Mormons leaving the church over anti-gay actions

The Mormon church seems puzzled by negative public reactions to their support for Prop 8 and other anti-gay laws. Their follow-up statements urge love and understanding while failing to understand that their own actions promote hate and discrimination.

Mormons are a powerful voting block and can generally be counted on to get behind the church’s position–whatever it is. Members take literally the call to support the brethren in every word. However, there are some who dare to say the church is wrong on this issue, and they are putting their own membership on the line — even leaving the church as a result.

Lisa Derrick at FireDogLake tells us Mormons Losing Members Over Anti-Gay Campaigns

While the Mormon Church hierarchy was responsible for organizing millions of dollars and thousands of hours of manpower to pass California’s Proposition 8 and Arizona’s Prop 102, the church’s tactics haven’t sat so well with some of its members–including families, members with Mormon heritage going back 150 years, and gay members—who began speaking out in July on the website signingforsomething.org.

Since July almost six hundred LDS Church members have expressed their disapproval and/or resigned. In October a copy of the site’s petition and emails were delivered to the Mormon Church headquarters, but the site is still accepting signatures and letters, since this is an issue that won’t go away.

A visit to the SigningForSomething web site reveals passionate and sincere expressions from members who sadly are leaving their faith. Here’s an example:

This issue has pretty much torn me apart. I have been so saddened by the Church’s involvement with this Proposition. . . . I cannot understand how they would think it even remotely okay to interfere with the civil rights of other citizens.

Of course, with some 8 million members, what’s the big deal about some 600? I think the big deal is that those are only the ones who are willing to state publicly what they feel in their hearts. There are many more who are hurting for their own family and friends who are being discriminated against by the church’s actions, but who are fearful of saying so publicly. It provides such an internal conflict for them as they truly are devoted to their faith, but they also believe the church is wrong on this issue.

As for the church’s puzzlement over its fair exercise of free speech and participation in the process, perhaps I can help them to understand. They hold tremendous power in their ability to organize grassroots activity and to raise huge sums of money. When the church calls, the membership responds en masse. While other churches may hold the same political opinions, no other church has anything close to the Mormon machinery needed to have a real political impact.

Those both inside and outside the church look with dismay at the way the church has wielded its power particularly in California’s Prop 8. It’s not a fair fight and so far Goliath has managed to step on the rights of David. Time will tell whether that power play will win out in the end. With rights at stake, even Goliath can be felled.

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  1. #1 by Obi wan liberali on December 2, 2008 - 8:23 am

    Generally, leaving the church occurs gradually. The individuals who left probably already had their misgivings and had probably become inactive. The immediate impace of the church’s action may be reduced activity. I’m sure the bean counters on North Temple will be watching activity rates very closely for the next while. Because ultimately, it is the inactive that leave. After you stop going to church, you often gain perspective and realize what in the heck you had been emotionally trapped into.

    Atleast that is my take.

  2. #2 by Becky on December 2, 2008 - 8:45 am

    Exactly right.

  3. #3 by Ken on December 2, 2008 - 9:03 am

    It’s not like the Church just recently became opposed to “gay marriage” or homosexual conduct. The Church’s position has been consistent, so why are they leaving now instead of years ago? The answer is because now they can do some grandstanding and make some kind of political statement with their departure.

  4. #4 by Kevin Owens on December 2, 2008 - 11:22 am

    …since this is an issue that won’t go away.

    I think it will go away. Eventually, people will just stop caring. Does anybody take the failed Equal Rights Amendment seriously anymore, for instance?

  5. #5 by Becky on December 2, 2008 - 11:58 am

    Ken, it’s not that the church is opposed to gay marriage, it’s the political activism it has employed to take away the rights of those individuals. I don’t think anyone cares what policy the church has between itself and its members. But this extends far beyond that and forces the church’s position on all people.

    Kevin, are you kidding? Some of us do care about the failed ERA a great deal. I find it interesting how you scoff at women’s rights and talk about male dominance in marriage. I am getting the picture, Kev.

