Saturday, November 8, 2008

Money Talks, Gay Marriage Walks

Yesterday, the LDS Church issued the following statement

It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.

Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

Is it wrong for the Church to be singled out? Perhaps, but it's hardly a surprise. Many parties acted together to defeat Prop 8 but the player getting the most credit is the LDS Church. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Church has been recognized as the entity that bankrolled the campaign. Although contributions were  made by individual members, they were made in response to a plea from the Church. As such I don’t think it is unreasonable to characterize those donations as coming from the Church. That money allowed for an active media campaign that helped get the measure passed. Is it a leap therefore to credit the Church with its passage? Whether you think so or not, the Church has been given the credit and will have to deal with the fallout.

Last night there was a protest march in downtown Salt Lake by those who oppose the Church’s position on Gay marriage. Although it was planned at the last minute, two or three thousand people showed up. The march was big news here and all the TV stations covered as well as the Tribune and the Deseret News. It’s hard to say if the losing side is just blowing off steam or if this is the start of concerted efforts to target the Church but I don't think its a one time occurance.

While the march was going on, I attended a Church event. I discussed the protest with a few people and saw others talking about it. Attending the event was an apostle. As I saw him from a distance, I wondered if the protest was on his mind. Apparently it was because as he walked past me, I couldn’t help but hear him mention the protest to a colleague.

This makes me wonder what impact such events have on the Brethren who make decisions at the very highest levels of the Church. Did the protest cause them to re-evaluate their position?  Of course I don’t know the answer to that but it seems unlikely. These men have the conviction that God is behind them 100% and that those who disagree are best misguided and at worst under evil influence. As far as influencing publice opinion, perhaps public protests help the gay rights, but as a way to influence LDS authorities, it probably isn't going to work.

22 comments:

The Faithful Dissident said...

I was wondering to myself last night whether Church leaders read blogs or have any idea of what some of the general membership have to say on the matter. Do you think they do? (Or at least have someone who does to fill them in on it?) Or do you think that it's just all irrelevant to them and that they know they're right, so it doesn't really matter?

Although I don't believe for a second that the GA's don't think that voting YES on 8 was the right thing to do, I do wonder whether they now, or will perhaps later (in light of all the protests from member and non-members alike) have at least some regrets about making such an explicit plea to support Prop 8. Most of those who voted YES were going to vote YES no matter what the Church said. If anything, the Church's involvement pushed a fair number of Mormons to the NO side and then doused gasoline on the fire of rage that is now directed at the Church.

I've been thinking about when Joseph Smith said, "We teach correct principles and let the people govern themselves." I wish that the Church had taken that approach. Teach all you want from the pulpit about the sanctity of marriage, etc, etc. Then let the members vote their conscience. If they had done this, 3 things would have happened:

1) Prop 8 would have probably passed anyways.

2) We could still reasonably claim to be politically neutral as a Church.

3) We would have probably gotten what we wanted without all this anger directed towards us and the fallout of members who are angry or feel singled out by other members for not taking the Church's side.

The irony in this for me is that I personally feel that the definition of marriage is just fine the way it is. I understand and sympathize with the reasons for wanting to change the definition, but I just personally feel it's best to keep it as it has always been. So in that regard, I agree with the Church. I am, however, open to allowing democracy take its course and letting the people decide. Where the Church loses me, however, is the way that it went about this issue. I've heard all the excuses and rationalizations, but I personally feel that we violated our own Church rule of political neutrality. And now we're seeing how huge the consequences may be.

I've seen the stories of Mormon families of "modest means" emptying their bank accounts to support Prop 8. One such family donated $50,000! The sad part is that if the Church had encouraged us to donate of our "time and means" to Habitat for Humanity or Amnesty, or something like that, would we have seen average middle class families donating 50 grand to the cause? I'd like to think yes, but I have my doubts.

I still don't know how I would have voted on Prop 8 if I had been eligible. I think I would have had to just refrain from voting because either way I would have felt guilty about something.

I was saying to someone yesterday how I sort of feel like Obama with Rev. Wright. I have to throw someone under the bus, but who's it going to be? My church, or my gay friends?

pb said...

