Pogo Was Right

We have met the enemy and he is us.  In a religion which teaches us to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers, in which we at least theoretically bear one another’s burdens, and in which we share some communal responsibility for one another’s well-being, I wonder how much responsibility we bear for one another’s transgressions?  This question brings us to the matter at hand.

There is low-hanging fruit, and then there is Senator Chris Buttars.  The Salt Lake Tribune recently reported that this Utah state senator claims that he wouldn’t have said the things he did if he had realized that he wasn’t talking to fellow church members. Among other things, the senator said that gay people are “mean buggers”, “combinations of abominations”, and that they constitute “probably the greatest threat to America”. When he was confronted with his own words, Buttars backpedaled and blamed the problem on the interviewer and cameraman. They were wearing BYU shirts and talking about their missions, so how was he supposed to know that his words were going to be published? He claims that he was deceived, and that he assumed the conversation was just entre nous.

Although your experience might be different, the fact remains that this man thinks it is acceptable for Mormons to talk like this among themselves. My own experience tells me that he is correct. I have heard, and continue to hear, gay people denigrated and slandered now and then in LDS gatherings. We are collectively embarrassed when Chris Buttars or Rex Rammell makes headline news. We are quick to write them off as anomalies and certainly not representative of us as a people. And we don’t want to be associated with their knuckledragging Neanderthalism when it comes to the disrespectful way they speak of or treat their fellow citizens who are gay or female.

Some uncomfortable questions arise. How did these men grow to adulthood in the church and never catch on that they are out-of-order? Why do we continue to tolerate these views among us? Is there something about us which produces these views? Why are tens of thousands of our fellow members willing to overlook these gross offenses and vote for these men anyway? What could we do to more effectively marginalize people who hold these views?

Here is a thought experiment. Which of the following statements is the most offensive and would cause the biggest firestorm in the bloggernacle:

  • Gay people are mean.  They are an abomination and the biggest present threat to America.
  • It is disgraceful that the state of Utah still has no laws preventing employment or housing discrimination against homosexuals.  Utah’s gay citizens can be fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments without cause and without recourse to law.  All Mormons should be deeply ashamed of that fact.

I think we would likely find people deeply divided on which statement best reflects reality.  And that is why we are embarrassed when a prominent person says dumb things — it reflects on us, because we are willing to put up with retrograde attitudes and statements.  Part of what defines us is what we are willing to tolerate.  It is worth asking ourselves why we react so strongly when somebody says something we perceive is doctrinally incorrect, but are willing to stand idly to the side when somebody is engaging in hate speech.

I don’t know what to do about it besides resolve that I won’t sit silently and listen to gay jokes or racial jokes any more.   If I fear the awkwardness that would come about if I walked away during a joke, I deserve to be right down there in the mud with Br. Buttars.


  1. But haven’t you heard, Mark? In Mormon life, there are no enemies to the Right.

    Anyone to the far right of my politics is perhaps a little rigid and paranoid, but at least they mean well, and they take the threat of sinful behaviors and unorthodoxies very, very seriously, so I’m sure God will shower them with blessings. Meanwhile, anyone ever-so-slightly to the left of me is dangerously teetering on the edge of a slippery slope to sin and debauchery and apostasy.

    See, it all makes sense now!

  2. /stands, applauds/

  3. Mark,
    My experience differs radically from yours; I’ve been in a couple wards now with gay men, and haven’t heard gays slandered in church or by the church members with whom I associate.

    That Buttars feels like an entre nous existed because of BYU shirts doesn’t say anything. He’s happy to be homophobic and racist on the floor of the Utah legislature, too—he isn’t representative of my experience with Mormons, Mormonism, or, for that matter, Utahns.

    Which isn’t to say Mormons are perfect on this account, or that I know a representative sample. But I’ve never found Mormons who think it’s acceptable to be racist or homophobic just because they’re around other Mormons.

  4. Mark Brown says:

    Sam, if you are correct that this has nothing to do with Mormonism, how then do we account for the way these people just keep popping up among us like dandelions in Spring? Once in 30 years is an anomaly; twice in the same month is probably a hint that we need to start taking stock.

  5. Mark,
    I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about. Neither just started popping up among us—Buttars has been making idiotic statements for the last four or five years, at least. And I only recently heard of Rammell, it’s only because he just became a national story. Apparently the good people of Idaho have been embarrassed of him for years.

    And why, in month, did two Republican(-ish, at least) Mormon politicians in the in the intermountain west say Neandrathalic things? It could be anything from the Republican party to the intermountain west to Mormonism to being men, to being old (actually, I don’t have any idea if Rammell is old, but I’m pretty sure Buttars is). And they’re far from the only ones making really, really dumb and offensive comments recently.

    Ultimately, this is all to say, why pin their dumbness on their Mormonism, rather than saying they’re dumb in spite of their Mormonism? And I respond this way because neither is representative of any Mormon (except maybe the mentally disturbed one) that I’ve ever known.

  6. Natalie B. says:

    During the year when Utah passed the amendment disallowing gay marriage or civil unions, I was a substitute teacher south of Salt Lake. I had never lived in Utah before, and I was shocked at how often students expressed derogatory views about gays (and Democrats) within the classroom. On rare occasions they stated these views as part of official class conversation, but mostly these views came out as they joked with each other.

    Admittedly, people are not on their best behavior with substitute teachers. But these students apparently thought it was permissible to make gay-bashing a regular part of their conversation. Although I tried to point out the inappropriateness of their behavior once or twice, I got attacked for challenging their values.

  7. MikeInWeHo says:

    Where do you live, Sam B? There’s got to be a lot of regional variation on this one.

  8. “But I’ve never found Mormons who think it’s acceptable to be racist or homophobic just because they’re around other Mormons.”

    Really? Well I have. There are a number of different Sunday School lessons and Priesthood meetings I’ve attended in which cracks were made about “the queers.” Hell, I’ve occasionally told those kinds of jokes. Saying things like that is the best camouflage––I feel sick when I do it, but I would rather not be the quorum pariah… which is exactly what I’ll be if they find out I’m gay.

  9. “I don’t know what to do about it besides resolve that I won’t sit silently and listen to gay jokes or racial jokes any more. ”

    But this is a reactionary position, granted at times a reaction is necessary; yet I think the strongest way to encourage the change you (and I) are seeking is to be out in the world living, being, and doing the work of He whom we serve. We should be present in the public sphere talking the talk and doing the work, before we ever here the mindless, and violent nonsense spoken by certain folks within the Mormon community. We need to be a continuous counter example of the goodness and inclusiveness of Mormonism.

  10. Whether his statements come about because of his mormonism or conservatism or whatever, aside- what I want to know is what difference does he think it makes that he thought he was talking to cohorts? If I call someone a racial slur amongst friends, or to his face, would I be any less racist?

    How does the fact he thought he was amongst LDS excuse it?

  11. “We are collectively embarrassed when Chris Buttars or Rex Rammell makes headline news. We are quick to write them off as anomalies and certainly not representative of us as a people.”

    Actually most Mormons I know have views relatively close to those of Rammell or Buttars. I base this on the papers of my students and their class comments. So, while I agree with Sam that this is not a good representation of Mormonism, it is an accurate depiction of a significantly large number of Mormons and Utahns. Does it embarrass me, not really. I think that I am used to it.

  12. Mike,
    I’m sure there is. I’m in Chicago, and have recently lived in New York and in the DC metro area. And I grew up in Southern California. Which is kind of my point–Buttars may be representative of a certain type of Mormon (apparently, and old Republican one who lives in South Jordan), but he’s not broadly representative of the Mormons I know. I think he’s pathetic, but I sincerely doubt that his opinions stem largely from his Church membership, because I and many people I know grew up in the same Church and we haven’t ended up like he is. But most people I know lived at least some formative years in or near a major U.S. city; still, I suspect age and location are more significant than religion here.

  13. “I suspect age and location are more significant than religion here.”

    Most of the LDS homophobes I knew are under 30 and are from all over the country.

    Sam, I agree that Mormon professionals living near big cities are probably not well represented by Buttars. The main difference is that they know how to behave. Polite behavior may be required in the professional world, but it is not in the Utah State Legislator.

  14. Also, I grew up in the suburbs of DC. While their was likely a hiigher percentage of politically liberal and moderates, there was not shortage of the type of extreme Mormon right-wing stuff that I have encountered in Idaho and Utah (I was such a right-winger growing up). The main difference being that in Maryland (I miss it) such views were politically irrellavant. In Utah, they are a majority of the legislature.

  15. Chris,
    There are reasons I’m glad not to be teaching undergrads at largely Mormon schools. Do you think, though, that your students’ opinions are really well-thought-out opinions that will carry over as they get older? I ask mostly because, back when I was that age, I pretty much thought that I knew everything, in spite of my relative lack of experience. My politics leaned left to the extent that I thought about politics, but they weren’t nuanced or humble.

    I ask this partly because it seems like a lot of economics studies are done on college kids (studies trying to determine their financial preferences), and I am always left with some doubt that the studies’ results reflect anything, since most college students haven’t yet had to make real financial decisions. For the same reason, though I don’t doubt what you say your students write (and, again, I’m really glad it’s you and not me reading it), I’m curious if you think they’ll hold on to these aggressive positions when they’re a little bit older. (Or at least most of them–I’m sure some will.)

  16. “I’m curious if you think they’ll hold on to these aggressive positions when they’re a little bit older.”

