Plausible deniability (updated)

January 20, 2010 | 119 comments
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Initial reports from hearings in the Prop 8 case today paraphrase an internal campaign document (see below for update) with the following language:

With respect to Prop. 8 campaign, key talking points will come from campaign, but cautious, strategic, not to take the lead so as to provide plausible deniability or respectable distance so as not to show that church is directly involved.

The proceedings are not being televised (over plaintiffs objections), and the case remains in early stages. Today’s arguments only examined the admissibility of documents; and this is not a direct quote from the document as far as I can tell, rather it’s a summary of the document by one trial attendee who writes for an anti-Prop-8 website.

We’ll see whether the underlying document ends up becoming public, and if so exactly what language it contains. (The document was apparently in the possession of Mark Jannson, a ProtectMarriage.com executive committee member.)

In the mean time, however, the early summary is not favorable for the church. “Plausible deniability” – ouch.

UPDATE: The transcript has been posted, and it is clear that this language does not come from a church or campaign document. Rather, plaintiffs’ expert witness characterizes one internal campaign letter’s purpose as “there was this cautious strategic not-to-take-the-lead notion so as to provide a — I don’t know, plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.” The full transcript is available here.

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119 Responses to Plausible deniability (updated)

  1. Lessie on January 20, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Not really sure what to think of this. I hate to sound callous, but I’m glad this is coming out in the open. I left the church a couple of years ago, and that was a painful but necessary decision. At the time, I really didn’t wish the church any ill will. But the more I learned about the church after getting out of it, the more harmful I felt the institution was. Prop 8 solidified that for me. Hopefully this will be more than their PR team can handle. Some transparency is vital at this point.

  2. Kaimi Wenger on January 21, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Thanks, Lessie. I’m not in the same place you are, but I was bothered by much of the rhetoric from church leaders and members on Prop 8, too.

    I don’t think that this case has much chance of succeeding as a lawsuit. Plaintiffs will have to show that Prop 8 was motivated by unconstitutional anti-gay bias, which will be relatively hard to do. However, I think that the real motivation here is to create a paper trail documenting the extent of the church’s involvement in Prop 8. And on that ground, this is a moderate success. (And the court decision on broadcasting the case was a major loss for plaintiffs, for the same reasons.)

  3. Velska on January 21, 2010 at 12:43 am

    It’s very hard to know what this is after. There never was any doubt that the LDS Church was an active part of the Prop8 campaign, was there?

  4. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Lessie: I think the Church’s involvement was quite in the open. Uncomfortably so, even in Idaho. I cannot wait for you to go to law school. Then you, too, can write posts about plausible deniability.

    In a Church largely run by lay-members it becomes rather difficult to see where the official church action and the action of individual members start and stop.

    Not sure if the case is all that great of an idea for the plaintiffs. I would think that it would be better for the pro-gay marriage side to build a campaign that could reverse Prop. 8. It is not the far of a stretch.

  5. Robert G. on January 21, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I’m with Velska. Why would the church make a very public push to get its members to support Prop 8 and then attempt to downplay its involvement? This sounds more like a memo that would would have come out of the marriage battle in Hawaii, when the church really was trying to stay out of the limelight.

  6. SNeilsen on January 21, 2010 at 3:36 am

    The line I found interesting–

    “As you know from the First Presidency this campaign is entirely under the direction of the priesthood…”

  7. Alison Moore Smith on January 21, 2010 at 3:40 am

    I’m unsure of the point of speculating on paraphrasing.

  8. Velska on January 21, 2010 at 5:34 am

    From the blog:

    In 1990, there was not a single state law that discriminated against gays.

    AFAIK, there were several state laws that criminalized sodomy back in 1990, and they were enforced. Is the frame here that all of a sudden there’s this big movement to oppress GLBT? Because that’s what that sounds like. Some people just aren’t happy until they’ve had full vengeance.

  9. Mark B. on January 21, 2010 at 8:10 am

    So, someone disposed to oppose the Church summarizes a document that he hasn’t seen–and we’re supposed to worry that it puts the Church in a bad light?

    One way to avoid worrying about that sort of thing it to pay no attention to it.

  10. Alex T. Valencic on January 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I’m with Alison and Mark B. on this one. I’m waiting for someone to say that their best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw the document that is says something pretty serious.

    Why would the church deny involvement when they posted a press release encouraging involvement? It sounds to me like someone is trying to create a denial that doesn’t exist.

  11. Chino Blanco on January 21, 2010 at 9:19 am

    One thing I’ve heard repeatedly since Day One from Kim Farah, and Scott Trotter, and Michael Otterson, is that folks like me are “entitled to our opinions but not to our own versions of the facts.”

    Now that “the facts” have finally been entered into the public record, I’d like to express a final opinion: that besotted trio is unworthy of the sincere devotion of the Mormon rank-and-file on which its livelihood depends. Thank goodness the three are only LDSPA and remain as fungible as ever.

    That they were sold a bill of goods by Gary Lawrence, and Glen Greener, and Sonja Eddings Brown, and Bart Marcois, is no excuse. It was their job, their place, to know better.

    The time has come for them to leave out of respect for the devotion that remains.

  12. Jonathan Green on January 21, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Apart from the problematic sourcing, the meaning of the document is extremely unclear. The most I can make of it is that the church wanted to avoid the appearance of direct involvement in campaign management and messaging. Which is not exactly surprising, particularly if the church wasn’t directly involved in campaign management and messaging. The only way this looks bad is if the church actually was directly involved in campaign management, about which this particular document doesn’t say anything.

  13. Z. on January 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

    When did Times & Seasons become an anti-Mormon blog?

  14. In NJ on January 21, 2010 at 10:12 am

    z: Read comment #2.

    One more hat with Alex, Alison, and Mark B.

  15. Bob on January 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

    An easy fix for the Church…just make the memo public.

  16. Robert Ricks on January 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

    No smoking gun here. If, as Jonathan says, the church was actually running the campaign directly, that would be more disconcerting.

  17. Dave on January 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Kaimi, with all due respect, the whole pose of the anti-Prop 8 crowd vis-a-vis the LDS Church is ridiculous. First, they are upset that the Church participated in the campaign and loudly complain about it *as if* there is something *wrong* with the Church participating. [This is certainly easier than the anti-Prop 8 crowd pondering why they keep losing elections.] But political participation is legal and the Church has a right to participate if it so chooses. These documents appear to show that the Church did, in fact, decide to participate. Only to the anti-Prop 8 crowd is there something nefarious about this. It amounts to liberals complaining that conservatives participate in campaigning and elections. That is not a complaint one should take seriously.

    Second, the anti-Prop 8 crowd thinks that if the Church participates they should do so naively and stupidly, and that if they don’t (that is, if the Church acts cleverly or with sophistication) there is something *wrong* with that. If anything, it was the anti-Prop 8 crowd that acted stupidly and naively, both during and after the election. I understand their frustration if the Church does not also act stupidly and naively, but again: there is nothing wrong with the Church participating wisely and cleverly.

    The whole legal component of the case seems overshadowed by the PR angle of the trial in which gay marriage proponents attempt, once again, to show how mean and unfair the LDS Church is (and the proper reading of “mean and unfair” is “oppose our political goals”). I think they’ve already milked that meme for all it is worth. They are preaching to a shrinking choir.

  18. Chino Blanco on January 21, 2010 at 10:30 am

    But the LDS church *was* running the campaign. Or haven’t you been paying attention?

  19. Chino Blanco on January 21, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Shrinking choir? The choir that now includes Cindy McCain?

    Good luck, Dave. You’re gonna need it.

  20. bbell on January 21, 2010 at 10:40 am

    This is laughable. Of course the church was involved. They were not actually running things but were providing support. I hope that the trial judge enters a judgement for the plaintifs in this case and then the 9th Circuit agrees. Then the SC can overturn the whole thing and establish a precendent.

    Since when is it wrong for religious organizations to be involved in matters like prop 8? What about all the lefty churches that were opposed to prop 8? What about the unions etc? I think this trial backs up many of Elder Oaks comments from a few months back.

  21. In NJ on January 21, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Adding to bbell: What of the many churches that opened up their services for speeches by Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama, as well as many of the other candidates during the recent presidential campaign? Surely these churches were more political than those that participated in an arguably moral issue?

  22. Geoff J on January 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Well said Dave (#16).

  23. Chino Blanco on January 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Shrinking choir? Dream on, Dave.

  24. JM on January 21, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Another vote for Dave’s comment #16. And, the motivation for the original post is unclear.

  25. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

    “And, the motivation for the original post is unclear.”

    It is an interesting issue.

    It there is nothing wrong with the Church taking an active role, which I think they were justified as doing (not because it is a moral issue, but as a matter of political expression),why are we now downplaying that role. While it was not just the LDS community that worked for it, it was the LDS effort that made it a success. Take pride in it.

    As for those opposed to Prop 8, again, the best tactic would be to win over hearts and mind. I do not think this is impossible in Californa. The Coakley campaign in MA reminded me of the The No on Prop 8 folks. They ran a poor campaign because they just could not imagine losing. As a result the Yes campaign was much better organized and won. This is what makes the difference in a 52 to 48 percent outcome.

  26. Dan on January 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I’m with those who wonder what exactly is the story here. I agree with most of what Dave (#16) says, though I question this part:

    Only to the anti-Prop 8 crowd is there something nefarious about this. It amounts to liberals complaining that conservatives participate in campaigning and elections.

    This is not a liberal/conservative issue. The Church is not conservative, nor is it liberal. Those arguing for Prop 8 are both liberal and conservative. Those arguing against Prop 8 are both liberal and conservative. Family values are not exclusive to conservatives (as evidenced quite clearly by good “American looking” folk like Mark Sanford—going on hikes in the Appalachian where he ought not to— and Scott Brown—who poses nude for a glam magazine). And of course taking such a swipe at liberals like this is counterproductive.

  27. Bob on January 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

    #16: *IF* someone wrote in a memo “plausible deniability” …that was not ” the Church act(ing) cleverly or with sophistication”. It was foolish.

  28. John Mansfield on January 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

    This revelation that churches were involved in promoting Prop. 8 seems on a par with the rest of the testimony and evidence so far. It seems not so much a trial as an archiving project on the homosexual experience in late 20th Century America.

  29. Lessie on January 21, 2010 at 11:58 am

    The hangup that Chris outlines in #4 is what I’m hoping this trial will clear up. I don’t want to make this an argument about the church’s tax exempt status. That said, because the church has a lay clergy, it is difficult to draw a line between which behaviors are officially church sanctioned and which aren’t. And by that, how much the church was doing that is within the legal right of churches to remain tax exempt and how much wasn’t.

