Heroes and victims in Prop. 8 struggle
Many people worked to pass Proposition 8 in California. Those who wish to be our enemies are working hard to blame it all on the Mormons, but our votes alone could never have done the job of protecting marriage from a fatal redefinition.
If anyone doubts that, they should read the letter from Kevin Hamilton that has been circulating on the Internet.
Brother Hamilton, a seminary teacher, asked his students a couple of days after the election if any of them had been treated with hostility because they were Mormon.
Every hand went up.
So Brother Hamilton collected the statistics about who is to "blame" for passing proposition 8 and gave it to his students, proving that we did no harm and certainly did not act alone. We were part of a coalition of people to whom marriage is not just a brand that can be put on any relationship. We did not and do not stand alone.
Then, thinking that others might be interested, Brother Hamilton wrote it into an email and sent it to a couple of friends.
His friends sent it on. It spread through the Church. You've probably already seen it.
When it reached me, I realized that Brother Hamilton had already done precisely the research that I intended to do for this column.
So I am posting the text of his letter at the end of this column on MormonTimes.com, and will move on to my own particular points.
There are many heroes in this struggle, but I want to call special attention to the young Saints in the singles wards of California. Outside the Church, most of their peers were against proposition 8; inexperienced in marriage and child-rearing, they saw no harm in gay marriage.
So when our Latter-day Saint singles heeded the call of the Church's leaders to take part in the defense of marriage, they, more than any other group of Saints, were swimming upstream.
They worked hard. They took risks. And many of them paid a price that is heavy indeed.
Many of them lost dear friends -- sometimes with bitter, angry recriminations from people they had once been close to.
It seems ironic that these young Mormons were open-minded enough to be friends with people whose lives were so different from their own; but their friends, in the name of tolerance, could not remain friends with Mormons who merely stood up for their faith.
If the situation had been reversed, if Prop 8 had failed, these LDS young people would not have rejected their friends who voted to repudiate the meaning of marriage. And if they had, would they not have been condemned as bigots, for being unable to tolerate someone else voting his conscience?
I have been more fortunate. All my gay friends who might have repudiated me for supporting Prop 8 had already condemned me long ago for standing by a Christ-centered, prophet-led Church. The gay friends who remained at the time of the vote already knew my views, and our relationship continues.
(Not that I lack for hate mail and death threats from the "tolerant," mind you. It just didn't come from my friends.)
I suspect that the young Saints from those California singles wards felt the cost -- socially and in their hearts -- more keenly than anyone.
But as one of them pointed out to me in a conversation soon after the vote, "Now we know what it was like for believers in the Book of Mormon." So many times, the division between the followers of Christ and their opponents and persecutors was not geographical or national or cultural -- it was their own friends and neighbors who turned on them.
Reading the end of the book of Helaman, we can hear the voices of those who attack the Church (and all religions) today.
They accuse us of continuing a "wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing ... therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes."
They accuse the Church of wanting to "keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them ... and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives." (Hel. 16:20-21)
Their story is that we Mormons somehow oppress them and force them; they claim to be our victims. And yet they are the ones who tried to force us to accept their radical change through judicial edict, rejecting a clear majority vote only a few years before.
All we did was tell the truth, and try to persuade other people to act on that truth by voting for the proposition. We forced no one. We deceived no one. It was democracy.
Out here in the East and South, many of our young men and women are serving missions in California. When a particularly vicious and bigoted ad showed Mormon missionaries bursting into the homes of gay couples, wresting the rings from their fingers and tearing up their marriage licenses, we feared that this might make people feel justified in acts of violence and hostility toward our missionaries.
If we had put out an ad showing gay activists forcing their views on unwilling citizens, it would have actually been true -- since that is exactly what happened to make Prop 8 necessary in the first place.
But we were careful never to do or say anything that might seem to condone violence against individual gay people. They took no such care for our missionaries.
Here is where the Savior's admonition to Peter comes into play. We can see that they would not bear it if we treated them as they have treated us -- but we will not treat them that way.
This victory in California was by a shockingly slim margin. The forces arrayed against us depend on concealing actual scientific and historical evidence from the voters -- it is frightening how close they came to blinding a majority.
Our opponents will move on to other states -- Massachusetts and Connecticut, for instance. And they will make us their targets and whipping boys. By painting us as the group trying to "force" our beliefs on unwilling people -- falsely accusing us, in short, of doing exactly what they really are doing -- they hope to arouse hatred and rage toward Mormons and use that as a means of prevailing in the political contest.
We must be prepared to be the victims of lies. We may also see acts of violence and persecution by individuals and governments against Mormons, individually and as a Church.
What we must not do, what we must not tolerate, is the slightest action by any member of the Church to harm or persecute others. They declare themselves our enemies, but we refuse to recognize that declaration.
We know that we are in fact the friends of all; that a society that organizes itself to promote traditional marriage is the one most likely to promote the general happiness -- even of those who choose not to enter into such a marriage.
We are not fighting a war, we are liberating people by telling them the truth. Only when they know the truth can they be free.
Kevin Hamilton's Letter on Proposition 8 and the Mormon Church
In the aftermath of the recent election, we may find ourselves oddly on the defensive regarding our support for the Yes on Proposition 8 cause. Our young people have been especially subject to mean spirited comments by high school friends and teachers. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We did nothing wrong. In fact, we did everything that a civic minded American can and should do. I have put together a few facts that help me to appreciate our position better. For example:
1. Mormons make up less than 2% of the population of California. There are approximately 800,000 LDS out of a total population of approximately 34 million.
2. Mormon voters were less than 5% of the yes vote. If one estimates that 250,000 LDS are registered voters (the rest being children), then LDS voters made up 4.6% of the Yes vote and 2.4% of the total Proposition 8 vote.
3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) donated no money to the Yes on 8 campaign. Individual members of the Church were encouraged to support the Yes on 8 efforts and, exercising their constitutional right to free speech, donated whatever they felt like donating.
4. The No on 8 campaign raised more money than the Yes on 8 campaign. Unofficial estimates put No on 8 at $38 million and Yes on 8 at $32 million, making it the most expensive non-presidential election in the country.
5. Advertising messages for the Yes on 8 campaign are based on case law and real-life situations. The No on 8 supporters have insisted that the Yes on 8 messaging is based on lies. Every Yes on 8 claim is supported.
6. The majority of our friends and neighbors voted Yes on 8. Los Angeles County voted in favor of Yes on 8. Ventura County voted in favor of Yes on 8.
7. African Americans overwhelmingly supported Yes on 8. Exit polls show that 70% of Black voters chose Yes on 8. This was interesting because the majority of these voters voted for President-elect Obama. No on 8 supporters had assumed that Obama voters would vote No on 8.
8. The majority of Latino voters voted Yes on 8. Exit polls show that the majority of Latinos supported Yes on 8 and cited religious beliefs (assumed to be primarily Catholic).
9. The Yes on 8 coalition was a broad spectrum of religious organizations. Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Muslims - all supported Yes on 8. It is estimated that there are 10 million Catholics and 10 million Protestants in California. Mormons were a tiny fraction of the population represented by Yes on 8 coalition members.
10. Not all Mormons voted in favor of Proposition 8. Our faith accords that each person be allowed to choose for him or her self. Church leaders have asked members to treat other members with "civility, respect and love," despite their differing views.
11. The Church did not violate the principal of separation of church and state. This principle is derived from the First Amendment to the United State's Constitution, which reads, "Congress shall make no lawrespecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The phrase "separation of church and state", which does not appear in the Constitution itself, is generally traced to an 1802 letter by Thomas Jefferson, although it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United State's Supreme Court in recent years. The LDS Church is under no obligation to refrain from participating in the political process to the extent permitted by law. U.S. election law is very clear that Churches may not endorse candidates, but may support issues. The Church as always been very careful on this matter and occasionally (not often) chooses to support causes that it feels to be of a moral nature.
12. Supporters of Proposition 8 did exactly what the Constitution provides for all citizens: they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out on an issue that concerned them, make contributions to a cause that they support, and then vote in the regular electoral process. For the most part, this seems to have been done in an open, fair, and civil way. Opponents of 8 have accused supporters of being bigots, liars, and worse. The fact is, we simply did what Americans do - we spoke up, we campaigned, and we voted.
Hold your heads up high - you did a great job on this most important cause. We will have more opportunities in the future to participate in our democratic process. Let's remember the lessons learned and do an even better job next time.
These are my personal opinions and thoughts; any errors are mine and in now way reflect official Church policy or doctrine.
Copyright © 2008 by Orson Scott Card
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