Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Apostle Speaks about Prop. 8

In this clip Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints answers questions posed to him from a group of young adults.

Elder Bednar talks about "the tyranny of tolerance," this is an all to true occurrence and one only needs to read the blogs of those who oppose Prop 8 to see it in work.

The most frighting thing about the whole issue is what can happen to the rights of those who do stand against same gender marriage if Prop 8 fails. I guess separation of Church and State isn't an issue as long as the state is on you're side telling the church's what they can and can't teach and what they can and can't believe.


Evan said...

Personally, this video brought more frustration to me.

I think the concept that it will take away religious rights is kinda bogus. Much of the evidence about what side effects may occur are not portrayed fairly (ex: The Catholic adoption agency)

I just have trouble believing that some of our Church's religious rights will be sacrificed, while we still have groups like the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church running around... heck, even the city where I live has it's own KKK chapter.

And then the whole idea that same-sex couples will not lose any rights if Prop 8 goes through... this subject has always confused me. Do same-sex couples get ALL the legal benefits couples get who are traditionally married? I think there is a lot of emotional benefits implied as well that same-sex couples would be missing.

Oh, and I have never understood why this effecting the school curriculum is bad. It seems like we are suppose to just accept that something like that is a terrible thing for no real reason.

I can't wait for this all to be over. The whole debate kinda makes me sick and I don't think it would be in my head so much if the Church didn't get involved.

Scott said...

... and now my comment on the previous post has been published, so apparently I jumped the gun in expressing my disappointment.

Evan has done a great job about addressing some of my concerns with the Elder Bednar video.

Another thing that jumped out at me was the ambiguity and uncertainty of the claims. There's so much use of "might" and "maybe" and "possible" and "uncertain" and "potential consequences". All of this effort over fear of what might happen sounds somewhat familiar... Wasn't that what prompted the people of Missouri to drive the Mormons from their homes? Fear that they "might" grow to powerful and that the "potential consequences" would "possibly" be harmful to their beliefs?

The only other thing I'd like to add is my impression of Elder Bednar's last statement:

the greatest joy in life comes in marriage and as children come into your home. ... And if we want to have happiness in mortality, it comes in a variety of ways, but all of those ways focus on and lead to marriage between a man and a woman and, if they're blessed to have children, the rearing and the nurturing of those children. That's what it's all about.

I believe everything that the Church teaches about the importance of families and that true joy and happiness come from creating and building our own families. I don't believe that such happiness and joy are the exclusive property of heterosexuals, or that God intended them to be. I know that a gay couple can find every bit as much joy in building a family and rearing and nurturing children as a straight couple can.

It's true that according to our understanding of the Plan of Happiness such a union can't be eternal. I'm prepared to believe "that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things" about the Plan, and the He may actually have room for same-sex unions in His Plan.

But even if He doesn't, and such unions are for this life only, is it right for us to preach that joy and happiness come from family life and then turn right around and deny people an entire lifetime of that same joy and happiness? (Simply because we're afraid of what might happen if we allow things to change)

bravone said...

I just came across your blog and want to thank you for your thoughtful posts. It is refreshing to see someone else with ssa still attempting the path.

-L- said...

For those who think religious liberties are in no danger, here's an interesting article.

Anonymous said...

Evan and Scott,

Those were some of the most thoughtful rebuttal's to the Church's stance that I've ever read. I agree with the two of you 100%. It seems like most of their point is based on fear and supposition.

Here's my theory as to why they would take such a seemingly negative approach to this issue. The Church is decidedly pro-family. Our entire doctrine is based building families, raising children, and preparing to become eternal families. However, when gay men and women are able to legally marry they too become families. The Church then has two options: Either drop the pro-family stance (which I could never see happening) or add stipulations to their stance. "We stand up for families except for same-sex families, or this kind of family, or that kind of family. We support standard traditional families." But the problem is, there are very few of those left. It makes the point moot basically.

They can no longer take a black and white stand for families. They want to keep it simple and gay families aren't simple enough.


Robert said...

Yeah, I echo Evan and Scott, especially the comments Scott had about Elder Bednar's finishing remarks. I didn't like the video so much. I am so glad I don't live in CA. At least this way, I'm not nearly as involved as I would need to be if I was actually voting on the issue...

