The Bridge from Theological to Political

August 20, 2008 | 57 comments
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Yes! Another SSM post!

So I think virtually everyone reading this is in agreement that homosexual sexual activity is a sin. But I know that there is less agreement regarding whether SSM should be legal and even less agreement as to whether the Church should be involved in making it illegal. (My thoughts on that issue are here.) So the real issue here is how, when, whether, and where our personal theological beliefs should be translated into beliefs about what should (not) be legal. Adam Greenwood and I got into this discussion a little on another thread and he offered up this list of situations where one might choose not to push for the imposition of one’s theological beliefs on the public. It is a good and thoughtful list, but it doesn’t give us any guidance in determining when we should choose one rationale from that list as opposed to attempting to apply our theology to a political issue.

I’m not sure what the answer is to that question and so I’m experimenting with the following approach:

(1) The only two issues for which the church has taken a major role in attempting to influence legislation are the ERA and SSM. (Did I miss anything? I’m not talking about isolated comments from GAs, but rather full-fledged attempts to get the Saints to support or oppose specific legislation.)

(2) Now think about all of the issues that the Church has a firm stance on but for which it has not attempted a major effort to influence legislation: this category includes everything from making iced tea to abortion illegal. It includes (not) protesting wars or repeal of sodomy laws or laws allowing homosexuals to adopt or liberalization of divorce laws or . . . well, it is a long list.

(3) What might we conclude about the issue of where the theological meets the political (or: about times when we should attempt to shape laws based on our theological beliefs versus times when we shouldn’t) based on the fact that the ERA and SSM are the two cases that were ‘yeas’ and everything else I mentioned were ‘nays’?

Your thoughts? First of all, is my approach (of putting the ERA and SSM in one column and everything else in another) a good one for determining the criteria by which we determine when we should attempt to legislate our beliefs? And if it is, what do you conclude: What makes the ERA and SSM different from everything else?

57 Responses to The Bridge from Theological to Political

  1. Mark IV on August 20, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Julie,

    I’m not sure how far back you want to go, but in my parents’ lifetime, Pres. Grant urged the LD Saints to vote against the repeal of prohibition. He did it in conference, so I would call that an official church position. And a few years ago, Pres. Hinckley sort of agreed with him.

  2. Nat on August 20, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Didn\’t the church try to get members to vote against Roosevelt back in the 1930s? In any event, it didn\’t work — at least in Utah, as Utahns voted overwhelmingly for Roosevelt in every election, I think.

  3. John Mansfield on August 20, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Supposing President Grant’s support of Prohibition was personal, and not an act of the First Presidency, it shows that there is a space between those things like ERA where the Church takes an official position, and other things, perhaps tea drinking, where it is wrong for Church members to impose their values through legislation. This is assuming that’s President Grant’s political activity was in harmony with the gospel, which assumption I feel quite comfortable making.

  4. Rob G on August 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

    You may want to consider adding Prohibition and the MX Missile to that list, among other potential political issues over which the church took a position and about which I’m not aware. I don’t know that phone calls and neighborhood canvassing took place in either of the above situations as they are with SSM, but the Church took a public position in both and attempted to influence members to vote accordingly.

  5. Rob G on August 20, 2008 at 8:26 am

    You may be right, John, about Prohibition being a pet project of President Grant, and not an official Church position. Perhaps someone can verify that?

  6. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Gambling, perhaps.

  7. Ray on August 20, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Julie, At the most practical level, moral issues change fundamentally when they become political issues. If anyone is interested, I wrote specifically about that issue in June, soon after the CA Supreme Court ruling.

    http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/11/when-moral-issues-become-political-issues/

  8. Tom Rod on August 20, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Nuclear waste dumping. The church has an official stance on this.

