“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Keys
My dad was one of the most mild-mannered, polite people I’ve ever known. My mom once said he would never say or do anything that would offend anyone else. With only a two-year business college degree, six months’ experience, and a referral by a friend, he faced a job interview for the head accountant/auditor position at one of the biggest hotels in the Sacramento area. Sitting across from him was the corporate VP from Los Angeles headquarters whose reputation struck fear into the hearts of everyone around him. At his every visit, the staff would go into panic mode. Big statured, stern looking, chewing on that huge stogie, he’d walk the halls always looking for something to complain about, someone to find fault with, and everyone fearing the worst.
He looked over my dad’s resume and noticed he had attended a business seminar. “I never got much out of those things,” he said gruffly. Without thinking, my dad casually replied, “I guess you get out of it what you put into it.” Suddenly my dad couldn’t believe what he just said. He just blurted it out before realizing how insulting that must have come across to the VP. It’s one of those moments when your mouth gets in a race with your brain and your mouth wins. The interview continued with my dad in a controlled panic, and he left convinced he had blown it with that comment and lost the job. A few days later, the phone rang and my dad had the job. The VP said he was most impressed with that comment, the comment that my dad thought would doom his chances. For the next thirty years, my mild-mannered dad and the VP from hell were able to respect and work with each other.
Church general conference is coming next month, and I’m surprised how people handle it in so many different ways. Some watch every session and take it at face value, believing everything that’s said. Some listen to the first and last sessions for any announcements or changes from the pulpit. Others watch their favorite speakers and avoid others. Some, having been hurt and offended by past comments, listen with guards up and filters on, not accepting anything unless it gets through the screening process. Others judge the message by the messenger and assume the worst if so-and-so is saying it. Still others, even totally active members, avoid conference entirely, arranging a business trip or taking the family on vacation or avoiding it on principle. They just don’t like it for one reason or another and find some passive-aggressive way to avoid it.
I’m not saying one way is better than another. All of us approach gen-con in our own way, based on where we are and what is right for us. We may move one way or another on our journey and change our approach, and that’s okay too. Whatever coping mechanism we use in dealing with gen-con is between us and God or our higher power.
But consider the following:
1. My ex-brother-in-law, a very conservative, by-the-book, judgmental kind of guy, said he frequently listened to a very liberal talk radio station because he wanted to know what the enemy was doing.
2. Although I’m a liberal in politics, one of my favorite commentators is conservative George Will. I may not always agree with what he says, but he’s intelligent, expresses himself well, makes logical arguments, and helps me understand the issue better.
3. Brigham Young once said, “The devil himself could tell you the truth and it would still be the truth,” and even though some may criticize Brother Brigham as critically as the devil himself, that statement is still true. Wherever we find truth, whether it’s from “them” or “us,” it’s still the truth.
So as we approach gen-con, consider trying a different approach, a different coping mechanism, and see what happens. Use your critical thinking, keep an open mind, and allow yourself the opportunity to discover something you didn’t know before that speaks truth to you. The source may surprise you.
Finally, I’m reminded of the Proposition 8 campaign here in California in 2008 when my liberal ex-wife reluctantly displayed a “Yes on 8” lawn sign in our front yard because the church asked us to, as if our salvation depended on it. But she also displayed an “Obama for President” sign next to it. I wondered what the neighbors would think, and I asked her why she did it. She replied, “I want them to think.”
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.