An Open Letter to the Deseret News

October 11, 2010 | 68 comments
By

Your latest editorial shows a disturbing lack of integrity.

Immediately after lambasting gay rights advocates for “tak[ing] a statement out of context, embellish[ing] it with selective interpretation, presum[ing] hostile intent, and then us[ing] the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church,” you write this:

“We encourage all to read President Packer’s talk rather than simply rely on the media interpretations and selective quotations.”

You do not mention anywhere in this editorial that reading President Packer’s talk means reading a redacted versionnot the version that so incensed gay rights advocates. This editorial deliberately misleads the reader into thinking that the outcry was a response to the redacted talk when, in fact, the outcry was a response to the talk as delivered in General Conference. Perhaps it is true that there would have been a response had President Packer delivered the redacted version in the first place, but that is not relevant. What is relevant is that this editorial is guilty of, ironically, the sins it attributes to gay rights advocates: taking a statement (i.e., the hostile response to President Packer) completely out of context and then “using the distortion to isolate an entire group.”

I agree that some of the response to the original talk was excessive, completely inappropriate, and uncivil. But it is hard to fathom how this editorial, with its own distortions, could possibly contribute to a civil conversation on the issue of same-sex attraction.

68 Responses to An Open Letter to the Deseret News

  1. Dan on October 11, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    no one could have predicted…

  2. chris on October 11, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    errr…. I read this line in that editoral:

    “It stretches all credulity to find in President Packer’s pastoral counsel what some are calling a hateful message “that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide.” Contrary to what some have written in provocative press releases, nothing in President Packer’s talk says that “violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.””

    I think the editorial is referring to that. Neither the spoken nor written word encourage hate or condones or implies that suicide should be an option. So yes, read the talk. You won’t find it. Listen to the talk, you won’t find it either — unless you want to, which is I think a point of the editorial.

  3. Julie M. Smith on October 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    chris,

    I completely agree that there was nothing in either version that would encourage any bullying or violence. I could be persuaded by the argument that the original version–with its reference to inborn tendencies and its rhetorical question–could inadvertently have encouraged depression in LDS with SSA when, despite their best efforts, they aren’t able to overcome those tendencies.

    But when a key point in the editorial is that “that dialogue [about SSA] should respect context,” it is simply not acceptable for the editorial to elide the context of the protest over President Packer’s talk. We can’t turn back the clock and definitely determine what the protest would have looked like if the redacted version had been read in conference–maybe it would have been the same, maybe not. But the editorial simply can’t invite readers to read the talk as if that settles the matter when what they are reading is not what was protested.

  4. jbdill74 on October 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Perhaps those smart enough and who have been paying attention or care about this saga would already know that the written version isn’t where the ire lies, and if they really wanted to get irate and release the pent up anger in their hearts they could go watch the video version that was posted almost immediately after Conference.

    Those who are just apathetic to this saga wouldn’t care after reading that article to even go read Elder Packer’s talk anyways.

    I for on am glad that we have prophets and apostles on the earth. Are they infallible? Hardly. But regardless of any of this ensuing saga, they still speak God’s moral laws are eternal. How we coexist with those that would seek to alter or pass legislation contrary to God’s moral laws is really what the issue is here. That is where the church leaders can be fallible. Surely Joseph Smith had his fallible moments (i.e. handling of the Kirtland Bank). They aren’t perfect but the resulting animosity and gross hatred towards the church that has resulted from this, even including from inside the church, truly shows the state of some people’s hearts. (not in line with Christ’s teachings)

  5. Jared on October 11, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    To extend what Chris said, the modified text of Pres. Packer’s talk does not change the tone or message of what he spoke in General Conference. I’ve read a number of the reactions from LGBT groups to Pres. Packer’s talk and all of them subscribe hostile intent to Pres. Packer when none was intended. Besides, the video and audio of his talk are available for anyone to watch or listen to; the Church isn’t hiding what he said. LGBT groups are still upset over the edited talk (although, if someone has evidence that LGBT groups are not upset with the printed version I’d love to read or hear it). The wicked take the truth to be hard (myself included), no matter how politically correct it might be.

  6. Jared on October 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I meant to add that Julie has a point but I don’t think the editorial “deliberately misleads the reader” at all. There is no hypocrisy or lack of integrity from the editorialist(s); however, they should have included a link to the audio or video as well as to the edited text.

  7. Goodbye on October 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Julie -

    I don’t know you, but I’ve long admired your posts and comments in the Bloggernacle, and think that you have generally been a consistent voice of reason. This one doesn’t seem up to your normally high standards.

