Thursday, August 6, 2009

Was it worth it?

Correct me if I'm wrong; but, prior to proposition 8 in California, it seems the LDS church was largely ignored by the global gay community. Sure there were some gay activists in Utah (many of whom were former members) who were critical of the church; but, outside of Utah you just didn't see much mention of the LDS church in the gay press.

I think this was due, in part, because of the church's position on homosexuality separating attraction from behavior. While no one would probably admit it, I think there was a cautious respect for the LDS church within the global gay community. While there was certainly disagreement with the policies of the church, there was also a sense that the church had some level of compassion towards its gay members - something not seen in many other religions.

For example, back in 2007 I posted a link to an Ensign article titled Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction to the Gay Christian Network which garnered comments such as
  • I'm thrilled at the growing numbers of sensible voices and outreached arms heard, seen, and felt in our mainstream churches. Thanks so much for this encouraging thread!
  • Wow....amazing stuff. If you had told me even ten years ago I'd be reading something like this from the LDS church I wouldn't have believed you. Amazing - thanks for sharing this!
Now in this post proposition 8 era, the LDS church has become public enemy #1 in the global gay community. Is it deserved? I don't know. But I can certainly understand the anger the gay community has towards the LDS church.

Many in the church claim innocence with comments such as "Mormon's represent less than 3% of the California population" and "more Catholics (or blacks, or whatever) voted for proposition 8 than Mormons". But, they are ignoring the fact that Mormon's pumped in at least 50%, and possibly up to 75%, of the campaign donations towards proposition 8 - not to mention countless volunteer hours going door to door, distributing yard signs, etc. Given the very slim margin that proposition 8 passed with, it's not hard to imagine that it would have have been defeated without the involvement of the LDS church.

But, all of that is water under the bridge. My question now is: Was it worth it?

The LDS church claims it was standing up for morality and preservation of the family. But, at best, all it did was gain a 2 year, maybe 4 year, reprieve. It's only a matter of time before gay marriage becomes legal in California, as well as many other states. So we invested all of that time and money and what did we really gain? And at what cost?
  • Protests at temples in Utah and across the nation
  • Members, both gay and straight, leaving the church
  • Some suggesting that missionary work is down
  • Shaken faith for some of us who have chosen to stay in the church
If the church had stayed out of the California political battle, would the Main Street plaza incident have generated so much negative press? Would we have kiss-in's being staged at temples? We'll never now for sure - but I doubt it. I think there would be some initial anger, but it would have flashed and fizzled out.

Make no mistake, the next time gay marriage comes to a vote in California, the gay community will not get caught with their pants down (no pun intended). Before the LDS church got involved, the No on 8 campaign was leading by, I believe, 20 points; and, there was little doubt that proposition 8 would be defeated. By the time people started to notice that the Mormon's might just turn it around, efforts to counter the Yes on 8 momentum was too little and too late. But, they will not be caught again. Even now strategies are being developed to counter any arguments that can be made by the gay marriage opponents.

Becoming involved in this political battle has come with a price. Whatever modicum of respect we may have had in the global gay community is forever lost. Everything the LDS church says and does is carefully scrutinized and being cast in as negative light as possible. Anger against the LDS church has become a uniting force in the gay community. The next time the LDS church chooses to do battle against the gay community - they may find themselves up against a foe the likes of which they've never encountered.

So, again I ask, regardless of your personal views on gay marriage, was it worth it?

29 comments:

Amanda said...

No, I don't. As being one of those members who was inactive before but now have left the church completely, as well as my husband and our three kids, I can say that I harbored no animosity towards the church prior to last fall. I know many others feel the same, and all around me it feels like the LDS church has become a laughingstock. People view them as that ridiculous church that is fighting a losing battle and dishonestly at that. They've gotten tons of bad press, not just from the gay community. People knew them before as polygamists, now they know them for this. I read an article the other day about book censorship, and it mentioned various churches' battles against gay rights. It lumped Catholics and Mormons into the same box as the leaders in pro-discrimination battle. I found it so ironic to read, considering that the LDS church sort of prides itself on being the opposite of Catholicism, and now it's more closely identified with it than ever.

That's not to mention the sheer waste of money that could have been spent helping the needy or even doing missionary work. Yeah, it bought them some time, but like you said, it's only a few years. That's a lot of money that really could have helped somewhere else.

I guess I look at it and wonder what they could have been thinking. Do they really think that they'll win this battle? Maybe they do. Maybe they think somehow they'll illegalize gay marraige nation-wide. But I haven't seen them throw themselves into the battle anywhere else in the country or world, not to this extent, anyway. It seemed like a disproportionate reaction, and I think that's what's really tarred their image.

