An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

I’m Right, So Shut Up!

I attended a town hall meeting last week and manned a table collecting signatures for petitions for both ethics reform and fair redistricting in Utah. A small group of women opposed to both petitions showed up. One woman accosted people signing the petitions urging them not to sign anything they hadn’t read. Of course, nobody should sign documents they haven’t read, but few of the signers heeded  her. Those interested in signing were already informed on the issue. When the meeting began, the woman jumped to her feet to denounce the petitions. Now, I’m all for passion, but too much passion expressed inappropriately comes across as hysteria. The speaker finally convinced the woman to sit down and let the meeting move on to other topics. Then a woman approached my table and told me I had no right to be at the meeting with petitions. Her friend tried to write down names of people who had signed. I don’t know what organization these women represented, but they were a prime example of the current polarization of American discourse.

Now these ladies who feared circulating a petition with which they did not agree were more amusing than annoying at that meeting, I might feel differently if I had to encounter them as neighbors, ward members, or work colleagues. I generally don’t care for people who try to change my mind. Does anyone?

My brother badgers me about politics. He’s a right-wing conservative living in a very blue state. I consider myself relatively moderate, but can’t agree with Doogie’s claims about the environment, intelligent design, and other issues. He doesn’t seem to hear anything I say. He twists my words and accuses me of statements I haven’t made. I have finally realized that Doogie really isn’t talking to me. He’s finishing up arguments he’s had with liberal thinkers in his state. He’s saying to me what he wishes he’d said to them.

I no longer have the energy for the angst enjoyed by Doogie and the anti-petition ladies. Why argue about something today when tomorrow new information or experience may cause me to evaluate and change my opinion? But I do think it’s important to stand up for people or groups who are unfairly maligned. I couldn’t just let my visiting teacher partner and the sister we were visiting denounce gays and Lesbians as sinners who deliberately choose to break divine commandments. I think I handled that one tactfully, asking if they were aware that scientific research, which President Hinckley acknowledged, indicates that homosexual tendencies are inborn.

Listening to illogical emotion is tough. Aunt Loosy gets all her information from Rush Limbaugh and other talk-radio hosts. Do I let her spout the ridiculous libel she shares because of her age, or do I offer counter information? Most of the time, I make a joke and change the topic from politics—as I’ve learned to do with Doogie. Sometimes relationships are more important than proving I’m right.

Comments on: "I’m Right, So Shut Up!" (3)

  1. I have a girlfriend who bases her beliefs and opinions on Glenn Beck. When she brings up a topic and prefaces what she is about to say with, Glenn Beck says, I brace myself. I never stop her, let her speak, but I don’t listen and I don’t respond. I let her go on and I say nothing.

  2. Anonymous said:

    I followed you here from Segullah and I’m making this question anonymously to protect my brother’s anonymity. My brother has same-gender attraction and briefly chose to abandon his faith in the LDS Church, replacing it with a vague, non-denominational belief system, in order to pursue his inclinations. During that time he was very unhappy, even suicidal. Eventually, with the help of some really wise counsel, he decided that even his as-healthy-as-it-gets same-gender relationship was, on the whole, not good for him or for the other man, and was not bringing him happiness. Now he’s decided to come back to Church activity and to live celibate. He hopes that someday he could be in an opposite-gender marriage, but he’s not sure that will be possible for him. Although his choice requires great sacrifice, he is much, much happier than he had been when he briefly left the Church. It is a long and hard path and I worry about him a lot, but he really is doing well and is clinging to his testimony and the truth that the Plan of Salvation will accommodate everyone.

    For people like my brother, it’s crucial to make a distinction between proclivities, which are not sins and are not my brother’s fault, and decisions to act on that behavior, which are as much within a person’s control as it is not to act on inborn homicidal urges (scientists are now saying there’s such a thing as a violence gene). My brother and those like him who’ve chosen not to act on their tendencies are ridiculed, scorned, and persecuted by the gay community, since the gay community’s unwavering position is that proclivities and behavior are inseparable, and that to choose otherwise is to deny your inborn identity. While I certainly agree with you that it’s good to speak up against knee-jerk prejudice, and for all Christians to have empathy for each other’s struggles with whatever weaknesses we’ve inherited, we’re also not providing support to those who are choosing the difficult but chaste path when we say that their tendencies, and not their choices, define them.

    • Dealing with knee-jerk prejudice includes speaking against harmful judgment. The certitude that theirs is the only right path which the gay community has extended to your brother has been hurtful to him. I wish him well as he struggles to deal with his sexuality. And I wish all of us, straight and gay, greater compassion for each other and the personal choices we make.

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