in the church.

    But yes….if I were to speculate…I would speculate that the Godmakers film/book had a pretty direct effect on the temple ceremony changes of the late 1980s. But again…I’m totally speculating…with some data to back me up.

  38. I believe that it needs to be held publicly accountable for those teachings/actions.

    Perhaps the best way to forward the discussion is by examining the notion of public accountability; since, I imagine, no one here would condone anything on that list.

  39. Don’t worry Kristine, I was just incidentally using your comment as a launching pad to express my own opinion about Dehlin’s methods. I wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth.

  40. Just makin’ sure, Geoff–don’t want people thinking we agree–they’ll start worrying about cats and dogs sleeping together… 😉

  41. doesn’t it make sense to look at how the organization works and try the sorts of tactics that have worked in the past?

    Where, pray tell, does one acquire data on how the LDS church works? I mean at the institutional level, not how the local ward handles home teaching assignments and other such piffle.

    Everyone is arguing about what would work better, or how one should approach criticism, or how one should approach change. The bottom line is that not a single person here has the foggiest idea of how the church works or how change can be advocated at an institutional level.

  42. John, even if your motives are twice as pure as you claim, this was bungled so badly that you have in fact caused harm. If you can presumptuously claim the right to decide what the world is “entitled” to hear, as well as to decide what is wrong with the church and what its doctrine should be, I claim the right to speak for mainstream Mormons who are embarrassed and harmed by what you do and say. We don’t appreciate you. Your self-appointed mission is misguided. You don’t speak for us, you don’t speak for our church, you don’t speak for anything that is whole or true or right or good or pure … and I am uncivil and uncharitable and misusing FPR’s platform. I’m sorry, gentlemen of FPR. (Now John can announce that I have apologized for whatever he chooses to spin my apology to mean.)

  43. David, that’s simply not true. There are some top-notch historians and well-read sociology types around here with a pretty darn good idea of how things work. It’s true, of course, that nobody has meetings of the FPcy meeting minutes, but that doesn’t mean that educated conjecture is impossible.

  44. Ardis,

    I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t even know if you’re a male or a female…or if Ardis is your real name. But I certainly never claimed to speak for the Bloggernacle…or for the church at large, for that matter.

    But thanks for the clarifications. I should add that they’re nothing new from around these parts.

  45. #48 is too mind-boggling to pass up.

    John, if producing rabid anti-Mormon material like The Godmakers is your idea of an effective method to change the church what are you waiting for?

  46. I would also like to assert that John does not speak for anyone else at Mormon Matters, either. And the fact that he doesn’t know Ardis is a huge strike against him — in the Bloggernacle, AND in the Church at large.

  47. David, that’s simply not true. There are some top-notch historians and well-read sociology types around here with a pretty darn good idea of how things work. It’s true, of course, that nobody has meetings of the FPcy meeting minutes, but that doesn’t mean that educated conjecture is impossible.

    Ah yes, I forgot about people like Daymon Smith. After reading his book I can only conclude that attempting to change anything at an institutional level at the LDS church is a fool’s errand at best. So, I stand corrected, perhaps it’s not ignorance but rather hopelessness?

  48. Come on Ardis, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel! I mean really, reporting on what someone said in a public meeting is now causing harm to the church and it’s members? You’d think John D posted the videos from Jensen’s latest colonoscopy after reading your response.

    John Dehlin, I appreciate what you do. That fact that you successfully piss off both the conservative and the liberal Mormons is a pretty good indicator that you are on the right track. Keep up the good work.

  49. Um, no, I doubt anyone would really draw conclusions, historical or tactical, from Daymon’s _fictional_ account.

  50. Wow, this has turned quite harsh, not something that I am really a fan of. I will only add that I think that the dichotomy between public criticism and private working behind the scenes advocacy is highly problematic. For one, not all public criticism is the same. Lester Bush is not the same as the Godmakers. I sincerely hope that there are kinds of criticism that are both public and effective. Starting with a foundation of respectful dialogue is a key component of this kind of critical discourse. I agree that Smallaxe’s question of what in the world “accountability” looks like is pretty important, because it sounds to me like it begins from an adversarial starting point.
    Furthermore, if advocacy for change is limited to work done “behind the scenes,” well, few people are afforded that privileged position of access. This is perhaps a highly effective strategy, but one that very, very few members of the church will ever experience. There have to be alternative ways of working of change that don’t involve this kind of privilege.

