What he DIDN’T say….
As many of you know, the LDS church gave a press conference two weeks ago. The Bloggernacle has since exploded with commentary about what it means, what it doesn’t mean, who said what, who apologized and who didn’t.
I’d like to turn our attention for just a moment to what WASN’T said.
In more than one interview, when responding to questions like, “What about members who support a different political stance than the one you’re outlining?” Elder D. Todd Christofferson offered similar answers.
Quoting from Peggy Stack’s article, We can all be more civil…,
What does the LDS Church think of members who back same-sex marriage?
“There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it,” Christofferson said, “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.“
Any Latter-day Saint can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” he said. “That’s not uncommon.”
Problems arise only when a member makes “a public, sustained opposition to the church itself or the church leaders and tries to draw others after them,” he said, and that support swells into “advocacy.”
In a Trib-Talk interview with Jennifer Napier-Pierce: (watch about the 8:00 – 11:00 minute area)
JNP, reading viewer’s questions, “I’m an active member in good standing. I want to understand whether supporting gay marriage or groups like Ordain Women could cause me to lose my temple recommend? If I privately believe in these ideas, would I still be temple worthy, and if so, why would the act of public expression make me unworthy if a privately held belief does not? What is the difference between a belief and its expression?”
DTC: “Heavy question. We have members, individual members, in the church who have a variety of different opinions and beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues. You can reflect back on the Equal Rights Amendment years ago…this isn’t the first of that kind of thing where we might have different feelings or different positions but it doesn’t, in our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders, if it’s a deliberate and a persistent effort in trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines. That’s very different, for us, than someone who feels one way or another on a political stance or a particular action to support a group, Affirmation or any of the others that you named.”
Differences in doctrine aside, Elder Christofferson seems to acknowledge that members of the church may come to their own political views, not necessarily in agreement with the Church’s official stance, and that it “doesn’t really become a problem” (unless you’re also attacking the church while you’re at it.)
So, imagine if you will, what Elder Christofferson, thankfully, did NOT say: “For members who find themselves at odds with the official position of the church, we ask that they fast, pray and counsel with their Bishops in seeking a change of heart so their views may come in line with ours. Those who stubbornly stick to their own opinions may be subject to informal or formal church discipline.”
I’m no Ziff when it comes to finding data and analyzing their statistics, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the above imaginary quote was not so long ago a reality. If not at the general level, then I certainly felt it in my local SoCal ward ’round ’bout Prop 8 time. Interesting also, in his original quote, how he mentions members of the church having a variety of opinions about the ERA. I’m very curious how leaders in that day spoke and acted toward members with diverging views on that legislation…… (Didn’t work out so well for some.) Political neutrality aside, do his remarks from two weeks ago represent a shift in what the church at the general level expects and accepts from its members regarding their official political positions? Is it possible that our own wards may start to trickle down this ability to let others form political views that don’t necessarily agree with the official church position without community shaming or outcasting?
The razor’s edge we all walk is how our local leaders define “advocacy” and to what degree will our good standing in the church be put up against censorship?
Having a divergent view —–> okay
Attacking the church or leading others astray —-> Not okay
Blogging? Commenting on a blog? Podcasting? Posting on Facebook? Starting a website? Chatting with your Visiting Teacher? —–> ?????
Especially in the face of their outlining a very specific political position, I find this remark exceptionally encouraging: “if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.” I’m so grateful he acknowledged that some folks may come to different conclusions according to their conscience….and that it’s okay.