Last month, hundreds of boisterous protesters converged in Washington, DC, as the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8. Faith-based groups were on prominent display: the Methodists supporting marriage equality, the Westboro Baptists suggesting (per usual) that “God hates fags,” the Catholics both for and against gay marriage, clergy of all stripes. But one group that wasn’t there in any official capacity was the Church of Latter Day Saints—a.k.a. the Mormons—which perhaps more than any other religious group was responsible for getting Prop. 8 passed in the first place.
In the five years since the LDS church sent busloads of the faithful to California to canvass neighborhoods, and contributed more than $20 million via its members to support the initiative, it has all but dropped the rope in the public policy tug of war over marriage equality. The change stems from an even more remarkable if somewhat invisible transformation happening within the church, prompted by the ugly fight over Prop. 8 and the ensuing backlash from the flock.
Although the LDS’s prophet hasn’t described a holy revelation directing a revision in church doctrine on same-sex marriage or gay rights in general, the church has shown a rare capacity for introspection and humane cultural change unusual for a large conservative religious organization.
“It seems like the [Mormon] hierarchy has pulled the plug and is no longer taking the lead in the fight to stop same-sex marriage,” says Fred Karger, the LGBT activist who first exposed the church’s major role in the passage of Prop. 8. “The Mormon Church has lost so many members and suffered such a black eye because of all its anti-gay activities that they really had no choice. I am hopeful that the Catholic Church cannot be far behind.”
Police in Alexandria, Va., said Sunday that the Idaho Republican was pulled over after his vehicle ran a red light. Police spokesman Jody Donaldson said Crapo failed field sobriety tests and was arrested at about 12:45 a.m. He was transported to the Alexandria jail and released on an unsecured $1,000 bond at about 5 a.m.
Crapo is a bishop in the Mormon church.
I try to focus on the positive,” Adam tells me. His body leans forward in the chair as if his thin frame will add heft to a statement that his eyes don’t support. “I’m fine.”
Outside my office windows, the campus sits brown and empty. Late fall is the only time of year when northern Utah loses its beauty. Snow has not yet covered the mountains that rise all around us. Bereft of leaves and birds, they huddle closer to the ground. The semester has hit the same brown patch as the season, far from the beginning but not close enough to the end to count. The radiator bangs to life, pinging like a mechanical heart.
“I know of someone you can talk to,” I say. “Her voice mail is password protected. Any message you left would be safe.”
“Thanks,” he says, “but I’m fine.”
I return to his essay, the sheaf of paper bending in my hand, and read my comments asking him to “flesh things out” or “set the scene.” These questions of craft feel like another shore at this moment, an island distant and foreign. What I want to do is shake him, beg him to leave the valley, head for the coast. What I want to do is hold him in my arms and tell him that everything will be okay. But I don’t. We sit in silence, the radiator’s last beat echoing down the hall.
“I’m worried about you.”
He laughs nervously and shakes his head, then wipes his hands up and down his jeans to scrub an invisible stain.
I can’t tell him I am worried he will kill himself. I have said as much to other students, but I knew them better. Adam is buried in his down-filled coat, far away from me. I think about giving him the statistics for gay teen suicide, pointing out the fact that Utah’s numbers are among the highest in the country, but figures wouldn’t matter in this conversation.
David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of MormonThink.com, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers.
On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, “Cease and desist, Brother Twede.”
Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication “for apostasy” on Sept. 30. A spokesman for the church told The Daily Beast that the church would not be commenting for this story.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Twede says that during the interrogation he felt “attacked, cornered, and very anxious.”
The four church leaders verbally chastised him, he says, for hiding his identity on MormonThink and his personal blog in order to avoid discipline. Twede, who writes using only his first name, says they kept asking him why he didn’t identify himself online if he had nothing to hide.
“I told them I hide my name precisely because of things like this,” he says. “I said, ‘Look how fast you got to me.’ I know a lot of members don’t want their life disturbed. In the Mormon church, if you’re not part of the uniform group, you are ostracized.”
Twede asked church leaders how they came up with his name so fast after posting the articles. They wouldn’t tell him, but he says he’s since been told by a church insider that a contributor to the pro-Mormon Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, many of whose members are professors at Brigham Young University, alerted church officials in Salt Lake City, who apparently informed his local ecclesiastical leaders.
Romney: Releasing tax returns would violate my religious privacy
By Greg Sargent
A number of people are pointing to Mitt Romney’s latest excuse for not releasing his tax returns, which is that it would violate his religious privacy:
‘Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given,’ Romney tells Parade magazine in an edition due out Sunday. ‘This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church.’
There are a number of problems with this explanation. For instance, as Steve Benen notes, we already know how much he’s given to the Mormon church in at least one year, the one for which he did make his returns available. Alex Seitz Wald, meanwhile, points out that this didn’t stop Romney’s father from releasing a dozen years of tax returns, which detailed how much he’d given to the church.
