Mormons Get the Yoke of Prop 8

Gay Marriage The LDS church is making lots of news these days and it’s all in conjunction with the passage of California Prop 8.  In two days I read three articles that mentioned protests against Prop 8 and all three made sure to mention the LDS church in some way.

This one, this one and this one.

Mormons can look at this in one of two ways: 1) We did it, we have influence and now people notice it. 2) Hey wait, we weren’t the only ones who supported Prop 8.  Why are you focusing on us?

I think part of the reason is because the Los Angeles Temple is a major monument closely located next to a large gay population.  It’s the easiest and most noticeable place to set up shop close to home.  There aren’t any Evangelical mega-churches that strongly supported Prop 8 (like Skyline Wesleyan) within walking distance of any gay neighborhoods.

Now this news of possibly boycotting the entire state of Utah takes it to a whole new level.  I have to concede that if this movement picks up momentum it’s singling out Mormons.  To be consistent, the gay community should also boycott Colorado Springs because that’s where Focus on the Family is located and they should boycott Connecticut because that’s where the Knights of Columbus is headquartered.  For that matter they should boycott the entire state of Arkansas for not allowing gay couples to be foster parents (but I think that boycott has been silently underway for decades).

I’ll be interested to see how the LDS church and it’s membership will react to this heightened scrutiny.  There’s a certain Mormon population that will take delight in “being persecuted”. Other’s may feel this isn’t the battle they wanted to get into.  I’m sure the San Francisco and Los Angeles Mission Presidents are less than thrilled that this is what their missionaries will be talking about for the next several years.

My own church did not mention politics at all over the last couple of months except to say “we’re not going to talk about politics.”  Part of that comes from a belief that if you disciple people correctly you don’t need to tell them how to vote, they’ll quite naturally know how to vote.  It also comes from a belief that the Kingdom of God is the first and foremost thing we should be known for building.  State propositions and political parties are not the thing we want people to feel they must align themselves with to enter our doors.  The motivation for that is borne out in these news articles, we don’t want to be known as THE ones who did this or that politically.

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I’d like to request that all comments focus on the after effects of the LDS church’s support of Proposition 8 and avoid the positive and negative arguments of the Proposition itself.

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33 thoughts on “Mormons Get the Yoke of Prop 8

  1. Pingback: Northern Lights » Blog Archive » Mormonism and Homosexuality: A Bloggernacle Sampler (11-09-08)

  2. Here is a very interesting story about the differences among Mormons on this issue….

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96405866

    Boycotting Utah for this seems a bit insane however. There are tons of businesses that are owned and run by more “liberal” or tolerant people. only 1/2 of Salt Lake is Mormon. And the former Mayor of Salt Lake publically supported Gay Marriage.

    It makes just as much sense to boycott Alabama, Texas, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky or any of the dozen other states that ban both Gay marriage and same-sex unions. You might as well just boycott California, I mean 1/2 the voter voted against it and there are more Mormons there than there are in California.

    But people can be irrational on both sides of this issue.

    For the record, I am a Mormon in favor of same sex marriage.

  3. Phyrrus would be Proud.

    Prop 8 passed by a narrow margin. It was the result of an advertising campaign composed mostly of lies, half-truths, and deception. Behold, the victors have won a tactical victory while suffering a major strategic failure.

    Who are these victors? Clearly many who contributed money to this campaign are eager to share their version of the Gospel with others. While they are a collection of strange bedfellows, the LDS church, Roman Catholics, and far right evangelicals like Focus on the Family, each is dedicated to adding to the flock.

    Now let us consider what really happened. Roughly half the voting population of California sided with the victors. This means that ‘members of the choir’ accepted Prop 8 and with it the advertising that won the day. Those who voted no saw through the lies and deception. It is with them that we wish to share the Gospel. Why should they be expected to accept it as truth from those who just deceived them?

    For the record, I am a heterosexual, married 46 years, the father of a son, a daughter, and an angel. I count myself a progressive evangelical Christian. The God I serve is not pleased with the recent ‘victorious vote’ on Prop 8.

