I decided to start a project to try to put together a timeline with details about Mormon church involvement in Prop 8 and gay marriage, using news reports, blog postings and other information to try to paint a picture of what was going on inside the Mormon church. This was without question a highly involved campaign at all levels of the church, not simply the random free efforts of Mormon church members.
March 1997: Leaked memo provides insight into the late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley’s strategy for opposing same-sex marriage. It describes a meeting in which Hinckley gives the go ahead, but urged caution. According to the memo, “he (President Hinckley) also said the (LDS) Church should be in a coalition and not out front by itself.” Also names Dick Wirthlin, who is related to Massachusetts couple in Prop 8 ads, as strategist.
October 1998: Of the $600,000 used to try to ban gay marriage in Alaska, $500,000 came from one big lump sum donation from the Mormon Church. It seems that they learned that they should have their members give the money in the future to avoid criticism.
September 2007: Mitt Romney, in an interview with Christianity Today, describes an earlier 2007 Salt Lake City meeting between Jerry Falwell and Gordon B. Hinckley to discuss their cooperation on a campaign against same-sex marriage in California.
February 2008: Mormon-supported National Organization for Marriage (NOM) makes their first reported payment to Bader & Associates, the signature-gathering firm hired to help get Prop 8 on the ballot. Due to its sizeable early financial support of ProtectMarriage, NOM is chiefly responsible for the qualification of Proposition 8. Matthew Holland, son of LDS Apostle and former BYU president Jeffrey R. Holland, is on the board of directors. There are many Mormon donors to NOM that have not been identified because the focus has been on the ProtectMarriage committee.
May/June: The New York Times reports about this time in retrospect: “First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.”
Come Follow Me
June 29: A highly unusual letter from Mormon leadership was read from the pulpits in California (although it was leaked and posted on websites several days prior). It stated in part: “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.” To most Mormons, a call such as this from their Prophet is the same as being called of God.
July 1: A letter later reports some of Mormon efforts during the coming month. “Congregations of LDS all having been taught the doctrine in July so that they may see the importance of fundraising and grassroots participation. Some Stakes have called all Stake Council and wives as well as several folks who may be able to contribute not on the Council. The Stake President, in that Cottage Meeting, has asked for their support. A great part of a fund raising effort, accomplished in one night.”
July 7: Mormon Gary Lawrence, the California “LDS Grassroots Director” for Prop 8 and father of a gay son, wrote in the online LDS oriented Meridian Magazine and compared opponents of Proposition 8 to those who sided with Lucifer against Jesus in a pre-mortal battle that is part of Mormon doctrine. His son later resigns from the church.
July 27: Top Mormon leaders participate in a meeting with “eight Area Directors in Northern California. These are amazingly powerful people. The Area folks represent the grassroots effort for the passage of the Proposition and their responsibility overlays each Coordinating Council. This was a great and powerful meeting. I assure you that the LDS folks who work closely with or who are on the Board directly of the coalition are very impressive and politically experienced folks.” (ref)
July 28: Letter sent out to Mormon Stake (regional) Presidents to explain the structure they would be operating under along with other information that arose out of the previous day leadership meeting. “The Brethren have felt that the best way to organize and pass the Proposition is to have an Ecclesiastical arm and a Grassroots arm to organization.” (See the letter here)
July 30: Member of LDS church states on blog, “I simply can’t bear another Sunday of political announcements, talks, and constant references to the proposition in Relief Society lessons.”
July 31: A few Mormon church members around the Internet have been wondering how “worthy” they would be if they don’t fall into line.
August 1: “All Regional Directors have been called and contacted by Area Directors for training.” (ref)
August 3: “Training of Regional Directors commences by the Area Directors.” (ref)
August 6: whatisprop8.com is registered and a site is launched by Mormon Kenny McNett where he teaches young Mormons how to spam blogs. He later is featured in the following video producted by the Mormon church, however the church is accused of not reporting contributions such as these production and video distribution efforts.
Giving is Godly
August 7: Local Mormon leaders continue soliciting donations. A Mormon blogger on nine-moons.com reports that the previous night he had a call from his Stake President, a high level regional Mormon leader over multiple local congregations. “We knew it was going to be about California’s Proposition 8 – that’s all the stake’s been talking about for the past month.” The leader asked “about making a contribution– a rather sizable contribution. He already had a figure in mind.” The blogger made the donation the next morning, and an hour later their realtor called to say that they got the dream house they had made an offer on. The blogger called this “an amazing testimony of obedience” in his post.
August 8: Sophia comments on nine-moons.com (see Aug 7): “My father in law is a bishop in Southern CA. For those of you who want to know how much a family is expected to give to Prop 8 in his stake, it’s $1000. A rich ward is expected to be able to come up with about $150,000 for Prop 8.”
August 8: Tim says on nine-moons: “I think the majority are in line with the prophets and apostles on this one. Those who hold temple recommends have acknowledged that they support the general and local authorities of the church. Like me, they will be walking neighborhoods asking others what they think and sharing information.”
August 9: An article written by Glen Greener, a Mormon with a controversial past (“citygate”) in Salt Lake City government, and posted to the Mormon oriented Meridian Magazine website, claimed nine consequences if proposition 8 fails. The questionable claims in the writing are soon edited and distributed by Mormons in the campaign.
August 10: “Zip Code Supervisors are in place and are to be trained by Regional Directors.” (ref)
Wow, Great Knockers!
August 16: If there is one thing that Mormons are known for, it’s knocking on doors. “The First of three Saturday precinct walks are to be held under the direction of the Regional Directors.” (ref) Jeff Flint, a strategist with Protect Marriage, spoke about this period after the campaign, estimating that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.
August 17: A somewhat mysterious and hard to decipher group called the Eagle Foundation joins the Prop 8 forces. It apparently is the evolution of the Eagle PAC which was formed to get Mormons financially involved in politics. One of the main players in Eagle, Bart Marcois, founded and chaired the RNC Advisory Council on LDS Outreach, and was responsible for massive volunteer surge team deployments nationwide in the 2004 and 2006 campaign cycles. He apparently used his talent for grass-root Mormon organizing for the Prop 8 campaign. The Prop 8 campaign reportedly paid Eagle $130,000 in October.
August 19: The controversial authors name is stripped from “nine consequences” and an anonymous document, called “Six Consequences if Prop. 8 Fails” begins circulating the internet, mostly on Mormon-related blogs. The document was filled with dishonest claims that are later rebutted for the few who would listen. Some blogs reference that it was provided by Mormon Gary Lawrence, the California “LDS Grassroots Director” for Prop 8 (see July 7). “Six Consequences” also starts to become widely available within Mormon congregations and as handouts during canvassing.
August 23: The second Saturday of walking and canvassing occurs in precincts. The ‘six consequences’ are mentioned in the news reports that followed – the LDS canvassers were carrying copies of the questionable “Six Consequences” with them door-to-door.
August 27: MormonsFor8.com is registered by a private individual and launches as a clearinghouse for information about tracking the exploding Mormon contributions for Prop 8.
Meet Sonja Eddings Brown
September 1: Sometime in September, Sonja Eddings Brown, a Mormon, is hired by ProtectMarriage and becomes the chief spokesperson for the campaign. According to a bio provided on her husbands website, “Sonja has served as a news media specialist for the Church in Southern California, but is now on leave from that assignment.” On a side note, a student who came to know her some time ago found her to be rather unpleasant.
September 4: Fundraising calls by top church officials to high profile Mormons were already underway, according to the former president of Clorox in a Wall Street Journal story. He was invited to participate in a conference call of 40 to 60 potential donors, led by a high church official, known as a member of the Quorum of Seventy, where he was asked to make a $25,000 donation. The donation was recorded on September 4. The call likely occurred between this date and August 21, when his unsolicited donation of $3,000 was recorded.