    While I think they will develop some manners and the ability to discuss these thing reasonably, my guess is that they are often reflecting what they learned at home.

    At BYU-Idaho, I had the impression that much of the anti-gay fervor of the students was encouraged by the Religion faculty.

  17. I should add (14) that I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, one of the more conservative parts of California. And my experience was that when our first friend came out of the closet, my friends and I stayed friends with him. I remember it being an real attitude change for me–before that, homosexuality was deeply abstract. But when this friend, whom I’d know for probably 10 years, came out of the closet, he was the same person. We (some of us Mormon, but most not) all stayed friends with him. And, though I have nothing at all to back this up, I assume that’s some of the problems. It’s easy to look at homosexuality (or race or state of origin or whatever) as being bad in the abstract. It’s a lot less easy when you know someone who’s gay (or black or from Illinois). And everyone I know knows someone who’s gay. Some of your undergrads may not know that they know someone who’s gay, but at some point they’ll know someone who’s out of the closet. I don’t know how they’ll react, but I suspect that it will at least soften some of their harder edges.

  18. Natalie B. says:

    #15: That’s a really interesting question about age. Another age related question I’d like to throw in is whether it is a common experience amongst Mormons to see generational differences on gay issues. Last time I taught YW’s, the YW I had grew up with a media culture where being gay is largely acceptable, and I felt that they, too, were a lot more comfortable people being gay than Mormons of my generation were when we were in YW’s. It is hard for me to image that younger Mormons will want to continue the sentiments about gays that we are discussing when they assume leadership roles. Although they might cling to these views before they graduate, I think that they are pretty hard to maintain in non-LDS social circles.

  19. “I don’t know what to do about it besides resolve that I won’t sit silently and listen to gay jokes or racial jokes any more.”

    I completely agree with Mark, and disagree with Doug. It’s very important to not allow Mormonism to be a safe place for racist or homophobic comments. So if you’re hearing them in Elders Quorum or Gospel Doctrine, you should combat them, vociferously if necessary. Granted, a lot of times a polite, calm, careful riposte is the best approach. But in the event this doesn’t work, it’s important to up your game, and even belittling or mocking the rubes is a tool worth employing in extreme situations. Yes, you might offend your opponent so badly that he will take severe umbrage or go inactive. So what? Good riddance. If you’ve come to the point where such strident tactics were really necessary, your quorum is probably better off without the brother that’s infesting it.

    I know it’s easy for me to say this, of course, since I live in Seattle, and we don’t typically have to put up with this crap. There are many areas of the church where — unless you’re particularly prominent or well-respected — you won’t succeed with this tactic and will just marginalize yourself. So it can be a tough call.


  20. “It’s very important to not allow Mormonism to be a safe place for racist or homophobic comments. So if you’re hearing them in Elders Quorum or Gospel Doctrine, you should combat them, vociferously if necessary.”


  21. I’m originally from South Jordan. My parents still live there. I visited for Christmas and got to sit through an EQ lesson about how the homosexuals are persecuting Mormons. Yech. Part of me wanted to speak up, but I was a guest, I didn’t know more than a couple of the men, and a crying baby gave me a convenient excuse to leave early.
    The people in that ward are very nice people, for the most part. I’ve known many of them for almost twenty years. Normal, LDS, Republican, middle class (this being the poor part of South Jordan). But most of them would think nothing of saying the same kind of thing Buttars said. That’s one of the reasons they still vote for him. That’s one of the main reasons my parents support him (again, yech).
    I know if the same type of conversation came up in my own ward, I’d speak up. I’m enough of a fixture in my tiny ward that my opinion might actually be taken seriously.
    Meanwhile, after reading this post, I regret not speaking up in that South Jordan EQ when I had the chance. Maybe next time…

  22. Tim, you make a good point though. It’s really hard to “speak up” when you’re a visitor in a ward. It’s too easy for everyone to look at you as the visiting crazy, and to dismiss you. So you end up being ineffective, while creating awkwardness for yourself. Again, it’s a judgment call.

  23. Molly Bennion says:

    Ditto Sam B. I have never heard such talk publicly or privately in my inner city/university ward in Seattle. I think most members would speak up with you, Mark. My past and most devoted HT is probably gay; a SP counselor’s son is gay. For years an excellent EQP in our sister ward was openly gay. Outside the church, all of us enjoy frequent contact with gays. Thank goodness for the friendly neighbor gay couple who return my mail nearly weekly (including my obviously Mormon mail) when the postman misdelivers it.

  24. Mark Brown says:

    Sam, I hope you are right, and that our religious culture has nothing to do with the views these men have expressed.

    We still have to come to grips somehow with the fact that Sen. Buttars continues to be re-elected, term after term. We have to admit that literally tens of thousands of his LDS constituents aren’t bothered by him in the least. So it might be possible that he is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but that we aren’t doing enough to curtail and marginalize his worst tendencies.

    And I think a sociologist should study the ways that a local ward influences the way individual members see the entire church. For people who claim to have access to eternal, unchanging truths, we surely have some variances based on where we live.

  25. I think this kind of talk is more common in areas where Mormon homosexuals are less-common, like in the examples Molly uses (#23).

    In the wards I have been to in the UK there are very few homosexuals who remain active. I have heard this kind of discourse both publically in our church meetings and also in our private settings.

    Yet, I think that Douglas (#9) is right that reactionary behaviour is not always the best way to create change.

    Thanks for this provocative challenge to think about my complicity in such behaviour.

  26. Mark Brown, just anecdotally, I’ve been a Church member for 11 years now, and I’ve never heard the kind of comments you are referring to. I’m something of a special case, having been raised in the SF area, been around gay people all my life, very sensitive to such stereotyping. I’ve actually found that people are pretty embarrassed to discuss homosexuality at all and avoid the subject entirely. Even the young men I work with in my calling don’t call each other “fags,” which was certainly extremely common when I grew up in California in he 1970s.

    I applaud you for standing up for what you believe in but my experience in the Church — in Miami, Brazil and now Northern Colorado — has shown a completely different experience than yours. Just FWIW.

  27. Let me add that the best way to keep the pressure on Rep. Buttars — whose comments appear pretty horrific — is to do just what you are doing and making them public. I bet most of his constituents don’t know his thoughts, and the majority of Saints don’t want to be associated with somebody who appears to share his bigotry.

  28. “I bet most of his constituents don’t know his thoughts,…”

    Unfortunatly Geoff, this is not the case. He has a long history of saying such things and he gets much attention in the local media for doing so.

  29. I don’t know how anyone can claim that Mormonism couldn’t possibly inform someone’s homophobia. We are not, after all, so very far from _The Miracle of Forgiveness_ (Is it still on DB’s shelves?) and “To the One” and “aversion therapy” at BYU. We still publicly support Evergreen and Joseph Nicolosi and “reparative therapy” that is considered unethical by most mental health professionals. There is some very ugly homophobia in our official discourse, and, in the same way that not officially and openly repudiating the racism of the past tends to reinforce those who would justify their bigotry, a Mormon who wants to remain bigoted against gays can point to official, unretracted statements to suggest that apparent softening (the support of the SLC discrimination ordinance, etc.) is just the Church being forced to be PC in the world, even though we (wink, wink) know what they really think.

    We have a very, very long way to go.

  30. Alex T. Valencic says:

    Being one of the many, many, many Mormons who does not live in the Intermountain West, I feel that this is a geographical-cultural problem, and not a universal-cultural problem.

    There are other things that I have witnessed coming out of the Utah-Idaho region that causes concern. A friend of mine that I met on my mission did not know that calling black people the n-word was unacceptable. It wasn’t that he thought it was okay. It was just the word he knew. (And for those who like to jump on the “African-American” bandwagon, I respectfully decline, because I know lots of black people who are not from America.)

    I am also fairly confident that the frequent directions from the Brethren to treat our friends and neighbours of other faiths with love and respect is a response to the lack of respect shown to these folks.

    So the real question is this: why are so many of the Mormons in Utah and Idaho so ethnocentric and bigoted?

  31. Chris H, if you say so. I had never heard of the guy until now, and my impression is now bad. So, one down, several million to go.

  32. “So the real question is this: why are so many of the Mormons in Utah and Idaho so ethnocentric and bigoted?”

    This may be because these areas are more ethnically and culturally isolated. These areas are also quite rural (though I am not claiming that all people in rural areas are bigoted, just a bit less cosmopolitan).

  33. Geoff, I follow Utah media and politics pretty closely. The meida is pretty centralized here and he gets plenty of attention. He made some racially insensitive comments last session that got a good bit of exposure.

  34. Kristine,
    I wouldn’t argue that his Mormonism doesn’t inform his homophobia, any more than I’d argue that my Mormonism doesn’t inform my belief in progressive taxation. I would argue, though, that his Mormonism doesn’t cause his homophobia and racism, any more than mine in the first instance caused me to support progressive taxation.

    And I don’t know who this “we” that supports aversion therapy, etc., is. If the church has an official position supporting it, that’s news to me, and I suspect it’s news to the vast majority of the church. Frankly, even in this post-Prop 8 world, I could probably count on one hand the number of times homosexuality has come up at church. (I was so happy to be in New York at the time–the only reason I heard about the church’s involvement was through the Bloggernacle; I never once heard about it at church.)

  35. Comments like Mr. Buttars are one of the reasons I don’t go to lengths to advertise my faith in the workplace as is often suggested we do as part of missionary efforts.

