Expressing Dissent: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up?
There’s a brouhaha going on in my town over early morning seminary. I’ll get to the details in a minute, but I want to first raise the question: why isn’t it okay for members to disagree with their leaders? In the early days clearly there was lots of discussion, much of it heated, about all sorts of things. But it feels almost taboo to publicly disagree with one’s leaders. I’m not advocating mutiny or a ward coup, but it seems to me that if a policy makes no sense or worse, is harmful, I should be allowed to say, “Why are we doing this?” or even, “I don’t like this” without being labeled a heretic or dissenter.
Here’s the scoop. For years seminary has been held at a member’s home that lives across the street from the high school. As the church building is in the opposite direction and all kids who attend seminary also attend the high school across the street, it made sense for parents to do one drop off and the kids simply walk across the street after. It’s worked well. I’ve substitute taught seminary a few times and can testify to this. There is a good spirit in the home. The kids seem happy there (as happy as kids can be at 6:30am) and enjoy walking to school after as a group.
Then, this fall, we began to hear rumors that the stake president wanted to move it to the high school. No reasons given. The kids collectively protested. The kids’ argument is that they already spend 7 hours at hard desks in an institutional environment, why take away their brief early morning respite? On girl (a favorite YW of mine) started a petition but when the Stake Presidency got wind of it, they sent stern emails to the YM and YW leaders to SHUT IT DOWN.
When the parents found out that we’d have to pay significantly for the new space, we began to scratch our heads. Our town may have lots of rich folks, but many of us have been kicked in the butt by the recession and are making tough choices like, “Do I pay my tithing or my student loan this month?” It rankles to imagine that sacrifice going to pay the high school for such an unnecessary expense.
So Monday night, hopped up on candy and cider, I made a few peeved phone calls and another mom wrote an email to all the parents and the stake presidency voicing her displeasure at the change and the way it was executed. This morning my inbox was flooded with the opinions of a dozen other parents, voicing concerns, seeking answers. It felt ridiculously dangerous and liberating to have all these opinions freely shared. A couple emails from Higher Ups were also sent, trying desperately to shut down the dialogue by using phrases like “support the priesthood” and putting the word “revelation” in bold. Twice. I was so proud of my little community of faithful Saints who knows that you can support people even while disagreeing them.
As for seminary, will anything change? I doubt it. I dropped my kid off at the high school Tuesday morning murmuring under my breath. But I still did it. Ultimately I don’t have to have my way, but I DO have to have my say.
When have you disagreed with a church leader? What prompted you to voice your opinion? What happened? When should we suck it up and when should we speak up?