Are the Mormons telling the truth about Prop 8?
by Chino Blanco, Thu Aug 28, 2008 at 11:11:03 AM EDT
The LDS Church has recently released a statement under the title: "The Divine Institution of Marriage"
Notably, in this statement, the LDS Church seems to be suggesting that it does not oppose rights protected under civil union or domestic partnership laws:
"The focus of the Church's involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference."
If this is the official LDS Church position, it leads me to wonder why Gary Lawrence, the California LDS Grassroots Director, is distributing "Yes on 8" campaign literature (PDF)to Mormons that includes advice like this:
"We must help ordinary people to wake up to the role of incrementalism and language manipulation in law and policy so that domestic partnerships and civil unions, which are exactly like marriage but in name only, do not become the laws in the states."
Translation: the Mormons directing the "Yes on 8" campaign are distributing campaign material that expresses opposition - not only to gay marriage - but to domestic partnerships and civil unions as well.
What's up with that? Anyone care to explain the true LDS position here? Because, at this point, I'm confused. As far as I can tell, what Salt Lake is now saying doesn't seem to square with what I'm reading from the Mormons directing the "Yes on 8" effort in California.
Meridian Magazine: How to Help Pass Proposition 8
WHY A MARRIAGE PROTECTION AMENDMENT IS NECESSARY (PDF linked to in the Meridian article)
Of course, that said, knowing that the LDS Church has already fought against civil unions in places like Vermont, it's not surprising to find Mormon staff on the "Yes on 8" campaign payroll arguing against domestic partnerships in California. It is merely confusing, since I assume they'd want their "Yes on 8" campaign materials to conform with the latest statements coming out of Utah. As things stand, it looks like LDS HQ is saying something that does not correspond to what their California operatives are doing.
There's a general discussion about this question over at BCC (a Mormon blog): A change on Domestic Partnerships?
The specific question I'm posing here is: do the "Yes on 8" campaign materials that the Mormons are using in California hew to the same line that's now coming out of LDS Church Headquarters? The answer, at least for now, would seem to be "No" ...
Until they do, it looks like a case of the church and the campaign trying to have it both ways, saying one thing and doing another, treating their own members and their California neighbors like chumps, playing nice with the official church statements, while playing hardball in the campaign literature. I'm sure someone will let me know if I've jumped to the wrong conclusion here. I mean, it is possible that the "Yes on 8" campaign has simply fallen into complete disarray and all central messaging control capability has been lost. However, I think it's much more likely that this is what's happening here:
This whole Prop 8 charade is part of a Republican GOTV (get-out-the-vote) effort. The GOP needed a way to fire up their California base without offending the mushy (and generally fair-minded) middle. So, on the one hand, you get Mormon volunteers delivering campaign materials (promising a rollback of gay rights) directly to target voters, while at the same time using other channels to release statements that adopt a more tolerant tone. The base gets angry and moderate voters get shielded from the uglier aspects of the "Yes on 8" campaign.
In other words, a creepy GOP version of PURE GENIUS.
Not to mention that Falwell had already pitched Salt Lake previously on the merits of joining his Trinitarian Christian army in this contest, and so - with Mitt in the running for the White House - to Mormon HQ, Falwell's proposal sounded like a no-brainer at the time.
At least, that's my take on all of this.
In any event, here's a bit of news to brighten your day:
Support is weak for anti-gay ballot measure
In a Public Policy Institute of California survey released Wednesday, 54 percent of likely voters said they opposed Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriage. The initiative has the support of 40 percent of voters.
Yay! The "Yes on 8" folks aren't even spinning these poll results (they already tried that with the Field Poll) ... this time around, they're just glumly suggesting that Jerry Brown had it in for them from the get-go. Whatever. Whiners.
By contrast, no whining from the leaders of the "No" side, who embrace reality and are bracing for the fight ahead:
Steve Smith, campaign consultant for Equality for All, the coalition leading the No on 8 campaign, said the group was encouraged by the Public Policy Institute poll but is still preparing for an expensive and emotional fight in the coming months.
He expects opponents of same-sex marriage will try to sway public opinion by misleading voters into thinking that churches will be forced to recognize gay relationships if the initiative fails.
My only quibble: the misleading has already begun, Steve.
Otherwise, all in all, a good day.
And while I'm hanging out, celebrating, and waiting for clarification of the question raised up top, here's a bonus conundrum:
One of the pamphlets the Mormons are distributing in California is called "Six Consequences if Proposition 8 Fails"
Here's the final claim they make in this execrable handout:
6. [The defeat of Prop 8] will cost you money. A change in the definition of marriage will bring a cascade of lawsuits. Even if courts eventually find in favor of a defender of traditional marriage (highly improbable given today's activist judges), think of the money - your money, your church contributions - that will have to be spent on legal fees.
Too funny. Let's stop and think about this for a second: how would church contributions ever get spent on legal fees related to Prop 8? Perhaps because the churches themselves are bringing the lawsuits? BINGO! In fact, in that very same PDF distributed by Mormon grassroots director Gary Lawrence, the "Yes on 8" strategy is clearly stated:
As we have many times before, we must continue to use legal muscle and aggressively make our arguments in the courts in definition of marriage cases.
So, on the one hand, the "Yes on 8" groups are using their "legal muscle" to make their arguments in the courts, while on the other hand, they're trying to scare their followers and gullible voters into believing that it's the "No" side who deserve the blame for the potential waste of precious church funds. The audacity of their mendacity is stunning. If Brother Lawrence really wants to prevent this waste of church contributions, here's a tip: ask your "legal muscle" to stop filing lawsuits! Problem solved.
In any case, since I've now mentioned that "Six Consequences if Proposition 8 Fails" flyer, here are some links to a few blogs that answer these "Six Lies from the 'Yes on 8' Campaign" ...
If you have the time, do a Google blog search of "Six Consequences if Proposition 8 Fails" ... these six lies are being posted all over the Internet by Mormon families who have received this info from Gary Lawrence and other LDS directors of the "Yes on 8" campaign.
Regardless of how you or I may plan to vote on Proposition 8, there is never any justification for deliberately spreading blatant falsehoods to support your position.
Of course, the biggest lie is that this amendment is about "protecting marriage" ... But maybe once you've begun selling that whopper, any additional lying required to make your case against gay marriage feels like no big sin?
What a sad and (spiritually) worthless campaign the LDS leadership has called its members to join.
Sadder still, I'll probably never get to ask Gary Lawrence (or any other Mormon "Yes on 8" campaign operative) these three questions:
In terms of your religious commitments, is it acceptable for a member of the LDS faith to lie in order to achieve political objectives?
In terms of your responsibilities as a citizen, aren't you betraying your civic duty as an American by resorting to lies to scare up votes for your side?
In terms of your church's own self-interest, this election will be over in November, but the memory of your shameful "Yes on 8" campaign tactics will linger much longer ... don't you worry about the damage your false witness is doing to the public image of the LDS Church?
But, hey, I'm against this infernal amendment, so ... who cares about a few sad sacks and their misguided political adventures? We're gonna get mad, and then we're gonna get even.
In the immortal words of Ron Prentice, Grand Poobah of the "Yes on 8" campaign:
"Unless the people are angry, nothing will happen."
Congratulations, Ron. Lord knows you've been working hard to get folks riled up about this whole gay marriage business. In light of this latest poll, if it's any consolation, you may not be getting the votes, but at least your little trope about angry people is gonna get proven correct: I'm people, I'm angry, and I'm gonna help make sure plenty happens between now and November 4th. That said, not much of what's gonna happen from here on out is gonna be any good for the "Yes on 8" side of things.
I mean, I know your group has ordered 1 million yard signs to be put up in unison next month, but considering how angry you've made me, I think you might want to consider ordering a million more.
Not that it would make any difference.
Vote No on Prop 8!
Sudden death double bonus question:
Which four letters are shared in the names of the two states that boast the country's lowest divorce rate in one and a perennially above-average young male suicide rate in the other? [hint: the same four letters can be arranged to form the name of a certain Western state]
If you guessed Massachusetts and Utah and came up with U T A H as your answer ... you're a winner!!
Comment below to claim your prize.
Contest not available to former presidential candidates from Arkansas. Restrictions may apply.
So, this post is quickly devolving into one part j'accuse, another part cri de coeur, with a generous dollop of Hallelujah.
In other words, a rant.
In 1948, the California Supreme Court became the first state court to declare unconstitutional that state's ban on interracial marriages.
If you've ever wondered what LDS (Mormon) leaders had to say on the subject of interracial marriage in the years that followed that 1948 California decision, wonder no more. As you'll find out below, this crowd has always had plenty to say on the subject of marriage ...
In the spirit of the Yes on 8 campaign's bogus "Six Consequences if Proposition 8 Fails" ... I've thrown together "Six Quotes on Interracial Marriage from Mormon Leaders"
Actually, I've got seven, but I'm gonna give BRIGHAM YOUNG a break, what with him being from the 19th century and all.
One (1) From the current LDS manual for young men (12-18 years old - i.e., the Aaronic Priesthood):
"We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question."
Two (2) From the 90's: RUSSELL M. NELSON:
"The commandment to love our neighbors without discrimination is certain. But it must not be misunderstood. It applies generally. Selection of a marriage partner, on the other hand, involves specific and not general criteria. After all, one person can only be married to one individual. The probabilities of a successful marriage are known to be much greater if both the husband and wife are united in their religion, language, culture, and ethnic background."
Three (3) From the 80's: SPENCER W. KIMBALL:
"We are unanimous, all of the Brethren, in feeling and recommending that Indians marry Indians, and Mexicans marry Mexicans; the Chinese marry Chinese and the Japanese marry Japanese; that the Caucasians marry the Caucasians, and the Arabs marry Arabs."
Four (4) From the 70's: BOYD K. PACKER:
"We counsel you...to marry...within your race. Now interracial marriages are not prohibited but they are not encouraged, for the blood that's in your veins is the blood of the children of the covenant."
Five (5) From the 60's: BRUCE R. McCONKIE:
"...[I]n a broad sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry."
Six (6) From the 50's: MARK E. PETERSEN:
"The discussion on civil rights, especially over the last 20 years, has drawn some very sharp lines. It has blinded the thinking of some of our own people, I believe. They have allowed their political affiliations to color their thinking to some extent, and then, of course, they have been persuaded by some of the arguments that have been put forth....We who teach in the Church certainly must have our feet on the ground and not to be led astray by the philosophies of men on this subject.... "I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn't just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn't that he just desires to go the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the negro seeks absorbtion with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that we used to say about sin, 'First we pity, then endure, then embrace.'.... "Now let's talk about segregation again for a few moments. Was segregation a wrong principle? when the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chinese and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of segregation.... When he told Enoch not preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation.... "Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God? And when He placed them there, He segregated them.... "The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negro we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse -- as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there.... "Now we are generous with the negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, 'what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' Only here we have the reverse of the thing -- what God hath separated, let not man bring together again."
Six LDS leaders, a good half-dozen reasons to never ever pay any further attention to anything that these folks might have to say on the subject of marriage.
Maybe it's all BRIGHAM YOUNG's fault. I wasn't gonna quote him, but maybe if I do, it'd help us all appreciate how relatively progressive LDS leaders have become in their thinking:
"... Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."
Based on the six 20th-century quotes from LDS leaders that I've listed above, it's at least somewhat reassuring to note the progress that's been made since Brigham Young's 1860's decree:
White men who marry black women are no longer required to die on the spot.