LDS Rhetoric on Homosexuality
Articles by/for Allies
The Proclamation on the Family
The Hidden Nazi Mentality in the Proclamation on the Family
By Cindy Le Fevre
Affirmation National Conference
Portland, Oregon, September 5, 1998
This is a paper originally presented at the Affirmation National Conference, Portland,
Oregon, September 5, 1998; revised and presented to the Mormon Women's Forum Counterpoint
Conference, October 2000; revised and presented NOT at the Sunstone Theological Symposium
West, April 2001.
I have been mulling over some thoughts about the popular rhetoric on "Family Values" and the Proclamation on the Family that are disturbing. The original version of this paper was presented two years ago at the Affirmation Conference in Portland, OR. Since then, there have been numerous incidences which have borne out my fears. I'd like to share them with you. Please bear with me, as I try to establish the framework of this disturbing scenario.
Whenever I try in my capacity as a teacher to convey the importance of remembering the Holocaust, students (and others) repeatedly ask me, "How could people do that?" "How could anyone be so cruel to innocent men, women, and children?" "Why did the Germans hate the Jews so much?" It seems that the behavior of Nazi Germans is unfathomable. These questions have been, for a long time, unanswerable. The standard answers, such as, "They HAD to; they were under orders" or "There was so much peer pressure they didn't have any choice" are horrifyingly insufficient. However, a new generation of historical scholars have begun to research and explain a pattern of beliefs and behaviors among Germans that attempt to put more pieces of this puzzle into place. The emerging picture looks frighteningly familiar. I see many, many similarities between the behavior of the Germans prior to WWII with regard to the Jews, and the contemporary behavior of the leadership and membership of the Church (and America's Religious Right) with regard to "Family." I strongly feel that a voice of warning is appropriate. So you are here today for a brief lesson in history. Please hear me out and then judge for yourself.
Historical Background: Christianity
In its earliest years, Christianity was a persecuted religion that continually grew larger and stronger within the Roman Empire and beyond. The Emperor Constantine, in 313 A.D., made Christianity the state religion, and it eventually became the dominant religion in the civilized west. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, the Christian church assumed the mantle of the Roman administration in western Europe. By the time of the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 A.D., Christianity had firmly established its secular, as well as "spiritual," authority.
Over those years, Europeans gradually changed their worldview; there was a shift in their paradigm of the universe. Previously, the view of Greek and Roman philosophers, astronomers, scientists, mathematicians, and politicians had held sway. When Christian bishops burned the library at Alexandria in the 4th century, much of that knowledge was lost. Christianity did away with philosophical, republican, and scientific thinking. The Church established itself as the guardian of exclusive Truth, and thus the source of all knowledge -- at least all good knowledge. It established itself as the source of all law in the "civilized" world. It established itself as the exclusive intermediary between the people and God, and the exclusive source of all soul-saving sacraments. Ultimately, in this defining paradigm of life, Christianity defined and established itself as the source of all good, period. By default, this mentality defined all things non-Christian as the source of all evil in the world.
By the 11th century, this mindset promulgated by both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianity was quite firmly entrenched in Europe. The idea that non-Christians were evil was unquestioned. Christianity was also firmly based in the feudal social order. When in 1095 Pope Urban II called for the first crusade, a war to rid the Holy Land of "the Infidel" (Arabic Muslims), the cause was enthusiastically embraced. Destroying the Infidel (non-Christians, defined as the source of all evil) was seen as a holy act. The morality of killing others was not questioned, because destroying the non-Christians equated to destroying evil, clearly a God-approved act -- especially since the Pope himself had called for crusaders to do it. In fact, crusaders who died in battle were guaranteed salvation by the Church. was clear to Christians whose side God was on.
