Why That New Communications Director Might Actually Be a Problem

In the latest hullabaloo about the new Communications Director for the whole Church, the UN-is-trying-to-take-over-the-government black helicopter types are being prominently platformed in the media, as if the only concerns with the new Director are coming from people in Northern Idaho with stockpiles of weaponry who are concerned with his past employment by the UN Foundation (which, incidentally, isn’t even run by the UN).  

However, there are some real concerns with having upper-level management who are not “on-mission.” The fact is that for a variety of reasons the Church often finds itself in the maelstrom of hot-button, sexuality-related topics (although maybe that’s fading in the mirror? In the next few years there will be college students who weren’t even alive during Prop 8…), and it needs somebody in its corner on these issues that it can trust will actually promote its own interests, even if it might reflect poorly on him among the cocktail scene as he works for what is fundamentally, and will be for the foreseeable future, a heteronormative faith.  

Of course I’m sure that he will say one thing when the brethren are in the room, but there are a thousand little decisions in strategy, hiring, promotions, and the like where there is enough plausible deniability where he could be running interference on those exact issues where the Church is in conflict with the conventional wisdom of the cocktail crowd (which are going to be the exact issues that you need a good Communications Director for). 

(I suspect some of the concerted, high-level concern at BYU over mission fit now is because it became apparent that when you have mid-level administrators that aren’t really on the side of the Church when it conflicts with the norms of the particular sociocultural educational elite that school faculty and administrators are drawn from, it causes problems.)

Even if he’s sincere in wanting what’s best for his client, and I have no reason to doubt that he is, it’s hard to fight against our own beliefs, and there will be a temptation, conscious or not, to simply downplay the differences between the Church and norms of the more left-leaning, educational cocktail elite when the best course of action might be to double down and present the Church’s more traditional image in the best light.

And yes, I’m aware of the irony of saying this for a person who, as a Latter-day Saint, has already served as a PR professional for a tobacco company; still, working for a tobacco company is much further inside the Overton window for the cocktail crowd than working for a heteronormative faith. I’m also aware that in many industries it’s rightfully considered bad form to assume that people’s background will affect their willingness to do what’s best for the client. But still, it would be strange for Emily’s List to hire me to do work for them when I am very publicly and clearly pro-life, and there’s a reason that NGO employees and contractors are often, even if not exclusively, drawn from people who actually agree with the mission of the NGO.

Second, a concern I have heard among my conservative extended family on this issue is that many of them have had friendships broken off and have made other personal sacrifices because of the Church’s traditional positions. What message does it send when those who have essentially taken the more popular-among-the-elites road of Church discipleship are the ones being promoted within the Church? (And yes, it’s not a Church calling, but still, the professional bureaucrats matter). The fact is that, like them or not, the conservatives and orthodox are the engine of the Church, the ones who “pay the tithing and do the believing,” and the symbolism of all this for them should not be lightly dismissed. 

46 comments for “Why That New Communications Director Might Actually Be a Problem

  1. Stephen, this sounds like an interesting topic. Could you provide a bit of background for those of us who haven’t heard anything about it? And is there any indication that the communications director isn’t actually fully on board?

    I don’t love the term “cocktail crowd” as shorthand for the instinct to be accepted and respected by the in group among one’s professional peers (although I acknowledge that the instinct is quite real). Four cocktails in one post seem like a lot for someone who probably hasn’t ever had one.

  2. There’s no evidence that he has advocated anything against Church policy. He has advocated for loving and welcoming everyone, which we ought to be glad about.

  3. “Even if he’s sincere in wanting what’s best for his client, and I have no reason to doubt that he is, it’s hard to fight against our own beliefs,” This could be said of the new communications director, sure. It could also be said of you, or me, or of Spongebob Squarepants. If it can be said of us all, then so what?

    “Second, a concern I have heard among my conservative extended family on this issue is that many of them have had friendships broken off and have made other personal sacrifices because of the Church’s traditional positions. What message does it send when those who have essentially taken the more popular-among-the-elites road of Church discipleship are the ones being promoted within the Church?” If this is a sincere question, you could ask women who previously made personal sacrifices and walked away from professional opportunities only to have the church recently start promoting women with professional credentials. They might have some insight. Or maybe the message it sends is that the Church’s traditional positions weren’t worth defending and they should own their moral choices.

    “The fact is that, like them or not, the conservatives and orthodox are the engine of the Church, the ones who “pay the tithing and do the believing,” Source?

    As Kristine notes, he is advocating for loving and welcoming all. Unlike this post and it’s constant name calling of people that don’t believe like you do. Are cocktail elites the new brat pack? Asking for a friend.

  4. I don’t know anything except what I have read here — but if the Church has hired a Madison Avenue type to help better handle public communications, good! The brethren, insular and cloistered as they are in the center place, can greatly benefit from receiving insights from someone who understands messaging and how they play in Peoria, so to speak. And center place born-and-bred church members with their communications or other degrees from BYU simply are incapable of providing the level of professionalism and expertise the church needs. But it will only work if they allow the new guy access BEFORE decisions are made — otherwise, he will be trying to put out fires (but really, maybe that’s the way it has to be as I cannot imagine the brethren allowing an outsider to provide insights early in the process).

  5. @Jonathan: But “cocktail crowd” is such a pithy, parsimonious way to convey liberal-but-economically-upper-class-people-who-have-a-disproportionate-amount-of-influence-over-legacy-institutions-and-can-help-or-hurt-your-career.