September 7: Continued reports of much Prop 8 activity in Mormon churches. A blog reports that members were getting up to speak about it in testimony meeting, which is the type of church service held the first Sunday of the month. Someone comments on the blog, “It is mentioned in every meeting, donation sheets are passed around in RS and there are pleas for donations and volunteers in the announcements as well as impromptu testimonies during classes. It is EVERYWHERE!!!!”
September 11: Mormon leadership issues letter to be read in all congregations in the U.S. stating the church “affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues.”
Thou Shalt Not Question
September 11: Mormon Bishop, at the direction of higher authorities, visits home of a church member who set up a website opposing the church position on Prop 8, and asks for resignation before threatening excommunication.
September 15: MormonsFor8.com reports: “As of 5:00 PM PST, Sept 15, 35% of all donors to protectmarriage.com are identified as Mormons, and their total contributions make up 29% of the total money donated. The percentages are growing everyday. Please help out by checking the list to see if you can identify any other Mormon donors.”
September 20: The Wall Street Journal reports in an article: “The Mormon Church encouraged its members to send their donations to a separate post-office box set up by a church member, said Messrs. Schubert and L. Whitney Clayton, a senior Mormon Church official involved in the campaign. Mr. Clayton said the church didn’t keep track of how much individual Mormons donated, just the cumulative total. He said members bundled the donations and forwarded them to the campaign.”
September 20: Wall Street Journal also reported, “The tally of Mormon contributions was provided by Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com — Yes on 8, the initiative’s primary backer. A finance-tracking group corroborated Mormon fund-raising dominance, saying it could exceed 40%.”
September 22: Plans for “One million signs will be put up in yards around the state at 7:00am” (ref) did not come through. Apparently the Yes on 8 folks didn’t buy American. An email from Gina Downey, the producer of a cult hit Mormon film GODS ARMY said: “The YES on Prop 8 yard signs have been delayed in route from China.”
September 23: LDS Church Prop 8 campaign strategy “update” memo surfaces at WikiLeaks.
September 28: MormonsFor8.com reports that Mormon donations make up the largest group of donors to Prop 8 at 40.4% of contributions.
September 29: ProtectMarriage runs first television ad with Mormon professor from Pepperdine University making false claims that teaching gay marriage in schools was a certainty, causing problems for the school in the process. The campaign later continues using the Pepperdine name despite objections from the school.
September 30: According to data filed with the secretary of state’s office, ProtectMarriage.com, the main group backing Prop 8, had raised about $25.4 million. No on 8, Equality for All – the main group opposing the measure – had raised almost $15.8 million. Yes on 8 was flush with a cash balance of about $12.8 million, due by large measure to Mormon contributions, while No on 8 had approximately $1.8 million.
October 1: Mormon church registers the domain preservingmarriage.org and launches a site with material to support the campaign. Questions are later raised questioning if the church reported non-monetary contributions such as this to the State of California, leading to an official investigation.
October 6: Mormon blogs about “zealousness” about Prop 8 within Mormon congregations and says ”many bishops and other Mormons have circulated the document ‘Six Consequences if Proposition 8 fails’” and expresses distress about the honesty of the claims.
October 7: “Ryan” who lives in Utah posts comment to blog and states he was in a propaganda video shot by the Mormon church with LDS leader Elder Bednar. He also says, “I live in Utah (though I’m from California) and the church has asked my stake to have 250 member ready to man a call center on the subject.”
Go Forth & Blog
October 8: Top Mormon leaders made a televised satellite broadcast appeal to church members (view the transcript) to step up their already considerable efforts. They asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours per week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet, text messaging, blogging and other forms of computer technology to help pass the initiative, saying the church has created a new Web site with materials they can download and post on their own social networking sites.
October 8: The Associated Press reported that “Mormons Recruit Out-of-State for Gay Marriage Ban. Mormons living outside California have been asked to volunteer for a telephone campaign to help pass a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.”
October 8: No on 8 makes plea for $10 million in donations saying “our lead is gone” in an attempt to recover ground due in no small part to massive giving by Mormons.
October 12: Mormons distributing Yes on 8 signs from at least one church parking lot to cars leaving Sunday church services.
