Saturday, October 15, 2011

When there are many voices, what is heard?

Something that happens in large organizations is that there are many voices.  On any topic, there will be many voices, and there comes a question of what and who is heard, and what they are heard to be saying.

Part of what happens is what people read into their audience.  Of my two mission presidents, the first had dealt with young men most of his life as a university professor.  The second dealt with middle aged senior executives.  They dealt with young, idealistic missionaries very differently.  The one treated them like college students, the other like jaded management types who had learned to coast.

I've only known a few general and other authorities in the Church, and only in passing, sometimes because of their children (who, as a group, were surprisingly nice people).  I had Elder Oaks as a professor before he was called.

Something that struck me about the ones I knew and the ones I've met is that as a group they are working very, very hard.  While I've known of some of them to stumble (there is the famous story of the 70 who ran off someone with an appointment to see President Benson who then had to drive down to Provo, Utah, to pick them up and drive them back for the make-up appointment), they have never struck me as stupid, lazy, or ill intentioned.

They have all arrived where they are through thousands of hours of selfless service and sincere efforts to care for others.

But many people feel their voices are not being heard.  What they often mean is that when what they would say is heard, it is not appreciated the way that they would like to have it appreciated.

Sometimes that occurs because others drown them out by saying very similar things in a way that is rather hostile, sarcastic and nasty.  If I were trying to get light blue shirts accepted as appropriate formal men's wear in the LDS Church (since they are accepted that way everywhere else -- as is noted in the later Dress for Success works), I probably would not start with satire.  That would send a message, and get it heard alright, but the message would probably not be the one I was trying to send.

Sometimes there is a barrage of contrary voices.  That is, voices saying very different things.  When you hear such a collection of voices it can become hard to pull out a dominant thread.  Consider the comments that are made on which type of seminary program people really want ...

Sometimes one set of voices is "tainted" or colored by other things.  When I hear a relief society president on one side, and someone who is rather inactive and who goes out to dinner with friends (who are friends with benefits, non-exclusive), it is hard to take them with equal weight as to what the voice means in connection with what will bring people closer to Christ.

I was a stake executive secretary back when we used to get general authorities for stake conferences.  Something that struck me about the men is that they listened to people, they cared about people.  On my mission we had general authorities visit.  I was struck by the fact that many of them used economy versions of the scriptures, were surprisingly humble and they really made an effort to talk to and hear as many people as possible.

But, of course, you should ask yourself, who did they hear, who did they talk with?  Generally they were most likely to talk to active members who were very engaged in the Church.  Now, there was a time when you would get general authorities visiting branches (we had that happen when we lived in Newfoundland, Elder Kimball spent a day visiting with people in the branch).

One thing that has happened with the growth in the Church is that that sort of contact now happens more with area authorities, most of whom have served as stake presidents before their call.

Those people have heard many, many people.

I know of none of them who have stopped because of a call.

I'll write more on this topic, but there is not a dearth of listening.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

There is also an issue, pointed out by Annegb, as to what do you do when the person trying to be heard is dispossessed, or when there is a "minor" apostasy going on?

How do we overcome issues of class and social strata (which is what I mean by the dispossessed)?

How do we do more, in a busy world with many pressing needs about "minor" apostasy?

I'm still thinking about that.