Gays and the Church: Whose Ox is Being Gored?

October 14, 2009 | 165 comments
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When people talk about Prop 8 or gay-Mormon relations generally, a common theme is that a smaller, less powerful group is the victim of an unfair attack from a larger and more powerful aggressor. This theme is used repeatedly on both sides of the debate. It was a central theme in Elder Oaks’ recent talk about religious liberty. And it was immediately raised in criticisms of that talk, with church critic Fred Karger telling the Associated Press, “They are trying to be the victim here. They’re not. They’re the perpetrators.” It’s clear that this basic framing is employed by both sides in the argument. This raises the question — who is the bully here? Whose ox is being gored?

Interestingly *both* the LDS and gay communities have plausible evidence to support the claims that they are the victim group.

The first major factor at play is that both communities have a long history of persecution. LDS persecution is well known around here. The most obvious example is the Extermination Order. (Yes, I know the Extermination Order followed on the Salt sermon and other sometimes aggressive acts by church leaders; it was still an unwarranted and targeted attack.) Other examples are legion, from Johnston’s Army to United States v. Reynolds. The Romney campaign put Mormons in the spotlight again, and national publications ran articles by Jacob Weisberg and Christopher Hitchens, mocking Mormonism. At present, church members are likely to feel, with some justification, that they will be criticized for their views from both the secular political left and the evangelical political right.

Persecution of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered/transsexual) people is also well established. LGBT individuals are still regularly subjected to egregious harassment including physical assault, violent beatings, and death in some cases. They often face special limitations on their employment — they may not serve openly in the military, for instance, and in a number of jurisdictions they may be fired for their sexual orientation. They were told for many years that their orientation was a mental illness (the DSM only removed homosexuality from its list of disorders a generation ago), and they have been consistently subjected to unequal treatment under law — recall, for instance, that it was only in 2003 that the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing gay sex.

Both groups have been regular targets for media attacks, and continue to struggle to shake negative stereotypes. Mormons are stereotyped as polygamists, gays as child molesters. Because both groups have a lengthy history of persecution, both groups have a finely tuned radar for anything that could look persecution-like.

The second major factor is that both communities have been unusually successful, in some ways, at overcoming their minority status and achieving some power in majority society. Both groups are [edit to add: perceived as] relatively affluent in comparison to the rest of society. Both groups have achieved high profile success stories. We Mormons count the Senate majority leader among our number, as well as major presidential candidates. Mormons wield immense political power in Utah and some political power in many other western states. Gays and lesbians have become highly visible in culture and arts, and include a small but growing number of political supporters as well.

Thus, it is plausible not only for each group to construct narratives about its own difficulties, but also to construct narratives about the other group’s unusual power.

This creates the backdrop for a variety of misunderstandings. Scholars have long noted that oppressed minority groups can tend to see all of their experiences through the lens of oppression. For instance, Lisa Ikemoto (1993), writing about African-American/Korean-American conflict in Los Angeles, notes that both sides see their own experiences through the lens of the white supremacist aggression which their own community has suffered. “The stories of intergroup conflict came from the master narrative of white supremacy,” writes Ikemoto. “We interpret our experiences by reference to familiar stories about the world.”

And it is clear that both Mormons and gays interpreted Prop 8 and its fallout as an example of an attack by powerful outsiders on their own vulnerable and persecuted community. Gays viewed the attack as one on their civil rights in marriage, and framed Prop 8 as an attempt (ultimately successful) to take away their hard-won civil rights. In the context of prior history of official and unofficial anti-gay bigotry and discrimination, this narrative was easy to construct. The LDS church was placed in the role of oppressor, and the gay community reacted accordingly. The church’s actions, and its high profile, made it an easy fit into the established and historical narrative of gay persecution.

Meanwhile, church members saw a different kind of attack. Church members viewed themselves as innocent citizens expressing their right to vote on a political matter. Some church members lost jobs over Prop 8 fallout, temples were picketed and in some cases vandalized. This was also placed in the context of prior LDS persecution. Anti-Mormons in the past had violently suppressed the Mormon vote. This narrative, well-known among church members, is one where Mormons courageously seek to participate in the democratic process, only to be thwarted by violent mobs. Temple demonstrations following Prop 8 were quickly placed into that narrative structure, which became a story of gay mobs seeking to block the valid democratic actions of church members.

The fact is, the impact on both groups was much less than the rhetoric would suggest. As I have written elsewhere, the removal of the marriage label, while it created important psychic and personal losses among LGBT people, did not remove any significant legal rights, and is thus really not in the same league as most prior anti-gay discrimination. Similarly, the noisy but generally non-violent protests at temples were nothing like the sack of Far West or imprisonment of Mormon leaders. Ultimately, both actions were largely symbolic rather than substantive in their effects.

Both communities, however, saw these actions through the lens of past oppression narratives. And both communities overreacted. (And both claim a plausible reason for their reactions — church members view themselves as beleaguered defenders of traditional marriage, while LGBT activists see themselves as beleaguered defenders of civil rights for an unpopular minority.)

Thus, this is a conflict in which both communities are able to (1) create a narrative in which they claim minority status and victim status for their own group, (2) within that narrative, discount the minority status of the other group, and (3) construct a plausible argument within their own group narrative showing that it was the other side who fired the first shot.

This creates a particularly tense situation. There are a number of people of good faith on both sides of the debate, but it is not clear that any detente will be able to be reached in the near future. The fact that both groups have cast the issue as one of minority oppression means that any resolution will need to address not just one but two often contradictory oppression narratives.

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165 Responses to Gays and the Church: Whose Ox is Being Gored?

  1. fmhArtemis on October 14, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Nice work, Kaimi.

  2. ECS on October 14, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    “As I have written elsewhere, the removal of the marriage label, while it created important psychic and personal losses among LGBT people, did not remove any significant legal rights, and is thus really not in the same league as most prior anti-gay discrimination.”

    Hi, Kaimi – I don’t know which prior writing you’re referring to here, but I disagree with your analysis that Prop 8 simply prevented gays from using the label “marriage” to describe their relationships and as such did not violate any significant legal rights. One of the primary motivations for stripping the marital label from homosexual relationships is prejudice against gays and lesbians. As a result of that prejudice, the segregation of homosexual civil unions from traditional heterosexual marriage is at the very least a denial of substantive due process.

  3. z on October 14, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    The important difference, though, is that the anti-gay-marriage Mormon side, though it may have won the battle, is losing the war, is it not? Therefore I view reconciliation as unimportant, because I think it’s only a matter of time before gay marriage becomes a reality in most states and federally, and that the Mormon church will ultimately come around. I hope not as belatedly as it has in the case of racial discrimination.

  4. Randy B. on October 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    To follow up on ECS’s point (#2), if the California legislature had passed a law that did not technically change any underlying legal rights, but recharacterized as a matter of state law sealings conducted in the temple as “civil unions” rather than “marriages,” I wonder if folks here would have the same view as to the relative insignificance of the change.

  5. Hellmut on October 14, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    That’s too clever by half, Kaimi. To sustain your argument, you have to ignore timing, which would reveal who the real aggressor is.

    As Clausewitz observed, defense initiate war because the aggressor would love to take over our country peacefully.

    Perhaps it was bad form to boycott donors to Prop 8 but it is clearly retaliation, i.e. an aggressive response to prior aggression.

    Except for gay Mormons and their friends, most gays in America could have cared less about all things Mormon had it not been for the aggression of the brethren and their followers. The reaction of the gay community is essentially defensive.

    Although defense may be just as destructive as aggression, they are not equivalent.

    Perhaps, gays would have been better off not to sink to the level of the aggressors and to turn the other cheek but the timing of the events clearly determines who is the aggressor and who is the defender.

  6. Silus Grok on October 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Well said, Kaimi.

  7. Silus Grok on October 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Ah, Hellmut, nice canard.

  8. z on October 14, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Additionally, the goal of the Prop. 8 gay rights movement is to attain the right to marry. It isn’t anything particularly directed towards Mormons. Mormons and the LDS church were being asked to do nothing more than to tolerate the existence of gay people, religious diversity, and civil laws that do not match up exactly with a particular doctrine– the same thing that is asked of all religions and all people in our society in various ways. By contrast, the goal of LDS church involvement in Prop. 8 was to invalidate existing gay marriages and to prevent future gay marriages. And this particular issue was singled out for a massive deployment of funds and human resources, out of all the supposed problems facing the nuclear family and (ugh) “traditional” marriage. The attack is much more clearly directed at the particular group, and thus the narrative of victimhood more plausible.

    So sorry, Kaimi, I just don’t buy it. I think you’re trying to create a false equivalence so you don’t have to feel like your co-religionists are in the wrong.

  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 14, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Randy B. — actually, in the 1800s when the Church was undergoing severe persecution over marriage choices it would have gladly taken that step. Remember that was when the Idaho constitution made the belief, not the practice, of LDS marriages a bar to voting.

    One of the “too clever by half” matters is the open, public choice by some in the Prop 8 matter to attack the LDS members as a small group that could be attacked rather than the larger groups who carried more mass in the voting but who were not deemed safe to attack.

    Thus the narrative that Prop 8 was all the fault of the evil mormons (in spite of people such as Steve Young’s wife who publicly was on the other side) as a constructed, intentional assault on a targeted minority group.

    On the other hand, I think it is hard to underestimate the impact of the “psychic and personal losses” that people suffered. But then I’ve always favored “let them marry who, how and what they may” (and if you don’t recognize the paraphrase, then you aren’t familiar enough with LDS issues to be speaking knowledgeably here ;) ).

  10. Tatiana on October 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Excellent post, Kaimi.

  11. Hellmut on October 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Anything of substance to add, Silus, or are you just showing off your vocabulary?

  12. Dan on October 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Hellmut,

    #5,

    Who is the aggressor? Is it not the one who prepares far in advance for such a move? In this case here, both sides have been itching for this fight for some time, it seems.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/11/3/15369/3779/711/651188

    Those are memos from church leaders in 1997 strategizing how to proceed with a referendum on this very issue.

  13. Ben on October 14, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Wow, Kaimi writes an even-handed post, and out come the liberal claws :)

    Randy B, I wouldn’t care.

  14. Yvonne on October 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Kaimi:

    Very well done piece, but my observation is this: you’ve framed the dispute exclusively in political, “traditional” and legal terms. Perhaps some of us viewed Prop 8 as more – as an affront to Gospel beliefs. I believe these beliefs reach far beyond simple traditional views of marriage. Perhaps we view the dispute in spiritual rather than temporal terms. What happened to following the basic teachings of the Gospel?

  15. Hellmut on October 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    I might agree with you, David, if there were evidence that gay rights activists have planned for more than a decade to boycott Mormon businesses. That does not seem to be a plausible suspicion.

    But I might be wrong and would love to see more evidence.

    More importantly, the fact that Belgium prepared herself to repel the German invasion during World War I does not establish that Belgium was just as aggressive as Germany. That claim would be absurd.

    Likewise, even if it were true that gay rights activists prepared to tangle with Mormons more than a decade ago, that would not be sufficient to establish that gay rights activists were the aggressors.

  16. Dan on October 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Yvonne,

    What happened to following the basic teachings of the Gospel?

    What kind of religion are we if we impose our morals and standards upon those who do not accept our morals and standards? Are we no different than the Taliban?

  17. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 14, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Hellmut, I don’t think it is terribly relevant that some gay activists have been planning attacks against the LDS Church since the 1970s? So what? It isn’t as if gays are some monolithic group with a concrete, focused and agreed upon agenda.

    That some people in any group have planned for a contingency doesn’t mean that it was a focus, though it does allow for faster responses (some times).

    In this particular matter, there are two ways to look at it. One as some were defending a status quo they feel has important connotations. The other as defending a right to change a status quo. Both can find ways to cast themselves as defenders.

    After the initiative, the story gets reshaped. Why was the LDS Church attacked rather than the AME Church (for example) or the Catholic Church? Both were bigger players with more voters involved.

    There were open, public discussions of who to demonize and why the LDS were a great target.

    Picking a group out of those on the other side as the one to demonize and attack generally does not make one a defender vis a vis that group.

    On the other hand, most of the people involved, on both sides, were defending.

    Kami gets that right.

    In addition, the implacable force of history is not necessarily going in a specific direction. Take womens rights. In saga era Iceland, Women had equal rights. They would lose those rights as history progressed, only to get them again. There are some women who fear that cycle will repeat.

    Race relations are another area where the force of history is not necessarily going the direction one would expect. I deal with some Asians who see my views on race as a charming provincial superstition and who think that the equality of races is a silly American foible, along with the American belief in the equality of sexes. Harmless for the most part … and useful for taking advantage of outliers who would otherwise be submerged by stereotypes, but a bit silly.

    It is things like this which complicate the entire story.

    As do knee jerk reactions by some people.

    We need a lot more kindness and understanding of the pain of those on the other side and their needs. Being distracted by the knee jerk responses of anti-LDS posters who are post-christian in many ways (yes, Hellmut, that means you and others) would lead people to conclude that some facts are more important than they are.

  18. Jack on October 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    C’mon, Dan. Are you suggesting that the Taliban uses the voting booth to affect change?

    Hellmut,

    The battle ground is marraige not LDS owned businesses — strange logic.

  19. JonW on October 14, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Dan,

    Honestly do you not think that Gay and Lesbian organizations were not creating strategies on how to proceed? Of course they were.

    Having watched this in Canada, the agressor, if one can be called that, was the Gay and Lesbian community who kept actively pushing these ideas forward regardless what others have said. Including politicians who suddenly changed their minds in less than five years.

    I think the Church saw the way it went in Canada, where they lost because they did not do anything other than some interventions in a few court cases.

    I think this taught them to be active in the process.

    That is my impression as a person involved on the ground in the debates here.