    A couple of commenters have mentioned that as long as the church wasn’t involved in any campaign management, then this is a non-issue. But I think the church’s having non-paid clergy muddies these waters. If a bishop from a local ward organized a local campaign using church records to contact people, then you could make a decent argument that the church was involved on a level it shouldn’t have been.

    What I’m also hoping comes to light is how much of members’ tithing funds were contributed to this campaign. I’m not opposed to churches contributing money to campaigns. I attend a liberal religion now, and they make no secret about the fact that some of the money donated by members is going to go toward their political endeavors. What I take issue with is the church assuring it’s members that their moneys are carefully allocated without actually disclosing anything officially. If I understand correctly, the church is a corporation. They’re not a 501(c)(3) charity. So it’s not that they can’t allocate tithing funds to one place and campaign contributions to another and church business funds to yet another, it’s that they don’t have to.

    If it turns out that money being given to the church by members (rather than by members to the various prop 8 campaigns) was used in the campaign, then that strengthens the case against the church as far as its crossing inappropriate political boundaries is concerned.

    Lastly, let me state unequivocally that the church is, in the case of Prop 8, being mean and unfair. They are being bigoted and homophobic and making efforts to deny an entire category of the population certain basic rights. The church has the right to be bigoted and mean and unfair. It’s a free country. But don’t be surprised and don’t get your Gs in a knot if pro-gay rights activists continue to make these claims and seek out, as Kaimi said, paper trails, that are going to give this some documentation that will hopefully mitigate their ability to be so in the future.

  30. Alex T. Valencic on January 21, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Lessie (25) I still don’t see what the deal is about the “paper trail” – as I cited earlier, the LDS Church issues, through its Newsroom, a press release clearly stating that the LDS Church supported Prop 8, and had encouraged local congregations to organise and to support the campaign.

    Prop 8 was not a plank for any party’s platform, nor was it part of an individual candidate’s campaign. When it comes to parties and candidates, the LDS Church is strictly neutral. When it comes to ballot measures, there are times when the church says, “Yes, we support this measure, and we encourage our members to do so.”

    There is no hidden paper trail. The LDS Church supported Prop 8. Where is the conspiracy? Where is the “plausible deniability”? And, above all, where is the actual source material? I am pretty certain that Ben Stein’s student’s source would not be credible in any court of law.

  31. Ardis Parshall on January 21, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Lessie, you’re being “mean and bigoted” and just plain nasty with a remark like “don’t get your G’s in a knot.” If you want to persuade Latter-day Saints to your political views, you really ought to show a little more sensitivity and restraint. Really.

  32. Raymond Takashi Swenson on January 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    “Plaintiffs will have to show that Prop 8 was motivated by unconstitutional anti-gay bias, which will be relatively hard to do.”

    Have the Federal courts really reached the point where they can overturn democratic elections on the basis of psychoanalyzing an unworthy motive for the advocates of a proposition? Where is that power assigned in Article III of the US Constitution? When a referendum is put forward by multiple parties, including individuals and organizations with many members, how can anyone even theoretically give a single characterization to the mens rea of the group? Is there going to be a poll taken of the relative number of different motives among different people? Does an organization count as one opinion or many? Does a “valid” motive for most advocates counterpoise an “invalid” motive for a minority? And how is the motive of the advocates of any relevance at all, since it was the voters, not the advocates, who enacted the proposition into law?

    How can the courts justify going beyond the face of the proposition to examine its constitutionality? I have never heard of any concept of “legislative history” for a citizen initiative, in which the statements of intent are outside any official forum and are not contemporaneously transcribed and not themselves subject to response and debate and clarification, as are the legislative statements that are typically looked to by a court for interpretive help? Besides, the standard rule of legislative interpretation is that one only looks to legislative history if the meaning of the legislation is not plain on its face. No such assistance is needed to interpret Proposition 8. It simply reinstates the meaning of the California Constitution that was in force from statehood until 4 of 7 supreme court justices undertook to rewrite the constitution.

    The notion that our motives and intent invalidates a democratic action, regardless of the plain terms of the action, is nothing short of political suppression of opinion that offends a judicial elite. The Federal judiciary was never given that authority by the US Constitution. It appears to me that any court that asserts such a rationale for overruling a democratic vote has itself acted in gross violation of the US Constitution, and replaced the rule of law with the personal prejudices of an oligarch. If the plaintiffs are in fact seeking such a result, they are enemies of democracy, plain and simple, and a victory by them will in the end only serve to undermine the authority of the judiciary and the willingness of citizens to respect court decisions with which they disagree. That is a much more dire result than the upholding or nullification of Proposition 8.

  33. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Ardis,

    My guess is that Lessie’s comment, while maybe not in the best of taste in this forum, does not have the same impact of actual lives as did Prop. 8.

  34. Peter LLC on January 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    And, the motivation for the original post is unclear.

    Too bad there’s no legislative history of this post to refer to.

  35. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    “The notion that our motives and intent invalidates a democratic action, regardless of the plain terms of the action, is nothing short of political suppression of opinion that offends a judicial elite.”

    Raymond the federal courts have not acting yet, one way or another, on this matter. Calm down.

  36. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    “acted”

  37. Mark B. on January 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Lessie, you misunderstand incorrectly. The Church is not a corporation–it is an unincorporated association. There are corporations within that association (Corporation of the President of the Church etc., Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church, Property Reserve, Inc., and Intellectual Reserve, Inc.) but they are not the Church. And whether it is organized as a partnership or a corporation or if it’s just an unincorporated association is completely irrelevant to the issue of 501(c)(3) tax exemption.

    And, on that matter, the Church is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

    The Church has disclosed the amounts of money and the in-kind contributions that it made to the Prop 8 campaign. You can find news articles that describe those contributions, and can likely find the public records that disclose those contributions. There is nothing in the law that prevents a 501(c)(3) organization from contributing to a political campaign–just so long as it’s not a campaign for a specific candidate for office. But initiatives, referenda, propositions–all of those are fair game for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations. And they can spend all they want supporting (or opposing) “issues”, again, so long as they don’t endorse specific candidates.

    Your final paragraph assumes that there is a basic right for any two individuals to join together and to call their union “marriage.” Besides stripping that word of its meaning (why not start calling law partnerships “marriages”?), nobody from the beginning of the world until about 20 years ago ever dreamed that such a “right” existed. And yet now we’re told that opposing such a thing is a bigoted denial of somebody’s “basic right.”

  38. Ardis Parshall on January 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Chris, if impact justifies bad taste, then we lose the very last argument we have for civility at sporting events, political debates, blogs, and a whole lotta church meetings.

  39. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Not trying to justify bad taste, just pointing out that there are different levels of “mean and unfair” (which are Lessie’s actual words).

  40. Raymond Takashi Swenson on January 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    If the argument made by the plaintiffs is as I understand it, what is at stake in the case is more significant than Proposition 8. if people can worry about Prop 8, I can worry about the other issue.

  41. LRC on January 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Okay, the transcripts for yesterday’s trial are now available online in a .pdf document.

    Quotes from the document in question begin on page 155, line 19. The “plausible deniability” summary is on page 157 and the testimony about the document in question ends on page 158.

    There is no doubt that the LDS church was thoroughly involved in the campaign – just ask any California Mormon who was in church between June and November 2008. There is no doubt that members were trained and advised to walk precincts and make phone calls in ways that did not make them immediately identifiable as Mormons (don’t go in Sunday dress, don’t go in pairs, include non-members with you as much as possible, don’t mention your church membership when speaking about politics).

    There is clear evidence that the plaintiffs in the case involved have a good idea about exactly how much involvement and leadership came from LDS church members, and there is also clear evidence that the defendants have been successful in protecting the identity of a core group of individuals involved in the campaign, many (if not most) of whom are LDS leaders.

    We are all familiar with Elders Ballard, Cook, Wickman and Clayton as well as Gary Lawrence and Lawrence Research. Many are familiar with Joe Bentley, the OC Public Affairs director. Many are also aware that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s son was a member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage during the Prop 8 campaign and that he’s been replaced by Orson Scott Card.

    We are also familiar with the frequent statements from Church leaders who have insisted that The Church was not involved in the campaign, so much as Individual Members of the Church were involved and were acting on their state-given rights and responsibilities as citizens to campaign for something they believed in.

    So the question is, what would motivate 20,000 LDS volunteers at the end of the campaign (as noted in court documents) or 60,000 LDS volunteers at the beginning of the campaign (as noted in internet reports) to mobilize themselves on behalf of a political campaign? If Church leaders had not held conference calls with “159 of 161″ stake presidents in California, would the Prop 8 campaign have had as much people-power as it did?

    And, most importantly, where is the integrity and honesty of those who spent so much time denying having their fingers in all these political pots?

  42. Kaimi Wenger on January 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    A few quick notes:

    Apologies for the brevity of the initial post. I posted this post because it was a breaking story that was running in other venues, and I thought that we should participate in the discussion. Also, I thought that this community could have interesting comments (and we have!). The memo is being characterized very negatively thus far. I took steps to point out the potential issues with the memo description that is currently being circulated.

    I’ve been meaning to put up a larger post on the Prop 8 case. I didn’t yesterday because I had to read a stack of papers, and otherwise keep myself busy with Real Work. I took a few blogging breaks, but not enough to write about the case at any length.

    The case has been fascinating. There have been some very interesting court actions so far (including recent decisions on broadcasting). The plaintiffs have a high bar to get over to make their stated case (to show that the statute was motivated by anti-gay bias). The case does seem to be largely driven by political motives rather than a desire for a legal win. I’d like to talk about these, and I think (hope) I’ll have time to do a more in-depth post on Friday.

    I should note briefly that there is nothing illegal with a church saying, “we oppose gay marriage” nor is there anything illegal with a church donating to a political cause. Prop 8 opponents are trying to score political points because the church has been somewhat opaque in public statements. If the church simply says, “we’re the church and we weigh in on some political issues, get over it” it would greatly limit the political fallout from memos like this one. But that might have its own political consequences.

    One thing which will not happen is the church losing its 501(c)(3) status. 501(c)(3) is the federal tax exemption for a variety of organizations, including “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.” (IRS description here: http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=175418,00.html ).

    Under existing regs, a 501(c)(3) organization can lose their exemption if they engage in substantial lobbying. What this would be in the case of a religious org is not entirely clear from the reg, but the case law tends to look at factors like percent-of-church-income-used. If they go over certain thresholds (like 5 or 10%) it can cause problems.

    Church income is high enough that even if all $20m in member contributions is imputed to the organization, it almost certainly wouldn’t trigger the substantial lobbying provision in the reg.

