Are Mormons the Most Homophobic People on Earth?

Talking about Mormonism and homosexuality is kind of like smoking at a gas station:  Everyone knows it’s a bad idea, but there is always some knucklehead willing to do it.  Tonight, I’m the knucklehead.

Before we wade into the specific issues that are likely to explode in my face, I think it is fair to ask a question:  What is the role of a church in a community?  More specifically, should a church strive to reflect the prevailing values of the community, making itself as inclusive and inoffensive as possible, or should a church define what it believes to be morally right and then work to encourage its followers and society as a whole to conform to this standard?

This isn’t a new question.  Moses and Aaron took different sides of the debate when leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  Aaron leaned towards pacifying the people, even if it meant compromising his standards, in part because he placed a premium on keeping people unified through accommodation.  The result was a very popular golden calf.  Moses, on the other hand, set religious and civil laws literally in stone, and he expected his people to follow them.  He believed that his job was to lift people to a higher standard, not just get them across the desert.  Moses didn’t always do so well in the polls.

Modern Christianity, in my view, is divided between the Aaron-types and the Moses-types.  If you’re an Aaron kind of guy (or gal), then you probably will never agree with the LDS Church’s position on homosexuality…or its position on virtually anything else.

Here’s the upshot:  The LDS Church is opposed to homosexual relationships.  The Church teaches that homosexual activity is morally unacceptable.  But the Church doesn’t single out homosexuality for any particular condemnation.  The Church teaches that a whole host of things are morally wrong:  Adultery, sex before marriage, pornography, immodest dress, gambling, profanity, violence….it’s really quite a list.  For crying out loud, we don’t even drink coffee.  The Church’s position on all of these issues is essentially the same:  We believe that society is best served when it brings itself in harmony with God’s commandments, as opposed to demanding that God realign His expectations to fit our preferences.

I can feel the eyes rolling already, and I get it.  Our society currently ranks tolerance and accommodation very high in the pantheon of virtues.  That being the case, any church that has clearly defined expectations of behavior is going to be seen as backwards, judgmental, or dangerous.  A fair number of Christians, including Catholics and evangelicals, find themselves sharing the same boat with the Mormons when it comes to traditional values.

Do Mormons recognize that we are out of sync and unpopular on these issues?  Sure.  But we’re a Moses kind of church, and aren’t inclined to apologize for it.  We believe that the road to salvation is defined by faith in Christ and conformity with His commandments.  We believe in traditional moral values.  We believe that sexual relationships are something sacred, a divine gift by which we share in the unique creative power of God, and we believe that such power only should be used within the bounds that God has defined.  Those beliefs dictate certain positions on a host of issues dealing with human sexuality. 

That said, the position of the LDS Church on homosexuality is a unique lightening rod, and not without reason. 

One reason is political.  As proponents of GLBT rights have been more successful in garnering public support for their agenda, they have gained not only political momentum, but also increased media coverage and sympathy.  This puts more scrutiny on everyone who has an opinion on issues related to the movement and sharpens the debate.  As a result, the LDS Church’s position on Proposition 8 in California generated incredible media attention (and criticism) because it highlighted a difference of opinion.  Everybody stops to look at a fight.  On the other hand, the Church’s support of an Salt Lake City statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation led to far less fanfare.  People like to stir up controversy, and the result is that folks on both sides of the issue get louder and more caustic in their comments.  It is unbecoming of all of us.

Another reason is social or scientific.  Debate rages as to whether a person’s sexual orientation is a matter of choice, genetic determination, or some mixture of the two.  That raises the question of whether any church is “right” in opposing conduct that might be motivated by genetics.  My personal view is that what sets humankind apart from the animals is our agency, our ability to choose our behavior despite what our “natural” inclinations might be.  I’m certain, for instance, that I have a genetic disposition to certain bad behaviors.  But I also believe that I have the ability to choose how to respond to those inclinations.  I think the LDS Church recognizes that there may be some in-born proclivities towards some matters of sexuality, and that is reflected in its position that homosexual feelings or inclinations will not affect a person’s position in the Church, although homosexual acts do.  By the same token, my tendency towards anger isn’t going to keep me out of the temple, but smacking my bishop upside the head is another matter.

