Why I Favor Gay Marriage

The Church’s recent statement on the proposed federal marriage amendment has spurred threads at M* and a lengthy one (well over 300 posts at the time of this writing) at T&S. A lot of this discussion has focused on the politics of the proposal and the legalities of federalizing the definition of marriage.

I was going to express these thoughts in the T&S thread, but I can’t access it right now, so I thought I would just go ahead and post them here. My basic point is that I favor gay marriage, and I wish the Church wouldn’t try so hard to prevent it.

I am by no means an activist on this subject. I don’t even know that many openly gay people. Nevertheless, that is my feeling.

My rationale is based on the following:

1. Polygamy. I am a fifth generation Mormon descended from polygamist ancestors. But for polygamy, I would not exist. I just came from the Casper MHA meetings. Near there, my GGG Grandfather, Thomas Grover, a polygamist, who had been a part of the 1847 pioneer company, operated a ferry to help travellers cross the river. I have tremendous respect for the lives and sacrifices of him and the many other polygamist Saints, and as I read the history of those times I cannot help but relate to the Mormon side of things and against the federal government that fought them to the very brink of extinction over this issue.

I realize that polygamy was an affront to the morals of western society. It seems as though good Christians should have been able to step outside themselves and see that the practice, no matter how offensive to them personally, was grounded in biblical restorationism, and that those who were living it were doing so in good faith. But very few people had the capacity to see things in that light.

It strikes me as ironic that we battled for so long and for so hard to get people to leave us alone and let us practice our religion in peace. And yet, when those who are similarly misunderstood today need a little bit of understanding, we are unwilling to step outside of ourselves and see things from their perspective. How soon we forget.

2. I still can’t figure out how gay marriage is supposed to endanger hetero marriage and the traditional family. I hear that rhetoric all the time, but I just don’t see it.

3. Although the etiology of homosexuality is complex and not fully understood, it is clear to me that in most cases it is not a consciously made choice. And I am unwilling to condemn someone who finds him or herself in a position not of his or her conscious choosing. That just wouldn’t be right.

4. I am a very empathetic person. I get it from my mother. And I am heavily influenced by the thought experiment where you pretend you live in a world where gay relationships are normative and hetero relationships are aberrant. I would know that I didn’t consciously choose to be hetero; I just am. I would know that no amount of therapy could make me gay; I would always desire women sexually, not men. And I would understand the pain and injustice of having to try to live a life without sexual intimacy with another human being. I simply would be unable to do that. (For this reason, if I were gay I would leave the Church. There’s no way I could live a celibate life, and I know myself well enough to know that.)

5. I think we should be encouraging committed, faithful relationships rather than bath house hedonism. If a marriage covenant is a good thing for a man and a woman, why is it a bad thing for a man and a man (or woman and a woman)? Do we really think gay people aren’t going to have sex? If they are going to have sex anyway, isn’t it in society’s interest to encourage responsible sexual behavior in a committed relationship? It seems like encouraging marriage ought to be the conservative perspective, rather than the liberal one.

Comments

  1. D. Fletcher says:

    Excellent and clear post, Kevin, and very brave. I do have one question: since your views are contrary to the Brethren, who have repeatedly pronounced otherwise, does this give you pause? How do you reconcile this acceptance of SSM with what the prophets have suggested?

  2. Aaron Brown says:

    Kevin — I don’t have time to engage this fully at the moment, but let me just nit-pick a couple of your comments.

    Your point #3 is unhelpful. Even most thoughtful conservative opponents of gay marriage will grant you that homosexuality — defined as the tendency or orientation or proclivity to be sexually attracted primarily and overwhelmingly to the same sex — is not a “consciously made choice.” And when you say you are “unwilling to condemn someone who finds him or herself in a position not of his or her conscious choosing,” the obvious conservative response is to invoke the straightforward distinction between condemning someone for having homosexual tendencies and condemning someone for choosing to act out on those tendencies.

    I’m not saying that I necessarily think the Church’s current stand on homosexuality is ideal. But like it or not, there simply is nothing conceptually incoherent about drawing an orientation/action distinction and believing that there are moral implications of the one but not the other. This, it seems to me, is the conservative LDS take on this question, and if one wants to combat it, one should try to argue that a moral principle prohibiting homosexuals from being sexual is prima facie unjust, rather than suggesting that to oppose homosexuality is to “condemn” someone for being oriented a certain way.

    I know, I know. You wanted to talk about gay marriage, and I’m just talking about homosexuality, per se. Sorry for the threadjack.

    Aaron B

  3. Absolutely. Amen. Bravo. 100%.

    The only thing that should give faithful Mormons pause is this, however:

    Your 1-5 made perfect sense to me, Kevin, and I am in perfect agreement. Where does that leave prophetic guidance, however? Follow the Prophet, no?

    Is this our “repent or Jerusalem will be destroyed” moment, or is this our “blacks are cursed” moment? How does one tell the difference?

  4. A Pharisee named Gamaliel counseled moderation when criticizing the Apostles, “lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”

  5. Phew, Kevin! This should be a fun bunch of comments. I haven’t had the chance to fully think about your remarks, but I kind of agree with Aaron’s comment about your point #3.

  6. How does one tell the difference?

    The Book of Mormon was written for our time. What does it have to say about the issue? The BofM is clear about the threats to families and nations. It is also silent on the matter of homosexuals.

  7. Last Lemming says:

    You have given several good reasons why the Supreme Court’s decision in the Lawrence case was correct and why we should be less judgmental towards our gay neighbors. But only #5 addresses why government should formally recognize gay marriages. And its not a good enough reason.

    If you believe marriage is about adults finding personal fulfillment as an end in itself, gay marriage would seem justified. But I believe it is about adults trying to create an optimal environment in which to raise their own children, which is (not coincidentally) personally fulfilling. For the government to recognize gay marriage sends the message that marriage is primarily about adults and that is not the message I want to have sent.

    As for the inevitable “What about infertile heterosexual couples?” argument, I believe the government should recognize such marriages (a) to protect the privacy of the couple, and (b) to reinforce the social norm of heterosexual marriage. Gay marriage accomplishes neither a (their “infertility” is obvious) nor b.

    For the record, I am in favor of decriminalizing polygamy, but opposed to the state formally recognizing polygamous marriages. I am also opposed to the pending constitutional amendment on federalism grounds.

  8. I think sometimes people don’t consider what’s actually at stake with SSM.

    The real threat with SSM is that it maintains that marriage can happen between two equals, and not just two equals, but two people with identical gender roles. Makes it a lot harder to maintain “traditional” marriage where the woman is the keeper of the home and the man is the provider if that’s the case. A lot harder to do an amendment for that than an amendent that says gays can’t get married. And a lot harder to keep with a tradition that could have some healthy dividends. I think SSM is about way more than just gays having committed relationships. We should discuss it within it’s overal context.

    SSM also has the potential to say “hey, gays can be committed and loving too, they’re not all promiscuous and dangerous,” and it is easier to dislike gays if you think they are promiscuous. So it would make it harder to be against gays in general because they would be more mainstream. You could see why people think its not a question of civil rights et al.

    Pretty complicated issue, though. We should all be open to how complicated it is…

  9. Ronan,

    D&C 107 gives special weight to unanimous declarations of governing quorums. Are there unanimous First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 statements that claim the “blacks are cursed” doctrine? I have vague memories of there being statements about blacks and the priesthood (of course), but I honestly have no idea what the FP and Q of 12 has said unanimously (if anything) about blacks being cursed.

    So such FP/Q12 unanimous statements are vastly more binding than Elder McConkie’s (and others’) personal beliefs. Not that such statements are infallible. But I wager they are a whole lot less fallible than you or me, or even the entire quorum of people who comment on this post…

    Loyd,

    My impression is that the term “abomination” often is referring to a set of sins into which homosexuality falls. The BoM is only silent about homosexuality if you don’t think homosexuality is one of the abominations preached against. But at that point you have assumed your answer, not discovered it.

  10. Kevin–

    Like you, I am empathetic. The idea of committed homosexual partners suffering in silence because society tells them they are evil troubles me. Still, the issue, for me, is not as clear as you make it seem in your post. I don’t find your points convincing:

    1) It is possible to step outside ourselves, feel empathy, reach out to those who feel homosexual tendencies, notice the parallels between homosexual relationships and polygamous relationships, and still conclude homosexuality is wrong. The fact that two things have similarities, or that two things viewed together create irony, does not prove those two things to be alike in every respect. In this case, the similarities you mention do not prove homosexuality is morally acceptable. If it is not, I do not believe we have a moral obligation to support it–historical irony notwithstanding.

    2) I agreed with this until one week ago, when I read an article linked on T & S. This article outlined how honest European sociologists recognize that acceptance of homosexual marriage is but one step in the infinite expansion (and, thus, de facto negation) on the definition of family. The goal of these sociologists is the dissolution of the traditional family. Certainly not all gay folks, or all sociologists, share this goal–but some have recognized that acceptance of homosexual marriage is one step down that path.

    3) This is the most troubling point. While you are correct that current research shows that genetic and early environmental factors predispose a person to homosexual tendencies, I do not agree that this compels us to accept homoexual behaviors. As has already been pointed out, there is a difference between tendency and behavior. Even more importantly, however, genetic predispoistion does not compel moral acceptance. Studies very similar to those you refer to are also beginning to demonstrate that many behaviors–from a tendency toward hate to a tendency toward addiction–have genetic bases–indeed, the time will soon come when scientists argue that ALL behavior finds its roots in our genes. Unless we want to accept biological predestination, we must not accept the idea that genes rob us of culpability. This is not to dismiss your argument, nor do I mean to question the need for empathy for those who feel strong homosexual tendencies, but I do not think your underlying assumption is as strong as it at first seems.

    4) Again, empathy does not necessitate acceptance of behavior. I also feel empathy for sex offenders, but I do not condone their behavior. I do not mean to equate the heinousness of these two behaviors, only to point out a flaw in the argument.

    5) Again, I do not mean to equate behaviors, but this analogy does not seem to me to hold up under scrutiny. If a marriage is a good thing between a man and a woman, then why not between a man and a man? Why not between a man and a child? Why not between a man and his brother? Why not between a man and his horse? There is much more to this issue than appears in this argument.

    In the end, the choice seems to be between secular humanism and Mormonism. If secular humanism obtains, we must accept gay marriage because it may help people be happy here and now. If we accept Mormonism, we must trust in the extended view offered by the Plan of Salvation, trust that we do not know all things but God does, trust the Prophets and–though we embrace those who struggle with homosexuality and every other sin, a group which, of course, includes everyone–reject the sin, nonetheless.

  11. mullingandmusing says:

    Is this our “repent or Jerusalem will be destroyed” moment, or is this our “blacks are cursed” moment? How does one tell the difference?

    You can tell the difference because of the repeated, consistent nature of the counsel, guidance, direction and position of the Brethren. There is a Proclamation about what marriage is (and, implicitly, what is isn’t), and it states that it is God’s definition — and is the unified voices of all 15 prophets, seers and revelators. It is nearly unprecedented. Countless talks, articles and statements have also addressed this topic. There should be no question that our prophets are acting in their prophetic role on this one, folks.

  12. Lloyd,

    The book of Mormon was probably silent on the issue of homosexuality because they apparently were not burdened with it. In all our other Words of God, God has been pretty clear and consistent in regards to homosexuality. Not only that, but the only city actually destroyed by God himself, Soddom and Gommorah, was because of their sins regarding sexuality and homosexuality.

    now, in regards to polygamy, the comparison fails because God has not been consistent in regards to plural marriage. in some cases, like Abraham and Joseph Smith, it is allowed, while in others, Jacob in the Book of Mormon, and today, it is not. Trying to compare how God views homosexuality and polygamy does not work because God has been very clear regarding homosexuality as a sin and an aberration of nature.

    in regards to point 2. you can dismiss that argument Christian conservatives make regarding homosexuality being a danger to heterosexual marriages, because it ain’t. they’re just trying to strike up political points using heated rhetoric.

    in regards to point 3. i recommend you read Elder Oaks’s talk found here. this should help get a good Gospel understanding of what we know about homosexuality.

    in regards to point 4. I took am pretty emphatic. I feel for people who are ostracized and isolated. I believe they get pushed further into their sin into what they feel as a comfort zone. I think we who call ourselves Christians are doing a terrible job at helping homosexuals get away from sinning by how we treat them. we will be held accountable for our actions in the end.

    in regards to point 5. this is a flawed argument. using this same argument in regards to murder, people are going to murder anyways, why not legalize it. some things are just simply out of bounds. And with the fact that the Lord has personally destroyed only one city in the history of the world (or at least that we have record of), and it has to deal with that city’s gay lovefest, I’m going to side with the Church on this.

    Besides, if you yourself aren’t gay, why should you benefit from gays getting married? that sounds harsh, but in reality, why do you want gays to be married? how does that benefit you?