  51. Um, no, I doubt anyone would really draw conclusions, historical or tactical, from Daymon’s _fictional_ account.

    I’m glad to know that it was totally fictional and bears no resemblance to the inner workings at the COB. Back to ignorance I guess.

  52. “That fact that you successfully piss off both the conservative and the liberal Mormons is a pretty good indicator that you are on the right track.”

    David,

    Where might that track be leading?

  53. David, I didn’t say “totally” or “bears no resemblance.” I just don’t think it’s a terribly useful book for navigating this episode (or any others I can think of).

    There’s plenty of reason for hopelessness, if that’s what you’re looking for. And I actually think that John’s approach is borne of a certain damn- the-torpedoes-flavored nihilism that is a real temptation when one is looking for progressive change. But as TT rightly points out, there are some known, effective modes of critique, and some others that might be worth trying, and there are some that we can fairly say are likely to be counterproductive.

    This is not a binary situation, where the two options are blithely accepting everything the Church says or else turning yourself into cannon fodder.

  54. Oh, now John’s turned coy. He knows me better than he’s admitting, knows I’m a she, knows I’m an historian, knows this is my real name. He wanted to friend me on FB (hardly an exclusive thing, I realize, with his thousands of contacts there), but he also knows enough about me to have asked me to do one of his podcasts. I was rude enough never to have responded to either approach.

    But as TT notes, this is turning harsh and personal, and I recognize my role in that and will cease.

  55. TT,

    I do not think that anyone here is particularly objecting to public criticism. It is a particularly type of strategy that I object to. I fully support dissent on a range of issues. I do it here all the time. Heck, Ardis does it on her blog. (Note to all: any further messing with Ardis will be moderated).

    I prefer a deliberative model which is based on love and care. The combative model which some choose is not. This is not to say that I do not get heated. But I am a poor example in most things.

  56. Wow – all the action is here tonight!

    I posted this to Times and Seasons, but since John reposted his #38 here, I’ll do the same:

    John, #38, responding to your points:

    1 – Yes, you did change the title as the criticism began to point out the problem with it. One thing that is admirable about you is your willingness to make corrections. When we aren’t at each other’s throats, sometimes we can actually make sense.

    2 – This isn’t entirely accurate. Frankly, I would have preferred that you moderate my second comment, the one with the expletive, rather than comment #12 (at the time) which amounted to little more than quoting you and then disagreeing with your analysis. I wrote, in part:

    “Looking at the report, Elder Jensen is sitting in an emotionally charged meeting with hurting people. How can he not offer some words of comfort? He’s a good and caring man. He’s ministering, mourning with those who mourn, and offering compassion. It’s a beautiful account.”

    It’s comment #151187, or thereabout, in your system. There were others.

    3 – This isn’t about publishing the notes. Really! It is NOT about the notes. It’s the accompanying statements to “seize this as an opportunity” and “force [the church] to clarify”, to stop “enabling [the leadership]” and “hold the brethren accountable”. I don’t know how else to try to convey this: Elder Jensen’s words of compassion were beautiful and not unexpected. It is the hijacking of an important and individually significant moment to use for a larger purpose that we are objecting to. It affects us all.

    4 – I’ve seen some of these statements. I think some overreach. But I do think that using Elder Jensen’s words as I have detailed in #3 above puts a kind and compassionate man in a difficult situation.

  57. I think it’s interesting that Welker said that she wrote her vitriolic (my word, of course) Huff Post blog at the behest of John.

    “I wrote this piece at John’s explicit request that I hold the church’s feet to the fire, which is admittedly what I am trying to do. He sent me a link to the Mormon Matters blog post and asked me to write something for the HuffPo. I was happy to oblige.”

    We can here see some of the attack dog tactics at play in John’s world of loving the Church.

