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Revelatory Whiplash (Part 3 of 4)

(Updated-Fixed mp3-link) When the Nov 2015 policy was announced, many LDS Church members were hurt to learn that children of gay parents couldn’t be baptized, and gay couples were considered in apostasy. Fast forward to April 2019 and the policy was reversed, causing joy among some church members, and pain from other dues to the quick nature of the change.  Still others were outraged at the reversal.  Some church members may have felt a bit of revelatory whiplash at the sudden changes.  Dr. Greg Prince will talk more about the pain caused by the Policy and its reversal.

GT:  I know, some people made an interesting observation last night at your book signing, that there was not a single mention of that [in General Conference]. Why do you think that was?

Greg:  I think that’s because they had good input from Public Affairs, that if you’re going to announce something like that, which is not real cheery news for the institution, because you’re erasing something that people thought was permanent, when you called it a revelation three years earlier. The way to do it, essentially, is what the government does when it has bad news, you announce it after five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, so that by Monday, people have pretty much moved on. By announcing it a couple days before General Conference, and then not mentioning it, it became non-news. I think that was a good move on their part.

GT:  So, I know a lot of people, I know that I was very happy with the announcement. But I know a lot of people have been just as upset, and I think the main reason why is because there was no apology. I know Elder Oaks is often quoted as, “The church doesn’t apologize.”[1] Do you think it would have been a Public Relations win if the church had said we know there’s been some damage done here, or do you agree with Elder Oaks, “The church just doesn’t apologize.”

Greg:  No, I don’t agree with that. I think they should apologize on multiple things, and it would have been a P.R. win, if they had said humbly, “We apologize for the damage that this has done,” because demonstrably it did a lot of damage. Families were ripped apart. I think there’s good evidence that more than a few people took their lives over this, and you can’t undo that by reversing the policy. That’s the real residual damage of this thing. It’s not like okay, we went there, now we’ve come back, now let’s go on and life goes on as it did before, but it doesn’t. You step in something and you step out of it, but you still got it in your shoes, and that’s where we are? How do you undo that kind of damage? It also creates a dilemma that may even affect the orthodox church member more than the progressive church member, and that is, “Wait a minute, you told us this was revelation, and now three years later, you’re saying it’s back to where we were?”   That creates a real dilemma.

GT:  I have actually seen some orthodox members say, “I think the church is now in apostasy.”

Greg:  Yes. It’s an unforced error, but, nonetheless, it’s something that they’re going to have to deal with, and it has repercussions because it affects the whole brand of revelation.  If people thought that something being called revelation conferred permanence to it, now it becomes much more relative, and it has a ripple effect beyond that particular revelation. It calls into a question other [revelations] and say, “Well, how unchangeable is the rest of it?” In my mind, changeability is bedrock for Mormonism, but it’s something that makes most church members really nervous. They will embrace the concept of continuing revelation, but they’re really hesitant to accept change. It’s a paradox.

[1] See https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2122123&itype=cmsid

Check out our conversation….

The reversal of the 2015 Exclusion policy earlier this year has caused a bit of revelatory whiplash among more orthodox Church members.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Greg.

284 – The Christian Right & LGBT Fight

283 – Mixing Church & Politics in Gay Fight

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