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For week ended March 05, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 06Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

For Some, Mormon Stance on Gay Issue Creates a Crisis of Conscience
Salt Lake Tribune 5Mar00 N1
By Dan Egan: Salt Lake Tribune

TRACY, CALIFORNIA -- With the vote in California on Proposition 22 approaching, the Salt Lake Tribune interviewed the LDS family of Alan and Yvette Hansen, who say they are good Mormons, but that they are opposed to proposition 22 and the Church's support of the measure. Alan Hansen says that his speaking on the issue has lead to an "informal probation" imposed by local Church leaders. But Hansen says he continues to oppose the measure, because he says it could lead to discrimination against homosexuals and a loss of rights for children of gays.

"I obviously believe God doesn't want me to vote 'yes,' he wants me to vote 'no,' " says Alan Hansen. He says he's surprised to find himself at odds with the Church on an issue, "This is the first time I've found myself left of center. I'm a pretty conservative guy." He says he isn't attacking the Church, just criticizing its stand on the issue. But his stake president, Rex Brown of the Manteca, California Stake, doesn't see it that way, "People certainly are free to say whatever they'd like to say in regards to Proposition 22," Brown says. "The real issue is speaking out against the church." But Brown refused to comment on Hansen's standing with the Church, saying that such matters are confidential.

The Hansen's are not alone in opposing the Church's stand. The suicide of 32-year-old returned missionary and celibate gay Stuart Matis came after he had spoken out both locally and in the BYU Daily Universe against the issue. But his family says his suicide had nothing to do with proposition 22. Many others are also opposed to the measure, but refused to give their names, fearing repercussions like those that Hansen claims. Some LDS Church members don't even feel comfortable discussing the proposition privately. One Southern California member says, "The issue is so sensitive. It's just pretty doggone touchy and people don't want to betray themselves to somebody who might report them. In ways, it's like what I imagined it was like living in Russia, where people acted as the eyes and ears of government."

Meanwhile, local members report that local efforts to encourage donations and support continue, with letters read in sacrament meetings each Sunday soliciting support and asking members to put Yes on Proposition 22 signs in their yards, "The ecclesiastical pressure has been enormous," says one former bishop, who continues to hold a high church leadership position in the Bay Area. "We've never seen anything like this."

But the LDS Church says that proposition 22 is a moral issue, and that it calls for political activism. And local leaders claim that support for the Church's position has been overwhelming. "When the prophet [Hinckley] speaks, we listen," says LDS Bishop Brent Newbold, a Sacramento area dry cleaning store owner. "It's caused people to make a decision -- [to state] where they stand." Newbold says nine out of 10 in his ward are following the Church's position. But he does admit one woman quit attending the ward because of the issue, "I don't call her in and give her a hard time," says Newbold. "Hopefully, she'll come back."

Unfortunately, the issue also seems to be the last straw for many people. Former LDS Church member Kathy Worthington, a Utah gay-rights activist, says she has heard from more than 300 people who are seeking to have their names removed from LDS Church records. She claims to have copies of more than 100 notarized letters sent to LDS Church headquarters seeking removal over Proposition 22. LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy couldn't confirm or deny Worthington's claims.

Alan Hansen, who claims to be on "informal probation," may be among them eventually. A returned missionary who served in Japan, he says he has been released from a teaching position in the Church and told he needs to apologize for a letter he wrote to the Tracy Press criticizing both Proposition 22 and the Church's support of the measure, "The bishop has said I need to make a public apology for my comments," he says. "I haven't said anything that is not the truth, and a person should not be punished for telling the truth."

His wife worries that he could be excommunicated, but Hansen says he won't stop lobbying against the proposition, "I was asked -- if it came down to [my position on] Proposition 22 v. my church membership, which would I choose," he says. "I'd choose both. If I couldn't choose, it would be out of my hands. It wouldn't be my choice."


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