  9. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Also, some of these issues would be politically futile. Working against iced tea would have no hope of success. Similarly, abortion is mostly off the table politically. The major way to influence abortion politics is through presidential and Senate voting, in the hopes that this in turn will lead to anti-Roe judicial nominees, but this is pretty contingent and so much else politically is involved in electing Presidents and Senators. I don’t think the Church has a firm stance on not protesting wars or sodomy. Nor does the Church have a clear cut stance on divorce, though I noted that one of the Apostles spoke out officially in favor of liberalizing Chile’s strict divorce laws. Gay adoption is interesting in that I am not aware of any church policy or commandment making it immoral for single people to adopt children. I believe the church idea is that families are preferred, and given the number of families who are willing to adopt, I don’t think LDS Social Services has had to consider single adoption.

  10. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Adam Greenwood and I got into this discussion a little on another thread and he offered up this list of situations where one might choose not to push for the imposition of one’s theological beliefs on the public. It is a good and thoughtful list, but it doesn’t give us any guidance in determining when we should choose one rationale from that list as opposed to attempting to apply our theology to a political issue.

    I’m not sure what you mean about lack of guidance. Here’s the list, and presumably if you adopt one of the rationales from the list, it applies all the time (e.g., if you believe that only ‘terrestrial’ and ‘telestial’ commandments are fit subjects for legislation, you believe that only terrestrial and telestial commandments are fit subjects for legislation). Note that I have not necessarily adopted all of these rationales myself.

    My list of rationales does fail to provide guidance in one sense. The rationales are all pretty general. Each one takes a lot of judgment in specific areas. Two Saints could easily apply the same rationale differently. Because I believe the Church is (1) inspired and (2) authoritative, I think we can say that when the Church indicates that something is fit for legislation that the Church is right. However, when the Church simply fails to take a stance we cannot draw any conclusions.

    If the Church takes the stance that something is fit for legislation (or is not fit, though I am not aware of any examples), and our rationale and our application of it leads to a different result, I think we can safely conclude that our rationale is wrong, or that our application of it is wrong, or that our understanding of our rationale is incomplete.

  11. Ray on August 20, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Many here are too young to remember the “liquor by the drink” campaign in Utah in the late 60’s. The Church tried to prevent the return of saloons to Utah through the legalization of purchasing alcohol in less than full bottles (which presumably would be taken home to drink). There were members who ran lists back and forth between the polls and the homes of church members who were calling every Mormon who hadn’t yet voted to get them to the polls to vote against liquor by the drink.

  12. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Arguably the Church has sort of taken a stance on immigration restrictions, or at least on the sort of debate and rhetoric about immigrants that is acceptable from Utah legislators who are members of the Church.

    The Church has taken a stance on various religious freedom issues.

  13. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 9:18 am

    List of rationales.

    1. Even if you think the government and society should adopt revealed truth wholesale, you might recognize practical obstacles to a lot of this (i.e., no iced tea amendment).

    2. You might argue that revealed truth is consistent with the notion that some acts have value only when uncoerced (i.e., baptism) while others do not (i.e., refraining from murder).

    3. You might argue that revealed truth is consistent with the notion that governments are instituted for specific ends, and those ends are limited and do not include the wholesale enforcement of the commandments.

    4. You might argue that revealed truth is consistent with a distinction between celestial morality and terrestrial morality and the the former is inappropriate for government and society.

    5. You might argue that some commandments are malum in se and others are malum prohibitum–in other words, that sometimes the commandments reveal universal moral truths and sometimes they are only contingent and limited to the church. Some would argue that the Word of Wisdom falls into this latter class.

    6. You might argue that revealed truth shows us a number of moral goods; that among these is the good of being free to be an agent unto oneself; that these moral goods are often in conflict and must be balanced; and that we will therefore sometimes refrain from enforcing one moral good in law when it would excessively interfere with the moral good of letting our fellow citizens have a sphere of freedom to screw up.

  14. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 9:22 am

    I meant to answer Julie S.’s question, http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4736#comment-272530, but as usual I did not express myself well. Here is what I would say.

    First of all, is my approach (of putting the ERA and SSM in one column and everything else in another) a good one for determining the criteria by which we determine when we should attempt to legislate our beliefs? And if it is, what do you conclude: What makes the ERA and SSM different from everything else?

