This year, I made three resolutions for a happier and healthier 2016: (1) Don’t take yourself too seriously; (2) Don’t step on a scale immediately after the holidays; and (3) Don’t get mad at 90-year-old men. The first two resolutions need no explanation. As for the third, to be clear, I will not get mad at a 90-year-old-man for saying something insensitive, crude or just plain wrong, even if that man purports to be a prophet of God. Because, guess what? That’s what 90-year-old men do.
In fact, I believe it’s one of the perks of living that long. In fact, it might be the only perk of outliving just about everyone (and most redwood trees). After nine decades on the planet, you have earned the right to be wrong … demonstrably and ridiculously wrong … Republican-ly wrong. And in acknowledgment of that entitlement, the rest of us are obligated to simply shrug and say, “Oh, Grandpa!”
That is certainly what we said when my grandfather would say something racist, sexist and/or homophobic; most often, all three and, even more often, in public … loudly. We would say, “Oh, Grandpa!” We would then turn to the offended party, shrug and say, “He’s 90.” If that person had a grandfather of their own, she would invariably say, “I totally understand. That’s why we left our granddad at home today.”
But seriously, what else could we do? Take a switch to Grandpa’s not-so-tender backside? Or perhaps post memes about him that he would never even see on social media in hopes of shaming him into seeing the error of his ways? Or did it make more sense to simply let it go and to try to enjoy the time we had left with Grandpa?
Well, I’m going to take the same approach with the LDS apostles. When one of them suggests that women “put on a little lipstick now and then,” I’m not going to get upset in 2016. I’m just going to say, “Oh, Grandpa!” I’ll say the same thing when this man tells women not to talk too much in meetings. “Oh, Grandpa!” Or when one complains that his Christmas cards aren’t “Christ-y” enough. “Oh, Grandpa!” I will even take this tact when their pronouncements aren’t as innocuous, such as when one claims that God has forbidden the children of gay parents to become members of the Church, or that God commands that all gay members in loving same-sex relationships be banished from the fold.
As I see it, the other perk of getting old is that you get to be delusional. For example, as my beloved grandfather neared the end of his life, he began to think that he was a professional prizefighter (and no, I’m not making this up). He would loudly proclaim:
“Watch out there, I’m Shelby Boy,
130 pounds of floating joy!”
And then, he would make strange movements with his arms that were either shadow boxing or a seizure (we were never quite sure which). Either way, he was entitled to his delusion. He had earned it. He spent his life providing for his family, working long hours for low pay and if, at the end, he was able to keep alive his dreams of being a professional boxer, then good for him! You go, Shelby Boy!
We would have been cruel to prove him wrong by showing that he was quite a bit out of his weight class at that point or by challenging him to a sparring session. And just as I would have not created a meme to ridicule Grandpa Shelby for his delusions, I will refrain from doing so with Grandpas Ballard, Nelson, Oaks, et al. I will simply shrug it off with a hearty, “Oh, Grandpa!”
And yes, I realize that our apostolic grandpa delusions have a lot more power to cause suffering than my paternal grandpa’s delusions, but that is only to the extent that we take their delusions seriously. And in that case, the fault is our own.
For example, if one of my uncles took Grandpa Shelby claims of being a boxer seriously and entered him into a title fight with Floyd Mayweather, who would be to blame? Old and feeble Grandpa Shelby? Or my foolish Uncle I-Want-My-15%-Cut? Obviously, the latter would be to blame. And this uncle would get his own match – a no-holds barred 30-against-1 in the backyard match – for his troubles.
The same should be true for prophetic announcements from Grandpa Nelson. If a bishop refuses baptism, ordination or missionary service for the child of gay parents, then he is to blame for the injustice; not the delusional old man who thinks that the un-Christ-like policy comes from Jesus Christ Himself. The same is true for the bishop or stake president who holds a “court of love” to excommunicate a member in a committed same-sex relationship. At 90 years old, an apostle is entitled to his delusion. However, at 40 years old, the bishop or stake president is not entitled to act on that delusion. He hasn’t earned that right.
So, in 2016, I will not get mad at old men. They have put in their time and have earned the grace of “Oh, Grandpa!” Instead, I will reserve my righteous indignation for men of sound mind and sound body who unquestionably follow delusional directives. And for those who do violence to gays and lesbians and their families, I will extend no grace. They will be subject to biting criticism, both in person and online. And I hope others will join with me in proclaiming, to paraphrase Grandpa Shelby:
“Watch out there, we’re people of conscience en mass,
And if you blindly follow orders and harm our LGBTQ families, that’s your a–!”