Uh oh, it looks like some feisty Tongan Mormons got themselves into trouble by tearing down same-sex advocacy signs from a fence around the LA temple, and then getting into a fight. Though I don’t condone the violent behavior, I am in complete agreement with Mormons that the “hate crime” approach the police are reportedly taking to the incident is absolutely absurd.
As for the whole issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, let me say loud and clear: many same-sex marriage advocates have shown themselves to be shallow, unthoughtful, and irrational. The position religious conservatives take with respect to homosexual marriage is rooted in a moral system of values that is incompatible with the fierce ideological commitment of same-sex marriage advocates to have the practice of homosexuality publicly, governmentally, and socially condoned, approved, recognized, and validated. I am convinced that this agenda has less to do with rights and more to do with social approbation. The cause is a religious and/or ideological one, with a dogmatic, foundational commitment to the concept that committed same-sex relational entities should be equally privileged as heterosexual family entities.
Mormons (and other religious conservatives) saw same-sex marriage as a threat to one of the fundamental institutions that helps our society flourish, so it made good sense for them to support Proposition 8. It was no more “hateful” of Mormons to do this than it is for same-sex marriage advocates to argue against legalizing state-sanctioned polygamy. The accusatory “hate” rhetoric that same-sex marriage advocates have thrown around should be seen for what it is: A lack of capacity and/or willingness to grow up and have an adult conversation about sensitive issues.
And just in case it is not clear, KEEP UP THE GOOD POLITICAL AND IDEOLOGICAL FIGHT, OUR MORMON FRIENDS. WE STAND BESIDE YOU in the cause for traditional marriage. Do not, in the eagerness to see yourself persecuted, see evangelicals as thinking, “an enemy of an enemy is my friend”. Conservative evangelicals were a big part of the Proposition 8 battle too, and we will work alongside you to make sure Proposition 8 stays. We sincerely hope that this whole experience will give everyone the ghusto to stand up for what they believe and say, Athanasius contra mundum, yes, I know that we do teach that. “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!”
All that said, the ironies are not lost on me. In a critical review of an article by Bill McKeever, one Mormon apologist wrote recently, “An ‘anti-Mormon’ is essentially a religious racist. We could call them theological skin-heads, or Christian nazi’s.” Sound familiar? I hope Mormons will long remember this mess in California and think twice now about labeling critics of Mormonism with “hate” and “anti” language. As I have written elsewhere, many Mormons seem to have embraced postmodern or pluralistic definitions of “tolerance” and “hatred”. Targeted religious criticism toward Mormonism is often understood to necessarily indicate personal animosity, venomous hatred, and bigotry towards the LDS faith. Bill McKeever notes that when “it comes to the Mormon Church, respectful and critical are not normally two words they recognize in the same sentence. You either praise them or you risk being accused of ignorance and/or bigotry.” Mormons, I ask you, how does it feel to be accused of hatred and bigotry toward homosexuals when you in reality feel heart compassion in your toward them? Does that not hurt? Is it not frustrating? I hope you can for a moment imagine all the hurt and undue frustration you have caused by hurling accusations of hatred toward your evangelical critics.
Another irony that is striking to me is that many of the same-sex marriage advocates protesting around the Mormon temple do not support the legalization of polyamory, polygny, or polyandry. MMMMmmmmmmm, what’s that smell? I smell hypocrisy. But doesn’t that go the other way around, too? I am reminded of what Orson Pratt wrote regarding religious freedoms and polygamy in The Seer, pp. 12-16:
The Constitution and laws of the United States, being founded upon the principles of freedom, do not interfere with marriage relations, but leave the nation free to believe in and practice the doctrine of a Plurality of wives, or to confine themselves to the one wife system just as they choose. This is as it should be ; it leaves the conscience of man untrammeled, and so long as he injures no person, and does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is free by the Constitution to marry one wife, or many, or none at all, and becomes accountable to God, for the righteousness or unrighteousness of his domestic relations…
[U]nder the broad folds of the Constitution, the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah have the right to pass laws, regulating their matrimonial relations. and protecting each of their citizens in the right of marrying, one or many wives, as the case may be. If Congress should repeal those laws, they could not do so on the ground of their being unconstitutional. And even, if Congress should repeal them, there still would be no law in Utah, prohibiting the free exercise of that religious right : neither do the citizens of Utah feel disposed to pass such an unconstitutional act which would infringe upon the most sacred rights of conscience.
Tradition and custom have great influence over nations. Long established customs, whether right or wrong, become sacred in the estimation of Mankind. Those nations who have been accustomed from time immemorial to the practice of what is called Polygamy, would consider a law abolishing it, as the very height of injustice and oppression; the very idea of being limited to the one wife system, would be considered not only oppressive and unjust, but absolutely absurd and ridiculous ; it would be considered an innovation upon the long established usages, customs, and laws of numerous and powerful nations—an innovation of the most dangerous character, calculated to destroy the most sacred rights and privileges of family associations—to upset the very foundations of individual rights, rendered dear and sacred by being handed down to them from the most remote ages of antiquity.
On the other hand, the European nations who have been for centuries restricted by law to the one wife theory, would consider it a shocking innovation upon the customs of their fathers to abolish their restrictive laws, and to give freedom and liberty, according to the plurality system. It is custom, then, in a great degree, that forms the conscience of nations and individuals in regard to the marriage relationships. Custom causes four-fifths of the population of the globe to decide that Polygamy, as it is called, is a good, and not an evil practice; custom causes the balance, or the remaining fifth, to decide in opposition to the great majority…
If the people of this country have generally formed different conclusions from us upon this subject; and if they have embraced religions which are mere congenial to their minds than the religion of the Saints, we say to them that they are welcome to their own religious views ; the laws should not interfere with the exercise of their religious rights. If we cannot convince you by reason nor by the word of God, that your religion is wrong, we will not persecute you, but will sustain you in the privileges, guaranteed in the great Charter of American Liberty : we ask from you the same generosity—protect us in the exercise of our religious rights—
And this is where Pratt gives us one of his most popular and oft-referenced quotations:
convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds. Come, then, let us reason together, and try to discover the true light upon all subjects, connected with our temporal or eternal happiness ; and if we disagree, in our judgments, let us impute it to the weakness and imperfections of our fallen natures, and let us pity each other, and endeavor with patience and meekness to reclaim from error, and save the immortal soul from an endless death.
It was the issue of nontraditional marriage that led Pratt to plead for healthy, hearty dialog and reasoning between opposing viewpoints. Let us use the same issue today as an occasion to plead for the same.