Last things first: I’m not sure where I’m being smug. (Unless it is the fact that I feel strongly that I’m right ;-) ) And where is the line between thoughtful evaluation and judgmental anyway? I surely don’t know. I do try to be fair, but still give honest expression to what I see and how I fell about it.
Next question: “Does "the other side" recognize our arguments in terms we recognize as accurate, fair, and respectful?”
Answer: That should not be relevant to our behavior. Poor behavior on the part of those we disagree with is no excuse for poor behavior on our part. I could do a whole post on this, but I think that what you’ll find is that most of the time what we think of as “the poor behavior” of others is, in fact, due to misunderstanding and not malicious intent, and that assuming malicious intent only contributes to the problem.
Which ties into your first question: What does this even mean to “acknowledge the arguments on the other side in terms that they would recognize and accept as accurate, fair, and respectful?”
Headway on this problem (or any other problem, really) can only be based on relationships founded on trust, love and respect (see D&C 121:41-42) not accusatory rhetoric. If “the other side” feels like they are misunderstood or constantly being maligned, that trust will not be able to develop and as a result our ability to impact events will be greatly reduced or even reversed. Example: There are those within the Church who have said that the goal of gay-rights groups’ attempts to legalize gay marriage is an effort to destroy marriage. When you think about it, such an argument is silly, but also extremely offensive. First: it accuses gay activists of lying (because what they are saying explicitly is that they want to be married, not that they want to destroy marriage.) Next: it accuses the activists of pursuing destructive goals rather than constructive goals, and while I cannot say I’ve heard from every gay-rights activist, I haven’t heard any that would classify their goals as an effort to destroy the very institution they want so badly to join. But worst of all: it carries with it an assumed point of view that homosexuals are so toxic that their very presence in the institution of marriage would destroy it. Can you imagine being told time and again that you are so toxic that you mere presence is destructive? That you are so evil that something you believe to be beautiful, wonderful, and valuable would be destroyed by your proximity, and not only would it be ruined for you but that you would ruin it for everyone else? Would you trust someone who told you things like that? Would you listen to anything they had to say? You would have to ignore them just to keep you self-respect intact. And if you think that gay community doesn’t hear those unstated messages you need to listen closer – they hear it loud and clear. The same thing can hold true when members assume or accuse gay people of devaluing marriage or otherwise having nefarious intentions. I could go on, but learning to see this is the type of thing that I mean when I say we need to recognize our bigotry.
Until we as an organization can come to truly understand that what gay community is attempting is something that they see as constructive (whether or not we agree with it), communicate that understanding, and then deal with the issue (and the people) on that basis we will not only be ineffective; in the long run we will be counterproductive.