Nothing seems more important right now than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While some extreme right wingers have praised Putin, most of the Western world has not. Even Switzerland gave up its fiercely-held neutrality. Putin is a bad dude. Full stop.
So if your church had spent the last 20+ years supporting–with time, money, personnel, and endorsement–an organization that has praised Putin, associated with pro-Putin imperialist Russian and fascist European leaders, and furthered Putin’s agenda of alienating Eastern European countries from the rest of Europe and deepening their ties to Russia instead, would you want to know about it?
If so, read on. If not, I’ll be back next week talking about Jesus (unless some other world event puts off that post, which was originally set for today!).
Either way, take some time to find and donate to a reputable Ukrainian relief agency.
Last week in discussing the LDS Church’s response to Russia invading Ukraine, Angela & I mentioned in the comments that the Church supports organizations, including at least one with deep ties to Russia, that are actively pursuing anti-LGBT policies in Eastern Europe. While these organizations work hard to hide their funding sources and political ties (and the Church is not transparent about how it spends its money, either), I did a deep dive this week to see what more I could learn about the organizations involved, their connection to Putin, European fascism, and anti-LGBT legislation, and the Church’s support of it all. It’s a lot of information, so I’m breaking it up into three parts.
Today in part 1 I’ll give background information on an organization called the World Congress of Families (WCF), its connection to Russia, and its anti-LGBT advocacy.
In part 2, I’ll go into more detail about the LDS Church’s ties with and support of the WCF.
Finally, in part 3, we’ll look at the connection between the WCF, homophobia, and Russian imperialism.
Background: The World Congress of Families
In 1995 Allan Carson, a U.S. researcher and founder of the conservative think-tank the Howard Center, was invited to Moscow by two Russian sociologists who admired his work about the negative impact he claimed LGBT rights and feminism had on the family. Carson’s Russian hosts were concerned about the impact of Westernization on Russia and declining birthrates after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Together, they formed the World Congress of Families (WCF), also known now as the International Organization for the Family (IOF), which launched with a global “Congress” in 1997. WCF’s objective is to promote the cishetero nuclear family, which it calls the “natural family”, and to defend it as “the only fundamental and sustainable unit of society.” It promotes its global Congresses as the largest gatherings of pro-family leaders and activists in the world.
WCF also pursues this advocacy through publications, training programs, and regional events that advocate anti-LGBT and anti-abortion policies. One of its motivating concerns is a “demographic winter”–the idea that declining birthrates will lead to the decline of Western civilization, so its ideology is heavily pro-natalist. “Western” is key here; WCF is specifically concerned not with “a general lack of babies, but the cultural shifts that come when some populations, particularly immigrant communities, are feared to be out-procreating others.” Because of its anti-LGBT policies and ideology, WCF has been classified as an extremist hate group by both the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
While WCF works with numerous U.S. and international groups to oppose LGBT and women’s reproductive rights globally, it has focused heavily on Eastern Europe, often holding events in countries where tensions between pro-Western / EU and pro-Russian forces are high. At those events and in its other work in the region, the WCF urges Eastern European countries not to fall prey to the morally bankrupt human rights standards of Western Europe–aligning Eastern European countries to Russia rather than the west.
While I will address its involvement in more detail in part 2, the LDS Church has remained a close ally to WCF since its inception. It helped plan and fund at least the first several Congresses via BYU’s now-defunct World Family Policy Center (WFPC) and through direct donations from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation and the LDS Europe Area. It hosted the 2015 Congress in Salt Lake City (the only North American conference location), and has sent representatives to every single global Congress since WCF’s inception. At least as of 2017, Dallin Oaks was an honorary board member.
WCF’s Anti-LGBT Advocacy
Prior to 2015, WCF was heavily involved in fighting gay marriage in the United States–including Prop 8 (which, as everyone knows, the LDS Church was likewise heavily involved in). But by 2015, the fight over gay marriage in the United States was effectively over after 37 of 50 U.S. states legalized gay marriage and the remaining 13 would have to based on the Supreme Court’s ruling that restricting same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. However, WCF’s anti-gay marriage efforts continued abroad in countries that did not have similar constitutional protections or were more hostile to LGBT folks. It also went far beyond gay marriage, supporting laws to suppress speech about homosexuality and (in Africa) criminalizing homosexuality.
Some its anti-LGBT advocacy in WCF has pursued in Eastern Europe includes (but is not limited to) the following. (I’ve tried to find primary sources where I could, but not all are available online. For those that were unavailable, I’m relying on the HRC and SPLC reports.)
- Promoted Russia’s 2014 “anti-gay propaganda law”, and here, which human rights groups have criticized as “intensif[ying] the hostility LGBT people in Russia have long suffered, and also stifl[ing] access to LGBT-inclusive education and support services.” While this post will not address abortion, it also worked with Russia to pass Russia’s first-ever laws restricting abortion, banning the most basic abortion protocols.
- Inflamed concerns in Ukraine that joining the European Union would force the country to accept marriage equality. (More on this later.)
- Supported legislation in Poland that would have banned discussion of homosexuality in Polish public schools.
- Lobbied against marriage equality legislation in Albania and Romania and submitted amicus briefs arguing against the recognition of gay marriage in Slovakia.
- Successfully lobbied Serbian leaders not to permit a gay pride parade while they held a march in support of the “natural family”.
- Condemned participation by U.S. Embassador to Latvia and U.S. Embassador to the Czech Republic in those countries’ gay rights parade.
While this post focuses on Eastern Europe, WCF has promoted even harsher measures in Africa where it has found a more willing audience. It backed a “kill the gays” bill in Uganda and more recently a proposed Ghanian law that “would make identifying as gay or even an ally to the LGBTQ community a second-degree felony punishable by five years in prison–with advocating for LGBTQ rights punishable by up to 10 years.” (LDS woman Sharon Slater has been particularly active in African anti-gay efforts.) It appears that WCF will go as far as its target countries will allow to fight against human rights for, and the very existence of, LGBT folks.
