Jeff Nielson’s “Open Letter to California Mormons” Encouraging Oppposition to LDS Church on Gay Marriage Issue

John Dehlin Culture, gay, homosexuality, LDS, Mormon 114 Comments

Professor Jeffrey Nielsen, whose op-ed two years ago against the LDS Church’s stance on gay marriage led to his demise at church-owned Brigham Young University, has written an open letter to California Mormons in the wake of the church’s request for members to support a constitutional ban on gay marriage in that state (from KCPW).

Open Letter to California Mormons

Jeffrey S. Nielsen

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.

To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument, no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to the great progress in civil rights we’ve made in our country respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our religious leaders’ encroachment into political matters. In fact, a growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60’s when they opposed equal rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70’s when they opposed full legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse democracy without reasonable justification, then members, especially faithful members, of that religious organization have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically harm another person. After all, religious values must be something an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether state or federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy. Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.

I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents. I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the call to discriminate against our gay and lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

Comments

comments

Comments 114

  1. Well with a guy who writes a book called “The Myth of Leadership,” how much of this is true concern about the fate of gays and lesbians? With only 750,000 Mormons in CA–and, chances are, only half that number sincerely faithful/active in the church–naturally the gay marriage amendment isn’t going to be decided by the Mormons. Nope, this guy has problems with authority itself, and, like those referenced by Ezra Taft Benson, they “wish God would agree with them.”

    Another anti-mormon Mormon. Yawn.

  2. “Another anti-mormon Mormon.”

    Oh how we love to throw the anti-mormon label around. It absolves us from thinking about what is being said and considering information that may conflict with dearly held beliefs. Don’t listen to him, he is just an anti-mormon. Don’t read that, it’s just anti-mormon.

    Slap a label on it, put it in a box. What a wonderful tool for ignorance preservation.

  3. Many thoughts come to my mind as I read Brother Jeffrey Nielsen letter. I find it hard to believe, and to understand how some who have accomplished so much in their academic life fail to have a parallel experience in their spiritual life.

    The Lord has given us many parables and scriptural explanations to account for the fact that not everyone who is gathered in by the gospel net will remain. My heart goes out to those who are not willing to tread the narrow path. I hope they all find their way back.

    Sustaining the Lord’s chosen prophet is a fundamental doctrine of the Lord’s church. I choose to sustain President Monson because of the manifestions of the Spirit I’ve received.

  4. Great letter – it hit all the right notes and made very valid points.

    I hope people will take his points to heart more than N8ma and Jared did.

    What N8MA doesn’t seem to understand or believe is that one can believe that Church leaders are inspired generally, but not always right. And though I’m willing to accept their refusal of gay rights within the Church, their reasoning for supporting an amendment does not make civil/legal sense to me – it’s all based on theological reasoning.

    Thanks, Jeff.

  5. The church exists only because in this country the constitution preserves the rights of minorities over the ‘will of the people’. When I read in the first presidency letter about the will of the people being overturned my first thought was that the letter was a fraud. Certainly such a disingenuous statement would not be included in such a letter. When I read the official letter my thought was about how they must miss President Faust. I could be completely wrong on his input.

    This is not so much about homosexuality as it is about how democracies function in preserving the rights of all people. Democracies erode when religions flex the ‘God muscle’ and compel actions from members that may go against their natural democratic tendencies.

    It is ok to view homosexuality as immoral and still recognize the need for society to create legal constructs within which two people can share a life (marriage). And stop with the whole pro-creation angle. Heterosexual couples marry and don’t have kids all the time. How are they any different from a homosexual couple that also do not have kids?

  6. O wait, another thing. The irony of a Utah guy (I assume) telling California voters how to vote on a matter, but yet critical of Church Leaders who do the same.

  7. I say vote “YES” for the amendment to accelerate the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! Come on, guys, do you want him here sooner or later?! (I’m for sooner.)

    What better way to cause our Constitutions to dangle by a thread than to put these ridiculous amendments upon them!

  8. Not enough room to file an entire brief, but there are dozens of legal reasons that are being sited by constitutional lawyers that will become issues in the next 20 years if sexual preference is made a civil right. Who will be the next group that will demand the same rights? Freedom of religion, religious choice, and tolerance will soon be the victims in the name of civil rights boogey man.

  9. In response to Jeff Spector’s witty attempt and yet completely missing the mark comment: The difference between some random Utah citizen telling Californians (even if he has an agenda) and Church leadership who do the same is that random Utah guy doesn’t profess to political neutrality and then try to direct the traffic of the sheep. Marriage should be a religious institution anyways and not a social/governmental identification tag. Civil unions, defined as a legal commitment of partnership between two consenting citizens, should be provided by non-discriminating government. As an active Mormon in California, I face the voting dilemma of a religious and moral belief system infringing upon the Constitutional rights of free citizens who do not share that same religious and moral belief system. Luckily, how we vote does not affect our worthiness or church standing. However, if we cross the line, as did Jeff Nielsen, and accuse the governing Church leadership of “intellectual tyranny”, we surrender our right as members of being in an open disagreement with Church leaders (permitted) and become full-fledged opponents of the establishment (not permitted).

  10. I’ve made my position on gay marriage clear on other threads, I believe, and I don’t mean this comment to address that overall issue. I also have written about what happens when moral issues become political issues.

    I think it’s . . . interesting for someone to put his own credentials (“I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual.”) up against the global leadership of that church – as if his credentials equal theirs. Even if I did agree with him, that wording just smacks of egoism – and it’s the foundation of his letter. He makes that statement as a justification for what follows, **which is no different at all than the Brethren doing so in their letter.** This letter isn’t simply a statement of a member of the Church about his personal beliefs, as hard as he tries to make it appear to be only that; the way he sets it up makes it explicitly a statement of opposition to the Church (defined as the global Church leadership).

    He is choosing to frame this letter in such a way that he is openly, publicly and explicitly working against the Church in this instance, and that is very different than simply not accepting the request and quietly explaining why to those with whom he has influence in his own life – or even publishing this exact same letter to CA citizens in general without referencing his own membership. Furthermore, he is addressing ONLY other Mormons in this letter, NOT the population at large – and not even others who are planning on supporting the amendment. In other words, the entire letter is an attempt to recruit other members in his opposition to the Brethren – NOT a simple statement of his beliefs regarding the issue.

    If this is his line in the sand, and if he is willing to leave the Church over it, that’s his choice – but it will be disingenuous of him if he claims later that the Church “forced him out” if it comes to that. He chose this method, and he chose to make this a fight **within the Church opposing the Church leadership.** I have no problem with members disagreeing with the Brethren about any number of issues, especially since the Brethren themselves often disagree about complicated issues, but publicly fighting the Church leadership, particularly in this specific way, crosses a line that takes away any claim to the moral high-ground if push comes to shove.

  11. One last thing:

    I’m out of this discussion completely if it turns into just another fight about gay marriage and civil rights. Been there; done that; don’t want to do it again, especially so soon. Just sayin’.

  12. Sorry, the “Intellectual Tyranny” comment was Peter Danzig regarding the same issue and NOT Jeff Nielsen.

  13. I am LDS and don’t feel any hatred towards gays. I do oppose same-sex marriage primarily because of the effect it will have on Children. Men and Women are different. Children benefit greatly by having a Mother and a Father. Sure there are some kids, because of circumstance or the poor choice of parents to treat each other poorly and get divorced. But the institution off marriage as commonly understood between a man and a woman provides a child with a mother and a father in a committed relationship. This idea that marriage is a contract between consenting individuals is a new one. There are other parties involved besides the husband and wife. Children and Society are involved. They are stakeholders. Children do the best where a mother and father raise them in a committed relationship. Same-sex marriage, by design and definition, precludes a child from having a mother or a father. As numerous studies show, society pays a price through a number of social ills when a mother or father is taken away from a child’s life.

    The analogy that prohibiting same-sex marriage is the same thing as prohibiting marriage on the basis of race ignores an important reality. Men and Women ARE different in ways that matter to society. Only Women can be mothers. Only men can be fathers. The whole point of the civil rights struggle was that there are no meaningful differences between the color of your skin that mattered as to what you are able to do – take a job, be married etc.

    A man cannot be a mother. A child should have a mother. I support the constitutional change that will keep the definition of the basic unit of society – a married couple – as one that will send the message to all future generations that truly first comes love, than comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage — and the baby has a mother and a father. Society has an absolute right to promote this ideal. It provides the best chance for a stable productive citizen.

    Please note, our law does not yet see marriage as simply as a contract between two persons. It is the sanction of the State and or Church. Why? Because both institutions have an interest in marriage and children.

    If the proponents truly believed that their relationship was simply a “contract” between two consenting adults and not an issue for the state, why are they seeking the state sanction? Because they recognize that marriage is more than just a contract. Other stakeholders are involved – children. The state has a responsibility to encourage an environment that is best for children and that with a loving Mothers and Fathers. That is the standard that best helps children. The standard shouldn’t be changed just because people are not perfect. In California, civil unions already provide all of the benefits of marriage to same sex couples.

    They recognize that marriage is more than just a contract. Other stakeholders are involved – children.

  14. TJ,

    Thanks for acknowledgment of my “witty attempt.” I merely pointed out what I thought was an irony.
    Firstly, you need to understand how the Church views Political Neutrality (see http://www.newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/public-issues/political-neutrality ) for a complete explanation because you seem to misunderstand it.

