Earlier, I had written a post titled, “I will not quit my post until properly relieved.” I wish to thank those of you who commented–even if you disagree.
The point of my original post was that we should follow the Brethren when they act ex officio, even if it means certain defeat. I would like to comment more along those lines. Now, what should you do if you’re a government official, and the Brethren advocate policy X, which is extremely unpopular, and, in your best judgement wrong, and perhaps illegal or perhaps unconstitutional? Then your oath as a government official may supercede the Brethren’s counsel. The late Rex Lee stated in his confirmation hearing as US Solicitor General that if the Brethren advocated something in contravention with the Constitution and laws of the United States, then his duty was to side with the law. Indeed, all Latter-day Saints (at least the ones in the USA) are expected to “befriend” the constitutional law of the land [D&C 98:5-6]. Even Dallin Oaks opposed the Brethren’s take on a public issue (school prayer).
I can certainly respect those (even in my own immediate family!) who oppose Prop 8 or Amendment 2 on those grounds. However, this is not a matter of violating the constitution, this is a matter of changing it, and the government has the right to place reasonable restrictions on whom one may marry. For example, what sane person would advocate repeal of laws prohibiting marriage to underage people? I’m sure that pedophiles would appreciate not being charged with statutory rape. I am also sure that the state has a valid interest in banning incest. Who wants to saddle taxpayers with DNA-based maladies that come with that practice?
While reasonable people may differ on what is an acceptable boundary on minimum age or close family relations in marriage, the principle, I think, stands. That line may be fuzzy, but it exists, and some reasonable line must be drawn.
More clear, I believe, is the line marking restrictions against same-sex marriage (though I admit that the line fuzzes when dealing with hermaphrodites and transsexuals). The correlation between homosexual acts and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS is perhaps as significant as the correlation between incest and mental and physical defects. To say that the state has the right to ban transfats to promote public health, but not certain sexual activities seems like a disconnect.
Nor is this a matter of denying equal rights, in my view. Laws banning sex with near-relations, underage children, and those of the same gender are applied equally against everyone. Now, if there was a law banning homosexuals from owning property or inheritance rights, then I would object. I have a homosexual near-relation, and to assert that, say, President Thomas Monson can will his property to his beloved wife, but my near-relative cannot will his property to his beloved companion is to say that President Monson has a right that is denied to others. THAT would be a denial of equal rights, and I suspect that even all of the Brethren would object–loudly.
Brother Theodore Brandley ably defended the Brethren’s position. One of his arguments was that if we are not for their view when they act ex officio, perhaps the Brethren see something that we missed. Indeed, as Brother Oaks described in his July 1990 Ensign article, “Religion in Public Life,” while the actual court decision may have been sound, what followed turned out to be quite deleterious to freedom–just as the Brethren foretold.
Last Wednesday, I took all of that into account as I cast my ballot for Amendment 2.
UPDATE: Amendment 2 seems to have won in Florida, and, as of 8:30 pm PST, Prop 8 seems to be winning in California. However, given those who won–big–nationwide, I sincerely doubt that either would survive a federal court challenge. Finley Peter Dunne’s Mr. Dooley tells us that, “the Supreme Court follows the election returns.”
Still, I did my duty. If my efforts come to naught, so be it. I will accept the consequences of all the firepower that the Zeitgeist, earth and hell have arrayed against those who cross them.
About 30 years ago, a beaker broke as I was cleaning it (I didn’t drop it or otherwise misuse it; it cracked as I was wiping it.) in high school chemistry class. My father had forbidden me from paying for that beaker, on the grounds that my lab fees were for such a possibility–much to the teacher’s chagrin. When she asked why I wasn’t paying, I replied that I was more afraid of him than of her. So it is today. I am more “afraid” (in the reverential sense) than I am of any and all of the powers that be–in any sense.
Some have been critical of proponents of Prop 8 and Amendment 2, complaining that they blindly follow fallible men. While it is true that, as Joseph Smith put it, “a Prophet is a Prophet only when acting as such,” we have here a situation where the Brethren are acting ex officio. To be candid, I have problems understanding the act of vitiating the counsel of the Brethren when they act as one–and ex officio. It is one thing to say that one is going to vote contrary to counsel because of other obligations or that supercede that counsel, or circumstances that prevent heeding that counsel at this time, but it is quite another to say that the Brethren are wrong in giving that counsel.