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How Mormon Doctrine Shapes Romney’s World View November 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Mitt Romney, Racism, Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: I have studiously avoided posting articles about the current presidential election becuase both candidates leave much to be desired, and one gets tired of advocating for the lesser of evils.  I will make this once exception at the last minute.

By Kirk Robinson

November 03, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – As Mormon missionaries in the 1960s, Mitt Romney and I were required to present six “discussions” to “investigators” before baptizing them – he in France and I in northern California. Central to those discussions was the “Plan of Salvation” (POS); and central to it, the “Doctrine of Eternal Progression.” These doctrines are also the essence of the Mormon temple “endowment ceremony” in which covenants of allegiance to God and the Church are made, accompanied by oaths of secrecy.

The doctrines are unique to Mormonism and absolutely central to it. There is no way that Mitt Romney’s view of the world cannot have been shaped by them, especially given the rather cloistered life he has lived. Together with passages of Mormon scripture, they imply several disturbingly retrograde political views that define the Republican-Tea Party:

* Women are subordinate to men.

* People of color are, or were, morally underdeveloped compared to white people.

* Gays cannot become gods, i.e., will be damned.

* The correct political philosophy is libertarianism.

* The best form of government fosters free-market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry.

* Earth is only a temporary home to be used as a stepping stone, not necessarily to be preserved or conserved.

* War in the Middle East is inevitable as part of God’s plan for “the last days.”

* Lying for the cause of righteousness, such as winning the election, is morally acceptable.

The Plan of Salvation

This takes us back to before the creation of Earth, when we were spirit beings living in a “spirit world.” We were created out of “spirit matter” through a process of conception, gestation and birth involving a heavenly father (God) and mother. The firstborn spirit of our heavenly parents was Jesus, the second was Satan, and other notables included early Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. They were especially “righteous” beings who were “fore-ordained” to play important roles in the historical unfolding of Mormon eschatology.

God eventually decided there were enough spirit children and it was time to start sending them away to college (my metaphor). So He created Earth and its myriad creatures for the college campus and solicited plans for a curriculum, graduation requirements, and future career tracks. Jesus and Satan each submitted a plan.

Jesus’s Plan

According to Jesus’s plan, the spirits who would decide to go to Earth would receive a mortal body, suffer and die, then be resurrected in a perfect union of spirit and body that would never suffer or die. A “veil of ignorance” would be placed across their minds so that they would not remember their pre-existence, and God’s commandments would be revealed to them through prophets. Importantly, they would have “free agency” to choose to obey them or not and would be responsible for their choices and actions.

Eternal Progression

All spirits who agreed to go along with Jesus’s plan will eventually receive resurrection as a graduation diploma and will be exalted to a level of glory commensurate with their earthly grades. The most righteous ones will receive the highest degree of eternal glory: the Celestial Kingdom. Others will go to the Terrestrial (middle) Kingdom or to the Telestial (lower) Kingdom. Each of these kingdoms is better than mortal existence, which is better than the spirit pre-existence. The three estates and the three kingdoms of glory represent a continuum of moral and material progress: an increase in righteousness leads to an increase in mastery and dominion over creation.

Satan’s Plan

Satan had a different plan. He knew that many spirits would be unable to resist temptations. He empathized with them and thought a much more compassionate plan would be to “force” them to live God’s commandments, so they could go to the Celestial Kingdom. The catch here is that they would have to be deprived of their free agency through dictatorial force. And this would be very bad because then they would not earn, and would therefore not merit, their eternal rewards.

There was another important difference between the two plans. Jesus told God that even though he would suffer for the sins of the world, he would give all glory for the salvation of mankind to God; while Satan said that since he devised the plan and would be doing all the work to ensure salvation for mankind, he would accept the glory for himself – and he wouldn’t have to suffer for people’s sins either, because they wouldn’t be allowed to sin.

War in Heaven

A “Council in Heaven” was held in which Jesus and Satan each pitched his plan. God liked Jesus’s plan best and gave the spirits an ultimatum, which was essentially this: “Follow Jesus or follow Satan of your own free agency. But if you follow Satan, you will be barred from eternal progression.” This fomented a “War in Heaven” in which one third of the spirits took sides with Satan and rejected Jesus’s plan, apparently out of sheer orneriness for they had nothing to gain thereby; and so they, along with Satan, were banished from the divine presence for all eternity. The rest of us were eventually born into mortal bodies on Earth (with an untold number still waiting to be born), while Satan and his minions now occupy a kind of shadow Earth where they are constantly scheming and working to thwart Jesus’s plan.

The Status of Women

There was a rank order among all the spirits with respect to their degrees of righteousness. Jesus was the highest ranking spirit. Satan was second until his “fall.” The Biblical patriarchs and prophets were high achievers too, and so were “fore-ordained” to play a big role in the unfolding of the divine plan here on Earth. The rest of us were less stellar.

Because of the natural ranking of the spirits, there will be a roughly corresponding ranking among them as mortal beings too. Eternal progression can be compared to a foot race in which the starting points in the pre-existence were staggered according to the degrees of righteousness of the spirits, with the most righteous ones having a head start. Because of their superiority, they will tend to pull further ahead on Earth. The most righteous of all will naturally be great leaders and empire builders and the like. But for some inexplicable reason, the spiritual leaders will all be males. Women cannot hold the priesthood or become prophets in the Mormon Church, and they enjoy no ultimate decision-making authority. Their primary job is to serve men, which above all means homemaking, child bearing, and child rearing.

The Status of Blacks and American Indians

The more inferior spirits on Earth start at the back of the pack and tend to fall behind even while progressing. They are the descendants of Cain (Negroes) (here the race analogy tends to break down – pun intended) and the descendants of rebellious Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon (Native Americans). God “marked” or “cursed” them with a dark skin to distinguish them. But because they have their free agency, through extra diligence they might eventually overcome their poor starts to join God’s elite. A 1978 “revelation” to then-Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball allowed blacks to hold the Mormon priesthood for the first time, presumably because they had then progressed sufficiently. There was once a passage in the Book of Mormon (it has been excised) that said the descendants of Laman and Lemuel would one day become “white and delightsome.”

Polygamy and the Status of Gays

The people who earn the best grades on Earth will get the best jobs upon graduation from Earth. They will be the most god-like beings and accordingly will receive Celestial glory. They will become gods, endlessly creating and ruling over their own cosmic empires. Also, despite the Mormon Church’s official repudiation of polygamy, which was a precondition for Utah statehood, it is still generally accepted that achieving godhood will require the institution of polygamy in the Hereafter, with husbands being “sealed” to multiple wives. Needless to say, gay people won’t participate in this, so they can’t become gods; which is to say that they will be damned in the sense of not continuing to progress for eternity.

Cosmic Pyramid Schemes

It is a kind of axiom of Mormon doctrine that to be righteous is to follow “correct principles” that tend to produce successful and happy lives, conceived in both spiritual and material terms. Achieving godhood status is believed to be the highest possible source of happiness and joy. And presumably this grand POS will be repeated over and over for eternity, with new gods creating new worlds ad infinitum in a cosmic pyramid scheme. (This may go some distance in explaining why Utah is plagued to an unusual degree with earthly pyramid schemes in which trusting Mormons are bilked out of their life savings by trusted Mormons.)

The Status of Earth

From the point of view of the POS, Earth and its myriad creatures exist primarily for the benefit of mankind, and thereby to glorify God. They are like a pair of shoes: It is prudent to take good care of your shoes, but their primary purpose is to help you get where you want to go, in the course of which wear and tear will be unavoidable. So don’t worry too much about global climate change or species extinctions. Yikes!

Free Agency vs. Compassion, Brotherly Love, and Cooperation

The POS illustrates the relative importance of two Mormon moral ideals: free agency, which entails taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions; and compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation, which require helping those in need. Each is in its own way commendable, but combining them in a way that is responsive to real circumstances can be challenging: Concerning people ostensibly in need, when is compassion the right response and when is demanding that they take responsibility for themselves the right response?

