Why Proposition 8 is a lose-lose for the LDS church

I’ve already posted about why the church in its insular little way can benefit from their opposition to Prop 8, but in the long term, this is a watershed for the church, and not in a good way.

A lot of you are too young to remember the fight over the ERA. Just as now, the church got heavily involved in the campaign to defeat the amendment. They did the same kind of scare tactics: equal rights for women would destroy traditional families and would result in the destruction of the nuclear family and in turn society.

Church members who disagreed with the church’s position were demonized and excommunicated. Reading Sonia Johnson’s speeches and columns from that time, they seem pretty tame. But Sonia Johnson is still held up in Mormon circles as a sort of whacked-out Satanic figure.

But the difference back then was that the wider society wasn’t quite ready for the ERA. People were, to put it bluntly, much more conservative socially back then, despite the sexual revolution. The Mormon church was solidly in the middle of the “moral majority.” As maligned as Falwell et al., were, they were genuine power brokers in the Republican party.

Today, the religious right is still deeply entrenched in the GOP, but it is no longer respectable in the wider culture, so there are no real counterparts to the Falwells and Schlaflys of the late 70s. Instead, there is the insular world of talk radio. But Rush and Hannity and Glenn Beck do not have the organizing power to make themselves much of a political force. The religious right was just powerful enough to scuttle Mitt Romney’s campaign, but it wasn’t strong enough to prevent McCain’s. The Mormons should have learned that their political allies are few and fickle.

Simply put, the wider culture has moved on, and I suspect that the wording of the ERA would be pretty uncontroversial today. Likewise, American culture has been moving slowly towards tolerance of gays and lesbians.

But the LDS church still thinks it’s back in the 70s. It continues to use the heavy-handed tactics of the seventies: the fear-mongering, the siege mentality, and the demonization of their opponents in and out of the church. They actually think that a shipment of Chinese yard signs will be enough to awaken the moral majority again.

Even if Prop 8 wins, the church loses in the long run. It has forever wedded itself to reactionary social politics. When missionaries knock on doors, not just in California, a lot of people will think, “Oh, these are the people who hate gays.” Likewise, the ubiquitous PSAs about “family, isn’t it about time?” will fall flat because people know what kinds of families they are talking about.

Also, a small minority of the church membership seems to be more than a little appalled at the church’s position and heavy-handed tactics. For a lot of people, questioning whether the church is out of step with reality might be the final impetus to get them to question everything about the church.

Civilization is passing Mormonism by, and someday, the church will see that, probably when it’s too late.


25 Responses to Why Proposition 8 is a lose-lose for the LDS church

  1. Mike says:

    As a leftist I’m glad to see your optimism for a progressive society; however your history is a bit slanted.

    “Today, the religious right is still deeply entrenched in the GOP, but it is no longer respectable in the wider culture, so there are no real counterparts to the Falwells and Schlaflys of the late 70s. Instead, there is the insular world of talk radio. But Rush and Hannity and Glenn Beck do not have the organizing power to make themselves much of a political force. ”

    This is obviously false if you look at the issue of Gay Marriage. The right wing must have some sway in society considering that out of 50 states, two have allowed same-sex marriage (one being California which is up for vote) and twenty six (over half) have successfully passed ammendments banning same-sex marriage.

    But as a gay rights activist I thank you for your optimism, keep the spirit alive. haha.

  2. aerin says:

    I agree – family, isn’t it about time doesn’t really help matters any. Because, in reality, the families are growing whether or not legal marriage is there. Both g_ay and straight families. I can’t remember the last statistic I read about the number of children born to parents who were legally married – but it was shrinking each year.

    So – if two people want to make sure that their children will be protected in case someone dies – or in the case of a separation/divorce – or make sure that a partner can visit a loved one in the ICU – seems to me these are pro-family options. Anti-family is more of the status quo.

  3. Lewis says:

    I have to admit public opinion is swaying, back in 2000 California passed this as a law by 61% only to be overturned by 4 judges. I don’t think we will pass this by that much margin this time. I’m not optimistically ignorant, I know it could fail.

    We’re well aware that civilization maybe passing us by but I quote what Jesus told Pilate “My Kingdom is not of this world.” A church should not change with the changes of the world and I feel the same about Marriage. These two things should remain true and constant. It makes my family strong and stable. With all the changes happening in the world i think it helps the LDs church to stay true to it’s teachings.

  4. aerin says:

    Lewis – I would argue that the LDS church has changed with the changes of the world. How else would you explain polygamy? Or the revelation about blacks and the priesthood?

