The editorial was approved by 8-2 vote of the Scroll editorial board.
On Jan. 3, The New York Times released the obituary of President Thomas S. Monson.
Many found the obituary offensive, due to the implied negative framing of stances the Church has made in recent history, including our position on LGBT activities and women in the priesthood.
On Jan. 8, due to the strong reaction of readers, The New York Times released an article explaining how news organizations choose what content to add, and though there may have been a negative spin, they are journalists who used facts to sum up what many people not of our faith know and will remember of our prophet, President Monson.
As Latter-day Saints, we are used to reading positive and inspiring pieces through publications like the Ensign and Deseret News. But we need to understand that is not how most news organizations always work.
The world sees us as a peculiar people, and we are not always looked at in a positive frame. We, as members of the Church, dare to stand alone. In fact, one of President Monson’s most vocal sentiments was “dare to stand alone.” We should take the advice of our leaders and choose to not be offended by an obituary framing President Monson negatively when we know otherwise.
President Monson was a man who understood the importance of transparency, specifically in the things the Church would and would not do – regardless of how it made us look to those who do not share our faith. When Gordon B. Hinckley was the president of the Church, he supported and celebrated the idea that any publicity was good publicity.
Most of the controversial information brought up in the obituary was fact, and things the Prophet and we as members of the Church stand behind.
We should not be offended simply based on a spin one writer may have taken. The obituary told of a leader whom we love and who was unafraid to make stances on extremely controversial topics in our society today.
In recent years, because of the Church’s stances, Latter-day Saints have not been seen in the best light. President Monson was the leader of the Church when our stances took a lot of criticism. But the Church, and our prophets have never been looked fondly upon by the world.
I recently saw a tweet where a Christian woman asked the question, “What do (you) think the headlines said when Jesus was crucified?”
I ask you a similar question: What did the headlines in Carthage, Illinois, say when the Prophet Joseph Smith was killed?
Our experience with The New York Times should not be an excuse to avoid news and boycott a prominent news source but should be an eye-opener for members everywhere. Though we as modern members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may not have to travel west to avoid persecution and threats of death, we do have to deal with the consequences of being a peculiar people in a trying time.
Instead of ignoring the article, Latter-day Saints passed it around like frog eye salad at “break the fast.” When the controversial musical, The Book of Mormon, opened on Broadway in 2011, the Church didn’t enlist its members in protests, and a change.org petition in favor of changing the musical only got 30 supporters.
The Church did, however, use the musical for publicity. They’ve advertised at many of the shows with sayings like “The book is always better,” and released a statement that simply relayed the truths of the Book of Mormon. The Church didn’t make an official statement when it came to The New York Times article.
Perhaps, instead of continuing to share the article, we could bring more positivity to the passing of a man we love. Instead of giving an article that negatively portrays us to the world even more views, why don’t we share our favorite memories of President Monson, quote our favorite talks or even post videos featuring him from the many resources the Church has given us?
The New York Times said, “He was a man of strong faith and convictions, who stood by them even in the face of detractors while finding ways to move the church forward,” and they were right.
Let’s follow our Prophet’s example and move the Church forward, in a more positive light, by sharing our testimony and our own light. A rhyme that our dear Prophet, and perhaps many of us, learned in Primary goes as follows: “Dare to be a Mormon, dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm, dare to make it known.”