Of the two, free agency is in an important way more fundamental than compassion, as shown by the fact that God preferred a plan that emphasized the one over the other. It is more important than doing good deeds because only good that is done freely merits moral approbation and reward. Free agency is therefore a necessary condition for individual moral progress – and ultimately also for material progress as represented by gods creating worlds and exercising dominion over them. So far, so good, but . . .

The Right Form of Government and Economic System

The POS pretty clearly supports a libertarian political philosophy, including free market capitalism with minimal regulatory oversight of business and industry. Anything less would necessitate a sacrifice of free agency.

In this connection, it is interesting that in the early days of Mormons in Utah, Brigham Young attempted to establish a very pure socialistic system, the “United Order,” that would have made Karl Marx envious. In doing so, he was clearly giving precedence to compassion, brotherly love, and cooperation over competition. Why? One can presumably imagine a morally perfect being, such as Jesus, who always chooses and does what is right without being forced to; and Brigham Young thought the Saints ought to give it a try. Unfortunately, the experiment failed. Too many of the Saints gave in to avarice when they saw a chance to make money selling stuff to overland travelers. And they weren’t anxious to share their lucre either.

The Best of  All Possible Worlds?

In Mormon terms, the best of all possible worlds will be one in which all people freely live God’s commandments. If compassion is called for, like the “good Samaritan” they will show compassion even at the expense of personal inconvenience. And they will share their talents and possessions freely to advance the greater good – as was supposed to happen with the United Order experiment. However, real people and the real world being what they are, an astonishing amount of human suffering goes unalleviated – suffering that might be prevented or relieved to a considerable extent through the institution of government programs designed to promote the general welfare, e.g., Social Security and universal health care. Yet paradoxically, given the ethical primacy of respect for free agency over the duty of compassion, from the point of view of the POS such a world must be reckoned morally inferior to one in which there is more human suffering, perhaps much more, but less state coercion. This fact doesn’t fit comfortably with Jesus’s message of love and compassion in the New Testament. Ouch!

Mormon Exceptionalism

A person who has been indoctrinated with Mormon dogma, especially if he is also a male born into a privileged social and economic position, is physically attractive, intelligent, and charismatic, might easily come to believe that he is one of the fore-ordained or “chosen ones” of God who will play a critical role in the events of the last days, including perhaps saving the United States Constitution when it is “hanging by a thread,” as predicted in the uncanonized “White Horse Prophecy” that was reputedly delivered by the Mormon Church’s founder Joseph Smith in 1843. It is known that Mitt Romney had such delusions of grandeur when he was younger. Does he still?

Sinning for the Lord

Because Mormon eschatology views human history, from the War in Heaven through Armageddon, as a continuing war between the two great forces of good and evil , sinning for the Lord” might at times be a moral necessity. Indeed, in the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, the most prominent hero of the book, a revered Mormon prophet named Nephi, murdered a man named Laban in order to steal a genealogical record of his people to take with his family to the Americas. This act was ethically justified as follows: “And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” (1 Nephi 4:12-13) (One can’t help but think of Romney’s shameless shape-shifting and etch-a-sketching.)

Armageddon

According to Mormon eschatology, we are now in the “last days” of our earthly estate, which explains the official name of the Mormon Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Surely Armageddon is not far off, when the forces of righteousness will permanently conquer and subdue the forces of evil. This will usher in a millennium of peace in which Jesus will return to Earth to rule, assisted by the most worthy of God’s children, a good many of whom will of course be Mormons. These elite will include men who are leaders of men and empire builders the likes of Mitt Romney. They will also be members of the “House of Israel,” which consists both of the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and people who are “adopted” into the House of Israel by being baptized Mormons. From the Mormon perspective, this implies a special affinity between Mormons and Jews that is reinforced by a common history of persecution. It’s an obvious step from this to the conclusion that ineluctable Armageddon will involve a war between the righteous nation of Israel and its supporters on the one side, and its enemies on the other. As things presently stand, we are talking here about a war to end all wars between Israel and Iran and their respective allies. Just what we don’t need!

