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'Real Worlder' Chet Cannon: The Mormon Church isn't anti-gay


We talked to Chet Cannon of "The Real World: Brooklyn" the other day in preparation for MTV's biopic of Pedro Zamora that airs Wednesday. We were thinking about how ''Real Worlders" use their TV platform for social messaging.

Cannon, 24, was having pork and rice down at Cafe Habana in downtown Manhattan. He is the Mormon one this season. He said he hadn't even really heard of Zamora before he went on the show. "I'd heard of Puck, though," he said. (David "Puck" Rainey, you will recall, was the rude one from "San Francisco" who got expelled from the show.) "I think someone called me Puck in the street the other day. I wasn't too thrilled with that. You think I'm a 45-year-old bike messenger?" (Puck is now just 40, according to his speaker's bureau website.)

So what was Cannon's on-show message? "I wanted to show people you can't distinguish a Mormon by his appearance," said Cannon, who is blond and blue-eyed.

You might think there would be a conflict between "the Mormon one" and a celebration of Zamora, who had a commitment ceremony with his partner, Sean Sasser, on the show. (This was, of course, in 1994, way back before the few windows when gay marriage was legal in California.)

But no, said Cannon, who says he has lots of gay friends. "A couple people take the LDS church for being anti-gay and they're not at all," Cannon said. "They're very pro-family, but they're not anti-gay."

But what about, you know, how the LDS church funded opposition to Prop. 8, the California gay marriage repeal initiative? "People want to get on the LDS church," he said. "They don't even have enough members in California that the vote could be swayed. To isolate the LDS church and attack them is unfair."

"The Real World: Brooklyn" season finale airs Wednesday night.

--Choire Sicha

(Photo courtesy MTV)
Comments () | Archives (39)

What garbage. If I hear one more anti-gay apologist say "I have gay friends," I'm going to puke. New flash: YOU DON'T HAVE GAY FRIENDS! They may be nice to you and civil, but even if they don't say it, they don't really consider you a friend. How could they? And way to skirt the issue at the end there. Your explanation for the Church's large contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign was non-responsive to the question. The question was not "did the Mormon Church sway the election by itself." The question was not "are pro-equality people being unfair by singling out the Mormon Church." The question was "is the Mormon Church anti-gay," and the answer is undoubtedly a resounding "YES"! They spent large amounts of money to take rights away from gay people. That is, by definition, anti-gay.

It is so insulting for Mormons to continue playing victims when they didn't have their right to marry voted away. The number$ keep adding up, and show the vital role they played in the passage of prop8, along with the christianists, and catholics.

If prop8 holds, and the ballot process in California can be used as a weapon against anyone, as Ken Starr was bragging in court, we should ban prop 8 supporters from marrying in California! Fair is fair!

Yeah, sure, the Mormon Church isn't antigay. That's why they fought (successfully) to keep gay kids out of Boy Scouts. That's why even voicing support for the gay rights movement can get you disciplined by or even kicked out of BYU. That's why, at BYU in the 1970s, BYU set up an "aversion therapy" clinic where gays were subjected to electric shocks. That's why "prophet" and LDS president Ward Kimball wrote, "Homosexuality is an ugly sin...Perhaps as an extension of homosexual practices, men and women have sunk even to seeking sexual satisfaction from animals." And yes, little MTV boy, it was indeed the addition of Mormon money to an ad campaign that - at least according to the New York Times - "tipped the scale" in favor of Prop 8. No, I'm not anti-Mormon. I'm just pro-truth and pro-rationality.

Cannon has, I think, entirely missed the point. The fact Mormons make up a small part of California’s population, yet wield such disproportionate political influence, is precisely why their participation in denying Gay rights is so distasteful to many people.

I was a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until my mid 30’s, and left the church (in the mid 80’s) for several reasons. One reason is the church’s systemic dishonesty, nicely illustrated in the way they fought against Gay rights while lying about their monetary contributions – all the while enjoying the financial benefits of a tax-exempt organization. I’ve seen it all before when the LDS Church fought to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment, and when they were opposing the Civil Rights movement. Each time the church reached out to squelch someone’s rights they argued they were just following their religious convictions. Yet the church bemoans “persecution” when those un-righteous “religious convictions” come under public scrutiny and condemnation.

I can understand why some Mormons would be embarrassed about their church’s behavior. After all, there’s a lot there to be embarrassed about. But, please, don’t make excuses for the church. Don’t pretend that the church’s persecution of Gays isn’t really persecution. If you find the behavior of your church reprehensible (as you should) then work to change the behavior. Making excuses for the church only emboldens it. The LDS Church is highly susceptible to public criticism. Public criticism forced the church to change its racist policies and reverse many (but not all) of its sexist policies as well. Public criticism has helped Mormonism become a better religion, so in spite of their howls of protest, we should all keep up the pressure for the LDS Church to abandon its latest example of intolerance.

Duwayne Anderson, author of “Farewell to Eden: Coming to terms with Mormonism and science”

No matter how many times someone tells you the Mormons are not anti-gay, you don't want to hear it. You just want to lick your wounds and lash out at them. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that the Mormons are the only ones you have spoken evil of, yet, they are not 51% of the vote in CA.

Mormons are notorious for being pro-family and pro-marriage. How dare you trash on one of their basic tenants in the name of gayhood? You are cloaking selfishness in the name of rights. God is the author and designer of marriage. Stop expecting religious people to "see it your way".

Face it. Homosexuality is maladaptive. Nature discriminated against you first. As a society we have an obligation to protect the survival of our species. Enough said.

I have friends and family who are Mormons. They are very friendly to me. Perhaps this is the first step in educating and changing an outdated philosophy that is definitely not a platform to use for uniting people in the world. I believe ignorant, bigoted, hateful people who self righteously, thump the bible, and dictate to other people born differently to change the way God created them to be, can change. Look at how many of them, no longer kill their children if they are disobedient, wear clothing that is of combined material, and (OH MY GOD) eat crab, lobster and shrimp. If these "rules of the bible" can be selectively ignored, surely treating your Gay neighbor as you would yourself, cannot be an impossibility! What one sows, so shall they reap!

Um, let’s have a reality check. The issue of gay marriage is very emotional, as well it should be. I am an active and life-long Mormon, and I very much empathize with gays and lesbians in California that struggle and fight for the capacity to legally marry. As a Mormon, I do not hate gay people! Now it’s easy to say, “But how can you vote to strip the rights away from a group of people and consider yourself a lover of equality and justice? How can you not admit you’re a bigot?” The answer (and it’s not religious):

Mormons, like many other Americans throughout the country, are concerned with the social and constitutional implications that legalizing gay marriage will have. We value the mores our society has established that put emphasis on traditional marriage between a man and a woman, mostly because of the rights we believe children have to a mother and father. We are also afraid of what the legalization of gay marriage will do to our free speech. For example, gays assured Christians that they would not meddle with their freedom of expression before Prop 8, and that this fear was ridiculous. But once it passed, they condemned Christians for voting in a democratic election and called for their tax-exempt status to be revoked! Many now claim that religious people have no right to vote in such an election. What?!? This is exactly what scares Mormons: that our voices, views and sermons will be silenced. Also, Mormons are concerned with how legalizing gay marriage will effect the legalization of other non-traditional marriages. If the state must recognize a marriage of two men simply because they love one another, upon what basis can it deny marital recognition to a group of two men and three women, for example, or a sterile brother and sister who claim to love each other? Homosexual activists protest that they only want all couples treated equally. But if sexual love becomes the primary purpose of marriage (as opposed to what’s best for children and society), can’t anything go? How does marriage not succumb to chaos? Do you believe in legal marriage for anyone, regardless of the number of people involved, their age or their family relations? If not, does that make you a bigot? Does it mean you hate them? Of course it doesn’t.

Now listen, you might disagree with everything I just posted, and that’s fine. But nothing I said was bigoted or intolerant. It was all logical and secular. I don’t think gays are awful or disgusting and I don’t think they’re going to hell. I don’t want them to have rights taken away. But I simply don’t believe gay marriage is best for society, and neither do the majority of Americans. Disagree and fight for what you believe in, but don’t blame the Mormons for doing the same thing.

Duwayne Anderson "Public criticism forced the church to change its racist policies and reverse many (but not all) of its sexist policies as well."

Oh, we all know it wasn't public criticism. It was simply a nicely timed "revelation" from God, who, as all good Mormons believe, lives out in space near the planet Kolob. That stuff about people of color in the Book of Mormon? No longer true.

Same with polygamy. A convenient revelation superseded the pro-plural-marriage pronouncements of Mormon scripture, thereby ending anti-polygamy actions by the federal government. Of course, if, in these instances, political pressures can somehow overrule the Unchanging True Word of God, the question arises: just what in Mormon Scripture is, in fact, eternal truth? (OK, my answer, informed by science, history, linguistics, genetics, and anthropology, is, um, "dang near nothing." But, depending on your credulity and longing for eternal life, your mileage may vary.)

ShellyGirl "Face it. Homosexuality is maladaptive. Nature discriminated against you first. As a society we have an obligation to protect the survival of our species. Enough said."

Yeah, because as we all know, the Really Big Threat to humanity is that there just aren't enough people on the Earth. Yeah, right. The planet is just soooo underpopulated that anyone who doesn't breed threatens the survival of the species.

