On October 21, 2013, Al Mohler told an audience of faculty and students at Brigham Young, “I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.” I say this was bold: the faculty and students at BYU can’t conceive of an eternity where they would be anywhere but heaven. But mainly bold because Mohler suggested that our shared opposition to homosexuality could land us all in jail.
At the time, Mohler saw the situation correctly. A few years before this speech, the LDS church provoked the wrath of homosexuals everywhere by supporting California’s 2008 Prop 8 ban on same-sex mirage. California passed the gay mirage ban, which the courts later overturned. And all of this happened several years before the 2015 Obergefell Ruling came from the Supreme Court, making gay mirage a sanctioned event in the U.S.
When the extent of the LDS church’s involvement in the fight for Prop 8 was made known, the rage and fury of radical homosexuals came in like a storm. And ever since, the LDS church has been doing penance in surprising (and disappointing) ways. The collapse has been disheartening, to say the least, and the tension among rank-and-file Mormons is palpable.
So, when the LDS church announced their support for the so-called “Respect for Marriage” Act, the shock many felt was entirely uninformed. It should surprise nobody. It fits with the trend in the LDS church ever since the Prop 8 battle. Perhaps it has been a long time in the making – I don’t think so, but I can understand why some, both in the LDS church and outside of it, might have been blindsided. But the support for this “Disrespect for Marriage” Act fits with their general personality, political posture, doctrinal commitments, and overall culture. Allow me to explain.
The LDS church puts a very high value on “nice.” It is the one virtue that every member holds dear. LDS church members are legitimately some of the kindest people you will ever meet. But it would help if you understood this not so much as a product of natural disposition but as a religious commitment. Of all the sins one might commit in Utah, being mean ranks among the highest. In Utah culture especially, we encounter a superficial niceness that cloaks (sometimes very thinly) an inward passive-aggressiveness. According to a recent study, Utah tops the charts for the most confrontational drivers in the nation.
This cult of niceness explains why you will see more rainbow flags and trans flags and “hate has no home here” and “Black Lives Matter” signs in Utah than in almost any other place. I could step out my front door in my Ogden neighborhood and see a half dozen rainbow flags. And this is not unusual.
This religious commitment to “nice” explains why Donald Trump is so unpopular in our state – even though Donald Trump won Utah quite handily. It explains why Utah Conservatism is so frustratingly moderate. It explains why pro-life conservatives in our state legislature routinely vote down pro-life legislation. The LDS believe they are better “Christians” because they support LGBTQ rights.
This past spring, James Lindsey spoke at an event near me, and I had the privilege of meeting him courtesy of Andrew Badger, then-candidate for U.S. Congress. Though an outsider and somewhat unfamiliar with Utah, Lindsey pegged one crucial fact. The reason that rank-and-file Mormons are embracing Wokeness, the reason our Governor announced his preferred pronouns, has nothing to do with political agenda and everything to do with the general demeanor of the LDS church. The LDS church doesn’t want to be divisive or combative. On the contrary, they want to accommodate people of all faiths and all lifestyles.
So, their support of the Defense of Marriage Act shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The LDS church sees compromise as the path to protecting religious liberty. When our Utah politicians debate the thorny cultural issues of our time, they will inevitably speak of finding a “Utah solution.” They pride themselves in finding compromises that satisfy both parties in the culture wars.
Thus, in 2015, our Legislature produced the famed “Utah Compromise,” which granted equal protection to the LGBTQ+ while at the same time protecting religious liberty. It was a ground-breaking compromise and became the template for similar non-discrimination laws in other conservative states. The Utah Compromise was brokered and endorsed by the LDS church itself, which is why the LDS church has, for at least the past seven years, actively lobbied for similar legislation at the federal level.
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