For that, I think we can get a basic idea from the 2011 issue of the FARMS Review
, where culture warrior Greg Smith
does his best to defend Elder Packer's teachings on homosexuality and expose Laura Compton for the enemy to the true faith that she obviously must be (at least in his construction of her).
As we have seen, apologists have been combing the internet looking for juicy tidbits from Dehlin & Co. in order to use them against him. The same is true of the Laura Compton "hit piece," where a number of quotes are cherry picked to make Compton look personally disingenuous in the Mormons for Marriage board policy against criticism of the leadership and the church.
After all, we all know from experience how easy it is to babysit online discussions when determined characters are up at all hours sharing their viewpoints. In any case, I think it is fair to say that Smith has found evidence of that board policy being violated and the violations being inadequately addressed and not in a timely manner.
The question I have is this: is it accurate, much less realistic, to place all of the responsibility for what happens on the board on the shoulders of Compton? And, what is the reason for singling out Compton in this way? I will only judge this by what Smith presents.
Smith seems to be upset that Compton does not elucidate Packer's long history of teachings on homosexuality:
Greg Smith wrote:
M4M ignores President Packer's extensive past teaching on the subject when glossing 2010A, though it is all readily accessible. "Many listeners got the distinct impression," Compton tells us, "that Elder Packer was suggesting homosexuality is a choice. While that may be what he believes or understands, it is not in line with current church teachings which indicate General Authorities do not know what causes homosexuality."29
Of course, in saying this, Smith completely glosses over the central issue of the disagreement: the definition of homosexuality. Elder Packer considers homosexuality to be acting out on same sex desires, while Compton sees homosexuality as a matter of one's personal identity. Compton is in fact absolutely accurate in stating, therefore, that Packer believes homosexuality is a choice, and, in fact, Elder Packer would agree with her.
What is confusing for all, and not entirely Compton's fault, is that the Church's teachings on the issue of homosexuality so directly conflict with popular and scientific understanding of the issue that few people outside of those who are personally burdened by the Church's teachings or geeks like Smith will be able to keep them "straight" (OK, bad pun.). She fumbles a bit, arguably, in saying that the Church accepts that homosexuality is an innate characteristic. This is, I think, not a result of maliciousness, but because she has in mind statements in which leaders of the LDS Church express their agreement that some people may be born more liable to same sex attraction. Compton is, in my view, not to be blamed for the confusion regarding the distinction between same-sex attraction and homosexuality on an unofficial online discussion board.
He quotes another one of her posts disapprovingly as he continues:
Greg Smith wrote:
Many may well have had such an impression—helped, it must be said, by relentless insistence on that reading by Compton and others:
You know, we can sit here and debate until the cows come home about whether or not Elder Packer meant to single out gays/lesbians in his talk, but that's not really what matters.
Whether or not he intended to single out people, many got the message that he did so intend.
As a teacher, he should know that if students are not understanding the lessons, it is the teacher's fault and responsibility to fix the problem.30
All teachers certainly have the responsibility to be clear. Compton ignores, however, that a hostile reading can often manufacture grounds for offense.
As someone who has come to grudgingly accept that the Church will make use of corporate methods as a matter of necessity in a global organization, let me say this: when the customer complains about your sales pitch, maybe you should listen.
What is Compton saying here that is so bad? Indeed, Compton might be viewed as doing the Church a favor. It is quite clear that, while Elder Packer's teachings on homosexuality, which run contrary to just about everything in popular culture and science on the subject, may be clear to Greg Smith, Laura Compton seems to think that the message may be confusing to others, and Elder Packer might want to rethink his approach for getting the message across.
I don't see that as maliciousness on her part. It does not, in my view, communicate hostile intent or destructive criticism of the LDS Church. All those who think otherwise might ask themselves whether any kind of criticism of the Church is OK. Better some criticism, I say, than empty pews, eh?
Now to the attack on Compton for violations of the policy of not allowing criticism of the LDS Church or its leaders. First of all, I have to say, in a discussion like that on homosexuality and Mormonism, this rule was ill-advised and wildly unrealistic. In a sense, I think this was a gift handed to people like Greg Smith to use to their best advantage. If you run a discussion about gays and Mormonism, there simply will
be criticism of the LDS Church and its leaders. Without it, you're not really having an honest conversation.
And (ab)use it he does:
Greg Smith wrote:
It is understandable—and even praiseworthy—that a group that purports to speak for believing members of the church, and wishes to persuade other members, would establish such a rule. But as I read what Compton and her fellow contributors wrote, I found it increasingly hard to regard this "rule" as anything more than a fig leaf to draw in the unwary, or as a sop to any conscience that might be unnerved by an attack on the church or its leaders.
Notice here that his very first gesture is to create suspicion that Laura Compton intentionally created a trap so that unsuspecting members might be lured in, reassured that everything was OK, no one was an enemy of the LDS Church, etc., and then BAM! Now they are criticizing the Brethren along with all of their new pal apostates and fellow gays. The narrative is familiar to anyone of us who recalls the image of Satan and his flaxen cord in the Book of Mormon. Compton is not a busy parent who has undertaken an unrealistic ideal in her board guidelines; in the hands of Greg Smith she is a tool of Satan who has deliberately dug a pit for her unsuspecting Mormon neighbor.
