Review: 8: The Mormon Proposition

8: The Mormon Proposition is a fantastic and provocative film that I think is essential viewing for anyone interested in the subject of Mormonism and homosexuality. I see a great deal to praise in this film, not least of which bringing to the screen many powerful stories and characters. Yet, I also see much to be critical of here. The standard by which I evaluate this film is the degree to which it is able to offer a critical stance toward the Church without becoming hostile. This may or may not be the standard employed by the filmmakers, but it is for me a valuable standard in creating the conditions for progress within the LDS Church and community and improving relations with gays and lesbians. While in my view this film succeeds at one of its primary goals of humanizing the issue of same-sex marriage for an audience that may be skeptical of such a change, it does so at the cost of frequently dehumanizing Mormons.

One of the most fascinating parts about seeing this film in theater at a local film festival in a place where Mormons are little known was the audience reactions. There were several points of laughter at presentations of Mormon thought and theology, gasps of horror at some things said and done, and the entire audience burst into applause at the end. This experience helped me to gauge how the film played to a non-Mormon viewer.

I will review this film on several different issues: 1) the presentation of the case for same-sex marriage, 2) the presentation of the problems facing gay and lesbian Mormons, 3) the presentation of Mormons and Mormonism, and 4) what this film recommends doing about Mormonism.

The Case for Same-Sex Marriage
This film makes the case for same-sex marriage primarily by producing sympathy for gay and lesbian couples. It is extremely successful in this approach. The principle protagonists of the film, a young, handsome gay couple, Tyler Barrick and Spencer Jones, are both former Mormons. Tyler was Spencer’s first gay relationship of any kind and they quickly fell in love (it is a very Mormon story, actually). They were married in San Francisco, where they live, on the day that their marriage was made legal, six years after they first began dating. They are fantastic representatives for gay marriage because they are so articulate, handsome, and so obviously in love. Tyler’s mom, Linda Stay, plays an important role in the film as the mother who loves and fights for her son at great personal pain to oppose the church. She was a major figure in the delivery of the petitions to Church headquarters asking the church to reconsider its opposition to same-sex marriage. Tyler and his mom are fantastic on camera because both are quickly moved to tears over this issue. This personal story is one of the best parts of the film because they are such compelling characters.

Other than this, which is admittedly significant, there are no other arguments for same-sex marriage. The issue of in what way a marriage is substantively different from the domestic partnerships law in CA is not addressed except to mention that it feels different for gay couples. When the Yes on 8 campaign’s arguments were mentioned, such as issues surrounding free speech, free exercise of religion, and education, substantive responses were not offered. In fact, Linda Stay suggested that the church “knowingly lied” and that its excellent lawyers must have surely known that the issues relating to free speech, freedom of religion, and education were without merit.

One may reasonably object to all of these arguments, but I have no doubt that these concerns are sincerely held by those who offer them. I object to the accusation that those who hold these views are knowing “liars” both because it is not true and also because it represents an adversarial stance that is counterproductive. Rather, I suggest that the reasonable parties come to the table to hash out these issues. If they are not really issues at all, as I suspect they aren’t, then this should be demonstrated through argument rather than accusations of dishonesty. While I think that this film does an admirable job of presenting the human case for same-sex marriage, it falls short in terms of tackling head on the real concerns that reasonable people bring to this issue.

Problems Facing Gay and Lesbian Mormons
I applaud this film in raising the issues of the mistreatment of homosexuals within the church. It raises three issues in particular, the manipulative, coercive, and frankly tortuous reparative therapy that happened at BYU in the 1970s, the contemporary problem of homeless LDS teenagers who are kicked out of their home for homosexuality, and the suicides of LDS homosexuals. I consider all cases to be incredibly important, and deeply shameful as a Mormon. I will discuss each issue more fully, but I raise at the outset that the film presents these three scenarios as if they were the only options for homosexuals to be treated or to react inside the church. I have every reason to believe that these remain serious problems that must continue to be addressed by the Church, but at the same time I think that it is seriously unfair to suggest that reparative therapy, suicide, or homelessness are only options that the Church supports or teaches today for its gay membership.

The issue of the coercion and torture of suspected “homosexuals” in the 1970’s at BYU has received attention before in print from those who experienced it first hand. In short, suspected homosexuals were spied on, entrapped, and called in by the campus police and were subjected to treatments where they were exposed to pornography while inducing vomiting, verbal abuse, and electroshock treatment, sometimes at the hands of others. I was not previously aware of a filmed interview of a survivor of this treatment and it was a powerful moment in the film. While I wished that the dating of this episode had been discussed along with greater clarification about the status of this treatment then and now, which would have not only informed the audience to know that such tactics have long been abandoned at BYU and that BYU was not alone to try out such treatments in the 1970’s, I am convinced that this kind of episode is no less of a sex scandal than that facing the Catholic church today. It is truly horrifying.

On the issue of the homeless homosexual youth, this too is nothing short of a shameful tragedy. To this extent that these kinds of things happen, I have no doubt that it is better for a millstone to be hung around the neck of the parents. While the complexity of drug use, runaways, and homosexuality are no doubt difficult to account for in the parents decisions here, it seems clear to me that the church would never condone such actions on the part of the parents. At the same time, this issue should probably be addressed more directly, especially to local leadership who have knowledge of these cases of missing children in the families they are serving.

On the issue of suicides, this was by far the worst dealt with. The film featured erroneous statistics and linked by insinuation Stuart Matis with Prop 8 (rather than Prop 22), and really unfairly maligned his parents. The film quoted a gentleman who was featured multiple times, often with seriously questionable information, who claimed that Utah’s suicide rate was the highest in the nation, even higher than many other countries! This is factually incorrect, and easily falsifiable. Another interviewee claimed to have been to multiple funerals for suicidal homosexuals and that they were given “the cheapest coffins.” The inclusion of this type of misinformation and prejudicial opinions without any substantiation unfortunately undermines the credibility of the film as a whole and should not have been included.

Stuart Matis’ parents book A Quiet Desparation, identified as “pro-Mormon” is quoted as saying something like “We all felt a deep peace after Stuart’s death.” The audience literally gasped at the quote, but to anyone who was familiar with this book (as I am) knows that the implication that this quote is given from the film that the parents were glad that their son was finally dead is far from accurate and seriously misrepresents the message this book offers. The Matis’s declined to participate in the film and an excerpt from a phone conversation is given where they state that they have no opinion on Prop 8 which is different from the church. One gets the impression that the filmmakers deliberately maligned them because they refused to cooperate with the film’s narrative and had to cast them as homosexual-haters. With the exception of the testimonials of suicide survivors who spoke of their frustration and loneliness, issues which still need to be dealt with (and which the Matis’s have dedicated their own work to!) this whole section on suicide was a disappointment.

Treatment of Mormons and Mormonism
The treatment of Mormons in this film was frustrating. Some of this may be attributed to the filmmakers, but much of it remains in the self-presentation of Mormons themselves. On the former issue, the problem for me is summed up in the unfortunate phrase of one of the film’s producers, Emily Pearson, who spoke of “the Mormon mind.” For me, this kind of prejudicial characterization of Mormons is deeply problematic. Frankly, it is simply unacceptable to homogenize Mormons in such a way, just as it is to speak of the “Oriental mind,” the “Jewish mind,” or the “homosexual mind.” The one-dimensional presentation of Mormons as primarily hateful and irrational misses what for me is one of the great stories of this whole episode, which is the rather dramatic shift even within the LDS hierarchy to a more open, understanding, and accepting stance toward gays and lesbians. Further, this film misses entirely the deep tensions and divisions within the LDS community over this issue.

