On the eve of another election in the United States of America, many historic events are looming, both encouraging and daunting; Whatever happens, we will either elect our first person of color as President, or our first female as Vice President. We may see a 60-vote majority in the Senate for the Democratic party. But offsetting these historic events is great uncertainty and fear about an ongoing economic crisis unseen since the Great Depression, alarm due to serious conflicts with various nations overseas, even apprehension about possible irreversible changes in our environment. Yet, here we are again looking at a fundamental divide on issues of morality, equality, and civil rights.
Residents of California (Prop 8), Arizona (Prop 102), and Florida (Prop 2) will be voting on propositions which would amend their state constitutions to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, that is not news. You have probably been overwhelmed with rhetoric from all angles. My goal here is to summarize what I have observed as the large-scale effects of this issue.
The Last Battleground
It wasn’t that far back when the official LDS Church position on homosexuality was that it is a moral and behavioral issue, chosen by individuals who succumb to deviant temptations. As such, the majority of faithful Mormons and Evangelical Christians were opposed to even civil unions for gay couples. The “umbrella issue” was that if any form of acceptance or recognition is granted to homosexuals it would be interpreted by society, and most importantly – our children— as condoning that behavior.
Today, it seems that footholds have slipped on the muddy moral/civil rights battlefield and Religion is making one last stand. Fortunately, the LDS Church has conceded that homosexuality, in many cases, is not a choice and goes beyond mere social influence and personal will. Furthermore, Mormons and Christians, in the current campaigns, seem to have conceded civil unions almost completely, even using them as a counter-argument to suggestions that the propositions violate equal rights. These are positive changes. And yet, in spite of these concessions, the “umbrella issue” remains the same –homosexuality, while understandable, even pitiable, is not acceptable, nor equal. Equality is the last battleground in the war for gay rights.
The umbrella issue is often presented as being about giving special rights and special treatment to gay couples. This is troublesome, because really what gays are trying to achieve is only an equal level of treatment. Sometimes it might appear that gay rights get an inordinate amount of public attention, but there are two reasons for that. One reason is that gay rights are currently not recognized in consensus, so they have to “talk louder” than normal volume just to be heard. The other reason is that traditional marriage is so common and taken for granted that we just don’t notice how much attention and treatment it gets. There is far more time given to the subject of traditional marriage in media, entertainment, education, and public life than all other kinds of relationships combined. It is so common that it has blended seamlessly into the canvas and anything of a different color jumps right out.
The Real Cause
Arguments like these are only deflections from the more uncomfortable reality. It is a remnant of the belief that homosexuality is a behavior that can be disciplined out of society. The goal of these propositions is not to protect society from special treatment for non-traditional lifestyles, it is to protect society from equal treatment of them. The reasoning is that a lifestyle afforded equal treatment is essentially considered morally equal by society. In a world where homosexuals are considered moral human beings with equal potential to contribute to the moral health of the society as anyone else, there is a fear that children will more commonly consider “choosing” the gay lifestyle, thus producing more and more gay people.
The reality is that such a world would produce no more or less gay people than in a discriminating society. It would only produce more happy and healthy people among them. It would save some lives, too. That same blanket of shame and disapproval that exists in our current society about homosexuality, that which the current movements are trying to preserve for the good of the children, is the weight which suffocates thousands of human beings – children of God – and drives them to suicide. If being gay was a choice that could be intimidated out of a person by restricting privileges, how did we get to this point now with so many gay people fighting for their right to be gay? Being gay has been anything but comfortable or convenient up until now and yet it is not keeping people from being gay. Of course, that is because they can’t choose it. If they could, the beatings – physical and emotional – they have received for so long would have accomplished their goal.
Sanctifying Our Own Paths
Aside from sympathizing with the plight of homosexuals, there is another problem with the social engineering approach. It is the idea that what is sacred to me is defined by what someone else is allowed to make sacred to them. Most Mormons have known people who drink alcohol, smoke, have tattoos, use profanity, do not observe the Sabbath, do not pray, think the temple is weird, think garments are weird, etc. etc. Yet, somehow we are able to continue to sanctify the human body, the temple, our garments, the Sabbath, and other aspects of our lives without taking away the right for those other people to live the way they do.
