At first the shift was subtle. After an age of the high profile excommunications of certain Mormon intellectuals, and when Mormon faithfulness was considered to be contained within a very narrow set of boundaries, it's understandable there may be some who are skeptical about hoping for a more progressive and welcoming vision from the LDS Church. For decades many Mormon writers, artists, and intellectuals within the Church felt on the fringe of their religion. However, here and there, line upon line, precept upon precept, there's been a shift. A real, noticeable, identifiable shift in how the Church is dealing with it's more outside of the box members.
It started under the nuanced leadership of Gordon B. Hinckley (who once told some of his more zealous Brethren to, "leave the intellectuals alone!"). President Hinckley was in so many ways a more media savvy and "modern" prophet, suited to shepherd the change from the 20th to the 21st centuries. But there have been even more noticeable shifts due to the leadership of the current First Presidency: Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Certain things have not been explicitly stated. There has been no outright declaration. But the shift is there. The highest in Church Leadership seem to be saying: "This is a new day. You may feel out of step with some of us, but be comforted. You are welcome here."
I know some may think that I am straining credibility here, especially with the contentious brouhaha that occurred over Proposition 8 and its aftermath. However, even in that scenario, despite the Church's strong stand, there was a sense that the Church understood and accepted those that disagreed with their actions. In one of its many press statements surrounding this conflict, the Church made a statement that I thought was significant: