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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 11, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 24
Fascinating Mormon Proposition will make you angry
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Fascinating Mormon Proposition will make you angry

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

8: The Mormon Proposition
June 18
Limited release with full online distribution


For a long time, I thought all Mormons were like the Osmond family. I figured they all had 20 kids and sat around the house with toothy grins singing pop songs and hoarding food in the root cellar. Such are the misunderstandings of the young and ignorant.

During my final year at the University of Colorado, a film program classmate made a powerful documentary as his final project about his journey out of the Mormon Church. The final scenes showed him praying naked before an altar. These scenes were shot at a local Protestant church, not a Mormon Temple. You see, my friend wouldn't have been allowed in the temple.

At the time, I knew my friend's journey out of the Mormon Church had been difficult. That was made painfully clear as his short film unfolded. However, I didn't understand that his journey was not terribly unique within Mormon culture. I didn't get that leaving the Mormon Church is extremely difficult and emotionally taxing for nearly everyone who tries.

Leaving is thorny partly because Mormon dogma is strict and obedience is mandatory. Additionally, after a person leaves, families often limit contact (excommunicated members are still welcome to attend church services though they are barred from entering the temple). But that isn't all there is to it.

As I watched 8: The Mormon Proposition, it became more and more clear that leaving the Mormon Church and turning your back on its teachings is tougher than in many other Christian traditions. And I thought back to my college friend.

Though 8: The Mormon Proposition mainly steers clear of complicated Mormon dogma (and I'm no expert), it does give a brief overview of the what Mormons call "the spiritual family." According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) website at www.mormon.org, "One of God's gifts is the Resurrection, the reuniting of the physical body and spirit, made possible by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ." A bit further down, the website states, "In the spirit world, your memories of this life and the knowledge you have gained on Earth will remain with you."

As I watched that section of the documentary, it (finally) dawned on me that turning away from the Mormon Church means you turn away from your family and that family isn't just a group of relationships that have meaning in this physical plane of existence. In fact, your family, the family which lives right here on earth, will be reconstituted eternally in God's presence forever and ever, amen.

When you are Queer and you disrupt a Mormon family, you not only disrupt the family in the here and now; you disrupt the family for eternity. That's serious.

The eternal disruption of the spiritual family is just one of many possible explanations for the political actions of the Mormon Church regarding Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure intended to render the May 15, 2008 California Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality null and void via popular vote. Proposition 8 was approved by a close vote of 52% to 48% on November 4, 2008, after a contentious and expensive campaign.

8: The Mormon Proposition tells the story of the creation of those political actions by the Mormon Church on behalf of Proposition 8, including backroom maneuvering aimed at building a coalition to front the campaign, grassroots organizing of obedient suburban California Mormons, and millions and millions of dollars furtively funneled into the campaign by Mormon Church leaders. The church was basically functioning like a Political Action Committee.

Individual stories, like that of Tyler Barrick and Spencer Jones, are deftly threaded through the political machinations of the Mormon Church. Barrick and Jones, a young Queer couple who are grew up in the Mormon Church, lend the documentary a personal angle in the larger struggle for LGBT civil rights and provide emotional appeal lacking in the political story.

8: The Mormon Proposition will make you angry. It certainly made me angry. It will also make you long to give an 8th-grade civics lesson to the cabal of crusty old white dudes collectively known as the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and the president of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson. Though I'd personally prefer the government out of the marriage business altogether, the sobering truth is efforts to ban Gay marriage are really about imposing the religious beliefs of the majority onto a minority - in this case, Queer folks. And that seems downright un-American to me.

After watching 8: The Mormon Proposition, I was angry and I had to remind myself that the actions of a few religious zealots in powerful places should never paint an entire community with a broad brush. I have dear friends here in Seattle that are Mormon. They, a married couple with four kids, are also educated, creative, generous, and kind. I have nothing but respect for both of them.

8: The Mormon Proposition screened as part of Seattle International Film Festival on June 7 and 8. The film opens nationwide but in limited release on June 18, and unfortunately won't be playing in a Seattle theater at that time. However, in a unique marketing plan reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh's simultaneous release of Bubble on cable, DVD and in theaters in 2005, 8: The Mormon Proposition will also be available via iTunes, Movies on Demand, and Netflix on June 18. Everyone should see this important and fascinating film.

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