It didn't take very long before crusaders noticed they had "infidels" closer to home and easier to destroy. In fact, the crusaders killed unbelievers all the way to the Holy Land. Actually, the Pope called for crusades against all enemies, at home as well as abroad. Any group that threatened the authority of the Church was vigorously persecuted and attacked. For example, the Knights Templar were a militant religious order who were slaughtered at the instigation of the pope. The Albeginsians were a religious movement that questioned the need for the intermediary role of the Church between the common individual and God; they were ruthlessly hunted and slaughtered. For centuries, the Church encouraged the wholesale burning of women as witches, who were usually the women who fell outside the societal prescribed norms of marriage - single women and widows. The Jews were included as targets of this raging violence in the name of Christian righteousness. The Crusades served to establish the precedent of Christianity authorizing violence to stamp out any group that didn't recognize the Church's authority to define the meaning and purpose of life. The Christian Church wanted total control -- over privates lives (and thoughts) as well as public. The Church had become so corrupt that it needed to resort to authoritarian, dictatorial, and despotic tactics in order to maintain its position in the western world.
Historical Background: The Jews
In the background amidst all this Christian militancy and violence were the Jews. After the failed rebellion against Roman rule in 70 A.D., the Jews dispersed across the Middle East and Europe in what is called the Diaspora -- the "scattering of the Jews." Because they were not Christian, they fell outside the feudal system of Medieval Europe and therefore outside the protection of Christian feudal lords. Their legal rights were virtually non-existent. They were tolerated at the mercy of individual lords only, whose whims frequently changed. They lived very restricted lives. They were rarely allowed to reside in towns; they frequently lived in firmly controlled ghettos with enforced curfews. They had no permanent home or establishment. They were not permitted to join the guilds (medieval "unions"), and were therefore excluded from the professional trades. They were viewed as "unnatural," and "the Other." They were labeled as "in league with the Devil" to try to corrupt good Christian society. They were accused of "stealing" children.
Between 1348 and 1350, the Black Death -- the plague -- killed more than half the population of Europe. The Jews were blamed for this catastrophe. Christians believed Jews had spread the disease through their travels as traders, or by deliberate poisoning of water, or any of a number of absurd methods. By 1351, the Jewish population of Europe had been reduced to one-fourth its size in 1347 due to widespread violence against them perpetrated by Christians.
The year 1492 was an important one in the history of Spain and the West. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, as united monarchs of Spain, were very busy. As I am sure you know, Columbus discovered America in 1492 under the sponsorship of Queen Isabella. In 1492, Spanish forces finally conquered the Moors (Arabic Muslims from Northern Africa) in Grenada and recaptured the whole of Iberia for Catholic Christianity. And in that same year, Ferdinand and Isabella expelled all Jews from Spain and Portugal -- estimated at 250,000 people. Their victory over the Moors and their expulsion of the Jews earned them the title of "Their Most Catholic Majesties" from the Pope. The Inquisition was brought to Spain to detect false "conversos" (Jews who remained in Iberia by pretending to convert to Christianity). The Inquisition quickly expanded its role in Spain (as it had elsewhere) to eliminate anyone who questioned the Church or thought independently. Today, the Inquisition is known by the benign- sounding name of the office of the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
In northern Germany in 1500, Martin Luther nailed his list of grievances to the door of the church, and began centuries of religious disagreement, persecution, and violence among Christians called The Protestant Revolution. The divisive mentality of exclusive Truth spread across Europe like the odious scent of an angry skunk. Members of each new sect felt the need to prove themselves "more Christian" than everyone else -- usually by imprisoning or murdering anyone who did not convert to their version of Truth.- Henry VIII of England, Mary Tudor aka "Bloody Mary," Henry IV of Spain and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Culloden, Salem -- again, violence was justified because God was on their side. The Jews, who fell outside of the argument completely, did not fare well during this period.
In Russia, Jews faced equal or more severe restrictions. Certainly the Russian Orthodox brand of Christianity was no more Jew-friendly than the Catholic or Protestant one. By the end of the 18th century, Jews were confined to "The Pale," a geographic area of western Russia barely able to support life -- much like the Reservations designated by the U.S. government for Native Americans in the 19th century. In Russia, officially ordered and sanctioned violence and destruction against Jews, known as pogroms, waxed and waned over the centuries.
In Western Europe 300 years later, there was finally a ray of hope for the Jews. The 18th century saw the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. Once again, philosophy and the ideals of republicanism began to be explored, and by the end of the century those ideals had caused two major revolutions against Christian monarchies: The American Revolution and the French Revolution. Both revolutions dissolved the connection between the church and state, and granted citizenship in their republics to all (male) residents. Persecution of Jews based on their religion became unlawful in the United States and France. And it is important to note that, up until the 18th century, Jewishness was seen as a religion -- something that could be changed by (true) conversion to Christianity.
