In the July 9 edition of the Wall Street Journal’s online edition, author and educator John Turner offers some unbiased observations on “8: The Mormon Proposition”, a polemic film about the LDS Church’s support for California’s 2008 ballot initiative defining marriage as exclusively a heterosexual relationship.

Read this interesting article here.  Highlights appear below.

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In 1857, explaining his decision to send the army to put down a “rebellion” in Utah, President James Buchanan complained that Brigham Young’s fanatical followers “obey his commands as if these were direct revelations from heaven.”

One hundred and fifty years later, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints again stands accused of fanaticism, in this instance by a documentary that seeks to indict the church for its recent foray into the politics of marriage.

Also, much as President Buchanan did in 1857, “The Mormon Proposition” portrays church members as blindly following the commands of their divinely appointed leaders.

Mormons do place an extraordinary emphasis on obedience to their leaders, including viewing their president as God’s ordained prophet on earth. That ethic of obedience does not, however, make Mormon leaders cruel dictators or ordinary members blind automatons. While Mormons in California and elsewhere heeded their leaders’ call, most probably did so not out of fear or blind obedience but because they also believed in the cause.

Ultimately, where the film really misses the mark is in its portrayal of Mormons—less than 2% of Americans belong to the church—as a threat to fundamental American political values. At various points in U.S. history, Protestant Christian majorities persecuted Quakers, Mormons, Catholics and Jews. Until recent decades, racial majorities deprived African Americans, Chinese Americans and other groups of basic citizenship rights.

As a small, non-violent minority, the Mormons pose no such threat. The specter of Mormon money raised in the film seems like a latter-day version of older fears about Jewish financiers controlling the American economy and government. The Mormon effort made a difference only because Californians are roughly evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage.