Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thoughts on Prop 8

I have run across various opinions on proposition 8 which was recently voted upon in CA. I had a period of indifference on the subject due to my status as a Washingtonian. As I have observed reactions from those who are of my faith and those who are not I have become more thoughtful about the subject and formed my own opinion.

To those not of my faith,

It is the inherent function of government to establish a common morality. From Hammurabi's code until the most recent congressional session, societies attempt to define what is in their common good. Few question laws prohibiting murder, theft, rape, tax evasion, etc. because they are so widely agreed upon. However, we become uncomfortable as our government attempts to legislate for or against behaviors and activities that we are not so readily in agreement with. It is then, that some erroneously begin to posit that governments have no right to legislate morality. They fail to recognize that ALL of our laws in one way or another establish a common morality. Proposition 8 is no different.

So when it comes down to it, proposition 8 is a question of morality. Couching the discussion in terms of civil rights pushes the moral questions away from homosexuality toward bigotry. Suddenly, the proposition is recast as the "Am I a bigot?" proposition. The argument is boldly made that anyone who is for proposition 8 must hate gay people. This more bellicose and less genuine argument is an easier one to win. Rather than debate the opposition, we need only yell bigot.

I guess this is where I want to interject that I am no bigot. I do not hate people based on their sexual orientation. I think there is a profound reason why when asked which is the "great" commandment Christ taught "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." This is foundational to all of God's laws. Unfortunately there are misguided souls who spew hate and terror at abortion clinics and at gay pride events in an attempt to further their misconceptions of Christianity. This contradicts Christ's teachings. There ought not be such unkindness, harshness, or antipathy for any of us who fail daily to meet the high bar that Christianity sets.

We love people around us despite easily identifying points of disagreement with them. Most often we find this in our own families. Even when these disagreements are rooted in deep characteristic components of personality. And so it is with defining marriage. I can disagree with the definition my neighbor chooses to accept regardless of why he does so. I can even do this without hating him for it. It seems disingenuous to accuse me of hating an entire population most of whom I don't even know simply based upon the fact that I am not in favor of revamping marriage.

To those who share my faith,

I was introduced to this talk from Neal A. Maxwell, an apostle and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ. Though given 30 years ago, it is surprisingly current. It communicates my feelings on proposition 8 succinctly.

Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions–especially when the First Presidency has spoken out–the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.

But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had "never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life" (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.

We are now entering a period of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: we shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage. . . .

Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. Its orthodoxy would be insistent and its inquisitors inevitable. Its paid ministry would be numerous beyond belief. Its Caesars would be insufferably condescending. Its majorities–when faced with clear alternatives–would make the Barabbas choice, as did a mob centuries ago when Pilate confronted them with the need to decide.

Your discipleship may see the time come when religious convictions are heavily discounted. M. J. Sobran also observed, "A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it" (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58). This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain of people's opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will soon be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.

In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments. It is always such an easy step from dogmatism to unfair play–especially so when the dogmatists believe themselves to be dealing with primitive people who do not know what is best for them. It is the secular bureaucrat's burden, you see.

Am I saying that the voting rights of the people of religion are in danger? Of course not! Am I saying, "It's back to the catacombs?" No! But there is occurring a discounting of religiously-based opinions. There may even be a covert and subtle disqualification of some for certain offices in some situations, in an ironic "irreligious test" for office.

However, if people are not permitted to advocate, to assert, and to bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and views they hold that grow out of their religious convictions, what manner of men and women would they be, anyway? Our founding fathers did not wish to have a state church established nor to have a particular religion favored by government. They wanted religion to be free to make its own way. But neither did they intend to have irreligion made into a favored state church. Notice the terrible irony if this trend were to continue. When the secular church goes after its heretics, where are the sanctuaries? To what landfalls and Plymouth Rocks can future pilgrims go? . .

It may well be, as our time comes to "suffer shame for his name" (Acts 5:41), that some of this special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship. Remember that, as Nephi and Jacob said, we must learn to endure "the crosses of the world" (2 Nephi 9:18) and yet to despise "the shame of [it]" (Jacob 1:8). To go on clinging to the iron rod in spite of the mockery and scorn that flow at us from the multitudes in that great and spacious building seen by Father Lehi, which is the "pride of the world," is to disregard the shame of the world (1 Nephi 8:26–27, 33; 11:35–36). Parenthetically, why–really why–do the disbelievers … watch so intently what the believers are doing? Surely there must be other things for the scorners to do–unless, deep within their seeming disinterest, there is interest.

If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other human relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even these, however, must leave a record so that the choices before the people are clear and let others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, that others will step forward, having been rallied to righteousness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds–a majority which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves "summer is nigh" (Matthew 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat.

(Neal A. Maxwell, "Meeting the Challenges of Today," BYU Devotional, October 10, 1978)

~By Ryan


Kara Jayne said...


I can see why Maxwell's words speak to you. Your words are similarly powerful.

I have read this talk now three times in the past two months and am amazed how quickly we forget what a "prophet" is...what it means.

I appreciate the way you have presented your views and all I can say is..."hear hear."

Anonymous said...

hmmmm... If wanting equal rights for all IS a morality issue.... How can eliminating rights for someone not be considered wrong?

Not everyone who disagrees with you thinks you are a bigot... they do think you need to see the human side of this issue. Maybe actually discussing equal rights with a gay person could help you... or coming to the elementary school I teach at and realizing that people really are born gay... before they ever even know what that means.

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...


In fact, Ryan and I believe that biology has much to do with homosexualtiy.

We still don't think that the word and institution of Marriage should be redefined to include people of the same sex. Civil partnerships and other legislated unions have been put in place to insure rights for those who are gay. I have yet to hear what rights are eliminated through those unions, that would be supplied by redefining marriage.

Audry said...

Great post, my husband sat up many nights discussing those exact things. Taking morality out of any issue makes it easier to justify.

Lisa-Marie said...

You are a very eloquent writer, Ryan. Thank you for sharing that talk. It is fabulous and full of truth that really spoke to me. I appreciate it.

Brooke Romney said...

Thanks for the post. I agree so much with it, especially since we voted on it here in AZ too. I agree with you especially in the idea that the marriage definition shouldn't be changed. Marriage is about 2 people who are of different genders uniting. If we change one of those clauses, it is no longer marriage. Civil unions, like you said, can accomplish the same thing regarding rights. I don't expect people to completely understand how I feel, but they do need to understand that I believe in the Bible and God's word today with the same convictions that they DON"T believe in it. If I went against what I know to be true, I would only be lying to myself. I don't expect them to accept that same belief, only understand why we feel that way.

Abbie said...

Very VERY well done. That was powerful. This has been on my mind a lot this last week (as it obviously has been for many).

While trying to make peace with my thoughts, I read (and watched 20 times) that talk by Maxwell.

I also read this quote by Pres. Lee (which is basically what you just said. I just like to read things over and over to get some peace when I think about a subject too much.):

“We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church. The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. There will be inroads within the Church.... We will see those who profess membership but... [are] trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this church.

Now the only safety we have as members of this church is... to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet.... There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life.

But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, ... the promise is that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory."

G and G Nut said...

Welcome to California. Prop 8 has truly been a roller coaster of emotions and energy. When you are a person like me who seeks neat and tidy solutions to problems, this has caused me to stretch and leave my comfort zone more than anything I can recall. And the end is not in sight. Elder Maxwell certainly understood what we are experiencing, and even though it is not pleasant, his words are so reassuring. Thanks, Ryan, for sharing your thoughts and his.

Bekah said...

Wow. I really enjoyed reading that and gaining a better understanding for myself. You said it extremely well and helped me to better put my thoughts and emotions in order. It's amazing how well the prophets really knew and know our day.

I know that this is no easy battle, but nothing ever is when those who seek to destroy morality and virtue continually critize and find fault with whoever stands up for it. Thanks for writing this. I think more than you know will have a better feeling about such things after reading this like I have. We just have to keep standing up for what we know and believe to be true always.

I found this link from the church helpful:

Bridget said...

This was a great post. I have very conflicted feelings on this. Let me start by saying my comments here are in no way meant to be argumentative; I am only stating who I feel. First, I do have a testimony of this gospel. No doubt about that. But I can't help but think this whole prop 8 thing has been blown a little out of proportion. When our church had unconventional views on marriage, we cried persecution when the government tried to stop us. This seems a little ironic to me that we are fighting this so fiercely. My brother in law is gay. I can see how it would appear the church is ganging up on them when 21 of the 24 million dollars raised for prop 8 came from the church. That said, I think the people who have been damaging church property and hurting other members of the church, are totally uncalled for and wrong. I wish I had some peace with this but I really don't. I am just so grateful I don't live in California because I don't know how I could handle it.

Sarah Blue said...

Ryan, that was wonderful! I completely agree. Would you mind if I copied this entry into my own blog? Let me know

Sherine said...

Thanks for posting this

Jessica said...

Very insightful, thanks for sharing.

♥Shally said...

Very well said, Ryan.

Lauren in GA said...

Thank you so much for this. I cannot wait to share this post with my husband when he gets home. As I read the words of Neal A. Mawell, I cannot help but feel that following the prophet is an honor, not a sacrifice. I know I am out here in Georgia and it doesn't affect me the way it does other Saints, but the whole situation has made me very emotional. Thank you for your articulate, thoughtful, eloquent (I stole that word from Lisa-Marie, because it is perfect) post.

Ilene said...

During this crazy time, I think of Lehi's vision where people are at the tree of life partaking of the fruit and then look around in shame and leave the tree because others from the great and spacious building are mocking them. It is sad to think that people would abandon the beautiful joy that Christ's gospel brings in order to be "approved" by the world.

It has been a really telling time for many members of our faith. I am impressed with those who struggle with this issue and still trust in the prophets' counsel above whatever doubts they may have. Sometimes a witness of the truth does not come until after a trial of our faith.

andrea said...

if you had posted this in the weeks before the election, you could've stirred up WAY more controversy and anonymous comments on your blog.

but since that probably wasn't your objective, i will bow out of any sort of comment other than to say this was well-written, and i appreciate your conscientiously thought out opinion.

Anonymous said...

I'm a lurker. Have been since the barfing instructional video. Good stuff.

I've starred this post in my favorites because it very much encapsulates how I feel about the topic. Thank you for the post. We live in Northern, VA and hubby works in DC. We too have been interrogated about this subject, and it's always nice to know that there are kindred souls out there.

Leesburg VA Ward

crystal said...

I've never heard or read this talk. I am going to find it on, print it and keep it for future reference. It is beyond powerful.

I miss Elder Maxwell.

You're very articulate, Ryan. Thanks for a great post.

Paige said...

Dear Ryan, please tell Jessica I think the nursery is pretty. Love, Paige

Tammy said...

Even though we have vastly different beliefs, it is refreshing to see a well read, compassionate case for your beliefs and I applaude you for doing so in such a passionate and yet, not overbearing manner. I wish everyone on the right was as well spoken as you! Since Mitt did not make the cut, perhaps Ryan should run for office next election, I think he would have a hell of a chance!!