Where Is the Official Moral Outrage?

by Jerry Argetsinger

I was born 9 months to the day after the bombing of Hiroshima. That puts me on the cutting edge of the Baby Boomer Generation. Of the many questions generated regarding immoral actions in the wake of WW2, some the most often asked relate to the rounding-up and incarceration of millions of Jews and other so-calledundesirables in concentrationcamps. Why did the people not rise up in moral indignation? People from all walks of life and from all regions of the globe have struggled trying to understand those heinous atrocities.

Now, seventy years later Americans have witnessed their government stoop to those same actions against displaced families, would-be immigrants fleeing the untenable situations of their own homelands. Not only were these huddled masses being herded into Detention Camps, their children were ripped from them via lies, deceit and force, carried away, locked behind bars and even crammed into cages where they were isolated from visitors of any kind. But this time the world took note. Political and religious leaders, private citizens from America and around the world were outraged, demanding the reuniting of these prisoner-children with their parents. The first government response was the Attorney General reading Bible scriptures to justify these callous acts, demanding that “Christians” were obligated to support their government leaders who were given power by God. We heard the president of the United States equivocate from one excuse to the next in a continuing barrage of new versions of these events frantically trying to find a narrative that the masses would accept. It was stunning how quickly Congressional leaders at first tried to rally in support of their Chief, but soon even Republicans were breaking from the pack in condemnation of the immorality of these actions. The loyal Trump supporters in the White House, on Fox News, and in the streets lapped up the weak justifications that rolled from their lips. But polls were showing that even among Trump supporters, 75% of Americans took the moral high road and with one united voice forced the Administration to reverse its policy. Colion Noir, a leader of the National Rifle Association, spoke out on Real Time With Bill Maher (June 22, 2018), “The country has risen up in utter disgust . . . [In America] children do not suffer at the hands of the government.”

In all of this Moral Outrage, there was one group whose subdued statement was different. In the Official Statement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is no moral outrage. Instead the leaders of the Mormon Church state that they are “deeply troubled” by these actions, and then follow with a statement that the LDS Church supports governments in the administration of their laws. The statement concludes by repeating the oft given hope that the Church encourages the U. S. Government “to seek for rational, compassionate solutions.” However there are no real suggestions as to what those solutions might be. This is what I call the “Niles Crane letter of indignation and outrage” often used for comic effect on the old Fraser t.v. show. Anytime Niles was outraged or slighted, in his anger he would write “a strongly worded letter.” It’s an attempt to project the notion that action has been taken, when in fact, nothing has been done. Niles may get a laugh, but in real life it’s just not funny.

As a practicing Mormon, I was puzzled when I considered the church response in contrast to other religious leaders’ statements. Why was the ripping of children from their parents together with no plan for reuniting families not a Moral Issue in the Official LDS statement? If there is one thing that defines modern Mormonism, it is the sanctity of the family via the Proclamation on the Family (1995). The Church is also careful to retain its political neutrality, however they are quick to state that they take strong stands on moral issues that may inform politics. This is most evident in their aggressive actions against Gay Marriage.

Suddenly it hit me! The Mormon Church had already weighed in on the morality of the current immigration issue. On November 5, 2015, the LDS Church announced an unprecedented New Policy in the wake of the nation-wide legalization of Gay Marriage, or other similar arrangement. Such action is now defined as apostocy and requires a Disciplinary Council that would likely result in the excommunication of such members. But wait! That’s not all! The children of gay marriages are now denied all church ordinances: as babies they cannot be blessed, at age 8 they cannot be baptized, at age 12 male children cannot be ordained to the priesthood, as young adults they cannot serve missions for the church. These children may be considered for baptism when they legally come of age and renounce their parents’ gay union. Is this not ripping children from their parents?

That’s the answer. The LDS Church had already made the decision to separate children from their parents and families. They, too, have decided that by punishing the children, it might move parents to action in order to protect their children. This is the same justification that was recently cited by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. However, for Mormons the separation stipulated in the November, 2015 policy is more serious because the gay married couple and their children are separated from their family, friends and even God for eternity.

In reality, if the LDS Church took a public moral stance against the Trump Administration’s separation of children from family, it could easily lead to Church leaders being condemned for taking the exact same action against the children of gay parents as the government is taking against immigrant parents. In the end, I think Mormon leaders are smart enough to have seen the corner into which they have painted themselves. By making the weak statement that the Church is Deeply Troubled, they are likely hoping that no one notices their self-serving lack of Moral Outrage.

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Jerry Argetsinger

Jerry was a professor of Cultural & Creative Studies, Rochester Institute of Technology (retired). He has published extensively on Danish theater, stage magic, literature and LGBTQ topic particularly as they interface with Mormonism. He was lead editor of "Latter Gay Saints" (Brodie Award Best Short Ficition 2013). A director of Off Broadway, Outdoor Drama, University and Community Theatre, he directed the Hill Cumorah Pageant 1990-97. He is married to costume designer Gail who designed Cumorah Pageant costumes 1978-97. They have two grown boys.

3 thoughts on “Where Is the Official Moral Outrage?

  1. Mormons have never had a problem with tearing families apart if it suits their agenda. In Mormonism, families are about creating a larger, devout, new generation, and maintaining conformity. If someone refuses, or is unable, to conform, then their place in the family no longer matters.

  2. It seems to me that LDS leaders enact and defend prejudicial policies for the same reason that President Trump does. It appeals to their minority base. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying. But I can’t conceive of any other practical (much less moral) reason for marginalizing the children of gay parents or for lobbying for legal measures to block gay marriage across the country/world. Moreover, when Church leaders make bigoted statements supporting such policies, it definitely triggers some hearty “amens” from ultra-conservative LDS circles across social media.

  3. You are a superb writer, Jerry, and your argument is compelling. My moral outrage finally boiled over, and in great anger, even rage, I finally had to leave Mormonism. And yet, like you, I am still here, on the fringes, tied to Mormonism by so much family and friends and memories and spirituality. Like Niles, have we made any impact, done something, or merely tinkled cymbals and sounded brass? What can I do more than leave the Church, stop funding them with at least my “mite”, and patiently, lovingly show my Mormon kids and grandkids now that life is happier without Mormonism.

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