Please weigh in!

The Storm Over the Mormons
By DAVID VAN BIEMA Monday, Jun. 22, 2009
Oakland California Temple
Richard Renaldi for TIME

Last November, Jay Pimentel began hearing that people in his neighborhood were receiving letters about him. Pimentel lives in Alameda, Calif., a small, liberal-leaning community hanging off Oakland into the San Francisco Bay. Pimentel, who is a Mormon, had supported Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage. And that made him a target. "Dear Neighbor," the letter began, "Our neighbors, Colleen and Jay Pimentel" — and it gave their address — "contributed $1,500.00 to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign. NEIGHBORS SHOULD BE AWARE OF THEIR NEIGHBORS' CHOICES." The note accused the Pimentels of "obsessing about same-sex marriage." It listed a variety of local causes that recipients should support — "unlike the Pimentels."

Pimentel, a lawyer and a lay leader in the small Mormon congregation in Alameda, is markedly even-keeled. Yet the poison-pen note still steams him, even though in May the California Supreme Court validated Prop 8 as constitutional. He is bothered less by the revelation of his monetary contribution, which he stands by, than the fact that the letter's author didn't bother to find out that every other Saturday for 15 years, he or someone else from Alameda's 184-member Mormon ward has delivered a truckload of hot meals to the Midway Shelter for Abused and Homeless Women and Children — one of the organizations the Pimentels allegedly wouldn't support. "The church does a lot of things in the community we don't issue press releases about," he says. "And when people criticize us, we often just take it on the chin. I guess you could say I'm not satisfied with the way we're seen." (See pictures from inside a Mormon ward.)

Across the country, that's the dilemma facing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With 13 million members worldwide (by its own count), the LDS is the fourth largest church in the country, the richest per capita and one of the fastest-growing abroad. The body has become a mainstream force, counting among its flock political heavyweights like former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, businesspeople like the Marriotts and entertainers like Glenn Beck and Twilight novelist Stephenie Meyer. The passage of Prop 8 was the church's latest display of its power: individual Mormons contributed half of the proposition's $40 million war chest despite constituting only 2% of California's population. LDS spokesman Michael Otterson says, "This is a moment of emergence." (See pictures of Stephenie Meyer's career.)

But that emergence has its costs. Even as Mormons have become more prominent, they have struggled to overcome lingering prejudices and misrepresentations about the sources of their beliefs. Polls suggest that up to half of Americans would be uncomfortable with a Mormon President. And though the Prop 8 victory was a high-water mark for Mormon political advocacy, it also sparked a vicious backlash from gay-rights activists, some of whom accused Mormons of bigotry and blind religious obedience.

The LDS regards such charges as the product of ignorance. It sees itself as primarily apolitical; on issues on which it has taken a stand, the church's positions have been roughly consistent with other conservative faiths. But Mormon activism, when it occurs, does differ from the American norm in significant ways, because of both the dominating role played by LDS President and Prophet Thomas Monson and the church's remarkable electoral cohesion. After the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Prop 8, gay-rights groups announced their intent to return same-sex marriage to the California ballot in 2010, almost challenging the Mormons to respond. By championing the California traditional-marriage initiative so forcefully and successfully the first time, the Mormon church has stepped onto America's next big cultural battleground. But in figuring out if it should pick up the gauntlet again, the Mormons, who feel they have so much else to offer, must consider whether the issue is becoming a referendum on Mormonism itself.

What Mormons Believe
"Our Message for the World," says M. Russell Ballard Jr., one of the 14 apostles just under Monson, "is that we are His children, we lived with Him before we came here ... we're striving to keep His commandments so that when we die we can be entitled to receive all the blessings that the Heavenly Father has for His children." Ballard adds emphatically, "People like to make it complex. But it's really pretty simple."
Actually, it's pretty complex. Beyond some (extremely) colorful details, there are two radical Mormon theological deviations from conventional Christianity, both of which have at least some bearing on the gay-marriage battle. The first is an expansion of the drama of salvation. In creedal Christianity, Jesus' divinity, incarnation, teachings, death and resurrection are the entire point. Mormons, too, believe in Christ as Saviour and model and are as committed as any other Christians to his emulation. But they also believe we existed prenatally as God's "spirit children," that our earthly life is an interlude for learning and testing and that we continue developing after death. The best Mormons may become in the afterlife parents to their own batch of spirit children. "As Man is, God once was; as God is, Man may become," goes the couplet by the fifth Mormon President, Lorenzo Snow. This unusual scheme underlies Mormon sunniness, industriousness and charity. Says Jana Riess, a comparative-religions expert who converted to Mormonism and is a co-author of Mormonism for Dummies: "There's no other Christian theology as beautifully open to human beings' eternal potential." (See people finding God on YouTube.)

