Proposition 8 from Outer Space

Did you think my kiss was a promise of what you’ll have? No, my pompous one. It was to let you know what you will not have.

The Mormons’ relationship with the Religious Right keeps reminding me of this crazy Ten Commandments quote. In kind of an opposite sort of way.

After all of the crap the Mormons took from the Religious Right during the Romney campaign, many foolish people (including me) thought this would be the year when the Mormons would finally stand up to the Christian theocrats and stop taking it. Instead, they offer up this reconciliation present: pulling out all the stops and investing a hundred and ten percent in California’s Proposition 8, of all things. It’s an effective way to get the entire organizational and financial might of the LDS church involved in a get-out-the-vote effort — directed at the Religious Right in a big, important state — without openly endorsing a candidate. It’s like the Mormons are saying to the Religious Right: “Hey, don’t write us off — look what we have to offer!” Still, they might have considered sending a message like “Here’s what we could do for you if only you’d stop calling us a Satanic cult.” As it is, the Religious Right has gotten the message loud and clear: they don’t need to waste a single second wooing the Mormons in order to have have them.

And this campaign for California’s Proposition 8 is costing the Mormons a pretty penny. With the current economy, it’s a heck of a time to be asking people to donate another 1% of their yearly income to a political campaign instead of advising members to get their finances in order. Plus, the LDS church is generating tons of negative publicity since this cause can’t help but remind people of the Mormons’ history of racism.

Then, of course, this campaign is terribly polarizing within the ranks of the church itself. The two sides are losing the ability to understand or have any empathy for one another. The people on the faithful Mormon blogs are claiming that — just because they’re standing up for what they believe in — hateful anti-Mormon remarks are being directed at them by some of the very people who claim to love tolerance. It looks like hypocrisy. The other side counters “Wait a minute — so are you for discrimination or against it? Pick one or the other. It would be a lot easier to stand in solidarity beside you against hate if you weren’t so busy lobbing hate onto another minority, not to mention handing the keys of theocracy to a majority religious group that doesn’t really include or accept you…”

By insisting that everyone take a stand, the LDS church is pushing people to the two poles, and families and friendships divided by this issue groan under the strain. I suspect that those Mormons who make big sacrifices to promote Proposition 8 will end up just that much more committed to the church, while many others will start questioning the faith, and eventually leave. There will probably be that much less room for the “middle way.”

Is that what the brethren want?

Maybe it is.


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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16 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    That’s right. The brethren are craving the respect of their abusers desperately and the Christian right knows it.

    Have some pride, President Monson, and don’t allow the fundamentalists to kick you around.

  2. jake says:

    I know people who argue that this is a winnowing process to separate the really faithful from the not so faithful. I have been told recently by a member that the mormons in favor of Prop 8 are “the Church of the Lamb”. Which is apparently some subset of the church that Bruce McConkie talked about that consists of the reallly mormony mormons. The ones who go to the temple every month and stuff like that. Frankly the argument was a bit foggy and confusing but it highlights the point that many mormons view this issue as a test of faith. A kind of put up or shut up time for them. No middle way indeed.

  3. Hellmut says:

    Mormons who are actually committed to justice and equality must be goats then.

  4. MoHoHawaii says:

    The church’s involvement in the Yes on 8 campaign is an unmitigated PR disaster. Check out this Mormon-themed No on 8 ad if you don’t believe me.

  5. chanson says:

    I think Jake is right that this fight really is turning into a bit of a “winnowing”, cutting the church down to just the most devoted element. Unfortunately for the church, I would suspect that a huge portion of young LDS will fall into the goats category.

    And their strategy seems a bit uneven. After decades of “mainstreaming” — in an attempt to prove the Mormons aren’t some sort of weirdo cult — they come up with this campaign which sends the opposite message. The problem is that the bretheren have thrown all their eggs into the basket of trying to prove Mormons are normal to Christian extremists — a group that, practically by definition, they’re never going to convince. MoHoHawaii is right that it’s a P.R. disaster.

    And both types of pandering to Christians (disavowing uniquely Mormon doctrines and elevating homophobia to a central tenet of Mormonism) end up alienating a lot of people who are Mormon by culture, heritage, and tradition and would have been happy to stay that way.

    p.s. to Jake — I don’t think we have you on our blogroll. Do you want to be added?

  6. Hellmut says:

    We are not only loosing the young professionals but also some of the most productive Mormons.

    A lot of people who have been putting in the hours are individuals who care most about other people. When they recognize what it really means to be gay, many Mormon activists face a tough choice: obey the prophet or discriminate another human being.