    Any approach that makes ERA and SSM things we shouldn’t act on is suspect, because the Church asked us to act on it. But I don’t think we can draw any conclusions from the Church’s failure to ask us to act on other issues.

  15. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 9:49 am

    “Here’s the list, and presumably if you adopt one of the rationales from the list, it applies all the time (e.g., if you believe that only ‘terrestrial’ and ‘telestial’ commandments are fit subjects for legislation, you believe that only terrestrial and telestial commandments are fit subjects for legislation)”

    In that case, I misread you. I didn’t realize it was pick-one-and-use-it-all-the-time. I thought it was “here’s a list of possibilities that may apply in some cases and others in others, and sometimes none at all, etc.”

    “Any approach that makes ERA and SSM things we shouldn’t act on is suspect, because the Church asked us to act on it.”

    I’m trying to do just the opposite, actually: I’m saying that if ERA and SSM are, by definition, things that we should act on (because of the church’s encouragement to act), and everything else (with possible exceptions mentioned in comments) are things we shouldn’t (at least, shouldn’t *as a church*, not necessarily privately), then what general principle (if any) can we draw from when we should and shouldn’t act.

    It is kind of like this: if you followed my family around for a month and monitored our beverage consumption and then tried to determine what principle we followed to determine which ones were kosher and which weren’t because you didn’t know beforehand.

  16. nasamomdele on August 20, 2008 at 10:01 am

    The Church ha some things to say about the latest rounds of immigration reform legislature.

    I thin there is a much longer list than we might imagine, and I think it will show that the Church has asked us to act on more, politically, than we might have guessed.

  17. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 10:14 am

    In that case, I misread you. I didn’t realize it was pick-one-and-use-it-all-the-time. I thought it was “here’s a list of possibilities that may apply in some cases and others in others, and sometimes none at all, etc.”

    I suppose one could take that approach. But like you, I think you’d have to have some reason for applying the rationale in some instances but not in others where in theory it could apply. Also I don’t think you have to pick just one, necessarily.

    ERA and SSM are, by definition, things that we should act on (because of the church’s encouragement to act), and everything else (with possible exceptions mentioned in comments) are things we shouldn’t (at least, shouldn’t *as a church*, not necessarily privately), then what general principle (if any) can we draw from when we should and shouldn’t act.

    A. The church has asked us to act on ERA and SSM.
    B. The church has not asked us to act on other things.

    From the above, given that the church is both inspired and authoritative, we can conclude
    (1) we should probably act on ERA and SSM.
    We can also conclude
    (2) it was probably appropriate to act as a church on ERA and SSM
    and
    (3) it was probably appropriate to not act as a church on other things.

    We cannot conclude
    (4) The church should have acted on ERA and SSM (i.e., it would have been inappropriate not to);
    (5) the church should not have acted on other things (i.e., it would have been inappropriate to act on them);
    or
    (6) it would be inappropriate for us as individuals to act on other things.

  18. bbell on August 20, 2008 at 10:37 am

    I would have to add the lottery to the list.

  19. John Mansfield on August 20, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Public Issues

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued official statements regarding many of the social issues of today. Several of these statements are collected here. Additional topics will be addressed as statements are issued.

    –Political Neutrality
    –Child Abuse
    –Abortion
    –Same-Gender Attraction
    –Embryonic Stem-cell Research
    –Euthanasia and Prolonging Life
    –Capital Punishment

    LDS Newsroom link

  20. Mark B. on August 20, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I was going to say what Ray said (about “liquorbythedrink”–it really was just one word back in 1968, when a referendum on the subject was on the ballot in Utah). The Church was actively involved in torpedoing the referendum.

  21. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 10:51 am

    John Mansfield, I think there is a difference (at least for the purposes of this post) between having an official statement on an issue and actively encouraging church members to lobby.

  22. Kylie Turley on August 20, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Just a question: Do you think there is a difference between what an “average” citizen should espouse on issues and what an LDS politician should do?

