Those words rarely precede anything good in my experience. Such was the case last Sunday. Typically, edicts come down from the LDS first presidency (the head honchos in SLC). So whatever came next was going to be Minnesota related. That could only mean one thing. dun dun DUUUUN… WE CAN’T LET THE GAYS DESTROY THE FAMILY!
I could feel my blood pressure rising as I braced myself for whatever rhetoric was about to be unleashed. The gist of the letter was an explanation of the ballot initiative next November – if it passes, the state constitution would amend article XIII to read, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” The letter did not come out and say which way to vote but the underlying message was clear. We were advised to remember the family is a fundamental unit of society and to read the Proclamation on the Family and prayerfully consider how to get involved. It concluded with a reminder that church buildings and directories are not to be used for political purposes – with this caveat – unless otherwise directed.
This initiative did not get on the ballot with a petition drive. It was put on by our state legislature. One of the drivers behind it was former GOP Senate Majority leader Amy Koch who stepped down from said post after it came to light that the married senator was having an “inappropriate relationship” with a male staffer. Our legislators who were so keen to pre-emptively attack other families would do well to focus on their own.
I’ve been through this before. I lived in Nebraska when a petition drive was held there to get DOMA on the ballot. At church we were not even asked if we wanted to gather signatures. We were handed packets (which I did not take) and several hours of our usual meetings were taken up with our bishop and stake president rallying the troops, so to speak – even sending people out on a Sunday gather signatures at the College World Series. I didn’t speak out against it. I just murmured with my like-minded friends about our disgust over the church getting involved. Hell, damn near running the whole thing. And happy, oh so happy, to join forces with evangelicals who agree with Mormons on nothing other than the so-called moral decline of society.
When Prop 8 was going on in CA, I told a friend on Facebook that it hurt me to see status updates about how she was going out and gathering signatures. I asked what was her reasoning? She recited the talking points she’d been given at church – churches would be forced to marry gays, it was about religious freedom, blah blah blah. I pointed out that the Catholic church refused to marry my divorced mother. I pointed out that the LDS church already restricts who can get married in the temple. I asked her about the religious freedom of my lgbt friends who attend churches that would happily marry them. Where was their religious freedom? I pointed out that atheists get married all the time. Marriage isn’t reserved for the religious. It’s a legal arrangement. She conceded she hadn’t thought about these things. Whether Prop 8 passed or not, there would still be gay and lesbian families. If it was really about preserving families, why send a message to the children of these families that their parents are “less than”? I’m sure she went on to vote for it but I hope I planted a seed for her to think about the morality of attacking someone else’s family.
I knew this issue would eventually come to Minnesota. My hope was that it would be the other way around, not something to fight against but to fight for. Before I rejoined the church I met with the bishop and the stake president. I said I knew this issue would eventually come up in MN and when it did, I wouldn’t be picketing outside the temple but I would be actively involved in supporting the rights of my gay and lesbian friends. It concerns me that it is being brought up in January when the vote is in November. If the church is about to launch an anti-family campaign (and that’s exactly what it is) then I’ll happily take myself up to the progressive and inclusive Hennepin Ave UMC on Sundays. My relationship with the LDS church is a complicated and nuanced one. But one thing I’ll never do is support something based on “God said so.”
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. ~Buddha
The LDS church has an army of volunteers at its beck and call. Imagine the good it could do if rallied for health care for all or lowering education costs or clean air initiatives. We truly set the bar low when such power is used merely to oppress others. That’s seriously lazy and decidedly un-Christian behavior.