I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, the bosom of the LDS Church. Though I left Mormonism over 10 years ago, I still feel a bond with the LDS people and culture, often defending them against friends or acquaintances who may not benefit from a former member’s experience and perspective.
My family is still very active in the Church with a strong faith in its teachings. Yet despite their leaders’ unusual call to campaign for California’s Prop 8, none of my four siblings or their spouses support the measure.
We have been discussing the issue over email over the last few weeks and I’m proud of the honest and articulate way my brothers and sisters express the struggle between the church they love and their firm belief that this is not a Christ-like cause. I’ll post some excerpts from those emails soon if they will let me.
I know there are many Mormons who have the same concerns as my family’s. Unfortunately, I fear these open-minded souls will be turned off by virulent Prop 8 opponents who take an unwise approach, calling Mormon Prop 8 supporters “bigots” and “hate-filled”. It’s important to remember, as my brother Matthew who has a view from the inside says:
many LDS and others who are fighting for prop 8 — even if you feel their efforts are misguided — do not harbor ill will for any gay people but truly believe they are defending marriage and are helping society as a whole. They don’t hate and certainly do not consider themselves bigots.
It’s misinformation, not bigotry, that fuels most Mormons’ actions on this issue. I think the message on this website — 11 Scriptural Reasons Why Latter-day Saints Should Oppose Proposition 8 — may resonate with those members who are unsure about the Church’s strangely active role in politics that discriminate and divide when there are so many more urgent and righteous causes to take on, such as Poverty, Education, Human Rights, Good Stewardship of the Earth, and Peace.
For anyone open to hear reasons why Christ would not support a cause like Prop 8, please watch this video.
Here’s another LDS perspective site. The video of one Mormon’s opposition to Prop 8 is not professionally produced, but it is authentic and earnest.
My Family’s Thoughts on Proposition 8
My brother James was the first to reply when I emailed my family in August my concerns about the Church’s involvement in Prop 8.
Thanks for sending the blog. As California Mormons, Jen and I have been asked by the Bishop and Relief Society to join in the cause to pass Proposition 8. Our initial reaction has been "No thank you." But it has not been easy for us to square our feelings on this with the fact that the First Presidency is openly advocating for the proposition. It is a harsh change from the policy of “political neutrality” consistently promoted over the years.
For me, it has caused much internal conflict and unrest. My initial reaction to oppose the Proposition comes from a simple core moral code that says our efforts should be spent in promoting faith, hope and charity by practical means that make a difference in people’s lives. How will passage of the proposition increase faith, hope and charity in the world? What good will come from it? It won’t deter gays who enter into committed relationships from being gay. It will just make their life more difficult. It won’t strengthen heterosexuals’ marriages. Why not put our time and money into causes that will make a difference in people's lives? There are countless things we can do that will yield improvements. Thousands of people in our country die every year solely because they don't have health insurance, and thousands more file bankruptcy because they can’t afford medical bills. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless in our country, and the numbers have been growing for the last 25 years, and they include growing numbers of families. I can’t imagine my daughter, or anyone her age, going to bed hungry, living in a car or on the street, or suffering abuse.
After reading viewpoints for and against the Proposition, I found that my initial opinion became blurred with a number of other considerations, and confusion set in. Do I have a shallow understanding of the gospel? Do I not understand how tolerance of gay marriage will lead to the deterioration of society? Have I missed something? How can I suppose that I am wiser than the prophet of our church? If they are right about this and I am wrong, why would I feel so guilty supporting the proposition? If they are wrong and I am right, does that mean I am not a true believer in the restored gospel? Are church leaders always right? Can they be right most of the time, but not always, with respect to leading the church, and still be prophets of God? Is it possible for some portion of the church membership to have a better understanding of where the church should be on a particular issue than the leadership? And if so, is it possible for this to occur in a church that we believe is directed by God?
In attempting to answer these questions, my current belief is that the gospel is perfect, but the church is not. The church is not perfect because it is composed of imperfect human beings, limited in their understanding. The scriptures show that the level of church righteousness has ranged along a broad continuum throughout history. The church is a divinely-led institution, but that doesn’t mean that it has achieved perfection and omniscience. The church operates in a telestial world full of flaws.
All of this has again raised to me the importance of free agency in our earthly existance. It is an essential element of why we are here and how we learn. The church is not on auto-pilot, and none of us should be either. The exercise of free agency is messy, complicated, challenging, and can be painful and heart-wrenching. I believe that God wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s how we learn and grow, as individuals and as a church.
Jen and I recently went to an endowment session of the temple, and in discussion afterwards, we were struck by the complete contradiction in commandments given to Adam and Eve- to not partake of the fruit and to multiply and replentish the earth. To me, it makes sense that it was the first opportunity for them to exercise free agency, and was a most appropriate introduction to life on earth.
So that’s where I’m at right now. Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. But I guess life would be boring if we had all the answers. I would like to hear how others feel about it, even though the proposition issue hasn't been shoved in their face, as has been our experience.
Update: My other bro Matt responded as well:
To me, I have felt more and more strongly that gay men and women should have a way to celebrate their commitment and receive the benefits of the marriage relationship. If semantics are important to some people, you can call it a civil union or something else but it needs to be robust enough to have all the responsibilities and protections of marriage. This could only strengthen relationships and uplift society as a whole. “Protecting marriage” laws and amendments won’t stop people from being gay but just ushers in rancor, prejudice and hard feelings.