Tipping point

Our nation has reached a point of extreme political and moral polarization, with the Republican-Tea Party on one side and the Democrat Party on the other, each vying for command of our future. One can say, accurately enough, that the one side fervently embraces the propositions listed at the beginning of this essay, while the other side vehemently rejects them. It is to be expected, therefore, that the views of the respective presidential nominees reflect this same stark opposition. While it is hardly likely that the upcoming election will resolve this clash of values for once and for all, all the indications are that it will mark a singular, momentous, and irreversible turning point in our nation’s history.

Kirk Robinson, Ph.D., is an attorney (and former Mormon, having left decisively over 40 years ago) living in Salt Lake City.

This article was originally posted at Counterpunch

Religious Right Breaks the Bank to Fight Gay Marriage February 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, Religion.
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 Candace Chellew-Hodge
February 3, 2009

But what about feeding the hungry or housing the homeless? Not on the agenda.

Within the whole of the Bible there are six or seven verses that are used to condemn gay and lesbian people – depending on the person making the argument. At the same time, there are more than 300 verses that admonish us to take care of the poor and do social justice in this world for poor and hungry.

Guess which one the religious right will pour vast amounts of its monetary resources into fighting?

The final tallies show that opponents of Proposition 8 raised $43.3 million in 2008 and had a little more than $730,000 left on hand at year’s end. The measure’s sponsors raised $39.9 million and had $983,000 left over. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has been criticized for strongly encouraging its members to support Proposition 8, for the first time assigned a dollar value of nearly $190,000 to its role in getting the initiative passed.

More than half, or $97,000, went to the time staff of the Utah-based Mormon Church devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign, according to the church’s report. Another $21,000 was for the use of church buildings and equipment during the campaign. Most of the rest went to airline tickets, hotels and meals for church officials.

Focus on the Family, the evangelical Christian media empire based in Colorado, reported giving $657,000 in cash and services to promote Proposition 8.

 

All this money was thrown around by the religious right (forcing the other side to waste money fighting them) that could have been used to improve the lives of the 7.6 million people living in poverty in the United States or the more than 35.5 million Americans who are hungry or at risk of going hungry.

These zealots spend their worldly treasure not on feeding the hungry or housing the homeless. Those issues are not sexy enough and don’t raise enough money from their constituents. Instead they’ll empty the storehouse to ensure that two men or two women who love one another and want to commit their lives to one another cannot call it a marriage or partake of such rights as being able to make medical decisions for their loved ones. They base their efforts and their expenditures on Bible verses like Leviticus 18:22: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable,” but forget later verses like Leviticus 25:35: “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”

Then again, the religious right doesn’t treat the alien or temporary resident with the respect the Scriptures demand, either. So, perhaps this colossal waste of money is simply par for their course. Their spiritual bankruptcy is complete, then – gays can’t get married in California – and the least of these are still poor and hungry.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as associate pastor at Garden of Grace United Church of Christ in Columbia, S.C. Her new book is Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008).

Mormons “not anti-gay”? Tell them to prove it December 17, 2008

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I’m passig along this letter I received from the Human Rights Campaign.  If you wish to communicate with the Mormon Church as requested in the letter, go to the HRC website  www.hrc.org and click on “Take Action” on the left side of the page; then scroll down to “Recent Messages from the Human Rights Camapign” and click on  Mormons “not anti-gay”? Tell them to prove it.  

Dear Roger,

When leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) took a prominent role in ending marriage equality in California, I felt compelled to act.

As a gay resident of Utah who grew up in a conservative Mormon family, I have seen the LDS Church divide the community and even families every day. I became active in and donated a million dollars to the “No on 8″ campaign to help spread the truth in the face of a deceptive campaign funded largely by members of the LDS Church.

I’m writing you today because LDS (Mormon) leaders have been trying to deflect criticism by insisting that they’re not “anti-gay” or opposed to civil unions, domestic partnerships and other LGBT rights – just marriage equality.

Join HRC and Equality Utah in taking them at their word – and giving them a chance to prove it.  

Urge the LDS leadership to publicly support LGBT protections in the Church’s home state of Utah.

HRC has sent an open letter to President Thomas Monson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asking him to sign on to Equality Utah’s “Common Ground Initiative”. They have yet to respond.

If Mormon leaders really aren’t “anti-gay,” then they should have no problem publicly signing on to these five bills, which include:

  • Providing domestic partnership rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples;
  • Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Utah’s anti-discrimination laws for employment, housing, and health care;
  • Giving domestic partners of public employees insurance and retirement benefits;
  • Giving domestic partners access to the courts if their loved one is killed because of negligence or malpractice; and
  • Repealing the second clause of Utah’s Anti-Marriage Amendment which is used to prevent gay and lesbian couples from receiving any kind of relationship recognition in the state.

Clearly, these are measures that the LDS Church should support, since they’ve said they’re not opposed to LGBT relationship recognition, health care, housing, or employment rights. And the Church has no reason to be shy about entering the political arena – it did so loudly and boldly in California, raising more than half of the $40 million that funded the campaign to pass Proposition 8.

Given the dishonest and dehumanizing nature of that campaign, it’s understandable that the dialogue around the Church’s role has been heated. There is a way to move beyond this anger, but it is not the burden of the LGBT community and straight allies to stop their rightful protests. It is the burden of the LDS Church to support legislation that impacts LGBT lives in Utah as well as other states positively.

Our movement has a long history of respectfully engaging with those who would deny our basic humanity and civil rights. Let’s hope the Church’s claims are more than just a political posture.

Warmly,

Bruce Bastian
HRC Board of Directors

Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage November 15, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights.
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 Published: November 14, 2008

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Frank Schubert was the chief strategist for Proposition 8, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman in California.

“We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.

The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.

As proponents of same-sex marriage across the country planned protests on Saturday against the ban, interviews with the main forces behind the ballot measure showed how close its backers believe it came to defeat — and the extraordinary role Mormons played in helping to pass it with money, institutional support and dedicated volunteers.

“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things,” said Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormons are formally called, in Salt Lake City. “But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

The California measure, Proposition 8, was to many Mormons a kind of firewall to be held at all costs.

“California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test,” Mr. Otterson said.

First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.

Shortly after receiving the invitation from the San Francisco Archdiocese, the Mormon leadership in Salt Lake City issued a four-paragraph decree to be read to congregations, saying “the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan,” and urging members to become involved with the cause.

“And they sure did,” Mr. Schubert said.

Jeff Flint, another strategist with Protect Marriage, estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

Leaders were also acutely conscious of not crossing the line from being a church-based volunteer effort to an actual political organization.

“No work will take place at the church, including no meeting there to hand out precinct walking assignments so as to not even give the appearance of politicking at the church,” one of the documents said.

By mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing. Opponents had brought on new media consultants in the face of the slipping poll numbers, but they were still effectively raising money, including $3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, the supermarket billionaire and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.

It was then that Mr. Schubert called his meeting in Sacramento. “I said, ‘As good as our stuff is, it can’t withstand that kind of funding,’ ” he recalled.

The response was a desperate e-mail message sent to 92,000 people who had registered at the group’s Web site declaring a “code blue” — an urgent plea for money to save traditional marriage from “cardiac arrest.” Mr. Schubert also sent an e-mail message to the three top religious members of his executive committee, representing Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons.

“I ask for your prayers that this e-mail will open the hearts and minds of the faithful to make a further sacrifice of their funds at this urgent moment so that God’s precious gift of marriage is preserved,” he wrote.

On Oct. 28, Mr. Ashton, the grandson of the former Mormon president David O. McKay, donated $1 million. Mr. Ashton, who made his fortune as co-founder of the WordPerfect Corporation, said he was following his personal beliefs and the direction of the church.

