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Mormons v. Marriage Equality

Timothy Kincaid

June 16th, 2009

In an article in Time Magazine, David Van Biema discusses the unique pressures and theological beliefs that led to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) contributing half the funds and nearly all of the manpower behind Proposition 8′s drive to remove civil marriage rights from same-sex couples.

Prop 8 constituted a kind of perfect political storm of theology, demographics and organization. At the Alameda Meeting House last June (as at other Mormon churches statewide), a letter from Monson and his counselors advised believers to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time.” A string of Protect Marriage coalition meetings followed. They never occurred on LDS property, but they were overwhelmingly Mormon in attendance and sought Mormon support. Alaina Stewart, a church member, was asked to employ a list of “who in the ward we thought could contribute. We’d call and say, ‘We’re asking you to give such and such an amount,’” she says.

Some declined… But the general authorities in Salt Lake City increased the pressure. A broadcast to all churches outlined the pro-8 ground campaign, with titles like “Thirty People in Each Ward” and “More than Four Hours per Week.” Craig Teuscher, the Alameda ward’s regional stake president, reiterated in church the seriousness of Monson’s request to congregants.

The new push for the proposition had a rational side: the church claimed that the legalization of gay marriage would threaten its tax-exempt status if it refused to perform gay nuptials. (Most legal scholars disagree.) But belief in Monson’s supernatural connection also played a big role. Says Stewart: “The Prophet’s telling us to stand up. When he speaks, you’re realizing that there may be things that I don’t see.” Asks Gayle Teuscher, the stake president’s wife: “If I believe that the Prophet is a true prophet of God and disregard his counsel, what does that say about my belief in God?”

Secure in their own self-defined moral superiority, Mormons were shocked and surprised to find that gay people confronted them after the election. And in progressive parts of the state they experienced a reaction they didn’t expect, the response of neighbors who now viewed them as one might view a racist or other bigot.

Three months after the election, she says, “I don’t feel quite the same way about our community.” She felt frozen out of conversations among other parents. “You think, This will go away. But it doesn’t seem to. I think about my kids in school,” she says. “I want them to be accepted, to feel it’s O.K. to be different.”

As Californians go into another round of voting on marriage equality either in 2010 or 2012, individual Mormons throughout the state will have to determine whether they are willing to heed the call of their Prophet to donate tens of millions of dollars and countless manhours in continuing a high-profile battle against the rights of their neighbors. And they will need to consider what this could cost them.

Gay leadership has changed. And under fresh leadership, gay activists will be perfectly willing to publically portray the LDS Church as an oppressive religious bully seeking to impose its peculiar views about Celestial Marriage on gay Christians and non-believers. And individual Mormons may well find that they will be perceived as haters, bigots, and opponents of freedom and equality.

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David C.
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

“You think, This will go away. But it doesn’t seem to. I think about my kids in school,” she says. “I want them to be accepted, to feel it’s O.K. to be different.”

Perfect. Now, perhaps, a few Mormons will start to connect the dots. They are finding out how it feels to be ostracized. When this comes up again, as it will, perhaps they will think before blindly following an ordinary man that has had an exalted title affixed to his name. Clearly, this exemplifies the admonition to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

John
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy,

Thank you so much for this post. Alana Stewart has been engaged in hateful, lying behavior in Alameda for a while now. I didn’t know for a fact that either she or the Teuscher’s were Mormon. This is very useful information and I am going to save this post to my desktop for the next letter she writes to the editor.

The second quote didn’t make clear which woman was concerned about the backlash from their hate campaign. I am guessing it is Teuscher, since Stewart led the most recent campaign of hate against a school tolerance initiative.

Again, thank you so much!

OneWhoVotedNo
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

Another aspect of the VERY regrettable campaign that LDS leadership waged against the rights of gay and lesbian couples in California was the toll it took on some LDS families with gay members. My family was bitterly divided by the Church’s call to support this measure. Some members voted for it, others against it. Imagine handing a donation slip for prop 8 to the parents of a gay child! My mother took one look at it and handed it right back.

The despicable act of pressuring members with gay relatives to donate to this cause is something I’ll never be able to forget. And I hold LDS leadership completely responsible for the pain and division that resulted.

John
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

This isn’t just about the leadership. Individual Mormons made their own decision. If they act as though they didn’t have choice, because the Prophet told them to do this, then they are really weakening the arguement that Mormonism isn’t some sort of cult of mindless automatons taking orders from Salt Lake.

Nobody gets off the hook in my book by blaming the leadership in SLC. Yes, those leaders are despicable, but so are all the foot soldiers who took up the cause with them.

