In response to Ashmae’s thoughtful reflections on the dearth of women’s voices at the last General Conference, a reader shared the following comment on a popular social media website:
You are all focused on the wrong thing. Why does it matter who said it as long as it is truth? The message is far more important than the messenger.
Someone else made a similar comment here on the website, so it must be a thing:
I don’t think it matters who speaks to be quite honest. It’s what is spoken about that is important and it applies to everyone.
I admit that my first response was to heave a sigh of exasperation. After all, as members of a culture steeped in the rhetorical traditions of our fathers, we all know that the credibility of the messenger matters at least as much as logical arguments and emotional appeals as a mode of persuasion.
Well, you don’t have to take my word for it; I’m just an anonymous guy on the internet. So let’s do a simple thought experiment instead: Would it make no difference to you if the prophet, a member of your ward or a homeless drug addict called you to repentance for your clandestine green tea habit? Or from whom would you be most likely to accept (let’s assume the same) advice about how to raise a rambunctious child—your pediatrician, a relative or that busybody behind you in the checkout line?
So of course it matters who speaks! But upon further reflection it occurred to me that perhaps there is something aspirational about these comments (though one would have to ignore the purpose for which the arguments were deployed)—wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to recognize and accept the truth when and where it is uttered with no regard to the status of the speaker (and conversely, to avoid being led astray by stuffed shirts)? Are you ready to sit at the feet of women sharing truth, whether they are speaking from the pulpit at General Conference or writing on a blog?
Or is that an egalitarian bridge too far into a domain where hierarchy and authority are as responsible for creating the message as much as sharing it? I mean, consider the two-or-more-earrings episode—if anyone but the prophet had said that, would it have received any traction at all as a guide to Mormon dress and grooming?
Where do you fall on the issue of messengers and messages?