    There are proposals to change the reg or to add other caps, but those would almost certainly apply going forward. Based on existing case law, the church’s 2008 actions are almost certainly permitted under 501(c)(3) — it would be a major surprise if the IRS brought an action to rescind the church’s tax exempt status, and an even bigger surprise if a court upheld any such action.

    (For more detail on that, see this boring law paper by my taxlaw professor friend Brian Galle: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1312028 )

  43. bbell on January 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    LRC,

    The church openly was pro prop 8. There was a letter read from the pulpit expressing the LDS Church’s support for Prop 8. The LDS church has been involved in the SSM political process since the beginning.

    So much for your secrecy. Here is a news room media release in October of 2008 in favor of prop 8.

    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-readies-members-on-proposition-8

    “We are also familiar with the frequent statements from Church leaders who have insisted that The Church was not involved in the campaign, so much as Individual Members of the Church were involved and were acting on their state-given rights and responsibilities as citizens to campaign for something they believed in.”

    See the news release above.

  44. Kaimi Wenger on January 21, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the link, LRC, that’s very helpful.

    From the transcript, it’s clear that the “plausible deniability” language is not a direct quote and does not appear in the Prop 8 document itself. That phrase is a characterization of plaintiffs’ expert witness, Prof. Segura, who is testifying as an expert on the political powerlessness of gays and lesbians. Prof Segura describes the letter as being:

    “But there was this cautious strategic not-to-take-the-lead notion so as to provide a — I don’t know, plausible deniability or respectable distance between the church organization per se and the actual campaign.”

    The letter itself is quoted in a few instances, such as

    “Brother Jannson emphasized that we are not to take the lead on this proposition but to join in coalition with ProtectMarriage.com. Salt Lake City conducted a teleconference with 159 of 161 Stake presidents in the State of California, and told the presidents LDS are involved in this issue but are not to take the lead.”

    That paragraph and was what led to Prof. Segura’s characterization.

  45. DavidH on January 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Reading the transcript, what is interesting is how hard the defendants were fighting to keep out the documents that stated what everyone already knew–that the Church used its full ecclesiastical structure to support and “call” its membership to full participation in support of a ballot proposition (including priesthood calls to coordinators by zip code). Perfectly legal. Most Mormons fully supported the Church’s using all of its influence and “calling” structure to support the campaign. So why did the defendants fight to keep out documents to demonstrate what LDS know happened and supported. I don’t know whether documents have been offered indicating that “voluntary” contribution assessments of members were also made by priesthood leadership. Again, perfectly legal and supported by most LDS.

  46. In NJ on January 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    “Plausible deniability or respectable distance”? I guess the expert is earning his or her fees. Respectable distance seems to me to be a good description considering the Church’s very open stance.

  47. Juan on January 21, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    LRC:

    You said that members were trained to walk precincts “in ways that did not make them immediately identifiable as Mormons.”

    I’m unclear what the significance of this is. Are you proposing some sort of obligation on all participants in the political process to clearly identify their affiliations? Which affiliations count? And, given the vitriolic backlash against Mormons post-Prop 8, doesn’t the counsel seem sage advice?

    More fundamentally, you seem to suggest that it’s improper for churches to participate or influence the political process (“if church leaders had not held conference calls… would the Prop 8 campaign have had as much people-power as it did?”) Why should churches’ participation in the public square be limited? What other types of associations should we limit from the public square?

  48. Marc Bohn on January 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    The “plausible deniability” characterization comes from a Plaintiff’s witness. Errr… isn’t that exactly how we’d expect such a witness to testify? What exactly is shocking about this?

  49. Dave on January 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks for that additional comment, Kaimi. Very helpful information.

    I don’t quite understand comments wondering about the motivation of this post. Each of us post on topics and events that are (as noted in our welcome message) “of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.” And there are several views worth discussing on any one of those topics and events. Any post that raises an interesting point, shares enlightening information, or spurs a lively discussion is a good one. Yes, all posts are motivated in some sense — otherwise the author would instead spend an hour doing something else worthwhile or amusing. But there is no hidden agenda.

    I will add that Times and Seasons does not plant subliminal messages in blog posts. Nor, if you read them backwards, will you hear evil messages or paid messages from our sponsors (we have no sponsors).

  50. Hellmut on January 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Chris (#21), no Prop 8 did not win because the opponents were overconfident. There is a case that one can make about their incompetence but that was not decisive either.

    What was decisive was the imbalance of organization. The proponents could rely on a core of support, mainly, the members of the LDS Church who provided early money.

    By contrast, the opponents had no core organization. They had to rely on networks.

    As a result, the Prop 8 folks had a considerable head start. The most important resource of campaigns is time. Mormons saved their campaign a lot of time because they belong not only to a network but to an organization.

    Clearly, Prop 8 could not have prevailed if only Mormons had supported the referendum. But if it had not been for the money from Mormon contributors solicited by Church leaders, the measure would have failed.

  51. LRC on January 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    BBell – Yes, I know all about the letter and everything else, being a member in California, and all, I am MORE than a little bit familiar with what’s happened around here the past couple of years. I am perfectly aware that the church is fully and completely within its rights to speak up on such matters, and I hope it will continue to speak out as much as is necessary.

    Juan – Pay attention carefully, because this is my quibble with the issue:

    The Church was trying very hard to make sure its members’ participation was seen as “grassroots” participation, not as organized, Church-sponsored participation. I sat in every training meeting and fireside given in our area, and the message was both explicit and implicit: Give to the campaign the way LDS leaders want you to, support the campaign the way LDS leaders want you to, but remember that the Church AS AN ORGANIZATION is not doing anything except telling its members to be involved.

    Furthermore, the chain of leadership was visually presented to us as two separate branches – a political branch and a religious branch. Leaders in SLC and the Area Presidency were overseeing things within the church and sending doctrinal/belief messages through stake presidents and bishoprics to church members. In the political branch, the church was supporting the ProtectMarriage coalition and political messages would be sent via PM to the grassroots coordinator to regional coordinators to ZIP Code Supervisors to volunteers.

    Now, for many LDS members, there was not a problem that the ZIP Code Supervisors and regional coordinators were all Mormons receiving direction from both spiritual leaders and political leaders, but it sure did muck up the theoretical wall between politics and religion.

    It’s the structure, not the participation, that I have problems with, particularly because there has been so much effort to hide the structure (which relied upon LDS organizational, training and communication capabilities).

    And the fact that the ProtectMarriage coalition had LDS members throughout its leadership structure, including grassroots coordinator/pollster Gary Lawrence and Exec Board member Andrew Jansson was perhaps not a problem until folks like Lawrence and Jansson had to report on their political activities during conference calls between stake leaders and Q12 members.

    It’s perfectly fine with me if Mormons want to get involved in political campaigns. But when Apostles say one thing in public and one thing in private, it makes me uncomfortable.

    The Church wanted to be involved in politics, it wanted to be useful and helpful to the campaign, but it didn’t want the general public to know exactly how involved it was, as evidenced by the hard work done by folks like Andy Pugno to protect the privacy of folks like Gary Lawrence (a man who make no effort to hid his religious affiliation, despite Pugno’s desire to prevent that affiliation from being made fully known in open court).

    It’s always wrong to use force, coercion or threats to further your political agenda. It’s also wrong to pick on people because of their religious beliefs. It’s also wrong for spiritual leaders to allow – by their insistence that all participation is that of concerned citizens, as well as leaders’ silence regarding the depth of their involvement – the general public to believe that their followers are/were acting without significant influence and/or spiritual direction.

    To wit, how many LDS members would have given 4- or 5-figure donations to ProtectMarriage had they not been approached by their stake/regional LDS leaders to do so?

  52. Bob on January 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I took Kaimi’s post to be about ethics, not legal rights(?) I am not an attorney. However, I was called on to fill the “empty chair” three times for my Insurance corporation as the Defendant to testify on it’s behalf concerning “Bad Faith”. I was questioned about memos, letters, and notes (logs) in claims files. I was to defend the actions (or lack of action) of the company, where possible. Not just legally, but ethically. I guess that’s my reason for popping off on this post.

  53. MikeInWeHo on January 21, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    “nobody from the beginning of the world until about 20 years ago ever dreamed that such a “right” existed.”

    Ah, no.

    While the historical data are controversial and subject to conflicting interpretations, to assert that gays made this up out of whole cloth two decades ago is simply incorrect. The history of marriage patterns is nuanced and interesting. No small irony when Mormons of all people oversimplify it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage#Ancient

  54. Seldom on January 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    The reason the church wanted to hide their full involvement wasn’t just to avoid bad press or to avoid offending opponents of Prop 8. It was to keep their Protect Marriage partners on board. It seems pretty obvious that the Church was driving the Prop 8 bus or at least had the stongest hand on the wheel. A lot of other Christian groups would have jumped off the unified Prop 8 bus if they knew that the Mormons were driving. I’ll bet some of them are squirming a little right now.

  55. Juan on January 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    LRC,

    First, I am not persuaded that the Church was being secretive about its role, and second, counsel such as “don’t dress in Church clothes or identify your affiliation” seems pragmatically designed to avoid precisely the retaliation and harassment that occurred post Prop 8.

    There’s something quintessentially American about anonymous participation in the political process. We strongly value anonymous voting, anonymous association membership, etc. Compelled public disclosure of one’s participation in a political campaign opens individuals and organizations up to “threats, harassment, or re-prisals from either Government officials or private parties.” See McConnell v. FEC, 540 U.S. 93, 198.

    In a dissenting opinion released this morning, Justice Thomas addressed in length the post-Prop 8 record of harassment against Prop 8 proponents, and expressed deep concern over the Constitutionality of compelled disclosure of participation in the political process. You can read Thomas’ opinion here http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf, starting at page 2 of his dissent (page 179 of the PDF).

    The Supreme Court will have a chance to address the issue later this term in a much trickier gay marriage-related case, Reed v. Doe, which addresses the Constitutionality of compelled disclosure of signatories to a gay marriage referendu in Washington.

  56. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Hellmut (#46),

    I can agree with your interpretation.