The path to a republican type of government in Germany was less decisive and complete. After the fall of the Holy Roman Empire (the First Reich) when the power of the Habsburgs eroded, the smaller German principalities were joined together in the 19th century under Otto von Bismark and Kaiser Wilhelm I to become Imperial Germany (the Second Reich). The participants in the newly-formed liberal, quasi-centralized government asked themselves an important "which came first -- the chicken or the egg?" question: Are the Jews social and political outcasts because they are evil, or are they evil because they are social and political outcasts? True to the best of Enlightenment and Republican ideals, the Germans decided that the latter must be true -- that Jews were evil because they had always been social and political outcasts. They believed that full legal rights and protections under German law would cause the Jews to assimilate into mainstream society. They would cease to be "The Other." Over the course of about 40 years, the German principalities gave Jews full citizenship and rights in Germany. Restrictions on their lives -- personal, public, and political -- were eliminated, and the Jews were accepted (at least officially and legally) into the body social. They were allowed into the professions, they had access to higher education, they were permitted to own property and to live where they liked.
The results of this grand sociopolitical experiment were clear to Germans by the end of the 19th century. The Jews were successful. Many had prospered. However, despite all efforts on their behalf to make them otherwise, the Jews did the unacceptable: they remained Jews. They refused to assimilate into a system that was seen by the German Christians as the source of all good. In the eyes of the Germans, the answer to their chicken-versus-egg question was unequivocal. They concluded that, contrary to their earlier belief that the Jews were evil because they were outcasts, the Jews were, indeed, outcasts because they were evil.
This conclusion fueled a paradigm shift in the way Jews were viewed by the Germans. Previously, Jewishness had been seen as a religion, something that was changeable with true conversion to Christianity. After their failed sociopolitical experiment, the Germans defined the Jews not as a religion, but as a RACE -- a Volk. Jews were Jewish due to a biological fact of birth. Individuals were categorized as Jewish if they had at least one Jewish grandparent.
Jewishness was unchangeable, and Jews were evil by their very nature. All of the old prejudices and myths came roaring back: Jews were evil; Jews corrupted or murdered children; there was a global Jewish conspiracy to control the world; Jews were the cause of plagues; Jews were in league with the devil; Jews wanted to destroy the Christian community; the Jews murdered our god, so we are justified in murdering them. In addition, the Jews provided a handy and needed scapegoat, especially after the German defeat in the First World War: The Jews were the cause of every social, political, or economic ill (and there were plenty) found in the otherwise perfect Deutschstatt -- the German Nation founded by Hitler (the Third Reich). They saw themselves as a "Special" people. They wanted to establish a "Kingdom" that would eventually encompass the entire world. There began to be a hysteria about ridding the world of evil. In their minds, to rid the world of evil was the god-given duty of every Christian and the sociopolitical duty of every true German. In order to rid the world of evil, they had to rid the world of Jews. The Crusader mentality flourished. The desired end -- rid the world (especially Germany) of all evil -- justified all means. Any and all means of the destruction of evil became not only acceptable socially, but also spiritually. They truly believed that their zeal in eliminating the source of evil would be rewarded by God.
Thus was born the Holocaust.
Let's pause here for a brief review:
The Germans' View of Themselves
Now let's examine...
- They believed themselves as possessors of exclusive Truth -- an exclusive Truth that differed from mainstream (Catholic) Christianity.
- They had a need to prove that their version of Christianity was more True than others' versions.
- The people defined their version of Christianity as the source of all good.
- A mentality of "us" versus "them" was fostered through nationalist pride.
- They believed that they were morally obligated to stamp out any group who questioned their authority to define the meaning and purpose of life.
- Any means of dealing with perceived enemies was justified because god was on their side.
- They felt obligated to spread out and "share" their version of a perfect world with others.
The Mentality within the Mormon Church Leadership and Membership
The Church strongly believes that it is the sole possessor of Truth in the world today. This belief is quite explicit. I need not elaborate further on that point.