“I think it was just our realizing that we heard a number of stories about members of the church who had worked long hours and lobbied long and hard,” he said in a telephone interview from Orem, Utah.

In the end, Protect Marriage estimates, as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised on behalf of the measure was contributed by Mormons.

Even with the Mormons’ contributions and the strong support of other religious groups, Proposition 8 strategists said they had taken pains to distance themselves from what Mr. Flint called “more extreme elements” opposed to rights for gay men and lesbians.

To that end, the group that put the issue on the ballot rebuffed efforts by some groups to include a ban on domestic partnership rights, which are granted in California. Mr. Schubert cautioned his side not to stage protests and risk alienating voters when same-sex marriages began being performed in June.

“We could not have this as a battle between people of faith and the gays,” Mr. Schubert said. “That was a losing formula.”

But the “Yes” side also initially faced apathy from middle-of-the-road California voters who were largely unconcerned about same-sex marriage. The overall sense of the voters in the beginning of the campaign, Mr. Schubert said, was “Who cares? I’m not gay.”

To counter that, advertisements for the “Yes” campaign also used hypothetical consequences of same-sex marriage, painting the specter of churches’ losing tax exempt status or people “sued for personal beliefs” or objections to same-sex marriage, claims that were made with little explanation.

Another of the advertisements used video of an elementary school field trip to a teacher’s same-sex wedding in San Francisco to reinforce the idea that same-sex marriage would be taught to young children.

“We bet the campaign on education,” Mr. Schubert said.

The “Yes” campaign was denounced by opponents as dishonest and divisive, but the passage of Proposition 8 has led to second-guessing about the “No” campaign, too, as well as talk about a possible ballot measure to repeal the ban. Several legal challenges have been filed, and the question of the legality of the same-sex marriages performed from June to Election Day could also be settled in court.

For his part, Mr. Schubert said he is neither anti-gay — his sister is a lesbian — nor happy that some same-sex couples’ marriages are now in question. But, he said, he has no regrets about his campaign.

“They had a lot going for them,” Mr. Schubert said of his opponents. “And they couldn’t get it done.”

Mr. Otterson said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. “They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand,” he said. “It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right.”

That said, the extent of the protests has taken many Mormons by surprise. On Friday, the church’s leadership took the unusual step of issuing a statement calling for “respect” and “civility” in the aftermath of the vote.

“Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues,” the statement said. “People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal.”

Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”

A Mormon’s Lament: Church is On the Wrong Side of History Again With Proposition 8 October 27, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in California.
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Joe Vogel, The Huffington Post, October 27, 2008

In late 2002, as President George W. Bush began building his case for preemptive war in Iraq, a remarkable thing happened. In contrast to the general timidity of American churches in response to the conflict in Vietnam, leaders of faith were speaking out. Observed the Reverend Jim Wallis at the time:

Opposition to war with Iraq has come from a wide spectrum of the churches – Roman Catholic, Protestant denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal, black churches, Orthodox. All of the statements, letters, and resolutions from church leaders and bodies take the threat posed by Saddam Hussein seriously, but they refuse war as the best response.

Importantly, these church leaders are not making their decision based on whether or not they approve of President George W. Bush – some do and some don’t. Rather, they are doing so on the basis of Christian theology and moral teaching.

One notable exception to this dissent: the Mormon Church.

The LDS Church’s cautious official response to the war (one of the most consequential decisions in recent American history) and near-unconditional subsequent support for the Bush Administration (in 2005, Dick Cheney was awarded an honorary doctorate and invited as the commencement speaker at BYU, the Church’s flagship institution), raise important questions about the Church’s involvement in political affairs, particularly when an issue has moral/ethical implications. When should it speak out? When should it stay neutral? And how does it treat its members with minority views?

