News flash! Americans like Mormons better when we’re not oppressing gays

Print More

LGBTThere’s been an outcry this week about the LDS Church’s planned participation in the World Congress of Families meeting in October (see here, here, and here for a rundown). The Church is planning to have a general authority, as yet unnamed, speak at the WCF event, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is slated to perform.

Defenders have emphasized the fact that the Congress itself is a positive gathering that upholds the marriage of one man and one woman as ideal but does not “disrespect” LGBT people. Detractors have pointed out that the organization has supported legislation around the world that has denied basic rights to LGBTs—which is by definition disrespectful.

Whatever the truth is about the WCF, one thing has long been clear to me anecdotally: every time my church does something that appears to diminish the humanity of LGBT persons, our reputation as a religion takes a hit. And when we act with greater love and less condemnation, people respond in kind.

Now there is some statistical evidence of just how much.

Research performed by political science professors and students at Centre College attempts to determine what the public relations effect has been of the LDS Church’s emphasis to carve a “middle way” this year with Utah legislation that supports equal housing and employment for LGBT people while reserving dissenters’ rights to object on religious grounds.

Released last week, the study shows that overall, 32.6% of respondents who were aware of the LDS-backed legislation came away with a “more favorable” view of Mormonism because of the law, which went into effect on Tuesday. Only 10.9% reported a “less favorable” opinion.

Moreover, the favorability was even more pronounced among people under age 50:

The Mormon Church’s efforts also boosted its favorability among college graduates (43.5% reporting a more favorable view compared to 19.4% of non-college graduates) and among younger individuals (40.4% of those under 50 reporting a more favorable view compared to 21.5% of those over 50). Given that younger, better educated Americans are increasingly likely to disassociate from organized religion, this suggests that taking a more tolerant and accepting view toward the LGBT community is exactly what religious institutions, including the Mormon Church, may need to consider in order to remain relevant and influential in coming years and decades.

I emailed researcher Benjamin Knoll for more information about this, and here is a takeaway point: Of all the respondents who were aware of Mormon involvement in LGBT equality measures, nearly a third were pleased by it and only one in ten were displeased.

In the under-50 crowd, though, 40.4% had a more favorable opinion and only 10% a negative one, which is a four-to-one ratio instead of the overall three-to-one.

I can imagine how conservative Mormons might respond to this: “Who cares? What does a public opinion poll matter when we have God and tradition on our side? The Lord’s church doesn’t have a mandate to preach what’s popular, only what’s true.”

And they’re right, to a point. Sometimes as Christians we are called to stand as witnesses against the wider culture and cry foul when we feel it is slipping into error. That’s not going to be popular, but that fact alone should not deter us.

But when we point to some families as “counterfeit” and claim there is only one right way to love – and, gee, it happens to be ours! — we’re preaching fear, not truth. And when we ally ourselves with a group that stands accused of denying basic rights to gay people when we have recently helped to pass legislation that gives them those rights, we are sending a very mixed message.

Sometimes the opinions of others can show us when we are or are not acting like our best selves. We would do well to listen.

  • TomW

    Whatever they’re preaching from the pulpit at the conference center, I’ll take it over what is preached on our secular streets. I’m more concerned with God’s views on marriage than Gallup’s.

  • Pingback: Americans Like Mormons Better When Nice to LGBTs | Mormon Metaphysics()

  • John

    Too many people are more concerned about what the world thinks of them than what God thinks of them. I’m afraid that Jana is in that group preferring the praise and admiration of the world.

  • Jon Young

    Overall good article. My only nit-pick is we shouldn’t deem disagreement on what a family should look like as disrespect. People should be able to believe marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal method of propagating our species and not be labeled disrespectful for it (even by calling it “counterfeit.”)

    On the other hand, denying legal rights to others outside of our vision of the ideal, when they have the same needs, likely crosses over the line to disrespect.

  • Jason

    Jana, I’m not a Mormon, but where do we conservatives go? Say the conservative churches follow the lead of the mainline churches and reverse their position on the nature of marriage and Christian sexual morality and adopt the view of the Western mainstream. Assuming we still would like to speak the truth as we see it, including within our churches, what institutions are left for us?

