Salt Lake City - Mormons are being asked by their church leaders to step up their already considerable efforts to pass a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California.
Senior elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a televised appeal to members Wednesday night and laid out a week-by-week strategy for boosting Mormon involvement before the Nov. 4 election.
They urged Mormons to man phone banks, distribute campaign materials and intensify voter registration efforts during an hourlong meeting, which was broadcast to church buildings in California, Utah, Hawaii and Idaho.
The Mormon church is part of a coalition of conservative groups backing Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman and thereby overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.
"What we're about is the work of the Lord, and he will bless you for your involvement," Elder M. Russell Ballard said during the broadcast.
Mormons have been active participants in the campaign both as volunteers and financial contributors, giving $8.4 million to the Proposition 8 campaign, according to the Web site mormonsfor8.com. There are about 770,000 Mormon church members in California, but Mormons from outside the state have been encouraged to give money and time to help pass the measure.
During Wednesday's taped satellite broadcast, church leaders asked for 30 members from each California congregation to donate four hours of week to the campaign. They also called on young married couples and single Mormons to use the Internet by text messaging and blogging to help pass the initiative.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton, who has been working as a liaison between the LDS leaders and the Proposition 8 campaign, said before the event that it was meant to energize Mormons for the weeks remaining before Election Day.
"In California, the phone trees are up and running. We just want to be able to help, and one of the things we can do is we can organize," Clayton said in an interview Wednesday.
Officially, the Mormon church is politically neutral and does not endorse individual candidates or political parties. The church does, however, weigh in on issues it considers morally important. The church holds traditional marriage as a sacred institution ordained by God.
Some Mormons have criticized the church for wading so heavily into the political realm.
"We know that it is not without controversy, yet let me be clear that at the heart of this issue is the central doctrine of eternal marriage and it's place in our Father's plan," Ballard said.