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View Diary: Anti-Gay Rights Initiatives, Mormons and Mormon Church (LDS) Activism: A Historical Perspective (40 comments)

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  •  Mormons and Mormon Church (LDS) Activism (3+ / 0-)
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    norm, AmericanRiverCanyon, ludlow

    Dear Norm,

    I am a new poster – a Mormon from the Midwest, so I must wait 24 hours to respond. Chances are you may not even notice this, but I want to congratulate you for zeroing in on the observation that, with notable exceptions, Mormons vote according to how our leaders tell us to vote.  If the gay rights initiative is to succeed among the majority of Mormon voters, the insights you expressed in this article are important ones.  

    As you say, Mormons advocated against the ERA and their own self-interests in large numbers, primarily out of ignorance and loyalty to church leaders.  But we can be convinced to vote otherwise, and a fair number of us are LBGT allies.  In fact, several of my anti-Prop 8 Mormon friends were responsible for tracking and generating Internet publicity for the behind-the-scenes funding from individual Latter-day Saints.

    I also second your comments about Mormons and authority.  Obedience to authoritarian leaders, who presumably speak for God, is a litmus test of loyalty in the Mormon faith.  Church members who are publicly disloyal are subject to immediate sanctions – disfellowshipment (a kind of shunning) and excommunication.  For believing Mormons, this has long-term consequences for extended families.  And because the religion is so centralized, retribution from church leaders is swift and easy. Local wards/branches (similar to dioceses) are 3 degrees of separation, if even that, from Salt Lake City headquarters.  A decree from the First Presidency would take, at most, a week or two to reach every congregation in North America.

    Politically speaking, Mormons are not a monolithic group. However, there has never been any wiggle room for a (vocal) pro-gay, pro-women’s rights, pro-minority rights contingency in Latter-day congregations.  The public does not realize that Mormons cannot choose which congregation we want to attend; we are assigned according to geographical boundaries.  Local lay leaders are changed every few years.  Unlike most other churches and synagogues in the U.S., local congregations are not free to develop their collective personalities or to attract a critical mass of like-minded progressives.  

    Mormon leaders would like to avoid negative publicity at all costs, and so continuing to put public pressure on the church is a good idea.  That pressure needs to be geared not toward local leaders, who are laymen with little power, but toward the white male leaders in Salt Lake City who are calling all of the shots.  Speaking of shots, boycotting or protesting Brigham Young University basketball and football events was effective in the 1970s in encouraging a revelation on the priesthood that ended discriminatory policies against African-American men.

    Another caveat for gay activists in dealing with any conservative religious body:  focus on relationships, not on sexual freedom.  Emphasize the importance of faithful committed relationships for everyone, and how vital it is that children be raised in loving homes. Language and images that call attention to sexuality – such as Mormon missionaries rummaging through a lesbian couples’ underwear drawer – only highlight what religious people think of as "deviant sexual practices."   Stay away from sexual language and from overt demonstrations of sexuality.   Sexuality –- whether straight or gay -- is a highly-charged topic for religious folks, and going into the bedroom will get you nowhere.

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