A. Scott Anderson: Tribune should give LDS Church more credit for progress on LGBTQ issues

Coverage of high-profile resignation from LDS Church didn’t tell the full story.

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Executive Director of Equality Utah Troy Williams expresses his support for the nondiscrimination bill SB256, announced during a press conference at the Utah Capitol on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. Also in attendance were multiple legislators and top Mormon leaders, including apostle D. Todd Christofferson, and L. Tom Perry, second in line for the LDS Church's presidency, from left.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently printed an article headlined “Wealthiest Utah native resigns from the LDS Church.” This article detailed an open letter from Jeff T. Green to Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announcing his resignation from the church.

The article reported on Green’s complaints against the church’s position on the LGBTQ+ issues as one of the reasons he was leaving the church. (In full disclosure, I resigned my position on The Tribune’s Editorial Board Oct. 1 due to my additional responsibilities as chair of the American Bankers Association.)

I am sure that the opinions for and against the teachings of the LDS Church are as diverse as the people of this great state. However, I would hope that in reporting on Green’s complaints against the church, that The Tribune would have included or even sought comments from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would also have hoped that The Tribune would have given equal treatment to some of the collaboration and the work the church has done with Equality Utah and other groups, including the Utah Legislature, to promote equal treatment for the LGBTQ+ community in housing and work-related issues.

Even The Washington Post’s coverage of Green’s story reported that while LGBTQ+ supporters think the church should increase its support and move faster in acknowledging LGBTQ+ issues, they did make it clear that the church and Equality Utah have cooperated on issues such as housing and employment, supporting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

I would note in the online version of The Tribune article, a link to a video Equality Utah produced that mentions the church’s cooperation with them was included after the fact. I appreciate those additional comments, but I wish the article would have gone into greater depth on what the church is doing.

Think, for example, of the 2015 nondiscrimination law that some refer to as the Utah Compromise. For years, negotiations between advocates of religious freedom and the LGBTQ+ community culminated in a state law that defined religious freedom and protected LGBTQ+ people in housing and employment. This was hard work that gives compromise a good name. To date, no other state has replicated it. And a similar federal bill from Utah Rep. Chris Stewart is still awaiting action in Congress.

There is no question that such dialogue can be sensitive and painful. But we did it in Utah. As Troy Williams of Equality Utah recently said, “There are naysayers. There are people who don’t believe that religious liberty can coexist with LGBTQ rights. (But) that’s simply not true. We have proven that here in Utah time and time again. And if we can do it in Utah, we can do it throughout the entire country.”

I mentioned that Equality Utah released a short documentary detailing these efforts a few weeks ago. I was pleased to participate in that documentary, as many of my dear friends and members of my family are LGBTQ+ individuals. The documentary was released nationally through the Bipartisan Policy Center. Indeed, the leaders of our state and the church showed that they want Utah to be a place where differences are celebrated, and rights protected. And a place where we come together to bless lives.

I supported and signed the Utah Compact on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. I believe as a community and as individuals we must stamp out all forms of discrimination, bigotry and intolerance. We must honor the rights of all individuals and develop an inclusive economy that allows everyone an opportunity to prosper. But to do this, we must work together. We must talk together. We must understand where people are coming from before we can hope to be understood ourselves. In this light, as The Tribune reports on Green’s actions, it should also include a report on the work that is being done to promote equality and inclusion.

As we slow down and reflect on our many blessing this holiday season, and as we look forward with hope to a new year, may we be grateful – whether we are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not – for the good fruits of the church. This includes helping make Utah a place of warm welcome, close connection, expansive thought, new ideas, a robust and inclusive economy, and a community of inclusion and equity.

I hope the next time The Tribune will tell the complete story.

A. Scott Anderson

A. Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Zions Bank