With that said, I've got to say that I'm totally confused on the issue. I don't know whether to beleive what either party says about the consequences of the prop.

At the same time, truly believing in the autority and divine appointment of modern day prophets and apostles would completely legitimize supporting the church in it's efforts. No matter what may yet be revealed about sga and the limitations or principles relative to it, religious history has ever taught us that we need to follow God and what He asks us to do in the season that He's asking it of us. It is misguided to live as though you are following what He might someday ask, or to do the opposite and follow practices that He has told us to discontinue.

But, yeah, it's hard...really hard sometimes. And while that is the case, the question still asks, "So, what's it going to be? What are you going to choose?"

Scott said...

-L-: Some of the theoretical dangers to religious liberties that are mentioned in that article are addressed by Morris A. Thurston, a graduate of Harvard Law and an adjunct professor at BYU. He specifically discusses the issues with Boston Charities, Yeshiva University, and the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.

He also touches very briefly on the issues with the wedding photographer and medical doctor, mostly to state that both cases were civil rights issues, having nothing to do with same-sex marriage, and that to cite them as arguments against same-sex marriage is misleading.

(I personally feel that both cases were decided as they should have been--if they were questions of race, i.e. if the doctor had refused fertility treatments to a black woman or if the photographer had refused to photograph the wedding of a black couple, there would be no questions or arguments.)

Of the cases that Mr. Thurston doesn't address:

The suit against California Lutheran High School was poorly researched, as the article you linked to appears to have been written in June of this year, while an earlier article (from January) indicates that the case had been dismissed and the school's right to expel the girls confirmed. Chalk one up for religious freedom.

In the case of North Mississippi Health Services, it's a question of a person's religious beliefs getting in the way of their line of work. If a Jehovah's Witness (who believes that blood transfusions and organ transplants are prohibited) were to become a doctor and then refuse to give a patient a blood transfusion, would we fault the hospital for firing him? A therapist may need to set aside his or her religious beliefs in order to effectively treat a client/patient. If they cannot do so, they are a liability to their clinic or practice and their employer is justified in firing them.

The clerk in Vermont is a public servant--he works for the government, which means he works for the people. His refusal to perform a civil union ceremony for a same-sex couple would be no different than a misogynistic employee at the DMV refusing to administer a driving test to a woman driver.

A quick Google search on the Adoption Profiles case didn't net me any more information than is provided in the linked article, so I can't provide any additional commentary, but I expect that there's more to the case than the article presents.

The three Boy Scouts cases cited all amount to the Boy Scouts being denied free access to (or losing free access that had formerly been given) city-owned property based on their anti-gay policy. I don't know if "free" is the issue here--it's possible that the various Boy Scout organizations could still rent the properties in question at the going rate. In any case, would there be a public outcry if the city refused to grant free use of its property to the local chapter of the KKK? (I'll head off any potential arguments by stating that my comparison of the Boy Scouts to the KKK only extends as far as their intolerance for a certain group of people. Apart from the gay issue, I respect the values that the Boy Scouts organizations teach, and I abhor the philosophies and beliefs of the KKK)

This article, like any other "Pro Prop 8" material I've read, uses half-truths and misrepresentation to attempt to scare the reader into believing that if gay marriage isn't abolished, they'll see their rights slipping away.

What I find most interesting about materials like this is that they're more-or-less saying: "If gay marriage becomes legal, it's going to get more and more difficult to hate gay people."

I know that the Church has started teaching that the world's definition of tolerance is distorted. Here's my definition:

Tolerance is respecting every human being, regardless of what color their skin is, or what language they speak, or what they do on Sunday (or Saturday, or any other day of the week)--or even what they do in bed. I can believe that gay sex is wrong and still love and respect a neighbor who brings home a different guy every night. I can still be courteous and kind to him, and offer him the same consideration I would to any other person (e.g. fertility treatments, wedding photography, etc.), even if I don't agree with his beliefs or approve of his actions. Photographing a gay wedding does not imply acceptance of gay sex--it simply says that I respect this couple's right to make their own decisions, even if I don't agree with them.

