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This is an open letter to my fellow Mormons explaining why you can still be a "good Mormon" and oppose Prop 8.

My fellow Kossacks, may this letter help you understand that Prop 8 is controversial even within the Mormon church, and if you have Mormon friends, feel free to share this with them.

As background, I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), who lives in the heart of "Happy Valley" Utah.

Dear Fellow Mormons,

As you know, our LDS church has taken a political stand and has been actively campaigning in California in support of Proposition 8.  There are two fundamental flaws with the Church's involvement in this political campaign.  First, this contradicts the Church's stated position on "Political Neutrality."  Second, Prop 8 is itself fundamentally flawed.

The Church maintains a policy, consistent with its doctrine, of political neutrality.

The Church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics.
This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.
The Church does not:

   * Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.
   * Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.

This is doctrine from God, and for a good purpose.  It is the Church's role to provide morality, but not to impose by force that morality on the people, be they Mormon or otherwise.  This is the doctrine of agency.  Men are free that they might choose.  It is fine for the Church to issue its statement on morality and doctrine, as it did with "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."  That is a statement to the world, and an invitation to come to that which the Church has to offer.  It is the doctrine of the church to then remain politically neutral.

A good example of this is the Church's stance on abortion.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions.

The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:

• Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or

• A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or

• A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.

The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct.

The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.

Surely, abortion is an important issue for a Church. Yet, there it is, after stating that the Church opposes elective Abortion, it provides the statement of political neutrality.

So why is political neutrality such an important doctrine?  It can best be explained by the 11th Article of Faith.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Here in the Lord explains the necessity of political neutrality and the importance of not imposing the Church's morality on others through political processes.
According to Mormon doctrine, the Church could only be restored to the Earth in an environment of political tolerance and religious freedom.  Mormon doctrine states that the Constitution of the United States of America was given by God.

And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.  D&C 101:80

And of course, the first line of the First Amendment of the Constitution is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Hopefully, this has made clear that the doctrine of "Political Neutrality" is not just a suggestion.  It is fundamental doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, given by the Lord himself.  

By entering into a political campaign, the church breaks its own doctrine of political neutrality, and actively seeks to break down the separation of church and state. The hypocrisy is great given the history of the church being persecuted for it's own marriage oddities (so say it politely).  But it is also extremely dangerous for the church.  We as Mormons are still very much in the minority.  If the separation of church and state is broken down, there is nothing to prevent a larger church with a greater majority passing laws to remove our rights and our privilege to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of our own consciences.

I have expressed this concern to my fellow Mormons in happy valley, and so I will now address some of the rebuttals they have made...

  1. "This doesn't violate the doctrine of political neutrality because it is a single issue and not a party's platform."

This is a hair so fine I'm not sure it can be split.  Abortion is an issue, see above.  If you need to split this hair, you've missed the whole point of the doctrine.

  1.  "But if Prop 8 fails, events may occur, that may cause other events to occur, that may take away my freedom of religion."

It amazes me that the campaign for 8 somehow implies that if it doesn't pass then our freedom of religion is at risk.  No, it is not, it is still protected under the Constitution, see Amendment 1.  Same sex marriage is legal in Canada, and Mormon families seem to be just fine there, with churches, temples, and good relationships with their neighbors.

  1.  "But the Church isn't actively campaigning, they are just asking the members to get involved."

Sorry, but simply not true. The Church has made a direct political contribution to the campaign for Prop 8.  Further more, the Church is pouring resources into the campaign in the form of time of paid Church leaders, BYU resources, official Church website for the campaign, and resources from the pulpit.  To say the Church has simply issued a statement and is only encouraging its members is false.  It is an actual, active political campaign.

I think the Church realizes that the doctrine of political neutrality and separation of church and state is on shaky ground here.  This can be seen in the way the campaign has been carried out.  An honest campaign would state the issue as it is.  That is, the Church is taking a moral stand, that homosexuality is wrong, and thus, same sex marriage is immoral.  The proper stand, from a religious point of view, is that we feel the California state law is immoral, and as a Church we seek to impose our morality on the state, independent of whether you ascribe to our church or not.

Yet, this has not been the approach of the proponents of Prop 8, or the church.  Instead it is an attack by feigning a defensive position.  "Our religious freedom is at risk if this doesn't pass."  It is a backward logic to avoid the imposition of morality argument.  If the Church really feels this is such an important political issue as to require a political campaign, why not make a church-wide statement on it?

The first weekend of October, one month prior to election day, the Church held its world-wide General Conference in Salt Lake City, with each of the leading officers of the Church speaking to the Church as a whole.  Yet, there was not a single talk on Prop 8.  That's right, not formal statement to the Church with regard to the political issue.  The leaders chose not to own this political issue on a church-wide scale, even though they claim the consequences will have church-wide impact.

In fact, the church has gone to great lengths to make this seem like it is strictly a "California" issue. When they spoke on the issue at BYU, they invited "students from California to attend."  When the First Presidency issued a letter to be read in church, it was only in California.  Only "California residents" are allowed to make calls "For 8" at the BYU call center in Utah.

I think the church wanted to express it's support for Prop 8, but when it became clear that it was becoming the major source carrying water and money for it, they've been "uncomfortable" with the consequences.

So, even if the Church had remained politically neutral, and issued a statement and nothing more, should we as Mormons support Prop 8?  Not necessarily.  As Mormon's we believe in the sanctity of marriage, and we believe in marriage between the sexes, not within the sexes.  And this is fine for a religious definition.  However, we should not impose this definition of a religious belief on others, that violates the 11th Article of Faith.  Our religion says to let others live according to the dictates of their own conscience.  If that includes allowing them to marry with the blessing of their religion, conscience, and law, then great, even for same sex couples.  Our religion respects that, and so should we.

Lastly, for the technical flaws in Prop 8.  Even if you believe it is right for the Church to impose its morality on others, Prop 8 is fatally flawed. If Prop 8 passes, the next question to follow in the courts is the very definition of "a man" and "a woman."  Should be obvious, right?  Well, not exactly.  What criteria are we going to use for the definition of "man" and "woman."

Genotypic.  We could set a genotypic standard.  A man is XY, and woman is XX.  All applicants for a marriage license must submit to a karyotype.  Ok, we can possibly even agree to add XO and XXX to women, and XXY and XYY to men.  Getting more complicated, but still problematic.  What about "androgen insensitivity?"  These are individuals with XY genotype who are "perfectly women" with all external female body-parts.  Try explaining to her why she can't marry her husband.

Phenotypic. "If you look like a man, you're a man. If you look like a woman, you're a woman."  What about hermaphrodites, partial and complete? Those born with ambiguous genitalia have their "gender" determined for them by a parent or doctor, even if that is never how they felt or saw themselves.  Who decides who they can marry?  Also, who's checking? Is there going to be a "genitalia" check when applying for a license?  Also, does this mean that a transsexual man-woman can then marry a man, but two men cannot marry?

Gender.  The cultural or societal aspect of being male or female.  Who decides this.  Is it simply a declaration of gender.  "I feel male, therefore I claim a male gender," independent of my chromosomes or body parts?  Thus, if the State Supreme Court of California interprets the State Constitution in Gender, than it can be sufficient for a same sex couple to determine which is the gender male and which the gender female and get married.

You will argue that these are exceptions.  It is true that these situations are the minority, but they exist, and we all must be accounted for under the law.  Remember, the worth of souls is great, even if they have unusual circumstances. Now, in religion, there are ways to make room for these situations.  As it is with abortion, there are exceptions and guidance in how to deal with them, bringing together the person, church leaders, and health professionals to help that person choose that which is best for the individual.  The problem is, "the law" does not provide for exceptions.  The law is the law. The law must protect the rights of all, and allow each to practice religion according to their dictates and morality.

So yes, you as an active Mormon can feel good about opposing Prop 8.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Utah Mormon

P.S. Fellow Kossacks, as you can see, there are Mormons that oppose Prop 8. Some famously so. Mormons from Utah have poured money into Prop 8, but there are also Mormons, even from here in Happy Valley, contributing money to oppose it.

