Every ten years or so the Church leaders get involved in a fight that ends up backfiring on the Church (at least in my opinion). I think of the fight against revoking Prohibition (members turned on Church leaders and Prohibition was ended nationwide), the Blacks and the Priesthood (tremendous negative press throughout 1960s and 1970s despite leaders efforts to justify the ban), then the ERA debacle (1970s – caused a rift within the Church and a lot of negative publicity led by ex-member Sonja Johnson) and finally, the fight against “liberals” which ended in the excommunications of the “September Seven” (1990s – certainly caused a rift within the more liberal elements of the Church). Now we have our first high profile “moral” fight from the 2000s – Proposition 8 in California.

Whether one thinks the Proposition is correct or not, the Church has effectively aligned itself with the Religious Right (who hate us by the way) and alienated that part of California society that is moderate. I have seen at least two articles in the Wall Street Journal highlighting how much money the Church has raised for Prop 8 as well as how much of an active role Church leaders have played (e.g., a conference call with high net worth members and GAs from SLC to get them to donate $25K each). According to Mormonsfor8, 45% of donations have come from members (interestingly, not many donations are from Utah, but from Hawaii and California), however, other Mormons are actively opposing the Church. In the end I think that no one wins in a fight like this. It has become so high profile that the Church has gone overboard in its efforts to win resulting in a backlash from both within the Church (numerous friends in California have mentioned this frenzy that permeates Church meetings) as well as outside the Church. I imagine missionary work in California will be hampered because of this as we are unlikely to convert any of the religious right who are aligned with the Church on this issue and we have likely branded ourselves as religious extremists amongst the moderate California population. In my mind, the Church has the right to fight against these types of things if it chooses, but should play a lower profile. As it stands, after the vote next week, I don’t think the Church will be a winner either way despite the vote outcome.