I tend to make few comments during lessons in Sunday School or Priesthood, even when something is said that I deeply disagree with. I don’t want to be labeled as one who “stirs the pot” or the “ward liberal”, so for the sake of maintaining harmonious relationships in the ward I usually keep my thoughts to one-on-one interactions I have with closer friends in the ward. When asked to comment (or to speak in Sacrament), I try to do it in a way that facilitates conversation without sparking controversy.
Over the years I’ve found other ways of making my personal opinions public. I rarely wear a suit, and most weeks I don’t wear a white shirt (I’ve even worn a bow tie a few times!). I also let my hair grow long enough to have people ask when it’s going to be cut. I found this method much more subtle because it doesn’t seem to confront others directly in as much as it plays on ambiguities (“Oh, he’s a poor grad student, and only has his old mission suit.”).
I’ve decided recently to speak up more, and have actually been called to teach. Fortunately we live in a large ward with a high turn-over (coupled with the fact that I was in primary for the last year), which means that most people don’t know me and probably won’t even notice a change in appearance (this becomes significant below).I still try to formulate my ideas in ways that are not blatantly offensive, but I’m also confronting the issues that I see as important for us in our time. In 2Nephi 5 for instance we discussed issues of power relations (Nephi reluctantly becoming king), race (the curse on the Lamanites), and gender (Nephi’s sisters which are mentioned for the first and last time).
In order to mitigate some of the ill-will this may cause I’ve changed parts of my appearance. I cut my hair and have worn suits (dark-colored of course) with white shirts and rather standard ties. So far few people seem to notice a significant change from before. It could be said that I’ve exchanged my “orthodoxy” for “orthopraxy”.
I’m wondering what you think of my strategy. Am I worried about nothing? Or perhaps too crafty? Or is there some truth to the idea that people will be more open-minded and willing to grapple with difficult problems when it comes from someone that “looks mainstream”?