    Having said that, I pretty much agree that the religious institution of marriage and the state institution of civil unions should be separate. However, since we are on the slippery slope here, if the state will guarantee that it will never intervene with a Church’s right to determine who can be “married” in the religious sense, then I really don’t care what the state does civilly. Whether I think it should grant these rights to gay couples is another story. if I still lived in California, as I did in 2000, I would vote for the amendment on moral grounds.

  15. I am curious to know (if anyone does) by what authority Dr. Nielsen has assumed a position to stand against the prophet. I would be leery of following anyone who claims to have better counsel than God’s prophet. This is as clear a case of apostasy as I have ever seen. I feel sorrow for this man because he has voluntarily sacrificed the great sense of joy and purpose that can come only from obedience.

  16. My point (that is, a big “yawn” at Mr. Nielsen’s hand-wringing) was said much better by Ray. Nielsen is, to use Elder Oaks’ term, “beating the drum” in defiance of the First Presidency. He feels that he knows better than them. Not every Mormon in CA will vote the way the First Presidency wants them to vote, for a variety of reasons. There’s nothing spectacularly original with struggling to accept every thing the Church leadership asks of us–we are to work out our salvation individually and it’s a difficult process. But when a guy stands up, wants to beat the drum, wants to say he knows better than the Lord’s prophets, what does he think he’s going to achieve? What’s his point?

    Citizens of California have a right to gather signatures to propose an amendment to their constitution. And yes, the Knight Initiative was ratified by popular vote in 2000, (with 4.6 million voters in favor, which meant 10x more people had to vote for it beyond the Mormon faithful for it to pass) and that was what was overturned by a court decision. And California citizens–ALL of them–will be able to vote on the current amendment. It’s a free country.

    I’m in favor of full rights for gay couples. I think they should be entitled to all of the rights as anyone else. My personal solution to this problem would be to adopt the Napoleonic code–civil ceremonies for ALL, and then religious rites for those who want them. But, news flash, the USA isn’t France. It’s not just the Mormons and the Mean Old Men who lead them who have issues with a full-scale cultural endorsement of same-sex MARRIAGE (not civil unions, not equal rights, but complete equivocation of gay and straight partnerships). Many are uncomfortable with creating a culture where children are raised to think that liking boys or girls is the same as choosing between Coke or Pepsi, PC or Mac, Ford or Chevy–just a personal thing with absolutely no other consequences. In fact, as Rich (#11) mentioned earlier, there are serious legal ramifications to this:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-stern17-2008jun17,0,3683979.story

    (The guy who wrote this article it Jewish, not Mormon).

    My main point is that my own opinions are my own. We’re a big church, a worldwide church, with a variety of life experiences, challenges, and backgrounds. And the Lord has established a house of order, and He has established a pattern for leadership of the body of Christ. Not every decision made by the First Presidency will be popular with the North American/Western European chattering classes, but what can you do. Joseph Smith didn’t endure persecution, the pioneers didn’t cross the plains, the early missionaries didn’t roam the world without purse or script just to guarantee a quiet life for every 21st-century Mormon. These are the times that try men’s souls. And if one’s first instinct is to always blame the Brethren for being mean old men, going around saying this or that isn’t a good idea, or doing this or that will keep us from progressing and becoming like Heavenly Father (I mean, who do they think they are?), then, well, you’re at a different place on the faith continuum than other LDS who raise their hands to sustain the First Presidency as prophets, seers, and revelators. To which I’d reply “But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao, You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”

  17. He feels that he knows better than them. Not every Mormon in CA will vote the way the First Presidency wants them to vote, for a variety of reasons. There’s nothing spectacularly original with struggling to accept every thing the Church leadership asks of us–we are to work out our salvation individually and it’s a difficult process. But when a guy stands up, wants to beat the drum, wants to say he knows better than the Lord’s prophets, what does he think he’s going to achieve? What’s his point?

    The problem he has in making his point is his prior history and words, they create a context for his narrative that hurts whatever he thinks he may accomplish.

    Which creates a definite focus and colors any discussion or anyone who agrees with him or takes the position he takes.

    He is actively harming that position, which makes one wonder if he intends the results of his actions. Probably not, most of us don’t.

  18. I find Jeff’s fourth paragraph to be the key to his reasoning and quite eloquent. I believe what he says is the reason the United States is one of the greatest countries to have ever been on earth. I find it troubling that Americans have spent the last two hundred and thirty plus years trying to destroy what our founding fathers created.

  19. Are you kidding? Gays have all the rights they need to maintain their lifestyle. California is once again attempting to lead the country (like they do in everything else) so that the gays everywhere will have, eventually, Federal rights. That is what they are after. I just did a big study on this. Once this all comes down then you can have relationships between nieces and uncles, mothers and sons…who’s to say what is right and wrong anymore? If it feels good, do it. Sounds like the 60’s and 70’s all over again and the counterculture. Of course when the Uncles and nieces have their relationship or the mail man and the neighbors dog, those of us who live like a man and woman in marriage will be the counterculture.
    Heck, bring it on. Divorce lawyers need the work!

  20. Joe, I am focusing this month on being a peacemaker, so I weighed carefully how to say this, but that 4th paragraph, imo, is the weakest of the entire letter. I am going to quote it directly here, so I can explain better why I see it that way:

    “Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy for their religious community.”

    a given – no controversy whatsoever

    “When they, however, attempt to interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse democracy without reasonable justification,”

    “Reasonable justification” is a very nebulous term that varies radically based on one’s prior assumptions. In this case, there are all sorts of “reasonable justifications” to oppose SSM – even though many of the expressed justifications I have read are not reasonable.

    “then members, especially faithful members of that religious organization,”

    This is gratuitous and simply wrong-headed. “Especially faithful members”? Why especially them?

    “have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.”

    1) Why is this a civic “responsibility”?
    2) Why is it a civic responsibility to disagree with one’s church and agree with this man?
    3) How is opposing SSM and supporting this particular amendment “dangerous” – especially if one supports civil unions?
    4) How in the world is it “undemocratic” for organizations to express their concerns over issues they truly feel are not in line with their morals?
    5) How is it “undemocratic” for individuals to vote according to the dictates of their own conscience – no matter what other statements – individually or organizationally – influence them?
    6) *****How is Bro. Nielsen’s request any MORE “democratic” than the Church’s request?*****

    It is that last question, especially, that totally destroys the appeal of the paragraph. It is “undemocratic” for the Church to encourage its members to vote one way, but it is NOT “undemocratic” for an individual member to do the exact same thing?

    Religious organizations should not remain silent on issues they believe will affect the overall morality of the society in which they live. If Bro. Nielsen had chastised liberal churches – or gay and lesbian organizations – for opposing the amendment and encouraging their members to vote negatively, then I might have some sympathy for his argument. I wouldn’t agree, but I would be much more sympathetic. As it is, this letter (and especially this paragraph) does nothing more than call free speech with which he disagrees “undemocratic” – which is perhaps the ultimate of ironies.

  21. Joe, one more thing:

    As a former history teacher, I guarantee you that the nation our Founding Father’s established was MUCH more oppressive and rigid and (for lack of a better word) traditional than the one in which we live now. Citing the original state of the union as the ideal while arguing for gay marriage is not an argument I would want to have to defend in a debate.

  22. Ray,

    I agree with you on most of what you write. I will take #26 first. Yes America was much more repressive are you point out. I really don’t think that repression was right, do you? Our Founding Fathers we very human, but that does not take away their desires, dreams and words.

    My guess is we read Jeff’s word’s very differently. I completely agree it is religions role to teach morality to its members. If they choose to teach morality or any other idea they should be held responsible for reasonable arguments with what they are espousing. I know you have argued that you see no difference between marriage and legal unions. You have said that you have found no solid evidence to change your mind. Nothing Meridian writes or any other argument I have heard holds water for me when it comes to the comments that same sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage or children. As I walk away from your posts I feel we are on opposite sides of a very wide divide that has no bridge. I feel bad about that because I think you are a very good person with well thought out ideas.

  23. It is my humble opinion that the Church takes such a strong stance against homosexual marriage rights because they are afraid of the ramifications of what other types/kinds of marriages follow legally {polygamy comes to mind} if gay marriage is legally accepted and sanctioned. Can you imagine the kind of chaos in the Church that will come about if the FLDS and other polygamous groups are legally able to have their marriages acknowledged and can legally continue to be performed? I can think of at least 5 active LDS members off the top of my head who would go running to the First Presidency asking for a second wife!

  24. “I feel sorrow for this man because he has voluntarily sacrificed the great sense of joy and purpose that can come only from obedience.”

    Oxymoron of the year. Joy and purpose from obedience? War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, yada yada yada…

    Obedience is for dogs to keep them from pooping on the rug…not for human beings with brains and free agency.

  25. “Obedience is for dogs to keep them from pooping on the rug…not for human beings with brains and free agency.”

    I’m going to have that made into a vinyl cling and stick it on my wall.

  26. Am I the only one that thinks that the government should abolish marriage altogether? The institution is so entangled with religion (indeed, most who oppose gay marriage do so due to religious reasons), that I don’t see how it isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

    Without marriage, the government should do what many other governments do and grant civil unions (i.e. purely secular marriage), which, incidentally, could also solve the whole can’t-invite-nonmembers-to-my-wedding problem for Mormons…. I think these should be accessible to anyone–both gay and straight. Marriage should be left to religion.