Capturing the internal tensions within Mormonism and the dramatic changes of Mormon leadership on some of these issues is admittedly difficult. The only Mormons involved in this issue who would speak on camera were anti-homosexual activists who say all sorts of embarrassing, hurtful, contradictory, and other things which fail to present the measured stance that the LDS church tried to create and project. Case in point is Utah State senator Chris Buttars, who perfectly embodies the extreme conservatism of your looney uncle. It is truly upsetting to see him speak so offensively of gays and lesbians, and even worse to see the state senate leadership back him up by saying that they agree with him! It was excellent drama the way that this was presented in this film.

Yet, the cinematography relating to General Authorities in particular was unnecessarily dramatic. The film frequently presents excerpts from the broadcast to members in California hosted by Elders Cook, Ballard, and Clayton. Some of these excerpts are audio only, and are accompanied by scary sounds and menacing visuals. The video portions of this broadcast and other interviews feature super close-ups and I half expected the picture to appear as a negative with red-burning eyes at any moment, no matter how benign a sentiment was being expressed. Other times featured quotations are taken out of context, as when President Monson was quoted from General Conference as saying that if we are obedient no earthly force can conquer us, as if this statement was made in reference to Prop 8.

The importance of families to Mormons was a central theme, but the B-role footage was always from 1970’s and 80’s LDS TV ads that made Mormons look cheesy, naive, and cartoonish. The centrality of the family was treated as a joke and the audience frequently laughed through the accounts of Mormon families as they viewed these ads. Ulimately, the film as a whole lacked a compelling Mormon character, offering only scary-looking GA’s, crazy activists, and dated TV commercials. The closest thing that the film did offer to a compelling Mormon character was Tyler’s mom Linda. She was truly fantastic, demonstrating the real emotion that she felt for her son and staking out a stance that including both her devotion to her family and her church. She was largely satisfying, except when she, along with many other interviewees, accused the church of “lies and propaganda” in their advertizing campaign on Prop 8.

There are two significant omissions in this film with respect to the presentation of Mormons. First, as I have mentioned already with regard to the issues of dates. In a series of quotes from “Mormon leaders” that are claimed to have lead from doctrines to Prop 8 politics, a half-dozen general authorities are cited as saying terrible things about homosexuals. One problem is that it is not clear from the presentation that these quotes are many decades old, coming from the 1870s to the 1970s. All are presented with the title of the person, such as “Apostle” or “Prophet,” but fail to mention that no GA has said such things in 40 years. The only recent quote is from President Hinckley who said in a 1994 interview with Larry King that, “Gays have a problem.” I humbly suggest that this attitude is hardly on par with the earlier quotes that talked about God wiping them out or that it was better to be dead than gay.

The second serious omission is any sort of acknowledgement of what I believe to fairly represent the church’s official position on gay rights today, which is that it has no objection to any of the measures to provide rights to gays and lesbians, including couples, short of calling them “marriage.” When it comes to housing, employment, hospital visitation, and any other major issue concerning gay rights my understanding is that the church has no objection whatsoever. One potential and significant exception may be adoption, but the church has not made this issue especially clear. This current stance of “everything but ‘marriage’” represents a reasonably progressive stance, especially for the Church, and I think that at least acknowledging this is crucial in the presentation of Mormonism. However, there is no suggestion that the LDS church and its members harbor anything but hatred and the wish for the destruction of the gay community. This is extremely unfortunate. The steady stream of quotes from the 90’s to today urging LDS members not to hate gays and lesbians and to treat them with respect and love are completely absent. Now, I believe that there is room to be critical of these statements, but these statements do reflect the values and ideals of the Church today much better than those that were flashed on the screen from a time when those attitudes would have hardly raised an eyebrow in American discourse on sexuality. Further, though there was plenty of time to include the LDS church’s support of a progressive gay rights ordinance in Salt Lake City in the film, there was no mention of it.

What to do about the Mormons?
The narrative of LDS involvement on Prop 8 has been shaped largely by Fred Karger, political consultant, gay rights activist, and someone who plays dirty in politics. Karger features prominently in the film and was a major voice during and after Prop 8 in “exposing” Mormon involvement in the campaign and in the National Organization for Marriage. Karger received a series of top secret documents relating the the Church’s manufacturing of a “coalition” in Hawaii in the 1990‘s to oppose same-sex marriage and he suggested that the church acted much the same way in California (though I’m not aware of any evidence that this is the case, it is certainly plausible). Karger has much to contribute on these issues, but it is unfortunate that his narrative of the Mormons as the primary reasons No on 8 lost goes essentially unchecked, especially given his propensity to play unfairly in politics.

Mormon money is emphasized a great deal here, and Mormon money is held primarily responsible. This comes with two insinuations, 1) much came from “out of state” and, 2) money was the key to the whole campaign. The problem, of course, is that No on 8 significantly outspent Yes on 8. Yes on 8 raised somewhere around 43 million, while No on 8 raised somewhere around 65 million. Further, I suspect that just as much of the Yes on 8 money came from one interest group, Mormons, that much of the No on 8 came from gays and lesbians, even those “out of the state!” The question of Mormon money has never seemed really much of a winning argument because what was really at issue was the lack of a good campaign from the No on 8 folks. In fact, Mormon money is not an argument at all in favor of same-sex marriage, except to the extent that it plays on fears that if something is supported by the Mormons, it must be scary.

Related to the issue of money is the issue of the Church’s tax-exempt status. Why any reasonable person thinks that this is an issue worth pursuing is beyond me. Not only is the Church’s tax exempt status unlikely to be challenged on this issue, it also shouldn’t be. Even if the Church gave every last penny out of tithing funds that was used in Yes on 8 (it didn’t, not in the least), not only would this fail to constitute “significant” involvement in politics (the IRS standard) given the total scope of LDS finances and activities, but 503(c) organizations don’t give up their right to free speech simply because they are tax exempt. Such a claim lacks any legal or logical credibility. One might disagree with the Church’s position on same-sex marriage and its encouragement of its members to vote a particular way, but this is part of the freedom of speech and one doesn’t have to pay taxes at a certain rate to be guaranteed that right. To pursue the end of the exemptions for churches is not only massively unpopular and such a non-starter politically that even its mention is a waste of political capital, but also would entail the muzzling of Unitarian Universalists, Episcopal leaders and several other church organizations that favor same-sex marriage. The inclusion of this argument in the film is one of the low points because it is so silly. Further, inasmuch as gay marriage presents itself as a threat to churches, churches will continue to fight it. If you want to reassure churches, including the Mormons, that same-sex marriage is not a threat to them, quit threatening them!

I have many criticisms of this film in areas where I think that it fails to live up to the ideals of productive conversations, representation of critical issues, and attempts at cooperative partnership with Mormons. To the extent that it presents Mormons and Mormonism as an enemy, it creates a self-fulfilling prophesy and only perpetuates antagonism, hostility, mistrust, and fear that gays and lesbians are out to get Mormons. In my estimation, this is the exact opposite position that needs to be staked out and I am disappointed that this film at times fails to bridge this gap.

With that huge caveat in mind, I think that this film is fantastic in raising critical issues that need attention within the Mormon community as we continue to wrestle with the issues of homosexuality within Mormonism and within society at large. These issues need continued conversation and critical engagement as they have caused significant pain for countless individuals and families, including those who are not of our faith. I am thankful for having seen this film and hope that it’s best parts can help to contribute productively to that conversation. Ultimately, the great strength that this film offers is the human face to the issues of gay and lesbian marriages, lives, and relationships, but I was disappointed at the lack of humanity given to Mormons.

81 Replies to “Review: 8: The Mormon Proposition”

  1. I just want to note that I will not likely be able to contribute much to the comments here because of a lack of time, and somewhat of fatigue in discussing these issues. Nevertheless, I am committed to the importance of productive, fair dialogue on this crucial topic and urge commenters here to strive for this ideal.