Gays constitute a notable exception. Some Mormons have a conventional view of homosexuality as sin. But their marriage preference has an additional aspect. The return to God is accomplished by heterosexually founded families, not individuals, and only as a partner in a procreative relationship can a soul eventually create spirit children. "I've had personal experience with gay people, and I weep with them," says official LDS historian Marlin Jensen, but the "context for our being so dogged about preserving the family is that Mormons believe that God is their father and that they have a heavenly mother and that eventually their destiny is to become like that." The alienation felt by gay Mormons was highlighted in 2000, when one of them, 32-year-old Stuart Matis, committed suicide on the steps of the Los Altos, Calif., church headquarters.

The second politically controversial Mormon teaching is the belief in a living, breathing Prophet — in Salt Lake City. Prophets have even more authority than Popes do in Catholicism; among other things, they are able to add to Scripture. Because they make key decisions with their apostles, the model is oligarchic rather than absolute, but it still vests extraordinary influence in Monson, his two counselors and his apostles, who transmit orders downward through the Salt Lake City — based general authorities, regional stake presidents and local pastors called bishops. (See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.)

Mormons bristle at the notion of "blind obedience" to the Prophet. The faith makes much of free will, and each believer divines his path privately with the help of reason, prayer and the Holy Spirit. But most often, the outcome of that process affirms the Prophet's instructions. The combination of free-will rhetoric and de facto obedience produces what Stephen Carter, editor of the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone, calls "people who are psychologically healthy, have a good sense of direction and who are for the most part ready to follow orders."

The Organized Mormon
Richard and Joan Ostling, authors of Mormon America, calculated that pious Mormons devote an astonishing 20 hours a week to church-related activities, an expectation Richard Ostling says exists in "no other big denomination." Constant interaction through Bible study, family home evenings, Mormon scout troops and other community-building activities yield a practiced, seamless unity more common to much smaller insular groups like the Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The biggest manifestation of that unity is one of America's largest private welfare networks, a charitable wonder called the Bishop's Storehouse system that kept thousands of LDS members off the dole during the Great Depression (and is humming again). In the past, the only knock against the church's largesse was that it aided mostly Mormons: the Ostlings write that in the 14 years ending in 1997, the LDS spent a paltry $30.7 million in cash on non-Mormon humanitarian aid. But that changed in the late '90s, and humanitarian expenditures in 2008 alone topped $110 million (including noncash donations). "We're there when the tornadoes hit and hurricanes hit and the volcanoes explode," says Ballard. Notes Marian Sylvestre of the Bay Area Red Cross, which developed a fruitful cooperation with Pimentel: "They're quiet soldiers with plenty of resources."

It's precisely those resources, though, that have drawn the LDS into the eye of the country's biggest cultural tempest. The church embraced church-state separation in the 1800s and explicitly recognizes the right of independent-minded officeholders like Romney and Reid to make their own calls. Retail politics, however, is different. Although Salt Lake City officially rejects wading in on most issues, it makes a large exception: matters of morals, with an emphasis on gender debates. Mormon activists helped halt the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and '80s and gay marriage in Hawaii (1998) and California (2000). (Read "What Romney Belives.")

Prop 8 constituted a kind of perfect political storm of theology, demographics and organization. At the Alameda Meeting House last June (as at other Mormon churches statewide), a letter from Monson and his counselors advised believers to "do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time." A string of Protect Marriage coalition meetings followed. They never occurred on LDS property, but they were overwhelmingly Mormon in attendance and sought Mormon support. Alaina Stewart, a church member, was asked to employ a list of "who in the ward we thought could contribute. We'd call and say, 'We're asking you to give such and such an amount,'" she says.

Some declined. A senior church official had promised Mormons who disagreed on Prop 8 that "we love them and bear them no ill will." This played well in Alameda, where many LDS members ferry their children to classmates' birthday parties thrown by same-sex parents. Stewart says she intended from the start to vote yes. But she adds, "I can certainly understand why members of the gay community wanted to receive this rite. I think there were ward members on the fence, thinking, Why not give them marriage?"

But the general authorities in Salt Lake City increased the pressure. A broadcast to all churches outlined the pro-8 ground campaign, with titles like "Thirty People in Each Ward" and "More than Four Hours per Week." Craig Teuscher, the Alameda ward's regional stake president, reiterated in church the seriousness of Monson's request to congregants.

The new push for the proposition had a rational side: the church claimed that the legalization of gay marriage would threaten its tax-exempt status if it refused to perform gay nuptials. (Most legal scholars disagree.) But belief in Monson's supernatural connection also played a big role. Says Stewart: "The Prophet's telling us to stand up. When he speaks, you're realizing that there may be things that I don't see." Asks Gayle Teuscher, the stake president's wife: "If I believe that the Prophet is a true prophet of God and disregard his counsel, what does that say about my belief in God?" Sunstone's Carter says most Mormons who explained their stance for his publication "said, 'The Prophet has a longer view than we do' or 'It was revealed to me.'" Clark Pingree, a Bay Area Mormon gay activist, says that of the various Mormon pro-8 rationales, the Prophet-made-me-do-it line was "the most infuriating, because people say, 'I'm showing my faith by voting against what I know in my heart.' It's a force field you will never penetrate."

Politics — or Persecution?
Proposition 8 won by less than 5% of the vote. Individual Mormons contributed $20 million of its $40 million war chest. Asked whether the belief in prophecy, transmuted into funding and activism, could have been decisive, David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political scientist (and a Mormon) who has studied LDS political activity, says, "I think that's arguable, in the positive sense of the word." Many Alameda congregants who had initially refused Stewart's fundraising efforts changed their mind; she exceeded her goals. Mormons made calls, placed flyers and planted lawn signs. They thought they were being good citizens.

That has made the aftermath of Prop 8 all the more disturbing to them. Furious gay-rights activists targeted the church, picketing temples in several states. A prominent Mormon Sacramento musical-theater director was hounded from his job. Tom Hanks declared the Mormons "un-American." (He later apologized.) Alameda Mormons like Pimentel read fire-breathing quotes in the San Francisco Chronicle and fielded "Dear Neighbor" notes.

Says Stewart: "I hear they threw bags of urine at a temple. If we had lost, it never would have occurred to me to react that way." Three months after the election, she says, "I don't feel quite the same way about our community." She felt frozen out of conversations among other parents. "You think, This will go away. But it doesn't seem to. I think about my kids in school," she says. "I want them to be accepted, to feel it's O.K. to be different." Of course, this is precisely the sentiment motivating the gay-marriage movement. (See pictures of the gay rights movement.)

But as a Mormon concern, it long predates Prop 8. For a century, the Mormon church had a rocky and sometimes bloody relationship with American culture at large; persecution by "gentiles" became key to LDS self-understanding. But thanks to their industry, optimism and civic-mindedness, many Mormons have found their place in the American fabric. Ballard says, "We'd like to be seen as mainstream — if that means being part of the national conversation about issues of morality and having our members respected as contributing members of society. But we have to hang on to what's true, regardless of where society goes." He adds, "We've never felt that we were being more understood or more appreciated, at least in my 30 years as a general authority." Ballard helped supervise an outreach program during the heightened "Mormon Moment" of the Romney campaign as apostles fanned out to visit media editorial boards. However, he contends that the "real power" determining public perception of his faith is "when a member of the church meets his neighbor, and the neighbor sees that he has objectives to his life and is finding happiness in his field. That's starting to happen all over." (See pictures of Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.)

