I ended up as co-chair of the most powerful community organization in Mesa, Arizona, our nation's 35th largest city. As a group we represented 85,000 citizens in northwest Mesa, were able to deny the Arizona Cardinals a stadium in that city, and instead swung an election which brought a billion dollars worth of business to our part of town, elected one of our own to the City Council, and served as the "model" for the rest of the City. Our Steering Committee consisted of 11 people, nine of whom were Mormons!
The LDS Church, in what I believe is a calculated attempt to have a "soft" take over of the United States while we all wait for Jesus to return decided to run its most-accomplished businessman, Mitt Romney, for President (he is still running for 2012) to hasten this takeover.
Few know that members of the Church have occupied in the recent past the top cadet positions in the Air Force Academy and West Point, who will each have influence in the Services for decades to come. For a long time, a Mormon led the Harvard School of Law, and others have important positions in a myriad of institutions and corporations, all of which has adequately set the national stage for a power grab which Prop 102 and Prop 8 brought an inkling of.
I know I sound like a crazy person, but just look around you in your community. If you checked you would find Mormons in many of the most key positions. Mesa's Mayor and City Manager and two members of the City Council are Mormons. The Arizona Legislature has Mormons in key positions. In fact, a Mormon was called home from vacation to provide the crucial last vote to put Prop 102 on the ballot! Two members of the County Board of Supervisors are Mormon. A friend is replacing another friend on the School Board. My daughter runs the PTO at her children's school. It's pervasive at every level.
We have seen the Church itself reach into the very constitutions of three states and strip the civil rights from a whole group of people. How much more power could any one group have?
Now I'd like to provide one man's a view of what it is like out here in the West where our gay world has been shaken with losses of historic proportions for our movement. How we could lose, in California of all places, is not a mystery if we just look at the facts. We underestimated our opposition, and if we don't clear that up we're doomed to do it again in the future.
We'll be talking about Prop 102 and Prop 8 for a very long time. These losses are inextricably intertwined with the Mormon Church, so I want to share my view of what happened as a recently out gay Mormon grandpa who can look at this historic time from both sides. It is my realistic view that if we don't learn the lessons of why we lost these propositions, and learn them fast, we are totally screwed in future contests of might over right. Although it is my personal view that right will win in the end... it is the bloody fight and battles we will lose until that happens that discourages me sometimes.
Historical Background on the LDS Church
Most of the current 15 men at the pinnacle of leadership in the Mormon Church have been working with each other for up to 40 years or more. They are all on the same page, in total unity, and they control a multi-billion dollar organization that is worldwide and has tremendous residual influence through members who are in important positions. These more modern LDS leaders decided way back when that they needed to sanitize and clean up the history of the Church, bringing it into the mainstream of American life (America is where all the money is that drives the Church, you know).
Knowing that with time this crazy religion that relied on mysterious golden plates for validity would come under much more scholarly and careful inspection, they had to work to get everyone saying the same thing, and everyone on the same page...so they set out calculating what they would need to do long term to create the kind of religion that would make it in the modern world. They carefully weeded out or marginalized the crazy stuff and began to parrot key concepts and ingrain them in the congregations. Soon whole generations of members (myself included) had only heard the carefully orchestrated story and were completely unaware that there had ever been any problem.
Their first Prophet, Joseph Smith, had his story carefully crafted so that everyone now believed that he spoke directly to God and Jesus Christ and that made him the authority on the earth today. Each successive Prophet of the Church claims this mantle now.
They also built into the religion the idea that unless you completely fell in line with what the Prophet said, since he spoke directly for God and Jesus Christ, you were immediately suspect. Plus, they added a guaranteed billion-dollar solution to fund raising: they tied your faithfulness and the ability to go to the temple and be together with your loved ones for "all time and eternity" with whether or not you paid a full tithe (10% of the gross) to the Church and supported the Prophet unequivocally.
For me, since I was poorly paid, it only meant one quarter of a million dollars over my time in the Church. But it wasn't so much the money as the idea that the money would keep flowing in good times and in bad. A solid funding source means the world to a church...ask any pastor.
Another note, the average Mormon High Priest outlives the average American by 11 years. That meant these old men had an extra decade of life in them to create a plan and live long enough to see it fulfilled. Gordon B. Hinckley was the major architect, and he lived until he was almost 100 years old!
2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City
Miraculously, the Winter Games of 2002 brought the world to Salt Lake City. When normal human greed broke out around the Games, a Savior in the form of Mitt Romney was called in to save the day... which he did. The Church spent literally millions on this event.
Their key was the Media Center, where I worked as a volunteer for 15 days. Over fifteen hundred media representatives from everywhere in the world came to the center to receive their "Church credentials" and to have an orientation and receive all kinds of goodies from the Church. When it was all over, the Church had made acquaintances with all the important media in the world, and planned to use them whenever they needed to in the future. You cannot imagine the goodwill created... media were treated special and allowed into venues ahead of everyone else, once they had been to the Media Center. They're all just human, so treating them special made a good impression for the Church.
So, organization, money, and purpose set the stage for what happened in the Nov 4 Election last year. How did this happen? Well, it has to do with visionary leadership and blind following.
A Proclamation to the World on Families
In 1997, 11 years before Prop 102 and Prop 8, the Church leadership came out with A Proclamation to the World on Families. Over those 11 years this document became the cornerstone for teachings on marriage and family. Soon it was enshrined on the walls of almost every Mormon home. Almost all of its points were against same-sex marriage, and after a while everyone was parroting the language the "Brethren" had chosen in writing it.
