As a Mormon, and a careful observer of my faith  as an organization, I've watched The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints carefully navigate the gauntlet of public scrutiny, accusations, and what feels like a final judgement, over these last few years -- and in particular, starting in 2008 with Romney's first presidential run and the process of passing Proposition 8; which from many has not been kind. In fact, many believed, and some from within, that because of the public whooping they've received, our leaders had learned their lesson; and that going forward they would no longer engage in the public debate when it came to the issue of gay marriage.

As well, in conversation with some members, I have heard it suggested, numerous times, that the Church probably had no idea the kind of backlash they would receive for getting involved with Prop 8; from both members and the public. Anyway, my point is, that since then, the LDS Church, granted, has been relatively quiet on the topic of same-sex marriage. Though what they have emphasized, extensively, is religious freedom. A very important focus. I think.

Also of note, and adding to the confusion, for some (again, this same surprised group) is the launch of the new website. Apparently it is felt to be disingenuous to try to learn to love people better, while simultaneously not condone certain behaviors and/or actions. Which to me, as a parent, is not a difficult concept to grasp; as that is precisely the attribute that I had to acquire as the mother of teenagers -- then on to adult children who turned from values, completely.

So what upset the apple cart? Well, just last week it was reported that lawyers for the LDS Church prepared two briefs on behalf of a number of religious organizations to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging them to uphold Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act . Both were signed by not only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also the Southern Baptist Convention, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the National Evangelical Association, among others.

Christian News reports that, "the United States Supreme Court has received over two dozen briefs from legal organizations nationwide expressing their support for Biblical marriage." They also said, "attorneys nationwide have been busy working on friend of the court briefs — also known as amicus briefs, to ensure their voice is heard among America’s highest justices." 

(I've only looked over the 37 page Prop 8 brief, but still plan to read it completely. From what I can tell, it is  a very well thought out and researched submission, and one that will be well worth the time to study and dissect. I imagine the content of which I will likely bring up, some, here.)

Within a matter of only days, as soon as word got out to those who strongly oppose Prop 8, their immediate reaction was to turn on the recent efforts of the LDS Church to reach out to the homosexual community as merely a buffer to camouflage Mormon homophobia, as noted above, being disingenuous, thus meaningless; e.g. this little gem from AMERICAblog:

There they go again. After claiming they were toning down the hate after single-handedly getting Prop 8 passed in California in 2008, and ripping the right of marriage away from millions of gays in California, the militant Mormons are back with a vengeance.
Hate took a holiday. It’s back now. 

This excerpt is only one among many, but you get the idea.

I posted a link about the briefs on my Facebook wall a few days before it hit the mainstream media, that quickly drew the attention of a few friends, one in particular who is a former Mormon, who lives in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. This is basically how it went down... 

I had finished a brief exchange with another friend, who is preparing to be baptized, and I had commented that it is an interesting time to be coming into the Church. I had touched lightly on the dynamic that some people find difficult to reconcile: which is that at the same time Mormons strongly defend traditional marriage, we also claim to have no ill feelings toward homosexuals. (This issue is actually addressed in the Prop 8 brief.)

My Canadian friend later jumped in, and challenged my ability to on one hand take a position that feels hurtful to people, while on the other hand not want to be seen as hurtful and/or expect others to understand this seeming contradiction. Meaning, he challenged my desire to have it both ways. He pointed out that I am anti-gay marriage and was basically saying that I should just admit it. Fair enough. But also conceded that he knows I am not vindictive, hateful or malicious. Thank you. I appreciate that. He then went on to confirm that he knew these things about me, because my convictions stem from my faith and not from any animosity.

He also felt it important that I understand the principle of how intentions operate: meaning, I have no control over how people perceive my actions, regardless of my goodwill. Therefore, it is better to not choose to do anything which could potentially be misconstrued by another person as hurtful. This is the philosophy that he believes we all should live by. (Of course this is my interpretation of what he wrote.)

After reading his comment, reading many other articles currently popping up online, and after a fairly long reprieve from blogging about Prop 8, I knew that now was the appropriate time to step back into the conversation, and give at least a general response to my friend's thoughts, and to share a few others that I feel are pertinent to the overall place we are at, right now, as we head toward the federal hearings next month. After all, I've been given a pretty good cue; and mind you, as I share my thoughts about these things, I own them as my personal opinions and feelings.

First, I want to address the double-edged sword that my Canadian friend raises: the inability to have it both ways and to control how others perceive my intentions.

That's something that I've given a considerable amount of thought to over these last few years as there have been and will be ongoing criticism toward those of the Mormon faith, and others, who have taken on this cause to stand for traditional marriage. I've had to conclude, that it's important to trust that those of a fair mind, and who are willing to take the time to either get to know me, and engage in conversation, or those who choose to be offended because another person opposes their opinion, are themselves making a choice, of which they are responsible. My peace, or clear conscience, comes from knowing that what I stand for is right in my mind, heart and spirit. The other factor that makes this work for me, is a respect for those whom I don't agree with and find difficult to understand at times -- and an equal expectation that I have, that others should offer me the same in return.

There is also the sensitivity factor, in general, with the homosexual community, which is challenging to navigate without causing offense. I am ever mindful when approaching these issues on my blog, to be as careful as possible -- but unfortunately because we are all still learning how to best communicate with one another, it is still a learning process for all of us. I continue to have a sincere desire to better understand my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and will continue to, awkwardly, try to do my best, with as little damage as possible.