    You accuse the Deseret New of “deliberately mislead[ing]” “lack[ing] of integrity,” being “guilty” and “distort[ing]” without any proof that it acted intentionally or with malice in committing the error that you allege. What proof do you have?

    It seems to me that you are “tak[ing] a statement out of context, embellish[ing] it with selective interpretation, presum[ing] hostile intent, and then us[ing] the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case [the] [Deseret News].”

  8. queuno on October 11, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    I don’t think the Deseret News was being willfully malicious or misleading. I think it’s just sloppy and/or tone-deaf.

  9. Tim on October 11, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Count me as someone who was a bit surprised (and disagreed) with President Packer’s talk–and am now perfectly fine with the revised version.

    Unfortunately, if you want to know what’s really going on with the church, sometimes you have to go to the Salt Lake Tribune. The Deseret News has a habit of hiding anything that might be seen as even a little bit controversial in regards to the church, whether it be about Elder Lee’s excommunication, an LDS missionary arrested by ICE at the Cincinnati Airport, or the original words of Elder Packer’s talk.

  10. Julie M. Smith on October 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Jared writes, “the modified text of Pres. Packer’s talk does not change the tone or message of what he spoke in General Conference.”

    I disagree with you about the tone, but since tone is such a subjective thing, I don’t suppose it would be useful to argue about it. As far as “message,” however, I think it is clear that the edits did in fact change the message: Otherwise, why bother making them? Specifically, changing “tendency” to “temptation” is a huge difference in terms of how we think about the nature of SSA. The removal of the rhetorical question is also huge theologically (see Rory and Rosalynde’s dueling posts on that!).

    I do agree with you, Jared, that if they had included a link to the audio, the video, or a transcript of the speech as delivered, I would have had no beef with the editorial. They are absolutely right that the reaction to the [spoken] talk was completely out of line and that more civility is called for from all sides in this discussion.

    But to set “reading the talk” in opposition to “media interpretations” and “selective quotations” without making clear that the media interpretations and quotations were derived from something other than what you were being encouraged to read is not fair.

    Which brings me to Goodbye’s comment: I’m happy to entertain other possibilities besides a deliberate desire to mislead about the nature of the controversy. queno suggests that they may have just been sloppy. I do suppose that is a possibility, but given this timeline:

    1. President Packer delivers talk.
    2. Protests erupt.
    3. The Church releases edited talk.

    I don’t see how any fair editorialist could encourage his/her readers to read the edited talk in order to reach the conclusion that the original talk did not warrant the protests and that the media had interpreted the talk inaccurately. Again, I don’t think the protests were warranted or the media was fair, but only the original talk, not the edited one, can lead one to that conclusion.

  11. DavidH on October 11, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Well said Julie. .

  12. Lorenzo on October 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I have a greater problem with the next issue of the Ensign which will undoubtedly claim to contain General Conference Address. As it will not be publishing an actual address of President Packer, but a new revision of what was really said, then is there any way in which such a claim is honest?

    Its hard to believe that a talk prepared, vetted, and probably revised, then read verbatim, could be claimed to not accurately represent the views of its author. Nevertheless, if President Packer wanted to issue a clarification at the end of his printed talk, few would object, and many might respect him more for doing so.

    However, to imply that the published talk is a transcript of what he actually said (as past revisions have done) would surely be an untruth, something which I hope would be beneath the dignity of our authorities and of the Church officially.

  13. jjohnsen on October 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    It’s the Deseret News, what were you expecting? I understand that it’s a newspaper, but I consider anything written on their editorial page to have been correlated by the Church, or at least by someone representing the church.

  14. Left Field on October 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    This has already been discussed thoroughly elsewhere, Lorenzo, but published proceedings of scientific conferences never consist of unedited verbatim transcripts of the oral presentations. I assume it’s also standard operating procedure for other academic and professional conferences as well.

    Anybody who doesn’t know that church conference reports are routinely edited for publication (and have been for decades, probably since whenever they first started publishing official reports) hasn’t been paying attention. There’s no implication that the published address is a direct transcript of the oral presentation, either for church conferences, or for academic or professional conferences.

  15. Dave on October 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Well, maybe we’ll end up with an edited editorial that refers to the original talk … replacing the orginal editorial that refers to the edited talk. This could get confusing.

  16. Phouchg on October 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    There should now be absolutely no doubt that the Deseret News aspires to be the Mormon L’Osservatore Romano. And the correlation committee is the editor-in-chief of the Deseret News.

