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The Mormon Order of Dull Knives Meets the YMCA The Leadership of the LDS Church Lurking Behind the Promotion of California’s Prop 8

Alex Constantine - April 13, 2010

By Alex Constantine

sp712 All About Mormon 300x231 - The Mormon Order of Dull Knives Meets the YMCAThe clash of religious, cultural and political forces over California’s Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative was as rancorous as might be expected, and financially draining on both sides. On February 3, 2009, the AP reported that Prop 8 was "the most expensive ballot measure on a social issue in the nation’s history." Some $60 million went up in electronic media heat discharge over the brewing culture war and drifted into space.

Religion Dispatches reports on the breadth of the Mormon effort:

 … On Wednesday, January 20, in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, plaintiffs in the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger trial challenging the legality of California’s Proposition 8 introduced two documents (over strenuous objections from the defense) indicating close but cautious coordination between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Yes on 8 campaign. … 

In early September [2008], a surge of $25,000 donations began to appear in campaign finance records compiled by the California Secretary of State. [Nadine] Hansen and a crew of Mormon supporters of same-sex marriage began to comb large donor records to identify Mormon Church members. By Election Day, mormonsfor8.com volunteers had successfully identified more than 50% of the large donors as members of the LDS Church. ‘And we know that we did not identify all of the Mormon donors,’ Hansen relates. “You can see that in some places virtually all the money that came in came from Mormons. It’s a safe bet to say that Mormons contributed over half the money. It might be as high as 75%. Mobilizing highly centralized and hierarchical ecclesiastical structures, Mormons also contributed as much as 80-90% of the volunteer labor for the campaign. …  [1]

On the Pro-Prop side, the investment returned a fleet of contrived Swift Boat arguments for preserving the matrimonial status quo. Advocates on both sides of the issue, driven by primal emotions, took to the airwaves and op-ed pages with a vengeance,. the gay and lesbian minority  fighting desperately for individual rights, and majority proponents of the measure, at least in word, driven by religious principle …

Not to mention a generalized fear of the perceived cultural upheaval. Max Blumenthal, senior writer for The Daily Beast, touched on the conservative Christian anxiety over same-sex unions on November 8, 2009:

The defeat of Prop 8 would be a nightmare for the Christian right. As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said of the ballot measure, ‘It's more important than the presidential election... We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.’

Precisely the sentiment of the conservative leadership, or “Prophets,” of the Latter Day Saints.

The proposition of gay marriage strikes at the core of Mormon beliefs. According to LDS doctrine, men and women married within the Temple are bonded for eternity, and they may even conceive of "spirit children." Gender retention is another feature of the afterlife. The role of gender in Mormon theology underscores the church’s "difficulty with homosexuality," according to Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond.

In Latter Day metaphysics, marriage is a prerequisite to achieving the pinnacle of the afterlife.

"This all explains the Mormon difficulty with homosexuality," Givens says. In an eternity of marriage, "same-sex attraction doesn't find a place." [2]

The Church considers the preservation of status quo matrimony to be a moral imperative. The First President of the Church, in a letter sent to Mormon leaders in California on June 29, 2008, laid it out in blunt terms:

The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage. [3]

Religiously and morally inspired, the LDS Church entered the fray in early anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives. In a February 1998 letter that has only recently come to light, Andrew Pugno, the lead attorney in the 2009 San  Francisco Prop 8 trial, wrote to a Utah attorney associated with the Church, seeking advice on the wording of Proposition 22. At the time, Pugno was on the payroll of Palmdale, Caifornia GOP activist and state senator William J. "Pete" Knight, the key organizer of the first California ballot initiative to ban same-sex unions (his own son David is gay and was wed in San Francisco City Hall after Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered the city to begin issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, to Mr. Joe Lazzaro from Baltimore, March 9, 2004).

Pugno turned to Lynn D. Wardle, a Brigham Young University law professor, for advice on drafting the initiative:

… Senator Knight will be re-filing language for a ballot initiative on Monday morning – and plans are laid to definitely qualify the measure for the ballot. Is there a better way to draft the text of this initiative, considering California's long history of recognizing any marriage legally contracted elsewhere? Once that language has been submitted, we are stuck with it. Therefore, it is vital that we get it right the first time. …

CaliforniaWatch.Org, an online mainstream news site, chimed in on January 29, 2010, "Pugno's newly unearthed memo, written on state government letterhead, is striking evidence of how closely the Mormon church has been involved in the gay marriage debate in California for more than a decade. At Pugno's urging, a Mormon attorney was vetting the language of Proposition 22 and then quickly passing his information to the highest ranks of the LDS church. ... “

The day after Pugno mailed off his urgent memo, in February 1998, Wardle wrote to three church elders in Salt Lake City, along with two law firms and a law professor in Iowa, alerting them of proposed changes to Proposition 22. The recipients included high-ranking members of the church, Marlin K. Jensen and David E. Sorensen, from the church's [First Quorum] of the Seventy. ...