Of course I expect him to treat me with the same courtesy, even if he knows that I don't approve of his decisions. But he has no reason to do otherwise, because he knows that I respect him.

To Elder Bednar's accusation of a "tyranny of tolerance" I say this: Those who expect tolerance of us will, as he says, turn right back around and label us "bigots" if we give them reason to. A few fanatics will toss out accusations of bigotry at anyone who looks at them wrong. But most gay people only see us as bigots when we attempt to force or coerce them into living the morality that we believe in. We can have our religious beliefs, and express them, but when we try to impose them on people because we don't like the choices that they have made, we deserve the label "bigot" because that's what we are.

Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God ... Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. / For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man's belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done... (Alma 30:7-11)

A CROW'S VIEW said...

Okay, I find it really, really ironic that you would use a scripture that was about Korihor (an anti-christ) to try to prove your point. What this scripture said was that, yes, Korihor had every right in the world to preach what he wanted to and believe what he wanted to even if it was wrong. But that didn't mean that if man followed him that while they may not be judged on Earth for their actions, they still faced the wrath of God. Look at what happened to him.

I would challenge you to read the rest of the chapter to see what happens next. Just don't use a few passages of scripture that when taken out of context seems to prove your point.

Anonymous said...

I find it really concerning that so many members can have such liberal views towards this very concerning situation (thank-you A Crows View for pointing out Scott’s total misuse of a scripture). And before you assume: I don't just follow blindly; I think for myself and consider all the aspects of a situation. However, I do believe that an Apostle of the Lord knows more than I do. He is inspired. Evan and Scott seem to be so willing to dismiss that this man is an Apostle of the Lord. The problem with liberal thinking, in my opinion, is the need to nit pick apart anyone to sees things differently. Bednar is not a fortune teller. He uses 'might' and ‘maybe’ and 'possibly' because he is just trying to give counsel on a situation that he does not know the entire outcome of. You want to hold that against him? So, you think it would be better (in Evan opinion anyway), "if the Church didn't get involved." I could NOT disagree with you more!! I appreciate the counsel of my Apostles at a time like this!!

Side note: Scott just so you know – most of my gay friends feel very strongly that because I appose the legalization of gay marriage that I am, as you say, “attempting to force or coerce them into living the morality that we (I) believe in.” Please tell me how we can have a middle ground on this. I know they don’t see a middle ground. They want to have all the rights that a heterosexual couple gets (and I really do not blame them for wanting that at all but I don't morally agree) and until they have it and as I try to stop that from happening, they will feel discriminated against and I will be viewed as a bigot and someone who wants to take their rights away. The way you would like things to be just simply doesn’t exist and is a fantasy way of thinking. I couldn’t agree with Elder Bednar more with his comments on Tyranny of Tolerance. I feel it all the time.

Scott said...

I had decided to step out of this debate because I was concerned that things were getting too contentious, but Anonymous has addressed some comments and questions to me directly, so I thought it would be discourteous to ignore them.

I don't feel that the scripture I quoted was misused or taken out of context. It's true that Korihor's beliefs were wrong--that he was an antichrist. The scripture tells us that he could not be punished for his beliefs because it was contrary to their laws. Although he was not subject to earthly judgment he still had to face God's judgment. I don't disagree with Crow on any of this.

However, the fact that one person took advantage of the free speech laws of the Nephites to preach false doctrine does not imply that the laws were bad, or that others who exercised their right of free speech should be considered as evil as Korihor.

If the scripture I quoted has been misused at all, the misuse is in the implication that anyone who exercises their right of free speech is a Korihor and will face the wrath of God.

I do not dismiss the fact that Elder Bednar and others who have spoken are Apostles. I have great respect for our leaders and for their teachings. I do not believe that Elder Bednar's "counsel on a situation that he does not know the entire outcome of" is good counsel, because he is encouraging the Saints to support a measure that would remove rights(*) from one group of people in order to prevent "possible" "potential" consequences that "might" "maybe" have a negative effect on our rights in the future.

(*) Yes, I know that domestic partnerships in CA have all the same legal rights as married couples. Separate but equal is not equal. The passage of Prop 8 WILL remove the right of same-sex couples to marry. A right that currently exists will be lost.