    It would be, of course, susceptible to the “slippery slope” argument of granting gay marriage (e.g., “first gay marriage… next polygamy!”) My thoughts are that there is a long way to go before polygamists become as big a political force as the GLBT movement (more isolation, less numbers/education/political activity) and there could be other arguments raised as to why we shouldn’t go that far (burden on society, impact to children?, complications to the tax systems)so there is no immediate worry for that. (Full disclosure: I actually don’t have much of a problem with polygamy–as long as no FLDS-like abuse occurs. There are certainly many issues that would be hard to solve, but when sincere religious beliefs are involved, I can’t help but feel sympathetic. My ancestors seemed to make it work….)

    Anyhow, sorry for getting off point. I don’t think we should oppose gay marriage. I think we should oppose marriage itself–if it is tied at all to the government.

  27. “Obedience is for dogs” (Phouchg)

    “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

    I guess Jesus is just trying to emotionally manipulate His followers, in your opinion. The price of discipleship is obedience, as far as Mormons are concerned.

  28. Phouchg

    With respect please let me proffer that members of the church that believe that obedience is only for dogs then those may have missed a central tenet of the gospel. Commandments are given to us specifically so that we can have joy. Ignoring commandments (i.e., disobedience) pulls one further from the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The joy that comes from obedience is the knowledge of living ever more in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Even those new to the gospel know that the central teachings of Jesus Christ were that love for Him was manifested by keeping his commandments (i.e., obedience). Anyone that thinks joy can possibly come from disregarding the commandments and opposing the leadership of the church has sadly lost their way. It is important that we don’t confuse obedience with weakness and that we don’t pretend that disobedience is somehow novel or enlightened.

  29. “The price of discipleship is obedience, as far as Mormons are concerned.”

    wrong. Obedience has NOTHING TO DO with following the great commandments

    Matthew 22:36-40

    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and great commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    Nothing is more important than those two commandments – nothing . Obedience is not the “first law of heaven”. That is a useful lie for certain people who wish to exert their influence over others. Weak-minded people are those who take down so-called prophetic statements like a pill.

    Use your God-given brain to find things out for yourself.

  30. #16:
    This idea that marriage is a contract between consenting individuals is a new one.

    Absolutely! We need to go back to those “time honored” principles of marriage, when women knew their place! You know, back when a woman had no right to consent to a marriage contract, let alone refuse it, and she became the property of her husband! This idea of “consent” and equal partnership is, as you say, a new idea!

    As numerous studies show, society pays a price through a number of social ills when a mother or father is taken away from a child’s life.

    I’m still waiting to see an actual citation for any of these “studies,” but just in case you’re right, we’d better start taking children away from all those single mothers in the country. `We must save the children from not having “a mother and a father!”

    …one that will send the message to all future generations that truly first comes love, than comes marriage…

    Wait a second…so now you’re endorsing those “new ideas” about marriage, that you decried before? The idea that “love” comes before marriage is indeed one of those “new ideas.”

    The state has a responsibility to encourage an environment that is best for children and that with a loving Mothers and Fathers. That is the standard that best helps children. The standard shouldn’t be changed just because people are not perfect.

    Therefore, the state should ban divorce, which is the leading cause of children not having “a loving mother and father” in the home.

  31. Phouchg–

    How do you love God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind? And how do you love your neighbour as yourself?

  32. #16

    “The state has a responsibility to encourage an environment that is best for children and that with a loving Mothers and Fathers.”

    Marriage is not necessarily about raising children. First and foremost, marriage fundamentally is about the emotional, physical and financial fulfillment of the partners.

    #36

    I am not perfect in fulfilling those commandments (I don’t think any of us are). But I can sure use my own brain and my own sense of morality to know what is right or wrong. I can ask God myself about these things. I don’t have to wait on the arm of flesh to get my marching orders.

  33. I do not agree with much of what Jeffrey writes, but I do not think it is apostasy.

    In fact, I agree with his invitation in his first paragraph: “I am asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our religious leaders”

    I also agree with his argument that, “When the argument, no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the wisdom of our founding fathers.” The key word here is “solely.” I disagree, however, with his implicit premise, that the Brethren’s invitation is solely based on a “religious proclamation” or “religious principles.”

    I agree with the principle that a law or regulation based solely on someone’s religious teachings is inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter of the Constitution. For example, a law prohibiting dating before age 16 passed in Utah, solely because the Brethren requested it, would, in my opinion, be a contradiction of the “wisdom of our founding fathers [and mothers].” The same would be true if BYU’s dress code were extended to the entire population solely because the Brethren invited Mormons in Utah to vote to do so. There are probably better examples.

    But I do not believe that most of the opposition to same sex marriage, even when expressed or voted by believing Mormons, is based “solely” on religious proclamation. While the letter does not recite the prior “secular” arguments made by the Brethren, the Church’s position is not based “solely” on religious teachings–one may disagree with their conclusions, but I think it is error to assert that the conclusion is based “solely” on purported revelation. And, in most cases, the opposition to same sex marriage held by most Mormons is not based “solely” on the fact that the Brethren oppose it. (It is true that, on T&S. one permablogger reported that several years ago she had supported Proposition 22 because the Brethren asked her to do so, even though she would have opposed it otherwise. But that is an exception that proves the rule.)

    I have not understood the Brethren to direct, or even invite us, to vote against our conscience. I think they have asked us, in consulting our conscience, to take into account their “unequivocal” teachings as a factor, even a strong factor. Perhaps it is fair to say they have invited us to open our hearts to confirmation from God on how one should vote on these matters.

    To the extent that Jeffrey is arguing (1) that California Mormons are not, and should not, be required to vote for the amendment against their informed judgment and conscience, and (2) that, along with the letter from the Brethren, they should take into account the concerns he and other supporters of same sex marriage articulate, then I fully agree with him. And, frankly, I think the Brethren would agree with him as well.

    **************************************

    On a personal note, when the Brethren invited us to “let our voice be heard” on the Federal Marriage Amendment, I personally took their implicit support of the amendment into account, and then wrote a letter to all my representatives urging a vote against it. I also voted against Arizona’s proposed constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage and domestic partnerships.

    If I were in California, though, I would probably vote for the constitutional amendment mostly because I disagree with the California’s supreme court’s interpretation of its state constitution–I do not think it requires recognition of same sex marriages, and that definition should be left to the democratic process.

  34. The parable of the Iron Rod posits that it is those who have had the word given to them and glimpsed the goal who will have to face mists of darkness that will leave them confused and unable to safely move without holding onto the law.

    Would be nice if people were conversant enough with scripture Ray, to realize that #32 quotes John 14:15..

    Interesting how easy it is to find reasons to ignore both and become convinced that we don’t need the iron rod, our vision is not obscured and that we are not the one relying on the arm of flesh.

    I think I’m reconciled to things that I wasn’t before. Those who have followed my discussions with other posters know I was working on a post that justified gay marriage based on current LDS theology and suppositions. I’m dropping that and completely rethinking things.

    BTW, we know that marriage for love has a long tradition in the Bible. Can’t be that new.

    Well, I can say that a post and a discussion here changed my mind on an issue where I had strong feelings that we should marry according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all others the same privilege, let them marry how, what or when they may.

    I’m resolved to thinking differently.

  35. Phoucg – Thank you for expressing your view. I know that I tire of the “obedience card” being played constantly by those who feel it is their duty to keep members of the church in line. There is room for all of us in God’s kingdom. If you do not agree with the brethren on a issue does not mean your apostate. On this issue I do not believe that it is God speaking through his prophet, I believe this is the thinking of twelve very good men who are influenced by their culture and experience. We have seen this before, as stated by Dr Nielson.

    N8Ma – I love God, because I believe he loved me first, and saved me from my sinful state through his grace. I show this through love for my fellow man. Kinda cheesy I know – but this works for me.

  36. #41 – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I emphasize that there can be good, honest, sincere people who disagree on the nuances involved in political issues. Sometimes, agreeing to disagree but continue to respect and learn from each other really is the Christ-like thing to do.

  37. anon 28 – “I can think of at least 5 active LDS members off the top of my head who would go running to the First Presidency asking for a second wife!” And those are precisely the ones who would be prohibited from practicing polygamy if the practices in the early days of the church are any indication.

    phouchg 34 – “Use your God-given brain to find things out for yourself.” And your God-given gift of the HG to find out things for yourself.

    Frankly, though, I’m not that impressed with Dr. Nielson’s letter. The good church members of CA will vote and act according to their conscience, whichever way they feel they should, neither following leaders blindly nor realizing from Dr. Nielson’s letter that they can choose to do differently. His letter will either have no effect or serve to reaffirm the already existing feelings of individuals: either that he’s right and that the leaders of the church are advocating an antiquated and inhumane stance or that the leaders of the church are right to stand up for marriage between a man and a woman and no apostate tree-hugging liberal ex-BYU professor is going to change their minds! I’m inclined to think the truth lies in between, but it’s unlikely his letter will cause a material change in anyone’s stance. I would say A for effort, but his letter has too much ego to be rewarded; if I were a church member in CA, I’d be amused at his arrogance and that he felt compelled to explain to me where my civil duty lies.