As for Pugno using Senate letterhead for a political issue ...Roman Porter, executive director of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said about cases like this in general: “The use of public funds for campaign purposes is unlawful.” [4]

LDS Church elders were nothing if not very pragmatic moralists, at least. …

In 2000, Proposition 22, the “California Defense of Marriage Act,” passed with a solid 61 percent margin. Most Californians assumed that the issue was history. But on May 15, 2008, four of seven California Supreme Court judges reversed a 2004 decision that terminated San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s issuance of marriage certificates - after nearly 4,000 gay couples took their vows of matrimony - and Proposition 22 was overturned.

The fall of Proposition 22 was cushioned by a reincarnation of its spirit in Prop 8., seeking to change the state constitution to ban gay marriage.

The measure was organized, in the main, by churches and religious fronts.

On September 25, 2008, the AP reported:

Hundreds of pastors have called on their congregations to fast and pray for passage of a ballot measure in November that would put an end to gay marriage in California. The collective act of piety, starting Wednesday and culminating three days before the election in a revival for as many as 100,000 people at the San Diego Chargers' stadium, comes as church leaders across California put people, money and powerful words behind Proposition 8... Evangelical Christian groups such as Focus on the Family and Family Research Council, the leaders of Roman Catholic, Mormon, Southern Baptist, Orthodox Jewish and Seventh-Day Adventist congregations have endorsed the measure. ... [5]

Despite the inter-denominational gloss of Prop 8, the wires reported four months later, "Mormons have emerged as a dominant fund-raising force in the hotly contested California ballot fight to ban same-sex marriage. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8." Compare this sum with $1.25 million in contributions from the Catholic Knights of Columbus at the same point in Prop 8 history, or the evangelical Protestant, far-right Focus on the Family's $400,000. [67] (Another generous contributor to the cause was Elsa Broekhuizen, mother of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, the notorious military contractor/CIA front. Ms Broekhuizen kicked in $450,000 to support Prop 8. The LA Times reports, “Mother and son sit on the board of a family foundation that donated $8 million in 2006-07 to Christian groups involved in the Yes-on-8 effort, including $300,000 to Focus on the Family, on whose board she sits. Focus on the Family gave $450,000 to Proposition 8 and $1.35 million to the 22 same-sex marriage ban campaigns in 2004 and 2006." [7])

The Mormon stake in Prop 8 peaked in the final, frenetic days of campaigning. Within two weeks of balloting, Frank Schubert, the ranking strategist behind the measure, called an "emergency meeting" of leaders from Protect Marriage, the Prop 8 steering committee, in Sacramento. They needed to raise more money for public promotion, he said, or “we’re going to lose this campaign."

The New York Times reports that the campaign "issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church.“ [8]

Ashton is the founder WordPerfect Software. He is also the grandson of David O. McKay, president of the Mormon Church, 1951-1970. "Prophet" McKay was, safe to say, conservative in his politics. At the 1962 LDS General Conference, McKay lauded Bircher/Mormon Cleon Skousen – the mentor of Mitt Romney - and his book, The Naked Communist: “I admonish (sic) everybody to read that excellent book of [FBI agent turned Salt Lake City Police] Chief Skousen’s.” [9] He was also a faith-based racist:

"From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has  been the doctrine of the church, never questioned by any of the church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the gospel." - David O. McKay. [10]

Gays are also denied the “full blessings” of the Mormon God, who apparently favors white heterosexuals … of means …

This bigotry found an outlet in the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), founded in May, 2007 to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Mormon Leaders and NOM [11]

Gordon B. Hinckley, President, Mormon Church. chief strategist of the Mormon fight against same-sex marriage.

Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of 12 Mormon Apostles, former president of BYU, father of Matthew Holland.

Matthew S. Holland, BYU professor, Mormon connection to NOM, former fellow of Robert P. George (2005–2006). Drew on talents of Professor George to create NOM. NOM board of directors.

Robert P. (Robby) George, Princeton professor, Princeton, NJ. Former reacher of Matthew Holland (2005–2006). Put NOM board together and recruited staff. Chairman of NOM. Headquartered in Princeton, NJ. NOM board of directors.

Maggie Gallagher, Outspoken and ;ongtime opponent of same-sex marriage, President of Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. NOM board of directors.

Brian S. Brown, executive director of NOM, Princeton, NJ, Recruited from Family Institute of Connecticut. NOM board of directors.

NOM was an LDS symbiote, obviously, but President Gallagher actually claimed as late as July 2009 that “there is no connection between NOM and the [LDS] Church except that a Mormon serves on NOM’s board.” [12]  (The Church leadership’s policy of “plausible deniability” of Prop 8 sponsorship may explain Gallagher’s disingenuous response to direct questioning). 

Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger asked from the Huffington Post:

Maggie Gallagher, Will You Take a Lie Detector Test?

… Californians Against Hate will gladly pay for your lie detector test to determine the truth once and for all about whether or not the Mormon Church set up NOM as a front group, just like it has previously set up other front groups to oppose same-sex marriage around the country.