The church's statement is pretty pathetic. They're just so victimized aren't they? "It is WRONG to target the church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process." No. It's not WRONG. The demonstration that took place is part of the democratic process. If it had been WRONG -- according to the laws of our society -- then it would have been stopped. It was a civil, lawful demonstration. No less respect was shown by the demonstrators toward the church than was shown by the church toward the people that the church VILIFIES as sinners. If the church wants to play ball in the democratic arena and use its so-called "sacred places of worship" to influence civil law, it cannot legitimately complain when those places of worship are "targeted" for demonstrations. It's amazing to me -- though I know it shouldn't be -- how myopic a vision the church reveals by this statement. All just to buy a few years. Neither the church, nor any other conservative force, will ultimately be able to stop progress toward civil equality.

Sanford said...

Faithful D,
You wonder if the Church leaders read blogs or have any idea of what some of the general membership have to say. I doubt the Brethren at the top have the time or inclination to read blogs but who knows. As to opinions of general members. I suspect that they get a great deal of reinforcement for what they think. I mean, who really has access to a GA that will level with him (that is assuming they disagree). GAs I believe are mostly preaching to the choir. And when they do get push back like the protest, I suspect that it reinforces their idea that they are standing up for the right and that Satan will fight the right however he can.
I attended State Conference today and a visiting apostle spoke. He talked about how Satan is trying to undermine the family and that the Church is facing intolerance. It’s hard to credit the church position against gay marriage as being tolerant when the opposition is deemed to be serving Satan. The Church may be pursuing this fight in a civil manner but I don’t see it as tolerant. So it is odd to see the Church contend that it is the victim of intolerance. Is the difference in intolerance the volume with which each side makes is assertions? Is there such a thing as polite intolerance? The church speaks quietly through soft commercials while protesters carry placards and shout slogans? One is intolerant and the other isn’t? I would be inclined to say that one is overtly strident and the other is subtly strident.
pb
I have to agree with you about the protest. It was legal and lawful and generally peaceful. And as to protesters marching near the heart of Mormonism, where else would a march occur against the Church? The Church is a large institution but if you mean to focus on it, you have to pick a spot that stands for the Church. We have a long history of public protest in this country and we are better for it. If the Church is going to get involved in political issues, it is going to see much more of this. I also agree that the Church will not stop the progress of the gay movement. But it probably doesn’t care. What is important is to make a stand and be seen as sticking to principles and let the chips fall where they may. If anything, the Church scored a major victory here. It can hardly step back now and say it is unfair for other’s to take notice and push back.

Fifthgen said...
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Fifthgen said...

Sanford: You and I see this almost identically. The Church should not be surprised that it has become the lightening rod on the gay marriage issue. It took a very high profile position, and should have expected to become the target. I would not be surprised if the Church anticipated this reaction, but sees it as the price you pay for following your convictions. As you know, Mormons have a long history of taking persecution as evidence that they are right. Which is why I do not think that protests will do much to change the LDS Church’s position on this issue.

Faithful D: Although I am confident that most Mormons would have voted for Prop 8 without the Church taking such a proactive position, I am not sure the proposition would have passed without it doing so. I wonder if an aggressive pro-Prop 8 campaign would have really coalesced without the “organizational acumen” of the LDS Church. And, I am one who believes that the LDS General Authorities (or at least some of them) are informed about how the Church is perceived publicly. I think the LDS Newsroom site (where the statement Sanford referenced was found) is evidence of that.

Pb: I have missed you. I was interested in your statement, “If it had been WRONG -- according to the laws of our society -- then it would have been stopped.” You put a lot more faith in the democratic process than I do. If all things legal are “not wrong,” does that make racist, sexist or homophobic, but constitutionally-protected, speech “not wrong”? Does that make it “not wrong” to exclude gays from marriage in state like Utah, AZ, FL and CA, because the laws there say it is not? Count me as one who thinks some legal stuff can still be wrong. But I agree with you and Sanford, the LDS Church should not have been surprised by the reaction it got.

Diana Croshaw said...

Frankly, I'm surprised the church issued this defensive PR statement in the first place. I agree that whether the Church should have EXPECTED the protests or not, they should not be surprised by them. To be honest, the protests do not bother me in the slightest, so long as they remain civil, nondestructive, and peaceful. Absolutely, those who feel wronged by the Church in this circumstance have the right to express these feelings. However, I wonder if they (or anyone who participates in a protest) actually expect to change the Church's opinion/policy by their slogans and shouts. I'd be very disappointed if it did. Since when is the Church governed by popular opinion?

