On April 25, the LDS Church joined other religious bodies and leaders in signing the letter â€œto protect and preserve the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.â€ You may read the Churchâ€™s full statement on their website.
The letters to follow are an attempt somehow to express, however imperfectly, my deep sorrow, my profound grief and my outrage at what has become a dreary litany of scriptural inconsistency from the church of my birth. The Bible is one of our fundamental documents in the birthing of human rights. My church for decades now has been at the forefront of their denial. We are, in effect, somewhere behind the little men with brooms and baskets, following the elephants, in the great parade of human rights, at least since the latter half of the 20th century. This breaks my heart. The prophetic voice has always spoken for peace and justice. The entire cosmos tilts toward the poor. Zion, as I understand it, is a city now and hereafter, where God and Godâ€™s children might mingle in communion of peace and justice. We came to our Great Basin home precisely to do this. We have lost our way. Like Dante, I feel that we are in a deep wood. Where is the light?
The recent death of my dear friend William Sloan Coffin Jr. reminds us that fidelity to human rights, peace and justice and deep spiritual belief are profoundly consistent.
The prophetic voice has always joined peace and justice. Shalom does not simply mean an absence of violence. Shalom unites non-violence and social justice. St. Paul says, â€œThe fruit of the spirit isâ€¦peace.â€(Gal. 5:22) The psalmist sings, â€œMercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.â€ (Ps.85:10) Shalom invites affirmative powerful non-violence and social justice. From Amos to Isaiah and Jeremiah to Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha and Mohammad, this has been so. For Mohandas K. Gandhi, the great Mahatma, wonderfully moved by the Sermon on the Mount, this self-defined Hindu, though excommunicated by his class for study in England, the central tenets of peace and nonviolence found particular expression: Ahimsa and Satyagraha. Ahimsa, a powerfully affirmative refusal to do violence, a warriorâ€™s non-violence even though he possessed full power to crush and to kill. Gandhiâ€™s non-violence was not for sissies. Satyagraha is truth â€” the knowledge of truth that sets one free. My friend and colleague, H.H. The Dalai Lama, in the same tradition, has always stood for truth and non-violence in the face of genocidal acts against him and his people, in Tibet, and now in exile in the Diaspora. For my friend, compassion contains the whole. In decades that have broken my heart, the Mormon Church has denied some of these fundamental rights, and done so in the name of Jesus Christ. I dissent.
Edwin Brown Firmage (website, bio)
Samuel D. Thurman Professor of Law, Emeritus
University of Utah College of Law Salt Lake City, Utah
Ed is author of several books on Constitutional Law, International Law, Law and Religion, and the law of presidential impeachment. He has also authored several thousand articles and lives peacefully, most of the time, with his Australian Shepherds, Frances and Clare.