    I’m thinking about liquor, in particular. There was a small Utah town (recently–last five years or so) that was considering a Prohibition-type law. A friend, who serves on the city council, called the church and was told that the church thinks politicians should make liquor “reasonably available,” leaving the politician to define for him/herself what that means.

  23. Paula on August 20, 2008 at 11:39 am

    The church was also involved in fighting the Idaho state lottery, about 20 years ago, and if I remember right, they’ve opposed other lottery elections too. I found this when googling for the information about the Idaho lottery. http://tinyurl.com/5jpcpx
    I don’t have time to read it all closely now, but it seems to have a list of church involvement in political stuff.

  24. Velska on August 20, 2008 at 11:42 am

    In trying to answer the original question about why has the Church sought to mobilize members against ERA and SSM, I’d like to point out, again, the Proclamation concerning families. The ERA was seen as a cog in the machinery to tear down the support that family in general and motherhood in particular enjoys in the society (that is not stated very subtly, but it’s the best I could do in a short sentence). SSM is seen as inflicting serious damage to the sacredness of the fundamental pact that forms the basis of a family: marriage.

    People can and will, of course, disagree with that view. As Elder Oaks said, “A church can claim access to higher authority on moral questions, but its opinions on the application of those moral questions to specific legislation will inevitably be challenged by and measured against secular-based legislative or political judgments”. That said, aren’t the anti-discrimination laws based on values claiming to have a strong moral issue behind them? As I remember, the most celebrated hero of the civil rights movement was a churchman (whether it’s just that he’s the most celebrated may also be debated, but that’s not my point).

    It’s somewhat cliché to point to Europe as a warning example, but I am European, and here SSM is legalized under several legislatures, and the trend towards the deterioration of families has accelerated. Divorce rate is still growing and cohabitation is more and more popular. In Europe’s graying societies people put off having children longer and longer – children are seen as instruments of personal fulfillment after you’ve built your career and bought your dream house. And who needs a man?

  25. Sonny on August 20, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Please forgive me for a slight threadjack on iced tea. Could someone give some history behind this? Was the Church attempting to influence legislation against the production of iced tea?

  26. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Was the Church attempting to influence legislation against the production of iced tea?

    No, never, which was Julie Smith’s point. The Word of Wisdom prohibits iced tea but we’ve never tried to make that a public policy matter.

  27. DavidH on August 20, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    FYI Other issues–http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/daily/history/1945-present.html

    “PUBLIC ISSUES AND SOCIAL CONCERNS. Though the Church attempted to distance itself from direct political involvement, Church leaders nevertheless from time to time declared official positions on moral issues. The First Presidency publicly lamented the growing flood of pornography, the widespread practice of birth control, and abortion, and the general decline in moral standards, including the rising number of divorces and the increased prominence of homosexuality. In 1968 the Church became directly involved in Utah’s political process by openly opposing liquor-by-the-drink. It has also made public pronouncements in favor of Sunday closing laws and state right-to-work laws and against state lotteries (see Gambling).

    “Amid the intense civil rights conflict that characterized the United States in the 1960s the First Presidency openly called for ‘full civil equality for all of God’s children,’ and specifically urged Latter-day Saints to work for civil rights for blacks. In the 1970s, as the controversy in America over women’s rights escalated, the First Presidency took a public stance in favor of full equality before the law for women but, at the same time, publicly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment as anti-family. The First Presidency was also deeply concerned with the morality of the nuclear arms race and officially denounced it in 1980 and again in 1981 (see War and Peace).”

    I believe the Church’s opposition to repeal of “right to work” legislation (i.e., which would allow “closed union shops”) dates at least as far back as an official release in 1941. I do not think the FP has recently taken a position on “right to work” statutes.

  28. John Mansfield on August 20, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    “Was the Church attempting to influence legislation against the production of iced tea?”

    The Church, no. However, the wise men raised up for the very purpose of establishing the constitution of this [the American] land found a tea boycott a useful step in their work.