  17. Matt on October 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I don’t think it’s fair to call the printed form of his talk a redacted version. I would think of it more as a final form. Refer to Bro. Trotter’s statement for the explanation of the standard procedure of letting the speakers clarify the text. I can recall instances in the past in which the printed form did not match with what was delivered in General Conference. Besides, the video and audio are still available on the Church website–wouldn’t they be taken down if something was really being redacted?

  18. Ziff on October 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Great point, Julie.

    Chris (#2), of course President Packer didn’t say anyone should be hated or go commit suicide. But his argument (in the spoken version) that God wouldn’t make someone gay and therefore they’re sinning in their very attractions can easily lead to hate, self-hate, and suicide.

    The piece of the editorial that struck me was this bit:

    the LDS Church has consistently reached out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.

    If the editorial writers are going to assert things like this, it’s very difficult to take them seriously.

  19. Lorenzo on October 11, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Having personally presented papers and having revised them for publication I do not consider our General Conferences to be in the same category, or that the same process is relevant. General Authorities don’t speak from notes, nor do they give extemporaneous talks anymore. They read from an auto-cue, and with this talk I have seen no indication that President Packer misread.

    Our conference issue certainly strongly implies it contains reports, addresses, and texts of the talks which had been given. Perhaps with the latest Ensign they’ll decided to no longer give such an impression, but why not just print the Ensign first and give the talks afterward – thereby avoiding the appearance of misrepresentation?

  20. Cynthia L. on October 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    “Goodbye” may have a point that this post represents somewhat of a departure from Julie’s typical style, but I disagree that there’s anything wrong with that. The post seems appropriate to the issue.

    Thanks, Julie. You have a way of finding the right words for the moment. With both this post and the Big Love temple one, you’ve taken something that was really a rock in my shoe that I wanted to speak out on, but just couldn’t quite articulate.

  21. Chino Blanco on October 12, 2010 at 12:14 am

    A brave and honest letter from Julie M. Smith. Perhaps DesNews will have time to read it once they’re done promoting their fave new Facebook fan site.

    In any case, a Thank You is probably in order. It seems apparent that the Prop 8 victory has convinced many (most?) rank-and-file LDS that LGBT Americans and their allies are incapable of mounting any meaningful response to Mormon might, but I wasn’t sure if the leadership shared that opinion. Watching them mock the objectives of their political opponents from the pulpit of General Conference using comparisons to “defying gravity” pretty much settled that question. So, thanks for the heads up. For the foreseeable future, the situation between us looks like it will continue to match Jeremy Hooper’s description:

    I once read a tell-all book about “Saturday Night Live,” in which one of the female writers from the early days of the show, Anne Beatts, described the gender disparity in 1970s, pre-Tina Fey comedy writing rooms by saying that “[the men] had to spell ‘cat,’ and [the women] had to say when the Edict of Nantes was revoked.” It’s a comment that ably sums up how I feel about the gay vs. anti-gay debate, where the former set has to do a triple flip over a high bar just to advance a half-step, while the latter side has largely sailed by in heterosexist America, just kicking over even the lowest bars that get in their way. Whereas the pro-civil rights side prides itself on cogent arguments and thoroughly researched bullet points, our opposition (and far too much of the public) feels like it’s perfectly suitable to counter those carefully studied, thoroughly lawful, intensely measured, highly principled points by using rhetoric that ranges from red herring to abject lie, with 99% of the anti-LGBT data supported only by personal faith and not actual documentation. Plus, whereas the pro-fairness side is far more concerned about correcting misstatements and self-checking our movement for flaws, the anti-fairness crew has placed their organizational premium on blind eyes and negligent mouths.

    And the chutzpah to call for civility after encouraging chuckling at our expense in a broadcast beamed to millions. “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty” ha ha hee hee … “let’s vote on that and then vote on gravity” … hardee har har … Blind eyes and negligent mouths.

  22. michelle on October 12, 2010 at 12:33 am

    I dunno, Julie. I see what you are trying to say, but it’s not like the changes in the talk have suddenly calmed the storm. Protests are still going on, people are still upset, other parts of the talk are still be criticized, etc. To me a point of the editorial is that the whole point of his talk really was missed. That core message was not changed when he made the few changes he did, even if the changes did help a few people to hear him better.

    People want to make this about Pres. Packer, but to me it’s not really about him — I see him more as the target right now for the general ire about the Church on the issue of homosexuality that existed long before this talk was given.