WCF contends that it is not “anti” anything but instead simply promotes the “natural family” and a positive message. While I’ve tried to avoid editorializing too much here–you can draw your own conclusions about WCF, and I’ve pointed to their own sources wherever possible–I’ll editorialize here: I agree with the SPLC that WCF is a hate group. This is not your watered down “fairness for all” approach the Church shills to the public. This is a group that harbors intense animus towards queer folks, that does not want them to speak or exist, that characterizes them as pedophiles and disease-spreaders, and that views them as an existential threat. I’m not going to give them much air time, but some quotes from the group about LBGT folks include:
“There is no comparison between [same-sex marriage] and natural marriage. Most homosexual liaisons are of short duration. Even those that are called ‘committed relationships’ are rarely monogamous.”
—Don Feder, WCF director of international coalitions and coordinator of regional events, Barbwire.com, July 22, 2017
“Governments and transnational entities should cease all propaganda in favor of ‘gender theory’ and ‘sexual orientation,’ which have no basis in biological reality.”
—WCF Tbilisi Declaration, 2016
“Tell the LGBT tolerance tyrants, this lavender mafia, these homofascists, these rainbow radicals, that they are not welcome to promote their anti-religious and anti-civilizational propaganda in your nations.”
—Fr. Josiah Trenholm speaking at the World Congress of Families gathering in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2016
“I think that when people realize that these activists are trying to impose on their children an awareness of unnatural behavior that does lead to the whole AIDS problem, people are going to get very angry. If you teach kids in a barrio that these [homosexual] acts, that they feel good, we’re going to have people dying of AIDS like flies…. What they call ‘gay marriage’ is a piece of paper that says we get to have a nice ceremony, we each get to have a nice bunch of flowers, and we get to have these partnership benefits — that’s not going to stop them from being promiscuous.”
—Christine Vollmer, recipient of the 2014 WCF lifetime achievement award and WCF Ambassador, quoted in Buzzfeed, May 2014
“And the homosexual propaganda — the law in the Russian Duma it passed on first reading, it would ban propaganda to minors, preventing them [LGBT people] from corrupting children. What a great idea and the rest of Europe is going the other way, legalizing LGBT propaganda.”
—Larry Jacobs, WCF managing director, speaking to End Times radio host Rick Wiles about Russia’s passage of anti-LGBT laws, June 2013
“We cannot imagine a worse form of cultural imperialism than Washington trying to force approval of the ‘gay’ agenda on societies with traditional values.”
—WCF “Letter by Pro-Family Leaders Worldwide Protesting Participation of the U.S. Embassy in Prague ‘Gay Pride’ Parade,” 2012
“The complementary natures of men and women, both physically and psychologically, are evident throughout the course of human history and in every society. Deviations from natural sexual behavior cannot truly satisfy the human spirit.”
—WCF founder Allan Carlson and former WCF executive vice president Paul Mero, The Natural Family: A Manifesto, 2007
WCF and its affiliates will go as far as possible to make queer lives miserable–even endangering those lives. It is particularly repugnant that the group chooses countries where queer people already face intense discrimination and adds to that burden. This is not God’s work. It bears no fruits of the spirit.
And, as I’ll describe in part 2, the LDS Church has supported them the whole way.
And if that weren’t enough, WCF’s work supports Russian imperialism, the fruition of which we are seeing now, which I’ll address in part 3.
Stay tuned and let me know in the comments what you think!
- Did you know about WCF’s work, its ties to Russia, or its ties to the LDS Church?
- Do you know anything about this I haven’t written about? If so, tell us know! This is a quite the rabbit hole when you get started.
- Any guesses as to how this relates to Russian imperialism?
- Did anyone click on every single hyperlink?
Thanks so much for shining a light on this connection, Elisa. This is tremendously important work. It is deeply depressing to me that GAs consider it such an important cause to fight against LGBT rights that they will, as you note, give a watered-down version in the US, where showing the full breadth of their animosity is no longer politically possible, but happily back the most cruel and inhumane laws in other places where they might have a chance.
This is obviously a tangent, but reading about this makes me very glad that the Church is hanging on to so much of its money. I can think of many better uses for it than just neverending investments. But on the bright side, neverending investments are a hell of a lot better than spending more on backing the WCF.
I had no idea about any of this. I am utterly appalled. It’s going to take some time to process….
Add in the recent crackdowns at the BYUs and the church is looking and behaving more and more like some fascist, authoritarian dictatorship I want no part of.
I read so much hate and prejudice in a post allegedly against hate and bigotry. Remove the beam from your own eye so you can see the speck in your opponents eye.
Do you really believe that Church leaders are filled with hate and bigotry? Every leader I know is full of love and trying to follow the example of Christ. I suppose if you try hard enough you could see hate in anyone, but you have to really work to twist the intentions of the Lord’s servants.
So, it shouldn’t be of concern if birthrates are falling around the western world? Isn’t that the whole point to the movie Idiocracy? the world lost intelligence when smart people stopped having babies and only the dumb people reproduced.The world needs more babies to solve the world’s problems. And so I guess I applaud any organization that promotes strong families. The fundamental unit of civilization.
Wow, Mark. That’s a truly impressive level of racism for you to equate “western” births with “smart people” and births everywhere else with “dumb people.” I think this has always been the problem with eugenics, is that it turns very quickly into “my kind of people need to out-reproduce the bad kind of people.”
@mark, my purpose in the post is to inform people about the activities of the Church. You can take that information any way you like and if you’re glad the Church sponsors the group, that’s your prerogative.
I don’t believe I ever said Church leaders are filled with hate and bigotry. Only that they financially support, attend events for, and sit on the board of a group that’s been classified as a hate group by US human rights orgs. Some people will be concerned with that and some will not. Knowledge and transparency are power.
As for Idiocracy, I haven’t seen that and based on your description not sure it would appeal to me (sounds very racist / classist). I am not sure how not letting gay people get married helps with population growth, though, but that’s beside the point of that post so not really something to debate in the comments.
This is great research. The more you look into it the more you discover that the Church is anything but “pro-family”. Think of how polygamy affected normal family functions like regular access to a husband or father. Think how the priesthood / temple ban affected black families and their opportunities for “exaltation”. Think how anti-LGBTQ policies / doctrine affect a gay brother or sister in a family both in terms of their identity with their current family and their future ability to be in a family of their own.