Sanford: you said, "These men have the conviction that God is behind them 100% and that those who disagree are at best misguided and at worst under evil influence." I don't believe that the GAs take the approach of, "I can do what I want; God's on my side." Rather, I see it more that God chooses a side and they follow Him. I admit I struggle with the fuzzy lines regarding the issue of gay rights. But reading some of these thoughts of the Church taking a stand and what Satan will fight against, my thought was, "if God and Satan were to make individual statements about gay marriage, what would they be?" If I honestly ask myself, "What would they say?" I feel like I understand which sides they would choose based on my experience with the Spirit and my personal testimony of God and His plan for His children.
JMO

pb said...

Sanford, you sum it up better than I. The church's statement that you quoted in your blog just got me so hot that I went off and now re-reading my comment I recognize it doesn't make all that much sense. In a calmer moment, I would just agree: Where else are protestors going to protest but at church headquarters?

Fifthgen, I miss you too. Especially your weird-ass questions. As you must know, we can certainly agree that "legal" and "right" are not synonymous. Like I say, I was hot and didn't have much time, so I let loose. What I was trying to convey is simply that the church's use of the word WRONG in its statement strikes me as very wrong.

Wrong is such a heavily-laden word. Was the protest sinful? Is that what we're talking about? Because it clearly wasn't wrong if we're talking about the rules of engagement in the democratic process. Perhaps the brethren are so used to being able to say what is right and what is wrong that they don't recognize that they do not define right and wrong for the world at large.

Now I want to stir up some controversy, but since we're all in agreement, what can I say? Maybe I'll just pose this question: Why is it that the church wants to portray itself as the victim here? Does this really fly with its members? The logic seems laughable to me. No one is telling the church or its members what they can do or not do, or what they can believe or not believe. That's the one side of the equation. On the other side, a huge, monolithic corporation is putting all its weight behind banning a distinct segment of the population from being able to exercise the MOST BASIC of human rights. So who is the persecutor, and who is the persecuted? Explain to me: How does the church's sorry attempt to grab the persecuted label not equate with double speak?

The Faithful Dissident said...

Why is it that the church wants to portray itself as the victim here? Does this really fly with its members?

The Church labelling itself a victim in all this isn't going to help it gain any sympathy. Instead, it comes across as hypocritical and antagonistic.

Based on some of the comments I've read on other blogs, some Mormons definitely see themselves as the victims. But to be entirely fair, I think the same can be said about some on the NO side. I see some throwing around the words "hate" and "bigot" so indisciminately that I think they're starting to lose their meaning. I came across one yesterday who said I'm sick of the hate I hear masked as religion. Although I think there are a few Mormons who are probably using religion to mask their ignorance, intolerance -- and in a few cases yes, perhaps even hate -- I hardly think it's fair to label everyone who voted YES on 8 as a hateful bigot. I have been very sympathetic to the NO side and I definitely have problems with the Church's involvement in this issue, but I may have voted YES if I felt I needed to do so in order to satisfy my conscience. We all have a personal conscience that is shaped and influenced by certain factors. For us, religion is a major influence. But to automatically dismiss it as "hate" is just as intolerant and narrow-minded as Mormons who think that homosexuals are evil.

pb said...

fd: Hate is a strong word. There are likely few individuals who would identify themselves as haters. However, self-satisfied blindness to the pain one causes to others is hard to differentiate from hate. I am reminded of the film "Life is Beautiful." There is a scene in which the protagonist and a nazi officer, who had been acquaintances prior to the war and shared a mutual love of word puzzles, come together subsequently in a concentration camp. The officer makes arrangements to meet surreptitiously with the protagonist, who is now a prisoner and obviously suffering horribly, only to pick his brain about a puzzle he cannot solve. The officer is completely indifferent to the prisoner's situation. Does he hate him? I guess not. Not actively anyway. But the officer's indifference bespeaks a moral deficiency that in my view is the equivalent of hate. Blinding oneself to the suffering of others is ultimately a hateful act.

Marlo Balmanno said...

Sanford- The GAs probably expect protests at Church Headquarters. I interpreted the statement as something to those around the nation, most specifically CA , who are protesting at local temples. I am sure there has been harrassment of members attending the temples, and some vanalism of Ward and Stake buildings. In those cases yes I can see how members can feel like victims.

Fifthgen said...

First the obligatory disclaimers: I was uncomfortable with the LDS Church’s position and high-profile involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. I did not live in CA, so I (thankfully) avoided direct involvement. I do not really know how I would have voted, but I would have not been out waving any “Yes on 8” signs. I voted against the constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage in my state a few years ago.

I do not pretend to be fully informed about what went on in CA during the Prop 8 campaign, but did follow it somewhat closely on the internet and through family members that live there. From what I did see, there was a lot of emotion and energy about the issue. There was some stretching of the truth (on both sides). I saw very few, if any, instances of anyone calling gay people sinners or deviants, or calling them anything, really. When I did see this, it was not from the LDS Church, or even from the “Yes on 8” campaign; it was from isolated individuals supporting the Proposition. When it did happen, it was wrong. Similarly, to the extent that those on the “No on 8” side call supporters names, or ridicule or demean their religious beliefs, that also is and was wrong. Understandable, but wrong.

To the extent that the LDS Church feels that it, as an institution, behaved appropriately within the bounds of democratic discourse, and is now being targeted with uncivil and hateful speech and conduct, then perhaps, at least to that extent, it is justified in feeling like a victim. It is just hard to see someone who stirs the hornets’ nest as a victim when they get stung. This is not to excuse hateful speech against the LDS Church or its members; I am just recognizing reality.

As a final disclaimer, I do not buy the “tolerance is a two way street” argument that the LDS Church tries to make. It is hard to characterize its position as tolerant. If I were giving them PR advice, I would tell them that they are better off saying, “This is what we think, and we think it is at least as importance as the value of tolerance.”

I hope this is not too weird-ass for anyone.

pb said...

fifthgen, your disclaimers are very proper, very dignified, very reasonable. Not at all weird-ass. Your hopes have materialized.

On a factual point: I was present at the rally in SLC, and I can say without reservation that there was nothing hateful or uncivil about it. There were chants of "yes we can" and "shame on you" and "what do we want? equality! when do we want it? now." There were no burning effigies, no "kill the prophet." A family affair actually, and lots of fun. So, for what that's worth ...

As to the claim that there is no name-calling on the part of the church. True, probably. Kind of like how you don't have to call a black person a nigger, but if you have a sign at the entrance of your restaurant that says, "White's Only," the message comes across. Withholding a fundamental right from a certain class of people -- a right that we ourselves enjoy and likely cannot conceive living without -- says to that class of people: you are less than we are.

And finally, I might agree with you on your PR advice to the church. That is, I think it's great that the church has its values and preaches those values to its members. That's what churches are supposed to do. I don't simply tolerate mormons, I love them, I embrace them, I'm glad they're inhabiting this space with me. (I sometimes wish they'd have fewer children, but I don't want to get into that right now.) I would definitely feel differently about them, however, if they were trying to tell me, for instance, that I could not sip lattes and eat arugula. Let's reflect back on our college days and John Stuart Mill. When I am pursuing my values and my beliefs and you are pursuing yours and neither of us is causing harm to the other, then we're all happy. But when you decide that your values must dictate how I live, or vice versa, we start to run into problems. Gays and lesbians are not ridiculing or demeaning mormon values and beliefs. They are simply saying, you have your beliefs, great, please enjoy them and let us enjoy ours.

Fifthgen said...

I am glad to hear that the SLC protest was peaceful and civil. In my view, no one can really complain about that. Some of the stuff I saw in the LA protest was of a different character. Like the "Keep Your Magic Undies Off My Civl Rights" sign. Or the protestors shouting to LDS teenagers on the temple grounds, "Don't let them molest you!" I think that kind of stuff crosses the line, although I understand that it is motivated by some real pain.

Maybe I live in a dream world, but I think it would be great if the two sides could move beyond the name-calling and the deciding what moral deficiencies the other side has, and try to fnd some common ground. It would be great, for example, if Utah leglislators could enlist (as they have proposed) the support of the LDS Church on some of their proposals for things like fair housing and employment, hospital visitation and medical decision-making, inheritance, etc. It would build a lot of good faith on both sides to work together on something mutually acceptable. I don't know if it will happen, but it would be great.

The Faithful Dissident said...

This is a very moving piece from Keith Olberman that I wanted to share. Makes me think.

pb said...

fd: thanks for the keith olberman link. I feel as he does. Marriage is much more than a bundle of legal rights. It is the consummation and flower of romantic love. It says, though every other love falls away, our love will last. Why deny such a hope to anyone? Why?

reddirtgirl said...

I wish that everyone would listen to this Keith Olberman momemnt and be genuinely touched by it. The world would be a better place if we could all be this empathetic and compassionate.

