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Mormon Church steps into the Prop. 8 battle

October 9, 2008 | 11:22 am


Everyone's got an opinion about Proposition 8, the proposed amendment to the state Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. Plenty of people and organizations are voting with their pocketbooks, both from within and from outside California.

Now comes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which grabbed some TV time in Utah to urge the 770,000 Mormon church members in California to weigh in on the matter. Here's the story from the Associated Press:

Two members of the church's second-highest governing body, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, quoted from Mormon scripture on the sanctity of marriage as they laid out a week-by-week strategy for boosting Mormon involvement before the Nov. 4 election in voter registration efforts, phone banks and distributing campaign materials.

“What we're about is the work of the Lord, and He will bless you for your involvement,” apostle M. Russell Ballard said during the hour-long meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.

So far, Proposition 8 supporters have poured $19,778,208 to outlaw same-sex marriage, about $1.6 million more than opponents of the measure. Add the two sides together and that's about $38 million. Imagine the good it could be doing elsewhere.

The rest of the Associated Press story is after the jump.

-- Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Inside the LDS conference center in Salt Lake City. Credit: Associated Press

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the nation's most populous state by amending the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman.

Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving an estimated 43 percent — some $8.4 million — to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com. There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California, but Mormons from outside the state have been encouraged to give money and time to help pass the measure.

During Wednesday's taped satellite broadcast, church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours a week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site — PreservingMarriage.org — with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.

Church elder L. Whitney Clayton, who has been working as a liaison between the LDS leaders and the Proposition 8 campaign, said before the event that it was meant to energize Mormons for the weeks remaining before Election Day.

    “It's a political campaign, and time is short and there's a lot to do.”

Along with recruiting Mormons to work in California, church members from outside the state have been asked to call friends and family at home in California to encourage support for the measure, according to Clayton. He said many students attending church-owned universities have asked how they might help and could be enlisted to make calls.

“In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help, and one of the things we can do is we can organize,” Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.

Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God and has actively fought efforts to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States since the 1990s.

Its involvement in the California same-sex marriage debate this year began with a letter from church President Thomas S. Monson asking California Mormons to give their time and money to pass Proposition 8. Monson's letter has been read repeatedly in Mormon churches, and opponents of the forthcoming initiative have credited LDS members with giving the Yes on 8 camp an edge in donations and volunteers.

Some Mormons have criticized the church for wading so heavily into the political realm.

“We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it's place in our Father's plan,” Ballard said.

Besides Clayton and Ballard, the broadcast featured Quentin L. Cook, another member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.