  38. What strikes me most about his letter is what struck me about Brother Nielsen’s last letter — how surprisingly inarticulate it is. That, and how ungrammatical it is. Did no one offer to edit this piece before he published it? It’s filled with run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation, and sentences that are otherwise structured inappropriately. I don’t say this to be a pedantic ass; I really do think that those who support gay marriage, or who oppose a California amendment, should lament the fact that the one LDS writer who is getting public attention on their side of the issue is so sophmoric and incapable of structuring a thoughtful piece.

    I personally have some reservations about the Church’s involvement in California politics which would take too long to get into here. Suffice it to say that I have mixed feelings about all this, and I’m not squarely in one camp or the other.

    AB

  39. Mr. Neilson issues a challenge that is indeed difficult to refute based on current scientific evidence.

    “If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.”

    Current studies show that children raised by gay parents, although less bound by traditional gender-associated behavioral traits, successfully develop self-esteem and are no more likely to become gay themselves. The studies I’ve seen are not, however, multi-generational and really do not have sufficient history to reflect the children’s maturation to mid-life.

    Gay parenting does start off with an advantage in that it reflects a preparedness and willingness to parent, by nature of the more complicated process of obtaining children. There are few, if any, “unplanned births” among gay partners. Adoptive parents gay or straight who willingly take special needs children and “hard to place” children into their homes are, furthermore, being neighborly in an extremely generous way.

    The human spirit is also resiliant and many children will thrive regardless of their childhood trials, as many Dicken’s tales can describe. Nevertheless, if all factors were equal…partner love, relationship stability, stable parental employment, taking time off work to stay-at-home if necessary, supportive extended family, etc., is it better for a child to be raised by biologic wedded parents than any other scenario?

    Until reproductive technology makes it possible for a child to be created from the genetic material of two members of the same sex, a surrogacy of some sort will be required. Granted, the same sorts of surrogacy are being used for infertile hetersexual couples and were even used in rare “convenience” plural marriages under the approval of Brigham Young in situations where husbands were physically unable to procreate.

    Controversial, but popping up on the internet, however, is the controversial term “Adopted Child Syndrome”. Although it is less likely to occur in those who were placed as an infant, there is still a subset of adoptees who may develop, as an adult, debilitating depression that is based on the feelings that result from being abandoned. There may be obsessing about how their life would have turned out if they had been reared by their natural father and mother. Now, these factors could possibly be explained by genetic predisposition to depression. Nevertheless, searches by adoptees to discover natural parents and the emotional reunions that sometimes result have been widely publicized.

    I also mentioned in another post that opposite gender parenting provides the role models within the nuclear family that Jung’s psychological theories credit for the individuation of the inner male and female within each human that lead to more successful adult interactions.

    Am I saying that special needs children should remain unadopted rather than be adopted by gay parents? No. Am I saying that all adoption (straight or gay) be abandoned? No. Am I saying that extended family opposite gender role models cannot make a difference in the lives of children? No.

    What I am suggesting is that society continues to have an interest in promoting parenting of children by wedded biologic parents when possible and in absence of one or both parents being unfit. The amendment takes away the ability to legally promote this “traditional” model of family.

  40. Mr. Neilson issues a challenge that is indeed difficult to refute based on current scientific evidence.

    Very true. BYU profs have even published scientific papers in support of some of the assumptions Neilson’s letter makes.

  41. Whether sexual preference is natural or learned is really irrelevant to the question of marriage definition. Legislative passed civil unions are more than capable of handling the legal hurdles for same sex relationships and can be adjusted as the situations arise. Finding a civil rights component for sexual preference is a legal quagmire that we should not enter. This is why Mr. Neilson finds is difficult to make a strong argument without playing the anti religious card.

  42. Joe says, “Nothing Meridian writes or any other argument I have heard holds water for me when it comes to the comments that same sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage or children”

    This phrase is the important part: “for me.” Some well meaning honest people will look at the facts and get a gut feel there is nothing to be concerned about. Others well meaning and honest people will look at the facts and get a gut feel there is much to be concerned about. Both will act their conscience.

    I think it’s unfortunate that there is such a strong need to “demonize the other” point of view. The real tragedy is the hate and bigory that exists across the “very wide divide that has no [political] bridge” when it’s so easy to see that both sides are doing the best they can and both are acting out of desire to do the right thing. How blind are we? It is horrible the way we mistreat, hate, and brand our political opponents over this issue. And it’s so easy to make a bridge once this is recongized.

    But once this is understood, Nielsen’s letter appears in it’s proper place. He’s just a well meaning person that can’t conceive of any problems that could come from redefining marriage to include homosexual marriage and so he’s voting his conscience, as he should, and attempting to convert others in the process, as he should. But the same could be said of his political opponents as well.

    I feel despair over the apparent impossiblity for us humans to see the real complexities of this (and all) issues and admit that our opponents are as good and well meaning as we are in the vast majority of cases. I suspect that political compromise will continue to be impossible because of this inability and that the real stresses on society will appear, not over this issue directly, but over our inability to ever reconcile due to lack of desire to do so. We’re so much more comfortable hating our political opponents. It’s become part of the DNA of our culture and society.

  43. Wow. How profound Jeff. This is exactly what all incestuous couples have been looking for — justification that two loving consenting adults should be entitled to marriage. All those mothers can now marry their daughters and fathers can marry their sons — just as soon as they reach adulthood. Because hey, they love each other. It is part of their human nature, they didn’t choose it, but they romantically love each other. Let’s give these incestuous couples the stamp of approval!!!

  44. #49 – the first part of your name is correct.

    There are already laws in place regarding prohibited degrees of kinship in marriage. This does nothing to change any of those laws. The fear mongering arguments like “people can now marry their horses! Dogs and cats living together!” are nothing more than people who have hit their head while sliding down the slippery slope.

  45. My initial thoughts after reading the letter were of Jonah. It didn’t work out to well for him, but he finally came around. Here’s hoping.

  46. #47 Rich writes: “Legislative passed civil unions are more than capable of handling the legal hurdles for same sex relationships. . . ”

    I have friends ranging in age from 40’s on up who went to schools that the Florida legislature and local political leaders deemed “capapble of handling” their education. The legislature and local leaders made provisions to say that these schools for black children were separate, they were equal. Equal provision was made for the education of the black child, except we all know that wasn’t true. “Equal provisions” being made for gay and lesbian couples that aren’t marriage, just aren’t equal.

  47. I know plenty of nice people who smoke, drink, cut themselves, engage in premarital sex, and do other things the Church doesn’t believe in. That doesn’t make those things right or justifiable. Should we then legalize stealing when it involves kleptomaniacs?

  48. I read Nielson’s letter and I agree that it is the very definiation of apostate. He is coming out in open defiance of the churches leaders and trying to give the impression that he knows more then they do and what they are saying is not right. If you are a member of the church and you raise your hand to the square twice a year and agree to support and sustain the first presidency and the twelve apostles then you would not write and publish a letter like this no matter what the issue is. It’s one step off of the straight and narrow path. In the case of Jeff Nielson it is actually the second step off the path and now he is completely off.

  49. “California is once again attempting to lead the country (like they do in everything else)”

    I wonder, while you’re taking such an attitude, if you stop to consider that CA is more than 12% of the national population. That’s why they have the impact they do. OTOH, when the LDS or UT attempt to force the conclusion of this issue they represent 1.6% and .8%, respectively, of the US population.

    I don’t believe CA has any conscious intention of influencing the way others live. But I don’t think the same can be said at all for the church administration who are meddling in the affairs of government to discriminate against one class of American citizens.

  50. …with Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

    Well, that’s certainly simple enough. What is the problem the church leaders in SLC are having with understanding a fairly straight-forward concept like this one?

  51. Phouchg,

    I am going to say this as carefully and gently and sincerely as I possibly can:

    Nobody here has told you to zip it, even as you said, “Obedience is for dogs to keep them from pooping on the rug”. Many of us here strive to be obedient; you essentially called us dogs that need to be kept from pooping on the rug. Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s what you said. Still, we didn’t tell you to “zip it”.

    Please, return the favor. Please.

  52. It is essential that each person seeks to understand the issue of their own accord. Mr. Nielson is not in a position to contradict the first Presidency and such efforts only lead to apostasy. The life of the Savior and his eternal sacrifice is the single most powerful example of the importance of obedience. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus provided the example for obedience that is as unmistakable as it is poignant. The Savior of Mankind pleaded with our Father in the garden and sought His divine aid. The prayer recorded in the 26th chapter of Matthew provides a clear and unmistakable teaching regarding obedience:

    39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

    Obedience does not indicate a lack of judgment it represents the epitome of good judgment. By following the Prophet who is inspired by God we essentially substitute the frail judgment of man for the infinitely wise counsel of our omnipotent Father in Heaven. Assuming that one has more understanding on this than the Prophet is not just arrogant or self absorbed but is to assume greater understanding than such subjects than God has. It is astounding to me that some members want to change the church to be more in line with their views. That is never how the gospel has worked. It is essential to recognize that we bend our will to the will of our God – not the other way around. Those who attempt to change the church or oppose direction from ecclesiastical authority are saying they want the church to match their views. It always works the other way around or it doesn’t work at all. There are no political movements in the church or pressure from the members to do one thing or another. The gospel is not democratically chosen. It is dispensed from God to His followers. If it were otherwise then we could be certain we belonged to the wrong church.