  13. mullingandmusing says:

    Christians are doing a terrible job at helping homosexuals get away from sinning by how we treat them. we will be held accountable for our actions in the end.

    This is a good point, and I think it’s something we should discuss more often, rather than discussing whether the Church “should” change its position. It won’t, but we certainly can do better at communicated love and compassion for those who consider themselves gay and want to feel they have a place in the Church. We can’t change God’s laws, but we can do something about how we treat each other.

  14. John Mansfield says:

    On #2, the marginal cases are what you have to examine if you want to know how society will shift. Forget the stable, loving couples you admire. Ponder the ones on the fence about whether to get hitched or just shack up together. What influences push them one way or the other? Which action of theirs stabilizes society and which one doesn’t?

    I’m reminded of an old Mafalda comic strip from the 1960s or 1970s. Mafalda’s friend Susanita overhears her mother gossiping at the market about a pregnant, unmarried woman in the neighborhood. Susanita and Mafalda are astonished to learn that their are permutations of life they never imagined. Mafalda asks her mother if it’s true that a woman can have children without being married. The mother begins a motherly lecture, that, yes, technically, it’s possible, but a child should have a home with two parents, blah, blah, blah. A furlorn Mafalda goes outside and tells her friends, “Triste descubrimiento, muchachos. Somos optativos.” (“Sad discovery, kids. We’re optional.”)

  15. JM,

    I don’t get that. How is it that if the gay couple next door to me — who are living together anyway — get married, committing to each other in a formal way, that the hetero-couple the other side will say, “marriage? nah.” They are already saying “nah.”

  16. rleonard says:

    In think our leaders are looking to the situation in Europe in regard to demographics and general attitudes regarding conservative Christian Churches and saying we need to stop this slide into secularism.

    I would also say that they are seeing this is a sign of the last days. Evil is seen as good and good evil.

  17. Seth R. says:

    So, is BCC trying to exceed its bandwidth and get its server shut down too?

  18. we need to stop this slide into secularism

    Um, by passing a secular law? Funny that my gay friend (who babysat overnight for my kids when Rebecca went into labour after all our church friends declined) is very religious. If he were to marry his partner, I bet he would find a willing church to do it. For some gays, marriage and commitment are a religious issue.

  19. My impression is that the term “abomination” often is referring to a set of sins into which homosexuality falls.

    If you do a search for ‘abomination’ in the scriptures, you will find that pretty much every sin from the smallest to the largest is at one time or another called an abomination, many of which you would hardly call a sin – such as making physical contact with a menstruating woman – something Jesus violated.

  20. Not only that, but the only city actually destroyed by God himself, Soddom and Gommorah, was because of their sins regarding sexuality and homosexuality.

    actually, it was because of their pride and ignorance toward the needy.

  21. Aaron Brown says:

    Conservatives have generally done a poor job of articulating in what sense, if any, gay marriage might “threaten traditional marriage.” For two thoughtful arguments on how this threat might be real, see the following two links (one written by a libertarian, another by a liberal):

    http://www.janegalt.net/blog/archives/005244.html

    (Can’t find the other link. Maybe I’ll post it later).

    Aaron B

  22. Kevin,
    I’m with you, no one gives me a convincing argument that gay marriage destroys traditional families. I can’t understand how it does and everything that people say doesn’t seem to actually be happening.

    bj, I think is more to do than just with being happy here. Gays having the option to legally marry is a bigger issue than whether or not it makes them happy here. I assume you’re talking about the happiness of keeping God’s commandments vs. not but gay marriage as a legal issue isn’t about that, at least not in my mind.

    I recognize that I oppose the way the Brethren have come out on this issue, but it’s the only way I know how to interpret this issue based on my world-view (which is almost entirely formed by Mormonism). The thing that is most curious to me about this issue is about how it came to be our issue. I will not refute that the Bible has made mention of homosexuality and the Brethren have firmly stressed the Church’s view on this issue but compared to other “Christian” issues it seems to get relatively little attention in the Bible and as noted none in the Book of Mormon and other Mormon scriptures. Why don’t we get all up in arms about poverty in the world? As a Church, we don’t seem very well educated on that issue and it seems to be one of the essentials to Jesus’ ministry and even to Joseph Smith’s inspiration (Zion et al). How did we get so sidetracked by homosexuality and gay marriage?

  23. Amri,
    Ed Snow and I have a post in the works on what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality. We aim to offer a fair and balanced look.

  24. Kevin Barney says:

    Aaron, you are right about the orientation/action dichotomy. I wrote too quickly and did not go as far as I intended. That distinction is fine for the Church’s internal position, and I am glad we allow (celibate) gays to be fully participating members of the Church. But as a secular law, I don’t find the distinction all that useful. It’s just like the distinction in the Reynolds case, which says you can believe in polygamy all you want, but if you want to practice it, that’s a different story. I don’t feel the need to impose Mormon views of morality on the society at large. I guess I am just not offended by gay relationships, including, yes, sex, the way most LDS are. Maybe it was all that Greek lyric poetry I read at BYU (Sappho, anyone?).

    As for the “follow the prophet” concern, yes, I acknowledge that that is an issue. That is why I normally don’t say anything and keep my counsel to myself. I doubt that anyone in my ward has any idea that I feel this way, mainly because the issue really hasn’t come up in that setting that I recall. But SSM is such a huge, frequently discussed issue in the bloggernacle, so I decided, what the heck, I ought to at least share how I feel about it, even if it is a minority position. I personally think this is an instance of cultural conditioning rather than explicit revelation. I may well be wrong, and if so, I’ll take the heat (pun intended) for it.

  25. Ronan, I’m excited. To me, the Bible hardly says anything really definitive on it, but does make mention. I have lots of gay ex-Mormon friends who claim it says nothing at all. I’m ready to get behind their cause (gay marriage and mormon cultural acceptance) but not ready to say that “God” (quotes because I mean words from scriptures) has been entirely silent on the issue.

  26. Brad Kramer says:

    There is no clear evidence within the text itself that God destroyed S&G for rampant homosexuality. There are allusions to it, but a serious reading of the text supports the view generally held by biblical scholars that a brutal, sadistic, rowdy group of probably heterosexual men (Lot tried to appease them by offering his daughters) tried to humiliate and de-masculinize the righteous visitors by basically threatening to gang-rape them — i.e. make them their “b**ches” (can I say that talking about the Bible?). The only verse in the whole Bible which lists reasons for God’s destruction of S&G, in Ezekial 16:49-50, does not mention homosexual acts. Joseph Smith’s only known comment on the subject states the S&G were destroyed for “rejecting the prophets”–pretty nebulous, but, again, no mention of sex. There is simply no way of connecting the story of S&G to the question of genuine, committed love being expressed between two consenting adults of the same gender.

    Granted, there are other biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior, but they are also problematic. Beyond S&G, the condemnations in Leviticus are suspect, in the first place because the are strewn alongside verses countenencing human slavery and verses calling for death to those who plant the wrong kinds of crops next to each other. In the second place, because they clearly are given withing the context of an assumption that semen itself both represented and actually contained within itself all life. Thus, non-procreative ejaculation (sorry to be graphic; but I guess I am discussing the Bible, itself a fairly graphic text) of any kind — in coitis interruptus (the lovely story from Genesis 38), male-male homosexual acts, and male masturbation — are all stridently condemned in the bible, even considered the equivalent to abortion or murder. On the other hand, female homosexual acts are not even mentioned in the OT.

    Paul’s condemnation needs to be taken somewhat more seriously. But even here, it is clear that he simply does not have access to some of the important facts that inform our thinking today. Rom 1 26-7 indicates that Paul believes that he is talking to “straight” people who are just engaging in “gay behavior.” This is perfectly understandable. The concept of sexual orientation is a relatively recent social construct. Anti-gay activists are fond of pointing out that “homosexuals” didn’t exist before about the last century (actually, it was the gay philosopher, Michelle Foucault, who first pointed this out). What they fail to realize is that neither did “heterosexuals.” Which is to say that sexual orientation did not serve as a prime indicator of individual identity. Thus, there is strong evidence that Abe Lincoln had romantic relations with other men, but to call him homosexual, heterosexual, or even bisexual is anachronistic. And while many members of older generations even today (my father, for one) believe that “gay” people are really just straight people ostentatiously rebelling against God and authority, most Mormons I know believe that “being” gay is a real thing and a real challenge that must be resisted, not just an arbitrary choice being made by a bunch of confused or reckless straight people.

    Paul would have also been steeped in the sexual mores of Hebrew culture. These included, among other things: approval of prostitution; proscription of sexual contact during menstruation; a definition of adultury based solely on the marital status of the woman; approval of polygamy and concubinage; no official proscription against sex between two unmarried consenting adults; sexual regulations in general determined only by considerations of males’ property rights over women (i.e. men owned women as property and treated them as such, whether husbands or fathers, and with God’s appearant approval); Moses’ (and ours) approval of divorce despite Jesus’ strict forbiddance against it.

    In the end, this and other arguments about the moral legitimacy of homosexual behavior constitute a massive threadjack. The question here is not whether or not God approves of such behavoir but about the relative merit of certain specific policy proposals. The scriptures — especially the BoM — contain hundreds more specific condemnations of acquisitiveness, materialism, even economic competition, wealth, militarism — all staples of American culture — but Mormons have no problem decrying hysterically laws that would limit property accumulation or even tax it as Satanic affronts to free agency.

    This is a political argument. No one here needs schooling on the fact that the prophets unanimously disapprove of same sex relations. Nowhere in this week’s statement or in the Proclamation is the assertion explicitly made that government sanctioning of forms of marriage not sanctioned by God will weaken the family as the fundamental unit of society. I’ve read compelling arguments to that effect from the Weekly Standard and the Heritage Foundation, but those arguments would apply equally to plural marriage. The proclamation states the kind of marriage God sanctions, that the family is central to a healthy society, and that church members, political leaders, citizens, etc should support policies that will strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society. Nowhere does it state that acknowledgment or even support by the State of families that don’t conform to the divine ideal–including but not limited to opposing an amendment to the Federal Constitution defining marriage the way God does–will weaken the family as a fundamental unit of society. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I tend to think that the wording for these kinds of things is pretty meticulously and thoroughly worked out. And, as one who sustains the men who crafted the language as prophets, seers, and revelators, I take the statements literally and at face value.

    I’m not saying I don’t think homosexuality is wrong. But I think that it is an issue probably not worthy of the obsessive attention we are paying it. If Satan can use a truth (homosexuality is wrong) to obscure an even greater truth (the unbridled acquisitiveness, materialism, self-righteousness, and militancy that have infected our society in a worse way than homosexuality ever could are wrong) I think that would be a strategy he would run with. And I think the BoM makes pretty clear that God is much more worried about materialism and militarism, at least in terms of the general direction society is headed, than he is about whether gays want to adopt children or file joint tax returns. I might also add that obsessing about other people’s sins the way that the Christian Right does and Mormons tend to (especially regarding the threat of homosexuality) is the polar opposite of repentance. I’d rather err on the side of cavorting with whores, tax collectors, and sinners than the side of pharisaic self-justifying, self-righteousness.

  27. Brad Kramer says:

    Sorry, Ronan, if I preempted your and Ed’s discussion of sexuality and the Bible. I’m not sure if mine is as thorough as yours will be or if I am “fair and balanced” but I’m still looking forward to your post.

  28. I love this post. My moral sensibilities–the still, small voice in my heart–agree with what Kevin has to say. As they say, do what is right and let the consequences follow. Kevin says what, to me, all moral sense proclaims to be right. Let’s let the consequences–regarding following prophets, scripture, and so forth–sort themselves out.

  29. rleonard says:

    Wow is this Blog out of touch with mainstream LDS thought and the LDS leadership.

    I challenge those opposed to the FP to have the courage to openly disagree with the FP in public in your wards.

    I have lots more to say but the word “dissent” comes to mind. Seems like a clear cut case of not sustaining the prophet. I also think y’all are mingling the philosophies of men with scripture to come up with a justification to oppose the Lords Annointed.

  30. Brad–
    I like how you separated the Mormons and the Christian Right. That was generous of you. Accurate: maybe not. Generous: YES.

  31. hurricane says:

    16– Evil is seen as good and good evil.

    Indeed.

  32. Aaron Brown says:

    Kevin,

    You say that you don’t find the orientation/action distinction useful with respect to secular law, and that you don’t “feel the need to impose Mormon views of morality on the society at large.” I agree. That is why, if we were talking about, say, anti-sodomy laws, I would probably agree with you that they are a bad idea.

    But I don’t think opposing the redefinition of marriage into a non-gendered institution is a simple act of “imposing religious morality” in the same way. There are arguments that altering the institution in fundamental ways could have profound negative societal consequences. Maybe those arguments are persuasive. Maybe they aren’t. But either way, I don’t think the debate about marriage can be usefully analyzed by merely posing the question of whether LDS People should want to coerce their citizens into abiding by their religious, moral standards. It’s more complicated than that.