    Doubly because Buttars admission that he thought he was talking to members. It could easily be interpreted that means this is what we all think and believe.

    Maybe I should in order to combat the stupidity, but I feel unarmed when I all I can say, ‘Uh…. we all don’t believe that.’

    If he thinks gays are ‘probably’ the greatest threat to some one needs to remind him of 9/11.

  36. Earlier today, I was thinking quietly to myself that the only thing this epic, monumental, historical week in the bloggernacle lacks is a thread about Chris Buttars and homosexuality. At last, the circle is complete.

    I want to say my experience has been like that of Sam B. I really, really do. But having lived in California during Prop 8, I just can’t shut out a few ridiculous comments I heard from people helping in the campaign. Mind you, I was always–and continue to be–very impressed by the discourse and behavior of the local leaders I was around, but there were some instances where run-of-the-mill members said some pretty stupid things. Some were just the sort of things to make me roll my eyes; others were quite terrible.

    I believe firmly, though, that a vast majority of the homophobia that exists in the Church is what I think of as “passive” homophobia–the sort that would be done away with if people simply pointed out to the individual making stupid statements that they sound/are homophobic. I don’t believe most of these people intend to be homophobic, and more experience with gay people on a personal level would likely clear this up in a heartbeat.

    As to the more “active” homophobes, where the offender knows they’re being offensive or homophobic…yeah. Well.

  37. “So the real question is this: why are so many of the Mormons in Utah and Idaho so ethnocentric and bigoted?”

    This is ugly.

  38. Natalie B. says:

    #37: As much as I hate to agree, in my experience Utah really is a lot less aware of what the rest of the world considers to be inappropriate in regards to gender and racial norms. My father left Utah not knowing that the n-word and such slogans as “jew you down” were inappropriate. I hear more language that would be deemed racially insensitive there than anywhere else. I honestly don’t think that the offensiveness of this language occurs to the otherwise nice people who use it. It just seems like a lack of cultural education. Does the problem stem from having a fairly homogenous population where people aren’t around to point out that certain comments are hurtful?

  39. Tell me why this:

    “Gay people are mean. ” is horrible but this:

    “. . . so many of the Mormons in Utah and Idaho so ethnocentric and bigoted?” is OK?

    Do you really think it is impossible to have a conversation about this problem without essentially making the same kind of comments that Buttars did– because he also thought he was preaching to the choir?

  40. Buttars is beyond a public embarrassment. He’s crying foul because the director supposedly tricked him into speaking his mind by pretending to be LDS. Implicit in this (ridiculous, stupid) defense is the notion that this is how Mormons talk about gays when the PC police aren’t listening. This is a wonderful opportunity for sane Mormons to stand up and make clear that this is not how we think by telling Buttars to shut the hell up.

  41. SamB, where did you grow up? i think i live near there.

    two comments made from the pulpit of our san diego ward during prop 8:

    “god created adam and eve, not adam and jake!” (at which point someone shouted out, “it’s adam and eve, not adam and steve,” which was followed by giggles. any hope for the bishop calling the person to order was out of the question. the bishop is the one who said it.

    “you are either for prop 8 or you are against it. and if you are against it, the church has no use for you. you ought to just leave the church because we’re better off without you.” yeah, that was high council sunday, courtesy of our high councilor.

    prop 8 was a very dark time for our ward. we still haven’t recovered, partly because it’s STILL mentioned in sacrament meeting at least once a month. this is an interesting thread to read, in light of our experience.

  42. Natalie B. says:

    39: I agree that making those statements is problematic in that they making sweeping generalizations that cast a bad light on people. But, I also think that there is a genuine problem based on what I have observed and based on the fact that people like this are re-elected. So, I guess you rightly point out is that we need to identify and fix the problem without resorting to the same kind of resentment that we complain about. I should do better.

  43. C Jones,
    “X is an abomination and the biggest present threat to America” is far more derogatory than “too many X are ethnocentric and bigoted.” And, in the case of intermountain Mormons, the latter basically objectively true in the sense that members of the group in question are far more likely than average Americans to consider some kinds of ethnocentric and bigoted talk to be appropriate (at least among friends).

  44. Natalie B. says:

    #41: Yeah, I don’t even live in CA, but I have heard Prop 8 routinely brought up as an example of standing up for righteousness in the face of persecution. I don’t really know how to respond though I’m uncomfortable, since, let’s face it, that is the way some authorities have framed the issue.

  45. Latter-day Guy says:

    39: I understand your discomfort with those statements, C Jones. However––while acknowledging that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”––I have to say that (in my experience) we Mormons tend to have some serious blind spots, and the level of prejudice I have observed in the Church in Utah and Idaho is considerably greater than in, say, wards I’ve attended in Massachusetts (and, in more-limited experience, in other states). I don’t disagree that it is, as you say, “ugly,” but I am more disturbed by the possibility that it is true.

  46. Brad, what average Americans are you talking about? Southerners? People from East LA? Ranchers in Colorado? Teamsters in Ohio?

    And FWIW, I agree that one statement is more derogatory than the other. I just didn’t realize that makes the less derogatory one OK.

    Anyway, I don’t want to derail the real conversation. I think some Mormons do have a problem, wherever they may be from.

  47. Mark, to what extent to we have an obligation to condemn Rep. Buttars’ comments – which I do – compared to our obligation to condemn Harry Reid’s comments about the president-elect being “light-skinned” and not speaking with a Negro dialect? Secondarily, is it OK to condemn others for what appear to be anti-Mormon comments – or indeed for making what appear to be anti-Mormon films – or should we only be self-condemnatory? I ask these questions not to make cheap political points – personally I don’t think Harry Reid is a racist but I do think Rep. Buttars appears to be a bigot – but instead to face the question of, “why are certain inflammatory comments certain to be condemned in some quarters and others are not?”. A bit more consistency would go a long way, imho.

  48. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 29
    Amen, Kristine. If anything, you’re understating the situation.

    The Church still routinely excommunicates non-celibate gays, for goodness sake. Even the Catholics and vast majority of Evangelicals don’t do that. It’s really sad.

  49. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Secondarily, is it OK to condemn others for what appear to be anti-Mormon comments – or indeed for making what appear to be anti-Mormon films – or should we only be self-condemnatory?”

    When discussing the Church and current events with certain members of my family, it is frequently pointed out to me that I’m harder on members of the Church than on non-members. It’s a fair criticism––it’s true. But surely, if we believe we are members of the one true church, shouldn’t we be held to a higher standard? Bigotry is bad, period. But isn’t it worse coming from those who have made covenants that they will take upon themselves the name of Christ?

  50. Mike and Kristine,
    I should say, I don’t think by any means the Church is a shining beacon to gays; I don’t know how anyone who was gay could stay active in the Church. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s a big homophobia party–in my experience, there’s a great deal of discomfort with anti-gay positions. I sincerely don’t think the Church’s support of the Salt Lake ordinance was a wink-wink political thing. I think it represents the Church’s actual stance–that we shouldn’t discriminate against our brothers and sisters. I realize not everybody in the Church agrees with me, but I think there are a lot, both on the internet and IRL, who do, including virtually everyone in the Church I’ve ever talked to about Prop. 8.

    And I realize, too, that my experience may not be the norm. But I also don’t think it’s too far outside the norm of Mormon experience (or at least the norm of young-ish big city professional Mormon experience, which is the only one I know).

    I grew up in North County.

    And Scott B., that’s exactly why I’m glad I wasn’t in CA a couple years ago–if I’m wrong about the prevailing lack of homophobia in the Church, I frankly don’t want to know it.

  51. It is a personal insult to every individual member of this church to suggest that these comments would have been acceptable if only they had been made amongst our own.

    (What kind of defense is that anyway? “I only spoke my true mind because you tricked me into doing so?” Doesn’t that concede that the comments reflect his true mind?)

    Living in CA during Prop 8, I heard a lot of very encouraging things. For example, a couple in the ward who are former Mission President+wife and extremely looked-up-to by all, standing up and saying that they value their many gay friends and coworkers, that they are good people and their relationships with them are deeply valued. They still supported 8, but their matter-of-fact and very public acceptance of gays as individuals did a lot to set a tone in our ward early on. There were others saying similar things.

    Unfortunately, there was a lot of the despicable as well. People who seemed to have a real visceral level repulsion at the mere thought of gays. MANY who had completely fantastical/absurd ideas about what gays wanted, the effects of not passing 8, etc.

  52. Why is Harry Reid always the right-wing punching bag red herring? You really got nothing else?

    As far as the OP, if we are to have less intolerance within our religion, our religious leaders need to continue teaching us tolerance for all. And members need to continue pressuring those who are intolerant. This kind of language and this kind of belief should not be tied to our religion.

  53. I also want to agree strongly with Kristine’s comments (#29). Face it folks, problems such as these are usually rooted in statements made by previous LDS general authorities which still have currency, which haven’t been rebutted or repudiated, but which need to be. Not every Mormon bigot or homophobe can cite you chapter and verse from our problematic literature, of course, but it’s still the literature that gives these attitudes some semblance of official sanction and which one can fall back on if one wants to maintain retrograde views.

    Sam B, Kristine didn’t say we presently “support” aversion therapy. But it is a part of our recent past, and is reflective of the problematic attitudes that have pervaded LDS culture up to the highest levels. Also, the fact that you don’t think the SLC ordinance was supported with a wink, doesn’t mean lots of other Mormons don’t tell themselves it was. And such self-delusion may be wrong (which I think and hope it is), but it’s not hard to see why and how some suffer from it.

    So many of our cultural problems would be cured, me thinks, if the Church would just start repudiating past nonsense forcefully and directly and repeatedly. But I suspect there’s a perception that this would create a whole new host of problems — like a serious undermining of the credibility which modern LDS members tend to grant the moral admonitions of the current leadership.


  54. Latter-day Guy, thanks for addressing the argument. Just to play devil’s advocate, let’s address your point:

    “Bigotry is bad, period. But isn’t it worse coming from those who have made covenants that they will take upon themselves the name of Christ?”

    By that logic, we should definitely condemn the filmmakers who apparently have broken temple covenants and are doing their best to criticize the actions of the Church, therefore apparently breaking more temple covenants. My understanding is that at least some of them are returned missionaries who at one point took on themselves the name of Christ.

    My point is very simple: this post is intended to elicit the following response: “Rep. Buttars is a homophobic bigot who needs to be publicly humiliated. We must disassociate ourselves from people like this.” And I agree with that point. I don’t know much about the guy, but from the SL Tribune article, his actions are certainly condemnatory. If he were my state rep, I would have a serious problem voting for him, depending on who the alternatives were, based on his apparent bigotry. Even if you agree with him politically, from the most pragmatic standpoint such bigotry must be drummed out because it makes the rest of the party and other people who share some of his other political beliefs look bad.

    But I maintain that our condemnation often remains highly selective. It is okay to condemn certain people (ie, right-wing homophobic Republicans, who I again say SHOULD be condemned), but it is not okay to condemn other people who make inflammatory comments because we may agree with some of their other political beliefs. In addition, based on my experience in the Bloggernacle, it is definitely NOT okay to condemn people or sports fans or filmmakers who make bigoted anti-Mormon comments or make apparently anti-Mormon films. In that case, we are supposed to just sit there and take it, have a sense of humor, etc.

  55. Aaron,
    Sorry; she said we support reparative, not aversion, therapy. (I don’t actually know what either one is, but that’s undoubtedly just the produce of my own ignorance and my reading relatively carelessly. Still, that’s my bad–I didn’t mean to put words in her mouth.)

    Still, I’m not sure about the institutional “we” who supported these things. That is, I don’t know if it was an institutional Church thing, if it was a various localities thing, or what. It certainly has never been mentioned or promoted (to the best of my knowledge) anywhere that I have lived.

    And an institutional repudiation would be wonderful. I’d be surprised if that happened but, as generations turn over, I’d be unsurprised to find Church members approaching the mainstream in their treatment of gays.

  56. SamB, we’re out east. we have it worse. :)

    “I think the gays should just stay away and leave me alone,” said David Blaine, 67, as he sat outside Annie Oakley’s wearing a National Rifle Association cap. “This is redneck country. They’re taking chances.”

  57. Mark, to what extent to we have an obligation to condemn Rep. Buttars’ comments – which I do – compared to our obligation to condemn Harry Reid’s comments about the president-elect being “light-skinned” and not speaking with a Negro dialect? …A bit more consistency would go a long way, imho.

    Geoff B.,
    Fear not! Mark is very, very consistent on both counts, even if he goes one post at a time.

    Why is Harry Reid always the right-wing punching bag red herring? You really got nothing else?

    Why is it that you always show up and make a comment the second someone from the Democrat party is mentioned? You really got nothing else?

    Sorry. I’m on my way to repent for being rude now…I just couldn’t help it–I got nothing else.

  58. Buttars is utterly indefensible. That said, I’m also disturbed that these film makers resorted to deception to score cheap points. It would be interesting to have a follow-up where nice people in BYU attire hit the streets (a la Jay Leno) to gauge “average Mormon” attitudes about this subject.

    I think the results would not be as grim as some would think (based on the tenor of the comments thus far). A recent SL Trib that reported that even before the church publicly supported the recent SL ordinance extending certain protections based on sexual orientation, roughly 50% of the LDS in Utah supported these rights (or greater). Makes for a good glass half-full or empty debate, but when you think about it, this means that at LEAST half (or now 2/3 post-SLC ordinance) of the Utah LDS think Buttars and his ilk should take a hike.

    I take this as a good sign, but Mark is on target in his original post – even if only one in five us us thinks or talks like Buttars, we have a long way to go.

  59. Scott B, I love Mark Brown, and I’m just trying to be a bit of a contrarian to add some spice to a one-note conversation (“Rep. Buttars is a very, very bad boy.”), so I’ll take your word if you say he has addressed both issues and is consistent on them. But I didn’t see that in that particular link. Is the link bad? If not, could you direct me to the comments you are highlighting? Thanks.

  60. Sam,

    I think by “aversion therapy,” Kristine means a therapeutic approach designed to turn homosexual men away from homosexual thoughts and feelings by administering electric shocks to them while they view homosexual pornography. This “therapy” used to be heavily utilized at BYU (1960s? 1970s?), though not so anymore. “Reparative” therapy is designed to “repair” homosexuals who have the “wrong” sexual orientation, so that they develope the “right” one. LDS psychotherapists have tended to support reparative therapy in the recent past, with (official? unofficial?) LDS Church approval, and I suspect they still do, though again, I don’t claim to be completely current on these things.

    Now, just for kicks and giggles, I invite everyone to (a) debate whether and to what extent BYU’s promotion of aversion therapy reflects well/poorly on its Board of Trustees; and to (b) pretend that they’re applying principled arguments — not-at-all-driven-by-their-desired-conclusions — while they do so. :)


  61. To clarify … aversion therapy is therefore a sub-species of reparative therapy. What do reparative therapists actually do, now that they’re not using electric shocks? I guess I don’t really know. :(

  62. MikeInWeHo says:

    This is a pretty good summary:


  63. Aaron B; maybe they show them hetro porn while feeding them choc chip cookies ;)

  64. This in particular caught my eye in the Wikipedia description of reparative therapy:

    (2) avoid activities considered of interest to homosexuals, such [as] art museums, opera, symphonies,


  65. My question is does no one in Utah have family or friends who are gay? How could this man be so bigoted if he knows and loves his neighbors? We lived no too far from Utah, and I still never heard people talk like that about gay people. Illegals yes, gay people no. Sad state of Christianity.

  66. Latter-day Guy says:

    “This “therapy” used to be heavily utilized at BYU (1960s? 1970s?), though not so anymore.”

    Surprisingly, this “treatment” continued at least into the mid-90’s:

    See here for the transcript of an interview with a participant.

    Here is a clip from a TV program in which he talks about his experience. (Description of the “treatment” begins around 5:30; shows burn scars @ 11:00.)

  67. But I didn’t see that in that particular link. Is the link bad? If not, could you direct me to the comments you are highlighting? Thanks.

    That earlier post from Mark was similar to this in several ways. First, it identified a particular issue we have/have had difficulties with in LDS culture and/or history (racism). Second, it made clear that Mark has little tolerance for that sort of behavior. Third, it suggests that we, as a body of coreligionists, suffer not only from the past actions/statements, but also from a lack of coherent explanations and/or continued stupid behavior, and (fourth) that we need to be more aggressive in putting this sort of thing to bed, once and for all, throughout our culture.

    In short, my point was that Mark has, in these two posts, issued a call for every Latter-day Saint to open their eyes and ears to the very real possibility that in issues of race and homosexuality, we Mormons have a little bit of growing up to do.

  68. I agree with makakona that there is little hope for greater understanding when “Adam and Steve” cracks are made across the pulpit at stake conference by a member of the stake presidency.

  69. James, I think it is shameful to even mention “deception” by the filmmakers as if that is even remotely comparable in severity to what was said by Buttars or excuses it in any way. Furthermore, it is unclear whether any deception actually took place. A guy who actually went to BYU was wearing a BYU jacket, and a guy who actually went on a mission mentioned it. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, though we don’t know the particulars.

  70. “when “Adam and Steve” cracks are made across the pulpit at stake conference by a member of the stake presidency”

    While LDS homophobia doesn’t surprise me, I frankly find this shocking.

  71. Mark, Kristine, Aaron: I love you guys. Thank you.

  72. Scott,


    Why is it that you always show up and make a comment the second someone from the Democrat party is mentioned? You really got nothing else?

    For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction? :)

  73. gay member in socal says:

    Quick introduction: I am a 100% active, gay member of the Church. I am in my early 20s, and attend a YSA ward in Southern California. I converted to Mormonism on my own as a teenager and was previously an Atheist (a strong label for a teenager, I know, but I started reading Dawkins and others at 14). Ironically, one of my hopes as a teenage convert was that I would have a miracle occur as a result of now believing in God and have my sexuality change. Didn’t really happen. Don’t expect it to happen. Still have a strong testimony. Still believe in the Church.

    I would imagine many of my experiences are typical of faithful gay members, and even former members who are gay so there’s really no point in telling personal stories. As much as I would like to say and believe that the Church is gay friendly, it really isn’t at the moment. I do however believe that it is constantly evolving into a more friendly place. I also believe that a number of General Authorities are in tune with how gay members feel in the Church. As I have thought about what could be done to make the Church friendlier though, I really think the best work can be done starting at the local level than through a proclamation or statement from Salt Lake (not that that wouldnt be nice).

    A few of the questions asked in the OP are good ones and I would like to offer some of my personal views on them.

    Why do we continue to tolerate these views among us?

    Fear of rocking the boat. For many, the homophobic rhetoric has been used for so long that it’s now status quo. On the other hand, I have found that even well meaning and compassionate members hold views on homosexuality that I find offensive. For example, likening the predisposition to alcoholism. Alcoholics generally have to drink alcohol to become alcoholics. I don’t have to have sex with men to be attracted to them. It’s not an addiction people. It just is.

    Why are tens of thousands of our fellow members willing to overlook these gross offenses and vote for these men anyway?

    Because these views are widespread in the Church. Just because people arent openly espousing them from the pulpit doesnt mean that they dont hold them. In the case of Buttars, I dont know Utah politics too well but I would also imagine that in many cases people just vote for him because he’s a republican name they know. His remarks on gays are probably irrelevant to those people.

    What could we do to more effectively marginalize people who hold these views?

    Call them out on it. It’s really as simple as that. Prop 8 was hell for me because nobody was getting called out on anything they said. Church support for Prop 8 to these people made them think that pure unadulterated homophobia was advocated. So I started calling people out on it and found that I had more support in that ward than I ever imagined. It’s a snowball effect. Many people arent willing to be the first to stand up, but will join if they see others who have the same view. I even came out to a handful of close friends. Some were very surprised because I dont fit any gay stereotypes and it made them think that if I could be gay, how many others could there be in our own ward. Ultimately you have to start with yourself.

  74. Another vast improvement would be eliminating the word “gay” from the current teenage/young adult vocabulary when describing something considered to be stupid or annoying.

    “That’s so gay”, “You’re so gay”, and other phrases are entirely too common at BYU. I want to be better about calling people out (as gay member above mentioned) but how to do so with your own family? Closest friends?

  75. Mark,

    Great post.

    My observation is that it’s easy to stereotype until we have real data. People who have friends or loved ones who are gay are probably less likely to speak hatefully of them. People who have friends or loved ones who are Mormons are less likely to speak hatefully of them.

    My observation during my eight years in Utah was that it was in some ways quite like my hometown, Pittsburgh. Both are quite parochial places. By that I don’t mean to characterize everyone as parochial, but to suggest that large swaths of the community associated with”their own”, either ethnically, religiously, geographically. In that insular environment it’s not unusal to find people acting on stereotypes and engaging in “us vs. them” thinking.

    That said, I’m shocked that this should occur among members of the church, where so many of us have lived internationally and many are well educated (suggesting more than just parochial experience).

    But I find even in my suburban Michigan ward there’s a rampant sense (for instance) of political conservatism that is freely assumed to be universal, so the groupthink doesn’t necessarily stop at the Continental Divide.

    How to combat it? With discussions like these. And by teaching our children a different way.

  76. I’d like to give a hearty AMEN to that! I live in a part of the country that is mostly liberal, where homosexuality is widely accepted–except among Church members. I’ve been shocked by some of the things I’ve heard members of the Church say about the gay community.

    I’ve never understood how a population that is so sensitive to stereotypes against itself can accept stereotypes against anyone else.

  77. BTW, James, if you’re still around: sorry, didn’t mean to harsh you quite that bad. I think we mostly agree. I’ve just heard way too many people (including Buttars himself) trying to totally excuse Buttars because of the alleged deception, which you clearly were not doing.

  78. Perhaps the Buttars and like minded members would do well, or at least have some fun, with the following thought experiment. http://www.dailygamecock.com/viewpoints/fat-people-cannot-be-christians-1.1086201

    A couple of months back some gay issue came up in our HPG. I argued for more acceptance, tolerance, less jugdment etc.. A member of the Stake Presidency who happens to be a Ph.D. and scientist was there as well. After the meeting he pulled me aside and said “You do know being homosexual is a choice, right? Those people choose to be that way.” I feel really bad for any gay people in our stake.

    Aside from that comment, I haven’t heard many anti-gay or anti-black comments in Church, ever. I read about them all the time in the bloggernacle, but my own experience does not match what I read. But, I am on the East Coast, where our numbers are very small.

  79. Why do we continue to tolerate these views among us? Is there something about us which produces these views? Why are tens of thousands of our fellow members willing to overlook these gross offenses and vote for these men anyway?

    That’s a pretty broad statement you’re making, with implications you perhaps should be more careful in making.

    The prejudices that exist against against homosexuals, in my experience, are more of a reflection of American culture as a whole than of the LDS culture by itself. Because of that, I’ve seen homosexuals treated poorly by member and non-member alike. However, I would also say that our culture in the Church is more readily adapted to correction.

    I was in a social gathering my freshman year at BYU when the conversation took a wrong turn. Prop 8 was alive and kicking, and that led to some comments that really ought to have embarrassed some people’s consciences more than they did. Later, I spoke to one of the instigators to the conversation and advised him privately, and as a loving friend, to be careful what he says about homosexuals. You never know when someone you know and care for dearly in friendship is dealing with homosexuality very privately. He thanked me for my concern, and that was the last we ever spoke of it.

    In all honesty, members of the Church are well-meaning, but the lack of exposure to prejudices they don’t realize they have has led to many people responding in fear to something they can’t easily explain, and don’t understand. Beating ourselves up for that isn’t going to fix the problem any more than legislation will. Christian principles of love, compassion, and charity for ALL of our brothers and sisters is what is called for now.

  80. Geoff B,
    If it makes you feel any better, here is the difference. Sen. Buttars, with his statements, was implying that the status quo among Mormons is paranoid homophobia. Sen. Reid, with his statements, was implying that the status quo among Americans was lingering unconscious racism. I feel like only one of these is accurate (or I hope so) and Harry’s use of “negro” only served to unconsciously prove his point.

    I’m from the south. I can completely explain why Utahns feel it is okay to make or believe bigoted things on occasion. It is because they are not Southerners. Those Southerners over there sure were bigoted because they had the slavery and the jim crow. We would never had done that if we had had black people out here because that is wrong and we totally understand that. Now, let’s get back to discussing exactly how and why Mexicans are coming up from the South to ruin everything great about our blessed nation.

    By which I mean, the biggest factor in the latent racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. in the Intermountain West is the relative isolation of the area and rural monoculture (as Chris points out). And, frankly, this isn’t really just a Mormon thing (although it gets mushed into Mormonism because they are both prevalent out here; I just think it is a Baptist thing in the south and a Catholic thing in certain areas of Boston, too). It has to do with how any group draws up boundaries in order to define what it is and isn’t.

    So, yes, this is a Niblet threadjack ;)

  81. Cyntia L-

    I am not overly harshed, thanks for the follow up comment. Getting Buttars to spout nonsense is like shooting fish in a barrel, and as I think you determined, I did not point this out in defense of him in any way shape or form.

  82. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    People are constantly surprised to discover that I am LDS. When I do disclose my faith, I am often asked why I concealed it and whether I’m embarrassed to be a mormon. My standard answer is “I’m not embarrassed by my beliefs, I’m just generally embarrassed by others who share them.” Thanks a lot, Buttars!

  83. Living in Utah (county), I’ve heard some crazy stuff. Like Sean Hannity spouting his right-wing demagoguery every afternoon for 3 hours from KSL, the church-owned radio station. I even heard them play re-runs one Saturday between general conference sessions.

    I had a fellow HP in our quorum meeting one Sunday recite the following story: while holding his granddaughter on his lap, she asked him “Grandpa, why aren’t we Democrats?” He proudly replied “Because honey, Democrats kill babies!”

    My daughter came home from Jr. High one day pretty upset. Seems one of her teachers had invited a local Baptist minister to come talk to the kids about his beliefs (keep in mind Utah County is like 90% LDS). During the Q&A, many of the kids in the class began asking him really embarrassing and even mean-spirited questions, some ridiculing his beliefs. She said as he left the classroom in tears, she never felt so ashamed of her religion.

    When I had the audacity to put a “vote for John Kerry” sign in my yard, it was twice vandalized by locals, and my kids came home from school with news that threats were made to them at school that our house was on target to be egged. If Jr. High kids have these strong political reactions, you know darn well they are coming from the parents — fellow “Saints”.

  84. Why do we tolerate people like _____? Because we open our arms to all persons who accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not have a political test for church membership. Is every member of the church already perfect? No. Do some members say things sometimes that are embarrassing to other members? Yes. As we continue to grow, we need to expect more of this. And we need to appreciate it.

    I have never lived in Utah, and I’m a convert. I suppose that negative words about gays can be heard from time to time in essentially all circles — lesser these days than in the past, perhaps, but Mormons do not monopolize anti-gay sentiment — and an anti-gay statement by a church member shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.

  85. Why do we (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) tolerate people like _____? Because we open our arms to all persons who accept the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not have a political test for church membership (or s stupidity test). Is every member of the church already perfect? No. Do some members say things sometimes that are embarrassing to other members? Yes. As we continue to grow, we need to expect more of this. And we need to appreciate it.

    I have never lived in Utah, and I’m a convert. I suppose that negative words about gays can be heard from time to time in essentially all circles — lesser these days than in the past, perhaps, but Mormons do not monopolize anti-gay sentiment — and an anti-gay statement by a church member shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.

  86. Mark Brown says:


    It’s good to see you back. In general, I am very much in favor of accepting everybody and applying the mildest forms of correction available to us and in overlooking or minimizing petty faults and political differences. So we have no disagreement there.

    But I think there is also some danger in this approach. We show what we think is important or unimportant precisely by what we choose to minimize and overlook. For instance, we wouldn’t say of a child molester that he has a bit of a problem with misplaced affection, and we wouldn’t say that a man who beats his wife needs to pay a little more attention to his anger management. There is value in calling a spade a spade. Sure, it makes us uncomfortable sometimes to call things by their real names, but facing our problems squarely, and not making excuses for them, is the first step in the process of repentance.

  87. Mark Brown says:

    Geoff B., I agree that Ried’s remarks were cringeworthy. The reason I didn’t bring them up here is because I thought his mistake had been covered sufficiently elsewhere in the ‘nacle. He also didn’t try to cover up his words with his Mormonism.

    I also believe that he has no problem whatsoever with black people. I am certain that Buttars has huge problems with gay people.

  88. Mark Brown says:

    People, the fact remains that Utah is in the minority of states which have no laws protecting homosexuals from employment or housing discrimination. According to a story in today’s NY Times, the legislature has decided not to act this year either, but instead will take the matter under advisement. Shame on all of us.


  89. Mark Brown says:

    And nobody has addressed the part of the post which I think is most revealing.

    It is worth asking ourselves why we react so strongly when somebody says something we perceive is doctrinally incorrect, but are willing to stand idly to the side when somebody is engaging in hate speech.

    If somebody writes a rather poor, insignigicant book which only a few hundred people will probably ever read, we mobilize the total combined forces of the Maxwell Institute to annihilate his arguments, defame his character, and toss him out of the church on the grounds that he is hurting the church. But when best known state legislator in Utah repeatedly makes remarks which reflect badly on the church, our response is “Oh well. That doesn’t happen in my ward. Let’s fellowship him and maybe he’ll see the error of his ways.”

  90. There is nothing positive about homosexual behavior. This does not mean that homosexuals do nothing positive. Or that even feeling a strong loving bond with a member of the same sex is negative. There is also is nothing positive about a lot of sinful behavior either. That doesn’t mean we get to confuse the sinner with the act of homosexual physical relationships.

    We often talk about separating the sinner from the sin.

    However, I can understand why homosexuality becomes a tough case to consider. Gay people have adopted a behavior that we find very morally wrong and used it do identify themselves and go on to declare it perfectly acceptable, if you don’t think so it’s YOU that has the problem.

    This is where it gets tricky. When someone commits adultery or even when someone has sex outside of marriage, we can call agree this is a very sinful behavior — well “we all” as the vast majority of church members. If someone who was constantly breaking the law or chastity or sleeping around was always bringing it up, sometimes flaunting it, often using it to create their own self identity, it would be hard not to think things about that person, things that are even unchartable and not entirely correct.

    How would you respond to a woman that says her favorite thing is getting married men to sleep with her? That she loves convincing a man to leave his family for a few nights of fun and then moves on to the next? Or a college student that says he loves to sleep with as many girls as possible and move on.

    You probably say, “that’s terrible” or even “seems like a terrible person”. Even though in both cases the person likely has some pretty good qualities and has done good for plenty of people in their life (I hope).

    NOW, I’m not going to characterize all homosexual relationships in this kind of sexual-use type behavior. But I am certain there are many homosexuals who feel this way (just as hetero). I know because I’ve seen how it affects and has ruined lives of those close to me.

    I think often “the gay community” has been co-opted with the imagery of that kind of person in the minds of many religious people. And don’t tell me that’s our fault. Go look at a “Gay pride” day festival. Just google gay festival, gay party, etc. and click at the images link… well actually don’t You don’t need to. It’s indeed horrifying and causes me to feel very sad at how little people understand about our life here. And you won’t find a Mormon that gives Mardi Gras a pass either…

    That there are many gay monogamous relationships does not change the fact that the “gay community” (yes I know there is not such an absolute monolithic thing) has been branded with and also a large part of it has embraced this behavior.

    So while I wouldn’t excuse the Senator for putting his foot in his mouth, I think I see where he’s coming from by blowing up this viewpoint and ham handidly applying it to all gay people.

    I think his lack of thoughtful behavior does not disqualify him for anything (why must we all try to play “gotcha” with people we know to be imperfect), but rather demonstrates that he needs to have someone help him step back and try to look at the issue from a less belligerent nature.

    I think the tough thing in all of this is so many of us get the feeling of being swept up in an us vs. them war. Even Mormons who want to be thoughtful and loving to their gay friends take a little too much pleasure in bashing the other side.

    But we’ve been identifying ourselves with all manner of -ites for a long time, so I don’t think one random blog comment is bound to change that.

  91. Elder Bruce C. Hafen addressed Evergreen, International (a reparative therapy group) in September, 2009. The talk can be found on the official LDS website here, which gives a pretty good indication that this point of view is endorsed by the LDS church. In the speech he states:

    (Speaking of Reparative therapy)

    Success rates vary, and “success” can be defined in various ways. The client’s level of commitment to the treatment process is probably the most significant variable in successful outcomes. [xxv] The skill and attitude of the therapist also matters a great deal. But in general, well over half of those seeking treatment can be significantly helped by it. That is roughly the same success rate as treatments for clinical depression. One non-LDS therapist who has treated both men and women for years reports that 40% of his clients find full heterosexual resolution, another 40% achieve enough resolution to control their attraction and behavior, and 20% are unsuccessful.

    Only 20% of homosexuals, according to Elder Hafen cannot change their orientation or “their attraction and behavior.” Why? “The client’s level of commitment to the treatment process is probably the most significant variable in successful outcomes.” They didn’t try hard enough.

  92. Left Field says:

    “And you won’t find a Mormon that gives Mardi Gras a pass either…”

    Say what? On what planet?

    No king cake for your, then. More for me.

  93. Mark Brown says:

    agnes, thanks for that reference.

    In my opinion, the worst part is where a general authority of the church endorses the work of Dean Byrd. This is the man who directed and oversaw the aversion therapy experiments at BYU a few decades ago. It makes me sick to see that we still haven’t found a way to completely turn away from the sort of “therapy” which resulted in the suicide of more than half its subjects with 12 months.

  94. Mark Brown says:

    Left Field,

    Two parades yesterday. I bet I’ve got more beads than you.

  95. Mark 88,

    I’m not a lawyer, I don’t clearly understand all the various reasons why we should put certain things into the law.

    But I know Utah has a lot of anti-discrimination laws:

    Haven’t read it. Just googled out of curiosity. Not going to read it. It’s not an issue I’m concerned with, even as others are.

    But I don’t think something is a shame just because you or others like it. I think a lot of conservative/libertarian thinking on the hate speech/crime/discrimination laws that signify certain groups of people are generally to be avoided. Traditional conservatives and libertarians often believe that the law should not identify or target certain groups, and I tend to agree in this area, although I can be persuaded otherwise… I’m not too committed.

    One question is, where will it end? Homsexual? Transgender? Multigender? gender bender? I just made up some words, but if we’ve looked at the various types of deviant sexual behavior that many in our society are resorting to as they search for sexual gratification increasingly odd (deviant) ways will we keep adding in extra groups that we have to protect?

    This says -nothing- about whether or not we should protect someone. But rather, we should have a low that protects all and does not need to call out individual groups.

    Well, at least that’s part of the case that gets made as I understand and mostly agree with. Like I said, it’s not a huge fight for me, but generally I’m in favor of less laws/bills/statutes/regulations being passed each year and shorter, easier to read and apply laws.

  96. Left Field says:

    We used to have a bin full of them in the garage from last year, but my son took most of those beads to school. We’re planning on going to Selene and the Moon Pie parade, so we’ll be able to restock. You should come help us catch beads and other goodies.

  97. Mark Brown says:

    chris, (90, 95)

    As I have said elsewhere, I just LOVE object lessons.

  98. Mark Brown says:

    It is also worth pointing out that you are now officially out of harmony with church leaders, specifically Elder Holland, who has endorsed a statewide law forbidding housing and employment discrimination against homosexuals.

  99. Mark I’m not sure what you’re talking about. But apparently your horse is so high up that you’ll need to shout a bit louder so I can hear you.

    Really, if you want to pat yourself on the back go a head. You don’t have to try to beat people up with the words of the prophets to prove a political point. When they make support for that law a test of fellowship I’ll pray about it and support it.

    Let me know how well you campaigned for 8 :)

    Well I’m probably uninformed on both because I don’t live in Cal or Ut, so I really don’t know how these things have played out on the ground. I’m just watching from a distance. I love object lessons too. That’s the fun of life. Someday we’ll both get to look back at what we’ve said and done and feel a lot of regret about it. I freely acknowledge my imperfections and my inability to communicate everything I feel as one complete truth.

  100. Peter LLC says:

    90: why must we all try to play “gotcha” with people we know to be imperfect


  101. Good point 100. After we purge ourselves of the imperfect people who stick their foot in their mouths and think uncharitable things of others who will we have left but Mark Brown and I?

    Mark you can be my wingman anytime.

  102. LGrebelbon says:

    I have been a convert/member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for more than 37 years and I have NEVER and I mean NEVER heard anything derogatory about gay people from the people I associate with to the different bishops/clergy from California, to Utah, to New Mexico and many many other congregations that I have visited over these many years. Those comments by Buttars are despicable and if he was my rep, I would vote him OUT, but at the same time, just because HE is that way DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE WHOLE ‘MORMON’ CHURCH IS EXACTLY LIKE HIM. That is unfair and not right.