  20. Rob Perkins on October 14, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    #12 — I thought those memos were related to DOMA actions in several states, and the constitutional amendment process underway at the time in Hawaii.

  21. Confutus on October 14, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    When did homosexuals become the supreme arbiters of the morals and standards of the whole society?

    We aren’t attempting to impose our own standards on gays. We’re not persecuting them: we haven’t been out trying to get them fired from their jobs, vandalizing their meetingplaces, or threatening lawsuits over hate speech. We are resisting their attempt to impose their morals and standards on everyone else, (not just ourselves) by force of law.

    At the same time, we were siding with those who believe that the voice of the people, rather than the voice of unelected judges, should be supreme in a constutional republic.

  22. Dan on October 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Jack,

    #18,

    No, of course not. I am stating that the Taliban think it is their arrogant right to impose their religion upon anyone within their periphery. I was struck by Yvonne’s argument wherein she says

    Perhaps some of us viewed Prop 8 as more – as an affront to Gospel beliefs. I believe these beliefs reach far beyond simple traditional views of marriage.

    Why would it be an affront to gospel beliefs when it has no effect upon those who accept the gospel? Unless we believe in projecting our moral beliefs upon others through the law.

    Free societies tend to have far more tolerance of differing standards and beliefs. Do we truly believe in free society or do we believe in a theocracy?

  23. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 14, 2009 at 10:20 pm
  24. WJ on October 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Dan,

    “What kind of religion are we if we impose our morals and standards upon those who do not accept our morals and standards? Are we no different than the Taliban?”

    I think it goes without saying that your comparison is absurd on its face. We shouldn’t presume that a religion that has morals and standards, and actually advocates for those standards, is necessarily a Taliban-equivalent if those standards happen to impinge on the practices of others.

    Laws by their very nature circumscribe certain behaviors based on what society views to be acceptable and what it does not. Almost without exception, laws will impact some people or group of people in an adverse way.

    But I think, Dan, your comment raises a larger issue. You (and others who have posted here) obviously believe the church’s moral standard in this case is an incorrect one. From a spiritual perspective that seems to be a bold position to take. But my question is why? What makes this position the wrong one? It can’t be that you are opposed to discrimination. Thats too easy and is merely a cop out. Our laws discriminate all the time, and justifiably so. We often liken this issue to the church’s stance on race relations decades prior. Are these issues the same? Is sexual orientation no different than differences in skin color?

    I think the real question at issue is what do we think about the nature of homosexuality? If we can answer that question (an obviously difficult, if almost impossible task), we can then determine whether supporting/opposing it is right or wrong.

  25. LRC on October 14, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    The guy in the middle gets hit from both sides. And the battle plays on in the comments as each side tries to point out how hurt it was by the other. Congrats Kaimi.

  26. Geoff B on October 14, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Kaimi, I thought this was a well thought-out and even-handed post.

  27. Hans Hansen on October 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    re: “Johnson’s Army”

    The US Army in the Utah Expedition (1857-58 “Utah War”) was commanded by Colonel Albert Sidney JOHNSTON, thus, “Johnston’s Army”. Utah History Encyclopedia, “The Utah War”.

  28. MikeInWeHo on October 14, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks for this, Kaimi.

  29. Bill of Wasilla on October 14, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Coming from a long line of Mormons going all the way back to ancestors who gave shelter to Joseph Smith and having grown up in a strong church family, having served a mission, but also having realized that, for me, too many things simply do not add up, here’s what I think:

    Mormons, like anyone else, should be free to speak out and raise their voices on political and moral matters without experiencing violent retribution and vandalism. If they want to vote for a measure such as Proposition 8, then they should do so. If, as citizens of California and the US, they want to speak out, then they should also do so.

    That said, I think it was both wrong and foolhardy for the Church to take such an active role in Prop 8. In doing so, the Church did directly attack a group of people who, indeed, have been persecuted. When it comes to the larger society, the Church should leave moral judgments of those who do not believe as Mormons do to God.

    You cannot justifiably throw a stone at some one, hit them in the head, and then when they scream back at you, claim religious persecution, as does Dallin Oaks, and then say that your first amendment rights are being attacked.

    Even if straight members of the church (and what torment gay members, created that way by nature – God, if you will – must live under) cannot help but believe the gay lifestyle to be a sin, they should have the decency to step back and let them live as they will. No gay marriage will ever pose a threat to or damage my heterosexual marriage.

    It is built on the love between my wife and I. We are not threatened by the love other people feel for each other, or even the lust they practice together.

    And, as my quadruple-great grandfather had seven wives and 63 children and was a very well-respected Mormon, I got a bit of a kick out of Oak’s statement, ““We follow Jesus Christ by adhering to God’s law of marriage, which is marriage between one man and one woman. This commandment has been in
    place from the very beginning.”

    Despite our protestations, we profess what is convenient for us.

    Furthermore, though the majority of the founding fathers may have been practicing Christians, Oaks contradicts himself when he praises them for creating a nation where anyone is free to live according to their own conscience, free from the imposition of others religious believes, and then turn around to claim that Gays and Lesbians who wish to marry must be governed by his religious belief.

  30. Kaimi Wenger on October 14, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks for your comments, all. This is a good discussion, and I’m enjoying reading the comments. Let’s see, some specific responses (and apologies for the brevity on these):

    Artemis, Geoff, Tatiana, Silus, Ben, Ethesis, LRC — thanks :) . I appreciate the kind words, especially on a post which is drawing some criticism from both sides of the debate.

    ECS,

    That’s the basic claim in Marriage Cases, and I think it’s legally correct that there is some discriminatory effect (and this claim underlies the equal protection / due process claims). That said, the Cal statute is very clear that registered domestic partners do receive all of the same legal benefits as married people.

    Z,

    I think it’s quite possible, and perhaps likely, that the church will not only not win this fight, but will eventually concede as in the case of race. Demographic numbers do suggest it’s a possibility, maybe a probability, that the country will accept same sex marriage in general within the next few decades.

    As for the church’s belated coming around on racial issues, it was about 10 years behind the curve. That’s not a great place to be, but it’s not the case either that the church was terribly behind the times for a lengthy period of time. Loving v. Virginia was 1967; OD-2 was 1978. (The Civil Rights Act was 1964, which would be another place to start the clock running.) Brown was 1954, but isn’t really a starting point because it wasn’t truly put into place (that “all deliberate speed” language) for another 15 years.

    For some numbers on just how racist society was (pulled from Renee Romano’s book _Race Mixing_, Harvard UP, 2003):

    -1963 Newsweek poll showed that nationwide, over 90% of white parents would disapprove a teenage daughter dating a Black person.
    -Overall, white approval for interracial marriage was at 4% (!) in 1958. By 1968, it had increased, but only to 20%.

    (Romano at 197; 207-08 ).

    Loving itself — in combination with the Civil Rights movement — had an immediate and strong effect. In 1965, 72 percent of Southern whites and 42 percent of nonsouthern whites approved of anti-miscegenation laws. By 1970, the numbers had dropped to 56 and 30 percent. (Romano at 191).

    So I don’t think that the race comparison is a worst case scenario, by any means; I think it’s quite possible that the church will retain its current position significantly past a ten or fifteen year period after broad societal acceptance of gay rights.

  31. David G. on October 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    Kaimi, thanks for the post and the interesting and important information in #30. I would only add that Utahns (at least in the legislature) saw the writing on the wall four years prior to the 1967 Loving case, and repealed the state’s antimiscegenation statute in 1963. Pat Mason’s written a great article on Utah’s antimiscegenation law and its history:

    http://history.utah.gov/historical_society/membership/documents/Spring%202008%20article.pdf

    Compare that to South Carolina, which didn’t repeal its antimiscegenation law until 1999 (!), with 40% of the populace voting nay in the measure (Haynes, Noah’s Curse, 3). Utahns were behind the curve when in came to race relations, but it could have been a lot worse.

  32. California Condor on October 14, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Bill of Wasilla (29)

    Well said. I agree with your comment. Gay marriage will likely be legal in the future. I have a libertarian attitude about it: let people do what they want.

    However, this whole Prop. 8 saga may influence schools to avoid promoting gay marriage to young school children. I think that’s a benefit of Prop. 8.

  33. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Randy,

    Interesting thought experiment. As Ethesis points out, there is a significant amount of church history and leaders’ statements to the effect that civil marriages are all worthless anyway. I think it would still have an undeniable psychic effect on many members, and they would doubtless find it very disturbing. However, it would not affect their legal rights vis-a-vis their particular partner.

    Hellmut,

    I’m making no statement or conclusion as to who the “real aggressor” is or may be, or any judgment regarding the moral equivalence of each side’s actions. This post merely sets out the fact that both sides have, based on their own community histories, constructed plausible oppression narratives arising from their communities’ experiences with Prop 8.

    Z,

    I tend to agree with you on the merits, in that Marriage Cases was not an attack on the church (and I’ve said so on blog). However, it is clear that it is perceived as such by some members, and that that perception is an important part of their narrative regarding Prop 8.

    Ethesis,

    I think it’s correct that the Mormon narrative of oppression draws on the idea that Mormons as a group were specifically targeted for their actions regarding Prop 8. Many other groups raised funds for Prop 8 and voted for it, and the perception — which I think is correct, though I would have to verify — is that Mormons were especially targeted. I don’t think that’s 100% true (at least some other prominent Prop 8 supporters, such as Saddleback Church and Manchester Hyatt, have also been subject to protests and boycotts), but it’s certainly a widespread perception.

    And I agree, it’s easy to gloss over the impact on same sex couples. I have no doubt that it was a very real, very profound, very personal impact.

  34. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Yvonne,

    I have no doubt that there are a number of other issues here, including whether the church’s actions regarding Prop 8 were consistent with its mandate to act with Christian charity towards other people. I don’t address them in this post, which is only a very small piece of the puzzle regarding the church and Prop 8.

    Ethesis writes,

    In this particular matter, there are two ways to look at it. One as some were defending a status quo they feel has important connotations. The other as defending a right to change a status quo. Both can find ways to cast themselves as defenders.

    Bingo.

    After the initiative, the story gets reshaped. Why was the LDS Church attacked rather than the AME Church (for example) or the Catholic Church? Both were bigger players with more voters involved.
    There were open, public discussions of who to demonize and why the LDS were a great target.
    Picking a group out of those on the other side as the one to demonize and attack generally does not make one a defender vis a vis that group.
    On the other hand, most of the people involved, on both sides, were defending.

    And bingo again. :)

    In addition, the implacable force of history is not necessarily going in a specific direction.

    And again.

    We need a lot more kindness and understanding of the pain of those on the other side and their needs.

    And triple bingo. Excellent comment. :)

    JonW,

    Interesting data point.

    Though the follow is, of course, what exactly has the church lost in Canada?

  35. Silus Grok on October 15, 2009 at 12:45 am

    @Yvonne: framing this issue in political terms is wholly appropriate, as the entire matter was carried out in the political realm. Had this been a simple doctrinal matter, it could/should have been handled over the pulpit …

  36. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 12:52 am

    Confutus,

    I don’t think that the argument that the church’s actions were entirely non-aggressive really holds up. One may accept the reasoning that gays lose nothing of value if the label marriage is lost (certainly a position which most gays would not agree to). However, beyond that, the Protect Marriage coalition argued in its briefs that interim marriages ought to be retroactively nullified. That was viewed as an extreme affront, and if that argument had succeeded it would absolutely have significantly affected the legal rights of married gay couples not in a registered domestic partnership — they would have lost community property rights, spousal visitation, inheritance rights, and so on.

    As for alleged hate speech lawsuits — err, where? There has not been to my knowledge a single hate speech judgment against anyone in the United States for speaking against same sex marriage. This is a straw man.

    On the other hand, I think that one can absolutely make democratic legitimacy arguments, that Marriage Cases was an improper judicial usurpation of a role properly taken by the legislature. Those arguments are not convincing to everyone, but they are certainly coherent arguments and reach back to a lengthy history in various debates about the role of courts.

    That argument does lose a good deal of its force in cases like New Hampshire, where marriage is put in place by elected legislators.

    WJ,

    I think it’s correct that a person’s views on Prop 8 are often correlated with their views on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. The correlation is not perfect, but a rough correlation seems to exist, in my perception.

  37. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Hans,

    D’oh! Okay, I’ll fix that. Of all the silly typoes to make. Yes, I do actually know that it’s Johnston.

    Mike,

    You’re welcome, my friend. :)

    Bill,

    Well said. On the one-man one-woman quote — no kidding! Yeah, that’s a tough one to say with a straight face. And I agree on the low likelihood of damage to heterosexual marriages, as well.

    I think you’re right on the general balancing factors. Church members should be free to speak on issues, and should in fact do so. One of the bittersweet aspects of Prop 8 is that it did wonders in galvanizing wards towards unified actions.

    David,

    That’s right, Utah was ahead of the curve on that one, I had forgotten that.

    Utah is such an odd mixture of progressive and regressive sometimes: Early early womens suffrage is linked with polygamy (as set out in Van Wagenen); Utah enacts a slave statute, as one of the last territories to do so (wasn’t it the last, actually?), but inserts special protections into it; and so on. What an odd state. :)

  38. MarkP on October 15, 2009 at 1:11 am

    We are not threatened by the love other people feel for each other, or even the lust they practice together.

    Now, if only that were actually part of the argument instead of a particularly vapid bumper sticker.

  39. MarkP on October 15, 2009 at 1:12 am

    I think the real question at issue is what do we think about the nature of homosexuality?

    No, the question is what are we going to codify in law.

  40. Rob Briggs on October 15, 2009 at 1:44 am

    A helpful, well-balanced post, Kaimi.