    Brad Kramer said:
    “Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I tend to think that the wording for these kinds of things is pretty meticulously and thoroughly worked out.”

    I think you’re splitting hairs. That is, I agree that the wording was pretty meticulously and thoroughly worked out, but I doubt it’s for the reasons you suggest. Your second to the last paragraph would have it that the LDS Church has put forth an ideal standard, but isn’t really telling us it cares about whether that standard is enacted into law. Sometimes I wish that was what the Church was saying, but I don’t think it is.

    Incidently, I have all sorts of issues with what the Church chooses to involve itself with politically, and what it doesn’t. But I try not to fool myself into believing that the Church isn’t trying to influence political outcomes when clearly it is.

    Aaron B

  33. rleonard, thanks for your judgment! I guess you’ll be judged likewise someday.

  34. I’ve been struggling with this issue for a while now, and reading D&C 134:4 gives me even more pause:

    We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

  35. Aaron Brown says:

    Hey, what’s up over at T&S? Has it been destroyed? Have we finally defeated the Matrix? Does BCC finally reign supreme in the Bloggernacle (like it didn’t already)?

    Aaron B

  36. I think this thread at times confuses two separate questions: first should the Church publicly oppose civil recognition of same sex marriage (Kevin’s #1); and second, should the church oppose same sex marriage on moral grounds (Kevin’s #’s 2 – 5)? I believe the answers to be different.

    As Kevin argues in his #1, Mormon’s have good reason to be concerned when the interpersonal decisions of rational, consenting adults are legislated by others within our civil society. Civil marriage governs some very prosaic and yet personal matters like: benefits, inheritance, and various privacy rights (i.e. medical records). I see no reason that our faith need to intrude on our non-LDS neighbors decisions on, for example, hospital visitation rights. Accordingly, I would prefer to see the church draw a distinction between civil marriage as a largely financial contract between consenting adults, and religious marriage as an institution ordained of God.

    As the flip side of this, I think we/the church should fight any attempts by others to legislate, for example, a ban of the boy scouts from schools or parks because they condemn homosexuality. Religious groups have a right to practice their beliefs publicly without the weight of the state trampling our rights to free speech and association. We have equal rights to access the “town square”. Church leadership absolutely has the obligation, not just the right, to preach its views of morality to anyone and everyone who will listen.

    As for arguments 2 – 5, I agree with those that say that the scriptures and leadership have been clear in their opposition to sex outside the marriage. I can certainly understand why they say what they say…I admit that I don’t seem to have nearly as strong an opinion on the subject of homosexuality as the leadership seems to feel. I don’t personally understand homosexuality; or to be more exact, I guess I don’t understand how the plan of creation could create such a cruel obstacle in the path of procreation. Like others in this thread, it doesn’t seem to me to be a choice; how could such a thing happen in either the plan of salvation or Darwinian selection? How unfair is a plan that consigns someone to lifelong chastity?

    My personal position, and they way I explain it to others is we believe that God ordains marriage to be between a man and a woman, and he has commanded that sexual relations should only be within marriage. And, frankly, if I spent all my time condemning everyone guilty of sex outside of marriage…well, let’s just say I’m not sure who would be left. Let’s not kid ourselves…it’s a short list, and no way to gain converts.

  37. Brad Kramer says:

    Aaron,

    I’m not fooling myself into believing that the Church isn’t trying to influence political outcomes. If anything, I’m fooling myself into believing that my thinking that this whole amendment thing is big, fe3stering, stupid distraction is not out of harmony with the pronouncements of God’s annointed–that my political position can be reconciled with the letter of both the PoF and this week’s statement :)

  38. Aaron Brown says:

    James,

    Why does that scripture give you pause? To suggest that opposing gay marriage is to “infringe upon the rights and liberties of others” is to assume that gay marriage is a right and liberty. But why should we assume this? This is what advocates of gay marriage should be trying to prove (and not just assume). Elsewhere, your quotation refers to “prescribing rules of worship,” “bind[ing] the consciences of men,” “dictat[ing] public or private devotion”, “control[ing] conscience,” and “suppress[ing] the freedom of the soul.” None of these things are necessarily implicated by efforts to oppose (or support) gay marriage.

    Aaron B

  39. Aaron,

    T&S got hit with about 10,000 spams. These were flagged as spam, but the whole thing caused problems with the comments database and finally the server people shut down the site until it was all sorted out.

    In the meantime, if anyone is interested in various card games and herbal supplements, I have plenty of links they can try.

  40. rleonard says:

    I think we should leave the interpretation of Scripture to the Lords Annointed.

    I would also suggest that we sustain our leaders and be humble and accept their inspiration on this matter. Its called “sustaining”

    Opposition to the FP on this issue seems to be very prideful. I know more than the prophet, he is wrong, I am to smart to buy the LDS leaderships arguements etc.

    I would also submit that the wheat is being sifted as we speak over this issue. I recently had this conversation with several other ward members that those LDS who choose to disregard the FP on this issue are being sifted

  41. rleonard, keep it coming! I love your comments, man, grammatical nonsense aside. Sift away!!

  42. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 29 If there had been a touch of dreaded “dissent” earlier, the Church might have dropped the priesthood ban sooner and thus would not have been mired in racism until 1978.

    Some aggitation and dissent are long overdue for anyone who cares about the health of this organization. The leadership is terrified of losing central control (which has occurred in other denominations), and as a result you have correlation, excommunications, etc. This has led to declining conversions, stagnating growth, huge problems with inactivity. I don’t think anybody thoughtful believes the “rolling forth” jargon anymore. It’s looking more like “rolling back.” An over-association of Mormonism with American right-wing political causes (case in point, the SSM ammendment) has got to be one of the biggest blunders church leadership has made since Adam/God. Please note that I am not saying the Church’s opposition to homosexuality is a blunder (even though I personally disagree with the Church). I’m saying that the way it’s being addressed by the Church as a political issue is a huge mistake.

    But hey, that’s an outsider’s perspective.

  43. Steve,
    I sift you!

    Seriously, rl, is it “mainstream LDS” practice to cheerfully condemn other Latter-day Saints to hell? I can overhear the corridor conversation: “All those nasty liberal Mormons. They’re being sifted you know. Such chaff!”

  44. Kevin: Here is the thing. I am not really all that persuaded by the arguments against same sex marriage. I don’t think that it is some sort of a fundamental human right that is being denied by heterosexual marriage. I don’t those who oppose SSM are trying to impose their views on others any more or less than those who advocate SSM are trying to impose their views on others. We are having a battle about the meaning of a public institution, and one side is going to lose. Still, my sense is that the drive for SSM is a symptom of the weakness of marriage rather than a cause of that weakness. I suspect that SSM is unlikely to have much of an effect on heterosexual marriages. Indeed, I expect that it will be a comparatively unimportant institution demographically because I think that there are a relatively limited number of homosexuals in the population and I actually suspect that only a relatively limited number of them are actually interested in getting married.

    And yet…

    And yet there are really very few times in my life when the Prophet ever asks me to do something that I am not already inclined to do. Put another way, I feel like there are fairly few opprotunities for me to do something simply because the Prophet counsels me to do so. Hence, I find it a bit disturbing to give up one of the few opprotunities to actually change “my position” (whatever that means) because of a call from those that I sustain. If these are the cases where I walk away from Church counsel and simply write it off as mistaken, what does my membership in the Church, the sustaining of my leaders, and my belief in modern prophets mean? If my commitments to these things lacks the ability to change me, then there is a sense in which I feel like my Mormonism is a profound fraud.

    It is a quandry that even witty remarks from Steve and Aaron leave me in…

  45. Frank,

    Do you have any indication that the spammers were targeting T&S for specific reasons? I’m asking because I’ve been trying to make travel reservations for my boss all day, and all the hotel and airline websites I’ve been working on have been deeply screwed up. I’m just wondering if there’s a plague of website attacks today.

  46. SV: We had assumed that the spam attack was instigated by Steve Evans. Maybe he has it in for hotel and airline websites as well…

  47. #12 Besides, if you yourself aren’t gay, why should you benefit from gays getting married? that sounds harsh, but in reality, why do you want gays to be married? how does that benefit you?

    Personally, it benefits me by not being a part of injustice, tacitly or otherwise. I feel the Federal Marriage Amendment is an injustice.

  48. Nate,
    Things like this put me in a different sort of quandry. This discussion is old, talked-out I’m sure but there is conflict between personal revelation and prophetic revelation. Gay marriage is not that kind of issue for everyone, but it is for me.
    With all might prayerful might, I have only been able to come to the conclusion that gays should be able to marry. I respect prophetic revelation but my religious up-bringing has taught me to deeply respect my own as well. Most people say that you should sacrifice the personal for the prophetic and I do sometimes, but occasionally I cannot. I feel that God respects my sincere wrestle with it.

    I don’t publicly preach my opinion as church doctrine but I am willing to bring it up in church as discussion, since I think it deserves discussion, it deserves education, and understanding.

  49. Nate, I agree with you that there aren’t that many opportunities for us to do things that seem personally wrong to us because the leadership of the church asks us to do so. But before concluding that we should jump at the chance, let’s look at history.

    Would you feel good about having opposed the Civil Rights movement because the church leadership spoke in a near-unanimous voice against it, over the pulpit at General Conference and so forth? I would have felt that this was the wrong decision. In retrospect, I think most Mormons would agree–possibly even including the current leadership.

    Would you have felt good about participating in the Mountain Meadows massacre because you believed that Brigham Young had asked you to do so? (Evidently Brigham did not ask; nonetheless, the participants believed that he had.) I wouldn’t; the modern church clearly agrees with me on that point.

    Is my personal moral compass infallible? Of course not. But doing something that seems wrong to me when–prayer and study notwithstanding–reason, my personal sense of ethics, and my best understanding of what God says to me go in the opposite direction is a grave decision. I’d rather make my best, most moral choice, having listened carefully to council from the church, having studied the issue out, and having prayed. If I’m wrong, I pray I’ll be forgiven; I believe God is merciful enough to forgive us the sins we commit in our earnest attempts to do right.

  50. I agree with all of the points in the original post, but I don’t think that it goes far enough. There is one underlying assumpition which I simply never see being explicitly challenged when it comes to defending the sanctity of marriage:

    6. Marriage is a social rather than a religious institution; and as such has no sanctity in need of defense.

    This is not simply an appeal to a separation of church and state, but is rather meant as an addition to it. Sure, the marriage as performed by the state shouldn’t be considered all that sacred or religious, but I want to say that marriage itself is an institution which is primarily social and only secondarily religious in nature.

    First of all, if marriage is a religious institution, of which religion is it an institution of? Not only do marriage customs and definitions differ across religious traditions, it is also worth noting that none of the religious traditions which are almost always appealed to in such debate even came into existence until very recently in comparison with the institution of marriage (or proto-marriage).

    It just so happens that in our western society, religion became a very central part of our society, and it in such a context that marriage, which had already existed for quite some time, came to be seen as a religious institution. This was not by a process of “stealing” marriage from society, but rather by way of religion (a particular form of it anyways) merging to become one with society.

    Since the Enlightenment, religion and society have again come to be seen as two separate entities. In this context, it simply seems absurd that marriage should be considered a part of religion rather than simply being a part of society in general.

    Of course it should be noted that this reasoning is not at all in favor of SSM’s. My point is that all the religious hysteria and rhetoric has simply blinded most people from sitting down and considering whether such a move would be favorable from a social point of view rather than a religious one.

  51. Maybe this is the million dollar question:

    Imagine you are standing before God. Which scenario would you prefer?

    a) God wanted a marriage amendment. You opposed it because your conscience honestly suggested that such discrimination was unkind and prejudiced.

    b) God did not want a marriage amendment. You supported it because your conscience suggested that you should follow the prophet.

    On which would you prefer to be wrong?

  52. Amiri: Generally speaking, however, don’t we use Church Doctrine as a way of limiting and discipining the anarchy of personal revelation. Suppose that your bishop was to pray very earnestly and come to the conclusion that he ought to become a polygamist. There are precedents for this sort of thing. Generally speaking, it seems to me that our answer (and it seems like a pretty good one to me) in such cases is that personal revelation that conflicts with established Church Doctrine is suspect and ought to be rejected.

  53. “And yet there are really very few times in my life when the Prophet ever asks me to do something that I am not already inclined to do.”

    Give it time, Nate. There will be lots of opportunities, if the past has any predictive value for the future.

  54. Ronan,

    I appreciate the sentiment, but it’s not as if it’s as simple as that and I don’t think the issue is all that cut and dry. I echo the statements of someone earlier who alluded to the still small voice. When I think about supporting the SSM, my SSV speaks up. It is important to me to have some sense of understanding from the Lord of why his Prophet wants me to support something that, based on my weak understanding, smacks of bigotry and exclusion. I understand that sometimes we don’t know why we are asked to do some things, but I think I still deserve the opportunity to try my hardest to understand it and reconcile my conflicting feelings.