That the First Presidency asks members to fight for this law is troubling. But I have never felt that our Church leaders are infallible. That may sound heretical to many. Even as I have encouraged people to join and stay active in the Church over the years, I have never believed that the organization or its leaders are perfect. I believe Joseph Smith made many mistakes as a person and a church leader. I think Brigham Young made even more. To me, Howard Hunter seemed more inspired than Ezra Benson. Many may accuse me of picking and choosing what I want to believe. I can’t believe everything and yet I can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater either and say that is all false.
The older I get and the more experiences I have, the more I understand that truth and fact are rarely black and white. There always seem to be shades of gray and layers beyond the easily seen. I can stand in the same place as another 39-year-old man and see different things and feel different emotions. Who is right? What is truth? Gordon Hinckley said, “The Church is true or it isn’t. Joseph saw what he said he saw or he didn’t. It is that simple.” I disagree. It is never that simple. History shows the Church and its leaders to be blatantly misguided at times. Contradictions in prophecies, scripture and general authority speeches are easy to find.
I still feel the LDS Church is the best church for me. Attending and serving in the Church brings me joy and makes me want to be a better person. I want it to be inclusive and uplifting for everyone. But I know it is not. And actions like these present the Church as less appealing and compassionate, even as it does so much humanitarian good every day throughout the world. If someone came to me tomorrow searching for a religion that could give them meaning, a place they belonged and real peace, I could introduce them to the Church. However, if they were very liberal or gay, what could the faith really offer them?
Day to day, the lessons and standards I learned at church have guided me for the better. The covenants I made at the temple and through baptism inspire me to be the best I can be. I can’t imagine my life without any influence of the Church. Acting in callings and offices in the Church has blessed the lives of many people, especially my own.
But when I hear of prejudice in the Church and the organization’s hierarchy silencing critics, my heart burns and I feel out of place. Unfortunately, the Church does not encourage free thinking and disagreement with Church leaders at any level. So many want to voice opinions but feel stifled and helpless. That doesn’t seem right either. The church has lost so many capable, spiritual, loving, smart, and strong members because they felt they lost their voice or were discouraged from sharing their views. Is there is such a fine line between heretics and questioner-thinkers?
If my bishop asked me to soldier in this cause, I would say no. If he asked me to take eight teenage boys to the Welfare Square cannery and work all morning with them, I would say yes. There is so much good we can do; we have no time for the divisive issues.
I can say so much more, but this is where I stand, however close to the edge it may be.
Update: My sister Marilee has a Ph.D. in cultural foundations of education with an emphasis on issues of language in K-12 schools. She teaches language acquisition and methods in language teaching through a grant working with Alaska Native MA and PhD students, mainly teaching Yup'ik in local rural communities. Here is her experience with the issue:
I am constantly encouraging teachers in my university classes to be involved in social justice issues. It is too easy to be a goat, to feel intensely and then get too occupied with the needs of the day. I, too, have felt very troubled by the First Presidency’s letter. I’m glad you sent this forum as the Church’s stance on gay people has weighed heavily on me the past few years. Sometimes those who are not LDS ask me about the Church’s stance on participation of gays in the Church and I’ve been brought to tears when I try to explain it. I almost feel like “How can I truly be compassionate and Christlike and belong to a church that doesn’t do more to be inclusive of all people?”
Earlier this year, a student I work with did some work for the Church translating the gospel essentials manual in his native language, Yup’ik. As he translated, he felt the spirit strongly and told me he was very impressed with the basic gospel truths he read about. He said, kind of in jest, “I want to be Mormon.” He is gay and has been with his partner faithfully for 25 years. They have an incredible relationship of love and support for each other. I would like to invite him to share in the blessings I have within the gospel structure but I realize he is not welcome in the fold if he is to continue his committed relationship, one that gives him much love and stability. That troubles me.
What bothers me even more is asking Church members to work against committed relationships. I honestly do not understand how two people joining in a committed relationship ruins traditional family relationships. What I know about Christ and His acceptance of all doesn’t resonate with this kind of involvement. I am grateful I am not a California Mormon but that doesn’t absolve me from discussing the issue and trying to let me voice heard in opposition. James and Jen [my brother and his wife who live in Chico, CA — Stewf] are in a more difficult situation to have to face it head on.
All the questions that you pose, James [I hope to post James’ email soon with his permission — Stewf], are questions that I have wrestled with. We do need more openness to discuss this issue and others within the Church. Like Matthew expressed, my involvement in the Church structure and the spirit I receive when I read scriptures propels me to reach out and serve in ways I might not otherwise. The strength I have gained through personal prayer and my relationship with God has allowed me to reach goals and softened my heart towards others numerous times. I have a peacefulness in my life due in part to living the commandments of the gospel. That is why I am deeply troubled by the first Presidency’s stance on this issue. A couple of times I have stated in temple interviews when they ask if I sympathize with groups who fight against the Church that I do sympathize with issues that gay people face within the Church. Their response as also been sympathetic. But what more can be done? I like the idea of going to the bishop with the “care package”. How would your bishops react to that? Thank you for sharing.
Much love, Marilee
Update, Nov. 2, 2008: James’ email is now added to the dialogue above. He wrote yesterday to add:
In contrast ... today I had the opportunity to visit a local homeless shelter and a housing facility for homeless veterans. The people who work there have such good hearts and it was very inspiring and uplifting for me. There is so much good we can do. We shouldn’t waste time entertaining fear of those who aren’t like us. I hope that church members can get past this and realize the potential of what we can do when we cooperate with others in the community.