So this is kind of long, but I think it is important. It is a good lesson for us all to learn. One of my friends emailed me this story, and I would like to share it with all of you.
All photos courtesy of Amy Fisler. Copyright 2008. Amy Fisler. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All Photos are Click to Enlarge.
Editor's Note: As some of you know, Meridian was hacked into last week, apparently by Prop 8 opponents, and in the place of our content was placed a homosexual pornographic film.
It has been an interesting week.
The Chinese homily, “May you live in interesting times,” has its roots in a curse, not a blessing.
As I said, it has been an interesting week.
The controversy in California regarding Proposition 8 (the proposed amendment to the California constitution defining marriage to be strictly between a man and a woman) built to a frenzy in the days leading up to Tuesday's election and then exploded into anger and violence in the aftermath of Prop 8's slim passage into law.
I am a Los Angeles Police Department detective supervisor running a sex crimes unit covering the western quarter of the city, which also includes the area where the Los Angeles temple is located. I have a fantastic crew of 20 detectives who are an amazing mixture of races and sexes. I have several detectives who are openly gay or lesbian. This orientation has nothing to do with their efficiency as investigators. I deeply respect and like these individuals. I enjoy working with them. My life is often in their hands when we serve high risk search or arrest warrants. I trust them implicitly.
Obviously, the types of crimes we investigate bring us into regular contact with victims who are of an alternative lifestyle orientation. It is incumbent upon us that our compassion for these victims be no less than for victims who are heterosexual.
Working in such an environment, I found taking a position on Proposition 8 to be difficult. Even though I chose to follow the direction of our Church leaders in my voting decision, it was extremely hard for me to place myself on the line when it came to actively working to ensure the passage of Proposition 8.
Still, I watched in amazement as my fellow ward and stake members worked tirelessly, committing themselves full-heartedly to the cause – not out of homophobic hatred, but out of a love of Christ and a belief in the sanctity of traditional marriage. Their faith strengthened mine, and I committed to participate in a sign waving public rally sponsored by our stake to be held at a local intersection.
By following through on this commitment, I found I had a greater stake in the battle than I had ever thought. I learned a number of hard and harsh lessons. And in the events following the election and passage of Proposition 8, I felt great anguish forcing me to drop to my knees in prayer – eventually coming to a more personal understanding of the Love of Christ and what he expects from me.
During the Proposition 8 rally, as I stood with my wife and friends waving Yes On 8 signs and waving to the passing rush hour traffic, I learned several things. I learned supporters of both Yes On 8 and No On 8 liked to honk their horns. I learned the way to tell the difference is the No On 8 supporters usually accompanied their horn honking with an obscene gesture or a string of obscenities. They also liked to swerve their cars toward the children on the curb.
I learned when we didn't engage in argument with the No On 8 supporters who intermingled with us in the intersection, they became enraged, red faced, and fit to burst.
I have no doubt Yes On 8 supporters both from our church and other churches engaged at some point in the shouting matches during the numerous rallies and demonstrations across the state. However, on the evening of my participation, I was amazed by the cool and non-confrontational way the Yes On 8 supporters conducted themselves.
I learned at the rally several of our ward members had received hate mail after their names, religious affiliation, contribution mounts, and addresses were published on a website inciting No On 8 supporters to target the listed individuals. Their houses and cars had been vandalized, their campaign support signs stolen, and opposition signs planted in their place.
When I returned home after the rally, I had a huge headache and my stomach was in knots. I am not a fan of confrontation, and the noise of the horn honking, both pro and con, and the divisive atmosphere inherent in the volatile situation had taken its toll. Still, after praying with my wife, I felt calmer and was pleased we had chosen to participate. While our efforts were miniscule compared to the hours of service to the cause provided by others, we had at least jumped down from the fence and done something.
Then I saw the latest No On 8 television commercial.
Supposedly produced by an independent group not affiliated with the official No On 8 campaign, the thirty second commercial spot shows two scruffy male white actors portraying Mormon missionaries who force their way into the well-kept home of a married lesbian couple.
“Hi, we're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” one says.
“We're here to take away your rights,” says his companion.
