A beneficent God would have thrown an Iron Curtain or at least a bamboo screen between church and state in America this week. I knew where the week was headed on Tuesday morning when George glanced at the SL Trib headlines and yelled, “Harry Reid’s going to be excommunicated!” George relishes drama. But Reid’s statement (in a private meeting) that the resources of the Church “could have been put to better use,” does raise eyebrows about a Church that has not known what to make of Reid, the highest ranking Mormon ever in US government, even before he criticized the Prop 8 involvement.
Had Reid been a Republican, he would have replaced the Osmonds as the preferred LDS celebrity success story the moment he became Senate Majority Leader. Mormons have never been shy about recognizing achievements of fellow Saints. Ezra Taft Benson and Esther Peterson, who served in Eisenhower’s Cabinet 50 years ago, are still used as symbols of Mormon success in public office. Stewart Udall who served in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations merits no mention. Besides being a liberal Democrat, Udall was a Jack Mormon.
But Reid is a devout Mormon, a convert. He arranged for last summer’s meeting of Pres. Monson and Dallin Oaks with President Obama— an important PR photo op for the Church. A Virginia source tells me he arranged for LDS missionaries to serve as waiters at a dinner meeting of UN delegates from around the world. He publicly identified the missionaries as representatives of his church and urged UN delegates to allow them to work in their countries. Reid even dresses in the undertaker-conservative suits and talks in the slow measured cadence of a General Authority. The reticence of Church leaders and rank and file Mormons to claim Reid as their own smacks of politics.
Reid’s gentle criticism of the Church involvement in Prop 8 will not affect his standing in a Mormon community which quietly hopes he will go away. And while Oaks’ recent BYU-Idaho address was likely not specifically aimed at Reid, the apostle’s over-the-top analogy likening backlash against Church involvement in Prop 8 to persecution of African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggle kept the religious/political pot boiling. Current Church leaders need a gentle reminder, the kind which Pres. Hinckley mastered, to put Prop 8 behind us and move forward on less divisive issues. As the old saying goes, “Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t hurt the manure, but it sure makes a mess of the ice cream.”