The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken an official position in support of the proposed amendment to the California State Constitution which will legally define and limit official marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Full stories published by KUTV Channel 2, the Deseret News (229 public comments so far), the Salt Lake Tribune, the Provo Daily Herald, and KSL Channel 5 (420 public comments so far).
The Church has issued a "pastoral letter" urging this course of action. The letter is to be read during sacrament meeting on Sunday June 29th. A link to the letter was discovered on the LDS.net Forums, in the very first post. Click HERE to view the one-page letter in PDF format. It appears that the letter was prematurely leaked, but Church officials confirmed to KSL that it is genuine and the same one to be read this upcoming Sunday. Here is the text of the pastoral letter, dated June 20th, 2008:
To: General Authorities, Area Seventies, and the following in California: Stake and Mission Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents
(to be read in sacrament meeting on June 29th, 2008)
Dear Brethren and Sisters:
Preserving Traditional Marriage And Strengthening Families
In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California". The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4th, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.
The Church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.
A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.
We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.
Thomas S. Monson
Henry B. Eyring
Dieter F. Uchtdorf
The First Presidency
Compliance with this type of letter is strictly voluntary for a church member. A church member does NOT need to obey the letter to remain a member in "good standing", i.e. temple privileges, etc. A church member remains free to even oppose the measure, and even write letters to the editor encouraging people to reject the amendment without any Church sanction. However, if a Church member publicly criticizes the Church's position and urges people to work against the Church itself as an entity, then such member would understandably face ecclesiastical sanction by the church, to include probation, disfellowshipment, or even outright excommunication. This is what happened to Sonia Johnson nearly 30 years ago regarding the Equal Rights Amendment.
And this pastoral letter is well within the traditional guidelines as to how a church or religious denomination may participate in politics without jeopardizing tax-free status. A church may advocate on a political issue, or even invite political candidates to present themselves, so long as all the candidates for a given office are invited, without risking tax-free status. Only when a church formally endorses a particular candidate by name does a church risk its tax-free status.
The Salt Lake Tribune provides us a snapshot of the LDS Church's recent activism on behalf of traditional marriage:
- 1998: LDS Church donated $1.1 million to oppose gay marriage proposals in Hawaii and Alaska. Successful outcome - both states outlawed gay marriage.
- 1999: With the help of Mormons in the state, California passes Proposition 22, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman
- Feb. 25th, 2000: Stuart Matis, a homosexual LDS returned missionary, shoots himself on steps of LDS chapel in Los Altos, Calif, to symbolize the pain the church's efforts were causing its gay members
- Summer 2006: Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and Elder Lance Wickman, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, on what causes homosexuality (they don't know), whether gays choose their attractions (not likely), change therapies (they don't endorse any of them), whether Mormon gays should marry women ("doesn't usually solve the problem"), the distinction between civil unions and marriage for gays, and why the church endorsed a constitutional marriage amendment.
- July 2007: The LDS Church posted a new pamphlet on homosexuality on the church's Web site. The piece, titled "God Loveth His Children", was sent to all Mormon bishops and stake presidents.
- Sept. 2007: LDS Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland reiterates the church's position that same-sex attraction is not a sin; only acting on it is immoral. He does not try to explain the causes of these attractions, but acknowledges they are real.
The proposed constitutional amendment, known as the "California Marriage Protection Act", simply takes a key phrase from Proposition 22 which added a definition of marriage as Section 308.5 of the Family Code and was passed in 2000. The phrase reads, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California". ProtectMarriage.com is the focal point of the pro-family effort.
Affirmation, a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons, had previously urged the LDS Church to stay out of the political debate over the proposed constitutional amendment, and today one of Affirmation's officials reacted. "We believe in respect for all families," said David Melson, senior assistant executive director of Affirmation. "We are extremely disappointed in their action," Melson continued. "This is a matter of civil marriage. It doesn't affect religious marriage."
Affirmation leaders are still scheduled to meet with the head of LDS Family Services, a church social services agency, in August to begin a conversation to bridge the divide between Mormonism and gay members hurt by church teachings that homosexuality is a sin. Affirmation officials indicate the meeting is still on.