What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Diogioscuro
The internet has been aflame in the past couple of days with the news of a new letter from the First Presidency of the LDS church that is to be read in all California congregations this Sunday (PDF download of letter). The focus and conclusion of the letter reads:
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.
Prophetic political involvement is not easily accepted by some—especially (and obviously) those who have an opposing viewpoint. People who consider themselves wiser than prophets, seers, and revelators have declared (and surely many more will likewise declare) their opposition to the letter and its intended purpose.
Take Affirmation, for example. Three days after Thomas S. Monson was named as the president of the Church, the gay/lesbian group requested a meeting to begin opening up a dialogue. Fast forward a couple months to when the California Supreme Court issued its ruling, reversing the result of Proposition 22, passed in 2000. Affirmation offered their counsel to God’s servants, asking them to keep their mouths shut.
Their letter to the prophet asks that Church leaders not “use their energies and their funds” in the fight against the ruling. Perhaps not ironically, the First Presidency’s letter contains strikingly similar wording, encouraging individual members to use their own means (funds) and time (energies).
Now that the letter has been issued, Affirmation is throwing a fit. In a statement issued by their Executive Committee, the Executive Director states:
We are deeply dismayed that the Church ignored our request that they not meddle in California politics. This initiative will hurt so many people. Without marriage, a couple who have been together 30 years could be torn apart at the doorway to the emergency room.
Is the example the director provides the best he can do in illustrating why gays should be afforded the same marital rights under the law? I’m all in favor of allowing an individual to determine who can be admitted to the ER should anything happen, but such an infrequent experience hardly lends emotional and logical support to their request to marry. Civil unions and their legal recognition is one thing; redefining marriage is altogether different.
The statement continues, showing the authors’ fundamental misunderstanding of Constitutional rights:
As Mormons, we believe that respect for civil law and acknowledgment of individual freedoms is sacred. The California law affects civil marriage; it has no effect on any religious institution or religious official. To seek to revoke these basic protections in the name of God denies the fundamental freedoms on which our country was built. Constitutional law has always been about protecting civil and religious freedoms, not the denial of those freedoms.
Individual freedoms are subject to the whim of government policy. Without the Bill of Rights, the freedom of religion would not exist as we know it. While we may have the right to practice our religion as we see fit, and the agency to do as we please regardless of the law, freedoms are subject to the dictates and provisions of established authority. The authors, like the California Supreme Court judges who turned down Prop. 22, mistake marriage for a fundamental (and Constitutional) right entitled to all. Being a government-sponsored entity, marriage is subject to the dictates of government (and its employers, the people). Thus, its definition is determined not by some arbitrary reference to “freedom”, but instead by the vote of the people.
Ideally, government should have no role in marriage whatsoever. People should be able to live with whom they please, and churches wishing to give religious sanction to such a union should be permitted to do so. Historically, government became involved in the marriage business primarily to subsidize and encourage marital and family relationships where the propagation of posterity would be of benefit to society. The majority of voters feel that homosexual relationships do not afford such a positive atmosphere for raising a moral and virtuous people, and thus they have repeatedly rejected it at the polls.
Affirmation also published this letter by one Jeffrey S. Nielsen, an advocate of same-sex marriage who claims to be a member of the Church. His words are likewise inaccurate, wherein he states that abolishing same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment would be “legalized discrimination”. Nielsen fails to understand the role of government, apparently thinking that some form of homogeneous equality should be enjoyed by all. He feels that by disallowing homosexuals to marry, that they are being unduly discriminated against. But is the discrimination unjust when government decides to deny certain rights and rewards based upon one’s decision to enter a homosexual union? If I decide to purchase a vehicle that is not “street legal”, is the government discriminating against me when it refuses to allow me a license? If I desire to construct an edifice and ignore the city’s building codes, is it unjust discrimination when the government refuses to allow me to rent it out? Actions necessarily imply consequences, and to label an undesired result discrimination shows a lack of understanding regarding government’s role and responsibility.
Some advocates of same-sex marriage claim that it’s just “a matter of time” until the Church “wakes up”, pointing to its 1978 revelation regarding blacks and the priesthood as support for the hope that one day its policy regarding homosexuality will likewise change. To such people I say: don’t hold your breath.
Being from California myself, I have an idea of how fierce the debate will be in the coming months. Both sides are preparing for an all-out battle, and the war is just now in its infancy. The will of the people was summarily reversed by the Court, and now the people are preparing to fight back with the ultimate and only remaining weapon available to them: a constitutional amendment.
The Church has chosen sides, drawn a line, and issued a rallying cry. Prophets, seers, and revelators have asked for your support in passing the amendment and assuring that marriage remains a heterosexual union. Critics will rage, homosexuals will complain, and people the world over will watch with curiosity and concern as the events unfold.
Which side will you join?
Recently, President Eyring spoke of prophetic counsel and how it should be received. His words directly apply to the letter he just signed:
Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. That ground becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late. (Henry B. Eyring, via Quoty)
To Affirmation and other opponents of the amendment, the First Presidency’s letter does indeed seem foolish, as Eyring noted. Like Noah’s contemporaries, however, those rejecting and opposing our prophet’s clarion call will eventually come to realize their error, and as Pres. Eyring wrote, for some it will be too late.