The fear of future consequences is never justification for removing or restricting the rights of a group of people. The Missourians feared that a growing Mormon population would cause them future problems as the rise in Mormon voters shifted the balance of power toward a more religious view. They used that fear to justify driving the Saints from their homes and from the state. The difference between that situation and Prop 8 is only one of degree--the basic concept is the same.

Anonymous wonders how we can find middle ground with gay people when we (as a Church) believe homosexual behavior to be morally wrong. The answer is simple: we can follow the teachings of our Savior.

I often hear it said that tolerance does not mean condoning the sin, with the story of Christ and the woman taken in adultery given as an example of the concept. He loved the woman, but told her to "go, and sin no more". The idea is that we are to follow Christ's example and expect our neighbors to "sin no more".

I believe that this is a flawed interpretation of the scripture and that when we choose to stop there we're only seeing part of the story.

Under the Law of Moses a women taken in adultery was to be stoned. That is, a law was in place that specifically prohibited adultery and provided a prescribed punishment for the crime. In this case the religious law and the civil law happened to be the same. (Although Israel was under Roman rule, Rome generally allowed its conquered nations to rule themselves as long as they paid tribute).

The scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus his opinion on whether the woman should be stoned. His answer? "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." In this He reiterated what He had taught in the Sermon on the Mount: "judge not, that ye be not judged".

They all departed. None of them was qualified or worthy to judge the woman of her sin or to condemn her for it. Speaking to the woman He said "hath no man condemned thee? ... Neither do I condemn thee". In this He established His role as our Judge. He implied His right to condemn the woman while at the same time refusing to do so.

The Savior is our Judge and has the power and the authority to condemn us for our sins, yet time and again He refuses to do so, instead offering forgiveness and love and the cleansing power of the Atonement, then kindly reminds us (with kind words and persuasion, but never with coercion or force) to "go, and sin no more".

We are commanded not to cast stones, and to "judge not", yet time and again we decide that we have the right to decide what our neighbors can and cannot do. We condemn them for their sins, never noticing the beam in our own eye, and then attempt through legislation to force them to "sin no more".

Here's the middle ground: Love your neighbor as yourself. If your neighbor sins, love him anyway. We can "love the sinner and hate the sin", but it isn't easy. It is very difficult not to allow your hate for the sin to spill over into your feelings for the sinner. If I truly love my neighbor, would I try to deny him his rights or prevent him from having the happiness and joy that marriage can bring? Or would I fight for equality and share in his joy when he walks down the aisle with his partner, despite my conviction that homosexual intercourse is wrong?

Maybe this doesn't seem like middle ground, because it feels like it's us who are giving up everything. But what are we really giving up? We're not giving up our beliefs. We can still believe just as adamantly that gay sex is wrong. All we're really giving up is prejudice and fear.

I'm afraid that this last bit might sound judgmental or seem like a personal attack. I promise that I don't mean it to be, and I don't intend to direct my comments specifically at Anonymous, but my point will best be made by quoting from his/her comment: I try to stop that from happening, they will feel discriminated against and I will be viewed as a bigot and someone who wants to take their rights away.

There really is no "tyranny of tolerance". If I am actively working to take a person's rights away, no matter the reason (skin color, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, shoe size, etc.) then I am guilty of discrimination, and the affected party is perfectly justified in feeling discriminated against and viewing me as a bigot.

Some will take this too far and will cry "bigot" and "homophobe" when we have a Sunday School lesson that quotes from The Miracle of Forgiveness. I suppose that this is what Elder Bednar is referring to and what he is afraid of.

It will never be the major issue that he fears it will become. There are militant feminists who cry "sexist!" at the slightest glance and militant blacks who cry "racist!" at the most innocent remark, and there will always be militant gays who cry "homophobe!" when preachers preach.

But by and large gay people just want to be treated normally--to be able to marry and have families, and to be able to be "out" without having to worry about losing their job (it's still legal to fire someone for being gay in most states). They understand that many religious people believe that homosexuality is wrong, and the majority of them are content to let us believe that as long as we let them live their lives in peace.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The churches push the gays, and the gays push back. But I guarantee that when the churches stop pushing for discriminatory laws and allow gay people the same rights that straight people enjoy, the pushing will stop and we can all live in peace.

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