    Here’s an Sltrib article about it:


    An an Axios article about it:


    Yes, in principle there is nothing contrary to Church policy with marching in a gay pride parade, but actions signal underlying beliefs, shibboleths are a thing, and in the 2010s and 2020s doing the things scraped from his social media makes it highly unlikely that, say, he’s gung-ho about the Proclamation to the Family, or has a testimony of the Church’s gender complementarity and, by extension, its theological heteronormativity. Again, that’s fine, nobody is arguing his temple recommend should be taken away, but for him to literally be the top public-facing guy for a Church that that often has to deal with these issues; again, it’d be like Emily’s List hiring me. It just doesn’t fit.

  6. That people are aghast at the decision speaks more to the bigotry of the members who detest an ally than it does of the man who was hired. He has done nothing wrong, and his actions are more aligned with the gospel of Jesus Christ than any of the backlash he has received.

  7. “conservatives and orthodox are the engine of the Church, the ones who “pay the tithing and do the believing,” ”

    Not in the least conservative here and a dyed in the wool unreoentant never-Trumper, but most definitely in the “pay the tithing and do the work crowd”. (Kinda offensive that generalization is.) I think that this is an Idaho-Northern Utah issue, it certainly isnt much relevant here. Mountains of molehills and all that.

  8. Stephen,

    I don’t know what the selection process looks like for this sort of position. If it’s like hiring an executive at a large corporation–then maybe we should be concerned. If, however, there’s revelation in the process–then I’d give the person of choice the benefit of the doubt.

  9. “the conservatives and orthodox are the engine of the Church”. I thought Jesus was the core of the church?

    I hope this communications director moves the church towards being less homophobic and more towards following Christ’s teachings of kindness and reaching out to his children. The Lord works in mysterious ways. The fact that these right wing nutjobs feel entitled to belittle an employee of the church really shows that they are more interested in Republicanism (Trumpism) than Christianity. Maybe this will be the opportunity they need to repent.

  10. “…these right-wing nutjobs feel entitled to belittle an employee of the church…”

    I see only concern, not belittling, in the OP. And as for you, Matt W., your reverence for the church as an institution seems rather selective. You implicitly criticize it and claim its employees can’t be criticized in the same post. Pick one.

    I’ll echo Jack’s opinion for now: let’s see how things play out. In the meantime, the term “cocktail class” seems quite appropriate for the sort of luxurious sneering common in the elite college circuit and, it seems, this combox.

  11. Hey Hoosier (me too, btw). I can see where your response is coming from if you hadn’t read the tribune article. I’d recommend giving it a read.

    When people are putting “doctrine of family” as a competing priority to “love and tolerance” instead of complimentary, despite the church’s repeated calls for love and tolerance, and are complaining this person is a “globalist” while also complaining that Russell M. Nelson is wrong to call for being good global citizens and getting vaccinated, I think you’ll understand better I am not criticizing the church.

  12. Stephen, thanks for the links. After reading them, my initial reaction is that Sherinian looks like an inspired choice. People in PR don’t set the agenda, and they don’t even try to make an organization look good – they help organizations communicate their values. Given the way our media is now concentrated, geographically and politically, the Church needs someone with Sherinian’s background and professional experience so that its story will be heard.

    I understand the concerns – someone in another role could potentially affect policy, and the Church really does need its most committed members (who are largely but not entirely orthodox in belief and somewhere right of center politically). But I don’t see a real danger of any of that in a communications director role.

    And the vocal concerns about his work for a UN-aligned organization seem to be pulled directly from the textbook on how to be your own worst enemy – even if the UN has been largely useless for a while, focusing on that as an issue is edging into tinfoil hat territory.

  13. The “pay the tithing and do the believing” quote is from Sterling McMurrin (but I can’t seem to find a source right now); I should have just said “orthodox,” or even “theologically conservative” because just “conservative” could be seen as “political conservative,” which was not my intent.

  14. Wasn’t he already working for the church prior to accepting this position? He would be immersed in LDS culture both at work and socially. Honesty I don’t think it reflects well on you that you can’t imagine anyone truly loving the marginalized but only being motivated by seeking to impress the “cocktail crowd” and “elites”. But in this case I question whether those are really in this individual’s close circle.
    Like others I am among those who “pay the tithing and do the believing”. I will add the serving, teaching and at times leading. I’m glad there is no requirement to hate or fear LGBTQ people to be a good member of the church.

  15. +1 E.

    Good grief, if someone has an openness or a *gasp* moderate or even liberal sensibility, then it couldn’t possibly arise from a well-reasoned or gospel-focused rationale. Rather, it MUST be the case that they’re just seeking the approval of the elite cocktail crowd. Cue the pearl-clutching.

    Have I summed up “radical orthodoxy” ok? SMH. What a bore.

    Oh, big tobacco advocacy is ok though, that’s different. Because.

  16. The concerns aren’t unjustified. Being active in professional life really does create cross pressure, and you can’t just pretend that pressure doesn’t exist. And we have seen recent cases where people have decided to betray their professional obligations to their employer – not to mention their commitments to the church – over this or similar issues. Even though I think he’s a great choice for the role, the concern isn’t irrational.

  17. Wow. The OP has stated some valid concerns that conservative members may have, and then some of the comments of this post sound a whole lot like the Pharisee who Jesus condemned: “But I’m so glad that I’m not like this wicked publican!”
    Look, I don’t know any of you personally, so I certainly won’t judge the state of your hearts, but the sanctimonious tone of your comments is off-putting. People can have different political views than you and different concerns about the state of the Church and its employees and their concerns are just as valid as yours.