Sacred is the life we live, not the life we keep others from living. The sanctity of your family is nothing more than the sanctity of *your family*. If society celebrates the straight couple across the street it does not make your marriage more sanctified. If society denigrates the gay couple next door it does not make your marriage more sanctified. You can only sanctify your family by the way you live and love within your own home.
A Failed Experiment
Social engineering doesn’t work in either direction. It has not worked to keep people from being gay. Whether they are in-and-miserable or out-and-happy, they are still gay. It has not worked to elevate traditional marriage. More than half of one-man/one-woman marriages end in divorce. Less people are getting married in general. Even in the Gold Standard of LDS temple marriages, LDS Church leaders receive a constant flow of letters about the epidemic of pornography, spousal and child abuse, and unrighteous dominion.
Quite surprising too is willingness for Mormons to use the law to impose social engineering, considering our heritage of being on the victim end of that stick. Haun’s Mill. Far West. Nauvoo. The Reed Smoot Hearings. Have we fully considered the implications of creating a precedent for the constitution being used to impose an unequal morality on its citizens? Are we so sure that there is nothing about our lifestyle that might be at odds with a large enough segment of society that could seek to impose laws against us next?
The Sun Will Rise Again On November 5th
Regardless of the results of the ballots, the sun will rise again the next day. The congregations which employed the rhetoric of war and valiance will take attendance again the next Sunday. The home teachers of the gay members will have to stare at the phone number on the assignment sheet with a phone in hand. Family members will have to sit at the Thanksgiving dinner table across from their relatives who stood on the other side. Gay people will still be gay and traditional families will be no more sanctified than the day before.
We will need to forgive. We will need to love. Each day more than the last. I hope we can. I hope I can.
[T]here is another problem with the social engineering approach. It is the idea that what is sacred to me is defined by what someone else is allowed to make sacred to them.
This is a nice insight. It all seems so stingy. It’s as if you straight folks are stuffing yourselves at a banquet, and there are starving people standing by but you won’t throw them a crumb. It’s truly astonishing that there is so little generosity here.
Not being american means that these things are not so much in my consciousness but I have often wondered why the Church opposes gay civil marriages, and although there was no official attempts to restrict it when the debates were happening her that i was aware of, there certain was a definate feeling that this was a ‘devilish’ event. It seems that church policies would not be affected by this and that it seems it causes unecessary hurt, emotionally, socially and financially, to people and that does not seem something that God would be happy about.
I agree that “It would only produce more happy and healthy people among them. It would save some lives, too.”
Wonderful response to the madness surrounding this issue. The church was wrong about its treatment of blacks, it was wrong about polygamy, it was wrong about birth control and now its wrong about this. Don’t worry in 50 years it will reverse itself and proclaim it was right all along and gays will marry in the temple. I had to smile at Elder Oak’s recent claim that most people in the past did not want to practice polygamy and were relieved when it was disbanded. Yes the people were right to ignore the prophet then who said you could not get to the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom then, just as it is right to ignore the prophet now and his take on gay marriage. Fifty years from now your fight for gay marriage will be praised by an furture apostle of that time for your courage in ignoring what is so obviously wrong today. Great post.
Clay, very civil post.
There is something much more fundamental and much more disturbing about the prospect of gay marriage from the point of view of those who fight so vociferously against it.
Articulating it is very difficult because it is SO fundamental that it’s hard to see. The Proclamation on the Family is one of the surface manifestations of the foundational difficulty, but even that can be massaged away by future PR spinmeisters.
The problem as I see it is this: It underscores our having our cake and eating it too philosophy, of enjoying the material benefits of the scientific worldview while we wall off and fossilize our religious thought, preserving nineteenth century notions of theology clothed in the assumptions of their time. Joseph Smith may have been a Galilean, for instance, but he was no Darwinian.
In our day, accepting that social, behavioral, and life science has determined that sexual preference is not a willed choice, but has biological roots common to both the human and wider animal spheres, reinforces a worldview that makes it difficult to believe in the Mormon notion of a married male and female deity presiding over our universe. No matter that many believe God has many wives, not just one. The argument Mormons have over whether God is a polygamist and whether it is a requirement of the exalted is insignificant compared to the impact gay marriage would have on the collective traditionalist Mormon psyche. It would be one more reminder that society, and perhaps the universe, is opposed to our religious materialist worldview. One more jarring inconsistency to deal with.