  57. manaen on January 21, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    16.
    Amen!
    .
    37.
    Kidding, right? Trained not to look like Mormons??? Take non-members with you??? I went to the meetings, watched the video broadcast from SL, read the notices, and participated *fully* in helping to protect marriage and I never heard anyone mention such notions about appearances and religious quotas.
    .
    46.
    Interesting revisions of history and leaps to conclusions:
    .
    the members of the LDS Church who provided early money
    The opponents of marriage had the early lead in funding and ended with significantly more $$ raised/spent than did marriage’s defenders.
    .
    The most important resource of campaigns is time.
    Really? Usually heard that it was $, of which marriage’s opponents had the advantage.
    .
    if it had not been for the money from Mormon contributors solicited by Church leaders, the measure would have failed.
    How did you devine that the Mormons’ share of the lesser $ raised in favor of Prop 8 determined the outcome? If that were true, how are you distinguishing the difference between what Mormons contributed and what we would have contributed on our own without encouragement from Church leaders? (The difference is $0 in my case; I would have donated what I could without SLC’s encouragement). And having come up with that amount, how do you determine that the *difference* in Mormon donations caused by Church leaders’ encouragement resulted in a change of at least 1 out of every 50 votes from against marriage to favor Prop 8? (Which would be needed to negate the 4% margin of victory). I’m sure the Catholic, Evangelistic, Black, and other pro-marriage voters in California would be interested to hear the reasoning behind your dismissal of their affects on the election, as am I.
    .
    To me, the re-hashing of Prop 22 / Prop 8 / Prop Next is trying to find the right way to present the wrong message.

  58. Crick on January 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    The problem with this post is that it appears to show the Church wanted “plausible deniability” but then the update shows…oops…those are the words of the plaintiffs attorney.

    Its common for attornies for a party to not cast the other party in a favorable light. But that part seems to be an afterthought in this post. Looks like we don’t have the smoking gun here afterall!

  59. Lessie on January 21, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Chris, thanks for the props and for sticking up for me in spite of my bad taste :)

    I think the other issues have been addressed at this point and by people who admittedly have a better grasp on the details of these issues than I do at this point.

  60. Alison Moore Smith on January 21, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    I don’t quite understand comments wondering about the motivation of this post.

    While I didn’t question the OP’s motives, I questioned the relevance of the post, given that, when posted, it was like the telephone game. OTOH, motives and biases can fairly be questioned. I think Kaimi was opposed to Prop 8. (Correct me if I’m wrong!)

  61. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    “I think Kaimi was opposed to Prop 8.”

    If that is the case, then we should be suspicious of everything he does.

  62. Alison Moore Smith on January 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Blah, blah, blah. Obviously motives and biases mean something. Taking an extreme and bizarre stance doesn’t change that.

  63. WJ on January 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    “If that is the case, then we should be suspicious of everything he does.”

    No, not on everything, but he certainly has a demonstrable fetish for putting the Church in a negative light on the Prop 8 issue. This oogedy-boogedy post on a complete non-issue is simply another iteration of that fact. Though I must say I’ve been heartened that most commenters haven’t taken the bait.

  64. Kaimi Wenger on January 21, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Hmm. I put up a post about a significant legal case, pointing to a purported quote which is being discussed at major media outlets.

    I include in this post a very clear mention of potential problems with the purported quote, making T&S the only blog to discuss these concerns. (“This is not a direct quote from the document as far as I can tell, rather it’s a summary of the document by one trial attendee who writes for an anti-Prop-8 website. We’ll see whether the underlying document ends up becoming public, and if so exactly what language it contains.”)

    The ensuing discussion leads directly to LRC’s link, and to clear evidence that the quote is not accurate, and I immediately update the post to reflect this. This post is basically the only blogosphere discussion which _discredits_ the alleged quote.

    This is clearly evidence that I am attacking the church on Prop 8 and hoping to sucker all of you into joining me. Oogedy!

  65. Chris Henrichsen on January 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    One of my favorite things about visiting T&S is witnessing the hostility between permas.

    Kaimi, I appreciate the post. Good luck.

  66. Jonathan Green on January 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Well shoot, Kaimi, I was just about to start signing my tithing checks over to you. I guess the deal to make me your first counselor is off, then?

  67. Geoff on January 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I am an active high priest who happens to be liberal in my views, as was Joseph Smith. See last years P’hood lesson book p345,6. I live in Australia but was in California during the election and prop8 activities.
    I was amazed at some of the conservative views expressed in classes as if they were part of the Gospel. For example that universal health care is of the devil, and that homosexuality is a devil inspired choice. When queried I was informed that the Church is a conservative organization and that it would be impossible to be a good member without accepting these conservative views.
    Not a very welcoming message for a liberal.
    As a liberal member I, and those like me, have no reservations about the Gospel. I now realise that Prop8 and other conservative ideas, have nothing to do with the Gospel but are the republican culture of a majority of members in the US and their conservative neighbours. This republican culture even determines what is moral, shouldn’t the Gospel?
    One of the big differences between liberals and conservatives is the attitude to agency. On pages 345,6 Joseph Smith makes it clear we should respect other’s agency and not try by legal or other methods to impose out values on them. God gave them agency.
    The question is not whether a homosexual is able to call their relationship a marriage, the question is whether we are entitled to impose our values on them. Does it really affect you sealing if a gay couple can be married anyway?
    If the Gospel is to go to all the world, not just the conservatives, and as we live in a world where an investigator can look up more than LDS.org between missionary visits, investigators will likely pick up these conservative vibes. I believe this conservative/exclusive cultureis a big problem for the Church. I am not sure I would be able to get past the culture to the Gospel if I were an investigator.
    Sorry this is so long. I’ve left half of what I wanted to say off.

  68. WJ on January 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Uh oh, Geoff is taking the bait. Kaimi, quick! More caveats about how this is a wholly objective look at an important legal issue and not simply one more nauseating opportunity for people to lampoon Mormon conservatism over Prop 8 are needed STAT!

  69. Marc Bohn on January 21, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    The quote which the witness above characterized as showing the Church seeking to maintain “plausible deniability” is as follows:

    “He has also been hired by the coalition to do polling work for Prop 8. The main California grass roots leaders are in the process of being called as, quote, area directors, end quote, with the responsibility for areas that generally correspond to each of the 17 LDS coordinating councils for the LDS mission boundaries. Thereafter, priesthood leaders will call local prop coordinators over each stake and leaders by zip code within each ward – potentially working not only with LDS, but also LDS volunteers.”

  70. Kaimi Wenger on January 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Andrew Sullivan has now updated his blog to reflect that the alleged quote does not come from a Prop 8 campaign document.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/01/the-mormon-hierarchys-plausible-deniability-ctd.html

    He probably heard from several sources on this, I know I e-mailed him. Hey, T&S gets results. :)

  71. Mark on January 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    What bait is Geoff taking? He’s actually trying to show the core issue – the Church decided that it was appropriate to use the force of the law to deny a certain set of people legal rights (marriage equality is about equality before the law by ensuring that all couples can have, if they chose, the hundreds of rights and mutual obligations that accrue automatically through civil marriage.) It never had anything to do with religious marriage. That choice of the church flies completely in the face of the Gospel’s approach of using persuasion (not force) and valuing choice and supporting the exercise of free will. That’s what the idea of “many are called but few are chosen” is all about – go read that entire section of the D&C. And don’t forget about the Satan’s plan where he said he would FORCE everyone to be righteous and make it back to God – we know how that turned out. The church can have whatever opinion in wants to have about the eternal fate of people who make what it considers bad choices; using the law to force behavior or prohibit behavior that it doesn’t approve of is simply wrong.

    This doesn’t even begin to deal with the issues of why the church would partner with an organization that 1) wouldn’t HIRE Mormons because it considers us non-Christian and 2) leverage “talking points” from that organization that were based on lies and half-truths. Things like “Mormon bishops will have to stop performing marriages”, “Temple marriages in CA will stop because the law would force the church to allow same-sex marriages in the temples”, “parents will be forced to let their children be educated about same sex relationships” even though CA law expressly allows parents to take their children out of ANY and ALL discussions about sexuality of any type, “churches would lose their right to say that homosexuality is evil” even the the US Constitution has been found again and again to grant extreme free speech rights to individuals and churches, “churches who don’t support same-sex marriage will have their tax-free status revoked” even though the IRS rules and US laws are very clear about that. You know that scripture that talks about knowing someone or something by the fruit they bear? Well, lies and more lies are pretty definitive when it comes to showing the true nature of someone or something. Why the church opted to join in partnership with such an organization is a mystery, but pretty horrifying.

    If you really care about the GOSPEL and the church we should all care very much that in these actions the church positioned itself so far FROM the gospel and so CLOSE to a particular political and cultural ideology. The Gospel, as Geoff says, is for everyone. Not just conservative, Republican, authoritarian types who support gun control and unbridled capitalism. If you think about it, the Law of Consecration is the economic law that God revealed to us; American-style capitalism is about as far from that as you can get. We shouldn’t be celebrating that vast gap, we should be fighting every tendency in our fellow members to embrace an economic model that puts self at the center of everything and reminding them of the true message of the Gospel.

    Oh, and for those of you who are wondering what the point of these memos are, you’ve forgotten the point of the case. It’s that Prop 8 was motivated by hatred for a particular minority and that the law was passed as a way of institutionalizing that hatred. Every reason (lie and half-truth) that was given to oppose civil recognition of same-sex marriage was used against the idea of interracial marriage back when that was the issue of the day. And hopefully no one on this blog thinks that’s a bad idea or one that goes against God’s will. Lots of conservative Christian organizations and churches tried to keep that from happening. There’s not much difference here in terms of what people are trying to make happen in the civic realm. I know Mormons generally aren’t hateful people, but the group sponsoring this is a hateful group who would like nothing better than to drive every gay person out of sight if they can’t “reparative Therapy” them back into being straight. This case is attempting to show that irrational, emotional and very discriminatory belief systems drove this Proposition, and if so, it must be declared unconstitutional. It’s not about whether the church was involved or not – to all the points above, that’s known. It’s going to attempt to establish the motivating cause behind the proposition, and the church will probably be tarred with the truly hateful source beliefs of its partners in this activity. It’s very sad.

    And finally I really appreciate Geoff’s comments. While he’s one of us as a Mormon, he has the objectivity of a non-resident about our US-based Mormon culture. We should pay attention and ask ourselves is this behavior reflects the Gospel of Christ, which is foremost about love. And we should do what we can to make the Church about Christ and love, not wealth, guns and conservative politics.

  72. sister blah 2 on January 22, 2010 at 2:49 am

    LRC #37:

    “There is no doubt that members were trained and advised to walk precincts and make phone calls in ways that did not make them immediately identifiable as Mormons (don’t go in Sunday dress, don’t go in pairs, include non-members with you as much as possible, don’t mention your church membership when speaking about politics).”

    I’m not exactly a huge fan of our Prop8 involvement. However, I think you are misinterpreting this advice. The way I understood it (I attended all the trainings/broadcasts/etc), the purpose was two-fold.

