Mormons and the Rights of Women and Gays


I was just reading Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven because I felt that, given that we now have a Mormon presidential candidate, I should know more about the faith than what I read by Mark Twain on the subject.

On page 24 there is a footnote. It reads as follows, in its entirety:

In 1993, LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer (currently second in line to become president and prophet of the Mormons) pronounced that the church faces three major threats: “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.” Over the years, the Mormon leadership has made numerous pronouncements about the “dangers” of the feminist movement and has excommunicated several outspoken feminists. But perhaps the greatest rift between Mormon general authorities and advocates for women’s rights occurred when the LDS Church actively and very effectively mobilized Mormons to vote as a bloc against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (despite the fact that a poll published in the church-owned Deseret News in 1974 showed that 63 percent of Utahans approved of the ERA). Most political analysts believe that had the LDS church not taken such an aggressive position against the ERA, it would have been easily ratified by the required thirty-eight states, and would now be part of the U.S. Constitution.

It is worth noting here that the Mormon Church was also instrumental in supporting Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that outlawed gay marriage in California in 2008. As the LA Times reported,

…church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours a week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site — PreservingMarriage.org — with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.

Mr. Packer is now President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. I am just learning about the Mormon Church’s hierarchy, but if my understanding is correct, Mr. Packer is next in line to succeed Thomas S. Monson, the current President (and Prophet) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mr. Packer is not a leader of a fringe group of Mormon fundamentalists. If this were the Catholic Church, he would be considered the Pope’s likely successor.

Fewer than 20 years ago, he identified the greatest threats to the Mormon Church as women, gays, and intellectuals. (I wonder what the rest of the Top Ten Threats were.) Governor Romney was a ward bishop in the church, and presumably subscribes to the pronouncements of its leadership.

Governor Romney should be asked if he believes that feminism, women’s equality, gays and intellectuals threaten his church. If he believes that to be the case, how would he balance their perceived threat to his Church with the rights and demands of these constituents if he becomes president?

I’d just like a clear, concise statement that would fit on a bumper sticker. I’d also like to know, given this record of highly effective political action, if the Mormon Church remains tax exempt.

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

23 Responses to Mormons and the Rights of Women and Gays

  1. Of course it’s tax exempt. Imagine what it would be like if churches had to pay taxes. Our economy would be so much stronger. Churches really should no longer hide under the 501(c)3 bracket.

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  3. Diane says:

    As a former Mormon, I grew up knowing the younger Lafferties and their parents as part of my ward (congregation.) I wholeheartedly share your concerns about Romney as president. I know that mindset, inside and outside, and I know how much credence he puts in the words of the brethren. He and many Mormons would consider his presidency to be a fulfillment of prophecy, that One Mighty and Strong, who will lead the U.S. and save the Constitution which will be “hanging by a thread.” I find this frightening, to say the least.

  4. One way is to live for the benefit of your fellowmen — for your wife and children — to make those you love happy and to shield them from the sorrows of life.

    The other way is to live for ghosts, goblins, phantoms and
    gods with the hope that they will reward you in another world. ~ Robert Green Ingersoll

  5. I do believe that the biggest threat to anyone with an “alternative lifestyle” or anyone with a double X chromosome, is anyone calling themselves a Conservative Christian and/or a Republican politician and/or a Mormon. Seeing as how Mitt Romney identifies himself as all three, I’d say he hits the trifecta for not getting my vote.

  6. Karolyn says:

    You are so incorrect on so many accounts! I am a “Mormon” woman. I worked very hard for the passage of the ERA amendment in the 70s. I was for prop 8, I am a democrat. We do not have a “next in line” for a Prophet, Seer and Revelevator. It is left up to Heavenly Father to decide. Have some been in the position, yes but that does not make it a “rule” so you need to go back to the drawing board and study a bit more. No one including Romney OR Glenn Beck is a threat to the Church and neither represents the teachings of the Church which are kindness compassion and love towards each other and to all men. We need to look no further than at Romney’s record as failed leader in MA and what he says he is going to do for the poor, hungry, out of work, elderly, disabled and veterans, to name a few. We are out of luck as far as continued help to survive in this Third World country formerly known as the United States of America! We need to look no further than to Romney’s daddy who ran for president when he was born in Mexico. He set the example for his children. Say ANYTHING tell any lie, flip like a pancake and flop like a kid in a swimming hole.. Get elected at all cost. Take money from evil people to get to your goal. I am so afraid that someone, anyone will think I believe as he does just because I belong to the same Church.. BTW we Women have no strings attached to any puppet master, husbands or the Church. You will never find any more free women than we who are LDS. We believe in choice in all things.

