Isn’t it about…time?
This short post contains some politics. They’re relevant to mormonism, and they’re not beholden to party lines, but there’s your disclaimer.
Today’s article was sparked by a political conversation with a straight white middle-class mormon male from Orem, UT. This guy claimed that “defending the family” is not only the most important task for the citizens of the United States of America, but also (I paraphrase) “the thing that will solve all those other problems”. In this particular conversation, “those other problems” referred mainly to my concern as a chronically ill person that the conservatives in my country’s government were actively trying to make my already difficult access to healthcare situation much, much worse. How “defending the family” is supposed to do that is something he doesn’t know and hasn’t thought about.
“Defending the family” is both a political and religious prerogative in mormonism. It’s nearly always the banner under which mormon leadership mobilizes its followers for political causes. Just two examples among many: remember Prop 8? How about the ERA?
They also cite this motivation in justifying some of their most poisonous internal policies, perhaps most notably the leaked policy changes involving homosexuality in November 2015. Whether national or internal, when they try to explain just how their actions “defend the family”, there’s not a lot of coherence to it. Coherence isn’t important to them. They could slap a sticker that says “defend the family” onto a cooler full of cyanide-laced fruit punch and I don’t doubt they’d run out of paper cups.
Really, then, “defending the family” is a coded message of allegiance. If it really meant what those three words might be assumed to mean, what would it look like? A few thoughts:
Drastic prison reforms. Unnecessary incarceration in for-profit prisons has screwed up millions of lives in the US for decades. The intertwined “war on drugs” that sends so many non-violent offenders to prison is not just a failure and tremendous injustice; it’s also been a major offensive against families.
Social safety nets that actually work. The well-being of families suffers when we keep making life harder for single parents, survivors of abuse, people with disabilities both physical and mental, and many other human beings who are slipping through society’s cracks. This includes real access to healthcare for everyone.
Civil rights. That means comprehensive equal protection under the law for all sexual orientations and gender identities. Not just the constitutional right for consenting adults to get married, but protection against discrimination in housing, employment, and all other spheres. This includes adoption; we know that being raised by gay couples doesn’t have deleterious effects on children, so attempting to prevent such couples from adopting is just about the most blatant attack on families and the welfare of vulnerable children that I can think of.
Pro-immigration and pro-refugee policies. I don’t think this needs explaining.
Of this incomplete list, only the last entry has so much as the partial political weight of the mainstream mormon church behind it. And when they’ve spent decades correlating loyalty to the Republican party and anything that’s labeled “conservative”, is it really any surprise that a lot of faithful mormons tend to ignore the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee exhortations of leaders like Dieter Uchtdorf?
Finally, outside the political realm, mormonism does plenty of internal work against families. Should I make another non-comprehensive list?
Toxic teachings and policies on homosexuality. I won’t go into detail, here, because otherwise I’d have to write a book.
In fact, toxic treatment of all forms of sexuality. Ditto.
Mixed messages on shunning for disbelief. The shunning happens a lot, and can be a major contributor to suicide when a person knows they’ll be rejected for living authentically.
Teachings that increase tension when one spouse becomes a non-believer. Some local leaders are still actively encouraging believing spouses to divorce their non-believing partners.
Secretive and exclusive temple rituals, especially marriage. Family and loved ones can’t attend a mormon wedding if they’re not paying heavenly protection money to the mormon church, or not obeying its leaders, or if they find it difficult to hold orthodox belief and admit as much to their local leaders.
Want to “defend the family”? You could do worse than starting with the exact opposite of what mormonism teaches. Obviously, even morally bankrupt mormon leaders are doing some things right, so integrate these exceptions by working backwards from “exact opposite”.