  55. Ronan: Is this meant as a rhetorical question? I genuinely don’t know the answer.

  56. Brad Kramer says:

    Nate,

    I agree with your analysis about the meaning of one’s Mormon identity being at stake when the leaders make demands that push people out of their comfort zone. My views have changed dramatically on the subject of SSM, gay rights, and homosexuality–in both directions–since the Church has increased its involvement in related political issues. But, in reality, all the Church has asked of you is to uphold policies that will strengthen the family as a fundamental unit of society and to make your voice heard re the upcoming amendment vote. Assuming, based on your post, that you believe on the one hand that an amendment federalizing marriage laws and limiting recognition of marriage relationships to those between a man and a woman is bad policy, but on the other hand that you feel obligated by the PoF and this week’s statement to support it anyway, then I assume that you believe that this amendment will, in fact, strengthen the family as a fundamental unit of society. But if you felt that, why would you think the amendment a bad policy idea in the first place? I recognze that I’m being extremely presumptous about your actual feelings on this matter, but assuming that the situation I ascribed to you exists only theoretically, isn’t there a certain circularity of logic required to imagine someone feeling compelled to change their “position” based upon pronouncements from the brethren? Either you do think that gay marriage will weaken the family as a fundamental unit or you don’t. I suspect the brethren do, but they haven’t explicitely told us so. And if they did, I’d accept it.

    This is not just sophistical self justification. I’m genuinely confused. If I thought that supporting (or not opposing) gay marriage would weaken the family as a fundamental unit of society — even the ideal, divinely sanctioned model of the family — I would not need prodding from the brethren to express as much to Sens Hatch and Bennett (Please express my apologies to your in-laws if I misspelled the name). If the brethren asked me to support the amendment in spite of my feelings on the subject, I would do so dutifully and loyally.

    Am I missing something here?

  57. Nate,
    the problem with that is that it is different from mine, I think. Mine is my own personal choices/world view that don’t really affect the Church in any way whatsoever.
    The bishop’s revelation (which I’m not opposed to entirely though polygamy gives me the heebie jeebies) is problematic because he serves a bishop and a counselor for the whole ward and because he would have to potential convert others to his personal revelation in order to get his plural wives.

  58. Yes, it’s utterly rhetorical.

    Like Wiesel, I believe that we should “always question those who are certain of what they are saying” on either side of the argument. I am not someone who believes that 100% certaintly about something like this is ever possible, so I have to comtemplate the ramifications if I am wrong.

  59. Nate: I thought you had the skillz to deal with a lil’ old DNS attack. My bad.

    Interesting comment btw re: changing your position. I thank my lucky stars that I can’t vote in the U.S., because like you I feel general affinity for what the Brethren are saying but don’t necessarily buy the procedures at hand.

  60. I don’t remember the verbage exactly, but did the letter expressly say which way the Church urged members to persuade their leaders?

    And, yes, I realize this is parsing words…

  61. Brad Kramer says:

    I can’t find the full text on the web, but the final line encourages members to “express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.”

  62. RT: It really depends on how one tells the story. The Godbeites felt very strongly that freedom of conscience demanded that they engage in seances and support Gilded Age capitalism. Should I proudly imagine myself as a neo-Godbeite and reject the FP letter? Surely not. After all, good leftie that you are, I assume that BY’s rejection of Gilded Age capitalism is one of the embers that warms your testimony. Conscience doesn’t guarantee you a seat in the heroes’ gallery.

    I also have a somewhat different view of history than you do. You see SSM as the latest chapter in the unfolding march of progress. Perhaps you are right, but there is another, somewhat less appealing vision. On this view, SSM is a symptom of the weakness of marriage, a hiccup in the decline of matrimony and the rise of sexual relationships based entirely on affective relationships and personal choice, somewhat similar to what we are seeing in the Nordic countries. In this bleaker vision, the debate over SSM will seem like a final squabble over the public meaning of a fading institution.

    Marriage has been the traditional legitimater of sexual behavior, and I think that the debates about SSM are largely about homosexuals desiring the legitimation of marriage, and opponents of SSM objecting to the state redefining an institution to legitimate what they object to. However, the irony is that SSM advocates are grabbing for the legitimacy of marriage at precisely the point in history when it is loosing its social power to legitimate. Generations hence this debate may seem less like the battle over civil rights and more like the battles over the Silver Standard and the Cross of Gold, ie a battle over public symbols that have lost their hold over the public imagination.

    As I said, I don’t think that SSM is a cause of the decline of marriage. Rather, it seems to me to by a symptom of it. Furthermore, despite the happy prognostications of Andrew Sullivan, et al I don’t think there is much evidence suggesting that SSM has had much of an impact on the slide away from marriage in those countries where it has been adopted.

  63. Nate writes:
    “And yet there are really very few times in my life when the Prophet ever asks me to do something that I am not already inclined to do.”

    I’m mostly in agreement with Nate’s comments. My own policy preference would be that individual states determine their own marriage laws, and that for the state I live in, marriage be reserved for heterosexual unions, BUT, that most same-sex unions have certain benefits (visitation rights, property rights, etc.).

    But when I come to dealing with the point Nathan raises, that here the Prophet is asking for something different, I think I end up with a different conclusion than Nathan, because the most prominent last time I was in this position (the church had a public position that I felt was when the church refused priesthood and temple privileges based on “black” ancestry. I went along with that, and now am convinced that that policy was based on erroneous assumptions about God, and man/woman.

    BTW, thanks for writing the post,

  64. Amiri: Not good enough. Change the hypothetical so that it isn’t the bishop but instead is your brother. Furthermore, let’s assume that your brother is regarded as a crank and has no influence on other members of the Church. Do we still think that his revelation acts as a kind of trump, or do we suggest that it is not in line with the doctrines of the church, subjects him to church discipline, and runs counter to the teachings of the scriptures and living prophets?

    Perhaps your answer is simply that “Yes, then my brother ought to become an polygamist.” It seems to me that from the beginning, Mormonism has dealt with the very real possibility that personal revelation leads to anti-nomian chaos by recourse to notions of authority, and that those notions of authority are as central to Mormonism as is the delightfully individualistic vision of personal revelation.

  65. SV, I have no idea, but thanks for the added data point.

    Nate, nice comment.

    RT,

    You give two more examples of fallbility that do not involve unanimous and repeated counsel by the FP and Q of the 12. Thus they fall into a seperate category from this counsel.

    I agree God forgives all sorts of earnest mistakes on our part, but I honestly am not sure why you think your view is more likely to be correct than the united Q of 12 and the FP. You’re a smart guy and presumably you’ve prayed about this. But so are they and so have they and they’ve got the keys to revelation.

    I mean, those just are not good odds for you. And we all want the best chance possible of doing what God wants, right?

  66. “Give it time, Nate. There will be lots of opportunities, if the past has any predictive value for the future.”

    Perhaps, or perhaps not. I may simply lack your equisitly tuned moral sensibilties.

  67. Kevin,
    BRAVO! I hope you post this in a separate blog on T&S (or whatever its natural successor ends up being, may it rest in peace). It’s worthy of its own discussion.

  68. “Like Wiesel, I believe that we should “always question those who are certain of what they are saying” on either side of the argument. I am not someone who believes that 100% certaintly about something like this is ever possible, so I have to comtemplate the ramifications if I am wrong.”

    I agree with this, I just don’t know which way it cuts. (FWIW, I don’t know that I see more introspection and fear and trembling on one side of this issue than on the other.)

  69. Ronan,

    You’re halfway there. You’ve got two cases and two possible losses, but you still need to assign probabilities. If I am 99% sure of which outcome will happen, the choice is very different than a 50-50 split. Thus your conclusion depends explicitly on evaluating the chance that you are right over the unanimous counsel of the FP and Q of the 12.

    And not assigning those probabilities, by the way, because it’s “too complicated” is just the same as assuming a 50-50 chance of your conscience being closer to God’s will than the leaders of the Church.

  70. Here is another way of thinking about it. If prophets are not good for listening to when we disagree with them, what exactly are they good for? In other words, what is the point of saying that I sustain some group of men as prophet, seers, and revelators if — when push comes to shove — I ignore them. How does my act of sustaining them remain meaningful? Furthermore, given that I regard myself as a citizen both of the Republic and the Church, why should I regard my place in the story of the Republic as being more important than my place in the story of the Church, particularlly given the fact that in either sphere I am ultimately essentially trivial.

  71. What to do now? says:

    The church’s lobbying on this issue leaves me in a position of having donating substantial sums of money to support a political party and agenda that I find morally wrong.

    Like Wayne, I’d be ok with a position that said, “We recongnize that there are people that are gay and lesbian, and they should have certain civil benefits when in committed relationships, but let’s reserve “marriage” for just heterosexual relatiionships.”

    But, to try to prevent states from offering marriage, AND ANY OF THE CIVIL BENEFITS OF MARRIAGE, is contrary to my political and religious views.

    So, I’m left wondering, how to respond. Do I create a “Some Mormons don’t ignore the fact that gay people exist” website, and essentially lobby on the other side of the church (something I’ve done in the past (Alaska and CA), but of course with losing political results (but at least I felt honorable in my church participation).
    Thanks much, KB, excellent post.

  72. Frank, the FP and Q of the 12 were unanimous in deciding that Utah ought to be a slave territory. They were repeatedly unanimous in opposition to civil rights for African Americans before the 1960s–and nearly unanimous in the 1960s.

    And anyway, I am perfectly happy to assign a probability to the chance that I’ll make progress as a moral person by abdicating my conscience and following others: 0%.

  73. Ronan,

    I think that your choices aren’t complete enough. If I were standing in front of God while living in a democracy, I would simply ask him 1) what His position was and more importantly, 2) what His reasons were for it. Simply appealing to an entirely isolated, unverifiable and hidden authority in a democratic society seems to be dangerous and inappropriate.

    Here are my two main beefs with the church’s approach to the subject: 1) They should give reasons for their position which others can engage with (“Because God says so” isn’t good enough, unless we know why He says so.) and 2) they aren’t willing to claim revelation for their position. If they going on revelation, then let us know about this revelation. If they are simply interpreting old revelation then I see no reason why their views should be worth more than my own should.

  74. Nate #62: I didn’t try to claim that history shows that departing from church leadership in favor of personal conscience is always a good idea. Just that, on some very important issues, it has been. In light of the seemingly mixed historical record, personal conscience deserves to be taken very seriously.

  75. What to do now? says:

    Nate, in response to your #70, there is a middle ground between 1) following the advice of the prophet on adopting a civil political position and 2) simply ignoring the prophet.

    That middle ground is listening to and valuing the input of our leaders, respecting their experience, wisdom, and time spent pondering the matter, and then factoring that into your personal analysis, so that the leaders’ opinion is an important factor, but not necessarily the only factor.

  76. Brad: Perhaps you are right. I am all for taking the words of public statments very seriously. I am also not quite sure what it means to have “a position” on the SSM debate, nor am I convinced that my position is particularlly important. As for the actual federal marriage amendment at issue in the Senate right now, I think it is a bad idea. I don’t think that it will have much effect on American families one way or another, but I do think that it would distribute power away from state legislatures toward the federal courts.

    My own view is that on issues like this what we want is democracy in the pragmatic Holmsian sense. Don’t try to shut things down with one fell swoop. Keep the process of tinkering going. This means that it is a bad idea to couch things in terms of fundamental laws and human rights. We’re better off dialing back the rhetoric, playing around with various arrangments and seeing which ones work best.

  77. What would the Scientologists do? (WWSD)

  78. RT,

    Those are more interesting, do you know when the relevamt public statements were made?

    And your counterfactual is 0% interesting unless the Q of 12 and FP start telling you what to do in all situations where you need to make a decision. I don’t know about you, but I have plenty of opportunity to make moral decisions even if I agree to follow all prophetic counsel.

    As for “abdicating conscience”, how can this be? Would it not be your conscience that tells you to follow the prophet? Is it abdicating conscience to do what you believe (owing to prophetic counsel) to be the will of God?

    Is it abdicating conscience to say “I came into the world to do the will of my Father?” 3 Ne 27:13

  79. What to do now? says:

    As another historical note to #72, remember that Utah’s marriage law, at least from 1899 to 1963 (with various modifications) made miscegenation illegal.
    Similar laws were found in a majority of states (although, unlike some, due to Mormon theology, our law allowed marriage between whites and Indians). Those lose were consistently lobbied for and defended by religous conservatives as protecting “traditional marriage.”

  80. Steve Evans says:

    Nate (#70): that’s a neat way of framing the issue, and I love that question, but I wonder if things are as simple as you’re laying them out to be.

    Can we agree with the Brethren, sustain them and get behind their goals 100%, and yet disagree with their designated modes of action? If the Brethren advocate a particular bill or constitutional amendment, must we vote in that manner?

  81. re. #74: It does, but I am not sure which way coscience cuts. How would you figure out which cases one should follow conscience over Church? Put more pointedly, are there any circumstances when you would follow the Church over your personal conscience? If so, what would they be?