We’ve talked before about RMN’s “sad heaven” conference talk a couple of years ago. Heaven keeps getting sadder and emptier until you leave the Church and discover the happiness of acceptance and celebration, not just pretend tolerance. I know I sound touchy-feely but honestly this is maddening.
I don’t understand how anyone can claim that the LGBBTQIAP are the marginalized and oppressed? and People of Color are not marginalized either. You are not marginalized when you have the sympathy and moral and financial support of the mass media, the mainline churches, the entertainment world, the corporate CEOs, the universities, and much of the political class.
The MAGAs are the truly marginalized group.
I still don’t think you really have much to worry about with these “dark money” groups that the Church supports. The spending of these groups is nothing compared to radical, anti-human of the radical left.
“The MAGAs are the truly marginalized group.”
One can only hope that yes, we can go back to a more reasonable state of affairs where you and your KKK buddies are decidedly at the margins. Now quit whining and derailing the thread on Elisa’s excellent post.
I issue my strongest possible condemnation to Russia, Putin, and those like Mark who support them. There is no place uncivilized society for the racism, hatred, and bigotry that they support.
Any organization that truly supports the family should avoid Russia like the plague. The Imperial Russian Family had a long history of princesses who would put even the most intoxicated college girl on Bourbon Street to shame. This was followed by communist leaders who practiced wanton sexuality on a scale that would embarrass a demented stoat. And now, Putin and his ilk destroy families by actually killing the people who make up families.
Any person or organization who turns an eye toward Russia as a hope for building families is either fooling themselves, or attempting to fool us.
Sometimes I think JCS must be trying to drum up business for his stoat farm.
When my queer child said “The Church literally wants me dead. They want me not to exist,” I thought it was hyperbole. Unfortunately, it is not.
Very interesting information. I have not heard about this group or the church’s support for it. I’m looking forward to reading your future posts about it. I’ll be honest, I’m probably not going to do more research on my own, so all the information that I get about it will probably be filtered through you.
I think you’ve done a nice job of just presenting facts, and leaving opinions out of it. As you said to Mark “You can take that information any way you like and if you’re glad the Church sponsors the group, that’s your prerogative. I don’t believe I ever said Church leaders are filled with hate and bigotry.”
My assumption is that you really really dislike this group, and really really dislike that the church is involved with this group in any way. Which I understand. Based on what I’m reading I feel the same way.
It sounds like the actual effect and outcomes of this group has been terrible. I could be wrong, but I have a hard time believing that the church supported this group because they want and support the terrible outcomes that have been produced. I also don’t believe that Church leaders are filled with hate and bigotry. So I wonder if the church has said what their intentions were in supporting this group. What outcomes did they want or were hoping would come from supporting this group?
I hope that as you present the facts about “How the church has supported them the whole way” in part 2- that you’ll include some information/quotes from the church’s side about why they have supported them. What has their intention been? That will be helpful to me in creating a fully informed opinion on “If I am glad the church sponsors the group” or at what level I should be outraged that the church sponsors the group. Thank you for doing the work and research on this for all of us.
@CosmoTheCat that’s good feedback. I had just planned to present the data of what the church did and when and who, but I will see what more I can find for that context as you’re right that’s helpful.
I think honestly it’s mostly just about “supporting the natural family” and I don’t know that things will get more specific than that. I certainly hope the Church didn’t support Kill the Gays laws (a church member did, but with her own foundation, and clearly I don’t attribute that to the Church but I also don’t know if they partner with her foundation).
Anyway, I’ll do my best to address that in my next post.
Thank you Elisa for an enlightening and important post. I have known about WCF since they came to SLC for their convention. I was shocked then that M. Russell Ballard was the keynote speaker, especially because of the way the SPLC categorized the WCF. I thought Ballard’s involvement, and by proxy the church’s, was a one-off, a host city courtesy. Evidently I was wrong, way wrong.
I did click on every link you provide (thank you for the references), and have to say I’m left speechless. I’ve written several times here that I have serious questions about the institutional church’s ethics, and this adds to my concerns. It appears the church’s practice of situational ethics is more commonplace than I imagined. Then again, if you would have asked me a couple of years ago to wager on the current moves BYU is making against our LGBTQ+ members, or Holland’s musket fire speech…well…I would have lost that bet.
I guess my bias, my hope, is that things like the church’s rescinding its gay marriage policy is morally based, correcting a moral wrong to make it right, when in fact it is far more likely that doing so was based on a simple cost benefit analysis. No moral consideration, just a conclusion that the policy was ineffectual, despite the church blaming God for the policy’s issuance in the first place. I struggle to acknowledge and accept the institutional church is ends driven, period.
Part of what informs my ideas about the church’s poor ethics and lack of transparency goes back to how it involved itself in California’s Prop 8 (2008), based on lessons it learned with California’s Prop 22 (2000). Regarding Prop 22, the church donated to the campaign directly and was later sharply criticized for giving to much money to the cause, with some even calling it “the Mormon proposition” in retrospect. Eight years later instead of donating directly to Prop 8, the church pushed members to donate directly to the effort so it could stay in the clear if similarly scrutinized. (There is far more to this story too–some of which involves the church’s research and campaign advertising–that made me realize at the time the church is capable of embracing “lying for Jesus” justifications to defend its actions.)
I guess my point is this, their is much evidence stretching over time the institutional church seems more than willing to be ends driven without as much regard to the means by which it achieves its goals. It’s involvement with the WCF is one more example of this. The church’s methods should bother all members of the church. And more specifically, the lack of financial transparency and accounting should outrage every member. If the church donates money to the WCF, it should be openly discussed at a minimum. (This is another reason I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable donating a dime to the church.)
My head is spinning from what I have learned in your OP, Elisa, and in the links you provided. I too am going to need some more time to process this, run down the WCF rabbit hole, and cope with even more disappointment in my church. I’m looking forward to your next OP.
@BigSky, that’s impressive! There is a lot of interesting information in the links, though, that I can’t possibly cover here. I especially thought reading the press coming out of Eastern Europe was interesting.
