Review: 8: The Mormon Proposition

One gay marriage supporter interviewed in 8 says she read some of the material from the “Yes on 8” side as to why gay marriage should not be legal and says, “I couldn’t believe it.  They were all lies.” Strangely, no examples are given, nor does she elaborate as to why they are “lies”.  Statements that the opposition believes are true, even if she does not, are not, by definition, “lies”.

Another interview says that “critics” of the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign material “say they are full of dishonest and misleading material.” — again without elaboration.  (Naturally, “critics” of the ‘Yes on 8’ publications criticize them — by definition, that’s what “critic” means.  What do the “non-critics” of the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign have to say?  Why not share the details of what the publications are saying and let us judge whether they are “misleading” or not?)

8 mentions the “Yes on 8” side using “professional signature gatherers” several times, as if to imply that’s inherently less honest than the standard way of gathering signatures, rather than that *is* the ‘standard way’ for any political activity across all parties and ideologies.  That’s why “professional signature gatherers” exist and stay in business.

8 tries to get mileage from the Church attempts to stay “hidden” and not become the public face of gay marriage opposition through coalitions with Catholics and Evangelicals.  (“Don’t want to risk the PR hit…”)  This is ‘evidence’ they were up to no good, according to 8 — although you would think the PR aftermath of Proposition 8 becoming “The Mormon Proposition” would have proven this concern correct.

(Catholics and Evangelicals are insulted in 8, just as much as the Mormons:  they are portrayed as insincere in their opposition to gay marriage, only jumping into the fray when their LDS overlords showed up with money and resources and told them what to do.  Obviously, 8 was not designed to change the minds of the non-Mormons opposed to gay marriage.  Of course, they ended up getting what they wanted as well as letting the Mormons take the brunt of the PR hit, so you could say they come out ahead, anyway.)

8 also outlines previous LDS efforts to oppose gay marriage in other states, specifically Hawaii in 1998.  Unlike the more public Prop 8 controversy, LDS efforts in Hawaii may not be widely known and will be new information for many.  However, we ask the same question:  what’s the point?

The only thing these Hawaii segments show is that the LDS Church has been consistent through the years in opposing legalized gay marriage.  Isn’t being consistent with one’s principles…good?  (If the facts revealed that the Church, say, had actually supported gay marriage in the past under Pres. Hinckley before flip-flopping and opposing it in California under Pres. Monson – that would be an interesting story.)

It’s obvious that gay marriage supporters disagree with those principles, but the fact that the Church acts the same way from decade to decade isn’t really a story, is it?

If you support gay marriage, hearing about previous campaigns against gay marriage gives you no new information other than LDS Church leaders apparently aren’t hypocrites.  If you don’t support gay marriage, isn’t it good to hear that the LDS Church has been a consistent ally from decade to decade?  Is this segment supposed to convince you to support gay marriage instead?  Again, who is the film talking to?

Money is another key theme in 8 — specifically, the money spent by the LDS Church both officially as an organization, and from individual members.  The best arrow in 8’s quiver related to money is that the Church originally claimed just $2,000 in “official” expenditures, but later admitted the real total to be around $190,000.  (Not surprisingly, the Church has been ordered to pay a fine from the court for its inaccurate reporting.)

The dishonesty in reporting — whether truly deliberate or accidental — is disturbing…to Mormons, perhaps.  Certainly the Church should have been more transparent in monies spent, especially if it intended to be ‘above reproach’ through the ugly political process — after all, being honest is a temple recommend question, and part of the 13th Article of Faith.  Being dishonest simply hurts credibility and (deservedly) creates a PR problem.

But the Church’s failure to report funds accurately is still tangential to the question of gay marriage or whether Prop 8 should have passed in the first place.  Supposing the first report had been accurate at the beginning, does it matter whether the Church spent $2,000, or $20,000, or $200,000?

In terms of “political lobbying” — where money is measured in the billions — spending 190k on a political cause isn’t going to turn heads.  (This is why the discussion of whether the Church’s contributions violate their tax-free status is a non-starter.  No one’s going to consider $190k to be “significant” spending).

Since we know gay marriage supporters would still be offended if the LDS Church donated twenty bucks and whatever change President Monson found between the cushions of his apartment sofa to Prop 8, and those opposed certainly aren’t going to care that the Church supported a cause they agree with through direct contributions — they may have wished the Church spent more than 190k, in fact — does the actual amount spent by the Church matter?  Again, what does 8 expect the reaction of the viewers of this segment to be?  Why should they care?

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