Alan said...

The long-term effects outside of the Church itself and the handful of other homophobic conservative "Christian" churches are almost entirely negative. Amanda (above) is right on all points. Gay marriage nationwide is only a matter of time and the LDS church will someday be forced to make its peace with that fact. Its sudden and inconsistent opposition, choosing CA as the hill to die on, has only postponed things a few years and permanently damaged the Church's PR.

True inspiration would have foreseen all this and found another way.

MoHoHawaii said...

I continue to be puzzled by the Church's Prop 8 involvement. It was brand suicide. Mormonism is now identified by its over-the-top anti-gay obsession in the same way that Scientology is identified with its peculiar opposition to psychiatry.

It will be interesting to see the involvement when the issue comes up again in California. Will the Church scale back this time, or double down and go for broke?

Ned said...

Remember that scripture about "rembember oh remember"? Seems that some of our leaders have forgotten the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It seems they have forgotten how much the church suffered when it was viewed as hopelessly racist.

President McKay apparently had a vision of the way things could become, but it still took more than a decade for change to become acceptable to all of the brethren.

These men who lived though those times seem to have forgotten the lessons to be learned. However things are not always as they seem and I like to think that the brethren are going to reach a tipping point, perhaps in the form of an unwelcome but undeniable revelation, much sooner than they might expect.

Bruce R. McConkie said,
"It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject."

Perhaps sooner than we think, our leaders will be emulating the late Apostle's views with regard to yet another "new arrangement."

Or maybe it will take a couple of decades.

Ned said...

p.s. You can read the full text of Elder McConkie's post-revelation talk, here.

Ned said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Quinn said...

The church is not about making sure everyone adores the church, and never will be. In the eyes of the church and members it is about standing up for what is right, even if others disagree.

The church believes that marriage was a significant enough issue to take a stand and it doesn't really care if it gets 'hammered' by the press or other social groups.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."

The Church cares for all, and invites all to join and live the gospel, but it is not afraid to go against the wind of world opinions. And really any group that has strong beliefs should not be afraid to go against the wind.

Think of what the pilgrims would have done if they listened to the sentiment of the day, they would have never sailed to the Americas.

The Church will never change its position on gay marriage.

But for those who say they await the day the church changes its policies, it won't happen so don't hold your breath.

Max Power said...

The Church will never change its position on gay marriage.

But for those who say they await the day the church changes its policies, it won't happen so don't hold your breath.



Hehe. Yea, I remember when I used to say that. Then I met the man of my dreams...

D-Train said...

The church is not about making sure everyone adores the church, and never will be.

That's an interesting statement considering the LDS Church has a very active PR department.

For not being concerned about what people think, they sure have been on a PR blitz since the election.

Trevor said...

I don't think it was worth it. I have been inactive for the better part of 10 years and had thought about going back to church in last couple of years. I even started going to meetings occasionally. After the church got involved in Prop 8 and other similar ballot measures, that was it. I'm done. I don't want to be associated with a church that tries to force it's beliefs on the rest of the world. I really don't care if they ever change, just don't force it down my throat. Quinn quotes Joseph Smith as saying "Persecutions may rage", against the church, but, in my opinion, the church has become the persecutors in this instance. Hypocritical, really. Live and let live, I say. Isn't that what the early pioneers really wanted, anyway?

Amanda said...

My thoughts: I know the church feels like we're in the latter days, that the end of the world is approaching and that's why the world is getting more and more sinful. I know they're fighting the tide of that. But you know, there's only so long that you can yell "the end is nigh!" They've been saying the world was coming to an end for 150 years or so now, and they just keep saying it. Eventually, people stop trusting you. Sure, maybe we're in the latter days, but what exactly does that mean? Compared to the rest of time, the "latter days" might be the next 500 years. And if you want to still be converting people and bringing people into the fold in 500 years, you have to keep your credibility.

To Quinn - the thing is, the church has to care to a certain degree what the world thinks of them. If they didn't, they'd lose their following altogether. Sure, the church expects to lose some followers sometimes, I'm not saying they need to please everyone so everyone will stay. But if a church starts making extremely incredible claims that make it sound like a loony bin, no one will believe it still is the voice of God's true religion. So yes, they have to pay attention to their image, in order to stay reputable. They don't have to bend to the worlds' opinion on matters that are controversial, but at some point, if they're to keep their credibility, they will have to bend to universal opinion. Take polygamy - they didn't exactly stand by their opinion when they wanted to be part of the US. If they'd had - well, you see how polygamists are viewed today. Only a tiny handful of people would believe they were the true church if they hadn't altered that policy. If they hadn't altered policy regarding black men all those decades ago, they would have lost tons of followers by now.