    And I think things are all the more charged because of the pain surrounding the recent suicides, with concerns about bullying and the real struggles those with SSA experience. Again, these are things I think most people and the Church are concerned about, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about those things right now because there is still way too much emotion and anger swirling around. We can’t come together and address these problems if people are focusing too much on his address.

    I think it can go the other way, too. Spending too much time only *defending* Pres. Packer and being angry about the angry responses could lead people to miss the real concerns about bullying, etc. that exist. Just because he is being attacked doesn’t mean that some of the concerns aren’t valid.

    But in short, I think a plea for more dialogue in spite of differences is a good one. On charged issues like gay marriage, etc. it’s too easy to spend too much time trying to attack “the other” rather than trying to find ways to work together in spite of the differences that exist. Because they likely always will. We might as well figure out sooner than later how to get along and solve problems where we *can* find common ground.

  23. MoHoHawaii on October 12, 2010 at 12:57 am

    There’s a human side to this, and it’s the 15 year old sitting in the congregation, utterly isolated, with no sexual experience of any kind, who knows that the leaders behind the pulpit are talking about him as a threat to the family and the Church. The best expression of this I’ve ever seen is a YouTube clip by a person who was once exactly in that situation. (Follow the link from my user name for this comment and watch it.) It only takes a few minutes and puts a human face on what is otherwise an abstract discussion.

  24. wondering on October 12, 2010 at 1:36 am

    MoHoHawaii: Yeah, that guy in the video seems happy, and he might think he’s happy, but we know he’s not because, you know, wickedness never was happiness. Think how much happier he would be if he was a closeted celibate Mormon!

  25. MartineS on October 12, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Well said, Julie. That was my reaction when I read the editorial.
    jbdill74 Give me a “for instance” in the last 20 years when you have declared about a living prophet that, “Elder-so-and so or President so-and-so is wrong on this?” Too easy to go back to the Kirtland Bank example. No, something in your adult lifetime. Can’t find one, can you? Because if you did, you’d be seen as “not following the prophet.”

    You cant even say, “second pair of earring” because Bednar made it clear that that was the Lord speaking. No, there is not one recent day example of a prophet being wrong on anything.

    BTW I loved GBH but he was wrong to speak on earrings–although I’ve always only had one set myself.

  26. michelle on October 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

    There’s a human side to this, and it’s the 15 year old sitting in the congregation, utterly isolated, with no sexual experience of any kind, who knows that the leaders behind the pulpit are talking about him as a threat to the family and the Church.

    This is one of those things that we ought to be able to talk about. But it can’t happen if we don’t actually have dialogue.

    And it can’t happen if the Church is somehow made out to be completely responsible for the struggles such people have in sorting through all of this.

  27. Mark D. on October 12, 2010 at 2:39 am

    But his argument (in the spoken version) that God wouldn’t make someone gay and therefore they’re sinning in their very attractions can easily lead to hate, self-hate, and suicide.

    This has been discussed to death, but that is not what he said. What he said (spoken, unedited version) was:

    Some suppose that they were pre-set, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father.

    It does not follow from the spoken text that he denies that such tendencies are “pre-set”. He denies the claim that tendencies are pre-set and cannot be overcome, and then asserts that God would not inflict/allow that combination for anyone.

    If someone is going to be offended, perhaps he/she should take offense at what Elder Packer actually said, rather than what they imagine him to have said.

  28. Alison Moore Smith on October 12, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Bravo, Mark D.

  29. Swearing Elder on October 12, 2010 at 4:07 am

    I think this talk is the one that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Packer has a looooooong history of homophobia and this one coming on the heels of a spate of gay teen suicides struck a raw nerve.

  30. Tim on October 12, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Mark D.,
    Does the church hold that all homosexuals can overcome such tendencies? Overcome temptations, sure, but overcome pre-set tendencies? I disagree with Elder Packer’s assertion, and, judging from the changes made in the talk, it seems as if the church itself is unwilling to support Elder Packer’s conclusions.

    Besides, God gives us all sorts of conditions, many of them preset, that are impossible to overcome. “Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?” Because God knows that it’s difficult for us to grow when everything is easy and perfect. He wants us to work through and live with trials and hardships.

  31. john f. on October 12, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Mark D. I think the comment between “pre-set” and “and” complicates the matter.