  18. Jonathan: agree with you that he’s a great choice for the role, and perhaps it’s a small point, but you’re dodging. My point isn’t that professional work or other (extra-ecumenical) professional “cross pressures” can’t influence people’s actions, of course they can. The point is sort of a “side” one: that the OP presumes that any church employee’s leaning toward anything non-heteronormative-friendly must somehow be explained by that secular cross pressure or otherwise be somehow disingenuous or disloyal to the church or the gospel, or an attempt to impress elites. Which is frankly absurd.

    As E.C. just illustrated, mormonism is a “big tent”. And it should be. So of course, E.C. is right, in the sense that: a mormon MAGA type has just as much right to have whatever concerns they have as a liberal mormon can have theirs. sure. (What E.C. misses is that, for instance, in Jesus’s day, the publicans are the ones who had “concerns” about Jesus fraternizing with harlots and sinners and tax collectors and adulterers. So E.C.’s analogy works against, not for, their point… since E.C.’s self-described conservative “concerns” put them in the publican role. But i digress.)

    It isn’t the main point of the OP that’s necessarily problematic, it’s the baked-in assumption that egalitarian/progressive/inclusive thoughts somehow can’t be well grounded or motivated in/from the gospel, so therefore they must be driven by worldly, cocktail-party approval seeking. Eyeroll.

  19. Even if we grant the premise that his opinions are sincere and not motivated by the cocktail crowd, the basic logic still stands.

    1) The Church is very publicly heteronormative, and a lot of the PR issues it finds itself dealing with revolve around these issues.
    2) In a communications role the person has to help project a certain image of their client. This requires creativity and strategizing, and therefore more trust, than if we were talking about the Church’s plumbers, graphic designers, or even, I would think, legal counsel, for which there is a more clear-but deliverable that can be demanded.

    In a way it’s more along the lines of being a religion professor, where in theory you could hire an outsider and just monitor them all the time, but you’d rather just have somebody that you know is on-mission with the issue.

    Again, that’s not to say that the public face of the Church has to agree with the brethren on every single issue, but for right now at least this is one of the big issues that such a professional will have to deal with, even if it may, as I suspect, be receding in the rearview mirror.

    Of course, many, I am sure, are okay with the idea of having somebody who fundamentally disagrees with the Church on this Big Issue of the Day at its highest echelons so that they can try to reform the Church. Fine, but that is where the issue lies (as some of the commenters have noted), not in principle with the idea that for some of the more high-level, creative, and sometimes ideologically charged roles, all things being equal you should probably have somebody in your corner who actually agrees with you.

  20. So the old ‘70s hit “YMCA” by the Village People is famously, winkingly, about gay youth hooking up at the local Y, largely because the Y is where they all tended to congregate anyways after being disowned by their families and thrown penniless into the streets for something they literally had no control over.

    I bring this up 1) because “YMCA” still hilariously gets played at LDS youth dances to this day without the slightest shred of self-awareness; and 2) as a gentle reminder that, as a matter of historical record, those advocating most vociferously for LGBTQ rights have not been this strawman “cocktail” crowd, but overwhelmingly the poor, the homeless, the cast-out, the broken, the downtrodden, the despised. (There were no cocktail-drinkers at the Stonewall Inn.) It is also not out of line to note just what sort of people, as a general principle, Christ tended to gravitate towards during his mortal ministry.

    I don’t know anything about this new Communications Director; but there are far worse things to accuse him of than of being moderately compassionate towards the existence of gay people.

  21. First of all, comment of the year so far on T&S (imo, of course) which referenced “YMCA.” Secondly, after doing some “research (I read an Axios article since the Trib article is behind a paywall),” I am genuinely confused why there is so much “hullabaloo” over the hire of this seemingly well-qualified individual. From what I could gather, regular LDS folks of some influence, such as higher-ups at BYU and people who work for the Church News, (and presumably top Church leadership, since they hired him), are quite pleased by this hire. The complaints are coming from (according to the article) a very loud online mob of unhinged Maga Mormons who are worried the church is “going woke” or think the church was somehow duped into hiring this guy. If they really knew of his background, they wouldn’t have hired him. Why the author of the OP is giving voice to these paranoid deznat types who are attempting to “cancel” anyone who may have even slightly progressive views is beyond me.

  22. BRM, I assumed you were responding to Stephen, but if you’re wondering: I don’t think Stephen is making the point you accuse him of making, or using the logic you attribute to him. All he’s saying, I think, is that the concerns aren’t irrational. And they really aren’t. How unlikely would it be for someone to shift from “Christian charity requires me to love and minister to everyone, regardless of their gender identity” to “Christian charity requires me to reject the Proclamation on the Family”? Not that unlikely, I guess, as we see people arguing for something like that fairly often.

    A progressive view of gender and sexuality can certainly be grounded in the gospel, as you say – but that makes it more likely that someone will see their progressive views as equal or superior to some mere doctrinal statement, and more likely to justify doing things that undermine the Church’s non-progressive teachings. I assume the people making hiring decisions know that isn’t the case in this situation.

  23. JB: Oh I agree that in the 70s being sensitive to discrimination against the LGBTQ community was not a cool thing. (Although I didn’t know the ironic background behind the old youth dance classic!) But that was a half century ago, it’s 2024, the symbolism, messages, and goals have changed, and in today’s world bedecking yourself in a rainbow flag is, in fact, a cool thing among the cool crowd.

