The Stakes of 8

Despite the best efforts of the Brethren to energize the Saints for Proposition 8, the initiative has little chance of passing. According to David Magleby, the premier scholar of referenda from BYU, initiatives typically start out with overwhelming support, which erodes when the opposition uncovers the complexity of the issue beneath the populist rhetoric. Whether or not referenda or initiatives pass becomes a race against time. As Proposition 8 is already behind in public opinion, chances of passage are slim.

The real danger of Proposition 8 is the damage that the LDS campaign inflicts on Mormon children. Every time members and local leaders share their testimonies about the evil of homosexuality, there may be impressionable gay Mormon children in the pews whose psyche can be scarred for life.

As children go through puberty and the sex drive emerges, imagine what it must be like to sit in church and to hear that you are evil. Some Mormon children have accepted the charge of their elders. Since sexual orientation is an inborn trait, the inability to repent often results in despair. Some children will engage in self-destructive behavior to escape the dilemma.

Observed self-destructive behavior among Mormon children and young adults includes running away from home, substance abuse, promiscuity, prostitution, suicide and suicide attempts.

The campaign to pass Proposition 8 is bound to hurt more of our children. Much of the damage could be avoided if we adopted a more realistic view of sexuality and sexual morality.

Sin requires a choice.
Sexual orientation is not a choice.
Therefore same gender orientation is not a sin.

If Mormon children understood their biology properly then they would be spared a lot of angst and would be less likely to engage into self-destructive behavior.

It is difficult for teenagers to properly understand sexuality, however, when the only sanctioned opinion among their elders is unrealistic. But every time, a Mormon speaks up, a child might take courage.

When I made that point yesterday on BCC, Steve Evans responded angrily:

Hellmut and cowboy, no church is an open forum for debate. None. Religious communities do not work that way. They exist for entirely different purposes. You may find that fact unsatisfying.

Although it is true that religion is not typically about freedom of speech, Steve is factually wrong. There are religions that allow for divergent opinions, the challenging of conventional wisdom, dogma and orthodoxy. There are even churches that are a forum for open debate.

The Brethren Friends, colloquially known as Quakers, are a charismatic community that is based on free speech. Like Mormons, the Brethren rely on inspiration to learn the will of God.

The Brethren Friends operate from a position of epistemological humility. They assume that someone is inspired by the spirit of God. However, we do not know who it is. The mouth piece of God may not know either. Hence, free speech is the only guarantee that the word of God may reach the faithful community.

Unlike our own community, the Brethren Friends maintain a stellar record in favor of human rights. In the free exchange of ideas, quality continues to prevail.

Of course, the Brethren Friends do not share the Catholic concept of priesthood authority. As another response pointed out, even Catholicism allows for more free speech than Mormonism. Catholicism benefits from a vibrant civil society including both lay and clergy organization. Just look at the tremendous diversity of religious orders that are sanctioned within the Catholic Church and that will expose the faithful to a wide variety of views during mass and daily life.

Being more authoritarian than Catholicism is not a matter of necessity, as Steve appears to advocate, but locates our form of religion at the fringes of comparative religion.

People are entitled to their opinions. If you want to believe that same gender orientation and same gender sex are sinful then you ought to be able to say so, especially, in fast and testimony meeting.

The problem is that denial has consequences. In this case, our children bear the brunt of the costs. When we refuse to educate our children about sexuality, we cannot expect them to choose wisely.

Every time Mormons speak up rationally and realistically about marriage equality and same sex orientation, we may encourage a child. Every time we remain quiet, we may become complicit in the next suicide.

Those are the stakes of 8.

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6 Responses

  1. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    But surely the GAs & local leaders are sensitive to all members & people who hear these talks, see the lengths tscc is going to suppress SSM…. Aren’t they?
    I think the evidence that the gay/lesbian orientation – lifestyle is (mostly?) genetically determined or at least foreshadowed is irrefutable.

  2. MoHoHawaii says:

    I read the thread on BCC. I thought Steve Evans’ position was angry and defensive, and I absolutely disagree with banning people from the debate. I don’t comment on BCC anymore because I don’t feel it operates in a spirit of openness for diversity. If you are not orthodox you more or less are not welcome on BCC, even if you are sincere and respectful. BCC is a microcosm of the LDS Church more generally. It’s a real shame.

    You mention the cost of Church-sponsored gay baiting on gay youth. This certainly happens, and I experienced it myself as a young person. It was horrible.

    There is also an impact on youth who are not gay. As the Church boxes itself into a position on social issues that is out of step with its host culture, it inevitably moves itself towards the fringe of society. This happened with the Church’s opposition to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, and it’s happening right under our noses today. Many young people will feel conflicted when their sense of social justice and fairness cannot be reconciled with what they hear over the pulpit. Supporters of Prop 8 may someday be able to say that they were successful stripping some children and stay-at-home parents of their health insurance and survivor benefits. Is that dubious achievement really worth the cost to the unity and humanity of the Church?

  3. Hellmut says:

    I agree, MoHoHawaii, injustice affects everyone. The Church hurts our gay children by defining them as evil for acting on their sex drive. The Church hurts our straight children by proclaiming prejudice true and discrimination virtuous.

    A little bit of humility would go a long way. We should at least try to subordinate our opinions to logic and evidence.

  4. Keithb says:

    I agree.
    I think you are thinking of Friends though and not Brethren. The Religous Society of Friends are known as Quakers. There are some similarities between the two groups, for example both emphasize simplicity. I don’t know where Brethren stand on open debate, but for Friends this value does come from the testimony of simplicity.

  5. Hellmut says:

    Thanks, Keith!

  6. circus watcher says:

    I agree with you Hellmut.
    Another way to look at it is to recognize that the mere tiny human being can make an error in this matter. Is it best to err on the side of compassion and support, or on the side of anger and judgemental damnation?

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