Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Harry Reid, Prop 8, and Being A Good Mormon

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader and active Mormon, recently told a gay rights group that he did not support the Church's Prop 8 campaign. He said he believes that it was a waste of resources and a detriment to the Church's missionary program.

Reid's statement once again gave Mormon conservative activists the opportunity to question how one can be both a Mormon and a liberal. From a Salt Lake Tribune article comes this quote from Holly Richardson, who has a blog called Holly on the Hill, who said: "I just don't get how his politics translate to somebody who has LDS beliefs. He's an embarrassment to me as a Mormon." This quote is merely representative of the types of comments out there. It is truly astonishing that this type of thought still exists.

First, how can people not understand that holding a personal belief and not supporting that belief's codification into civil law are completely compatible? I believe in God. I do not believe that we should enact laws requiring everyone to believe in God. That is an individual choice and other people's beliefs do not effect me and my beliefs. Some Mormon conservatives do not seem capable of making this distinction.

Second, a Mormon Democrat does not have to personally espouse every majority Democratic issue. I have said it so many times it is getting boring and cliche. I do not have to be pro-choice to be a liberal Democrat. The next person does not have to be pro-torture to be a conservative Republican. There is room for debate and disagreement in any group, particularly political groups. Do not just blindly accept a political party's stances and likewise do not just blindly believe that members of the other party are monolithic. That is naive and foolish. All liberals do not want to abort babies and all conservatives do not want to torture and kill all criminals.

Third, we have also pointed out before that Pres. Faust was a Democrat and worked in the Kennedy administration. Elder Marlin Jensen of the Seventy, Church Historian and Recorder, is a Democrat. Pres. Hinckley explicitly stated that a good member of the Church can be a good Democrat. The Church as explicitly encouraged political plurality. And so on. There is nothing inherent about Mormonism and conservatism that make them a match. There was a time when Mormons consistently voted for more liberals political candidates. It ebbs and flows.

So Sen. Reid is the Democratic Majority Leader and Mormon? So Harry Reid thinks that Prop 8 was a mistake? So what? We live in a complicated world, people, and there is plenty of room in the Church to have debates like this. It doesn't mean that we can start deciding who is a good member of the Church based on party affiliation.*

*I fully realize that I recently questioned Glenn Beck's Mormonism, but that was not for his politics, it was for the hateful and vindictive things he has said about political opponents and minorities, and inciting hatred in others. Different things.


Josh said...

Rationalize all you want. This is hypocrisy at its worst!!!!!!

Jacob S. said...

How so?

Anonymous said...

No, the hypocrisy is a Church that openly attacks a group of consenting adults for their desired marriage practices when that same Church was driven out of the then United States for practicing their own brand of peculiar marriage rites. Often including multiple minor female married to much older men. Come on, there are numerous faithful LDS members who not only find this a waste of time but likewise a disastrous decision that is hurting our missionary program. We can adhere to the Proclamation on the Family by living its principals. However, we do not need to force our beliefs on others. That is precisely what Satan attempted to do in the pre-existence. Harry Reid is not alone.

grayfox said...

I agree Josh, perhaps without all the exclamation points.

Would have been nice for him to come out in opposition of Prop 8 while it was still on the ballot and money was flowing, rather than after.

Josh said...

Because, Jake, you frequenty hint, by use of your little quotes or scriptures that you think are relevant to whatever you are talking about, that any mormon that does not believe as you do, can not possibly be a good mormon. Yet, you'll openly condemn someone else for saying that about Harry Reid?

As for Prop. 8:I didn't then, nor do I now, give 2 drops of rabbit crap what Californian homosexuals want to do with their lives. It wasn't any of my business, and I didn't agree that it was the business of the church membership outside of California (though the church itself, as a Christian religion, I feel, was justified in what it did). However, it isn't Harry Reid's place to question the actions of our church leaders. I believe that covenants are made to not speak ill of the Lord's annointed. For a public icon to openly call into question the actions and decisions of the leadership of the church is to do exactly that. He has given more negative press to the church than Tom Hanks did. How is that beneficial to our missionary program? Harry Reid has shown his truest colors. He has shown that he will gladly throw his own church under the bus for a few more leftist votes!

