How Americans View Mormonism


We spent an hour with Gary Lawrence last night. He was gracious enough to come up to visit our stake in Camarillo from his home in Orange County. Dr. Lawrence is an American opinion pollster who also happens to be a Latter-day Saint. He has been travelling around the church sharing the results of a poll he conducted in the spring of 2007 on American’s perception of Latter-day Saints in the United States.

He published a book in 2008 with the findings of his poll, How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image. Dr. Lawrence received a PhD in communications psychology from Stanford University in 1972. He said that of over twenty doctoral candidates in his group, he was the only LDS, Republican, conservative hawk among them. So he knows a little about being in the minority.

Lawrence Research

Now if you know anything about recent events in California, you’ll recognize that Gary’s business, Lawrence Research was the opinion polling company that was heavily involved in Proposition 8. Gary was also the state LDS grassroots director for the Protect Marriage coalition. Brother Lawrence, who has served as a bishop has spent over 35 years studying opinions and behaviors of the American public.

From the results of his survey, Dr. Lawrence maintains that the misconceptions, distortions, and untruths being told about Mormons have slowed the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that the average member is best positioned to turn things around. By the way, the name of his next book, due from Deseret Book later this year is “What Part of Our Name Don’t You Understand?”

Survey Results

For me, the most interesting result of the survey was that our perceived image is upside down. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable impression of Mormons. Only thirty-seven percent had a favorable impression. They say that we have weird beliefs and are secretive. Yet they also say we are good neighbors, hard workers, believe in clean living, have high moral standards and help others.

Lawrence said that thirty-seven percent of all Americans do not know a Mormon, and fifty-five percent of all Americans do not know an active Mormon. In fact, those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who do not know any Mormons. We are viewed unfavorably more than Jews or Baptists (3.5 to 1) and Catholics (2 to 1). Mormons, less than 1 to 1. That’s a terrible ratio.

Negative Image

Simple ignorance is often blamed for Mormonism’s negative image, but Gary also concludes that it is driven by fear — fear of a supposed political agenda, wealth, organizational ability, unwavering doctrine, and a unique vocabulary that is often misunderstood. He gave some wonderful examples but I’ll have to defer in sharing some of the better ones until I receive his book that I ordered from Deseret Book.

His book explains that individual members in their daily interactions with others are the key. In his presentation, which he has probably delivered dozens of times, he pointed out that friendly and natural conversations, the facts, simple claims, individual latitude, non-threatening invitations and gentle mentoring are the ways Mormons can combat distortions, improve our image, and spread the gospel.

Unique Vocabulary

A central claim of our church is that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Gary explained that this phrase is not well understood by those outside our faith. They equate the word restore as something you do to an old car or a piece of old furniture. He suggested that a better phrase to use would be: “We claim to be the re-established Christian Church.” I like that. It is simpler and easier to understand.

He even broke it down for us into three bite-sized pieces: 1) Christ organized a church. 2) Men changed it and 3) It has been brought back. Amazingly, 84 percent of Americans have had exposure to our church, yet only 14 percent can tell you that this is our main differentiating claim from other Christian churches. While people may not agree with our claim, we want and need them to understand it.

Meaning of Gospel

They can then decide for themselves how they will respond to that claim. But if they never get the real message, how can they make a legitimate choice? Naturally, some people will reject the gospel truth once it has been presented to them. And that’s another word that we use differently from the rest of Christianity. To us, the gospel means more than the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul.

Most Mormons equate gospel to mean the overarching plan of happiness that was presented in our pre-earth life. We have come to see the gospel as more than just a theology, but as a way of life, and that it encompasses all truth that we embrace. But in reality, the gospel is the good news of the doctrine of Christ, that all will be resurrected and that we can be forgiven of sins through repentance and ordinances.

Higher Education

That’s why we can say that the fullness of the gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon even though there are many additional doctrines we believe that are only found outside the Book or Mormon. In fact, some within our church have gone so far as to claim that obtaining a degree of higher education is a part of the gospel. Does that mean that early saints and prophets without a B.A. degree are not saved?

Of course not; that would be a ridiculous example. While we believe in continuing education and encourage our members to get all the education we can, an advanced degree is not a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. A high school diploma is not required. There is no requirement for any type of certified education to meet God’s conditions to enter into his kingdom; only obedience to his laws.

Mormon Scholars Testify

In our Mormon culture, besides placing great emphasis on education, we also hold those who have received advanced degrees and yet remained faithful in very high esteem. Dr. Lawrence has shared his testimony in greater detail on the website, Mormon Scholars Testify, which was created by another visitor to our stake, Dr. Daniel C. Petersen, speaking about BYU’s involvement in the Dead Sea scrolls.

My fellow blogger Steve Faux introduced me to the site a few years back when he was asked to share his thoughts and feelings about being a believing Mormon who teaches evolution at the University level. I have watched participation grow over the years until there are now more than 200 testimonies recorded there. Compare that to twenty being promoted on the opposing site Ex-Mormon scholars testify.

Opposition in All Things

One of our fundamental doctrines is that we believe there must be opposition in all things. I love the Internet for the very reason that it allows us to see the very best and the very worst of the extremes on just about any issue. I’m not a scholar and will probably never have an advanced degree, but I have come to appreciate both sides of the debate on controversial subjects I have written about over the years.

I can judge for myself when someone is presenting the truth in a distorted manner because I have been counseled over the years to study things out and come to my own conclusions about the truth of an issue. Some things can never be proven and will have to wait until the next life to determine who is right and who is wrong. That’s one of the purposes of life – to exercise faith and choose what we believe.

Choose What We Believe

I recommend you read the testimonies of Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Petersen, S. Faux and any others that you may recognize. They come from a variety of disciplines such as the Arts, Business, Management, Accounting, History, Religion, Social Science, Language, Literature, Law, Medicine, Psychology, Philosophy, Science, Mathematics and Engineering. Yes, Mormons believe in the value of education.

I hope this helps to dispel any misconceptions that Mormons are ignorant, closed-minded, brain-washed or uneducated. We do not follow our leaders blindly, nor do we worship our prophets, living or dead. But we do value loyalty and respect to those who we sustain as prophets and apostles. It is my testimony that they are leading us to Christ. I choose to follow their direction and counsel for my family.

For a great discussion of our image, or rather reputation, listen to what Michael Otterson had to say to Robert Millet on this episode of Mormon Identity on The Mormon Channel.

They will not go away


The outrage of the gay community over Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration illustrates that this issue of same-sex marriage is not going away. Apparently the radical gays hate conservative Christians like Rick Warren almost as much as they hate the Mormons who helped pass Proposition 8 in California last month.

The advocates of the GLBT lifestyle are becoming more vocal and the media has embraced their cause wholeheartedly. Their demands for full acceptance in our society grow more strident each day. Traditional Christian values of morality and marriage have become the current battleground in the fight between good and evil.

Many of those pushing the gay agenda have said that all they have to do is wait until those of my generation die out. They have made it clear in their online communications that they hate us because we are the only ones who stand in the way of letting them reach their goal. They want their sin declared acceptable.

Using the web to communicate

I find it very interesting that the gay community, which, according to the Family Research Institute is less than three percent of the population, is so angry with the Mormons, another group of individuals who are also less than three percent of the population of the U.S. Who will exert the greater influence in this ongoing battle?

It doesn’t take much digging to find those who support and encourage the efforts of the gays to achieve full recognition and acceptance. One of the most visible is Pam’s house blend. On there, you can find the writings of Chino Blanco, a former Mormon who has done an amazing job of documenting the recent Prop 8 battle.

I confess that I learned more about what was going on in the trenches of the campaign by reading Chino’s regular postings than I did from the official Prop 8 sources. It may not be a fair comparison, but I’ve got to give the man credit. He’s a diligent researcher and I wonder how he finds the time to write all that he does.

The Digital Network Army

But I’ll bet you don’t know much about those quietly working to sway public opinion in opposition to people like Chino Blanco. We are the Digital Network Army, a group of bloggers and others who actively write and comment in various online forums where we hope to clearly communicate our views to the public.

We met online last night at Rad Dad’s blog. I was amazed at the number of bloggers who showed up to say hello and discuss some of the difficulties of our online efforts to provide a clear voice in support of traditional marriage and family. We are also united in that most of us are recipients of comments from Chino Blanco.

Not all members of the DNA are Mormons. That’s a great thing. We are so pleased to work together with those who believe as we do that the traditional family is in need of our united efforts to uphold. This is an especially difficult task here in California where all three branches of the government are against us.

The word of living prophets

One of the arguments used by those who are in favor of homosexuality and gay marriage is that the Bible forbids a lot of things that we do not follow today. The great advantage that we have as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the word of modern prophets and apostles in addition to the Bible.

When the First Presidency sent the letter to all the bishops to be read in California congregations on June 29th, they did not have to explain why joining the campaign to pass proposition 8 was important and necessary. We have been taught clearly over the years that marriage was ordained of God to be between man and woman.

We have also been clearly taught that same-sex attraction is a temptation while homosexual behavior is a sin. That’s why one can be gay and be an active and faithful member of the LDS Church. For example, read the blog of Samantha, who blogs about her same sex attraction or that of Clint Martin, a gay Mormon blogger.

Making a choice

Just like in the world you will find all kinds of attitudes towards gay people, you will find the same thing in the church. There are those who are intolerant and bigoted in the extreme. Yes, bigot is the right word. Then there are those who know that some struggle with this attraction and are compassionate towards them.

Finally, there are those who are either gay themselves or who have gay family members. For them, this issue has become explosive in the past six months. They have been forced to decide on which side they are on – that of the world or that of the church. What used to be gray has become black and white. That can be hard.

Because of the church’s stand on the issue, some have chosen to leave the church. We are saddened that they do not feel accepted and loved here, but we honor their choice. Seeing the attacks by the more radical elements of the gay community, some of us had become more determined to stand up for traditional marriage.

Meet the DNA

Although I already have a number of them on my blog roll, I have tried to compile a more complete list of all those who participated in our meeting last night. Many of them asked to have their blogs highlighted and added to lists of other members. I have included links to many of the DNA member blogs at the end of this essay.

However, I just have to mention a couple that have done an outstanding job and should be visited by all. First is the Kingfisher column. Even with less than a month of activity, the blog has become the definitive source for information about the defense of traditional marriage and family. I thoroughly recommend it.

Another very active DNA blog is the Beetle Blogger. I’ve written about her before. There are less than three months of archives, yet there is a world of helpful information there to educate those who are serious about this issue. Like me, she has received some serious opposition in the comments from avowed enemies.

Summary and conclusion

I know from experience that there is no way that I can write about this topic without offending someone. It has happened on every previous essay on the subject. In some cases, the dialog was helpful in bringing me to a better understanding of things. In other cases, the comments were meant to hurt.

The title of this piece is meant to refer to the radical element of the gay movement. They are not going to go away because they are fighting for something that they want – full recognition and acceptance of a lifestyle that we believe God has repeatedly condemned and forbidden. In like manner, we of the DNA are not going away.

While I hope that the ongoing dialog on this subject both on this blog and on the blogs of other members of the DNA will be civil, I do not hesitate to affirm that we will continue to proclaim the words of modern prophets in this matter. We will not and we cannot change. A living God has confirmed this to leaders of His church.

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A limited selection of the DNA bloggers:

01. Kingfisher column
02. Beetle Blogger
03. Latter-day Commentary
04. Rad Dad
05. Pomegranate Apple
06. Akina’s for Prop 8
07. California Crusader
08. Pearl Diver
09. Secular Heretic
10. Article VI blog
11. Journalista Chronicle
12. Preserving Marriage
13. A Guy for Marriage
14. Make My Vote Count
15. Stand for Marriage
16. Keyser Causes
17. Busy With Conviction
18. Thinking the Wright Way
19. Wendy’s weblog
20. Rickety
21. Left Coast Conservative
22. Joy’s blog
23. Good Sense Politics
24. Dead Seriously

LDS Bloggers making a difference


There are now many more LDS bloggers who are actively expressing positive and interesting things about their faith and the LDS Church. This is a huge increase from this time last year. If we have learned anything in the last few years, it is that we are still not understood by the majority of the world. We need more LDS bloggers, actively writing and sharing our message.

I mentioned Seth Adam Smith last week, but once again, I am blown away by this talented LDS Blogger who creates videos that portray depth and meaning through beautiful music and imagery. Today’s video is on the Anasazi Foundation. It is about leaving things behind and moving forward. It is a sublime message. I recommend Seth’s work and look forward to more.

Bloggers who report LDS news

I wish I could tell you who does Mormon-Chronicles or what is the purpose of the blog, but it has consistently provided a source of LDS news articles that you won’t find in Mormon Times or other pro-LDS sources. Go through the archives. You may be surprised at some of the stories there. I know I missed a lot of them and I think I’m a pretty good LDS news junkie.

Are gays taking over Salt Lake City? Chris Bigelow seems to think so in his recent essay, More Prophesying about Salt Lake City. He references Newt Gingrich‘s recent article on Gay Fascism. That seems to go right along with what Brian Fitzpatrick had to say in Crouching fascism, hidden media. You can read more about this viewpoint in the Salt Lake weekly. Interesting stuff.

Positive LDS news in blogs

Another recent favorite for me is Beetle Blogger. She just started a few months ago but has already built up a regular following of readers and commenters. I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more good stuff on the Beetle Blog for a long time to come. Article VI blog continues to provide great coverage of the issues of religion in the political arena. Good stuff and well worth reading.

Although Guy Murray’s Messenger and Advocate has been around for years, I found his coverage of the proposition 8 campaign extremely insightful. If you are a regular reader of the Bloggernacle then you are probably familiar with his work. If not, check out his blog and join the discussion there. Ditto for Connor Boyack at Connor’s Conundrums. Lots of great essays there.

Plugs for some of my favorite sites

I’ve always enjoyed Rough Stone Rolling. The man knows how to write headlines. Today’s offering is “Mormon Times, Vampires and Underwear.” Another favorite blogger that started about when I did is Mormon Soprano. I think she is under-read and deserves more serious attention to essays like this: “A Rebuttal To: “Mormonism LEGALLY Declared Not Christian.”

For great discussion on doctrine that applies to spirituality, testimony and every-day living, check out Jared’s blog, LDS Alive in Christ. Sometimes it’s only me and Jared going back and forth but I have found that we think alike on so many things related to spiritual experiences. Another under-read blog is Richman Ramblings. Larry is the CEO of Evergreen International.

You are probably already familiar with Clean Cut out of San Antonio, Texas. His essays are always worth the time to read. He also gets good participation in comments. Of course, there is Bryce’s Temple Study blog. Sometimes he will get dozens of comments on an essay, other times, nary a peep, but they are all worth reading. I always learn new things about the temple there.

LDS group blogs vs. solo blogs

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any LDS group blogs. I confess that I stopped visiting them just about the time I started my own solo blog. I’ll still occasionally visit Steve Evans‘ group at By Common Consent or John Dehlin‘s Mormon Matters, but for the most part, I no longer spend much time on the group blogs. And what happened to Times and Seasons?

I have found that many of the essays and many of the commenters at the LDS group blogs just don’t think like I do. I confess that I am fairly conservative and tend to interpret the world around me though the lens of a lifetime of activity in and study of the doctrines of the LDS Church. So many of the essays on group blogs just seem to have a worldly liberal approach.

I know, it’s good to have multiple viewpoints of important political and social trends, but so many times when I try to engage in dialog on those group blogs, I find little support and much arguing about what I think are standard orthodox positions on doctrine and policy. I have great respect for fellow solo blogger Papa D, who has great talent in navigating the LDS group blog waters.

Summary and conclusion

The last few weeks have been difficult in the Blogosphere as there have been so many negative articles and essays about the aftermath of Proposition 8. Is it just me, or does it seem like the national media coverage of this has been very slanted towards the civil rights side of the issue? I read so little about the moral side. That message isn’t heard except in many of our LDS blogs.

Like Elder Ballard has said many times, we need to be the ones telling our story and defining what it is that we believe. I am grateful that Proposition 8 passed, just as I was when we worked so hard on Proposition 22. But the resultant national dialog has been, quite frankly, a world of difference compared to what it was eight years ago when we went through this same battle.

I remain convinced that more LDS people need to join the online dialog. We are just getting started. There is much work to be done. Just visit some of the blogs of those who opposed proposition 8 and read what they have written about us. They do not understand us and they have said so. Let’s give them more material, well written, well presented and shared widely.

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Update: Thanks to Dave Banack at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry on Beliefnet for linking to this essay. You may also be interested in reviewing my recent listing of the top ranked LDS blogs according to Alexa ratings. It breaks out solo blogs, group blogs and popular LDS websites.