  53. Mr. Nielson is not in a position to contradict the first Presidency…

    How can any rational person say such a thing? If you were to say that as a member of the LDS church, Jeffrey Nielson “should not” contradict the LDS First Presidency, that would be one thing. When you say he’s “in no position” to do so, however, you set yourself up as the judge and jury over whether Mr. Nielson has a right to free speech. Will his free expression have consequences, including the possibility of LDS church discipline? Of course. I’m sure he was well aware of such a possibility, when he wrote his letter. To imply that he had no right to write the letter, however, is simply unconscionable.

    By following the Prophet who is inspired by God we essentially substitute the frail judgment of man for the infinitely wise counsel of our omnipotent Father in Heaven.

    I agree that by simply “following the [president of the LDS church]” one does substitute “the frail judgement of man” for direct revelation deity. Of course, I’m sure you meant to write “by not following…” In that case, you seem to forget that even the president of the LDS church, no matter how inspired he may be, is a falliable, “frail” human being, entirely subject to human error. Joseph Smith was able to admit to mistakes, when he thought he had acted on inspiration, but modern LDS leaders don’t seem to be (the last time would be Bruce R. McConkie, who bravely made a public statement rejecting his own pre-1978 speculations on when the LDS priesthood would be given to persons of African descent).

    Assuming that one has more understanding on this than the Prophet is…to assume greater understanding than such subjects than God has.

    I think even most faithful, believing LDS would find your statement shocking and blasphemous. The president of the LDS church is not deity. The thoughts of the president of the LDS church are not the thoughts of deity, even if those thoughts happen to be inspired by deity. Men are not perfect, and no revelation has ever been received in its perfection.

    It is essential to recognize that we bend our will to the will of our God – not the other way around.

    Yet your entire comment insists that one must bend their will to the will of the president of the LDS church. Contrary to your earlier implication, the president of the LDS church is not deity, nor is he a perfect reflection of the will of deity.

  54. As a California voter who has a dog in this fight unlike Dr. Neilson, I found Lance Starr’s legal discussion more convincing and better reasoned than Dr. Neilson’s appeal to emotion. I have found most auguements for supporting gay marriage are appeals to emotion and are full of ad hominem attacks. Both are of course logical fallacies. Appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy which uses the manipulation of the recipient’s emotions, rather than valid logic, to win an argument. This kind of appeal to emotion is a type of red herring and encompasses several logical fallacies, including:

    * Appeal to consequences
    * Appeal to fear
    * Appeal to flattery
    * Appeal to pity
    * Appeal to ridicule
    * Appeal to spite
    * Wishful thinking

    An ad hominem argument is a reply to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. It is most commonly used to refer specifically to the ad hominem as abusive (mean), sexist, racist, (Homophobic),(unChristian) or argumentum ad personam, which consists of criticizing or attacking the person who proposed the argument (personal attack) in an attempt to discredit the argument. It is also used when an opponent is unable to find fault with an argument, yet for various reasons, the opponent disagrees with it.

    Thus Dr. Neilsen appeals to a need to understand the anguish of Gays and bashes Prophets , Seers and Revelators of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as just old, unfeeling curmudgeons who are misguided as were Paul and the author of Leviticus. In Dr. Neilsen’s narrative, he alone is the keeper of the authentic Christianity and seems to be accusing others of worshiping on a Rameumptom. I once did that myself, but I have repented and I hope Dr. Neilsen may one repent as well. I find more peace here.

    Read Starr’s arguments here:

    http://www.fairblog.org/2008/06/27/same-sex-marriage-equality-and-california-mormons-a-response-to-jeffrey-s-nielsen/

    Bro. Starr said, “…it is my stated belief that if the citizens of a certain state feel that they wish to extend the benefits and privileges to same sex partners, that is their legal right, and while I think it makes for poor public policy, the right to enact bad public policy rests with us all. I do, however, vehemently object to imposition of same sex marriage on a populace via judicial fiat.
    On to the argument then. The fundamental question, as I see it, is this: Does a state have the right to favor one type of relationship over another? I believe the answer is unequivocally “yes” and I shall explain why. I believe that there does exist a valid and legally defensible argument that refusing to grant public/governmental sanction to same-sex marriages is in the public interest. My argument is based on principles of law and sound public policy and makes no reference to “morals,” “tradition” or “religious authority.”

    Then there is the discussion about “full Faith and Credit.” which further complicates the issue.

  55. Nick Literski – Thank you brother. That was spot on. The current trend of “Prophet Worship” by members of the church could be substituted with the more appropriate word of idolatry. It’s not even fair to them that we infer that every word they speak is the mind and will of God. We have been given the holy spirit as our guide. We need to use this gift to be able to judge these matters for ourselves.

  56. Alice when you refer to the “church administration,” I assume you are referring to the men that members of the Church of Jesus Christ reverence and sustain as as Prophet’s Seers and Revelators. The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints believe this Church is build upon a foundation of . . . apostles and prophets …that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

    http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-479-2,00.html

    Are these the same people you call the “church administration?”

  57. Since we are always reminded that the brethren are, after all, human and do make mistakes, and since there has been no claim of revelation on this matter, I can only use my own god given brain and heart and exercise my best judgment regarding such civil matters. I must to the best of my ability apply Christ-like love towards those in same-sex relationships regardless of the reason they are in the situations they are in. I must recognize they desire the same pursuit of happiness from this life as anyone else.

    To turn these faculties over to any other mortal man *be he labeled prophet or not* is to forfeit the greatest gift god has given man.

    What I would expect from a prophet is to encourage the honest exercise of these faculties and allow faithful member to decide for themselves how that applies to political questions. It seems a sign of distrust to compel them on such matters.

  58. Alice Said: “I don’t believe CA has any conscious intention of influencing the way others live.”
    Well, that is not how Gavin Newsom saw it:
    “In 2004, Newsom gained national attention when he issued a directive to the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.[5] The unexpected move brought national attention to the issues of gay marriage and gay rights, solidifying political support for Newsom in San Francisco and in the gay community, and causing several other states to change their laws concerning marriage and gay rights. Four years later, the California Supreme Court struck down the ban on same sex marriage after the City and County of San Francisco along with several other plaintiffs sued California over the ban.”

    Then there is the “Full Faith and Credit” issue.

  59. Shash 61 – thanks for adding to the political argument here. It’s nice to have more than just the usual rigamarole: “follow the prophet just because or you’re an apostate” vs. “question everything except the current politically correct opinion.” This topic has been done to death.

  60. Nick Literski

    I reread my post and I see how you could have inferred from my words a type of prophet worship but no such idea was intended. Please let me clarify that the church has organization for a purpose and members who take such actions risk divorcing themselves from the promptings of the Spirit.

    In addition I did not suggest that Nielson did not have the right to pen such a missive. As an American he has every right and it is clear from my post that I was speaking about life in the church.

    My point is that he nor any other member of the church is called to publicly contradict the first presidency. Assuming such a role is a mistake and this mistake is doubled when such Latter-day saints attempt to win over other members of the church in order to foment opposition to the prophet. To my knowledge no such privilege exists in the church. To publicly oppose official direction from the prophet is to oppose God’s representative on Earth. Such a view does not amount to equating the prophet with God or conferring infallibility on the brethren. It is simply church organization at its most rudimentary level.

    Any member who opposes the prophet under the guise of enlightenment particularly when a clearly established moral transgression is involved like homosexual behavior must acknowledge that they could be engaging in apostasy. It is dangerous not just for those who oppose the prophet but for those who hear the words and give them heed. Disciples of Christ owe the prophet the benefit of the doubt particularly when dealing with such grave moral issues.

  61. I’d suggest that Mr. Nielson has every right, even “as an LDS member,” to write his letter. His LDS leaders also have a right to take ecclesiastical action in response, even to the point of denying him membership in the LDS church. I almost hope they impose such a penalty, though one would hope they’re not stupid enough to do so.

    Further, I think you err in supposing that opposition to the FP letter is the same as teaching that the LDS church is wrong in its moral condemnation of homosexuality. Many who object to homosexuality also happen to object to the current political intervention by the FP. Not every faithful LDS member believes that their doctrine requires them to impose their particular rules of conduct on society at large.

  62. “Are these the same people you call the “church administration?””

    Yes. The very same. And since they did not state that they were speaking from revelation, and since we know that we have in the past sustained a Prophet Seer and Revelator who — unknown to us — was senile, and since we can see that this position has direct parallels to GAs of the 70s who took similar positions on the priesthood for Blacks right up to the time that they got the timely revelation that it was time to do a 180, and since they have previously stated that the church was politically neutral I feel confident that they have made a very serious error that will only bring embarrassment to them and to the church.

    Jesus told us there were two great laws. Nothing in those two laws tells me to discriminate against others. It tells me how to live my *personal* life. Jesus also said that it was God’s business to deal with sinners not mine and I assume that includes the State of California which seems, in this case, closer to Jesus’ teaching than the church administration.

    So, yes, we are clear about who I was referring to.

  63. Thanks, Jeff, that was informative. I see that the word “partisan” just about reversed what any rational person would interpret “political neutrality” to be about.

    I will have to go do some reading of my scriptures and see what Jesus said about partisan politics and what might have been revealed to Joseph Smith along those lines. The only thing I can remember offhand that Jesus said about the political class of his time wasn’t very positive. I’d hate to see the church attempt to be that sort of theocratic organization.

  64. The church’s stance is not pro-discrimination, nor is the legislation designed to outlaw discrimation which is already illegal. The stance is pro-family. Wasn’t PoF presented as revelation? I’m not able to verify that right now, but does someone have that info? I assume so based on it’s being considered canonical. So, while the PoF doesn’t say anything abt CA legislation or SSM specifically, it contains a clear stance that is consistent with the church’s position. Alice, I have to assume you are against PoF based on your comments. I ask out of interest only.

