Over the last week I have watched as many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the courts DOMA ruling. Ranging from fond comments on “how far we’ve come” to out right praise of the court; I found the exuberance rather curious.
Following the numerous posts and debates over the subject I found nearly all of the debate missed some very important issues. In nearly every case the parties were debating the immediate impact of ruling on adults and local laws and no one asked LDS supporters of same sex marriage how they could explain the issue’s theological implications. It is true that many individuals alluded to this issue, but no one really asked the terrible questions which arise when one examines the doctrine of the eternal family in contrast to the impact of temporal same sex marriage.
Here I aim to broach some of these questions as if I were to write a letter to my imaginary cousin.
I am deeply interested in your feelings on the DOMA ruling. I could see from your Facebook posts that you were apparently very pleased with the idea of continued same sex marriages in California. I know you served your mission in the LA area and have friends there.
You and I have been close for most our lives. Recently our paths and opinions have diverged in a way neither of us ever thought possible. You have asked me just why I am opposed to same sex marriage and I don’t feel I have ever done justice to that question. I will try in this letter to flush out more of my thinking for you to understand. At the same time I will ask some things of you here which you will not like. Just as I know your questions on my judgment of marriage is not a judgment of me, please know that my questions of your judgment is not a judgment of you. I have never felt any malice to you, even in our deepest disagreements. I do, however, want to introduce some issues for you to consider concerning the marriage debate and the conflicts I perceive it causes with the faith you and I share.
In the past when this tender subject has been touched upon by you have often become angry saying “You’re not God! I don’t have to explain myself to you!” That statement would be true if the ideas you were asking me to accept and tolerate affected you and only you. However this issue is different. You and your associates are pushing for a course of action that will affect millions of lives and alter society forever. Given the sweeping impact of the philosophy you advocate, you do owe an explanation concerning how you believe this will affect the nation and future generations. If you cannot explain why this is a good thing in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then all the secular arguments in its favor are useless. If it is bad in the light of the Gospel, it cannot be good for society. To this point all you have given me to consider is secular arguments and a convenient interpretation of “love thy neighbor.”
For the sake of background I would like to lay out what I understand to be a disturbing trend in the Church that seems to arise often in relation to the Church’s stance marriage.
In its response to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ruling the Church states “Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children.”
At the very same time many Latter-day Saints celebrate Same Sex Marriage (SSM) and its accompanying social revolution. I feel the dichotomy astounding. It seems that many Latter-day Saints treat the Church as a mere temporal institution on some issues (the ones they don’t like) and God’s Kingdom on the parts they do like, as found in the words of Joanna Brooks, “… thousands of progressive LDS women and men today call ourselves “Mormon feminists” – rejecting parts of Mormonism that promote inequality while holding to affirming elements of our tradition.”
These words I feel are written as if the Kingdom of God, and His doctrines were a buffet from which we are free to pick what we like and what we don’t like. This is a fallacy in every way. In the end either people like Mrs. Brooks are correct, and the Church is wrong in its actions and doctrine, or people who think the way she does are wrong.
The Family a Proclamation to the World
This state of affairs follows on the heels of an apostolic defense of marriage that is unbroken from the time of Adam to Thomas S. Monson. This doctrine is most recently and clearly outlined in The Family: A Proclamation to the World and countless other addresses.
No matter the intellectual acrobatics one might undertake to avoid it, marriage is God’s eternal standard and it is His to define. Any action or philosophy we may espouse to the contrary in this ignorant present can only be seen as the whining of a petulant child or the height of arrogance. A few weeks ago, Elder L. Tom Perry said, “For man to substitute his own rules for the laws of God on either end of life is the height of presumption and the depth of sin.”
I know, you have told me before that “the Church is a politically and ideologically diverse body.” However, I cannot see how that excuses those who seem to have rejected the Prophet’s lead on the issue of marriage.