  2. I haven’t seen the film myself, but it’s quite interesting to see a civil and carefully-reasoned analysis of it from a faithful perspective. I’ll definitely encourage the readers at MSP to read this and think about it.

  3. I agree that the church’s tax-exempt status is unlikely to change, but I think you’re too quick to brush it off as unimportant.

    When churches finance political campaigns, they flout America’s campaign finance laws that are designed to keep the flow of political money transparent and limited in scope. While politically active churches may comply with the letter of the law, they definitely don’t comply with the spirit. That gives them an unfair advantage.

    If I were to donate to a political action committee or 527 group, there are three major drawbacks compared with giving to a church. One, my donation would not be tax-deductible. Two, my money would be precisely tracked – and made public – because of campaign reporting requirements. And three, the law limits how much money I’m allowed to give.

    Churches, though, don’t have those limitations. When I give to a politically active church, I get a tax break. The money is also collected and spent in complete secrecy without any public tracking or accountability, and there’s no limit to how much I can donate.

    That’s why whenever churches decide to play the political game, they ought to at least abide by the same rules as everyone else — including placing limits on the contributions and making the individual donors’ names public.

    If they don’t, they turn themselves into a money-laundering operation whereby unlimited contributions are made completely anonymously, then spent in unknown ways to influence public policy. That’s an unfair advantage that other political contributors don’t enjoy.

  4. “this film is fantastic in raising critical issues that need attention within the Mormon community as we continue to wrestle with the issues of homosexuality within Mormonism and within society at large. ”

    The film, from your description, seems to fall into the ideological trap of “anyone who disagrees with me is stupid, evil, or both.” LDS are not likely to be receptive to critique or suggestion accompanied by sneering mockery and one-sided posturing.

    I’m not sure I see anything praiseworthy here.

  5. I agree with Nitsav. The film sounds to me like another fine example of preaching to the choir like that see so often on both sides of these ideological divides.

    However TT, I do find your post praiseworthy.

  6. Thanks, TT, for this helpful review. 2008 was a tough year for many Mormons conflicted and troubled over Prop 8 and all of its attendant issues. Even though the years following have allowed for a cooling off of emotions (at least for me), the question of SSM is still pressing and bound to come to the fore again in upcoming political cycles–this write up is a painful, but good reminder that Mormons of all sorts need to reassess their beliefs and stances toward homosexuality and SSM.

    You once stated in a blog post or comment that you view your role in the church as something like a cultural critic and I think that this review helps to establish that claim and demonstrate the value of thoughtful, equanimous, and informed criticism of what it means to be Mormon. Although I think that I have disciplined myself to argue disinterestedly in the realm of academic discourse, I have been largely unsuccessful in doing the same when it comes to homosexuality and SSM. I too easily become emotional and entrenched and fail to engage interlocutors in meaningful ways. Thank you for the further lesson on how one can do the opposite.

  7. Yeah, this isn’t shifting a single person’s paradigm. What do they really intend with this film? To get more people pissed off at the Mormons? They will surely accomplish that, but what is the endgame here? Get enough people mad enough that they change the law back to allowing SSM? Fine, but is that best accomplished through the evil-Mormon narrative? They’re too scared and cowardly to touch the well-documented racial aspect of the vote so they may as well make fun of the crazy religious nuts.

  8. Ugh. I just re-read my comment. I can’t even engage in this topic without sounding like a religious nut myself, and I’m not anti-SSM!!!

  9. Derek,
    You’re conflating two issues: the requirements to remain tax-exempt and campaign finance laws. TT’s right that the church’s tax exemption isn’t even borderline at risk. The Internal Revenue Code prevents a 501(c)(3) entity from using a “substantial part of” its activities in attempting to influence legislation. Courts have found that 5% of a tax-exempt’s expenditures in a year is not substantial; in one case, roughly 16% was substantial. Even assuming that you could attribute the $20 million donated by members to the LDS church, as long as the church spent at least $400 million in that year, it would not have engaged in a substantial part of its activities influencing legislation. Though I’m not familiar with church finances, I doubt it spent less than $400 million in 2008.

    And, if you’re giving to a church, chances are that you are not getting a tax break. Less than 35% of Americans itemized their deduction in 2007 (the last year I really looked at). The numbers suggest that non-itemizers are more likely to give to churches; itemizers (that is, generally higher-income taxpayers) are more likely to fund other charities. What’s more, because the Mormon donors were giving directly to the campaign, and not funneling donations through the church, even itemizing donors weren’t getting a tax deduction, which makes the whole tax policy argument pretty much a big red herring.

    I’m a tax person (if you couldn’t tell), not a campaign finance person, but, at least in the world of Citizens United, I suspect that no campaign finance laws have been flouted, either. Of course, I could be wrong on this point, and would welcome your explaining how campaign finance laws have been flouted. The church tends to have relatively good legal counsel, so I suspect no campaign finance laws were violated, but, like I said, campaign finance is outside of my area.

    I am entirely sure, though, that the tax-exemption both is not an issue and that concerns about churches funneling money is overblown.

  10. I don’t think there is any wish to change the minds of any Mormons with this film or Fred Karger’s campaign. I think the point is more, “Oh, you silly Californias, you got fooled by a bunch of Mormons. Well, you’re not going to fall for that next time, are you?”

  11. I’m also with Nitsav. If that much is wrong with the film, how does the word “fantastic” enter the discussion?

  12. TT, Thanks for your well reasoned review. I agree with some of your criticism, esp about unsubstantiated allegations of lying, and the unquestioning portrait of Fred Karger as a white knight, but I do feel you have significantly overrated the church’s progressive stance on civil unions. The church routinely opposes any rights they feel may someday lead to marriage equality including civil unions (just try to pass a civil union law in Utah and see if the LDS church lends it’s support). As this film demonstrates, the LDS church’s public statements and their behind the scenes actions may differ somewhat at times. Additionally, many of the more progressive statements of the church have come only via statements to media rather than directly from the pulpit in a conference address. As such they do not influence the members in as meaningful a way and are hardly sufficient to begin solving the problems caused by past teachings which have been ingrained through countless repetitions, and indeed are still for sale (presumably making someone some money and lending legitimacy to the teachings) at Deseret Book.

    In the end, the film was not really targeted to a Mormon audience, it was designed to show the rest of the population just how much influence the LDS church, and LDS money had over a minority group’s constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Judging from the reaction of non LDS audiences who have seen it, I think it has done just that. The film was not about the logical merits of either side of the argument about marriage equality, nor was it intended to document the well meaning intentions of those who followed their prophet’s advice. The film was not about how proposition 8 passed, so why dive into the racial aspect of the vote? No. The film intended to document how the LDS Church organized to change the California constitution and disenfranchise a segment of the population from an existing right, and how they attempted (and continue to attempt) to hide the full extent of their involvement. I think the film did that very well.

    Now, as much as the film tends to show only one side of Mormonism, it is a difficult challenge to show the moderate middle you speak of. Where were they when proposition 8 was in full swing? I didn’t hear many Mormons outside of a handful of activists like the Stay family (featured in the film) who said anything publicly. Most moderate Mormons seem to have hunkered down and kept quiet. It’s hard to document the views of a moderate middle who won’t speak on film. The closest thing I think you can get is Carol Lynn Pearson (who is somewhat left of moderate on this issue and well protected from – and practiced at avoiding- church discipline).

    While I agree that it is unfortunate that the film does use terms like “the Mormon mindset” the general membership’s unwillingness to openly disagree with a political stance taken by their leaders is a problem that needs addressing. Until members feel free to speak out about abuses or problems they see occurring, instances like BYU’s torture therapy (Which appears to have been continued up until about 1990 – well after it should have been clear it didn’t work) will continue to occur.