  65. The church tells us it’s position is pro-family but it is, in fact, specifically discriminatory and that was the finding of the CA Supreme Court which ruled that singling one class out to be denied the legal status of marriage was discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional. The remedy that the church is endorsing and advocating the CA Mormons lobby for with their time and money is to change the constitution of CA to *allow* such discrimination.

  66. The PoF has never been presented to a general conference for a sustaining vote as revelation, as would be required in order for it to be binding on the LDS members as a revelation. It has never been canonized, though it seems to be fashionable to call it “scripture” or “a revelation.”

    Of course, I fully expect it to be sustained as revelation and canonized, particularly if the California Prop 8 fails. It may even be presented for such this October, before the election, in order to further pressure those who are disinclined to support Monson’s directive regarding the initiative.

  67. The core issue is that homosexuals are attempting to obtain a right that no one has. I don’t have the right to marry someone of my own sex. Thus they are seeking to establish something wholly new. I don’t begrudge them their desire but I do question their motives. Why is this group so intent on “mainstreaming” their life style. My personal view is that the more it is accepted by the general public the less they feel guilty about their own actions.

    With their obvious goal of establishing a new right they should go through the political process and seek to get it codified. To continue to run to the courts and beg for their intervention is to support judicial tyranny. For a group that is so vocal in accusing their opponents of imposing their morality on the public at large I think this smacks of the worst kind of hypocrisy. The church is well within its right to advocate on behalf of families and traditional relationships and values. The church does not seek to force people into a new definition of marriage. Marriage concepts are enshrined in American culture and Western civilization. Homosexual advocacy groups are attempting to redefine what marriage is. They should be honest about their intention and seek victory at the ballot box.

  68. The PoF has no need of a sustaining vote because it contains no new doctrine of the church. Everything in it was restated to be clear and unambiguous.

  69. Jeff, that doesn’t make it a binding revelation, nor does it make the PoC canonized. As it stands, it is a proclamation of the official stance of the LDS church, with regard to certain doctrines, and an encouragement to political activism in accordance with that stance. You can consider it authoritative in that sense, but it has never been subjected to the revealed method by which revelations are accepted as binding on the LDS membership, let alone sustained as canon.

  70. Shash #61….I did not find any of the fallacies you list in any part of Nielsen’s letter? Were we reading the same thing? Instead, his position seems to have been to point out the fallacies with the arguments being presented by church leaders (being a philosphy prof, my presumption is that he is less likely than some to argue based on emotion, etc….perhaps you disagree).

    For those who argue that Nielsen’s position is that of a borderline apostate, I would ask….what is one to do when one’s church uses the pulpit to push a political agenda that one feels is politically (and in Nielsen’s case morally) misguided? The sense I’m getting is that it’s okay to be politically active if you agree with the church’s political positions….but if you disagree and do as intended in our democracy (speak out), you are on the path to hell….and may have your membership called into question.

    As Professor Nielsen stated in his interview, in a pluralistic society, it’s not acceptable for a church to say “god said so” without providing some moral reasoning from which society at large can benefit. And it has been my experience that when the church has provided such reasoning…it has done so using methods exposed by Shash; appeals to consequences, appeal to fear, appeals to tradition, etc. That’s what I take away from Professor Nielsen’s actions…..I’m glad we live in a country where he feels free to express his views without fear of retribution. I wish we lived in a church where he could do the same…..the actions/opinions of our leaders should be able to withstand such (especially since they come from God – who gives light to reason).

  71. Ray, I’m sure you’re well aware of the process that is required before a statement is accepted as binding revelation for the LDS, let alone canonization. Are you suggesting that LDS leaders would never initiate that process in hopes of emphasizing the PoC and enhancing its ability to determine LDS behavior?

    Jeff, there are several very unclear things in the PoF, such as its misuse of the term, “gender,” suggesting that people are homosexual because they think their spirit is a different sex than their body. Gender identity is a completely different condition, and does not correlate with sexual orientation.

  72. adcama, as I said in my comment, my biggest problem is with the focus in his letter on other members. A letter to the public at large would be much less confrontational than one that is addressed to other Mormons.

    My next biggest problem is that he criticizes the Church for not presenting a coherent, compelling justification for its stance without presenting such a justification for his own stance. His whole reasoning seems to boil down to, “It’s not a choice; it’s natural,” while the Church’s stance seems to boil down (now) to, “The natural man is an enemy to God, and we can’t condone the extension of this natural man coupling to ‘marriage'”. His argument in this letter is no more compelling than the Church’s statements **to someone who doesn’t agree already with one side or the other**.

    I just think this letter is inarticulate, lame, egotistical and improperly focused. When I taught debate, I would have failed it as a debate argument. That’s all.

  73. “Are you suggesting that LDS leaders would never initiate that process in hopes of emphasizing the PoC and enhancing its ability to determine LDS behavior?”

    Nick, I won’t say “never” – but it would surprise me.

    I also have said this elsewhere, but I don’t buy the “misuse of the term gender” argument. I really do think there are two primary reasons to use that word in that context:

    1) The Brethren simply didn’t want to deal with the misunderstanding and true firestorm that would arise inevitably if the Proclamation included the statement, “(Sex) is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” You and I and every reasonable person hopefully would understand it, but I have NO desire whatsoever to have to battle the people (Mormons AND others) who would read it incorrectly and translate “sex” as “sexual activity”. You know there are lots of people who would jump all over that and scream that claim from the rooftops – even many who would recognize what it actually means.

    2) The Proclamation does NOT claim that every man (or woman) here was a man (or woman) before birth and will be a man (or woman) after death. Of course, that is the assumption, and I don’t think many leaders would argue otherwise, but that’s not what the document actually says. When parsed literally (**as you are doing**), it only says that gender is an essential characteristic of individual identity and purpose in each stage of our existence. It says gender existed (in some form) in the pre-existence, that it exists (in the present form) now and that it will exist (in some form) in the hereafter. I believe we project our own sexual understanding onto the eternities, including our own limitations on understanding how spirit children are created, and end up assuming things that simply aren’t taught explicitly in our canon and official statements.

    If you are going to criticize the Proclamation by parsing the meaning of one word, then you need to parse the entire sentence in which that word is used. Yes, your interpretation is a valid one, especially given the assumptions that probably helped produce it, but it’s not the only valid one based solely on the words themselves.

    BTW, do most other Christians believe that gender is a component of the afterlife? Do you? That is a serious question, since the answer might bolster or undercut your argument against the verbiage.

  74. Hmmm….perhaps he feels that the substance of the First Presidency letter was wrong and that it shouldn’t have been read over the pulpit. Perhaps he feels that since he has had a track record of having some impact in this area (see the previous Nielsen fallout), and has taken up the cause for many in the homosexual mormon community, that he was the best person to stand up in front of this particular subset of the population and do what we should all be doing….participate in the democratic process. He has kind of become a heterosexual spokesperson for the cause, no? Makes sense that he would be the person to respond in the way that he did…..

    For your second point, I guess you are saying that he/the gay community has the burden of proof regarding why he/they feel gays should not be discriminated against (his words) vs. the church proving why it is okay to discriminate. All he seems to be saying is that he cannot find a good reason to ammend the CA constitution (and the church has not provided one). When ammending a state’s constitution, who has the burden of proof? I would say those in favor of the ammendment…..otherwise, we should default to basic principles of equality.

    That aside, I think he explains quite well in his interview his reasoning for his position (perhaps a short essay would be an appropriate forum for him to lay his whole argument out).

    Perhaps his letter is inarticulate – I didn’t think so. Lame? I don’t know how to quantify that. Egotistical…? Perhaps courageous…. Improperly focused….perhaps, but I love it when people stand up for what they believe.

    I do worry that a phrase or two in the letter could be perceived as criticism directed at the brethren. I hope Nick is right that he’ll be left alone – I really think the discussion is good – and he seems to be able to generate quite a bit of that.

  75. I am curious to know if anyone here that disagrees with the first presidency has gone to their Bishops and or Stake Presidents about the matter. I would be very interested in the counsel that they received. Anyone? Anyone? Buehller?

  76. James, I am going to say this sincerely and as peacefully as I possibly can.

    I am a fully-committed, temple-recommend holding, highly-visible-calling-serving, Mormon – through and through. If I lived in CA, I would vote for the amendment – even though I am bothered greatly by the hypocrisy of allowing common-law marriages and not gay marriages that I see as legal discrimination. I would vote for the amendment and then work for the abolishment of heterosexual common-law marriage – all the while wishing that the order had been reversed and we as a church had fought openly against common-law marriage.

    Having said that, even I read the obviously loaded question in #86 and wish you simply had made the statement without the sarcasm at the end. Elder Ballard’s statement regarding this type of communication and the recent advice from the Church regarding how we should interact in this type of forum do not support sarcasm like this, so if you are going to address following our leaders, please consider doing so with the tone of your comments, as well.

  77. Everyone else, please refrain from turning this into a sarcasm-laden slugfest. It would be a shame for it to become such, after the generally civil and respectful tone that has been maintained thus far. There have been moments to regret, perhaps, but I would hate to see this degenerate into a slapfest.

