I have been in the on-line latter-day Saint world for almost two decades now. And in that time, I have seen several trends. One trend is that the vast majority of people active in the on-line world tend to move left over time. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of people I have interacted with in the on-line latter-day Saint world are more left-wing today than they were 20 years ago.
To define terms: by left-wing I mean more willing to criticize Church leaders rather than to support them. And I also mean more willing to criticize your typical traditional, conservative latter-day Saint. I personally have observed the sad process of more than 100 people on-line transitioning from active, temple-worthy Church members to inactive, open critics of the Church. And for these people, the bad guys are always some “conservative TBM” who offended them in some way. (TBM: “True Blue Mormon” or “True Believing Mormon.”)
One of the trends that I have noticed in the last few years is that there is a growing group of latter-day Saints who don’t care at all about the transgressions of the people opposed to the Church, but they really, really care about people who dare to criticize the people opposed to the Church. The people opposed to the Church deserve compassion and empathy, but this growing group of people I mention have almost no empathy for people who are trying their best to defend the Church.
For the purposes of this post, I will call this growing group that I refer to as “centrists.” These are not left-wing Church members and are usually active in the Church — for now. What is alarming to me is that the centrists have a huge amount of energy to expend criticizing small supposed indiscretions by their fellow Church members, but no energy at all to expend explaining why Church doctrine should be defended.
Please watch this video to better understand where I am coming from.
To summarize the video, it shows one man trying to read the Proclamation on the Family to a group of gay rights protesters at BYU. One young woman physically attacks the man, and several others stand in front of him with signs, and then the entire group begins chanting “gay rights, gay rights!” until the man cannot be heard. The anti-Church demonstrators want no dialogue with the man — they only express hatred and contempt. And this happened at a Church school in Provo just a few days ago.
Let me tell you how 99 percent of the people in my ward in Colorado see this situation: “Why are BYU administrators allowing this to happen? Why are there rainbow flags and gay rights protesters there? The students knew about the Honor Code when they decided to go there — if they don’t like BYU, why don’t they just leave and open up a spot for somebody who DOES want to follow the Honor Code? If this continues, the kids should all be expelled and the BYU administrators who allowed it to happen should be fired.”
But here is the interesting part: for the “centrist” commentator, the problem has nothing to do with people physically attacking somebody reading the Proclamation on the Family. No, the REAL culprits are the people in my ward who dare to wonder how BYU could allow this to happen. The real bad guys are those who point out that students should actually follow the Honor Code that they agreed to when they enrolled at the university. The people who need to be corrected are NOT the agitators — instead the people who must be corrected are those who dare to speak out in favor of the Church’s doctrine.
I hope fair-minded readers can see how this approach is completely upside-down. This is a classic case of calling evil good and good evil. Isaiah 5:20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
As the end times approach, it is a sad reality that fewer and fewer people will stand up for those trying to follow the Savior. Most of the critics will not be religious at all, but there will be others, even inside the Church, who are fooled by rhetoric like “love is love.” They will not realize that encouraging people to sin does them no favor at all and is in fact one of the most heartless things you can do. You don’t tell the alcoholic to keep on drinking if you love him — you do what you can to help him to stop. But for the centrist Mormon, the alcoholic deserves a lot of compassion but the person telling him to stop is filled with hatred. As I said, they have it completely upside-down.
Now, to be clear, I don’t think anybody, and especially latter-day Saints, should go around accosting people who are sinning. This is not the Lord’s way. I probably would not have gone to the demonstration to read the Proclamation on the Family to this group. That is not my style at all — I really don’t like those types of confrontations. But I don’t necessarily think this young man’s motives were bad in any way (based on the video — I don’t know him). And at the end of the day I applaud him for standing up for his beliefs. I certainly don’t think he should be criticized — but the centrist Mormons you will hear from these days have nothing but contempt for this young man and others like him, and that is very sad to watch.
One of the other sad trends I have observed over the last 20 years is that activist centrist Mormons usually move to the left over time. And as they do so, they become more and more critical of Church leaders — and their fellow Church members. And a very large percentage of them eventually end up leaving the Church altogether, and of course it is the fault of some conservative TBM when they leave. Notice: it is never their fault. Not at all.
A few additional points:
–Some people I respect have asked me to point out that the whole BYU Honor Code situation has been painful for some students with same-sex attraction. On the one hand, you have members of the BYU administration saying that same-sex PDA is OK, and then you have a General Authority two weeks later saying it is not OK. If I were a person with same-sex attraction, this would be painful for me, so I can understand that point of view. I would point out that the students with same-sex attraction knew about the Honor Code when they entered BYU, and if they have been paying attention at General Conference they might have noted that the Church’s policy on same-sex attraction has not changed. But, yes, it would still be painful for them.
–I was unaware of this until today, Saturday, but apparently there is a group calling itself “DesNat” that is aggressively defending the Church. (Maybe it is not a formal group but instead a cause). Anyway, I have heard some negative stories about DesNat tactics that do not, in my opinion line up with how the Savior would want us to defend the Church. We should be firm in our defense of the Church, but we should not use overly aggressive tactics or threaten violence in any way.
–Having said that, I would like to re-emphasize the lonely position of a conservative member of the Church of Jesus Christ trying to follow the Brethren and trying to bring up children in a culture that celebrates everything the Church opposes. The conservative member is hated by left-wing Mormons, and now centrists Mormons (as described in this post) have decided to concentrate their ire on this member. And of course most of the world, from traditional Christians to atheists, does not have much sympathy for the conservative Mormon. It can be difficult, and I would ask the members of the Church who read this post to have some additional empathy for the conservative Church member.