  6. #6 by Paul Mero on December 2, 2008 - 12:13 pm

    Becky…the LDS Church “puzzled” that people fall away? I am sure the Brethren have read the parable of the wheat and tares many times. No surprises.

    I will chalk this posting up to “misery loves company.”

    So to all who have left and are leaving and will leave, though truly sad… “so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good-bye…Gooooood-byyyyyye!” Or better, “good-bi”!!

  7. #7 by Allie on December 2, 2008 - 12:53 pm

    The church’s support of prop 8 has hurt a lot of people. Although I disagree with the church’s actions, I truly believe that the church leaders didn’t want to hurt anyone, and that they were doing what they felt they had to do. However, it is comforting to me to see that the church is slowly changing their stance on rights for same sex couples.

    (I’d really like to see a separation of church and state on marriage altogether. The government ought to issue civil unions to whoever wants them, and individual churches can each define marriage however they want. There’s no reason, other than convenience I suppose, for the government to recognize religious ceremonies.)

  8. #8 by Elsie the Cow on December 2, 2008 - 12:56 pm

    I think Obi wan is right. The real impact won’t be immediate. People leave the church for different reasons, and in many cases it’s multiple reasons. These reasons accumulate.

    Just in the past ten years, more Mormons have been accessing information on the Internet concering the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and a lot of other indefensible Mormon doctrines. Some leave right away after realizing they’ve been duped, but many hang on for several years and then slowly fade away.

    Once they’ve seen the truth, many of these adults lose interest in making sure their children are brought up to be believers.

    The biggest impact, in my observation, will be on rapidly declining activity among the younger generation. The LDS Church already had a difficult time keeping its young with its restrictive/repressive teachings regarding sexuality (hetero and homo). The Internet is destroying the faith of thousands of young LDS, and this “faith-destroying” material is very easy to find.

    The impact of the Internet on the LDS Church will be gradual, but it is happening and gathering steam. The LDS Church will have to face a day of reckoning in which the number of people coming through the front door (converts and births) is exceeded by the number of people leaving through the back door.

    Paul is right too. So long farewell auf Wiedersehen, good-bye.

  9. #9 by Becky on December 2, 2008 - 1:05 pm

    That was sort of a cute sign-off Paul. As to ‘misery loves company’, having been a practicing Mormon and then not, I can tell you which is misery all right. We each must find that out for ourselves, mustn’t we?

  10. #10 by Allie on December 2, 2008 - 1:46 pm

    Elsie-

    There are also people who read the same information, who also feel confused, yet recognize that even church leaders past or present, are human, and subject to weaknesses just like the rest of us, but that despite the weaknesses of humans, feel that the gospel still has something worth sticking around for. Not everyone feels duped when they’ve “seen the truth”.

    There’s an interesting post on my brother’s blog with an article by Richard Bushman on Losing Faith over History.

    I know the church doesn’t like to talk about mistakes of the past because people often leave the church when they learn about them, but I think it would be much better for the church to be open about the mistakes in it’s past, instead of having people read about them online and feel like the church is hiding something.

  11. #11 by Elsie the Cow on December 2, 2008 - 2:07 pm

    Allie,

    “The gospel still has something worth sticking around for” is quantum leap downward from “one and only true church on the face of the earth”.

    “Losing faith over history” is a polite way of saying “losing faith over doctrines and teachings that ended up being false and harmful”.

  12. #12 by Allie on December 2, 2008 - 2:13 pm

    Elsie- I suppose that depends on your interpretation.

    I was simply pointing out that some people “learn the truth”, and choose to stay. I’m not belittling anyone who chooses to leave, but I would like people to understand that those who choose to stay are not duped, or mislead into doing so.

  13. #13 by Leo Brown on December 3, 2008 - 8:18 am

    There is ample precedent for “leaving the Church” in the 6th chapter of John

    Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

    When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? …

    Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not…

    From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

  14. #14 by Shane Smith on December 3, 2008 - 4:24 pm

    Wow Kevin, that was impressive. So you gay bash, make fun of equal rights…. are you also racists?