  78. Ray

    I was not trying to add sarcasm I was simply attempting to keep my question light because I was afraid it would be seen as accusatory. Clearly I failed and my jest fell flat. Sorry about that Ray.

  79. Thanks, James, for that clarification.

    Smiley-faced emoticons or a (*grin*) help tremendously to convey humor – since sometimes it is brutally hard to catch.

  80. The Church’s position on political neutrality includes the following paragraph:

    “Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.”

    While the statement does not explicitly extend to voters generally, I believe the principle does so extend. When we vote in a referendum, our judgment should consider the interests of those who would be affected by the law, not just the interests of our Church.

    I believe the neutrality statement can also mean the following: “[Voters] who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other [voter], it recognizes that these [voters] still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies [who would be affected by the law].”

  81. #82:
    BTW, do most other Christians believe that gender is a component of the afterlife? Do you? That is a serious question, since the answer might bolster or undercut your argument against the verbiage.

    Ray, as I’m sure you know, gender is a social construct. It involves the “whole package” of what a culture considers “masculine” or “feminine.” Because it is a social construct, we have societies through history which have assigned a given task to either males or females, depending on which gender that society associated with the behavior involved. Of course, those assignments have not been universal; they often conflict with one another. This suggests to me that gender is not, in fact, “eternal.”

    I suppose that some would be ethnocentric enough to conclude that their culture’s gender distintions are the ones that deity directed, and that any society that differs must be “degenerate” from “deity’s way.” I would not consider that to be a rational, educated opinion. I’d consider it provincial, closed minded, and downright ignorant (yes, that’s my particular bias showing).

    I sympathize with your suggestsion (and that of others) that LDS leaders simply shied away from using that “very naughty” three-letter word, lest someone get the wrong idea. If it was the intent of LDS leaders to teach that men are “eternally” men, and women are “eternally” women, would it have been so hard to say that? I’d even be likely to agree with such a statement, given some caution regarding biological ambiguities that show up from time to time.

    Ultimately, however, I believe that the PoF reflects a profound misunderstanding of the nature of homosexuality. It seems rather well-established that the statement was crafted primarily as a response to the issue of marriage equality, as it was then raised in Hawaii. As such, it appears to me that the claim that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” is intended to convey that homosexuality is wrong because men are eternally men, and women are eternally women. I just don’t see how anyone can pose this as an argument against homosexuality, unless they actually think that homosexuality is the product of “gender confusion.” My own experience, along with my interactions with many gay men and lesbians, tells me that this is simply not the case. A very tiny minority of individuals, both heterosexuals and homosexuals, consider themselves transgendered. It simply doesn’t correlate with one sexual orientation or the other.

    To me, the PoF reflects this very basic misunderstanding of homosexuality. It happens that this particular misunderstanding was quite a typical assumption during the era when the current general authorities were maturing. As such, I personally must conclude that the PoF is a statement of opinion, based at least in part on rather archaic, faulty beliefs regarding homosexuality. To me, that doesn’t meet the standard of a “revelation.”

  82. James, I’ve considered meeting with my bishop – but I’m not sure if it’s such a good use of anyone’s time – for one thing, I live in Texas where this is NOT a current politcal issue.

    FWIW, I have a close friend who was in a UCLA student ward during prop 22. He spoke up in Elders Quorum when the ward was organizing a door-to-door campaign. Because he spoke up, he was asked to meet with his bishop. The bishop said, in essense, that while people were okay to disagree, they shouldn’t do so in church. I found this counsel (hearsay as it may be) incredibly ironic.

  83. Nick, I appreciate that answer to my question. Honestly, that’s not something that I have asked directly of anyone in a religious discussion – and I realize that is because it’s not as “personal” an issue to me. I really don’t know how most other Christians would answer a question regarding sex, gender and the afterlife.

    Do you think most Christians (yourself?) believe that sex is a component of the afterlife – that men will be men and women will be women, even in a spiritual state?

    Btw, I also agree completely that the Proclamation is not “canon” as we define it. I think it fits the more general definition of “scripture” for many members, but until it is sustained openly by common consent and/or included in the D&C as another OD it won’t be canon.

  84. Ray, I am not a christian. That said, I’ve certainly spent my share of time as one, and studied several approaches. In my experience, many non-LDS christians seem to believe we will retain our essential identity as male and female, though some seem to think we’ll become essentially androgynous angels.

    Yes, I realize the PoF is certainly viewed by many LDS as “scripture” in the very broad sense described in the D&C. Of course, the question remains whether it was written “by the Holy Ghost.” 😉

  85. “Ray, I am not a christian.” I know, which is why I added the parentheses. Sorry that wasn’t clear.

    You are a gay, fundamentalist Mormon, right? 🙂

  86. Hell, Ray! If I’m a gay fundamentalist Mormon, then Hinckley said I can’t exist as “gay” OR “fundamentalist!” That just leaves “Mormon,” and I withdrew my name from the records two and a half years ago! 😉

    Sorry about the confusion. I thought the parenthetical was your way of asking whether I considered myself a christian.

  87. Btw, Nick, I used your name in vain over on BCC on the Ann Arbor Snacker thread. Couldn’t resist, and I think if you read the comments (#1-#4) you’ll see why.

  88. James: “I am bothered greatly by the hypocrisy of allowing common-law marriages and not gay marriages that I see as legal discrimination.” I think that’s a point we can all agree upon (that this is hypocritical), so thanks for adding that.

    Nick: Frankly, I think you have a point on the gender comment. Interestingly, you see it as a dig on gays based on antiquated notions of what causes “gayness” (the old thinking that a gay man is a woman trapped in a man’s body and a lesbian is manly). Of couse, as a female executive, I initially took it as a dig on me for being an aggressive ball-buster (can I say that?) rather than being satisfied hosting scrapbooking parties.

    But, I am open to the possibility that there is something eternal to one’s sexual identity. I don’t know what that could be, to your point, since different cultures have different gender norms. The differences don’t fly off the page at me, though – they are not obvious.

    If so, the PoF is worded wrong (as a linguist, that’s obvious unless the interpretation is that the culture creating the gender is one created by God that exists in His presence and is “eternal” and yet not consistent throughout the cultures of the earth). The mistaken wording could because of what Ray suggests, or because the FP didn’t give the wording thought beyond what seemed evident to them (that gay people choose to confuse their own sexual identity for some unknown reason). As we know, it was evident to BY that people were living on the moon and the sun (I live in AZ, so he may be right about the second one).

  89. #99 – “James: “I am bothered greatly by the hypocrisy of allowing common-law marriages and not gay marriages that I see as legal discrimination.” I think that’s a point we can all agree upon (that this is hypocritical), so thanks for adding that.”

    You are welcome, hawkgrrrl. (See #87.) 🙂

  90. adcama asks where are appeals to emotion and ad hominem.

    That is a fair question adcama. I am glad you asked be to examine Dr. Nielsen’s statement carefully. On the whole Dr. Neilsen’s statement gyrates widely from demands
    for rational discourse to clearly heartfelt emotional appeals. It is not a great logical argument, but rather a very personal statement of convictions, to which he is entitled. Unfortunately in his angst he takes the route of ad hominem abuse to me, others like me and to the prophets Seers and Revelators that I whole heartedly sustain even six months.

    In the following posts, I will examine the whole statement and offer my own views of the rhetoric and logic. It has been a long time since I studied Rhetoric and logic, but here it goes.

    “I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.”

    [The first sentence is clearly argumentum ad hominem is the inverse of argumentum ad verecundiam, in which the arguer bases the truth value of an assertion on the authority, knowledge or position of the person asserting it.]

    “It also does tremendous damage to the great progress in civil rights we’ve made in our country respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more certain legal equality for all citizens. “

    [This is an emotional appeal to unsubstantiated consequences and fear. If sames sex couple can have access to all the legal accoutrement through domestic partnerships why is the denial of marriage a burden.]

    “You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our religious leaders’ encroachment into political matters. In fact, a growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family members,”

    [This is of course unsubstantiated wishful thinking which is an appeal to emotion and a logical fallacy.]

    “…are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60’s when they opposed equal rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70’s when they opposed full legal equality for women.”

    [The use of the loaded word current and hierarchy rather than the use of their formal title is a clear appeal to ridicule. More over the characterization of opposing equal rights is an over simplification used to further the ridicule. Cleaver, perhaps, but it carries with it like and good propaganda effort the potent and bitter seeds of ridicule.]

    “… faithful members, of that religious organization have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.”
    [This is an emotional and unsupported appeal to fear. People in a democracy must make moral judgments and under our Constitution the right to join the polemic dialogue cannot denied based on religious ground. It is neither dangerous nor undemocratic.]

    “… we need to allow everyone the freedom to live their life as they see fit…”
    [Here we have an appeal to pity. Same sex couples can enjoy the rights of domestic partnerships. The public has chosen to acknowledge same sex partnerships, but they have every right not to honor that relationship as being identical in every way to heterosexual marriage—it is not and cannot be.]

    “After all, religious values must be something an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her by the state. “

    [This is inside baseball for Mormons. It is for Mormons a loaded question. Is Neilsen saying members cannot chose? Or is he saying same sex couples cannot chose. He might have take more time to work this out]

    “We should never allow our constitutions, whether state or federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy. Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.”