    This isn’t meant as a gotcha question. I am genuinely interested in trying to work this out. For what it is worth in many ways SSM is not a cosmic question of personal conscience for me. It is an issue that I have competing intuitions and ideas about. My own conclusions don’t seem to match up perfectly with those of the Brethren. What should I do in such a situation?

    On a broader level, I have fairly few cosmic questions of personal conscience. There is a certain ostentation about conscience that I am uncomfortable with. It points attention relentlessly toward the subject, and often that is not really all that helpful. The content of your concience — or mine for that matter — does fairly little to help me sort out most of my confusions.

  82. RT,

    On your claim about civil rights, the only thing I pulled up from a quick search was an FP statement in 1969 saying, in part,

    It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.

    So whether or not the FP supported MLK and the particulars of the extant Civil Rights movement, they favored civil rights for all races at the end of the 60s. Let me know what sources you are thinking of with unanimous disapproval of equal rights.

  83. “That middle ground is listening to and valuing the input of our leaders, respecting their experience, wisdom, and time spent pondering the matter, and then factoring that into your personal analysis, so that the leaders’ opinion is an important factor, but not necessarily the only factor.”

    I think that this is right in theory, but in practice it is very tricky. I deal on a regular basis with multi-factor tests and I suspect that in many cases they lack any meaning at all.

  84. “Can we agree with the Brethren, sustain them and get behind their goals 100%, and yet disagree with their designated modes of action? If the Brethren advocate a particular bill or constitutional amendment, must we vote in that manner?”

    I hope so. I haven’t contacted Senator Allen or Senator Warner about this.

  85. Mark IV says:

    Is this letter asking me to contact my senator any more important that other counsel that comes from the First Presidency?

    They have been asking us for decades to have two years of food storage, but I’m still not there, and I’m guessing lots of others are in the same boat with me.

    About six months ago, my bishop read a letter from the First PResidency asking members NOT to write to church HQ with questions or concerns. They advised us to seek advice from local leaders and not go up the chain of command. Last month, Gordon B. Hinckley read a letter from a person who wrote to him directly. Was he not following his own prophetic advice, or encouraging others to do so?

  86. D. Fletcher says:

    Wow, I go out to lunch with my aunt and uncle and find 75 comments following mine!

    Without fully reading all of them, I see some criticism has been leveled at Kevin for not more carefully considering the tendency/behavior separation of Church policy, particularly as this might relate to SSM.

    I think that Kevin has admirably described his views about this. The separation of “tendency” and “behavior” is ludicrous. Straights are only required to be celibate until they find their eternal mate — then they can indulge in sexual gratification with the person they chose. The same rules should apply to homosexuals.

  87. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 54, 70, etc.

    Follow the instructions of a religious leader, when those instructions go against your personal reason/conscience (the still-small voice) and tell you to do something that “smacks of bigotry and exclusion” ?? The next time the anti-mormons want to slander the Church as a cult, they should provide a link to some of the entries on this string.

    re: 78 While given the age of the Brethren in SLC it’s easy to confuse them with members of the Godhead, I’m quite sure the 3 Nephi quote does not refer to following the instructions of any earthly being.

  88. The whole idea of agreeing with the brethren’s ultimate goals while disagreeing with their “modes of action” in this regard certainly seems to be a serious reduction in the Mormon concept of marriage from a good of first intent to having merely derivative value inasmuch as it is instrumental toward those “ultimate goals.” I’m not sure how many Mormons will be willing to make this conceptual move.

  89. I’ve just finished reading the essay Aaron provided a link for in #21 and would recommend reading it. Aaron, if you ever manage to find a link to the second article you refer to, it would be much appreciated.

  90. Josh Kim says:

    This issue is just wrong. I still have my free agency. Noone’s gonna force my hand or even guilt-trip me into supporting this amendment. This is a personal matter. I don’t see it as a revelation at all. The Prophets never said, “Thus Saith the Lord, thou shalt support this amendment.” All they said was that they encouraged people to express themselves on this amendment. If they want to be politically correct enough to avoid directly telling their members to support this Amendment then they have failed.

  91. mullingandmusing says:

    That essay just referred to has a very interesting statement:

    “Marriage is a big institution; too big for me to feel I have a successful handle on it.”

    Isn’t it possible that this issue may too big for any of us to really have a full handle on, without that extra vision that comes from being a watchman on the tower? This issue is confusing, and I think we all have struggled with it at some level. (Believe it or not, I have!) Tying in with Nate’s questions, are our own reasoning abilities and our own consciences sufficient to really grasp what is going on and what is potentially at stake? Isn’t this precisely the kind of situation where we need prophets to provide some clarity on a tough issue?

  92. 21

    89

    Agree with the above commenters that Aaron’s link is the most convincing argument I have seen yet–how arguing from your own vantage point can be foolish.

  93. Josh,

    As I recall, President HInckley has, in times past, disparaged the view that statements must be proceeded by “Thus saith the Lord” to be revelatory. But you are a free agent and can choose to ignore the prophets just like anybody else.

    Mike,

    The argument is not that prophets are Gods, but questioning whether obeying God “blindly” would, hypothetically, also be considered an abdication of conscience and a moral failure. RT spoke of the evils of following others. I was testing the limits. If not, then it becomes of first order importance to ascertain the will of God, which was my original point.

    As for the anti’s, upsetting them can hardly be considered an important criterion for right or wrong. Even if they cannot tell the difference between Gordon B. Hinckley and David Koresh, I can; and that makes all the difference.

    RT,

    Going back, I found an official statement in 63 supporting civil rights. So I am losing faith in your claims to official and unanimous opposition to civil rights.

  94. The ‘phony’ danger of SSM against religion has now been realized. Apparently Catholic Charities of Boston is no longer allowed to discriminate against gays on the basis of adoption. Now one of the most respected adoption agencies in the world is now forced to close up shop for their beliefs.

    http://www.ldsmag.com/familyleadernetwork/060531boston.html

  95. Some of the debate over SSM has to do with things like who gets to make medical decisions, who gets the kids if one partner dies, and so forth. Does the law already have sufficient avenues to deal with these issues outside of marriage?

    I realize that the Church would probably not want to give any sense that it condones homosexual relationships, but it would be nice if we knew what the boundaries are of what the Church would actively oppose. Can I express support for the amendment and for certain legal rights for those in gay relationships and still be in harmony with the Church, or is it “no additional legal rights for gays” all the way?

  96. Jared: Some of the debate over SSM has to do with things like who gets to make medical decisions, who gets the kids if one partner dies, and so forth. Does the law already have sufficient avenues to deal with these issues outside of marriage?

    Ann Coulter pointed out that liberals have been able to figure out how to get abortions for underage girls without parental consent, but they claim not to be able to secure privileges for adult medical decisions among gay people without recourse to marriage. This is not (strictly speaking) a valid argument, but it makes a good and insightful point.

    I’m against same-sex–marriage and same-sex-unions for one reason. If you ask my gay friends, it’s because I’m just a bigot. But if you ask me, it’s because I’ve just plain had with decades of gay people saying that what happened between consenting adults is private. Everything was always nobody else’s business, and all they ever wanted was to be left alone. I bought this hook line and sinker, and now I see that it’s a sham. Gay activists want to appropriate straight language for their relationships, they want our government to sanction their relationships, and they want homosexuals to receive special status as a minority. They want all this just because they got me to agree that what happens between two consenting adults is none of my business? The gigs up, and I say, “screw ‘em.” Not personally, but politically. I don’t have any beef with gay people per se, but I think that “gay issues” are a big load of crap.

    Seriously, I don’t expect any special favors just because I’m congenitally inclined to be a cantankerous son-of-a-bitch. Why should they get any special favors just for being gay?

  97. Jonathan M. says:

    Kevin re. point 5: Couldn’t agree more.

  98. Here’s a little lesson from Canada (must we Canucks lead you Yanks in all things?).

    SSM legislation was introduced in Parliment. As a moral issue, the Church spoke out against it. Leaflets were handed out in Elders quorum and Relief Society, talks were given, action on the part of the membership was urged/requested.

    At the same time, legislation for the legalization of marijuana was introduced. As a moral issue, the Church was completely silent on the issue. No mention of it from the pulpit. No requests to contact our MP and ask him oppose the bill. Nothing.

    SSM marriage passed and became law. Legalization of marijuana died when Parliment dissolved for a new election.

    The moral of this story? If you don’t want SSM to be legalized, lobby against the legalization of marijuana.

  99. Kevin re. point 5: By railing against bathhouse hedonism, you may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  100. Aaron Brown says:

    D. Fletcher said:
    “The separation of “tendency” and “behavior” is ludicrous. Straights are only required to be celibate until they find their eternal mate — then they can indulge in sexual gratification with the person they chose. The same rules should apply to homosexuals.”

    D, you’re misreading my point. I said that “tendency” and “behavior” are CONCEPTUALLY separate. I was opposing the conflation of the two that is so common in discussions of homosexuality — on both the right and the left — and that was present in Kevin’s post. There is nothing “ludicrous” about pointing out the difference; one of the biggest problems with most debates about homosexuality, in my opinion, is that people aren’t careful with their terminology. “Homosexuality” is used to refer to an inclination or orientation, and then in the next breath, it is used to refer to the activity of gay sex. This is what I think is problematic. It unnecessarily muddles debates about homosexuality.

    You argue that the differential treatment of heterosexuals and homosexuals is morally unfair, and that the “same rules” should apply to the sexual activities of both. That’s a fair moral position to take, and I wasn’t necessarily arguing against it. I simply think that if you’re going to make that argument, you need to … MAKE THE ARGUMENT … and not fall back on the terminological sleight-of-hand that goes “Homosexuality [the inclination] is not chosen, so how can one morally condemn homosexuality [the activity] when its practitioners cannot help it?” Notice the change in definition, although the H-word is used in both parts of the sentence. This is what I object to.

    In my opinion, if you want to argue against the LDS Church’s moral stance on homosexuality, then you need to argue that it is really, really, really unfair that the homosexually inclined are asked to be celibate, and come up with arguments as to how and why the Church’s position should change (or not be taken seriously, or what not). Of course, the argument is not destined to succeed, and I am not necessarily saying that I think it should succeed.

    But the argument that says “because homosexual inclinations are not chosen, homosexuals literally cannot be expected to be celibate in the real world” is dead on arrival. Seriously. Thoughtful advocates of revolutionizing the Church’s stand on homosexuality should drop it. It’s a loser.

    Aaron B

  101. How about something like the following as a letter:

    Dear Senator:

    I understand that the United States Senate will on June 6, 2006, vote on an amendment to the Federal constitution designed to protect the traditional institution of marriage.

    The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have repeatedly set forth their position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship. In 1995 they issued a Proclamation to the World on this matter, and have repeatedly reaffirmed that position.

    In that proclamation, my church leaders said: “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.”

    I join with my church leaders in that request.

    Sincerely,

    DavidH

  102. mullingandmusing says:

    101
    You can’t go wrong there, can you? :)

  103. My observation this debate is that it ultimately dissolves into two camps that are divided over a central epistemic assumption. One group sees direction of the FP as foundational to what views one ought to take. The other sees the direction of the FP in a framework along with conscience, reason, and scriptural interpretation where there is no absolutely privileged discourse. I am skeptical that there can really be any meaningful persuasion between the two when it comes to the conclusions about SSM. I am skeptical because I think the real disagreement is deeper and prior to the actual issue involved. It seems that where one stands in his/her epistemology, i.e. whether or not someone accepts foundationalism, will largely determine the side they take on the matter, or any other where disagreement with the FP arises. We may be quick to point out the “dogmatism” of one and the “faithlessness” of the other, but without the deeper questions in view we are only pointing fingers.

  104. Phouchg says:

    At some point in the future, SSM is going to happen. The horse is out of the barn on this one, the can of worms is opened. It will be part of our society.

    Instead of expending energy trying to change the supreme law of the land for the current political fad, perhaps people of faith should be expending that energy on the policies and procedures in their church on marriage rituals, as well as consideration of functioning in a society where SSM is permitted.

    Like they are doing in Canada.

  105. Eric Russell says:

    DavidH, that is awesome.

    —–

    Steve asks “Can we agree with the Brethren, sustain them and get behind their goals 100%, and yet disagree with their designated modes of action?”

    Outside of the current issue, what would be a real life example of this? If the designated modes of action have been specifically identified and given as an instruction to the membership of the church, then it seems to me that refusing such a mode of action would, in itself, constitute not agreeing with the Brethren and not sustaining them.

  106. D. Fletcher says:

    Aaron,

    I wasn’t misreading your post, but I do think you missed my point. I don’t think homosexuality, the inclination, and homosexuality, the behavior, should be separated at all. I think like a homosexual, therefore, I am one, whether I’m indulging in physical behavior or not. The same could be said of you, as a heterosexual. Sadly, I think most people believe that homosexual fantasizing is bad, gross, and sinful plenty. The Church wishes for me to be more than celibate — it wishes for me to fulfill the potential eternal family I was sent to earth to fulfill, and stop being so selfish, and figure out that I can still marry and have children like any sensible child of God. No, my leaders aren’t encouraging me to marry a woman — they’re expecting me to come to that conclusion on my own.