We still have not swallowed the evolution pill fully, which poses tremendous problems for the notion of an embodied God, and the scientists who are bringing us the evidence that sexuality is not a social choice but an evolved mechanism have long ago predicated their research on the evolutionary assumption. It’s like asking traditionalist Mormons to join a party on the tenth floor of a building (gayness is inherited and serves an evolutionary purpose) and they haven’t even figured out where the front door is (humans are biologically related to and descended from non-human animal species) and whether entering it would mean they are denying God by doing so.
I long for our church to fully engage in this confrontation with modernity, and believe we would be the stronger for having faced up to the difficulties. Continuing the segmentation of our lives into religious and workaday attitudes will be neither healthy nor happy in the long run. We are already seeing the fallout.
The Sun Will Rise Again On November 5th
I have wanted to write those words so bad for some time. The volume of the debate has been deafening. We have civil unions (equal to marriage before legislation) available to homosexuals, but the churches have not sanctioned marriage for same-sex couples. There is considerable pressure for that, though. Since many straight couples who legalize their relationship opt for civil union, it doesn’t carry a stigma with it. It’s just marriage for the unreligious. The parties are even called “spouses”.
Now to pick a nit:
I still haven’t seen a source for the claim that the prophet has said (pre 1890) that you can’t receive exaltation without practicing polygamy (please enlighten me if such a source exists, I have asked several parties to provide me with one). Celestial marriage, yes (it still is a requirement to my knowledge). Polygamy, no. And no, the majority of Utahns did not practice polygamy and it is likely Elder Oaks was right about many being relieved about the Manifesto. This is like countering Soviet dis/misinformation back in the 1960s and ’70s. 😉
This has been some of the most thoughtful writing on the issues at hand that I have read these past few months. And I’ve read a lot, as I’m sure everyone reading this post has. Clay and John (#4), thanks.
“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.”
– 2nd Nephi 9:28
I don’t care what anyone on the pro-gay marriage side says anymore. Why should I? You’re not talking to me. You refuse to respond to any of my concerns, instead dismissing them as ignorant, illegitimate, or as smokescreens for bigotry. You insist on attacking strawmen, and then expect me to be impressed with your finely crafted arguments.
You certainly refuse to listen. You refuse to heed the counsel of the Lord’s anointed prophet. He’s only a man you say, and men make mistakes. Of course, the counsel of President Monson is consistent with the counsel and teachings of all the prophets and apostles before him, going back all the way to Moses. I forgot though- all those prophets were mistaken too, their perception warped by their backward culture. We’ve progressed now, and are so much wiser then past generations. Forgive me though, I do not agree. I think the generation of my grandparents was far wiser then todays.
Nor am I moved by such rationale. Are you not also a man? Do you not also make mistakes? Why should I value your wisdom above the prophets? After all, you are rejecting the counsel of thousands of years of our religion. Nor are you anointed and set apart by God to give guidance and counsel to me and the rest of the world.
No. I will follow the prophet, and nothing you say will move me. So why should we bother talking anymore?
Cicero, duly noted. Consider your hands washed of me, having done your duty in warning me of mine iniquity.
“nothing you say will move me. So why should we bother talking anymore?”
We are not talking, as you said yourself. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
All of the apostles and prophets going back to Moses had the same thing to say about homosexuality? Could we have some documentation of that? Very few of them had anything at all to say about it.
I don’t find the male-female ruling order at all to be in conflict with genetic predisposition. Mortality is laced with all kinds of things that are not compatible with the eternal order. Our bodies are less-than-perfect; we are fallen man. I would call homosexuality simply to be a part of that fall…along with all of the other genetic anomalies that make humans hermaphrodites. Homosexuality, or any other genetic disorder along those lines, will not exist in the afterlife. I don’t mean to offend my homosexual brothers and sisters, but I will be the first to say that my body also has deep imperfections that prevent me from participating in certain activities. There are individuals who are even more deeply flawed physically (where they have certain disorders that predispose them to carry out activities that would be considered sinful), but they do their best to be righteous regardless. So I respect them for that.
Now I’m aware of the APA’s removal from the DSM back in the day–fortunately, we now have Robert Spitzer, one of the leaders in that decision, who argues that one’s sexual orientation can indeed be changed, even if the process is long-and-drawn out (as is any significant repentance process). The study was not perfect, and Spitzer recognized that. Furthermore, he’s no knight for the Christian right…change is difficult and rare. And the idea that homosexuality is a straight-out rational choice is “totally absurd.”