    [This is paragraph is an appeal to fear… In our pluralistic society we can and do make moral judgments with our laws and regulation. Clearly morality judgments can be the basis for both religious and political judgments. It is also presented as a loaded question. A loaded question is a question with a false or questionable presupposition, and it is “loaded” with that presumption. The question “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Note also the use of loaded words like “weapons” and “crusade.” These are hyperbole at best. ]

    I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected outright in a compassionate and just democracy. “

    [That would be an appeal to pity based on unproven predicates… Nielsen’s entire argument is not really based on denial of rights which are already granted in domestic partnership laws, but the honor of marriage. It is in his view hurtful to deny same sex couples the honor of being called married couples. Pity same sex couples…]
    “If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.”

    [This is clearly an ad hominem attack . The reference to “nonhuman animals” is a gratuitous effort that betrays Nielsons deep seated animus toward Apostles and Prophets. It is also a loaded question as though there are no possible rational arguments. The Proclamation on the Family lays out the moral basis for supporting Proposition 9 posits no appeal to tradition or claim about non human animals. For legal and rational discussion couched in the law and public policy I recommend Lance Starr’s arguments here: here:http://www.fairblog.org/2008/06/27/same-sex-marriage-equality-and-california-mormons-a-response-to-jeffrey-s-nielsen/%5D
    “You should know that like you, family and marriage are very important to me. “
    [This appeal to common interest is a good rhetorical technique]
    “As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and commitment.“

    [This is an emotional appeal which is okay when stating ones personal convictions, but it is a little awkward placed as it is immediately after a demand that only rational discourse will serve.]

    “I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents.’

    [This is wishful thinking without a predicate.]

    I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the call to discriminate against our gay and lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

    [This is an emotional appeal which is okay when stating ones personal convictions, but it is a little awkward placed as it is immediately after a demand that only rational discourse will serve.]

  91. adcama

    I don’t think it would be a waste of your time to discuss your feelings with the Bishop. Gaining direction from our ecclesiastical leaders is an essential part of the spiritual development process. I would certainly and have previously gone to my church leaders with issues that I felt strongly about and I never came away feeling anything but edified. Not so much because of anything that my leaders did but because I did what I could to voice my opinion and fulfill my responsibility as a Melchizedek priesthood holder. However, I understand what you mean about it not being the best use of time so I can appreciate your point.

  92. Shash – I think your analysis stretches to make a nuclear sub from PVC pipe and duct tape (smiley face here). Based on your conclusions, every supreme court decision, search warrant affidavit, regular nightly newscasts, missionary discussion and priesthood session of conference would fall into the category of “ad hominem attack” or “appeal to emotion”. I think it would be interesting for someone with more time to do the type of analysis you did on the Proclamation, or Elder Oaks’/Wickmans’ Q&A session on this topic, or Elder Scott’s last conference talk. I don’t have time to address it point by point, but based on the presentation of “evidence” of disingenous rhetorical technique it’s safe to say that we’re not likely to make much progress. I will, however, check out the rebuttal by Starr….I assume he will make no appeal to emotion.

  93. adcama, my point is simply this Dr. Neilsen’s personal statement of conviction on the one hand demands rational discourse, but in reality depends most heavily on emotional appeals. It is for the most part not logical argument, but is a very personal statement of convictions, to which he is entitled.

    My personal conviction is that Dr. Nielsen is wrong in demanding that the Church and the apostles in particular desist from taking a stand on matters of morality. The church and it’s members have every right to do so.

    Thanks for reading Lance Starr’s article.

    I do appreciate your tossing the challenge out to look at Dr. Neilsen’s work with greater specificity. It was a worthwhile exercise.

    Be well,

  94. Understood….you’re obviously entitled to that position. I just found it ironic that you’re defending the church’s position from the perspective that their (the church’s) argument is based solely on rational discourse vs. emotional appeals….while Professor Nielsen’s is simply “hyperbole.” I just saw it as classic pot/kettling (imagine the last conference talk you saw).

    I would only add one thing where I think there may be a misunderstanding. Professsor Nielsen is not advocating or demanding that religions (the Mormon church in particular) desist from taking a stand on matters of morality. Quite the contrary. If that is your belief, you may have missed his point. He states clearly that he believes that churches/religions, in a democracy, have every right to take such stands….that such morality is inextricibly linked to our democracy. After all, positions of relgious morality naturally absorb into the democratic process and the morph into collective values of our society.

    What he is saying is that WHEN the church makes religious statements (which, again, is their right), they should not expect a pluralistic society to accept the rationale of “god told us so.” Religious statements and arguments by this religion or that, must be, themselves subjected to a broader test of moral applicability….in other words, mormon “dictates from god” must contain moral values that can be embraced by society…since all of society does not believe that Thomas S. Monson regularly speaks with God.

    The church made an appeal to California mormons to support a political cause. Because it put one foot in the democratic ring…members a democracy (who also happen to be members of the church) should have the ability to question, ask for clarification and participate in a democratic process contra to the church’s doctrinal position…and not be expected to vote for something, support something, or refrain from entering the political debate on something they see as wrongheaded simply because their church leaders told asked them for political support. I think that is fair.

    Finally, despite what many people think….disagreement on a political issue (even when that issue has a moral component) is not a sign of apostacy or spiritual peril….although many mormons I know believe otherwise (some, perhaps…in this thread). In fact, there have been many occasions (Mitt Romney’s candidacy, for example) where political diversity was trumpetted by the church (i.e. we don’t tell our members how to vote) as a sign of strength, diversity and lack of eclesiastical control over the democratic process. Another point of irony…..

    I liked what DavidH said in #91…..perfect.

  95. Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.

    Both Jewish and Christian traditions state that the Prophet Isaiah was killed by being sawed in half * by people who were offended by his words of warning. Isaiah one of the most political of the prophets seemed to stick his nose into everything. He paid for his audacity.

    Now come Dr. Neilsen and others who want it two ways. They want prophets when they like what they say and don’t want them as prophets when they don’t like what they say. Thus they saw the prophet in two like Isaiah. Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.

    *Hebrews 11:37 (King James Version) They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being

  96. James Ballou! The amount of arrogance and lack of any desire to think for yourself is amazing. Because people like you nazi and communists were able to come to power and oppress people. Wake up and think for a moment for youresf – it is not that scary and it is actually fun. You should try it sometime.

    Cheers,

    BR

  97. What boggles my mind is that the LDS church openly violates Federal law with regard to lobbying efforts and partisan politics that cover all 501(c)(3) organizations. Directly from IRS.gov is this:

    “In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

    Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.

    An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.”

    Individuals have every right to vote their conscience or support whatever cause they want, but the church (any church) has NO RIGHT telling them what causes to support, what party is best and, most disgusting of all, telling them how much money they are expected to contribute in order to support or oppose a particular cause. Outright violation of the law they claim to uphold but instead thumb their noses at!!!

  98. #109 – Your comment is factually incorrect – plain and simple, especially the last sentence. VERY LITTLE of the Church’s overall activity is focused on influencing legislation, MANY other churches spend much more time and money doing so, and there is VERY broad (nearly universal) understanding that the Mormon Church is nowhere near the line that you describe. Nowhere near it.

    Drop it. That horse died long ago.

  99. It is interesting that rather than discussing the topic at hand this has become a discussion of whether we should follow our leaders. Following them because of their priesthood position rather than because of persuasion. What happened to “no influence ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood”? see D&C 121:41 I just wonder if we should consider the topic more than we consider who said what…
    “There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own, say they, to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem….Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course.” (Brigham Young, presented in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on February 20, 1853, found in Journal of Discourses, 1:312)

  100. Please visit our site –

    lds4gaymarriage.org

    We show how supporting CA’s Prop. 8 / AZ’s Prop. 102 is CONTRARY to LDS theology. We do so in a methodical and logical manner.

    We look forward to your feedback.
    CM

  101. I am against legalizing gay marriage. It’s been outlawed in 29 states in the last 10 years and courts have decided in favor of allowing it in 3 states. Its my opinion Prop 8 will fail in California.
    It does bother me that over 100 million dollars has been poured into both sides. It bothers me that as a church we are involved instead of simply calling on the members to work on this as individuals. Where can the Church as an organization stop? Does the Church come out against a candidate that supports gay marriage? Does the Church try to oust a Judge that is sympathetic to gay marriage? I just think we can handle the politics for now.
    How much of that donated 50 million dollars plus for Proposition 8 came from the Church is also a concern for me.
    San Francisco is voting soon on whether or not to legalize prositution and marijuana bars still exist in California. What is the Church doing there? I know what most members will do to fight for higher morals but it gets muddled on whether the Church will take on an issue here but not take on a relevant issue elsewhere…or in this case….in California.
    I support the decision to protect Marriage but I think it could have been done differently without the involvement into the Political realm. Members vote. Members vote how they choose too. Let them volunteer, let them canvas, let them vote.
    Otherwise we should be involved in other issues as a Church too. There is something to be said about luke warm involvement in fighting the decay of our country’s moral fabric…..

  102. and…Jeff Nielson is stating an opinion. No big deal. Members of the Church are from all walks of life and at times vary greatly in political opinion. Whether or not to fund stem cell research from tax dollars comes to mind.
    A while back most members were Democrats. Now most members seem to be Republicans. In any event, I find that most of us live trying to be Christ like and trying to follow the commandments. Jeff Nielson doesn’t like Church involvement in this issue. It’s just his right to feel how he does. I see no reason to get upset with him. He clearly misses the boat on homosexuality as sin, but then we clearly miss the boat that we are all sinners.

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