8: The Mormon Proposition / The documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition examines the 2008 movement by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–the Mormon church–to push for the passage of California’s infamous Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment clarifying marriage to be between only a man and woman. As we see in the film’s introduction, this resulted in the repeal of many marriages for same sex couples, most of whom flocked to San Francisco earlier that year to joyously unite in holy matrimony, only to have the union taken away from them “before the champagne was even warm.”
The Mormon church is painted here as an insidious cult, operating like a Holy Mafia, pulling the strings behind the scenes to under-report its financial contributions to puppet organizations they created (coalitions that operate without the stigma of being associated with religion), while strong-arming its followers to donate all the money they have. Some families even went so far as to clean out their retirement funds as well as the college savings for their children.
We also see an interview with a former church member who was essentially tortured with electro-shock therapy by his brethren because he was suspected of being gay. He was gay, and once he talks about their recommendations for lobotomies, we realize they only stopped just short of waterboarding.
The filmmakers paint the Mormons as operating on a level of villainy normally only found in Dan Brown novels and it’s hard not to argue the point, especially when we see same-sex couples in tears, essentially pleading to be treated equally as human beings, not realizing that they are completely messing up that particular church’s concept of the afterlife.
Even more disturbing is the role our own state played in the passage of prop 8. The movie begins with the constitutional amendment in Hawaii in 1998 to “save” traditional marriage. To make it so that the church was not visible, a coalition was formed, Hawaii’s Future Today. Although religion reportedly did not play a part in their campaigning, the group was organized and financially backed by the Mormon and Catholic churches. Using the “success” in Hawaii as a model, the Mormons stepped it up and took it to another level for their work in California. The rest, of course, is history.
Perhaps after the final fate of HB444 is determined, a searing, a powerful documentary like 8 will be made about the journey of that bill. But will it revolve around the bill’s passage into law, or its veto? If it’s about the veto, will we want the world to learn about the insidious steps behind the scenes of its demise and would we want our streets and the faces of certain kamaaina are forever documented as promoting hate? A documentary like that could do for Hawaii what 8: The Mormon Proposition does for California.