Since you're saying that God is the author of marriage, and we're talking about the LDS, let's talk about God, specifically the Mormon God. Yeah, the one who was the Biblical Adam, who made the Earth, then ascended to Godhood and now lives - in the tangible flesh - with Mrs. God near the star Kolob. (Though there are, according to LDS doctrine, not one god, but many.) Let's talk about how the Mormons believed that plural marriage was the greatest good - until they didn't. (Brigham Young had 55 wives, and 57 kids, thereby doing HIS part to ensure the continuation of humanity.) And let's talk about a religion that teaches the Native Americans emigrated from Israel, that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, and that some funky old Egyptian funerary texts were actually written by Abraham. Face it, it's a faith, like so many other religions, that is full of made-up hooey. And perhaps you should tell me why I should believe that their god authored anything, even the phone book. Enough said.

I recognize that the LDS ("Mormon") Church has been scapegoated and demonized by the media, but they took the position they did in California because they were concerned about redefining marriage, not because they hate gays and wanted to make their lives miserable. The reality is that there are 10 of thousands of gay Mormons who are active, participating members of the church. While Mormons are in general conservative-leaning, of all the conservative churches they are probably the most theologically liberal when it comes to homosexuality. See, for example, http://www.allaboutmormons.com/Blog/mormons_gay_haters_passage_proposition_ENG_28.php

Isn't attacking the mormon church for its views just another example of intolerance? How can you expect them to respect your point of view when you show them the same hostility or even moreso? I don't see the Mormon church having these types of vitriolic discussions about the gay community. If I'm wrong, point me out to the website.

Gee Mishi you sound bitter and excommunicated maybe? Hell if I know. I don't care. I didn't say anything about a "Mormon God", but you went off as if you want the last word.

Sticking with what I said, homosexuality is maladaptive. Nature discriminated against them first. What part do you need me to explain further?

We're listening to some punk moron on a crap reality show tell the L.A. Times and teach us all about Mormons? Anyone who denies Same Sex couples from marrying or tries to stop it whether they agree with it or not, are “Anti-gay”. It’s really simple and easy. He should read up a little more on his "Church", because they are in fact against homosexuality, and they've stated it repeatedly. If he wasn't fooling around on garbage reality shows he would have more time to read up on it. And I’m a little bored with hearing anti-gays consistently adding to their sentences, “I’m not anti-gay, but I don’t believe in gay marriage. I have gay friends.” Yes you are and no you don't. No hetero person with homo friends is against same sex marriage. That’s anti-gay. To say you don’t believe, disagree, or anything that out rights an attempt to block something from happening is “Anti”. The guy just sounds like an idiot now.

This Chet Cannon guy is an idiot. Is he seriously this stupid: "People want to get on the LDS church," he said. "They don't even have enough members in California that the vote could be swayed. To isolate the LDS church and attack them is unfair." whooooo! Go back to school Chet an get an Education on how not to act.

There was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—

And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.

Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

See Here for a different Mormon Perspective.


Paul Rushing writes:
"But nothing I said was bigoted or intolerant. It was all logical and secular."

Logical? Only if you think bad logic is logical.

The idea Mormonism is pro-family is a closely orchestrated bit of propaganda promoted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, the LDS Church shows remarkable disregard for families, as evidenced by the way the Mormon Church has carefully crafted church policy so as to use families as leverage to pressure people into continued financial support of the church.

Take “temple” marriage, for example. These are monotonous, unremarkable events with the singular exception that, among all major religions, the LDS Church forbids attendance unless you are an active member *and* you pay 10% of your increase (income) to the church. To go to the temple a person has to get a “recommend.” The recommend is handed out by church leaders after a very personal and invasive “interview” in which leaders pry into the most private aspects of a person’s life. Successful completion of the temple recommend also requires the participant to affirm that the Mormon Church is the only true church, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the current leadership constitutes the only legitimate group called to speak for god.

Imagine the pressure that Mormon family members face when they want to question the LDS Church. They can speak out and get their temple recommend yanked, or they can keep their mouths shut and keep paying the church money – in which case the church will allow them to continue to participate in key family activities, like attending marriages.

No church that uses/abuses families as a form of leverage can be called “pro family.” Any church that treats families with such disregard is “anti family” as far as I’m concerned. At best, Mormonism does about the same amount of good as it does evil to families; Mormons have an average divorce rate – slightly above the national average (and higher than the divorce rate for atheists). Mormons will try and counter that by claiming their “temple” divorce rates are much lower. But don’t fall for that clap trap. A person can get a civil divorce without getting a temple divorce, and at any rate, the LDS Church does not allow audits of their records so independent verification of these obviously self-serving claims is impossible.

Duwayne Anderson
Author of “Farewell to Eden: Coming to terms with Mormonism and science”

Duwayne Anderson: I read your book. It was a piece of propaganda and sheer unadulterated non-sense. The chip you carry on your shoulder toward the church apparently makes it impossible for you to tell an accurate story . . . assuming you any intention of even attemting to write an accurate book.

Of course the LDS church is concerned about the family. I know, you can't trust me because I'm a Mormon. If that isn't the epitome of simple prejudice and bigotry on your part, what could possibly qualify?

Your cherry picked "facts" about Mormons are as misinformed as your book. Mormons who marry in the temple have a divorce rate that is less half of the normal population. . . atheists have a lower rate because there rate of marrying is far lower in the first place. Your attempt to blunt that fact, and it is a fact, is precisely the relevant comparison. Your response is just laughable. The divorce rate reported for those who are married in the temple is the CIVIL divorce rate so you comment is not merely deceptive and misleading, it is just plain uninformed.

Could you show me this "carefully crafted policy" to use families as leverage to pressure other? Please quote the book and page where it is found. Surely it must be in writing somewhere since it is so "carefully crafted." Frankly, your comments are the worst kind of hatred and campaign for misinformation. No wonder your book was so misleading and ill-informed.

ShellyGIrl "Sticking with what I said, homosexuality is maladaptive. Nature discriminated against them first. What part do you need me to explain further?"

Here's what I'd like you to explain.

1) In what way is homosexuality "maladaptive?" Let's assume that way back in the Paleolithic, the overwhelming imperative was to breed and populate - what the holy hell does that have to do with humanity today? Almost 60 of the population of this overcrowded planet is malnourished, and population growth is eating up the rainforests and destroying the eco-system. So wouldn't it be fair to say that reckless breeding is maladaptive? While I'm sure you're an evolutionary biologist - and I'm not - it seems to simple li'l me that if homosexuality were THAT much of a drawback, it would have vanished from the population long ago, instead of being found in all cultures and all eras.

And hey, I hate to break it to you, but should the need arise, given today's technology (or a bunch of turkey basters) gays and lesbians could indeed repopulate the Earth.

2) In what way does Nature (if we childishly choose to personify an impersonal entity) "discriminate" against gays? I have a great relationship, terrific sex life, and am generally happy. When I go out skiiing or hiking, I sure don't feel the universe scowling at me. Really, for me, the biggest downside of being gay is letting myself be sucked into countering asinine arguments.

And you DO know, don't you, that over 400 species exhibit same-sex behavior in the wild. That can include pair bonding, partnered child-rearing, and /or full-fledged anal sex. "Discriminate?" When I think of Mother Nature, she bears absolutely no resemblance to Ann Coulter.

So yes, pray explain further. Just repeating a statement is no way to debate.

D: "Isn't attacking the mormon church for its views just another example of intolerance? How can you expect them to respect your point of view when you show them the same hostility or even moreso? I don't see the Mormon church having these types of vitriolic discussions about the gay community. If I'm wrong, point me out to the website."

Well, I certainly respect the right of anyone to hold any damn belief they want to. But if you tell me that you just saw Elvis down at the Piggly-wiggly, do I have to smile and nod? As far as I'm concerned, I'm under no obligation to respect a belief system that I (and many other people) regard as arrant nonsense. That includes the belief that suicide bombing gets them virgins in Heaven, reports that aliens are kidnapping folks to give them anal probes, and a belief system founded on a guy sticking his head in a hat containing magic stones that gave him the ability to translate the otherwise unknown language of "Reformed Egyptian." Be it Scientology, Mormonism, or otherwise, hooey passed off as religion is still hooey.

And, lest we forget, Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS, denounced all but his version of Christianity as "abominations."

As far as vitriol goes:

"Homosexuality Is Sin: Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity." Excerpt from a 2002 Mormon pamphlet.

"We do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly.... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." Ernest Wilkinson, president of Brigham Young University, in a 1965 lecture to the BYU student body

"'The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. ... The Lord condemns and forbids this practice. ... God made me that way, some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves. ... This is blasphemy." LDS manual for teenagers.

"(Gays )are probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of...They're the meanest buggers I have ever seen." Utah State Senator(and twice-LDS bishop) Chris Buttars, 2009

But, in fact, tone isn't all that important. Mormons can smile all they want while seeking to further their anti-gay agenda. It's still discrimination. Have a few pro-gay individuals committed intemperate acts? Well, sure. But NO LGBT organization discriminates against Mormons, even practicing ones. As a matter of official LDS policy, though, being a sexually active gay Mormon, on the other hand, can get you dragged into church court and excommunicated. Compare and contrast.

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