    General comment: Kaimi referred to minority group oppression and the tendency of either group to view the other as an “oppressor.” Somehow in this thread “oppressor” morphed to “aggressor” which then brought forth comparisons to Germany invading Belgium in WW I! That invokes the morality of defensive war. Under that head, only defensive war is justified while aggressive war is immoral. Thus, the “aggressor” is unjustified if not immoral.

    Frankly, I think that’s wrongheaded. It’s better to recognize that both voting blocs were legitimately exercising their political rights within the American political system. (I’m leaving aside the question of the Church’s decision to involve itself in a high-profile way. Over time, how that decision will impact one of its primary goals — missionary outreach — remains to be seen.)

  41. Bill of Wasilla on October 15, 2009 at 2:24 am

    You sparked a good discussion, Kaimi. I only recently found this blog. I will be back often. It would be fun to get my Wasilla blog in the blog roll, but its probably too far off base. Occasionally, I do work in some Mormon related posts. Not too often right now, but some day, should I succeed in exploring some family and personal history in the way that I hope to.

    Plus, I stop at lots of coffee shops, so maybe that right there is enough to keep me out of the blog roll. But my Mormon heritage remains important to me and, however far off the Mormon track I have gone, I am a product of the Mormon Church, which means my blog is, too.

    But please, come by and visit! Just click my name and you will be there. Everyone is invited.

    Thank you

  42. MikeInWeHo on October 15, 2009 at 3:24 am

    While I’m obviously the least objective person here, I believe the gays’ narrative has more validity. Here’s why: This is a much longer story! Mormons and gays didn’t first come into contact during Prop 8.

    Besides some nasty comments and offensive temple protests, what specifically have gays done to Latter-day Saints over the past 50 years? Seriously. Help me make a list.

    On the other hand, what have Latter-day Saints done to gays during the same period of time?
    – Supported sodomy laws: Lock ‘em up.
    – Supported the right of businesses to fire gay employees. Ditto housing discrimination: Kick ‘em out. Ditto opposing hospital visitation rights during the AIDS years: Let the ‘real’ family decide.
    – Attempted to cure gays at BYU by using shock treatment. (Zap!)
    – Excommunicated pretty much all of them.
    – Imply they are mentally ill, just this month
    – And on and on and on.

    In one narrative we say: The Church has steadfastly opposed the spread of homosexuality for decades, to defend the family.

    On the other side we say: The Church is one of the most powerful agents of homophobia in the country.

    Go figure.

  43. ECS on October 15, 2009 at 6:53 am

    Randy B’s point is well made. “Demoting” temple marriages to civil unions would prove Elder Oaks’ point and serve as the legitimate basis for a First Amendment/SDP claim. I can’t believe the argument here is that Church members wouldn’t care that their temple marriages were to be called “civil unions” – using polygamous marriages as an example.

    I feel like I’m Alice in Wonderland. The Mormon Church, which denied full membership to blacks until a generation ago and condemned the civil rights movement as a communist conspiracy, is now claiming solidarity with blacks who were lynched, raped and brutally discriminated against on a daily basis under the color of law?

    And “civil unions” are just fine for Church members? If civil unions are fine and acceptable, and since the Church has already indicated it supports civil unions for gay couples, then why is the Church against gay “marriage” in the first place? Certainly, the Church isn’t protesting only against the use of the word “marriage”. Or is it?

    I don’t understand this.

  44. Hellmut on October 15, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for your response, Stephen (17). I do not understand, however, why you would feel entitled to question my Christianity. Why would you steep to ad hominem attacks?

    Is that the latest Christlike behavior?

    My views are grounded in Christian values such as neighborliness and the desire to follow the Savior’s admonition to be a good Samaritan. I am distressed about the many Mormon children who commit suicide, for example.

    If you want to call me names, go right ahead. You only reveal the limits of your own commitment to Christ.

  45. Hellmut on October 15, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I agree with you, Kaimi, that orthodox Mormons have a tendency to perceive themselves as victims. While it is useful to describe that accurately, it is important to distinguish defense and aggression.

    In every war of human history, aggressors like to proclaim themselves the victims.

    Many Germans thought so in World War I and World War II. No matter how much my grandparents and great-grandparents might have perceived themselves to be the victims, the fact of the matter was that their country was the aggressor.

    Until Germans owned up to that, there could not be peace in Europe.

    Likewise, the reality is that Mormons are the aggressors in this case. Until we acknowledge that the Church will not be a safe place for our own children and neighbors. Neither will there be harmony between Mormons and gentiles.

  46. Dan on October 15, 2009 at 7:33 am

    WJ,

    #24,

    Laws by their very nature circumscribe certain behaviors based on what society views to be acceptable and what it does not. Almost without exception, laws will impact some people or group of people in an adverse way.

    Clearly, and the whole point of a free society is that it tolerates differing views without those views impinging on the rights of others to live as they want. The question at hand is that Mormons feel gay marriage is a threat to their religion. Is it really? In what way? For me, this question has not been well answered. In fact, a judge had a hard time getting an answer out of the lawyer defending Prop 8 folks in a federal court in San Francisco about how exactly gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage. If gay marriage is not really a threat to “religious freedom” then those religions that push to ban gay marriage are definitely reflecting their religion and standards upon a people who have not accepted those standards, and who are otherwise not a threat to that religion.

    But I think, Dan, your comment raises a larger issue. You (and others who have posted here) obviously believe the church’s moral standard in this case is an incorrect one.

    yes, I do not believe the church has proven how exactly their religious freedom is at threat from gay marriage. I personally don’t have a stake in this fight. I wish to see it resolved. Gays will not disappear from our society no matter what laws are passed, and religions will also not disappear. Can the two sides reconcile? That’s what I would like to see happen. I really don’t want to see these two sides fighting until Jesus comes (or even after).

    I think the real question at issue is what do we think about the nature of homosexuality?

    Indeed.

  47. Hellmut on October 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

    My apologies, Rob, for being unclear.

    The comparison is not about military actions but the mindset that underlies claims of victimhood. Aggressors routinely perceive themselves to be victims.

    That’s how the human mind appears to be operating. It does not change the realities of who is the aggressor and who is the defender.

  48. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 15, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Hellmut, generally I steep herb tea. I was just thinking of comments you had made that stated you did not believe in a literal God or a deified Christ. Maybe those were translation errors. I wasn’t attacking your values.

    If you do believe in God, in Christ as a member of the Godhood and in the divine calling of the LDS Church, my apologies for implying or stating otherwise and for misunderstanding things you have said in the past. If you are not post-Christian (which means embracing the values, but not the divinity, and catches large groups of people in Europe and seems to be developing in the United States), my apologies for being mistaken.

    As to comments about Supported the right of businesses to fire gay employees. Ditto I recall in the late 70s, early 80s that Salt Lake County had a non-discrimination ordinance and a hiring policy that required the county and its vendors not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. I ran across it when applying for a job with the SLC District Attorney’s office.

    That struck me at the time as appropriately progressive for the times. I’m not certain that such laws or ordinances were very common in that time period, but am open to correction.

  49. gst on October 15, 2009 at 8:42 am

    MikeInWeHo (#42), you ask what did the gays ever do to the Mormons until recently? Three words: ALBERT SIDNEY JOHNSTON. If not gay himself, clearly at least a gay sympathizer.

  50. Randy B. on October 15, 2009 at 9:02 am

    gst, pure awesomeness

  51. Hellmut on October 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Thank you very much for your gracious post, Stephen. I agree with you that anti-discrimination policies with respect to gays during the late 20th century are progressive.

    I don’t know if they were unusual but I share your estimate.

  52. Stephanie on October 15, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Interesting post, Kaimi. I appreciate the objectivity.

  53. Hellmut on October 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

    With respect to God and Jesus, Stephen, I cannot reasonably expect that other people share my opinions. Logic and biology, however, do justify the golden rule.

    From primate anthropology and game theory to Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s activism, there is a tremendous body of work that ought to persuade anyone who is humble enough to submit their opinions to logic and evidence of the value of the golden rule.

    Jews and Christians are in an advantageous position in a multi-religious society. The parallelism of the two most important commandments creates the opportunity for Jews and Christians to formulate and institute public policy without imposing their metaphysics on non-believers.

    Thou shalt love the Lord thy God as thyself.
    Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

    My argument is to focus on neighborliness instead of getting emotional about sacrilege. In public affairs or the state (res publica), the nature of God and Jesus need not matter to Christians. As long as we insist on neighborliness, we can get everything we need and everything that is good out of politics.

    It is not in the power of mortals to hurt god directly. The only way we can hurt God is by hurting our neighbors. That is why I am proposing to stop worrying so much about God in politics and our neighbors the priority of our political deliberations instead.

  54. MikeInWeHo on October 15, 2009 at 9:55 am

    re: 49 Oh wow, who knew? He looks like the great graet great grandfather of one of the Village People.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Sidney_Johnston

    re: 48 “I recall in the late 70s, early 80s that Salt Lake County had a non-discrimination ordinance and a hiring policy that required the county and its vendors not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”
    Good try, but I don’t think that supports your case. While I don’t know anything about SLC politics, I suspect the city was late to the no-job-discrimination party and passed that ordinance over LDS opposition (and certainly without Church support). Was anybody here there at the time?

    A better example would be a fully LDS dominated city like Provo. How robust are job protections and hospital visitation rights for gays there? What about Utah statewide?

  55. gst on October 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Mike, I know it’s just anecdotal evidence, but I went to visit my brother in the hospital in Provo when his appendix burst, and they were apparently unable to detect that I am a closeted gay, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

  56. CS Eric on October 15, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I think part of the reason the Church plays the victim card is that it was not the only organization that pushed hard for its passage, yet it seems to get all of the blame (credit?).

    The exit polls from that vote that stood out most to me, but seem to be the most ignored, are the ones that showed that one of the largest majorities for Prop 8 was the African-American vote. If I remember correctly, about 55% of those voters supported Prop 8. Maybe it is because I don’t live in California, but I have yet to see any real analysis of that part of the vote. The LDS Church may have led the charge, but if the only group who supported Prop 8 had been the Church, we wouldn’t have any of these discussions.

  57. ludlow on October 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

    “Church members view themselves as beleaguered defenders of traditional marriage, while LGBT activists see themselves as beleaguered defenders of civil rights for an unpopular minority.)”

    But Civil Rights trumps religious ideology.

  58. ludlow on October 15, 2009 at 10:33 am

    $49 gst, HUH?????

  59. bbell on October 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

    One quick point. The “establishment” in CA AKA Media, politicians, hollywood, Teachers Unions, labor unions etc was very opposed to prop 8. This created after the vote was settled an environment hostile to LDS folks in CA. I think a compelling argument can be made that in CA gays are very much a favored political constituency of the elite establishment and LDS are not.

  60. greenfrog on October 15, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Kaimi,

    Your post very nicely demonstrates that all that is needed for conflict is two sides, each side defending itself from the other.

    As for the Church’s position regarding anti-discrimination laws, I can attest that as of 1992, the Church was very clearly on the side of overturning laws that protected gays and lesbians from housing and employment discrimination. I lived in Colorado that year — when a public ballot initiative (“Amendment 2″) proposed a state constitutional amendment that would overturn existing anti-discrimination laws already on the books in Denver and Boulder, and that went further and would prohibit anti-discrimination laws protecting gays and lesbians anywhere in the state of Colorado. The Church actively used both its meetings and the fund-raising capacity of its membership to promote that constitutional amendment. The Church was successful in its support, Amendment 2 passed, and the anti-discrimination laws that had previously been in effect in Denver and Boulder were repealed. I had a tiny role in the state court effort to overturn that amendment. We failed, but the US Supreme Court saw things differently and declared Amendment 2 to be a violation of the US Constitution in Roemer v. Evans.

    Accordingly, the Church’s acquiescence to (or “endorsement of”? I’ve not heard of such, but perhaps there has been such an action in recent years?) anti-discrimination laws is a matter of more recent vintage.

  61. greenfrog on October 15, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Woops. “Roemer” should have been “Romer.” Never could spell his name right, even when I voted for him.

  62. djinn on October 15, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I was there in the late 70′s early 80′s, and for a very brief moment sexual orientation was a protected class in Salt Lake City. But then the law was repealed. Rocky Anderson in 2000

    In 1993 to 2006 there was a Utah state law that covered same-sex harrassment, but it was repealed in 2006. There are currently no Utah state laws at all protecting people from sexual orientation or gender discrimination.

    Since 2000, the Salt Lake City government has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

    In 2007 the anti-sodomy law was put to a vote and was not repealed, in spite of now being unconstitional.

    The Utah anit-hate crime bill doesn’t mention what constitutes a hate crime, because, according to the legislative record, the legislature did not wish to mention “sexual orientation.”

    Utah’s school safety law doesn’t mention harassment due to sexual orientation as a reason to report, and has sucessfully fought attempts to have it added.

    Utah schools are forbidden by the legislature to have school clubs for gay students.

    Utah law allows sexual orientation to be taken into account in custody cases–you can lose your kids if you’re gay.

    In the Utah constitution: “the legal union between a man and a woman. [] No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.” — so, it’s illegal in Utah for same-sex couples to have the rights granted by a civil union in CA.

    Dating partners can’t file restraining orders.

    In spite of the marriage ban, cohabitation with someone of the same sex can terminate alimony rights.

    Cohabiting unmarried persons can’t adopt.

  63. djinn on October 15, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Wow, impressive amount of errors, even for me. As an addendum, I thought I’d take all the fun out of gst’s joke. James Buchanan (who is thought to have been gay) sent Johnston’s army to Utah.

  64. derecha on October 15, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Randy B. (#4), the problem with your argument is that a sealing is a spiritual ordinance conducted in the temple by a religious institution. The state just happens to also recognize it as a marriage ceremony as it is conducted by religious clergy (no different than a Catholic or Jewish ceremony). If they said it wasn’t valid, the couple would still be able to go to the courthouse and have a legal marriage performed, and the sealing would still be valid for religious purposes. This has in fact been the case in other countries around the world where LDS couples wanting to be married and sealed have to go to a legal ceremony (i.e. courthouse) and also to the temple.

  65. gst on October 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Yeah right, djinn. They hadn’t even invented gay yet.

  66. James on October 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Interesting post and discussion.

    Building on CS Eric’s train of thought (#56), I recall there was some speculation that had Obama not been on the ballot, the African American vote may not have been enough to push Prop 8 over the top.

  67. SW Clark on October 15, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    A great analysis, Kaimi. This is the type of thing my wife would argue with her anthropology background: we often make unwise judgments when we view others through our own lens rather than on their terms.

    An important part of peacemaking is understanding, and I think this post contributes to that.

  68. gst on October 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    I’ve said it before: I think that the fact that Prop 8 didn’t even win a majority of the white vote shows that the Church has a lot of outreach to do to white people.

  69. John Buffington on October 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    The whole basis for this topic troubles me.

    Why do we confuse sacraments with laws?

    My view is that we should let organizations define what they mean by the sacrament of marriage, and keep government in the background as an agent to mediate or arbitrate when or if this contract goes awry.

    My view of the legitimacy of these other forms of marriage becomes a moot point.

    I personally view many forms (hetero non-temple) or gay or polygamous to be something that I do not strive to live, but do not expect anyone (LDS or otherwise) to necessarily share this view. This makes the formulation of public policy based on my beliefs alone, problematic.

    If people wish to have a gay marriage, and their particular faith does not permit it, then go to a church that does and seek spiritual fulfillment there, in an enviroment that is more conducive to their needs.

    The government has no more right to define marriage, than they do to dictate what kind of bread we ought to use in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

  70. Cameron on October 15, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    ‘What kind of religion are we if we impose our morals and standards upon those who do not accept our morals and standards? Are we no different than the Taliban?’ – Dan #16

    Do we kill those we disagree with? God has the same standard for all his children. Exercising a right to vote in favor of those standards in and of itself is not an attack, nor can it be seriously compared with the Taliban or Sharia law.

  71. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Much as I appreciate Kaimi’s thoughtful thesis, I am afraid I cannot endorse the equivalency argument. The only actions the LDS Church promoted were voluntary donations and voluntary contributions of time to try to persuade voters to choose to exercise their freedom in a particular way. That is, the democratic process that is the foundation of American government. The contest was fair, with the amounts spent on ads by opponents very close in amount to that spent by proponents, added to the unpaid endorsements of news media and major political figures across California.

    On the other hand, the after-the-fact retaliation by LGBT groups and individuals and their partisans have sought to harm the Church as an institution through vandalism and individuals. When is it ever justified to attack someone personally for participating in democracy? More than attacks on Mormons individually or as a church, they are attacks on democracy itself.

    The progress toward modern democratic government has been to replace personal violence and intimidation as the means of acquiring political power with a peaceful process that makes the vote of citizens or their elected representatives the final arbiter of political policy disputes. The personal aggression that some in the LGBT community have engaged in is a backward step, to a time when such “political self-help” was often directed against them. If they want to reduce politics to rioting and mobs, there is no guarantee that they will have the biggest mobs.

    This all harks back to the statement of the Thomas More character in the play, “A Man for All Seasons”, when one of his associates proposes to cut down all the laws in England in order to punish “a bad man”. More remiinds him that, when all the laws that protect civil discourse lie flat, there will be no place where good men will be able to hide from the fierce hurricanes of anarchy that will then blow.

    The LGBT community, feeling the strength of their victories in some courts and some legislatures, and their support from the liberal/progressive segment of society, appear ready to cut down the laws that protect religious people from their self-righteous vengeance.

    I am not aware of any Mormon or any group that supported Proposition 8, such as the Catholic Church, taking actions either before or after the vote to “out” people who funded the campaign ads of their opponents or to harm any opponents of Prop 8 in their persons, homes, or businesses.

    To classify the LDS Church’s organized support for Prop 8 as “aggression” or “oppression” is to side with the viewpoint of the most radical of the opponents, who see all political or legal disagreement with their own views as a sin. Indeed, LGBT advocates seem to be far more focused on the concept of painting their opponents as sinners than do the churches who supported Prop 8. I refuse to accept that label as applied to the majorities of voters who supported both Prop 8 and the previous statewide referendum that was overturned by the California Supreme Court’s 4-to-3 majority, especially the many churches who hold to the 2000-year-old standard of sexual morality that Paul taught, in a time when his society had no sanctions against widespread homosexual practices but had never even suggested adopting same-sex marriage.

  72. Vader on October 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    In determining who the aggressor is, it is indeed useful to look at who acts aggressively first, though this is not always determinative.

    It is also useful to ask who is demanding something of the other side that the other wide does not wish to give them. Which party is in that position here?

  73. Latter-day Guy on October 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    A very interesting post; an even more interesting discussion, which to a large degree seems to vindicate Kaimi’s thesis. Cleverly done, that.

  74. Brad Kramer on October 15, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I am not aware of any Mormon or any group that supported Proposition 8, such as the Catholic Church, taking actions either before or after the vote to “out” people who funded the campaign ads of their opponents or to harm any opponents of Prop 8 in their persons, homes, or businesses.

    Do a little research.

    Arguments for non-equivalency, as Raymond’s above, neglect a major component, which is what was at stake in the outcome of the democratic process. And, for that matter, in what sense is public protest or boycott not a valid form of action in a democratic society? The idea that legalizing gay marriage is as substantively threatening to religious groups who teach that homosexuality is immoral as preventing its legalization is to gay couples who wish to marry is preposterous. Religious groups have the right to try to prevent the legalization of gay marriage, but that right would not be violated by their efforts failing. The legalization of marriage does not violate the rights of people and groups to oppose its legalization. Such logic is as positively anti-democratic as it is circular.

  75. Brad Kramer on October 15, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Put in less abstract terms:
    Imagine a piece of legislation designed to prevent Mormons from keeping non-members from our temples. Anti-Mormon groups would manifestly have a right to consider our exclusionary policies immoral and to lobby and campaign in favor of the legislation. But their right to be offended by what we do or to seek through democratic participation to curtail what we do would not be violated by the failure of the legislation. And for them to consider our efforts to block the legislation to be as threatening to them as its passage would be to us would be ludicrous.

  76. djinn on October 15, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Harm? I’ll just quote the current Governor of Utah speaking about a (must I say) defeated law to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in housing and employment:

    “We don’t have a rule for everybody to do the right thing,” he said. “We ought to just do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and we don’t have to have a law that punishes us if we don’t.”
    When Jeff Robinson of KCPW asked why Utah law shouldn’t be expanded when it already prohibited discrimination based on religion and race, Herbert asked: “Well then, where do you stop? That’s the problem going down that slippery road. Pretty soon we’re going to have a special law for blue-eyed blonds.”

    How would feel, Br. Takahashi Swenson, if you could be legally fired or evicted for being LDS? Would you feel, say, harmed in your persons, homes or businesses? Two out of three. You lose.

  77. James on October 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Has it occurred to anyone else that the Church continues to be in blatant violation of Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants, specifically verses 4 and 9?

  78. Chris H. on October 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    James, that has not occurred to me. Feel free to explain.

  79. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Err, James? That idea has occurred to a whole lot of people.

    I’m not a fan of the church’s actions regarding Prop 8, and I think that arguments can be made that D&C 134 proscribes these kinds of actions. But they have to be more complicated than simply saying, “look, it’s D&C 134!”

    For instance, as a number of others have pointed out, the history of D&C 134 makes unclear the extent to which it is intended as a binding statement of institutional principles. In addition, church members disagreeing with that application of D&C 134 would probably suggest (as many have on this thread) that no actual rights were infringed. In addition, there are longstanding institutional and cultural norms favoring church involvement in issues which are perceived to be moral rather than political (and many church members would label Prop 8 this way). And so on.

    The D&C 134 argument as I’ve seen it made appears to be preaching to the choir. I have yet to see a church member who originally thought the church’s actions on Prop 8 were valid, who was then pointed to D&C 134, and who said, “holy cow, we were wrong.” However, I have seen a large number of people opposed to Prop 8, who have used D&C 134 as a “gotcha” sort of argument.

  80. James on October 15, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks Kaimi. I have tried a search here, on BCC and other places on the bloggernacle, but hadn’t though to combine your search terms on google. Silly me.

    That being said, the Doctrine in Covenants is canon. Pretty much the whole book, as far as has been my experience in the Church, is intended as “a binding statement of institutional principles.”

    That’s really the essence of what D&C is. It’s the unofficial-official ‘rule book’ of the church. It lays out how the priesthood is to be organized and function. It establishes practices and procedures. In my opinion, the onus is on one who would argue that material contained in D&C is NOT intended as a binding statement of institutional principles.

    I understand your argument regarding verse 4. There is a school of thought arguing against marriage as a “civil right.” My main beef is with verse 9. The Lord specifically warned the church about entangling itself in political affairs (JS’s presidential aspirations notwithstanding). The people of the church have the right and responsibility to flex their political muscle as CITIZENS, but warned the church to not officially get involved. That warning has gone unheeded by countless leaders throughout the years, and I don’t really understand why.

    “I have yet to see a church member who originally though the church’s actions on Prop 8 were valid, who was then pointed to D&C 134, and who said ‘holy cow, we were wrong.’”

    Now you have.

  81. Chris H. on October 15, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    James,

    D&C 134 according to the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual, is thought of as one of the lesser sections of the D&C. It is not a direct revelation. It is not the voice of the Lord. Additionally, it is written by Oliver Cowdery and passed by a conference of the Church while Joseph Smith is away from the body of the Church. I think it is largely a representation of the political views of Cowdery (which appear to be heavily influenced by John Locke). Ironically, it is this emphasis on personal autonomy and property rights that Cowdery parts with Joseph Smith.

  82. James on October 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks, Chris.

    Then perhaps it is about time the church stripped the D&C of section 134, because clearly it does not practice it any more.

  83. Chris H. on October 15, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I actually think that we interpret the ideas found in that section differently today than people might have in the 1830s. I think Elder Oaks is actually trying to draw upon that tradtion in his talk.

  84. Kaimi Wenger on October 15, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    James,

    As Chris notes, there are serious questions about the initial validity of D&C 134. In addition, it is not clear that D&C 134 is intended as a statement of limitations of the church. It seems clearly directed as a statement of what outside government officials ought to do and not do. I don’t believe there is anything in its adoption history to suggest that church leaders ever viewed it as a limitation on church action.

    A review of church history makes clear that it has never been an actual impediment to church action. Joseph Smith’s run for President is small potatoes, really (though the church sent out dozens of political missionaries to support his campaign). The church has been much more heavily involved in politics at the local and state levels at different times. Nauvoo was essentially a theocracy. Deseret and then Utah were similarly governed. Brigham Young wielded vast political power and explicitly tied political positions to church standing repeatedly on a number of issues. And so forth. D&C 134 has never that I’m aware of been viewed as a limitation to the church’s often extensive involvements in politics.

    Even beyond the problematic history of church and politics (and there are a number of good sources on that), there is a deeper problem of interpretation. D&C 134 is relatively ambiguous and can be read in various ways, including the way you’ve suggested. However, orthodox members believe that church leaders are inspired (and that inspired leaders like Brigham Young or Thomas S. Monson are not going to read the D&C incorrectly). Thus, members will tend to resolve ambiguities in favor of official church actions: D&C 134 can’t mean what you suggest it means, because if it did, then President Monson wouldn’t have asked members to become involved in Prop 8. Therefore, D&C 134 means something else, and church actions vis-a-vis Prop 8 are perfectly in harmony with it.

  85. David G. on October 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    To add to Chris and Kaimi’s comments, I agree that we read the section differently than they would have in the 1830s. Verse 9 is clearly referring to establishment (where one “established” church gets tax dollars and special privileges). When verse 4 refers to religious opinions impinging on the rights and liberties of others, I read it as referring to “rules of worship” and “public or private devotion,” not churches or religious individuals campaigning for reform in the public sphere. Religious institutions and individuals participating in the public square to promote reforms such as temperance and abolition was commonly accepted in the 19th century. The idea that the churches should be completely absent from the public square really did not develop until the twentieth century.

  86. Kit on October 15, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Great post, Kaimi, and thanks to all for the discussion.

    The Church has a right to take a stance on issues it deems of moral importance, and it also has a right to ask its members to stand up for those values as they see proper and just. The homosexual community clearly has a right to feel threatened by the stance this and other churches have taken. In my mind, peaceful demonstrations (in front of Church buildings or elsewhere) are appropriate. Criticizing the Church and its history may also be warranted (though it would be more appropriate if all churches involved were equally scrutinized). However, I hope we can all agree that attacking individuals, as Raymond mentioned, for donating to or campaigning for a particular position is oppressive and non-democratic. It is unfortunate that high emotions lead some to take such defamatory and destructive actions, but this is an issue that hits a deep thread for both sides and so a few horrific incidents are bound to occur. Fortunately, the LGBT community as a whole, I think, has shunned such tactics.

    I believe this quote from President Hinckley summarizes the Church’s position well:
    “God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will find themselves answerable to God.
    “Some portray legalization of so-called same-sex marriage as a civil right. This is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality. Others question our constitutional right as a church to raise our voice on an issue that is of critical importance to the future of the family. We believe that defending this sacred institution by working to preserve traditional marriage lies clearly within our religious and constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, we are compelled by our doctrine to speak out.
    “Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married.”

    Is not polygamy a multiplicity of marriages (the term comes from late Greek meaning many marriages)? To me, the term marriage has always meant a union of one man and one woman, where the number of marriages per individual has changed. That may be the premise for President Hinckley and Elder Oaks’s statements.