  5. Son says:

    Prop 8 isn’t an issue about “rights”. It is about preserving the definition of “marriage” as between a man and a woman. Gay people can do what they want, and they can even enjoy many civil benefits through civil unions and the such. But that isn’t marriage. Gay people should be treated with kindness and respect, like anyone. Gay people aren’t the issue here nor the problem. The problem is that 4 arrogant judges in black robes sitting in their ivory tower overturned the express will of a clear majority of California citizens when they ruled by fiat and illegally legislated from the bench when they unilaterally redefined marriage. Prop 8 allows the citizens of California to say no to Judicial Activism and Judicial Tyranny. There are elements of the judiciary that are way out of control and are endangering the balance of power in our republic by getting involved in “legislating”. This has got to stop. Voting yes on Prop 8 will help put those elitist judges back in their place and let them know they cannot arrogantly overule the will of the people in a matter as fundamental to the future of civilization as the bedrock institution of marriage. That is something important enough that it should not be left to 4 elitist judges to impose by fiat.

  6. Son says:

    May I speak a word to just those of you who are my gay friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow-countrymen. You are a minority and I’m sure you recognize that. And that is ok. But please show kindness and tolerance for the rest of us and vote with us to help preserve marriage as between a man and a woman. I know you may not have any personal parochial interest in voting yes on Prop 8. But as your friend and neighbor, I’m asking for your vote to help preserve the definition of this institution that is so important. Thank you.

  7. Lewis says:

    Great points, I thought of mentioning them but I try to make short points. …easy for me to say that now, right….

    There are times in the history of the church when we receive revelation to expand blessings so this is by definition a change. I don’t see them as changes in our principles or teachings. Marriage is an eternal principle that doesn’t change. God created the two different sexes to help raise children. He created the ideal environment for his children to learn from the diversity of genders . (By the way, I don’t like it when people say “God created Adam and Even, not Adam and Steve”).

    As I’ve studies God’s dealings with his children he has always expanded or contracted his blessing to people in accordance to his perfect knowledge. In the Old Testament God segregated even more, he only allowed the Levites to hold the priesthood. In the New Testament Jesus and his apostles only taught to the Israelites. That changed after he died. I really don’t know the reason and one of my first questions for him will be why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood.

    The same would apply to Polygamy, I really don’t understand that one but I can’t understand the wisdom of God. I’ve read of a number of benefits early LDS people had because of it but I personally can not understand it. This still doesn’t change the principle of Marriage. Man and Woman create and raise children in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that is the safest place for children.

    This may bring up another point. I’m not sure what my church feels about adoption with same sex couples but I think it’s better to be in a loved home and an Orphanage, And I Know they will love them as much as I love my children. This doesn’t change the fact that Marriage is a holy covenant between and Man and woman.

    Again I wish gay couples all the right and privileges as married couples. This is already California law. I’d like to keep the tradition of marriage constant.

  8. Mina says:

    There is no “tradition of marriage” as a single pan-cultural historical constant. The construct has fluctuated wildly and will continue to do so. Like “the family,” this are ideological constructions which attempt to clone a single strand of euro-bourgeois practice onto human history as whole. Read a book. Or even several.

  9. Mina says:

    damn lack of editing…”LIke “the family” THESE are ideological constructions…”

    I hate subject/verb mistypings nearly as much as I loathe ahistorical perspectives. : )

  10. Lewis says:

    Hi Mina,
    Which book(s) do you recommend? I like reading, even though it may appear otherwise. I do have to plead for mercy on my grammar. I’m an Engineer not and English major.

    We are for the most part decendents from Europe here in the United States. And most of our culture is decented from the same. In my immediate geneology (6 to 7 generations that I’ve researched) my ancestors were married. That marriage consisted of Husband/Wife and children. Even my Choctaw ancestors had a similar structure of family. So I think it’s fair if I take that as a basis for family structure. I believe God created us to be in that same family structure. I’d like to keep what my immediate ancestors had. From what I read it was special to them and it is special to me. I’m not too familiar with other cultures but it appears in the present most have come to a similar structure that we have.

    Take Care

  11. sideon says:

    Funny. Son thinks society looks like “Leave it to Beaver.”

    Maybe in Ogden. No, that can’t be right – I was just there and they have some culture AND they had good sushi.

    Marriage IS important, and it’s personal, and civil and none of his damn business if I marry a woman OR a man.

  12. K*tty says:

    Son, I would dare guess you have no gay friends, so cut the crap. That is like me asking you to please respect other religions even though “your true” prophet said they were all an abomination. But I am sure you were just teasing. Right?

    Lewis, what about the changes to the temple rites that JS said would never change? When you ask most mormons, why there was a change, the best answer that they can come up with is that it is now a world-wide church and many were uncomfortable. All that previous touching creeped people out. Go figure!

  13. Lewis says:

    Good evening K*tty,
    It sounds like a change in the method of teaching the same principle. Still I can’t answer for sure because I’m not familiar with this. Sounds like you have a lot of information you could discuss. Good luck.