No, it does not and cannot. The existence of a diversity of ideas does not mean that all ideas are equally valid. It means that no small number of saints have placed their own temporal hubris over the wisdom and council of God’s Prophets.
As you have pointed out, the Lord wants us to be a Zion people, of one heart and one mind.Such a state requires we are obedient as a body of Saints. The Lord has said “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
” (D&C 38:27) Is our current situation somehow exempted from this command? Does this command not apply to our current generation?
God’s commandment to love thy neighbor is important. We both know that the love of God, which is free to all and unconditional, is very different from the blessing and acceptance of God which is conditional upon obedience to His word.
In addition to the Family Proclamation another statement from the First Presidency on marriage is clear:
We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.
As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.
Elder Nelson Speaks to Congress
How can you celebrate the fall of DOMA after the Church sent Elder Nelson to testify before the Congress concerning the need to define marriage via the Constitution? Do you know something he does not know? If so, what is it? In his statement he quoted the Family Proclamation:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pleased to be represented in this significant cause. While those of us here today represent a broad spectrum of religious diversity, we are firmly united in our declaration that marriage of a man and a woman is ordained of God. The sanctity of marriage and family constitutes the spiritual undergirding of lasting and successful societies.
Together we share a duty to preserve marriage and family as established by God. The time has now come when a constitutional amendment is needed in this country to protect our divine inheritance. Such action does not reduce our regard for individuals who choose to live by other standards. But it confirms our conviction that marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue and the foundation for eternal exaltation.
In 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a proclamation to the world on the family. From it I quote: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
What are some of theological implications of advocating for SSM? Let me start with what I see as the major factor, a child’s entitlement to a Godly parentage.
“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states that children are “entitled to be born in the bonds of matrimony to a mother and a father.” If Apostle Dallin H Oaks is correct when he states “From the perspective of the plan of salvation, one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth” then it follows that to willfully and with full knowledge take, or advocate for, a course of action that will deny children the blessing of a mother and a father they are entitled to is also a sin.
Notice the key phrase in the passage from the Family Proclamation; “Children are entitled to birth within the bounds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother.” Children are entitled by God to a father and a mother who strive to live in the given from above. This is not me claiming they are entitled, it’s not some conservative Tea Party group saying it. These are the Prophets of God affirming it. Could it be that as our society careens down the path of moral obfuscation, substituting men for women and women for men in the lives of children, we become a generation that willfully denies God’s children the very thing that God has entitled them to?
A Mother and a Father
A man cannot replace a mother without robbing a child of a mother’s love. A woman cannot replace a father without robbing a child of a father’s love. They are not the same, and to argue that they are, or that children does not need one or the other, is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order.
When you were a missionary you taught the principles of following the prophet’s counsel and of the eternal nature of the family, how would you explain the apparent discontinuity between what you taught, and your current opinion? When asked would you say “Why yes, I did testify as a missionary about the importance of following the prophet’s words and the eternal importance of the family… but that was before prop 8?”
Will you say (as many do) that the Church “will just change the rules and let homosexuals be sealed, like it did for blacks in the priesthood?” Can you name a single issue tied to race that disqualifies an individual from the Lords blessings? There is no one thing.
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<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ />0001pt; line-height: normal; text-align: left;”>There is, however, in the practice of Homosexuality, an inherent breaking of the law of chastity and the seriousness of this has been covered most recently by Elder Bednar. While a feeling is not a sin, the lifestyle itself is a disqualification from promised blessings. It is not because God is a bully who does not want them to be happy, or that the Church is behind the times (remember there is nothing new under the sun Ecclesiastes 1:9-10), but because the limits and bounds of sexual relations are set by Him.