  • ben in oakland

    Every institution you like, of course.

    No mainline churches is insisting that you have to follow their lead. The reverse is not true at all.

    If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get married to someone of the same sex. Don’t attend the same sex weddings of your friends and relatives. don’t send them a gift. your problem is solved.

    but I suspect that isn’t what you are complaining about. For nearly 2000 years, conservative religion has had its way with the lives of gay people. That is now changing. not only does the culture not agree with you, but fellow religious people are also not agreeing with you.

    Frankly, I’m not interested in what conservative churches think about homosexuality– it’s a fact and a life, regardless whether conservative churches agree. I’m interested in how my government treats me. Preach away about my alleged sin;. I don’t care. But stay out of my life, and keep your faith out of it. My life and faith are as valuable as yours.

    It’s all…

  • ben in oakland

    very simple.

  • Jason

    I’m glad you’re okay with our “preaching away”, but I don’t think Jana is, going by this article.

  • ben in oakland

    Disagreement is not disrespect.

    Lying about our families, our abilities as parents, our relationship with god, our lives: THAT’S DISRESPECT.

    Claiming that our very existence is a threat to marriage, family, children, morality, faith, freedom and Western Civilization: THAT’S DISRESPECT.

    Claiming that there is only one way for a marriage or family to look, disregarding all of the ways that heterosexual families don’t match that, ignoring all of the ways heterosexuals attack the family, while attacking ours for not looking the same as yours: THAT’S DISRESPECT.

    NO ONE is saying “marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal method of propagating our species.” Except, perhaps, for heterosexuals with their soaring illegitimacy, abandonment, and divorce rates. We’re saying other people’s lives also have validity, and that the existence of our families and marriage neither lessens nor attacks yours.

    That is what conservative religion claims,. AND THAT’S DISRESPECT.

  • ben in oakland

    Read my comment to Jon young above. This is not about, and never has been about, the belief that homosexuality is a sin. It’s about an ancient, vicious, and durable prejudice that has for centuries harmed our lives and families.

    And all of the lies that are told, the hate that is spread, the fear mongering that is used to raise money and accrue power at our expense, to support it.

  • ben in oakland

    sorry, no one is claiming that marriage between a man and a woman is NOT…etc… though there is no reason to think that it is must be, and is the only way.

  • ben in oakland

    or she just doesn’t prefer to attack other people based upon badly mistranslated texts from an ancient book, produced by a people a universe of time, distance culture, and knowledge away from us, used to justify and extol the virtues of vicious prejudice that serves absolute no purpose in the modern world except to assure some people of their superiority as moral people, Christians, and human beings.

  • Larry

    Except you have a sect which emphasizes proselytizing and mission work in a way few Christians sects do nowadays. If you want to be welcomed into the homes of potential converts, you have to show you are willing to welcome others.

    Here is a great idea, if you don’t want people to have a negative view of your faith, don’t try to give your religious views color of law. Develop some understanding of the necessity of the separation of church and state. Nobody really cares what people do in the confines of their churches and amongst their sect. But when you start to attack the civil liberties of others, in the name of your faith, you deserve all the negative publicity it causes.

  • Larry

    Anywhere but the halls of government. Your religious views do not deserve color of law in of themselves. Religious freedom requires that our laws have a rational and secular purpose. Laws are not there to defend the tenets of your faith.

    Being criticized in public is not being persecuted. When you have a view which attacks others, one should expect it returned.

  • Debbie Snowcroft

    But God’s views on marriage don’t come from the LDS Church anymore than God’s views on racism came from the LDS Church. Your prophets led you astray by preaching racism, and they’re leading you astray again, with their crusade against Gays.

  • Well said, Jana. I agree with the respondents. I sure as heck like us more when we’re not throwing political weight behind measures designed to make LGBT people’s lives more difficult, all the while protesting “But we’re not hating anyone!”

  • Debbie Snowcroft

    Jon, if it was only disagreement there would be no controversy. The disrespect comes when the LDS community attempts to use the government to enforce it’s religious views and ideology on the rest of society.

    Try to think of it this way, Jon. If Gays were lobbying the Supreme Court to rule that states have the right to outlaw marriages between Mormons, would you find that disrespectful? If Gays were trying to pass laws making it illegal for Mormons to get married, would you find that disrespectful?