    But my life leads me to a different conclusion. I’d like to marry the person that I connect with, the person I can live with for eternity, the person I fall in love with, and I’d like not to be limited by the Church or anyone else in my choice. right now, the Church would like to limit my choice to the opposite gender, say, 50% of potential mates.

    I’m not physically attracted to women, so I’m not dating them (not since I broke my original engagement in 1984) and I’m continuing as a good LDS boy, paying my tithing, attending my meetings, and not participating in pre-marital sex with anyone. But if the right person comes along, LDS or not, male or female, I will do what I can to marry them, and fulfill what’s left of my destiny. Maybe this is foolish of me, waiting waiting waiting for something to change, for someone to want me, for someone in the Church to realize I’m just a guy looking for a little eternal happiness like everyone else.

  107. Is the Senate really going to vote on this issue on 6/6/06? You’d think that such a religiously charged issue would avoid such a coincidence.

    That’s about the level of my contribution to this thread, I’m afraid. (It doesn’t help that, due to my family’s chronic habit of arriving late to church, we missed the announcement entirely.)

    Sorry about that.

  108. D. Fletcher says:

    Just to clarify my previous post: I’m celibate, not because I’m heroically defeating the temptation of indulging in horrifying, deviant gay sex, but because I’m waiting for my wedding night with my eternal companion. In my case, the marriage will be SS.

  109. Anon for this says:

    Those who can’t see SSM affecting traditional (heterosexual) marriage should be following developments here in Canada more closely, where SSM has been legal for several years. Ontario, only last year, removed every reference to the words “husband,” “wife,” “widow” and “widower” from its legislation. Imagine: henceforth no government law, pamphlet — not even a marriage license — shall contain the words “husband” or “wife.”

    I don’t think I can improve on David Frum’s brief commentary, so I’ll just link to it. You can follow the links he provides (including to the excellent debate between him and Andrew Sullivan) and read more for yourselves. But the implications extend much further than

  110. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 103 Very, very well said. You have explained why these strings about homosexuality go round-and-round-and-round but never get anywhere. At its core, there can be no resolution that I can imagine. One has to wonder if some kind of truce might not be possible, though. What would ‘agreeing to disagree’ look like?

    re: 106 How terribly sad. I’m increasingly convinced that gay people (celibate or not) should just be evacuated from the Church altogether for now, so they can fellowship with people who will be fully accepting of whatever choices they finally make according the dictates of their own conscience. These excommunications are just a monstrous wrong and will ultimately be a historic embarassment just like the priesthood ban. If D Fletcher finds a partner in life, he’ll the boot. And most likely nobody in his ward will stand at his side and say “If he goes, I go.” Wow.

    There is no reason you need to be so alone, “waiting waiting waiting,” D. Stop waiting for the Church to change, or for the members to change. Change your thinking. Change yourself. I so well understand where you are, and how you feel. Having ‘come out’ almost 20 years ago now (and having stopped Church activity at the same time), I have never for one moment regretted the decision. You can maintain a strong connection to Mormonism outside mainstream church activity. A significant majority of those 12 million members do that already!

  111. Jared # 95:

    Some of the debate over SSM has to do with things like who gets to make medical decisions, who gets the kids if one partner dies, and so forth. Does the law already have sufficient avenues to deal with these issues outside of marriage?

    In California, the answer is yes! Family Code sections 297 and 297.5 essentially set for the same rights for registered domestic partners as those enjoyed by husband and wife as spouses.

    I read this post and all the comments to get a better understanding of why in light of the FP’s and Q 12 letter this last weekend, why Kevin would post this particular topic. After reading everything, I’m afraid I still just don’t get it. Anyway, some very interesting comments and observations.

  112. “In other words, what is the point of saying that I sustain some group of men as prophet, seers, and revelators if — when push comes to shove — I ignore them.”

    Nate,

    Ah, but what is the point of being capable of using agency and “personal” revelation (not so personal if it must be the same for everyone on every FP & Q12 statement) if we’ve signed it away years ago with some bold almighty sustaining? I personally think it’s possible to sustain and disagree. And I agree that sustaining is relatively meaningless, but would you care to expound on how to change that without disrupting God’s plan in other ways? I think it’s a small sacrifice.

    Frank,

    I commend you for your faith in what you refer to as “unanimous counsel of the FP and Q of the 12.” I think the phrase is ready for acronym status (UCFPQ12?). But seriously, let’s all be thankful that the FP and Q12 keep most of their this kind of unanimousness behind the scenes. Otherwise, we’d be having this conversation again and again and again with [insert topic here].

  113. 101 – Why don’t you just send your senators a blank page?

  114. Steve Evans says:

    “Outside of the current issue, what would be a real life example of this?”

    Eric, there are plenty of examples, though none involve issues of this magnitude. Take any generic principle: emergency preparedness, humanitarian efforts, Scouts, etc. on which the Church has adopted a policy or position, and you can easily see how you’d support the principle but not the precise application.

    None of these are marriage/family relations, mind you….

  115. m&m #91, “Isn’t this precisely the kind of situation where we need prophets to provide some clarity on a tough issue?”

    When the general authorities stop referring to homosexuality as “gender confusion,” then I might believe that they have studied out this issue sufficiently. The evidence thus far leads me to think they haven’t even taken that step.

  116. The ‘phony’ danger of SSM against religion has now been realized. Apparently Catholic Charities of Boston is no longer allowed to discriminate against gays on the basis of adoption. Now one of the most respected adoption agencies in the world is now forced to close up shop for their beliefs.

    No, it wasn’t SSM that lead to the cessation of adoptions by the Catholic Charities of Boston, rather, it was non-discrimination laws in that state that have been in place for a decade. Maggie Gallagher has conflated the two. The fact is, Catholic Charities of Boston wanted to discriminate against gay people, which has long been against the law in that state. Catholic Charities of Boston was receiving public monies and tax support. Can we honestly expect gay taxpaying citizens of Massachusetts to financially support an organization that discriminates against them?

    No, the State didn’t shut down Catholic Charities, nor did SSM. Catholic Charities chose to cease adoptions because they wanted to continue receiving State funds and money from organizations such as the United Way, who also have non-discrimination policies.

  117. Flotsam says:

    How about this:

    Dear Senator:

    You’re going to be asked to vote on the marriage amendment on June 6th. The LDS Church, my church, is in favor of this amendment.

    Although the amendment goes against my principles, I still think you should vote in favor of it, because it will probably stand about as long as the temperance amendment lasted, with about the same results, causing us as a nation to actually have to face this complicated issue and hopefully transcend our either/or mentality and find some kind of compromise instead. (I hear this “compromise” thing was resorted to sometime very early in our national history. Somewhere in Philadelphia, I think.)

    So, we might as well get this lesson out of the way as soon as possible.

    Sincerely,

    Your constituent

  118. Kevin,

    I agree totally with your post. I have made a couple posts in my own blog about it, and I have been participating in a few other threads. In my opinion, the Scriptures and the fundamentals ideas of Good and Evil in LDS tradition vindicate us in our opposition of ANY law that would seek to give the government power to define or limit Marriage. We need to prepare for the future when Polygamy will be practiced again (if not by ourselves, Orson Hyde at least indicate that Jesus Christ himself is a polygamist). If Christ, or any other Resurrected patriarch appeared today, not only would they be in legal trouble, but they would be in danger of being excommunicated on the spot. :)

    Our Stake President, echoing the First Presidency’s message, urged us to “express ourselves on this urgent matter” and I am expressing myself: The Government should have NO claim on Marriage whatsoever. They should set up their own rules to provide benefits for accepted multi-member households, whether it be husband and wife, mother and daughter, brothers, sisters, polygamist Muslim families, hetero couples whether married or not, same sex couples. The government really has little concern over whether or not two people are “married”, this is just being used as a political tool at this point.

    Therefore, I am opposed to any legislation that would limit humans freedom to choose their own relations.

    I can say all this and at the same time be opposed to same sex marriage on a MORAL level. I believe the solution to that is providing quality help and assistance to those in the fold who want help overcoming same-sex attraction temptation. For those who feel they were born that way, I can only say that Heber C Kimball suggested that we may lay down to sleep at the end of this life and wake up again to labor and continue what we were unable to perform here. Perhaps in the next life, you will have a different set of talents and roadblocks to deal with, and you will be blessed to be able to have and enjoy celestial marriage there.

    Anyone who is trying to restrict marriage, seems to me to be one step away from turning against everything that Joseph Smith and the early pioneer Saints stood for, and I will not be part of it.

    I do not feel that this position is out of harmony with the Brethren except that I am seeking Non-Violent solutions to the perceived problem, whereas the trend amongst the Mormon majority seems to be to support violent (government) enforcement of Morals, which makes no one more righteous, exerts tyranny and unrighteous dominion, and is a huge waste of money that could be put towards much nobler and holier purposes.

    Lets preserve the true Traditional Marriage by paving the way for unencumbered polygamy during the millenial reign of Christ.

  119. And, in response to DKL (#96) I don’t see this as a Gay Rights issue in ANY way. People who think the Gay Rights activists are out to get them are using wishful thinking in lashing out against a perceived enemy. To me, it is an issue of separation of Church and State. If anyones rights will be helped by furthering this separation, I am more concerned about seeing the same legal benefits Marriage provides extended to non-romantic “couples” or groups, such as a poor old woman whose son or daughter lives with her to help care for her.

  120. Thanks for this post, Kevin. I agree with most of your reasoning, but I’m curious as to why you think your ancestors’ choice to practice polygamy makes you predisposed to support the extension of marriage benefits to homosexual couples. On a general level, I see the connection between the two, but you point out (rightly) that polygamy “was grounded in biblical restorationism” – and homosexuals have no such claim.

    #96 – The “consenting adults” argument was around long before gays were allowed to come out of the closet and ask for protection under the law. Advocates of birth control used this argument in the 1940s and 50s to get government out of the bedroom. So I’m confused to what you mean when you say you bought this argument “hook, line, and sinker”. Seems to me that your use of the consenting adults argument supports the general statement that “gays just want to be left alone, so let’s ignore the discrimination and violence they suffer on a regular basis”. As such, you show a lack of education on what “gay rights” means (try reading someone other than Ann Coulter for starters), and your comment paints gays as a monolithic, unified force with a singular “gay rights” agenda, which is certainly not the case.

  121. Jeff Day, so I think that gay rights activists are out to get me? Don’t impute paranoia to me. Every argument that can be contrived to support the legalization of gay marriage can also be used to support the legalization of polygamy (which seems fine by Kevin).

    Those who argue that the horse is out of the barn are essentially arguing that those against gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. That’s the same thing that the pro-communists in America said about the global victory of communism (anyone remember the mantra, “You can’t turn back the clock?” Remember how popular it was to say that Reagan would cause WWIII?)

    Let’s get something straight: If gay marriage were legalized everywhere tomorrow, there would be an initial wave of marriages, but after the novelty wears off it will slow to a trickle. Gays are going to get married at substantially lower rates that straights.

    Nancy, I’ve forgotten more about [homosexuals] than you ever knew. Reread my comment: I’m talking specifically about gay rights activists, not about gay people as a group. The gay rights activists represent a much more homogeneous group than the constituents they pretend to represent.

    You’re trying to play hide-and-seek with gay issues, and the notion that there’s no notion of a gay rights agenda is just plain silly. Here’s a list of US gay rights organizations. Look up their web sites and see how much “diversity” of opinion they represent. You’ll find that the larger the membership, the more likely they are to support the same old talking points.

    And don’t try to smear me with an attitude of indifference toward violence against gays.

    Jeff and Nancy’s attitude is part of the problem. Liberals claim that they can be anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic, but nobody can oppose the notion that gays deserve special protection from discrimination or the notion of gay marriage without being an ignoramus or homophobe. Who’s lashing out against whom?

  122. D. Fletcher,
    I hope you find that happiness one day. Your commitment is exemplary, your predicament truly painful. God bless you.

  123. DKL – this is the gay rights agenda.

    Using perjorative words for homosexual as you did in your last comment is a pretty good indication of who is lashing out against whom.

  124. #188 –

    We need to prepare for the future when Polygamy will be practiced again.

    This is an interesting thought. THere is a large contingent of members who do believe that polygmy will one day be reinstated. I wonder what they’re thinking.

  125. “Ah, but what is the point of being capable of using agency and “personal” revelation (not so personal if it must be the same for everyone on every FP & Q12 statement) if we’ve signed it away years ago with some bold almighty sustaining? I personally think it’s possible to sustain and disagree. And I agree that sustaining is relatively meaningless, but would you care to expound on how to change that without disrupting God’s plan in other ways? I think it’s a small sacrifice.”