    First, as a simple “idiot-proofing” of basic canvasser strategy. Of course it makes no sense for a political canvasser to start going on about their religion (nor their views on McCain/Obama, Dem/Rep, nor anything else). You’re just raising the risk of alienating your audience over something that isn’t even the issue at hand. I think the connections other commenters have made to the “backlash” (e.g., Juan 43) are incorrect–people were going to find out Mormons were involved regardless. The point is that if you’re selling vacuums, don’t also hand out Bibles or start talking about how you’re Rush Limbaugh’s biggest fan, because you won’t sell as many vacuums to atheists and Democrats. Again, this is just idiot-proofing against the overzealous member who gets the “bright” idea of “hey! I can kill two birds with one stone! Every door I knock for this political thing, I’ll place a Book of Mormon too!!” Much more immediate than the kind of hiding-in-anticipation-of-later-backlash that people are ascribing.

    Second, and this reason was explicitly stated in the trainings, was actually to reinforce the church/state separation. The church wanted it clear that when missionaries knock on your door, they’re there to talk about Jesus, and politics is not going to enter into it at all. This is really just the inverse of the vacuum scenario above. If you’re a missionary handing out Bibles, don’t also slip them a business card for your vacuum shop. It’s tacky, off-topic and will potentially turn off your audience.

  73. WillF on January 22, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Wow, some correction by Andrew Sullivan! Looks like he is giving himself plausable deniability that he ever was wrong the first time be not even admitting he was wrong. “Some confusion” = “I just spread a big lie, sorry”

  74. WillF on January 22, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Ok – so after cooling down a bit I do see he does admit he was wrong, but what I don’t like is that he went back and rewrote his original blog entry instead of doing what you did Kaimi by leaving the original text intact and making visible edits. He also uses the mealy-mouthed “It now appears” before “from the full trial transcript that it wasn’t.”

  75. Chris Henrichsen on January 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Henry,

    I disagree. Ardis is often funny.

    WillF,

    I have been a fan of Andrew Sullivan since the mid-1990s. While I do not agree with him on many things, I get a kick seeing the reaction that he provokes in many of my fellow Mormons after Prop 8.

  76. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

    My question is whether the Church will start mobilizing members in a high-profile fundraising campaign to respond to the devastation in Haiti. The twenty million dollars Church members spent on Prop 8 could save thousands of lives in Haiti. If fighting a losing battle against gay marriage is worth twenty million dollars, then fighting against poverty and disease in Haiti is worth at least that.

  77. John Mansfield on January 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Interesting question, ECS. Given your interest, perhaps you could go through the items at Mormon Times and tally up the Church’s efforts for us. Twenty million dollars is an interesting figure: with 50,000 missionaries supported by self and others at about $400 per month, that comes to twenty million dollars per month. Last month, this month, next month, every month. Off-hand, I would suppose that California’s hundred-some-odd stakes donated over twenty million dollars in fast offerings last year (and the year before that etc.). Three hundred families in each stake making an offering of $50 a month would add up to that level.

  78. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

    John – there aren’t 50,000 missionaries in Haiti and fast offering funds stay within the wards/stakes. It’s not only the money, it’s also the level of visibility the Church is giving to Haiti. On Proposition 8, every Church member in California knew the importance of Proposition 8 through countless emails, political rallies and door-to-door solicitation all encouraged by the Church. The Prop 8 fundraising and political activities went on for months.

    I applaud the Church’s relief efforts in Haiti, but making one or two announcements over the pulpit encouraging people to donate to the Humanitarian fund is a pathetic effort when compared with the Church’s very impressive and effective mobilization against gay marriage in California.

  79. John Mansfield on January 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

    My point with my twenty million dollar examples is that the Church and its members expend money like that on one thing or another month after month, year after year. Your line about “one or two announcements” indicates to me that you don’t know what aid the Church may be providing Haiti and really don’t care. I think you just want to throw dead Haitians conveniently at hand in the face of a cause you disagree with. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you also wish that those promoting any-sex marriage would also cease their efforts and turn their attention to the world’s poor and suffering.

  80. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 11:49 am

    John, I’ve read the press releases on LDS.org and have been involved with my ward’s efforts to provide relief. I’d also like to offer up my services here to anyone who knows Haitians in need of help with filing for Temporary Protected Status, which allows Haitians to work here legally for at least 18 months. If you or anyone knows Haitians who may benefit, please help them find someone to usher them through the process. There are many lawyers in the Church who could help people do this.

    Prop 8 is a distraction from the real issue, which is saving lives in Haiti and improving the quality of life there. The trouble is that more Church members became active politically around the gay marriage issue and donated to Prop 8 than will become active politically on behalf of Haiti and donate to relief efforts there. As a result, Church members probably think gay marriage is more of a threat than is poverty in Haiti.

  81. DavidH on January 22, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Re: Haiti relief. I agree with ECS. And there is precedent (although probably before most commenters here were born). Not long after President Monson joined the First Presidency, two special fasts were called for relief of people starving (I think in Ethiopia). All of the offering collected for those special fasts went for that purpose.

    The result was several million of fast offering for the relief of that group of the hungry. When adjusted to present dollars, it might well have been worth about $20 million in present dollars.

  82. Jonathan Green on January 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Sorry, I call foul on this one. For anything the church or anyone else does, ever, it will always be possible to say: But what are you going to do about this other issue?

    ECS, if Haiti is extremely important to you, you should do something about it (and I’m glad to hear that you are). If legalizing gay marriage is important to someone, then he or she should spend money and energy on that, rather than on carping at people who don’t. But the rhetorical move of “well, but why aren’t you doing X?” leads absolutely nowhere. Remember “Instead of protesting Iraq, why aren’t you protesting the war on the unborn?” Same move, same unprofitable discussion.

  83. Alison Moore Smith on January 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Geoff:

    I am an active high priest who happens to be liberal in my views, as was Joseph Smith.

    That’s a bit of equivocation. Can we at least honestly compare today’s liberal agenda with the liberal agenda of JS’s day before we claim prophetic similarity?

    When queried I was informed that the Church is a conservative organization

    When compared with the general US culture, the church IS on the conservative side. How far or on which issues is debatable. But the church’s stance on modesty, sexuality, family, personal responsibility, etc., simply are “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change.”

    Modesty, I think, is an interesting example. The dresses worn by the general RS presidency would have been scandalous in Brigham Young’s time, but modest by almost all US measures today. It’s not that we have an exacting standard of modesty. We have a standard that is modest relative to the rest of the culture. 1-piece swimsuits? Very revealing, but not in comparison to many others available.

    For the record, I haven’t tried to make a bullet-proof argument here and I don’t want to take the time to further refine. But I think it is generally true that, when compared to the rest of American/European culture, the church is quite conservative. I’m mostly surprised that anyone is surprised by that.

    As a liberal member I, and those like me, have no reservations about the Gospel. I now realise that Prop8 and other conservative ideas, have nothing to do with the Gospel but are the republican culture of a majority of members in the US and their conservative neighbours. This republican culture even determines what is moral, shouldn’t the Gospel?

    You’ll have to ask the general leaders of the church why they are so, shall we say, “out of tune” with the real gospel. They seem to think it was a relevant moral issue.

    One of the big differences between liberals and conservatives is the attitude to agency. On pages 345,6 Joseph Smith makes it clear we should respect other’s agency and not try by legal or other methods to impose out values on them. God gave them agency.

    Geoff, every law ever enacted imposes someone’s moral values on everyone else. Unless you are implying that JS wanted an utterly lawless society, your interpretation doesn’t hold up.

    And, seriously, JS told women that they’d face eternal damnation or be destroyed or whatever if they didn’t enter into polygamy. Would that count as “other methods to impose our values on them”?

    If the Gospel is to go to all the world, not just the conservatives…

    And what if the gospel, the actual real hone-downed gospel, is CONSERVATIVE when compared with the world? Should it change (and how do we accomplish that?) to be more attractive to those who don’t like it that way?

    For example, maybe too many people are turned off by that old-fashioned, nutty idea to only have sex when you are married. Sheesh. Let’s loosen up on that crazy idea. I mean when two (or three or more!) committed people are in love, what is wrong with that? Or drinking. We all know drinking in moderation is good for your heart. Come on, get up with the latest science! The WoW should be modded to include the latest research. Besides, think of all the people who won’t join the church because they think teetotalism is just plain weird.

    ECS:

    Prop 8 is a distraction from the real issue, which is saving lives in Haiti and improving the quality of life there.

    “The real issue”? You have decided that Haiti trumps pro-Prop 8 measures. Please, let us know what other issues we should immediately drop in favor of Haitian relief.

    I’ll start: Temporary Protected Status is a distraction from the “real issue” of getting people out of the rubble and getting them water, food, shelter, and medical care. The resources spent providing TPS could save lives in Haiti.

    In fact, why are you all reading and posting on this silly blog when you could be saving lives?

  84. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Jonathan and Allison – my point is that the attention given to Proposition 8 vs. the attention given to the relief efforts in Haiti is disproportionate considering human lives are at stake in Haiti. I’m not sure I understand how temporarily saving California from gay marriage is more important than permanently saving lives in Haiti, but it seems that you don’t either.

    Allison – since TPS allows Haitians to work here in the U.S. and to send money back to their relatives in Haiti, the resources spend on securing TPS for Haitians will save lives in Haiti. I doubt anyone is still alive under the rubble, since the earthquake happened a week and a half ago.

  85. Steve Evans on January 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Alison, the suggestion that a debate over gay marriage is more important than saving the lives of Haitian earthquake victims is outrageous. I’m sure that’s not what you meant to imply, is it? Because if that’s so, you are a monster.

  86. Kaimi on January 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Alison,

    Is it your position that church leaders are never influenced by culture, or that they never mix up the two?

  87. Marc Bohn on January 22, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Please, commenters and perms alike, remember our T&S comment policies and the Mormon Ethic of Civility and ease up off any acidic snark or personal attacks.

  88. Jonathan Green on January 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    ECS, the logical fallacy is treating “attention” as a two-party zero-sum game, so that any energy invested in issue X necessarily detracts from issue Y, or would accrue to issue Y if only issue X were resolved. Unrelated issues (like gay marriage and natural disasters) don’t work that way, and it’s silly to pretend they do.

    I’m also a bit unsure what you would want to happen now, since the Prop 8 campaign was over a year ago. All that volunteer effort is in the past, and therefore not conflicting with the present crisis in Haiti. To increase available resources for Haiti, do you think someone should delete this blog post and its comments, or that someone should suspend the ongoing Prop 8 civil trial until the Haiti crisis has passed? Both? Neither? Something else?

  89. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Jonathan – I’m not making myself clear, sorry. Let me try again. People have a finite financial and emotional capacity for contributing to certain causes. Take “X” as Prop 8 and “Y” as Earthquake Relief. While X and Y are in fact separate and independent events, the average Mormon who has a limited disposable income will contribute $100 of their disposable income to X because of strong solicitation efforts sponsored by the Church, but this average Mormon probably will not have additional funds to contribute to Y. In this way, X and Y are very much related events.

