SALT LAKE CITY - Five months ago, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to members of the Church in California, encouraging them to join the millions of other Californians from many religious denominations, ethnic groups and political persuasions in a broad coalition to defend marriage as it has been defined for millennia.
During the election campaign, both sides of the argument on Proposition 8 had ample opportunities to express their viewpoint. The result was conclusively in favor of traditional marriage. More than 40 states in the United States have now voted to protect traditional marriage, either directly or through their elected representatives.
Today the First Presidency issued this statement about the democratic process:
Since the people of California voted to reaffirm the sanctity of traditional marriage between a man and a woman on November 4, 2008, places of worship have been targeted by opponents of Proposition 8 with demonstrations and, in some cases, vandalism. People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights. These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America.
The Church is keenly aware of the differences of opinion on this difficult and sensitive matter. The reasons for this principled stand in defense of marriage have already been articulated elsewhere. However, some of what we have seen since Californians voted to pass Proposition 8 has been deeply disappointing.
Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues. People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. Efforts to force citizens out of public discussion should be deplored by people of goodwill everywhere.
We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other.
THIS IS NOT PART OF THE STATEMENT FROM THE FIRST PRESIDENCY BUT IT IS GOOD ADVICE:
As all of you know, the protests from the No on 8 side will continue this weekend.
We have been counseled not to hold counter-demonstrations. The other side will be looking for confrontations and if they get them, guess how the attending media will spin villains and victims?
Stay away from the demonstrations and let the police handle things. Especially encourage our most passionate supporters to stay at home. The more the other side demonstrates, the more their temper tantrums help us.
Let's not do anything that detracts from their visual stupidity.
Keep things in perspective: We can paint over graffiti on our buildings and we can plant new flowers on our temple grounds, but it's more difficult to repair a reputation that has been tarnished because some member loses his temper.
Be patient and kind. Turn the other cheek. This too shall pass.