    The brethren are already “moderately compassionate towards the existence of gay people,” and if it’s implied that they aren’t by definition because of the Church’s gendered cosmology, that’s a whole other issue.

    Mat: “The complaints are coming from (according to the article) a very loud online mob of unhinged Maga Mormons.” That’s part of the point in the OP: that the conservative concern is being framed by the media as coming from the far right that is more easily dismissed for a certain audience that can feel a sense of superiority over them.

  24. “That a certain audience can feel a sense of superiority over them.”

    You are assigning a heap of intentions that are not there again. This is not why liberals dismiss this particular concern from conservatives or even in general. We just don’t agree with it. And it seems overblown. Plus he is a just media representative and you are trying to get him fired because he went to a pride parade and tweeted support for gay people. It isn’t because liberals think they are better than conservatives.

  25. Jonathan (no, I was talking to you) and Stephen: You keep dodging. Sorry to be pedantic. You seem to want to engage on the substance of the OP, and on the “big point” of the OP only. Trust me, the larger point of Stephen’s article isn’t lost on me (or any other reader, i imagine).

    So just to be clear that you know i understand the primary point being made by the OP, my understanding is that it’s this: that a church spokesperson who isn’t going to be fully “on message” (the way you conceive of what that means) introduces some friction into the system. To use the silly example trotted out by Stephen in the comments, for instance, he admits openly that he’d be a weird choice as PR person for Emily’s List. I don’t personally know Stephen nor his views on electing pro-choice women to public office, but his use of the analogy suggests that he’s against it on principle…therefore he’d be an odd choice to lead the Emily’s List PR efforts. As an aside, to also employ an analogy that the OP itself blithely waives off due to an Overton Window reference, I believe it would seem similarly weird for a tobacco company to employ a nonsmoking mormon – who presumably believes that smoking is not only unhealthy but morally wrong – as a PR person. Duh. This point, this position of the OP, is fairly clear. It’s not that complicated. I get it. So does everyone else. As you put it, the concerns aren’t irrational. That’s correct!

    So the issue I’ve raised doesn’t challenge that *general* premise (though I may be less worried about it than you are… opinions can vary). Rather, the issue i have tried to draw attention to is that the logic chain used to arrive at the OP’s conclusion includes some assumptions – – about tithepayers, about the new spokesperson’s hypothetical future likelihood of turning against the FamProc, about the presumed underlying motivations for someone holding a more open view toward LGBTQ+ folks in the first place. It’s THOSE assertions/assumptions that I think are problematic, and I think it’s telling that both of you don’t think they are.

    For instance: proffering the assertion that someone who has been friendly to inclusive causes must (by definition) only/solely be doing so to signal something to the “elite cocktail crowd”? (Suggesting it’s either a craven motivation or a disingenuous one?) This is just a classic “not a true Scotsman” bad argument, and illustrates a breathtaking lack of curiosity regarding others’ motivations, assuming that anyone holding even a slightly different view from yours must be motivated by either ignorance or bad faith.

    Offhandedly buttressing the supposed importance of the primary point being raised by referencing its symbolic importance to “conservatives and orthodox” members, whom you say are the ones who “pay the tithing and do the believing”? What a fascinating generalization and reveal of – – again – – your bias about who is important in the church and who isn’t. Who is central and who isn’t. Based on .. what? Your gut sense? Macro statistics on voter registrations? A belief that questioning is bad, or that anyone who has a varying degree of strident belief in a current policy or doctrine is therefore to be discounted, pushed to the side of the church’s membership? Because they aren’t “central” or assumed to be part of the tithe-paying “engine”? Surely you can see the problems with these types of baked-in beliefs. Just like Edwin Woolley stood up to Brigham Young and said ‘it’s just as much my church as yours’, I’d simply say, as another commenter has pointed out: your assumptions are showing. Even your simple conflation/grouping of “orthodox” and “conservative” is telling. Your insistence that anyone who is unorthodox by your definition – – which, to be clear in this case, is the simple presence of minor evidence of what Mat has described as ‘slightly progressive views’ – – is somehow not to be trusted or placed in any position of defending the faith? That’s just bonkers. You seem to be suggesting that no one can be simultaneously in the “engine” (paying tithing, attending the temple, contributing in the ward or stake) while also having uncertainty or questions about any particular church policy or doctrine. How limiting. By that view, Jesus himself would have been considered heterodox, for questioning the law of Moses. Or (so as to not solely go full-on Jesus on you), Spencer Kimball would have failed your orthodoxy test for asking (privately, and then in quorum) the questions about the priesthood ban that eventually led to its repeal. Or we might as well revise history to paint Gordon Hinckley as unorthodox for elevating the “Mormon” label. etc. Anyone who complained that the three-hour block was too lengthy would be considered heretic, a naysayer, an out-of-the-box questioner, right up until the moment Russell Nelson instituted two-hour church. Anyone who chafed at home teaching statistics was viewed as a murmurer right up until the moment Russell Nelson did away with HT statistics. And so on. (And this is why I consider the entire ‘radical orthodoxy’ boundary maintenance effort to be utter silliness… because of COURSE you had that question – – whatever it is – – before it suddenly became an ‘orthodox’ question.)

