Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We Fit.

By now you’ve heard it all in regards to Prop 8. You’ve heard every argument for and every argument against, seen the commercials and youTube clips, read articles, emails, editorials, opinions, and blogs. It’s on the radio, on TV and can be found anywhere and everywhere in cyberspace. Perhaps you are an activist in California, displaying your sign and bumper sticker (until they get stolen), making phone calls, pounding the pavement, waving signs, and working tirelessly to support the issue. Or maybe you are No on 8, for all of your own reasons, and will stop reading this blog entry because of it.

But I hope you’re still reading, and because I feel like it’s all been said (most of it far better than I could ever say it), I’m taking a slightly different approach in explaining my stance.

While eating out with my family tonight, I overheard a conversation between two women comparing the reasons they were “good” growing up. One of the two said she had no choice but to be good, or dad’s whip came out. She then laughed about how that could never happen today without her dad being hauled off to jail, and went on to say that for better or for worse, parents today are afraid to discipline.

Somehow that thought turned my mind to Proposition 8. For better or for worse, we are afraid to bring out the whip, so to speak, to draw a line in the sand. By we, I mean society as a whole, as it has become mainstream to accept alternative lifestyles, and ANY lifestyle, for that matter, really, with one important exception (an exception that goes back to the aforementioned whip). By law, we must not harm our children. Thank goodness for that, and yet…how to define HARM?

There is obvious harm to children who are physical or emotionally abused. But how many other ways can we hurt children quite lawfully, including through divorce, infidelity, and any sort of neglect, to name a few, all of which can happen within a “traditional marriage.” So traditional marriage itself is not always the safe haven we envision when touting the preservation of the family.

In fact, the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) that I belonged to for many years as a part of my major (Family Science/ Marriage Family and Human Development) is probably the foremost leader in its efforts to redefine family to include just about any group of people. I never saw more transvestites and cross dressers in one place before attending conferences that focused on the “family.” It was a real eye opener for me to realize the majority of people academically studying ‘family’ used the term very liberally, despite volumes of research evidencing the healthy aspects of a two-parent, two-gender family.

So if traditional families aren’t always ideal, and the fight for alternative families has become the quest for countless Americans who truly feel that a Yes on 8 means intolerance, bigotry, and inequality, then why oh why do I still plan to check yes in the little box on the ballot? I have no beef with the “other side.” I have no reason to squelch the marital bliss that I myself feel entitled to for friends, family and plenty of really nice strangers whose sexual orientation differs from my own. I’m not trying to be mean, self-righteous, un-accepting, or ignorant.
I just…(forgive me for this, Postal Service, but I have to!)

“I have to speculate, that God Himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay.”

For all I know the Postal Service is No on 8 (???), but their lyrics nail my thoughts on this nonetheless. It’s not rocket science, it’s my gut that tells me: A man and a woman were made to fit together, with the result of procreation, for a reason. Think Adam and Eve here. Two people. Two genders. One mission. Of course it gets complicated and messy with any number of variables such as hermaphrodites (intersexes), abortion, infertility, adoption, all things that can be used to dilute gender and child-bearing arguments. But my analysis persists: Men and women are most complete in their union.

And that’s the extent of my argument for tonight. We fit.

Do I believe homosexual tendencies exist? Absolutely. Do I have and love gay friends? Of course. Am I relieved to be attracted to the man in my life rather than a woman? Infinitely. Do I believe it can be a huge burden to be attracted to the same sex (yes) and do I know why it happens and how it is fair (not at all).

And yet: However real to me same sex persuasion, it is also real to me that God drew a line in the sand when he created us, by nature of HOW he created us--and it makes a whole lot of sense to me to back Him on this one. He taught us to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But I don’t believe the translation of that is to “Live and let live” or “Anything goes”. If that were how He felt about things, He never would have given us a bold set of commandments to live by. He draws the line. He makes rules. He expects us to live them. And He did not mince words in saying: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” Father. Mother. Man. Woman. Two people. Two genders. The reason we ourselves exist.

Same sex couples can be couples. They have rights. They have privileges. They do not need to be married to have them. Marriage is an institution, a sacred union that should exist for those who choose to follow the natural course of a man, a woman, and all the necessary equipment for propagating a species.

Marriages won’t be perfect. Families will be broken, and children will continue to be hurt in a multitude of ways. I wish it weren’t so, but it is the nature of an imperfect world. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to fight for the ideal. We should preserve the framework that is most likely to offer kids a fighting chance in a very challenging world. It is not our place to redefine things that God has already made clear. He can love with a perfect love and still have expectations, still draw a line in the sand. We can emulate this love and acceptance without compromising our stand on this moral issue.

It’s one check in a box, but it’s a mark that can alter the natural course of a planet and a people, and I am not prepared to play God when there already is one.

43 comments:

Hey Maughan said...

It's OK if you disagree, but please be kind in your comments, even when they differ. I am happy to hear other viewpoints (bring it on, Bennett!) But lovingly, please. I am a sensitive soul. :)

Hey Maughan said...

If you leave comments at all, that is. It's a pretty long entry to read through, so props to you for making it this far...

Now I have GOT to go to bed.

Shanicherie said...

Amy, those words could literally have come straight from my mouth! You explained it EXACTLY...I just can't even say anything else! I hope you guys are doing well, I love reading your updates and seeing pictures of your GORGEOUS family!

Amy Coontz said...

AMEN!! My biggest problem with prop. 8 (since I don't live in CA) Dallin H. Oaks is going to CA instead of coming to my stake conf. like he was supposed to.

Team Biddle said...

Great post...my sensitive souled friend.

Miriam Lovell Dyer said...

Great post - all of it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for drawing the line in the sand!

Kathleen said...

Hey Bennettt. Why are you being so anonymously mysterious? I can tell that's you. Thanks for your insight on the matter Amy. I'm glad that's not going on in my state right now... my state whose name I shall not name. See, I can be mysterious too.

Kathleen said...

By the way Amy, we ordered a Patagonnia winter catalog. Just call us the gullibles... right? Well, we'll find out for sure soon enough when it gets here.

the smoots said...

Amy, thank you so much for your thoughts and perspective. What a great post. We DO fit, and I can't wait to check my own little box on Nov. 4th.

Hey Maughan said...

Kathleen I LOVE that you ordered a catolog. Let me know when it gets there OK?

merideth said...

dittos to everything you just posted...i love how you explained it.

Christy Dyer said...

Amy, what a great presentation! I worked on the Nevada Amendment in 2000 and 2002 and it was the hardest thing to go door to door when people wanted to throw you off the doorstep, but it was easy too because I so deeply believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman. You have stated everything so well and we appreciate all you are doing in CA.

godardfam said...

Amy, you have a gift for writing! I very much enjoyed what you wrote. If only we were all so eloquent!

Michael Edgerle said...

well said Amy, thanks for taking the time to spell out your thoughts so eloquently.

Tamara Atkin said...

Definitely eloquent and you really covered it all. You should present it at the next NCFR conference. When you go, say "Hi" to the heterosexual cross-dressers for me. Those guys are always interesting to talk to.

Mike and Shelby said...

Beautifully put.

The current times is a testament to the fact that The Family Proclaimation was absolutely an inspired document.

"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God... Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother."

I love the force of the word 'entitled' there. It is our children's God-given right to have a mother and father, who are we to take that right away?

Bizzert said...

Amy, I say Amen to what the others have already said. Well done.

Emily said...

Amy, this should be published! You are one eloquent woman my friend! I cannot wait to check the little YES box on my ballot too! I may just have to refer friends to your amazing words... if you don't mind.

Bennett said...

Alright... I'll bite... :-)

Amy, I thought your post was eloquent and reasonable. I wish I could really communicate how much laud those adjectives carry for me. Together they are the second highest honor I can offer. I also felt from you a love for your neighbor, which to me is the most noble of attributes, so I also offer my highest praise. Perhaps after that, this may seem trite, but I also think you kicked Orson Scott Card's butt. ;-) (I hope you know what I'm talking about. At this point I wonder if there is a Mormon who hasn't read his treatment of this topic).

I love The Postal Service, and interestingly, about a month ago I was listening to "Such Great Heights," and when they sang that line, I thought, "that may be the only valid argument for Prop. 8."

I agree that one man and one woman simply fit. I also agree that the ideal family includes one father and one mother, and I liked that you acknowledge that there really is no such thing as an "ideal" family.

But perhaps from there our views part ways. From my perspective, invoking Adam and Eve was the fatal flaw in your argument. Sure, it gets people who already agree with you to say, "You go girl!" or "Yeah! God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" (To which I often reply, "And what of Lilith?"), but I think that argument is fraught with fallacy.

Why do I see that as a "fatal flaw?" Well, because if we invoke the Adam and Eve story to inform our politics, we should also be campaigning to roll back the fourteenth, fifteenth, and nineteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Those that have been cursed by God with the "mark of Cain," i.e., dark skin, should not be allowed to vote or hold property, and definitely should not be allowed to intermarry with white folk, a practice expressly forbidden by God in the Bible. Genesis 28:1: "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan." Or, even in the New Testament, Acts 17:24-26: "God ... hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation ..."

Furthermore, the idea of gender equality in marriage is but mere decades old in this country. Women didn't even have the Constitutional right to vote until 88 years ago. This concept of defending a "traditional definition of marriage" is a farce. Community property law has its foundation a mere 50 years ago in California, and there are STILL only nine states that treat marriage as an equal partnership in that way. A family based on the Adam and Eve story makes women the property of a man. The "traditional definition of marriage" until just the past few decades (our lifetime), consisted of the PROPERTY RIGHTS of a man over a woman.

If it is seen as rebellion against God, fine, but I refuse to discriminate based on race or gender, regardless of what Genesis tells me. I think we've risen above that, and I find equality of race and gender consistent with the Sermon on the Mount, which I use to resolve all internal inconsistencies in the Bible (and any other scripture or doctrine for that matter), in much the same way we use the Constitution as the foundation for our legal system.

Sure the Bible tells me that men and women "fit." But the Bible also tells me that God intends racial segregation, and that genocide of non-believers is commanded (and we have the audacity to criticize the Koran).

Amy I'm sure you understand why I'm voting NO on Prop. 8, as you have read my notes on my Facebook page. But for anyone else reading this, let me try to give a summary. In the eyes of the State, granting or denying a marriage license is NOT based on sexual orientation or behavior. When two men or two women are denied a marriage license, the state denies that license based solely on their gender, not on anything they may be doing in the bedroom. Prop. 8 will codify gender discrimination in the California Constitution, something I cannot, in good conscience support, because I see women and men as "equal but different."

The other constitutional consequence of Prop. 8 is that if it is upheld, it sets a legal precedent of amending the constitution through a signature drive, an ad campaign, and a simple majority. A simple majority is just fine for your typical law, but because the constitution is the foundation for our legal system, allowing it to be amended by a simple majority is wrong in principle, and scary in practice. Look at all the other propositions currently and formerly on the ballot, and ask yourself if it would be appropriate for those initiatives to be written into the Constitution. Amendments need to pass a higher standard than a simple majority. Regardless of the content of Prop. 8, it undermines the principles constitutional law, and attacks the very fabric of our society.

But at this point, you may be asking yourself, "How can he go against the will of the prophet?" Well, I'll spare you the myriad justifications, and give you the main two. (1) The First Presidency's directive on this DOES NOT say "thus saith the Lord." It says "The Church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal." This isn't even "God vs. State," it's "The Church's teachings vs. State." When it comes to the California Constitution, which should win? Think separation of Church and State.

But perhaps more personally important to me is (2) the hypocrisy of the Church in coming out so strongly on a California Constitution issue, mobilizing the members, even pressuring members to give as much as they can afford to the campaign. There is hypocrisy in that action given that the Church went to war with the United States over their own deviant form of marriage (and lost), but that's not the hypocrisy that bothers me. The hypocrisy that undermines my faith in the leadership of this Church is their utter inaction in responding to that most heinous "Doctrine of Preemption," aka, "The Bush Doctrine," which attempts to justify and legalize murder and genocide. After the announcement of that doctrine (around Sept. 20, 2002), I listened closely to the next General Conference, with faith that our leaders would speak out against this evil practice, this abhorrent doctrine. I listened to every talk, every utterance, and nary a word was spoken in opposition to that greatest of evils. It was as if obedience to authority was expected, regardless of the righteousness of the policies of that authority. I recognized that plan in an instant. That is the plan of the adversary: Unquestioning obedience to authority above all other laws in the Gospel, not tempered by or equal to them.

Is same-sex marriage the great evil threatening our society? Not hardly. In a society where that cinema celebration of violence, Batman - the Dark Knight, is PG-13, rated in the top 10 of most lists of the best movies ever made, and where most of my "Yes on 8" voting Mormon friends told me it was a must-see movie? In a Church where the political support of President Bush went up (in Utah) with his announcement of the "Doctrine of Preemption?" The threat of same-sex marriage can't hold a candle to the threat of glorifying violence and normalizing enmity.

So how do I reconcile this dilemma, between "follow the prophet" and "follow the Spirt?" The same way I reconcile all questions of faith or doctrine, with the "Sermon on the Mount." I read the entire Sermon with Prop. 8 in mind, and I found no prohibition of same-sex marriage, no principles that might support amending the California Constitution, and many principles that suggested a "NO" vote would be the more appropriate choice for a disciple of Christ, an allegiance I cling more tightly to than to my peers in the Church.

I see this ammendment as similar to the "three-fifths" rule in our original Constitution, or the idea that it is sufficient for women to "vote through their husbands." I subscribe to the idea of "equal treatment under the law" for all citizens. I don't subscribe to the idea of standing in whited seplecures and declaring another's love for their spouse and their children to be inferior to mine. Attending Church the past two months has been like attending Church in the Great and Spacious Building, with plenty of mockery and finger-pointing. "Did you see how poorly the 'No on 8' sign wavers were dressed? It's as if they don't really care!" "They clearly don't understand the divine nature of the family like we do!" And so on... The spirit of this proposition, the spirit of the Saints supporting it, and the Spirit of Christ's teachings, all join in confirming my decision to vote NO on this proposition.

I think I've shared more than my position on Prop. 8, I think I've borne my tesimony. ;-)

Amy, I tried to give you enough new stuff here to make it worth a read. :-) You know I've had more to say on this topic, so if anyone else wants to wallow in my other arguements for "NO," they are welcome to friend me on Facebook, or send me their email address and I'll send my original two notes, one on the constitutional aspects, and the other on the religious overtones.

I'd also like to add, Amy, that I still feel a deep respect for your position, along with a handful of my other "Yes" voting friends. I think you are voting well. My wife is also "Yes" and I support her vote and her reasons. But I do think that most folks voting "Yes" are not voting well, and that there is a great deal of prejudice, both personal and institutionalized, backing this proposition. I believe that with greater love and less prejudice (on both sides), the vote would swing more strongly in the "NO" direction.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now that I've spewed a thousand words on the topic, I see that perhaps the picture may have sufficed. This picture sums up the core of my feelings about Prop. 8.

http://www.jeffmarx.com/PROP8/prop8ad.html

And the last thing I would like to share is what I consider to be the BEST article written in favor of a "Yes" vote on Prop. 8. I was considering bumping it down to #2, after reading your fine treatment, Amy, but then I went back and skimmed it, and realized I was letting personal bias get in the way. :-) Objectively, it's probably better, but I think you're both on the same page.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-blankenhorn19-2008sep19,0,2093869.story

Consider it a gratitude gift to anyone of the "Yes" persuasion that made it all the way through my response. :-)

With love, and gratitude, and a lot of heady intellectualizing,
Bennett

Betsy Hite Scott said...

Loved it, Amy.

Kathleen said...

I'm not as eloquent as Amy so I'm just going to come out and say it. When the PROPHET and APOSTLES speak on behalf of the church, they ARE speaking the will of God. Also, I think you might be confusing biblical culture with biblical doctrine.

Austin said...

Amy, I thought it was very eloquent and well written! I am sad to not be in California any longer. Power to the People!

I agree that we are all intelligences, and we all have our own free agency. I also know that when the Prophet speaks, it is as if Heavenly Father himself was speaking. No blind decisions should ever be made, but we also, if we know that our Prophet is the Prophet of God, need to heed his counsel and warning and what he is saying is not just a teaching, it is the word of the Lord.

Well done Amy!
Robin

Hey Maughan said...

Happy Halloween Eve. Thank you for your guest appearance Bennett, the resident "no" in the comment section. Hands down the longest and most detailed comment I have ever had on my blog, and it is interesting reading for all of us-- yays and nays alike. The best part is that it brought out Kathleen's claws which don't come out very often, so that was rare and enjoyable. I really appreciate all the comments that have been made, and emails and other communications in regards to the topic. I really enjoyed the link to the article Bennett included as it is a great reminder of what is at stake for the children here. Opponents to prop 8 seem to have made fairness and equality their argument without any consideration to the children who have no voice in the matter. Is it fair and "equal" to the next generation to decide their fate for them based on the desires/indulgences/preferences of those who can currently vote? Women had to fight for the right to vote, so we know what it's like not to have a voice (if not personally, at least through empathy for our kind...) Maybe that is why the claws come out when we want to defend the voiceless now. There are things we desire for the babies we bare and the babies they will bare and this is our opportunity to fight for what they deserve. Think of the Book of Mormon. What righteous purposes are cited as worthy to fight for? Home. Liberty. Family. Wives. Children. God. Sound like anything on the ballot this year?

Janna said...

Wow! Great blog, Amy. And great responses. I have a question for Bennet about this comment:

1) The First Presidency's directive on this DOES NOT say "thus saith the Lord."

How do you rationalize D&C 1:38?
John

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

John,

It is actually the principle in D&C 1:38 that I was referring to. Not every word out of a prophet's mouth is the Word of God. When the prophet says, "thus saith the Lord," it is the word of God. When the Prophet says, "thus saith the Church," he is referring to the will of the organization. Other times it simply amounts to the best the man has to offer. I also firmly believe that the Prophet is just as prone to make mistakes as you or I. The Lord does not take away the Prophet's agency and compel him any more that He does you or me. There isn't a leader in this Church that has a monopoly on revelation. They are using the same tools you or I have, they just happen to have a broader scope of responsibility, and most likely, a better track record of using those tools well.

I suppose this could be a very long conversation. Let me try to be as to the point as possible, by sharing another letter from the First Presidency, written 50 years ago.

"We might make this initial remark: the social side of the Restored Gospel is only an incident of it; it is not the end thereof.

"The basic element of your ideas and concepts seems to be that all God's children stand in equal positions before Him in all things.

"Your knowledge of the Gospel will indicate to you that this is contrary to the very fundamentals of God's dealing with Israel dating from the time of His promise to Abraham regarding Abraham's seed and their position vis-a-vis with God Himself. Indeed, some of God's children were assigned to superior positions before the world was formed. We are aware that some Higher Critics do not accept this, but the Church does.

"Your Position seems to lose sight of the revelations of the Lord touching the pre-existence of our spirits, the rebellion in heaven, and the doctrine that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born, have a relationship in the life heretofore.

"From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.

"Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and the White races, a concept which has heretofore been the most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, his Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed.

"We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church, and is contrary to Church doctrine."


I believe that in 50 years, we will look back on the current letter of the First Presdidency to the Saints in California with the same perspective we are looking back on this letter about "Negroes," from the First Presidency 50 years ago. Neither will be canonized as scripture, both are speaking the will of "the Church" and not necessarily "the Lord." The Lord leaves us to our own devices to discern what is right and wrong. The interesting lesson I've learned from the Sermon on the Mount is that it really does seem that the Lord cares little about what you do, and cares a lot about the spirit in which you go about it. Love God and love your neighbor. The rest is up to you.

Bennett

Bennett said...

It was comforting to run across someone else who understands.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joe-vogel/a-mormons-lament-church-i_b_138037.html

Janna said...

Bennet,

You're absolutely right that it is possible for a prophet to make a mistake; whether he's "just as prone as you or I" is another matter. Regardless of whether they are right or wrong, we are told by the Lord that "...his word ye shall receive as if from mine own mouth in all patience and faith" (D&C 21:5). Those last two words are key. I think that we tread in dangerous territory when we think to know the will of the Lord for the Church over the prophet. What if the prophet is wrong on Marriage? What if the church changes its stance in 50 years? Will the Lord hold us blameless for not following the counsel of the prophet today? Will he say, "Well, John, the prophet said that your best efforts were required in the effort to support proposition 8, but I meant that for the rest of the church, not you. I'm glad you didn't heed that call. You were way ahead of the curve on that one."

I think President Faust put it nicely:

I was humbled and overwhelmed to be called as an Assistant to the Twelve Apostles 33 years ago. A few days later President Hugh B. Brown counseled me that the most important thing I should do is to always be in harmony with my Brethren. President Brown did not elaborate. He just said, “Stick with the Brethren.” I interpreted that to mean that I should follow the counsel and direction of the President of the Church, the First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve. That resonated as something I wanted to do with all my heart.

Others may not agree with that counsel, but it warrants some consideration. I have concluded that spiritual guidance in large measure depends upon being in harmony with the President of the Church, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve—all of whom are sustained, as they were today, as prophets, seers, and revelators. I do not know how we can expect to be in full harmony with the Spirit of the Lord if we are not in harmony with the President of the Church and the other prophets, seers, and revelators. (end quote)

Patience and faith.

Elder Oaks says "each of us has two different channels to God." He calls them the channels of governance and personal testimony. He says that the first results in obedience, and the second in knowledge. "These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1)." How do we expect the Lord to bless us with knowledge if we can't demonstrate obedience to his prophets?

Granted, I realize that my argument here for supporting proposition 8 is based purely on faith. I don't expect anyone outside of the church to understand it or to give any credence to it. But my testimony is that Thomas S. Monson is indeed a prophet of God. The spirit has made this known to me as clearly as the light of day. I do believe that he speaks on behalf of the Lord and makes his will known to the rest of the church. And when he says "our best efforts are required" to support proposition
8, I will follow his counsel in "patience and faith."

John

Stephanie said...

Love the post. Love the debate. Bennett's post raises some intriguing thoughts and opinions formed of substantial thinking to summary. So I'll start there.

The first point of the summary is that a state's refusal to sanction
same-sex marriage is tantamount to gender discrimination. (I suppose, then, that feminists would smirk over the denial of marriage between men, but I digress.) Point for Bennett: it could be considered gender discrimination.
The California Supreme Court agrees. But let's not stop there -- it's lots of other kinds of discrimination too.

The idea behind prohibition of discrimination on the bases of certain protected classes is that we (society) abhore differential treatment when the only attribute underlying the differential treatment is the core
attribute of that identified class. That is, we disallow differential
treatment with all things being equal BUT race, gender, etc.

When we determine to define marriage as proposed by Proposition 8, we are discriminating on many bases - not just gender - because men and women are different in many more respects than the biological basics defining "gender" you learn in 6th grade sex ed. The article you cite in your post is a good
place to start. Women become mothers and men become dads. Fact of gender? Yes. But there are other differences. There are reasons Hallmark does not
make Mother's Day cards with pictures of hammers and Target does not advertise specials on roses for dad for Father's Day. Generally speaking, dads do not cry the first time their babies get shots. And moms do not tell children who have fallen off bikes to toughen up and try again. Both genders are equally strong, but - again, generally speaking - their
strengths are in different areas. Opposites attract, so they say. But opposites also complement and more fully complete a family composite that, studies show, is particularly important in the rearing of children.

Why is it that, in this election, we are not hearing the oft-repeated
platitude that "children are society's most important asset?" Why is it that the media cites statistic after statistic about the decline of the family and the absence of two-parent homes in the context of the increase of
crime, drug abuse, etc. in inner cities, but those statistics are absent in this debate? Sure, Prop. 8 affects more than just children, but shouldn't children be enough?

There is precedent for societal allowance of gender discrimination. We allow gender discrimination in certain circumstances where other
gender-related attributes enter into the equation (e.g. the draft). The same analysis applies here.

To summarize, Prop. 8 can be viewed as gender discrimination. But I'll go you one further and say it is discriminating on a whole bunch of other factors. And I think that is just fine. Equality is easy to apply when all applicable factors - such as qualifications for employment - are the same. But equality in this context is problematic because we simply do not have sameness.

Bennett's summary point #2 is that (a) the constitution (here the state constitution) is a legal foundation and (b) as such, should not be subject to change by a simple majority vote. First, (a) is incorrect because the constitution may be trumped in any particular instance by a conflicting interest that meets an applicable level of scrutiny. If the level of scrutiny is met, that interest is ipso facto of higher order than the constitutional interest being infringed. Race and sexual orientation have been attributed strict scrutiny status such that any law advancing the
interests of those classes will justify infringement. Ironically, gender discrimination is attributed only intermediate scrutiny. Seems to me that anything that can justifiably infringe a constitutional provision is more of
a societal, legal "foundation" than that constitutional provision. As to(b), I would rather a simple majority of the entire voting populace amend the state constitution than four judges reorder the social structure of our
society without opportunity for input from adversely affected parties who would have had such opportunity to present their concerns had the matter been properly addressed through the legislative process. These four judges left such adversely affected parties (family rights groups, religious groups, teachers, churches, etc.) no other remedy than to resort to the initiative process. As we stand today, there is simply no other recourse, no other redress, no other way.

(By the way, I could go on and on about the adversely affected interests, comparing and contrasting case law, etc. But I've really got to get to the
grocery store tonight..)

Bennett's summary point #3. I'm just curious here. Would the conclusion be any different had the First Presidency directive said "thus saith the Lord"? Or would the Sermon on the Mount trump that? No offense intended. Just asking.

Back to the beginning of Bennett's post. Just a few thoughts. I think it is intellectually and religiously consistent for a person to believe and accept Adam and Eve and also the 14th, 15th and 19th amendments of the federal constitution. And I'm guessing that many of the proponents of these amendments and those who voted for them were regular readers of the Bible. The statements about Biblical support (mandate even) for race discrimination and genocide have been around for some time. It's a hornet's nest, gets us
into all sorts of Jew/Gentile stuff, and, frankly, it's a bit of a red herring because Prop. 8 is about restricting access to marriage and not advancing active hate crimes. There are still plenty of statutes on the
books, unaffected by Prop. 8's passage, that prohibit discrimination on many
bases, including gender and sexual orientation. Much as I'd love to get into all of that, I've really got to get to the store. Out of milk.

Bennett quibbles over the phrase "traditional marriage." I agree with his distaste for anything relegating wives to societally-sanctioned slavery.
Thankfully, neither the word "chattel" nor the phrase "velvet dinner jacket and cigar" appears in the proposed constitutional amendment. I'm pretty sure the wives in the other 41 non-community property states aren't chattel
anymore either. And I'm also pretty sure that if Prop. 8 passes, my husband will still do the dishes.

Hey Maughan said...

Note: Stephanie sent her comments via email with permission to post them. She's a friend (and attorney) with brains and logic I can only dream about. I think I want to be her in my next life.

Tami said...

Well-written as always Amy.

I recently read this talk by Ezra Taft Benson given at BYU in 1980 entitled "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet." EXCELLENT talk, and very straightforward.

Here's the link: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6751&x=54&y=7

In case the link doesn't work, go to www.byu.edu and search "speeches" for the talk.

Of particular note relating to comments on this post is the sixth fundamental Pres. Benson addresses:

"Sixth: The prophet does not have to say 'Thus saith the Lord' to give us scripture.

"Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, 'Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you' (D&C 21:4; italics added).

"And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states: 'Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed' (italics added).

"Said Brigham Young, 'I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture' (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot], 13:95)."

I highly recommend reading the entire talk. The few minutes it will take is certainly worth it.

Bennett said...

John,

I found it interesting that Elder Faust was quoting Hugh B. Brown, well known for for his opinion that Blacks SHOULD NOT condemned to an inferior position based on some unknown rebellion in the Premortal Existence, but should be offerred full fellowship within the Church. He held that position for decades before the 1978 revelation. Here is another wonderful quote from Elder Brown.

"I hope that you will develop the questing spirit. Be unafraid of new ideas for they are the stepping stones of progress. You will of course respect the opinions of others but be unafraid to dissent—if you are informed.

"Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, 'From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth—O God of truth deliver us'."


John, you ask, "Will the Lord hold us blameless for not following the counsel of the prophet today?" I think not, nor will the Lord hold us blameless for not holding to what we know is true, even if the whole of the Church, including its leaders, strays into apostasy. The Lord will not say, "I taught you a better way, but you're safe, because you were obedient to your Bishop." Following your leaders is fine if you are unclear, or the way is unknown to you. But if the truth is known to you, and your leader commands otherwise, the scriptures are clear: you stand for truth. Daniel, Lehi, Samuel the Lamanite, & Joseph Smith are among the myriad examples in scripture, but perhaps the most poignant of all was Jesus Christ, crucified for "standing for something" outside the mainstream of the Church.

Sustaining doesn't mean mere submission. Sustaining can mean clear and respectful disagreement and dialog. After all, isn't that why we ask, for every calling, "if there are any opposed, please manifest?" It seem the whole meaning of that portion of sustaining has been lost on the Church.

The object of my obeisance is not a man, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bennett

Janna said...

Bennet,

Thank you for responding to my posts. I have thoroughly enjoyed our exchanges. I do not doubt for a moment that your love of God and mankind are heartfelt. If the truth is known to you through personal revelation, be it far from me to dictate to your conscience or discount the revelation you have received (Article of Faith 11).

I don't believe, however, that members of the church are following their leaders because they are "unclear" about their positions. On the contrary, as I already stated, there is no doubt in my mind that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, and when he speaks to the members of the church, he is in fact speaking on behalf of Him whose church it belongs. This truth is as clear to me as your truth is to you.

As for Hugh B. Brown, it was quite noble of him to make his dissention known. I imagine there were many who disagreed with the church's stance on the priesthood, yet this deviation in thought never kept Hugh B. Brown from sustaining the prophet. Perhaps it was this idea, that the conscience could be tormented, that led Marion G. Romney to state that he "never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p. 123). And, Elder Brown's appeal that we "develop the questing spirit" does not state that we disregard the council of the prophet in the process.

I think the most interesting thing to me is that these times have been forseen by our prophets. In 1978 at a BYU devotional, Neal A. Maxwell said:

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. (See 1Kgs. 18:21.)

In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!

This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. (End Quote)

The whole talk is very good. I'd create a hyperlink if I knew how to do it here. Here's the address if you're interested (you'll have to cut and paste): http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=1846d0640b96b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

To me, it boils down to having faith that Thomas S. Monson is a true and living prophet of God. If he is, we're obliged to follow him as the Lord has commanded. Now if the converse is true and he hasn't received true revelation, but you have, then there is something obviously wrong with the church. I don't mean to sound flippant or patronizing, but I'm curious about your plan of action if you truly believe the latter.

Bennett said...

John,

In my view, prophet worship is wrong, including and starting with Joseph Smith.

To the degree the Church becomes hierarchical, it becomes the Great and Abominable. God is no respecter of persons.

Bennett

PS - "I used to think that the brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized, "look who's telling me that!" -- Emo Phillips

I suppose that goes for the Body of Christ too.

Bennett said...

By the way... It seems to me that everyone at Church assumes that God is against same-sex marriage.

What was the purpose of God's instructions to Abraham? Did God want Isaac to die, or did God want to teach Abraham something about Abraham?

Bennett

Janna said...

Thanks, Bennett. It was fun discussing this with you. And thanks, Amy, for letting us hijack your site. I can't wait for the next topic you initiate that provokes great passion!

John

Hey Maughan said...

Thanks John. Thanks Bennett. Thanks everyone who followed and/or contributed to the debate (Many a discussion outside of this forum was spurred by this back and forth.) Now we anxiously wait to see what California decides...

Anonymous said...

anyone wanting to get an even broader spectrum should visit cheryl nilsson's blog. Hers is the best argument i've seen thus far. certainly don't want to undermine the thought provoking debates i've seen here, but it's certainly worth checking out! familyofperpetualmotion@blogspot.com. Thanks for the entertainment and thoughtful insight contributed by ALL!

Anonymous said...

oops! Take the @ out of Cheryl's blog address! Sure you all caught that!

Elizabeth said...

You don't know me. I only know of some of you through a mutual friend. This discussion was sent to me as something of interest. I am so grateful for John's well thought out points. Bennett, I am glad to have seen these arguments. I don't agree with them, but I appreciate them. I, too sustain the Prophet as the mouthpiece of God. Whether or not he is saying "thus saith the LOrd", I know he would never tell us something that would lead us astray.

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