Originally posted to Utah Dem on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 10:17 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  As an atheist... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OJD, trashablanca, kurt, cany, dabug

      I'd just like to say that anyone who both preaches and practices a philosophy of "live and let live", no matter what their religious beliefs, is good in my book.  I've been a bit troubled by some of the people here painting all Mormons with such a broad brush when it comes to Prop 8.  Thank you for demonstrating once again that stereotypes are such a poor way to approach any group of people.

      My wishes for the best to you and yours, and keep up the good work!  :)

    •  Article of Faith #6 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Killer of Sacred Cows

      We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

      That's the hang-up for a lot of us.

  •  A vigil against Prop 8 (17+ / 0-)

    will be held at Library Square in Salt Lake City tonight at 6:00 pm. This event has been put together by LDS mothers of gay children everyone is welcome to come and show their support for all of our GLBT friends and family members

    Secret Agent fairy Princess twirling about performing acts of graceful espionage

    by ballerina X on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 10:34:09 AM PST

    •  It must be awful (5+ / 0-)

      to be born gay and live in that rigid environment.  Nonetheless for those who are born gay and are or try very hard to be true believers.  

      That alone, is reason to vote NO on H8.  For the young boys and girls who have no way out.  For the moms and dads who have to put up a Yes on H8 lawnsign to prove they're "worthy" and give 10% to a church that won't allow their children to get married and asks still more to ensure that they'll never be able to.  

      And for the Black LDS who know that the church once barred them not only in this world but relegated them to servitude in the eternities as well.

      And for the grandchildren and descendants of polygamists who had to flee to Mexico to practice the religion that was taught to them by their prophets who are now ordered to discriminate against others and whose consciences have trouble with that.  

      And for LDS who listen to the great commandment to love others as they love Jesus himself and know that they're as imperfect as any gay person.  And who know that the American protect to equal protection and the right to pursue happiness is ordained by HF and that intelligence is our crowning glory and free agency is our duty and right.  

      Vote NO on H8.  Vote NO on theocracy.  

  •  Well written but... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pine, kurt, karmsy, mofembot, Joe Beese, ohmyheck

    it ignores the local action by bishops, stake presidents and the ever present relief society who are never reigned for their local level action.

    Low level para-level clergy are rod of iron backbone for the Church's tilt to the right.  It is sometimes subtle.  Many times though is overt.  Ever wonder why so many state senators have been or are stake presidents.

    I think lucky for you to have your faith and believe that you can be politically active on liberal ideas with the mormons.  Your personall strength must be enormous.  I would rather believe that of you than the alternative of believing that you are naive.

  •  As a very non-LDS resident of Utah... (4+ / 0-)

    ... I ask you to consider whether you can reconcile your continued association with the Church with your laudable and courageous stand in favor of human dignity.

    I am not speaking of your faith. I am speaking of your symbolic - and, I assume, financial - support of an organization that is actively promoting intolerance in violation of even its own stated principles.

    Nor is this an anomaly in Church history. This is who they are.

    •  easy now (11+ / 0-)

      As someone who left the Catholic faith because of their virulently antigay and anti-woman positions, I am with you in spirit. The symbolic and financial associations are problematic.

      That having been said, if the intolerant churches can ever be persuaded to change on GLBT issues, I am quite convinced that such a change can come only from the inside of the faith. Consequently, I applaud the efforts of people like Utah Dem who are courageously speaking up about these issues.

      •  I was discussing principle. But if we're talking (4+ / 0-)

        ... strategy, let's look at the GOP. [I apologize if the analogy is offensive. :-) ]

        Which would push them off social wedge issues more quickly? Changes of heart by influential persons inside the party? Or what we've seen: the crumbling of their power base by people leaving in disgust?

        •  I left the church many decades ago (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, karmsy, cany

          but, I agree with pine. If there is change it has to come from within. The only other way will be extreme pressure from without, like in the case of acceptance of blacks.

          The church craves acceptance from power, they always have. If they become outcasts, they will change. But, people leaving in disgust in mass just isn't going to happen.

