Saturday, April 11, 2015

Elder Perry and the talk that wasn't

I have recently adopted the title of a Mormon apologist* -- though I reserve the right to change that title if it ends up having a connotation I don't agree with. As I understand it, a Mormon apologist is one who defends. That is me.

I haven’t wanted to use the word because of its proximity to apologize, and I don’t know that an organization is necessarily responsible for apologizing. (There are members of the church that certainly need to embrace the concept and hug the heck out of it. I am one of those simply because I talk a lot and then annotate what I have said, so anything I have ever said that is stupid is written down for all time.  If you have read me for very long, then you know.)

Maybe I am wrong.  A well placed apology hasn't ever done anyone harm.
What lovely ears you have...
However, as one who "defends", my job this week is to help the world hear the remarks made by Elder L. Tom Perry. It is not my place to interpret. If you would, please listen to the talk itself.  I encourage you to do so - the link is below. 

First, let me say that I know the man. I have met him several times. He is tall and has a very talented niece who sings like a bird and is just about as skinny. He is not the kind that seeks to offend without justification.

On first look or first read or first out-of-context-quote-from-facebook, what he said seems brash. Again. I encourage you to listen to the talk.  I listened to it in real time, and I was not offended, nor did I worry about any of my friends or family taking offence. It seemed to me at the time (and still does to me) that it was a rah-rah moment for families.

One can get a better feeling for what was actually said by hearing the thing in its entirety.

The topic was families -- all families; Mormon ones, Catholic ones, Muslim ones. Elder Perry and the LDS church have historically promoted the family as the only reliable way to raise children and come closer to Heavenly Father. Elder Perry said as much in this talk.

The family is the group created by God to nurture children. Famously, the family and the home is the one place on earth that is said to be by Mormon leaders as sacred or more sacred than a dedicated temple. Elder Perry said clearly that not making a commitment to the family is dangerous.

Elder Perry started his talk with a quote from Pope Francis, who opened the first session of a recent international assembly with this statement:

“We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. … It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.”

The tone of the talk did not change from there: Elder Perry stated: “We believe that the organization and government of heaven will be built around families and extended families.”

Elder Perry: “One problem is that much of the media and entertainment that the world shares does not reflect the priorities and values of the majority. For whatever reasons, too much of our television, movies, music, and Internet present a classic case of a minority masquerading as a majority. Immorality and amorality, ranging from graphic violence to recreational sex, is portrayed as the norm and can cause those who have mainstream values to feel like we are out of date or from a bygone era."

Here is the quote that people have latched onto – the majority of them not having read or having heard the talk. “We want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established."  Counterfeit, as per his definition is anything that takes the place of marriage and parental commitment. 

Not once does Elder Perry refer to anything gay, bi, lesbian, same sex, opposite gender, mixed orientation, LGBT… nothing. Nor does he refer to “them” in funny quotation marks. There was not one “knowing nod” or a wink to the balcony throughout the entire talk, and I watched.

The closest he gets to controversial is when he mentions traditional families. As near as I can figure out, by traditional he means a family where there is a committed parent or parents raising a child or children. There may or might not be a pet included.  He did not get specific.

Am I looking at this with a blind eye?  

*Defender, supporter, one who upholds, advocate, proponent, campaigner, informal cheerleader.


  1. I have refrained from commenting, but you keep bringing this up. First, I agree with you that Elder Perry is a nice guy. I too have met and talked to him. He is not a mean spirited man.

    That said, I have no doubt that his reference to "alternative lifestyles" was meant to include gay people and their marriages. Urban Dictionary definition of alternative lifestyles:

    "Any socially-unconvential lifestyle, esp. sexual. Includes but is not restricted to describing gay lifestyles."

    Considering the fact that the Church remains firmly and unapologetically opposed to same-sex marriage, to me his mention of alternative lifestyles was a clear (if subtle) reference to that. You might see his remarks differently, but it is not at all surpring if I and others got a different message in the context of the Church's vigorous opposition to same-sex marriage (and the families that result from those marriages).

    If you think his use of the phrase "alternative lifestyles" had absolutely nothing to do with gay people, then what specifically do you think he was talking about when he picked those words? When he talks about the "majority" and "mainstream values" do you really think he means to include a family of two women In a same-sex marriage who are lovingly raising their children?

    1. Thanks, Edward for reading and for commenting. BTW, I am happy to read any of your comments, so don't feel like you have to hold back. That is what this forum is for - this ain't going to be talked about at church. I go back and forth. It is so easy to look at what he said and be offended. By the same token, it is tough to look at what he said and be anything but. Were I in different shoes, different sized shoes, differently styled shoes, I think I would not be happy either. Elder Perry does believe that eternal marriage, god like marriage is between a man and a woman. Progression in the after-life is based on man woman relationship.

      See: (This has nothing to do with today's debate on gender issues but on the afterlife and progression.)

      There is more information and knowledge to be had. I hope to be open to it when it comes. I do not feel, however, that it will mean a change in policy, but more of an "accept others for what/who they are and continue to do as commanded."

  2. When you reference a "commented" parent or parents in your last paragraph, I guessing you meant committed?

    1. Yes. Thank you for the correction. I will make the change.

  3. I humbly suggest that you are looking at this with a blind eye. Elder Perry could not come right out and say he meant gay people because people would jump on that. So he went with a veiled reference to it. I suggest that because you are so invested in the Mormon Church, you will always need to find a way to support what the elders say, no matter what they say. You are not so much an apologist as someone who will defend whatever the elders say or write, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but that is not what an apologist does.