  4. Tim said:

    State propositions and political parties are not the thing we want people to feel they must align themselves with to enter our doors. The motivation for that is borne out in these news articles, we don’t want to be known as THE ones who did this or that politically.

    That is one of my concerns. My oldest son, who returned from an LDS mission earlier this year, told me he’s very glad he isn’t a missionary in California now, and I think this will be harmful to the missionary effort, at least in the short term.

    I will assume, though, that the church leadership went into this with its eyes wide open. Obviously, they felt this was important. If I had been living in California, I would have probably voted against Prop 8, because I feel the state’s high court overstepped its bounds, but I don’t know what else I would have done other than pray about what to do. In many ways, I’m glad I didn’t have to made that decision.

    As a matter of principle, I certainly believe that churches have the right to speak out on moral issues, even when they get into the realm of politics. On the other hand, few political actions are simple, and it’s extremely difficult to get nuance across in a volatile issue such as this one. While in a personal context it may be possible to get the “love the sinner, hate the sin” idea across, that isn’t easy in the political context. On this issue, it may be impossible, and there’s certain to be a backlash as a result.

    I’ve read differing reports on how much Prop 8 was emphasized in California churches. I can report, however, that in my neck of the woods, which is in neither California nor Utah/Idaho, that I haven’t heard political issues come up at all except for official encouragement that we should study the issues and vote for honest people. Same-sex marriage has been totally off the radar. (For what it’s worth, I’d guess my ward had a higher percentage of Obama supporters, including our Relief Society president, than did the Protestant megachurch down the street did.)

    One of the ironies of the boycott-Utah proposal, as alluded to already, is that parts of Utah, particularly Salt Lake City, are more gay-friendly than most of the protesters could imagine. The local governments there have politics against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, many of the corporations there have gay-friendly policies, there’s a member of the Legislature whose openly gay, and there’s significant enough of a gay community to have an annual Gay Pride parade. I am not suggesting for a second that SLC is a Rocky Mountain version of San Francisco, but if I were gay I’d much rather live there than in some other parts of the country. My daughter, who lives in Salt Lake City, has several gay friends who are living there by choice and say they’re happy to do so. (The same might not be true outside SLC.)

    Anyway, I don’t know how this is going to play out. My personal preference would be for the issue to go away, so we can devote our emotional energies to more important things like caring for the poor and sharing the gospel, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon.

  5. Tim, it should be pointed out that usually, the LDS Church takes a strictly neutral stance on all political issues. It is very rare for LDS leadership to speak out on an issue like this.

    The Evangelical movement, by contrast, has rarely been shy about wading into the political arena with guns blazing. Presidential candidates speak in Evangelical churches, pastors give direct political candidate endorsements, fundraising happens directly on church property.

    So it seems to me that while there may have been no overt political action on YOUR particular little corner of Evangelicaldom, it is hardly uncommon for Evangelicals to mix “the pew with the poll” or even the altar.

    I understand that Evangelicalism is a very diverse religious movement. But don’t generalize your own congregational practice to the entire movement. Some of your Evangelical brothers and sisters are very politically active – even in overt and coercive and blatant ways that dwarf ANYTHING the LDS Church has done this year. Smugness seems a little premature does it not?

    And let me just say, there are no “scare quotes” around the persecution I have been feeling toward Mormons in the past couple weeks. We have been targeted, insulted, and harassed. Our buildings are being vandalized. Our worship services are being disrupted. Our religious symbols desecrated. Envelopes with “unidentified white powder” have been sent to temple square and other LDS temples. NPR recently reported on gay protesters picketing a small Mormon-owned restaurant in Southern California because it was publicly outed that the guy donated a measly $100 of his own money to support Prop 8.

    100 freaking dollars! And for that, this small business owner deserves that kind of harassment?

    What’s next? Throwing eggs at Mormon children on the way home from school?

    Calls have been made on blogs like the Daily Kos to identify and target Mormon donors to Prop 8. Our tax exempt status is being repeatedly questioned. I have been called derogatory names online, my Church has been described as bigoted, racist, full of pedophiles and stupid people, and just about every other foul term you can imagine. Gay bloggers are calling for people to beat up Mormon missionaries and generally do everything they can to oppose the Mormon RELIGION.