As for Prop 22 / Prop 8, that’s outside scope for this post but of course I ran across information about it in researching. There are internal documents leaked regarding a strategy for Hawaii where the Church would find non-LDS people to start organizations to represent its interests to have plausible deniability about its involvement, and people believe (but have not conclusively proven) they did the same for Prop 8. Pretty sketchy. The Church also got in trouble for not disclosing donations to Prop 8, but it had cleaned up quite a bit there and didn’t donate much–instead, as you note, it galvanized its membership to donate & volunteer. I lived it.
Detailed article here (also multiple parts :-)).
TLDR. But no big loss. Anything with “homophobia” in the title is not likely to be fair and balanced anyway.
@Fred, you answered my question without even reading the post though!
I asked, “If your church had spent the last 20+ years supporting–with time, money, personnel, and endorsement–an organization that has praised Putin, associated with pro-Putin imperialist Russian and fascist European leaders, and furthered Putin’s agenda of alienating Eastern European countries from the rest of Europe and deepening their ties to Russia instead, would you want to know about it?”
And you answered, “NOPE!” So a valuable contribution, notwithstanding your choice not to read before commenting.
I was vaguely aware of WCF before this post, but I learned a lot. I clicked about half the links, particularly the ones to WCF itself, and read the statements about what they seek to do. I didn’t know of the Church’s close and longstanding association with WCF. The Church is moving towards more authoritarianism. As the Christian conservatives lose their stranglehold on culture and sex, the response is to crack down harder, rather than to realize that letting people decide what kind of sex they like is not going to destroy the world. It’s odd to read the New Testament and see what Jesus was most concerned about – helping the poor and marginalized, calling out religious hypocrisy, and teaching love and compassion. Then to hear people claim their brand of Christianity obsesses about making sure people only have approved sex, to the exclusion of all else.
I read a news article today explaining that the reason some U.S. evangelicals support Putin is because of the way he’s restricted LGBT rights and reproductive choice. It’s an astonishing amount of hatred to be glad of a vicious and destructive war because the one waging it agrees with your sexual preferences. I really don’t understand the paranoia of the right, exemplified in Mark’s comment above about how the MAGA group are the truly marginalized. Seriously, is anyone persecuting people in straight marriages? How controversial is it for a man to marry a woman? Not one bit. I guess I do understand it intellectually – the Christian right feel threatened if anyone chooses to live differently than they do. Everyone must conform! They may cause damage and roll back LGBT rights, but they’ll never win the culture war because you can’t legislate sexual attraction.
@Janey, I’m confused by the Christian Right too. One explanation is that it’s a way to mobilize support (because people more readily mobilize against enemies than for shared values).
I suspect it has a lot to do with protecting patriarchy, because gay marriage and gender fluidity is a huge challenge to patriarchy.
I did not click on a single link Elisa, and probably never will. I don’t think my heart can take it any more. I’ve had enough musket fire rhetoric and sadness about people “getting the wrong idea” of a family picture on social media this past year to last me a lifetime. But thank you for educating me on this; I was completely unaware.
I also lived through Prop 8. It was only the second time I disagreed strongly with the Church, and was probably the start of my journey through nuance.
What makes me so frustrated is how bad human beings are at cause and effect. For example, birth rates are declining. How in the world is that on the queer community? If the queer community didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have had eight kids instead of four. Birth control is responsible for declining birth rates, not the queer community. The nuclear family is being disrupted because women finally have the means and legal ability to walk away from abusive relationships. People aren’t getting divorced to spite the queer community. If I had a nickel every time I heard the queer community being blamed for these things in church, the church would be impressed with the tithing on that income.
I think I have a lot to learn about Russian princesses. Perhaps in light of recent events, we can have a post about that. I’m also completely un-woke about them.
Elisa, thanks for introducing me to WCF and the church’s ties to it. Honestly it is an issue I haven’t followed.
What I have noticed is how many conservatives have praised Putin because of his perceived anti-wokeness, homophobia, and defense of “traditional values.” Never mind that “traditional values” have long taken the form of racial/ethnic supremacy, religious supremacy, extreme homophobia, toxic masculinity, suppression of women’s rights, and sometimes the employment and justification of violence to defend “virtue” and “honor.”
@Elisa, I completely agree with this statement: “I suspect it has a lot to do with protecting patriarchy, because gay marriage and gender fluidity is a huge challenge to patriarchy.”
I’ve been wondering about another factor that I think contributes to the energy/fear/zeal of the Christian conservatives, but I don’t hear it talked about much, so maybe I’m way off. But I do think about how the commandment to be missionaries and spread the faith feeds into efforts to pass laws that protect and enforce conservative sexual norms. No Christian conservative woman is going to be forced to have an abortion she doesn’t want, but that isn’t enough for conservatives. Abortion has to be illegal for every woman. No straight Christian man is going to be denied the right to marry a woman and have children with her, but that isn’t enough. No man should be able to marry someone he can’t have children with (another man). No cis Christian is going to be forced to transition to a different gender, but that isn’t enough. No one should be able to be trans.
Christians are commanded to spread the Gospel, to spread beliefs and standards. It isn’t enough to worship according to your own conscience and allow others to worship how, where or what they may. Christians want everyone to agree with them about religion, Jesus said to send missionaries. This is part of the missionary mindset – spread values to everyone. Everyone must acknowledge Christ as Savior, and somehow that’s morphed into: everyone must follow conservative Christian sexual norms. From their point of view, they’re actually helping all the Godless liberals because they’re preventing them from committing a terrible sin that will send them to hell. That gets into agency, choice and consequences, but that’s a little too nuanced for the MAGA crowd.
@janey I’m sure missionary zeal has something to do with it but I think that’s overly generous. All those things are about controlling access to reproduction. The WCF crowd is terrified of population decline. They don’t want women to choose not to have kids.
It’s very Handmaid’s Tale. That book seemed really fantastical until the last few years and then it became very very real.
Janey, I agree that Christians of one stripe or another have added unnecessary baggage to the gospel message–but the church’s teachings on marriage and family is basic stuff. They are part of that which the church would label “core doctrine.” And as such, Latter-day Saint Christians are committed to–at the very least–upholding those doctrines as basic tenets of the restored gospel.