    I fail to see how that can be a good thing for the LDS Church. It might be good for the brethren but that’s not the same thing.

  7. chanson says:

    I don’t think it’s even good for the brethren. I think they took a look at the capital they had and decided to bet it all — on a losing horse…

  8. jake says:

    chanson – thanks for the invite. Add away!

    But based on the previous successes in Hawaii and Alaska, I don’t think it was that much of a bad bet. There are a lot of mormons in California and it was worth the risk in their eyes. Of course you don’t always have control of your bedfellows in politics and it seems this time the LDS church has some unsavory bedfellows indeed.

  9. Hellmut says:

    True. And they won Prop 22 in California.

    Canson is right though. If the institution suffers, in the long run, it will hurt the leaders. Since the brethren have continued to correlate the LDS Church for three decades and have not noticed how the missionary program collapsed, we have to assume that they cannot notice the long term consequences of their choices.

    On the other hand, the adulation of the followers that manifests itself at occasions such as Proposition 8 could go to anyone’s head.

  10. chanson says:

    Jake — OK, I’ve added you.

    If the LDS church had a significant hand in the anti-gay-marriage fights in Hawaii and Alaska, that’s probably why they figured this would be a good bet. But whether Proposition 8 passes or fails, I agree with Hellmut that it’s bad for the church in the long run.

    First of all, regardless of what the “the Church of the Lamb” Mormons think of the liberal and New Order Mormons, the institution benefits from being surrounded by moderates. It’s not a clever idea to drive so many of them away by forcing them to take a side on an issue where many will side against the LDS church (or at least will have loved and respected family members who will side against the church, which will get them thinking and questioning).

    Second of all, the LDS church is getting tons of negative national publicity for this race. One minority pulling out the stops to take away equal legal rights from another minority? It hardly makes the religion endearing to the average person who know little about Mormonism.

    Thirdly, I think the church has wildly miscalculated the effect this will have on the youth. I understand that in the past few decades the church has cut back on a lot of the fun activities that build memories and help young people grow up happy and proud to be a Mormon. The kids get this instead — something which (given the age/opinion divide over this issue) will make lots of young people feel ashamed to be a Mormon. It’s typical Republican this-quarter-only thinking: the grown-ups are the ones holding the check-books today, so they’re the ones who get the attention. I think the Religious Right in general has made a similar miscalculation, as I explained here: The Religious Right vs. Young People.

  11. Eugene says:

    It’s also Tip O’Neill thinking: “All politics is local.” I think Prop 8 is ultimately about playing to the church’s “base” (the mistake every moderate Republican candidate makes, but they haven’t realized that yet). Ironically, by baptizing more evangelicals, past missionary success has turned the church ever more in that direction, in the process diluting its theological uniqueness (though never to the satisfaction of the rest of the evangelicals). That’s why I conclude that the church is now attempting to create a culture legalistically (defined in terms of “what’s not allowed” and “what we’re against”) where none of substance actually exists.

  12. Craig says:

    Yep. The church is shooting itself in the foot with this one, and I can’t say that I’m sorry, or that the backlash won’t be totally deserved, and will hopefully bring a lot of Mormons out of their reverie to the reality of what the church really is/does.

  13. chanson says:

    Ironically, by baptizing more evangelicals, past missionary success has turned the church ever more in that direction, in the process diluting its theological uniqueness (though never to the satisfaction of the rest of the evangelicals).

    Exactly. I’ve repeatedly argued that this is counterproductive in the long run, see Standing up for Your (Former) Beliefs.

  14. aerin says:

    Ah – but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    I agree it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I don’t understand why women can’t be ordained either. Or why it matters how many earrings someone wears.

  15. rebecca says:

    Check it out – this is my favorite “argument” for making gay marriage illegal, from someone I consider a generally intelligent person:

    “It is not worth eliminating the views of one group to enable the other. Voting yes allows for both to still have rights (civil unions have all the same rights as traditional marriages) while allowing the dialogue to continue.” “My initial reasoning for prop 8 was that it [keeping gay marriage legal] would inevitably silence the voice of the morally conservative in our state.”

    No joke. By taking away gay rights everyone retains their rights, but by giving everyone the same rights, we take away the rights of conservatives to have an opinion.


  16. chanson says:

    Aerin — Re: “but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s what the Mormons keep telling themselves. They absolutely can’t stop believing it no matter how blatant the Evangelicals are about making it clear that they’re not the Mormons’ friends.

    Rebecca — Wow, talk about grasping at any kind of rationalization possible. You know what that argument reminds me of? Sarah Palin claiming that the media is taking away her first amendment rights by criticizing her.

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