The secular church


If you haven’t visited Seth Adam Smith, I encourage you to do so. I was introduced to his blog by Larry Richman a while back. Seth puts together videos that are simply amazing – so current and applicable. Check out this video he did with a 1978 BYU address from Neal A. Maxwell interspersed with stills of the protests at the Los Angeles temple. Talk about a prophet who was inspired and saw the events of our day! Thank you Seth.

And its numbers were few


One of the things that has often intrigued me as I have grown up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is how relatively few in number we are. I am not referring to the thirteen million on the rolls of the church but to those who regularly attend the temple and Saturday sessions of Stake Conference.

When I sit on the stand of Stake Conference and look out at the congregation, I think of the many members of the stake who could and should be there but are not. The scripture that comes to mind is found in 1 Nephi 14:12. It invokes a feeling that I imagine Nephi must have experienced as he recorded his vision of our day.

Nephi sees our day

“I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of wickedness and abominations…the saints of God, were upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions were small, because of wickedness.” I wonder if Nephi felt sadness as he recorded this. But then I am encouraged with the next verse:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”

We all can know for ourselves

I sit on the stand in Stake Conference not because I am in a priesthood leadership position but because Carol and I like to sing in the choir. They are the best seats. It allows me to see the reactions of the people as the spirit moves upon them during the songs and the addresses by those who speak under the influence of the spirit.

I keep thinking to myself that anybody can know for themselves that the LDS Church is the kingdom of God on the earth. We all have an equal opportunity to gain a personal witness of the spirit that what is taught in this church is the most important knowledge we can gain in this life. And yet, so few understand this.

The unconverted resign

Several web sites that oppose the work of the Lord have made a big deal out of the facts that so many are resigning from the church over Proposition 8. Even if you stretch the number to include all that wrote letters on Andrew Callahan’s Signing for Something, 500 people is a very small number, who had mostly already left.

Of course every soul is precious and it is concerning that they feel the need to resign in a public way, but in most cases, these were people who stopped coming to church a long time ago. They are just formalizing something that they had effectively already done in their minds – gave up their commitment to the church.

Opposition in all things

This last week has been tough as I have watched and read the accounts of those who have lost their jobs or have been otherwise attacked for having supported the proposition to preserve the definition of marriage here in California. We were also the recipient of one of those attacks. Gratefully, it did not turn into a loss of a job.

So many in our stake have been targeted and are on the published blacklists of those who now seek in hate to punish us. Our Stake President spoke about the opposition we have been witnessing, especially in connection with the temple. Fellow blogger S. Faux wrote an especially insightful essay on why this is so.

Proposition 8 exit polls

The Proposition 8 exit polls revealed some very interesting things that I already suspected. 82 percent of those who voted yes attend church at least once a week. 82% considered themselves Republicans. In addition, it was mostly those who were older – at least over 30 – who voted yes. Older Republican conservatives…

So the exit polls on this proposition revealed that religion or faith had a large part in the way people voted on this issue. I don’t think there’s any surprise there. That explains why there was such a dramatic polarization in the dialog leading up to this vote. It was basically the religious against the irreligious with little in common.

The dialog going forward

In connection with this point about dealing with opposition our Stake President quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith in section 123, verse 16: “You know, brethren, that a very large ship is benefited very much by a very small helm in the time of a storm, by being kept workways with the wind and the waves.” Hmmm…

He then taught us that workways means not to go directly against the wind and not to run the opposite with the wind, but to keep the ship at about a 90 degree angle from the point of the wind. So it does no good to go head to head with those who do not have the background of faith or a belief that it is God who defined marriage.

Prophets forewarned us

As only a Stake President could do, we were reminded of the importance of being prepared for what we see happening all about us in the economic chaos that is now becoming more evident. It was seven years ago last month that President Hinckley mentioned in General Conference about the seven years of plenty. Hmmm…

Connor Boyack has an intriguing essay over on Connor’s Conundrums about why the coming depression will be worse than what was experienced in the 1930’s. I wrote that his outlook painted a bleak and glum picture of what he sees happening. It is worth the read, including the many links to articles that support his viewpoint.

Catastrophes yet to come

While some of the points I have made may seem unconnected or unrelated, they are all receiving wide attention on the Internet blogs and forums lately. Several of the speakers in our Stake Conference mentioned that these are the signs of the times of the last days. It is becoming more and more obvious to the converted.

While the faithful and believing are small in numbers compared to the rest of the world, I remain convinced that coming catastrophic events will soften the hearts of the people and turn them to the Lord. Economic chaos is not the only kind of catastrophe that we will experience. We need to be familiar with the prophecies.

Summary and conclusion

For some reason, Saturday night always brings more hits on my essays about the signs of the times of the last days, especially Joel 2:31. It is encouraging that people are beginning to wake up and take seriously the idea that there may be something to all this talk about catastrophes and other coming events before the coming of the Lord.

In spite of the obvious increase of concern over the economic threats that face us, we can have peace as we look to the Lord, to the scriptures and to our priesthood leaders to help us understand the significance of these events. We will continue to invite the world to join with us in preparing for the approaching return of the Lord.

The fight for marriage gets ugly


A surreal feeling came over me as I watched the live helicopter shots. Facing east, the beautiful angel Moroni was lit by golden spotlights in the night sky. Beyond that the US and California flags fluttered lightly in the warm California breeze, also lit, always flying. How many times I have walked past that flagpole to and from the front door of the Los Angeles temple. Tonight, it was closed.

In the background of the shot was a crowd of angry people, climbing on the fence of the outer perimeter of the temple, waving flags and shouting slogans in front of the news cameras. Why were they so upset and what were they doing in front of the Temple? There were hundreds of them and they had just marched from West Hollywood, trying up traffic for many miles around.

Two days ago, the people of the state of California voted, for the second time in eight years, to affirm that marriage shall only be between a man and a woman. The contest was long and hard fought on both sides. It was also the most expensive political campaign ever fought outside of someone running for office. Immediately, the opposition filed three lawsuits protesting the win.

Taking it to the streets

One of the angry protestors was now in front of the camera, being interviewed, or rather, spewing out angry words. “We’re here in front of the Mormon temple because the Mormons have taken away our right to marry. They bought this election and took away our civil rights. We’re not going to stand for it. The people will rise up in revolt. Justice will prevail. Stop the hate!”

She continued, “Their leader, Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to all the Mormon congregations in California, directing them to send in their money and to do everything in their power to take away our right to marry. He can’t do that. This is a free country. This is an inalienable right. We’re going to march on every temple until the Mormons understand that they can’t do this.”

One protester carried a sign reading, “You have two wives. I want one husband.” As they had marched earlier down Santa Monica Boulevard, they chanted, “Mormons hate. Gays are great. No on 8. Stop the hate.” The rainbow banner, symbol of Gay pride, waved wildly. Some of the marchers jumped on top of cars, some were arrested. Some passer-bys threw eggs at the crowd.

Blog comments from unhappy gays

These people are not happy. They have been leaving comments on several of my blog essays dealing with the issue claiming that the General Authorities are liars when they claim that they do not oppose civil unions. They say the church paid millions for deceptive ads in support of proposition 8. They promise that we are just starting to see bad press that will only get worse.

“Get ready,” wrote one visitor. “We’re going after your MONEY. Starting with the University named after a polygamist.” He continued, “Seriously, we’ll be contacting every company recruiting there to ensure that they aren’t recruiting at BYU specifically to exclude Gay people.” Other visitors left the same comments, almost word for word. Did they plan a concerted attack?

Another wrote, “California is full of Gay ex-Mormons with universally hideous stories of their upbringing. Electroshock torture is one. Prop 8, a Mormon Amendment designed to abuse Gays, is simply a continuation of hatred of Gays by Mormons. Don’t whine as you get about 2 percent of the hatred you’ve spewed back at us. When Gays enjoy full civil rights, then we can talk.”

The civil dialog is gone

I have written at least a dozen essays on the subject of same-sex marriage over the last few months. It is my little contribution to the ongoing dialog about this difficult and emotional subject. Other than writing in my blog, I didn’t do much to promote proposition 8. Oh sure, I walked the precincts once and sent some money into the Yes on 8 campaign, but that’s about it.

It was my hope that by presenting essays that I believed were well thought out and by engaging others in intelligent and civil dialog, I could perhaps persuade a few people to understand our point of view. No matter how many times I wrote that we do not hate and that we are not out to take away civil rights, those who left comments refuted my claims and called me naïve or worse.

I suspect that my essays did little good other than to infuriate those who are opposed to the firm position of the church on this issue. No matter how many times I tried to make the point that we are blessed when we follow the prophet, I was told that I was blindly obedient to old men who are bigoted and racist. Since when did gays become a race? Oh, they were referring to blacks.

Equality is now redefined

One of my fellow bloggers, Dan from Arizona, where proposition 102 also won, reminded me of this quote from President Packer, “Some work through political, social, and legal channels to redefine morality and marriage into something unrestrained, unnatural, and forbidden. But they never can change the design which has governed human life and happiness from the beginning.”

“We do not set the standards, but we are commanded to teach them and maintain them. The standard remains abstinence before marriage and total fidelity in marriage. However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield.” He then talks about three abused words, tolerance, diversity and choice.

Well, there’s a new word that Elder Packer needs to add to his list: equality. To me, marriage is not a right, it is a privilege, defined and granted by God but recognized by society. It is a reward and a distinction to qualify for and be married. In our society, we recognize and reward marriage as being only between a man and a woman. But that’s not equality, we are now being told.

Summary and conclusion

As I watched the protesters being interviewed, I was struck by how angry they looked and how contorted their faces became as they shouted. They were through being nice, they said. You are now going to see the people rise up in revolt, they claimed. The time for talking and dialog is over and they are going to take what they want. The talk all seemed so full of hate and anger.

Many of my fellow bloggers have noted that the anger and hate seems to be coming from those who lost their battle. I am not the only one being visited by these people who leave comments claiming that we are now their enemies because we hurt them by taking away their rights. I am sorry that they feel this way but I wish they would not single out the Mormons in this matter.

We are not the only ones who fought to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. We are not the ones who began the initiative and we are not the only ones who contributed money to the campaign. The people have voted. The majority expressed their opinion and made their views known. If we accept the rule of law, marriage in California is only between a man and a woman.

Photo credit: ABC7 Los Angeles

Additional links:

1. KSL story and video
2. AP News – thousands protest
3. LA Times – includes video
4. KABC – LA – Video of protests
5. Get Religion – the evolving story
6. Photo essay at TJ Sullivan
7. Video links at Connor’s blog
8. Meridian – In the face of hatred

It’s not bigotry – it’s a moral issue


Apostles and prophets don’t need me to defend them. But I want to explore how I feel when I read others describe them as racist bigots. Those are two very hateful terms, yet they seem to be used freely these days in the ongoing dialog about the First Presidency letter of 29 June 2008.

In my simple mind, I define a racist to be someone who feels, believes or acts as if being born into a particular race provides an individual with inherent superiority over others not of that race. Racial discrimination is the act of denying basic rights to individuals based solely on their race.

A bigot, of course, is defined as a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. A bigot is also defined as one who regards or treats the members of a group – racial, ethnic or any other kind of group or class – with hatred and intolerance.

