Hijacking Testimony Meeting for Activism

Through the wonders of facebook I was able to view a video shared by the brother of a friend that showed a 12 year old girl sharing her ‘testimony’ of being gay.  Much of what she said was fine, but some of it was direct refutation of church teachings and her plans to go against them.  It put her in a place of claiming to know better what the gospel and the commandments should be than the prophets she supposedly sustains.

This was not some spontaneous spirit driven event.  It was highly staged.  It was video taped and given production value.  The ‘testimony’ was several pages written out.  She was dressed as a deacon.  The language and structure of the ‘testimony’ was far above what a 12 year old would normally come up with.   There were words that she had trouble pronouncing.  All this is why I chose to look at it as a hijacking of a testimony meeting and why I put the word testimony in quotes when referring to it.

But mostly for this post I wish to share the concern over hijacking testimony meeting in general, with this event as just one example.  Every month the church holds a testimony meeting where anyone can come up and say anything they want – until the presiding authority steps in and stops them.  I am surprised that this sort of thing does not happen more often, and I would be surprised if this does not happen more frequently in the future.

What is to stop those who wish to advocate for various causes, or those who simply wish to criticize the church, from hijacking these meetings?  This could certainly put local leaders in a very difficult position.  And if it were to become common might end the practice of testimony meetings all together.

Are my concerns here unfounded?  Does this happen more often than I realize?  How should church leaders handle this, and is the practice of testimony meeting potentially in jeopardy due to this sort of thing?

14 Responses to “Hijacking Testimony Meeting for Activism”

  1. 1 Chris Henrichsen June 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    About a year ago, an Envangelical preacher gave a testimony in testimony that started out fine but evolved in the sharing of obscure Brigham Young quotes. Our ward response made it possitive. He had a camera guy videoing it as well.

  2. 3 Michael June 18, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Yeah, I hate it when testimony meeting gets hijacked by all those members who can’t resist bringing politics or personal family travelogues or non-Christ centered stories about new babies and marriages and Boy Scouts and girls camp unrelated to salvation. I wish they would have the microphones cut off also. A testimony is a pure and simple declaration of Christ’s saving power. Nothing more and nothing less. Keep the standards the same for everyone.

  3. 5 Ardis June 18, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Several years ago our ward had a Sunday lesson on what to do if things went awry. Because our chapel is one of those closest to Temple Square, the concern was what had happened in the past when, say, the Archangel Gabriel found his way to our meeting to tell us that he had come to Salt Lake to be sustained as prophet in the upcoming conference. We were told that various unnamed men in the ward had been given training on what to do in that case, and our role was to remain quiet and not to get involved, and then to help bring the spirit back to the meeting once the problem was resolved.

    While that is a slightly different problem than the one you outline, the procedure ought to work just as well as long as any disruption is merely verbal. I don’t see any reason why the basic practice of testimony meetings should be altered in any way by someone’s occasional inappropriate use of the pulpit.

    • 6 Eric Nielson June 18, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      I hope you are right. I feel these meetings are important.

    • 7 Marivene June 19, 2017 at 12:16 am

      Sounds like an interesting time in your ward, Ardis.
      I, for one, am glad that the bishopric has the ability to turn off the microphone. It seems a rather simple way to handle a situation gone awry. Perhaps that is why the switch is on the stand, handy to the leadership.

  4. 8 Richard_K June 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    The moment we presume to police the content of a testimony, and parse it for appropriate and inappropriate expression, then we enforce “Us vs. Them” dynamics that simply cannot be in harmony with the Master’s command to love one another and become one as the Father and Son are one. Perhaps testimony meeting get hijacked like this from time to time due to the highly correlated nature of every aspect of our cultural and worshipful Mormonism. Maybe if we could allow for other patently Mormon venues for safe and accepting self-expression, then the marginalized may not feel as compelled to assertively remind us of their humanity and our Christian honor and duty to minister with compassion to publicans and sinners.

    If this girl had talked about how losing her Mother to a drunken driver had taught her about the love of God and the power of the Atonement, the generally understood takeaway would have been about the love of God and the power of the Atonement; no one would have accused this girl of hijacking the testimony meeting to advocate for tougher criminal penalties for drunken driving and politicizing and meeting of worship. Instead, this girl gave a powerful testimony of the love of God and the humanity of those who feel most vulnerable in our sacred places; her homosexuality was the context, not the content. Nevertheless, many seem more concerned that the honor of the Church was impinged upon that that a twelve year-old girl was heartlessly told that her courage message were shameful because others were uncomfortable. This was bad.

    • 9 Eric Nielson June 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

      I completely disagree with almost all of this. People can misbehave to such a level that they are being disruptive and divisive. Priesthood leaders have a responsibility to step in. Unity does not demand anything goes for belief and behavior. I appreciate uncorrelated thought, but that is different from rebellion, which is not caused by correlation.

    • 10 Eric Nielson June 18, 2017 at 2:53 pm

      Further, it makes me wonder if you watched the video. About 90% of her testimony was fine. The other 10% was definitely about her homosexuality, and it was quite defiant in content. Sure it had the sweet voice of a 12 year old girl,but the content of the inappropriate parts was quite confrontational.

    • 11 Marivene June 19, 2017 at 12:23 am

      I watched the video. She was not “heartlessly told that her courage message were shameful because others were uncomfortable”. The presiding officer told her to sit down, then a member of the ward leadership (bishop? I don’t know because I am not a member of that ward) stood up and bore his testimony of basically everything appropriate from her testimony. I saw that as supportive, not heartless. They were not unkind, or mean to her. She is a child. She was taught, & I see nothing wrong with that.

  5. 12 JimD June 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Richard_K, in accordance with Mormon Women Stand’s excellent recent post, I feel impelled to ask whether your tolerance would have been the same if this girl had borne a powerful testimony of her God’s live in light of her commitment to live as an adulteress, or a polygamist, or a pedophile.

    She was preaching in favor of sin from a Mormon pulpit. Progressives know that. That’s why they liked it.

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