Nearly six years and thousands of lost lives since the war began, Mormon authorities still haven’t weighed in on Iraq, Abu Ghraib, or Guantanomo Bay. Neither have they directed semi-annual Conference addresses to the genocide in Sudan, human rights violations caused by multi-national corporations, or climate change that could have devastating effects on future generations. Instead, in the past few months they have decided to take action on a “moral issue” of a different sort: denying gay couples the constitutional right to get married in California.

In support of California’s Proposition 8, the Mormon Church has gone into political overdrive. Under the direction of Church leaders’ admonition over the pulpit, they have formed a formidable grassroots machine, providing boots on the ground, making phone calls, writing letters, forwarding emails, while donating an astounding $19 million to the cause.

“What we’re about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement,” apostle M. Russell Ballard proclaimed in a broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.

This stand, sadly, follows a disturbing trend of being on the wrong side of history on issues of social justice and equality for the LDS Church.

For nearly 150 years, the Mormon Church stubbornly held to a racist policy that refused all members of African descent the privilege of entering temples or receiving the Priesthood. Even as slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe receded into the American past, the Mormon Church still treated its own black members as second-class citizens. The practice was justified as the plan of God. Apostles and prophets, the highest authorities in the Church, rationalized the continued discrimination by pointing to the “curse of Cain” and disobedience in the pre-existence. Other leaders said they simply didn’t know but were sure God had some mysterious reason for keeping the full blessings of the Gospel from black people. Only a rare few leaders, including apostle Hugh B. Brown (and many more grassroots members), spoke out on behalf of civil rights. So the infamous ban lived on until 1978.

Along with polygamy, this blatant institutional racism is perhaps the most regrettable scar in Mormon history. Though progress has been made, race remains a taboo subject to this day for most Mormons, shrouded in shame and myth. It hasn’t helped that the Church still hasn’t publicly acknowledged or apologized for its racist past.

Yet sadly this is not the only example of the Mormon Church attempting to stifle progress and equality. In the 1970s the Church went to great efforts to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment for women. Much like Proposition 8, they argued that it undermined the traditional structure of the family. Church leaders called it “a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members and as a whole.” President Spencer W. Kimball said it “would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution.”

Sound familiar?

So here we are, in 2008, and now the threat is gay people who are already gay, who love each other and in many cases live together, and want to get married. How does this hurt the average Mormon family?

If the concern really was the practical welfare of the family, perhaps the Church could instead invest its vast resources into making healthcare universal and affordable, expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, cracking down on child predators, and improving the quality of our educational system. All of these issues have a direct impact on my family and millions of others.

You hear of marriages ruined all the time because of abuse, neglect, or stress over finances. But I have personally never heard of a divorce caused by another gay couple getting married.

Yet instead of focusing on issues that can really help nourish our families we obsess over a word. A word we refuse to share. A word that has never been perfectly fixed. There was a time, after all, when inter-racial marriage was just as taboo and illegal as gay marriage. Marriage has been many things, but the common ideal has been and should continue to be a relationship built on love and commitment.

So to my fellow Mormons: I ask you to please re-consider. Take the time you would spend fighting this errant cause with your family. Go to a movie. Take a drive together. Watch the World Series.

Maybe you don’t completely understand homosexuality. Maybe you think it’s a sin. But shouldn’t we leave that to God and allow others to be who they are and make their own choices? As followers of Christ, isn’t it always better to err on the side of compassion and love?

Martin Luther King once lamented in his famous letter from Birmingham Jail:

So often the contemporary Church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent—and often even vocal—sanction of things as they are.

In case after case when the moral chips have been on the table, I have hoped for my Church what Dr. King prayed for in his time: that “the Church as a whole will meet the challenge of [the] decisive hour.” But sadly, so often on the issues of peace, equality and social justice, it has failed, whether by silence or misguided support.

With Proposition 8 it is time to stand for justice, not discrimination. It is time to stand for equality. It is time to be on the right side of history. Regardless of race, gender, or sexuality human beings are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Today I voice my public support in favor of treating my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as equals, and ask my fellow Mormons to do the same.

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