  103. Holden Caulfield says:

    #102–If you want to hear Mormons say derogatory things about gays, come to my SoCal ward the next time there is an anti-gay initiative on the ballot.

  104. LGrebelbon says:

    That is very sad and too bad. They will have to be judged just like any other hypocrite.

  105. Holden Caulfield says:

    #91-“Only 20% of homosexuals, according to Elder Hafen cannot change their orientation or “their attraction and behavior.” Why? ”

    The reason Elder Hafen said this is he has no clue what he is talking about.

  106. LGrebelbon says:

    By the way, if you read the initiative, it did not say anything anti gay.

  107. LGrebelbon (and Holden, if you were planning on rebutting),
    This is not the thread to debate what Prop 8 said or didn’t say.


  108. #73 – great post !
    My best friend came out to me (about 25 years ago)when we were teenagers – both of us LDS. Until he talked to me, I was afraid and disgusted by the concept of homosexuality. I had to completely change my thinking after his ‘confession’ when I realized he loved and lived no differently than me. I think too many people don’t apply logic to their bigoted thoughts and comments. I know that when a boy in my kindergarden class winked @ me during naptime, many butterflies were launched ! Since I was 5 yo @ the time, I made no conscious decisions to be straight. I would be shocked if others haven’t had this same type of experience. Why should we expect anything different for gay people ? My friend and his supportive family eventually left the church due to their conflicting beliefs on the issue as well as a great deal of bad behavior from fellow members/leaders. But before they did, my friend’s mother wrote the 1st Presidency a letter (it was the early 90’s), stating that she believed homosexuality was not a conscious choice and received a personal reply ! We were all shocked but I was personally grateful for their response as it strengthened my testimony. They wrote that they understood and left open the possibility that someday church policies may be different due to changing beliefs/revelation/policies. At the very least, I think church members would err on the side of caution and worry about themselves only and let others make their own decisions. I think I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating. Members love to preach free agency but don’t like to let others practice it. Maybe homosexuals are one more example of people/situations that are here on earth for us to learn from – to teach us tolerance, perhaps. Glass houses and all that.

  109. I think the reason Mormons tend to say racist or homophobic things are twofold-
    1-we are idiots (read human)
    2-our church has high standards
    3-our church is led by humans who sometimes make grave errors

    1-we have a difficult time hating sin, but loving the sinner-so we try to separate “sinners” from us-they are mean, could easily choose differently, insert least favorite thing to hear here-we also add consequences to the behavior or associations to the behavior-it’s all an attempt to separate ourselves from our own sinful nature, and a wish that we weren’t sinnersIt puts the sinners safely “over there” and us safe and free from the need of…. what exactly…the atonement? really we’d like to be free from any negative life circumstances-so we sometimes alienate people with any less than desireable life circumstance to avoid-what it rubbing off? no really admitting life happens, we all make mistakes, we are all sinners and horrible tragedies happen to good people

    2-#1 is admittedly aggravated by our firm stance on what is sin and what is not…this can lead quite easily to all sorts of #1

    3-I’m thinking of blacks and the priesthood-but in any case-humans sometimes feel a need to justify or defend the church or church leaders whether or not they are right- The leader may be right in some cases but the defence is crazy talk, or the justification for the wrong has no hope from conception and it follows through on all of that lack of promise….then both the justification and defence get repeated.

    I heard tons of racism in South Africa-black members without callings sitting on the last row-yet I also saw some amazing things-the RS president in a very AWB( think KKK) area pulling out here Zulu and extending awelcome hand and a firm statement to the sisters about how GLAD we WERE to have the visitors and how welcoming we would be to them (it was unexplainably awesome how clearly she made it that we were happy and if we weren’t happy we were to shut up and would answer to her and all in such a way as to feel warm and sweet-seriously a marketable skill that)

    I’m currently in Texas and all I can say is Utah has nothin’ on texas in the racism or the homophobia department-yet I agree that we should be tougher on our own.

  110. Holden Caulfield says:

    #93-“In my opinion, the worst part is where a general authority of the church endorses the work of Dean Byrd.”

    I appreciate you writing that, Mark. I never see that anywhere. Here is a man who claims to be working on behalf of gay church members. In one of his papers he entitled the section “My genes made me do it.”, as if it is funny to him. Via his “science” he tries to fit the round gay person into his square church doctrine.

  111. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 90
    When this topic comes up in the Bloggernacle somebody usually trots out a sweeping overview of the nature of homosexuality and the characteristics of the gay subculture. Throw in a few old canards like “Gay people have adopted a behavior that we find very morally wrong and used it do identify themselves and go on to declare it perfectly acceptable,” then remind us of those “horrifying” gay pride events (as seen on Google!) and you wind up with quite a homophobic diatribe.

    Here’s the problem, Chris: You’re wrong. Your assertions are specious at best, and your inferences are slanderous toward gays. You paint a grossly distorted picture of an entire community of people who are your neighbors. False witness?

    This kind of talk about gays is really no different than the material Ed Decker, et. al. produce about Mormons.

  112. Mike,

    This seems as good a place as any to thank you for the calm with which you endure these diatribes, and your patient example and willingness to engage with us and teach us better. It’s too bad Chris doesn’t hang out here much.

  113. T-NC, thanks for that comment.

    chris, I can’t really think of much except how sorry I feel for any gay people who unfortunately come in contact with you and your cruel nonsense.

  114. Left Field says:

    Re: “‘Horrifying’ Gay Pride Events”

    Several years ago, my wife and I were at Cafe du Monde, enjoying a beignet when a Gay Pride parade suddenly formed itself in the street only a few feet away. I don’t know why; It was the French Quarter. Maybe because it was Thursday. These were, shall we say, rather *flamboyantly* gay folks. I was more amused and entertained, rather than horrified. You’d have to find something else to horrify me.

  115. Wait, is “chris” Chris Buttars? Because that would explain a lot.

  116. Latter-day Guy says:

    111, One of the interesting things I have observed when speaking to certain conservatives of my acquaintance (apropos of the notion of “gay identity”) is a kind of contradictory argument. Frequently they drag out the notion that “gays define themselves totally by their sexuality––I don’t walk up to people and say, ‘Hi, I’m Bob and I’m straight.'” (Let’ s leave aside the fact that those who say that kind of thing frequently don’t really know any gay people.) I then mention that––in my generation at least––it is becoming less of an issue. Young people more commonly have gay friends, and it is looked at more and more often as just another kind of personal variation, like hair or eye color, or being right- or left-handed. Their reaction to that notion is truly fascinating: “Well, that’s terrible! You can see how far society has fallen!” Rinse, repeat, vomit.

    So: first they are disgusted by people making their sexuality such a big issue, and they are disgusted when sexuality becomes a non-issue. It is fun to point this out to them, because they have just set the snare they walked into. I believe that most of the time the social and religious justifications people claim for their attitudes about homosexuals are just so much window-dressing. They just don’t like gays period, and any excuse will do.

  117. I find Buttars’ comments to be terribly offensive and especially shocking based on my experiences in the LDS church. I am born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada where it appears that the millieu is much different than many of your anecdotal accounts. I grew up in a ward that never spoke ill of minorities and was very progressive in most respects
    I am a currently a graduate student studying Social Psychology. My research area is prejudice and discrimination which includes homonegativity (yes, the term homophobia is falling out of favour) and as such, I have had the occasion to conduct research in that area. Being aware of the covert bigotry that exists, I often raise controversial issues during Priesthood/Sunday School only to find that the members are always more liberal and accepting than I expect.
    In any case, my supposition is not that bigotry is necessary to be a faithful LDS nor is it a byproduct of being LDS. Rather it is a process of enculturation that seems to happen in high populus Mormon areas.

  118. Excuse me, high “populous”, otherwise I would be talking about trees :)

  119. SharonOckeyBeecroft says:

    |Part of what defines us is what we are willing to tolerate|

    AMEN! This can apply to so many forms of hatred and bigotry the list could go on and on. The power to change these beliefs, I believe, starts in our own homes with our kids. To refer to someone one does not care for as “gay” should be no more tolerated than the casual use of the “n” word which few of us would tolerate in our homes. Bigotry, intolerance and hatred are learned behaviors.

  120. DanR,
    It is certainly refreshing to hear of wards such as yours. The only way I could have gone a month in my last ward without hearing something painfully bigoted would have been to plug my ears and sing “Come Ye Children of the Lord” as loud as I could.
    I think that calling this a process of enculturation that seems to pop up is not enough to excuse us for allowing this crap to pop up. Our church has made a pretty public stance against gay rights over the past decade. By our own standards, I don’t think that we have shown the increase of love that is called for. Tolerating hate speech in our wards or in relation to Buttars shames us all.
    Certainly, if he had implied that Mormons tell dirty jokes to one another privately or fantasize about multiple wives, he would be the subject of nearly unanimous rejection. I don’t see why he shouldn’t be for this.

  121. Alex T. Valencic says:

    I am but a lowly Valiant 10 teacher in the Primary program in my ward in the middle of the cornfields in East Central Illinois. So I can’t do much to change the hearts and minds of the general membership of the Church, and perhaps particularly of those who harbour discriminatory ideations of minority groups.

