In a recent article in the Ensign (Sept 2016), Elder Ronald Rasband tries to defend the LDS Church’s current obsession with religious freedom. He relates the following hypothetical story:
One day at work a co-worker approached Samantha, and said she had heard that Samantha was a Mormon, and asked if that was true. Samantha cheerfully responded that it was, but the question that followed surprised her.
“So why do you hate gays?” her co-worker asked. Samantha was surprised by the question but tried to explain her belief in God and God’s plan for His children, which she said includes guidelines on moral and sexual behavior. Her co-worker countered by telling her that the rest of society had progressed beyond those belief. “And besides,” she said, “history is full of people using religious teachings to wage wars and marginalize vulnerable groups.”
Samantha restated her convictions and her understanding of God’s love for all people and then asked her co-worker to respect her right to believe. The co-worker felt compelled to tell other employees about their conversation, and over the next few weeks, Samantha felt increasingly isolated as more and more co-workers confronted her with questions and attacks.
Samantha’s boss, seeing the increase in religious conversations in the workplace, cautioned Samantha that proselytizing in their work environment would put her job in jeopardy. Her work began to suffer. Rather than risk being fired Samantha started to look for another job.
Let’s alter the story slightly. Let’s assume its pre-1978, and the question becomes “Why do you hate blacks?”
Samantha explains that in the preexistence there was a war in heaven and blacks sat on the sideline, thus earning them their black skin and priesthood/temple ban. Samantha’s coworker rolls her eyes.
As it turns out, the LDS black policy was misbegotten. It probably originated with Brigham Young’s (and subsequent leaders’) prejudice. LDS leadership through the years was influenced by the cultural currents of the times. In fact, some leaders, like President Ezra Taft Benson, were a little too influenced by extremest currents. Had pressure not been placed on the Church, how much later than 1978 would the ban have been lifted?
Samantha is a member of a church that openly discriminates against blacks. Is there a price to pay for this unjustified discrimination? Until the discrimination is abolished, who should pay the price? The Church? The membership? Can discrimination hide under the guise of religious freedom?
The LDS Church can argue for religious freedom, but it shouldn’t be used to justify its discrimination against the LGBTQ community, any more than it should have with the black priesthood ban. LDS Church leaders are giving religious freedom a bad name.