  13. Just thought I’d chime in and say thanks for an excellent and balanced review.

    Random thoughts:
    -I’m very much anti-hate no matter which direction it comes from.
    -I looked up more of Spencer and Tyler’s story and I felt genuinely happy for them.
    -Too bad the film apparently caricatures a “Mormon mind”.
    -I sincerely hope this review bears fruit and produces some positive and productive dialogue.

  14. “it is a difficult challenge to show the moderate middle you speak of.”

    It may be “a difficult challenge” but it appears the producers weren’t even trying to be even-handed here, let alone take on “difficult challenges.” The more I read about this, the more it just seems like a Mormon smear piece.

  15. Bob Cox,
    “it is a difficult challenge to show the moderate middle you speak of. Where were they when proposition 8 was in full swing?”

    Among other places, New York, Chicago, Virginia, Seattle, Utah, California, Europe, Latin America, and all sorts of other places. Most of us in the Church were not in California in 2008. And frankly, most of us (meaning Americans, and likely meaning Mormons) barely vote on things that happen in our own states, much less get involved in campaigns we can’t vote on.

  16. I should add, if not for the Bloggernacle, I wouldn’t have been aware of Proposition 8, at least not until after the election (even though I have family in California). It was never brought up my Church meeting, nor really among my friends inside or outside of the Church. Because it was a different state, it really had very little exposure until after it was all done.

  17. Just to respond very briefly to a few issues:
    1) What do I think is praiseworthy and fantastic about this film?
    In the OP, I try to be pretty specific about the things that I thought were important, both in bring a human face to this issue as well as raising some serious criticisms of LDS culture and leadership’s missteps on these issues. I am sympathetic to those who suggest that the tone is off here and the hostility toward Mormons makes it difficult to accept. Nevertheless, I think that it is important to hear these criticisms and to confront them. While I think that an emphasis on the negative does not tell the whole story, there is still a story to be told about the pain that has been caused because of attitudes, ideas, and statements, and I think that we need to take account of these problems, to take some ownership, even if our critics don’t always ask nicely.

    2) Have I misrepresented the church’s position as “everything but ‘marriage'”?
    I believe Elder Clayton when he says that “the church does not oppose domestic partnerships and civil unions,” ( which he (and I) interpret to the be meaning of the paragraph in the official document on the “Divine Institution of Marriage” which lays out the things that the church does support in terms of gay rights. This document clearly says that they support the CA domestic partnership laws which existed before SSM and which exist today:

    The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

    I understand why some do not believe the church on this because they havne’t backed a domestic partnership law in UT, and because in the past they did oppose them in other areas. Nevertheless, I do take these kinds of public statements on the record as a fair representation of the church’s position, especially since Elder Clayton refers to the official position paper produced by the church in making his claim that the church does not oppose civil unions and domestic partnerships. As I noted in the OP, what is missing here is adoption, and I think that the church has not been entirely clear on this issue, especially since adoption is not necessarily connected to the issue of either marriage or other legal unions depending on the state.

  18. “It may be “a difficult challenge” but it appears the producers weren’t even trying to be even-handed here, let alone take on “difficult challenges.” The more I read about this, the more it just seems like a Mormon smear piece.”

    Have you seen the film? It’s pretty even handed considering it was created by gay exmormons who probably have plenty of reason to hate the church. The film avoided a lot of obvious cheap shots at mormons,
    To get a sense of how fair they were, just try watching the film and thinking of what they could have done. It could have been much much worse.

    I personally think that changing the minds of Mormons was not the primary, or even secondary goal of this film, so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that it fails in that respect somewhat. Liberal mormons ought to be making a movie with those goals in mind. Don’t expect gay exmormons to take up that cause. All they need to do to be “safe” is to stop the mormons from funding campains to take away their rights.

  19. Bob (20),
    You’re right that Mormons may not have been the intended audience and that persuading them may represent a different kind of political goal, but I think the question is whether the political goals here warrant a misrepresentation of Mormons and Mormonism. I’m not sure that I would consider a misrepresentation of Mormons for the sake of a political campaign worth defending any more than I would condone the misrepresentation of gays and lesbians as pedophiles, promiscuous, and militant secularists for the sake of a political campaign. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that such misrepresentations occur, but I am not sure that they are justified. I’d hope that we can strive for honesty and fairness as sincerely as we strive to win a political battle.

  20. “To get a sense of how fair they were, just try watching the film and thinking of what they could have done. It could have been much much worse.”

    You’re right. It could have been The Godmakers. Saying “it could have been worse” is hardly praise. So, you’re right, considering the extreme bias of the film-makers(“gay exmormons who probably have plenty of reason to hate the church”), I should lower my expectations 🙂

    But if the goal was effecting change or reconcilation or understanding, epic fail. If the goal was, demonize Mormons among the GLBT community, success.

  21. TT, I pretty much agree with you. I’m not arguing that the portrayal of mormons was entirely fair (the menacing images of General authorities was in my opinion a little over the top) However, I think the portrayal of mormons as being more devoted to following their leaders than to rational dialogue and individual decision making was not entirely unfair given the paucity of Mormon voices speaking out .against the anti-gay political agenda of their leaders. IMO Linda Stay was a pretty good representation of the vocal minority of mormons who dare to raise their voices about this issue. Sadly such people have often been subsequently ostracized or marginalized by their own congregations.

    Once again Thanks for a very thoughtful review, especially for being able to see the pain and wrongs that the movie focused on for what they were. I think it is hard for LDS folks to understand that when someone has been wronged in this way, it is very difficult to see the perpetrator as human. I personally feel the producers of the movie worked very hard to present what they thought was a fair portrayal of their case. Obviously they are biased, and don’t bring the same amount of scrutiny to bear on their side of the argument, but I think they did what they probably set out to do. They told the story of how they were wronged fairly accurately and accessibly without simply demonizing the other side. If the mormons come off looking like villians… well, maybe its because not everything they have done as a group/institution in this regard is praiseworthy. Inasmuch as the film paints individual mormons with a broad brush. I think that is unfortunate, as mormons as individuals may not fit the “stereotype” of the group. This must have been a difficult line for the filmakers to walk. I think they did a pretty good job all things considered.

    Re: Elder Clayton’s statement,

    Why no statement of this from anyone higher up, or over the pulpit? (the letter supporting prop 8 was read over the pulpit). A clear communication from the leaders of the LDS church to their members (instead of from a lower authority to the media) would make a BIG difference.

  22. Thanks for the even-handed review, TT. I ardently opposed Proposition 8, but I think I’ll pass on this film. I could hardly stomach the trailer.

    The filmmakers seem intent on caricaturing Mormons, much as Bill Maher did in his Mormonism segment in Religulous.

  23. Thanks for the great review.

    8: The Mormon Proposition, reflects the efforts of those that created it and us that are in it, to hold OUR church accountable for the pain they knowingly inflicted on OUR families.

    – The documentary IS NOT about disagreeing with their moral standards or their right to spend their money on issues they feel are important.

    – It IS about hypocrisy; how a church (that says it is all about “being honest in our dealings with our fellow men”), knowingly created and funded dishonest ads to promote their own moral agenda; and (by their own admissions) hid their involvement. They were warned by BYU adjunct professor Morris Thurston, about the misinformation in the ads, and how it would come back at them. The Church stated in their own documents, that if the voters knew the extent of the Church’s involvement, it would negatively impact the vote.

    – This documentary does not claim that the LDS Church did this alone, even though at its strong urging, its members (only 2% of the voters) donated over 70% of the money contributed and over 90% of the volunteer efforts.

    We would hope the displeased members of other groups, be they Catholic, Protestant, African American, Latino, Baptist…, would hold their leaders accountable as well.

    We appreciated you seeing it before any critique of it.