    As for the present crisis in Haiti, I used the Prop 8 campaign as an example of how Church members mobilize to accomplish a common goal when encouraged by Church leadership. The Church, for whatever reason, has chosen not to create a similar fundraising campaign for the Haitian relief effort. I submit that the Church’s fundraising efforts and political participation to assist the Haitian earthquake victims should be equally as strong and unified as it was during the Prop 8 campaign.

  90. Ardis Parshall on January 22, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Anecdotal evidence: I didn’t donate a penny to Prop 8, or knock on a single door or make a single phone call or post any sign or honk at any intersection. Had I lived in California, I would have voted for Prop 8, but that is as far as it goes.

    On the other hand, I am moved to tears every single time I see a picture from Haiti. I have written two senators and a congressman insisting that they support every national effort toward helping Haiti. I have already donated far beyond my means to a reputable charity, but expect I will donate again and again because I keep telling myself that going without X so that I can make a donation is a sacrifice … until I see another picture of another Haitian going without everything.

    ECS, I don’t think you can casually dismiss what the Church and individual members of the Church may be doing to help the Haitians.

    It just may be that all that effort and those repeated calls and constant haranguing was what it took to move people toward supporting Prop 8. And it just may be that the same campaign effort is not necessary to raise far more than $20 million for Haiti.

  91. Alison Moore Smith on January 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    No time to catch up on this thread, just wanted to pop this in. Just got a text from LDS Public Affairs that says this:

    First Presidency Appeals to Church Members to Help People in Haiti
    See newsroom.lds.org for details

  92. DavidH on January 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I think the Brethren were reading this thread. Here is the link to which Allison refers: http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/first-presidency-statement-on-haiti

  93. Kaimi Wenger on January 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    That’s a very good statement, and I hope that members respond well to it.

  94. ECS on January 22, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    I’m not dismissing the Church’s efforts. I’ve seen first hand the dedication of our members to helping those affected by the earthquake. The Church’s fundraising and political efforts in opposing same-sex marriage in California, however, dwarf its fundraising efforts in response to the Haitian earthquake. Even with the press release just posted in the LDS Newsroom encouraging members to donate money and time, I doubt Stake Presidencies are personally calling wealthy members in their Stakes and encouraging them to write checks to the Humanitarian Fund. The Church’s efforts opposing same-sex marriage included personal solicitation of funds and spanned months and months.

    You may well believe that the Church’s response to the earthquake in Haiti is commensurate with the suffering there as compared with the Church’s response to Prop 8 and the (less visibly obvious) suffering caused by gay marriage. I’m suggesting that the Church’s fundraising efforts could be greater in Haiti in light of the effective fundraising and political power it mobilized in California. That’s all.

    I hope anyone reading this thread will follow the guidance of our leaders and donate to the Humanitarian Fund, or the Red Cross, UNICEF or Partners in Health, etc.

  95. Geoff on January 23, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Allison,
    You have a different view of what a liberal stands for than I do.
    The Church was in the liberal camp until around 1900, so it can operate with liberal interpretation.
    The principles of the Gospel do not change for liberals they are just interpreted slightly differently and as with the prop8 example are not imposed on others.

    I don’t agree that all laws are imposed, I would think they are legislating accepted standards and often defending minorities.

    As for modesty, as you point out it is cultural, and changing. Sexual fidelity is Gospel but we do not seek to impose our standard on the hetrosexuals only the homosexuals, because of consevative cultural values?
    My point is that having the republican culture attached to the Church and seen by the members as part of their religious beliefs is very limiting to the growth of the Church and type of members we recruit.

    This culture also affects the operation of the Church. Since the introduction of Area Presidencies, who come from this culture and choose Stake Presidents who they are comfortable with, you can find in a small ward a very limited pool of conservatives from which to call Bishops. As liberals are more questioning they are not seen as quite suitable by the yes man type conservative culture. As conservatives seem to be less tolerant and inclusive this can be a problem.
    The best Bishops I’ve had were more liberal but there are very few liberal leaning Bishops called any more.

  96. Alison Moore Smith on January 23, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Thank you, Jonathan, Ardis.

    ECS:

    my point is that the attention given to Proposition 8 vs. the attention given to the relief efforts in Haiti is disproportionate considering human lives are at stake in Haiti. I’m not sure I understand how temporarily saving California from gay marriage is more important than permanently saving lives in Haiti, but it seems that you don’t either.

    The church’s attention to the Book of Mormon is also disproportionate to relief efforts. And I’m guessing you’ll spend more time in your life showering than relieving suffering in Haiti.

    Unless you want to tell me that you are going to spend the rest of your life ONLY doing, spending resources on, etc., the ONE THING you have determined is the SINGULAR priority, then this line of reasoning isn’t, well, reasonable. But, come on, you’re posting on a freaking blog! Is THAT the best way to “save lives” or do some other equally noble thing?

    If you’re going to defend things like working, worshipping, blogging, vacationing, etc., then you could probably extend the same principle to the church. It’s probably OK if the church does more than just spend all it’s resources saving lives in peril, even though they COULD spend all their resources that way, and even though doing so is a worthy service.

    Kaimi:

    Is it your position that church leaders are never influenced by culture, or that they never mix up the two?

    If that had been my position, I would have said so. But if I’m going to pick who is most confused about the gospel, I’ll probably pick bloggers over general authorities.

    Geoff:

    The Church was in the liberal camp until around 1900, so it can operate with liberal interpretation.

    What principles and platforms did the “liberal” church support at the turn of the last century that are now rejected by conservatives? And which are now rejected by liberals? Interesting thoughts.

    I don’t agree that all laws are imposed, I would think they are legislating accepted standards and often defending minorities.

    Accepted standards – as determined by someone’s value set. Defending minorities – in instances that someone’s value set has determined are important. Even traffic laws are imposing a particular value set over another.

    In fact, if there isn’t an opposing value set that is being “imposed upon” there isn’t much need for a law at all, is there?

  97. ECS on January 23, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Alison, no, that is not right. I’m not arguing that the Church should ONLY provide disaster relief. I’m arguing that Prop 8 fundraising efforts were disproportionately forceful and effective considering the Church’s Haitian relief fundraising efforts.

  98. Dan on January 23, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Alison,

    What principles and platforms did the “liberal” church support at the turn of the last century that are now rejected by conservatives?

    Um, polygamy?

    Even traffic laws are imposing a particular value set over another.

    The difference between the morality of traffic laws vs the morality of, say, drinking alcohol is that no one questions the morality of traffic laws, whereas a significant segment of the voting public does not think drinking alcohol should be controlled by the government in any fashion. The point of morality in law and governance is that if you impose your morality upon another group that does not agree with your morality, you are in fact forcing your morality on them without them having a choice in the matter. That is contrary to the Gospel.

  99. WJ on January 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Oh bother. Well Kaimi, it looks like you got your wish, another unproductive slugfest over Prop 8. You could have saved yourself the time, however, and simply reposted one of your previous Prop 8 blogs from previous years.

    Or, alternatively, you could have simply admitted the real point of the blog, rather than hiding under a veil of intellectual legal analysis.

    “I put up a post about a significant legal case, pointing to a purported quote which is being discussed at major media outlets…. The ensuing discussion leads directly to LRC’s link, and to clear evidence that the quote is not accurate, and I immediately update the post to reflect this. This post is basically the only blogosphere discussion which _discredits_ the alleged quote.”

    While this all sounds very noble, the fact remains that if you (and others, such as Sullivan, who also has his obvious motives) had not been over eager to post the quote in the first place (and provide a premature “ouch, this doesn’t look good for the church” assessment), there would not have been a misconception.

  100. WJ on January 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Now that the full transcript of my previous comment is available, I should clarify that I think the Prop 8 issue, the Church’s involvement in Prop 8, and the outcome of this California case, are all significant. I don’t think discussion about Prop 8 is “unproductive” (can someone send an email to Sullivan to update him on this fact). In fact, I think Alison made some fantastic points in this thread, and I also enjoyed Dan’s point that Geoff believes in polygamy since he is a liberal like the turn-of-the-century Church liberals.

  101. Chris Henrichsen on January 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    ECS,

    Lowell Bennion felt much the same way you do. People crapped on him for it, too. You are in great company.

  102. Alison Moore Smith on January 23, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    ECS:

    I’m not arguing that the Church should ONLY provide disaster relief. I’m arguing that Prop 8 fundraising efforts were disproportionately forceful and effective considering the Church’s Haitian relief fundraising efforts.

    What resources has the church actually contributed to either issue? Do you (or anyone here) actually know?

    You believe the church (by some measure you divined (memos you read? news reports?)) showed they thought the gay marriage issue was “more important” than saving lives because they have raised more money for the gay marriage issue?

    I would guess that the church used humanitarian funds for Haitian relief. Perhaps other funds as well. Assuming that might be correct, what “efforts” does the church use to raise humanitarian funds? How does that compare to the efforts put toward gay marriage?

    Dan:

    Um, polygamy?

    Last I checked, neither liberals nor conservatives support polygamy now. So how does this show that Geoff’s liberal politics (or yours) align with Joseph Smith’s politics?

    The difference between the morality of traffic laws vs the morality of, say, drinking alcohol is that no one questions the morality of traffic laws

    Of course they do. In fact, I’d say MOST people question the “morality” of them.

    When I lived in Florida, our ward made regular temple trips (youth and/or adults). I generally volunteered to drive our van to Orlando. Every single trip, without exception, I was the last one to arrive. Because I don’t speed. I figure that if I’m driving a boatload of kids to an event, I want to make sure that I’m completely within the law. It was a big joke in the ward that I didn’t speed.

    No one seemed to have any moral compunction about speeding and I’m guessing that most of the readers here don’t either.

    In addition to that, there are people who think speed limits should be abolished. (Some use Germany, Montana, etc., as examples).

    whereas a significant segment of the voting public does not think drinking alcohol should be controlled by the government in any fashion.

    And as long as the majority think that, it isn’t very likely to be legislated. But if the majority ever changes that opinion, then the MINORITY will have the majority value set IMPOSED on them.

    And as long as the majority thinks that marriage is one adult man/one adult woman, then gay couples, polygamous couples, animal couples, adult/child couples, human/animal couples, plant couples, inanimate object couples — will all have the existing value set IMPOSED on them.

    Every law imposes a value set.

    Thanks, WJ. :)

  103. Kaimi Wenger on January 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Let’s focus on the real issue, WJ: Why do you personally hate the Haitians?