However, the primary criticism levelled at the study is that the “converted” were religious conservatives. Therefore, they maintain, their sexual orientation remains. How scientific is that? If religion is a causitive factor in the process, should we not recognize it’s presence rather than dismiss it out-of-hand?
And please don’t let Cicero’s polemics caricaturize those who agree with the Proclamation…unfortunately, I feel like those in my camp are dwindling in numbers based on the media reports…
I think one of the logical paths John was hinting at, or at least it reminds me now, is that its a big piece of Mormon theology to believe that God has a gender and also that our physical sexuality is something that remains important and mostly the same in the hereafter. That is definitely the way McKonkie saw it and I don’t think he just made it all up. He even thought God the Father had physical sex with Mary in order to conceive Jesus. Seriously, it was in the first edition of Mormon Doctrine.
I guess it could be seen as apostasy, but I’m just at a place where I don’t trust that LDS apostles and prophets are so close to God that every theological utterance from them is anything more than speculation. Concepts like exalted beings actually having physical sex in order to create new spirit children are just not reliable to me. I don’t believe anyone really knows that for sure. But it is this fundamental concept of gender and sex in an eternal context that makes the idea that someone could be born gay really challenging to Mormons.
What if two spirit beings could procreate in some other way that was not dependent on the current human anatomy in our mortal condition? I don’t know, but I can’t say its any less likely because an apostle said otherwise, considering some of the things apostles have said. Its certainly not solid enough either way to justify the discrimination and ostracism of my fellow human beings who happen to be gay.
“I still haven’t seen a source for the claim that the prophet has said (pre 1890) that you can’t receive exaltation without practicing polygamy (please enlighten me if such a source exists, I have asked several parties to provide me with one). Celestial marriage, yes (it still is a requirement to my knowledge). Polygamy, no. And no, the majority of Utahns did not practice polygamy and it is likely Elder Oaks was right about many being relieved about the Manifesto. This is like countering Soviet dis/misinformation back in the 1960s and ’70s”.
Are you serious? Church documents are full of such quotes urging the practice of plural marriage on (yes, Oaks was right about the majority of members) a usually reluctant membership. Exaltation and plural marriage were linked. What other motivation could be publicly preached for entering into it?
Here’s one quote from Cowley’s Life of Wilford Woodruff: “The reason why the church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal order of marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign.”
Here we have two phrases which may puzzle the uninitiated: Patriarchal order of marriage and the law of Abraham. Both are spiritual-sounding synonyms for polygamy. If Woodruff wanted to say, “Hey you stake presidents get married in the Endowment House celestially” he probably would have mentioned Adam and Eve instead of Abraham and the patriarchal order.
Here’s another quote from John Taylor:”If we do not embrace that principle soon, the keys will be turned against us. If we do not keep the same law that our Heavenly Father has kept we cannot go with him”.
Plural marriage was not the luxuried, sensual, privileged extra reserved for a few men at the top of the hierarchy. It was enjoined upon all men and women. The fact that only 25% of the church lived in polygamous relationships at its height (men, women, and children) says something about the demographic and cultural limits of such a lifestyle.
I don’t know, nor even necessarily believe that resurrected being are physically intimate…
To me, an active Mormon, i don’t find the “born gay” idea problematic in the least…(at least with a genetic dipsosition towards it). They’re still men/women…they still have the male wiring.
As far as gender is concerned, well, I could speculate that Jesus knows fully well what it’s like to be a woman through the Atonement, so in some ways, Jesus has all the virtuous feminine characteristics (if I even describe these virtues in gendered terms). Homosexuality is the least problematic sexual condition of genetics I can think of…
So basically, I believe that those who are homosexual now…at least those who discipline their passions…will be relieved of the burden in the afterlife. Easy for me to say, but that’s the doctrine I see as being consistent with the teachings of the Brethren.
“The reason why the church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal order of marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham or they will have to resign.”
Oh there are clearer ones than that…I for one subscribe to the belief that plural marriage was absolutely necessary for their time…and that everything they said about its necessity was correct in the same way that NOah said we need the ark right now. he didn’t care to qualify that it might not be necessary a couple years later…as Arnold Palmer noted, don’t clutter my mind with what is on the left and on the right…I just want to know the distance from where I stand to the hole.