    In other words, as uncomfortable as it apparently makes you, the reality is that there’s much more pluralism of views within the church ranks than you seem to be willing to acknowledge. I’d bet my annual fast offering contribution that if you blind surveyed your home ward membership, you’d see far more variance on (for instance) what constitutes a “full tithe” than you anticipate. (net v gross? do you pay on pre-retirement gross, or net-retirement-savings income? how ‘orthodox’ is it to alternate years, so as to maximize itemized tax deductions every other year? are donations paid to non-church entities considered personal ‘tithing’? if you own a business, do you pay on revenue or net income? what if that business is just a minor ‘side hustle’? etc etc) To illustrate this heterogeneity a different way, in the 2016 US presidential election, all three of my then-current bishopric members voted for Hillary. But I will also tell you with 100% certainty that at least 75% of our ward membership would never have guessed that, including our many MAGAs who would have been straight up appalled by it. Nevertheless it’s true. My point is simply that your assumptions about all these things may not be as accurate as you think they are.

    As an early morning seminary teacher, I’ll tell you that (at least among the youth i currently work with), they have great facility in being willing to both question things in the church and ALSO uphold its importance and primacy and veracity. There’s deep testimony of the prophetic calling of the prophet Joseph, for instance, as well as open discussion about why they think he was just plain wrong about polygamy. So it may shock you, but it turns out that it’s entirely possible to generally defend the faith while being less certain about particular aspects of it. Strident all-in true believers (full tithe payers, temple attenders) can, *gasp*, vote differently in US political races, and they’re not ‘less than’ or less important in the church for doing so, despite your suggestion of such. (James Faust seemed to function just fine at the highest levels of church authority despite his open affiliation with the democratic party.)

    Which leads me to one last thing. Unbelievably, you use the idea that ‘people might have severed relationships in their past personal lives, at great heartache, out of an attempt to uphold the church’s heteronormative culture’ (I’m paraphrasing) as a reason to avoid signaling inclusiveness via the PR personnel choice in question. I don’t even know where to start on that one. It’s a bit of a jaw dropper for me. Again, by that logic, we should have upheld the priesthood ban because members in the 70s had made emotionally or psychologically ‘costly’ choices based on the old doctrine, and it might be painful for them to have to reconcile that. I mean, wow. Or here’s a less poignant example: it would be like saying the church shouldn’t have dropped scouting, because there were some ‘super scouters’ in the church at the time who were heavily emotionally invested in BSA and what would that signal to them? You realize that this is simply an argument for inertia and the importance of people’s comfort level with past choices, right? Again: bonkers. (I’m not arguing against the reality of how cognitive dissonance might arise in the face of these types of transitions… only that the existence of cognitive dissonance isn’t a valid reason not to institute the changes.)

    But for argument’s sake, let’s grant that appointing Sherinian should somehow take into account what it might be ‘signaling’ to church membership. An interesting question is, what outweighs what, as far as a signal goes? Would it be obviously more important to signal comfort to boomer-age MAGA types in the church (who are the ones concerned here, as articulated by the OP)? Or would it be more inspired to signal something to the (generally speaking) younger generation that allyship is ok and not contra church policy or doctrine?

    I raise this question because again, referencing my work with the youth currently, I’ll simply say that these kids are surprisingly unafraid of contradiction and complexity. And they are also surprisingly attuned to the “signaling” referred to in the OP, though in perhaps the opposite way than you assert: they tend to be disappointed that Elder Wilcox got ‘promoted’ in the YM presidency after saying racist and misogynist things, and the only thing they really know about Elder Kearon is that he spoke about refugees in general conference, and they favor the Christlike way he spoke about them (versus describing their locations as sh$thole countries). So while I maintain the view that none of this signaling stuff should heavily factor into the church’s decision here, I will also point out that (to the extent you are sensitive to the signaling), that it goes both ways, with interesting implications. If we wanted to secularize it, one could employ the classic “innovator’s dilemma” framework authored by (former church member, now deceased) Clay Christensen, which showed that an organization’s overinvestment in the current ‘engine’ that neglects the future ‘engine’ almost always proves fatal for an organization.

  26. Like most divisions on whatever issue is being debated in the world right now, the church is dealing with its own, older members vs younger members. IMO, 80% of the changes that have been done on Nelson’s watch have been to keep the younger members in the pews. The other 20% (and maybe its more 60/40) is directed to the younger women in the church feeling “more”. (meaning… important, relevant, comfortable, equal, special, involved, etc.)

    Like BRM said above, the youth in the church today are (in general terms) open regarding alternate lifestyles while being true believers. Hiring a PR person that is also open about these lifestyles but a true believer (I am guessing here) fits well with what the church has been doing for the younger members.

    As an old fart in the church, who did not experience much “change” in the church for the majority of my life, I hardly recognize the church I grew up in today. Once these younger members become our top leaders, who knows what it will look like then. I will be dead and my kids and grand kids will be fine since they are the younger group the church is focusing on. Maybe we will end up like other religions and form a split because of current/upcoming issues? Wouldn’t be the first time.

  27. Call me a starry eyed optimist, but I see in the OP and the majority of the comments here a microcosm of the polarized world we live in. Without addressing the substance of the OP, let me instead address the underlying perspective of both the OP and commenters. It goes something like this:

    Here is an issue. Here’s what I believe about it. Here’s why I’m right and you are wrong. The commenter than responds with: You’re wrong, I’m right, here’s why.

    Rinse and repeat.

    May I offer a different starting point for both sides of any issue? OP: Here are the important points about the issue and an articulation of my concerns. Having said that I know my perspective is limited, filled with bias and riddled with gaps in my information. I would like to understand where I am wrong in premise, argument and conclusion. I am asking for your help in helping me gain a better understanding of the issue.

