The Heart of 8: The Mormon Proposition — Improving LDS / Gay Relations
Once the documentary has finished with the dry and meaningless details of the Prop 8 campaign — and explained why all Mormons are evil, intolerant bigots without an original thought among them — 8: The Mormon Proposition finally gets around to some important material in its last twenty minutes.
Many present-day gay Mormons share their personal feelings of isolation after being rejected from their families for committing the sin of admitted they are attracted to members of the same gender. Many of them describe their suicide attempts — one gay Latter-Day Saint in 2000 committed suicide outside an LDS chapel after being rejected from his family.
8 also shares some horror stories about the electro-shock therapy used to “cure” homosexuality in the 1970’s. And a brief discussion of homeless teens who have run away from their families and have to live on the street with little help and little hope to survive. (8 is a little coy about whether the homeless teens shown are actually gay — not all homeless teens are on the street because of homosexuality, of course — but the point is made: far too many gay young people are abandoned by their family, especially Mormon families.)
This is the heart of 8: The Mormon Proposition — even if the film itself sticks this section in the back almost as an afterthought. Regardless of the debate concerning “marriage” versus “domestic partnerships”, gay Mormons today face an almost surmountable challenge — how to “endure to the end” in a church that seems to despise them.
It is an unfortunate truth that the easiest way for a Latter-Day Saint to forget the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ axiom is when the word ‘homosexuality’ is used. While “homophobe” is an over-used word, thrown out by members of the left to describe anyone who does not support any part of the gay rights agenda, it is still a reality in many ways. Many LDS would be more comfortable with the two guys living next door to them being drug dealers than a gay couple. Many LDS genuinely think the proper response to having a gay kid is to throw them out of the house, and withhold all love and support until they “change”. Is there a more obvious example of someone NOT asking themselves, “what would Christ do?” — especially when we are no longer talking about some strangers in California who want a piece of paper with their names on it, but their own flesh and blood.
(Tyler and Spencer both describe the hateful emails they received from Mormon family members because of their relationship. While that’s not an argument FOR legalized gay marriage, obviously, one wonders what those family members were thinking, and what they expected the response to be. You may not think marijuana should be legalized, for example, but would you send emails to a marijuana-smoking relative that said, “I refuse to find joy in your happiness.”?)
Many gay Mormons still believe in God and in the restored gospel, and try to reconcile gospel doctrine with their own internal feelings. (“I’m exactly how God made me.” says one lesbian in the film. Are Latter-Day Saints prepared to deal with the idea that same-sex attraction may have a biological component, and that gay individuals appear to be a fundamental part of God’s “creation”?)
Now you may ask an obvious question — how do high gay suicide rates among Mormons and horrific “treatments” of homosexuality from three decades ago directly relate to Proposition 8 and legalized gay marriage in 2008?
It doesn’t…and this is basically my point. It’s not about marriage — it’s about love, charity, and treating everyone as if they are God’s children with infinite eternal worth. The fact that this section is (a) the heart and soul of the film, and the section that people most need to see, and (b) only tangentially related to the theme of the documentary — LDS involvement in the Prop 8 campaign — shows just how far askance the film’s chosen theme really is. This section is what audiences need to hear, and 8 puts an hour of irrelevant material ahead of it, with only a thin line bridging the two.
Finding The Right Target Audience
It’s obvious that 8 is aimed only at the “choir” – people who already support gay marriage. Who should the audience have been, though?
If Cowen and Greenstreet were serious about having a positive impact on gay relations in 2010, I submit they should have aimed the documentary at one group in particular: Mormons themselves.
There are faithful Mormons who were ambivalent — even disturbed — at the Church’s active involvement in the Proposition 8 campaign. Many members were disturbed about the “shaking down” of California members for campaign contributions with the threat of Church discipline. Many members were disturbed at California missionaries — whose ostensible purpose is to share the gospel and bring people to Christ — were redirected to work in the Prop 8 campaign in 2008. Many of the quotes from past Church leaders –while still from previous generations (or centuries) — may cause reflection for LDS members as to what they believe themselves. Many of the Prop 8 campaign details — such as the misreporting of funds, or the family of 7 who donated their kids’ college funds to the Prop 8 campaign — won’t be significant to non-members, but might be another data point to ponder for faithful Church members who could be involved with similar campaigns within their lifetimes.
It’s not that those Mormons will (nor need to) start supporting gay marriage, but they will almost certainly reflect upon their own attitude towards gay individuals. They may ponder how best to respect and counter the feelings of isolation, depression, and suicide from gay family members, friends, and neighbors who need their love and charity the most. And ponder the utility (or lack thereof) of severing relationships with gay loved ones.
In short, 8: The Mormon Proposition had the potential elements to improve gay relations within the Mormon community…if faithful Mormons were to view this documentary.
But they won’t…