What you said!
This fracas over gay marriage, as painful as it is, is as nothing compared to the reevaluation of all of our values which we will be probably forced to undergo soon. Consider the statements McConkie made about God having sex with Mary (you can read this still in his book The Promised Messiah). They were based on what to him were common-sense observations of human sexuality. What could he have known about reproductive processes? Did he even understand the concept of DNA, genetic markers, haplogroups, or any of the other concepts in the explosion of the life sciences which we are witnessing now? Stem cells were not even on the public radar screen when McConkie died in 1985.
We often limit ourselves by our own time, place, and life experiences. Imagine a world where human cloning occurs on a regular basis. Then imagine that one can in essence create new human beings, not clones, with two fathers by extracting the necessary genetic material from their X and Y chromosomes to form a male and from their X chromosomes alone to form a female. Theoretically, we are looking at this happening within fifty years, depending on the state of science funding. I feel a healthy amount of trepidation when I consider this eventuality, but when I look at our church, I just feel sad. We are not ready for the theological tsunami that is about to hit us if we don’t start grappling with these issues and how they impact our deepest values…forget about gender being eternal. That becomes a sideshow question. What happens when the very notion of a human being is questioned?
The connection I am talking about is that a belief that physical sexuality is part of the spiritual procreative process is the major factor in why a Mormon would cling to the hope that a homosexual will be “cured” in the afterlife. If you don’t believe that the procreative process is mostly the same between mortality and immortality, why would a homosexual need to change?
“So basically, I believe that those who are homosexual now…at least those who discipline their passions…will be relieved of the burden in the afterlife. Easy for me to say, but that’s the doctrine I see as being consistent with the teachings of the Brethren.”
And that would be the other major factor… the need to align all thinking with the Brethren. There were many people who felt they were in a similar bind when they experienced the pure humanity of people who were of African decent and yet the Brethren were saying those people were not entitled to all the blessings of the gospel. Many people felt that the doctrine that was most consistent with the teaching of the Brethren was that those good people must have been bad in the pre-existence. The Brethren who made such statements were simply wrong. Has something changed to where that is no longer a possibility?
There are no scriptures offered in the D & C or any other accepted body of scripture saying you have to practice plural marriage to get anywhere.
It was forbidden in Book of Mormon times and although it has been accepted in societies from the old testament to modern times/other parts of the world, We have no revelation put to scripture stating its essential to gaining salvation in the Celestial Kingdom.
I personally oppose gay marriage and would love to let Orson Scott Card’s explanation stand for my own on why. I think this is a political issue the Church should not have tackled though. And though I view homosexual acts as sins, I am tolerant of those that practice homosexuality as I am tolerant of many other sinners as well.
Re #16 (John Nilsson)
This whole affair with Prop. 8 makes me realize that the Church is at a crossroads. It can choose fundamentalism or integration. I think this is also what’s at issue in comments like #16.
Fundamentalism, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the world already, is the road to violence, strife and economic dysfunction, but for it’s the doctrinal course of least resistance. Integration, on the other hand, involves painful compromises like accepting inconvenient science, but this path promises long-term vitality.
I’ve left the Church, but as a cultural Mormon I still root for it. It pains me to see less and less room for the more moderate elements within the Church. The Prop. 8 effort was a huge step backwards. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the many Mormons who have resisted Prop. 8.
The Church doesn’t want to go towards Fundamentalism or Integration. They want to maintain that optimal tension between those two extremes, which they more-or-less have today. Unfortunately, both Yes and No on Prop 8 push it more towards one of those two less-than-optimal outcomes. For now, it appears they have chosen Fundamentalism over Integration as the lesser of two evils. But truthfully, the Church would have prefered it if Society had just maintained the don’t-ask-don’t-tell status quo, with Gay couples as less-than-equal and largely “invisible” entities.
I believe that the affections that exist between man/woman are a part of the fundamental nature of eternity. Whether or not that involves physical sexuality is a moot point to me…I tend to view physical sexuality as simply a way of expressing the emotions and love that should exist between a man/woman in temporal form. It’s God’s way of teaching us how to love a wife (or husband). It doesn’t have to carry over into the life to come for the male/female coupling to be the norm.