But maybe he is just "a woolf in sheeps clothing". Or perhaps he is the voice of "Satan trying to undermine the family". ( You know Satan--that really ugly guy who tries to make you do bad things?)

The Faithful Dissident said...

I have to say, I wish that Olberman could be as open-minded with the Church's position as he is with the other side. I don't think he gets what it's really about for Mormons, because we're not just all simply homophobic bigots, but on the other hand I think it's very, very difficult for an outsider to really get it, and so it's hard for me to expect much more from him.

Fifthgen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fifthgen said...

Faithful D: I agree with you that it is really difficult for someone unfamiliar with LDS doctrine and culture to understand how it is that some Mormons can consider themselves to be "pro-Marriage, not anti-gay." Like you, I really believe that there are many Mormons who are kind and tolerant with respect to gay people and wish them no ill. They just believe that traditional marriage (TM) is a unique and special institution important to the nurture and rearing of families (I know that not all hetero marriages are for this purpose, but we are talking generalities here), and that TM merits special societal recognition and support. On top of that, stack Mormon doctrine that marriage and family relationship have eternal implications, and you’ve really got something. I recall that Elder Bednar recently said (NOT in the Prop 8 context) something like, it is really hard to have a discussion about the eternal importance of marraige if you do not understand the Plan of Salvation.

But, here is a problem: To the extent TM supporters want to rely upon religious views to support their position, their argument is never going to be very persuasive outside the Church, or at least with a large segment of the population. So how do you make the argument for preserving TM in the secular marketplace of ideas?

Anonymous said...

Why is it that we as Mormons have to have everything spelled out for us? Like why the church was so supportive of Prop 8? Yes, we should use our agency, but what of following a prophet? What of having faith in God's mouthpiece and acting without complete understanding of 'why' but knowing there is a wise purpose in it?

One interesting thing about society is that we don't usually understand the difference between tolerating something and condoning something. And there is a very big difference. I agree that everyone should have the same basic civil rights. I'm tolerant of others lifestyles and choices, but that doesn't mean I condone it.

An address delivered at BYU on October 10, 1978, by Elder Neal A. Maxwell has some interesting words. It's called A More Determined Disciple.

"...Discipleship includes good citizenship. In this connection, if you are a careful student of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people; and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1 Kgs. 18:21.)

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!

We are now entering a time of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: We will see a maximum, if indirect, effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism which uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of western civilization to shrink freedom, even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.

M. J. Sobran wrote recently:

“The Framers of the Constitution … forbade the Congress to make any law ‘respecting’ the establishment of religion, thus leaving the states free to do so (as several of them did); and they explicitly forbade the Congress to abridge ‘the free exercise’ of religion, thus giving actual religious observance a rhetorical emphasis that fully accords with the special concern we know they had for religion. It takes a special ingenuity to wring out of this a governmental indifference to religion, let alone an aggressive secularism. Yet there are those who insist that the First Amendment actually proscribes governmental partiality not only to any single religion, but to religion as such; so that tax exemption for churches is now thought to be unconstitutional. It is startling to consider that a clause clearly protecting religion can be construed as requiring that it be denied a status routinely granted to educational and charitable enterprises, which have no overt constitutional protection. Far from equalizing unbelief, secularism has succeeded in virtually establishing it. …

“What the secularists are increasingly demanding, in their disingenuous way, is that religious people, when they act politically, act only on secularist grounds. They are trying to equate acting on religion with establishing religion. And—I repeat—the consequence of such logic is really to establish secularism. It is in fact, to force the religious to internalize the major premise of secularism: that religion has no proper bearing on public affairs.” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 51–52, 60–61.)

Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. Its orthodoxy would be insistent and its inquisitors inevitable. Its paid ministry would be numerous beyond belief. Its Caesars would be insufferably condescending. Its majorities—when faced with clear alternatives—will make the Barabbas choice, as did a mob centuries ago when Pilate confronted them with the need to decide.

Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M. J. Sobran also said, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58–59).

This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.

In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments. It is always such an easy step from dogmatism to unfair play—especially so when the dogmatists believe themselves to be dealing with primitive people who do not know what is best for them—the secular bureaucrats’ burden, you see.

Am I saying that the voting rights of people of religion are in danger? Of course not! Am I saying, “It’s back to the catacombs?” No! But there is occurring a discounting of religiously based opinions. There may even be a covert and subtle disqualification of some for certain offices in some situations, in an ironic irreligious test for office.

