Guest Post: Turnabout and Fair Play

The following is submitted by M* reader jimbob.

jimbob is a happily married father of two disturbingly good-looking boys.  He likes the movie “Condorman” and fancies himself a connoisseur of fine jellos.

During and after the political melee that was Prop. 8, I read several posts in the bloggernacle from faithful members who wanted to be clear that they could be members in good standing while arguing with the Church’s position on that referendum.  In essence, the argument was that one can oppose the Church’s stance on this divisive issue–sometimes vociferously–while still qualifying for a temple recommend.

I found myself wondering this week if Bro. Otterson’s announcement on Monday (concerning the Church’s support for anti-discrimination laws for gays and lesbians) presents a similar problem for the bloggernacle.  In particular, I’m wondering if someone who disagrees with the Church’s stance on these anti-discrimination ordinances and who might argue vociferously against them can still be seen to be supporting the Brethren.  More to the point, should or can we expect faithful Prop. 8 supporters to avoid the same rhetoric used a year ago to criticize them–that believing members who oppose the Church on these anti-discrimination measures are effectively opposing the will of God?

I want to be clear that this isn’t a criticism from me of the anti-discrimination ordinances or the Church’s stand thereon.  To the extent it’s useful, I’m generally in favor of such acts.  Moreover, I’m not looking for any sort of justification as to why it’s okay to support Prop. 8 and not anti-discrimination ordinances, or vice-versa.  Instead, I’m wondering if this principal that you can support the Brethren while disagreeing with them politically is applicable regardless of your politics, or if both sides have just been using it as a convenient fiction.

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Turnabout and Fair Play

  1. Jimbob, I am reading Greg Prince’s biography of David O McKay. One of the things that comes across pretty clearly in that biography is that Pres. McKay was a big fan of letting Church members govern themselves. There were many other GAs who wanted to ex outspoken “liberal” critics of the Church, and Pres. McKay consistently squelched those attempts. I think the same thing applies today but perhaps even more so because communications are so much more fluid and public. So, there is room for people to express differences and question. Obviously, there is a point where “questioning” can be taken too far into opposition, and personally I have no idea where that line is. It is probably a different line for every person in every situation.

    My personal position is to support the Brethren as much as I can. Lucky for me, the Brethren’s position (as far as I understand it) is usually something I agree with, so it is easier for me. I don’t know what I would do if the Brethren came out with a position with which I strongly disagreed. I like to think I would try to bring my own position in line with theirs. Obedience is an important principle, imho.

  2. I will always appreciate the thoughtful approach Julie M. Smith took on Prop 8 over at Times and Seasons, even though the Church’s position was in opposition to her own personal position on the issue.

    Moral and social issues that get wrapped-up in political arguments are always difficult to navigate, even in our Church. We are a Church filled with people from varied and diverse backgrounds and experiences. It is likely that we will not always find agreement on these issues. And, shocking though it may be, some people will voice opposition on these political issues, even opposing the Church’s position. The Church does not dictate how we must vote or for whom we must vote. We are free to choose for ourselves.

    Like Geoff, I choose to support the Brethren and have not found any issues with which I find myself in disagreement. If I find reason to disagree or question, I can always take these issues up with the Lord and He can answer my questions. ;-)

  3. I think individuals should pick their own political positions based on any number of reasons. The Church’s support for the SLC law was easier for me because I already agreed with it. Prop 8 was much more difficult because it is not a position that I automatically would have taken. My problem is not with conservatives who disagree with the SLC ordinance, but those conservatives who disagree with it and who also villify any liberal that does not fall in line with their visions of appropriate theological and political belief.

  4. jimbob,
    I think it depends on the person’s rhetoric. A faithful member can certainly be opposed to Salt Lake’s anti-discrimination legislation, just like a faithful member can be opposed to (or support? it’s good I wasn’t a California voter at the time, because I could never remember which way Prop. 8 cut) Proposition 8. For me, the line is crossed when bad motives are imputed to Church leadership. (What leaps to mind is the conservative cries from Utah that Church leadership was violative of the 12th AoF because undocumented immigrants could go to the temple, hold a recommend, etc. Of course, if you’re politically conservative, I’m sure that some liberals have sounded the same complaints, in the same ways, about other Church policies.) Frankly, I think accusing the leadership (by a member, at least) of violating this or that commandment because of the Church’s stand on a political issue is both dumb and wrong, but taking a political position against that of the Church should be fine.

  5. Thanks, Geoff and Brian. I agree with both your analyses. I think there’s a lot of room for disagreement on several types of politics under our doctrine.

    Chris’s point brings to a head a lot of what I was trying to get at in the OP, though in the inverse. Obviously, many Prop 8 supporters were “villified” for not supporting the Brethren (regrettably in my opinion). My question stemming from that is if we can or should expect those exact same people who were villified to not use this same tactic themselves as they encounter members who disagree with the Church on its support of non-discrimination measures.

    I bring this up because I think it’s a really tempting argument for both sides. What active member wouldn’t want the Church’s imprimatur on their already-held political beliefs? But in this case, I think both sides are in serious danger of becoming hypocritical. Those in favor of the non-discrimination ordinances might argue that members opposing them are out of touch with the Church, ignoring the fact that those same arguments were used against them a year ago. And those against the non-discrimination ordinances might now argue that you can dissent from the Church’s political stance and still be a good member, ignoring the fact that they rejected this argument a year ago in Prop 8. Of course, at some level this dichotomy is a straw man, since I’m not pointing to a concrete example, but I think the risk of intellectual dishonesty is high here for both sides.

  6. I think the Prop 8 battle and the more recent law in Salt lake should be a good reminder that we all probably have minor issues with something the Church has done politically. A neighbor of mine that made sure to tell me how wrong I was to support gay marriage is now beside himself over the position the Church has taken in Salt Lake. I had a Grandmother who was quick to support any statement that could be viewed as anti civil rights in the 50s and 60s, but thought the Prophet was making a mistake with the 1978 revelation.

    I’m much more comfortable telling myself that sometimes I just won’t agree 100% with the Church, whether it means I need to wait for them to change, or that I need to look at myself and wonder what changes need to be made.

    I do think it’s easier as a progressive to make that decision, the Utah conservatives on the other side of this issue probably aren’t used to talking about how the church is on the wrong side of a position. My before-mentioned neighbor had a really hard time trying to explain to me why the Church was so wrong without coming out and saying “The Church is wrong”.

  7. I think there is probably a valuable distinction to be made between using the tables-are-now-turned attitude as a battle axe to be thrown out of vindictiveness and simply getting a chuckle out of the irony of the situation. Any time a person equates a political philosophy with the gospel, there is a possibility that they will find themselves out of harmony with the latest message coming from the COB.

  8. Great points, jjohnsen and Scott B. I worked with someone who felt that President Benson’s call to prophet was a validation of his conservative political philosophy and closely tied his testimony to President Benson. I cautioned this co-worker on pinning his testimony to any one man and further cautioned him on claiming any divine confirmation of his politics. My friend was beside himself when President Benson passed away without converting the saints to Republican voters and proclaiming God a Republican.

  9. Oh, and the fact that jimbob like Condorman means he is a man of infinite taste, and should be applauded.

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