Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

What an odd piece of advice to hear over the pulpit, but hear it we did earlier this month, as explained (for late arrivers or early snoozers who missed the announcement) in this Salt Lake Trib article. And the Trib article gives “the rest of the story”: the blunt advice appears to be a response to notes (apparently accurate) made of an apostle’s Stake Conference remarks, subsequently circulated via email to various members, including (according to the article) CES employees. They can hardly put out a letter criticizing an apostle for what he said, so they put out a letter criticizing those who repeat what he said.

Okay–So what are the new ground rules for how to relate to a visiting GA’s Stake Conference remarks? Don’t make recordings. Don’t take notes. It’s probably best to simply forget what is said immediately at the conclusion of the talk, but if you do happen to remember what is said, do not repeat it to anyone. To really be on the safe side, consider just skipping out on Stake Conference entirely. A visit to your local cinema or sporting event would put you safely out of harm’s way, as well as providing the whole family with alternate weekend conversation material.

If there’s really anything important said, it would appear that an official written transcript of the remarks will be released. At least that seems to be the import of the announcement, according to what I recall. The memo was careful to distinguish reliable “official” sources from everything else. You would think they would at least post the memo in the Press Releases section at LDS.org, but no. Ironically, if you missed the announcement over the pulpit you have to get the news either via word of mouth, from the media, or right here.

[UPDATE: Here's the actual statement, also from the SL Trib--link from Frank's post on the same subject over at T&S.]

Comments

  1. “One participant…” ? Come on, Grog, fess up – we all know that was your sweet little wifey. Dumb as a box of rocks, but ‘rilly spirtchal”

  2. Being true to my own post, let me copy and paste a comment I made on the T&S thread:

    Frank, I don’t like it and I don’t think it will have much effect, but I’ll agree with your reading of the statement.

    1. Personal notes, including the edifying example supplied by Dan above, “are for individual use only” and “should not be distributed” without consent.

    2. Statements inaccurately attributed to Church leaders (the referent for “such statements” later in the paragraph) should not be taught or passed on without being verified against an approved Church source.

    Number 2 is a little opaque. Since circulating statements do not come with a “this is an inaccurately attributed statement” label, it suggests one should verify every statement attributed to a Church leader before circulating it. But that’s not actually what it says. Read carefully, it doesn’t prohibit teaching or passing around accurately attributed statements as long as one is not passing around personal notes. At least that’s how I read it.

  3. Christina is right–the people in Atlanta (or at least most of us) really don’t care about these quirks and foibles. When our ward read the letter from the First Presidency about a month ago, we all wondered what could have prompted such a response from the highest levels of authority. A couple of weeks later, I came across the article referenced by Dave. When I first saw the title, “LDS Church warns members not to believe everything they hear,” my curiosity was seriously peaked — I was certain that there were rumors about some scandalous thing that some GA had allegedly said. Instead, the rumors had to do with eating chocolates and walking through doors. Convinced that the Trib had simply not told the whole story, I continued to look on the internet until I tracked down the offending email. What a disappointment. That such trivial matters could gain the attention of so many members is simply mindboggling.

  4. Christina, perhaps the urge to edit out any anecdotes that might pass as foibles is in fact a recognition of the limitations of the Mormon audience, some of whom tend toward the hyper-judgmental. To such people, anecdotes could do real harm, although plainly it is their hyper-judgmentalism, not the anecdotes, that is the problem. Gut check–does knowing the Twelve eat a box of chocolates in order of seniority change my view of them? I suppose it’s better than an undignified mad rush to get the light-colored chocolates.

    On the positive side, personal anecdotes and even foibles keep the human side of our leaders and ourselves in the foreground. Over time we come to love those we love for their idiosyncratic faults as much as their vaulting virtues, and something of the same dynamic should work with leaders. It certainly worked that way for Joseph and the early Saints–his faults (not all minor) were fairly visible but they loved him anyway.

    If in fact the “announcement” was intended primarily to prevent circulation of seemingly unflattering anecdotes, why didn’t they just say that? I shouldn’t have to go read the Trib online to know what the heck an official announcement is really talking about.

  5. Dave,
    You’re right, we do love the people in our lives for their unique personality traits- good and bad. And I feel a bit of this for our current president, just because I have heard him speak in person a few times. But generally speaking, I think it is silliness on both ends. The hyperventilation of the authorities over gossip about themselves is just as foolish as the gossip itself. Solution: don’t pay attention to either side. I agree that we shouldn’t have to sanitize our leaders. But I think the much bigger issue is the idolizing of them that occurs, whether because of a sanitized or a worldly view of them. These leaders are only humans with particular callings. They may be no more righteous than our grandmothers, next-door neighbors or local politicians. They are just people. And until we see them that way, I suppose we will continue to have these problems.