    I agree that Elder Packer was not claiming that no one is born gay with his original talk but on the basis that one of Elder Packer’s prime considerations is unity with the Brethren and he would not have broken ranks with the official position of the Church, which is to respect the orientation/action distinction thereby not condemning people who report that they feel attracted to people of the same sex and therefore identify themselves as gay but expecting gay members to live celibately. Admittedly, this is a hard message for our gay members who therefore face a life of celibacy where this is not required of heterosexual members.

    But I don’t see Elder Packer ignoring the orientation/action distinction in his original address, which, admittedly, was not very clearly worded.

    The printed version of the talk clarifies his meaning and confirms that he was not ignoring the orientation/action distinction. The print version replaces “tendencies” with “temptations” (which fits better with the quote from Paul immediately following the statement, in any event) and deletes the rhetorical question (“Why would God do that to anybody?” which not only can easily be interpreted (and was interpreted) by many as denying a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality but also, perhaps more importantly, raises a lot of other very complicated questions about theodicy.

  32. john f. on October 12, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Mark D. I meant to refer to the “comma” between “pre-set” and “and”.

  33. Randy B. on October 12, 2010 at 8:38 am

    This isn’t just poor form by the DN but amazingly poor form. Nice write up, Julie.

  34. chanson on October 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Regarding the comparison with professional conference proceedings. I can only speak for Mathematics, but I assume the sciences are similar:

    Important new results are very rarely presented first at a conference. They are published first in journals. Conference talks are generally about exposition, clarification, and discussion of existing results. If a conference report is published, the speaker is normally expected to submit a nicely edited version of the talk and it may receive further editing and reviewing at that point. Naturally, there may be changes in the exposition; it’s not meant to be a verbatim transcript. If something the speaker said is found to be wrong, they may well make a note of it in the published version. If not, keep in mind that most conference talks are not broadcast — they’re more like a small gathering of experts. If you happened to be at a talk, and you want clarification of a discrepancy in the published version, you can contact the speaker or the conference organizers directly, and they’ll respond. (“Hey professor — it says in my notes that you said X=27, but in the conference proceedings it says that X=28; what gives?” “Yes, after reviewing the talk, a colleague pointed out that X is, in fact, 28 for such-and-such a reason…”)

  35. Bob on October 12, 2010 at 9:23 am

    #26: Michelle, With whom are are you going to have a dialogue? The Church rejects dialogue with it’s GAs. (Even doesn’t care must for the mag. “Dialogue”).

  36. Bob on October 12, 2010 at 9:32 am

    #34: Chanson, Church Conference does not work that way. And who said Elder Packer made the changes in his sermon?

  37. Sean on October 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Julie, your technical point is a fair one. If text is changed, it should be referred to as such.

    But beginning your letter with “disturbing lack of integrity”, then responding in #10 by stating your willingness to entertain other motives “besides a deliberate desire to mislead” are not congruent.

  38. Matt on October 12, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Bob,
    “Who said Elder Packer made the changes in his sermon?” Scott Trotter did.

  39. Steve on October 12, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Just a thought here…

    The text version of Elder Packer’s talk has been described as “edited” or “redacted,” but is it possible that the text version is actually the original written version that Elder Packer prepared? Is it possible, for example, that the word “temptations” flashed across the teleprompter, but Elder Packer, being the imperfect human being that he is, mistakenly read “tendencies?” Or that his “why” question was one of those spontaneous utterances that we all regret the moment they escape our lips?

    For that matter, I highly doubt President Uchdorf’s coughing fit made it into the text version either…can anybody confirm or refute?

    I know nothing about the procedure the Church uses in the publication of General Conference talks, except to say that the text version is well-known to not be a “transcript” in the strict sense of the word.

  40. James on October 12, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Not making excuses, but it IS the Deseret News. You expected better of them?

  41. Julie M. Smith on October 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Steve, I am under the impression that the media are given advance copies of the talks and that the pre-written talk is in fact what he spoke and both are different from the text released on Thursday. There’s some hearsay in my previous sentence, so I hope that if I am wrong someone will correct me.

    Sean, you are right. I wish my original post had avoided the question of motives and simply considered the effects of what they had written.

    James, their previous editorial on immigration had given my some hope that they were positioning themselves as a faithful, thoughtful, conciliatory LDS voice.

  42. Left Field on October 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

    #19: Can you cite the specific Ensign language you refer to that strongly implies that the published addresses are unedited transcripts? Merely calling it the “proceedings” or “report” of general conference isn’t sufficient to imply verbatim transcripts since identical language is used to describe the edited papers published in the proceedings of professional meetings.