Proposition 8 is a moral issue

Some in the dialog about the letter of June 29th have defined the current opposition to same-sex marriage as bigotry. They have further argued that Prop 8 support is very similar to the policy of the church that excluded blacks from participating in the priesthood prior to the 1978 revelation.

While I have not yet written my own essay about the blacks and the priesthood, I have tried to make it clear that these two issues are not related. The exclusion of blacks from the priesthood was based on a policy. Our stand against same-sex marriage is based on morality, not policy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a religious obligation to raise its voice on issues that affect the moral fabric of society such as same sex marriage. To quote Lee Benson of the Deseret News, “Every third-grader knows that. It’s what churches do.” It’s a moral issue.

It is not bigotry – we do not hate

I don’t know why some have backed away from facing this issue head-on. Sure, Proposition 8 is about restoring or making clear the definition of marriage as originally intended, but let’s face it – we are involved as a church because we believe that homosexual behavior is wrong and a sin.

I believe that it’s way too late to attempt to persuade anyone reading this essay why we should support the First Presidency in what they have asked us to do here in California. Most members made up their mind long ago and have been participating to ensure the passage of the initiative.

I just want to be clear that this is not bigotry. There is no hatred involved. We are simply trying to defend what the Lord put into place long ago. I have written previously about the definition of tolerance. The Lord does not condone homosexual behavior. Tolerance does not mean condone.

Same-sex marriage is not a right

Some have commented on previous essays I have written on this subject by claiming that by supporting proposition 8, we are trying to take away the right to marry. I don’t see marriage as a right. To me, it is a privilege granted first by God and then recognized by society through laws.

True, the Supreme Court of the State of California in effect granted this right by overturning the law that the people voted into place in 2000 with Proposition 22. The vote on proposition 8 will ensure that it is the voice of the people that grant this right, not through a judicial review process.

As I have commented to others on this blog while dialoging about the subject, this vote will give us a clear indication how the people of the State of California really feel about homosexuality. If proposition 8 fails then it will be clear that the majority of society embraces same-sex marriage.

Honor and sustain the First Presidency

I hope that no matter what the outcome of the vote that we will be very careful about the way we write about the Lord’s anointed. Calling apostles and prophets bigots is just not something that a faithful member of the church would want to do, especially if we have covenanted not to do so.

These are men who epitomize the pure and unselfish love of the Savior to me. I was so very impressed with the recent conference address of Elder Robert D. Hales on Christian courage. We do not retaliate. We do not give in to hatred. We see opportunity in the midst of opposition.

The Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord.

Summary and conclusion

I know some who read this will disagree with what I have written. You may feel strongly that I am denying what you see as black and white. As one visitor wrote on a previous essay, “I don’t care what you call it. To me it is hate when you try to take away my rights. That’s bigotry.”

Try to see the bigger picture. We are a society of millions of people who see homosexuality and same-sex marriage in varying degrees of acceptance. Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a society in which we agree to be governed by laws and by a constitution that we have all voted on?

I honor and sustain the First Presidency as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate their courage in speaking out on this issue. I am so amazed at the results from one single letter. Their example in restraint is amazing when they are called evil for encouraging that which is good.

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Note: For the story on the picture, visit Messenger and Advocate

Interest in LDS church increases with criticism


When I was called into the Bishopric, I replaced a man whom I admire greatly. Peter Lassen is a humble follower of Jesus Christ who loves his family, his country and his church. He is a very successful businessman who manages a string of health food stores here in Ventura County. He has also become the target of an attack of hatred by those who are opposed to what he believes.

Because in the State of California all political contributions over $1,000 are recorded with the Secretary of State, anybody can view, download and do whatever they want with this public information. What they did was to write a scathing attack on this good man accusing him of hatred and bigotry because he did what a prophet asked him to do to support a good cause.

He was singled out because the contribution was large and because he is well known in the local area. I and 61,000 other people have also contributed of our means to this cause but we have not been singled out in such a public manner. The way the Lassen family has responded to this is remarkable. They have quietly gone about their business of providing good healthy products.

Christian courage: The price of discipleship

What would cause a man who has been so publicly attacked and threatened to respond in such a meek and quiet manner? Elder Hales taught about this very subject a week ago in the Sunday morning session of General Conference. He answered the question of why someone would want to attack us as we try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the counsel of a living prophet.

One of life’s greatest tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. The natural desire is to defend ourselves and to respond aggressively. The Savior Himself was despised and rejected of the world. In Lehi’s dream, those coming unto the Savior endured mocking and pointing fingers. They world hates the disciples of Christ because they are not of the world.

When followers of Christ turn the other cheek and resist feelings of anger, they stand with the Savior. When we show forth this kind of love, it answers our accusers without accusing them in return. We know that the great accuser is the adversary of the Savior and all his followers. It takes real Christian courage to answer our accusers in this manner. This is not weakness.

Opportunity in the midst of opposition

In 1983, President Kimball taught, “Opposition may be in itself an opportunity. Among the continuing challenges faced by our missionaries is a lack of interest in religious matters and in our message. These criticisms create…interest in the Church…This provides an opportunity [for members] to present the truth to those whose attention is thus directed toward us.”

Elder Hales noted ways that we can take advantage of these opportunities brought about by criticism: a kind letter to an editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging remark. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice. That certainly has been the case here.

I have been remarkably impressed by the efforts of so many who rallied around the Lassen family and added comments on each of the news stories wherever they were published. The positive comments were helpful and the response of the original author to those comments shows how small and close-minded they really are. Their real intent to disparage is very obvious.

Meekness is not weakness

When we respond to others, we must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. In this case, the dialog is about a tenet of our faith, that of following the prophet. The Savior has taught, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.” To be meek is to manifest patience and longsuffering: enduring injury without resentment. Meekness is not weakness.