    • You are so incorrect on so many accounts!

      You’ve no idea how many times I have heard that, Karolyn. I clearly have more studying to do on Mormonism, but I would have to say that, from what I do know, you are an unusual Mormon, at least relative to the stated policies or beliefs of the “home office.” The Church did, in fact, oppose the ERA and promote Prop 8. Of course there are members of any organization who depart from its stances – there are Roman Catholics who use birth control and are pro choice, for example. It would be disingenuous of a member of an organization to project onto it their own beliefs, as if what they believe is the archetype for what the church, in this case, believes. I’m glad that you feel no constraints as a Mormon woman. Are you able to be a bishop of your ward or an apostle in the Church if you desire? Are there women in those positions now?

      As for “next in line” as Prophet or leader of the Church, Krakauer seemed to indicate [I need to go back and check what he said more carefully, but this is my late at night recollection] that the practice, if not the doctrine, is that the senior member of the Quorum of Twelve ascends to the highest position upon the death of the Prophet. I understand that, in every tradition, there is often a disconnect, large or small, between doctrine and practice.

      In any case, thank you for reading and responding. I promise to continue my autodidactic activities regarding Mormonism.

      • Nina says:

        No! Hell, no, “Karolyn”, as a woman, cannot EVER be a bishop of her ward or an apostle for the Church. I’m really irritated that the 1/3000 faux-liberated LDS women chime in on things like this and make it sound like there are so many of them. Make no mistake, you were right the first time, she is very much alone. Maybe she’s married to an unusual-for-Utah liberal Mormon man, maybe she’s still single, but she is misinformed or a convert if she really believes she is doing just fine as a Mormon liberal. They are. not. wanted. in the church. AT ALL. Don’t bother apologizing to her for your lack of education on the church. She does not know more than you, as she has exposed her lack of reality on the church and its’ stances. For one, telling you there is no next in line. Yes, that’s exactly how it works. Since when, Karolyn, have you seen them jump over any 1st counselor to some other random man because it just didn’t fit Heavenly Father’s scheme of things? Even once?
        Oh, and I can tell you her response already to the “Can you ever be a bishop, as a woman?” question. The response you learn to that in the church is “Well, but I wouldn’t WANT to be a bishop. I don’t want/need the priesthood as a woman. I have babies instead. Separate but equal roles, both divinely inspired, blah blahblah”. It’s just ridiculous that she’s acting all uppity and offended by any of that, when she’s possibly the only one in her ward/stake who’d ever admit to being a Democrat (OR feminist for that matter).

    • Lindalee Upton says:

      It does my heart good to hear from a Mormon lady who knows that Mitt Romney is phony to the core. Get out there and vote for Obama!

      • There is, I believe, another Mormon in the race for whom she might vote: Rocky Anderson. Though he has differed publicly from the Church, he remains a Mormon so far as I know.

    • Nina says:

      “BTW we Women have no strings attached to any puppet master, husbands or the Church. You will never find any more free women than we who are LDS”
      That is such b.s. and you know it. But I know you’ve got to keep telling yourself that, whatever it takes, to keep believing in the faith. I tried to do the same. But it is, alas, only…..a bunch of b.s. Enjoy your denial.

  7. Pingback: Mormonism is different, but is it too Christian? « CITIZEN.BLOGGER.1984+ GUNNY.G BLOG.EMAIL

  8. kalisah says:

    I was but a child when the ERA amendment was passed by Congress. And yes, my Mormon family sat down as a group and WE ALL wrote hand-written letters to our representatives asking for them to vote no. I was11. My brother was 9. And yes, we knew all the talking points on defending the church in the Sonia Johnson excommunication. Now, as an adult in recovery from Mormonism, it makes me sick the way the church used families – and *children* – that way.

    • Isn’t it amazing that, try as our elders and authority figures might, they can’t prevent the soul that wants to try independence from actually trying it. The price – abuse, ostracism, loneliness – may be too much for some. But for others, no price is too high to pay to learn what is good for your own soul.

      Congratulations on individuating and finding your own way. It can’t have been easy.

  9. Nosmo King says:

    ” Say ANYTHING tell any lie, flip like a pancake and flop like a kid in a swimming hole.. Get elected at all cost. Take money from evil people to get to your goal.

    Sounds more like Nobama than Romney!

  10. Not if, why does it remain tax exempt.

  11. deila says:

    You say you want to learn more about the Mormon Church and then you read from the anti-Mormon, Mark Twain — and then you go read an anti-Mormon book, Under the Banner of Heaven. This is not your interest at all, your interest is to spread the hate you condemn.
    Leaders of the Mormon church such as Packer do not always speak doctrinally for the church.

    “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.” (Apostle Todd Christofferso -http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/approaching-mormon-doctrine)

    If you want to learn more about the Jewish religion do you go read an anti-semitic book?

    • Thanks for reading and responding to my blog post, Delia.

      I have read some of the Book of Mormon, though it was decades ago, in college. I spent some time on business in SLC, calling on Deseret Books, so I have been socially acquainted with some Mormon people who were not the fundamentalists that Krakauer mostly discusses in his book. So my experience is a little broader than is indicated in the post. Also, I was religious in a couple of different ways in the past – as a Catholic growing up, and as a fundamentalist charismatic Christian from high school through most of my 20’s.

      I don’t think that either Twain or Krakauer are disqualified because they not only disagree with, but deride, your religion, though I know that’s damned uncomfortable for you. Those who say, in the context of discussing Judaism, “There is no deity,” are not guilty of anti-semitism, but of having a different sense of the way the world works. As for Under the Banner of Heaven, he seems (I haven’t yet gotten very far) to focus mainly, if not exclusively, on fundamentalists.

      But my question remains: if Gov. Romney disagrees with the quotation, he should say so publicly. He seems to have done so in 1994 (see http://www.baywindows.com/romney-ill-be-better-than-ted-for-gay-rights-53688), but I’d be interested in an update.

      In closing, I want to say that, while I disagree with the stories and some of the ethics of Judeo-Christianity and Mormonism (and other religions), I know some exemplary people who are devout believers. Any criticisms of origin myths or doctrines ought not to be taken as a wholesale dismissal of members of any religion whatever.

  12. ira joel says:

    How about the secret baptism by your mormon church of deceased Jews? can you as a mormon answer that. It would be a disaster for the rights of our citizens if this meathead was elected president.

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  14. Laura Williams says:

    If you want to know about the LDS church and the sacred vows taken by every Mormon who is “worthy” to attend the Temple you can read the entire Temple Ceremony here: http://www.concernedchristians.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=336&Itemid=14

    Below is just a small segment:

    All arise. (All patrons stand.) Each of you bring your right arm to the square.

    You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the Law of Consecration as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.
    Each of you bow your head and say “yes.”

    PATRONS: Yes.

  15. Shelby says:

    The baptisms of deceased Jews were not meant to be secretive or anything like that, but a gift. If you don’t believe our baptisms mean anything anyway, then what does it matter?. And when the church realized the Jews didn’t want us doing that, we stopped immediately.

    As for the feminist deal: Men and women are different. That is fact. We are different for a REASON. We have different roles to fill, different things God intends for us. Women in a large way have the tremendous responsibility of raising children, and men the equally hard responsibility of the priesthood. Even so, there ARE leadership roles in the church that only women can fill, such as the Young Women General presidency, Relief Society presidency, etc (in the LDS faith, a presidency consists of the president and two counselors).

    However, don’t just take my word for it. I might even be wording some things wrong; if so I apologize. The church never forces anyone to do anything. And if you want to read about procedures and ordinances in our church, go to a MORMON website, not some random other. Questions about our faith can be answered at

    http://mormon.org/

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