On our web site Mormongate.com, we have documentation that shows just how the Mormon Church established " Hawaii's Future Today" as a Mormon front group to fight same-sex marriage in that state. It hid the full extent of its involvement in fighting same-sex marriage in Hawaii until several months ago, when we received secret Mormon documents showing just how the Mormon Church, at the very highest levels, ran and funded that campaign.

As you are well aware, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is in the middle of an investigation of the Mormon Church, including its involvement in setting up your National Organization for Marriage -- FPPC Case # 08/735.

In just two years since NOM was formed, you claim to have spent $6 million in your efforts to deny full equality to gay and lesbian Americans. Where is all that money coming from, Maggie? Who is producing all your slick commercials, paying for your polling, travel, robo calls, direct mail, PR consultants, lobbyists, Executive Director Brian Brown's and your large salary and for all your other staff?

Why won't you release your IRS form 990's for 2007 and 2008 that we have repeatedly requested? This is required by federal law? ]13]

Without question, NOM was an appendage of America’s Republican establishment, and struck ties with some of the most notorious ideologues of the far-right, including the wretched Howard Ahmanson, Jr., and the “comservative” propagandists of Fox News.

In an e-mail to the organization’s supporters, Brian Brown, NOM’s executive director, recently promoted a book written by “friend and ally,” Sean Hannity:

Dear Marriage Supporter:

“We must stand for preserving traditional marriage and oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.” – Sean Hannity, Conservative Victory

… Sean Hannity has just released his new book, Conservative Victory. In in, he outline his “Top 10 Items for Victory” – chief among them social and value issues such as prserving traditional marriage.

Hannity’s ringing defense of marriage is a stinging rebuke to those Republicans working to undermine the party’s commitment to common sense values. … [14]

Like most of its fellow travellers on the religious right, NOM’s favored tactic was fear brokering. “Common sense values” caved in to common bigot hyperbole. One NOM video featured concerned Christians distraught because …

There is a storm gathering. The clouds are dark, the wind is strong, and I am afraid. Some who advocate for same-sex marriage are taking the issue far beyond same-sex couples. They want to bring the issue into my life. My freedom will be taken away. …  [15]

And with the passage of Prop 8, one group's freedoms were taken away - but supporters of Prop 8 didn't wring their hands over it ...


1) Joanna Brooks, “When Mormons Mobilize: Anti-Gay Marriage Prop. 8 Effort ‘Outed’?” Religion Dispatches, January 31, 2010. http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/churchstate/2236/when_mormons_mobilize:_anti-gay_marriage_prop._8_effort_%E2%80%98outed%E2%80%99

2) Mark Schoofs, "Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort," Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122186063716658279.html

3) "California and SameSex Marriage." http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/california-and-same-sex-marriage

4) Robert Salladay, "Prop. 8 lawyer vetted first gay marriage initiative with Mormon leaders,” CaliforniaWatch.Org, January 29, 2010. http://californiawatch.org/watchblog/prop-8-lawyer-vetted-first-gay-marriage-initiative-mormon-leaders

5) Associated Press release, "California Religious Leaders Call for Fasting, Prayer to End Gay Marriage," September 25, 2008. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,427441,00.html

6) Associated Press release, "Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort," September 20, 2008. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122186063716658279.html

7) Quoted in “Blackwater’s Erik Prince, Mother Contribute to CA’s Proposition 8,”  L.A. Lady website, October 29, 2008. http://closeenoughtosmellit2.blogspot.com/2008/10/blackwaters-prince-mother-contribute-to.html

8)  Jesse McKinley and Kirk Johnson, "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage,"  New York Times, November 14, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/us/politics/15marriage.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

9) David O. McKay, “Preach the Word,” Improvement Era, 62 [December 1959], p. 912; quoted in D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1997], p. 82.

10)  Quoted in "The Priesthood Ban - who really was responsible?," Mormons and Blacks website, 01/27/2007. http://www.salamandersociety.com/blacks/

11)  “Creating the National Organization for Marriage.” http://www.mormongate.com/

[12] “Knock, Knock, Anybody NOM? Anybody Mormon?,” TPMMuckraker, July 14, 2009. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:f8nVXXl2emMJ:tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/jason_echols/2009/07/knock-knock-anybody-nom-anybod.php+%22Neil+Corkery%22+and+mormon&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

[13] Fred Karger, “Is the Mormon Church Funding the National Organization for Marriage?” Huffington Post, July 14, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fred-karger/is-the-mormon-church-fund_b_230853.html

[14] David Weigel, “National Organization for Marriage Shills for Hannity,” Washington Independent, 31st Mar 2010. http://politifi.com/news/National-Organization-for-Marriage-Shills-for-Hannity-365944.html

[15] Pam Spaulding, “National Organization for Marriage’s new tactic: fear-mongering without using the word ‘religion.’” The Bilerico Project, April 8, 2009. http://www.bilerico.com/2009/04/national_organization_for_marriages_new.php

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