My admiration for the Lassen family has increased tremendously. They are going about their business, trusting in the promise of the Lord that they will be blessed for following a prophet. They are wearing the badge of Christian courage well. By exhibiting such behavior we do not compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs. Quiet confidence speaks volumes of faith.

As true disciples of Christ, our primary concern is welfare for others, not personal vindication. I am confident that many opportunities to share their beliefs have arisen as customers continue to patronize their stores and seek Peter and other family members out to ask them how they are dealing with this criticism. Admiration and respect from the community will only increase.

Promote understanding and withhold judgment

We have been accused of lying about this issue at hand. All we can do is present our beliefs in what we feel about the sanctity of marriage and what we have been taught by the men whom we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. We can do nothing more than provide adequate sources of information. It is up to others to decide if they will read seriously, study and investigate.

At the same time, we do our utmost to avoid being unduly judgmental of the views of others. I think I understand why some feel so strongly opposed to our efforts to add this amendment to the constitution of the State of California. I have read their arguments. I do not agree with them but strive to be civil and respectful to those who hold them. We ask that they do the same for us.

The way that we have been attacked on this issue has caused many members of the church to reach out of their comfort zones and stand a little taller in defense of good people like the Lassen family. I am impressed with the humble comments on the newspaper and blog articles by so many members of our stake, especially by the youth with whom I serve in the singles ward.

Summary and conclusion

Sometimes true disciples of Christ must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all. Most of the Lassen family has decided on this course of action. I am amazed at their restraint. Elder Hales is right that contention can cause damage to the church that is already criticized by many as being not Christian. I am convinced that good will come out of this because of their example.

The conference address from Elder Hales on Christian Courage is extremely timely as we deal with this ongoing dialog about religious freedoms and civil rights. To those who have expressed that they are tired of these ongoing essays of mine on the subject, may I point out that this is a prime example that demonstrates the gospel in action – how to deal with unfair persecution.

I am convinced that people will want to know more about the Mormon Church as a result of the publicity we are receiving on this issue. Isn’t it amazing that with just a single letter back in June, tens of thousands of Mormons have contributed millions and millions of dollars to this? A people who are so willing give of their time and means like this must have some amazing faith.

California Prop 8 goes church-wide


Tonight all California Mormons have been invited to their Stake Centers to view a satellite broadcast from Salt Lake City on the subject of Proposition 8. Elders M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve and Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Seventy will address the doctrine of marriage and why the church is involved in the Protect Marriage Coalition.

However, the big news is that the Church is organizing and making arrangements for California student citizens at Institutes of Religion throughout the United States to assist with phone calls back to California voters. Although it does not appear that non-California citizens are being enlisted, it would seem logical that willing out-of-state members could be allowed to participate.

Yes on 8 ahead in the polls

For the first time since the polls began, likely voters in favor of proposition 8 have pulled ahead by about five points. This is reflected on both official websites for and against the proposition. The CBS/Survey USA released 6 Oct showed that Yes on 8 is leading by a margin of 47% Yes to 42% No. The 7 Oct Lake Research Partners poll shows Yes on 8 leading 47% Yes to 43% No.

Another amazing fact is that fund raising by Yes on 8 has exceeded the No on 8 by $10 million. Supporters of the initiative have raised $25.4 million, while opponents have raised $15.8 million. The number of contributors to the Yes on 8 campaign numbers over 61,000, the majority with small donations under $1,000. Some have estimated that LDS Members have contributed 43%.

New ads are effective

Although they have been dismissed by the opposition as being erroneous, absurd and full of lies, the new ads seem to be having an effect. Rather than embed them, which can be annoying (the embed, not the ads), I will just provide links here in case you haven’t seen them. This is what the financial contributions have been buying – short, to the point and hitting at the gut level.

Ad #1 – It’s already happened
Ad #2 – 4 Men in Black
Ad #3 – Whether you like it or not
Ad #4 – Finally the truth
Ad #5 – Everything to do with schools

Video – Robb and Robin’s story
Video – Why California needs Proposition 8

Summary and conclusion

Since the church asked us to give of our time and means to the coalition I have written a dozen articles on this subject, You can find them on my sidebar under “Essays on Marriage.” This has been an interesting journey for me. I recently changed my position about same-sex attraction. I used to believe that it was 100% choice. I now believe that some may indeed be born with it.

However, that doesn’t change my belief that homosexual behavior is a sin nor my position on same-sex marriage. Even if the Yes on 8 ads are misleading or overstating suppositions as facts, as the opposition claims, I am still convinced that we need to be involved in protecting traditional marriage. Prophets have asked us to take a stand and I am convinced they know a lot more about this than I do.

Update

The broadcast was well attended in our stake. The chapel was full, almost to overflowing. Besides great explanations of why we are involved in promoting proposition 8, they introduced a new website, PreservingMarriage.org. Elder Ballard was especially focused on helping our young people understand the need to get involved and to have the materials they would need.

Both of the videos on the new website were shown in the broadcast. They are excellent. I especially liked Elder Bednar’s discussions with the college age kids. They asked some great questions about how to answer their friends who may perceive our efforts as intolerant. I think this is the biggest complaint we get. I have written about that previously in this essay.

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YouTube links: Proposition 8 Questions and Answers:

1. Will same sex marriages hurt others?
2. Sick and tired of intolerance?
3. Are others supporting Prop 8?
4. Will courts overturn it again?
5. Didn’t we already vote on this?
6. Don’t others deserve the same happiness?
7. Will existing rights disappear?

Excommunication is just not worth it


I can’t think of anything that would be worth jeopardizing my standing in the LDS church, which I consider to be the kingdom of God on the earth. I value my membership too much. It means the world to me and provides me with benefits and blessings that I can receive in no other way. I don’t care how much I disagree with someone about some course of action, I would not risk it.