Abelard Enigma said...

People knew them before as polygamists, now they know them for this.

Oh, the irony. First we were known for trying to redefine marriage - now we're known for trying to preserve the status quo of marriage.

The church believes that marriage was a significant enough issue to take a stand

I certainly respect your opinion, and I might even agree with it - if the church were consistent. If we need to stand up and support marriage as being between one man and one woman then shouldn't we do that everywhere the issue arises? Why was this so important only for the saints in California?

Quinn said...

First off thank you all for respecting my opinion, I mean that. A lot of times I just get bashed personally.

As far as I know, Iowa is now deciding if they want gay marriage and the church is actively working there. I believe the church has always been active in the fight for or against traditional marriage. However the media made California the big topic last election. For instance Florida was also voting on a similar bill as Prop 8, but outside of the gay community and Florida, no one really knew about it.

The whole question about polygamy, is a interesting twist, and if I didn't have to run off to work this morning I'd attempt to answer it. Maybe this evening when I get back.

Abelard Enigma said...

Iowa is now deciding if they want gay marriage and the church is actively working there.

While there may be individual wards and stakes involved in the fight against gay marriage, it is only in California where a letter from the first presidency was read from the pulpit asking the saints there to do all they can by donating of their time and means. See California and Same-Sex Marriage on lds.org.

btw, it is my understanding that gay marriage became legal in Iowa back in April 2009 - it was significant because it was passed by the state legislature rather than being court ordered.

El Genio said...

"The Church will never change its position on gay marriage."

The exact same thing was said about blacks and the priesthood.

As for whether it was worth it... I'm not sure. I'm a casualty of proposition 8, albeit one that the church probably doesn't care about. We still can't go one Sunday without mentioning proposition 8. I hate what it has done to my ward.

Goldarn said...

People say the church stands up for what is right, regardless of the public outcry. This is not exactly true. The church stands up for some things they proclaim to be right. There's a lot of things they just let go.

I was an active member with a good calling. When I found out that the GAs had specifically told the richer members of my stake to donate under their wives' names to avoid backlash, I knew they weren't standing up for anything. Did you ever get the sermon about not working on Sunday when you were a teenager, and how God would watch out for you if you did the right thing? Doesn't apply to Prop 8 donations, apparently.

Neal said...

Prop 8 in California became a focus because many precedents are set by large, powerful states like California, Texas, NY, etc. I suppose its the old addage of picking and choosing ones battles.

It saddens me to see people throw away the blessings of the Gospel over issues like this. What have you gained be being bitter? I know what you've lost..

Ned said...

Neal, I'm glad you're here and expressing yourself. You are absolutely right that we as individuals and as members of institutions must pick and choose our battles. Here's another view, however, concerning those things which sadden us.

I am saddened to see the church I attend, the church I pay tithing to, the church I serve, the church of my ancestors and my children--I am saddened to see this church that means so much to me and my loved ones throw away the blessings it could receive by being more accepting of its gay members and of gay people in general.

I agree there is little to be gained by being bitter, but I know there is much to be gained by seeking to understand others and walking in their shoes.

Alan said...

Neal:

I suspect that those who have parted ways with the Church over Prop 8 believe they have lost nothing but affiliation with an organization they could no longer trust and which attacked them simply for being what they were. In many ways it does not feel like a loss to them, it feels like being free of a burden.

I have met many people who are living happy, fulfilled lives outside the Church with no apparent dearth of the same blessings their Mormon neighbors claim to have.

Goldarn said...

I, for one, am not bitter. I am deeply saddened and disappointed that something I desperately wanted to be true wasn't.
My life is less stressful, more relaxed, and work and home are going well so far. Prop 8 made me take a long, hard, look at the church, and I found it wanting.

Amanda said...

I'm also not bitter. I'd been inactive in the church for more than 2 years, and had only joined 2 years before that. The whole prop 8 thing did nothing to me except propel me out of my laziness, which means I went through the process to become not inactive but off the records entirely. The only thing I feel when I think of the church is relief that I"m no longer there.

Quinn said...

With the up-most respect (honestly I mean that) can I ask a question to those who 'left' the church of Prop 8:

How active were you really right before Prop 8 began.

1- Every week with a calling and full tithe payer.

2- Pretty active, once a month church attendance.

3- Less active, the missionaries "drop by" to see how we were.

4- Never went.