    I am starting to doubt that you are real. You are far too perfect a “nasty jerk mormon” to be real. It is as if you are a creation designed to lead people away from your professed beliefs by being the biggest ass you can.

    You should update the ‘about me’ section of your web page…. “I am of a gentle disposition and I try to treat others kindly and honestly.”

    When does that side of you kick in?

  15. #15 by Kevin Owens on December 3, 2008 - 4:44 pm

    You must be mistaking me for a straw man you have built. You’re not reading me correctly. If you are out trolling for someone to hate, I’m sure you could pick an easier target.

    I have NEVER gay bashed on this website. I have repeatedly stated that I have no hard feelings against homosexuals, I don’t care what they do in the privacy of their own homes, and so on. My anti-gay marriage stance is a matter of policy, not a matter of hate. I do not hate gays.

    Look, the Equal Rights Amendment was a bad bill. While I support the idea behind it (that women should be treated equally by the law), it was a bad implementation. I am glad it failed. It is hard for me to imagine that someone would actually be in favor of a law which would force girls into the Boy Scouts and declare men’s and women’s restrooms to be unconstitutional because they are “separate but equal.”

    If you had any intelligence, you would see that I was not mocking equal rights, I was mocking the Equal Rights Amendment. It was a bad bill, it failed, and (most) people got over it. I think the same thing may happen with Proposition 8.

    Or, are you too much of a hate-mongering bigot to see that people who disagree with you can be nice people? Maybe you should quit being such a nasty jerk yourself.

  16. #16 by Glenden Brown on December 3, 2008 - 5:01 pm

    Kevin,
    It may come as a surprise to you but none of the things you seem to think the ERA would do would actually, you know, have happened.

    Here’s the actual text of the Amendment:

    Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
    bullet Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
    bullet Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

    Nothing about forcing girls into the boy scouts or about bathrooms being unconstitutional.

  17. #17 by Becky on December 3, 2008 - 5:25 pm

    Kevin,
    Your position on the ERA coincides with that of the Mormon church. I’m sure that is actually no coincidence. You keep saying you have nothing against gays, and you think women should be equal. But then you say you are against gay rights and women’s rights under the law. You want to be magnanimous and accepting of all people, and at the same time you espouse the positions of your church. Unfortunately, those two things conflict.

    Kevin, do you mind explaining how the ERA was a bad bill?

  18. #18 by Shane Smith on December 3, 2008 - 8:55 pm

    “You must be mistaking me for a straw man you have built. ”

    I believe that is the point Kevin. You are exactly like a straw man that someone would build.

    You literally argued that gay marriage and equal rights will just go away. As if gays, women, pretty much any minority will simply stop wanting to be treated like people.

    If you ignore them, they will just go away.

    The trouble is, all of those groups are larger than the LDS church. And honestly, world wide, they have more support. If either side goes away, it will be the LDS church that does.

    The arc of history is the long slow egalitarian turn towards real equality. Every group that has stood in the way of that arc has slowly been worn down, or is in the process of being worn down. You stand on the losing side against history. And you and your opinion and the attitudes of those like you will, in the distant future, be a sad footnote that future people shake their head at, and marvel that there was such an unenlightened time that people actually grew up that way.

    That, or I am wrong, and you really do support equality, and you will now explain just how the ERA was a bad bill, as 2 people have asked, and you will explain the “separate but equal” fairness of civil unions vs marriage.

    Please feel free to enlighten us.

  19. #19 by Kevin Owens on December 4, 2008 - 10:22 am

    1. The ERA would remove laws which specifically protect women, such as labor laws in heavy industry, male conscription, limits on women in combat, and sex-based affirmitive action programs. It would take a way the traditional benefits in the law for wives, widows, and mothers, such as those provisions in Social Security. It would make unconstitutional the laws that impose on a husband the obligation to support his wife.