  43. ECS on October 12, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Nice post, Julie.

  44. Peter LLC on October 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    #19: Can you cite the specific Ensign language you refer to that strongly implies that the published addresses are unedited transcripts?

    I read #19 and didn’t see where the author made any reference to “unedited transcripts.”

    Still, I’m not sure I understand your objection to #19′s actual characterization of the conference issue of the Ensign: “Our conference issue certainly strongly implies it contains reports, addresses, and texts of the talks which had been given.”

    For the most part, speakers at General Conference simply read their prepared talks into the record. There is very little extemporaneous speaking and consequently little need to revise and edit the kind of off-topic and tangential musings you find at professional meetings. Hence, what appears in the conference issue of the Ensign is, for all intents and purposes, a report of what was said.

    Maybe readers shouldn’t be surprised to discover that the texts invariably leave out the warm up jokes or the audience reactions [laughter], but since the talks are otherwise printed as delivered I can see why some might feel blindsided when significant edits are made without any further comment.

  45. Sean on October 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Peter LLC (#44): In the late 1990s I helped translate live General Conference talks into Thai. My experience was that it was not uncommon for talks to deviate from the prepared text in terms of specific *words and phrases*. I don’t recall any talk deviating in principle from what was prepared, but it was not surprising at all when a talk was not given word for word according to the prepared text.

    Two caveats: (1) things may have changed since then; and (2) I only translated personally a subset of maybe 8 talks over a period of years. I spoke with other translators about their talks, but I only have real, personal recollection of a small sample.

  46. Hans on October 12, 2010 at 11:04 am

    When my wife and I translated GC live into Bulgarian, we were given the talks a week in advance that were pre-translated. It was to make sure that we had read through them many times so that when the person was speaking live we could read along with them. Very rarely would they make a change on the day of the talk but we would be notified and would make a one line change in advance of the talk. Therefore it seems to me that these talks are clearly thought out weeks in advance if they are translated into 50+ languages live.

    I wonder whether what Pres. Packer said was already in written form and therefore translated that way in advance. If it was indeed off-the-cuff, there’s a good chance that many translators just kept reading the original text without noticing and never shared the rhetorical question unless they were listening closely. Otherwise, we would have confirmation that he intended the language that he used and only changed it ex post facto.

  47. Sean on October 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Hans (#46): I’m guessing your translation experience was more recent than mine. In the late 90s, we’d receive the English talk, untranslated, sometime the week of Conference. We’d translate them ourselves. If an edit was made before the day of the talk, we’d receive that as well, also untranslated. Given that things seem to have changed, I’d agree with your 2nd paragraph.

  48. HighPriestInASpeedo on October 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Re: #2 nothing in President Packer’s talk says that “violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.”

    True, but nothing in there says it’s unacceptable either. Sadly, bullying, taunting, and other forms of harrassment are all too common in the halls of the church toward our LGBT youth. Until I hear of someone being formally disciplined/disfellowshipped/excommunicated for bullying or homophobic statements, I have to conclude the church condones this behavior in some way.

  49. Chadwick on October 12, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I can only speak of my experience to the talk, which was listening to it in the car on the way to my parent’s house for lunch. My wife and I were both upset with the “Why would Heavenly Father do that?” reference. We thought it was unfair. Why would Heavenly Father allow a parent of young children have cancer? Why would Heavenly Father allow kids to have cancer? Why a lot of things? This phrase bothered us, but the rest of the talk seemed fair.

    So, given my personal experience with the talk, and the subsequent edit, I think Julie has a point. However, I think it was simply an error of two things: sloppy journalism, and bad editing. The Church should probably employ more care in the range of people that review these talks before they are given.

    I find it interesting that President Hinckley’s reign didn’t have half the issues we have seen the past few years, in light of his secular experience in PR.

  50. MoHoHawaii on October 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Re #25 (michelle) [Dialogue] can’t happen if the Church is somehow made out to be completely responsible for the struggles [young gay] people have in sorting through all of this.

    To be fair, no one I know who advocates for the lives and safety of gay Mormon youth thinks the LDS Church is “completely responsible” for the problem, and there’s no reason to pretend that they do. A good example of such an advocate is Carol Lynn Pearson, who remains completely active and comitted to the Church. We also know that there are many compassionate bishops and youth leaders out there who bend the rules and soften the rhetoric.

