Back in my Mormon Matters days, Stephen Marsh an excellent post on helping people be comfortable in Church. Amongst other examples, he used the example of homosexuality. He also recommended John Dehlin’s (at the time recent) post that asked “what can we do to reduce suicide amongst people with a natural same sex attraction who grow up in the LDS culture?”
These are important questions. I agree with Stephen’s sentiment that the first round of answers aren’t likely to be what we end up with. Despite protests to the contrary, I think it’s obvious the LDS Church is trying their best here within their doctrinal framework and that with time better solutions will be found.
One poster who has a homosexual son made an interesting comment that sparked a question in my mind. They said:
My wife and I have felt increasingly uncomfortable at church the past two months. It is not unexpected because of we live in California with our gay son and we listen to weekly admonitions re: prop 8. An anti-prop 8 TV ad has been running the last few weeks. It references a woman unsuccessfully trying to marry her fiance. Various things at the wedding ceremony make it so the wedding does not happen. It closes with a comment something like “What if you could not marry the one you love?
With that, a sister in our ward stood up in gospel doctrine (the class I teach) during the weekly prop 8 request for action and talked about the “subtle, deceitful people” doing “that TV ad”. She added that “we need to remember what they are really all about.”
The poster went on to say that his wife was going to do a lesson on ministering “to the one” and discussion her own experience as the mother of a gay LDS son during the prop 8 campaign. If handled right, this could be a real boon to that ward in opening up their eyes to the diversity of people and beliefs in their own ward. If handled poorly, this could be something akin to anti-global warming advocates crashing a green peace meeting.
But his comment did make me ask myself another question that I think are every bit as important as the ones he posed.
How would this poster have this ward handle things differently to make him comfortable in Church?
To me, this is the essence of the question. At issues here, at least in the specific example used, is not gay bashing or some other form of hate speech. The only example given was of someone who was in favor of prop 8 talking to a group of people that, for the most part were also in favor of prop 8, attacking an ad that they felt deceptively framed the issues of gay marriage.
I hope we can all agree on these points:
- The LDS Church has every right to define what is and isn’t a sin based on their interpretation of scripture. This is religious freedom.
- This took place in California in the USA where we have a democracy and we work out our divisive issues via voting. That democratic process is being rigorously and legally followed.
- The person speaking against the ad in question, as well as everyone in that room, has the right to support or not support prop 8 if they want to.
- The person speaking against the ad in question is speaking their opinions at the Church of their choosing, where it’s known that the Church leaders have come out in favor of prop 8 and is encouraging members to vote in favor of it.
- There is nothing happening illegally here and there is no legal violation of separation of church and state taking place.
- These people have every right to disagree with the ad in question. The ad is only one possible point of view and, from an LDS point of view, it is deceptively framing the issues of gay marriage by treating it as a right instead of a three way public contract that all parties need to willingly enter into, which is generally how an LDS person would tend to think of marriage.  (If you are not familiar with the concept of marriage as a contract instead of a right, see this post here for a brief description of the concept.)
Given that we do not wish to infringe upon these people’s rights to worship freely or express their valid opinions freely, how could it have been handled better?
If we assume that the people in this ward would love to handle an issue like this as sensitively as possible — or at a minimum, if we would all like to handle this issue as sensitively as possible — what would have been a more appropriate way to have expressed their legitimate concerns over this gay marriage ad? How could it have been done as non-offensively as possible without infringing upon their freedom of worship and freedom of speech?
Also, there are many legitimate points of view about how marriage should or shouldn’t be defined. The purpose of this post is not to address all valid opinion, but to recognize simply that the ad did present only a single possible view.
Rules for discussion:
Due to the fact that the bloggernacle had gone over many many times the pros and cons and moral ramifications of the LDS Church’s stance on homosexuality, I do not wish to see this turned into such a discussion. If you post here, we are starting with an understanding that the members of the Church do have a legal right to hold their opinions and that they can and should vote their conscience.
Given that assumption, the following types of comments will be deleted:
- Any discussion about how holding their religious beliefs are hurting others and so they should change their religious beliefs. We’ve already discussed this ad nausem and it will derail this plea for honest suggestions on how it could have been handled better without infringing upon their rights. For the sake of this discussion, I am trying to concentrate on the reality that such a religious change isn’t happening in the foreseeable future and yet we all still need to get along.
- Any discussion about how we should change the concept of “separation of church and state” from what it is today to rule out religious people voting their conscience if informed by religious principles. Besides being impossible, this would also derail the conversation about how things could have been handled better.
 I fully understand that a three way contract concept of marriage does not rule out the possibility of gay marriage by any means. At issues is that this ad has much to disagree with based on the description the poster gave. It is one legitimate opinion out of many possible legitimate opinions.