@John W. You really hit the nail on the head with your statement that “traditional values” have long taken the form of racial/ethnic supremacy. “Hitler promoted the importance of a stable, traditional family. Men were to be in charge and protect their family. Women were to serve and nurture their family. Hitler said this was “the natural order”. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zxb8msg/revision/1#:~:text=Nazi%20views%20on%20the%20role,was%20%E2%80%9Cthe%20natural%20order%E2%80%9D.
You can find many articles talking about how church leaders initially praised Hitler because he taught many of the same values that the church teaches- traditional family, hard work, self-sufficiency, etc… – So weird that now we’re reliving it with church leaders and terrible leaders like Putin being aligned on issues of “traditional families, stopping the gay agenda, etc..”
I’ve never heard of a leader who was most concerned about – helping the poor and marginalized, calling out religious hypocrisy, and teaching love and compassion for everyone, committing terrible atrocities. I agree with Janey that maybe we should just stick to Christ’s message from the New Testament. It seems safer.
Strange logic. Shall the church *not* teach its basic doctrines on marriage and family because, forsooth, evil men have taught something similar on occasion? Should we refuse to give aid to the poor because eliminating poverty was a central tenet of the bloodiest regimes ever to arise in human history?
@jack, I think that’s a fair point but this isn’t about teaching similar things that hate groups teach. It’s about partnering with hate groups.
That said, I think you’re hitting on the issue which is the partnership and that’s really what I’m interested in. Will be interested in your take when I post info about the Church’s specific involvement.
(Although I do think teaching the same things as a hate group is also relevant. By their fruits ye shall know them and all that.)
@Jack – I see your point. It’s hard to correctly convey and receive tone just through text. I think I’m catching some playful sarcasm in your last comment, just as I hope you caught some in mine. Naturally my honest opinion is not that we shouldn’t teach the basic doctrines of the church. But I do believe that when we hyper-focus on some doctrines or values to the exclusion of others, it often leads to harm. The church hyper-focusing on families, obedience to commandments, and it’s anti-lgbt crusade seems to have caused it to team up with some unsavory partners. (As a quick tangent, in my current location the church is hyperfocused on temples- often times to the exclusion of talk and worship of Christ- and it really bugs me, but that’s not really related to this post).
I think it’d be great if the church didn’t hyper-focus on anything, but if they were going to hyper-focus on something, I’d prefer it to be LOVE.
Thanks for not taking my sarcasm personally. I can be playful at times–and I’m never quite sure how I my comments come across.
I agree that we need to be careful in our zeal not to neglect one virtue for another. Even so, I’m open to the idea that the Lord would have his people focus on one thing or another at different times according to the need. And so, while it’s certainly true that we can be distracted at times by focusing on less important things (IMO) there’s always a sense of anointing present in the church–generally speaking–that has a way of righting our course and keeping us on track–even during those times when it seems like the church might be obsessing over a particular issue.
I look forward to your next post. One thing I’d say upfront is–my guess is that at least half the world would not consider WCF a hate group. So for a lot of folks the argument would end right there–in proving that WCF is indeed such an animal.
Church support for WCF, demonstrates that there is a absolute need for the leadership to be transparent in its financial and political dealings. The membership needs to know what the leadership is doing with tithing and other sacred funds.
@Jack – you skipped the heart of my comment to reply as if I said the Church can’t teach its most basic doctrines. I didn’t say that at all. The Church can teach anything it wants. What I was getting at is the Church (and others) are trying to legislate morality for people who DON’T accept the basic doctrines and truth claims. Here’s what I said:
“No Christian conservative woman is going to be forced to have an abortion she doesn’t want, but that isn’t enough for conservatives. Abortion has to be illegal for every woman. No straight Christian man is going to be denied the right to marry a woman and have children with her, but that isn’t enough. No man should be able to marry someone he can’t have children with (another man). No cis Christian is going to be forced to transition to a different gender, but that isn’t enough. No one should be able to be trans.”
Do you see how you missed my point? The Church can preach against abortion, but it shouldn’t be able to stop women who disagree with the Church from getting an abortion. The Church can preach that marriage is all about procreation, but it shouldn’t try to demonize people who aren’t interested in procreative sex. The Church can preach that gender is fixed and eternal, but it shouldn’t work behind the scenes to pass laws making it illegal to change genders.
There’s a difference between preaching basic doctrine (that’s fine) and approving of authoritarian dictators and working with a hate group to try and ensure that everyone lives by your moral code when they disagree with it.
@CosmoTheCat asked about the Church’s motivations in supporting the WCF and Elisa said she’d try to find quotes to illustrate motives. That made me think of motives, and I connected it to missionary work. Maybe there isn’t a connection, but I wanted to explain my thinking better and see what others think.
The Church wants converts. It wants people to believe its truth claims, be baptized, and live by its moral standards. This is easier if most of society already generally accepts the Church’s moral standards about the family, reproduction and sex. If a country’s government is fine with gays marrying and women choosing abortion, and most of the people in the country are also fine with that, then the Church has an uphill battle to change a potential convert’s mind about abortion, gay rights and transgender issues. This is an obstacle to baptism. Converts may balk at the idea of thinking that people they love are committing grievous sins and the Church believes that will have eternal consequences.
If a society has already demonized gays, already forbidden abortion, and already outlawed gender transitions, and most of the people in the country think that’s a good thing, then that’s one less obstacle between a potential convert and the baptismal font. The potential convert may not know anyone who has done any of those things, so it’s easier to think of those behaviors as sins.
My missionary work idea is that working to pass these laws makes the field a little whiter and a little easier to harvest. Missionaries just have to preach Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, rather than trying to re-educate people who believe that abortion, gay sex and transgenderism is acceptable.
@Jack, of course I understand that not everyone would characterize WCF as a hate group. I’ve been surprised to see some of the U.S. politicians who have supported them – although I suspect those politicians were unaware of the full extent of WCF’s activities – which is part of why I’m trying to educate here. They probably believe WCF’s line that it’s just pro-family and may not be aware of some of the more inhumane things WCF is doing and saying.