I’d add one more point here: One of those calling on Romney to release his returns happens to be … a very prominent Mormon. As you may recall, Jon Huntsman Sr., a longtime Romney backer and fundraiser, has publicly told Romney that he needs to release his returns in order to be ‘square with the American people.’
Indeed, Romney’s latest excuse makes Huntsman’s call for him to release his returns newly relevant. What does Huntsman, a Mormon and a very wealthy man himself, think of Romney’s new explanation?
More broadly, this new excuse is of a piece with something larger: An attempt to humanize Romney with a new focus on his faith. As Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins reports, the final night of the convention will bring Romney’s Mormonism into the spotlight, with the goal of ‘presenting Mitt Romney the Man to the electorate.’ Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns may be one of the reasons he comes across as inaccessible. Citing his Mormonism as a reason for not releasing them puts a human gloss on what comes across as a politically motivated and calculating lack of transparency.
THERE WAS A TIME when it was no fun to be a Mormon in Washington. In 1903, Utah sent a Mormon named Reed Smoot to the U.S. Senate, prompting a series of hearings the following year to decide whether a Mormon should be even permitted to serve in the chamber. The trial had nothing to do with Smoot’s qualifications and everything to do with his strange-seeming faith, in particular its association with polygamy. “It is the Mormon Church that we intend to investigate,” thundered Senator Julius C. Burrows, “and we are going to see that these men obey the law.”
After three years, 100 witnesses, and 3,500 pages of testimony, Smoot finally prevailed. “I think the Senate should prefer a polygamist who doesn’t ‘polyg’”—Smoot had only one wife—“to a monogamist who doesn’t ‘monog,’” Pennsylvania Senator Boies Penrose reportedly pronounced. For his time, it was a statement of remarkable tolerance.
Over the years, and under the radar, however, the capital has transformed from a place that was openly hostile to Mormons to something of a destination. Recently, I visited the office of Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, one of 15 Mormons in Congress. I mentioned to his press officer—also a Mormon—that I was writing about the culture of Mormons in Washington. “You can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting one,” she told me cheerfully. To be a bit more precise, there are 23,000 active members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in and around the city, and the D.C. area is a magnet for young, single Mormons. The reason for this turns out to be simple: Washington is a town that rewards networking, and Mormons are some of the best networkers around.
Cher has upset leading Mormons by using a derogatory term in a Twitter.com attack on U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The pop superstar, who is a fervent Democrat, sent out a tweet on Friday, urging President Barack Obama and his aides to get organised or risk losing November’s election to Republican Romney, who is a Mormon.
Cher wrote, “I Feel if he (Obama) doesn’t get all his DUCKS IN A ROW we’ll b forced 2 listen 2Uncaring Richy Rich! The whitest man in MAGIC UNDERWEAR in the WH (White House).”
Her remarks have upset prominent members of the Mormon church, who wear formal garments known as “celestial underwear.” The term “magic underwear” is considered offensive.
When Marguerite Driessen, a professor here, entered Brigham Young University in the early 1980s, she was the first black person many Mormon students had ever met, and she spent a good bit of her college time debunking stereotypes about African-Americans. Then she converted to Mormonism herself, and went on to spend a good deal of her adult life correcting assumptions about Mormons.
“I feel a definite sense of pride in the U.S.A. that we have a Mormon candidate and black candidate,” said Catherine Spruill, 31, at her Mormon church in West Jordan, Utah.
So the matchup in this year’s presidential election comes as a watershed moment for her, symbolizing the hard-won acceptance of racial and religious minorities.
“A Mormon candidate and a black candidate? Who would have thunk?” Ms. Driessen said. “I think 30 years ago, we would not have had this choice.”
After examining the dual — and sometimes conflicting — identities, she has decided that she will cast her vote for President Obama over Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee. Ms. Driessen believes that there is plenty in the Book of Mormon to support Mr. Obama’s candidacy, and she likes to cite chapter and verse, like Mosiah 29:39 and 23:13.
“It says it is your job, people, to elect people who will protect your liberties,” said Ms. Driessen, a constitutional lawyer. “That is my standard.”
Being black, liberal and Mormon, Ms. Driessen represents a small but emerging point of view that is in stark contrast to the traditional profile of American Latter-day Saints, who tend to be conservative, Republican and white.
In an interview with CNN.com, a North Carolina Democrat predicted trouble for Mitt Romney because of polygamy — a practice the candidate’s church hasn’t practiced in more than a century.
Rep. Alma Adams, who serves as chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus in the North Carolina General Assembly, said Romney will struggle for support among social conservatives in the state who voted to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage last week.
“If they look at that awful ballot amendment, and they compare that with his faith, I don’t think people will be OK with it,” Adams said. “From what I understand about the Mormon faith you can have multiple wives. That’s sort of a contradiction. There are questions about who Romney is and what he believes in terms of that particular issue.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stopped practicing polygamy in 1890, and the practice is considered sinful in modern Mormonism. Polygamists are excommunicated from the Mormon Church.