Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Change, Interrupted. Love, Lost.

I made the comment below in a discussion about change in the LDS church (which some see as a transcendental wave about to wash upon the shores of Zion). I thought you, dear readers, might want to read it too.

Coming out, and trying to maintain relationships with those who have different beliefs, viewpoints and priorities, and giving time to people to work through their discomfort, misconceptions and prejudice are ALL important. Those things can lead to many good things on the interpersonal and community levels. It can even lead to positive change in the law and society at large. Those who love the church have chosen the path that works best for them.

Dissent---not loyal opposition, but solid and principled dissent---has just as much value and legitimacy. It's okay that we disagree and get into heated discussions. That's one of the beauties of human intelligence. Common ground can be a good thing. But it's not the only thing that changes hearts and minds. Rabble rousing makes a difference too. It can raise awareness in a person who would rather ignore their discomfort and live forever in their misconceptions.

The LDS church is ruled by 15 men who take church-wide action ONLY upon a unanimous vote in secret meetings. It is not ruled by consensus following open discussion of pressing issues in which the hearts and minds of the people can be expressed and shared. The LDS church's prevailing culture does not value challenging the brethren, questioning doctrine or thinking critically. The councils of the church, high and low, are dominated by those who adhere to this cultural imperative. Local distinctions are good to see, and their impact on people is not to be minimized. But those exceptions, distinctions and outlying circumstances should also be seen in the larger context, taking care to not let effusive optimism lead to disappointment, misinformation and misinterpretation.

Change at a doctrinal level in the LDS church comes ONLY after the hearts and minds of ALL FIFTEEN of the LDS apostles change. To the optimistic among us, that could come after they feel a full measure of genuine love toward their fellow human beings. To the more jaded among us, that could come when they see an existential threat to the church, which has a driving force behind major change in the past. Of course, both can happen. But the latter is generally the requirement, since there is usually at least one holdout among the 15 who ignores reason and compassion because he puts more value on the traditions of the past or simply fears openness.

That fact is the main barrier to any kind of change in the LDS church on any issue. That fact is a main reason why I no longer love or value the church as an institution, and why I am a vocal dissenter.