Mormons' version of Truth is quite distinctive from other Christian versions -- Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc. -- and is frequently accused of being Not Christian. This creates a need for the Church to prove itself to be "more Christian" than the other Christian denominations. The need to be "more Christian" promotes a sense of competition with other churches of the Religious Right in America -- a very dangerous situation I will discuss in a few moments. The accusation that Mormons are Not Christian also fosters the need to promote the "WNW" (We're Not Weird) position so aptly coined by Gordon Hinckley during his interview with Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes.
Add to this mentality the history of the Mormon church with regard to marriage and family. Sonja Farnsworth based her Communication Studies Master's Thesis on the reversal of the church's position on marriage and family from espousing very irregular family relationships (pun intended) -- plural marriage -- and the Church's willingness to fight the government on this issue in the 19th century, to the current church position on marriage and family emphasizing very traditional nuclear families and the Church's willingness to fight the government on this issue in the late 20th century. My point here is that the church is very defensive about its prior stand on marriage and family issues and has a strong need to prove itself more "family oriented" than other Christian churches in the We're Not Weird campaign.
In addition, both the rank-and-file Church members and the leaders at all levels believe that the President of the Church is a living prophet of God, that he holds the "keys" of revelation, and that he has the right, power, and responsibility to receive the word of God for the entire world. Although the Church has no official doctrine as such, the members are taught that the leaders are infallible through idioms such as "Follow the Brethren" and "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done."
All of the leaders -- indeed, most men in the church -- believe they have the power to act in God's name and effect God's will on earth by virtue of their Priesthood Power. Both the membership and the leadership believe they are the source of all good -- namely, revelation and priesthood power -- on the earth. Further, the upper level managers believe that they have responsibility for the souls and salvation for others -- millions of others, especially church members, but ultimately encompassing the entire world. They believe that Mormons are a "Special" people, and they believe they have a sacred obligation to build the "Kingdom" that will ultimately encompass all of humanity. Quite dangerously, the leadership feels these responsibilities quite heavily, and they take their jobs seriously. They do not hesitate to advise on -- and sometimes mandate -- every aspect of the members' lives. Can you imagine the weight you would feel if you thought you were responsible for the spiritual welfare of millions of people? I would quickly begin laying down some very strict rules myself. But, despite their "official" pronouncements to the contrary, the leadership believe themselves infallible due to their status as Priesthood holders and by virtue of their callings within the organization. They believe they have the exclusive God-given authority to define the meaning and purpose of life for everyone. We have also seen many examples of their willingness to do anything within their power to silence anyone who challenges or questions their right and authority to do this. 
In fact, in response to "heresies" voiced by critics in the Church, the Church authorized the formation its own Inquisitorial office, known euphemistically as the Strengthening Church Members Committee. Fortunately, currently the worst thing they can do is excommunicate someone from the Church. However, since they consider membership in the church essential for salvation and exaltation in the eternities, we should take their actions in this regard very seriously.
I have outlined in a previous paper the reasons for the leadership's obsession with controlling behavior, especially sexual behavior. This belief of having exclusive God-given authority to define the meaning and purpose of life for everyone certainly includes the arena of marital and sexual behavior, especially because the leaders believe that sexual sin is a very serious matter. They feel obligated to define the mores and norms of sexual behavior because it has such far-reaching consequences in their spiritual, material, corporate, and political systems. In addition, defending American conventional, traditional views of sexual behavior allows them to jump on the current band wagon with America's Religious Right in an effort to prove the church more Christian and promote the We're Not Weird campaign. The We're Not Weird campaign in this arena is especially important in order for the church to live down its past history of plural marriage, and to disassociate itself from the recent publicity about Polygamous fringe groups with ties to church history and culture. Hinckley's recent comments to the press about plural marriage demonstrates this on-going campaign. My fear is that they -- the Mormon Church and the Religious Right -- may try to out-do each other in their efforts to adopt a "more Christian" position on marriage and family, despite the lack of scriptural support for the current worldview and insistence on heterosexual monogamy. In fact the Proclamation appears to be a written document deliberately designed to respond to this scriptural deficiency.