  87. WJ on October 15, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Kaimi: “However, orthodox members believe that church leaders are inspired (and that inspired leaders like Brigham Young or Thomas S. Monson are not going to read the D&C incorrectly).”

    Out of curiosity, who are the unorthodox members and what are their views of modern prophets?

    And in response to one of your previous (#36) comments, I think your point is a fair one that there exists a correlation between one’s views on Prop 8 and their views on homosexuality. My point, however, was a different one. It seems increasingly common in discussions about same sex marriage for participants to sidestep any discussion of homosexuality itself; Its merits and drawbacks, its causes and effects, etc.

    Homosexuality is, I think, one of the more (if not most) complicated and uncomfortable (because it is so controversial and because views are so heatedly entrenched on both sides) social issues of our time, and while I might have missed the train on this one, my understanding is that we know very little about it. Since the APA removed it from the psychiatric manual in 1973, research and examination on the topic has ground to a near halt, except for a smattering of gay researchers seeking to find a genetic link. I’m not sure if the topic is avoided because it is uncomfortable, because people just don’t want to discuss it, people accept it at face value, or if many simply view it as a closed issue or moot point, etc.

  88. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 15, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Your post very nicely demonstrates that all that is needed for conflict is two sides, each side defending itself from the other.

    Indeed, I wanted to return to that topic, since conflicts are a hobby of mine (cf my main website at http://adrr.com/ — which sadly needs both updating and editing).

    research and examination on the topic has ground to a near halt, except for a smattering of gay researchers and the more the pity. I find the twin studies to be the most troubling. It would be much easier if the correlation was either higher or lower.

    D&C 134 … I prefer the argument from the Article of Faith, which I’ve cited before.

    One problem I have with the debate is that in general, I think marriage is a good thing, the more, the merrier (and, as friend noted, marriage is a pretty gay event, all in all). On the other hand, most of the arguments on both sides are so poor that I generally find myself siding against whoever I’ve read last.

    The only argument I found very persuasive, was http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html

    But seriously, am I the only one who reads the Articles of Faith that way?

    And MikeInWeHo, why don’t you do a survey of law circa the 1970s. Generally, those states with Sodomy laws did not have anti-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation laws, the same with communities. The ordinance was a Salt Lake County ordinance (District Attorney’s office, not City Attorney).

  89. Yvonne on October 15, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    If only we could Google the answer:

    Gay Rights 55,400,000; Jesus Christ, 45,500,000; Mormons 4,300,000; LDS, 9,210,000; GLBT, 3,610,000; Gay Lesbian Marriage Rights, 3,680,000; Prop 8, 33,300,000; Mormon LDS Church, Prop 8

  90. Yvonne on October 15, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    continued…207,000

  91. Confutus on October 16, 2009 at 12:07 am

    I didn’t say gays had been filing, let alone winning, lawsuits over hate speech in the US, but there have been threats.

    The screams from the gay rights advocates that their (recently and arguably improperly granted) rights were being taken away is certainly understandable, although I’m not sure how much weight that should carry against a “camel’s nose” strategy to force society to accept homosexuality on an equal basis with traditional marriage, when there are obvious differences between them.

  92. James on October 16, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Kit, I understand it is a “moral issue” as President Hinckley points out. That doesn’t deter from the fact that I don’t feel comfortable pushing my moral agenda on people who don’t happen to agree with that agenda.

    It’s not fair, and unconstitutional to use “God-given rules” to determine public policy.

  93. queuno on October 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Let’s say I’m a diehard fan of the Cleveland Browns, so much that I’ve joined the Church of the Cleveland Browns. One our tenets is that everyone must wear brown and orange on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

    Now I get elected to Congress, and my first act is to try to push the same dress code on the country.

    That’s not really unconstitutional, although it’s bad form. What’s so unconstitutional about pushing my dress code — infused by my religious views — on everyone else?

    (Obviously, the biggest victims of my crusade are those people over in Pittsburgh…)

  94. Kaimi Wenger on October 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    You’d also want to change the Spanish-word-combination handle. :P

  95. Chris H. on October 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    queuno,

    I just cannot get past the Cleveland Browns fan part. Is there really such a thing. I am not buying it.

  96. queuno on October 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Chris, that there’s a Church, or that there are CB fans? Sir, I have sat in the Dawgpound, and I have worn the Dawg nose…

  97. Chris H. on October 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    If there ever was an irrational belief system, that would be one.

  98. queuno on October 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Probably. But my point is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with an elected official attempting to legislate something he personally believes in.

  99. Chris H. on October 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I realize that. Not sure if the parable follows. Isn’t religious people voting their religious conviction different than an elected official using his/her office to advance a religion?

  100. Steven B on October 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Not only did Elder Oaks paint the Prop 8 opponents as the oppressors, he said that freedom of religion for gay people is the very thing that is threatening freedom of religion for Mormons. I discuss it further at my blog.

  101. Raymond Takashi Swenson on October 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    If I understand correctly, it appears that some of the commenters here find the simple fact of voting against giving legal status to same-sex marriage to be a denial of an already existing constitutionally protected right, and therefore an act that is per se illegal as well as immoral, and justifies hounding someone from his job.

    On the other hand, the LDS Church has not taught that voting in favor of same-sex marriage is per se immoral or sinful, and I have heard of no action to take Church disciplinary action against anyone for either voting against Prop 8 or donating to the opposition ad campaign or speaking against Prop 8.

    In this specific instance, it seems to me that the Church has been a better example of the tolerance of disagreement that is essential in a pluralistic society.

    And frankly much of my concern about this issue, as it rolls from state to state and enters the Federal arena, is the clear demonstration that many of those who are demanding same-sex marriage laws will utilize any new legal authority they gain to exercise further intolerance against those they deem to be morally inferior. I foresee an incipient campaign of intrusive censorship and personal sanctions and blacklisting, using all of the power of government, that will make anything Joe McCarthy did pale in comparison. And frankly I do not see any leaders of the LGBT advocacy groups disavowing such a “crusade” for forcible “enlightenment”.

    People are already being fired in some companies for voicing the opinon that homosexual behavior is immoral. Laws institutionalizing same-sex marriage will be used as grounds to condemn anyone in any way connected with government, as a government employee or employee of a government contractor or member of the armed forces or recipient of health insurance or grants or benefits or loan guarantees, who says that the government is endorsing immoral behavior. Religious people who cling to traditional standards of sexual morality will become second class citizens. The rights of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion will be subordinated to the new supreme right of LGBT persons to be free from criticism, as is already being done by statute in the California public school system. In California schools, there is no institutional standard to punish teachers who criticize Mormons or anyone else on grounds of religion, but any slightest implication of criticism of LGBT practices is statutory grounds for employee discipline.

    I would love to see assurances from the leading advocates of LGBT rights that they are willing to disavow such suppression of dissent and move to institutionalize, alongside same-sex marriage, the right of dissent in law. But I have seen no such assurances. Rather, we see avowals that, once they have the upper hand, they will get revenge for their former “oppression”.

  102. Chris H. on October 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    “If I understand correctly, it appears that some of the commenters here find the simple fact of voting against giving legal status to same-sex marriage to be a denial of an already existing constitutionally protected right, and therefore an act that is per se illegal as well as immoral, and justifies hounding someone from his job.”

    Raymond, you are putting words in the mouths of many people. Nice use of the straw man.

  103. Kaimi Wenger on October 16, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Raymond,

    How much writing from LGBT leaders have you read?

    Evan Wolfson, who is easily the most important figure in the marriage equality movement, has repeatedly written that he does not wish to force religious organizations to perform same sex weddings against their doctrines.

    This is clearly set out, among other places, in his book _Why Marriage Matters_ which is probably the most well-known pro-same-sex-marriage book in America. See, e.g., http://books.google.com/books?id=lhyNYOHYv4IC&pg=PA108

  104. Yvonne on October 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    James #
    “It’s not fair, and unconstitutional to use “God-given rules” to determine public policy.”

    Why is it not fair, when we wouldn’t even BE here if it weren’t for God? Everything we have is a gift from Him.

  105. Yvonne on October 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Excuse me…James #92 for question above.

  106. DavidH on October 16, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I think there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the debate. I like the proposal of David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch (who come from opposite sides of the divide) as a very good starting point, or even end point. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/opinion/22rauch.html

    They summarize their proposal in this nutshell:

    Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own.”

  107. MikeInWeHo on October 16, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    The Rauch/Blankenhorn compromise does have a certain appeal, but I just don’t see either side willing to compromise at this point in history.

    re: 101
    With all due respect, that is remarkably paranoid….but it did make me smile. Beware the Avowed Gay Avengers! Bet you don’t have a lot of day-to-day contact with the gay community, do you?

  108. Kaimi Wenger on October 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Gaydianton Robbers, so to speak. :)

  109. Dan on October 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Mike,

    Raymond is a military guy, I think. He’s not supposed to ask who is gay and he’s not supposed to tell.

  110. queuno on October 16, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    To Raymond’s point, I remember 14 years ago attending a mandatory diversity training at the large Three-Letter-Acryonym I was working for.

    We were specifically told that expressing any negative opinion about homosexual relationships was a fireable offense (we weren’t even talking about gay marriage). The point made was that the company couldn’t afford to lose any revenue from the LGBT community and that we couldn’t in any way convey in any setting that we disapproved of homosexual relationships. (This was 1995, so shortly after DADT.)

    Probably a minor example, but I don’t think Raymond is off the reservation.

  111. Alison Moore Smith on October 17, 2009 at 1:57 am

    #8

    Mormons and the LDS church were being asked to do nothing more than to tolerate the existence of gay people, religious diversity, and civil laws that do not match up exactly with a particular doctrine– the same thing that is asked of all religions and all people in our society in various ways.

    Of course. And in this particular case — as with a gazillion others — the church leadership feels the societal harm is too great to tolerate. You can disagree on that line, but I’m pretty sure you also have behavioral tolerance lines — coming from your personal “doctrine” — that you would also defend.

    #16

    What kind of religion are we if we impose our morals and standards upon those who do not accept our morals and standards? Are we no different than the Taliban?

    Oh, I don’t know. Pretty much the same kind of religion and non-religion that most value sets are. The gay community demanding marriage is trying to impose their morals and standards on others every bit as much as those opposing them. Those who demand green living are trying to impose their beliefs and values on others. Every single law we enact imposes a particular value set on others. That makes everyone and everything Taliban?

    #92

    It’s not fair, and unconstitutional to use “God-given rules” to determine public policy.

    Only Gore-given rules can do that.

  112. Cameron on October 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

    The difference is, the Creator told us to oppose same-sex marriage, while He does not care about the Cleveland Browns (which is obvious, given their history). =)

  113. Kristine on October 17, 2009 at 11:32 am

    “On the other hand, the LDS Church has not taught that voting in favor of same-sex marriage is per se immoral or sinful, and I have heard of no action to take Church disciplinary action against anyone for either voting against Prop 8 or donating to the opposition ad campaign or speaking against Prop 8.

    In this specific instance, it seems to me that the Church has been a better example of the tolerance of disagreement that is essential in a pluralistic society.”

    Raymond, this is inaccurate. There have been quiet disciplinary actions against some members for their political activities in this regard. At least one person lost his job at a church-sponsored university for publicly expressing his opinion; at least one member lost his temple recommend for doing the same. The social and cultural pressure brought to bear on members who express positions differing from the Church’s is substantial, even where there is no overt ecclesiastical or (as in the case of Church employment) financial pressure.

  114. wreddyornot on October 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Silly me. I posted to Millennial Star the other day on Oaks’s speech on religious freedom. It, however, seems pertinent to Kristine’s post above. This is, in part, what I said there:

    “The post’s premise and the one you, Geoff B., seem to advocate, along with Elder Oaks, is that the church, in its essential hierarchy and command, should be and is tolerant and in favor of free speech? Right?

    “Was it then, when, for instant, I was called during the Prop 8 furor to a position needing a temple recommend — mine had lapsed shortly before the call — and, when discussing sustention of the leaders with the Bishop, after stating that I didn’t like the Church’s involvement in Prop 8and my opinion that SSM should be permitted in society, if not in the church, and was told that “maybe” it was okay for me to hold that opinion, but it didn’t seem to be sustaining the brethren, and I should not discuss it with other members or take it public in any way, all under the threat of censure, disfellowship, and/or excommunication?

    “Explain how that is tolerance? To me, that is intimidation, and I’d like to understand why you or Elder Oaks thinks that it isn’t. I am all for tolerance — I deplore the violence and vandalism on all sides — and free speech. It doesn’t seem that within the Church, as a practicing member or, at least as one who would like to practice and yet retain the right to follow my conscience and the spirit’s whisperings to me, that tolerance is shown or free speech permitted. It seems — note I said “seems” not is; I’d enjoy reading other views on this —that it is hypocritical to advocate for tolerance and free speech “out there in public” yet to constrain and contract it within the institution and realm Oaks argues lies at its foundation.

    “It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.”

  115. z on October 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    #111, my point is that the LDS church was being asked to do the same things that everyone in society is asked to do. Gays did not “single it out” in any way, before the LDS church chose to become involved in this a manner unprecedented in its own history, singling itself out among other religions and singling out gay marriage among all other social issues. In choosing to be so heavily involved, and so public about its involvement, the LDS church singled itself out.

  116. WJ on October 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    #114: “when discussing sustention of the leaders with the Bishop, after stating that I didn’t like the Church’s involvement in Prop 8and my opinion that SSM should be permitted in society, if not in the church, and was told that “maybe” it was okay for me to hold that opinion, but it didn’t seem to be sustaining the brethren”

    Oh the horror. So let me make sure I understand. The leaders of the church have made clear their opposition to same-sex marriage, on both doctrinal and political grounds. You then tell the bishop you disagree with the leadership’s involvement in Prop 8, and then add the incredible next line that you think same-sex marriage should/could be tolerated within the church (an extreme position even on this thread). The bishop responds by telling you that “maybe” … I repeat “maybe” … your position does not sustain the leadership, and you cry foul? You demand tolerance?