    BobC: It would be nice if it was possible to have this conversation wtihout being snide. If you are going to argue for the prioritizing of personal revelation, then you are going to have to make sense of the case of the guy who gets a revelation to become a polygamist. You are going to also have to dispense with key sections of the Doctrine & Covenants that are explicitly aimed at limiting the authority of personal revelation. Suggesting that the authority of one’s own revelations is disciplined by the doctrines of the Church is not some sort of rejection of the notion of personal revelation or its importance. On the other hand, to simply pull out the personal revelation gambit in the face of conflicts with Church authority is both shallow and dishonest. It is shallow because it requires that one simply ignore whole swathes of Mormon practice and scripture, and in this sense as an interpretation of Mormon theology is is painfully sloppy. It is dishonest because in reality no one believes it. No one thinks that personal revleation justified the Lafferty’s etc. etc. We always are willing to discipline personal revelation with something, so we might as well be up front about it rather than pretending that it is a get-out-of-the-argument free card.

    I also think that it is possible to sustain and disagree. Indeed, I don’t think that beliefs are entirely voluntarist, so I am skeptical that it even makes sense to say that I believe X, but the prophet says not X, so now I believe not X. So to the extent that agreement or disagreement is about my personal assent to this or that proposition, I don’t really have any choice about what I believe — I simply assent to the propositions that to me seem true. On the other hand, it seems to me that generally speaking questions about authority are strictly speaking not questions about assent to propositions per se. Rather, our beliefs in this narrow sense are tied up with a whole host of social practices and actions, and it seems to me that authority is generally about figuring out what to do in this broader context.

    Finally, your invocation of agency is cryptic. If I was to provide an argument to go with your slogan, I assume that it would be something like this:

    Agency is central to the plan of salavation. The reasons that it is central is that becoming like God means that we need to freely make choices about what we think is right and what we think is wrong. On this view, one should always do what one subjectively thinks is right because it is the subjectivity of the choice that matters. If my choice is guided by something other than my own subjective beliefs it is not really “free” and therefore cannot fulfill the role that such choices must fill in the plan of salvation.

    On the other hand, there are alternative ways of understanding the role of free agency in the plan of salvation. Here are two possibilities:

    Agency is central to the plan of salavation. The reasons that it is central is because we progress by making correct choices and sin by making incorrect choices. It is important that these choices be freely made but freedom does not mean something like “purely subjectively originated” rather it means something like the libertarian notion of always being able to do something else. Whether or not choices are correct or incorrect is an objective rather than a subjective matter. We are thus faced with an epistemological problem: How do I figure out what is objectively correct? Ultimately, I think that my own reasoning and subjective conclusions are likely to be incorrect in many cases. Accordingly, God sends prophets who have some sort of an epistemological advantage, and by relying on them I can improve the probablity that I will make correct choices.

    The second possible way of understanding free agency is paraphrased from Neal Maxwell and goes like this:

    Agency is central to the plan of salavation. This is because of an odd tension in Mormon ontology. ON one hand we believe that God is the creator of the world and everything in is his including the stuff that we traditionally think of as being “ours.” On the other hand, we ourselves are uncreateded. There is a core of intelligence havthat has a will, which is not created by God. Salvation consists of turning to God in love. The problem we face is that ultimately there is nothing that we can give God that is not already his. The one exception is our will. Yet we give that to God not by following what we believe to be subjectively correct. (That is simply to follow oneself; to give oneself the gift of one’s will.) Rather, we give our will to God by obeying his commandments. This is the only way that we can ultimately give him anything. Sometimes those commandments come to us through God’s prophets and by obeying them we give our will to God.

    Now some or all of these arguments may be mistaken. (I suspect that they all are to one extent or another.) Furthemore, even if one accepts them there will continue to be debates about sub issues like how one determines one’s subjective beliefs about right and wrong, when prophet’s enjoy epistemic advantage, or when prophetic counsel should be taken as a divine command. These, however, are all REAL issues that will require REAL arguments, not glib slogans about personal revelation and agency.

  126. Oops:

    Yet we CANNOT give that to God not by following what we believe to be subjectively correct.

  127. #121- To address the substance of your comment, I absolutely do think it’s anti-gay PERSON (not ranting against the nameless, faceless, gay rights “activists”) not to recognize that they are attacked and discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. We can certainly disagree as to what role an individual plays in defining his or her own orientation (and whether this is mutable or immutable or whatever the legal jargon is), but I think there’s a pretty strong case to be made that sexual orientation should be a protected class.

  128. a random John says:

    Nate,

    The first time I read your statement that “the drive for SSM is a symptom of the weakness of marriage rather than a cause of that weakness.” I thought to myself, “Now that is a clever way of looking at it.” But now that I’ve read many of the comments here and particularly have read your restatements of the above I am coming to the conclusion that while what you say is a nice sound bite, it doesn’t make sense to me. The primary issue to me isn’t the strength of conventional marriage but the fact that homosexuality is more widely accepted by society at large than it used to be. I don’t see how the latter causes the former. Any clarifications you have would be helpful.

  129. “The primary issue to me isn’t the strength of conventional marriage but the fact that homosexuality is more widely accepted by society at large than it used to be. I don’t see how the latter causes the former. Any clarifications you have would be helpful.”

    Stated as simply as possible, I think that the wider acceptance of homosexuality was made possible by the weakening of marriage as the sole legitimater of sexuality. The sexual reveloution de-coupled legitimate sexuality from marriage, arguing in effect that sexual conduct was justified by the consent and affection of the parties, rather than by the social institution of marriage. However, once sexuality is legitimated by affection and consent, one can make the arguement that the affection and consent of homosexual couples legitimates their sexuality. This argument, however, is a non-starter in a world where sexual conduct is legitimated by the social institution of marriage rather than by consent and affection.

    Of course, one could push the argument back even farther, and argue that the decline of marriage as the sole legitimater of sexual conduct was put in place with the rise of the idea of companionate marriage in the 19th century, which placed consent and affection at the heart of marriage itself.

  130. a random John says:

    Is it possible to have strong marriages (or even a strong institution of marriage) in a society in which marriage is not the sole legitimater of sexual activity?

  131. “Is it possible to have strong marriages (or even a strong institution of marriage) in a society in which marriage is not the sole legitimater of sexual activity?”

    Yes. But it is probably not possible for marriage itself to remain an important social institution, or at least one that had the social importance that it once had. This will have consequences.

  132. Kevin Barney says:

    Nancy #120, you are right that, while there is an analogy between polygamy and gay marriage, the analogy is certainly not perfect. Polygamy was grounded in a religious practice and SSM is not. My guess is that modern polygamists would be satisfied with decriminalization of polygamy, leaving the actual sanctioning of additional wives past one to religious ceremonies and not to the state, whereas SSM would entail state sanction.

    As I tried to indicate in my initial post, I think it is a matter of the extent to which members of the majority have the capacity to step outside themselves and see things from the viewpoint of the minority. In the case of 19th century polygamy, where we Mormons were the minority, the Colonel Kanes of the world were few and far between, which was disappointing.

    I obviously have no interest in marrying a man myself. But as I step outside of my own little world, in effect as a modern Colonel Kane, and see the situation from a gay person’s perspective, I know that if I were in that position I would want the ability to marry and to make a lifetime commitment with the person of my choosing. Allowing them that right doesn’t harm me or my family that I can see. So I would be happy for those so affected to have that right. I’m a live and let live kind of guy.

    I also want to take a moment and thank all of you for the discussion. It has been enlightening, I think. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, and my point of view is as much a matter of my feelings as some sort of rational analysis.

    And thanks, Aaron, for the article you linked to, which was very thought provoking.

    As the discussion continues, I would ask that participants do their utmost to focus on the substance of the issues and avoid personal attacks.

  133. Dave has just posted his letter to his senators. He has closed comments, but makes some interesting and well-reasoned points that ultimately come down in favour of the amendment. They are, in short (Dave, correct me if I’m wrong):

    a) gay couples already have “rights”
    b) leave marriage for people who want to have children

    He also raises the spectre of heathen Europe. I dunno about this one, Dave. I have a sense that birth rates in Europe have been declining for some time and that it has nothing to do with gay “marriage” which is NOT legal across the continent. (In Italy, for example, where the birth rate is the lowest, there is no gay marriage, IIRC). Dave, I think this is a red herring. I also feel that appeals based on godless Europe are tiresome. Can you tell that I’m a European? :)

  134. Nate,

    The irony is that my “glib slogans” weren’t necessarily used as statements of my own personal convictions. Of course it’s more complicated than whipping out an agency / personal revelation trump card. But my point was to whip out something with equal emphasis, as you did with “sustaining.”

    In other words, any argument used to boost importance levels of a particular Churchy topic based around X doesn’t have enough meaning unless I take Y seriously is asking for trouble.

    In your original comment, I got the impression that you really wanted “sustaining” to mean much more than it really means. And, of course, my comment could be taken as me wanting “personal revelation” or “agency” to mean much more than they mean. But again, I was using an agency / personal revelation shortcut to show you how singled-out Churchy shortcuts are a bad idea (read sustaining).

    All you said in response to my undue emphasis on personal revelation and agency was fine and well. I agreed with most of what you said and quite enjoyed it. Now rewrite the comment with a response to your undue emphasis / shortcut usage on sustaining (you know, your original “glib slogan” that is “painfully sloppy…because in reality no one believes it.”).

  135. Ronan’s right. Marriage rates have been dropping in Europe since the 1950s. Same-sex marriage wasn’t even a remotely viable project then. The rate of change hasn’t increased with the passage of same-sex marriage. In fact, just to show that there’s no relationship, in Denmark, rates of heterosexual marriage have increased substantially since the introduction of same-sex marriage (in 1980, the net marriage rate there was 5.2 per 1000; in 2001, the rate is 6.8 per 1000).

    Furthermore, marriage rates have dropped in countries where same-sex marriage isn’t even a possibility; in Italy, the rate fell from 5.7 to 4.5 between 1980 and 2001, and in Ireland, it fell from 6.4 to 5.0. Evidently, conservative laws on marriage (as are prevalent in both countries) does not prevent a decline in marriage rates. Nor do such laws automatically produce a high level of marriage; Ireland falls in the middle of the distribution for developed countries, and Italy falls in the low third of the distribution.

    In fact, marriage rates have even fallen, between 1980 and 2001, in the U.S.–where, by 2001, nationwide same-sex marriage was really still a pipe dream. In 1980, the US marriage rate was 10.5, while by 2001 it had fallen to 8.4.

    Astoundingly, the marriage rate even fell in hyper-conservative Turkey: from 8.2 to 7.2. As most readers will know, Turkey has not exactly been on the forefront in the gay rights movement.

    The European argument is a red herring at best–really, it’s all rhetoric and no data. Marriage rates are falling in virtually all developed countries–including the ones where there is basically no respect and limited toleration for homosexuality. Something is changing with respect to marriage, but that change is empirically unrelated to the passage of gay marriage legislation.

  136. BobC: As soon as I figure out what it all means, you will be the first to know ;->. I am less confident than you are that sustaining is actually meaningless. It seems to me like a central ritual, and the notion that the prophet speaks in a special way for God that me and thee do not, likewise seem like central doctrines that I can’t really dismiss as meaningless. Furthermore, I responded to Amiri’s claims about personal revelation with actual arguments.

    I do get rather frustrated in these sorts of conversations when we trot out examples like MMM and suggest that those who think that the counsel of the Brethren has some claim on them even when they disagree are abdicating free agency, conscience, standing on the wrong side of history, and probably just a step away from killing the imigrant train out of a misguided loyalty to the Brethren. Give me a break!

  137. Nancy: Using perjorative words for homosexual as you did in your last comment is a pretty good indication of who is lashing out against whom.

    You’re a regular Fawn Brodie, with your mind-reading talents and all. But seriously, why are you so anxious to impute these types of motives to me. Most of the openly gay people I know embrace the word “fag.”

    Besides, by trying to peg me as “lashing out,” you’re just proving yourself to be a humorless creep. Let’s take a look at the sentence you find so offensive:

    “I’ve forgotten more about fags than you ever knew.”

    This is funny in an over-the-top, preposterous kind of way. But since you’re so exquisitely sensitive to painting with a broad brush, let pull your chain a little more: “The problem with gay people is that they can’t take a joke.” (You seriously expect me to get defensive about this kind of thing?)

    Jeff Day: We need to prepare for the future when Polygamy will be practiced again.

    Yikes. If I’ve said it once, then I’ve said it a thousand times: If the church is going to require me to take another wife, then they’re going to have to return to the looser, 19th century interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, too.

  138. Nate, that’s a bizarre caricature of what I had argued. My point was simply that those who think the Brethren have a duty to persuade–to change my calculus of right and wrong–before I’ll go against what initially seems to be my conscience have some empirical basis. Mountain Meadows is a valid example in that regard. Although racial issues are even better. Our leaders are often wise and we always have a duty to hearken–i.e., listen–to their council. But they aren’t infallible, and obedience to instructions from above isn’t always the moral decision. That’s what the examples are meant to show.