  29. Adam Greenwood on August 20, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I seem to recall that the Church has recently given aid and comfort to public policy anti-pornography efforts.

  30. greenfrog on August 20, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Julie,

    From my own experience (as one whose support/efforts were requested), two other relatively recent issues that the Church requested members to support and to contribute time/means in support of here in Colorado:

    (1) In the early 1990s, the Church advocated and requested member support for Proposition 2, a ballot initative intended to prohibit municipalities from enforcing laws that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing and employment. The initiative passed, but was subsequently declared unconstitutional in Roemer v. Evans.

    (2) A couple of years ago, the Church advocated and requested member support to oppose a ballot initiative to decriminalize the use of marijuana. That initiative failed at the ballot box.

  31. JrL on August 20, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    The list in #20 is pretty good. It excludes gambling – not just lotteries, but casinos (at least here in the midwest, presumably because (1) there’s nothing at lds.org about it and (2) it tends to be a state or local, not a national question. The Church has played an official role there many times, both in elections (many state constitutuonas barred gambling, so allowing lotteries or casinos means constitutional amendments) and in legislatures (example: joining other churches in publicly opposing bills to eliminate the $500-every-2-hours “loss limit” in Missouri casinos). It’s a bit misleading, though, in the context of this discussion, to include “abortion” on the list. Abortion is a public policy questiion that is discussed on the website. But despite its opposition to the practice, the Church has never taken a position with regard to abortion legislation or legality. That’s one reason the “pro-life” movement considers us unreliable allies.

  32. Josh Smith on August 20, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Mormons in public office have troubles when the Church takes positions on political matters. The Elder Oaks article above gives a good example (#16). Elder Oaks used this example to illustrate hostility toward religion in politics, but I think it illustrates my point as well:

    “For example, less than a decade ago, the United States Department of Justice challenged a federal judge’s right to sit on a case involving the Equal Rights Amendment on the ground that his religious views would prejudice him. The judge was Marion Callister.”

    Now there would have been absolutely no problem with Brother Callister’s participation if the Church had not taken its public position on the ERA. The problem is this: Many Mormons view their church as “inspired” and “authoritative” on any issue that it speaks out on. Non-Mormons legitimately question a Mormon’s ability to make decisions in our pluralistic democracy when the Mormon is committed to following authoritative claims from church leaders (See Romney).

    My next point: when the Church makes a pronouncement on a political issue, its members need not accept the pronouncement on the same grounds as a pronouncement about an issue of church doctrine. The Church enters the debate as any other participant and its claims must be judged on the merits. Elder Oaks said it well:

    “Now, relative to church participation in public debate, when churches or church leaders choose to enter the public sector to engage in debate on a matter of public policy, they should be admitted to the debate and they should expect to participate in it on the same basis as all other participants. In other words, if churches or church leaders choose to oppose or favor a particular piece of legislation, their opinions should be received on the same basis as the opinions offered by other knowledgeable organizations or persons, and they should be considered on their merits.”

    It is unneccessary to kowtow to every word that falls from Church headquarters. Put on your U.S.-citizen thinking cap and go vote.

  33. Velska on August 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    I think that the Church has not joined anti-abortion political campaigns, because those usually willing to repeal Roe vs. Wade accept no exceptions to a general ban on abortions. The Church does, though.

  34. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    “However, the wise men raised up for the very purpose of establishing the constitution of this [the American] land found a tea boycott a useful step in their work.”

    LOL!

    Josh, I’m not sure in that second Elder Oaks quote whether he was referring to *church members* or the general public. (In other words, who is the group that would be the subject for “should be received”?) Did the original context make that clearer?

  35. courtney on August 20, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    In the early 2000s, there was a bill trying to make marijuana legal in Colorado and local church authorities had people pass out pamphlets and put signs in their yards. I don’t think they read a letter out loud in sacrament meeting, and it wasn’t nearly as controversial as Prop 8, but it was still a political side taken by local authorities.