    Please. Tolerance has its limits. As a member of the church there are certain boundaries set for membership, or at least, to obtain a temple recommend. If you drink alcohol you can’t demand tolerance … you broke the rules and there are consequences. Its like I tell my 3 year old: if you make bad choices, you will lose privileges. Another one of the boundaries set by the church is that you are not permitted to engage in apostate activities, which by definition includes speaking out publicly against the leaders of the church. You can’t expect to do it and then demand tolerance. You know the ground rules.

  117. wreddyornot on October 18, 2009 at 12:02 am

    WJ

    With all due respect, you misread me in some small measure, or, perhaps, what I wrote is worded poorly and not clearly explained. If so, I do apologize for that. Allow me to try and make it clearer. I said to my Bishop that I was for SSM in society, even if it wasn’t to be allowed in Church. I told the Bishop that I understood that I had no standing to effect Church policy, other than as a member with a voice and a conscience. Furthermore, I explained that I wanted to understand where the Church was coming from; it didn’t make sense to me, and I was willing to keep investigating and trying to understand to try to come to their position, although I had prayed and felt the spirit otherwise. The Bishop then told me to keep my belief about it to myself and not to discuss it with others or to publish it. The standard spiel. Put it on the shelf and let it sit. In due time, it’ll clear up. In other words, as a member, I’m to forego my free speech on the subject, on any subject where I don’t understand where it coming from. And obviously, I am, as you indicate, in violation of my Bishop’s admonition. Go ahead, tell him, tell on me. Let him know. I think he does know, because I told him I would not be silent. All who speak here against the Church’s position are in violation, I assume, too, at least in your mind.

    Back in the 1960s and 1970s as a young man, I disagreed with the leaders of the Church on civil rights and blacks and the priesthood as a matter of conscience. I was young and fearful then (some will say obedient), and I kept quiet and didn’t discuss my differences. Others didn’t keep still. I remember the Church excommunicating some of them. But, on my birthday in 1978, the policy regarding the blacks changed, and I rejoiced. I wonder, though, if I had spoken up back in my youth whether it might have helped move things along quicker. Maybe yes and maybe no. But my conscience would be clearer, and I would feel better about myself relative to it.

    Now I am still afraid, but I want to have courage. You might say that I am old and foolish and unwise, and maybe I am, but I want to know why I can’t speak up within the Church when I have questions or concerns. Why can’t others, too? Why is a civil right, like free speech, constricted under threat of censure, disfellowship, and excommunication when there are differences?

    Two common definitions for tolerance are having the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others (as in SSM) and leeway for variation from a standard. I want to be tolerant and to respect the beliefs and practices of others. I want to be sensitive and loving. You seem to take a different tack: obedience at all costs. You use the second definition, saying that I vary from standards set within the Church, judging me as an apostate. Fine. I am on this subject. And, per your theory, I am on free speech, too, because I hold differently than you seem to on that, too. I believe it likely we all are apostate in some measure or another. Even you.

  118. palerobber on October 18, 2009 at 10:30 am

    so many errors and false equivalencies…

    1. persecution
    were any mormons beaten nearly to death in the past few weeks for being mormon? have there been any statewide referendums recenty to strip mormons of marriage and related rights such as gays currently face in Washington and Maine?

    2. political power
    there are currently 5 US senators and more than a dozen US representatives who are openly mormon. mormons have served in cabinet-level positions in the executive and have on multiple occassion been top contenders in presidential primaries. mormons have served at all levels of the federal judiciary including on the supreme court. on top of that mormons essentially run one of the 50 states from top to bottom. there are currently 2 openly gay US representatives.

    3. economic power
    you repeat the myth that gays are affluent relative to the general population, when in fact just the opposite is true.

    also, while you state correctly that “[gays] were told for many years that their orientation was a mental illness” you negelct to recall that gays were told this just last month by high LDS church official Bruce Hafen.

    and finally:
    Gays viewed the attack [of Prop 8] as one on their civil rights in marriage…

    so that’s just how gays viewed it? so you are saying that wasn’t actually the literal meaning of and precise legal consequences of Prop 8? that’s just how gays “framed” the issue? wow.

  119. palerobber on October 18, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Raymond,

    did prop 8 supporters really vote “against giving legal status to same-sex marriage”? it’s been a year now but somehow i can still recall that they actually voted to remove existing legal rights.

    but what difference do facts make when you’re building a strawman? you’re “concern” over intolerance is duly noted. it may seem to you that the church is a shining example of tolerance, but to all thinking people outside your religio-conservative bubble the very name “mormon” is fast becoming a synonym for “bigot.”

    though to be fair, a large number of people were predisposed to make that negative connection due to the church’s legacy of official and non-official racism.

  120. Kaimi Wenger on October 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Interesting comment, pale robber. Let’s see:

    “1. persecution
    were any mormons beaten nearly to death in the past few weeks for being mormon? have there been any statewide referendums recenty to strip mormons of marriage and related rights such as gays currently face in Washington and Maine?”

    As to violence — um, yes. Mormons have been attacked and beaten, including some quite recently, based on their religion. See, e.g., news accounts such as here and here.

    Though I didn’t mention that in the original post. Instead, I said explicitly that

    “Persecution of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered/transsexual) people is also well established. LGBT individuals are still regularly subjected to egregious harassment including physical assault, violent beatings, and death in some cases.”

    which pretty much covers what you’ve just said, no? The original post was very clear about anti-gay violence. I’m not sure why you think that’s an error.

    2. political power
    there are currently 5 US senators and more than a dozen US representatives who are openly mormon. mormons have served in cabinet-level positions in the executive and have on multiple occassion been top contenders in presidential primaries. mormons have served at all levels of the federal judiciary including on the supreme court. on top of that mormons essentially run one of the 50 states from top to bottom. there are currently 2 openly gay US representatives.

    I believe that the original post was accurate in its description of both groups’ political influence. I stated:

    “Mormons count the Senate majority leader among our number, as well as major presidential candidates. Mormons wield immense political power in Utah and some political power in many other western states. Gays and lesbians have become highly visible in culture and arts, and include a small but growing number of political supporters as well.”

    How exactly does this differ from your own description?

    Gays viewed the attack [of Prop 8] as one on their civil rights in marriage…
    so that’s just how gays viewed it? so you are saying that wasn’t actually the literal meaning of and precise legal consequences of Prop 8? that’s just how gays “framed” the issue? wow.”

    My statement was a descriptive statement about perception by different groups. It was correct. I made no conclusions about the ultimate validity or invalidity of any particular perception.

    I stated that gays viewed Prop 8 as an attack on civil rights. I also stated that “church members viewed themselves” as “expressing their right to vote on a political matter.” This is also correct.

    For both groups, I simply made descriptive statements about group perceptions. I made no statements suggesting that either group’s framing was correct or incorrect.

  121. Kaimi Wenger on October 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    By the way, thanks for the correction about relative affluence. It’s true, as you note, that LGBT people are not especially affluent (and that TG/TS people in particular tend to be low income).

    For that matter, I don’t know if LDS church members are particularly affluent, either. It is correct, I think, that both groups are perceived as affluent (and that that perception plays a role in how each group is viewed as an oppressor in the other group’s narratives). I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

  122. WJ on October 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    wreddyornot,

    Thank you for your response, and I agree that I probably misunderstood your original post. I appreciate the clarification, and I want to clarify something from my own end. I intended to use “you” in the universal sense, and not “you” in the wreddyornot sense. My intent was not to condemn you as an apostate. My intent was, however, to highlight definitions, which I think is highly relevant in this discussion. As you pointed out, there are certainly varying degrees of apostasy, and to that extent, I agree with you that all of us are apostates on some level. But in this case, we are talking about a specific definition of apostasy as it relates to a very high profile social issue. I think it is easy for us to run far afield without realizing it, and I think its worthwhile for people to remember that. Some, of course, simply don’t care, and thats their call.

    I mentioned before that I think this issue is a really challenging and complicated one. I think most of us, regardless of which side we are on, are grappling with it and trying to understand it. In that sense I don’t think you are unique. And frankly, I don’t know of any members who revel in their opposition to same-sex marriage (I know, some of you have anecdotal stories of such, but I don’t think this sentiment exists on a general level). The issue is tough and complicated, but I wonder sometimes if we don’t give it short shrift. Rarely have I seen discussions on this issue that get below the surface. For instance, you described your situation during the 70s dealing with the church’s position on race. I think there is a tendency in the church (and definitely in society) to simplify this issue. For instance, modern prophets (and members of the quorum of the twelve – not all, of course), well before Spencer Kimball, had qualms with the policy. McKay, for example, prayed for inspiration to remove the restriction, but did not receive an answer. But we tend to think the 1978 revelation was simply the result of societal change and pressure, both within the church and without, which forced the church leadership to abdicate despite their own prejudices. So along comes the debate over gay marriage, and the concomitant assumption (with little real examination of the issue) that race and sexual orientation are identical, and people start charging out in front of the general authorities agitating for change. I’m not sure its that simple, and from a spiritual perspective, whether its advisable.

    I also wonder whether your insertion of “free speech” into the church framework is appropriate. You questioned whether it was hypocrisy to encourage free speech in larger society but not to tolerate it within the church. If the church billed itself as a democracy (even in some modified form) then I think you would have a case. But because its not, I think the comparison is mostly irrelevant. There are limits within the church that don’t exist outside the church, and I question our level of commitment if we view the modern leadership as akin to politicians whom we are free to dissect willy nilly, or to entirely disregard.

    Having said that, I think there is actually some substantial leeway granted for disagreement within the church, even on this issue, and studying/debating the issue is entirely appropriate. I just think we should be careful that we not get carried away with ourselves, as I noted earlier. My guess is you will disagree with me on this point. I don’t consider you foolish and, as with you, I also “want to be tolerant and to respect the beliefs and practices of others … [and] to be sensitive and loving.” And like you, I want to better understand. At the same time I also want to be obedient, despite how pathetically anti-intellectual obedience is viewed by many in our society.

  123. Alison Moore Smith on October 18, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    #117 WJ

    Back in the 1960s and 1970s as a young man, I disagreed with the leaders of the Church on civil rights and blacks and the priesthood as a matter of conscience. I was young and fearful then (some will say obedient), and I kept quiet and didn’t discuss my differences. Others didn’t keep still. I remember the Church excommunicating some of them. But, on my birthday in 1978, the policy regarding the blacks changed, and I rejoiced. I wonder, though, if I had spoken up back in my youth whether it might have helped move things along quicker. Maybe yes and maybe no. But my conscience would be clearer, and I would feel better about myself relative to it.

    Interesting. A similar discussion went on some time back with gay-marriage/women-priesthood discussions being compared to the black-priesthood issue.

    Personally, I am opposed to gay marriage because the church’s position is that sex outside of man/woman marriage is sinful. Unless that changes, I won’t either. But if the church position changed, I’d be glad to hear it. Having a few gay friends who I know well enough to know they tried to go the traditional LDS route (active in church, dated girls, served missions, etc.) and were unable to alter their personal drives, I’d be relieved to know they could act on their nature AND in accordance with God’s law. I can’t think of many trials more overwhelming.

    Elder Holland spoke recently about how he prayed (before he was an apostle) that blacks could have the priesthood. To me that indicates that hoping and praying for, to be frank, the church leaders to be WRONG, might not be such a terrible thing.

  124. DavidH on October 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Regarding free speech in the Church and in society. FWIW, the Church does not claim to offer free speech to its members, but our society does.

    Religious institutions do and should have free speech, as should their members. And religious institutions should have freedom to use their resources or to encourage or direct their members to use their resources in support of moral/political propositions those institutions believe important (as our Church did in California and Arizona).

    But, to paraphrase Robert Kirby, once a religious institution and its members as members enter the political fray, we should not be surprised to find that others react no more respectfully to us than to anyone else on the other side of the political divide.

    I agree with Elder Oaks that religions should not be excluded from the public square of debate and decisions. But I am not sure we deserve preferential treatment. That is, why should we be treated any better than the democrats treated Bush or the republicans treat Obama?

  125. WJ on October 18, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Alison (#123):

    “Elder Holland spoke recently about how he prayed (before he was an apostle) that blacks could have the priesthood. To me that indicates that hoping and praying for, to be frank, the church leaders to be WRONG, might not be such a terrible thing.”

    And at the same time, my gut tells me Elder Holland didn’t spend a lot of time on the blogs (so to speak) or in his communications with others broadcasting opposition to the then-prevalent doctrine advocated by the general authorities. Interesting point. And with a prophet at the helm who can receive inspiration that adds upon, alters, or wholly reverses precedent, some things always remain a possibility. Though, of course, because it has happened once on one issue doesn’t mean it must happen again on an unrelated, and perhaps fundamentally different, issue.

  126. Rob Briggs on October 18, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    DavidH,

    Good point (if we enter the political fray, we should expect vigorous and even disrespectful responses).

    If we reflect for a moment about our early history, that is abundantly clear. In the 19th century, Mormon leaders routinely and repeatedly commented on various social, economic and political issues — polygamy being among the most prominent examples. The vitriol from non- and anti-Mormons was astonishing.

    I confess I was surprised at the negative response in various quarters to Elder Oaks’ address. But I shouldn’t have been.

  127. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 18, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Kaimi, all in all, this was well done. Just my two bits, but I think you did an excellent job.

  128. MikeInWeHo on October 19, 2009 at 12:14 am

    re: 111
    “The gay community demanding marriage is trying to impose their morals and standards on others every bit as much as those opposing them.”