As for the church's opposition to gay marriage: we are a Christian church. We believe homosexuality to be a sin! We shouldn't try to be so stupidly PC. Also, we weren't, by any stretch of the imagination, the only church throwing money at Prop 8! However, no one, outside of California, should have been asked to campaign for Prop 8 as we were asked to do. That was wrong!

Anon - cowboy up and put your name out there! I say you should either have the guts to let the world know who you are and what you stand for, or keep you opinions to your cowardly self!

Oh, GF, I apologize for using too many exclamation points. It was poor writing. Sorry, I'm just a dumb redneck!

Jacob S. said...

I have made it explicit many times that my point is not to say that my politics is the only way to be a good Mormon. The only point is that they are compatible. I quote scriptures and prophets only to show compatibility. I would never say, nor hint, that you can't be a good Mormon and conservative. If I ever give that impression, it is inadvertent. Therefore, when someone else questions my standing as a member of the Church based solely on my politics, I feel more than justified in speaking out.

Next, Harry Reid didn't make those comments publicly, he made them in a private meeting that someone went and made public. I agree that we shouldn't speak evil of Church leaders, but questioning a political decision like this is not that, in my opinion.

Finally, no one, including Sen. Reid, as suggested that the Church stop considering homosexuality a sin, only that we need not make a civil law stating so. Private beliefs need not be legislated.

Javelin said...

Prop 8 was was very one-sided in the church. Any thought of facts or opinions against prop 8 was not allowed. That speaks for itself.

What we had here was a situation where conservatives could freely share their political views at the pulpit, but liberals were to stay quiet. It doesn't matter if Prop 8 was good or bad. What matters is that politics entered the church. Keep it at the door.

Laurel Nelson said...

I agree with Jacob S. I believe that you cannot and should not legislate morals. I believe in free agency, I believe in what the church teaches - I am personally against things like abortion, and I believe that homosexuality is a sin. However, those are my beliefs and I am free to hold them. Others are free to hold contrary beliefs, but they are not free to impose them on me, nor am I free to impose mine on them. It is not hypocrisy to let everyone have their own free agency, which is basically what some of the conservatives want to take away when they take the stances they do.

Daniel H said...

Jacob, thanks for posting this.

Every time the whole Prop 8 debacle has been dragged up (and it's about every week, never mind that no-one in my ward is even from California, originally...) I can't help but think of the 11th Article of Faith:

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Another scripture that I found today: (D&C 134 1-4 & 7)

"We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul."

"We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy."

I won't say that the leaders of the church were wrong to throw the weight of the Church into the Prop 8 fracas. I will say that from my limited perspective, I think Harry Reid is right.

I will also say, in light of the quoted scripture that I wish the Church would throw as much effort behind protecting the rights of religion, because I don't think the whole gay marriage wrangle is over, and I think that we're going to be on the losing side...and I worry about reprisals if we don't reinforce the protections for religions (of whatever flavor the religion may be).

Josh said...

Funny Javelin, I don't recall seeing, or hearing read in Sacrament Meeting, an official memo from the church stating that anti-Prop 8 opinions wouldn't be tolerated. In fact, most of the people that I talked to in the area I live in, and it is a very right wing area, held the beliefs that I did about Prop 8. This was was a California issue, and a lot of people thought that the church was wrong, as I did, in actively asking those of us from other states to campaign against it. I still say that the church was more than justified, as were the other religions involved, in fighting for it's belief system. Like all christian religions, ours should do all that it can do make sure that new laws being passed are in accordance with it's teachings. I have no problem with this (though you are right that this political issue does not belong in Sunday School), nor with members of the church in California actively campaigning against what they considered wrong.

If Prop 8 had failed, would the church have fallen? No! Is Prop 8 the last we'll hear of this debacle? No! Will this all happen again? Yep.

I will say one last thing about this issue. You all say how important it is that we not impose our feelings and beliefs on other people. However, how many of you believe that all of the time? You see, it is wrong to say that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, because that is forcing our Judeo/Christian beliefs on them. It is somehow, though, acceptable to say that hunters and gun owners are unethical, and to force your beliefs on them by passing laws to restrict their actions? Or to go after rodeos, ranchers, and even dog owners because you believe that this is cruel to the animals? How about something much simpler? How about prosecuting a father for not putting his child through chemotherapy immediately upon finding out that the child had cancer, but, instead, seeking other options?

