Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The big bully in the neighborhood

Lots of news today. Not in the limelight is a revealing write-up about how the Mormon church has silenced members who have opposed construction plans by the church.

In recent months the Mormon church announced plans to build a 9-story building at it's Missionary Training Center (MTC) complex in Provo, UT. The MTC complex is in a Mormon dominated residential neighborhood adjacent to BYU (I worked there for several years while attending BYU). Some LDS members who live nearby have opposed the tall building as a zoning issue. 

These members were very careful not to step outside the approved lines by consulting with their Stake President who assured them that their opposition would not affect their church status. This changed when the church used it's ecclesiastical authority over these members to silence their opposition. The Stake President had a change of heart (ie: got a call from Salt Lake). The opposing members were then called in to meet with their Stake President who "invited" them to "support the brethren" and told that this was now an ecclesiastical matter. Most of the opposing members quickly switched sides. One member commented that she knew from the tone of the "invitation" that any further opposition to the project by her could result in disciplinary action. 
In Mormondom this will be viewed as a minor thing where a few members were brought back by the guidance of their leaders. To me, the strong arm tactics, passive aggressive behavior and word games of the church are revolting. It once again gives a glimpse of how the church would control government, if it could. It acted because it knew it would be successful in stopping the annoying opposition
The church then had the balls to issue a statement that said "to suggest that this was an attempt by church leaders to exercise undo influence is without merit". That is exactly what it was! It was the big bully in the neighborhood using its influence to brow beat otherwise faithful members into submission. 
This type of institutional passive aggressive  behavior is one of the main causes of a culture of passive aggressive interpersonal relationships in Utah that is so damaging to so many people.

This is also another example of the church abusing it's lay member leadership by essentially forcing them to bring their fellow members into compliance with some mandate that has nothing to do with religion.

It continues to amaze me how the church takes credit for the good works of it's members but reflexively drops them without any thanks as soon as they do something that conflicts with it's PR message.  Once again acting more like a corporation than a church.


  1. May I ask what the reference is for this story? Thank you.

  2. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54456872-78/church-evans-leaders-mtc.html.csp There's one, though it doesn't touch on _all_ the details mentioned in the blog post, if I remember right.

    I agree that this is "passive aggressive" behavior, but I'm not revolted by it myself. Actually, note the implications here--I cite these under the assumption that they are citations of actual quotes (they seem authentic to me, though you should cite them): the members were "invited" them to "support the brethren"; "to suggest that this was an attempt by church leaders to exercise undo influence is without merit".

    Using such language does not indicate for sure that this is a case where discipline would be in the offing for continued opposition. Thus, these members have an opportunity to continue their opposition to the proposal, and their doing so forces the Church (through the direct actions of the unit--probably closely overseen by headquarters) to transparently and clearly realize in action exactly what they mean by "invitation" and "supporting the brethren." I would expect by the words themselves that this should not affect their standing, but if it does, then that would greatly clarify expectations for such situations.

    I suspect much of what causes the revulsion that you feel is the fact that they do passively aggressively use wording like this to use cultural pressure to frighten the opposition through indirectly threatening their standing. But, although rejecting an "invitation" or not "supporting the brethren" (as opposed to, say, actively opposing or rebelling against them) implies a cultural loss of standing, they are not sufficient for official loss of standing in the Church.

    I think the fact that they have to use such soft language and--frankly, I would think--back it up if it came right down to it, is a good thing. I feel like they are losing their ability to use threatening loss of Church standing as a weapon against purely political opposition, and this situation (probably) reflects that, at least as I read it. Of course, if they were in fact disciplined for continued opposition (without intervention from Salt Lake), then my reading is probably wrong and my bets are off.

  3. @ Trev: thank you for the reference. I will go and read it now.