Apologetics: Revealing the Waters in Which We Swim
by Jeffrey Thayne
(This is from a presentation given at the 2021 FAIR Conference)
Let’s imagine two roommates, James and Greg, who both attend BYU. They live under the same roof, they are both practicing Latter-day Saints, and they both claim to believe in the doctrines taught by the Proclamation on the Family about sexuality and gender. However, despite these shared beliefs, the way they experience Church culture, policies, practices, and traditions couldn’t be more different.
For James, BYU’s honor code seems like a natural expression of those doctrines, an institutional scaffold that helps reinforce our moral intuitions. For him, discipleship involves participating in a community that encourages and reinforces our shared values and priorities, and helps us maintain our ideals and live out our convictions.
For Greg, the community norms those doctrines give rise to are disclosed to him, experienced by him as stifling and burdensome for LGBT students. He concludes that his faith requires him to engage in political and social advocacy on behalf of his LGBT friends, to make the university and the church more hospitable for those who live LGBT lifestyles.
How can two people who share the same doctrinal beliefs arrive at such wildly different conclusions? This question is relevant to those of us who want to help members maintain faith and conviction. The Gregs of this story do not always experience a crisis of faith and leave the Church, but Greg’s approach may prime him towards distrust of the Church’s policies and traditions, and sow the seeds of continued disappointment and future disaffection when the Church doesn’t change in the ways he prefers.