I am writing in response to the article on Mormonism and California's Proposition No. 8 (BW, Feature,"Prophets and Politics," Oct. 22, 2008). I do not have an in-depth examination of the article, but I do have a few scattered ideas to bring up with heavy reliance on my memories that date as far back as 10 years. To preface everything that follows, I am a 29-year-old man who was raised Mormon, the eldest of six children. I grew up in a suburb of Salt Lake City, where the "Vatican" of the Mormon Church is situated. When I was 19 or 20, I completely stopped believing in the LDS Church and Christianity; at 22 I officially resigned my membership (I still may be counted in their 13 million); at 24, I joined a gnostic religion.
When I read "Prophets and Politics," I felt the general outline of the LDS Church's beliefs were presented fairly. However, I don't think Rexburg should have been chosen to represent the whole of Mormon-dom. I don't know how it is in the hinterland of the Mormon-dominated areas, but in my hometown of West Valley City (a city of around 125,000 people), I had two acquaintances who had grown up in huge families. However, mine seems to have been the average Mormon family, but several families in my ward had three or four children. A co-worker and I were discussing family size seven years ago and she said that she and her husband had decided three was enough; it not only "replenished" the two parents, but also "increased" it by one. I don't believe the reference to families of 13 or 16 children accurately reflects the realities of the average American Mormon family. Mormons aren't all a bunch of Duggar families (the Duggar family, for the record, is Christian). Outside of America, I have no idea what Mormon family sizes are like.
About the Mormon persecution: I believe that Joseph Smith Jr., in his actions and speech, instigated the persecution onto his followers needlessly. As an example, at the culmination of the Mormon War in 1838, Sidney Rigdon, an important Mormon leader of the time, called for "extermination" several months before Gov. Lilburn Boggs famously issued his own extermination order. Further, I agree with others' analysis (see Sunstone or Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought) that many Mormons suffer from a persecution complex, that merely hearing negative things about their religion seems to equate to actual persecution. If historical evidence shows that the Catholic Church began the Inquisition—yes, it was shameful for them—they should be honorable humans and have the fortitude to say, "Yes, as a Catholic, I am ashamed that my Church did this in the past, but they and I can be better than that, today and in the future, so as not to repeat this horror."
Everybody likes to point to Wyoming and the death of Matthew Shepard as evidence of the West's backwardness. I don't think Wyoming should be taken the de facto for the entire West. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. The more urban an area, the more liberal it seems to be. Even so, one of my friends from Texas believes that Wyoming is a bit more open toward homosexuality than Texas has yet to become. Are there any other Texans who can yea or nay this?
At some point, I was going to make a remark regarding past measures to legalize gay marriage or gay civil unions or whatever. I remember in a period of intense research into the validity of Mormonism as a religious influence in my life, I became increasingly enraged by how much money the LDS corporate church had flooded into campaigns in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Oregon (these are the only states that I specifically remember being cited). Presently, I think it's ridiculous for religious organizations to be spending so much money on, particularly, measures like this proposition and, generally, on any political campaign.
What is the moral issue (regarding Proposition 8 and gay marriage)? If you believe that God did destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps you should be fearful of what could happen in a city near you. But, a fearful man is not a moral man.
What is the "right behavior"; what is "moral"? To warn you, what I say next is from my theology. Humanity has the capacity to become equal to God. To love another is good. If two adults love each other such that they believe they need to be joined and validated by the government, I don't believe that any problem exists.
The last statement in the previous paragraph is my main concern with all these amendments to states' constitutions/charters. Why do we want governmental recognition? Is it purely to secure all the mundane, material, mortal minutiae for or from your significant other? Is that what so-called marriage is? Love, according to one book put out by a Unitarian-Universalist author, hasn't been the only factor for men and women getting married. Political power or money have been stronger forces in many marriages, maybe to a lesser degree now. I don't believe that money or political power should figure into marriage. If two adults love each other to such a degree that they want to be together for the rest of their lives, let them be together. If vows of some sort matter as a symbol of their love, make them. If these individuals as a couple want to raise children, love these young ones whole-heartedly. Personally, I believe that there should be a mother and a father to raise children, but that doesn't prevent two men or two women from loving at an equal level. There are plenty of children desirous of attention and love; the state is too steely and mechanical a machination to give true emotional and nurturing support to a child.
Finally, some last thoughts. I agree with the statement that "gay people are just people." Also, I think that it is naive to think that "straight Mormons" are "monolithic." It may seem that way, especially in historically Mormon-dominated areas. I am happy to hear about the bishop who did not excommunicate Christopher Jones. I don't believe that the Mormon Church will ever do gay temple marriages, as one gay Mormon co-worker told me once. But he is free to hope. Ladies, lesbians, and gay gentlemen, come out of the Christian cupboard, there's no Biblical support to give you room there; see what happened at Gomorrah and Sodom.
Jonathan B. Kirk is a Boise State student working toward a teaching certificate. He enjoys speaking French, studying linguistics, thinking about social issues, reading and writing.