Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Critic's Chair

A number of years ago, my dad shared with me a parable about a grandfather. It goes something like this.

Many centuries ago, a certain young man was visiting his grandfather for the summer. After a few weeks had passed, the boy grew restless and asked his grandfather if they could go into town. The grandfather thought it was a fine idea, so off they went, with the old man on his donkey and the young man walking alongside.

As they passed some strangers, they heard whispers... "Can you imagine a grown man making a child walk while he rides comfortably on a donkey? That poor boy."

Feeling embarrassed, the grandfather switched places with his grandson.

Soon, they passed another group of strangers. "What a spoiled child. That old man is trudging along while a perfectly healthy lad rides a donkey!"

Once again embarrassed, the grandfather decided there was room for both of them on the donkey.

They passed another group of strangers. "Look! That donkey is carrying two people! Are they trying to kill it? That poor thing."

At his wits end, the grandfather decided they should both just walk alongside the donkey.

Soon, a group of strangers was pointing and laughing. "A perfectly good donkey, and neither of them has the good sense to use it!"

The moral of the story here is that you can't please everyone. I would also add: You can't always be pleased. At least, as long as we live in an imperfect world and we have imperfect knowledge, we will always be able to find fault with others.

In particular, I think of the countless criticisms engineered against Church leaders.

Do we not realize that Church leaders also live in this imperfect world, and their options are limited like the rest of us?

For example, some people are offended that the LDS Church built a mall (using investment funds only, not tithed funds), on it's property to the south of temple square. Personally, I see it as a great way to prevent inner city entropy, to beautify the area and to engage the public and tourists. That's in addition to it being a good investment. But to anyone offended, I would ask what the Church should have instead done with that property which it owns? Should the land just be a field for antelope to roam?

I'd like to see a criticism-proof idea, complete with cost/benefit analysis demonstrating with certainty that something else would have been a better use of the property.

This is the problem with many critics. They are like children throwing a fit over adult concerns that they don't understand. "But I want to have ice cream for dinner!" "You are mean because you won't buy me that toy!"

Which brings me to another example. From time to time, I hear someone complain about a Church leader flying First Class on an airplane. But what is the cost/benefit breakdown? First, the cost. General Authorities preside over a worldwide Church and spend a great deal of their time traveling. What arrangement do they have with the airline? And then, benefits. General Authorities have security and privacy concerns. They have heavy workloads, and limited time. They also need rest, to allow them to perform their duties in the many areas to which they travel.

No critic can deny that first class airfare offers greater opportunity for work and productivity during a flight, for resting as needed and for more security and privacy.
And critics don't know the cost, because we don't know what arrangement the Church has with the airline (although critics call that a lack of transparency, it is really none of their business).

These are practical concerns, in the real world. The critics might as well criticize themselves for owning cars - paying for gas,  repairs, insurance, etc. - despite the option of public transportation. Why not get rid of their cars and donate the saved money to the charity of their choice? Do the critics not realize that people are starving in the world, while they drive their air conditioned vehicles?

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