    Yeah, that “persecution” is definitely a figment of my imagination right?

    Or maybe because – as Kullervo has pointed out before – because opposition I’ve put up with doesn’t rise to the level of slavery/segregation or the Holocaust, I don’t get to complain about being treated like crap. Nice high benchmark there.

    And I must admit, I would have expected a bit more of a forceful gesture of support from the Evangelical community for their Mormon allies than I have seen so far (not directed at you Tim). Largely, they seem to be standing quietly by and watching while we get punched. The few Evangelical responses I’ve read tend to give a lukewarm gesture of support, quickly qualified by various ways in which Mormons suck, just the same. Maybe I’m wrong and someone can correct me on this score.

    Suffice it to say, some of us are feeling rather touchy at the moment.

  6. By listing what my church’s political stance is I was merely being open about where we stood. I wasn’t trying to be smug, my apologies if it came off that way.

    I am well aware of Evangelical political action. I’m also disturbed by it at times. “Evangelical” is much more a political term than “Mormon”. I think it’s been a mistake for us to champion our political views more than our discipleship views and we’re paying the price for it. Thus my support of the Evangelical Manifesto.

  7. Seth, you’re feeling touchy?

    Prop 8 took away peoples’ marriages, Seth. What did you expect?

    Be glad that the backlash isn’t way worse.

  8. Kullervo, you’re not comparing apples and apples there.

    People’s marriages were taken away. I hate that.

    But that doesn’t mean that it’s okay for people to hurt or vandalize or damage other people or their property. There are more civilized ways to voice disapproval–don’t like what a local restaurant owner supports? Don’t frequent the restaurant. Take it a step further and write a letter saying that you’re not going back because you don’t like their politics.

    Most Mormons on missions are unlikely to have voted. Missionaries in California are unlikely to be from California, and thus had absolutely no hand in anything that could have stopped it–they couldn’t even have voted for it.

    Persecution sucks, regardless of degree. And I feel strongly that it’s not fair to compare to other kinds of persecution that could be worse–it’s like when one of my relatives said, “I know you miss your husband while he’s gone for military training… but it could be worse. You could be dead.” Uh, ok… but I’m not, and I’m still bummed because I miss my husband!

    So, no, Mormons aren’t being force-marched to their deaths. But that doesn’t mean that the actions that protesters are taking isn’t scary and wrong.

  9. On one hand, I am sympathetic to the Mormon who personally had nothing to do with Prop 8. Shoot–I imagine plenty of active, believing Mormons think Prop 8 is nasty and are embarrased that the Church played such a heavy-handed role in getting it passed. I know I felt that way about the Church’s previous political efforts back when I was a true believer. It’s kind of like being an American abroad at the height of the Bush administration: the whole world hates you, and the fact that you voted for Kerry doesn’t seem to make a difference to anyone. That seems really unfair.

    But at the same time, this isn’t that. The Mormon Church is a large, hierarchical organization. Even if you were raised Mormon, membership is voluntary. Yes, I realize that it is technically possible to expatriate yourself and renounce your US citizenship, but there are enormous differences of degree. It’s way more reasonable and more convenient to leave a Church than it is to leave a country.

    Furthermore, as a Mormon, you raise your hand at least once a year to sustain your leadership. You can split hairs about exactly what that means if you want, but that wouldn’t be the point. The point is that part of being a Mormon is supporting the decisions made by the hierarchy. The fact that you voted against Prop 8 doesn’t absolve you from responsibility. This isn’t like post-colonial guilt by association: you’re not being blamed for the accident of your birth or citizenship. You actively and voluntarily support the organization that bears the overwhelming majority of the responsibility for passing Proposition 8.

    To gays in California, this means you have leveled a direct assault on their family relationships. The fact that you do not recognize their family relationships as valid doesn’t absolve you or the Church–in fact, it makes it worse: you not only want to dissolve their family relationships, but you want to deny the existence of those relationships in the first place. Take just a second and think of how that would make you feel if the tables were turned. So again, to gays in California, the Church which you actively and affirmatively support has made a decisive and devastating strike in a war on their families. They are justifiably angry with you, even if you do not live in California, and even if you would not have voted for Prop 8 if you did.