    This argument comes up in every post related to Prop 8, and typically goes unchallenged.

    How exactly is the gay community trying impose its morality on others? Are gays trying to force others to participate in homosexual relationships? Are they trying to prevent heterosexual marriages? Other than basically saying “leave me and my family alone!” what precisely are gays doing to others?

  129. Zen on October 19, 2009 at 1:55 am

    “How exactly is the gay community trying impose its morality on others? ”

    You are trying to tell us what we should find acceptable. And not merely acceptable, but on the same footing as what God has commanded.

  130. Clint on October 19, 2009 at 7:21 am

    #16 Dan,

    According to your logic we cannot participate in any political action for fear it will force others to follow our beliefs???

  131. MikeInWeHo on October 19, 2009 at 9:55 am

    re: 129

    In my profession we would call that distorted thinking.
    I am no more trying to “tell” you to find homosexuality “acceptable” than I am trying to tell you to start drinking Lipton. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.

    I agree with argument that the state should only be in the business of civil unions and marriage should be strictly left to the churches, mosques, and synagogues. What other way forward is there?

  132. Zen on October 19, 2009 at 11:50 am

    re: 131

    Classic economics error, Mike. You are thinking like yourself, when it is not you or I that will immediately be affected. It is the marginal case that will be affected. And when that marginal case makes a decision, it will build on itself.

    Now you are trying to tell me it is irrelevant – that it will not affect any of us. And in the short term, you are certainly correct. But when it is put on the same footing as ordinary marriage, it will have an effect over time.

  133. Craig on October 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    @Kaimi #120

    A couple incidents of violence against Mormons, targeted or not, while very regrettable, in no way compare to the decades and centuries of targeted, systematic, continuous, homo- and trans-phobic violence – just like it in no way compares to the history of racist violence. To suggest any degree of equivalence is offensive, misleading, and wrong. The chance of violence if you’re gay is very, very high and almost every gay person experiences the threat of violence several times in their lifetimes simply because they’re gay.

    @Zen,

    You are trying to tell us what we should find acceptable. And not merely acceptable, but on the same footing as what God has commanded.

    That’s not at all true.

    We’re simply saying that you don’t have the right to take away our rights because of your religious beliefs – just as Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have the right to prevent you from receiving blood transfusions. I don’t give a damn what you believe or find acceptable. Your church can rail against homosexuality all it wants, it has that right, and I support that right. But what Mormonism (and other religions) are trying to do is force their religious version of morality onto secular society – something that is not only clearly unconstitutional, but unethical, and antithetical to the good functioning of a pluralistic society. Laws should be based on secular reasoning and science – not religious beliefs which vary so completely and have no basis in observable reality. For the LdS church to fund and support votes which remove or limit rights of minorities is wrong. What and how strong your religious beliefs on the issue are is utterly irrelevant. There is no non-religious basis for anti-gay discrimination. There is no non-religious reason to deny gays full and total equality. Whatever imagined effects you think it will have aren’t based in science or reason. Furthermore, any claims that religious rights will be infringed upon are fallacious and have been proven wrong, or incredibly unlikely. The only rights infringed on are imaginary rights religious have imagined up for themselves (for example the imaginary right Oaks thinks exists for religions to be immune to criticism or social consequences for its actions). No such right exists, or ever should exist.

    Frankly it doesn’t matter at all what you think your god has commanded. Other gods have “commanded” all sorts of things, and other people think your god has commanded exactly the opposite of what you think he has commanded. Why should your religion’s position on homosexuality be in any way given secular credence when there are many other religions which strongly support gay equality?

    Non-heterosexual orientation, non-traditional gender identity don’t hurt anyone, (as per demonstrable science), they are not learnt, are immutable, and it is just as unethical and wrong to in any way discriminate against LGBTQI individuals as it is to discriminate against someone based on their sex or race. Mormonism has come down strongly on the side of bigotry, homophobia and segregation, and there is no excuse for it.

  134. John on October 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Craig #133

    I hear your passion about your views and agenda here. I figured I’d toss about a recent article and educate you per your comment about “as per demonstrable science”. Are you aware of the current research literature available on the topic?

    The American Psychological Association recently took a stand on counselors and therapists that help people who want to alter or resist this orientation or inclination. In fact, there are other organizations that are not Mormon Church affiliated that are considering the social implications and factors associated with gay individuals. Here are some links you may want to take a look at:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124950491516608883.html
    and
    http://www.narth.com/menus/cstudies.html

    I don’t find the Mormons bigoted or homophobic, simply voting and taking a stand on that vote; the same freedom both you and I have.

  135. Kaimi Wenger on October 19, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Craig,

    My 120 was a direct response to a prior (incorrect) claim that no Mormons had recently been targeted for violence. I agree that in the present social environment in the United States, LGBT individuals suffer a much higher rate of targeted violence nearly any other group (certainly including Mormons). My original post made that clear. I only brought in recent anti-Mormon violence in a later comment, in response to specific incorrect overstatements that Mormons are never targeted for violence.

    I have not suggested that modern anti-Mormon violence in the United States is equivalent to modern anti-gay violence, either in frequency or severity. It is not.

    As to historical violence, I think that both groups can point to instances of very severe violence. I don’t mean to downplay the very real instances of anti-gay violence in history, and I know that comparisons of violence can be subjective. I do think that historical anti-Mormon attacks such as Haun’s Mill, the Missouri War, the sack of Far West, Johnston’s Army, and the Extermination Order, are among the more egregious instances of targeted violence in American history.

  136. Zen on October 19, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    There is no non-religious basis for anti-gay discrimination. There is no non-religious reason to deny gays full and total equality. Whatever imagined effects you think it will have aren’t based in science or reason.

    That certainly sounds reasonable, and it is an oft-repeated a mantra. But is it true?

    Legalizing gay marriage will change the meaning, legal and otherwise, of what marriage is. It will not have an effect today, or even tomorrow. But 50 years from now, it will have a significant effect. This will change things in society – to suggest it will not, or will be neutral in its effect, is naive. Seemingly minor changes in divorce and welfare laws have had huge effects on divorce and changed what marriage is over the course of 50-ish years. We could see a similar change – and that is nothing to take lightly.

  137. Alison Moore Smith on October 20, 2009 at 12:45 am

    #131 MikeInWeHo

    I am no more trying to “tell” you to find homosexuality “acceptable” than I am trying to tell you to start drinking Lipton.

    You might note that my statement that you quoted was in response to this:

    #8 z

    Mormons and the LDS church were being asked to do nothing more than to tolerate the existence of gay people

    Be definition, “tolerating” is to “accept or endure with forbearance.”

    Telling us to see something that we believe to be morally reprehensible and just “leave you and your family alone” about it is, of course, requiring us to tolerate it.

    #133 Craig

    Why should your religion’s position on homosexuality be in any way given secular credence when there are many other religions which strongly support gay equality?

    As you know, all our laws impose a moral imperative. Whether your moral set comes from reading, statistics, yoga, your friends, your inner child, or another other “secular” source, does not make it a trump card over moral sets that come from religion.

    In the end, the laws we promote and tolerate are those we, as a culture, support. To pretend that all “religious” values can be summarily thrown out is ridiculous. When what is really occurring is that we are debating what values (from whatever source) the majority of Americans agree with.

    But feel free to defend a law–any law–form a purely “secular” position. Because in the end they can all be cut down with a simple, “So what?”

  138. Don on October 20, 2009 at 2:04 am

    For someone who is a lawyer, Elder Oaks has apparently forgotten that charges of illegal conduct require actual evidence or proof. Can he or anyone prove any illegal conduct by any homosexual person against Mormon persons or property? Anything proven? Pending? Any cases/names? I don’t even ask for two. Noisy even disrespectful demonstrations and financial boycotts of businesses or individuals hardly justify the kind of handwringing over ‘persecution’ Elder Oaks posits, and his invocation of any similarity whatsoever to what African Americans have endured is laughable and self-involved especially given the Mormon Church’s history of 150 years of vile racism. What Elder Oaks actually posits here is that his views and by extension, the views of the Mormon Church because they originate in a religious view trump and and superior to other views which are not so formed. Pure nonsense. Elder Oaks and the Mormon leaders and their Church are not above respectful and not respectful and even derisive criticism. Such is the price of freedom of speech. Elder Oaks’ feeling ‘dissed’ because homosexuals and their supporters answer back loudly to his Church’s wholesale dismissal of homosexual relationships as unworthy and therefore beyond equal protection under the law says more about his myopic, smug arrogance than it does anything else. If Mormons want to play politics, they should be prepared for the messy tumult that is free speech. It is Oaks and the Mormon Church who in fact claim free speech for themselves but desperately want to stop it for anyone who disagrees with them because they are religious. Until anyone can prove any link between reprehensible yet mild acts of vandalism and homosexual individuals or homosexual groups, stop whining–it isn’t very manly.

  139. Don on October 20, 2009 at 2:06 am

    should read ‘and are’

  140. Cameron on October 20, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Don,

    I don’t believe church leaders or members seek to stop free speech of anyone who disagrees with us. We oppose things we personally believe are immoral, but we do not seek to silence the gay community. I can’t remember anyone suggesting this. On the contrary our leaders constantly remind us to be kind when sharing our viewpoint (as recently as a few weeks ago even).

    Elder Oaks didn’t cite any specific examples because he was talking about the broader picture in society, of which this particular debate is just a part.

    I also disagree that the church has a history of ‘vile racism.’ I cannot recall any official statement declaring a certain ethnic group to be inferior. Our doctrine, like that of most who believe the Bible is the word of God, is that we are all His children whom he loves and desires to succeed equally.

    My 2 cents. =)

  141. z on October 20, 2009 at 7:45 am

    I don’t really understand what you’re getting at, Alison. Yes, Mormons are asked to tolerate the existence of gays. And everyone else is asked to tolerate the existence of the LDS church, its institutional discrimination against women, its horrible treatment of gays, its years of racism, etc. We all have to put up with the existence of things we find morally reprehensible. That’s just life in a pluralist society. And we all have to work it out through the democratic process, rather than demanding that others conform to our moral codes.

    The LDS church and its members aren’t being asked to do anything other than that, so I really don’t understand the idea that gays are the aggressors here or attacked the LDS church in any way. The existence of people with differing views, and their participation in the democratic process, and even their ultimate victory in creating change that you oppose, is just not an attack or affront to the LDS church in any way. Most importantly, it’s nothing particular to Mormons– all people who want to dissolve existing gay marriages for religious reasons had the same experience. Unlike the Prop. 8 effort, which was specifically targeted at gays.

  142. Brad Kramer on October 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I cannot recall any official statement declaring a certain ethnic group to be inferior. Our doctrine, like that of most who believe the Bible is the word of God, is that we are all His children whom he loves and desires to succeed equally.

    Cameron, meet Google. Google, Cameron.

  143. wreddyornot on October 20, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    Cameron, you said:

    “I don’t believe church leaders or members seek to stop free speech of anyone who disagrees with us.”

    What about the part of “us” in you sentence who doesn’t agree with church leaders? Is it if you are not with us, you are against us? The old hot and cold, in or out, this or that dicotomy? So it’s okay for nonmembers to have free speech, but not members. You can’t be a member, though, and have free speech, too, if it differs from the leaders?

    If that is true, then I know on this topic of religious liberty and whose ox is being gored whose ox is being killed.

  144. queuno on October 20, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    The difference is, the Creator told us to oppose same-sex marriage, while He does not care about the Cleveland Browns (which is obvious, given their history). =)

    As a native Clevelander, I’ll kindly tell you to go to hell. :) You’re not obviously familiar with the fact that the GREATEST running back of all time played for the Browns. As well as who many consider to be the greatest QB in history.

    As a now North Texan, I can tell you I’ve never been asked by my Church to support Prop 8. That was a local concern.

  145. queuno on October 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I cannot recall any official statement declaring a certain ethnic group to be inferior.

    Neither do I. But then again, I was almost 8 when the new revelation was received and I don’t have any recall of official statements before that time.

    But it doesn’t change the fact that they exist.

    Seriously, no one under the age of 42-43 has any direct recall of said official statements. We were too young…

  146. KevinR on October 20, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Cameron: As queuno has stated above, your ability to recall official statements doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I am nearing a half century old, and I remember racist statements of the vilest kind. To me they were vile because they were cloaked behind an attitude that we Mormons know everything, we Mormon leaders can’t be wrong, especially when its one of us of the highest leaders, and therefore it isn’t racist what we say, only the truth. Here is one that has seared itself in my mind (no, I wasn’t present to hear the words, but they ring in my ears nonetheless).

    “Now we are generous with the negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. BUT LET THEM ENJOY THESE THINGS AMONG THEMSELVES, I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation?”

    (Race Problems as They Affect the Church, an address by Apostle Mark E. Petersen, delivered at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, August 27,1954)

  147. Zen on October 20, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Elder Peterson no where said anything here about inferiority – but that was what you wanted to see, and so that is what you saw.

    The difficulty we have here is, that we are only addressing part of the problem. There are many more members in the church who will never marry at all.

    Why is this a problem? We can not express concern for our homosexual sexually deprived and struggling members without addressing the larger population of heterosexual single and chaste members.

    Sure, theoretically they might get married, but considering there are more active women than men, it simply will not happen, under a best case scenario. Singles are around 40% of the adult church membership, while there are around 19 men to every 100 active women.

    If we must have a solution for the homosexuals, then I submit, we must also have one for the singles. Chastity isn’t any easier for us, than it is for you.

    What do you suggest?

  148. djinn on October 20, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Zen, last time I checked, you could still marry a non-mormon of the opposite sex without forfeiture of your membership.