    Of course you would. So try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Simple disagreement becomes disrespect and even hate when one decides to enforce religious ideology on members not of your faith.

  • Marion Fust Sæternes

    “Sometimes the opinions of others can show us when we are or are not acting like our best selves. We would do well to listen.” How very true.

    I am so tired of hearing how targeting LGBT-individuals (couched in words such as “not condoning” and “behavior”) somehow is supposed to makes us better Christians. I wish we would “get a life” – the type of life where we undo heavy burdens, let oppressed go free, deal bread to the hungry and bring the poor to our houses… We would probably be so busy as not to have time condemning anyone’s “gay lifestyle”. Deep sigh. I feel so sorry for LGBT-youth growing up in our church (and in most churches?) So much pain because of a pervasive lack of empathy.

    Yes, there are many more outspoken allies today than ten or twenty years ago. (Hallelujah). Still, it must be so very difficult.

    Kudos to families that stand up for their loved ones. Kudos to Mama Dragons. Kudos to you Jana; thank you for this post.

  • TomW

    Debbie, for those of us with a testimony of the Restoration, God’s views on marriage may indeed be articulated by His anointed prophets and apostles. I don’t expect anyone outside the church to accept it as such, but I do.

    I strongly object to your comment, “Your prophets led you astray by preaching racism, and they’re leading you astray again, with their crusade against Gays.”

    My prophets may have held racist views consistent with the era in which they lived. They may have openly speculated about the priesthood ban, applying the commonly held racial views of their era to make sense of it even to themselves. But they did NOT preach hatred against blacks. They condemned ill treatment of blacks. The ban itself, though certainly discriminatory in effect, cannot even fairly be called racist if one is to consider whether it was put into effect and perpetuated out of hatred as opposed to a belief that one was obeying God.

    Unfortunately I cannot discuss further without…

  • Marion F. S.

    I don’t know if it’s ok to post a link here; but I read this today also & wish to share.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-oviatt/mormon-mom-gay-kid_b_7292302.html

  • ben in oakland

    And do you have homophobic views, consistent with the eras in which you were raised?

  • azproef

    A number of years ago I left the church to be a fully integrated free gay man. I did that as an act of integrity and respect for the church. What I have found that instead of being left alone to live my life, the Mormon church has come after me and my kind with all of its power and resources to disrupt and in some case destroy our lives. Certainly, it is one thing to despise and torture ones own gay members, if they are willing to put up with being second class humans, God bless them. However, the church is worse than immoral to push it’s dogma on those of us who are not members. The act of spending millions and 1000’s of hours directly or through members to take away my rights, to force me and my kind to live as 2nd class citizens is outrageous, immoral, and anti-Christ. Years ago I was taught and McConkie emphasized the great and abominable and the whore of the earth was the Catholic church. Now I see that the Mormons are in bed with the whore. No integrity or morals…

  • ben in oakland

    Doncha know, the world ran out of starving children, broken families, poverty, and unconverted heathens years ago.

    What else were they to do?

    $40 million spent to violate their own tenets, attack their fellow humans as threats to all that is good and holy and right, and tell a lot of whoppers.

    And all for the crime of being different.

    I’m sure Cthulhu will bless them for eternity.

  • Art K

    You are rather audacious, claiming to know the mind of God. The arrogance to assume that you know something that is unknowable makes me disrespect anything you might say.

  • Joel

    Knees may be jerking. Jana is not commenting on doctrine—at least not here.

    She’s pointing out that (1) the Church has taken different approaches to LGBT issues in its rhetoric, public relations and its political involvement. And (2) one of those ways opens hearts and minds more effectively than the other.

    She is lauding the Church for what has worked (e.g., striking an empathetic tone with things like “God Loveth His Children” and the recent, Utah legislative compromise) and is suggesting more of it.

    That’s praiseworthy and of good report, right?

  • Kevin JK

    Another reason our opposition to SSM causes us to have a bad reputation is that it is contrary to our OFFICIAL doctrine. 1 Cor. 10:29 has Paul questioning the right of someone to use their religious beliefs to infringe upon the rights of others. Our opposition against Prop. 8 objectively violated this because gays in California had the right to marry during the Prop. 8 campaign and we LDS used our religious beliefs as justification to infringe upon the rights of others.

