The anger unleashed in response to Elder Packer’s talk at General Conference is disappointing. Even more disappointed is the effort of some to find hostile intent where no hostility was meant. Some have accused President Packer’s support of traditional morality as a call for bullying and persecution of homosexuals. This is outrageous given his express words to the contrary and the Church’s vigorous efforts to condemn and prevent violence and hostility. The Church has repeatedly affirmed that whether people accept our moral positions or not, whether they are gay or not, they are all sons and daughters of God deserving kindness. It is irresponsible in the extreme to accuse the Church of hate for its moral standards or to link the Church with hostility or violence that is contrary to its teachings.
“A Call for Civil Dialogue” is an important editorial that just appeared in the Deseret News several hours ago. Please read the story. Also read or listen to President Packer’s entire talk, not the hostile spinning of what he said. Here is an excerpt from the news story:
This focused attention on the LDS Church is deeply ironic given the church’s shared condemnation of hate and violence toward gays and lesbians, its mutual support of anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians and its compassionate ministry to LDS Church members who have same-gender attraction.
This past week, the LDS Church re-emphasized “that there is no room in this discussion for hatred or mistreatment of anyone.” This is not new — it mirrors, for example, how the LDS Church helped to champion a Salt Lake City ordinance banning discrimination of gays and lesbians in housing and employment. And it is consistent with how the LDS Church has ministered to members with same-gender attraction.
In a 2007 article in the LDS Church’s Ensign magazine, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland relates a conversation with a self-described gay member of the LDS Church: “You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you. What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you.”
Interestingly, given the events of this week, Elder Holland spoke about other church leaders: “I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’ ”…
Nonetheless, tactics used this week ostensibly to accomplish these purposes were counterproductive. Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church’s support of traditional morality.
The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.
We encourage all to read President Packer’s talk rather than simply rely on the media interpretations and selective quotations. It stretches all credulity to find in President Packer’s pastoral counsel what some are calling a hateful message “that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide.” Contrary to what some have written in provocative press releases, nothing in President Packer’s talk says that “violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable.”
This distortion is not only misguided and political, it is dangerous. It frays trust that helps people of goodwill from different perspectives to constructively address the serious problems under consideration. By holding up a caricatured account of people’s spiritual leaders, those in greatest need of pastoral care may be mistakenly alienated from the very people who can compassionately help them get access to professional resources and counseling.
As you know, there were a couple of sentences in President Packer’s talk that are being revised for the official print version of his talk. I feel that is healthy. Though inspired and called of God to serve, Church leaders remain completely mortal and human in their ministry. It’s fair that we be prepared for revisions at times to repair statements that might not be accurate or ideal. The continued hostility against the Church for his talk, even with the softening or clarification, reflects more than a good faith dialog. I suggest we need to calm down. My two cents.