I can understand an argument that opposing gay marriage doesn’t make someone a “hate” group (even if I don’t agree with that argument). But I really do have a hard time seeing WCF as anything but a hate group. It’s far more extreme than the LDS Church’s public positions. It classifies LGBT folks as deviants, sexual predators, pedophiles, disease-spreaders, which the LDS Church has moved on from. And as described above, it has advocated for extremely harsh penalties (up to the death penalty) for queer folks in Africa. That is *totally* inconsistent with the Church’s position on treating LGBT folks with love.
So really that’s what I’m interested in looking at – WCF is more extreme that the LDS Church. I understand that for groups to work together, they don’t have to agree about all the same things. But at some point, does a group become so far from your own mission that you decide that one shared objective isn’t enough to justify continued support?
Interesting related news as reported by Heather Cox Richardson:
And, speaking of Fox: “Closer to home, a federal court in the Southern District of New York charged John Hanick with violating U.S. sanctions and making false statements concerning his years of work for sanctioned Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev. Malofeyev was key to destabilizing Ukraine in order to support a Russian takeover. Hanick worked for him from 2013 until at least 2017, establishing TV networks in Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece to spread destabilizing messages.
Hanick was one of the founding producers of the Fox News Channel. He became an admirer of Putin because of the Russian leader’s anti-LGBTQ stance and his belief that Putin was a devout Christian. Apparently, he turned that enthusiasm into an attempt to undermine democracy in favor of Putin’s authoritarianism.”
I think that’s a spot-on depressing analysis, Janey. Church leaders are frustrated that it’s already such a big thing to ask converts to abstain from pre-marital sex, for example. They’re frustrated that it’s such a big thing to ask, especially with younger people in rich countries, to think it’s bad for people to be LGBT. It makes total sense that they (GAs) would then want to push society to normalize what they want normalize and shun what they want shunned.
I suspect they can also imagine a future where it will be much more difficult for the Church to not be seen as a total fringe group for not ordaining women or for not blessing same-sex marriages. I mean, consider what the Church would look like if the priesthood/temple ban still hadn’t ended. The Church would be seen as much more adjacent to Westboro Baptist and the FLDS. It likely wouldn’t have been able to hang on to enough members to have the $100,000,000,000 investment portfolio that it has.
I also wonder if GAs fight this fight just because they actually think the world is made a little worse by each act of pre-marital sex or each act of gay sex or whatever, so they feel like they’re pushing the world to actually be better. It’s so sad that they can’t see actual awfulness, like crushing poverty, as being that important of issues. Patriarchy is their god, and they just aren’t that concerned about anything else.
Don’t forget the Sutherland Institute, the Utah-based think tank whose former head, Stan Swim, chaired that WCF conference in Salt Lake City. Swim’s father founded and funded the Sutherland Institute. Swim is, or was in 2017, on the WCF Executive Committee (not just an honorary member like Oaks).
I too have not seen Idiocracy, it’s rated R, and the church teaches to not watch R rated movies. I wonder if someone promoting an R rated movie as something to learn from is someone who follows the Prophets.
@Stephen Marsh, thanks for the tip! Spoiler alert, Malofeyev is going to be a main character in part 3!!! He’s a huge financial supporter of WCF …
@New Iconoclast, yes, Stan Swim is on the actual WCF board & Sutherland Institute hosted in 2015. I’ll address that in the next post, although I do not know if Swim is actually LDS so is that a Utah tie or an LDS tie? Do you know? And in general there are a *ton* of LDS folks who help WCF, and I will highlight some of them, but I am also mindful that is not the same as direct institutional support from the LDS Church and it’s impossible to know if the LDS Church provides funding for those organizations because it is not transparent.
Yes, I was responding more directly to your final paragraph–wherein you seem to imply that conservative norms regarding marriage and family go beyond the basic message that the Savior wants his missionaries to teach. And so, I was pushing back on that point–as the gospel covenant requires that we follow the Savior by keeping his commandments which includes living the Law of Chastity.
Thanks for writing this, Elisa! This is important and something that deserves FAR more attention. Looking forward to Parts 2 and 3.
I really think the point Chadwick made is where the conversation should be happening. The decline in birth rates in the West is the product of a confluence of factors, and LGBTQ communities have almost nothing to do with it. There are simply too few people to make that much difference, even though many conservative perspectives treat them like the zombie plague coming to destroy us all. There are more single women than married women in the church. For single members in their 30s, women outnumber men 3 to 1. Many young couples are looking at the costs of housing, healthcare, education, and retirement and deciding to have fewer or no kids simply to get by. People in the LGBTQ community really have nothing to do with those issues, which makes targeting them when expressing concern over the declining birthrate a bigoted or at least ignorant approach.
The church never has anything to say about the economic and societal factors that have made raising a family so difficult, which is disappointing and makes one wonder about 1 Nephi 3: 7. The lord may have issued a commandment, but for many Mormons there is no prepared way. Indeed, the church still has not been able to answer the question of why a loving God would send people to earth with certain proclivities and desires that run contrary to both his teachings and cultural norms. Is it a test? It’s a sick joke, if so.
Also, the birth rate globally is not really declining. The developing world is still having tons of kids, creating the situation we have now where the earth is well beyond its carrying capacity unless we dramatically change how we live. So, the concern, as many have pointed out, is that educated, wealthy white people are having fewer kids. Fox will tell you every night that the masses are coming for rich white people with pitchforks and torches, and maybe they’ll be right for once.
@jaredsbrother yes. To be very clear, whatever WCF argues to the contrary, this is not about population in general. It is about the right KIND of children being born to the right KIND of families: white, heterosexual families. This is about eugenics.
First, because the Church no longer officially promotes mixed-orientation marriages (wink, wink), opposing gay marriage has literally nothing to do with promoting children because gay people’s options are to remain CELIBATE. In fact, permitting same-sex couples to marry and either use technological reproductive assistance (like surrogacy for male couples and artificial insemination / in vitro fertilization for female couples) would allow MORE couples to have children. The Church opposing gay marriage is ANTI-FAMILY if you define family as parents + kids.
Second, as described in the post, WCF is clearly concerned with the right types of people reproducing. There will be more on this in part 3 as well, but they want white Europeans to have children. They do NOT want European populations to be supplanted by brown people / immigrants or for so-called “sexual deviants” to reproduce (or exist). WCF has advocated for a worldwide ban on surrogacy — tell me how that helps increase the population by assisting people who can’t have kids on their own? It doesn’t. It only tries to ensure that only the right kind of people can reproduce (and I guess too bad for heterosexual women who can’t bear children).
