Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

Elder Jensen says he’s sorry

Joanna Brooks’ fine essay
on Elder Marlin Jensen’s apology for…well, we’ll get to that…at a
meeting of 90 members of the Oakland, CA stake (diocese) points to
ongoing uncertainty about the role of the LDS Church in public life
these days. Jensen’s a lovely guy (I’ve had dinner with him a couple of
times), and that very rare bird: a Mormon General Authority who says
he’s a Democrat. That he should go to Oakland to hear firsthand the
distress of gay and pro-gay rights Saints is at once no surprise and
something remarkable under the Mormon sun, given the extraordinary
lengths Salt Lake went to mobilize its California troops on behalf of
Proposition 8 in 2008. What gives?


Exactly what Jensen apologized for is not entirely clear. Brooks quotes
one attendee who reported his words as follows: “To the full extent of
my capacity, I say that I am sorry . . . I know
that many very good people have been deeply hurt, and I know that the
Lord expects better of us.” Certainly, Jensen wasn’t apologizing for the
church’s stance on same-sex marriage–his capacity doesn’t extend that
far. But to say that God expects better of “us”–the Mormon people? the
LDS leadership?–suggests that he was doing more than a perfunctory
“sorry to have offended you.” Whether or not, as Brooks hypothesizes,
the church may be shifting its ground a bit on the issue, Jensen’s
appearance suggests a clear recognition that its Prop. 8 campaign was
not a good thing.


Since February 2008, when Thomas Monson assumed the presidency of the
church after the death of Gordon Hinckley, maladroitness has pretty much
been the norm for Mormonism in the public square. Besides Prop. 8, Mitt
Romney’s presidential run, the senatorial fortunes of Harry Reid and
Bob Bennett, the Glenn Beck phenomenon, anti-immigrant legislation–all
these have presented the church with challenges it has not seemed to
know how to handle. Hinckley was a master religious politician; Monson,
not so much–and indeed, barely a public presence at all.

Comments read comments(3)
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Trey Lathe

posted October 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm

As someone who was there at the meeting and had the opportunity to say a word or two, my take on the whole meeting is yes, the church has apparently recognized it handled the Prop. 8 campaign poorly in some respects based on all the reasons you state and the tone of Elder Jensen’s comments.
I did not think, and several people I attended with collaborate, that Elder Jensen was apologizing about the Church’s stance on gay marriage (in fact he reiterated it) nor that they participated in the campaign, but based on the context of the rest of his comments and the discussion, it was an apology for the pain that had been caused.

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Raymond Takashi Swenson

posted October 4, 2010 at 7:03 pm

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does NOT control Mitt Romney, Robert Bennett or Harry Reid in the decisions those men make on whether to run for election or what policies they pursue when in office. The candidates who defeated Bob Bennett are–surprise!–other Mormons! Your claim that Gordon B. Hinckley was more adroit at controlling the public perception of Mormons is a backhanded compliment, that assumes facts not in evidence. The church makes very clear to BOTH candidates and its members that it is NOT involved in partisan politics. That is even more true in a world where over 50% of Mormons aren’t even living in the US!
Besides, your timing is off–Gordon B. Hinckley was president of the LDS Church until recently, at a time when Romney ran in the primaries, when Reid was already majority leader in the Senate after the 1996 elections, and Beck was already prominent in the media.
The Church leadership does not control Glenn Beck or his political views, any more than it controls Harry Reid and his (very different) political views.
Brother Jensen was in Oakland for the purpose of presiding at a regularly scheduled meeting called a “stake conference”, in which a group of local congregations who share buildings and regional leadership meet together to hear sermons from their leadership and to acknowledge decisions at that level, such as realignments of congregational boundaries to create a new congregation, and the calling of new (volunteer) regional leaders. His meeting with the LDS members and families who have gay members was an addition to the normal agenda, clearly for the purpose of showing that love for fellow disciples that is the hallmark of being disciples of Christ (see John 14-17). It was not a news conference or a meeting with gay rights organizations, but with people who have a spiritual and emotional investment in the LDS church. His was an expression of a church that shows up to care for its members when they have financial and emotional and medical distress, even if it is due to AIDS. It is really no different than the very vocal position the LDS Church took in Salt Lake city to SUPPORT a city ordinance banning housing and jobs discrimination against gays, at a time when it is beginning to offer for sale and rent hundreds of new apartments in a new downtown development that is on Church-owned land.

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Grumpy Old Person

posted December 2, 2010 at 12:14 pm

“my take on the whole meeting is yes, the church has apparently recognized it handled the Prop. 8 campaign poorly in some respects”
The Church should not have been “handl[ing] the campaign” in the first place. It’s none of their business. The Church was NOT being asked to perform same gender marriages nor to bless those in them. This was, and remains, a CIVIL matter. Plus, it was a California matter, not a Utah matter. Buncha religious busybodies, imo.
“it was an apology for the pain that had been caused.”
Then apology NOT accepted. They CAUSED that pain – knowingly, willingly (willfully) and with much malice aforethought (not that there’s much evidence of “thought” on the matter to begin with). Butt into other peoples’ lives, tell them who they can or cannot marry – even people NOT of their religion and what did they ‘think’ WOULD happen?
Buncha busybody religious freakazoids if you ask me.
This “Church” is not interested inn the dignity of ALL of God’s children, and they CAUESD the hurt for which they now ‘apologize’.
Sorry, but dam them to he11.

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