          There still are two Americas. I live in the other one. John McSame wants me to stay there.

          by high uintas on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:33:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  thank you for your activism (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ourprez08, kurt, karmsy, Utah Dem

    It's good to see that LDS people are speaking up about this issue, and that not all adherents are marching in lockstep with the Mormons who have been leading the charge on Proposition 8. Keep up the good work.

  •  Thanks for the reason and the spirit (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pine, ourprez08, OJD, kurt, slksfca, Utah Dem

    And thanks for reminding non-Mormons that this group as well is not monolithic.

    "History isn't a seesaw. If you have a bad regime on one side, the actions on the other side don't automatically become good." --Nicholson Baker

    by youpsy on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 10:50:48 AM PST

  •  I sent the following to (7+ / 0-)

    members of my own family who are Mormon:

    The Church teaches that the final, ultimate authority for each of us is not what is said by the General Authorities or even the Prophet, but by the promptings of the 'still small voice' of the Holy Ghost. 'Let your conscience be your guide.'

    The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.

    -Brigham Young

    Furthermore, if there is ever a discrepancy between what a Church leader says and what's in the Scriptures, go with the Scriptures.

    We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

    -Doctrine & Covenants, 134:4

    We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

    -Doctrine & Covenants, 134:9

    Is it right to change a Constitution in order to deny rights to any group of citizens?

    And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

    Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.

    -Doctrine & Covenants, 98:5-6

    For why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

    -1 Cor., 10:29

    (I learned last week that my Mormon sister and her husband are both voting against Prop 8.)

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified and new prejudices to be opposed. -Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 11:04:39 AM PST

  •  Thanks, Utah Dem. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ourprez08, kurt, Utah Dem, cany

    I am a liberal Catholic, so I think I can empathize with your position -- troubled by some of the teachings and activities of my church, and PISSED OFF that other so-called "liberals" think it is their place to tell me to leave it.  It is the worst thing about DK.

    We canNOT simply leave, because we BELIEVE!  It is none of their business.  And when they seem to argue that people can't be both religiously conservative and and politically progressive, they make the path toward a more socially tolerant American culture more difficult than it needs to be.

    So thanks for being vocal in both spheres.  I'm with you in spirit!

    •  Thank you, OJD (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OJD, kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows, cany

      I realized in posting this that it would not be received with universal acceptance among this "my" Kos community any more than it would be received among "my" Mormon community.  I see the good in both.  I see the intolerance and hate speak in both as well.  I welcome the discussion.  My faith is well grounded, based in love, tolerance, and the good of all mankind.

      Thank you for voicing your support and understanding!

  •  This is a good position to take (0+ / 0-)

    And I can't shake the feeling that if Gordon Hinckley were still around, he wouldn't have put up with what's going on.

  •  Thank you for posting this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy

    I hope that my husband can convince his Mormon mother with these arguments. I'm really worried about the outcome on Prop 8.

    Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable.

    by Killer of Sacred Cows on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 08:36:44 PM PST

  •  I will never understand (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows

    what makes people have the audacity to think that marriage is a religious act. While religions may have ceremonies, to be legal in the eyes of the law, marriage must be recognized by the civil authorities. However, one can be married legally and never have the "marriage" recognized by any religion. Clearly marriage and religion are not connected by law; thus, religious doctrine should have no influence on who can get "married" under civil law. Marriage is a contract between two entities just like any other contract. If tradition were a guide to marriage, there would be no divorce. If tradition were a guide, a woman would have to become pregnant before the marriage would be finalized. If tradition were a guide, a thirteen year  old girl would be marrying a thirty year old man (Romeo and Juliet). If one were to use tradition as a guide to marriage, it would be necessary to account for the view of marriage of all cultures and all religions. But, since marriage is a civil contract, traditional views of marriage cannot be a guide.

    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Out of hope, out of rope, out of time

    by professorfate on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:02:10 PM PST

    •  THANK YOU for saving me the time to post this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OJD, kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows

      ... I just don't get why this is such a misunderstood issue.

      It is a civil law issues, not a religious issue.

      And, BTW, I want to thank the Diarist for your work.  I am a devout Episcopalian.  You couldn't blast me off my church pew for anything, but mix law and religion, you have a tiger on your hands.  You will never find a greater opponent of theocratic notion than me.

      It is entirely possible to be Christian, LDS or of any other belief and not mix the oil and water of religion and rights.

      Frankly, if I had to pick one to lose, it would be religion.  My rights would still allow me belief.  

      Clearly, the reverse is not true.

      What if Alaska won't take her back?

      by cany on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 10:23:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  As an update to those who (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows

    are interested. The vigil that was held in SLC was over 300 people with another planned in Provo and St.George.

    The local news covered it tonight and on KUTV the coverage was very positive. They showed families who were emotional about the impact on their families.

    There still are two Americas. I live in the other one. John McSame wants me to stay there.

    by high uintas on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 09:29:00 PM PST

  •  The LA Times Ripped on Prop 8 today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, karmsy, Killer of Sacred Cows

    read it here

    It's killer.

    What if Alaska won't take her back?

    by cany on Sun Nov 02, 2008 at 10:08:48 PM PST

  •  Significant typo in the diary entry (4+ / 0-)

    In point #2, you answer the claim that "But if Prop 8 passes, events may occur, that may cause other events to occur, that may take away my freedom of religion."

    That should be "But if Prop 8 fails, ..."

    It gets a little confusing, because "Yes on 8" means outlawing same-sex marriage. The bottom line is that Prop 8 is not about supporting or protecting traditional families. It is about bashing non-traditional families. If Prop 8 is defeated, the LDS Church (and other churches and individuals) will still be free to preach that same-sex marriage is immoral; the only thing they will lose is the ability to impose that belief by force of law on others who do not share it.

    A group of Seventh-Day Adventists is speaking out against Prop 8 as a matter of religious freedom, because the SDA, perhaps even moreso than the LDS, know from direct experience what it means to face religious discrimination in the United States.

  •  Bravo! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows, Utah Dem

    Bravo Utah Dem, Bravo! I love it.

  •  Thank you (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Killer of Sacred Cows, Utah Dem

    From an active Idaho Mormon.

    I have cousins in Arizona who are all for Prop 102 there and Prop 8 in California. In talking with them they have used some of the very same arguments you have so thoroughly destroyed here.

    Not all Mormons are for this, and the broad brush painting by Daily Kos readers on this issue is frustrating.

    One can be a faithful, believing member, yet also oppose the Church on political actions and causes. In fact, the Church specifically tells us to do this. Every election year a letter is read from the pulpit from the First Presidency encouraging the members to get out and vote and to vote their conscience.

    My conscience tells me that Prop 8/102 and others of it's ilk are not good.

  •  Hey, thanks for speaking out. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Killer of Sacred Cows, Utah Dem

    Your church does not exactly encourage your frankness on this issue, and, sadly, members of this progressive online community can be quite bigoted and speak in absurd stereotypes regarding religion.

    You're taking heat from both sides. But you've held your ground.

  •  Thank you for educating me about Mormanism... (4+ / 0-)

    I never knew that the LDS has a neutrality stance with respect to political campaigns (even though they are violating that stance by supporting Prop 8).  Every religion should adopt a neutrality stance in America.

    Here's hoping the CA Mormans will vote down Prop 8!

    •  There is only so much hypocrisy one can take (0+ / 0-)

      ....  I would frankly prefer that not happen because it's been a nightmare fighting against this abominable proposition with people from certain faith denominations insisting that their church is being "neutral" even as it is clear that it is absolutely not.  It just creates an even bigger cognitive dissonance, as hundreds, no, thousands of church members pelting the media and internet and canvassing,  insist that they're not doing anything wrong re having a political party use the Church to dodge campaign donation limits and provide astroturf cover for these big corporations fighting tooth and nail against electing Democrats.

      Saying it does not make it so.

      Meh.  

      "Toads of Glory, slugs of joy... as he trotted down the path before a dragon ate him"-Alex Hall/ Stop McClintock

      by AmericanRiverCanyon on Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 08:56:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can I ask you... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marja E

    ...what the hell you mean by

    transsexual man-woman

    .

    Maybe you could explain how this is not supposed to be incredibly demeaning.

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