  104. WJ on January 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Ha, Kaimi, direct hit. I have no adequate response to that ;)

  105. Dan on January 23, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Alison,

    Last I checked, neither liberals nor conservatives support polygamy now. So how does this show that Geoff’s liberal politics (or yours) align with Joseph Smith’s politics?

    You didn’t ask if today’s liberals were against it. Your question was quite specific, and the answer is correct. :)

    When I lived in Florida, our ward made regular temple trips (youth and/or adults). I generally volunteered to drive our van to Orlando. Every single trip, without exception, I was the last one to arrive. Because I don’t speed. I figure that if I’m driving a boatload of kids to an event, I want to make sure that I’m completely within the law. It was a big joke in the ward that I didn’t speed.

    But Alison, the difference between questioning the morality of a law, and simply ignoring it is all together something else. That the others on that trip chose out of their own free will to disregard the law does not imply that they disagreed with the morality of traffic laws. If one of them were to have gotten in an accident, and one of the causes was that they were driving too fast, they would not question, as their defense, the morality of the law against speeding. That is because they already approve of the morality of the law. Whether they choose to follow the law or not is another matter.

    Every law imposes a value set.

    Of course it does. I don’t think anyone questions this statement. Frankly it undercuts the frequent arguments made that we’re some “free” society. But that’s neither here nor there. We won’t find a perfect system whilst on this earth (not even during Christ’s reign in the Millennium). Values we may not agree with will constantly be placed over us. The wonderful thing about having a representative democracy (even though we’re really losing that, and starting to live in a corporatocracy), is that nothing is written, and we get to set the rules, the laws, as we see fit. We get to set the values. When we do not agree on a set of values, we have a bit of a conflict. Sometimes that leads to wars (the Civil War), and sometimes just to protests (Civil Rights). Sometimes one side simply says, “I don’t really have a dog in this fight anymore” and lives with and tolerates the results of the choice of the other (the Church dropping Polygamy). From the evidence I am seeing, the church today is backing off its push against gay rights within this country, and realizing this is not a battle worth fighting to the end. It is my personal belief that this, if true, is a good move, as gays receiving rights within the law does not affect the church’s ability to expand, to teach the gospel, or to set standards for all to achieve. Nor does it threaten the church’s ability to perform temple sealings.

  106. Scott on January 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    #100

    “From the evidence I am seeing, the church today is backing off its push against gay rights within this country, and realizing this is not a battle worth fighting to the end. It is my personal belief that this, if true, is a good move, as gays receiving rights within the law does not affect the church’s ability to expand, to teach the gospel, or to set standards for all to achieve. Nor does it threaten the church’s ability to perform temple sealings.”

    Well, that’s the thing: it never was about “gay rights.” The redefinition, loosening, and changing of marriage was always first and foremost in the Church’s cautions. Oppressing gay people was never on the radar. The Church, as we remember, recently backed Salt Lake legislation ending housing and employment discrimination based on homosexuality. Limiting rights, etc was never a part of the plan.

  107. Dan on January 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Scott,

    #101,

    Why would that be a concern when it has absolutely no effect on how the church defines marriage? Except unless the church was trying to project its morality upon a group that never accepted it in the first place.

  108. Scott on January 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Dan,

    #102

    It’s not necessarily how the Church defines marriage that it was trying to protect. If anything, it was trying to protect society, maintaining the one correct way a family should be organized. As outlined in the Proclamation to the World regarding the family, happiness is most likely to be found with a man and a woman at the helm — suggesting that any other pairing would be less likely to bring happiness. Rather than allow such an idea (marriage between anyone and anyone is just as good as marriage between man and woman) to spread like a pandemic, the Church — or more specifically, God — would prefer to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

    Furthermore, the ideas propagated by same-sex marriage advocates omit or blur certain parts of the truth, and the Church is dedicated to truth. Among the inventions are the idea of a “gay gene,” the idea that children obtain as healthy an identity from gay adoptive parents as from biological parents, and the idea that same-sex attraction is something the human race is meant to adopt and live. The Church, naturally adhering to truth, would rather not have certain untruthful teachings catch like wildfire as they already have. If this Church is guided by God, then it’s God trying to keep marriage what it is, not Church headquarters alone.

  109. Dan on January 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Scott,

    Is it the church’s responsibility to protect society from itself?

  110. Scott on January 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Dan,

    Well, there are two avenues I’d pursue in response. One is the principle behind “Good Samaritan” laws, particularly European: if someone’s in danger and you have the means to save or help them, your obligation as a responsible member of society is to protect them. Some people do not want help (ie: a person who wants to commit suicide), but saving such a person’s life is admirable. If a person had the means to save society as a whole (whether society were unwilling to receive help), he should feel that same obligation to do so.

    The second centers in the universal truth that when there is a problem, there are a number of solutions but only one best solution. Many people step forward with adequate or inferior solutions, and none of them can compare to the best solution. Knowing that God with infinite wisdom understands the problems facing the human race, we also know He has the best answers. Once we have the best one — through the prophets — there’s no reason to accept a lesser solution instead. For this reason, because the Church led by God will have the best solution, they have every right to apply that best solution to the problem and solve it.

  111. Dan on January 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Scott,

    On the first point, the question is whether someone is in danger. Now, granted, a religion can claim someone’s life is in danger of say hellfire, but from a legal standpoint, that’s just not a good argument to make. On the second point, with the church having made mistakes in the past (blacks and the priesthood, polygamy), one would argue the church is in no position to be the authoritative source of what is best for the rest of society. I would love for the church to be right all the time, because I believe the truth is here. But they are not right all the time due to human beings being in charge who make mistakes. When it comes to the morality of all of society, it is not the church’s place to protect the rest of society from themselves and their own choices in life (or in the case of homosexuality, their lack of choice). The church cannot project its morality upon others because it doesn’t have that kind of authority. It can take stands on issues. It can proclaim what is right, but if it attempts to use the law to force another group that does not agree with its morality, and who do not pose an actual threat against the church, then it is taking a step too far. This is simply my point of view.

  112. Geoff on January 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Allison and all, A few thing that I think would be different in a Liberal influenced Church.
    The ongoing references to Families, our principles being under attack because others have different views. We don’t have to feel threatened by different views.

    The sanitized magazines, Ensign etc. we could cope with other views on subjects such as Adoption. We could have Q&A with real questions and answers.

    We could admit that all children will not be angels and turn into obedient adults if we have FHE, Prayer, and Scripture Study. They help but so do Parenting skills etc.

    We would have a wider view of providing a family friendly environment for example a family member lived in Germany where they had 9 weeks annual leave, 35 hour work week, workers encouraged to leave by 5.00pm, universal health care, single mothers pensions, a culture of individual responsibility, but no concern about the make up of the family you went home to. These were intended to be family friendly. The fathers family time was much reduced when moved to US.

    We would not be involved in prop8 because it is irrelavent to family wellbeing see above,

    A greater emphasis on JOY rather than obedience. Many members believe they are here to learn obedience- I believe we are here to learn Joy – what if I’m right. How much discussion of Joy in last 2 SS lessons?

    An emphasis on the joy of sex within marriage whenever pre marrital sex is discouraged.

    These are a few of the ways a more liberal culture would change how we see the Gospel- This is how I see the Gospel

  113. Scott on January 23, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Dan,

    “On the first point, the question is whether someone is in danger. Now, granted, a religion can claim someone’s life is in danger of say hellfire, but from a legal standpoint, that’s just not a good argument to make.”

    Well, there are (at least) two ways to justify our actions: by what’s politically relevant, and by what’s best in the long run. The first can earn a few pats on the back and some smiles from across the aisle, but the second can prevent society from torpedoing, it’s definitely the better choice.

    “On the second point, with the church having made mistakes in the past (blacks and the priesthood, polygamy), one would argue the church is in no position to be the authoritative source of what is best for the rest of society. I would love for the church to be right all the time, because I believe the truth is here. But they are not right all the time due to human beings being in charge who make mistakes. When it comes to the morality of all of society, it is not the church’s place to protect the rest of society from themselves and their own choices in life (or in the case of homosexuality, their lack of choice). The church cannot project its morality upon others because it doesn’t have that kind of authority. It can take stands on issues. It can proclaim what is right, but if it attempts to use the law to force another group that does not agree with its morality, and who do not pose an actual threat against the church, then it is taking a step too far. This is simply my point of view.”

    I respect your point of view. Please don’t see my counter-arguments as hostility.

    First, I’d question whether these issues you’ve brought up are “mistakes” by the part of the Church. I’m quite aware of errors the Brethren have committed in the past, and there are certain cases when certain men honestly believed they were following revelation from God but had misinterpreted their own understanding in absence of actual revelation; at other times, they were given revelation adjusted to their circumstances, according to the will of God, which was later rescinded because of new circumstances. As for the priesthood and blacks, the only definitive answer I can give is that its end was by God, and I can’t offer any more than speculation — I hesitate to call it a “mistake,” though, when I can see other motives why the Lord would have it happen. As for polygamy, I’m as sure as I could ever be that it was not a revelatory mistake. It was begun by revelation, and it was ended by revelation, and from Joseph Smith to Wilford Woodruff it was clearly commissioned by God.

    I wouldn’t put much weight on the mistakes of the Brethren. For all the errors they’ve committed, the Church still continues on its straight course. If there’s anyone we could trust for the welfare of society, it would be them, being the only ones with authority to communicate with God — the Master Planner — on behalf of the whole world. With that said, however, I recognize that the keys given to the Brethren govern only the Church as yet, and not the nations of the worlds; therefore, their revelation regarding civil matters is rare, and really refers more to actions (ie: abortion) rather than customs and policy.

    It is true that the Church cannot protect people from themselves; individual agency is an essential part of the plan, and cannot be negated. However, (and while we recognize denying the freedom to become married is not a restriction on their God-given agency,) we should be sure to recognize the inverse: no one is allowed to impose their morals on members of the Church, correct?

    If marriage is redefined in the courts, it’s redefined in the legislature.

    If marriage is redefined in the legislature, it’s redefined in the state system (Supremacy Clause, U.S. Constitution).

    If marriage is redefined in the state system, it’s redefined in the state education system.

    All automatically. The government is all one unified block; if we redefine a certain thing, the certain thing is redefined everywhere in that sphere where it’s redefined.

    If my hypothetical first-grade son raises his hand and asks about marriage in public school, his teacher will be legally unable to respond that it’s a civil union between a man and a woman; to do so would be discriminatory, especially for a public worker. The teacher would have to acknowledge that, according to the government, same-sex marriages are “as valid” as traditional marriages.

    And the fact that the government recognizes that and keeps that as a fact in schools infringes on my rights to maintain the standards and beliefs I hold with my kids — not to mention the overwhelming cases of “discrimination” that are popping up from same-sex couples suing business owners who do not accept their patronage.

