The editorial was approved by 8-2 vote of the Scroll editorial board.
“Dare to stand alone” was never meant to be interpreted as “dare to stand back and let something happen.” When President Thomas S. Monson shared that memorable message, he challenged us to stand out from the rest of the world.
He challenged us to speak out —even if our voices shake as we do so. Even if we’re speaking out against a 167-year-old news agency.
I accept President Monson’s challenge by standing against The New York Times’ obituary written for President Thomas S. Monson.
The obituary addressed many controversial stances President Monson took during his time as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the Ordain Women movement and gay marriage.
The editorial says members of the Church are accustomed to reading stories with a more positive frame, but I disagree. The New York Times did not publish anything in the obituary we didn’t already know. As such, it’s not what the obituary said—rather, how it was said.
The article spends four paragraphs challenging the Church’s stance on polygamy and another six on its stance on gay marriage—both of which shouldn’t have received more than a couple sentences in an obituary.
In fact, of the 30 paragraphs in the obituary, the author only took six to honor the president’s life outside of the controversies facing the Church in the last decade.
Anyone who follows The New York Times knows they are a liberal agency. They have always pushed boundaries—endorsing Hillary Clinton as president and admiring Fidel Castro in his obituary barely scratch the surface. It should come as no surprise the agency has few positive things to say about the Church.
But President Monson’s obituary should not have been taken as an opportunity to express disdain for the Church.
That’s cruel and disrespectful. More importantly, it’s bad journalism.
When The New York Times wrote Fidel Castro’s obituary, the author wrote with awe and reverence for the Cuban dictator. But even then, they wrote from different angles—clearly drawing arguments people might have had against him, then using quotes from Castro and his followers to counter any opposition.
With President Monson’s obituary, the author frequently pulled quotes from critics of the Church speaking out against certain policies. Not once did the author address Church policies from the perspective of an actual member of the Church—or even a friend or family member of President Monson.
The First Amendment gives us, as journalists, the opportunity to write with much more creative freedom than many other countries. Because of our legal liberties, we take upon us a code of ethics.
The Society of Professional Journalists states ethical journalists should “support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.”
Good journalism tells a story from every angle. If The New York Times planned on writing about the Church excommunicating Kate Kelly for apostasy, they should have covered it with more than just comments from the critics.
The editorial quotes a question: “What do you think the headlines said when Jesus was crucified?”
It then begged another question: “What did the headlines in Carthage, Illinois, say when the Prophet Joseph Smith died?”
Those headlines were spiteful and vindictive, I’m sure. But does that mean we should keep quiet, just because we’ve seen it before?
We know that from the beginning of time, Christ’s Church has faced opposition. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit down and stay quiet.
When Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith and fellow Saints were incarcerated in Liberty Jail, the guards spoke with such blasphemy and vulgarity that Joseph Smith finally stood up in his chains and rebuked them in a thundering voice. He commanded them to be still and “cease such talk, or you or I die this instant.”
Now, I’m not saying we should use Joseph Smith’s words to rebuke The New York Times. I use this as an example of standing for what is right. Which is exactly what President Monson challenged us to do during his lifetime.
We were not created to be silent. We did not come to this earth to live passively. By opposing The New York Times’ obituary for President Monson, we stand against an injustice—even if we feel like we’re doing it alone.