September 28th, 2008
A website run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS, a.k.a. “Mormons”) opposed to anti-marriage initiatives has posted an interesting letter from the wife of a bishop’s first counselor condemning the church for “mingl[ing] religious influence with civil government.”
Amy Cox, of Payson, Utah, posted a letter to the website “Signing for Something,” in which she claims that the LDS church’s actions to impose its doctrinal beliefs on non-Mormons represents an interference on individuals’ “free agency.” According to LDS beliefs, infringing on an individual’s agency to determine the difference between good or evil (and to thus reap the benefits or consequences of those choices) can interfere with that individual’s “trial of faith,” which is an integral part of his or her “plan of salvation.”
(Caveat: This is how I read Wikipedia’s entry on the subject. I encourage hose who are more knowledgeable about LDS theology to clarify as necessary in the comments.)
Mrs. Cox, who describes herself as certified in “alternative Christ-centered emotional release therapy,” came to her current position after having worked with a lesbian LDS church member who had undergone counseling to change her sexual orientation at the behest of church leaders:
As I listened to her relate her experiences with these leaders, for which she was faithfully looking to for spiritual guidance, I became absolutely appalled at the abusive treatment that she was receiving in the name of God’s love. Their repeated promises given by the power of the priesthood, that if she would just prove faithful enough and abstain from acting on any of her natural inclinations, she would be blessed to overcome this “trial of her faith” and be able to marry a man and raise a family, have not been fulfilled.
As a result of this priesthood counsel which follows the teachings of the Church, her psyche has been severely damaged, and she has become more and more depressed with each failed effort. She was led to believe that what she was doing was not accepted as enough, that God’s love was conditional and He was withholding blessing her with her righteous desires because of her unworthiness.
This led Mrs. Cox to re-examine the Church’s stance on homosexuality as it relates to psychology, and she sought out more opportunities to talk with gays and lesbians. In doing so, she saw parallels to another dark chapter of LDS history — its now-renounced beliefs which once held that people with darker skins “were cursed and had been less valiant in the pre-existence”:
The teachings even went so far as the prophet Brigham Young stating that those who would mix seed with these people should be killed. It was also taught in the scriptures that their skins would become “white and delightsome” when they turned from their sinful ways, but I’ve yet to see that happen. Now thankfully, we distance ourselves from this bigotry and receive people of all races in full membership. These persecutions and teachings were false — the persecution and teachings regarding homosexuality are equally false, and the Church’s attempts to claim that homosexuality can be cured is as ridiculous as the possibility of a black man’s skin turning white.
Then Mrs. Cox turned to the Church’s stance toward LDS members who oppose the anti-marriage amendments now proposed for Florida, Arizona and California. Mrs. Cox described her husband as first counselor to their local bishop, and in that capacity he attends the Stake Bishopric Council each month:
Last week as my husband arrived, our Stake President (whose own brother is gay) referred to a letter signed by the First Presidency which stated the church’s position on Proposition 8. It was passed out to each bishop with instruction that if they hear of any member of their wards opposing the Church’s stance, they are to be reported to him. Our Stake President went on to state how there were people in our area who were collecting money to oppose the Proposition, and this was unacceptable.
Mrs. Cox also condemned the church’s action as it relates to non-LDS members who do not believe as they do, while recognizing the risk she is taking in speaking out:
I do not understand how the Brethren can justify taking such an active stance in government when it violates our own doctrine to not “mingle religious influence with civil government” (D&C 134:9). What sickens me the most is that the Church would use its power to not only influence members to vote for something that would take away the basic rights of those who most of which are not even affiliated with the Church nor believe as we do, but that in doing so they are now also infringing upon the rights of their own members by enforcing their stance on us with threats to those who in good conscience, do not approve. I am one of these latter members who is willing to take the risk of speaking out on something that mocks the Church’s claim of belief in free agency, and in doing so, may very well put my own membership in jeopardy.
[Hat tip: Nick Litersky]
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