I may choose to ignore anonymous comments. I consider this type of anonymity dishonest. Also, I don't post regularly. I post when I have something worth writing and something worth reading. I explain all this in: Don't Let Telling Tales Trip Up Your Truthfulness.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New York Times article, "Huge Church Project Renews Downtown, and Debate"

So, Huge Church Project Renews Downtown, and Debate published in February 7, 2010's New York Times suggests there is a controversy. I think this is a irresponsible headline. I read the article and there is negligible "debate."

So, the L.D.S. church single-handedly reinvigorates downtown Salt Lake City by infusing it with a cool 1 billion dollars. Why on earth would anyone complain?

If ANY other entity did this, Salt Lake City would be falling all over itself to reward them with a phenomenal incentives package.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Did the L.D.S. (Mormon) Church fund the Proposition 8 battle or did the Mormons do it?

What a conundrum.

I think the answer is that Mormons did it. Same-sex marriage proponents would like to blame the victory on the Church itself, but this is not possible for several reasons.

The Church has no lay clergy. Basic congregations are generally called "wards" and about ten wards make up a "stake" roughly equivalent to a Catholic diocese. All leaders and members at the ward and stake level are unpaid volunteers. None can be considered "employees" of the Mormon church in any way shape or form.

Because of this, Mormons have to make clear distinctions when they are acting as local Church leaders and when they are acting as individuals. Since local Church leaders only serve temporarily in Church leadership callings an action or remark that was appropriate when they were not serving as a temporary Church leader becomes inappropriate when they are. We all have to pay close attention to when and how we say or do things in order to make a clear distinction between church activity and individual activity.

Criticizers of our efforts regarding Proposition 8 like to say that the Church makes a big issue of "plausible deniability" and other distinctions we are told to draw but our motives can also be attributed to our ethics and desire to be accurate and above-board with our Church comments and actions. I have to tread a very thin line on this blog, because I cannot, and should not, infer that I am acting in an official Church capacity concerning anything I write. Since I currently have no Church position, right now, this is comparatively easy for me. It would be suspect for my current Church leader to write these same words on a personal blog.

In order to blame the Church itself for some action you have to show that stake or ward leaders, acting in their official capacity, directed the action. This is pretty hard to do given that the Church has a clear policy about political neutrality and not using Church buildings or resources for efforts like this.

This is not something they trotted out for the Proposition 8 effort. This statement is issued and read every time a general election occurs and is reiterated every time it is remotely relevant to current happenings. Every Member is familiar with it.

It is certainly clear that individual Mormons contributed heavily to the financial coffers of those trying to defeat same-sex marriage. My gut reaction to the dollar amounts was and is, "That's it? There are individual Mormons that could have financed that amount entirely."

The Church appears to have fully disclosed the amounts the institution and its employees gave to the effort although this was not accurately reported by media outlets.

If you are going to evaluate the role the Mormon Church played in this whole affair as opposed to the role of individual members you have got to remember a few basic facts.

1. Mormons, acting as individuals, are used to devoting astronomical amounts of hours to religious and volunteer service.

2. Mormons are old hands at organization, even the young ones, and their ability to organize and coordinate efforts on anything are going to make regular people look inept. They can organize anybody under the table.

3. Mormons view government as legitimate and work within the system to change the system. You are unlikely to find Mormons staging demonstrations, marches or engaging in civil disobedience.

4. Mormons are incredibly cohesive in belief as well as organizational structure. We do not have problems with renegade church leaders or renegade congregations. Our belief system is shared by church membership worldwide.

The reaction of individual Mormons to situations like Proposition 8 is not unusual. You will get this reaction whether it is a social issue or filling sandbags to shore up leaking levees.

"Highly centralized and hierarchical LDS institutional structures, widespread experience with door-to-door proselytizing, disciplined messaging among former missionaries, and extensive social networks that facilitated viral messaging, combined with a religious and cultural tradition that assigns enormous value to obedience to church authorities, service, discipline, and sacrifice to create a potent political force that was no secret to those within the culture."
Yes, our top central Church leaders told us this was an issue worthy of our time, devotion and financial means. After that, our reactions as individuals kicked in. Try as you might, you will never be able to vilify, demonize or render illegal the rights of Church leaders to give instruction and advice to its members.

WSJ: Why Do We Need the State’s Permission to Get Married Anyway?

In my web pages I make the following arguments:

"Traditional marriage existed before governments existed. Marriage existed before this government existed.  Marriage IS a religious concept.  I read some commentary that encourages people to separate the religious concept from the contractual rights that usually accompany it by law."

In a provocative blog entitled, "Why Do We Need the State's Permission to Get Married Anyway?" Ashby Jones speaks with Stephanie Coontz a professor specializing in the history of marriage.

Jones asked Coontz why government initially got  involved in marriage. She gives several reasons:

- Mormons and polygamy.
- To determine who was entitled to Civil War pensions.
- Moral reasons
- Shift in perceiving marriage to be a "right" rather than a "privilege."
- Business and then government tying benefits to marriage status.

He then asks Coontz whether government should be involved in marriage. She says, "Yes" and gives essentially two rationales.

- To ensure commitments are carried out.
- To protect children.

I think she suggests the perfect compromise to the current same-sex marriage dilemma. 

1. Have the state validate relationships. This can be done by requiring "civil unions" of everyone whether they are heterosexual or homosexual relationships. These civil unions, done by the state, would bestow the legal and contractual benefits and rights we normally associate with marriage but it need not be called marriage.

Some countries do this already because religious marriage ceremonies are not recognized by the state effectively requiring two marriage ceremonies.

2. Leave churches to perform marriages. Since "marriage" is a religious concept and existed before governments' existed this important rite would be left entirely up to the discretion of the various denominations. This would protect the prerogative of churches and the time-honored institution of marriage.

3. Leave churches to recognize the validity of marriages. Since the state should only have an interest in the secular legal and contractual benefits of marriage, churches could recognize and perform marriages according to their own belief system.

These changes would preserve the sacred and religious institution of marriage, protect children, provide contractual and legal rights without forcing same-sex marriages on churches. It would grant gays and lesbians the benefits they seek.

I think this is win/win.

However, I need to point out that this is NOT POSSIBLE through litigation or legal challenge in the judicial system. This compromise is ONLY POSSIBLE by seeking legislation through the legislative branches such as Congress and state legislatures.

Legislate. Don't Litigate.