Over the past little while I have refrained from condemning the LDS Church for its involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign. I’ve tried to take the opinion that, as a religious institution (and as a group of individuals), they have the right to express their backward and ignorant viewpoint. Recent events, however, have made it necessary to point out just how backward and ignorant the church’s stand on homosexual rights actually is.
At the LDS General Conference, Dieter Uchtdorf of the LDS Church’s First Presidency stated that in order to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, members must welcome all of “God’s children,” even those “who might dress, look, speak or just do things differently.” That’s a really nice thought, but it doesn’t really jive with the church’s recent stands on gay issues, especially in relation to California’s Proposition 8 battle. In that situation, the church took an official stance against the right of people to marry according to their own hearts and consciences. The church even encouraged its members to donate time and money to help overturn the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The LDS Church also recently took a stand in favor of Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination ordinances, which prohibit housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet, even in the midst of that, they remained active in the battle to “protect marriage.” I’ve asked this question a few million times, and still haven’t heard a logical response: How is marriage threatened by same-sex couples? One would think that the behavior of a former LDS bishop like Kevin Garn (naked hot tubbing with an underage girl) would be more of a threat to marriage than a loving relationship between two people of the same sex. Of course, Garn’s “indiscretion” was dealt with privately by his church superiors – much like the abuse of children was “dealt with” by Catholic authorities.
Several months ago LDS Apostle Dallin Oaks gave a speech at BYU-Idaho in which he compared the backlash against the church to the backlash against civil rights leaders in the 1960s. I don’t think I need to explain just how ridiculous that analogy is, but suffice it to say I find it disturbing that a leader of an organization that has committed itself to oppressing the civil liberties of a group of people would have the audacity to play the victim. Remember, this is the same church that, until the 1970s, argued that African-Americans were cursed with the stigma of Cain and were therefore excluded from holding their magical priesthood. Now the church is claiming that people protesting their temples are in some way attempting to limit their rights to religious freedom.
There are a number of arguments circulating about the LDS Church and its role in both Utah and national politics. I’m not ready to advocate the revocation of the church’s non-profit status as a religious organization (although I believe that all property tax exemptions should be revoked for all organizations), but I do feel it necessary to point out the obvious hypocrisy in both the statements and actions of church leaders. The Mormons moved to Utah ostensibly to escape religious persecution, to set up their own place to live and practice their religion as they saw fit. How is it that an organization that has felt the sting of oppression can now so easily seek to impose a similar oppression upon another group?
The bottom line is pretty simple: Freedom means allowing all people within a society the same basic rights and freedoms, regardless of other considerations. If two people are allowed by law to enter into a marriage, then any two people should be allowed to enter into a marriage. If the LDS Church (or any other church) doesn’t want to recognize or perform that marriage, fine, that’s their right. Where their rights end, however, is within the confines of their own membership. As a private religious organization, they have the right to set standards of behavior for their members, who agree to abide by said standards or risk expulsion. They don’t have the right to impose those standards upon anyone else.
So we end up where we started, with Mr. Uchtdorf explaining that a true “disciple of Christ” would embrace all of “God’s children” regardless of their differences. Yet, the LDS Church has spent the past several years attacking homosexuals and using their influence to promote discrimination and oppression. What this tells me is that LDS Church leaders, and a large number of the church’s members, need to take a good look at their actions and statements, and reconcile those with the “Christian” values they publicly espouse.