    Thus, the two definitions cannot exist in harmony.

    “It can take stands on issues. It can proclaim what is right, but if it attempts to use the law to force another group that does not agree with its morality, and who do not pose an actual threat against the church, then it is taking a step too far.”

    The inverse must be, equally true. The same-sex marriage movement can take its stand on issues. It can proclaim what is right, but when it attempts to use the law to force the Church when it doesn’t agree with its morality, it too is taking a step too far.

    The common assumption, which is not true, is that redefining marriage is harmless and only has to do with a word. It does have to do with a word, but it has to do with so much more. The same-sex marriage movement has variably projected the following outcomes:

    1. Changing marriage will only change marriage, nothing else, and no one else will be affected.
    2. Changing marriage will change public opinion, making people more accepting of same-sex marriage, but will not affect children’s opinions on male-female roles.
    3. Changing marriage will change children’s opinions on male-female roles, eliminating gender barriers and opening opportunities, but will not affect a child’s tendency to experiment with same-sex attraction.
    4. Changing marriage will do all of the above and facilitate a child’s “self-discovery” and experimentation with same-sex attraction, but will not affect how other people see marriage.

    Of course, the same-sex marriage movement doesn’t intend to disagree with itself. There are many within it who honestly believe changing marriage is only a matter of a definition and will cause no harm to the rest of society. However, that’s not what the movement ultimately wants. They, as an end goal, wants same-sex attraction to become integrated in society and as natural as a man and a woman holding hands — or to make it equal with heterosexual marriage. That may come as a surprise to some of the more conservative same-sex marriage supporters, but the way to end the shame and humiliation of same-sex attraction, the movement argues, is to make it equal to opposite-sex marriage. That means granting all benefits of marriage to same-sex applicants. That means educating children to accept and tolerate same-sex marriage as normal. That means opening the military to the idea that same-sex attracted soldiers are normal like anyone else. It means deconstructing the value of either a man or a woman, because in order for same-sex marriage to have the same value as an opposite-sex marriage, the participants must have equal value, or be the same — therefore, “man” and “woman” are unnecessary, or rather injurious, distinctions that should be eliminated.

    Is this, or is this not, the goal of the same-sex marriage movement?

    Other points of conflict within their arguments:

    1a. Children will not be educated in schools regarding the validity of same-sex marriage. It’ll be kept only in the government.
    1b. Children must be educated in schools regarding the validity of same-sex marriage in order to overcome the bigotry and hate of their parents and accept their same-sex-attracted friends.
    2a. The Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial must be broadcast only for transparency’s sake, and neither witnesses or defendants will be affected.
    2b. The Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial must be broadcast for the sake of holding the witnesses and defendants accountable for their words.
    3a. Same-sex marriage applicants just want the tax breaks and benefits that come from marriage status. They don’t want this to be a big, society-changing event.
    3b. Now is the time to overcome the shame of same-sex attraction, and society will change to accommodate.

    Are the “a” claims not innocent first steps, and are the “b” claims not attached to the “a” claims in a way consistent with the movement’s eventual goals?

    Is this not the truth?

    If it were only a redefinition of a word, that would be great. If the Brethren supported it, I would too. But they know better than I do. They’ve been called of God, and I’ll support them as long as the Spirit tells me to. If they’ve been wrong, which I do doubt, then I’ll have been justified.

    Nothing I’ve said in this post has been an intentional insult. I recognize speaking about these things can come off as abrasive, but it’s the truth.

  114. Alex T. Valencic on January 23, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    3a. Same-sex marriage applicants just want the tax breaks and benefits that come from marriage status. They don’t want this to be a big, society-changing event.

    Unless I have been horribly misinformed, in many states, including California, civil union laws already grant these benefits. So to everyone who is making the claim that SSM proponents were just seeking equality within the law, they already had it. The only thing that same-sex couples in California have been denied is the title of “married”.

  115. Dan on January 24, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Scott,

    Well, there are (at least) two ways to justify our actions: by what’s politically relevant, and by what’s best in the long run. The first can earn a few pats on the back and some smiles from across the aisle, but the second can prevent society from torpedoing, it’s definitely the better choice.

    I used to believe this but upon studying history, I just don’t find evidence. For example, homosexuality was quite tolerated in Greek and Roman societies and they flourished. In terms of “torpedoing” a society, I can’t see what that means. What is the level of a society that one bases this on? For example, is society today in the tank compared to, well which previous period? I just don’t know what “torpedoing” means in describing a society.

    First, I’d question whether these issues you’ve brought up are “mistakes” by the part of the Church. I’m quite aware of errors the Brethren have committed in the past, and there are certain cases when certain men honestly believed they were following revelation from God but had misinterpreted their own understanding in absence of actual revelation; at other times, they were given revelation adjusted to their circumstances, according to the will of God, which was later rescinded because of new circumstances.

    If you were to describe these incidents to non-Mormons, they’d laugh in your face because you’re making excuses for actions that now look embarrassing. Whether sincere or not in their beliefs, whether or not these kinds of incidents were actually ordered by God, they weaken the church’s ability to project its authority upon others. Because of incidents like these, the church is in the same position as any other group/organization/institution/religion vying for the hearts and minds of the populace and if it tries to use its position as speaking for God Himself on a matter, will not be taken seriously because of past incidents that had to be embarrassingly rescinded. Take for instance polygamy. Without having any actual research on me on the subject (and I’ll accept whatever the actual truth of the matter is on the subject), I bet that the few years after the church rescinded polygamy were probably the lowest moments in the church’s history in terms of influence and impact on the rest of society.

    This isn’t to say that the church should not take stands on issues and preach the right path. Not in the least. I think, for example, that its position on abortion is very wise and a good balance that takes reality into account. I think its position on homosexuality has not been very good, driven mostly by the traditional Christian (and other religious) thinking and beliefs about homosexuality, and not really grounded in reality. I’m pleased that our Apostles and prophets have made efforts to better understand homosexuality without the usual condemnation you find from other Christian faiths.

    we should be sure to recognize the inverse: no one is allowed to impose their morals on members of the Church, correct?

    to a degree. As Alison and I debated the morality of traffic laws, for example, there are times when morals are to be imposed on others. I’m not a big fan of absolutes. The world is far more complex than that.

    And the fact that the government recognizes that and keeps that as a fact in schools infringes on my rights to maintain the standards and beliefs I hold with my kids — not to mention the overwhelming cases of “discrimination” that are popping up from same-sex couples suing business owners who do not accept their patronage.

    Thus, the two definitions cannot exist in harmony.

    This is a great conundrum, isn’t it? Imagine how homosexuals feel. Previous to this era, they had to endure quite horrible persecutions at school from their peers and from their teachers. Imagine you were a kid confused about feelings you didn’t know what they meant, and then you hear from your teacher that homosexuality is a sin before God and that homosexuals go to hell. I mean, ouch!

    It’s quite a conundrum to face because at this point it seems the two sides are not reconcilable. Say the church’s position wins out in the court of public opinion and public law (as was the case with Prop 8). What exactly do we still do with the millions of homosexuals in America? Do they just magically disappear? Obviously not. What’s more, it seems they’ve found their political and public voice and are now a major player in American politics. Their view now carries weight and influence. Simply keeping the status quo doesn’t work anymore. We’re in an new world, and a new direction we’ve never been in before. I get the feeling we’ll be alright even if public schools will have to redefine how marriages work in this country.

    Is this, or is this not, the goal of the same-sex marriage movement?

    Essentially, as I understand it. I’m of no opinion either way on this particular topic. Because I don’t see gay rights as a threat to my religion and my worldview, I have no beef with those promoting gay rights. I also really don’t care that much for the other side either. I do care what my religion does because as I sustain it and its leadership, I bear accountability for its actions. Thus any criticism I have of the church tends to be on this front.

    Are the “a” claims not innocent first steps, and are the “b” claims not attached to the “a” claims in a way consistent with the movement’s eventual goals?

    Is this not the truth?

    I honestly don’t know the intents of the hearts of those who promote gay rights. I get the feeling that they’re just tired of feeling hated for something that they had no original control over. I can understand that. In the search for peace in their lives, they may not realize the ultimate consequences of their actions. Then again, homosexuality has been researched tremendously over the past thirty years or so. There’s quite a lot of literature on the subject. From the brief items I have seen (and again, this isn’t a topic I really care about all that much), I don’t get the impression there is a sinister bent behind their actions. Certainly they’re not picking on our religion exclusively but rather at bigotry as a whole which homosexuals have faced since the founding of this great country of ours. What will be the ultimate outcome? Who knows. Society is like an ocean, constantly swirling and in motion. There’s never a set outcome, but rather a path filled with moments. We take snapshots of moments in time, moments that last, for well, moments and then disappear like fog under the morning light. The path I have chosen (being in this church) works well for me and has been a blessing in my life, but I won’t impose on others who have not chosen this path.

  116. Bart Mortensen on January 29, 2010 at 7:59 am

    For anyone to actually believe that SLC was not behind this is a big way is paramount to leaving your brain at the door when you walked in.

  117. Kaimi Wenger on January 31, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    This post was discussing one purported quote about the church’s actions. I don’t think anyone is arguing that church leaders were not involved in the Prop 8 campaign. And if anyone is making that argument, they’re very obviously wrong. A number of church leaders spoke directly and on the record about Prop 8, and that’s not really news to anyone here.

  118. Kristine on January 31, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Alex, do you pay more state income tax, or federal? State laws have no effect on federal income tax status (or many other rights granted by federal statute, rather than state law).

  119. Cameron Nielsen on January 31, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    I’m curious as to what people who are upset at the disparity between prop 8 support and Haitian relief think about Alma and Amulek watching innocent people be burned, or Nephi slaying Laban, or Lamanites kneeling before opposing soldiers and being killed? Just last new year, Elder Holland spoke to the youth about how it would be better to die faithful than live unfaithful.

    This comment may be seen as insensitive to the Haitian people, but is not spiritual death a greater tragedy than physical death? Is not wickedness the ultimate failure, and part of the reason Heavenly Father permits natural disasters to kill both good and wicked people in order to keep us humble?

    I don’t know how the man upstairs is able to let innocent people die every day and suffer. I wouldn’t be able to… All I know is that He has all wisdom, mercy, and love, and that homosexuality is inherently wrong and we should help the Haitians as much as we can. I have a gay BYU alum friend who I can tell struggles with things, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong. What more should the church do than have an official petition from the First Presidency?

    Thanks for the link Kaimi. We appreciate all you do.

    *P.S. Please correct my thoughts as I’m sure most of you have pondered these things much more than I have, and some may be horrified at the spiritual death > physical death doctrine.

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Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.