    Opens in selected cities June 18th, and on VOD. Available on DVD July 6th.

    Watch the trailer:

  24. Linda: I don’t think that your rant (hysteria really) is doing your cause much good. However, you are bright and articulate. That is not to suggest that there isn’t real pain — but blaming others and calling them names and engaging in the kinds of unjustified judgments you do here is unacceptable. Accusing Church leaders of “knowingly inflicting pain” on your family simply turns me off and makes me want to stop taking you seriously.

    TT: Thanks for the even-handed write-up on this. It is so easy to call names and judge and misrepresent (as I believe Linda Stay’s comment here shows). However, an opportunity to build bridges and understanding was missed here. I supported Proposition 8 and the film’s failure to address the concerns of the proponents in a rational and fair way suggests that we are dealing with propaganda rather than a good faith treatment of important issues. We can do without this kind of propaganda that will make Mormons further targets of marginalizing and employment discrimination.

    As you and I discussed, I don’t believe that there is any real legal difference be California’s Domestic Partnership laws and marriage. Further, there are legitimate concerns about the effect on religious organizations and issues related to marriage. However, I acknowledge that “marriage” is an important social recognition for lesbians and gays.

    The Church must become a safe and welcoming place for gays and lesbians. It believe that you are correct that the Prop. 8 debate had an impact on the Church’s stance as seen in its support of Salt Lake’s sexual orientation discrimination laws. Verbally supported domestic partnerships is also a significant shift. It seems to me that this film will do more harm than good because it will polarize views without even attempting in good faith to deal with those that it demonizes.

  25. I appreciated your thoughtful account of the film and you make several good points. The suicide claims are especially untolerable. Statistics are easy to come by, so there is no excuse for including such language. There are plenty of other ways to show that the suicide rate for gay Mormons is higher than the national average without being irresponsible about the facts. As a lifelong Mormon and gay man, I understand the frustration people feel with this issue. Remember, however, that your own review is as colored by your beliefs as the film is by the filmakers. We can argue for days about the details, but the reality is that the Church has historically treated gay people as outcasts and they have a lot of explaining to do if they want to re-establish their position as a family-friendly organization. The Church used its considerable and disproportionate influence to pressure members to give money to a movement that took away rights already in place in California. That part is not in question. I suppose if it was your marriage that was annuled you might have a different perspective.

    The Church is not as tolerant as you state in your review. In reality, gay members continue to be persecuted on a local level without anyone in SLC saying a thing. They may support visitation rights, but they won’t let gay people even work on the Church welfare farms. They may agree with the SLC city council on housing issues, but will not allow gay people access to Church Employment services, won’t let them hold positions in the ward, or do home teaching. The signal to the ward family is an obvious one. Gays are not equal.

    Marriage equality cannot be compromised. The same rights without the “m word” is not accepable. Giving blacks equal educational opportunities as long as they stayed in their own schools was not acceptable a half-century ago. Equal rights will eventually prevail and the Church would do well to start figuring out now how it is going to deal with the tens of thousands of gay members throughout the world, their families, and their friends.

    This film may have its flaws–some serious ones that cast doubt on the filmmakers’ intentions–but the chronology and facts shine through the quibbling about details.

  26. Buck: You are just not correct. A gay person can work on farms and seek jobs through employment services. I worked beside a gay man at a Church farm just recently. What the Church emphatically won’t do is change its views about what kind of conduct that is immoral.

  27. I saw the trailer. I was disappointed. No interest. I’m glad the discussion is going on, but I tire of this turf war between two minor players in American politics. It’s not helpful for the church.

  28. Let me try this again.

    Referendum, initiatives, and other yes/no ballot issues like this Constitutional Amendment are horrible for the reason that the are all out political warfare. Nothing good comes of it, only except hurt feelings. While it may be majority rule, it lack the discussion and deliberation that make democracy a vital good.

  29. My loony uncle wasn’t elected and re elected to state office in Utah. Chris Buttars was. Mormons voted him into office and kept him there. What was on their Mormon mind?

  30. Buck,
    You are wrong about what gays can and can’t do within the Church. You might be interested to listen to this podcast I conducted with my co-blogger and active gay member (in SLC no less). While you might not agree with his positions he nevertheless proves that a lot of what is considered “the way it is” is in fact not really the way it is.

  31. TT: This document clearly says that they support the CA domestic partnership laws which existed before SSM and which exist today:

    There is a world of difference between “supports” and “does not object to”. The Church’s stated position on civil unions, the one you quote, is the latter.

  32. I saw the film and thought it was good. There were parts that seemed disjointed and that could have been clearer, but even so, the message was powerful and straight forward.

    The film did not make the church look pretty but that’s what happens when ugliness is illuminated. My personal view is that Prop 8 was a major misstep by the church. It will be a millstone around the church’s neck for a long time to come and does nothing to help the church here in California (and for the record, the church is hurting here–and if “hurting” is too strong a word, then “a period of change” is a phrase that certainly works).

    I understand the comment about the Mormon mind and recognize that generalizations always have exceptions. Nonetheless, church members responded and did what they were told. I know people personally who did not want to vote for Proposition 8 but felt that they had no choice. This falls right in line with what Emily Pearson spoke about in the film. The church made everyone choose which side they were on. To me, that was a terrible thing to do.

    I was wanted to hear the church’s side to all of this, but church leaders refused to be interviewed. They were invited, but declined. I know that most active members likely support that decision, but to non-Mormons, the fact that church leaders refused to be interviewed adds to the idea that they are hiding something. By default, their silence lends credibility to the premise of the documentary.

    I don’t know if the damage can be undone. No matter what the church does in the future, here in California, Mormons will always be known for pushing Proposition 8 and for being an antigay, anti-civil rights organization.

  33. California Diver,
    Do you seriously think for a second that the filmmakers would give the Mormon leadership a fair shake in the interviews? Given their track record in the film for fairness it’s laughable to even suggest it.

  34. Rusty:

    If the church leaders are proud of what they did, if there was no shame or underhanded tactics involved, then why not go on camera and tell their side of the story? Strong accusations were made that could have been refuted, or perhaps additional information may have been presented that would have made the church’s actions seem more benign and less harsh.

    I thought the documentary could have delved deeper into several issues surrounding the P8 campaign, including interviewing LDS people who supported or opposed the measure. I personally know people who left the church over P8 and other active LDS who now openly question their vote. I would have liked to have heard from those kinds of people.

    Some excellent points have been brought up by others here in the discussion, points that I believe are valid. Clearly, “8:TMP” is not a perfect film, but it remains a good one and the information presented supports the reasonable and rational conclusion that Mormon leaders were the driving force behind Prop 8.

    Despite any criticism that I might have of the documentary, I cannot hold the filmmakers responsible for the decision of church leadership to not be involved in the work. That responsibility rests with the church leaders alone and it does not look good to the non-Mormon community.

  35. California Diver: why not go on camera and tell their side of the story

    Probably because they couldn’t trust the filmmakers to edit the interviews in a way that actually allowed their side of the story to be told.

  36. Thank you for an intelligently written, fair minded review of the film. A few quibbles.

    You have it backwards in making the case for marriage equality. There is no gay marriage and straight marriage, black marriage and white marriage, etc. Marriage is marriage, and the case for marriage is self evident. In this instance the burden of proof is upon those who would exclude and discriminate.

    Reparative therapy did not end in the seventies, though the Church became better at disassociating itself with the practice. I know a young man who received such treatment during the nineties.

    I understand the criticism of the “Mormon Mindset” commentary, but find it a bit misplaced. Mormons ARE a different, a peculiar people and that’s by design. Of course exceptions can always be found on any particular but one need look no farther than election returns to see there is a lot of commonality.