The Proclamation on the Family
The Family: A Proclamation to the World is an interesting twist within the context of Mormon scripture. It doesn't quite fit within the rigid-yet-fluid framework of revelation that fortifies other Mormon scriptural documents, but does add more to the picture of evolving methods of Receiving the Word of God. In this instance, unlike receiving revelation through the Prophet or issuing a manifesto by the First Presidency, this quasi-canonized document was created by a committee. Now, lest you think this method unprecedented, I will remind you that scripture by committee has a long and illustrious history dating all the way back to the 4th century Nicean council. I will also remind you that it was a committee that gave us the King James' Version of the Bible as well, revered by Mormons as the true translation of the Bible despite caustic comments by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to the contrary.
So we discover that, indeed, We're Not Weird -- in fact, we're progressing even faster than the original church did, probably because our period of persecution didn't last as long as it did for the early Christians. At any rate, we have this amazing document that requires careful analysis for many reasons.
What does the Proclamation say, exactly? It first proclaims the authority of the document:
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints solemnly proclaim...
Then, it unmistakably defines the sanctity of "the family":
marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
The Family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal Plan.
What do these "solemn proclamations" on "the family" do, exactly? I suggest that they strongly establish heterosexual monogamous marriage as integral to the meaning and purpose of life. By default, this leaves single persons totally outside the loop. They are most definitely not included in "God's Eternal Plan." Through many conversations with rank-and-file members and lower-level managers in the Mormon church, it is clear to me that the membership at large recognize the Proclamation on the Family as an anti-homosexual document. They recognize that the document was written in response to the Gay Rights Movement (why is it the church is always so many years behind the times?), and they believe its urgency is justified in the face of continued pressure from the government to legalize homosexual partnerships and prevent discrimination against homosexuals in society at large. The Proclamation reads:
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
The idea of legalized homosexual marriage is viewed by the leadership of the church with horror, and since the membership thinks the leadership is infallible, they willingly follow suit. Since the membership has been taught to Follow the Brethren, they are at a complete loss when asked the simple Christian question, "What would Jesus do?" The other, more practical and needful benefits, such as power of attorney, health care insurance, taxes, and a host of other items completely outside the realm of the spiritual never seems to occur to them. After all, the prophet (or rather, the committee) has spoken, and therefore the thinking has been done.
The document also defines the current American nuclear family model as the ideal set in place by God (the history of families and lack of a scriptural basis notwithstanding), and defines the family as the Source of All Good. Again, by default, it therefore defines anyone outside of this ideal family as a source of evil. Most members strongly deny this, and point to the statement in the Proclamation that reads: "Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." I do not believe that this sorry little concession to reality nullifies the stronger message in the document as a whole.
My evaluation of the Proclamation as defining the nuclear family as the source of all good is also manifest in the explicit threats contained therein:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (emphasis mine)
"The calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets" are surely Not Good. And it is the "disintegration of the family" that will cause these Not Good things to happen. It is interesting to me that they equate sexual activity outside of marriage and failure to have families in the same category as violence and abuse. This truly demonstrates how seriously they view violation of their sexual values, and again, how they honestly believe they have the authority to speak for God. Or, on the other hand, perhaps it demonstrates how tolerant they are of violence and abuse, which overwhelmingly is done by men on women and children.
Religious View of Gender
Possibly the scariest part of this document is its pronouncements about gender:
Each [human being] has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
First, this statement reveals the deep level of ignorance about gender held by both the drafters of this proclamation and the general authorities themselves. They so thoroughly believe that they have all the answers that they don't even bother to follow the scriptural prescription for obtaining wisdom and truth, namely, to first "study it out in your mind." To say that "Gender" is an essential characteristic of both spiritual and physical identity completely mistakes the meaning of the word, because by definition "Gender" is socially constructed and is a product of culturally established norms of behavior that change from one society to the next and over time. And if they mean "sex" instead of "gender," it again completely disregards reality. However, this misunderstanding is perfectly compatible with Packer's misstatement in his infamous talk defining "gays, feminists, and so-called scholars" as "dangers to the church," wherein he defined gays as people with "gender disorientation." Second, this is probably the most significant statement in the Proclamation, because it is this statement that identifies the document as anti-homosexual as well as "pro family," and this is what the general membership uses to justify their opinion that the document was primarily written as an anti-homosexual document. And it is to this issue that I want to turn for a moment.
