Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mormongate

"Mormongate" is starting to show up in the press. And not just the gay media - the mainstream media is starting to pick up on it.

The LDS church is embroiled in a PR disaster. Mormon historian Jan Shipps calls it the perfect storm. Some events are not of its doing - such as the Mitt Romney run for the presidency, or the FLDS fiasco which some, erroneously, associate with Mormon's. Other events are a direct result of its overt actions - such as involvement in getting proposition 8 passed. But, all of the events in the past year are conspiring together to form the perfect storm.

Now, we've always had our enemies - people who protest whenever we open a new temple or at general conference. But, it's always been fringe elements who are doing the protesting - people that few take seriously. The difference now is that mainstream society is starting sit up and notice that something doesn't quite seem right. There is the old adage "where there's smoke, there's fire" - and right now there is lots of smoke. And, the LDS church is doing an abysmal job at putting out the fire.

As an organization, the LDS church is very private - disseminating information very carefully and succinctly. It is also very image conscious. These characteristics have worked very well for the LDS church over the years - until now. People are asking lots of uncomfortable questions - questions which are going unanswered; and, our image is being dragged through the mud. The very traits which have worked so well for us are now working against us.

We can handle fringe elements telling us we're evil. We can handle other churches telling us that we're not Christian. We can weather these storms quite easily - we've been doing it since Joseph Smith's time, it's ingrained into our culture.

But now, as a result of events over the past year or so, we're faced with the perfect storm. While we fancy ourselves as being mainstream - more and more, with our fundamentalist views, the world is relegating us to the fringe elements of society. Where we were once admired as being pro-family - we are now only viewed as being pro-[certain kinds of families].

Our doctrine, teachings, and culture are being carefully scrutinized in ways we're not accustomed to. And, it's becoming more and more difficult to defend our policies that just seem petty and silly - such as boys can't wear earrings and God only likes white shirts.

Even members from within are beginning to sit up and question some of our practices and policies - wondering if we are truly being Christ-like in our treatment of certain members of society.

Can the LDS church weather out this perfect storm? Or are we at the cusp of a new era in Mormonism? To survive, are we going to have to rethink what we're doing and where we're going? Have we reached a point where the old ways just won't work anymore?

I won't claim to be smart enough to know the answer. But, I believe this perfect storm is not going to dissipate any time soon. And, I find myself wondering, and fearing, how many of our brothers and sisters are we going to lose before we admit to ourselves that we need to chart a new course?


Lost by Abelard Enigma

Today, we lost another brother
He did not abandon us
But we abandoned him
And, with his departure
A part of each of us goes with him
We all become somewhat less than what we were
Because no one reached out to embrace him
To accept him for who he is
Instead, he was ignored along with others like him
Pretending that he and his soul mates don't exist
Forcing him, and others, to hide their true selves
Living in constant fear that their secrets will be discovered
Is it any wonder that we lost yet another brother?
How many more will be lost
Before we realize that these losses diminishes each of us?
How much more can we be diminished before we too are lost?

10 comments:

Ezra said...

Wow.

That poem speaks to me. I was completely fine until I read that, and my heart ached for the truth therein.

When I left the church, my Elders Quorum president told me that it was very sad, because I was one of the few people he saw that had a genuine desire to serve.

His words haunt me to this day, because I know he's right. I do want to help people, but I can't stay in that environment any more.

Evan said...

It's amazing how much can come to past in one single year (or more when you consider Romney's campaign as a whole). 3 big news stories that focus on controversial issues. What a year.

And when you consider the stories as a whole, I really do believe the Church's image has been dented. One can argue that each of these events provided a time of learning... each event allowed people to gain interest in the church. Prop 8 may have allowed members to approach the concept of homosexuality, thus increasing their understanding of what it means to have SGA....
But unfortunately, overall, I think more harm than good was done.

Scot said...

"Our doctrine, teachings, and culture are being carefully scrutinized in ways we're not accustomed to."