  36. Justin on August 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    In January 1969, the FP issued a statement: “We have given careful consideration to the question of proposed laws on abortion and sterilization. We are opposed to any modification, expansion, or liberalization of laws on these vital subjects.” Utah legislation was then pending which would have: 1) permitted abortions where the mother’s mental or physical health was at stake, where pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or where the infant was likely to have grave or permanent physical disability or mental retardation; and 2) permitted voluntary sterilization where medically necessary to preserve the life or prevent serious impairment of the mental or physical health of the patient or spouse. In October 1970, the same position of opposition was expressed in a letter from the FP to stake presidents in the state of Washington.

    Regarding right-to-work laws, in 1965, the First Presidency sent letters to all LDS members of the House and the Senate expressing its position of opposition to the effort to repeal 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.

  37. CE on August 20, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Looking at Adam Greenwood’s list of rationales (which he enumerated in comment #13), I think that 1, 3, 4, 6, and possibly 5 could each represent a valid reason for *not* attempting to make SSM illegal.

  38. CE on August 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    And in response to Julie’s original post:

    I think that the church has somewhat regularly tried to influence legislation under consideration in the Utah state legislature. I think this often involves visits with or letters to members of the state legislature. The topics can be pretty mundane: for example, a year or two ago the church formally spoke out in opposition to proposed flat tax legislation (possibly because it would eliminate a significant tax deduction for tithe-payers and missionary families). Granted, this didn’t involve letters read over the pulpit, or signs in members’ yards. But it does represent affirmative action by church leaders on political/moral issues. This doesn’t undermine the point of your post — it actually emphasizes it: What are we to make of the fact that the church attempts to influence legislation on a topic so mundane as the flat tax, but does not do so in many other areas?

  39. Josh Smith on August 20, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    So here is the Elder Oaks quote I cited in #33 with additional context:

    “Fundamentally, I submit that there is no persuasive objection in law or principle to a church or church leader taking a position on any legislative matter, if it or he or she chooses to do so.

    Now, relative to church participation in public debate, when churches or church leaders choose to enter the public sector to engage in debate on a matter of public policy, they should be admitted to the debate and they should expect to participate in it on the same basis as all other participants. In other words, if churches or church leaders choose to oppose or favor a particular piece of legislation, their opinions should be received on the same basis as the opinions offered by other knowledgeable organizations or persons, and they should be considered on their merits.

    By the same token, churches and church leaders should expect the same broad latitude of discussion of their views that conventionally applies to everyone else’s participation in public policy debates. A church can claim access to higher authority on moral questions, but its opinions on the application of those moral questions to specific legislation will inevitably be challenged by and measured against secular-based legislative or political judgments. As James E. Wood observed, ‘While denunciations of injustice, racism, sexism, and nationalism may be clearly rooted in one’s religious faith, their political applications to legislative remedy and public policy are by no means always clear.'”

    The second paragraph must apply to LDS and non-LDS alike. It says that the “[the Church’s] opinions should be received on the same basis as the opinions offered by other knowledgeable organizations or persons, and they should be considered on their merits.” And in the third paragraph, “a church can claim access to higher authority on moral questions, but its opinions on the application of those moral questions to specific legislation will inevitably be challenged by and measured against secular-based legislative or political judgments.”

    In context, I think the quote applies to LDS and non-LDS alike. Members must consider the Church’s political positions on the “merits”; members must challenge and measure the Church’s “opinions on the application of moral questions to specific legislation.” Is there another way to read Elder Oaks’s comments? (The link is at #16.)

  40. sscenter on August 20, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I have to take this even a step further. Can we support candidates that would support or that belong to a party that would support issues the church is generally against. Say there is a candidate for any office that is Mormon and is pro-life and against SSM. However, because of his or her political party they would be forced to (in a practical sense party loyalty reigns supreme much of the time) support judges and other nominees who would support these issues. Do we then find ourselves forced to vote against them because even though they personally would support the same positions the church has, the other members of their party strongly advocate SSM and abortion as a method of birth control. Thus a vote for these people would indirectly be a vote for issues we are generally against.

