Paul Mero: LDS Church makes bad decisions based on fear

Church acted from fear of same-sex marriage and its own savings account.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) The angel Moroni statue atop the Salt Lake Temple is silhouetted against a cloud-covered sky, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Feb. 6, 2013.

Fear-based decision-making leads to bad decisions. Every time. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – my church – just provided back-to-back examples of bad decisions based upon fear.

The first example is its decision to endorse the congressional Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA), thereby endorsing same-sex marriage. Its origin story arose out of fear that the United States Supreme Court might overturn the Obergefell decision that created a constitutional right for same-sex marriage. Justice Clarence Thomas said boo and, out of fear, supporters of same-sex marriage created the RFMA.

Interestingly, the RFMA does not protect same-sex marriage from Justice Thomas or a majority of the Court. Only fear would make intelligent people think that a statute could get in the way of a court decision. Even a court decision does not get in the way of overturning a decision. Fear created the RFMA and fear also motivated even more intelligent people to jump onboard for its passage.

The RFMA was dead in the Unites States Senate – dead on arrival – without the help of a few conservative Republicans. Unbelievably, Sen. Mitt Romney came to its rescue. Why? Does Romney support same-sex marriage? No. So why support legislation that was DOA? Why would Romney rescue a same-sex marriage bill? Even more unintelligible, why would the LDS Church help?

At some point, Romney was advised that the RFMA would be a good vehicle to tack on religious freedom provisions. Some sort of quid pro quo. We’ll give you this if you give us that. Why would Romney think that a) religious freedom was under attack, and b) that a statute could protect it? Apart from ignorance, the answer is fear. The RFMA went on a double date with fear – the fear of losing same-sex marriage and the fear of losing religious freedom – and Romney and the LDS Church were left holding the check.

The result was that otherwise intelligent people passed a bill that does not protect either interest. If the United States Supreme Court wants to overturn Obergefell, it will. And if opponents of religious freedom want to attack it, they will, and our constitutional system of justice will pave their way, regardless of a congressional statute. A residue of fear placed Romney and the LDS Church on record endorsing same-sex marriage.

The second example of fear-based decision-making by the LDS Church is Ensign Peak Advisors. Does any faithful Latter-day Saint think Jesus Christ gives a tinker’s damn about a savings account? No, but mere mortals do, evidently. We live in a world driven by money. Money buys missions, schools, temples and, apparently, very bad attorneys and account managers.

Again, what would cause otherwise intelligent people to make such a very bad decision? Fear. In this case, somebody inside the LDS Church was afraid that the optics of a very large savings account might disincentivize members from paying their tithing. By the way, optics seem to drive many fear-based decisions for my church. Look a certain way. Talk a certain way. Behave a certain way. And, as laughable as it sounds, hide money a certain way.

The culprits hid money. There is no other way to describe what Ensign Peak did. But there is a right way to respond to what they did. The LDS Church paid for its mistake and it will learn its lesson going forward in managing its savings account – maybe learned through the “sorrow of the damned,” but learned, nevertheless. If sanity reigns, the culprits inside Ensign Peak should be fired, as should the advising attorneys. Any “Brethren” who knowingly sanctioned the affair should be quietly put out to pasture, as only my church can do so well.

And faithful Saints need to hold the line. Apostates are filled with glee over this Ensign Peak debacle. Faithful Saints are not only going to keep paying tithing, but they are also going to defend the faith. They are going to do the right things for the right reasons. They are not going to “follow the optics.” They are going to follow the Prophet. And they are going to follow imperfect human beings, not false idols in the form of perfected mortals.

I, for one faithful Saint, am sick of my people doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. If Latter-day Saints continue to act of out fear, we will get worse than endorsements of same-sex marriage and unethical behavior as with Ensign Peak. We will become unrespectable and untrustworthy. What are we afraid of? Nipping dogs at our heels? Idiots on social media? Imagined threats to how we worship? Leave it all behind. The caravan moves on.

Paul Mero

Paul Mero is the former longtime president of Sutherland Institute in Utah and now lives in Las Vegas.