    The Church’s stand on civil rights is that of separate and not quite equal, and would appear more progressive if it were on the leading rather than trailing edge of public opinion, had come before rather than after public opinion problems, and were there not a paper trail going back twenty years in which the church opposed any type of recognition and considered civil unions and other rights proposals as fall back positions to delay full equality.

    I agree Chris Buttars, et. al. aren’t good ambassadors, but it’s not the filmmakers’ fault that they are the duly elected representatives of the people and the ones making the laws. In that context, the older quotes used in the film provide context to the attitudes that are still very prevalent in our congregations. It’s only within the last fifteen years or so the Church has begun shifting ever so incrementally in the direction of tolerance (never acceptance).

    Some will be wont to say the Church will never tolerate sin. I agree. But sin is a religious principle, the film is about civil government and the right of all citizens to be treated equally and fairly by their government. That should not be a controversial subject.

  37. Arthur,
    A couple things: in a documentary about the Church’s involvement in a California issue, Chris Buttars is not a duly elected representative. He is a (sadly) duly elected representative of, what, South Jordan? That doesn’t even remotely equate with the Church, much less with California Mormons. He’s not, as best as I can tell, even among the mainstream in the Utah legislature, much less in the mainstream of Mormon opinion.

    And TT is right on with his complaint about treating Mormon thought as homogeneous. Not that Mormons and Utahns are an identical category, but it’s worth noting that, in the 2008 election, Obama had almost 35% of the Utah vote. It’s also worth noting, anecdotally, that none of the Mormons I hung out with in New York at the time of the election voted for McCain. Neither of those facts creates a whole picture, but they’re at least indicative that Mormonism doesn’t create a political hive mind, even among same-country Saints.

  38. I understand the criticism of the “Mormon Mindset” commentary, but find it a bit misplaced. Mormons ARE a different, a peculiar people and that’s by design. Of course exceptions can always be found on any particular but one need look no farther than election returns to see there is a lot of commonality.

    Um, there’s a lot of commonality in the election returns of black people as well. Perhaps we should start using the term, “Black Mindset.”

    I agree Chris Buttars, et. al. aren’t good ambassadors, but it’s not the filmmakers’ fault that they are the duly elected representatives of the people and the ones making the laws.

    No, it’s the filmmakers’ fault (design) that they chose the most batsh*t crazy-ass Mormon in Utah and projected him to be the result of the Mormon Mindset. Naturally there was no mention that the Mormon Mindset also yields representatives such as Jim Matheson, Ben McAdams (a major proponent for gay rights in Utah) and many others Democrats or even other more rational, level-headed Mormon representatives like Bob Bennett and Orin Hatch. Oh, right, they don’t fit the narrative, never mind.

  39. Arthur: Marriage is marriage, and the case for marriage is self evident. In this instance the burden of proof is upon those who would exclude and discriminate.

    Hehe. If this were true then there would have been no Prop 8 and no debate. Obviously the definition of marriage is anything but self-evident.

  40. Well, they could have pointed out that Salt Lake County as of 1984 or so had ordinances forbidding discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring.

    For examples they could have used Steve Young’s wife who spoke and spent in favor of SSM.

    Linda: I don’t think that your rant (hysteria really) is doing your cause much good. However, you are bright and articulate. That is not to suggest that there isn’t real pain — but blaming others and calling them names and engaging in the kinds of unjustified judgments you do here is unacceptable. Accusing Church leaders of “knowingly inflicting pain” on your family simply turns me off and makes me want to stop taking you seriously

    Indeed, it makes me think that the people ranting, who seem smart, must be intentionally distorting the truth to have an easy target. I hope not, but that is the immediate response those rants generate.

    Geoff J — thanks for making excellent points.

  41. The sad thing is that this movie will probably come to most members’ attention as an example in the meme:

    Supporters of SSM will stop at no untruth to unfairly demonize and attack a small vulnerable minority in order to promote their anti-family agenda

    Can anyone honestly say that is what the producers of the movie really intended? Yet that is what they are likely to get.

    That is very sad. Very, very sad. At a time there is room to improve dialog, this movie steps up and creates the opposite.

    If they intended that result it would not be sad in the same way. But there are a lot of people who could be reached, who could be helped that will not be as a result of this approach.

  42. Thanks all for so many thoughtful comments thus far and especially thanks for those who’ve worked hard to be civil on this difficult topic.

    I just want to reiterate a point I made earlier that I think that for those who are committed to a real dialogue I don’t think we can justify not dealing with serious issues just because our interlocutors may occasionally “rant”. That is, I’m not sure we can honestly say “move along folks, nothing to see here” in this situation. As I’ve said this film falls short for me in telling the whole story, but I want to emphasize that I still think that part of the story that is told needs to be addressed and we can’t afford to comfort ourselves by running away from this issue every time someone rants about it.
    Yes, we need honest conversation partners, those who are willing to be self-critical if a dialogue on this issue can occur. But if we are committed to a dialogue, that also requires patience on our part.
    I think that part of the difficulty for LDS in treating this topic is we are not used to being cast in the role of agressor in disputes we’ve has historically. We are used to being the victim. In this case, we are not accustomed to a different set of responsibilities that should go along with being the accused agressor, including being patient with the agreived. I take seriously the repeated prophetic calls to love our gay brothers and sisters (and their advocates), and I think that in order to accomplish this we are going to have to get passed our customary righteous indignation that comes with being the usual victims and take a while new self understanding in our attempts to repair relations with those who’ve been hurt by our actions, and that goes for those LDS who support Prop 8 and those who don’t.
    A bbreif anecdote on a different cultural tension between lDS and evangelicals is that I remember attending the dialogue between Millett and whatshisname and realizing two important lessons then, that I now see as tranferable to this issue. First, evangelicals see Mirmons as the agressors. Our supersessionist theology and claims to apostasy are understood as attacks on the piety, and sincerity of evanglical belief. This changes the way I thought about how we present theses issues to see how they might unintentionally offend and be seen as hostile. Second, real dialogue can only take place with time, trust, and a commitment to not be offended. As lDS, I think we owe it to our brothers and sisters to apply these lessons learned.

  43. “Well, they could have pointed out that Salt Lake County as of 1984 or so had ordinances forbidding discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring.”

    The first Salt Lake City gay rights law was actually put in place in December 1997, only to be repealed on Jan. 13, 1998 after a prominent LDS official asked Bishops to, in turn, ask their congregations to attend the city counsel meeting where the ordinance was discussed.

    So this little incident doesn’t speak too well of the Mormon church.

  44. TT, this is a great go-to for the faithful, open-minded response to the film, and I’m hoping it gets wide circulation. We may not love the movie, but it is important for us to have a rational, factual response on record. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  45. In this case, we are not accustomed to a different set of responsibilities that should go along with being the accused aggressor, including being patient with the aggrieved.

    Fantastic. Somebody have this printed in 200pt font on a scroll and hand-delivered to every church member.

    Blake, calling Linda’s comment “hysterical” was unkind, moreover I don’t even see what you’re talking about. It was perhaps forceful but I strain to see anything remotely hysterical. Talk about using rhetoric that doesn’t help your side….

  46. I wish there was more discussion of the hypocrisy of the Church so heavily backing a legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman when it actually does not believe that. This is the same Church that holds me hostage in a marriage between a man and two women because it has, through its representatives, decided I am better off trapped eternally with a man who abused me and his current wife who hates me than unsealed to any man.

    To those who have noted that this film is unlikely to change the minds of Mormons, remember that Mormons are a small voting minority. The point is to take away their power to influence others, not convince those they see as zealots. It is working. Many outside the Church see the Church differently here in CA after Prop 8. The evangelicals in my area who might be happy with the Prop 8 results still hate Mormons for other reasons.