    Which leads me to this. After watch Romney not win the nomination at least partly because of his religion, I wonder if there is a place for Mormons in current American politics. One party strongly supports issues that many Mormons strongly oppose, the other party likes the two senators and four electoral votes Utah gives their party but clearly finds no room in the party for Mormons in any substantive way. I wonder if there is any place for us to go at all.

  41. Aaron Brown on August 20, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Julie, if you’re trying to set records for SSM posts, please respond to Orson Scott Card’s latest rant in a post, which really deserves a fisking, even if you’re opposed to SSM.

    AB

  42. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Oooh, link, Aaron?

  43. Aaron Brown on August 20, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Julie, I refer to a piece that I thought I linked to from the sidebar, but I now realize I found it via other means. And it is actually a couple weeks old. But still worth a fisking, in my view: http://mormontimes.com/ME_blogs.php?id=1586.

    Is it just me, or is this as ridiculously hyperbolic as that Meridian piece from some time ago?

    AB

  44. Kristine on August 20, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Julie, I’m sure this will be too cynical, but my sense is that the Church tends to get involved in political issues that it sees as critical to group boundary maintenance at any given point–so, late 1800s, polygamy; early 20th-century W of W; post-1960s, anything to do with family and gender roles. Whatever it is at a given moment that marks us as “not of the world” is what we’re willing to take on “the world” over.

  45. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Kristine, what’s interesting about that, I think, is that it suggests that the church’s opposition to legislation is maybe not primarily about the legislation per se but about the effect that the opposition has on church members.

  46. Julie M. Smith on August 20, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Aaron, how can you not love someone threatening to topple the government?

  47. Kent on August 20, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    sscenter (41): for what its worth, I believe the Church has been burned when supporting particular candidates, at least as early as 1902, when Lorenzo Snow cut a deal with Republicans that, among other things, ensured the election of Thomas Kearns as Utah’s third US Senator. By 4 years later, Kearns had turned against the Church and used his fortune and his newspaper (the Salt Lake Tribune) to support an attack on the Church over several years.

    I don’t know what other candidates the Church has supported (it didn’t support Kearns openly, but many Church leaders reportedly leaned on the state legislators who elected Kearns), but I’m sure incidents like this quickly soured Church leaders on supporting individual candidates instead of supporting specific issues.

  48. Mike on August 20, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Re #20:

    Notably, some of the things on that list are basically saying “the church has no official position on this” and some others aren’t really political statements. Saying that we should work to thwart child molestation and should be reporting perpetrators to legal authorities is hardly a political stand.

    To answer the original question, I think Velska (#25) seems to be on to something to point out that both ERA and SSM relates to the family. I also agree with Adam’s list for the most part, and perhaps its not quite accurate to separate things into two concrete columns, but rather there are some things that are in a gray area where a judgment call must be made by church leaders (with inspiration of course).

  49. MG on August 21, 2008 at 10:34 am

    The impetus for church involvement in this issue became clear to me last Sunday in the Book of Mormon Sunday School class. We spoke of when war was justified. One theme that came out from the scriptures and the prophets is that when the freedom of the people, their agency, is jeopardized, especially their freedom to teach and practice their religion, then the line has been crossed. This was the tipping point for the War in Heaven, as Satan sought:

    “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;” (Moses 4:3).

    At this point even the God of Heaven got involved in the war. What is the war being waged today? The war of ideas. A few examples for given in the church document, such as:

    “For example, advocates and government officials in certain states already are challenging the long-held right of religious adoption agencies to follow their religious beliefs and only place children in homes with both a mother and a father. As a result, Catholic Charities in Boston has stopped offering adoption services.”

    Many more could have been given. It is naive to believe that if all-out acceptance of SSM occurred there would not be repercussions that could even reach into our meetinghouses, which has already occurred in Europe (the priest being locked up for “hate speech,” teaching SSM was a sin).

