Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interesting Article in USU Statesman
USU Statesman
Students divide after church leader's remarks


Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 11:10


GLBTA 102010

STUDENTS CONVERSE while sitting in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alliance resource center in the TSC. BENJAMIN WOOD photo
LDS Temple 102010

THE LOGAN LDS TEMPLE is one of many bulidings in Cache Vallley that mark the densely populated Mormon religion in the area. KATELYN BATTLES photo

The GLBTA Resource Library sits in a quiet but visible corner of the TSC's third floor. It is a lounge, meeting place, materials center, and safe haven for students, faculty and staff. The walls are lined with books, movies, political message stickers and bright flags.

Outside the TSC and just across the sidewalk sits another safe haven, where students can engage in religious discussion, theological education, and worship of their god.

On Oct. 3, and in the days that followed, the two groups seemed more distant than ever.

Speaking at the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Boyd K. Packer, the second-ranking leader in the LDS church, delivered an address in which he described same-sex attraction as "impure and unnatural," and suggested a loving god would never place his children in such a condition. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest civil rights organization, responded almost immediately, issuing nation-wide action alerts and gathering over 100,000 signatures for a petition urging Packer to apologize for and correct his statements. Local groups organized protests at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, portions of Packer's speech were eliminated from online publications and on Oct. 12 the HRC presented the petition to church officials.

"People across the country still need to hear from Elder Packer that he was wrong and that his statements were dangerous," HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a press release.

The local reaction

In the wake of Packer's remarks, members of the LDS church appeared somewhat divided between supporting their leaders and supporting gay friends and family members. Thousands of facebook users joined groups in support of Packer, while letters to the editor in The Statesman, Herald Journal and Salt Lake Tribune suggested some Mormons were hesitant to cross the line drawn in the sand.

Liz Emery, a USU junior who interns at the GLBTA Resource Library, was one of many who participated in the protest at Temple Square. Protesters wore black and circled the perimeter of the church's downtown property.

"It was very peaceful, very solemn," Emery said.

Emery disagreed with Packer's comments, and worried about the effect they could have on young church members who are struggling with their identity.

"My biggest concern is that when (Packer) says something like that, he reaches a broad audience," Emery said. "It empowers parents to use that as a weapon against their gay child."

Maure Smith-Benanti, GLBTA program coordinator, said every religion has a right to say what it believes, but Packer's comments seemed to show a shift from the LDS church's usual rhetoric.

"His statements seemed to be a departure from a more loving, inclusive nature," Smith-Benanti said. "It doesn't seem very sensitive to say those kinds of things when there are young people trying to stay alive."

Many of the groups in opposition to Packer's comments made note that his remarks came on the heels of a string of sexual-identity related suicides across the country.

"It seems like Packer's remarks were dismissive of that fact," Smith-Benanti said.

Emery also said the recent suicides made Packer's comments all the more damaging.

"He could have picked a better timing," she said.

Tolerance at USU

Smith-Benanti began working as program coordinator for GLBTA three years ago, around the time the Resource Library was located to the third floor of the TSC. She said before the location was set aside, the materials were located at the university library, where they would often be defaced or destroyed.

"Things were always mysteriously missing," Smith-Benanti said.

Smith-Benanti and her organization, which is part of the newly-formed Access and Diversity Center, offer counseling and support as well as organize discussion groups and classroom panel presentations.

She said her students generally feel safe on campus, and perhaps safer than they feel in Logan, but even at USU things are not perfect and the danger of suicide is very real.

"I know of at least three for a fact that have been prevented by the services we offer," Smith-Benanti said.

In a community where the majority of students belong to the LDS faith, Smith-Benanti said there exists a sense of privilege most individuals may not be aware of. Similarly to the way men may not consider the dangers of walking alone at night, member of the LDS church can sometimes assume everyone around them shares their views.

"There are privileges associated with being a dominant culture member," Smith-Benanti said. "It's an assumption of lived, shared experiences that are not always the case."

LGBT and non-LDS students on the other hand, she said, are extremely aware of the dominant culture.

"It's a difficult concept to wrap your head around because we want to think that the world is fair," she said.

Emery said at USU, most LGBT students have friends who are LDS, and vice-versa, and the sentiment amongst members of the church is generally one of not agreeing with the lifestyle, but also not terminating friendships as a result.

"For the most part I don't think people have malicious intent," Emery said.
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* Facebook Comments
* Site Comments

Wed Oct 20 2010 16:17
The title of the article reminds me of a parable about wheat.
Wed Oct 20 2010 15:50
The Church clearly does not teach what Packer insinuated. Packer's comments were indeed unfortunate, and the Church has issued a response that almost qualifies as an apology. I think everyone should look to the official Church policy on homosexuality outlined over the past few years in announcements, interviews, pamphlets, Ensign articles, etc. , not this one unfortunate comment. Michael Otterson's statement was much closer to the mark.
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Logan Decides Discrimination is OK

Herm Olsen and Jay Monson believe it should be against the law to discriminate for housing and employment based on sexual orientation, but the other three council members don't think it's a problem worth going to any trouble to protect. The council asked the audience if any had experienced discrimination based on their orientation and a dozen people raised their hands. A dozen in that small group is significant, but was discounted by the majority of the Logan city council.
I'll sum up what I think about this by quoting Herm Olsen, "I don't think it is ever inappropriate to do the right thing."
Wow, is that profound or what? We need more Herm Olsen's in the world. Thanks Herm for reminding us all that standing up for the right is worth it--always.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thoughts on Arizona's Immigration Law

Martin Escobar argues in his complaint that, in his experience, there is no way "race neutral" criteria can be utilized to determine if someone he encounters in his daily routine is in this country illegally. The new law requires officers to determine the status of anyone they come into "lawful" contact with during their day.
Martin Escobar is a Hispanic Police officer in Arizona.

New York Mayor Bloomberg echoed the sentiments of many, including tea party favorite Marco Rubio, former Bush adviser Karl Rove and President Obama, who worry the law could lead to racial discrimination and harassment. While speaking at the Citizen Now! phone bank yesterday, he said, "We have to get real about the 12 million undocumented here. We're not going to deport them. Give them permanent status. Don't make them citizens unless they can qualify, but give them permanent status and let's get on with this." He also tweeted in both English and Spanish yesterday to call the Citizen Now! hotline for confidential help with immigration issues.

In a city where immigrants hold jobs in nearly every sector (not just construction), Bloomberg wants reform to provide incentive for skilled workers to come to the U.S. He said, "We don't have doctors, and we're not allowing people who want to come here and be doctors to come here. This is just craziness." However, he also said if Arizona happens to be the only state to adopt the policy, the bill could actually be good for New York "because people will come here. We make sure that we protect everybody." And they'll never even have to eat salt again!

End of quotes: I wonder what we are coming to if people believe it's ok to have a law that is could lead to such blatant racial profiling. When there is no way I would be asked to show my legal status because of the color of my skin, but some of my friends would be required to makes my heart ache. The truth is much of the work force in the U.S. is Hispanic. Our economy would fail without the people who are here to work. What everyone does agree on is that reform is needed. Let's work a solution QUICKLY that will stop Arizona and other states from enacted racist laws. President Obama needs to step up the process.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The need for Political Civility

I've chosen to reprint a letter the Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons) had on our official website last year. Recently with the vitriol being heard on the radio, the television, and even at church, this letter is worth repeating. The polarization of the two major parties is at an all-time and dangerous level. The recent health-care debate has brought out the worst in members of both parties. We hide bigotry, hatred, and fear behind free-speech and sometimes our own ethnocentric points of view. If we are to work toward a common goal of a better nation, then civility has never been more needed. I urge people to stop listening to the Glen Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, the Bill Mahrers, and those who instigate ridicule and hatred of our nation's highest leaders.

NEWSROOM: Official resource for news media, opinion leaders and the public
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Mormon Ethic of Civility

SALT LAKE CITY 16 October 2009 The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times? During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: "When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying." Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.

So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture — ubiquitous media, anonymous and unsourced online participation, politicization of the routine, fractured community and family life — undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible. The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. Civility, then, becomes the measure of our collective and individual character as citizens of a democracy.

A healthy democracy maintains equilibrium through diverse means, including a patchwork of competing interests and an effective system of governmental checks. Nevertheless, this order ultimately relies on the integrity of the people. Speaking at general conference, a semiannual worldwide gathering of the Church, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asserted: “In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay.” Likewise, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton emphasized that the virtues of fidelity, charity, generosity, humility and responsibility “form the foundation of a Christian life and are the outward manifestation of the inner man.” Thus, moral virtues blend into civic virtues. The seriousness of our common challenges calls for an equally serious engagement with reasonable ideas and solutions. What we need is rigorous debate, not rancorous altercations.

Civility is not only a matter of discourse. It is primarily a mode of engagement. The technological interconnectedness of society has made isolation impossible. Of all the institutions in the modern world, religion has had perhaps the greatest difficulty adjusting to the reality of give and take with the public. Today, and throughout its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continuously encounters the legitimate interests of various stakeholders in its interaction with the public. Rather than exempting itself from the rules of law and civility, the Church has sought the path of cooperative engagement and avoided the perils of acrimonious confrontation.

Echoing this mode of civil engagement, President Monson declared: “As a church we reach out not only to our own people but also to those people of goodwill throughout the world in that spirit of brotherhood which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Speaking of civility on a personal level, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught Latter-day Saints how to respond to criticism: “Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”

The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule, taught by a broad range of cultures and individuals, perhaps most popularly by Jesus Christ: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life.

Similarly, the Book of Mormon tells a sober story of civilizational decline in which various peoples repeat the cycle of prosperity, pride and fall. In almost every case, the seeds of decay begin with the violation of the simple rules of civility. Cooperation, humility and empathy gradually give way to contention, strife and malice.

The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement. It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.

Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church..

Latter-day Saint ethical life requires members to treat their neighbors with respect, regardless of the situation. Behavior in a religious setting should be consistent with behavior in a secular setting. The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing. In his inaugural press conference President Monson emphasized the importance of cooperation in civic endeavors: “We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and organizations. My objective there is ... that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together.”