    D&C 134:4 likewise condemns those who let their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others.

    Recent news reports show Americans are less and less religious. Perhaps they are not feeling the Spirit as so many churches ignore scripture (steady the ark) in order to, like ISIS, force people to live by their teachings.

  • Kevin JK

    Another reason our opposition to SSM causes us to have a bad reputation is that it is contrary to our OFFICIAL doctrine. 1 Cor. 10:29 has Paul questioning the right of someone to use their religious beliefs to infringe upon the rights of others. Our opposition against Prop. 8 objectively violated this because gays in California had the right to marry during the Prop. 8 campaign and we LDS used our religious beliefs as justification to infringe upon the rights of others.

    D&C 134:4 likewise condemns those who let their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others.

    Recent news reports show Americans are less and less religious. Perhaps they are not feeling the Spirit as so many churches ignore scripture (steady the ark) in order to, like ISIS, force people to live by their teachings.

  • Maddy

    “. I wish we would “get a life” – the type of life where we undo heavy burdens, let oppressed go free, deal bread to the hungry and bring the poor to our houses…”

    Yes!
    My involvement in the church has been drastically reduced as a result of Prop 8.
    When church leaders allowed lies, distortions and demonization to be used to in defense of Prop 8 it was abundantly clear mortal men, not God, was in charge.

    So, here we are. Some of us who see the non-stop campaigning on this issue–to the exclusion of other important issues–as detrimental and others who see it as confirmation of the “true” way. That increasing numbers of people will be disenfranchised is more evidence that they are on God’s side.

    Thanks for the link.
    Thanks Jana for bringing this information to light.

  • Christine, Quebec, Canada

    After attending as an ally this weekend’s wonderful Affirmation Leadership Retreat in Palmyra, New York I was both amazed and heartened by the support of local priesthood leadership from both the Rochester and Palmyra Stakes. Their support and presence during the conference was a tremendous message of love for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. As one of the conference keynote speakers said “there is no better place to be gay in the Church than in the Rochester Stake.” A true model of support and inclusion for other stakes around the world to follow. Yet another reason for Americans to like Mormons better.

  • TomT

    Speaking of rights, God has some rights that seem to be forgotten here. Our bodies are made of the clay that He owns from a world that is His. Our spirits He created. Our lives He granted. The rights we have, He endowed us with. He created the first family and set the model. As Creator, owner, ruler, and teacher, He has the right to set boundaries and limits. He has the right to determine what is authentic–like the family HE first created with our first parents, Adam and Eve (the authentic family). He has the right to place limits on the use of the body. He has the right to require that passions be kept within the bounds He has set. He has the right to choose His apostles and prophets to represent Him to the people and point out boundaries, independent of opinion polls and bloggers who prefer pop 21st Century American values to ancient divine laws. God created marriage. He defined what is authentic. He has the right to speak by His representatives, the apostles and prophets.

  • Kevin JK

    “He has the right to require that passions be kept within the bounds He has set. ”

    Just as he had the right to forbid believers from using their religious opinions as justification to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. He was also right to require us to render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar like what rights people should be given. Under our divinely inspired Constitution, all are to be treated equally and there is no secular (Ceasarly) reason to deny gays equal marriage rights.

    We need to follow the scriptures and quit steadying the ark by our opposing CIVIL same-sex marriage.

  • Ben in Oakland

    All of that is very nice, but it makes a large number of assumptions and assertions that, frankly, I’m not willing to accept myself. And unless you can provide some compelling evidence that these assumptions and assertions are true, I’m not going to. That’s called freedom of religion.

    As for what ever rights God may have, he’ll have to prove his existence first for me to be willing to grant him any rights. Otherwise, he’s just the God you believe in, among a great many other gods that men have believed in. And then, you’ll have to prove that the rights you claim for him are actually the rights he claims for himself. I’m sure he’ll be willing to provide a deposition, so he hasn’t done that for a few thousand years. Otherwise, we would have to assume that the rights you are claiming for God are in fact the rights you wish to claim for yourself and your religion. And that is the complete opposite of freedom of religion.

