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.