I’ve always been skeptical of the Mormons, in part based on the details of their faith, but mostly because on their visceral hatred of gays. Nonetheless, the Mormons could wipe the slate clean by endorsing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill to outlaw anti-gay and anti-trans job discrimination at the federal level.
As a Christian who comes from a branch of Christianity that’s been around for two thousand years, I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of the new kids on the block who only discovered their faith in the past few centuries. (Not that I fully believe that any faith has the keys to the Kingdom, as it were.)
But when I discovered that the Mormons were viciously anti-gay, with an almost evangelical fervor to their anti-gay advocacy – with a penchant for flaunting their homophobia – my opinion of the Church of Latter Day Saints headed decidedly south.
The Mormons have spent 20 years and millions of dollars bashing gays
For the past twenty years, the Mormons have spent tens of millions of dollars, in state after state, trying to impose their anti-gay zealotry on states far outside of their native Utah. It started in Nebraska and Alaska way back in the 1990s. But most famously, the Mormons made their mark in California, the Mormons are given single-handed credit for making Proposition 8, the repeal of gay marriage in that state, possible in 2008.
So it’s understandable why gay Americans, and our allies, even putting aside the Christianity argument, have a problem with Mormons. Quite simply: We have a problem with Mormons because they have a problem with us.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Mormon alliance with the far-right was wrong from the beginning
I never understood why the Mormons chose, so long ago, to throw their hat in the religious right ring of hate. The Mormon leadership, for whatever reason, felt that saddling up to the religious right was the best way to guarantee their inclusion, and acceptance, in American society at large. I’d argue that it was the worst decision they ever made. And I suspect they’ve begun to realize the same.
The Mormons aren’t unlike the Jews, in many ways. They’re a small religious minority with a history of being oppressed, who then oppress back, often proactively, in an understandable, albeit heavy-handed, effort to guarantee they’re continued existence. But unlike America’s Jews, most of whom have sided with liberalism, the Mormons went Republican, and even worse, evangelical.
And here’s the problem. When you’re a minority that makes your bed with a political party, and a religious movement, that has serious problems accepting minorities, you’re never going to be welcome, ever. Yes, the Republicans and the evangelicals will be happy to use Mormon money to push their anti-plural goals, but when push comes to shove, they don’t like you, they don’t respect you, and they’re waiting for the day to send you back to where you belong, which isn’t at their side.
The Jewish analogy again is relevant. Evangelicals LOVE Jews and Israel. But not because they actually love Jews and Israel. The only reason evangelicals are such fans of Jews and Israel is because evangelicals need Jews and Israel… to die… in order for Christ to come back in the Second Coming.
That’s right, Christ will return and two-thirds of the world’s Jews will go up in flames. That’s what the Bible says. And evangelicals know that if the Arabs, or whomever, are permitted to push the Jews into the proverbially sea, and if it happens too soon, then there will be no Israel left that can then be destroyed (again) in order to usher the comeback of the Lord.
So, evangelicals quite literally love Jews to death. And the Mormons aren’t far behind.
Evangelicals will never accept Mormons as equals, liberals will
The Republican/evangelical embrace of the Mormons isn’t any prettier. Let’s face it: Who do you think has a bigger problem accepting Mormonism as legit: evangelical Republicans or liberals? Evangelicals don’t even accept Catholics as legit – they think Catholics worship Satan and that the Virgin Mary is a “whore.” And that’s a quote. So if they think Catholics aren’t Christians, what do you think evangelicals really think about Mormons?
Liberals on the other hand, while not terribly religious, don’t terribly care if you are. To be liberal is to embrace diversity, be it black, white, straight, gay, male, female, Latino, Jewish, or whatever. I think the Mormons made a huge tactical mistake hitching their wagon to a load of intolerant bigots who, in the end, don’t like the Mormons any more than they like gays or blacks.
It’s time for the Mormons to endorse ENDA
So back to ENDA. The Mormons could take a huge step towards burying the hatchet – or more accurately, removing the hatchet from the backs of gays – by publicly endorsing a federal ENDA.
It’s not like there isn’t a precedent. GOP Senator Orrin Hatch, who is a Mormon from Utah, just yesterday voted for ENDA in a vote before a key Senate committee. Hatch’s conservative and Mormon credentials are unquestioned. And he provides other Mormons, in Congress and in Salt Lake City, with the necessary cover to publicly endorse ENDA.
And the Mormons haven’t already begun to inch in this direction. Soon after Prop 8 was passed, the anti-Mormon backlash began. It was so fast and so furious that it quickly became apparent to the Mormon leadership that Prop 8 had become a “PR fiasco” for them. In the ensuing years, the Mormons even launched a $6 million ad campaign to try to rectify the damage. To no avail.
In part, the PR offensive didn’t work because the Mormons simply refused to let up on the hate. In 2009, the Mormons joined a push to kill civil unions in Illinois. In 2012, the Mormons joined the religious right in funding hate in Africa. And in 2013, the Mormons signed on to a viciously anti-gay religious right brief to the Supreme Court supporting Prop 8. It’s difficult to be forgiven when the sinner continues the sin.
But there have been some signs of hope. Mormon-founded Marriott corporation now supports the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Mormons also stayed quiet when the Boy Scouts announced their decision to permit gay scouts. Many thought the Mormons might break with the Boy Scouts over the decision, yet the Mormons did not, thus showing their tacit approval of the new pro-gay policy.
And finally, and most importantly, the Mormons endorsed a Salt Lake City gay and transgender non-discrimination ordinance that was, in essence, a mini-ENDA for Salt Lake City. If it’s good enough for Salt Lake City – and ideologically compatible with LDS doctrine – then why isn’t it good enough for America?
What the Mormons have found over the past few years is that being pro-equality is not inimical to their faith. On the contrary. As numerous religions have already come to realize, if Jesus was anything, it wasn’t intolerant.
It’s not going to be easy for the Mormons to move away from the dark-side of Christianity and American politics. Change never is. But you’d think a people who are historically used to being stepped on would understand the dilemma posed by pro-actively stepping on others. It’s far more Christian to make common cause with the downtrodden, than to join their oppressors.
It’s time for the church of Latter Day Saints do the Christian thing and endorse ENDA.