Not everyone is as upbeat. Christopher Bigelow, a publisher and satirist (he edited the Sugar Beet, a kind of LDS Onion), says, "In the 20th century, we were allowed to grow and even gain a measure of respect." But Bigelow sees that as a mere "doughnut hole" in a darker dynamic. Gay marriage, he says, belongs to a class of behaviors increasingly tolerated in the broader society that the church must nonetheless oppose. He dips into an old but potent vocabulary: "As civilization keeps moving from standards we think God wants people to hold, it's inevitable that we expect persecution." Back in Alameda, Stewart's husband Brad says about Prop 8, "I hope I never have to do it again," but adds grimly, "I expect that I will."

The Dilemma of Deployment
The Church has not decided on its future role in the gay-marriage debate. The heat surrounding Prop 8 may die down by next year. "Talking about what may or may not happen in 2010 would be speculation, and I wouldn't want to do that," says Apostle Quentin Cook. The LDS abstained from same-sex-marriage battles in Iowa and New England. But avoiding a California rematch may be tougher. Notre Dame's Campbell says, "If it appeared that the church sat out next time because it was criticized this time, there might be a credibility question." But given a national trend toward supporting gay marriage, he asks, "Does the church want the public to identify it primarily as a political body opposing an issue that comes back again and again?"

Jay Pimentel, for one, will be spared that profoundly tricky question — for now. Shortly after the "Dear Neighbor" letter, Salt Lake City tapped him to lead all missionary activity in eastern Germany. The move entails sacrifices; he'll be leaving his job and uprooting an adult son with special needs. But it will put him in a field where the LDS has concerns — its spectacular international growth has begun to plateau — and incidentally remove him from any 2010 proposition battle.

Is he relieved? "I might feel relief," he says finally. "Or I might feel a kind of longing, a desire to be there." Then Pimentel expresses an archetypal LDS sentiment: "I like to help where I can be helpful."

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Can you cite your sources, please? I'm sorta confused how 'non-religious' and 'GLBT' can even be considered a church...unless this list (which is 7 years old) is instead a "where do you fall in" survey. Even then, it depends on where the question pool was taken and how the average was found.
I'm not questioning your integrity here, I would just like to see the over all information on it.
Here is the info I found (and probably where Time got theirs.)
Survey Response %, June 1996 %, March 2001 %, March 2002
Protestant 53 53 52
Catholic 23 23 24
(Latter-day Saints) 2 2 2
Orthodox 1 1 *
Non-denominational 1 0 0
Something else (Specify) 1 * 2
Not practicing any religion 1 0 0
Don't know/Refused 2 3 2

It ranks Mormons as third, and on par with 'refused to answer' Its most current year is 2002. It's sample size was 2,002. (page 49 of the pew report: )

Wikipedia (probably not the most trusted source) also listed as followed:
↓ 1990
x 1,000
↓ 2001
x 1,000
↓ 2008
x 1,000

as %
of 1990
↓ 1990
% of
↓ 2001
% of
↓ 2008
% of
↓ change
in % of

Adult population, total 175,440 207,983 228,182 30.1%
Adult population, Responded 171,409 196,683 216,367 26.2% 97.7% 94.6% 94.8% -2.9%
Total Christian 151,225 159,514 173,402 14.7% 86.2% 76.7% 76.0% -10.2%
Catholic 46,004 50,873 57,199 24.3% 26.2% 24.5% 25.1% -1.2%
non-Catholic Christian 105,221 108,641 116,203 10.4% 60.0% 52.2% 50.9% -9.0%
Baptist 33,964 33,820 36,148 6.4% 19.4% 16.3% 15.8% -3.5%
Mainline Christian 32,784 35,788 29,375 -10.4% 18.7% 17.2% 12.9% -5.8%
Methodist 14,174 14,039 11,366 -19.8% 8.1% 6.8% 5.0% -3.1%
Lutheran 9,110 9,580 8,674 -4.8% 5.2% 4.6% 3.8% -1.4%
Presbyterian 4,985 5,596 4,723 -5.3% 2.8% 2.7% 2.1% -0.8%
Episcopalian/Anglican 3,043 3,451 2,405 -21.0% 1.7% 1.7% 1.1% -0.7%
United Church of Christ 438 1,378 736 68.0% 0.2% 0.7% 0.3% 0.1%
Christian Generic 25,980 22,546 32,441 24.9% 14.8% 10.8% 14.2% -0.6%
Christian Unspecified 8,073 14,190 16,384 102.9% 4.6% 6.8% 7.2% 2.6%
Non-denominational Christian 194 2,489 8,032 4040.2% 0.1% 1.2% 3.5% 3.4%
Protestant - Unspecified 17,214 4,647 5,187 -69.9% 9.8% 2.2% 2.3% -7.5%
Evangelical/Born Again 546 1,088 2,154 294.5% 0.3% 0.5% 0.9% 0.6%
Pentecostal/Charismatic 5,647 7,831 7,948 40.7% 3.2% 3.8% 3.5% 0.3%
Pentecostal - Unspecified 3,116 4,407 5,416 73.8% 1.8% 2.1% 2.4% 0.6%
Assemblies of God 617 1,105 810 31.3% 0.4% 0.5% 0.4% 0.0%
Church of God 590 943 663 12.4% 0.3% 0.5% 0.3% 0.0%
Other Protestant Denominations 4,630 5,949 7,131 54.0% 2.6% 2.9% 3.1% 0.5%
Churches of Christ 1,769 2,593 1,921 8.6% 1.0% 1.2% 0.8% -0.2%
Jehovah's Witness 1,381 1,331 1,914 38.6% 0.8% 0.6% 0.8% 0.1%
Seventh-Day Adventist 668 724 938 40.4% 0.4% 0.3% 0.4% 0.0%
Mormon/Latter-Day Saints 2,487 2,697 3,158 27.0% 1.4% 1.3% 1.4% 0.0%
Total non-Christian religions 5,853 7,740 8,796 50.3% 3.3% 3.7% 3.9% 0.5%
Jewish 3,137 2,837 2,680 -14.6% 1.8% 1.4% 1.2% -0.6%
Eastern Religions 687 2,020 1,961 185.4% 0.4% 1.0% 0.9% 0.5%
Buddhist 404 1,082 1,189 194.3% 0.2% 0.5% 0.5% 0.3%
Muslim 527 1,104 1,349 156.0% 0.3% 0.5% 0.6% 0.3%
New Religious Movements & Others 1,296 1,770 2,804 116.4% 0.7% 0.9% 1.2% 0.5%
None/ No religion, total 14,331 29,481 34,169 138.4% 8.2% 14.2% 15.0% 6.8%
Agnostic+Atheist 1,186 1,893 3,606 204.0% 0.7% 0.9% 1.6% 0.9%
Did Not Know/ Refused to reply 4,031 11,300 11,815 193.1% 2.3% 5.4% 5.2% 2.9%

That's 15% for atheists and 1.4% for Mormons. This is kind of tricky though, because these are percentages within percentages for the denomination.

It looks like with your stats and my stats compared, it might depend on how you read the charts and define 'denomination.'

If you lump all Protestants together, and all Mainlines together and all Pagan/Druid/Wiccan without breaking them down into sub-denominations, then I guess you could say they are the 3rd largest...if you break it down to every church line, then they aren't that big.
I think what is scary is the size of their pocket book and the power they do have over individual states like Utah and even Arizona and Nevada.
Now I have a headache.
My step-family is Mormon. they kept sending me 'home teachers' in two by two a few times a week until I must have burned through the entire ward. The complete crazy was not missed on me, even as a child of 13 or 14. I've said before on the site that they do have a wonderful social welfare program, and do a lot of good work. Their track record on civil rights isn't so cool though.. considering until the 70's or so they didn't allow black bishops...apparently the mark of Cain is to be dark skinned! It's no wonder that they are as against gay marriage as they were against mixed race marriage. Once a state or country makes it a law, I think they'll fall into line. There is also a pretty big gay-Mormon club in SLC that my friend was a part of. It's called Awake or Aware or something that starts with 'A.'
I wouldn't mind seeing if these people wouldn't like to organize and sort of create a division within the church.
What I don't understand is how these people don't understand that their religious beliefs have nothing to do with US legislation. This is not a Mormon state. Our laws do not have to and should not attempt to uphold your religious beliefs (whatever they are). If you want to help people "create spiritual children" or whatever it is they believe, then do the community development work and invite people to join your religion. Do not attempt to force your religious ideas upon everyone else. How, HOW do people not understand that it doesn't matter if you think it's wrong because of your religion or not - you can't legislate based on religion. You can't legally force others to follow your religion. And here they dropped MILLIONS of dollars on this one law that will be struck down before long. Imagine how that money would have helped the other projects they support. That shows just how important those other projects are to you.