Third, this is not about children’s welfare. In Russia, WCF helped pass laws that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting orphans. Hence, now there are a bunch of orphans without parents. Are they really better off there? Again, this is actually anti-family.
For WCF, this isn’t about family. This is about eugenics and Russian imperialism. I think that for the LDS Church it is more about (the right kind of) family and I don’t see them being as concerned about “demographic winter” but again, raises the question of why would they align with a group that has a very different, very sinister motivation.
If we consider the horrid circumstances that the majority of humanity has lived in over the last ten thousand years it all seems like a sick joke. But as unfair as it may seem–such are the challenges of living in a fallen world
Also, times may be difficult–but even so, I think we have a tendency to forget how rich most of us westerners really are. Even those who live right at the poverty line find themselves in better circumstances than emperors of the past.
“In Russia, WCF helped pass laws that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting orphans. Hence, now there are a bunch of orphans without parents. Are they really better off there? Again, this is actually anti-family.”
Will you be talking more about this in your next post or two? I ask because this info seems a bit diluted as it stands.
@Jack not sure what you mean? Diluted? Do you mean dated?
No, I don’t plan to further address anti-LGBT legislation beyond what I already highlighted as examples here. But AFAIK Russia prohibits (1) countries who legalized gay marriage from doing international adoptions from Russia and (2) prohibits same-sex couples in Russia (who cannot marry) from adopting in Russia.
President Nelson recently held a conference for all members in California in which he decried the growth of secularism there (California). Paraphrasing, he stated that he knows what is happening and he is not naive. He then proceeded to use the pulpit to pressure members to make sure that every Californian should hear the gospel . How naive! Is it this naivety, or unwillingness to face reality that is behind the Church’s relationship with the WFC ? If it is, the Church needs a huge reality check. I hope your post(s) reach their ears, however, given that Church leadership is governed by a gerontocracy, they might simply be too hard of hearing.
@jaredsbrother, this is spot on and I want to expand on it:
“The church never has anything to say about the economic and societal factors that have made raising a family so difficult, which is disappointing and makes one wonder about 1 Nephi 3: 7. The lord may have issued a commandment, but for many Mormons there is no prepared way.”
I live in Utah and I know women who would like to stay home and raise children but can’t because of economic factors. One woman got a job sewing mattresses in a factory because her husband can’t earn enough on his own to support their family. If the Church supported increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, she could stay home with her kids (the Utah legislature listens to the Church). Another woman has a husband who earns enough, but the type of job he can get doesn’t provide health insurance. She works full-time so their family has health insurance. Universal health care, not tied to a job, would let her stay home and raise kids too, like she wants to. (Not sure the Church could do much about this, other than point out that universal health care might allow more parents to stay home with kids.)
There are so many other things the Church could focus on that would genuinely support the Church’s view of a nuclear family. I believe women should be able to choose – my friend doesn’t enjoy sewing mattresses; my other friend wanted to be home more when her kids were small. Both women are active, temple-recommend holding Church members. They *want* to stay home and raise kids but the USA policies make it difficult/impossible.
And how many divorces are rooted in disagreements about money? If wages were high enough that every penny didn’t have to be pinched, maybe that reason for divorcing would ease a bit.
The Church could do so much good if it focused on the economic obstacles to having a family. I wish it was more concerned about those issues.
Sorry to get so off topic, Elisa.
Jack, the comparative wealth of those in the West to the third world or global south is irrelevant unless you make a Western salary and live in the developing world. One faces the economic challenges of the society in which one lives. There are many, many things this society could do to prioritize families, but it chooses not to, just as the church chooses to invest it’s funds in Game Stop instead of child care and the like. You may choose to lump all inequity in the challenges of living in a “fallen world,” but that puts brackets around the creative capacity of the species. We are limited by our vision and energy, as human society has proven and disproven time and time again.
All sides of this debate are doing a horrible job at understanding and accurately framing opposing views. At least we have that in common…
@Elisa Nothing meaningful to add except thanks for taking this on and sharing this information. Looking forward (in a full if dread sort of way) to parts 2&3.
@Janey, I don’t think your post is off topic. I’ve noticed church leaders quote stats which can be summarized as “People who are in long term husband-wife marriages are happier and more prosperous”. They conclude that by strong arming adults into husband-wife marriages will bring happiness and prosperity. But I strongly believe that they get it backwards. Nuclear families are awesome. They provide a lot of privacy. When humans are economically well off, it’s what we naturally do. No outside forces need apply.
But enough church leaders have lived through enough Ezra Taft Benson talks to ever try and encourage any economic arrangement beyond cutthroat capitalism.
@Elisa, in Nov 2014, Stan Swim wrote an op-ed for the Salt Lake Trib about the upcoming WCF conference. It opens like this: “As administrator of the ninth World Congress of Families (WCF) to be held next fall in Salt Lake City, and as a lifelong Utah resident and Latter-day Saint . . .”
He doesn’t seem to make his faith a high-profile part of his political advocacy, because I had the same question you did, and went looking. He didn’t attend BYU, nothing in his LinkedIn profile shouts “Church member!”, and he doesn’t have the sorts of hints you might find around social media that, for example, I might find on myself. However, I don’t think he’s concealing it, per se, just not making a big issue of it.
I do appreciate your distinction about direct support versus members who support on their own. The level of chicanery involved in some of the overseas issues, however, along with the generally depressing exposures of unsavory dealings by the Church in recent years (everything from finances to coverups of sexual abuse) does make me wonder if there are some “proxy wars” happening. I am not going so far as to suggest that, not being by nature a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think that it’s outside the realm of possibility, however.
@ Elisa Stan Swim was raised LDS (not sure of his current standing). I knew his father Gaylord (professionally) who founded the ultra conservative American Heritage School across the street from the American Fork temple as well as many other conservative organizations and movements.
As a TBM in the early 90’s, Gaylord seemed extremely radical to me then.
@newiconoclast thank you! Yes, I dug around on Swim and couldn’t confirm he was Mormon but I didn’t see that article.