  47. #44 reminds me of the unintentionally hilarious headline I just saw over at Mormon Times:

    Beck target of blind bigotry again

    And that’s not only a headline, it’s also a new meme. You can tell it’s a meme because it’s in boldface. Although, admittedly, I have seen italicized memes before, but they don’t seem to propagate as well.

  48. From Rene Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, pages 180-181.

    “The most powerful anti-Christian movement is the one that takes over and ‘radicalizes’ the concern for the victim in order to paganize it. The powers and principalities want to be ‘revolutionary now, and they reproach Christianity for not defending victims with enough ardor. In Christian history, they see nothing but persecutions, acts of oppression, inquisitions.”

    “This other totalitarianism presents itself as the liberator of humanity. In trying to usurp the place of Christ, the powers imitate him in the way a mimetic rival imitates his model in order to defeat him…”

    “In the symbolic language of the New Testament, we would sat that in our world, Satan, trying again to make a new start and gain new triumphs, borrows the language of victims….”

    “The Antichrist boasts of bringing to human beings the peace and tolerance that Christianity has promised but has failed to deliver. Actually what the radicalization of contemporary victimology produces is a return to all sorts of pagan practices: abortion, euthanasia, sexual undifferentiation, Roman circus games galore but without real victims, etc.”

    “Neo-paganism would like to turn the Ten Commandments and all of Judeo-Christian morality into some alleged intolerable violence, and indeed its primary objective is their complete abolition. Faithful observance of the moral law is perceived as complicity with the forces of persecution that are essentially religious….”

    “Neo-paganism locates happiness in the unlimited satisfaction of desires, which means the suppression of all prohibitions.”


    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  49. I saw the film last night in Newport Beach at the film festival. The film is fair and does a good job of tackling a divisive topic.

    If someone thinks the film was unfair because church leaders were not involved, then please call Church HQ and ask why the leaders declined the invitation to be interviewed. If Buttars, Ruzicka, or America Forever do not create a good face for the church, then take steps to create a group that represents LDS ideals better in the public arena. I saw a few names being tossed around that I agree would be great resources, but they are not the ones who are stepping up to be that public face.

    My parents saw the film with me. Mom is a former RS president and Dad is a former bishop and HC member. They liked the film and though it was hard to watch, they felt it was fair and reasonable. That should make church members sit up and take note because that reaction comes from two LDS senior citizens, not a group of apostates or anti-Mormon activists.

    All active Latter-day Saints should go out and watch this film. If they voted to take away people’s right to marry, then they should at least have the decency to see the impact that their actions had on people’s lives.

  50. Paula,

    This blog does care about Mormons, and not so much California politics. I have seen the polygamy point mentioned hundreds of times. You being unaware of it does not mean that it has not been brought up.


    “FWIW” Um, not much.

    Cali Diver,

    Rusty and Geoff have adequately addressed the issue of Church leader appearing in the film. It is likely the same reason that I do not do interviews with the John Birch Society.

    It is a documentary. Like almost all documentaries only those who agree will watch it. Political impact: none. (I actually think if Milk had come out prior to the 2008 election, that could have had an impact).

  51. Chris:

    Thanks for the warning. As a member of the Mormon community, please take my remarks on Comment #51 as “friendly” commentary–which I realize is sort of like “friendly fire;” it still hurts even when it doesn’t come from the enemy.

    As for church leaders not appearing in the documentary, this is and will continue to be a problem for anyone who makes the case that 8: TMP is not fair. I have some of my own criticisms of the film, but the lack of church leaders appearing on camera isn’t one of them. Without church leaders there to answer questions, the film is left to use the memos and to use other information, such as the Yes on 8 training videos to tell the story.

    I thought TT’s review of the film was valid and accurate. The film is not perfect by any means, and yet it casts light on a topic that I think most LDS leaders and members would rather ignore. The film tells a story and LDS filmmakers are welcome to tell a story of their own. As a huge supporter of the arts, I hope they will.

    In the meantime, my feelings on Comment #51 remain unchanged.

  52. Kevin Christensen,

    Are you really equating the political conflict over SSM in California to an eschatological showdown between some sort of Antichrist and true Christians, whoever they are?

    Do you engage your homosexual friends and relatives with this sort of apocalyptic and polarizing rhetoric? I am guessing that even if you happen to believe what you posted, in person you are far more amicable and that you would probably even mingle with, visit the home of, and share a meal with homosexuals in California. It is far easier to nominate folks as partisan to the Antichrist when they reside a few thousand miles away from Pittsburgh, PA than when they are sitting next to you at dinner in San Diego, CA.

    Please refrain from this sort of radically dualistic rhetoric when discussing a matter that is far more nuanced than zeros and ones.

    And if you find yourself unable to abstain from such unchristian polemics, you may want to ask yourself WWM(argaret)B(arker)D?

  53. “Well, they could have pointed out that Salt Lake County as of 1984 or so had ordinances forbidding discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring.”

    A small correction: Salt Lake County’s anti-discrimination ordinance was enacted in 1992.

  54. I’m suggesting that Rene Girard’s observations on mimetic rivalries, scapegoating, scandals, victimology, and such might have some relevance to what has been going on in the post-Prop 8 environment, and particularly so in the focus on Mormon involvement due to a Catholic invitation and a vote decided by black voters. If not, I’m open for correction and rational argument. For that matter, I’m even open to other forms of rhetorical dismissal. It all goes with free speech in a public forum, and such a divisive topic in a diverse society. (Quite diverse even among the LDS, of whom I am not paradigmatic representative.) Having been subjected to real physical violence at gunpoint in the past, I’m not inclined to worry about a few epithets tossed my way.

    Girard, of course, made the case that ancient societies dealt with the escalation of mimetic rivalry by recourse to scapegoats, who were selected because of some difference–Foreigners, cripples, old, insane, whatever. Or as one commentator on recent events memorably observed of the the Morrmons, “the red-headed stepchild of American religion.” Girard observes characteristically, the guilt of the scapegoat was unquestioned in all societies. But that the stories of Joseph in Egypt, Job, and particularly Jesus raised the question of the innocence of the scapegoat to the extent that in modern society, one can only initiate the old scapegoat mechanism by first portraying their selected target as a victimizer. Once that label has been applied, the old scapegoat mechanisms can function as in former days. With the guilt of the victimizer assumed, anything goes. Selective representation, dramatic musical cues, taking thirty-or forty year old atrocity stories as representative, depicting Missionaries as rumaging through underwear drawers, etc. All in a good cause because morality is only determined by what side one is on, after all. The right side.

    I’m not interested in apocalyptic and polarizing rhetoric as such. On this topic, I’m interested in the relevance of Girard’s theories to what I observe, and the light those theories cast on the polarizing rhetoric and social behavior that I have observed in the news and commentary I have seen. I find Girard’s observations quite provocative in relation to things like the Theater director in Sacramento being forced from his job. Are Girard’s ideas dangerous? If they cause a little self reflection, if awareness of them had caused the producers of the The Mormon Proposition to reflect on what tactics to use in portraying the LDS, or producers of Pro Prop 8 ads in depicting homosexuals, I don’t think so. I think the film under discussion would be better, less polarizing and divisive. But perhaps less effective in motivating people, if results, perspective, and genuine understanding, are less important than getting things done.

    And for the record, the last contact I had with homosexual friends was holding hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer together. None of them took it badly.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  55. oudenos, I saw it. It’s forever in my email now and I would have deleted it too. Despite its sordid origins, there’s no way hysteria invokes all those things to modern discourse. That’s like saying that a modern “testimony” has something to do with one’s testicles and reading all the implications of masculinity and patriarchy into that. It was a cheap shot. Frankly I think hysteria, in both the modern colloquial sense and psychological sense of paranoia, is an appropriate term for unfounded accusations of lies, deceit and conspiracy.