As far as the brethren…I really do believe that we’re talking about two different issues. The doctrine on Africans and the priesthood was splotchy. We have too many exceptions for us to think of it in the same way the Church is thinking of homosexual marriage. There was never an organized get-out-the-vote drive for African slavery…in fact, they repudiated it overtly even in Utah, well removed from the Civil War (in which they condemned both sides). I hate to use the cliche, but it really is an apple/orange situation.
Finally, the homosexual marriage debate has been far too well-organized, too explicit for too long for the Brethren to have just dreamed this up of their own fancy or of cultural constructs. Gender strikes at our doctrine far more directly than race ever did (the comments we have on race were never fundamental to our doctrinal system…our salvation wasn’t based on the exclusion of the blacks). I don’t think any serious LDS ever said that the doctrines of salvation, of eternity depended on our race policy. They would say that for homosexuality.
1st paragraph, I’m not convinced that viewing sex as simply an expression of love is the orthodox LDS view. That view of sex actually makes a better argument for allowing homosexuality than it does against it. The “affections between man/woman” exist identically between homosexual couples, just as the stereotypical promiscuity exists plentifully in heterosexuals, too.
One difference between black civil rights and gay civil rights is that in the 60’s the civil rights movement was supported by a large portion of Christian churches, and the LDS church was fairly isolated as they resisted change. Publicly campaigning had a larger PR cost, but many general authorities felt that extending civil rights to blacks was a threat to us doctrinally in the exact same way as now with gays. In both cases, life can still go on if the world does not agree with your doctrine, but before the church was forced to deal with it, there was a huge fear that it would trigger massive moral breakdowns. Today, the church can be more overt about it because they are just part of a larger religious crowd.
Although, the extreme organization, efficiency, and influence towards member conformity of the LDS church has caused their efforts to rise far above the crowd, so the PR cost will not be avoided after all.
Cicero — It is clear your reading and knowledge of church history has been sheltered and guarded. Maybe you have applied limits to what you will read. You have only your fear to lose by opening your eyes and your mind to a broader canvas. On this canvas, one based upon reality, you can learn that the Lord’s anointed as much as I love and respect them were and variously guilty of projecting personal feeling or viewpoint. Mistakes have been made, or errors in transmission and will continue to be made. It is part of the process. Ultimately, you yourself will be accountable for what you have applied yourself to and what you have learned. Tell me why you are any better than the majority of Christians in the word who all believe we are a cult. They like you possess some truth but you and they struggle in darkness.
I love the Church. I continue to serve but my testimony lies elsewhere than the statements of MORTAL men who make mistakes from time to time. I cannot agree the support of Prop 8 is an inspired decision by the Brethren.
Take some time and visit Benchmark or Signature books and read some good history. D. Michael Quinn, Richard Bushman, even read ‘Massacre’ and tell me about inspired church leaders. Apostle George A. Smith comes to mind from that terrible event. It could have been your stake president calling you to whack that wagon train of gentiles from Arkansas.
Learn to stand on your own feet and embrace light and truth.
What if two spirit beings could procreate in some other way that was not dependent on the current human anatomy in our mortal condition?
If the Church does abandon the “God = man + woman” view, I hope I’m there to see it when gays start saying that God is Himself gay; that there is no Heavenly Mother and that Mary was an allegorical rather than a historical figure.
The gay-rights and feminist wings of the Church are on a collision course. And the funny part is, they don’t even seem to know it.
“Stem cells were not even on the public radar screen when McConkie died in 1985.” That may be, but in vitro fertilization certainly was. BRM was never one to change his opinions without being compelled by those further up in the hierarchy, however; a limited number at the time of his death.
Matt: “But truthfully, the Church would have preferred it if Society had just maintained the don’t-ask-don’t-tell status quo, with Gay couples as less-than-equal and largely “invisible” entities.” That totally sums up my view on this. I don’t really understand the biological or theological reasons behind homosexuality (nor those behind heterosexuality, which I at least experience). I have compassion for people. I recognize my own sinfulness. I prefer not to judge. I have an easier time loving the sinner than hating the sin. I am not the one who atones for sins. I don’t like to legislate morality. I know many would say that’s not possible, that all legislation has moral implications. But that’s still my view.
