Disclosure: I descended from Mormons, but no one in my family has practiced the religion since my maternal grandmother and her siblings moved from Utah to California and married “gentiles,” as the church calls them. Personally, I have negative feelings toward the church’s social work program because those workers occasionally visited my grandmother unannounced and tried to bully her into returning to the church.
Apostle Dallin H. Oaks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that the LDS Church is in disagreement with Kim Davis, the County Clerk in Kentucky who denied marriage licenses to same sex couples.
The absurdity of Kim Davis’s reasoning has received both support and condemnation from every perspective. Ms. Davis herself has shared her version of a meeting with Pope Francis, although the Vatican says it happened a little differently.
The statement from an Apostle with the Latter-day Saints may give the impression that the LDS Church has resigned itself to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. However, we should not assume this.
In 2008, a large portion of the funding for California’s Proposition 8 came from outside of California. A link to the documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition, as well as a link to an Advocate article about Dallin Oaks, appear at the end of this post.
If the claims made in 8: The Mormon Proposition are accurate, the Utah-based church extorted money from its members to alter California’s State Constitution. It’s unlikely that money was ever in the church’s possession, but if you watch the documentary you’ll probably question whether the people who control Mormon policy are sincere about separation of church and state.
If you’ve read much about the history of that church, you know Mormon polygamists had conflicts with the authorities in states where they settled. They had to keep moving, and by the early part of the Twentieth Century the mainstream church in Salt Lake City officially banned plural marriage. Making that concession allowed the LDS Church to stay in Utah.
It’s possible the recent statement condemning Kim Davis’s actions is motivated by fear of putting the church through a legal mess similar to the one they had before banning polygamy. It’s also possible LDS officials believe they should pretend to respect Twenty-First Century laws and principles, even if same sex “sealings” (the church’s name for marriage ceremonies, which bond couples for eternity) are still forbidden in the church. The church continues to conduct missionary work in the United States, so careful attention must be given to the way the religion is marketed here.
Note: Polygamous Mormon sects still exist, but they are not recognized by the church in Salt Lake City. The best known of these sects is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is the subject of more than one book. I recommend the memoir Escape by Carolyn Jessop.