  14. runtu says:

    Heh, a change in teaching the same principle. Um, pantomiming slitting your throat or being disembowelled and spending 30 minutes mocking Protestant ministers aren’t different methods of teaching anything, as far as I can see.

    I was glad to see the changes made, but they weren’t done as a change in the method. They were done because the church polled the members and found that most people were understandably creeped out by that content.

  15. Hana says:

    “Civilization is passing Mormonism by, and someday, the church will see that, probably when it’s too late.”

    Too late for what? We are looking at the eternal perspective. We are NOT here to win a popularity contest.

    The “shipment of Chinese yard signs” isn’t enough, but it’s a start. (Thanks for pointing out. I’ll remeber that everytime I see a Made in Mexico rainbow colored bumper sticker.)

    And, perhaps you are right, a lot of people will think, “Oh, these are the people who hate gays.” That is truly unfortunate for both sides of that scenario.

    The church does not hate gays, but is firm in its stand that the act of homosexuality is a sin against nature. We are taught to love the sinner but hate the sin. (Before you ask, yes. I do have A LOT of gay friends and family. Albeit, I do not condone their lifestyle, I LOVE them with all my heart.) It is a misintrepretation of our beliefs (even by our own members) that emanates the vibe that we are a church filled with “burn-at-the-stake people hating fanatics out of touch with reality.

    I have NO delusions that every member of the church is perfect. We know there only to be one perfect being and it is our lifetime goal to achieve His perfection. But, I’m unclear as to where the idea that our past or present teaching methods consisted of pantomiming throat slitting and/or disembowelment and mocking of Protestant ministers stems. Nor am I familiar with our temple rites changing. If a list of literature supplying this information could be given, I’d greatly appreciate it. (NO sarcasim intended here. I am very curious.)

    We support Prop 8 on the basis that we are preserving a marital institution instated by our Heavenly Father. American civilization may change, but the Lord does not and will not.

    I appreciated everyone hearing me out.

  16. Hellmut says:

    Lewis, you might want to start with The Way We Never Were. Our families change all the time.

    For example, only two or three generations ago, it used to be that a family consisted of a father, a mother, the grandparents, and children. At the same time, wealthy families would not have live in grandparents but servants who were for all practical reasons members of the family.

    Two generations before that there would not have been grandparents because people died in the fifties and sixties.

    Did you ever read Oliver Twist? That will give you an idea of what family life during the 19th century could be like. Many children were raised by single mothers, aunts and uncles, friends, and in orphanages.

    Not too long ago, marriage required the Lord’s permission. Property was essential to marriage.

    As a Mormon, you might be aware that our families used to consist of a man and a woman, a woman, and a woman. In Nepal, there are families consisting of a woman and a man, a man, and a man.

    Abaham married Saria but had sex with his maid. Jacob married two sisters who deployed the wombs of their maids in the power struggle against one another.

    Today, we marry for love. Not too long ago, we married for security, property, power, and family politics.

    As an empirical matter, we have to admit that the institution of the family has been subject to essential change throughout human history.

  17. Hellmut says:


    If I say that I love someone then I have the obligation to try and understand that person. For example, studying nature we will learn that homosexuality is not a choice but an inborn trait. That is not only the consensus of psychologists and psychiatrists but homosexuality has been observed among hundreds of species ranging from reptiles and birds to every primate species including chimpanzees and human beings.

    Studying nature also reveals that homosexuality is not any more problematic than heterosexuality.

    If I say that I love my gay neighbors and children then I have an obligation not to discriminate against them.

    If God is the creator then the creation reveals him. Nature tells us that homosexuality is neither a choice nor inherently damaging. Therefore we need to stop hurting and discriminating our gay children and neighbors.

    The Church is hurting our gay children every day. Whatever the intent of the Brethren, their dehumanizing language about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular is driving Mormon children into despair.

    When you treat children that way, they will respond accordingly. Young women’s self-esteem shatters as many of them develop sexual dysfunctions. Young men become liars in worthiness interviews. And our gay children are driven out of our families.

    When we talk about our children’s essence in terms of sin, this language becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Gay Mormon children bear lifelong scars from their treatment at our hands.

    Anyone who opens their eyes and their hearts can see that for themselves. There have been too many suicides already.

    Those are not the fruits of love. They are the fruits of ignorance, denial, and carelessness. We might as well hate them.

  18. Hellmut says:

    Lewis, I appreciate your religious convictions. I am concerned, however, that you want to impose your religious views with the force of law and the coercive powers of the government on Americans. Religion is a matter of conscience. You have no right to impose your views on the rest of us.

    The founding fathers referred to that as the tyranny of the majority. No matter, how small a minority, everyone ought to be free to practice religion according to the dictates of their own conscience.

    Insofar as the government is concerned, marriage is not a “holy covenant” but a civil contract. By all means, practice your religion as you see fit but stop imposing it on the rest of us.