“The “affections between man/woman” exist identically between homosexual couples, just as the stereotypical promiscuity exists plentifully in heterosexuals, too.”
I don’t think there is an orthodox view on this…McConkie, given the fall-out over MD, does not constitute orthodoxy. We believe that we have a gender within us–that is reliable orthodoxy. The affection between man/woman is ontologically different than homosexual affections if we accept that spirits are gendered. So whatever process exists for the procreation of spirits (and it could be physical…but I’m not sold on the idea), it relates to the genders…but that does not in any way necessitate the so-called “logical” outcome of physical intimacy. I, for one, tend to believe sexuality to be largely symbolic…but it’s symbolism confined to the established relationship between the genders.
And I would need much more evidence to suggest that LDS leaders feared a moral breakdown if priesthood were given to blacks. The Church was not as isolated as you suggest…given Armaund Mauss’ work on the subject. Armaund Mauss work suggests that church members were no more racist than other Christian religions of the time. I’ve read Delbert Stapley’s famed letter to George Romney…he says nothing of moral breakdown and even wants African Americans to receive all the benefits of employment and education (though he was still a segregationist). I’ve read Mark E. Peterson’s doozey of a talk…no talk of a moral breakdown and also wants certain rights given to him (though his rhetoric is markedly sharper). If there are documents that would suggest this, these would. Yet they do not…they simply apply a few scriptures about precedent. The ramifications of intermarriage, etc. are not examined in the least.
Essentially, we still have no meaningful connection between the civil rights movement and the homosexual marriage movement.
Ah. I’m so glad I don’t live in California.
Luckily I live in Idaho, where I’ll never have to make such a choice. :]
#23 Oh please… I’ve read plenty of stuff put out by UMI, the Deckerites, the Tannerites, none of it impresses me much.
Oh yeah, and I’ve also collected and read dozens of different books and journals written by General Authorities in the earlier period of the church, before we decided we needed to bleach our dirty laundry. (The journal written by one General Authority in which he wishes for the death of another General Authority was particularly eye widening).
None of that is going to move me away from following our current prophet.
I’ve read some of Quinn, and quite a bit of Bushman. I studied the Mountain Meadows Massacre heavily in college, and I’ve met with decedents of some of the survivors. Allowing things like that to impact your level of devotion to the Faith is silly.
I well understand the very imperfect nature of Joseph Smith, and his successors. Why should that dissuade me from obeying their counsel? Do you really think Moses was a perfect man too? How well did those who questioned Moses fair? Or Joseph Smith or Brigham Young for that matter?
If you require perfection of God’s prophets before giving them your loyalty then I think you are the one who lacks perspective.
PS: Is this response arrogant and condescending? Indeed- I suppose I have simply repaid you with your own coin. Perhaps next time you should reconsider before deciding on an ad hominem attack as a response to a legitimate scriptural rebuke. Every Mormon must come to terms with our claims to divine guidance through a man with a prophetic mantle. Either you believe and act on them, or you make rationalizations. Implying that I lack your superior secret knowledge is just a distraction from this issue.
If you require perfection of God’s prophets before giving them your loyalty then I think you are the one who lacks perspective.
Cicero, where did anyone say they wouldn’t “give their loyalty” to a prophet, unless that prophet was perfect? You’re erecting a straw man, my friend. Furthermore, the above statement reflects a curious logic. You seem to take the position that individuals must be “perfectly obedient” to the dictates of a prophet, in all cases, whether he is right or wrong. This, of course, would completely contradict the words of many LDS presidents, who have been considered “prophets” by LDS members. In an odd sort of way, you’re arguing that a prophet doesn’t need to be right all the time (i.e., “perfect”), but everyone else has to obey that prophet all the time (i.e., “perfectly”) in order to be acceptable to deity. Why should everyone else be held to a “perfect” standard, when the “prophet” is not held to a “perfect” standard?
I honestly doubt that the church has actually changed its views on homosexuality since they will still excomunicate anyone who comes forward and admits to homosexual relations. If they had changed, they would have downgraded the punishment dished out to that person, who is voluntarily confessing to repent.
Also, if the church has changed their views on this issue, surely they would have at least kept quiet about this CA prop.
If anything the evidence points to a reinforcement of the churches long held view on homosexuality ie, the person succumbs to a temptation.