    In other words, I don’t hear God talking, I hear…

  • Ben in Oakland

    You talking.

    This new commenting system would be a lot better if it actually worked the way it’s supposed to. This is not the first time that my words have been cut off even though the character counter says I have more characters to use

  • Larry

    When God gets a voter registration card, he can exercise his rights in this world. Until then we have to deal with the people who believe in him or not. We live in a society which values religious freedom. That works in two ways:

    1. You are free to engage in whatever religious rite and express whatever opinion/belief about your religion as you see fit.

    2. Nobody has to care what your religious beliefs or those of anyone else are under compulsion of law.

    Your God may have created marriage inside the churches, but our civil laws don’t have to take such ideas seriously. Religious freedom means, I never have to live according to the dictates of your church.

  • Kim

    My parents moved to Southern Utah when I was 10 years old. At the time our town had three stoplights, a huge Mormon temple, and a population of around 20,000 of which all were Mormon. As hard as it was starting the school year as “the new kid” in 5th grade, I quickly found out being “new” was only the start of being marginalized or ignored as a non-Mormon throughout my school years.

    Mormon church attendance is based on where you live within the City or County boundaries. It’s very similar to how voting and school districts are drawn. Based on these boundaries, all of the children go to Church together as well as school and most live in the same neighborhood. Therefore, their cliques and social interactions with anyone other than Mormon’s are severely reduced which only increases the influence of a very powerful Church and causes a it’s members to suffer from a severe case of groupthink. +

  • Kim

    (cont) Many of the non-Mormon’s refer to the group thinkers as “Mormonoids” due to their inability to form an opinion or think logically on their own.

    The only reason the Mormon leaders stood behind the anti-discrimination is because of the Boy Scout clause. They’ve been trying for years to get a law passed where no LGBT person can be a leader in the Boy Scouts, and they finally succeeded with this bill. Steve Urquhart has been trying to pass LGBT non-discrimination bills in this State for years, yet he only achieved success when there was something in it for the Mormon’s.

    This legislation is only one example of how the “groupthink” process works in a secular government that really isn’t secular at all. Once the Mormon apostle’s were in favor, then the religious legislators were suddenly in favor, too.

    What about those of us who aren’t religious at all but still pay the legislator’s wages just like all taxpayers?

  • Pingback: The Cultural Hall (A Mormon Show in podcast form) – Mormon News Report, 18-May-2015()

  • LDSMan

    The Church’s doctrinal position is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married.

  • LDSMan

    If LGBT LDS members do not like the official church rules, let them form a church. Although, that church will not be officially recognized by the “mainstream:” LDS church.

  • LDSMan

    By the way, who did this poll? The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund?

  • Billysees

    TomT,
    ” He has the right to speak by His representatives, the apostles and prophets. ”

    And here is what Paul, one of His reps, said about how God has spoken through him —

    1. …our knowledge is partial and incomplete…
    2. …we see things imperfectly…
    3. All that I know now is partial and incomplete…
    (1 Corinthians 13:9,12)

    Those are excellent examples that teach us that scripture is too partial, incomplete and imperfect to be useful for every situation.

    We therefore must reason out anything and everything in scripture and that will help us to ‘effectively’ judge and evaluate a matter or people based on all reasonable, ‘current or modern’ attitudes, experiences and knowledge.

    ” He defined what is authentic. ”

    That says that God has spoken and has nothing more to say.

    He is ‘defining’ what is authentic is a better thing to say. That keeps the continuing work of the ‘Spirit’ alive and well.

  • Larry

    As long as you keep your church’s doctrinal positions out of our civil laws, you can claim anything you want. The only people who have to care are in your congregations. 🙂

    By dint of the 1st Amendment laws cannot adopt a purely sectarian religious position. They require rational and secular purpose.

  • Larry

    My guess is people annoyed over the millions of dollars, hours of legal work and overt political campaigning from the LDS church to give its position on the subject color of law.

  • LDSMan

    You want to force the homosexual agenda down the throats of LDS members who follow the doctrines of the Church faithfully. If you do not like the LDS doctrine you are welcome to leave and form your own religion.