  6. I’ve just noticed that T&S, as usual, is stealing our thunder on this post.

    I’m with Christina — I don’t care much about the quirks & foibles.

  7. I’ve never lived in Utah, in fact I’ve never lived in the Mountain West, and I have never understood debates like this because I have never lived in a place where General Authorities/Members of the Q12 visit more than once in a blue moon. I think this is a problem of the cult of personality. It seems to me that the members of the church who are more often exposed to these men’s talks are much more interested than I am. Maybe I’m just not attuned to the current issues in the church, but I’ve never really cared about the individual quirks and foibles of these people. I don’t think members in El Salvador, Atlanta or Botswana get tied up about things like this.

  8. Look, I don’t think it’s that confusing, when you look at the context (one GA talking about another’s quirks) — they don’t want us spreading that kind of stuff around. What’s confusing are the ramifications of the pronoucement and its links to doctrine.

  9. Okay–I added the link to the actual statement, a dramatic improvement to the post. It s a fairly straightforward paragraph. The main point, I think, is for members “to never teach . . . such statements without verifying that they are from approved church sources such as official statements, communications, and publications.” Teaching classes and giving talks seem to be the primary concern. The only thing that is confusing is this apparent context of the chocolate box story and the gossipy email circulated around CES circles. Ignore that and it seems pretty straightforward.

    Now if they’d just post all “official letters” on LDS.org and make the CHI available there so people could check what teachers and local leaders say against official statements or “approved Church sources”, people could actively implement the new directive!

    Of course, a good portion of what is commonly called “the gospel” flows from non-scriptural, apocryphal, or anecdotal sources. Mormon preaching in the 19th century was mostly storytelling, and many of those stories are still circulating.

  10. So Dave… by commenting on this announcement, aren’t you going against the announcement?

    Perhaps the announcement is like Fight Club. The first rule about the Announcement is: don’t talk about the Announcement.

  11. Frank McIntyre says:

    Sorry for posting on this the same day you did. I had no intention to hijack, I guess I just didn’t do a sufficient literature review or, in this case, bloggernacle review.

  12. Steve Earl,

    You’ve made me want to watch Fight Club now. I find rules like that intriguing. Makes me want to talk about them. :)

    I don’t mind the counsel not to spread impressions or quotes from informal or less-formal general authority talks. Sometimes this stuff gets disseminated in pretty ridiculous ways, i.e., “My sister’s brother’in-law’s ward had a conference and so-and-so (GA) said this and this.”

    On the other hand, I want to be able to call up my parents and talk to them about things that I’ve heard personally.

    Folks, I wouldn’t normally do this, but I’m going to invite you all to visit me at the Wump Blog. I don’t get enough comments and it’s getting downright lonely over there. Hope you don’t mind me including that little plug here. If so, kill me. :)

  13. The 15 comments over at T&S exhibit what I’ll characterize as complete confusion over the intention of the announcement, and the remarks here amount to pretty much the same thing–people are all over the map. If bloggers (people who at least read a lot and get used to figuring out what people are trying to say) are confused, imagine what the rest of the Church is thinking? I suspect there will be a follow up explanation at the next conference. General Conference, with an officially sanctioned and published copy of the remarks available in the Ensign.

  14. The recounting of personal foibles/quirks doesn’t really concern me, and I have a hard time believing that’s really what the statement was aimed at.

    Maybe you don’t get this in your meetings, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an instructor in a preisthood meeting or Sunday shool or a speaker in sacrament meeting paraphrase (or distort) unverifiable remarks to suit his/her own agenda.

    The most egregious of these was a recent priesthood lesson that turned into a discussion on “why we shouldn’t encourage/allow our wives/daughters to receive a college education”. This was based on remarks supposedly made by the YW General President in a meeting in Salt Lake to local YW leaders.

    One participant even went so far as to assert that perhaps his wife was more righteous than others because she refused to attend college so that when she got married she could begin having children immediately without any temptation to finish a class, semester, or degree program.

    While the recent statement may have been intended to cover a broad range of issues, I would like to believe that the concern is more about distortion of doctrine than the recouting of the personal foibles of the brethren.

  15. When they read this in my branch I thought that they were talking about weblogs, seriously. I thought, “Oh man, we’ve been found out!” I thought they were going to crack down on these discussions. I seriously thought that they were going to say that this (BCC, T&S, and the like) is not allowed. I live in Indiana so I had no idea it had to do with the whole Kuna thing at all. It kind of passed over the branch like the annual, register to vote, letter does. But I felt like they were talking to me and that I better stop reading those blogs.

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