Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elder Marlin K. Jensen Of The LDS First Quorum Of Seventy Personally Apologizes For The Effects Of Church's Opposition To California Proposition 8

On a September 25th, 2010 post on Mormon Matters (since taken down and re-posted on Messenger and Advocate), John Dehlin, who also edits Mormon Stories Podcast, reports that a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints personally apologized for the effects of the LDS Church's public opposition to California Proposition 8 during a recent stake conference. It appears as if the General Authority in question, Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the First Quorum of Seventy, was speaking strictly for himself and not officially on behalf of the Church. Or perhaps the senior leadership of the Church asked him to float a personal apology as a trial balloon to solicit membership reaction, so he could bring that reaction back to the leadership.

Update September 26th: Here's some additional input from Faith Promoting Rumor and Thmazing. The latter blogger was actually present at the meeting.

Summary: The occasion was a stake conference held in Oakland, CA on September 19th. As is frequently the custom, a General Authority showed up in attendance. General Authorities who attend stake conferences are also empowered to find out if there are any issues of particular interest to the group and permitted to address them. After Elder Jensen was introduced, the stake president, Dean Criddle, said Elder Jensen welcomed the opportunity to listen to people who had issues with the Church's Proposition 8 campaign, opening the microphone to anyone who wanted to speak. Here's the most pertinent part of the post:

Marlin Jensen sat there and listened. He [stated] that he appreciated the opportunity [to] come listen and promised to take what he learned “back to the Brethren.” (He is an extremely warm, kind, funny guy. He pointed out that of the three‑tiered hierarchy of the Mormon church leadership, he’s in the bottom tier and thus, “very expendable.” That got a laugh.) What he did, though, was after everybody got up, and told of the suffering that Prop 8 had caused – the division, heartache, anger, frustration and pain – and when the last guy who spoke told him that the Mormon church owed the gay community an apology, he stood and said, “To the [extent that] it’s within my power to apologize, I want to tell you that I am sorry. I am very sorry.” People were audibly weeping. Paul sobbed. I put my arm around him. It was very, very powerful. It felt very healing.

Weeping. Sobbing. Healing. Sounds like these folks had a genuine "Oprah" moment. Whatever.

Of the 54 people who appended comments to the post, some were outright supportive. Some examples (after the jump):

Carol Lynn Pearson Sep 25th, 2010 at 11:15 am

The headline [on Mormon Matters] “Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8″ is a bit misleading.
I was present at the meeting. There was a great deal of pain expressed by a number of people about their experiences around Prop 8 and the larger context of church policy regarding gay people. It was a remarkable meeting, and Elder Jensen took copious notes and was visibly emotionally touched as he listened to the stories. At no time did he say anything like, “I know Proposition 8 was a mistake and I apologize for that mistake.” He was responding personally and in general to the extraordinary pain he was witnessing. No one had a tape recorder, but I wrote down the words, “…Do we owe an apology? I will say I am sorry. To the full extent of my capacity I say I am sorry.” It was a sincere and moving statement. It would not be constructive to make his statement sound like something it was not. The meeting itself was an historical event, for which I and many others are deeply grateful

MichaelG Sep 25th, 2010 at 8:08 am

I think he worded it in that way because he wanted to make it sound like a personal apology and that it was not his prerogative to apologize for the church. It still is meaningful to me. It means that the concerns we have been raising for years now are slowly (very slowly) making it up the chain. It’s encouraging to me.

I met Elder Jensen personally at a stake conference several years ago. He is a genuine, sweet man.

SLK in SF Sep 25th, 2010 at 8:31 am

My sister lives in the Oakland CA stake and, like Linda Schweidel and others, has been deeply involved in what’s been going on there. (She spoke at one of the firesides last fall, about her own gay son.) She has the highest admiration for Dean Criddle’s leadership, BTW.

