Friday, November 14, 2008

Why decent people funded a hate campaign.

The El Coyote restaurant used to be popular especially with many people in the gay community. But when it was revealed that manager, and niece of the owner, Marjorie Chrisoffersen had contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign to strip gay couple of marriage rights business dropped off.

Marjorie told the public that she has “been sick at heart” that people are offended by her actions and said she has “family, friends, employees from the gay community who are treasured people in my life.” So then, why exactly did she help fund a campaign to strip those “treasured people” of their right to marry. Her answer was simple: “I have been a member of the Mormon church all my life. I responded to their request with my personal donation.”

Marjorie tried to meet with members of the community and take questions but when asked if she would contribute to No on 8 efforts she started crying. Her daughter stepped forward to defend their actions saying: “The church just tells you when to donate...”

A representative from the No on 8 campaign who meet with Marjorie said: “She is Mormon and she was told that she had to make that check and she actually didn't apologize for doing it. She says she loves the community, she loves the people that are here, but she had to do what the church told her to do.”

In Sacramento community members found out that Scott Eckern, the artistic director for the California Musical Theater had contributed $1,000 to the antigay campaign. As word spread people told the theater they were going to boycott. Eckern stepped down from his position. Eckern says his sister is gay. So why did he contribute to the antigay campaign? He’s a Mormon and his church told him to.

Mormons are told that obedience to the church is expected. Mormon president Gordon Hinckley said: “The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein."

Elder Robert Oaks told Mormons that they are to “be like children, who are willing to be taught and then to act without first demanding full knowledge.”

Even the most mundane things can become important if the church demands it. Apostle M. Russell Ballard told of a young woman removed a second pair of earrings she was wearing because President Hickley had said “One modest pair of earrings is sufficient.” Ballard said: “Wearing two pair of earrings may or may not have eternal consequences for this young woman, but her willingness to obey the prophet will. And if she will obey him now, on something relatively simple, how much easier it will be to follow him when greater issues are at stake."

Apostle Dallin Oaks told Mormons that when it comes to the church’s positions on issues that debate is inappropriate: “We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord.” Criticism is forbidden and members are told they may not say anything negative about church leaders EVEN if the remarks are true.

Prophet Harold Lee had told Mormons “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself...” Church leaders have promoted what they call “faith-based obedience”. Elder Robert Oaks says: “Obedience is a fundamental law of the gospel.”

Mormonism is heavily patriarchal and hierarchal. The Mormon church teaches that the head of the church is in direct communication with the god of this world (remember they are polytheists though they play that down in public). Joseph Smith demanded obedience to himself the way one would obey God. Brigham Young demanded the same sort of obedience. “The Prophet”, Joseph Smith, claimed a direct revelation from God: “And now verily I say unto you, concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my should observe all things whatsoever I command them.”

When a group of Mormon dissidents were upset at Smith’s seducing the wives of others and then excusing it by calling it “plural marriage” they published an expose of Smith’s actions in a paper, The Nauvoo Expositor. Smith sent armed thugs to destroy the press. Brigham Young had his Avenging Angels and it was not unknown for those who refused to obey orders to have their throats slit.

At the very least obedience to the the Prophet and the Apostles is a very important concept with Mormons. The Mormon church is always lead by a Prophet. And the main leaders are The Council of Twelve Apostles.

It is not surprising then that we have two documented cases of Mormons who say they actually like gay people but who helped fund a campaign to strip gay couples of the right to marry. They were obeying the call of the church to fund the campaign.

Mormon church leaders used the denominations infrastructure to tell Mormons that they should send money to Prop 8. They were encouraged to become actively involved in the campaign and some news stories claim that at least a few thousand Mormons from outside California travelled there specifically to work on this campaign because the church expressed a wish for this to happen. And other reports clearly showed that Mormons from outside California were volunteering to work phone banks to call California residents to spread Yes on 8 lies.

Few religious denominations demand the sort of obedience from members that Mormonism demands from its adherents. In the example given by Apostle Ballard a young woman took out a second pair earrings merely because the “prophet” expressed a dislike for the practice of wearing two sets. Ballard said that obedience to the prophet on this small matter made it “easier... to follow him when greater issues are at stake.”

Certainly it is true that not all Mormons will obey the church. And without Avenging Angels to slit a few throats the most the church can do is excommunicate them. That to a Mormon means they will never become a God. And today Mormons are being excommunicated some facing discipline for differing with the church’s antigay position. No doubt as this issue escalates more Mormons will stand up to the church and more will be thrown out for that crime. (Hundreds appears to have resigned the church over this issue as well.)

But the Apostles know that a very large percentage will obey them. So the Apostles fully expected Mormons to donate millions of dollars to strip gays of their rights. They expected it because they told Mormons to do this, or to be precise, they hinted that they preferred this very strongly. They would never exactly issue an order but they very strongly urged Mormons to fund the campaign and work for it.

Since the church leadership used the churches to spread this message, and since they knew they were funding the bulk of the Prop 8 campaign, it is hard to believe that they think they should be immune from criticism or protest over their actions. The Mormon leaders can’t pretend that they were not involved in the campaign. That they asked their members to fund the campaign directly doesn’t mean the Mormon Church wasn’t a fundraiser for Prop 8 -- in fact they were the prime fundraiser.

They knew that a large number of Mormons would blindly obey the Apostles and fund this campaign. And news reports indicate that many Mormons did this, even to the point of emptying bank accounts and cancelling family vacations in order to fund Prop 8. Certainly the Mormon Church wasn’t alone in the campaign but it safe to say that the Prop 8 proponents were primarily operating with Mormon money which was given to them because the Mormon leadership wanted that done. The Mormon Church used the doctrines of obedience to get church members to do what the church leaders didn’t want to do directly. (This is not something new -- some historians argue that the Mountain Meadow massacre of 120 pioneers heading to California by a Mormon militia happened because Brigham Young hinted very strongly that he would approve of such a slaughter.)

If anything the way the Church leadership funded this campaign was intentionally deceptive. They didn’t want checks going from the Mormon headquarters to Prop 8 campaigners. So instead of acting as a clearing house for the donations they had their members donate it directly. But the members did not donate spontaneously. They did so in direct obedience to the wishes of Mormon leaders who told them to do it. As such the Mormon Church is a legitimate target for protests, provided they remain peaceful. The Mormon Church is also a proper target for scrutiny and criticism -- and believe me there is a lot to criticize and even a glimpse into their shocking history and their beliefs would surprise most Americans.

The Church has done much to manipulate public opinion into seeing a squeaky clean, wholesome group of people. But the history of the church is one massive, almost unending, scandal. Prop 8 was a mistake for the Mormons, it focused too much attention on a Church which doesn’t particularly want careful scrutiny. From the Prophet Joseph Smith to today there is just too much obvious fraud and deception to be found.

Mormon history is far too dirty to become public knowledge. So inviting scrutiny by waging such an open battle to strip gay people of their rights was a major mistake. Mormons were far better off with their choir singing on TV and clean-cut missionaries knocking on doors. Those are images they want people to see. But Mormonism has a very, very ugly side as well and Prop 8 helps focus peoples attention on that. And I predict that one result of the Prop 8 battle will be greater scrutiny of Mormonism ugly side and that won’t benefit the Church one bit. I can’t say they don’t deserve it.