    2. The ERA will impact abortion laws. In Connecticut and New Mexico, their state ERAs were used to invalidate restrictions on tax-funded abortions. A 1998 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling ordered the state to pay for abortions under the state’s Medicaid program. Conecticut’s similar court ruling was in 1986. In Wisconsin, state legislators took the language of the national ERA and added some language which would prevent it from being used to mandate abortion funding or gay rights. The leading ERA advocates (including NOW, the League of Women Voters, and the ACLU) publicly opposed ERA in this form, and it failed in Wisconsin. A similar occurance happened in Minnesota. This seems to indicate that proponents of the ERA are looking at it primarily as a backdoor to achieve abortion funding and gay rights.

    3. The ERA will mandate the recognition of same-sex marriage. Court decisions in Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and California have used bans on sex discrimination as partial justification for rulings mandating same-sex marriage recognition.

    4. The argument that “separate but equal” is inherently unequal would probably be used to integrate bathrooms, athletic teams, prisons, single-sex schools and colleges, and anything else which differentiates based on sex, just as the argument was used against racial segregation. It would probably make unconstitutional the exemptions in Title IX, which would lead to sex integration in social fraternities and sororities, and gender-specific youth clubs like the Boy Scouts. In Washington state, a court ruling based on the state constitution’s ERA ordered a fraternic civic organization to admit women.

    5. The amendment would be a power grab by the federal government. It would give enormous new powers to the federal government which now belong to the states. It would give them the power to override state laws in all which include traditional differences of treatment on account of sex, including marriage, property laws, divorce and alimony, child custody, adoptions, abortion, homosexual laws, sex crimes, public and private schools, prison regulations, and insurance.

    6. It could affect veteran’s benefits. This rests on the same type of legal argument as the abortion funding argument: since most veterans are men, it is claimed that it is “sex discriminatory” to give them benefits. Naturally, this argument was not acceptable to the veterans, and their national organizations lobbied hard against ERA.

    7. The amendment is unnecessary. The 14th Amendment guarantees “equal protection of the laws” to “any person”. Is there any way the ERA would benefit women or end any discrimination against them? There are so many provisions in the law today for gender equality that it’s hard to imagine an ERA making any positive difference at all in this regard.

    …There seemed to be danger in equality for the ideological/cultural concept of the father as head and provider, mother as nurturer and manager, and children as replicas into the next generation. Many feared the equality would make women more vulnerable and exposed, that men would feel freer to abandon family responsibilities.

    Certainly it was these fears which prompted Mormon church leaders to eventually join their financial resources, their promotional skills and their far-flung network of members to the counterrevolution. Church leaders in 1976 described ERA as “a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members as a whole.” President Spencer Kimball declared it “would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution.”

    Utah History to Go

  20. #20 by Kevin Owens on December 4, 2008 - 10:33 am

    Also, I would like to apologize for my flippant tone in a comment I made earlier. I really appreciate the civility of people here like Becky and Glenden, and I should have been more considerate of people who support the ERA. I don’t want to become a bitter old man like Cliff.

  21. #21 by Glenden Brown on December 4, 2008 - 11:00 am

    Kevin –

    Some of the issues you cited would probably happen if the ERA were adopted today – for instance striking down restrictions on tax funding for abortions, but IMHO, that would be a good thing. Men never need abortions. Restricting funding for them exclusively burdens women.

    Some of the other issues you referenced – i.e. bathrooms by gender – the solutions you identified are clearly wrong to my thinking. ERA would only come into effect if there were bathrooms only for women or only for men. I also think the issue of single gender colleges is a red herring – ERA would prevent government entities from being single gender – i.e. we couldn’t found the Utah Men’s College. Veteran’s benefits would not be affected since those are not based on gender but on service – more later.

  22. #22 by Shane Smith on December 4, 2008 - 11:20 am

    Here is a thought, just because it relates to the topic this is posted under….