For many years, the church and society at large believed that homosexuality was a psychological disorder, theoretically caused by a number of social or familial dysfunctions: a domineering mother or a weak and ineffectual father, masturbation, a childhood trauma such as molestation, or any of a number of nurturant issues. The mental health community believed that homosexuality was a "mental disease" that could be cured through psychiatric counseling and behavior modification or reparative therapy. Since this viewpoint strengthened the Church's position on these issues, it was wholeheartedly adopted by the Church. This presents an interesting doublethink twist, because this demonstrates that the church authorities also believe that homosexuality itself may be one of the "calamities" -- the result -- of the breakdown of the traditional family rather than the cause. This double Post-Hoc logical fallacy is typical of their thinking. Although this approach was/is very damaging to homosexuals, I submit that the logic, or rather the lack thereof, applies to virtually anyone outside the "family" loop. It also has the benefit of giving its adherents some maneuvering room to manage their severe cognitive dissonance with regard to these issues.
Here I must interject with a story that frightened me badly. My husband's parents were visiting several years ago in order to attend the baptism of our (then) 8-year-old daughter and they stayed for several days. These are good Mormon folks, born and bred in Utah and completely faithful to the Church. My father-in-law is a worker at the Salt Lake Temple. During their visit, my father-in-law made a comment that was absolutely astounding. He was listening to the evening news on television and heard a newscast about a violent crime. He then turned to us and said, "This is the fault of those homosexuals. We didn't have these kinds of problems until those homosexuals started demanding their rights. Why, they've been trying to corrupt everything, and they're succeeding, too. They're the cause of all this mess." To their credit, my children stared at him with astonishment while they picked their jaws up off the floor. Then my 21-year-old son (who is not gay and is a conservative Republican despite his mother's best efforts) said, "What in the HELL are you talking about?! You have GOT to be kidding!" We embarked upon an argument, but it took approximately 60 seconds to realize that no amount of facts or reason would ever get him to change his mind. At least he knows that we vehemently disagree with him, but then, they've always believed we were wicked anyway because we live in California instead of behind the "Zion Curtain." Nevertheless, I fear that his attitude reflects a dominant opinion among church members, and religious conservatives nationwide, that blames anyone outside of their rigidly-defined mores of "family" for all of society's ills.
The paradigm is something that gives me cause for concern. More and more, there seems to be a rather convincing body of evidence to indicate that homosexuality is inborn, a genetic or biological fact of birth. The previous paradigm was false, in that homosexuality is not caused by environmental or parenting factors at all. It is not an aberrant behavior, it is an integral part of the individual, and is not subject to change. It cannot be "unlearned" because it was never "taught" in the first place. No amount of behavior modification therapy will make this "gender disorientation" go away. It is part and parcel of the individual.
Much as I may agree with this, I feel that it is very dangerous. Homosexuals have been explicitly defined as dangerous to the church, as outside the defined source of all good, and as excluded from God's divine plan. "Gender" has been defined as eternal, and now we are asserting that sexual orientation is integral to the identity of the individual and cannot be changed. Fortunately, I feel fairly confident that the church leadership will completely ignore this evidence for a long time. Why? Because to acknowledge that homosexuality is biological or genetic, and thus integral to the sense of self for the individual, would seriously challenge their entire model of both the world and the eternities. It would force them to completely rethink their position on free agency, it would nullify their pronouncements about "eternal gender characteristics," and it would thus invalidate the premise that supports the institution upon which the church is founded, namely, patriarchy. They won't touch any of these challenges because they believe themselves infallible. Or maybe they won't notice their logical errors, and therefore won't recognize these dilemmas, leaving the Church members to grapple with these difficult issues without being told what to think. On the other hand, they have completely reversed their positions on many important issues before.
Should they change their minds on this one, I fear the consequences would not be a more benign acceptance of "irregular" families. Rather than recognize this as an amoral issue (which would be the responsible and Christ-like approach), they are much more likely to take a Christian (read: militant/violent) approach and redefine the nature of the beast. They are likely to view the single adult as an evil, sinful person that cannot be changed. They may adopt an attitude of "hate the evil person." At that point, it is only one very small step to reach the path of eliminating the sinful person before the world suffers the "calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." They would likely believe that God would be on their side in such an endeavor.
That threat is a serious reason to question the Proclamation. In fact, with the political climate in the past few years with regard to Gay Marriage, there has been a visible rise in hate crimes against homosexuals. If that were not enough, I would like to point out that this mentality easily carries over to others who are "outside the family loop."