  58. What’s also interesting is how someone who can be so against authoritarianism can himself be so authoritarian. Though John claims to be uninvolved in the day to day operations at Mo Mat, he’s perfectly content, so I hear, to blow in whenever he wants and shake things up, disrupting the schedules and guidelines and ground rules the collective has laid in place including the policy on deleting comments, which was apparently supposed to take the consent of three permas. Nothing doing, he went ahead and just deleted what he wanted. Now at least one perma has been ousted by force, downgraded to author, and now just in the last little bit while trying to get in to transfer past posts to another venue, this former perma, can no longer even access past posts or make any others.

    Sounds like the rest of the permas aren’t happy with his direction with this last post. I sure hope sane minds prevail over there and the ousted perma is reinstated. What a trainwreck, all courtesy, of one John Dehlin.

  59. Yes it’s true…I asked Holly, along with all 2200 of my Facebook friends…to spread the word about Elder Jensen’s wonderful comments. Holly was literally 1 in 2200…but if you want to make a big deal of that…feel free.

  60. Things continue to heat up. Yet another admin has been suspended over there. The survivors of the carnage are considering freezing all action until John explains himself. So says the grapevine.

  61. And, I’m not a Mo Mat blogger, btw. just looking for some accountability and justice for some good people who are getting screwed over by someone I think is a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    One last one before going to bed with my apologies for the extended threadjack–Finally, one perma wants to hold a skype conference call with John, but JOhn insists he doesn’t have time until next week!

    Pretty audacious for someone who has relied on a faithful panel to keep things going for the past 2 years, while he has done nothing but a dashed-off post here and there. Now, they’re all expendable, poor souls. Some guess they’re all out and will be replaced with more faithful minions. Of course, he has owner status, so he can keep the rest under his thumb. Well done, John, well done..

  62. welker watcher speaks the truth.

    john, your behind the scenes temper tantrum with some of the permas at MM speaks poorly of your character.

    you have totally crossed the line.

    it’s unfortunate that some of the best names in mormon blogging and thought have their names forever associated with your work.

    you blew it, buddy.

  63. The carnage continues. Here’s where things stand as of just a few minutes ago according to sources. John has been on quite the vindictive rampage…

    BiV–admin–now cut
    Hawkgrrl–admin–now cut
    jmb–admin–downgraded to editor at last tally.
    Mormon Heretic–admin–now cut
    Firetag–author–now cut
    Andrew–author–now cut
    Jeff Spector–author–now cut
    Stephen Marsh–author–now cut
    Joanna Brooks–author–status unknown
    Adam–author–status unknown
    Natasha–author–status unknown

    Good thing Rico abandoned this conflagration before it erupted!

  64. This is really interesting from the point of view of someone who doesn’t hang out here or on Mormon Matters much. It sounds like everyone wants to publicize private conversations whether they demonize others for doing so or not. One big happy dysfunctional family! FWIW, whatever John’s motives for publicizing the information, it was very healing in my attitude toward the Church, of which I am a member but an often very frustrated member, to hear of what was said. I didn’t for a minute think it was meant as an official apology for Prop 8, but just the idea that a GA would go to a meeting on the subject, respectfully listen and acknowledge the pain that was caused meant a lot to me. I can’t see how that is harmful to either pro or anti-LDS for more to hear of it.

    It was very harmful for me to hear that the CHI and GA speeches have taken the position that broadcasting such statements is forbidden. If we can handle the fact that BY and others have said things in their official capacities that are now repudiated, certainly we can handle that lesser GA’s not speaking in general conference might not speak for the institution as a whole. If they can’t be trusted to speak without being muzzled, perhaps the church should rethink its methods for calling them and its position on the Lord not allowing the church to be led astray by those called to high leadership positions.

    Please, let those of us who have a lot of pain hear this kind of stuff even if we don’t live in Oakland. We need it more than you need to worry about whether the GA’s can handle the perception of disagreement amongst them. They are perfectly capable of putting out a statement that heartfelt apologies for the pain the situation caused does not mean any change in that situation. My own father worked for Prop 8 because he was told to by the Church he believes in even though he is accepting of my brother and his live-in boyfriend at every family occasion. We have to come to terms with a mix of feelings as less inspired beings, so I’m not going to pity the GA’s for having to do the same. They’re big boys. They can handle it.

    I don’t know why the priesthood ban was changed, but I’ve got to believe that both private and public forces helped SWK make the decision that he should pray really hard about it rather than just go along with the status quo. If public dissent makes it less likely that men of God tasked with stewardship over so many would ask those questions of God, that doesn’t speak well for those men or their God, now, does it? I am more mature than that when my kids bring up good points against my position publicly and I can’t believe that prophets, seers and revelators are actually more petty than I am.

  65. Wow, Paula, I don’t think I could have invented a more inside-out interpretation of the issue had I tried. You really think the caution against broadcasting local remarks is to “muzzle” General Authorities because they can’t be trusted? I think most of us would say the problem is that listeners can’t be trusted to report accurately, in context, what was said, rather than sensational, half-true clipped versions of what they wanted to hear.

    I do agree with you in one respect, though: “I can’t believe that prophets, seers and revelators are actually more petty than [you are].”

  66. My last paragraph is nothing but snark, which I did not mean and regret having said. I’m sorry, Paula. If Chris is willing to delete it, I’d feel better.

    I do however stand by my first paragraph, that you have turned the reality of the matter on its head, that it isn’t the GAs’ comments that are questionable or untrustworthy but the reports of them from amateurs with agendas.

  67. I’m really uncomfortable about the level of John bashing here now, and I’m especially uncomfortable about the posting of behind-the-scenes information regarding MormonMatters. Despite the fact that I left MormonMatters some time ago. This wasn’t meant to be a John roast and the MormonMatters stuff is an internal dispute in which we don’t have all the information to really judge one way or the other.

  68. David Clark — I’ve a series of posts at Mormon Matters about how G.A.s think and such. Read it, you might find it useful.

    I’m really uncomfortable about the level of John bashing here now, I’d agree.

    I don’t think bashing him helps any more than bashing anyone else, which I think is counterproductive.

  69. #60: That fact that you successfully piss off both the conservative and the liberal Mormons is a pretty good indicator that you are on the right track. Keep up the good work.

    This sort of argument seems more of a shield against criticism than an accurate measure of the correctness of one’s position. Positions aren’t true or false based on mere opposition. Clearly, someone can be incorrect about something and receive opposition from any given direction.

  70. Fair enough on the John bashing. You won’t get any more from me–you already know how I feel.

    #83-Tod, yes, he’s owner. No one can touch him. And by this morning all admins have been cut off. The only reason Hawkgrrl has a post up is cuz it was set to go automatically. Neither she nor anyone can access their material.

    #88, I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable. I’d agree that this is a threadjack, which I intend to bring to a close, but you know, these were meetings I wasn’t invited to but someone emailed me about, and so because I think a certain institution needs to be held accountable and his feet to the fire, I decided that this needs to be spread far and wide. Too bad I don’t have a surrogate at Huff Post, though, to really get the pressure on and ask for clarification of what’s going on from the MM owner. You know?

    And finally, JD has removed the whole Elder Jensen thread that started it all. I hope someone saved a copy!

    Sorry for the threadjack Chris. Hopefully they can all work it out.

  71. I’ve never been on this blog before. I just caught up on all the comments. I don’t know who Welker Watcher is, but I find Welker Watcher as incredibly unhelpful. I have admired John Dehlin from a distance, and have appreciated his open-ness in the past. I don’t like the John bashing. I didn’t have a huge problem with his post, but it did appear to me that it wasn’t an accurate representation of what Elder Jensen said.

    I am greatly saddened by the events over the past few days, and I hope some reconciliation can occur. Cooler heads are not prevailing, and I hope we can all take a deep breath and prevent the situation from getting worse.

  72. Maybe somebody should dash off a post about Bible stuff or something ancient but comparable to something modern. You know, something a little less explosive. That could be pleasant.

  73. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Not following Faith-Promoting Rumor is a grave faux pas. Not only are the posts great, but the comments section is exciting and juicy too, apparently.

