Monday, November 3, 2008

Persecuted?

Today I read that some consider it ironic for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be encouraging its members to defend the traditional definition of marriage. According to one,

This is a church that has been persecuted for its flavor of Christianity, for its past marriage practices, for its past religious practices. And here they are turning around and persecuting another group of people...

However, I'm failing to see the irony. Perhaps it's because no honest person in good conscience can compare the Church's involvement with promoting Proposition 8 to the persecutions heaped on the Mormons in the 19th century because of their religious beliefs.

For example, how many people have been tarred and feathered by the Mormons? I haven't read about any in the news, but many Mormons, including Joseph Smith, were tarred and feathered by angry mobs.

How many have been driven from their homes because they support same-sex marriage? Or how many have been robbed of their property? Or how many have been beaten, raped, or unjustly imprisoned for months on end?

Or how many can relate to the experience of one of my ancestors, Martha P. Thomas? She recorded:

When in 1839 the mobs came upon us in force and drove us away from our home with the loss of all we had save five children, a small yoke of cattle, one old wagon, the clothes we wore and one pair of shoes, all we had for our children....The leaders of the Church were imprisoned, my husband with them. We had to leave in a great hurry on account of the mob and to save our lives, many of our friends, the Saints, being killed.

Because of violent persecutions the Mormons were forced to leave New York, Ohio, Missouri, and finally Illinois, and it wasn't even a full decade after they settled in Utah but what the Mormons were again the target of persecutions at the hands of corrupt individuals. How many proponents of same-sex marriage can make such a claim?

Again, we are reminded that

...under dreadful conditions, the Prophet Joseph Smith suffered in Liberty Jail for months while the mobs drove the Saints from their homes [in Missouri]. The words liberty and jail do not fit together very well.

...The Lord told the Saints to seek redress from the judges, the governor, and then the president.

Their appeals to the judges failed. During his life, Joseph Smith was summoned to court over 200 times on all kinds of trumped-up charges. He was never convicted.

When they sought redress from Governor Boggs of Missouri, he issued a proclamation: “The Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good.” That unleashed untold brutality and wickedness.

They appealed to President Martin Van Buren of the United States, who told them, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.”

...The final paragraphs of their third petition addressed to the Congress of the United States [read]:

“The afflictions of your memorialists have already been overwhelming, too much for humanity, too much for American citizens to endure without complaint. We have groaned under the iron hand of tyranny and oppression these many years. We have been robbed of our property to the amount of two millions of dollars. We have been hunted as the wild beasts of the forest. We have seen our aged fathers who fought in the Revolution, and our innocent children, alike slaughtered by our persecutors. We have seen the fair daughters of American citizens insulted and abused in the most inhuman manner, and finally, we have seen fifteen thousand souls, men, women, and children, driven by force of arms, during the severities of winter, from their sacred homes and firesides, to a land of strangers, penniless and unprotected. Under all these afflicting circumstances, we imploringly stretch forth our hands towards the highest councils of our nation, and humbly appeal to the illustrious Senators and Representatives of a great and free people for redress and protection.

“Hear! O hear the petitioning voice of many thousands of American citizens who now groan in exile . . . ! Hear! O hear the weeping and bitter lamentations of widows and orphans, whose husbands and fathers have been cruelly martyred in the land where the proud eagle . . . floats! Let it not be recorded in the archives of the nations, that . . . exiles sought protection and redress at your hands, but sought it in vain. It is in your power to save us, our wives, and our children, from a repetition of the bloodthirsty scenes of Missouri, and thus greatly relieve the fears of a persecuted and injured people, and your petitioners will ever pray.”

There was no pity, and they were turned away.

In 1844, while under the avowed protection of Governor Thomas Ford of Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death in Carthage Jail. Words cannot express the brutality and suffering the Saints had endured.

Can any of the supporters of same-sex marriage truly say that they have suffered like persecutions at the hands of the Mormons?

The injustices suffered by the Mormons rank right up there with those suffered by the blacks and the Native Americans; same-sex marriage proponents have yet to even see a hint of suffering at the hands of the Mormons.

It's one thing to fight for your beliefs, but it's another thing entirely to resort to false analogies and distortions of history to advance your cause.

4 comments:

Brent, Lily and Gals said...

Hello, Nate, I linked to you from Jessie's blog...great responce by the way. It was a breath of fresh air, for a change. It was very clear and insightful and I really appreciated it.

Nate said...

Thank you, Lily. I appreciate your kindness.

Anonymous said...

It may not be of the exact same stripe (whether it's more harsh or more bearable I'll let you decide), but I can name a few people, feeling persecuted and cast out of the their community take their own lives while students at BYU. They were gay. They may not have been driven from their homes, beaten, raped, or unjustly imprisoned by members of the Church, but they have suffered at the hands of the members.

Nate said...

The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once said,

"I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group. As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church. It is expected, however, that they follow the same God-given rules of conduct that apply to everyone else, whether single or married."

(Gordon B. Hinckley, "Why We Do Some of the Things We Do," Ensign, November 1999.)

If some with same-sex attraction have been "persecuted and cast out of their community" anywhere, that is incongruent with the teachings of the Church. God, who notices the fall of every sparrow, is the judge of all and will give just and righteous judgment in such cases.

The Church teaches its members to love and treat others as Jesus Christ did. "Jesus loved the sinner even while decrying the sin, as evidenced in the case of the woman taken in adultery: treating her kindly, but exhorting her to 'sin no more.'"

Furthermore, the Church announced to the world,

"The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility."

(The Divine Institution of Marriage, available at http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/)

Again, I never have, nor will I ever, advocate persecution as an appropriate means of "convincing" others of my opinions. Neither do I, nor will I, condone persecution.