  149. Zen on October 21, 2009 at 3:16 am

    Sure, that works for some. But it doesn’t take much familiarity with the singles to see that that just doesn’t work for a lot of people. (even then, the statistics for part-member marriages are not pretty either).

    But that is missing the point. There are always going to be people who can not find a marriage partner for one reason or another. Maybe it is appearance, appeal, fate or sheer bad luck. Their struggles will be no less than the gays. Yes, some of them will have the opportunity to marry anyway, but many still will not.

    Why should these unlucky people have to be deprived of what is clearly part of their nature?

  150. Holden Caulfield on October 21, 2009 at 7:44 am

    “I cannot recall any official statement declaring a certain ethnic group to be inferior.”

    That may be. However, the same can’t be said about those who govern the church. My favorite statements by Joseph Fielding Smith are listed below. Like so many Mormons who just don’t get the prop 8 backlash (What did I do?), they even deny what they have said or done.

    “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race.”
    (The Way to Perfection, pp.101)

    The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called “Mormons,” have no animosity towards the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an “inferior race.
    (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols., 4:, p.168)

  151. DavidH on October 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Zen,

    Tis a faulty analogy. Elder Marlin Jensen acknowledged this as follows:

    “And yes, some people argue sometimes, well, for the gay person or the lesbian person, we’re not asking more of them than we’re asking of the single woman who never marries. But I long ago found in talking to them that we do ask for something different: In the case of the gay person, they really have no hope. A single woman, a single man who is heterosexual in their thinking always has the hope, always has the expectation that tomorrow they’re going to meet someone and fall in love and that it can be sanctioned by the church. But a gay person who truly is committed to that way of life in his heart and mind doesn’t have that hope. And to live life without hope on such a core issue, I think, is a very difficult thing.”

    http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/jensen.html

  152. Zack on October 21, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Elder Oaks would be among the first to insist that our Church does not believe its leaders to be infallible. Yet, it seems none of them ever apologize for anything. If all their faults are so private that they never need apologize for anything, what kind of example are they setting for us lowly paeans at the bottom of the Church totem pole. Elder Oaks’ comparison of popular culture mocking the Church for participation in the Prop 8 movement to the absolutely evil actions that constituted voter intimidation in the Jim Crow South — including rapes, lynching, cross burnings, etc… — was deeply hurtful to a number of people. He has no need to apologize for his larger point or opinion, but that aspect of it was deeply hurtful to many people. Certainly he is not happy that he hurt people and I am sure he is sorry. So, why doesn’t he come out and prove that we, as a Church, place our faith in flawed individuals (most MUCH more flawed than Elder Oaks), by apologizing for the hurt he unintentionally caused some people by careless comments. What he said was not sinful, but it hurt people. It becomes us, to apologize when we hurt others and Elder Oaks is missing a great teaching opportunity here if he continues to hide behind the Church PR department (which is once again handling an easily-corrected problem very terribly). If we can’t even apologize for accidental damages, we come across as a Church that believes in prophetic infallibility and has lost touch with that Spirit which does nothing but call repentance — if we come across as a Church at all.

  153. Zen on October 21, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    DavidH

    At best it is a difference of magnitude, and not of kind.

    We are not talking about cream of the crop singles – we are talking about the bottom of the barrel. I say this as a single dad divorced 8 years, who could not get a date to save his life. Their struggles might be worse, but a lot of singles have to face this despair.

    The problem with this discussion, is that it has plenty of married people, but the only people to face this kind of an issue for any length of time besides gays (namely beta and omega men and women) are underrepresented here.

    Do we have sympathy for people in this situation, or only if they are not losers?

  154. Don on October 21, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Cameron

    ‘We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage of whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the church, and is contrary to Church doctrine.’ First Presidency Letter, July 17, 1947

    And: ‘Shall I tell you the law of God regarding the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law is death on the spot. This will always be so.’ Brigham Young, JD

    Is that ‘official enough’? There’s plenty more where that came from.

    As far as the ‘all of us are His children and He wants us to succeed equally’, that well may be what God wants. Clearly, the Mormon Church does not want anything remotely ‘equal’ for homosexuals, as it relentlessly pursues its goal of demonizing, marginalizing and making homosexual Americans very much unequal under the law.

  155. Cameron on October 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Don,

    I appreciate your reply, and I am certain that you are much more informed than I am about past quotes from church leaders about race. Here are my thoughts:

    I think the counsel discouraging intermarriage was not just about race, but about culture (which includes race, but is far broader). Marriage between different socio-economic groups is also discouraged because the disparity can strain a marriage. I don’t think the culture thing really applies as much today as it did then, which is probably why the counsel has not been reiterated.

    As for the other quotes, I don’t know that we can judge them or determine what exactly Brigham meant or how much of it was clouded by his upbringing / environment. The apostle / prophet Peter had difficulty in this area as well, in addition to other areas, but these weaknesses did not take away from his calling or the truthfulness of the Gospel. God calls servants and inspires them “in their weakness.”

    I don’t know that we’ve demonized homosexuals. I can disagree with what someone does without hating or dispising them.

    Also, didn’t the church release an official statement saying that they did not oppose equal rights for homosexuals (eg medical care, tax/finances, etc), but that they only opposed legal gay marriage? Feel free to enlighten me here, I’m sure you’ve paid more attention to it than I have.

    With regard to marriage in particular, I would say that we believe, with no animosity towards anyone, that marriage between two people of the same gender is not equal to marriage between two people of the opposite sex, for fundamental reasons that are intertwined at the religious and practical levels.

    My two cents, and thanks again for the reply.

  156. Don on October 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Having come from a Mormon background, and as a returned missionary and BYU graduate, I am quite familiar with Mormons believe, including their racist past regarding blacks (actually better now than before), their hatred of homosexuals, and their current love affair with the far right wing of the Republican Party. I could not possibly care less what Mormons believe or practice–I rejected the Mormon Church because I believe it is a smug, self righteous political and social organization that mirrors the far right wing of the Republican Party and corporate America and has no more to do with the teachings of Jesus than Chevron does. That was my choice. I have no interest in engaging or even criticizing what Mormons do or believe, except that Mormons have made it their business to denigrate me and my family, and to make us unequal before the law. Until my equal rights as an American are secure, I will engage Mormons in every venue I can think of, and speak loudly and clearly of their smug, self righteousness and their endless hypocrisy. Once my rights are secured, I will wish you all a not so fond farewell as you move on to another group to hate and you will never hear from me again.

  157. Don on October 21, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    As far as not demonizing homosexuals, how about Elder Packer’s statement that ‘homosexuals, feminists and intellectuals’ are the Mormon Church’s ‘enemies’? How about being called, ‘perverts’ or ‘deviants’, or Prop 8 advertising which posits homosexuals as trying to ‘destroy’ traditional marriage? How about Mormon Church support of Dale vs. New Jersey which spared no effort in the Supreme Court to support the BSA’s effort to exclude homosexuals? (How would you explain that to my 3 boys–yes I am a parent–that we do not participate in scouting because the Mormon Church supports the exclusion of homosexuals in the BSA?) How about electric aversion ‘therapy’ used on homosexuals at BYU in the ’70′s? Personally, I have had enough ‘love’ from the Mormon Church to last me many lifetimes, and until Mormons leave me and my family alone, I will not shut up and go away as Elder Oaks wishes I would.

  158. Don on October 22, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Sounds a little angry I guess? You don’t even know the smallest part of how angry I am.

  159. Don on October 22, 2009 at 12:24 am

    BTW Kaimi I think your name suits well what you have done in your piece, which I think is a thoughtful mostly coherent effort to address something enormously complex. I wish I shared your willingness to look for a detente….I have no interest in detente or surrendering anything whatever to Mormons or the Mormon Church. That time for me is long past.

  160. Don on October 22, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Cameron I wonder how it is that you can ‘disagree with what someone does and not hate or despise them’ since you have not a clue what I ‘do’ or I do not do? Not one clue, except that I have told you that I am a homosexual. How do you presume to know anything about what I do? Furthermore, do you seriously attempt to tell homosexuals that their relationships are not equal to yours and expect us to swallow some nonsense about how you love us and do not seek to demonize us and efforts that seek to codify that inequality under the law should just be accepted by homosexuals because your view is founded and religion and ‘aw shucks’ you are just the nicest people who love everybody? I don’t think so…..I’m not playin’ that.

  161. Cameron on October 22, 2009 at 1:10 am

    I’m sorry Don. No hard feelings meant. I am far less informed than Kaimi and yourself, and my posts are probably more an attempt to help myself better understand this complex issue than a contribution to the debate here.

    Elder Packer probably should have qualified his remarks to a specific segment of the gay community.

    As for homosexuals and BSA, I think beyond the moral reasoning, they seek to avoid abuse issues, which would obviously only present itself if a leader/boy were homosexual. When my dad was 13, a scout leader made a pass at him in his tent. Luckily, my dad was assertive enough. *please take this example in the spirit in which it was received – by no means do I assert that most homosexuals do this.*

    I would chalk up the therapy BYU thing (of which I know nothing about) to sincere misguided attempts to help people, however revolting they seem from our current perspective.

    Also, @ Queuno (144) – I’m a Jim Brown fan, meant it as a joke. =)

    Finally, with regards to all the quotes you’ve informed me of, here are my thoughts:

    1. Many of them do not expressly communicate that a black person is inferior, merely that something linked with racism (segregation) may be favorable.

    2. I suppose that many of them stem from an incomplete understanding of doctrine, aided by culture and circumstance of the day. If church leaders really were racist, then why no such remarks concerning polynesians, asians, etc?

    Feel free to correct/educate me, as I’m just seeking to better understand. Thanks.

  162. DavidH on October 22, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Cameron,

    There surely is a cognitive dissonance for many, who like me (and like you), believe in complete and full racial and ethnic equality, and the history of differential treatment within the Restored Church of individuals based on whether they were of black lineage (deemed descendents of Cain).

    With all respect, early on in the discussion, you stated:

    “I cannot recall any official statement declaring a certain ethnic group to be inferior. Our doctrine, like that of most who believe the Bible is the word of God, is that we are all His children whom he loves and desires to succeed equally.”

    You are correct as to current official doctrine.

    As to prior statements, if you choose to believe that there have never been “official statement[s]” declaring any ethnic group to be “inferior”, because the statements quoted are (1) either not “official statements”, or (2) because they do not use the word “inferior,” that is certainly your right to do so.

    On the other hand, if it is your position that the Church has always officially taught that blacks (those deemed to be of descent from Cain) and whites are fully equal in God’s eyes and in the then-current structure of the Church, then, my best wishes to you in trying to understand prior teachings of the Church (and its leaders), and in trying to square how blacks and whites were treated equally in the Church when, among other things, whites could be endowed and sealed in the temple in this life, but anyone with any known black ancestry could not.

  163. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 22, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    As far as not demonizing any group, by any other group, it is a terribly hard thing to get people to give up.

  164. Velska on October 23, 2009 at 1:34 am

    At present, church members are likely to feel, with some justification, that they will be criticized for their views from both the secular political left and the evangelical political right.

    I think that if such is the case, all is as it should. We should not be too comfy with either fringe. There’s a reason why words like “wingnut” were coined.

  165. Don on October 24, 2009 at 12:20 am

    I think that most people on the ‘secular political left’, although I am not 100% sure what that means, don’t care one way or the other enough to criticize Mormons as most are of the ‘live and let live’ mentality. The current criticism that comes from homosexuals, although (surprise) many homosexuals also have deeply held religious beliefs, value their families, support their communities and cannot be lumped into the ‘secular political left’ as you have done in such a cavalier manner, stems from the Mormon Church’s efforts to demonize us and strip us of equal protection under the law. Beyond that, most homosexuals could not possibly care less what Mormons believe or practice. Ironically, Mormons have sought to align themselves with the hateful extremism of Evangelical Christianity perhaps in hopes of burnishing their ‘Christian’ creds, but the Evangelicals hate Mormons only slightly less than they hate homosexuals. Good luck with that alliance. Mormons in general have almost totally aligned themselves with the far right wing of the Republican Party, and that alliance continues to fall out of favor with the American public, as this very day the ‘favorable’ view of the Republican Party has fallen to a 25 year low. Good luck with that alliance too, and so much, BTW for Mormon political ‘neutrality.’ The primary spokespeople for this branch of Republicanism of course are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, himself a Mormon. Mormons have painted themselves into a corner when their politics are seen by many Americans as represented by a drug addict who is a pathological liar, and Glenn Beck, who can only be described as one of the ‘wingnuts’ you mentioned. At least as far as homosexuals are concerned, you will be surprised how many of us simply don’t care what Mormons believe–we just want you all to leave us alone, and to the extent that you are unable to control your obsession with trying to interfere with our lives and to demean, marginalize and make us unequal before the law, be prepared for the inevitable pushback. It is of course, noteworthy, that in spite of histrionics about ‘intimidation’ and ‘violence’, overwhelming protest against Mormons has been in the form of totally legal demonstrations on pubic property. Not a single illegal act has been charged against any homosexual person or groups against any Mormon persons or property. Such (reprehensible) acts of vandalism as have been reported could just as easily been your FLDS cousins who think that you are apostates. Likewise, no person ever has been fired from a job because of support for Prop 8. Two persons QUIT their jobs because of economic boycotts, a perfectly legal means of protest, unless of course you feel that homosexuals should spend money to support their own persecution. You may be giving yourselves ‘high fives’ for defeating the ‘immoral homosexuals’ this time, but remember very close to half of Californians voted no, and many are furious that Mormons feel the need to finance what they see is a continued tradition of minority persecution–first the blacks, and now since they are not so much ‘the Sons of Cain’ as they were for 150 years, it is the homosexuals who are trying to ruin everything. Many people who are not homosexual, not of the ‘secular left’ etc, are really, really angry and disgusted at the Mormons. Good luck with that too.

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