    To gays elsewhere, you’re not any better. The fact that they were not directly and immediately affected by Prop 8 changes nothing, because the Church’s agenda is clearly not limited to California. It is clear that the Church intends to oppose gay marriage everywhere, to the extent of its power and influence. It was California today, but it will be somewhere else tomorrow. And that’s setting aside the obvious anger over the immediate and heartbreaking effects of Prop 8 on people like them.

    By the same token, to anyone with friends who are gay, who cares about gay rights, or equality in general, the Church has not only declared its opposition, but it has shown itself willing and able to take decisive action against gay families. And ithis is the Church you pay tithing to, the Church you support, and the leadeers you sustain.

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think you deserve a lot more “persecution” than you are getting. Tearing families apart is not the kind of thing that usually gets met with “civilized ways to voice disapproval.”

    Oh, and when I say “you,” I am referring to Seth, and to Mormons in general, not to Katyjane, if that is not obvious.

  10. “It’s way more reasonable and more convenient to leave a Church than it is to leave a country.”

    Bogus Kullervo.

    I’d have a much easier time renouncing US citizenship than my faith. You’re projecting your own attitude about the faith here.

    “Take just a second and think of how that would make you feel if the tables were turned.”

    I have.

    I wouldn’t be acting like this.

    Secondly, I think the “tearing families apart” line is a load of garbage since you don’t need “marriage” to have one of those in the first place.

  11. Think of it this way, when Southern white people lost the right to own slaves, they started a war. This is nothing.

    Tearing families apart is not the kind of thing that usually gets met with “civilized ways to voice disapproval.”

    I think you may be over-dramatizing what happened to some degree. Social services is not walking into anyone’s home and separating people by force. Civil unions in California have all of the same exact rights as marriages. So not one person lost a single right, real or perceived.

    This is a fight over the public perception and acceptance of homosexuality. This cultural disagreement has been brought into the courts and into politics. Some wish to equate homosexual unions with marriage. The voters of California decided that the word “marriage” is for the union of one man and one woman. The California legislature has already deemed that homosexual unions should have the same rights and privileges as marriage. So no family has been torn apart and no one has lost any rights.

    I do think most of the outcry over Prop 8 passing has been reasonable and predictable.

    I have a social compromise I’d like to propose for the nation as a whole. The radical right will grant the term marriage to gay couples if the radical left will agree to protect the life of all unborn babies (unless they threaten the life of their mothers).

  12. I’m tired of hearing this overblown rhetoric on what Proposition 8 did and didn’t do.

    It did nothing, absolutely nothing, to tear families apart. Same-sex couples in California still have all the legal rights they had in October with one exception: They can’t call what they have a marriage for legal purposes. Every single one of the other legal benefits and obligations of marriage they still have, every single one. California wrote its law that way on purpose, and Proposition 8 doesn’t change that.

    All Proposition 8 did was say you can’t attach the label “marriage” to such a relationship for legal purposes. That’s all, period.

    Is it worth all this hullabaloo what label we give to a legal relationship? I honestly don’t know. The church leadership must think so. Those protesting must think so. But to say that Proposition 8 did anything more than define a label is showing a misunderstanding of what voters decided.

  13. Make no mistake.

    I may disagree with government granting marriage licenses to anyone (including my own religion) on principle. But those same principles mean that I definitely oppose government endorsing homosexual lifestyle by granting such recognition.

    Government should not be granting an endorsement of approval for gay sex – which is what the opponents of Prop 8 seem to want.

    Tolerance they can have. Equality they can have (which is why I advocate a generic civil union code for all). But my approval and acceptance, they cannot have.

    And I don’t care if they are angry. That doesn’t excuse their behavior over the past two weeks.

  14. If the government came in and told you that you weren’t married anymore, Seth and Tim, you would be going ape. And even if you two specifically would not be going ape, Mormons and Evangelicals generally would be grabbing their guns.

  15. I’d have a much easier time renouncing US citizenship than my faith. You’re projecting your own attitude about the faith here.

