A reader writes:
I hope you might indulge me a few additional comments about the developments here in Utah. First, it is stunning that LDS Church President Thomas Monson has proven to be a more fierce advocate for gay rights during the last year than has U.S. President Barack Obama. Las Vegas would have offered astronomical odds to the contrary on election day a year ago, when Obama was elected with a gay rights platform, and the LDS Church successfully championed Prop. 8 to strip gays of marriage equality in California. Stunning on both scores.
Second, you are right to note that Mormons are, on the whole, decent people. You might also mention another characteristic of LDS culture that helped bring about the recent gay rights revelation. Mormons tend to be pragmatic and realistic. Unlike fundamentalists, Mormons do not insist that the world was created in seven days. Mormons tend to be persuaded--and not threatened--by the objective evidence supporting the theory of evolution. In this instance, the LDS Church has finally acknowledged in a tangible way that gay people exist. They are not just people suffering from bad choices or needing a cure to resume heterosexual ways. The recognition that homosexuals are a class of people is the true revelation here. Today it permitted the Church to accept reality and support a non-discrimination law. Ultimately the same pragmatic strain in the LDS Church will lead the Church to offer some path for LDS gays to enter into meaningful relationships recognized within the faith. Not soon, but eventually.
Third, the LDS Church is extremely sensitive about its public image and wants to be accepted in the mainstream of American life.
There's a reason why the LDS Church spends millions of dollars each years on sappy commercials. There's a reason why an LDS prophet accepted blacks into full membership of the Church after the tide had turned in the Civil Rights Movement. And now, at a time when the Catholic Church should be afraid that it's becoming all about abortion, the LDS Church had rightly become concerned that it was becoming synonymous with homophobia at a time when the arc of history was moving in the other direction. There's reason (and public relations) behind this week's revelation.
Fourth, Tuesday's announcement promises a sea change in the western states because Mormons tend to be devout and accepting of the authority of their Church. Already attitudes are changing. Legislators with extremely hostile records against gay rights are suddenly conciliatory---and the sole cause of this change is the Church's public pronouncement. Perhaps even more importantly, the Church's announcement gives permission to Mormons to be the tolerant people they are in their hearts. Mormons no longer have to show hostility to gays to show devotion to their faith.
Finally, since there always needs to be a Mitt Romney angle, you can safely predict that another Mitt-flop is coming. First he was for gay rights. Then he was against them. And now, thanks to this announcement, he can be for some of them.
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