A series of colorful quotes that one might expect, given the many challenges that the LDS Church and its members are experiencing online, follows. What continues to baffle this writer is that, instead of sitting back and wondering what might productively be done about the situation, the reaction of Greg Smith and the FARMS Review is to dip the material in red ink, build a bonfire, and then proceed to dance in a circle around it while thrusting spears menacingly.
We should also remember that to cover something with a "fig leaf" is to evoke the shame that Adam and Eve experienced after they partook of the forbidden fruit. The person who feels ashamed of what they have done or are doing covers up with a fig leaf.
The depth of Laura Compton's personal hypocrisy has not fully been plumbed, however:
Greg Smith wrote:
Readers are assured by Compton, furthermore, that at M4M "we avoid personal attacks." 43 Avoiding personal attacks and not tolerating attacks on church leaders apparently do not encompass such remarks as the following (all made on threads in which Compton—who apparently has full moderating powers—participated):
Like most of you, but evidently not Greg Smith, I am assuming that the policy of "no personal attacks" was put in place to protect participants
on the board. Greg seems to be applying it to the whole human race. I hope I get to see him run a discussion board someday.
Greg Smith wrote:
Compton cautions new members that "we do not call into question the righteousness or membership standing of other posters."54 But even this protection is denied to apostles, as the above citations (and many others) demonstrate—including a long satire in which President Packer's "To Young Men Only" talk about masturbation was lampooned.55
Yes, everyone but
the Lord's anointed is treated like a human being at Laura Compton's place. LOL. Greg, there is a difference between setting parameters for a discussion to make it functional and demanding that people be saints. You are free to demand the latter on your discussion board; most of us will simply strive for the former.
But this part gets truly strange in my view:
Greg Smith wrote:
At one point in the discussion, Compton did intervene to chastise a poster. The poster had made remarks in favor of the church but had typed part of her message in all capital letters, to which Compton replied: "Stop shouting. Not only is it rude and irritating, it makes it harder for people to read." 57 At M4M, violations of netiquette are rude and merit reproof, but attacks on the apostles do not get quite the same attention, notwithstanding M4M's stated policies.
If I were not confident that on some level Greg Smith is genuinely outraged at a lack of respect shown to the LDS apostles, I would think he was having us on here. It is the primary function of any moderator on a board to facilitate discussion and keep it at least minimally functional. By mixing up the pragmatics of netiquette with religious scruples about the apostles, Greg Smith seems to me to be deliberately striving to make it look like Laura Compton is "one of those progressives" whose ethic is wildly out of kilter, straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel. In MDB speak, this is the work of Droopy, if Droopy really knew what the word subtle meant.
I am not going to drag this on much further. I think you get the idea. Is it a hit piece? I say, most definitely. Why? Because Greg reads into Laura Compton the worst possible motives and implies for his readers that those are the motives she in fact has. She is, quite simply, implicitly called a tool of Satan and a wolf in sheep's clothing without the author having been direct about saying so. This gives Greg plausible deniability. You don't have to take my word for it. Indeed, I think the best witness to the reality of what is going on here is not I, but rather Will Schryver, who is licking his sadistic chops in anticipation of the next take-downs, in which Greg Smith will "expose" (rather, depict) John Dehlin and Joanna Brooks in the very same way. And we know from plentiful, unpleasant experience, that this is exactly what Will Schryver aims at: painting his opponents as wolves in sheep's clothing and tools of the devil. What more needs to be said?
I will part with this:
Greg Smith wrote:
One should also not mistake M4M as an exercise in merely preaching to the choir. Several posters wrote that they were new converts who were delighted to find others who share their doubts about the church's stance on homosexual acts: "I'm so glad to have found this site!" wrote one. "As a pretty new convert to the church, this issue has been one of the hardest things for me to reconcile. As someone who is a big advocate for gay marriage and for my many gay and lesbian friends, I've had a difficult time trying to balance what I believe to be true spiritually and what I believe to be right morally." 58 Another wrote:
I too am a convert. Ever since joining the church in 2005, the one thing that has plagued my conscience and caused me to question my testimony is the church's stance on homosexuality and gay marriage. . . .
This is true diabolical artistry. Notice how the metaphor of preaching to the choir is used here to give the impression that Laura Compton's secret intentions are to convert people to a false gospel. She is not just "preaching to the choir;" she is winning over new converts (from
the Church, presumably). He deftly slips into quoting new converts to the Church who come to the group looking to reconcile their new-found faith with their sense that the LDS Church may not be correct on the issue of homosexuality. Greg's reading of Laura appears to be that this is exactly what the spider (Laura) wanted the fly (new convert) to do. She set her trap so that they would come right in, get stuck, and become her food.
What is clear, however, is that these new converts already had an issue with the Church's stance on homosexuality before they arrived. They went looking for such a site for this very reason. What Greg Smith's readers ought to fear is not Laura Compton's alleged ability to lure in unsuspecting recent converts to Mormonism to her site, but their own inability to satisfy the concerns of these converts regarding this problem. If those concerns predated their baptism into the Church, and persisted through it, perhaps they should be asking themselves what is amiss in the missionary program that allows people to misunderstand the Church's policy on homosexuality as they make this most momentous decision in their lives.
Verdict: Hit Piece.