Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

For all my Mormon Facebook friends

This hasn’t happened yet, but I’m so confident it will that I’m writing about it in the past tense. You too can have the spirit of prophecy — no Holy Ghost required!

Well, it’s been quite a week for Mormon-watchers! Ever since the church’s shockingly cruel policy for LGBT families was leaked from the not-for-regular-members handbook, there’s been talk. And you and I — former mission companions, fellow ward members — we’ve been mixing it up and arguing about it on Facebook.

Now I’ve been pretty harsh about this policy because I think it’s going to hurt people. “But, Daniel!” you’ve said. “Who’s it going to hurt? Those gay people aren’t going to want to be in the church anyway, so their kids aren’t missing out on anything. And you’re just a big old apostate anyway, so what do you care if kids — or anyone — don’t get baptised?”

Well, I do like it when people don’t join the church, that’s true. But you may be surprised to find that more people have become caught up in this thing than you might think. Some gay parents, formerly part of a mixed-orientation marriage, are happy for their kids to be in the church — maybe to keep the peace, maybe in the mistaken belief that religion teaches good wholesome values — and they’re now surprised to find that their kids aren’t welcome (unless they denounce their parents), and will be relegated to second-class status over this. Sorry — third-class. Women have second-class status. Hard to keep up.

Now I have a confession. I don’t actually think the Q15 actually intended this. There’s a saying known as Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Well, I think the Brethren — fine legal minds notwithstanding — simply intended to retrofit the polygamy policy to another group that they wanted to take a hard line with. They didn’t mean for it to become well-known or publicised, and were surprised when it all blew up on them. (There’s one bit of anecdotal hearsay that bears this out.) Then they were in a bit of a corner, wondering what to do. They rolled out one of their elders (who has a gay brother) to make a video statement, but that didn’t help.

Now here’s the most shocking and disappointing thing about all of this. In the week since the story broke, during our discussions on social media, you never doubted anything after maybe the first few hours. You never showed (to me at least) any sentiment like, “Gee, that’s a bit harsh.” Nothing like that. You wanted to believe that your leaders were inspired, and so when an explanation was handed to you, you clung to it. And so your defence of your leaders was full-throated and vociferous.

And the defence you offered was: It’s not a cruel policy! It’s a kind policy. The church has decided not to cause tensions between gay parents and straight kids. (Besides the eventual denunciation, that is.) By not letting kids get baptised, the church is really preventing setting families against each other. It was a silly rationale — the church doesn’t have a problem creating tension in part-member families, in which kids can get baptised. And we debated that.

But, again, your belief that your leaders couldn’t be wrong — when they clearly were — was shocking. It told me that you had outsourced your conscience. Is there anything they could do that you wouldn’t sign off on? Probably not. And that tells me that your moral compass is broken, in a way that wouldn’t be so without the church.

So now, on a drowsy news Friday, President Newsroom has released a statement walking back some of the policy, and relaxing the ban. They had to do it. There really wasn’t a choice, if they wanted to control the damage.

But in so doing, they’ve sold you out. There you were, defending them and their “kind policy”. Now that even they’ve had to admit that the policy wasn’t so kind, they’ve sort of pulled out the rug from under you, haven’t they? You were defending something that even they couldn’t defend. Not to mention what this says about their supposed revelatory capacity; they really didn’t see this coming! So much for ‘discernment’.

Most of all, I wonder how you feel now. I wonder if this will trigger any reflection, or if you’ll just go back to obedience and moral slumber. I hope not. I hope you’ll think about this for a good long while.

3 Comments

  1. Very good post! The fact that people are expected to defend anything that comes out of the COB — when it's constantly changing and relatively unpredictable — is one of the most amazing things about the CoJCoL-dS. Well, that and the fact that people are actually willing to step up to the plate and do it!

    I'm a big fan of Hanlon's Razor in general, but I argued the opposite in a comment on MSP. But now I find your counter-hypothesis quite convincing…

  2. As a nevermo heathen, I'm just chalking this up as yet another 'the prophet would never lead us astray (until he does… again and again and again. Bwahahahaha!). 😛 Good for those resigning the LDS church over this, the sooner they escape, the better! 🙂

  3. I would like to add that I did in fact predict some kind of "clarification" (if not a walkback) on a sleepy news Friday.

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