  74. “That fact that you successfully piss off both the conservative and the liberal Mormons is a pretty good indicator that you are on the right track.”

    David,

    Where might that track be leading?

    Towards free communication in the LDS church. In the end it won’t happen, but John D is having a good try at it.

    Well, since he already deleted the original post, I’d say the attempt has already failed.

  75. There’s plenty of reason for hopelessness, if that’s what you’re looking for. And I actually think that John’s approach is borne of a certain damn- the-torpedoes-flavored nihilism that is a real temptation when one is looking for progressive change. But as TT rightly points out, there are some known, effective modes of critique, and some others that might be worth trying, and there are some that we can fairly say are likely to be counterproductive.

    Yes, there are other modes of critique, but they are mostly academic and won’t get anything changed. However, the bottom line is that I have never seen anyone offer what I would consider to be an effective mode of doing critique against the church. It’s generally variations on respect the authorities, respect their position, respect the priesthood, speak softly, carry a little stick, etc. That’s not a recipe for change, it’s a recipe for being a doormat.

    In the end, however, I really don’t care because it’s not my problem anymore. It is however fun to watch intelligent people wring their hands, worry a lot, and do nothing.

    This is not a binary situation, where the two options are blithely accepting everything the Church says or else turning yourself into cannon fodder.

    Well, a great percentage of the leadership sees it in exactly those terms. The problem with many Mormon liberals is that they refuse to acknowledge this is reality. And in any case, change is generally made to happen by a few passionate individuals or groups who _are_ willing to become cannon fodder in service of the cause they believe in.

  76. “Maybe somebody should dash off a post about Bible stuff or something ancient but comparable to something modern. You know, something a little less explosive. That could be pleasant.”

    i know! I’ve had to go read fMh to find some peace….

  77. There’s no irony lost when John Dehlin criticizes the Church for hiding uncomfortable or embarrassing moments in its history, and yet he himself deletes an uncomfortable and embarrassing moment from his own blog.

    John wants the Church to open up and admit its mistakes, yet he himself is not willing to do the same.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  78. Thanks for hosting the discussion, Chris H, and for trying to reign in the personal remarks against John.

    Also, it took me entirely too long to realize that Welker Watcher’s moniker was not a reference to the Patriot’s receiver.

  79. I will likely wind the post down at about 10pm Mountain Time, Noon Eastern.

    Have you no regard for the fourth dimension?

  80. There’s no irony lost when John Dehlin criticizes the Church for hiding uncomfortable or embarrassing moments in its history, and yet he himself deletes an uncomfortable and embarrassing moment from his own blog.

    Who deleted the post? Has Dehlin said he did it or did someone else do it?

  81. Rory (#103): No one here, to the best of my knowledge, has made “personal remarks against John.” No one has, for example, called him an idiot, or said he has body odor, or criticized his taste in casual wear.

    It is not a personal criticism to critique someone’s poor handling of a situation, nor is it ad hominem to point out hypocrisy in what they expect of others versus what they do themselves.

    Criticizing John Dehlin’s use of Elder Jensen’s comments is perfectly appropriate and in no way an attack on Dehlin. Falling back on that is merely a convenient way to deflect appropriate criticism when it is due.

  82. “It is not a personal criticism to critique someone’s poor handling of a situation … [it] is perfectly appropriate and in no way an attack on Dehlin. Falling back on that is merely a convenient way to deflect appropriate criticism when it is due.”

    So why then is criticizing the Church’s policies and handling of situations considered “speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed”?

  83. Just wondering (#110): So why then is criticizing the Church’s policies and handling of situations considered “speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed”?

    Certainly people can criticize the Church without personal or ecclesiastical repurcussions. The bloggernacle will provide ample evidence of that.

    However, there is something of a difference between criticizing Thomas S. Monson, whom one has publicly sustained as a prophet who holds the keys, and criticizing John Dehlin, whom one has not.

  84. I propose that there are many themes here that can now be picked up at the many respective blogs represented here. Go read Blair’s post. It will make you smile.

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