Before I came out in January of 2006, my view of the GLBT world was dramatically skewed by my membership in the Mormon Church. I lived the years from my conversion in 1975 deep in what we might call Gay Mormon La La Land. It is a place spacious enough to house all 15,000 gay Mormons in Arizona and has no connection to the real world the rest of us live in.
At that time I had no personal friends who were gay so I had no concept of what it was like or how gays felt and lived. There were two gay women in my congregation that we completely shunned, and no one gay in my family or among my friends. Therefore, my information came directly from the Church and its members.
Since I didn't want anyone to know the real gay me, I never bothered to read anything about what was happening in the gay world because if I showed any interest at all I would blow my cover. I remember when the AIDS epidemic first struck I wanted desperately to take my energies and join the fight for a cure. But even mentioning wanting to do something so crazy brought me under suspicion.
Decades later I couldn't even feign interest in the commercials for Brokeback Mountain on TV and while I watched the Academy Awards and anguished inside over the win by that other movie, I could show no emotion at all.
There could not be a more uninformed man than I was when Brokeback Mountain burst on my scene. As a typical average Mormon, I was under the impression that:
- On average, gays are wealthier than the rest of us. Two incomes, no kids, they had to be.
- Without a doubt gays were as connected as the Mormons. We both had a cause. Convert the world!
- Gays were smarter than the average person on the street, well-educated, craftier, with an evil agenda.
- Many, too many, are in important positions in the community, industry, and government. (We LDS had been doing it for decades, so we assumed the gays had been doing it too.)
- We saw gays as a group that was totally in sync and connected, working together to undermine us with their "gay agenda."
- Lastly, and what drove us to intense action, that "gay agenda" would be the downfall of the Church, and the world, if we let them proceed with it. We were the saviors of mankind, since we were the one true church in all the earth, and when Jesus came he and we would rule the world!
The Mormon leadership, knowing their members so well, saw the perfect opportunity to use us for their goal of protecting "traditional marriage," and thereby their hold on all of us. My friends in the church were undoubtedly as uninformed as me. For example, let's take a look at what happened with Prop 102 and Prop 8...and relate it back to my view of the gay and Mormon worlds.
First, we Mormons knew that the gays had more money from the start, but there were more of us so maybe we could out-fund them. Since this was a "holy war," we had to dig deep and sacrifice for our God and our church. The Prophet said we have to, and he speaks for God on the earth. Arizona Mormons and their cohorts out-raised the GLBT community 20 to 1. Several of my Mormon friends were so scared they donated $100,000 and at least 70 people in Mesa donated $10,000 each. The opposition now has a war chest estimated at $6 million as we go into the current legislative session. So from the first the Mormons were running scared.
In contrast, I come to find out now that I've been involved in the community for a couple of years, there are a few gay men who have some money in Arizona, but a recent statistical analysis says that committed gay couples have an income less than the average heterosexual couple. In addition, if you take into account the fact that I now know hundreds of gay men and women, I can assure you that we are significantly over-reported in the spare funds survey. Most of the people I know are hurting just like everyone else in the country right now... in a direct proportion to everyone else.
However, now that I am divorced, I better understand how single gay men and women have to be very careful about how they use their income... the safety net is not there for many.
No. 2 above is true. We are connected, and perhaps as connected as the Mormons. So, going into Prop 102/Prop 8 we were equal on this, except for one simple thing: the Mormons have a top-down leadership model. That means that a relatively few people make the decisions and everyone else toes the line.
NOT in the gay community. I have never seen anything as disorganized as we are. I tried and tried with just 30 men in our Men's Discussion Group to get a leader and two others just to help run things, and I was voted down, shouted down, and finally gave up. Rather than have someone in charge, they all want their autonomy and are completely happy if we have a topic to discuss or not each week. The Mormon organizational model that I had honed into my brain has been left swimming in disbelief. But, you know, after a while I just gave in and let the poor bastards stew in their own juices. I love everyone of them, care about their welfare, but I know when I'm licked, and although it took about a year, I gave up!
No.3. Smarter than the average. I don't think so.
No 4. Nope, there aren't nearly enough committed gays in important positions... Oh, many are there, but for the most part they are still not out in their surroundings. It's Arizona you know, so their influence is only behind the scenes and there are few to provide the kind of leadership a Harvey Milk might be able to provide.
No. 5. This has been the most bitter pill to swallow. Unity? Not now, not ever in Arizona it seems. At least in my state, no one is in charge and everyone is in charge. I have tried and tried to find someone I could put my considerable talents and energies behind, but all I find is squabbling and backbiting. In fact, they did it to me when I went ahead and organized the Arizona Mormon Temple Candlelight Vigil. We only had 300 people there, when just weeks before we'd had almost 5,000 downtown. They all apologized when it was over and it was peaceful and we got good press, but it could have been so much more if we had just decided to quit squabbling and work together.
No 6. I don't know whether you would call it a Mormon Jihad, but it is an all-out fight to the death, literally, against the Satanic influences of gay citizens of our great nation. That means it will never stop until they win.
The Mormons won in Arizona because they had it all and we had nothing. I fear that unless we understand our opposition and become at least as well-organized at them, Arizona will be the most backward state in the nation when it comes to GLBT rights and equality... forever!
But more importantly, the Mormons will rule the world we live in... they have the will, the means, and they have out-organized us everywhere.