Walking the Tightrope
Transforming the Church
Open, public criticism of a Church doctrine or policy, especially from within the Church, is the single least effective way to change that doctrine or policy. All that such critics succeed in doing is demonstrating that they do not believe that the Lord gives revelation to guide the prophets, and that fact declares these critics to be enemies of the fundamental point of LDS faith: that God speaks to living prophets.
Please note: It is not necessarily their ideas that make these critics seem to be enemies of the faith, but rather the fact that they seem to believe that Church leaders can be negotiated with like politicians. It makes these critics at once infuriating to Church members and ineffective with Church leaders. It is exactly that attitude on the part of some Dialogue and Sunstone writers that has made these magazines seem like enemies of the faith to most Mormons who are aware that they exist -- because so many writers for these publications are not members of the community of believers, and some are genuine enemies of the faith. They plainly don't believe in revelation; and if they don't believe in revelation, it is difficult to understand how they are Mormons in any sense but the cultural.
Such critics sound to many Mormons the way Rushdie sounded to many Muslims; they strike at the heart of the Saints' identity, their community, their worldview, and, as Elder Pace said, they are the most dangerous storytellers in the Church, because many nonmembers -- and some members -- will believe that it is possible to be a Latter-day Saint and have no belief in revelation or respect for prophets, seers, and revelators.
The Possibility of Influence
Does this mean that there is no way for members to influence the Church? Does this mean that ideas can only flow from the top down? Of course not. Anyone who knows anything about Church government knows that the flow of ideas on doctrine and policy is omnidirectional. As often as not, revelation at the highest levels consists of getting ratification from the Lord for ideas first proposed and tried out in stakes, in wards, or in the minds and hearts of humble Saints. Most of the Brethren, far from being aloof declarers of the word, are passionate, involved listeners, eventually aware of every voice that is raised. And anyone who wants to be part of this vast network of teaching and discovery and transformation can be.
How is it done? It's so simple. No power or influence can or should be maintained in the Kingdom of God except by:
Persuasion. No public ultimatums or threats, no "negotiations," but rather privately offering a new idea with a desire that the other person receive it.
Long-suffering. Not giving up because our idea seems to be rejected at first. People change, and the idea that astonished them when they first heard it becomes sweeter to them over time.
Gentleness. Never using stridency, anger, or ridicule toward those we hope to influence.
Meekness. Always being willing to obey, even when your ideas aren't accepted.
Love unfeigned. Not merely pretending to support and sustain fellow Saints, but actually loving them, desiring their happiness, trusting their good will.
Kindness. Never using our words to injure another, or even to return an injury we have received.