Mormonism and gender issues/Same-sex attraction/Boyd K. Packer October 2010 conference talk/Critics' tactics

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Critics' tactics and techniques when responding to President Packer's talk

Given that same-sex attraction is a charged issue with political overtones, it is not surprising that some sincerely misunderstood President Packer's talk. Hopefully the clarification offered addressed their concerns.

Just as there are those who could sincerely misunderstand President Packer's talk, there are those who choose, for whatever reason, to purposely misunderstand. Certainly, not all with same-sex attraction, who categorize themselves as homosexuals, or who are supportive of homosexual relationships are in this latter group, but there are some who consider themselves leaders of the gay community or gay activists who do fall into this category. For them, it is not politically expedient to accept any clarifications that may be offered because they disagree with the theological categorization of homosexual acts as "sinful." The actions taken by such individuals as a reaction to clarification was noted by the Deseret News:

Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church's support of traditional morality.
The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.[1]

Such tactics (pulling statements out of context, interpreting selectively, presuming hostile intent, and stereotyping) are not new in the battle for public perception and support. In fact, tactics such as this have been specifically encouraged in the gay activist community. In 1993, two gay activists wrote a call-to-arms to their community, in which they outlined the strategies that they felt would be most successful in securing societal tolerance of homosexual acts as normal and appropriate. Among other techniques, they suggested "a propaganda campaign" (xxviii):

There's a naive notion among folks in general—especially among gays—that you can argue a person out of a prejudice (such as homohatred) by overwhelming him with facts and logic about the group he hates. This is untrue....
Logically speaking, nothing whatever is either disgusting or sinful, except as one feels it to be so...
...if we're going to enter into arguments with [those who disagree with us] we'd better have a strong emotional appeal in our back pocket. gets a little tiresome to keep seeing and hearing [gays who]... damn all proposals as politically incorrect to precisely the degree that they rely upon cunning manipulation rather than pugnacity....
...thus, propagandistic advertising can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths...who are 'not Christian.' It can show them being criticized, hated, shunned. It can depict gays experiencing horrific suffering as the direct result of homohatred—suffering of which even most bigots would be ashamed to be the cause....Note that the bigot need not actually be made to believe that he is such a heinous creature, that others will now despise him, and that he has been the immoral agent of suffering....Rather, our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof....
...The objection will be raised...that we would 'Uncle Tommify' the gay community; that we are exchanging one false sterotype for another equally false; that our ads are lies; that that is not how all gays actually look; that gays know it, and bigots know it. Yes of course—we know it, too. But it makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us, because we're using them to ethically good effect, to counter negative stereotypes that are every bit as much lies, and far more wicked ones....[2]

These tactics, outlined with such clarity, seemed to be almost a script for the reaction to President Packer's talk from organizations that promote homosexual relationships. Simply put, many dislike talk of sin, and are angered by those who claim to warn against it with divine authority. Many realize that they have not prevailed via a reasoned, rational discussion of the facts, and know that an emotional appeal is the only way of achieving their goals.

It is not surprising, then, that some activists have responded to President Packer's warning by attacking the messenger, reading him in a hostile light, caricaturing his message, reading his mind, and ascribing a variety of distasteful or even evil motives to him or the Church and its members. This should be recognized for what it is—an effort to vilify the messenger, downplay the totality of the message, and shame those who might listen to it, all part and parcel of political machinations.[3]


  1. Editorial, "A call for civility following Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer’s address," Deseret News (10 October 2010).
  2. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's (Plume, 1990), 112, 139-141, 151-154. ISBN 0452264987
  3. For extensive examples and a discussion, see Gregory L. Smith, "Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer," Mormon Studies Review 23/1 (2011): 61–85. off-site wiki