So let's review this scenario:
The Church's View of Themselves
- They believe themselves to be the possessors of exclusive Truth -- an exclusive Truth that differs from mainstream Christianity.
- They have a need to prove that their version of Christianity is more True than others' versions due to accusations that the church is not Christian -- the WNW campaign.
- They define their version of Christianity as the source of all good via priesthood.
- A mentality of "us" versus "them" has been fostered through identification of the "enemies of the Church."
- They believe they have a moral obligation to silence any group or individual that challenges or questions their authority to define the meaning and purpose of life.
- They have a strong belief that they speak and act for God on earth.
- They believe they have a divine commandment to spread out and "share" their version of a perfect world with others.
This situation is a recipe for disaster if the Mormon Church and the Religious Right in America get secular or political power. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more of a threat within the political arena. The Church is able to generate enormous amounts of money which they do not hesitate to spend on political campaigns. The Church is able to command the blind obedience of large numbers of people, and does not hesitate to tell them how to vote. Two examples will suffice, I think: In 1982, virtually singlehandedly, the Church was able to block the passage of a Constitutional Amendment -- the ERA. In 2000, virtually singlehandedly, the Church was able to pass a California Ballot Initiative -- Proposition 22, the Defense of Marriage Act. And here's another tidbit: within the Mormon subculture folklore, there is a prophecy of obscure origins -- that someday the Constitution will "hang by a thread" and will be saved by the "Elders of Zion." Who knows what interpretations might come of this prophecy?
So, my friends, I am worried. I know that homosexuals are already victims of vicious hate crimes. In addition, we have ample evidence to demonstrate that the Institutional Church is quite willing to sacrifice the spiritual and temporal welfare of individuals in its objective to spread its version of Truth and silence its critics. I fear it won't be long until those who are fanatically "religious" come to the conclusion that to rid the world of evil, they must rid the world of the "enemies of the Church," much the way Nazis did the Jews. You (and I) have been clearly defined as "the Other" and "the enemy." I fear that they may use our destruction as the gauge against which they measure their zeal to preserve Christianity and The Sacred American Family. Like soldiers, the membership has been carefully taught to stop thinking and to follow orders. But I still have hope that they will not become zealous extremists in the name of "righteousness."
I do not claim to have good answers or remedies for this scenario, except to encourage us all to participate in the political debates on these issues that rage around us. I do know what I have taught my children, and what I have found to be one of the most effective counter-measures against this fanaticism -- to return to the uncomplicated Christ-like behavior and ask the obvious question that ought to rule all of our actions: "What would Jesus do?" I pray that there is enough humanity, enough memory, enough common sense, and enough Christ-like love to stop this escalating situation. There is too much anger and hate in the world. We need to be able to love each other and take care of each other in Christ-like ways, not persecuting each other in the name of our version of Truth.
1. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (1996). Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Introduction, Chapters 2 & 3. Goldhagen's book was the first of many to attempt a new analysis and explanation of the Holocaust.
2. Robin Lane Fox (1987). "Constantine and the Church." Pagans and Christians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., pp. 609-663.
3. John McManners, ed. (1990). "Christianity and the Political Order." The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 101-110.
4. Margaret Deanesley (1925, 1990). 'The Crusades and their Effect on the Church." A History of the Medieval Church, 590-1500. New York: Rutledge, pp. 104-116.
5. McManners, "The Rise of Heresy," pp. 211-216.
7. Simon Dubnov (1967). "Judaism in its Homeland and in the Diaspora in the 1st Century A.D." History of the Jews: From the Beginning to Early Christianity, Volume 1. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, Inc., pp. 800-841.
10. Robert S. Gottfried (1983). The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval Europe. New York: The Free Press. The blaming of the Jews for the Plague is discussed throughout the entire book.
11. Ibid., pp. 73-74.
12. Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (1975). "Unbelief, Heresy and the Church." Ferdinand and Isabella. New York: Dorset Press, pp. 164-185
13. Major Arthur Griffiths (1991). In Spanish Prisons. New York: Dorset Press, pp. 17-62.
14. Richard S. Dunn (1970). The Age of Religious Wars, 1559-1715, 2nd Ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. This theme runs through the entire book.