Which brings me to a second point: the foundation of my position.

It seems to really ruffle the feathers of those who advocate the more liberal social issues of the day when people whose opinions are rooted in faith-based values speak out, or worse, unite their efforts with others to oppose them; simply because they lack respect for such convictions.

However, the truth of the matter is, that not one of us has the right to place a value judgement on the worth or weight of others' opinions; regardless of its origin. The fact is, that when one steps into the voting booth to cast a vote, or speak their mind in the public square, that act has equal value to the person who has the I.Q. of an Albert Einstein. As you may have already figured, I am a strong advocate for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

In regard to gay marriage, I have very passionate feelings about the rights of children, which is why I am more inclined than some, perhaps, to put myself out there on this topic. Without going into detail, my parents' divorced when I was 10. My relationship with my father was never the same after; although we continue to try. There were years at a time that I did not hear from him or see him. My mother was emotionally absent much of my growing up years; she herself adopted. I was greatly affected by these experiences and have seen how that also infiltrated the next generation and so forth. I was not raised in an active LDS home. After graduating high school, I did become active and met my husband. My personal motto: Every Generation Better

Upon coming to understand the Doctrine of the Family, I fully embraced it, and wanted those blessings for my own children, and now feel compelled to use my voice to stand up and speak for the natural birthright of every child, given by loving Heavenly Parents'. So my passion of knowing what is right emotionally, spiritually and physically, for children, comes from personal experience; confirmed by faith. That, is powerful combination.

The most frustrating element in the Prop 8 Case: beginning with the initial overturn of Prop 8, is the lack of outrage by the public, when millions of Americans had their "right" to vote deemed as meaningless by a handful of individuals. Instead, those who opposed the vote in question saw it as an advantage for their cause, rather than its true identity: a threat to future freedom -- and rejoiced in it.

Many people either don't know the full history behind Proposition 8, or they choose to forget, but its history goes back to 2000 when California voters passed Proposition 22, which was the first time the voice of the people made clear, by means of an initiative, that in the state of California: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." However, in 2008 it was struck down by the state Supreme Court. So, in 2008 Prop 8 was brought before the voters, same words, but this time it would amend the Constitution; and once again it passed.

Did we (California) have a constitutional right to do so? I firmly believe that we did. In other words, my frustration about this entire case is that it has become twisted into a single issue, centered only on gay marriage, when the greater issue has to do with that which should alarm every American; and to me that is the greatest travesty of this entire fiasco! If Proposition 8 is not upheld, millions of Americans who exercised their right to vote in a legal election will have been disenfranchised by a few activist judges.

And so, as they say, "It is what it is." "We are, where we are." "What will be, will be." And, "We'll deal with the outcome...  Whatever that happens to be?"

I realize that that is not the most optimistic perspective. And one might suggest, not a winning attitude. Perhaps you might be wondering how I think the court will rule? My answer: I don't know. I hope that Prop 8 will be upheld in California. This is so important, but NOT only to defend traditional marriage; as most emphasize, as important as that is, as a moral issue, but for the reason that I've explained; both of them.

If Prop 8 is not upheld, of course that would be a disappointment, but not a shock. I'm sure most conservative Californians are going into this with eyes wide-open, knowing that we're being snubbed by the those who feel socially more evolved, who see us as being on the wrong side of history; some, our own members.

In fact, I was listening to a public interview  just yesterday, quite shocking actually. Mitch Mayne, a self-proclaimed gay ambassador for the Church, was asked how he felt about the LDS involvement in Prop 8, and curtly replied, "I think the Mormon Church deserved the black-eye that they got" and they moved on... and my mouth dropped. Honestly, the entire interview was, to me, odd.

I just sat there in stunned mode for quite a while, and thought to myself...   Does this guy know that the Church just sent those briefs to the United States Supreme Court Justices ---and that by doing so our leaders are in effect saying, at least in my opinion, we still stand behind our initial decision to support Proposition 8; no regrets, no backing down, no change in policy, same doctrines. And then I came back to reality.

Marriage between a man and a woman, from the LDS perspective, is an eternal doctrine, which is why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined other religious organizations, throughout the United States, to voice concerns to the U.S. Supreme Court on this important issue, urging them to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA. From the brief:

A desire to maintain the only definition of marriage that there has previously ever been, which is only between a man and a woman, has never been a desire to hurt, exclude, or take away another person's perceived rights. That the definition of marriage could be redefined would have been inconceivable only a few short years ago. Yet today, those who desire to preserve traditional marriage are considered religious zealots and openly referred to as bigots.

I honestly feel that it's fair to concede that the LDS Church has made great strides in reaching out to the homosexual community, that are genuine, and that they, and their members will continue to do so. The Church has remained firm on its doctrines and policies concerning homosexual behavior, giving no indication of changing. So, to those who are surprised, upset, or perhaps feeling angry because you feel the Church has lulled gays into believing things were going to change, doctrinally, and then BAM, Prop 8 is back, here we go again!  Please don't be.

Meaning, don't be shocked or surprised. At least you shouldn't be. And if you are, then please make sure it's not because you feel you've been duped because of a switch in messaging from the Church -- because that's just not the case. Not from the Church. Maybe from those who don't represent the Church, who may have been speculating about potential changes, but not from the LDS Church. So please check your sources, before you decide who you're upset with. Okay?

Oh, and in the future, you might want to get a new, more credible, source for information about the LDS Church.

Kathryn Skaggs

Mormon Newsroom:

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