This weekend the interweb exploded with a post at Mormon Matters entitled Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8. In the ensuing discussion there, and in numerous discussions on Facebook, a debate erupted over whether the headline and the conclusions were warranted, or whether it was being spun into something that could be used by advocates for change. (For a good reflection of what actually happened in the meeting, refer to Carol Lynn Pearson’s comment at Mormon Matters, and her published notes of the account here.)
Particularly relevant is that the debate about the tactics used was largely confined to those who share the same values, those who hope to see our Church grow and reconcile some very difficult issues. This was not a debate about whether to talk about Elder Jensen’s words – the account of this meeting is touching and meaningful and should be shared. Rather, it was a debate about tactics. A debate about the use of inflated rhetoric to leverage Elder Jensen’s words to effect change.
Most of those debates are gone now. The threads at Facebook no longer exist, having been deleted mid-day following a fairly critical discussion of the conclusions and subsequent statements by the original author. (They have, however, been replaced with fresh status updates, free of the inconvenient “alternate voices”.) Further, a number of comments on the thread at Mormon Matters, particularly those revealing intent and those pointing out problematic and inflated rhetoric, were deleted or moderated. A striking action considering the author’s stated intent to hold church leaders accountable for their words and to advocate for transparency. It amounts to little more than giving lip-service to open forums and honest debate. And now the impact of this post and its tactics will be long felt, as it is now getting attention on the national scene with a post by Holly Welker at The Huffington Post.
Just a few days prior to this firestorm, Kristine Haglund published an exploration of what is required to effectively examine our Church and doctrines from a critical and dissenting stance. Acknowledging that “dissenting as a Mormon is tricky” due to “doctrinal discouragement and fierce social pressure to refrain from voicing any criticism,” Kristine maps a method of voicing concerns and advocating according to ones’ conscience while still maintaining loyalty for our Church and our people. Citing Mauss’ “Decalogue of Dissent”, she makes it clear that one must be transparent in her motives, her position, and her love if she is to have any hope of being acknowledged – and considered – by fellow Saints.
The use of inflated rhetoric to leverage Elder Jensen’s words to effect change is misguided. Critics, to have any effect, must maintain the respect of those they are trying to influence. Credibility is paramount, and in this case it has been lost. Also lost amidst all of this is the fact that we are one people, that we share a common belief and mission. We don’t do this to our friends.
Sadly, for those who hope for dialogue and healing of the wounds caused by the Church’s involvement in the campaign for Proposition 8, the methods used this weekend have the potential to delay things considerably.