If people, however, are not permitted to advocate, to assert, and to bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and views they hold which grow out of their religious convictions, what manner of men and women would we be?

Our founding fathers did not wish to have a state church established nor to have a particular religion favored by government. They wanted religion to be free to make its own way. But neither did they intend to have irreligion made into a favored state church.

Notice the terrible irony if this trend were to continue. When the secular church goes after its heretics, where are the sanctuaries? To what landfalls and Plymouth Rocks can future pilgrims go?

If we let come into being a secular church which is shorn of traditional and divine values, where shall we go for inspiration in the crises of tomorrow? Can we appeal to the rightness of a specific regulation to sustain us in our hour of need? Will we be able to seek shelter under a First Amendment which by then may have been twisted to favor irreligion? Will we be able to rely for counterforce on value education aided in school systems which are increasingly secularized? And if our governments and schools were to fail us, would we be able to fall back upon and rely upon the institution of the family, when so many secular movements seek to shred it?

It may well be that as our time comes to “suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41), some of that special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship. Remember, as Nephi and Jacob said, we must learn to endure “the crosses of the world” and yet to despise “the shame of it” (2 Ne. 9: 18; Jacob 1:8). To go on clinging to the iron rod in spite of the mockery and scorn that flow at us from the multitudes in that great and spacious building seen by Father Lehi, which is the “pride of the world” (1 Ne. 11:36)—is to disregard the shame of the world. Parenthetically, why, really why, do the disbelievers who line that spacious building watch so intently what the believers are doing? (See 1 Ne. 8:33.) Surely there must be other things for the scorners to do. Unless deep within their seeming disinterest. … Unless. …

If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.

There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is nigh” (Matt. 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!"

pb said...

Anonymous, being a secularist, my disingenuous question for you is, how in a pluralistic society can we make policy decisions based on religious principals? I don't hold your beliefs. You don't hold mine. Neither of us hold our catholic or jewish neighbors'. I don't "disallow" your beliefs, but I need more than "that's what I believe" if we're talking about passing a law that will have general effect. It's a simple distinction: everyone gets to believe what they want to and act on those beliefs as they see fit, but the line is drawn when we start talking about legislating the actions of others. Then there's got to be a more general principle at work.

That is in no way to say that a person should not "bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and beliefs they hold, which grow out of their religious convictions." I am reminded of the wonderful abolitionist, William Wilberforce. His political activism was precisely god's work, in his eyes. However, he made his case to appeal to generally held moral convictions, as well as pragmatic considerations. He didn't simply say, I'm right because God said I'm right and I'm doing his work. Therefore, please abolish slavery.

Bottom line is that our country is founded on the notion of a marketplace of ideas. If religious people wish to participate in the marketplace, they've got to do so with more than, Because my god and/or my prophet told me so. It's not persuasive.

Sanford said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. I welcome all perspectives here. You pose a question that I have struggled with during this whole Prop 8 business. “What of following a prophet?” To tell the truth, I have not yet reconciled my opinion on Prop 8 with that of the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the 12. Because I don’t live in CA, I didn’t have to vote, but I think I would have voted no. And there is the bind. I mean, what is the point of having prophets and apostles on the earth if when they go out on limb and take a difficult stand I do not accept it. I really don’t have a good answer. I suppose I could assert that the Brethren have said make up your own mind on this one but that feels disingenuous to me. I think the Brethren expected members to fall in line but many, including me, did not. Does that mean my testimony is super sophisticated or nuanced or non-existent -I don’t know. All I know is the Prop 8 was wrong to me. So should I have ignored my inner compass? I suppose your Neil Maxwell quote tells me I should just accept the direction of the Brethren but I can’t quite do it. I am not sure where that leaves me. I guess I will just stumble along as I have for some time now.

As for tolerating and condoning gay marriage, if gay marriage is a civil rights issue as I believe it to be, it’s hard to see how opposing it can be squared with toleration. I know not everybody sees it as a civil rights issue, but you did say that “everyone should have the same basic civil rights” so perhaps you do. So using the 60s civil rights movement as an example, would the separate but equal stance be one of tolerance but not condoning? How could you have tolerated blacks pushing for equal rights but not condone it? I would very much like to spell out your reasoning on the distinction between tolerating behavior and not condoning it the context of Prop 8 and gay marriage.