    The freedom of the religious and those with traditional values is what is at stake, and I believe that is the tipping point at which the church got involved. See the excellent article from the National Catholic Register “Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and the Persecution of Civil Society” at

    http://ncregister.com/site/article/15099/

  50. MikeInWeHo on August 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    The locked-up priest in Europe story has no basis in fact, MG.

  51. Kaimi Wenger on August 21, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    I wouldn’t say “no basis,” Mike. What did happen is still kind of disturbing. (MG’s conclusion is wrong, though.)

    The priest (whose sermon was I believe a general anti-gay sermon, not specifically about gay marriage) was prosecuted under a hate speech law, and was convicted. He was sentenced, too. However, the appellate court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s ruling. No one went to prison.

    Also, this occurred in Sweden, which does not have the same constitutional protections on speech and religion as the U.S. (I understand that they have some protections, but not as much as the U.S.)

    Moral of the story: Speaking against homosexuality won’t really get you locked up. Not even in Sweden.

  52. MikeInWeHo on August 22, 2008 at 12:54 am

    It certainly highlights the problems with hate-speech laws, which are such a dangerous idea imo.

  53. NOYDMB on August 23, 2008 at 12:48 am

    AB,
    Why am I not surprised to see you try and silence OSCard when you disagree with his viewpoint?

    And I’m certain if SSM is made illegal via law or consitutional amendment you would probably be the first to attack the US.

  54. NOYDMB on August 23, 2008 at 12:52 am

    “It began with the persecution of Catholic Charities in Boston. The archdiocese eventually closed down its adoption program, because the state of Massachusetts insisted that every adoption agency in the state must allow same-sex couples to adopt.

    Recently, a Methodist organization in New Jersey lost part of its tax-exempt status because it refused to allow two lesbian couples to use their facility for a civil union ceremony. In Quebec, a Mennonite school was informed that it must conform to the official provincial curriculum, which includes teaching homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.

    At last report, the Mennonites were considering leaving the province rather than permit the imposition of the state-sponsored curriculum on their children.

    And recently, a wedding photographer in New Mexico faces a hearing with the state’s Human Rights Commission because she declined the business of a lesbian couple. She didn’t want to take photos of their commitment ceremony.
    Perhaps some people think it is okay to shut down Catholic adoption agencies, because the Catholics have it coming to them: The Church’s enemies are many. Perhaps some people don’t care for Methodists, and don’t care whether they lose their tax-exempt status.

    But the Mennonites? These are the most inoffensive people on the planet. They have been pacifists for centuries. Their continued existence here in North America is a testimony to the strength of our ideals of religious tolerance and pluralism, in all the best senses of those terms. But now, in the name of equality of same-sex couples, the Mennonites are being driven out of Quebec.

    Perhaps you think people have a natural civil right to marry the person of their choosing. But can you really force yourself to believe that wedding photography is a civil right?

    Maybe you believe that same-sex couples are entitled to have children, somehow. But is any doctor they might encounter required to inseminate them?

    Advocates of same-sex “marriage” insist that theirs is a modest reform: a mere expansion of marriage to include people currently excluded. But the price of same-sex “marriage” is a reduction in tolerance for everyone else, and an expansion of the power of the state. ”
    From Jennifer Norse, link above.
    MikeInWeHo,
    How are earth can you justify this fallout from your movement?

  55. Nate W. on August 23, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Congratulations Mike, you are now the spokesman for all gay people. Use your powers wisely…

  56. Captain Moroni on September 16, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Comment 55 expresses fears of what MAY happen if SSM is legalized. The problem with that is that the scriptures tell us that God frowns on those “who allow their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others”. In CA, Gays HAVE the right/liberty to marry. Our attempts to infringe upon that right/liberty is therefore condemned in scripture. See also 1 Cor. 10:29.

    In addition, our opposition is a prime example if “steadying the ark” which is defined as intentionally violating the scriptures because, in our belief, something bad MAY happen if we don’t violate the scriptures. Those wishing to infringe upon the current rights of gays because gays MAY sue for access to our temples or MAY sue to allow outed gays to attend BYU, are steadying the ark. We need to do what is right and let the consequence follow.