It seems to be going both ways. As I recently posted, we just got a good sized opinion poll from BYU about the LDS church, Mitt, and Prop 8. At least they seem to be taking notice of what you've noticed, and one could hope what they find leads to change.

Beck said...

Like I said, change won't come until it hurts (financially, politically, public image etc.) Losing members on the gay front, sadly, isn't enough.

Abelard Enigma said...

Is it just gay members who are leaving? I've read rumors of investigators canceling appointments with missionaries following November 4th.

It will be interesting to see what the focus of general conference will be in April.

Anonymous said...

People are asking lots of uncomfortable questions - questions which are going unanswered

I think that's the big one. The Mormon church rarely wants to answer questions that lead to more questions. They prefer to answer questions in a way that shuts the inconvenient questioning down.

The problem is, if the Mormons don't answer the question, someone else will. Mormons don't want to open their financial books? Other people have estimates of the amounts. Are the estimates wrong? Who cares--they are the only numbers available.

Now they try to pull the "but we complied with the law, and revealed the numbers" excuse. The problem is, they had put forward the $2000 number over and over before then. I never had any impression that they believed there were more spending reports to release.

Beck said...

In my mind this isn't about spending at all. Nor in keeping private the financial matters of the church. They can do as they've always done. I don't care if they spent the whole $40 million - if it was worth it then say so and live up to it because it is the "right thing to do!"

For me it's about the double-speak, the not-standing-up-and-being-proud-of-being-right speak, but hiding behind technicalities and then saying one thing to one state, ignoring another state (or country) because it's a lost cause, and remaining silent in another state (which silence means to continue discriminatory legislation), allowing different messages to be conveyed as politically convenient.

This is not what a prophet does. A prophet leads and leads with confidence and power and truth and is not ducking the hard questions because the truth is right and will prevail, right? So why the ducking and hiding and mixed messages and no clean and clear path forward? That's what bothers me....

Sorry, Abe, for maybe redefining your post here.

(he now slips off the soap-box).

Anthony E. Larson said...

I'm with you. This has the potential to spiral out of control. In my view, this growing situation is far more sinister than my fellow Mormons care to admit.

Early LDS history has a chilling lesson for our time that we should all take to heart.

You can read my take on the current situation on my blog at http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/2008/12/warning-from-our-past.html

Lisa said...

I joined the church nine years ago this May. I was about as TBM as you could get - would've glady responded to the name Molly (really, I didn't understand the disdain for Mollies).

My issues with the Church really came to surface about four years ago. For a time I was able to reconcile my problems, but they kept coming back up.

Then came Prop 8. For the record, I'm a straight, married-in-the-temple, born-and-raised-California girl. I live in the most conservative area of the state. I know of one friend who is gay. That's it. /context

I voted yes in 2000 to the first version of Prop 8 (then 22). I was a new member in the church, brand new to voting, grew up in a republican house, and I knew my mom respected the church (a rare confession) for supporting this proposition. I voted yes.

Fast forward eight years to a completely different person politically. The realization that not only am I a pariah for voting No, but that I'm not allowed to talk about it, "preach what I believe," shook my core foundation. I'm not out to ruin the church or mislead its people. I just really disagree here and it struck me weird that I couldn't talk about it without people telling me I had little faith or I was going against the Prophet. That opened the door for other "why?" questions. There's doctrine I didn't believe in before but accepted on faith that I can no longer rationalize.

This summer was the ultimate straw that broke this back. While I haven't leftleft, I am less active. My heart is gone, and I'm not the only one.

Prop 8 ruined it for me. It was pretty bad, and the Church's excuses and PR moves just aren't cutting it for me. It's making it worse. I can't take it seriously, and it really, really sucks.

Abelard Enigma said...

This summer was the ultimate straw that broke this back. While I haven't leftleft, I am less active. My heart is gone, and I'm not the only one.

I started to respond to your comment, but it turned into another blog post.