    These voices for kindness and moderation witin the Church are not helped when the general leadership and the Church’s media properties make intemperate (or false) statements. Dialogue can’t happen when the Church’s paper dissembles in its editorial coverage and denies the very existence of the problem that needs discussing. I agree with Ziff (in #18) that the overly strong denial of the DN editorial damages the Church’s credibility on this topic.

    Thanks, Julie, for the post.

  51. RogerDodger on October 12, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I haven’t heard a conference talk so tone deaf since Mitt Romney’s last campaign speech. Did Br. Packer not realize the minefield he was stepping into? Did he not realize how with one conference speech he had totally undercut any and all efforts by the church (e.g., Elder Jensen)to reach out to gay members and maybe even to the world at-large? I don’t subscribe to the idea that he had any bad intent and maybe the “redacted” version was what he intended. I don’t think it matters much. The scars from Prop 8 haven’t even scabbed over yet. Someone asked me yesterday why the church allowed him to give that talk? Are you kidding, I said. Br. Packer is the church. Who, other than Pres. Monson, would presume to tell him what to say?

  52. Left Field on October 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    #44: I guess in context of Lorenzo’s two comments, I took “reports, addresses, and texts of the talks which had been given” to mean that he thought the Ensign was claiming that that the talks are published exactly as delivered.

    If “reports, addresses, and texts of the talks which had been given” just means that the talks are published after any needed revisions, then I don’t have any objection either.

    My experience (and I certainly have not made a comprehensive study) is that minor (and occasionally more substantive) revisions are routinely made to most conference addresses before publication. The recent church statement corroborates that. I’m still confused as to why some people think the usual procedures of allowing authors and editors to make revisions somehow apply to academic conferences but shouldn’t apply to church conferences.

    Part of what is so puzzling about this is that people have expressed concern about possible negative effects of the talk as delivered (including perhaps suicide), and yet some of the same people (not necessarily referring to anyone here) are insistent that the original version should get the widest possible distribution, rather than being replaced by the (presumably less problematic) revised version. If the spoken version might lead to self-hate and suicide among gay listeners, isn’t it a *good* thing that BKP and/or the church toned it down a bit for publication? Why in the world are people insisting that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that?

  53. Left Field on October 12, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    And just for the record, I agree with Julia that the DN should not have linked to the written version as they did without acknowledging that the original criticisms were leveled at the spoken version.

  54. Hans on October 12, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Sean (#47) – you are right it was more recent. The last conference we participated in was 2004 or 2005. The talks were pre-translated for us in country and then we would simply read them. It’s been six years now so it could be be different again, but if it is the same, someone knows if the original text was supposed to include this language.

  55. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Some of the criticisms voiced of Elder Packer’s talk have been in terms of “denial of civil rights”. The Church has made it clear that it supports equal housing and job opportunities for homosexuals. It has not campaigned against domestic partnership laws in California or Washington State, which allow cohabiting homosexual couples to have most of the legal benefits of marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the remaining (usually unenforced) laws prohibiting homosexual conduct. I am not aware of any problem that homosexuals have in voting, serving on juries, being admitted to schools, or being barred from running for election.

    In other words, it is not clear to me that any of the traditional “civil rights” (the rights of citizens) or those political human rights which are protected for people in general are being denied to people who identify themselves as homosexuals. Freedom of speech, press, religious belief, right to due process of law, to own firearms, to be compensated for private property taken for public use–all seem to be afforded to homosexuals on an equal basis with other citizens. My understanding is that, as a group, average income for homosexuals is higher than the average for the population as a whole. Many people who identify themselves as homosexual are popular figures, e.g. Ellen Degeneres.

    Essentially, the freedom to live a homosexual lifestyle, with or without a long term commitment to a partner, is not being denied to homosexuals.

    What homosexuals are denied by the LDS church, and many other traditional religions, is endorsement of their behavior as fully acceptable as a matter of the standards of sexual morality they teach. The LDS church also denies such endorsement to those practicing polygamy, to those engaged in pre-marital sex, and those committing adultery, even though those behaviors have varying levels of acceptance among the rest of society. The Church invites repentance and self-restraint to all in those groups. But it is not exercising any kind of compulsion or physical restraint or sanction.

    Is it possible that those who embrace and teach the standard of no sexual activity outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, are just born that way, that they have a strong attraction toward that standard of behavior which they could not deny without denying their personal integrity? Should we respect such people for being true to themselves, even though some people may disagree with, even strongly disapprove of, their behavior? Should we allow them their freedom to express their views and beliefs openly, without censorship or censure?

  56. Hans on October 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Raymond, I am only replying to your point that freedom to live as a homosexual is not being denied.