I applaud Elder Jensen’s apology, as far as it goes. But while I tend to sympathize with those who will say it’s too little, too late (and they will), I think Dan in the first comment is right: it’s a step in the right direction. May it not be the only one.

But of course, there was the usual peanut gallery by anklebiters who would never be satisfied by any response the LDS Church makes short of disbanding, selling the temples to save starving children, and becoming just another Xtian denomination devoid of revelation, assuming a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof. A couple of examples by the original poster, John Dehlin himself:

John Dehlin Sep 25th, 2010 at 11:44 am

Having some personal experience in this regard — I am growing tired of these private, one-off apologies and assurances that still allow for double-speak, and for the general membership to hold bigoted and damaging beliefs/views/positions. It’s almost like the church is triangulating a la Bill Clinton to try to have their cake (active members in Berkeley) and eat it too (active members in Utah, Bible belt, etc.). The church has just grown too large, and too powerful. When it makes a misstep — people die now. It’s no longer trivial to me (if it ever was).

I feel that if the brethren are going to claim to be prophets, seers and revelators….and if they are to expect obedience from church members….they need to be more careful….and act more responsibly. I feel like they need to learn to “repent” in the same way that they encourage us to repent: confess…and forsake. And I’ve honestly grown to feel as MLK felt…that power does not abdicate itself voluntarily…it must be forced. Gentle patience ends up just enabling, and drawing out the pain for those who are inflicted….in my experience.

I’m honestly not trying to embarrass the church. I’m honestly trying to do my part to prevent more damage in the LONG RUN…and in the LONG RUN….the only way the church will learn its lessons is to:

1) Be held accountable,
2) Learn to apologize, and
3) Stop making overly-bold claims about absolute truth and special connections w/ the divine…along with expectations of exact obedience.

It’s not even about Prop 8. Its about the church becoming humble and more conscientious and careful about its power and influence. In my opinion, allowing the brethren to nuance their way out of their mistakes (to me) feels like enabling them and letting them off the hook. They must be held accountable for things they say and do — both publicly and privately.

I also honestly believe that Elder Jensen can take care of himself….and that if he ends up like Arrington/England/Roberts, etc… will not be ONE IOTA of my/our fault. To me…the only fault/responsibility we might have is if we continue to not hold the brethren accountable for their teachings and decisions — to let them nuance their way out of accountability through slow historical revisionism.

Even if you totally disagree with me…I hope you can empathize w/ what I’m saying. As someone who works with the psychologically afflicted now on a daily basis in Utah and sees daily the collateral damage that is being caused by the church for folks on the margins/fringes….these feelings/actions result from a tiring of burying the bodies, so to speak.

johndehlin Sep 25th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I’m fine w/ churches existing. I personally love this church.

I’m not fine w/ churches doing serious damage to people on the margins.

So amen to the former. But regarding the latter — sitting by quietly and watching while people get hurt isn’t the answer, I believe. Churches need loyal opposition to remain healthy.

But I don’t expect everyone to agree or join in. Everyone follows their own values/goals/conscience. I’m cool w/ that. This is how I follow mine. I support how you follow yours.

So John Dehlin thinks he's good enough to pass judgment on the Lord's anointed? So he thinks the GAs shouldn't promote principles of truth because they might hurt somebody's feelings? Perhaps Dehlin needs to rethink his role as being in "loyal opposition". Does he attach equal value to the words "loyal" and "opposition", or does he actually consider himself "loyal opposition"? There is a fine line between "constructive criticism of the leadership" vs. "speaking evil of the Lord's anointed"; in his well-intentioned desire to avoid offending people "on the margins", he comes close to crossing that line and offending the Lord. Since this post was first published, John Dehlin has paid a high price; he's lost most of the permabloggers on Mormon Matters and is now begging for replacements.

The Church is NOT going to change its policy on homosexuality regardless of how many anklebiters kick against the pricks until the President of the Church receives a REVELATION authorizing him to do so. And revelations come from the Lord, not from the membership.

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