A third reason has to do with unfortunate things said by individual members of the  Church.  I’ve said it in several posts before, and I’m sure I will say it several times in the future:  There is no intelligence test when you join the LDS Church.  We have our fair share of people who say foolish, uninformed, or stupid things.  I know that on this issue specifically feelings have been hurt and people have been wounded because of things said by some LDS people.  That isn’t right, but it isn’t fair to attribute those statements to the Church as a whole.  No church should be defined by the comments of its nuttiest members. 

The Church’s position is that we should treat all people with a Christlike love.  No member of the Church should go out of their way to criticize, belittle or insult anyone who doesn’t live the standards of the gospel–because, in reality, none of us do.  I don’t hate couples who live together outside of marriage, although I don’t think it’s a good moral choice.  I don’t hate people who gamble, view pornography, drink alcohol, or engage in homosexual activity.   But I will teach what I believe to be right, and I will try my best to live up to those standards. 

If you disagree with that, it’s fine by me. There are plenty of churches that approach things differently, and they’ll even let you have coffee.


9 Responses to “Are Mormons the Most Homophobic People on Earth?”

  1. 1 Ian J. Alexander March 30, 2012 at 12:30 am

    I think much of the vitriol directed towards the Mormon Church applies to the Catholic Church and a host of evangelical Protestant Churches as well. Whatever tenants a various church has should for the most part confined to the church.

    Yes, as you say, it is very reasonable for a church to say, “We are part of our community and thus we want to contribute.” That is fine but every church does contribute on whatever day it does services. It is when they step out of that realm we run into problems. For better or worse, we live in a secular society. The Founding Fathers set it up that way not because they were anti-religious; it was felt better to level the playing field so *no* religion was given special treatment.

    That is where problems start to arise. When is a church’s efforts to ‘help’ the community just a cover for proselytizing? At what point is sermons about certain social and political things crossing the line into political activity cloaked in religion.

    The lack of taxation on churches is a big deal and so when many churches begin to act less like churches and more like Super-PACs a lot of people get, I believe, very agitated.

    For example, according to the 2010 census, 2% of California’s population is identified as LDS. Is the amount of money funneled into California by the Mormon Church and others proportionate to the community? Actions a local church does at a neighborhood or city level become very different when scaled to the national level.

    Here, sadly, I think we must go with the old test. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then its enough of a duck to be considered one. Too many actions from churches these days, the Mormon Church or otherwise, are acting like PACs. They either need to stop or they need to start paying taxes.

    So in many ways whether Mormons are against homosexuals or Catholics are against abortion or Evangelicals are against…well they seem to be against everything, obscures one of the fundamental problems today: the eroding the wall between the church and our secular society.

    So many say a secular society is either godless or lacking in spirituality. It is neither. It is ‘rending unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” because until God (or whatever you wish to call the concept) comes down and says, “Okay here’s the deal” all we have is faith. To protect my faith from yours and yours from mine, our Founding Fathers felt it best to say, “Best to keep those things a bit separate” – Because the minute the secular wall is breached sets the stage for the government to start telling you how to believe.

    For people like me, Churches involved in spending money in things like Proposition 8 is there way of affecting how people who are not of their faith have to live their lives. I believe that is fundamentally wrong, no matter what religion is the one doing it.

    • 2 R.S. "Rob" Ghio April 2, 2012 at 8:39 am

      Ian, thanks for reading and commenting.

      You really are addressing a different issue, which is the relationship between Church and State, something that I likely will address in a subsequent blog. But I think your concern about what churches have “become” is misplaced. In American society churches have never been content to stay behind the pulpit, but rather have played a central role (sometimes profound, sometimes problematic) in the development of our culture and laws.

      The “wall” between church and state in the 18th century was a philisophical notion rather than a constitutional principle. Thomas Jefferson, who was as conflicted about religion as he was just about everything else, proposed that there should be a wall of separation between church and state, but this was more of a reaction to what was taking place at the time rather than a reflection of it. Churches already were prime movers in society at the time, and the participants in the Consitutional Convention were, for the most part, deeply motivated by their religious beliefs. Jefferson’s “wall” only crept into constitutional discussions later as the courts began to wrestle with what the First Amendment was supposed to mean.