But then, I’m not Andrew Callahan. In case you aren’t aware of Flatlander’s actions, he is the man behind the anti-proposition 8 website, Signing for Something. I know that this is probably a waste of space and that I am just giving undue attention to Andrew, but I want to make a point. Apostasy is just never a good idea, no matter how passionately you feel about your cause.

I suspect it is too late for Andrew to change his course. He has made it abundantly clear that he wants to get excommunicated and he wants his case to draw public attention. Besides having the website created, he has made a couple of YouTube videos that explain his position and leave the church no choice really other than to grant him his desire. Does he realize what he is giving up?

Joining the ranks of the apostates

I know I am opening myself up to rude comments from the ex-Mormons and others who feel that Andrew is courageous for opposing the church on this issue. But I feel the desire to speak out on this as being something that is not worth giving up your membership in the church. Although I can’t verify his claim, like Andrew, I have served in Bishoprics and on a High Council.

If Andrew served for any length of time on the High Council, he would have been a participant in a disciplinary council where a former priesthood holder desired to re-obtain his membership in the church. I wish every member of the church could witness such a proceeding. Then again, I wish that disciplinary councils where church membership is removed never had to be held.

Maybe Andrew never witnessed such an event. If he had, he surely would not be pursuing the course of action that he has been involved in for the past few months. It would help if he could hear the brother who desires to return explain how he was deceived and how miserable he felt for kicking against the pricks, telling of the loss of so many blessings because of stubborn behavior.

Evidence of deception

In Andrew’s letter to a General Authority he stated that, “…in the not too distant future gay marriage will be the law of the land, and that sometime after that, the Church will offer the hand of full fellowship to practicing homosexuals.” I can’t believe that a man who has served in local leadership positions in the church could ever make such a statement about homosexual activity.

I’m sorry Andrew, but you just don’t get it. For someone to be a practicing homosexual means that what they are doing is contrary to the law of chastity. I know this is obvious but to make such a statement as you have is just plain ludicrous. The church will never change the law of chastity. There is no way that a practicing homosexual can be a member in full fellowship.

If you believe that will ever happen then you are very deceived in your thinking. What evidence can you provide that the church has ever indicated that the law of chastity will no longer be a requirement? Wait…are you using the argument that once gay marriage is legal then there is no breaking of the law of chastity involved because they are married? Surely you don’t believe that.

Laws of the land – laws of the Lord

Andrew makes the point that many have brought up in discussing this issue. He states that the church was wrong in denying the priesthood to blacks for so long and defines it as bigotry. He then claims that opposing marriage for homosexuals falls into the same category. I disagree. I still do not yet fully understand why we denied the priesthood to blacks but this issue is different.

The laws of the land have nothing to do with the laws of the Lord. I have written extensively about legislating morality and the importance of government but I can’t believe that the church is ever going to budge in any way toward the direction that Andrew is suggesting. The laws of the Lord do not change based on the way a few judges decide to overrule the voice of the people.

I realize that in the early days of the church there were apostles who gave up their membership because they felt so strongly about not giving up plural marriage. Some have reasoned that this issue is going to be similar to that. They claim that the church is going to come under pressure to change because we teach that homosexual relations are contrary to the law of the Lord.

The law of chastity is eternal

There are some who have struggled with the idea of plural marriage and the law of chastity being compatible. The Lord explained it clearly in section 132, specifically in verse 61. I know some do not accept it, but I have no problem with the idea of plural marriage being a holy and pure institution when it is authorized and commanded of God. But this essay is not about that subject.

My point is that the law of chastity is eternal. It will not change. It cannot change and the Lord cannot change it or he would cease to be God. The church will never change the law of chastity. This law states that sexual relations are only authorized between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully married. Civil marriage recognizing same-sex partners is not the same.

So just to state the obvious, those participating in same-sex marriage cannot be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Obeying the law of chastity is a requirement for membership in this church. Same-sex marriage does not qualify as marriage in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, he specifically commands that homosexual relations are a sin and an abomination.

Fighting against the Lord

Those who are opposed to gay marriage are called bigots, intolerant and many worse things. You can call us all kinds of names but in effect, you are fighting against the Lord and His ways. Marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God and cannot be defined in any other way. It never has been and it never will be. Any other arrangement is simply not a marriage.

This essay addresses those who are in support of Andrew’s activities in opposing the position of the church in support of proposition 8. You may argue that this is a political issue and that the church has no right to be involved in politics, but I am going to turn the tables and use one of your favorite phrases. This is a moral issue and you know deep down in your heart that it is.

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and are in favor of gay marriage then you are opposed to the work of the Lord. You are fighting against the Lord and his plan for the happiness of his children. The purpose of marriage between a man and a woman is to produce children and to provide them with a stable and secure environment in this world.

Summary and conclusion

This is a volatile issue. Emotions run high when people write about this subject. You may feel that I am totally wrong in the things I have written and I expect many of you will tell me so. It happens every time I write about it. I appreciate those who write with intelligent arguments and points of view. It is unfortunate that essays on this subject bring out the emotionally immature.

You are welcome to comment and disagree. I respect your opinion. I trust you will expect mine and refrain from personal attacks. I think what I have stated is in line with the teachings of the LDS Church. In particular, I doubt that I have gone out on a limb by stating that those who are part of a same-sex marriage can never be members of this church, unless they fully repent.

So is it worth it to be excommunicated over the issue? I guess if you place no value on your membership than you may think so. If you do not believe in the divinity of this church or in the inspiration of the leaders then you will probably have no problem. But if you have any thought that just maybe there might be some truth in this church, then please, please be very careful.

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