Meridian Magazine, billing itself as “The Place Where Latter-day Saints Gather,” recently ran an article written by reader Michelle Worley. Titled “Standing Up for Prop 8: ‘I Hope You Know We’re Not Haters,'” the article recounts Ms. Worley’s experience standing at a busy intersection holding a sign in support of the California marriage amendment.
Encountering people on both sides of the Prop 8 issue, Ms. Worley enjoyed encouragement and endured criticism. Some people booed her, some yelled at her, some challenged her. A group of men surrounded her and “flood[ed] the air with crude and derogatory statements.” Many people misunderstood Ms. Worley’s motivation for holding her sign and for standing strong for traditional marriage. One man, carrying a sign against Prop 8, shouted, “Haters! Bigots!”
Ms. Worley was understandably distressed over this and other encounters with people who disagreed with her own convictions, yet her story has a happy ending. She was able to make peace with the name-caller, telling him, “I hope you know we’re not haters.”
As she chatted with the same-gender marriage supporter Ms. Worley said, “Isn’t it wonderful that we can stand here holding our signs with different opinions, peacefully? This is so America!”
When I read this I couldn’t help but think of my own experiences holding signs. Though I have not held signs in support of California’s Prop 8, I have held signs that promote the MRM web site or quote a Bible verse (e.g., Isaiah 43:10). Opposition to my exercise of this basic First Amendment right is always pretty fierce.
While many people show support for my efforts, and many who disagree with my convictions remain civil (i.e., ignore me), I’ve encountered countless Mormons who respond with name-calling, mischaracterization of my motives, and/or who surround me while “flooding the air with crude and derogatory statements.”
I’ve grown accustomed to this treatment and recognize that it goes with the territory of standing for something. But it still bothers me that Mormons believe, accuse me of, and publicly promote the idea that I am a “hater” and a “bigot.” It bothers me that it is so often impossible for Mormons, holding to and expressing their opinions which differ from mine, to stand peacefully on the same corner with me. Isn’t this America?
As she related her story, Ms. Worley expressed the fact that she has great compassion for those who are personally affected by the issue addressed by Prop 8. Likewise, all of us at MRM have great compassion for those personally affected by Mormonism. There will always be those who cannot be convinced of our true concern and motivation, but perhaps the Latter-day Saints who have now, in one sense, walked in our shoes will recognize the fact that standing for an unpopular cause does not equal hate.