More Thoughts on the New Leadership Handbook

As a sort-of follow-up to my post about the recent Worldwide Leadership Training meeting where new Administering the Church handbooks were introduced, I wanted to include a portion of a post from the LDS Church Newsroom site.

From the article:

“A case in point: On Saturday, 13 November 2010, the Church distributed a new administrative handbook to hundreds of thousands of lay leaders around the world. The handbook provides guidelines for administering local Church programs, serving members and ensuring continuity of Church operations around the world.

“The previous evening, reporter Brian Mullahy of Salt Lake City’s CBS affiliate, KUTV 2, presented the station’s viewers with his interpretation of the significance of the handbook. From the nearly 200 pages of content, his report focused entirely on four short paragraphs included under the handbook heading ‘Homosexual Behavior and Same-Gender Attraction.’

This content was then adorned with footage from general conference and protesters around Temple Square, followed by comments from two gay activists. Mullahy says, ‘Now, more than a month later, this,’ implying that changes in the handbook were somehow linked to those events.”

In the context of a broader criticism of the slow death of critical thinking and true investigative journalism, the LDS Newsroom staff are objecting to KUTV making such a big fuss over a very short section of the handbook (especially when the handbook did not change existing policy). Of course KUTV can do whatever they want to do but what they did is shoddy journalism. It is sensationalism, which is unfortunately the norm for news media today. The Church Newsroom writers end with this:

“Were KUTV and other media justified in drawing attention to updated language in that one section? Of course. Was it presented in proper context and with the correct interpretation? Hardly. We all know that journalists will look for what they find ‘newsworthy,’ but highly selective and misleading reporting is a disservice to the readers and viewers of KUTV as much as it is to the subject being covered.”

This similar to what happened when Pres. Packer gave his conference address at the October 2010 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Context is key, especially with controversial issues. Does this mean you always have to give equal weight to conflicting sides of issues? Not always, but at the least you should include context. What is the context of the updated LDS Church leadership manuals? Reduced overhead (administration), increased flexibility, greater reliance on the Spirit, increased individual ministry. That’s the context. Pointing out just a section about homosexuality (found on pages 195-196) – maybe 150 words – is missing the point of the updated leadership handbook (if you want the point of the leadership handbook, read the first few chapters). Why this is important and why the LDS Newroom staff are making this an issue is because KUTV used the release of this updated leadership manual as an excuse to report about the LDS Church’s position on homosexuality. If KUTV wants to do that, that’s fine but it is poor reporting to have a story about the new handbook but focus mainly on what the Church believes about homosexuality. Make that a separate story. All KUTV did was sensationalism.

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