Being denied one’s civil rights is a far bigger blow, than one’s neighbors not wanting to have anything to do with them because they are bigots.

OneWhoVotedNo
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

John,

I agree this isn’t just about the leadership. No individual Mormon gets a pass by claiming in any way that they aren’t responsible for their own actions. I do, however, know a number of Mormons who opposed this measure vigorously (I worked with some of them) and so I’m not willing to tar all Mormons with the same brush.

I make a distinction between Mormon leadership and the run-of-the-mill member.

----
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

Bah. The main reason Mormons are so against people of the same sex getting married is because they want to look “godly” in the eyes of Evangelical Christians. Fundies believe the LDS church is a polytheist cult that goes against the teachings of Jesus and the bible (not unlike the way they also see Catholics); they also want to make amends for polygamy and viewing other races as inferior (considering most African Americans are zealous Christians).

AJD
June 16th, 2009 | LINK

“Stewart says she intended from the start to vote yes. But she adds, ‘I can certainly understand why members of the gay community wanted to receive this rite. I think there were ward members on the fence, thinking, Why not give them marriage?’”

These people knew what they were doing. I don’t know what infuriates me more: that they were hurting people or that they refuse to see that they’re hurting people and act as if they’re completely innocent.

cowboy
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Infuriating, is putting it mildly, ADJ. Mormons can’t recognize the obvious. They’re racists. They’re bigots. I know. I work and live amongst them.

Here is how I can qualify saying Mormons are racists: Even though they (my family, my neighbors and my co-workers) say they welcome African-Americans into the LDS Church and they can receive the full benefits of membership and Priesthood callings…the LDS Church has never explained or even officially apologized for its past racist policies. Never apologized! Keep telling your Mormon “friends” they can’t ignore the past and wish it had never happened. That doesn’t absolve the racist issue.

Plus, I have an African-American secretary who can vouch for that. She has lived in Utah for most of her life. She can tell you almost daily examples of some subtle and some not-so-subtle experiences she has had. There are still vestiges of the Mormon racist heritage here.

Mormons are bigots: Really! You can say that to their faces and they won’t flinch one bit. In their close-mindedness they mask their bigotry by projecting it as only following their Prophet. They can’t see the obvious civil-rights issue at stake here. Ask the next Mormon you meet why gays cannot marry and they will give you a response that won’t pass any civil law muster. My co-workers tell me I can have all the benefits of being married if I find a girl to shack up and play pretend love. Perhaps they don’t understand what bigot means.

But I need to mention: There are Mormons who are unhappy with how this gay-marriage brouhaha has played out. I get glimmers of hope from reading mormonsformarriage.com, from reading opinions from lawyers who are Mormon and question the legality and the tactics of supporters of anti-gay propositions. I’m encouraged by public pronouncements from high-profile leaders (Utah Governor Huntsman) who can recognize where equality is needed for its gay population.

Laurel
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

“The second quote didn’t make clear which woman was concerned about the backlash from their hate campaign. I am guessing it is Teuscher, since Stewart led the most recent campaign of hate against a school tolerance initiative.”

Actually, John, if you read the article in it’s entirety it was Stewart who made the second quote, not Teuscher. No need to guess. Van Biema didn’t hide anything.

John
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Laurel,

Thanks. I did read the original article after I made that orignial post. (I was just so pleased to see the whole Mormon thing laid out for me). Stewart is a real piece of work. While lamenting her “on the out’s” predicament, she led an ugly and dishonest campaign against an elementary school tolerance program designed to decrease school bullying. She lost, thankfully.

She’s not sorry. She has no regrets. She loves the spotlight and loves being the public face of anti-gay hate in Alameda. Alameda is a liberal place though and we’ve had others before her. The previous haters were at Central Baptist Church. Their leader eventually stepped down and the new guy isn’t anywhere near so vocal. Now it is the Mormons that we will have to focus on. Trust me, the average member won’t like the attention and will soon tire of this disgusting bigot’s antics.

Scott P.
June 17th, 2009 | LINK

Wow, cowboy, you ripped me a new a**hole when I pointed out the exact same thing. Because I made “generalizations” you called me a plethora of names. Care to explain why it’s okay for you to make sweeping statements but not me?

cowboy
June 18th, 2009 | LINK

Scott P,
Cite me examples of where I called you a plethora of names and then I’ll comment.