All I am saying is that everyone says that we shouldn't force our belief systems, our personal code of ethics, on other people. But, that only applies as long as it is something that fits into your own code of ethics. As soon as an issue comes up that you feel is unethical, it is okay to force that ethic on others. I have come a long way on the gay rights issue. I have come from being as against this as possible, to not caring about it at all. These are people, let them be. But, at the same time, let me be in my way of life as well!

Elle H-T said...

Ensign Feb. 1979 Neal A Maxwell
"A More Determined Disipleship"

Read this article, if you still maintain your points of view after it, I'll respect that I just don't believe you can!

I'm so sad we missed your gold bikini hopefully you wore it for Jamie (wink,wink)

Jacob S. said...

I read the talk and it gave me a lot to think about. I just disagree with the First Amendment interpretation offered by M.J. Sobran. First, he has degrees in English, not the law. Second, Sobran was fired from the National Review for being an anti-Semite. Elder Maxwell had no way of knowing that at the time. The fact that the Constitution forbids the government from making any law respecting religion does not leave the door open for states to do so. That is just plain bad analysis. The government has to be religion-neutral. Of course that doesn't mean the eradication of religions, which is what Elder Maxwell feared, it means everyone's points of view are respected and allowed to be spoken.

Now, as to Elder Maxwell's main point, of course I agree. I agree that we, as Mormons and Christians, cannot separate our religion from our civic duty. We cannot be forced to become secular if we want to voice our civic opinions. That doesn't mean, though, that we have to legislate our beliefs.

I thought the point was that the voices and opinions of the religious should not be discounted just because they are religious. We shouldn't be considered second class citizens because we are religious. There is this threat from the New Atheists who are incredibly antagonistic towards religions and have a stated goal to wipe them out.

I don't have a problem with members of the Church who supported Prop 8. I think they should be absolutely free to do that. The Church leadership also said, however, explicitly, that members of the Church should feel free to disagree and it wouldn't have any effect on their standing as Mormons. I agree with the underlying doctrines of the family, but that doesn't mean I agree with the political action.

In sum, then, because I feel like I'm rambling a bit: I agree that there is a mild threat that the political opinions of the religious will be wholesale discounted in the future, which is bad. I disagree that states have the option to favor religion over secularism, or that it is bad for government to be religion-neutral. I agree that the religious, however, should be free to play a major role in civic decisions. I don't think that means codifying our beliefs, and Elder Maxwell wasn't arguing for that anyway.

If the prophet had come out and said that all good Mormons should support Prop 8 and there were consequences if you didn't, I would have fallen in line. That was far from the case, though.

Jacy said...


Thank you so much for posting this! I'm so glad I was referred to this blog.

Last year, at this exact time, I publicly posted on my blog that I supported Barack Obama for President. Within only a few hours of posting it, I sat there completely stunned at what I was actually reading in the comments. Phrases like "baby killers", "deluded and uneducated", "falling off the deep end", "taking prophets words as hooey", "apostates", "Satan's plan", etc.

It was so ridiculous that we even received multiple emails and phone calls from family members and friends, stating their concern for our eternal salvation. One went as far to even compare the election to the War in Heaven. My husband and I were literally dumbfounded!

I thought the purpose of this life was to make our OWN choices? We were all given an amazing mind which enables us to make our own decisions. So, why can't we respect those who may choose differently? I don't understand homosexuality, nor do I think I ever will, but, that's the WHOLE point... who am I to judge?

If being a "good Mormon" means voting Republican no matter the candidate's agenda, or forcing others (in a free country) to believe and accept everything I do, then I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a "good Mormon". I believe in free agency.

Chino Blanco said...

Marlin Jensen, from a March 7, 2006 interview:

What are some of the doctrines a person might be excommunicated for opposing?

If you advocated, for instance, that gay people should be allowed to marry, and you were openly vocal about that, and in the process malign the leadership in the church for not adopting that position, that's something that would be severe enough, I think, to warrant disciplinary action.

Anonymous said...

y'all are nuts......