15. Ivan the Terrible originally expelled Jews from Russia, but there were enough loopholes in his decree that the Jewish presence remained. Persecution of Jews in Russia intensified during the reign of Alexander III, who (not necessarily erroneously) blamed them for the assassination of his father and the rising revolutionary forces. See W. Bruce Lincoln (1967). The Romanovs: Autocrats of all the Russias. New York: Doubleday, pp. 118, 591-3. See also Ian Grey (1970). The Romanovs: The Rise and Fall of a Dynasty. New York: Doubleday, pp. 322-3.
16. Many Enlightenment thinkers believed that religion should not be a basis for persecution, and extended this to Jews: Locke and Voltaire would be the most commonly known. Joseph II of Austria was one of the first European monarchs to lift restrictions on Jews based on Enlightment thinking. See, for example, Issor Woloch (1982). Eighteenth-Century Europe: Tradition and Progress, 1715-1789. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 286-291.
17. See the Constitutions of both countries.
18. Mary Fulbrook (1990). "The Unification of Germany." A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge University Press, pp. 123-131.
19. Klalus P. Fischer (1998). "German and Jew, 1700-1871." The History of an Obsession: German Judeophobia and the Holocaust. New York: Continuum Press, pp. 53-81.
20. Ibid., "German and Jew in the Second Reich," pp. 81-119.
21. See the 1935 Neuremburg laws, especially the "Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor."
22. Goldhagen, pp. 27-48.
23. Fischer, "The Rise of Pathological Judeophobia, 1918-1933," pp. 119-154.
60 Minutes with Mike Wallace." CBS TV, 7 April 1996. Online at <www.lds-mormon.org>.
25. Sonja Farnsworth. From Monogamy to Polygamy: Mormonism on Marriage, Family, and Gender. Masters' Thesis, CSU, San Jose, 1999.
26. E.T. Benson. "14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet." 26 Feb 1980.
27. "Follow the Brethren." LDS Basic Manual for Women, 1993.
29. Benson, 26 Feb 1980.
30. For example, the excommunications of Sonja Johnson, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Paul Toscano, and others.
31. McManners. "Retrospect," pp. 56-58.
32. Virginia Sapiro (1990). Women in American Society, 2nd ed. Mt. View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, pp. 41-60.
33. Boyd K. Packer, Untitled Address, 18 May 1993.
34. Dallin Oaks (1995). "Same Gender Attraction." Engisn, p. 7.
35. Warren Lathe (1996). "
The Biological Basis of Sexual Orientation." Online at <www.affirmation.org>.
36. For example, the position on polygyny v. monogamy, the position on Blacks receiving the Priesthood, the need to live the United Order, etc.
37. This is supported by many sources, including the Church's official stand on the ERA articulated by Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, March 1977, p. 9; the experiences of Sonja Johnson, and my own History Thesis on California's ratification of the ERA in 1972 and NOW's activities with respect to church members in 1982.
38. Although there are not yet any "official" sources on this yet, the Church's activities in this regard have been carefully recorded by Dave Comb. My own personal experiences also provide a microcosm of this situation.
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Faust, James. "Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil." First Presidency Message. Ensign, September 1995, p. 2.
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Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1995. <www.lds.org>.
Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Ferdinand and Isabella. New York: Dorset Press, 1975.
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Fox, Robin Lane. Pagans and Christians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.
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the Mormon Attitude Towards Homosexuality, 1989. <www.affirmation.org>.
Johnson, David & Jeff VanWonderen. The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1977.
Johnson, Sonia. From Housewife to Heretic. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1983.
Hilberg, Raul. Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933-1945. New York: Harper Collins, 1992.
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Lathe, Warren. "The Biological Basis of Sexual Orientation." Sunstone Theological Symposium, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 1996.
McManners, John (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Oaks, Dallin H. "Same Gender Attraction." Ensign, October 1995, p. 7.
Packer, Boyd K. "The Equal Rights Amendment." Ensign, March, 1977, p. 9.
Packer, Boyd K. Untitled address to the All-Church Correlation Council of the Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, 18 May 1993. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.
Peck, M. Scott. People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.
Pharr, Suzanne. Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism. Little Rock, AR: Chardon Press, 1988.
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