Nothing new to add, just wanted to say this is the most clear and succinct summation of the issues of gay marriage vs. the LDS church I have seen yet. I wish I read this 2 weeks ago, I would’ve forwarded this to everyone I know. Keep up the good work!
Carlos, I’m the last one to say that the LDS church is kind to homosexuals, but your suggestion that the LDS church “will still excommunicate anyone who comes forward and admits to homosexual relations” just isn’t true. I am personally acquainted with a number of LDS men who have voluntarily confessed homosexual acts to their local leaders, and haven’t even been disfellowshipped. Much has to do with who the person’s local leaders are, sad to say.
“Church documents are full of such quotes urging the practice of plural marriage on (yes, Oaks was right about the majority of members) a usually reluctant membership. Exaltation and plural marriage were linked. What other motivation could be publicly preached for entering into it?”
The important point to me is not what was preached about plural marriage and exaltation. What is telling is what has not been preached about it for over 100 years.
Actually, the Church’s opinions of homosexuality have changed over time CarlosJC.
For years, the Church has maintained the idea that homosexuality is a “choice,” but now (as of about 1995-1996), although they do not condone the practice of sex between members of the same sex, they do acknowledge that homosexual feelings are natural.
Many homosexuals in the 1970’s who sought counsel with their bishops, would often be given the choice of excommunication or electro-shock therapy. (There are many victims around today who consented to this type of therapy in an attempt to change for the Lord and for the Church. Unfortunately, electro-shock therapy doesn’t change your sexual orientation, but for those who consented to multiple weekly sessions, it did cause permanent scarring and neurological damage.)
In the 1960’s or 1970’s, a pamphlet published by the Church entitled, “For Young Men Only” condoned the use of violence against homosexuals. (Specifically, it was approved that a missionary hit his companion if his companion were to show homosexual traits.) The Church no longer condones such violence.
Not all homosexual members of the LDS Church are excommunicated. In fact, far less are excommunicated today as opposed to 10, 20 and 30+ years ago. “Affirmation” is a support group for gay & lesbian Mormons. 56.7% of their members consist of current Church members, 11.5% are resigned members and 19.2% have been excommunicated. The remaining Affirmation members have never been members of the LDS Church. Of the 56.7% of the LDS-Affirmation members, 42.3% do not attend regularly, 10.6% are active and 3.8% hold Temple Recommends. (In defense of the gay community, I am sure that many more of these gay members would be active–including myself–if we felt welcomed in our congregations.)
D. Michael Quinn has written a very interesting book regarding the Church’s changing views regarding homosexuality & same-sex attraction. It is entitled, “Same Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example.” The book is very well researched and referenced and shows that the Church once had a very lenient (sometimes to the point of no concern) attitude toward homosexuality. The attitude became more and more intolerant with the advent of WWI, and especially WWII.
The intolerance toward homosexuality increased after the war and through the 70’s and 80’s–even to the point of BYU witch hunts. (If a student’s car was found at a gay bar or gay hang out, the student would be expelled. The same went for BYU employees, and often City & State employees.)
Although I firmly believe in The Book of Mormon, I do not agree with many of the Church’s ideologies & politics. I believe that the Church’s intolerance and aloofness has driven many gay & lesbian members to destructive behavior and even suicide.
The 1959 (or was it 1960/61?) edition of Mormon Doctrine stated that homosexuality was a sexual sin SECOND ONLY to the shedding of innocent blood–or in other words, the only thing worse than being gay was cold-blooded murder. This statement has been retracted and no longer is a belief of the Church. Unfortunately, my mother had a copy of this edition rather than a revised edition. I came out in 1991. My mother and Bishop both advised me to pray myself straight. I tried! I read the scriptures and I prayed and I referred to Mormon Doctrine to better understand some of the Church’s positions. That’s when I discovered that the Church thought me little better than murderers. Shortly thereafter, I attempted suicide by sleeping in a gas-filled room for NINE HOURS. I shouldn’t have survived, but God had a plan for me. Several years later, after years of trying to pray myself straight, I finally came to the conclusion that God had a reason for making some of us different. I don’t know what that reason is and I don’t know what we as homosexuals (or you as heterosexuals) are supposed to learn from our presence here, but I do know that there is a reason.
Perhaps it has something to do with acceptance and tolerance. Perhaps 10% of society was made “different” in order to teach the other 90% that not everything is as it seems.