I came home one day from Sacrament meeting and my wife had a sheet of paper, on official church stationary, titled “First Presidency Statement on Birth Control.” It had been passed out in Relief Society with instructions not to mention it to husbands. The statement seemed somewhat suspect, though I had a good idea of its actual author and why it had been promulgated the way it had been. It wasn’t long until there was a visit from Salt Lake and the matter was resolved. No one ever gave me any problems as a result of my complaint about the incident. What I did, anyone can do, more or less. It involves how to be heard rather than ignored.
I took a copy of the letter and mailed it to Salt Lake, addressed to a committee (whose name has probably change by now). Basically I said “When I was in law school, I was asked if I ever came across something that appeared to be put out as an official Church statement to forward it. I’m not sure if this is what was meant or not, but I’m sending it in. It came home from a meeting at Church this week. Thanks for your patience. Sincerely yours, SM.” That was it. I think it illustrates the point though.
First, I took a slightly understated approach and did not overstate any fact. If what is going on is wrong, then it speaks for itself. This thing sure did. Nothing I could say about it could do anything but blunt the impact.
Second, I did not blame anyone for the statement or for passing it out. I did not identify the guy whose stationary was used, the guy he passed it to, the local guy who shared it or anyone else.
Third, I did not tell anyone what to do with the problem. I didn’t even say it was a problem.
Something similar happened recently. A poster reported that he had been told to keep his new Stake President in the dark about something because there was an ongoing criminal case, etc. I happened to know that the policy was not that a Stake President was to be kept in the dark but that the Stake President should do nothing to discourage criminal prosecution. I mentioned it and was given someone’s e-mail, direct phone line and asked to have them contact him immediately so he could make certain that the mistake was cleared up and that the attorney who was explaining things got a lesson in clarity. (Yes, the information was passed along to someone who has privileges to access e-mail on postings in order to send the contact information onward. I don’t have that access, btw).
What did I do? I merely mentioned that someone reported that they thought they had been told not to inform the new Stake President, that he should be kept in the dark about the issue. I was understated about it. Did not blame anyone (other than to say that is what they understood from talking to the Church’s attorney). I did not suggest anything.
Now I don’t complain often. I’ve complained once in my current stake, got an apology (much to my surprise) and an immediate change in behavior from people who are, honestly, doing their best to do their best. But the people I talked to knew that I liked them, I support them, and I care about them. Again, I was understated, I let the issue speak for itself. I did not blame anyone in particular for a trend that had evolved. I did not tell anyone what to do. But it was “Gee, have you noticed …” – once they did notice they reacted immediately, faster than I would have. But then, they are good men.
Me. Currently I show up to meetings. Support my wife in her callings. Teach a lesson every other month. Do my hometeaching most of the time. But I’m no one of particular importance.
However, I’ve seen lots of failed complaints. I’ve known people who regularly complain and who get ignored even more often (unless they get called to the position they’ve complained about. I know one brother who did not quit complaining fast enough and ended up in the new bishopric when he had been complaining about the old one. I warned him that might happen). Failed complaints tend to have a similar pattern.
First, they are overstated. They do not rest on incontrovertible facts that cannot be contested.
Second, they blame someone.
Third, they have definite desired solutions that are often presented with the complaint.
Fourth, they are from people who complain often.
Now sometimes solutions are ok, especially for nit picks. E.g. you know, the sacrament trays really are water spotted. Would you like me to use silver polish on them once a month? As long as I’m offering to take care of a problem, and it is “janitorial” type stuff, no one complains. I suspect if I was to try and make common complaints like that I’d run out of things to complain about (or become the new best friend of the agent bishop). But otherwise, being heard includes being heard to ask about rather than being heard to tell about or being heard trying to dictate to.
I’d like to suggest that if you have a problem being heard when you complain, that you consider which pattern you fall into and then make the adjustments necessary to be heard when it matters. Otherwise, what you really intend is not to be heard at all.