I woke up this morning to find out via Facebook that Elder Marlin K. Jensen had apologized for Church participation in Proposition 8 (the headline was later changed to him apologizing for Prop 8 and later to “personally” apologizing).
I was a tad skeptical. After a bit of digging, I am downright cynical.
This was an apology to a small group… done in private.
Carol Lynn Pearson’s comment on the Mormon Matters thread is informative:
The headline “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.
The thing which gets to me is that this story is not being shared as a way of highlighting the compassion of Elder Jensen (which is this account does). It is instead an attempt to show a crack amongst the general authorities. It is a gotcha moment. However, I think that the event should be viewed as a servant ministering. Will Apostles and Seventies have intimate meetings like this in the future if they will be used for publicity by those that disagree with Prop. 8.
Dehlin thinks that “we should seize this as an opportunity and tell every living, believing member in the church the news. If the church is forced to clarify, all the better. Double-speak must never be allowed again. The Internet can help us make sure that happens. Maybe this really is a new step for the church. Let’s act like it is, and see if we can help to make it so.”
Sure, I understand the desire to use a “sincere and moving statement” for political purposes. I likely do it all the time. However, if ones intent is to change the positions of the Church, this is going to be viewed as an attack. The best that can be realistically hoped for is gradual change. Twisting those small moments and using them against the Church is…well…a jerk thing to do.
There seems to be a hope that the Church will change its approach to gay marriage and homosexuality. I do not think this is likely to happen. My guess is that many are still waiting for the Church to reverse their opinion on the Equal Rights Amendment. I support the legalization of gay marriage. I voted against constitutional amendments banning it in both Utah and Idaho. Maybe I have long given up on wanting the Church to officially agree with me. However, I am also not bothered when they do not.
I applaud Elder Jensen for addressing the issue in the format that he did. He is a favorite in these parts for his role as Church historian and his role as the official LDS Democrats. I hope we can follow his example. This is much better than exploiting it. Of course, if we need a General Authority to tell us to be compassionate and Christ-like, we are pretty useless.