A Clarification from Clayton Christensen

It is difficult for a journalist to put together a story. They often start from a position of limited knowledge and try to quickly gather information and piece it together. Combine that with the people being interviewed are not always precise with their comments. They are often caught off guard by the questions and don’t always have time to think through their answers.

This combination of circumstances can lead to misstatements,  misunderstandings, and missed nuances. It appears this misunderstanding happened in a recent article with Clayton Christensen. To correct that misunderstanding brother Christensen issued the following letter, which has been sent to several friends and groups that it may be circulated as broadly as possible.


June 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

I am writing about an article by Michael Fitzgerald, titled “How the Mormons Conquered America: The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.” It appeared a couple of days ago in a journal, Nautilus.  I am misquoted in the piece.  Fitzgerald interviewed me several months ago relative to this article. He wrote notes as we talked; he did not record our conversation.

In the article, Fitzgerald reviews the history of how the church has changed several practices, such as polygamy and ordaining blacks to the priesthood. He then refers to same-sex marriage; and in that same paragraph quoted me as saying, “… I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.” It implies that I support same-sex marriage, and that I expect that the leaders of the church in the future will agree with that position.

This is not true. I did not say this. I support wholeheartedly every phrase in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” And I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who penned that document.

I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not. Society changes its mind quite frequently. I do not believe that God changes his mind, however. When society is telling me something new, even when it has assembled powerful reasons and powerful people on its side, I do not ask society whether it is correct. I ask God.

I understand that this mis-representation of my beliefs by Mr. Fitzgerald is being widely circulated through the church. I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to anyone who you believe ought to see this – and by the fastest and most effective ways possible.  Thanks for your help!

Clayton Christensen

Belmont, MA

5 thoughts on “A Clarification from Clayton Christensen

  1. I believe Clayton Christensen to be a very honorable man. Anyone who has read ‘The Power of Everyday Missionaries’ should be able to discern his character in that writing. The pen is Satan’s mightiest tool and all you have to do is try and find something decent and of good value to read. That is a difficult task. I will forward this to everyone I know who knows the author by name.

  2. Many years ago my husband was interviewed by a U.S. News and Report reporter and the interviewer began, “How would you like to say this?….” I see that journalists haven’t changed much in their approach to truth gathering.

  3. I appreciate the clarification. I was somewhat surprised by the initial “quote” as it was out of character from what I had read by and about Professor Christensen.
    I especially like this part of the letter:
    “I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not.”
    Kate Kelly just found that out the hard way. Too many others share her prideful attitude and willingness to council leaders whom they do not sustain. Her supporters should carefully consider their positions and relationship with the church. Reading this letter would be a good place for them to start.

  4. For cterry,
    “journalists haven’t changed much” is a broad generalization and doesn’t recognize individual behavior. “Some journalists” just as “some Mormons” would be more accurate.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.