    Then if the commenters responded with the same humility, think about the radical and beneficial transformation that would occur in the world.

    A guy can hope.

  28. It is entirely possible to believe in the Proclamation on the Family AND believe that LGBT people should be treated with dignity and have full civil rights. In fact, that’s pretty much the Church’s position, with the caveat that anti-discrimination efforts need to be balanced with protecting religious freedom. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage is a tangled issue, but as of 2022 the Church officially endorsed it. So the fact that Brother Sherinian feels strongly about LGBT rights does not make him unorthodox; it makes him not conservative, and it seems to me that that’s what’s driving all the concern here.

    If you want to persuade someone who disagrees with you to change their mind, you need to know what they think now and the kinds of arguments and evidence they’ll find persuasive. Brother Sherinian’s background seems likely to have given him that knowledge on gender and sexuality issues and may be exactly why they hired him.

    Now, if a friendship ends because of the Church’s positions on gender and sexuality, at least one person failed to love their enemies. Given that most people in our society no longer believe in that commandment, it’s most likely the person outside the Church. But I think some Church members took the charge to “defend the family” not as a challenge to engage in thoughtful, respectful conversations that might actually change peoples’ minds, but as a mandate to simply stand up and be counted. And since they weren’t trying to persuade, some of them were obnoxious or even offensive about it. Losing a friendship as a result of that kind of behavior is not a badge of honor. At any rate, we are where we are today because in the 2008 period we failed to persuade society as a whole. So it makes sense to focus now on pluralism and treating marginalized people properly because, quite apart from the example of Christ teaching us exactly that, we’re now marginalized.

    If the threat is that conservatives will revolt and leave the Church if non-conservatives are promoted to high positions, liberals have been leaving for at least 50 years. The Church has survived. The reality is that in today’s world, a faithful Church member cannot be an orthodox liberal or conservative, and people are going to have to choose between their politics and their faith. I fear that some of the people in that Trib article are going to make the wrong choice.

    Stephen C, I love you, but impugning the motives of fellow Church members who disagree with you is uncharitable. To do it to someone who was almost certainly interviewed and approved for their new position by prophets, seers, and revelators is especially problematic.

  29. BRM, I think people should, in fact, address the main point of the post rather than focusing on a secondary issue. Especially if that issue is a long (1700+ word) attribution of faulty logic and motives to Stephen that, as I wrote, I don’t see in his post. Rather than telling Stephen what his logic must be and that it is faulty, go back and read his post with the assumption that he’s a reasonably intelligent person. So for example, I don’t think that Stephen at all believes that “questioning is bad, or that anyone who has a varying degree of strident belief in a current policy or doctrine is therefore to be discounted, pushed to the side of the church’s membership,” and it’s not helpful to attribute that idea to him, and I don’t see any point in discussing something that he doesn’t believe, especially since I’m not Stephen and I don’t know why you’re directing any of this at me anyway.

  30. “The fact is that, like them or not, the conservatives and orthodox are the engine of the Church, the ones who ‘pay the tithing and do the believing,’ and the symbolism of all this for them should not be lightly dismissed.”

    That sentence seems to be the epicenter of the debate. I am not sure what the author intended.

    What does “orthodox” mean in LDS culture? (Does it refer to fundamentalists?)

    What does “conservative” mean outside of a political context? (It certainly seemed to convey a political meaning in the OP in my first reading.)

    Has paying tithing ever purchased a voice with the church hierarchy? (Has tithing status ever gotten what one wanted from the Church when one’s views differed from church leaders?)

    Who was dismissed? How, when and where was this dismissal communicated? What do these critics of church actions want? Do they want the new hire fired? Do they want reassurances that change will never come to the church (there goes the notion of continuing revelation)? Or do they just want their fragile worldviews confirmed?

    Has the culture war and political extremism made it impossible for LDS members to even have a communicative conversation?

  31. As I stated above–if revelation is involved in the selection process then we should give the new director the benefit of the doubt regardless of our political bent.

    That said, I think it’s important to understand that for most TMBs (like me) the church’s teachings on marriage and family are as vital as breathing air. They’re as foundational as teachings having to do with the atonement or revelation or what-have-you. And so, it’s only natural that they might have some concern vis-s-vis the “face” of the church’s media arm when he is clearly in favor of gay marriage.

    Even so, if the apostles feel good about him–then I’ll support him 100%.

    Now *that’s* orthodoxy.

  32. +1 Old Man and +1 Jack. What they said. I tried to go further, and more carefully point out some of the problematic assumptions being made in the OP, in hopes that it would enlighten. But all Jonathan can do is vaguely “defend” Stephen’s OP, criticize the length of my comments, and simply/condescendingly instruct to go back and read the OP more carefully, which is its own special kind of dodge. Nevermind that part of the length of my comment was to (somewhat obviously, and pedantically) demonstrate that I (and others) certainly understand Stephen’s main “point”. That point is obvious, and not complicated. We don’t misunderstand the primary thrust of the OP. It’s quite clear.

    The problem is that Stephen’s stated concern rests on assertions — mostly stated openly — that are troubling. That “conservatives” and “orthodox” are the “engine of the church” that “pay the tithing and do the believing”. That any inclination toward inclusivity or allyship must by definition be driven by an urge to suck up to the “cocktail” crowd. That the mere existence of church members who are uncomfortable with any acknowledgment or mild support of LGBTQ folks — and the supposed primacy of these engine-dwellers — should itself therefore be a reason for the church to carefully avoid signaling such mild support, for risk of offense.