I ask this because I wonder if the people the church "pushed" away because of Prop 8, were already distant?

I don't mean it as a ha ha gotcha, but a genuine question.

Scott said...

@Quinn,

re: how active was I? I've been a #1 on your list my entire life, and though I'm still going through the motions for the sake of my wife and kids, I have to admit that I no longer trust the church as an organization.

I can trace this loss of trust directly to the Church's involvement in Prop 8 (though it's been reinforced by the Church's silence during the Utah "Common Ground Initiative" campaign during the 2009 legislative session--when even a confirmation of an absence of opposition could have gone a long way toward securing employment, housing and other basic rights for gay Utahns--and the public relations fiasco that followed the recent incident on the Main Street plaza).

I'm aware of at least a few others who have gone from full activity to complete disaffection (or even an outright resignation from the Church) due to the Church's anti-gay activities.

It's not just the "already inactive" who are being pushed away.

Good to be Free said...

It was worth it for the church, in the eyes of the church. Let me explain. The story has been written a thousand times. Every hero needs a villain, every victim needs an attacker, every protagonist needs an antagonist. How will the valiant white knight win fair maiden's hand without a dragon to slay? This dragon just happens to be extremely well dressed and enjoys show tunes.

The purpose has been fulfilled. As the church has moved into the mainstream it could no longer claim it's place as the victimized minority. It lost it's us vs them place. It has become part of the "them"

To regain some of that mentality the church has "chosen a battle." In any battle there will be casualties, and I assume that the leadership felt that those losses would be worth the fight. It just sucks being one of the lost.

Goldarn said...

I was a #1: Weekly attendance, high-profile calling, and full tithe-payer. Volunteered for lots of stuff at church (cannery, setting up chairs at conference, those kinds of things). I was even a high priest group leader for awhile. So, no, I wasn't already inactive.

Prop 8 didn't only open my eyes about how the church treats homosexuals. It also opened my eyes about the church leadership. Whatever else it was, Prop 8 seemed to be a genuine political move on the church's part. I do think they were trying for the us-vs-them story, but it didn't work. The other conservative (small-c) religions still don't accept the LDS church. They are willing to use the church, but that's different. The church didn't end up with any more respect, even among those people who agreed with their Prop 8 stance. To use a metaphor, they're willing to date the church, but they won't bring the church home to meet their mother.

Beck said...

Ever since Elder Hinckley returned from his mission and started working for the church missionary and PR departments in the 1930s, there has been a constant and crescendoing push toward putting a good face on the image of the Church. Millions are spent on securing and protecting and sculpting that positive image. To say that the Church doesn't care about its image for righteousness sake is shortsighted at best.

At the same time, as much as they would like to be "accepted" by others, and be part of the community, the Church has always played up the "peculiar" people (we want to be loved, but we're still different and we like it that way).

Maybe banking too much on their past PR work, and feeling the need to not be "too main stream" to lose their "peculiar" status, all this came about.

In the end, when missionary work and popularity and acceptance decline, affecting the bottom line (revenue flows or the missions of the church (and the Lord's ability to move the work forward) whichever you prefer), the softening will occur and preservation of the positive image will prevail.

I still feel that unless someone like me (a #1 on Quinn's scale) is willing to speak up and give voice and a "real face" of a life-long active member and work WITHIN the Church, and not leave it behind, the projected inevitable change toward gays in the church will occur much later down the road, not earlier. And seeing that I'm not willing to do that... well, you see what my silence brings.

El Genio said...

@Quinn

I have also been a #1 for my entire life. I had my mission papers in exactly 90 days before my birthday. I went to BYU, and have served in various positions in the EQP as well as the Ward Clerk several times. For a long time I thought I could ignore the whole prop 8 thing and it would just go away. Boy was I wrong. As I told my parents, I love the church. It did so many amazing things and gave me wonderful gifts that I will never be able to replace. But, I hate what the church did in California. This campaign hurt real families (gay and straight) and was full of lies and half-truths.

So where does that leave me? I still want to have an eternal family, just not one that church currently recognizes.

Max Power said...

Quinn:

I think I recognize your profile pic (or can at least draw a similarity between it and a facebook profile pic of one of my friends). If so, you know who I am and know all about where I stood before Prop 8. You know I was a #1. I've been EQP, ward clerk, ward executive secretary, sunday school president, and others. Full tithe payer (gross, not net) my entire life. I even made it past election day still going to church as a #1.

Kengo Biddles said...

I'm just sick of the right claiming they're the paragon of morality...

http://gay.americablog.com/2009/09/married-gop-prop-8-supporters-brags.html