Monday, October 13, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective

How has the Yes on 8 campaign affected Mormons?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints last weekend launched a massive drive in support of California Proposition 8 to take back the right of gays to marry in California. The above link points to a blog written by a lifelong Mormon and native Californian, and I strongly urge you to read for yourself. It is compelling and speaks in a more authentic voice than I possess.

In short, it claims that the single-minded pursuit, launched by the highest levels of the Mormon church, to take away the right of gays in California to marry is not only a threat to gays, but also a threat to the spirituality and cohesion of Mormons themselves, and has awakened ugly expressions of fear, pride, arrogance, triumphalism, intolerance, and division among its members. It has given too much prominence to the role of wealth in the Church and is an outlet for "feelings of shame, revulsion, disappointment, and failure in having gay children or family members".

Why in particular are Mormons, more than most, obsessed with gay marriage (funding 40% of the support for Prop. 8)? It may be that they place unique importance on marriage itself because, unlike Christians and atheists alike, a married Mormon couple stays together not just "til death do us part", but throughout all eternity. That is a long time to allow two men to stay married. Let me quote the LDS Apostle of the Lord, Elder Russell M. Nelson, sent out over the weekend:

A Temple Marriage...is the highest and most enduring type of marriage that our creator can offer to his children....Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory or exaltation.

This statement shows clearly what the Mormon First Presidency fears most: not same-sex marriage, but loss of the keys to the afterlife. To stay married after death , you need a Temple Marriage, for which you need a Temple Pass, issued only to those in "good standing", meaning i.a. that you pay your 10% title.

The Catholics had a good run with this scheme once upon a time: they sold Indulgences to bail your relatives out of Purgatory (and just in time to fund the construction of St. Peter's Basilica), but when superstition gave way to reason, and under threat (later honored) of schism, they yielded on this venal ploy.

This belief in the persistence of marriage beyond the grave gives Mormons more incentive than most to get the institution of marriage right and defend the privilege of their own view of who exactly can participate, and to this end they have raised over $8 million, dwarfing every other contribution by an order of magnitude, as well as order their flock to actively canvass our neighborhoods with the gentle-sounding scare tactics.

From this perspective, same-sex marriage is indeed a slippery slope, not to the fancifully farcical predictions of bestiality, incest, or polygamy (though I hear the Mormons know something of the last), but toward an end far more dangerous...

It is not gay marriage that Mormon leaders fear, but secular (i.e. non-Temple) marriage of otherwise well-meaning and good Mormons, which is a gateway sin to not tithing. The Mormon community is a cradle-to-grave fraternity, with no dissent tolerated. [I know more than one Catholic Archbishop that would love that loyalty and power!]

The Apostle goes on to say:

And some [marriages] are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options: they always breed misery.

He disappointingly fails to elaborate on the exact source of this misery. Had he done so, I could have stayed alert to avoid it. You see, I am a gay man, married to a man, and have never been happier. This misery which apparently awaits me, is taking its time to arrive.

Perhaps I would have been happier in a Platonic friendship (except I already tried that with a woman, which tormented her, then with a man, that tormented me). Perhaps I would have been happier sleeping around with random men (not really my style), or marry a woman (and watch helplessly while her self-esteem and youth erode before my eyes). Perhaps they think two men cannot live in one house, pay one mortgage and property taxes, grow old (and fat) together. I am living proof that they can. If this is the misery I am condemned to, count me in!

Proposition 8 is simple because the arguments themselves are vacuous. All content is in the axioms: is homosexuality innate, does Jesus' love trump St. Paul's homophobia, who suffers most if we are wrong?

Remember before you vote, that a yes vote might forcibly divorce me from my own husband, vacating my vows to be with him now and forever, and make the divorce rate go up! You will be undermining the successful and solemn marriage of another. Your hands will be dirty.

4 comments:

Dan Weston said...

A very interesting conversation (in which I have taken a large part) is taking place in the comment section of Mormon Extermination Order: Political Donor edition.

I encourage you to look through them for more Mormon v. Gay dialog. There is a surprisingly high light-to-heat ratio.

Scott said...

Thanks for the free advertising.

(Come now, Dan...would a public ruling really make you vacate your vows? Legally, perhaps...but would you actually vacate them? I sincerely hope not.)

Dan Weston said...

Scott,

I think you have misparsed the antipenultimate sentence of this blog entry. The actual grammatical subject was "[your] yes vote...vacating my vows".

I have no intention of renouncing them. I was raised far too Catholic to ever let anything come between me and my family.

Anyway, fear not. I am confident that the voters will see reason, equality will at last prevail, the vote will be no, and your hands will remain blissfully clean after all.

Scott said...

Fair enough.