The missionaries then rip the wedding rings from the women's fingers and ransack the house until they find the women's marriage license, which they destroy.
“Hey, we have rights,” one of the women says.
“Not if we can help it,” answers a missionary.
Moving outside the residence, one of the missionaries smugly says, “That was easy.”
Flexing his muscles, his companion asks, “What do we want to ban next?”
While I was appalled by the commercial, I was even more appalled both MSNBC and The Comedy Channel happily took money to broadcast this overtly hate filled vignette. I cannot imagine a similar commercial, targeted at any other religious or racial group, not being considered a hate crime with a civic outcry for prosecution.
My hackles were beginning to rise in a distinctly unchristian way. However, the fun was just beginning.
Election Day And Aftermath
Election day in California saw numerous No On 8 activists distributing literature and vocalizing at polling sites in clear violation of election laws. Police were called, 100 yard distances from the polling places were paced off, yet the agitation continued.
Despite these efforts, Proposition 8 obtained a slim majority (52.5% to 47.5%). Exit polls showed the proposition was supported by 7 of 10 Black voters, a majority of Latino voters, and by people with children under the age of 18 still at home. Clearly, it was supported by all people who believed marriage is a special and protected institution.
The day after the election, spontaneous protests sprung up in West Hollywood – a small residential community, with a large gay and lesbian population, located within Los Angeles County , but just outside Los Angeles city borders. The protests did not have a particular focus or target other than outrage as they strayed outside the confines of West Hollywood and into Beverly Hills , Hollywood , and West Los Angeles . Several arrests were made, but the seething anger at the passage of Proposition 8 was not dampened.
On Thursday, however, two days after the election, rumors began to be picked up by LAPD of a large protest organized by gay and lesbian activists and their supporters to be staged outside the Los Angeles LDS temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles .
LAPD has 22 geographic Areas divided between 4 administrative Bureaus . My investigative unit is attached to Operations-West Bureau – which has responsibility for the area where the Los Angeles temple grounds are located. We operate out of a squadroom across from the Bureau's administrative offices. In such proximity, I was in a position to observe the command post set up in the Bureau offices to monitor the actions of the field command post charged with keeping the already illegal (no permits) protest peaceful.
What I learned by watching and listening shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. During my 30+ year tenure, the LAPD as an organization has made great professional strides in the internal battle against sexual harassment, sexual orientation harassment, and racism. While there are still those in civil liberty organizations who contest we are still guilty of racially profiling on the streets (difficult to imagine when our department is so thoroughly integrated at this point in time), organizationally there is little or no tension remaining in these areas.
In the Bureau command post there was a large screen television displaying scenes from the protest outside the Los Angeles temple. Imagine my surprise, when angry protestors began rushing the closed temple gates, and I heard an officer in the command post say, “I hope they burn that place to the ground.”
Imagine my even stronger surprise when another officer replied, “They better hope they don't get through the gates, because the Mormons have an army in a bunker under the temple that will come out and kill them all.”
Really? My temple recommend must not be of a high enough clearance to get me into that part of the temple.
I'm now doing a slow burn. Not only am I watching a sacred building under siege from 2,500 angry people shouting, “ SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND HATE,” and carrying signs proclaiming MORMON HATERS and LOVE NOT HATE, I'm listening to other police officers who agree with the protestors or have the most imaginative fantasies about blood atonement armies hidden under the temple (exactly how do we feed them, drill them, get them in and out without anybody seeing, or are they all in a state of suspended animation until needed?).
I want to emphasize these were not officers or detectives from my own unit – who are all aware of my Mormon faith. Those in my unit who disagree with me over this issue are respectfully tolerant, as I am respectfully tolerant of their opposite beliefs. Tolerance, as Orson Scott Card recently pointed out, is indicative of disagreement. It is not a battle we choose to fight amongst ourselves. Most of us have known each other for a long time and are either embracing of, or oblivious to, our differences – divisiveness has no place in the types of investigations we conduct.
The worst, however, was yet to come. The temple presidency made a decision to close the temple for the evening. The right decision, but since when do we as Americans stand by – no matter what our religion – while access to a place of worship is forced to close down because of aggressive outside influences?