    “Is there any way the ERA would benefit women or end any discrimination against them? There are so many provisions in the law today for gender equality that it’s hard to imagine an ERA making any positive difference at all in this regard.”

    Those laws have no real constitutional backing, and should a large group of bigoted people decide to push for laws to over turn them or combat them, they could do so. Like say for example a gay marriage law. Gosh where has that come up lately….

    Further, while laws do exist, many are poorly enforced, badly written, and poorly interpreted. How about we fix all that by making one national standard?

    BTW, I especially like point 3. Most of your points have one thing in common, basically what you are saying is that the ERA would actually treat people equally, and fair.

    The problem with that is….. what?

    Also as Glen points out, veteran’s benefits are actually based on having served. At worst this would suggest that women should be able to serve if they so choose. A truly bad idea, one can argue, but still well within their rights and capabilities.

    If the ERA is so unneeded, so many laws actually exist that do the job you tell us, then why aren’t they working?

    “There seemed to be danger in equality for the ideological/cultural concept of the father as head and provider, mother as nurturer and manager, and children as replicas into the next generation. Many feared the equality would make women more vulnerable and exposed, that men would feel freer to abandon family responsibilities.”

    It is interesting that the only way to argue that equal rights are bad for women appears to be to paint women as helpless, having to be protected and provided for by men. The best way to maintain the stereo type is to point out that the way things are now is the stereo type. Perhaps women wouldn’t need men to provide for them as much if we payed them an equal wage? Gave them equal educations?

  23. #23 by Glenden Brown on December 4, 2008 - 11:54 am

    Sorry ’bout that – commenting from work is always dodgy and I had something that required my full attention come up.

    As I was saying. Veteran’s benefits aren’t awarded based on gender but on service – anyone who served, without regard to gender, is eligible. If women who served weren’t eligible that would be a whole different kettle of fish.

    Limits on women in combat have never made any sense to so I don’t see a problem with that going away. Same with Selective Service and conscription – I can’t for the life of me imagine why only men are subject to those experiences. The idea that not allowing women in combat or requiring women to register for Selective Service somehow protects them strikes me as wrong headed – women don’t need nearly as much protecting as men tend to think they need. Hell, in combat, my sister would do a damn sight better than I would!

    ERA says nothing directly about marriage. It is not unreasonable to assume that it might be interpreted to permit same sex marriage. That’s not a problem to me.

    I’m also profoundly unconcerned about fraternities and sororities and private clubs and their ability to be open only to men or women. The real argument, for instance, has long held that having whites only country clubs or men’s only social clubs has been that such exclusion unreasonably harms nonwhites or women. If a woman can be run a major company, there’s no reason she should be denied access to a private club all her peers are drinking in and in which they are making business deals. In know my employer makes many deals on the golf course. FWIW, if I had a child I’d actually rather see him/her participate in Girl Scouts than boy scouts – frankly all my experiences of boy scouting were like the Bataan death march without the sense of hope. Separate is almost never equal and that’s a problem and if correcting that problem scares people, I would ask “What is it you believe will be lost if we end separate accommodations and how would you preserve it while creating true equality?”

  24. #24 by Glenden Brown on December 4, 2008 - 11:56 am

    I just have to end with a quote from West Wing:

    MRS. LANDINGHAM
    Look at you. You’re a Boy King. You’re a foot smarter than the smartest kid in
    the class. You’re blessed with inspiration. You must know this by now. You must have
    sensed it. Look, if you think we’re wrong… if you think Mr. Hopkins should honestly
    get paid more than Mrs. Chadwick, then I respect that. But if you think we’re right and
    you won’t speak up because you can’t be bothered, then God, Jed, I don’t even want to
    know you.