Elder Bednar was unequivocal:
“The means by which mortal life is created is divinely appointed… The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force today. Thus, marriage between a man and a woman is the authorized channel through which premortal spirits enter mortality. Complete sexual abstinence before marriage and total fidelity within marriage protect the sanctity of this sacred channel… Misuse of this power subverts the purposes of the Father’s plan and of our mortal existence. Our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son are creators and have entrusted each of us with a portion of Their creative power. Specific guidelines for the proper use of the ability to create life are vital elements in the Father’s plan. How we feel about and use that supernal power will determine in large measure our happiness in mortality and our destiny in eternity.”
With even more clarity the Apostle’s emphasis is more powerful, and more condemning of modern ideas of sex:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God’s plan. Such relations are not merely a curiosity to be explored, an appetite to be satisfied, or a type of recreation or entertainment to be pursued selfishly. They are not a conquest to be achieved or simply an act to be performed. Rather, they are in mortality one of the ultimate expressions of our divine nature and potential and a way of strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. We are agents blessed with moral agency and are defined by our divine heritage as children of God-and not by sexual behaviors, contemporary attitudes, or secular philosophies.”
Why would you lift your voice in support of a movement that will teach God’s children yet to come the fallacy that the abuse of sex, as outlined by the Apostle of God, is a virtue? As Chesterton one said so well, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
How do you think this social sexual revolution will affect the ability of the rising generation to accept the Gospel? Will the Lord’s doctrine of chastity and marriage be accepted? Largely no. When given the ever increasing distance between the Laws of God and what is socially acceptable are socially venerated, how many children will choose the Gospel after being taught that the Gospel is a source of bigotry? Will it not make it harder for the Gospel to be accepted by the next generation?
Let me ask you, when the time comes and you stand before your brothers and sisters will you look them in the eyes and say “I am proud that I supported measures that robbed you of a father, or a mother, the very things Our Father told me you were entitled to.”
Another issue is the fact that the sins of the rising generation will be answered upon our heads. This is a greater condemnation of a Covenant people. The warning of Jacob was recorded for our sakes, as Jacob told his brethren: “…remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.” (Jacob 3:10)
Are you so sure of this cause that you are willing to aid “the disintegration of the family” that “will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets?”
When the time comes and you stand before the Lord will you say, “I am proud I invested the days of my mortal probation actively supporting temporal teachings that poisoned the well my posterity drew from and did not echo your divine council and will; despite my taking upon me thy name in thy temple and accepting the covenants thereof?”
There are other issues to consider. However I know you are now probably very angry with me for questioning your judgment in such a way so I will not list them all. But I will end off with words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell concerning the vision of the Prophets:
When the spirit teaches prophets the truth of things as they really are, this includes sensitizing these special men to the implication of what is just beginning, implications that are imperceptible to others. Prophets are alerted to tiny trends that bode ill for mankind. Prophets therefore are the Lord’s early warning system: they both detect and decry at His direction. What may seem to be a premature expression of prophetic concern is actually the early discovery of a difficulty that will later plague the people… prophets are, literally and figuratively, set apart from society so that they can better gauge impending problems, helping those who will either cease and desist from that which is wrong or prepare for that which is about to be. (Things as They Really Are, 1980, P. 77-7)
This issue is so much bigger than “two people who love each other” getting married or signs that read “Jesus said love everyone.” To couch the issue in such colorful simplifications is dishonest. It carries with it very serious eternal ramification for us in regards to the choices we make for or against the plan of God, for or against the entitlements of God Children and the example we set for generations down the line.As Elder Marion G. Romney once said, “It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support.We must be right.”
Your friend and cousin,
James (Jim) Smith served as the staff researcher for the Lighted Candle Society; a Washington DC based non-profit specializing in obscenity prosecutions and pro-family advocacy between 2004 and 2009.
In this position he worked with religious leaders, researchers and family advocacy organizations around the country. He left this position in 2009 to return to school where he studied Airport Management at the University of Central Missouri and Utah Valley University. His writes on religious freedom and threats to the family at Testamentofthefamily.org. His book Rudderless Mariners: Libertarian Philosophy vs. Inspired Leadership is available from Digital Legends press.