    Proposition 8 is a threat to our religious freedom.

  19. chanson says:

    I’ve been thinking about this post for a few days, and I have to say that I agree completely with your assessment of how this issue will affect public perception of Mormons.

    Mike is right that the Religious Right still has a fair amount of sway, but that movement is composed of the Mormons themselves and of people who are deeply committed to other religions that hate Mormonism. The people who didn’t have a strong opinion of Mormonism either way will end up with a lower opinion of Mormons for the most part.

    And for a group whose “Kingdom is not of this world,” they seem to be spending an awful lot of money on changing secular laws for the “world” of people who have nothing to do with Mormonism.

  20. Hana says:


    I sincerely appreciate your input, however, I am still detecting that you are accusing me of hating, when that was NOT what I said at all. You are accusing me of being blind and without a heart. I am NOT here to bear “the fruits of ignorance, denial and carelessness” and I hardly agree that strong disagreement of beliefs is along the lines of: “We might as well hate them.”

    Please let me reiterate that FACT that I DO NOT hate homosexuals. And again, let me reiterate the other FACT that I DO have friends and family who consider themselves to be homosexual and I can assure you, I love them no less than I do my heterosexual friends and family.

    Despite what you may think, I am not completely ignorant. As you have mentioned, the study of nature has shown that homosexuality is not a choice. BUT, as all gay researchers have found, homosexuality stems from a combination of temperamental and environmental factors that occur in a child’s life. There has been NO scientific evidence that concludes homosexuality to be genetic or, as you say, an “inborn trait.”

    As much as I don’t like comparing myself to animals, I will concur that species (not including hermaphrodites like reptiles where homosexuality is not an issue) have been observed to engage in homosexuality. However, as Linda Wolfe told Lifescience regarding the issue, “When it comes down to the bottom I think it’s just for sexual pleasure.”

    If it is just for sexual pleasure, should I also endorse prostitution? Infidelity? Pedophilias? What IS common in all of these scientific finds, is that despite the horny drive to fulfill their “sexual pleasure” NATURE required them to mate with the opposite sex for the benefit and continuance of their own society.

    There is no “if”, God is THE creator and to this Larry King says it best, “Put a naked man next to a naked woman and you can tell that they were made for each other.” The sexual union between a man and a woman (even without love) begets another life. How is that NOT as nature intended?

    As I have said before, our church encourages us to reach our goal of spiritual perfection. I cannot speak for INDIVIDUALS (of all denominations/races/backgrounds), but I can say that (contrary to your observations) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not endorse nor promote the dehumanizing of His children. The church is not going to sugar coat it when something stands in opposition of what we know to be true. Pretending nothing is wrong festers the situation and often creates an internal conflict which, more often than, devastatingly ends in suicide. NO ONE wants that.

    Religion and arguments of genetic homosexuality aside, Prop 8 is not only about preserving and restoring the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman, it is about a breech of the judicial system. Those supreme court judges in favor of same-sex marriages, despite the popularity of their decision, overthrew the people’s right to govern themselves. NO ONE had the opportunity to even vote on that issue and that’s what it boils down to. You have demanded us not to “impose our religious beliefs” on you, yet the gay community and four supreme court judges, who overturned California‘s majority vote, has now imposed their own personal views on an ENTIRE state. We’re not being fair?

    Hellmut, despite our differences, again, I truly appreciate you expressing your convictions with me. Take care and best of luck to you and your endeavors.

  21. sideon says:

    I pat my straight friends kindly on the head, roll my eyes at their ignorance, and I continue loving them anyway… each and every time they use “gay lifestyle” in a sentence. Sexuality is part of one’s life, inherent from birth.

    Some good examples of lifestyle are golf and Mormonism.

  22. Hana says:


    LOL. I do the same with my gay friends

  23. sideon says:

    Funny thing, Hana – I’m finding it hard to imagine the prospect of you having gay friends.

  24. Hana says:

    LOL. You really shouldn’t limit your imagination that way.

    The difference is that we (my REAL LIFE gay friends and I) actually have an unspoken truce. They don’t cram their beliefs down my throat nor do they criticize me for my religion and vice versa. That way we can all have a good time and we don’t have to result to ignorant name calling like- holier-than-thou douche bag- which, not only lacks creativity but in this case, can go either way.

    This can go on and on. Lets face it Sideon, I’ll NEVER it see it your way and you will NEVER see it my way. Despite our disagreement, I can respect that you are unchanging in your beliefs and so am I. But, the truth remains that, “Opinions are like A-holes. Everyone has one and everyone thinks that everybody else’s stinks.”

    In all honestly, there’s really nothing more to be said in relevance to the suject. So, lets just pat each other on the head, roll our eyes, consider each other ignorant and call it a day.

  25. sideon says:


    For once and only once, we can agree on one thing.

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