I love Peggy Fletcher Stack, one of the Salt Lake Tribune’s best writers. Really, I do. Well, let me clarify. I love her articles–I really do. Peggy (if I may be so informal–she calls me Guy–probably among lots of other things too ;-)) anyway, Peggy has written some of the best articles about the LDS Church both from a mainstream point of view, and also from a less traditional point of view. On some things we see eye to eye–other times not. Peggy has a pretty good article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune, entitled Dissident Mormons. I encourage you to read the whole thing. I’ve been told that writers don’t usually come up with the titles to their articles, and I don’t know who came up with this one–but I like it. I must confess; however, I have no idea just what a dissident Mormon is. She references a couple of individuals in her article, so I’m going to assume–unless corrected by someone–that Peggy must mean these two individuals as part of the gang of 50 who carried those cards, letters and petitions to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve offices:
A group of dissident Mormons on Friday presented to LDS Church officials about 300 letters and a petition opposing the church’s efforts on behalf of a California amendment to thwart gay marriage.
About 50 people carried 15 stacks of personal letters wrapped in pink ribbons to the north entrance of the LDS Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City while singing the Mormon hymn “As I Have Loved You, Love One Another.” Organizers asked that each stack be given to a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ three-man First Presidency and 12 apostles.
So, just who are these dissident Mormons. One of the gang leaders, doesn’t even appear to be Mormon at all: Peter Danzig. Remember Peter? He was that gentle musician compelled to turn religious activist over the “gay rights” issue. He and his wife, pictured below are a very good looking couple, who apparently are no longer members of the Church–so does that make him a dissident Mormon, or not a Mormon at all?
What about another of the dissident gang leaders? Peggy identifies him as Andrew D. Callahan, an LDS high priest:
“We urge LDS leaders to read these letters and listen to their words,” said Andrew D. Callahan, an LDS high priest in Nebraska, who organized an Internet petition drive for Mormons who oppose the amendment known as Proposition 8. For many people, Callahan said, LDS support the measure, which would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, “is a crisis of conscience. They have loved ones who are gay and feel their civil rights are being taken away from them.”
Andrew is another interesting case study.
According to his own website Signing for Something, Andrew describes himself as a High Priest. Yet, on that same site he provides a link which indicates he is in the process of ex-communication from the Church, which is not a total surprise, given the content of his website. So, I am left wondering is he a dissident Mormon, a High Priest in good standing, or an excommunicated member of the Church?
Kim Farah, an LDS Church Public Affairs spokesperson reiterated the Church’s absolute Constitutional right to speak out on moral issues:
Kim Farah of the LDS Public Affairs Office received the bundles, entered the headquarters lobby and said, “The church has always recognized that some members would feel differently about this issue. It affects people deeply.” But Farah defended the LDS Church’s right to oppose same-sex marriage. “It is our obligation to speak out on moral issues,” she said, then thanked the hundreds of thousands of California Mormons who have unified in support of Proposition 8.
A couple of other quick observations on Peggy’s article. The “dissidents” paraded up to Church headquarters singing As I have Loved You. I’m not certain what inference to draw. Does that mean we more mainstream Mormons–not the enlightened dissidents–somehow don’t love those of our gay/lesbian brothers and sisters? Nothing the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the First Presidency has ever written or preached from the pulpit has been anything but understanding, love, and compassion for these our gay/lesbian brothers and sisters.
The other troubling part of the article was:
The group also delivered bunches of carnations representing people they say have lost their lives in the gay marriage debate. They were referring to suicides by gay Mormons.
What are we to conclude from these two sentences? Is the Church, or by extension any of its members responsible for suicides by gay Mormons? How so? How does one lose their life in the gay marriage debate? As tragic as these stories are of those individuals whose souls were so troubled, I’m not sure it’s really fair to imply that somehow the Church, its teachings or members were responsible for those suicides.
So, after considering the content of Peggy’s latest article, I’m not certain how we can conclude the folks described as marchers on the Church Office Building were really dissident Mormons–or even Mormons at all. At best they appear to be former Mormons or those on their way out because they have let their lives become consumed and defined by this one issue. It’s sad, actually.