Friday, June 27, 2008

Jeffrey Nielsen: Open Letter to California Mormons

Open Letter to California Mormons
Jeffrey S. Nielsen

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a
supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am
asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our
religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over
our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage
equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as
a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.
To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would
legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no
small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument,
no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious
proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the
wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to
the great progress in civil rights we've made in our country
respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more
certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our
religious leaders' encroachment into political matters. In fact, a
growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family
members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are
as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians
as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60's when they opposed equal
rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70's when
they opposed full legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the
right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy
for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to
interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse
democracy without reasonable justification, then members,
especially faithful members, of that religious organization have
the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such
dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate
your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to
live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically
harm another person. After all, religious values must be something
an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her
by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether
state or federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a
particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy.
Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but
tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to
legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to
take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.
I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any
more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to
discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity
under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this
case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected
outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could
give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in
our civil society, which doesn't make fallacious appeals to
tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some
ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear
it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single
justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very
important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian
couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and
commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would,
in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our
country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more
considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents.
I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow
Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the
unreasonable and unjust call to discriminate against our gay and
lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.


Anonymous said...

"Faithful Mormons" understand the organization of the church and the role of prophets and apostles. Those who openly oppose the counsel of the First Presidency do not have a testimony of the restoration nor of the gospel. "Faithful Mormons" are free to not follow the counsel of the First Presidency but if they openly reject the counsel of the Lord's annointed they lose the right to be called faithful. They may still be mormons but they are in no wise faithful. I reject the author's counsel to me to oppose the Prophet.

Anonymous said...

Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.
Both Jewish and Christian traditions state that the Prophet Isaiah was killed by being sawed in half * by people who were offended by his words of warning. Isaiah, one of the most political of the prophets, seemed to stick his nose into everything. He paid for his audacity.
Now comes, Dr. Neilsen (and a few others) who want it two ways. They want prophets when they like what they say and don’t want them as prophets when they don’t like what they say. Thus, they saw the prophet in two like Isaiah. Great are the words of Isaiah except when we differ with him.
*Hebrews 11:37 (King James Version) They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

Civil Rights said...

I would like to believe that the vast majority of members of the LDS Church consider themselves to be Christians, but I see nothing Christian about seeking to deny civil rights to other individuals. To cling so closely to high-minded principles and to ignore the experiences and struggles of real people who are seeking companionship in an imperfect world is in complete opposition to the compassion that all Christians should seek to cultivate in their relationships with others. Christ ALWAYS put people before principles.

Let us remember that nowhere in the Bible, or any other source that “"Christians"” use to support their disdain of homosexuality, does it say that one must, in order to be a "faithful" follower of God, be intolerant of homosexuals or actively seek to take away their civil rights.

To claim that one’s personal morality gives one the right to seek to limit the rights of other individuals--who want nothing more than to find the happiness that we all seek--demonstrates an absence of Christ-like compassion and understanding and an abundance of the smugness and self-righteousness that unfortunately characterizes too many who consider themselves “Christian.”

I invite all Mormons, before deciding where to stand on gay marriage, to get to know someone from the gay community, for whom this issue has real implications. Perhaps you will come to see them as real, complex individuals with hopes, dreams, and problems like the rest of us and not as a faceless demographic or a deviant subculture. Perhaps you will begin to see them as Christ sees us.

vista said...

There is no civil right to same sex marriage. We are determining how we want our society to define marriage. You are attempting to circumvent the democratic process by claiming a civil right to same sex marriage. Other states have voted on this matter, and so will we.
We are to cultivate a relationship with God by submitting our will to his. We should put our relationship to God above our own selfish "companionship" needs, your euphimism for homosexual relations.
You purposefully mischaracterize Christianity by lumping disdain for homosexuality with intolerance for homosexuals. You know very well that Christians believe in hating the sin but loving the sinner.
What really needs to be addressed is the hypocrisy in the homosexual community, the hatred of Christians by homosexuals.
Your last paragraph is simply bigotry toward the Mormon community. It is ridiculous what you are implying...............
Nothing more needs to be said.

CA Girl said...

I believe we are taking away the RIGHT of babies to be born into a family with a Father and a Mother if we allow same sex marriage. All children have the RIGHT to a Father and a Mother by God's design. Somehow these babies rights are being trampled so same sex couples can distort God's original design for marriage - between man and woman.

Ryan said...

I applaud the author's attempt to reason with the community. However, the discourse that followed is an indicator of why -- from the Crusades to the Taliban, from the Ku Klux Klan to Bob Jones University -- organized religion is the foundation of the eventual downfall of any society based on any true theory of justice. Oh, how quickly man can create institutions of hate, debasing the teachings of a loving God and a peaceful religion.

I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.

Willis Whitlock said...

There is no inequality in the prohibition of same sex marriage. Gay and straight have the same opportunity to marry someone from the opposite sex, or not. All are equal under the law.

One man and one woman is the best arrangement for a free society. The State has an interest in preserving that arrangement. Elevating some other arrangement to the same status would deal a death blow to our best chance at survival as a free society.

Proponents of same sex marriage seek to create a new right. Not an equal right. A new right for some.

Same sex marriage cannot be enjoyed by all. In fact, it is a harm to everyone. No one should enjoy rights at the expense of another.

The nuclear family -mother, father and children- is the ideal building block for a free society. The biological requirements for survival are met. Children enter into an environment bound by the natural affinity of parent and child, by common beliefs and by law.

It is not over stretching to state that a strong nuclear family has the best chance of creating productive citizens, which a free society requires.

That is not to say that a single parent, foster or adoptive parents can not do a good job of parenting. That is also not to say that gay parents are incapable of raising productive citizens.

Death, abandonment, infidelity, physical abuse, addiction and financial mismanagement can all dramatically change a family no matter what the configuration.

We sometimes don't like to admit that we, as a society, have created the circumstances that cause problems for families.

Pornography, starter marriage, trophy wives, violent video games, drugs and alcohol, gambling and rampant consumerism can all have a hand at ripping at the family. And all have been championed as a necessary freedom or right by someone.

Creating the next generation of good citizens becomes harder and harder. Parents may ask where it will stop.

The people have built a firewall at same sex marriage. Destruction of the family stops here.

The judiciary of the state of California has hacked the firewall. A YES vote on Proposition 8 will again put a stop to the destruction.

Dave said...

"I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter-day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammelled." - The Prophet Joseph Smith, Official History of the Church 5:340

Jennifer Babbitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.