    Seems like the faulty logic (all around!) lies in the OP, not the comments. But neither Stephen nor Stephen’s champion Jonathan want to engage in a conversation about these problems, it seems. Well, OK.

  33. At some point in a comment thread you’ve kind of said and explained everything and people just start repeating, so at that point it’s best to just let things peeter off, and not insisting on having the last word isn’t some tacit admission that there are no responses. For example, the references to members “who are uncomfortable with any acknowledgment or mild support of LGBTQ folks,” I already addressed that. It’s not about the gay rights march per se, it’s that in 2024 those things correlate quite strongly with having an issue with Proc theology, the very thing the Church needs defending and communication on.

    Liberals leave when they disagree, far-right conservatives leave when they disagree, but in this case we have conservatives who were specifically hurt *because they were following Church guidance* so yes, they do fit into a unique category and should be taken into account here for something as non-doctrinal as a hire at the COB; even though the concern among some is typically towards causing offense towards the left. And yes, beyond anecdote, logically speaking the ones who take Church teachings on this issue more seriously are going to logically be the ones who are more practicing (with all the standard caveats about “on average,” “not in all cases,” etc.)

  34. @Jack: There’s a big difference between “the Church should perform same-sex marriages” and “a pluralistic society should grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages while protecting the religious freedom of those who believe such marriages are invalid.” The Church signed off on the latter in rather enthusiastically endorsing the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022. The articles linked don’t give enough information to indicate which one Brother Sherinian has advocated for, but I really doubt he would have gotten the position if it were the former. If it were, I’d be concerned too, but that’s where trusting the people who interviewed him comes in.

  35. Stephen,
    How were conservatives “hurt” by following church guidance? Would it be more accurate to say that they were hurt by reading their own ideological perspectives into church guidance? Assumptions can be so dangerous. I can offer multiple examples of how other demographics found adhering to church policies and practices challenging. Yet many remain inside the church and quite a few are admirable Latter-day Saints. Are conservatives so perfect that they don’t expect challenges to their mortal worldviews and even chastening as well? Is their discomfort based upon the assumption that their ideology is heaven-approved? It seems that my conservative neighbors do make such an assumption. I suppose that could be why so many of them readily dismissed the First Presidency’s counsel regarding the treatment of immigrants or vaccines.

    I fully support the Proclamation on the Family. But I struggle with your assumption that accepting a doctrinal statement necessitates a lessening of our Christian obligation to demonstrate true compassion for the rest of humanity. In fact, any attentive Latter-day Saint knows that the present prophets have proclaimed that kindness and compassion should be extended to the LGBT communities.The Church has advocated for fair treatment and legal protections for all. It appears that the new Director of Communications has tried to reflect that prophetic counsel. And now many want to condemn him for it?

  36. Old Man, those all seem like uncharitable assumptions to make about your neighbors. And Stephen is right here. You could just ask him: “Do you think that the Proclamation on the Family necessitates a lessening of our Christian obligation to demonstrate true compassion for the rest of humanity?” You say that this is his assumption, but is it? You could ask him.

    I’m not the champion BRM wants me to be, but it seems to me that someone making hiring decisions will strive towards Christian compassion both to those hired and those not hired, so that the decision comes down to the question of who can be most effective in a role. It’s reasonable to wonder what a communications director (or the people he hires) would say if asked, not for attribution, what he thinks about the Church’s policies. Will he say, “This policy is deeply connected to our reading of the Bible and modern scripture and prophetic counsel and has been a blessing in many people’s lives,” or will he say – perhaps while clinking cocktail glasses with the reporter – “It’s just a bunch of Boomers who haven’t kicked the bucket yet, everyone knows this policy will go out the door once those rubes and old J. Edgar McConkie are out of the way”? I trust the people who made the hiring decision are assured of the former, and it could be that the new communications director will be uniquely qualified to communicate the Church’s message to skeptical reporters.

  37. Good grief. Jonathan I’ve long respected your intellect, even when I privately reach different conclusions, but this is just too much. You say Old Man is making assumptions … but your clinking of cocktail glasses isn’t? This is just pure absurdity. There’s no need to ask Stephen what his assumptions are because he’s stating them openly, as are you. (e.g. assuming what the comms director would say about rube boomers kicking the bucket, or continually reasserting that “logically” that members who take things like FamProc most seriously are “logically” going to be the more “practicing” members.) I mean SMH. Are you listening to some of the comments, or just ignoring them because they don’t square with your assumptions? Folks like RLD and Old Man and Jack are offering tangible, useful perspectives here that are a helpful check on your strawman assumptions about who the faith’s practicing members really are. Flat out asserting that folks who are more LGBTQ-charitable are somehow by definition less likely to be “practicing” is the uncharitable thing here. And frankly, just wrong.

    In fact, given the heels-dug-in responses being proffered, it becomes ever more clear that the real “testing the winds of what’s acceptable” at play here — if indeed that’s your conceptual concern — may in fact be the very “testing the winds” approach you’re actually advocating! i.e., as Old Man points out, there’s nothing in the comms person’s conduct that violates ANYTHING actually doctrinal or policy driven by the brethren and the church. But you’re worried, because your beloved core conservative members are worried. Based on conjecture and innuendo and projection, or specious (though explicitly repeated) assumptions like believing that political conservatives are the “real”/core members. And because that population might be concerned, it’s therefore suggested that this comms guy is therefore somehow unfit for the job. How would this not itself (were the brethren to actually follow your advice) be an example of the church “testing the focus groups” or straw polling a particular set of members to see what they’d prefer, before implementing an HR decision at the upper level? Talk about pandering to a fashionable opinion or a socially desirable preference (in this case, the conservative one). Would we dare call it “cocktail party” behavior? gasp.

