Long title. I know. But nonetheless that is the question I find myself asking.
Little background info. BYU (Brigham Young University) and the LDS church are seeking to build a 9 story addition to the MTC ( missionary training center) in a little neighborhood named Pleasant View in Provo, Utah. To say some residents are a bit unhappy would be an understatement.
Normally if a company or organization wanted to build something against city code, they would present their case, residents would object, the planning council would decide. End of matter.
This story is a wee bit trickier considering the organization in this case is the church to which most if not all of the residents belong to. In fact the leader of the neighborhood resistance is also employed by the church. How's that for tricky?
Initially when opposition was voiced to church about the matters, the LDS church stated the matter was secular and would be dealt with as such. The residents of the neighborhood were free to voice their conscience.
That ended about a week ago when stake president Chris Randall read and spoke from the pulpit on Sunday July first. He reiterated a message that is purported to come from Elder Nelson of the 12. A higher up in LDS church organization. Anyway, the message "invited" the neighborhood opposition to support and "sustain" the church leaders in their decision that the building is necessary to the church and an important ecclesiastical matter.
Hmm. Anyone in the LDS community knows that when you are invited to sustain something, there is a deeper implication at hand. Those words in particular imply certain things with a certain religious connotation.
When I related this story to my friend, she immediately said it smacked of fascism. Perhaps. I think that is a little far personally though. It is interesting to note that immediately following the "invitation" the leader of the opposition and a good many members, dropped their protests. Did the leader, Paul Evans, feel like he might lose his church standing and more importantly his job if he dissented? It could definitely be implied as such. He does not state that as the case though, let me be clear.
What about the members on the planning committee? If they are LDS will the "invitation" from church leadership put them in an awkward position? Or put undue pressure to cede to the will of a church versus the city?
I don't know. It's an interesting quandary to say the least. In my opinion, the notice from the pulpit was in poor taste and poor wording. But the Mormon faith is one where the needs of the gospel, God and church comes first. The view from your front window would be second. There is definitely a doctrinal case that could be made for a member of faith.
I'm not disputing that. Not questioning whether or not you can be a faithful member and disagree with the church at times. Just questioning the transition from stating it as a secular issue then changing to an ecclesiastical one when the chips were down.
Faith and politics is not a new discussion. Nor is it unique to the Mormon faith. I have seen people using this case as a reason not to vote for Romney. Because the church would influence his decisions. What about a Catholic? Would the Pope order a justice or president to strike down Gay marriage or face excommunication?
As Americans we like to point to a separation in church and state, but the lines are never drawn as clearly as we might think. School prayer, in God we trust, one nation under God, etc.
So I ask you dear reader, did the LDS church go too far bringing a civil city matter into church meetings? Exerting pressure or merely asking for help from the congregation? And the broader implications... Can anyone truly consider themselves a member of faith and not have that leak into their political decision?
Leave a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
And before the haters start hating, I am a member in good standing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Just looking at some hard questions.