On June 20th, the First Presidency (the president and counselors) of the LDS (Mormon) church issued a letter to California's LDS church leadership that asks the Mormons in the state to do "all they can" and donate their "means and time" to promoting passage of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
The Mormon leadership intended the letter be read from the pulpit to Mormon congregations across the state on June 29th. They were no doubt dismayed by news that, within a day of issuing the letter, it had already found its way to WikiLeaks and has now been widely promulgated (e.g., here and here).
Reading the responses of Mormon bloggers, it would seem that many of the LDS faithful are also dismayed - not that the letter was leaked, but that it was ever issued in the first place. A comment by Oregon Republican (and Mormon) Sen. Gordon Smith, made ten days prior to the letter's unintended public release, during a discussion at the Center for American Progress, suggests one aspect of why getting rank-and-file Mormons onboard with anti-gay marriage actions might not be such an easy sell:
"Part of what I fear, as you start defining marriage — we have a long history of doing that in this country, and my Mormon pioneer ancestors were the victims of that. They were literally driven from the United States in the dead of winter for following their religious beliefs. I don’t want that coming back, but there are some on the front pages of your newspapers who are trying to now."
Yes, a sad history is repeating itself in the pages of our newspapers, Senator Smith. And now it looks set to repeat from the pulpits of your own church. For those who understand and value the worthy lessons of Mormon history, this letter is a betrayal, and its reading from Mormon pulpits amounts to a provocation of Mormonism's worthiest believers and defenders. Considering your June 11th remarks, I count you among those able and equipped to comprehend the decided lack of enthusiasm among Mormon bloggers for the sad task that their church leaders intend to set before them this Sunday.
It is also a provocation of those outside your faith, Senator Smith. The instructions to read the letter on June 29th, of all days, is an obvious challenge to the GLBT community and its supporters - a quiet riot of anti-Stonewall sentiment dressed up in Sunday best - and what follows are some thoughts and suggestions re what a useful response - what an appropriate action in response to this provocation - might look like.
But before jumping into considering what to do about these darn Mormons, I'd invite any reader who's made it this far to first take a gander at this discussion: Same-sex marriage and hypocrisy?
And I'm making that invitation for two reasons:
- As an introduction to what's called The Bloggernacle (Blogger + Tabernacle ... clever, no?). Entering the 'nacle is probably the quickest route to getting a handle on how Mormons themselves are reacting to the news of this letter (e.g., here, here, here and here).
- As evidence that Mormons don't belong to some mindless monolithic religious and political monoculture. There are plenty of Obama voters attending LDS services on any given Sunday. So, please don't come around here talkin' trash about the Morg* ... OK? My view is that any actions against this letter would be a waste of time if they're undertaken by activists incapable of leaving their pet anti-Mormon pejoratives at home. *Morg: Borg + Mormon (more mean-spirited than clever, no?)
Prior to posting here, I've taken the time to shop this question around to some Mormon bloggers:
If, as with Prop. 22, LDS church members in California are again asked to canvass their neighbors in support of the church's position against gay marriage, what view would you take of activists on the other side of this issue who might deem it fair play to mobilize and park themselves outside LDS chapels on June 29th in a show of disagreement with your church's position?
And they were cool with it. In fact, some of them even came up with their own suggestions for protesting.
So, I hope it's understood that this is not about hating on Mormons.
It's about fashioning a response to a harmful and hypocritical move by the LDS leadership.
If you don't think it's harmful, please go spend a little time here.
If you don't think it's hypocritical, well, I've tried to explain elsewhere why I think it is.
But regardless of how you personally view this move, I'm sure we can agree that coordinating a response looks to be quite simple at this point: the letter is scheduled to be read on a specific date, at specific times, in specific locations.
So, if you live in California, this Sunday, June 29th, you've now been given a golden opportunity to express your opinion in a way that reaches a critical California constituency, all gathered under one steeple, and on a day when many of them may not be feeling all that pleased with what they've just heard come down from the pulpit.
It's as easy as finding the location and meeting times of your nearest LDS chapel. And if you're in California, trust me, there's an LDS chapel near you. Start with LDS.org or your phonebook.
Or, maybe, you're already a member? If you are, I think I'll start with you, and share some of the suggestions I've seen floating around the bloggernacle:
* Don't attend church on the 29th * Attend and wear a rainbow ribbon pin * Stand up and walk out during the reading of the letter
I'm sure the title of my post has already given you some clue as to which suggestion I favor. So, yup, this is me extending my sincere invitation to you to get up and walk out this Sunday once that letter starts being read. When you get outside, if you happen to see anyone in the vicinity that looks like they might be there protesting as well, I'd hope you'd head over and say hello. If you don't see anyone, I suppose you might just wanna head back inside. It's pretty boring standing outside by yourself, and that short letter's gonna be a quick read, and I don't want you to think that I'm asking you to do too much. In fact, if you're terribly conflicted about peeling yourself away from your pew, why not just conveniently schedule a bathroom break for around about the time that letter comes out?
If you're not a member, I'd planned on listing all sorts of suggested actions for you for this coming Sunday, all based on the idea of you showing up in, at or near an LDS chapel. Rather than go that route, I think I'll list one here, and then save the rest for comments below (if you've got a good idea, please weigh in). Here's one that impressed me, submitted by a faithful Mormon blogger:
However, if, on the first Sunday of July, gay people would organize so a few gay families with children would show up to every ward in Cali, and then, during testimony time, one would get up and briefly say: "Hi. I’m not a member of your church, but I am impressed with what nice people you all are, and what beautiful families you have. That’s why I cannot understand why your leaders would encourage you to vote for a measure that would hurt MY family. I hope you don’t," and then sit down, or leave with their children, then they would–I think–make both a powerful protest and a very good argument. It would change some minds.
The genius of this suggestion is that it recognizes how Mormons absolutely worship family. It's why so many Mormons feel ill about what their leadership is doing (again) with this letter.
Obviously, it's not the job of gay Americans with families to go parading themselves around for the benefit and enlightenment of Mormons who oughta know better in the first place than to support what this letter is calling for. I understand that. If you're offended by what's being suggested here, please take it out on me in comments.
So, I'll be looking forward to either your criticism or your suggestions for how to take advantage of the opening that the leaking of this letter has provided.
I'm gonna close out with some comments by Mormons gleaned from random Mormon blogs ...
From mormon matters:
An unpopular minority - Mormons – trying to limit the rights of another unpopular minority – Gays - on an issue - Marriage - which Mormonism has a somewhat vexed (and very very famous) history, reminds all and sundry about said vexed history, is on the wrong side of history ..., hurts the reputation of the church in society at large, does nothing to lessen the distrust of the church felt by the Evangelicals who are the main supporters of the amendment, and ... is the exact opposite of what the church should be doing.
If I had the choice to spend $5 million on political lobbying efforts against same-sex marriage versus $5 million on food and medical supplies, I’d choose to feed hungry children.
The Church is free to send out press releases and publicize its position against same-sex marriage. But asking members to spend their time and money lobbying against same sex marriage when they could be volunteering at a local school teaching children to read, or working in a homeless shelter is an unfortunate allocation of resources.
Furthermore, I don’t understand why the Church chooses to engage in a high-profile fight in California, while it remained silent and did not join in the coalition of organized efforts to stop gay marriage in Massachusetts. If gay marriage is such a dangerous threat to our social institutions, the Church should be fighting it whereever it rears its ugly head.
Thanks for considering my invitation.
Peace, Love, and Understanding this Sunday.
The task of any religion is to teach us whom we're required to love, not whom we're entitled to hate.
Update: A handy tool for finding the LDS chapel nearest you.
July 15th update: My wild guess is that Obama's gonna win big in California this November. If I'm right about that, I have to wonder what Jeff Flint, co-campaign manager for the California Protection of Marriage initiative (the Yes on 8 side), thinks he's accomplishing by posting comments like these over at his place at the Red County blog:
I'm for change....blah blah blah...I's for bringing people together...blah blah blah...let me quote Obama some more....blah blah blah....
As a partner at Schubert Flint Public Affairs, and as "one of the most widely respected public affairs and political professionals in the state of California" (according to the Schubert Flint website), you'd think he'd be savvy enough to avoid
a) pissing off California's Obama supporters, and
b) sounding like a 12-year-old Al Jolson.
If this is the best PR that the ProtectMarriage.com coalition money can buy, well, then it's already time to put a fork in Yes on 8, because it's done.