    But I can make sure that the children in my charge understand the need to love all of God’s children. Rather than trying to change everything at once, we would probably be much more successful if we sought to make changes within our individual spheres of influence. Then “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”

  122. And as one works within his or her own small sphere of influence, he or she would do well to remember that it is unfair, unkind, and dishonest to brand as “hate speech” all expressions or opinions that run counter to the gay community’s agenda — it is so easy to brand a differing opinion as “hate speech”, and let’s admit that the tactic has some tactical value in an argument in the public square — but it is still unfair. We must allow room within our church for members who believe that homosexual acts are sinful, at least until such time as the properly-constituted authorities of the church decide otherwise. My point is simply that all anti-gay speech cannot be classified as hate speech.

  123. ji–I don’t think anyone on this thread has made such a broad characterization of “hate speech”, and the OP was very careful to talk specifically about shameful, bigoted remarks, not about support of or opposition to any political agenda.

    Still, it is a point worth making. We might also, of course, put the shoe on the other foot and think about how broadly we apply the term “anti-Mormon.”

  124. Mark Brown says:

    ji, you are correct to point out that we need to leave room for the expression of different political viewpoints without calling it all hate speech. However, I do not think the remarks in question constitute a political point of view, and consequently I feel safe characterizing them as completely out of bounds.

    We should also remember that the properly-constituted authorities of the church have called upon us repeatedly to befriend and fellowship gay people. So I think I am on solid ground in observing that there is nothing about the remarks in question that anybody could even remotely describe as friendly or conducive to fellowship.

  125. Mark, Kristine, & ji,
    Regardless of whether Buttars’ statements were hate speech or not, his defense that he thought he was talking to other LDS people is terrible. While I’m certainly less thrilled about him associating my religion with his hate speech, I’m not thrilled about him associating my religion with his politics, either.

  126. chris (starting around 90),
    Thanks, man. I spent a good part of my Saturday arguing that Mormons aren’t generalizably homophobic, then you come along and single-handedly try to undermine my credibility.

    I still maintain, though, that in my experience, chris and his attitudes are the exception. I recognize, however, that YMMV, depending on generation, location, etc.

    And Mark, my biggest objection to the direction this goes is your 88, “Shame on all of us,” said in relation to the Utah legislatures refusal to consider anti-discrimination legislation this year. Which, frankly, is utterly shameful. But I’m not willing to admit guilt; I’m neither a Utahn nor a Republican, and there’s only one person in the state legislature I’d be willing to vote for (that I’m aware of; I don’t follow Utah politics at all). Are they generally Mormons? As far as I know. But they’re also, to the best of my knowledge, far-right Republicans, mountain westerners, and a whole lot of other things that I’m not. So while I’m appalled by them, I don’t feel any need to identify with them or claim their attitudes.

    Which is roughly my response to your question in 89. I’m not willing to stand around and tolerate hate speech, and I doubt most of the people I associate with, in or out of the church, are, either. Moreover, I don’t attack perceived doctrinal errors or heterodoxies. (Okay, maybe Under the Banner of Heaven, but it was just so poorly written; that said, I don’t have any platform to do so.)

    Still, as chris makes abundantly clear, not everybody in the Church fits the description I’ve set up for a member. But I like to think the chris is in the minority (or, at least, is in the minority of the under-40 set, assuming he’s younger than 40).

  127. Elder Holland spoke in our stake conference directly after the Prop 8 fire storm. He was very anxious that peace and healing be restored as soon as possible. His main concern was for the young people to stay with the Church. In his mind these two things seemed to be connected. He pleaded to let the healing start NOW. (I am absolutely thrilled that E. Holland is supporting a gay rights bill in Utah. It would fit the tone of his talk.)

    Did not work. For example, last week the relatively young (late 20’s) high school graduate teaching in Relief Society again equated anti-prop 8 with the followers of Satan.

    In the new lesson manual on fundamental principles of the church , the lesson on the prophet states emphatically that he will not lead us astray and that we should follow everything he says. (The church seems to be moving from an emphasis on truth to an emphasis on obedience.) Conflate this teaching with the church position on gays and marriage you get the the opinion stated by the teacher. As a result I find myself on the side of Satan by the lights of many church members and leaders. (I do not feel close to Satan, BTW. I find the teacher’s thought to be closer to Satanic.)

    If I, as a good church member, paying tithing, with a temple recommend, can be a follower of Satan just because I am gay friendly, just imagine what a real gay person would be? A Satan infested zombie. Can we not kick Satan?

  128. I don’t know if we are collectively responsible for Chris Buttars and the like. I do know that with one statement from the First Presidency along the lines of “Senator Buttars statements about gays and lesbians are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ” and we wouldn’t hear from him again on this issue. Chris Buttars sees himself as the loyal soldier doing God’s work. He would change in a second if he thought he was out of step with the brethern.

    For example, the Church’s support for Salt Lake City’s non-discrimination ordinance immediately changed Chris Buttars’ view on that issue. Until the brethern strongly refute the idea that gays and lesbians are one of the three greatest threats to the Church, Chris Buttars and those who support him are going to have plenty of justification for their bigotry.

  129. Holden Caulfield says:

    I attend church for family reasons and no longer believe. It is good to read these comments. I find it impossible to reconcile statements of the past 40 years with a spirit-led church. I’m glad to see many members here with open hearts.

  130. That’s right, Holden, you tell those phonies.

  131. I feel the need to clarify that my comment is simply a cheap Salinger joke, and not really meant as any sort of judgment about #129’s attitude towards Church.

  132. Cynthia L. says:

    Seldom: YES. Yes, yes. Buttars is nothing if not responsive to what he perceives the church to ask. That he doesn’t perceive the church to be asking him to behave any differently speaks volumes.

  133. Mark Brown says:

    Cynthia, that is exactly the point I was going to make.

  134. Cynthia L. says:

    Ha!! I thought #130 was very funny, but only because I *just* read this at the onion: http://www.theonion.com/content/news/bunch_of_phonies_mourn_j_d

    I can see how, without that on the brain, it is way harsh.

    (sorry for the continued threadjack)

  135. Sam B,
    It seems to me like you’ve spent quite a bit of time standing out in front of Matt’s post telling people, “Move along. Nothing to see here.” I’d bet that no one thinks you are lying about your experience. Clearly, though, other people are hearing some disturbing stuff in their wards. Can we maybe get back to Mark’s question about how to deal with this when it rears its ugly head?

  136. Mark, I’m sorry I called you Matt.

  137. None of my schoolmates in the 1960s to 70s were Mormons, and I heard more racist and homophobic comments/jokes than you can dream of, Mark.

    They were just obnoxious guys who had learned that from their parents and friends.

  138. What I mean is that the problem is with culture not religion, when our leaders tell us that both racism and derogatory statements about gays are wrong, and yet you still hear them.

    BTW, would derogatory statements about luddite WASPs be wrong?

  139. Seldom, the Church leaders don’t tell us that gays are one of the greatest threats to the Church. Where did you hear that?

  140. Mark Brown says:


    This talk should explain it.


  141. velska, Boyd K. Packer is famous for a talk in which he identifies “feminists”, “so-called intellectuals” and “gays” as 3 serious threats to the Church.

    Not sure what the “culture not religion” distinction is supposed to be doing here. I’m not even sure its coherent. If you’re saying, as so many try to do, that it isn’t inevitable that certain problems must arise out of the basic doctrinal tenets of a religion, than I agree with you, but the point is banal. That’s probably true of all religions/belief systems. The fact remains that one of the causes of Mormon homophobia (but not the only one, I agree) is the sanction which it has received in our quasi-authoritative literature over the years. The fact that non-Mormons can be and often are virulently homophobic doesn’t change that.

  142. Natalie K. says:

    That talk terrifies me. I’ve seen quoted snippets, but never read the whole thing. I feel a strange urge to hide under my desk now.


  143. MikeInWeHo says:

    You’ve got to wonder what BKP thinks about the Bloggernacle.

  144. I doubt you have to wonder very hard.

  145. Mark Brown says:

    Well, that talk was given 17 years ago, and based on the Whitney documentary about us Mormons, I think there is some reason to believe that he has changed his opinions in the meantime. I don’t know how much it has changed, but I think he has backed off a little. I’m inclined to give the man a break — I certainly don’t want to be held responsible for everything I said almost two decades ago.

  146. Latter-day Guy says:

    145, Maybe he’s just quieter about it. I have it on good authority that L. Tom Perry periodically kicks him in the shins under the table to keep him in check.

  147. Moniker Challenged says:

    #140 Holy craparoni. Thanks, I think. BTW, I hear this “so-called intellectual” stuff a great deal. It seems to indicated that the person(s) being derided are counterfeits of real intellectuals. Who are the real intellectuals supposed to be?

  148. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Who are the real intellectuals supposed to be?”

    The “real intellectuals” are those who agree with the speaker who has used the term “so-called intellectuals” in his/her talk.

  149. blt (135),
    On the question of what to do when homophobia/racism/etc. rears its ugly head, I don’t have much to add. The one situation I was in (a combined EQ/HP meeting), one of the HPs went off on how Islam was evil. I called him on it. It didn’t convince him, but others in the class came up to me afterwards and either thanked me or let me know (because I was relatively new in the ward) that everybody knew the guy was crazy, and so not to feel bad that his mind hadn’t been changed.

    Beyond speaking up when it comes up, though, I really don’t have anything—most of us reading this post aren’t in a position to do anything on an administrative level.