If we agree that our religious leaders–prophets, popes, archbishops, rabbis–are fallible, we must deal with the issue of: What are our responsibilities when we believe they have erred? This is a particularly cogent issue when a religion believes in personal revelation.
I personally do not believe that LDS Church policies and/or doctrines regarding the LGBT community are inspired. In fact, I personally believe they are mean spirited and wrong. They represent a poor understanding of human sexuality, and are unChristian in their application.
I’m old enough to remember the LDS debacle involving blacks and the priesthood/temple ban. To this day, I regret that I acquiesced to the ban. Instead of participating in civil rights protests in the 1960s, I went on a LDS mission to Belgium and France.
With all the recent brouhaha over Lynette Nielsen Gay being selected to receive an honorary degree from the University of Utah, now is a good time to look at the relationship between an organization, its leaders, and its members.
Gay served on the board of directors for World Congress of Families, a traditional family advocacy organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its efforts to restrict the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
Resulting from protests at the university and beyond, Gay gave up her leadership position at the Congress. According to her:
While we believe the World Congress of Families has been a vehicle for doing good for families throughout the world and I joined the board only in keeping with my aim to improve the circumstances of all types of families and to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children, I do not want my personal values to be misinterpreted.
If we are a member (or a leader) of an organization, and that organization has major tenets and actions that we don’t agree with, what is our responsibility?
The Germans have had to wrestle with an extreme version of this issue. In a recent Time magazine dealing with remains of the Nazi war trials, author Eliza Gray concludes:
Perhaps the real value of the trials lies in the way they show that the Holocaust was the product not of a conspiracy of extraordinarily cruel individuals, but rather the ordinary actions of ordinary people. “They remind us that this genocide would never have taken place without these lowly foot soldiers,” says Lawrence Douglas, a legal scholar at Amherst College who has studied Nazi crimes, “things can go wrong in a hurry in countries, and when they do, it is shocking how willing people are to go along with it.
The Holocaust is obvious a much more serious event than LDS Church discrimination against blacks and the LGBT community. But we need to remember that LDS discrimination won’t and can’t happen “without the foot soldiers.” So what are our options?
- stay a member and quietly acquiesce (conservative)
- stay a member, and ignore and/or protest (liberal)
- become inactive and protest (very liberal)
- leave the LDS Church (ex-mon)
Is it better to protest from within or from without? For some of us, the first option is not an option. Neither is the second. Thus, there is only one question left.