We all saw the demonstrations against the Church after the passage of Proposition 8. We read about the Church members who lost their livelihoods simply because they donated to a worthy cause. So was Proposition 8 involvement really a rickety P.R. fiascofor the Church? If we were to make our judgment based on popular news media reports and the Internet, where there is usually more noise than signal, we could conclude the Church’s involvement was just not worth it. However, it may be beneficial to step through five items of interest and then make our conclusions.
Americans love a winner. The Church entered the Proposition 8 campaign at the eleventh hour by requesting its members to donate of their means and time. With a huge effort expended by many groups Proposition 8 was passed. To put it bluntly, they won. Hence some of the losers vented their anger on Mormons. But Americans also don’t like sore losers. So even though some see the Church’s efforts as negative, I don’t see it that way. Who do you want on your side in a moral battle? A proven winner or a sore loser? Consider also that the cause was just, somewhat like the fight the armies of Moroni were engaged in:
Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. (Alma 43:45)
Soon the negative publicity will pass. In fact, something that appears negative to the Church can in the end be helpful. For example, very few people like to see any sacred religious structure the target of demonstrations and deliberate vandalism. This type of action generates sympathy, not for the demonstrators, but for the members of Church. And we all know that if the Church wished it, hundreds of thousands of counter demonstrators could be summoned.
Tax Exempt Status
Consider this statement by a disappointed No on 8 supporter:
The Mormon church overstepped its boundaries by being a tax-exempt organization. They clearly are not supposed to be involved in political activities. (San Francisco Chronicle, “Tax-exempt benefit disputed in Prop. 8 campaign,” 28 November 2008)
As is pointed out in the article, the church almost certainly has not violated its tax exemption. While the tax code has a zero tolerance for endorsements of candidates, the tax code gives wide latitude for churches to engage in discussions of policy matters and moral questions, including when posed as initiatives. This is one aspect of why some No on 8 supporters become so angry at the Church’s involvement — they do not understand this simple principle. However, it appears that the Church may have overlooked some minor non-monetary contributions. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I suspect it will come to nothing, or perhaps a small technical infraction will be found. This will be a good learning experience which can be utilized the next time marriage is threatened and the Church comes to its defense.
Impact on the Church: Zero to minimal.
While missionary work may slow for a time in California it needs to be remembered that the missionary program is worldwide. Conversions rates were already slowing in Europe and the U.S. anyway. Resources are being redirected to nations where the field is white already to harvest. For example, my son Jake recently returned from the Mexico City North Mission where near the end of his mission convert baptisms averaged 500 a month. Because there are never enough resources to cover the world, when opposition grows too great in one area, over time efforts will be redirected elsewhere. For example, in January my son Daniel will arrive in Mongolia where prior to 1992 missionaries were not allowed to enter.
Impact on the Church: Minimal, newly called missionaries will be sent elsewhere if necessary.
The Wheat and the Chaff
This topic is more internal to the Church and its members though disaffected members provide a mountain of publicity from a molehill of fact. There are those members who actively campaigned against Proposition 8. Each would have his or her reasons, which I will respect. However, I believe that when the Church gets heavily involved in a cause a continuing sifting process is going on wherein the wheat and the tares are separated. There should be no need to explain further. Although losing members is not my idea of fun, ultimately the Church will be stronger. New opportunities and friendships for the Church will be generated from those who respect the members they worked with to pass Proposition 8.
Impact on the Church: Minimal, negative publicity from disaffected members fades quickly.
The Deseret News reported:
Utah’s growing tourism industry and the star-studded Sundance Film Festival are being targeted for a boycott by bloggers, gay-rights activists and others seeking to punish the LDS Church for its aggressive promotion of California’s ban on gay marriage. (Deseret News, “Utah boycott likely after LDS Prop. 8 push“, 11 November 2008)
When I first read this I almost fell off my chair in hysterics. Consider for a moment the skiers who work at my office. They want to go skiing when the slopes are not busy. With a boycott and a few discounts you can make up the difference with local skiers. Turns out it was, as a Salt Lake Tribune article recently said, all just words. Gays just don’t have the economic clout they think they have.
But don’t give up now. Why not try boycotting Utah’s largest employer? 30,000 workers — now that would have an impact. But I don’t think Hill Air Force Base would take kindly to a boycott and gays are not on the best of terms with the military. Oh well.
Impact on the Church: Zero. With discounts others will fill any void.
If you lose your job or business is down because of support for Proposition 8 then the impact on you is major. However, my purpose is to examine the impact on the Church itself. My overall evaluation is that it is minimal. Some learning experiences now will enable the Church to be even more effective in the future.