  56. Kevin,

    Just to be clear, my quip about WWMBD was intended to be ironically ad hominem, in that folks don’t like to be pigeon-holed by others into camps with which they only have partial allegiance (i.e. people who feel victimized and the Antichrist).

  57. Jon H.,

    It was graphic, it was supposed to be. Hysteria is an awful word and its meaning and connotations are very close to its current colloquial use (in fact, our parents or grandparents understood it like I described it). And the point was that Blake, one who is both a student of philosophy and Greek, ought to know better than to hurl such a word.

    If you think that it was a cheap shot, that is fine. To me the usage of that word against a woman is a cheap shot. But you are a good chap and I have no quarrel with you.

  58. California Diver: As for church leaders not appearing in the documentary, this is and will continue to be a problem for anyone who makes the case that 8: TMP is not fair

    You can keep telling yourself that if you want.

    The reality is that the only people who will see it as a problem are people who have already made their minds up that Mormons are the bad guys for not thinking the legal definition of marriage should include same-sex unions.

    Plus I think we can safely assume that Mormon leaders can smell a hatchet job a mile away after a long history of enduring hatchet jobs.

  59. Chris, I am not sure what you mean about caring about Mormons, not politics. I wasn’t addressing CA politics. I was addressing how non-Mormons view Mormons after Prop 8. In my decades in the Church, it has come across as very concerned with how it is perceived by non-Members. You are to be a good example to your neighbors so they are interested in the Gospel. You are to clean up your front yard so as not to make a bad impression (not heard recently, but a big one in my youth). You are to dress and speak in such a way that those who see and hear you will make specific judgments about you. After Prop 8, the Mormon Church is seen differently by many. I live in an area that is heavily Mormon and evangelical. You would think that at least the Prop 8 aftermath would have led to a better impression of Mormons on the part of the evangelicals who have banned the missionaries from their restaurants, etc. It hasn’t. They still hate them. The only thing that has changed is that now a bunch of the people who used to talk about the quirks of living among many Mormons indulgently are not so quick to write off concerns about the Church and its doctrines because they know a lot of Mormons who are nice people. People are asking me, knowing that I was raised LDS, how it is that the Church can make such nice people so hateful on command.

  60. I guess I am not all that concerned about how others view me or us. However, I think it is pretty clear that the Church did not take this position to impress others. Our political relationship with the religious right is surely complicated. However, it is not PR..

  61. But didn’t the Church try to keep the level of its involvement less public? The precise level of involvement and the reasons why they might not want to announce it from the rooftops are open to discussion, but I haven’t seen any dispute that the documents indicating plans to limit the appearance of Church involvement are not legitimate. The Church cares how others see the Church. I think it would take a high level of denial to think otherwise. That might not be concern number one, but the difference between the Church of my youth that was proud to be a peculiar people and the Church of my adulthood that wants to be more Larry King friendly is tremendous.

  62. “But didn’t the Church try to keep the level of its involvement less public?”

    Not really. If they were trying to keep it hush, they didn’t try very hard. I think the denial of involvement (in different forms) is more a response to the backlash.

    Oh, the Church does worry about it’s image. However, I do not think we can view everything it does as being part of some PR campaign. Clearly, it would have been much easier to stay out of this issue.

    I should add that I only speak for myself.

  63. That’s another problem I have doctrinally. Why this? The Church just stays out of hundreds if not thousands of issues that involve life and death, but it gets heavily involved in gay marriage? It’s also part of the hypocrisy. I’m no fan of polygamy, but have always felt that it was horrible of the US to break up the polygamous families. What decent man would abandon his family? Many of them didn’t and who could blame them. Prop 8 was written to break up marriages in the same way. Mormons, of all groups, should understand how it feels to have the definition of marriage under secular law used to break up families and be more sympathetic. But they weren’t. When I asked LDS friends about it, they spouted talking points about the gays shouldn’t have married knowing that it could be made illegal again. The Mormon situation was different and still outrageous. The only difference I can see is that the Mormons started their polygamous marriage policy while living in states where it was illegal at the time they did it, not even temporarily legal.

    It really bothers me how this was all done by those who have been on the other side of it. It shows a side of the Church and Church members that doesn’t quite mesh with what I was taught the Church was all about. The priorities, the way of thinking about the issues, it’s not the example of higher living that I have been taught the Church should be.

  64. Paula,

    What all the venting? Just get more votes next time. That’s how democracy works.

    Further, I thought this thread was about a movie review, not a chance to beat a mostly dead horse.

  65. I also do not get the schock and awe. This is the Church that pretty much undid the ERA. This is a church that was largely indifferent to civil rights. Ezra Taft Benson. Surprise?

    Now, I am a liberal. I am uncomfortable with much of this narrative. But it is no secret.

  66. Geoff, isn’t the movie all about the fact that this horse isn’t dead to a lot of people? And that some people are blaming the Mormons for trying so hard to kill it? In any event, those are awfully brave words from a member of a small minority. A minority who has been subject to extermination orders in the past, no less. If the majority decides to shut down all temple marriages because the Church performs polygamous marriages in there, should we all just get over it once the vote has happened or wait until the Mormons outnumber everyone else or what?

    Perhaps it was not a bad thing as it was portrayed in the review that the movie did not interview enough believing LDS about their views.

  67. Justin, I interviewed for a job with Salt Lake County in 1983 and they had the anti discrimination policy/rule right there in the job application paperwork.

    I left Utah at the end of 1984 and never interviewed with Salt Lake County for another job.

    From what you are saying, they passed another ordinance in 1993. Interesting, but that does not vitiate the fact that in the early 1980s they had an ordinance that they put on their job application paperwork.

  68. If the majority decides to shut down all temple marriages because the Church performs polygamous marriages in there, should we all just get over it once the vote has happened or wait until the Mormons outnumber everyone else or what?

    Um, this is basically what happened in the late 1800s. The government threatened to confiscate the temples (as well as all other Church property) unless polygamy was abandoned. So we abandoned polygamy and, for the most part, have “gotten over it.”

    As for the present day,as far as the government is concerned, no polygamous marriages are performed in the temple, so the analogy does not hold. The analogous practice to what you are referring to in the temple would be gays getting married in cooperating churches without government involvement. They can do that in every state and the Mormon church does not lift a finger to stop them.

  69. The government threatened to confiscate the temples (as well as all other Church property) unless polygamy was abandoned. So we abandoned polygamy and, for the most part, have “gotten over it.”

    I know that this is only tangential to the main post (great stuff, btw, TT) but I think saying that we have “gotten over it,” like someone shrugging off worn clothing, fails to take into account the tremendous effect that the decades-long hunting, persecution, and prosecution of polygamists had on LDS culture and worldview. Our tendency to adopt a victim identity (a not unreasonable result of some episodes of Mormon history) contributes to the sense of bemusement — and, at times, hostility — many Mormons evince when faced with a situation in which they are not victim, but aggressor.

    TT’s #45 was spot-on:

    I think that part of the difficulty for LDS in treating this topic is we are not used to being cast in the role of agressor in disputes we’ve had historically. We are used to being the victim. In this case, we are not accustomed to a different set of responsibilities that should go along with being the accused aggressor, including being patient with the aggrieved.

  70. We are used to being the victim.

    And the people who publicly talked about how in response to Prop 8 the LDS were the perfect group to demonize, combined with the identity of some of the people involved in this movie, plays right into that.

  71. Excellent review. It seems most modern documentaries are just an opinionated blog made to look nice with some money behind it. Those that suit hollywoods tastes get to be in theaters and the rest we see on PBS or are never seen. I didn’t see the need for prop 8 but misrepresenting the truth and reality is much worse in the long run and will only lead to more violence and hatred. Is that what the gay and lesbian groups are all about? Is that what any of us are really about?

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