Scott P.
June 18th, 2009 | LINK

You called me a bigot and prejudiced several times, as well as a fool. You made it quite clear that I was a bigot to use the term “Mormons”, not “some Mormons”, or the Mormon leadership.” Ring any bells? Sauce for the gander is sauce for the other gander.

cowboy
June 18th, 2009 | LINK

Scott P,
Cite the specific examples. You must give actual references where I called you a bigot. I won’t comment on unsubstantiated claims and if you don’t provide the evidence I have to ask for immediate retraction.

Scott P.
June 18th, 2009 | LINK

cowboy, it was during the Prop. 8 campaign last year. I complained about how the typical response of Utahns to any complaints about the LDS Church is greeted with “If you don’t like it here, then leave”, when I said that I left to get away from the dominant attitudes brought on by the Mormon Church you took me to task for it in several exchanges here. I remember the phrase “Who pissed in your corn flakes” coming from you. I don’t have chapter and verse here and I didn’t print out every slight. It’s disingenuous of you to pretend that we didn’t get into a few heated arguments. But if you’re going to be unwilling to “man up” to the things you said I’ll drop the matter. I was actually beginning to have a rapport with you.

cowboy
June 18th, 2009 | LINK

Scott P,
I never said anything about pissing nor corn flakes to you. You had better check who said what to whom. I’m thinking I have been confused with someone else or mischaracterized.

I’m not being disingenuous. I’m only responding to slander. You understand you can’t misconstrue things about me and then not provide the evidence so I can defend myself. And then you say: I’m “disingenuous”?

That’s not fair.

Put up or shut up and since you haven’t shut up and continued to insult me with the “man up” comment…you certainly won’t get any rapport with me.

Daisy
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

I’m posting considerably late on this particular article, but I hope that somebody reads this nonetheless. I feel compelled to add my input because I’m connected to this particular situation in a very personal way.

I know Brad and Alaina Stewart; my ex-husband is married to Brad’s sister. I’ve only seen them and interacted with them at family gatherings. My three children of course enjoy seeing their kids and other relatives-by-marriage; they are, amongst family, and other church members, what one would consider a perfect example of all the right LDS attributes and values, all the typical warm ‘family fuzzies’, etc.

Just before this issue of Time hit the newstands, I got an email from Brad’s sister. She sent me the link for the article, and she sent it to other relatives/friends. I was encouraged to forward it along in turn and share it, so that others could see what a fine, sterling example of “family values” was being upheld by this praiseworthy and admirable family.

Yes, they were all proud and thoroughly unashamed. I no longer have the email, but I still remember the kicker: not only were they thoroughly convinced of the ‘rightness’ of what they were doing, they were proud of having the whole family on display in the photos accompanying the article. The children’s grandmother “Nana”, was especially pleased to see them featured, and was so proud of the photo of her grandson seated at the piano.

No, I am not making this up, and yes, it truly beggars any attempt at comprehension.

Anyway. I am in the process of leaving LD$ Inc; the only reason I haven’t done so much sooner and aggressively is because I have a family of three children who go between my household, and a household where acts such as this are encouraged as positive role modeling and behavior. By the end of this year, it will be a done deal, and I will be out for good.

I already know how this is going to go over, but it’s time for me, and thousands of others like me, to stand up and say: NO MORE.

Nothing is worth the complete and total sacrifice of one’s integrity, honesty, decency, and accountability. It will be an ongoing and perhaps, a life-long process for my children to move beyond this institution themselves, but they are strongly individual and intelligent; they have a mother who has many gay friends and professional associates that are openly supported. They associate with gay and lesbian friends at school, and have a few friends who have two moms or dads.

The great hope we all have for the future, is our youth. And their intelligence. We have the internet, and access to information that used to be hidden and kept in the dark. Young people like my children have the opportunity to balance what they are told by reading the actual facts. Like it or not, the LDS church will continue to lose its best and brightest, because the light shines in the darkness, exposing the hypocrisy, deception, the lies, and the apalling bigotry and hatred that has existed under the surface of this organization since the beginning.

To all those who have been rejected, lied to, harassed, manipulated, threatened, or cruelly, cruelly damaged, by the reprehensible doctrines, actions, and viewpoints of the LDS Church, its leadership, and individual members, I apologize from the depths of my being.

I have the most profound respect and admiration for so many of the articles and comments written by those at Box Turtle; I’ve been reading them quietly and anonymously for some time, and you have opened my eyes and enlarged my understanding more than I could ever have imagined. My gratitude is too deep to properly express.

Blessed be, for all the good you have done, and continue to do, for gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgendered individuals, and all the straight men and women who become your allies, one day and one person at a time.

Keep up the good work, and know that you have a true friend and supporter in me,
~Marguerite L. Morris~

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