Friday, February 20, 2009

Sung by Pioneers Who Pushed Westward Against an Unforgiving Wilderness

I am treading very carefully with this post because I know I will be touching very sensitive issues. I am not trying to offend active Latter-day Saints, nor am I trying to attack the Church. If you come away feeling angry towards Mormonism, then I hope it is because of your own feelings regarding the historical document I produce, and not my rhetoric. My point here is to explain to active Mormons that is possible to believe in and practice their faith without condemning homosexuality and gay rights.

Proposition 8 is certainly not the first time that the Church has been involved in politics, nor is it the first time that a prophet has stepped into a fight for equality deemed to be of epoch proportions. President Brigham Young, revered as prophet by Latter-day Saints, was the chief executive of Utah Territory. As governor and prophet, he said a lot of things on both politics and religion.

The following is from a speech by Governor Young in Joint Session of the Legislature, Feb. 5th 1852. I find it highly relevant in a day when we celebrate the first black president of the United States and in a day when the Utah legislature repeatedly rejects bills that would give gays only basic rights.

"Again to the subject before us; as to The men bearing rule; not one of the children of old Cain, have one partical of right to bear Rule in Government affairs from first to last, they have no buisness there. this privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honour before God. . .

. . . Therefore I will not consent for one moment to have an african dictate me or any Bren. with regard to Church or State Government. I may vary in my veiwes from others, and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken, and think that they know more than I do, but I know I know more than they do. If the Affricans cannot bear rule in the Church of God, what buisness have they to bear rule in the State and Government affairs of this Territory or any others? . . .

. . . [T]he Africans are Citizens, . . . It is our duty to take care of them, and administer to them in all the acts of humanity, and kindness, they shall have the right of Citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in Church and State matters. The abolishonists of the east, have cirest them them, and. their whol argument are callculated to darken Counsel, as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? for men to come here from Africa or else where; by hundreds of thousands. When these men come here from the Islands, are they going to hold offices in Government No. It is for men who understand the knowlege of Government affairs to hold such offices, and on the other make provisions for them to plow, and to reap, and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy, and we protect them in it. Do we know how to amilerate the condition of these people? we do. Supose that five thousands of them come from the pacific Islands, and ten or fifteen thousands from Japan, or from China, not one soul of them would know how to vote for a Government officer, they therefore ought not in the first thing have anything to do in Government afairs.

What the Gentiles are doing we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do to day is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment I will will call them a counsel. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. I shall not be while I am here."
(Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated Feb. 5, 1852, located in the LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah. Emphasis mine.)

What would President/Governor Young have thought about President Obama? That's a subject for a whole other conversation. My point now is this: Mormon's reconcile the above statement. They don't loose any sleep over it. I don't care how they do it, it really doesn't matter. They may say that in this speech he was speaking as the Governor and not as the Prophet, and therefore these words are not binding on the Church or its members. They may say that these are just his opinions and do not constitute revelation or the Word of God. They may say that Brigham Young was just a product of his time and that these sentiments were shared by most if not all Americans in 1850.

However you reconcile it is your business; my point is simply that you have to reconcile it to be Mormon. You just have to. And if you can somehow disapprove with the message of this speech and reconcile it with your belief that Brigham Young was a prophet, can you not do the same with Thomas Monson's fight against gay rights?

Church leaders and LDS politicians are saying the same thing now that Brigham did then. They are saying that gays should be treated with dignity and respect, but that they shouldn't be equal. They shouldn't participate in Church. They shouldn't have their unions sanctioned by the State. They brought this curse on themselves through their own decisions. Gay rights advocates in the east have their whole argument calculated by Dark Counsel--It's Satan's subtle plan to overthrow the family. Let's not pass bills that would attract them and make them come to Utah. We certainly cannot through our silence let secular America make gays are equals. We must and will stand up and fight in the ballot box and in the legislature and in the media.

It's the same thing going on! And if you are active in the LDS faith, I implore you to please disagree with this hateful anti-gay rhetoric. Don't stand for it. Don't put up with it. You can still keep your faith. You have already had to reconcile this once before, you can do it again.

We can put this whole thing in a vault in Salt Lake City and pretend that the Church never preached it! And I'm fine with that. Let's do it. Let's hide everything the Church has said about homosexuals and have the anti-Mormons dig it up for their pamphlets and let Church members scoff and say, "I don't care what you say, I have my faith and I know that's not true." I beg you all to please, usher in that day when the Church will be embarrassed prop 8 ever happened. That day is going to come when the active membership of the Church reconciles what is happening now but doesn't approve. It's going to happen when people who believe in equality don't leave the Church, but instead keep their faith. So, if that's you, thanks. Unfortunately I doubt I will be one of the ones making that day happen.


Scot said...

Thanks for putting that old speech up. Very interesting. It's also some comfort to know it could be worse when struggling under such offers of "kindness".

"You have already had to reconcile this once before, you can do it again.... I doubt I will be one of the ones making that day happen."

Seems we were thinking of similar things today.

Abelard Enigma said...

Interesting - where did you find this? Certainly not on

The thing is, none of us were alive when Brigham Young said these things. The way we reconcile it is by ignoring it - pretending it didn't happen. It is much more difficult to reconcile the things happening today because it's hard to just ignore it and pretend it isn't happening.

But, that's the only way I can reconcile it - just try not to think about it. Because, when I think about it, I get angry. And then terrible thoughts start surfacing - thoughts that maybe the church isn't as much of a part of my life as I thought it once was - thoughts I never would have imagined having.

It's going to happen when people who believe in equality don't leave the Church, but instead keep their faith.

Or, it will happen when the church realizes it is hemorrhaging good and faithful saints who can no longer abide the politicizing and double speak.

I doubt I will be one of the ones making that day happen.

You may have a greater impact than you know.

Romulus said...

It has always been such an interesting comparison between rights for African Americans and gays. We'll see if it takes another century for us to gain any rights in Church or State.

draco said...

This is just plain evil. This is the kind of thing that makes me certain that the mormon church is not true. Pair this with Mark E. Peterson's 1954 address and it's even more obvious.

These are the kinds of things that make me want to get people to leave the church. Please, let the hemorrhaging begin- let the church bleed to death.

Sarah said...

Daniel, thank you so much for this post. Amazing. I hope that I can be one of the ones that can stay in the church and spread a message of equality.

Funny enough, even after reading this, I do not think any less of Brigham Young. I do not doubt that he was a Prophet and was inspired by God about many things.

Instead, this helps me more accepting of President Monson as a prophet. If someone like Brigham Young can say something like this, it just confirms the humanity of God's servants.

@Draco, I have had to learn to separate the church as an entity from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have had enough experiences to know that God lives and that the gospel is true.

But I am learning more and more that all men are human and make mistakes. One of the problems right now with the apparent hate in the church is that a lot of members cannot separate the church and the fallible men that lead it from the gospel that is true.

We need to rise above the hate that surrounds us. Instead of fighting hate with hate, we need to fight it with love. I am learning that myself one day at a time.

Ezra said...

What an amazing speech--there are so many things I wanted to say, but everyone else has already said them.