  • LDSMan

    I am willing to bet this poll was taken by a pro gay faction of the Church

  • Ben in oakland

    @LDSman:

    there is no gay agenda, other than to end legalized discrimination against our lives. no one is interested in forcing anything down the alleged throats of the Mormon church. If you want to talk about anyone forcing anything down people’s throats, let’s talk about PropH8, Amendment 3, the Hawaii anti-marriage campaign, sodomy laws, kicking gay people out of BYU, and excommunication.

    In regard to the latter, people speaking up against Mormon anti-gay bigotry have a right to do so up until the point the church excommunicates them for standing against this particular doctrine. After that point, they still have the right to do so.

  • Kevin JK

    Stating a religious doctrinal position is fine, but then when you cross the line from rendering unto God the things that are God’s to infringing upon the things that belong to Caesar (the allocation of secular civil rights) is something all together. it’s a violation of several scriptures and is an example of steadying the ark.

  • Larry

    “You want to force the homosexual agenda down the throats of LDS members who follow the doctrines of the Church faithfully. ”

    By that you mean you want to be able to discriminate against gays openly in public settings outside your church? Because that is what I was talking about.

    As I said previously, I don’t care what your church believes. It is of absolutely no concern of me. If you want its doctrine to include hatred of gays, so be it. That is perfectly fine by me. It is your right.

    Its just such doctrine has no business in our civil laws. The same as any religious doctrine. Its called understanding of the separation of church and state and free exercise clauses of our 1st amendment.

  • Joel

    I question whether LDSMan is actually LDS.

    He reminds me of moles who infiltrate protests, pretending to be protesters only to act ridiculously in order to delegitimize the message.

  • ben in oakland

    @ Joel

    That’s the problem with Poe’s. It is almost impossible to determine whether someone is a and extreme right winger or extreme religious fundamentalist, or whether that someone is a poe, and therefore a satire on the extreme right iwnger or fundamentalist.

  • Joel

    Poe’s Law. I didn’t know that was a thing. There’s even a wiki page about it.

    Thanks, Ben. Learn something new every day.

  • ben in oakland

    @Joel

    It is indeed a thing. Glad to have helped you out.

    With a few of the regulars here, it’s almost impossible to tell whether they are poe’s or not.

    Almost.

  • EG

    The mob mentality of gays and supporters are the true oppressors.

    A Canadian jeweler made rings for a lesbian couple. Somehow the lesbians found out the jeweler did not personally support same sex marriage. The lesbiams demanded their money back ( the rings were not returned, not surprising) because their nuptials were tainted with bigotry. Boo hoo hoo. And if the jeweler refused a refund the mob was ready to torch his business and he received death threats.

    A New York City cab driver was fined $15,000.00 because he asked a gay cuople to cool their jets.
    The mob mentality of the LGBTYXQT community is now policing our thoughts and beliefs. Free speech / personal beliefs no longer exists unless it agrees with the state of Caesar and the gay rioting mobs who threaten death to anyone who does not agree with their lifestyle. They are as bad as the Blacks who always play the race card/victim.
    The church said this would happen.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    What a harsh reaction. But it’s OK. The obvious foolishness of imagining that our Heavenly Father’s will for His children is unknowable (you don’t say why) makes me disrespect anything you might say.

  • Pingback: Mormons 50% more likely to accept homosexuality than in 2007, says new Pew study - Flunking Sainthood()

  • Kevin JK

    jason,

    Just follow what the doctrine states – use kindness gentleness meekness and love unfeigned when telling people about the plan of happiness in order to respect their agency and allow them to make their own free choice. This is FAR FAR better than using unrighteous dominion/force to make people comply with gospel standards. that was Satan’s way. Prop 8 was contrary to scripture because our support of it violated 1 Cor. 10:29/D&C 134:4’s condemnation of people using their religious opinions as justification for infringing upon the rights and liberties of others. gays in CA, at the time of the Prop. 8 campaign, had the right to marry and we LDS (and others) used our religious opinions regarding marriage to justify taking away the right/privilege. We steadied the ark and people saw our hypocrisy.

    We should still reject homosexuality within the church, but allow it in public….just like we don’t try to outlaw infant baptism. We condemn it, but allow it.