    Objectively, you must admit that homosexuals are still being denied some rights. Perhaps an appropriate example of a denial of a right guaranteed to a traditional marriage that is not granted to a same sex couple is derivative immigration status. Because federal law does not recognize same sex marriages, a US citizen could not sponsor an immigration application for a same gender partner as is possible in most of Europe. It’s not traditionally brought up as an example but it does still show that in some areas my marriage is superior to their marriage/partnership.

  57. Mark D. on October 12, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    john f, the comma is there at the judgement of the transcriber (arJ in this case). Elder Packer paused slightly at that point, but you really can’t make too much of implied punctuation, I don’t think. The comma is not in the published version.

    Either way, a comma does not change the grammar of the passage. “Not so! Why would God do that to anyone” applies to the propositions following “suppose”, which are joined with an “and”. If Elder Packer had used “or” to separate them, the denial would apply to each independently.

    He didn’t say: “Some suppose that they were pre-set, or cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so!…”, he said: “Some suppose that they were pre-set, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so!…”

    In addition, the scripture from Paul he quotes immediately following would make the clause about being preset immaterial if he said “or” instead of “and”, because the scripture provides no evidence at all with regard to it as an independent proposition. Where with “and” the scripture provides ample evidence to deny the conjunction.

  58. DeAnn on October 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you, Julie.

    You are one very bright, articulate and reasonable woman.

    Thank you.

  59. Mark D. on October 12, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    I might add that given the contemporary usage of the term “redact” to apply primarily to government removal of entire sections of sensitive documents prior to public release or other processes involving entire rewrites, It seems a bit over the top to refer to the published version of Elder Packer’s talk as a “redacted” version. Isn’t “revised” good enough, and not quite so inflammatory?

  60. WMP on October 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    This has all gotten a bit silly, hasn’t it?

    We’re talking “redactions” versus “clarifications” versus “edits.” We’re ascribing motives. We are speculating heartily. All over a few perhaps poorly chosen words … which have been changed … by the author himself. But we still search for some reason to be angry about this, to justify the over-the-top reaction of many, even in our own community, to (once again) find cause to criticize President Packer.

    Should the DN have clarified by saying read OR listen to/watch the address? Probably. But the point is valid: if one were only to read the criticisms and most press accounts, one would have no alternative but to conclude that President Packer specifically and expressly denied that homosexual tendencies are inborn (which he didn’t; indeed, he never even employed the word “homosexual”), and that he at least implicitly encouraged hateful conduct or feelings towards homosexual individuals (which he most certainly didn’t).

    I think it’s time to move on.

  61. Julie M. Smith on October 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Mark D.,

    My background is in biblical studies, where “redact” has no such connotations. People refer, for example, to Matthew as a redactor of Mark, without any indication that anything nefarious was going on.

  62. manaen on October 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Having a bad day, Julie? Hope you’re feeling better soon.
    .
    When I was EQ instructor, I would have the class read along in the printed version when I played excerpts from a General Conference talk. The printed version never matched the audio recording word-for-word. The differences usually were much greater than the relative tweaking of Elder Packer’s latest offering.

    I see nothing about which to comment in the diffferences.

  63. Holden Caulfield on October 13, 2010 at 12:19 am

    Thanks, Julie. Thanks, Times and Seasons.

  64. lyle on October 13, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Mountains. Molehills.

  65. Chino Blanco on October 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Rainbows.

  66. Porter on October 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    This whole discussion presumes that the Deseret News is a serious paper with an independent editorial boars. Neither is true. Everyone here in SLC knows that the DN is simply the mouthpiece for the Church and therefore should be totally disregarded on issues like this. That’s also why IMHO their readership has plummeted in the past few years. Its not a real newspaper, its a propaganda arm of the Church and so this sort of whitewash really ought to be expected.

  67. manaen on October 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    41
    Steve, I am under the impression that the media are given advance copies of the talks and that the pre-written talk is in fact what he spoke and both are different from the text released on Thursday. There’s some hearsay in my previous sentence, so I hope that if I am wrong someone will correct me.
    .
    Just caught this in revisiting this thread. I heard the Church explain at different times, before I started blogging in 2005, that transcripts of Conference talks are reviewed by the speakers for proofing, corrections of slips of the tongue, etc. before they’re published. The translators usually receive advance drafts of the talks but the speakers are known to speak off the cuff once they’re behind the pulpit.
    .
    I had assumed, wrongly I now see, that this was known generally in the bloggernacle.

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