    No, it has nothing to do with how much giving up citizenship versus Church membership would make me sad or change my worldview. I’ve been through that part of leaving the Church and it was completely devastating. Don’t imply that I just tossed the Church aside and walked away like an old coat.

    But that aside, leaving my Church has meant awkward moments with my family, and little else. Leaving my country would pretty much leave me unemployable. For many people it would mean giving up their house, their culture, basically their entire lives.

    Yeah yeah, Church is culture, but trust me, “American” defines us a whole lot more comprehensively than “Mormon” does.

  16. If the government came in and told you that you weren’t married anymore, Seth and Tim, you would be going ape.

    I’ll say it again, I think most of the outcry over Prop 8 passing has been reasonable and predictable.

  17. “Yeah yeah, Church is culture, but trust me, “American” defines us a whole lot more comprehensively than “Mormon” does.”

    I don’t feel that way. I felt more in common with Mormons in Japan than I do with people in my own town right now.

    And no, I would not be “grabbing my guns.” I’m “married” no matter what the government thinks of the matter. And if the government took away the label but left me with the same bundle of rights, I’m not sure I’d be too bent out of shape about it. Probably irritated enough to write an indignant blog post, but not to harass gay businesses or protest at gay events.

  18. I don’t feel that way. I felt more in common with Mormons in Japan than I do with people in my own town right now.

    Bullshit. That means you probably are simply not aware of how much American culture defines you. Honestly, you’re also probably also not aware of how much American culture defines Mormonism everywhere in the world, especially in Japan. I shall invote my brother, Racticas, to come and give illustrative examples from his mission.

    And no, I would not be “grabbing my guns.” I’m “married” no matter what the government thinks of the matter. And if the government took away the label but left me with the same bundle of rights, I’m not sure I’d be too bent out of shape about it. Probably irritated enough to write an indignant blog post, but not to harass gay businesses or protest at gay events.

    1. That’s completely ridiculous. Your marriage is not meaningful to you merely because of the “bundle of rights.”
    2. A civil union really, really does not provide the same bundle of rights as marriage does. At the very least, “full faith and credit” is completely out the window. But in any case, it doesn’t matter, because marriage is about so much more than a technical label for a particular bundle of legal rights, and you know it. You’re being disingenuous.

  19. Kullervo said, “They are justifiably angry with you, even if you do not live in California, and even if you would not have voted for Prop 8 if you did.”

    I disagree.

    Seth said, “And no, I would not be “grabbing my guns.” I’m “married” no matter what the government thinks of the matter. And if the government took away the label but left me with the same bundle of rights, I’m not sure I’d be too bent out of shape about it. Probably irritated enough to write an indignant blog post, but not to harass gay businesses or protest at gay events.”

    Seth, if the government took away your title of ‘married’, your church would say that you were no longer able to have sex or live together. Are you sure you wouldn’t be a bit more upset than just an angry blog post? Give it a month… you’d be up in arms. 😉

    And yes, I realize that the church is not going to endorse gay sex regardless of whether or not marriage is allowed. But I think it’s important to notice that distinction–Mormons teach that sex outside of marriage (government sanctioned) is wrong. Mormons teach that gay sex is wrong. So, even allowing gay marriage wouldn’t mean that homosexuality would be endorsed by the church. honestly.

  20. Kullervo, I’m well aware of the divide between me and Japanese members. I lived there for two years and I actually do have a good idea. I am aware of how deep the divide is. The language barrier is a real problem.

    My statement still stands in spite of that.

    And Katy, I doubt that if the government made Mormon marriages illegal, the LDS Church’s current custom of linking temple marriage to the civil formalities would last much beyond that point.

  21. Kullervo, have you officially resigned? Given your comments above it wouldn’t seem you would want your name associated with the LDS church.

  22. Pingback: Resigning Over Proposition 8 « Sailing to Byzantium

  23. Pingback: Which culture pervades more: religious or national? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  24. I think the prevalent viewpoint of creatio ex nihilo has encouraged judges to also create “basic human rights” out of nothing.

  25. Pingback: Who is a Cultural Mormon? at Mormon Matters

  26. Pingback: Who is a Cultural Mormon? | Wheat and Tares

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