"I like fiery passion, actually." - Olympus
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I was really hurt by the story President Nelson shared in General Conference a few moments ago. Tell me if I'm getting this right: his wife talked to him about a granddaughter-in-law's faith crisis and personal grief, and instead of going to her privately and mourning with her as she mourned and offering whatever council he could, his cursory and judgmental response was a single word, "myopic"?

Which was then conveyed to the sufferer of the supposed "myopia" not by President Nelson himself but second-hand via his wife, who thought that would be a helpful piece of feedback for someone about to lose her father and her testimony?

I agree that perspective is so important when we try to cope with grief, and I guess that's the lesson President Nelson was trying to convey. But the word "myopic" is so charged with negative, accusatory, othering vibes that I can't imagine how someone could consider that a Christ-like response to anyone who's hurting.

I just feel sick to my stomach. Help me work through this??

-Faith Crisis

PS, I know there were good things about this talk, especially that he condemned racism and called on members of the church to abandon attitudes that are hurting our black brothers and sisters. As a whole, though, it felt insensitive at best and sanctimonious at worst.

A:

Dear Faith Crisis,

Tell me if I'm getting this right: his wife talked to him about a granddaughter-in-law's faith crisis and personal grief, and instead of going to her privately and mourning with her as she mourned and offering whatever council he could, his cursory and judgmental response was a single word, "myopic"? I don't know if President Nelson's "myopic" comment was cursory or judgmental, I didn't get enough information from his talk to draw that conclusion. That being said, I also don't have evidence that it wasn't not cursory or judgmental, so you could be right.

Which was then conveyed to the sufferer of the supposed "myopia" not by President Nelson himself but second-hand via his wife, who thought that would be a helpful piece of feedback for someone about to lose her father and her testimony? From how I heard the talk, it sounded like Grandma Nelson heard about a granddaughter-in-law who was having a faith crisis and had a private conversation about it with her husband. Grandpa (President) Nelson, said "myopic". It didn't sound like President Nelson said or even wanted to say "Go and tell her that her faith crisis is myopic." Rather, it sounded like a private conversation where President Nelson says to his wife, "Gee, that sounds myopic." Then Sister Nelson thinks about it and says, I feel prompted to tell this granddaughter-in-law that she might be thinking in a myopic way. Taken as a private conversation, it is difficult for me to throw blame at President Nelson. I've had plenty of private conversations where I say something potentially insensitive. I'd hate to hold President Nelson to a different standard than I hold myself. Also, he's not perfect. I know a lot of people think that President Nelson is just about as perfect as someone can get, but he makes mistakes and this certainly could be viewed as a mistake.

I agree that perspective is so important when we try to cope with grief, and I guess that's the lesson President Nelson was trying to convey. But the word "myopic" is so charged with negative, accusatory, othering vibes that I can't imagine how someone could consider that a Christ-like response to anyone who's hurting. I'll be honest, I don't know that "myopic" is so charged with negative, accusatory, and othering vibes. I don't know if this means I'm out of touch, or that perhaps this word can have different implications for different people. So I can't really talk to this point other than I didn't have preconceived notions about the word.

I just feel sick to my stomach. Help me work through this?? I'll first note that President Nelson acknowledged that his granddaughter-in-law was "devastated" by his response. She even wondered why "myopic" was the word that President Nelson chose. So, I'll say you're not the first to think this was a bad response to the faith crisis. His granddaughter-in-law was the first one to think it wasn't the best response. However, President Nelson later quotes his granddaughter-in-law saying that the word "myopic" helped her draw nearer to God and to heal. It helped her think about the Plan of Salvation and realize that her father wasn't entirely gone, but was in the Spirit World. 

Overall, I think this would be a different discussion if the granddaughter-in-law had approached President Nelson directly and had a conversation about her faith crisis. I'd be a surprised if President Nelson told her face-to-face that her concern was myopic. In fact, I only think President Nelson used that word because he was having a private discussion with Sister Nelson. I do, however, think it is okay for you to be taken aback. The granddaughter-in-law was, so why shouldn't you? But ultimately it sounds like it has brought her to a conclusion of her faith crisis. Whether or not it was the best way to approach her situation, it worked.

I also think (I don't know for sure) President Nelson asked permission to share this story. I don't think he would want to embarrass a family member. If my thinking is correct, then it would follow that the granddaughter-in-law approved of President Nelson telling the world that he thought her concern was myopic.

I guess I didn't take it has overly insensitive or sanctimonious because I don't already have a negative reaction to the word "myopic". I bet if I had a negative connotation about that word, then I would have had a similar reaction to yours.

I hope this helps.

-Sunday Night Banter

A:

Dear FC,

First off, a faith crisis is anything but myopic. Let us take a Catholic who is having doubts about her faith. If she is seriously looking far ahead into the eternities, she should be extremely concerned about whether or not her religion is true. To simply say "I was born Catholic and feel good about it, so I will never doubt it" is actually quite myopic. She cares more about what makes her happy now than what is true in the eternities. A faith crisis shows that one cares more about eternal truth than avoiding the temporary pain it costs to question one's beliefs.

But perhaps this hasn't convinced you. Perhaps you're thinking, "but guppy, I know this Church is true and is the only way for all humanity. So if I allow anything to draw me away from that, then I am being shortsighted." Again, if the reason you're being temporarily drawn away from this ultimate goal is simply to ensure that it really is the only way, this shows you're still looking far ahead. Is it shortsighted if you put down your map on a hike to survey the terrain and make certain that your current position does indeed match what your map says, or if the path on which the map is leading you is truly taking you towards the mountain summit? If you argue that this is all still shortsighted, then we must conclude that our questioning Catholic must never question her faith. It is myopic for her to doubt what she was once so convinced is true, therefore she, like all believing people of any faith, must always stay true to their respective faith. You cannot make an exception for only your faith, when members of other faith feel just as strongly, if not more, that their religion is the true one.

But you're entirely right. It is callous and the antithesis of empathy to hear that a family member is suffering and to tell them that their pain is "myopic". In one word you're telling them how little you view them and their emotions. What baffles me further is how, after hearing that his comments were "devastating" to his granddaughter-in-law, he then decides the rest of the world needs to hear them? He thinks giving this ammunition to people to use against their grieving family members and friends is a good idea?

Also, if I told my dad or grandpa, who was the spiritual leader of our family, that I was suffering through a faith crisis and he told me my pain was "myopic", that wouldn't solve my problem. I wouldn't feel heard or listened to. I would simply hide my continued faith crisis and lie that everything is fine, since clearly my family member doesn't actually care about how I feel. Refusing to recognize people's pain is not going to solve their pain. It is simply going to make them hide it from you.

It probably sucks to hear this, but this trend in lack of empathy for people who are doubting or have left the Church (or are simply in pain) is likely going to continue. This is the same man who gave the "sad heaven" talk. This is something he feels very strongly about. For us, it's important to recognize that this appears to be a pattern, so the next time he does it it we'll be prepared for it. I'm sorry it's been so painful for you and others (I'm part of several feminist LDS Facebook groups, and many people mentioned how hurt they were by this comment), and I guess the best reassurance I can give you is that you're not alone, your feelings are valid, and it's okay to be hurt by what was said. Thank you for being human and recognizing that it is not okay to tell someone in pain that their pain is simply shortsighted and expect that to solve all their problems.

I hope that granddaughter-in-law got counseling. 

I've got to run; I'm going to crash a funeral and tell the widow that her pain is myopic. 

-guppy of doom