Something new happened to me this week. I was chatting online about the Church’s announcement that changed missionaries’ method of communication with home, when I was told that I was not entitled to have an opinion on the matter. My opinion did not count.
Now I have long been at odds with the idea that everyone’s opinion should carry equal weight. Simply put, I disagree with that premise. (And blogged about it here.)
In today’s world it is very easy to find or create our own personal soapboxes and megaphone our opinions to the world. This does force us to choose which opinions are of worth, and which should be ignored. Some opinions of little worth are based in bad logic, inaccurate facts, emotion, or are just plain poorly expressed. All of these are legit reasons to give short shrift to what is being communicated.
The reason my opinion was negated? Illogical argument? No. Inaccurate data? Nope. Poorly explained point of view? Uh-uh. Just plain dumb? Nope. (All of which I am occasionally guilty of.)
Nah. I’m too old. I was told that I served my mission too, too long ago to have an opinion that has any merit.
I think this might be one of the first times I have been shot down because I am too old. I’m not sure what the cutoff is, but I obviously passed it. (I’m 57. I’m not old.)
However, to at least one person out there, the fact that I served an actual mission, have sent 4 sons on missions, along with dozens of priests from my ward, and been married to a missionary mom does not factor into the equation. I am just too darned old.
In Proverbs 20:29 we read that “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” (But it was probably written by an old guy.)
Granted, this does not mean that all the old people running around out there have all the answers. A broad brush lionizing them, or condemning them, is as inaccurate and lazy as when old people complain about the rising generation being a “bunch of pansies – snowflakes that can’t do hard things.” (Which I actually read this week on a thread about missionaries.)
Broad brush condemnations can limit sources of input that can actually be very helpful to us. For example, I spent part of the day texting with my kids to understand their views on the missionary changes, and it was good for me. Their opinions have some heft, because of who they are and what they have done, and are doing.
I expect my readers to question what I have to say, and believe me, they do. If you wanna call me out for being wrong, that is fine by me, but blame it on something better than ageism.
To take this idea to a much higher and more serious level, you may, or may not, know that there are those in the Church, outside the Church, and fence-sitting, who have no problem making this claim:
“The men who lead the Church are too old, and too out of touch.”
Seriously? Makes me cringe. One of the more fascinating things is that the Brethren know that some people feel this way, and have no problem tackling that accusation head on.
In the very first official tweet of the church, (gotta love the irony) Elder M. Russell Ballard posted this:
“I’ve heard that some people think that church leaders live in a bubble. What they forget is that we are men and women of experience, and we have lived our lives in so many places, worked with many people from different backgrounds. Our current assignments literally take us around the globe, where we meet the political, religious, business and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited the White House in Washington, D.C., and leaders of nations throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble homes on Earth, where we have met and ministered to the poor.”
“When you have thoughtfully considered our lives and ministry, you’ll most likely agree that we see and we experience the world in ways few others do. We live less in a bubble than most people. Others say we’re too old. Well, it’s true that nine of us are over 80 years of age. I’m 85. However, … the combined wisdom of the Brethren that should provide you some comfort. We have experienced it all. … We’re not out of touch with your lives.” (link)
This echoed Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s conference talk that said, “Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.
As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth.” (link)
Years ago, Mike Wallace interviewed President Hinckley for the television program 60 Minutes, He said, “People will say this is a church run by old men.” To this, President Hinckley replied, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head—a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?” (link)
Last week President Nelson visited Arizona and gave a devotional address. (Do I need to remind you that he is 94? By some people’s calculations, that is far too old to offer anything of worth. My, how wrong they are.)
In addition to his address, which was a deep-dive into the Abrahamic Covenant and the Gathering of Israel, President Nelson offered something else of terrific worth: He penned an op-ed that was published in the Arizona Republic.
It is wonderful. I recommend that you read it, and share it. Here is the link.
Earlier, I mentioned that all opinions do not carry the same weight. Here is a perfect example: That which is taught by the Lord’s servants carries infinitely more weight than the opinions of the world. Or at least it should.
I have chosen to believe that President Nelson is the Lord’s mouthpiece. I have bet my life, my eternal life, and the lives of my family on that choice. I did not make that choice lightly lightly.
If we go through life thinking that insight, dialogue and understanding are diminished by age – in either direction – then we go through life limiting ourselves and sources of knowledge..
I trust the “old men” who lead and direct our Church. Their wisdom is built on a lifetime of experience AND divine guidance. A good mix. I find it helpful to know that Jesus trusts them as well. I also know that if my opinions do not line up with theirs, I have some work ahead of me to find out why, and to fix it. They speak for Christ* – that makes it obvious who needs to “move” if there is a disagreement.
There are new and wonderful things afoot, God’s representatives are God’s representatives – regardless of what color their hair is. (If they still have any.)
*”What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)