In the past week or so we mormon liberals have come under attack. First, a Stake President in Utah wielded right-wing talking points over the pulpit, accusing liberals of hating freedom and helping society careen toward certain destruction. Then, last Sunday, a prominent mormon conservative blogger accused the "liberal agenda" of advancing Satan's cause through "moral rape."
As I've said before, I couldn't be happier about these attacks. They are perfect examples of what we mormon liberals endure on a regular basis. Despite the plethora of Apostles and Prophets who have made incredibly clear the notion that there are good Mormons all over the political spectrum, we mormon lefties get attacked all the time.
And these open, public attacks are doing nothing but bringing those everyday attackes out into the open. This isn't the first time we've been told we're advancing the plan of the Devil, nor will it be the last, until we address the political problem in the Church: the majority (conservatives) believe that the minority (liberals) are not good Mormons.
Don't be surprised, then, if a mormon liberal feels ostracized even in her own faith, even among her own people.
I want to take a bit of a meta-approach in this brief response to President DeVisser’s recent politically-tinged remarks at a Sandy, Utah stake conference. To be clear, I do agree with what others have said here about many of his comments being inappropriate for discussion from the pulpit, and am also glad that we have a specific text to make this discussion more concrete and focused than was perhaps possible before this talk went viral. But personally, in my conflict-avoidance way (which has its costs and benefits, to be sure), I want to talk about the methods we Mormon liberals employ to disagree with this talk and other discourse like it.
Cross-posted on Mormons For Obama.
This morning I re-read President Matthew DeVisser’s stake conference address about 2012 and the challenges facing his stake members. During the final two-thirds, the portion focused on his stake & stewardship rather than the nation as a whole, I found myself nodding in agreement with these points:
- We live in difficult and turbulent times.
- We should prepare ourselves temporally and spiritually.
- We have an obligation to help one another.
A time of fast communication, rapid global travel, increasing secularism, new challenges facing the Church, and worries about the end times, as sin and iniquity appear everywhere. This should sound familiar, as it’s an apt description of the 1970s, when President Kimball challenged Latter-day Saints to “lengthen their stride,” the 1930s when Elder Joseph F. Merrill challenged Gordon B. Hinckley to develop new methods for getting people interested in the Church, the 1890s when President Woodruff ended official support for “the principle” of plural marriage and Utah achieved statehood, the 1840s when the Church fractured after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and about AD 54, when Paul reminded the Thessalonians that a falling away had to occur before Christ returned. (We can go even earlier, as the Book of Job reminds us that people are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly out of a fire.) Each generation has certain favorite sins (slavery, spouse abuse, greed), and people grow up denouncing the sins of the previous generation (and, on occasion, their own) and then get shocked by the sins of the following generation. Worrying about society crashing down is roughly as old as . . . human society. The world is always ending.
That doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.
President DeVisser spoke wise words about the importance of temporal and spiritual preparation, referring the members of his stake to the words of President Hinckley about avoiding debt by buying a modest home and living within one's means, and by strengthening our relationship with the Savior. We will always live in difficult and turbulent times, and to be Latter-day Saints, to act rather than be acted upon, we need spiritual strength and to not let keeping up with our neighbors prevent us from serving our sisters and brothers. An avenue for spiritual strength is remembering the frequent comments by President Hinckley that now is a great time to be alive, a time to work towards Zion rather than huddling in fear of the Thunderdome.
I commend President DeVisser’s stake for their robust fast offering contributions, as that’s part of how we can fulfill our obligation to help one another. A human being needs a wide range of things to be able to fully express their agency, to use their life to grow and serve: love, purpose, food, shelter, education, safety, healthcare. Family, neighbors, the Church, and the nation are all good at providing a few of these things and bad at providing others. The Church recognizes this, as it instructs Bishops to familiarize themselves with government and community programs that provide medical care, counseling, help for people with disabilities, and job training and placement. We in the United States face the challenges of an aging population, millions of people residing in the shadows, an erratic climate, and rates of gun violence and incarceration that lead the developed world. At church, we learn about following the Savior and helping one another. During the rest of the week we need to talk & decide the best way to do this.
I second Hannah’s post about the importance of leaving partisan politics behind at the church doors, and Jeff’s comment that it is crucial we re-examine how we understand the connection between the Gospel and our politics, that we engage in conversation about which public policies we should support for the benefit of our communities. One of the several great things about 2012 was the emergence of Latter-day Saint writers in the political center and on the left. I encourage you to read through the posts at Mormon Liberals, at Mormon Democrats, and at Mormons for Obama, and to join LDS Dems, the national home of Latter-day Saints looking to have an impact on the Democratic Party and our country's laws.
A few minutes ago, the Salt Lake Tribune published an article written by Peggy Fletcher Stack about a Utah Stake President who delivered a passionate, semi-political talk over the pulpit. You can read the article and text of the talk here.Read more
I just finished reading Stake President Matthew DeVisser's Talk [PDF] in a recent Stake Conference in Utah. I'm glad he said what he did. First of all, he's a good man just trying to do his best as he fulfills an incredibly difficult calling. I admire anyone who's willing to take on an entire Stake's-worth of responsibility in addition to work and family. Kudos to him for that. And I'd imagine he's feeling rather sheepish now that this speech has caused such a stir.Read more