Mormon Homophobia: Up Close and Personal
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
I recently wrote about the PR nightmare facing the Mormon Church as a result of the prominent role it played this year promoting Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage in California. At the urging of church leaders, Mormons spent about $20 million on the effort, which probably provided the margin that enabled the measure to pass.
There is some irony in the fact that Mormon pollster Gary Lawrence, who led the Proposition 8 grassroots campaign for the church in California, has a gay son, Matthew, who publicly resigned from the church to protest its anti-gay campaign. Matthew says that after his father's participation in "two anti-gay initiatives in eight years, it's impossible not to feel attacked."
Adding to the irony, Gary Lawrence has a new book out, titled How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image. His advice to Mormons who want to be better liked is, " Simply be yourself" -- advice that drew a sharp response from one blogger, who pointed out that being yourself " is a poor prescription for winning friends when 'who you are' is someone willing to lead a campaign to strip your own child of his civil rights."
The anti-Mormon backlash continues, and some people who have Mormon friends are rising to their defense, including Kaliya Hamlin (also known as "Identity Woman" for her work on issues related to online identity). In a recent blog post, Hamlin complains that "Web mobs" are engaged in "blacklisting and subsequent public harassment and targeting of specific people and specific religious groups for their beliefs and support of 'Yes on Prop. 8.' " She continues:
I take this personally, I have and do work with people who are Mormon -- when I played water polo in university and in the Identity field). I respect the LDS church and the people in it -- they have good values. ...
I think what is going on with the blacklists that are directly targeting people in their private life is wrong. I think targeting specific religious institutions for protest is wrong.
These people and these religious institutions are not propagating HATE, they are just not agreeing that marriage can be between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. This is a cultural difference of opinion.
With all due respect, I think Hamlin fails to understand the intensity, seriousness, and yes, hatred underlying Mormon opposition to gay rights. I actually have more personal experience with Mormons than she does. I was raised in a Mormon family and even served a two-year Mormon mission in Japan, from 1976 to 1978. Although I no longer believe in or practice its teachings, my extended family includes many active members. It's true that individual Mormons are mostly nice people -- as generous, thoughtful, intelligent and considerate as people from any other religion or belief system. Unfortunately, it is actually possible to possess all of those positive attributes and still promote hatred and intolerance.
From my missionary days, I still own a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness, a book by Spencer W. Kimball, who was president (and "prophet") of the Mormon Church from 1973 until his death in 1985. The church still promotes Kimball's book and supports its beliefs regarding homosexuality, which he outlined in a chapter titled "Crime Against Nature." It states:
Homosexuality is an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it, as well as to many past offenders who are seeking a way out of its clutches. It is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved in it, it is discussed in this chapter. ...