The late local news showed scenes of several Hispanic females in tears outside the temple trying to remove the signs desecrating the walls and fences surrounding the temple. As these individuals – who according to a temple spokesperson were not church members – removed the hate-filled signs, the mob exploded and began beating the individuals to the ground. Police intervened and arrests were made, but the fact this was allowed to happen at all was appalling.
Other supporters of Yes On 8 drove slowly by the protestors with Yes On 8 signs attached to their cars and pickups sparking other violent confrontations.
A friend of mine, watching the same scenes play out on the television, called and said he felt like he wanted to go down to the temple with a baseball bat and begin swinging at the demonstrators. I must admit, the natural man in me agreed.
In actuality, the scenes on the television, literally drove me to my knees in prayer for the safety of the temple, the members, and our church. A lesson I have learned several times before, caused me to expand my prayers to include those who were opposing us for they are not our enemies – they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Appropriate Response
In the face of hatred, how are we to feel about this focused attack upon our church? An attack launched not because we are the only supporters of Proposition 8, but because we have been the most visible and financially supportive entity in the battle. We are an easy target.
In a recent article on Christian Courage , Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “I would say that one of mortality's great tests comes when our beliefs are questioned or criticized. In such moments, we may want to respond aggressively – to put up our dukes . But these are important opportunities to step back, pray, and follow the Savior's example. Remember, Jesus Himself was despised and rejected by the world. And in Lehi's dream, those coming to the Savior also endured ‘mocking and pointing … fingers' (1 Nephi 8:27). ‘The world hath hated [my disciples],' Jesus said, ‘because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world' (John 17:14). But when we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christlike, we invite others to feel His love and follow Him as well.
“To respond in a Christlike way cannot be scripted or based on a formula. The Savior responded differently in every situation. When He was confronted by wicked King Herod, He remained silent. When He stood before Pilate, He bore a simple and powerful testimony of His divinity and purpose. Facing the moneychangers who were defiling the temple, He exercised His divine responsibility to preserve and protect that which was sacred. Lifted up upon a cross, He uttered the incomparable Christian response: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34).”
We have often been instructed to love our enemies, and despite the current horror of our trials, this is no time to do differently.
As I write this (Friday, November 7, 2008), plans are being made by the LAPD to respond to another larger protest/demonstration being planned by No On 8 supporters to be staged in front of the Los Angeles temple on Saturday.
This is interesting since Saturday is my stake's day in the temple. For some weeks now, we have been encouraging families to come together to the temple on Saturday to participate in ordinances.
How do we respond to hatred disguised by the adversary as tolerance? Our stake president has talked to the temple presidency who has assured him the temple will be open for business as usual. There are eight weddings scheduled on the grounds. Will we be able to get to the temple without being molested or our vehicles vandalized? We must place our faith in the Lord and proceed.
Challenges to our faith are not new. Nor are they likely to go away anytime soon. But, as Elder Hales reminds us, “True disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition. We can take advantage of such opportunities in many ways: a kind letter to the editor, a conversation with a friend, a comment on a blog, or a reassuring word to one who has made a disparaging comment. We can answer with love those who have been influenced by misinformation and prejudice – who are ‘kept from the truth because they know not where to find it' (D&C 123:12). I assure you that to answer our accusers in this way is never weakness. It is Christian courage in action.”
Clearly there are lessons to be learned from the current unrest:
Tolerance is not agreement and should not be a one way street. However, we must still remain tolerant of those who are intolerant of us.
Recognize the adversary at work here – making good seem bad and evil seem good.
We can only be disciples of Christ when we respond to adversity in a Christlike manner. To do less opens our actions to the influence of the adversary and hurts us even more.
We should never take for granted the opportunities we have to gather together in worship. We should never put off the opportunity to attend the temple. For these valuable things can be disrupted and possibly even closed to us – if not permanently, then at least on a temporary basis.
Pray. Often. Don't forget to include those who are set against you.
And finally, have no doubt President Monson knows where all of this is leading. He will surely reveal the knowledge to us on the Lord's timetable. Meanwhile, we must support and trust him, his inspired councilors, and our inspired local leaders in our actions. Their actions of Christian courage will be our examples.