  25. #25 by Becky on December 4, 2008 - 12:13 pm

    Also re “labor laws in heavy industry”, with the advent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, employers have now learned to include physical requirements in their job descriptions. For example, to be a UPS driver, you must be able to lift up to x pounds, x times per hour, for x hours per day. When physical strength is an issue, women can compete for a job as long as they are able to perform. Some years ago Utah labor laws allowed for 15 minute breaks twice a day for women only, and then lunch breaks for both men and women. The women-only break has been done away with now because it wasn’t fair to men. If I’m not mistaken, those 15 minute breaks are now optional but must be extended to both men and women if offered by an employer. Equal rights runs both ways.

  26. #26 by Jenni on December 4, 2008 - 4:30 pm

    Great discussion re: ERA.

    It’s so interesting to see how older generations view women as almost a different species. I am so not delicate and nurturing, but if I’d lived in an earlier era, I’d be forced into a life I hated and that runs counter to my nature. I like my job and would go crazy spending all my time at home with my kids. I also like splitting the housework equally with my husband (okay, not exactly equally — he does a lot more of it than I do!).

    Women and men are more alike than we are different, and the majority of those differences are cultural, with just a couple of them being physical. For instance, I was raised Mormon and well trained to believe that having and raising children was the most joyful thing I could do with my life. It took several years to de-program from that training by observing myself in action as a parent and realizing that I have very few nurturing instincts, have many non-mothering talents and a brain suited to a much different skill set, and enjoy my kids in much smaller doses than would be considered fit in that culture.

    The old way of thinking also does a disservice to men, who were shut out of nurturing roles with their kids as it was considered women’s work while they were treated as income-providing machines. Now there are stay-at-home dads taking the little ones to play dates while mom is pursuing a career — and vice versa. Each family does what fits its members needs best as it should. And we have come a long way, baby . . . but there is a powerful fundamentalist movement in this country wanting to take all this away, which is another good reason to have equality for women enshrined in the Constitution.

  27. #27 by Becky on December 4, 2008 - 4:51 pm

    Jenni, you have described what so many Mormon women feel, and then feel guilty about. You are so right that men have been deprived of a more enriched life just as women have, living the 50s ‘Donna Reed’ perfect lifestyle. Really, people are becoming more aware that choices are available to them, and roles are changing and becoming less defined. I’m a nurturer, but a professional career was always important to me, too, for my own sanity. I have been fortunate to be able to fulfill both of those needs, to be able to raise some wonderful kids while also working.

    For me (and possibly you, Jenni?), it seems leaving the Mormon faith was an essential part of my choices. And the turning point for me was the church’s actions on the Equal Rights Amendment. It mattered powerfully to me then, and it still does.

  28. #28 by Shane Smith on December 4, 2008 - 5:16 pm

    Jenni and Becky,

    From the opposite end of the spectrum, let me add fuel to the fire. As someone who has had an odd career, I can tell you that culture is very dead set against the changing of these gender roles from both sides. Having left teaching to raise children, it is always a shock to speak with the majority of males about what I did when the kids were younger.

    Some guy I have never met: “And what do you do?”

    Me: “I am at home raising two kids.”

    Him: “And what else?”

    Now it is true that I am returning to complete studies and go back to teaching, this time in college rather than kindergarden, but the question is still amazing. How many men would say that to any woman who was at home with children? The implication that women should be home with kids, and that is all their little minds can handle, but a man who was in the same position should have a full time job as well is insulting to both sexes. And having both taught and stayed home to parent, if you think there is a harder job, even for the most nurturing among us, you haven’t done it.

    When I was younger, the thought never entered my mind that having a career, leaving it, being a full time parent, and then starting all over again in a new career, would be possible, let alone a good idea. That just wasn’t the way we were taught. And these ideas really push the more conservative minded. “That isn’t how it was!” they complain. “Tradition was like this!”

    Well, once upon a time we lived in trees too, but it turns out that the whole “cave and fire” thing did OK for us, so maybe this will work out too.

  29. #29 by Cliff Lyon on December 4, 2008 - 7:39 pm

    Wow! What a great discussion! Confirmation that an enlightened society must not only acknowledge, but cherish diversity across all lines.

    If we are REALLY so special, is our diversity not proof?

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