    How refreshing would it be if you (or Stephen) were simply willing to say at this point: “Oh I can see what some of you are saying, that when we openly and repeatedly impugn the centrality/salience/valiance of members who might be cheering the comms choice, contra the perspective we’re representing, it’s a good reminder that opinions on this sort of thing can vary within the faith. Maybe this is how more politically moderate members have felt, given other past organizational decisions. (Worried, perhaps baselessly.) Thanks for reassuring us that you’ve faced similar discomforts in the past, and all has worked out ok in the end. We’re all in this together. We’re with ya in trusting the brethren. Good point. +1 what Jack said.” Wouldn’t that be great? (For what it’s worth, I’ve also at times observed that the BCC crowd and permas are sometimes equally unwilling to acknowledge a good point even if it disagrees with them. So it goes both ways.)

    The grand irony of all this is that the OP is technically the position that’s actually unsupportive or suspicious of the brethren’s choice here, whereas the more moderate-leaning comments are the ones that support the brethren. (Not dissimilar to how it played out with vaccines and masks, and refugees/immigrants, as others have noted.) Yet weirdly, as always, you’re professing to somehow definitionally represent the more central/orthodox view. So unless I’m missing something, apparently it’s NOT the brethren’s choices and direction that actually get primacy here, but the opinions and concerns of a subset of politically conservative members. All too familiar (though often a political mirror image) from other corners of the bloggernacle. But the irritating difference here is the grandstanding and pretending to be “orthodox” here by your self-proclaimed definition. Why not be honest and openly label your concerns as unorthodox, since they actively question the brethren’s choice?

    I feel like I’m in the upside down.

  38. BRM, you are in fact in the upside down, mostly because of your own failure to understand the difference between mentioning a possibility and asserting a fact, and your repeated insistence that I or Stephen believes something that neither nor he thinks. Either you’ve misunderstood the meaning of “former” and “latter,” or you’re flatly misstating what I just wrote.

  39. In an alternate universe where our current primary friction was with Buddhism, hiring a key public figure who kinda, sorta, maybe thought that reincarnation was actually true and wanted the church to change their doctrine regarding it might make people uneasy.

    Look, the LGBT belief system revolves around some central truth claims which, according to the beliefs of our church, are false. This puts them in the same camp as Catholics (e.g. the Trinity), Jews (e.g. lack of belief in the divinity of Christ), Muslims (e.g. Muhammad as the last prophet), etc. We show love to all of them while at the same time maintaining our right to believe differently and our hope that one day they will choose to believe as we do.

    When people in high-profile secular roles within the church org don’t seem to get that, it can make people uneasy.

  40. certainly there’s a key difference between fact and possibility …. but y’all cant have it both ways.

    meaning: the “possibilities” you raise are clearly the very things fueling your “concern” and “unease” with the comms director choice. but when called on specific elements of those “possibilities”, you then magically want to avoid responsibility for having raised them, since they’re just “possibilities” after all.

    slick. but also hypocritical.

    true or false: you’re “uneasy” and “concerned” with the brethren’s comms choice?

    (obviously true, it’s what the OP is actually about.)

    which is totally your prerogative. you’re free to be concerned about whatever you happen to be concerned about.

    but you gotta own your reasons for being concerned. and when others press on those reasons, or show how your reasons might rest on faulty logic or inaccurate assertions or uncharitable conjecture or biased predictions, you can’t just keep saying “read the post better” or “you misunderstood me”.

    i mean i guess you can… it’s just not very interesting.

    and as a side observation, one of the most odd things about all of this (to me) is watching you advance and reinforce a position of unease/concern/worry/objection to one of the brethren’s choices…. while simultaneously asserting over and over that doing so is the “orthodox” position. get out the popcorn!

    (many of us are fully comfortable scratching our heads or occasionally questioning decisions the church makes — e.g. the creation of the SEC-sanctioned shell companies, for instance — but it’s just amusing to watch you do it while simultaneously denying you’re doing it…)

  41. BRM, since you’re using the plural, I’ll assume that your comment is at least partly addressed to me. In that case, I’m happy to say: Like I’ve stated twice before, I’m not concerned about the new communications director! I think the probability that he’ll be exactly what’s needed is much higher than the probability that he’ll be a disaster. The probability of disaster isn’t zero, but it never is. Let’s call it 5% to start out with. And knowing that he’s marched in Pride parades, for example, even increases my estimate of future disaster. Let’s call it 7%. But at the same time, those marches also increase my estimate of the chances that he’ll be exactly what the church needs in a communications director. Let’s say from 50% to 75%. Small additional risk, much higher chance of success. Sounds great.

    But you can’t say that the risk of disaster is zero (it never is), or that additional information doesn’t change the equation (it always does). It seems healthier to me to acknowledge the risk than to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  42. Jonathan, that you’re so bent out of shape by participation in a Pride parade is where you ought to check your assumptions. Perhaps you should attend one with some gay people to understand more about it. We would not be having this discussion if the church members had an ounce of the love and acceptance of a Pride parade.

  43. I’m not usually a “cut off comments” type, but I think at this point it’d be better to cut off the comments. Happy National Peanut Butter Day everyone.

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