Saturday, June 21, 2014

An "Exclusive Interview" with Elder Zwick

**This is not actually an interview with Elder Zwick, but these are his words from
“What are you thinking?” his General Conference Address from April 2014.

KA:  Elder Zwick, thank you so much for joining me today!  As you can imagine there are many of us who have been wanting to hear directly from a Church leader regarding some of the recent goings on in Mormonism, specifically the pending disciplinary council against Kate Kelly and other actions being taken against Ordain Women or members who have publicly expressed disagreement with Church stances. 

From what I can tell, basically there is a scale of responses to the situation, both extremes are openly hostile and hateful to each other . . . and I suppose the middle would just be people who haven’t heard, don’t care, or are confused about the whole situation.  I would believe very few people are actually in the middle, and it seems most people have actually picked “sides” and think the other side is wrong.  I’ve been really disheartened by a lot of responses on both sides.  It seems everyone seems like they have the ability to put themselves in the judgment seat and come to a conclusion that they are on the “right” side.  I’ve seen a lot of condemnation, damnation, and name calling on both sides, etc.  Could you provide some guidance for all of us to navigate this minefield?

Elder Zwick:   "What does the phrase “no corrupt communication” mean to you? We all regularly experience highly charged feelings of anger—our own and others’. We have seen unchecked anger erupt in public places.  All of us, though covenant children of a loving Heavenly Father, have regretted jumping headlong from the high seat of self-righteous judgment and have spoken with abrasive words before we understood a situation from another’s perspective. We have all had the opportunity to learn how destructive words can take a situation from hazardous to fatal.  A recent letter from the First Presidency states clearly, “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree” (First Presidency letter, Jan. 10, 2014). What a masterful reminder that we can and should participate in continuing civil dialogue, especially when we view the world from differing perspectives."

KA:  Wow.  Personally for me if I don’t understand this from another’s perspective I’m not following the Savior?  As a Mormon feminist I obviously sympathize with the cause and love my OW brothers and sisters and the questions they are asking.  Does that mean if I don’t love and understand those who are appalled and offended by OW I’m not being like my Savior?  And those who are appalled and offended by OW are not belong like their Savior?  How can we have a civil conversation with each other if there’s so much offense, disgust, and anger on both sides?

Elder Zwick:  “There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other across wide distances of belief and behavior and across deep canyons of conflicting agendas. It is impossible to know all that informs our minds and hearts or even to fully understand the context for the trials and choices we each face.  Nevertheless, what would happen to the “corrupt communication” Paul spoke about if our own position included empathy for another’s experience first? Fully owning the limits of my own imperfections and rough edges, I plead with you to practice asking this question, with tender regard for another’s experience: “What are you thinking?”

KA:  Do you have a personal story that happened to you and your wife that might illustrate how we can overcome this ‘What are you thinking?’ gap?

Elder Zwick:  Forty-one years ago I climbed into the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel semitruck with my beautiful wife, Jan, and our infant son, Scotty. We were taking a heavy load of construction materials across several states.

In those days there were no seat-belt restrictions or infant car seats. My wife held our precious son in her arms.  As we made our descent over historic Donner Pass, a steep section of highway, the cab of the semi suddenly and unexpectedly filled with thick smoke. It was difficult to see, and we could hardly breathe.  With a heavy rig, brakes alone are not enough to rapidly decrease speed. Using the engine brakes and gearing down, I frantically attempted to stop.  Just as I was pulling to the side of the road, but before we had come to a full stop, my wife opened the door of the cab and jumped out with our baby in her arms. I watched helplessly as they tumbled in the dirt.

As soon as I had the semi stopped, I bolted from the smoking cab. With adrenaline pumping, I ran through the rocks and weeds and held them in my arms. Jan’s forearms and elbows were battered and bleeding, but thankfully she and our son were both breathing. I just held them close as the dust settled there on the side of the highway. As my heartbeat normalized and I caught my breath, I blurted out, “What in the world were you thinking? Do you know how dangerous that was? You could have been killed!”

She looked back at me, with tears running down her smoke-smudged cheeks, and said something that pierced my heart and still rings in my ears: “I was just trying to save our son.”  I realized in that moment she thought the engine was on fire, fearing the truck would explode and we would die. I looked at my precious wife, softly rubbing the head of our infant son, and wondered what kind of woman would do something so courageous.

This situation could have been as emotionally hazardous as our literal engine failure. Gratefully, after enduring the silent treatment for a reasonable amount of time, each of us believing the other person was at fault, we finally expressed the emotions that were churning beneath our heated outbursts. Shared feelings of love and fear for the other’s safety kept the hazardous incident from proving fatal to our cherished marriage.

KA:  Wait, wait, wait.  So this is my interpretation (not yours) . . . The leaders Ordain Women were concerned for the spiritual lives of their sisters who were leaving over these very questions and issues they are raising.  Their love and concern for these sisters promoted an action in which their perspective was imperative - they literally might be acting with hearts full of love with sincere intent of the salvation of souls and bringing and keeping them here with Christ.  But if we are not in their head . . . it may just look like they jumped out of a totally safe vehicle.  They may look insane and their actions may make us even angry, those who feel safe and wonderful in the vehicle. 

Elder Zwick:  When our truck cab filled with smoke, my wife acted in the bravest manner she could imagine to protect our son. I too acted as a protector when I questioned her choice. Shockingly, it did not matter who was more right. What mattered was listening to each other and understanding the other’s perspective.

KA:  What I'm hearing you say is that this could this be a test for all of us?  What matters is listening and understanding each other? 

Elder Zwick:  The willingness to see through each other’s eyes will transform “corrupt communication” into “minister[ing] grace.” The Apostle Paul understood this, and on some level each of us can experience it too. It may not change or solve the problem, but the more important possibility may be whether ministering grace could change us.

KA:  So what should we do if neither side seems intent on listening to each other?  What if one side refuses to speak to the other?  That would obviously hurt the other side, but they would insistently ask that there be an attempt to understand them instead of being ignored.  I’m sure the driver was offended because he thought it showed a lack of trust in his driving skills.  This seems so sad that either side of this “marriage” could have taken steps to avoid this divorce.  What a potential for beautiful marriage there was if things could have worked out differently.  This is why I mourn.

1 comment:

  1. I have to thank you for sharing Elder Zwick's conference talk. I used it heavily in my RS lesson on Elder Holland's talk (the cost and blessings of discipleship) on Sunday because you had shared it on FB.