And then they act all surprised when people shun them. They want their kids to feel that it's okay to be different, just as racists wanted their kids to feel it was okay to discriminate against black people based solely on their skin color. Guess what - it's not okay.

"Says Stewart: 'I hear they threw bags of urine at a temple. If we had lost, it never would have occurred to me to react that way.'" That's because it wouldn't inhibit your ability to function in our legal system if you lost. You didn't actually have anything to lose. It wasn't an insult and affront to your immutable persona characteristics to not pass the law. The cluelessness of these people is what astounds me the most.
They don't honestly see that religion and legislation are two separate things. I've been to Provo on a Sunday. I've seen the entire city shut down because it's the sabbath. They still have laws about selling liquor on Sundays. It is their goal to turn the country (or at least their states which they see as given to them by GOD, thus the Zion-like names) into Mormon law.
The funny thing is, most of the Mormons I know are pretty nice, down to earth people. It's only when you start getting into the higher ranks of the church that things go fucking bonkers. Genealogy is a huge deal to them for a number of reasons. Tracing your linage to the tribes of Israel is the ground level introduction. Finding the REAL name of Adam (a mixture of Native American beliefs and demonology) could, by religious theory give them power over the entire human race. This is some scary shit they are into here, but you don't see it in the day to day.
A really weird story, but 100% true is the life of my friend. Her parents arranged a 'spiritual marriage' for her when she was 13. At the age of 14 they allowed her 'husband' who was only 16 to move into the house with her and repeatedly rape her. She quit her secretly taken birth control just while her 'husband' was away for a month for the sole purpose of getting pregnant by another man. They allowed her to marry this man (who was also Mormon) and she had two more kids by him, before the age of 19. When he turned out to be a slime ball, too, she left him and became lesbian. Things were obviously rough when her family turned their back on her, disowned her and cut off all financial support. The church, however helped her out a great deal by arranging free child care (in a Mormon facility) and providing food assistance. They did so knowing she was lesbian, but as long as her kids were kept in the faith, that was sort of her own business. (Her lesbian lover was Mormon, too)The church also helped her find housing at a discounted price under the agreement that her lover was referred to only as her roommate while in public. One day they had a little snog on the porch, not knowing that a neighbor was watching. I swear this is absolute truth. The neighbor was willing to turn a blind eye, thinking that the lover was actually her oldest son! She was willing to turn away, thinking that child molestation and incest were going on in that house, but the DAY she found out it was an over-age, consenting adult, she phoned the bishop...even TOLD the bishop what she previously assumed! There was no reprimands for her not turning in a legal crime, but praise for turning in a gay relationship while on church welfare.
Well, her lover ended up being a bigger slime ball than the rest (imagine that, eh? She didn't have very good skills in choosing a mate..just the first person to come along with white-knight syndrome would do, apparently) and the lover went on her way (after lots of drama, police, restraining orders and more crazy than I can care to type. Obviously I'm biased against that woman. I hated her more than the ex-husband.) My friend now has three beautiful but traumatized kids. Worn down and desperate she decided to forgo her lesbian desires and move back home. Her parents of course welcomed her with open arms once she said she was no longer gay. They care for the kids while she goes to school and works. She recently finished her RN degree with honors and has a kick-ass job. Happy ending, I guess.. except for the fact that she's been dating a nice Mormon boy for over two years now and has yet to jump in the sack. Lesson learned about rushing into things? Maybe. I always wonder if it's just because she really doesn't like men, but this is the life she's pressured into leading.

Anyway.. there is one of my many experiences with the Mormon church and anti-gay beliefs. Just thought I'd share.
"I hear they threw bags of urine at a temple."

"I hear." Interesting that I cannot find any news articles about this with a quick check in Google's news archive.


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