October 12: Mormon Jyl Holiday makes comment on blog that in her congregation “they have us knocking doors to warn people about it. Calling like telemarketers, and EVERY talk is about Prop 8, every RS, priesthood class is based around the proposition, it is starting to deterr members from even going to church. I TOTALLY see why the general presidency is asking for us to fight here in CA, but some of the members feel that it is just too much of shoving down the throught for them to handle.”
October 13: Sacramento Bee reports “[Mormon] Church members have donated about 40 percent of the $22.8 million raised to pass the initiative since July, according to Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com, the primary backer of the “yes” campaign.” Some have said that this article, and the Mormon couple interviewed, was a “wake up call” to the No on 8 campaign about the depth of individual Mormon participation.
October 13: Idaho television reports about organizing by the Mormon church in their area to operate phone banks to reach California voters.
October 14: ProtectMarriage.com had raised just over $26 million, according to new data filed with the secretary of state’s office.
The Wirthlin Connection
October 17: ProtectMarriage started running new ads starring a Mormon power couple, the Wirthlins, with a famous name and high ranking relatives in the Mormon church (which is not discovered by the public until later, including that one was a church strategist in their battle against same sex marriage). Their story, one of the most powerful scare tactics used in the Prop 8 campaign, is later reported on with their credibility called into question by some neighbors who suspect they went looking for this battle.
October 21: Lowell Brown, husband of the “yes” side’s public spokesperson Sonja Eddings Brown, and himself an “Area Director” for the campaign, says on his blog that MormonsFor8.com numbers for Mormon contributions are LOW. “I see lots of individuals on the list whom I know to be members of the Church, but who haven’t been identified yet.”
October 22: Around this time, ProtectMarriage sends blacklist threat letters to No on 8 supporters, which is defended by Mormon Sonja Eddings Brown, spokesperson for Protect Marriage, and is later talked about on Dr. Phil.
October 22: A Mormon blogger reports, “the Church has added even more resources to its new PreservingMarriage.org website, which has a sleek resign that’s a little less conspicuously LDS, though still with the Church logo emblazoned at the bottom.”
October 24: Sonja Eddings Brown on Bill O’Reilly. Says, “Since the dawn of time and through many current studies, we know that children do best when they come from a low-conflict home with a mother and a father.” Such claims, uttered over and over during the campaign, outrage many authors of the studies because they do not apply to families with same sex parents.
October 24: Salt Lake Tribune: “LDS leaders have tapped every resource, including the church’s built-in phone trees, e-mail lists and members’ willingness to volunteer and donate money. Many California members consider it a directive from God and have pressured others to participate. Some leaders and members see it as a test of faith and loyalty. Those who disagree with the campaign say they feel unwelcome in wards that have divided along political lines. Some are avoiding services until after the election; others have reluctantly resigned. Even some who favor the ballot measure are troubled by their church’s zeal in the matter.”
October 24: Salt Lake Tribune states “literature written by Proposition 8 proponents is freely distributed in Mormon wards, giving the impression the church approves it, but much of it is “misinformation,” said Morris Thurston, an LDS attorney in Orange County. Thurston has circulated a point-by-point refutation to an anonymously authored document that has been widely disseminated by Mormons, “Six Consequences . . . If Proposition 8 Fails.” Thurston argues that most of its arguments are either untrue or misleading.”
October 24: A blogger states, “There seems to be a disconnect between that straightforward counsel being given by senior LDS leaders and the reality of what is happening on the ground in California.”
October 25: Media reporting that due to criticism, the LDS church pulls the plug on out of state phone banks.
October 28: Prop 8 announces $1 million matching donation by Mormon Alan Ashton, grandson of David O. McKay, President of the Mormon Church from 1951-1970.
November 2: Mormons end services with “keys of the priesthood” prayer for the passage of Prop 8, an extremely unusual act that causes some controversy in congregations.
FINAL TALLY: Mormons are believed to have contributed anywhere from 40% to 77% of the money for Prop 8.
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