My digging did lead me to a fascinating blogpost by another Sutherland guy, Paul Mero, which I linked in part 2. (I’m going to add your link too.)
I don’t think it’s conspiratorial to believe there’s proxy wars. It was what the Church did in Hawaii and we only know that because of leaked evidence. And the Mero blog post sure makes it sound like the Church was pulling the strings at Sutherland.
@BeenThere I know American Heritage well.
So many nutty connections to all of this.
Ha, love the American Heritage connections and all the other ones mentioned. That and having that mandated class of the same title at BYU too. Not sure if directly related, but I suspect it is.
“Political science professor Matthew S. Holland chaired the American Heritage Faculty Group until beginning his new job as president of Utah Valley University in July 2009; his replacement at American Heritage is history professor Richard Kimball.”
“There are many, many things this society could do to prioritize families, but it chooses not to, just as the church chooses to invest it’s funds in Game Stop instead of child care and the like.”
Perhaps the church will invest in those kinds of services at some point in the future. Goodness only knows that fatherlessness has had a devastating effect on the family–especially here in the U.S.–though I think the church is hesitant to finance certain programs that seem to make husbands and wives less dependent on each other than they should be. Even so, the church has subsidized educational programs and various welfare services to help its members along–with the goal of helping them become self-sufficient.
“You may choose to lump all inequity in the challenges of living in a “fallen world,” but that puts brackets around the creative capacity of the species. We are limited by our vision and energy, as human society has proven and disproven time and time again.”
Well said. I deserve the chagrin. Even so, when we’re dealing with something as foundational as the Law of Chastity we may want to allow it some precedence in qualifying our beliefs. By so doing we leave the door open to the possibility that the challenge such a law imposes on us may have more to do with our fallen condition than the law itself being flawed. Otherwise, why should the Lord issue any counsel at all–that is, if we are able to justify our reluctance to follow him in any way that makes us uncomfortable?
“Jack, the comparative wealth of those in the West to the third world or global south is irrelevant unless you make a Western salary and live in the developing world. One faces the economic challenges of the society in which one lives.”
What you say is true generally speaking. I think it’s possible to be “broke at a higher level” so to speak. Even so, there’s a lot that us folks in the West can do to reduce our spending–IMO–that is, without sinking into the kind of squalor that becomes unhealthy. I’ve worked mostly low-paying blue collar jobs all my life–and we’ve been a single income household for the most part. So I know it’s doable–even though there have been stressful times and whatnot.
Broke at a higher level indeed. That’s an effective phrase. But then broke is broke. The economics of raising a family in this country have changed dramatically from when I, and I suspect you, went to school. I could wait tables at night and still afford to write a check for my tuition each quarter and pay rent. Young people generally can’t do that anymore. Several years ago, two-bedroom apartments became too expensive for a person on minimum wage in every metropolitan area of the country. Fully 40 percent of families in this country don’t have $1000 saved for an emergency. The number one cause of personal bankruptcy for several years running is medical debt. I won’t argue one iota that people could use some money management skills, but when you look at the data, the dig-yourself-out-of-that-hole-yourself argument doesn’t hold a drop of water. Living in America is expensive, and it’s more expensive for those in poverty than for anyone else.
I understand what you are saying about the impact of fatherlessness and the benefit of self reliance but, again, at some point we’ll have to concede that the sum total of funds required to live a decent life in America greatly exceeds how much most people can make, and moralizing about it won’t change the math. The only affordable places to buy homes now are in rural areas where there is little industry, an older and sicker population, spotty internet, and few amenities. Most young people don’t want to be there. The church might start programs for members because they have finally acknowledged that the organization recommends something to members–one breadwinner and one stay-at-home parent–that has become almost impossible, even in stable, two-parent homes.
As for the law of chastity, I think it’s interesting that you set that up as foundational. As far as I know, and I’m no expert on the ministry of Christ, the primary exhortation was not to remain chaste. For some reason, the modern LDS church has become sex obsessed–I think it’s a primary reason they oppose LGBTQ rights in everything but housing and employment–in a way that suggests it wants to distance itself from the pretty randy early years while still not de-canonizing D&C 132.
I agree that times are tough. I have six adult children–some of whom make more money than I ever have–and none of them are living on their own yet. So I understand what you’re saying. But they’re doing the right things and will be in their own places at some point. Even so, I have to wonder: what would a generation who lived through two world wars, the great depression, the Spanish flu and whatnot, think about our modern plight? IMO, they’d say: you don’t want to live in a rural area? Tough nut–ya gotta do whatcha gotta do.
Re: The church being sex obsessed: It’s the world that’s obsessed with sex–and the church has had to step up and give clear guidelines during the last 50+ years in order to combat it.
Such important and interesting reporting. The group The Mama Dragons has been following the WCF for several years and several attended the conference in Utah in 2015 to let their voices be heard in opposition. Did you find any information about the involvement of GA Robert Gay? Also was there a tie to the WCF and the United Nations Conference that was in 2018 in SLC? The Mormon church sponsored it and I wondered if it had anything to do with the homophobic stance of many of the countries in attendance.
@LisaLaising I did read about Mama Dragons and Mormons Building Bridges attending (and some protesting) in 2015. Not familiar with Gay or the 2018 conference but will look into it! Thank you!
@LisaLaing I see now that Elder Gay’s wife was on the WCF board until 2016 (when she resigned because of public controversy). This was while he was a 70. Thanks for the tip! I will add it to my post on LDS involvement.
“What happens today and tomorrow in Ukraine will shape the global order of the next century.” -Jonathan Green
Things I have learned:
The Russia Soul and the Ukraine Soul will come to see this conflict as being ignited by the schism between their respective Orthodox Patriarchs.
American “Regime Change” foreign policy serves corporations instead of constitutions, contracts instead of constituents.
Putin employs a legal framework of the United States: “preemptive war” and “preventive war” (also known as the Bush Doctrine, John Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty https://lawcat.berkeley.edu/record/1122492); he deploys military force (State vs. Donbass), after the model of the 1990s Balkan “ethnic genocide” conflict; annexation of Crimea he learned from the annexation of Hawaii.