      In terms of that wall “eroding,” I think the exact opposite is true. The wall has been built only in recent years. Churches have actively influenced political debate throughout our nation’s history. Westward expansion was prompted not only by the economic opportunities it afforded, but also by the desire to take Christianity to the rest of the continent. The slavery debate was often couched in religious terms, and without northern churches there would have been no abolitionist movement. Social programs have been based upon a moral/religious imperative to care for the poor. The Civil Rights movement was born, bred and fed in churches in the South. In comparison with other American churches (not to mention the Pat Robertsons and Mike Huckabees of the world) the LDS Church’s involvement in political issues like Proposition 8 is remarkably restrained. While other churches openly endorse political candidates, each election year the First Presidency of the LDS Church issues a letter read to all congregations affirming the Church’s nuetrality in political contests. If Mitt Romney tried to give a political speech in an LDS Church he would get tossed out on his ear. The Church only speaks out on issues that it believes touch on fundamental moral issues, like the definition of family and legalized gambling.

      What you are suggesting is that religion in American be limited to a far more restricted role than it ever has played before. While it is a fair debate as to whether that is a good idea, we have to at least be honest about whether this is a wall that’s going up or coming down.

      • 3 Ian J. Alexander April 15, 2012 at 1:40 pm

        Well I will continue with my line of thinking that what churches do at a local micro-level becomes very different when done at a macro-level.

        The problem is the whole if it walks, quacks, swims like a duck, it’s a duck if only by default. Right now it is difficult not to see mega-evangelical churches, the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church as Super-PACs pushing their agenda.

        That they push that agenda by itself is not the issue. The issue is, as religious organizations, they are exempt from certain laws/taxes due to them being religious groups. Yet by acting like a Super-PAC, they now have an unfair advantage.

        Additionally there is the idea that if one religious group (or a group of allied ones) feel that something (pick one) is wrong simply because it violates their faith and get laws passed which make that something illegal, then the rest of us are sort of ‘religious converts’ by force because even if that something isn’t something we would do, now we can’t. Worse is groups were that something is important to their religion. Well they’re just out of luck aren’t they?

        This is why the secular divide in our country is important. Yes it is difficult to say, “Hey keep your faith to yourself” because many faiths (Mormons included) are told by their theology to go out and spread it. Again not a bad thing in unto itself. Yet trying to affect the country through laws based on one’s own belief system is going to cause problems because not everyone believes as you do.

        So Mormons are against homosexuals (for the sake of argument) So? How does Mormonism (or Catholicism) have anything to do with my hypothetical Buddhist gay neighbor and his desire to marry so he can have the same rights afforded others to just visit his partner in the hospital?

        This, I believe, is the big issue. It’s not what Mormons believe in or not because it applies to *any* church. If you don’t want homosexuals to marry, well you better have the statistics to show why they make bad parents, cause crime to go up and spoil milk or something because quite frankly, “Homosexuality is against the Book of Mormon” just doesn’t cut it in a secular society. Be it the Bible, Koran or the Necronomicon, your faith can’t be used as justification to deny others not of your faith the rights afford them under the Constitution.

        As I mentioned previously, with only something like 2% of California being Mormon and gay citizens making up 3% (with potentially some of them being Mormon) it seems right off they bat you’re outnumbered. Besides, for me personally I have to say why do you care? (warning: generic “you” coming up) Is your faith in your faith so small that you believe that your teachings to your children cannot stand up to the fact that some of their classmates have gay parents? Or that they live in a secular society which has a lot of things which goes against your teachings? I mean to me, that is the real crux of the issue. Any religion which is trying to use secular laws to impose their views on the rest of us seem too frightened that their faith cannot stand up to the simple day-to-day living in a country like America.

      • 4 R.S. "Rob" Ghio April 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

        Ian, I understand your view. Really do. And I don’t want to get into an extended debate here, because that really isn’t the purpose of this blog. But I will address a couple of issues where we will have to agree to disagree.

        The first is that “trying to affect the country through laws based on one’s own belief system is going to cause problems.” Every vote that is cast, every law that is proposed, every policy that is implemented ultimately reflects the belief systems of the people behind them. Those are influenced by any number of factors, one of which is religion. Laws reflect the moral/ethical/political views of the politically active majority of the community. Separating church from state has to do with establishing a state religion or compromising the religious practices of the citizenry. It doesn’t require that individuals check their religion at the door of the polling place. I think that notion would have been offensive to most of the founding fathers.

        The second is that the LDS Church is acting like a “Super PAC.” Other than Proposition 8, what issues has the LDS Church taken a position on? They have been few and far between (one of which, mentioned above, was the support of a Salt Lake City ordinance prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation–hardly a sign of a anti-gay agenda). The Church has remained remarkably apolitical in comparison with the Catholic Church, evangelical Christians, and the plethora of churches that are a thin veneer for civil rights lobbyists. In some cases, I think you are absolutely correct that their ministries have become primarily political. That just isn’t the case with the LDS Church. (For one thing, we aren’t that politically unified. We have our Harry Reids and our Orrin Hatches.)

        A great deal of good has been done in this country by men and women motivated by their faith. America can be characterized as a lot of things, but calling it a “secular society” just isn’t historically accurate.

        I appreciate you reading and commenting, Ian. One of the great measures of friendship is if you can take different views on an issue and have the friendship survive. I enjoy being able to have these discussions with you.

      • 5 Ian J. Alexander April 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        Well Proposition 8 is exactly what most people will think of the Mormon Church acting A) like a Super-Pac and B) acting in a ‘homophobic’ manner.

        I would think that your average person who knows Mormons will find they have different attitudes than the ‘official’ one the LDS church holds. The same is very must with Catholics.

        Yet is it difficult for people not to see Mormons in general as being hostile to gays/lesbians when they put such effort behind such things as Proposition 8. Again I would ask, why should you (you as any individual Mormon) care? Gays being married really should only impact Mormons if the gays in question are Mormon.

        Then we run into a very basic distinction. Marriage is not just a religious thing but has always been a very secular idea in codifying what is a family and who can inherit.

        Now if Mormons (or any religion) says that homosexuals cannot marry, that is perfectly fine as a religious marriage is not require for a secular marriage to take place. My wife and I were married at the county court house and had our religious wedding a week later. Clark County, the State of Washington and the Federal Government do *NOT* care whether I was married according to the tenants of my faith or not because it doesn’t matter. The secular concept of marriage does not require any religious component.

        So if two gay Mormons what to marry then by the Constitution, they should be allowed that right. Now this doesn’t mean they can’t be excommunicated (or whatever you Mormons do) or at the vary least have their marriage seen as not valid to the Mormon Church. That’s perfectly okay since the LDS Church is in charge of policing such things. However, they *cannot* invalidate the fact that those two gays have a *secular* right to have the same rights as straight married people do.

        So bottom line, when *any* church works to prevent any minority from having the rights they are entitled to under the equality provisions of the Constitution, then I think you are just going to have to accept many are going to see that faith (which ever it is) is being homophobic. Whether that is actually true or not is not really the point. As I told officers all the time while running the 203rd RCAG intelligence shop, perception is reality. If enough people believe it, then it’s real.

      • 6 R.S. "Rob" Ghio April 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

        Ian, did you miss the part where I said that if you’re looking for a fight, you’ve come to the wrong place? 🙂

        The point of this blog is to let you know what I believe and, insofar as I understand it, what the LDS Church believes.

        I understand that you don’t agree with the Church’s position on gay marriage or homosexuality. Not a problem with me that you disagree. You have plenty of company. As long as you understand what I actually believe, I will leave it at that.

        If I turn this blog into a forum for debating, I’ll have to change out keyboards every month.

      • 7 Ian J. Alexander April 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

        No I didn’t. I’m merely commenting on the fact that one’s personal actions as one faith are often overshadowed by the macro-level actions of their own church.

        I can’t think of anything you ever did, said or even implied you were ever homophobic. Yet people not knowing you might make an immediate value judgement on you simply because you’re a Mormon.

        It is one of the reasons I’m so disappointed with the lack of imans world-wide condemning much of what has (and still is) going on in Iraq and Afghanistan because by not saying anything, they feed the idea that these tactics are either okay by Islam (when they patently are not) or worse they quietly agree with them.

        This silence hurts Muslims world-wide since it feeds people’s stereotypes of Muslims.

  2. 8 Melissa F. March 30, 2012 at 7:39 am

    thank you for your insight and you are very right!

  3. 9 tonybrigmon March 30, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Great post. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 595 other followers


%d bloggers like this: