COLUMN: The Wrong Side of History, Part II

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

When it comes to the issue of marriage equality and the recognition of homosexuals as equal in rights and stature to heterosexuals, the Mormons, specifically those who live in and run the state of Utah, are decidedly on the wrong side of history.

In December, U.S Judge Richard Shelby ruled that Utah’s law banning homosexuals from having the right to marry was an infringement on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment was enacted in the aftermath of the Civil War to ensure that the states, in their notorious legacy of suppressing the rights of minority groups, could not infringe on the rights of American citizens–and to prevent the most egregious violations of a citizen’s right to due process under the law.

And how did Utah react to this decision? Several counties in Utah intentionally kept their clerk’s offices closed; or just flat out ignored the legally-binding decision. Governor Herbert spiraled into a mesmerizing whirlwind of incomprehensible claptrap. And the newly-minted state Attorney General—new because the old one recently resigned in disgrace as a crook and a liar—has vowed to spend as much taxpayer money as is necessary to overturn this ruling.

All of these protestations to stop a judicial decision that does not in any way affect how anyone lives their lives on a daily basis. And this effort is made so as to apply the principles of a religious dogma into what should be, in theory at least, a secular society and laws.

This is not the first time the LDS church and its adherents have been to this dance. They forget their recent history when it comes to the application of personal beliefs in what is God’s will when it conflicts with the civil rights of the individual.

In the 1950s and 60s, the reimagining of oppressive laws throughout the South against blacks was at its tipping point. The Civil War was a century in the past, and the 14th Amendment was pretty much being ignored. But in the South, politicians and officers of the law had found their comfortable spot. They ran the place. Blacks were subservient and submissive to the laws.

During this period, the LDS Church, which was small and mostly relegated to the state of Utah, had a scornful eye cast upon them for their doctrinal beliefs regarding blacks. LDS scripture clearly stated that black skin was a curse from God.

The LDS Church spoke out against the Civil Rights movement frequently throughout these two turbulent decades. The most prominent of Mormon scholars–specifically Bruce R. McConkie and Mark E. Petersen–were in the forefront of damning the movement and defending the LDS church’s ban on blacks becoming priesthood members.

But the use of political power to oppress minorities collapsed. The South was forced to keep their ignorance and bigotry inside their homes and outside of the law. And in 1978, with the continued threat of losing their tax exempt status hanging over their heads, the Mormon Church announced that their ban on black men holding the priesthood was lifted.

The LDS church saw it coming. In the years directly previous to 1978, they had stopped discussing their controversial doctrine in detail. It was not even hinted at during their semiannual general conference in the years leading up to the proclamation. The Titanic was sinking and the leaders of the Church stowed away a lifeboat just in case. They may have been on the wrong side of history when it came to the inferiority of blacks, but they had the sagacity to know when to capitulate.

Four decades later, adherents to the LDS church are fating themselves to repeating history in all the wrong ways.

Simply stated, if an individual wishes to believe a few throwaway lines from a big book of historically unproven fables and anecdotes regarding homosexuality to prove it’s evil, that is their business. Who am I to suggest that a person’s logic and reason should not be based on a couple of insignificant scriptures that could barely fill three Tweets?

But that is not a practical reason to apply bad law. It should not allow for the mistake of using the law to bully and relegate those who are considered “sinful” to second class status. Using scriptures to oppress is archaic thinking. It comes from a natural instinct to fear what is different. And we use nonsensical reasoning to defend this behavior.

“Traditional” marriage is between a man and a woman? Traditions are an homage to what has past. Are women property? Can a man beat his wife if she defies him? Can he take her sexually against her will? Can marriages in civilized society be arranged without the bride’s consent? I can write a thousand words on the fallacy of traditional marriage. Next.

Marriage is a precursor to procreation? Some people cannot procreate. Some people do not want to procreate, but want their lives joined in a union with another. And what about old people? Many marry after the ability to have children has long past. Should former LDS president Howard W. Hunter not have married at an old age after his first wife died? His second wife was very old. You say old people marry for companionship. Yes, they do. And so do homsexuals. You defeated your own argument. Fail.

Marriage is between one man and one woman? Not a good argument to make if you are Mormon. Yes, the LDS church has indeed stated polygamy is not a part of the temporal church. But it is a huge piece of Mormon theology. If a man on Earth does all he was asked to do, he will be exalted into the Celestial Kingdom, where he may become a God—including the ability to procreate countless spirit children with his multitude of spirit wives.

I am not telling secrets here. I taught this as an Elders Quorum President in the LDS church. And since no one corrected or admonished what I taught, I assumed I got it right.

So, Mormons believe that marriage is between one man and one woman on Earth, but polygamy is God’s will in the afterlife. But they also believe homosexuality is an affront to God’s will, and they want it banned here on Earth! This is the purest manifestation of a double standard. And it is flat out wrong.

Homosexual marriage will one day, very soon, be the law of the land. This will not prevent anyone who lives in America from believing it is wrong or sinful. It will stop the use of political power from encroaching on the rights of those who do not wish to live under the moralistic laws of a theocratic oligarchy.

I believe the leaders in the LDS church see it coming. I think they know they need to not only soften their language, but also prepare for the day when their political actions against gay marriage must be placed in a state of moratorium.

Whether adherents to the LDS church who hold political office in Utah have the foresight to stop abusing their power to prevent the inevitable is unclear to me. It is not that difficult to equate the language used by Governor Herbert and other elected officials in Utah to the verbiage wielded by the governors of those segregationalist Southern states from half a century ago.

History is being written every day in the battle for homsoexuals to be treated as equals. And if Utahns do not want to be seen as ignorant, bitter rubes by those who will study this era in the generations to come, their best recourse is to remove themselves from the wrong side of history.

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