  139. Thanks for the data, JNS. There’s an ill in the heart of marriage and child-rearing that has nothing to do with gay marriage, and it is something we Latter-day Saints are also guilty of: materialism and selfishness. The Italian woman who marries late and has one child has done so b/c having children is not perceived as compatible with enjoying youth. Leave gays out of that.

  140. Kevin Barney: I obviously have no interest in marrying a man myself.

    Yeah. Me neither.

  141. Most of the openly gay people I know embrace the word “fag.”

    Just as many blacks say “nigger.” That doesn’t mean, however, that we should use it, DKL.

  142. Nate,
    My bro Peter would hate that I am saying this but I see the world differently than you do. I completely respect your way and have no idea if my way is Right or right, if you get me.
    There are many factors that lead to my decision making or the formation of my views. They are: my guts, the Spirit (personal revelation), the Prophet and the hierarchy of the Church, the law, social context and appropriateness, my personal and family life experiences and sometimes my own issues. Not in any particular order.
    Each issue is different, sometimes my guts are really important and the social context is not at all, sometimes the Prophet takes precedence, some times the law (well often the law) sometimes my own wacked out issues make my decisions.

    My point is that you have decided that the Prophet and his revelation trumps many of those other factors. I respect that and of course our religion respects and encourages that. For whatever reason, I can’t work like that.

    In this particular case, my guts, my own personal revelation, my life experience (I have many gay friends) and my social context lead me to choose to support gay marriage.

  143. “But they aren’t infallible, and obedience to instructions from above isn’t always the moral decision. That’s what the examples are meant to show.”

    RT: I agree with what you say, but in a sense I regard it as trivially true. The point is to figure out which is which. You seem quite confident about your ability to tell the difference between the two, but I don’t see that you have put forward any workable criteria other than appeals to your conscience, which may or may not be a reliable indicator and in any case is not readily available to me.

    Given that I have never claimed infallibility for the Brethren or even that ignoring the Brethren is unjustied, I seemed to me that you were providing arguments against a straw man. All I said is that it is precisely in the cases where I am counseled to do something that I find unwise etc. (like writing Senator Allen in support of a constitutional amendment that I think is a bad idea) that the issue becomes salient. As it happens, I DIDN’T write my Senator precisely because I DON’T think that the amendment is a good idea. The difference between me and thee, is that I am not triumphalist about this. I may be wrong, a fact that worries me. Furthermore, I am trying to figure out whether my actions are consistent with the rest of my beliefs and obligations.

    Suggesting that I am falling into the same trap as John D. Lee et al strikes me as rather gratutious and not particularlly helpful.

  144. Humorless creep I may be, but I’m not a bigoted creep. And I take your comparison of me to Brodie as a compliment. Thanks :)

  145. Nate, you say I’m quite confident in my ability to tell the difference between situations when following council is moral and when it isn’t. Nope, not at all. Instead, I trust that God will forgive the inevitable mistakes that I’ll make in trying to do what seems right.

    But I think we learn more and grow more when we act for moral reasons that we fully understand. I’d rather be responsible for an error in judgment–which will improve as I learn from my mistakes–than an error of obedience against my better judgment.

    In no sense am I arguing against a straw man–people in our community certainly do believe that our leaders are infallible. Perhaps you don’t hold that position, but it’s definitely a going concern–so comments aimed at it are relevant.

    When making moral decisions, it’s useful to see what each principle has produced in the most extreme circumstances. The lead example for following personal conscience against council is apostacy toward fundamentalism. Lead examples for following council against conscience are the racist policies of the 20th century and Mountain Meadows. History doesn’t repeat itself, and I don’t think you’ll ever kill anyone. But considering these extremes is useful in evaluating the moral principles under consideration.

  146. Comment 104: Right on… this is a good post, and one that surely is explosive. However, I totally FAIL to see how any legalization of ANYTIHNG impacts what the Church policy is… There are guidelines and standards for membership in the Church. Other than that, it should generally stay out of other people’s business. A constitutional ammendment is not going to make it through the legislative process. It just isn’t.

    I support SSM, I support giving equal benefits to domestic partners, and the other issues that go along with this. The “Religious Right” has no place in legislating their moralities on the rest of us. Every citizen deserves the access to societal benefits, no matter who they are.

    In general, thanks for supporting this issue from within the ranks, and again, the rest of you – bug out of other people’s business, it doesn’t impact how you live your life, so don’t worry about everybody else, just worry abuut yourself and your own “salvation” – however, I think you will be judged on how you accept and interact with people who are not like you. Remember, Jesus broke bread with the sinners, not the believers. He who is without sin should cast the first stone.

    Like the author, I am (was) a fourth generation member of the Church, though not of polygamous descent. I left the Church five years ago, out of frustration with the Church’s continuous meddling in the affairs of government and civic matters, all the while maintaining a published apolitical position.

    I no longer have faith in the bunch of old men who remain mired in 1952 moralities and politics – and who try to foist that upon the whole world. Membership in “General Authority” positions is largely purchased by cronies. Just take care of yourself – at the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own salvation, just as the rest of us are.

    I could go on for pages – I’ve been beating this horse on my blog for months now. thanks for listening.

    http://meaningless-blather.blogspot.com/

  147. “In this particular case, my guts, my own personal revelation, my life experience (I have many gay friends) and my social context lead me to choose to support gay marriage.”

    Fair enough, but this is simply a history of the pyschological process by which your beliefs were formed. Nothing wrong with this. All of our beliefs have a pyschological history and as often as not I suspect that it has very little to do with our theories and argumetns. The problem is that pyschological history doesn’t justify those beliefs nor provide a way for the puzzled to discover whether or not they are correct or incorrect.

  148. “But I think we learn more and grow more when we act for moral reasons that we fully understand. I’d rather be responsible for an error in judgment–which will improve as I learn from my mistakes–than an error of obedience against my better judgment.”

    I don’t see that there is quite the stark divide that you set up between judgement and obedience. If one obeys it is because one has come to the conclusion that obedience is obligatory on the basis of reasons. Given this fact, it is not at all clear to me why you are likely to learn more by screwing up by following your own counsel than by screwing up through following the counsel of those that one determines to be authorities.

  149. “In no sense am I arguing against a straw man–people in our community certainly do believe that our leaders are infallible. Perhaps you don’t hold that position, but it’s definitely a going concern–so comments aimed at it are relevant.”

    Fair enought, but your comments were not an editorial directed to the Mormon community at larged, especially those who believe in prophetic infallibility. It was posted in response to what I said, and I don’t think that I have EVER supported the idea of prophetic infallibilty.

  150. BTW, for what it is worth, I expect God to forgive my errors as well. I would still like to figure out what I ought to do, however.

  151. Nate,
    Do what the Quakers do. They’re usually right.

  152. The story of King Saul keeps coming to mind in regards to the whole obey the Prophet discussion.

  153. D. Fletcher says:

    Nate, in terms of Same Sex Marriage, I don’t think you need to do anything.

  154. “Something is changing with respect to marriage, but that change is empirically unrelated to the passage of gay marriage legislation.”

    JNS, I agree but I also think it is possible that gay marriage legislation may add to the change in a way unforeseen by us at this time. This is the reason that I am behind the FP and Q12. I think our understanding of the issues is very much based in the here and now, whereas I have faith that their vision is one of the future. I’d appreciate your thoughts on that idea.

  155. “But I think we learn more and grow more when we act for moral reasons that we fully understand.”

    Is this in the scriptures somewhere? How does this jibe with the statements that faith follows obedience? How does this jibe with Nephi being led by the spirit and not knowing where he was going? How does it jibe with President Packer’s discussion of taking a step into the dark? How does this relate to Elder Maxwell’s discussion of surrendering our will to God? All of these suggest that “fully understanding” moral decisions is not a central criteria for mortals. Surely it is for Gods. We get lots of opportunities to make decisions. I imagine we’ll get tons more in the next life.

  156. “Do what the Quakers do. They’re usually right.”

    Dialogue certainly seems to think so, given their Quaker-a-thon from a few issues ago.

  157. “I do get rather frustrated in these sorts of conversations when…”

    Nate,

    I had the same sort of frustration when you used sustaining as reasoning for explicitly following the FP & Q12 in this case. I think sustaining is fine and dandy but ultimately side steps the real issue at hand. FWIW, I didn’t actually say it was meaningless, just that it was “relatively” meaningless.

    Sustaining has its place and meaning, to be sure, but does little (for me at least) in dealing with the issue at hand. Much like agency / personal revelation is most likely relatively meaningless for you in dealing with the issue at hand (and for me too, actually).

  158. “Do what the [Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency] do. They’re usually right.”

    There we go, that looks about right.

  159. Nate, this is where I think our world views diverge, that there is a correct and incorrect, or a surer way to discover what it is one ought to do.
    My guts, my personal revelation, the Prophet, the Church, the law, social context, my experiences and my issues have all be wrong at one time or another. Sometimes minorly and sometimes egregiously, but they have all been wrong. Instead of throwing everything–morality, doing good, obedience, choosing the right– to the wind, I still try to make good decisions but all of those (sometimes competing) things play a role in how I decide what is “right” and “wrong”.

  160. #115 Steven B says:
    “When the general authorities stop referring to homosexuality as “gender confusion,” then I might believe that they have studied out this issue sufficiently. The evidence thus far leads me to think they haven’t even taken that step.”

    I also object to popular language with reference to homosexual behavior. Clinically accurate terms like “sexual deviance”, “sexually aberrant behavior” are much more precise. And “homosexual perversion” is a preferable generic over the term “gay”, which is an awful perversion of our language in itself.

    Unfortunately, for whatever reason these more accurate characterizations have been thoroughly delitimized, looser less descriptive terms having become more popular and now normalized.

  161. Lamonte says:

    May I pose a question? It is my understanding that the Church does not consider same sex attraction to be sinful behavior, but only the sexual activity in such a relationship.

    I know of a single woman (I don’t know if she ever was married) who decided as she approached middle age that she would like to adopt a child. She is a fully employed professional woman. I don’t know what organization assisted in her adoption but she was told that because she was employed fulltime she would have to arrange for another adult to live with her in order to give proper care for the child. She invited her cousin, also a female, to live with her and has been able to adopt two children. And so two celebate women live together raising two children. Only one of them is called “mother” and the other is called by her first name. They face many of the same challenges that most couples face in raising children. They are active in the church, attend the temple and have held responsible callings in their ward. The children were sealed to the professional woman’s parents.

    So what if two active Mormon men discovered that they were “same sex attracted” – not to each other but they had the attraction. Suppose they each decide to live a celebate live and stay in the church and let’s say they meet at a support group for others in similar circumstances. They agree to share living costs by moving in together and then they decide to adopt a child. Should they be treated differently than the two women?

    I’m not suggesting an answer to my question but I think it is entirely possible that such a situation could exist. I’m not sure that the current church policy helps us out here. Should either of these couples have marital rights when it comes to estate issues or power of attorney? I would say that in the case of at least the first couple they have made equal, or perhaps even greater, sacrifices to those required of any married couple.

  162. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 121 You’re the one playing hide-and-seek with your agenda DLK. Put SSM marriage aside for a moment and put your cards on the table. Did you support the elimination of the sodomy laws which criminalized homosexuality? Do you support laws which prevent gays from being fired by private, non-religious employers on the basis of their sexual orientation? A simple yes or no would suffice.

    If you can’t go even that far, then it is perfectly understandable that people claim you are a homophobe. If you don’t agree with the “fear” implication of that word, we can substitute anti-gay bigot. Because in fact, whether you own up to it or not, you are standing on the side of bigotry and discrimination against an entire class of Americans. Wishing them away as a class (denying they should even be considered a class) won’t cut it. We are here, we have our own families and neighborhoods, and we are not going to tolerate being treated unfairly. Get used to it.

  163. Rosalynde says:

    I have no clarity on this issue: I’m persuaded by some arguments on both sides, I’m not persuaded by others on both sides, I don’t understand the legal and constitutional issues, I’m influenced by my affection for gay friends (D. among them) and, of course, by my loyalty to a chuch that has given so much to me and my family and to which I am bound by covenant. In this welter I couldn’t hope to discern the small voice of conscience, even if I thought there was such a thing.

    I break out in hives when people begin talking about conscience in public discussions of a political issue: I know too little about the individual’s conscience, entirely opaque to me, for one thing, and I know far too much about the history of conscience, its emergence as an internalized political instrument in the early modern period, to have much confidence in its transcendant moral vision. (Good thing I didn’t write my dissertation on, say, prophets!)

    The idea of private conscience as a little God in the midst of one’s heart emerged originally in order to arbitrate the competing claims of church and state during the reformation—in particular, of course, to legitimate conscientious religious objection to state law. Thus conscience still referred to and relied on an external source of authority, generally the church (either Catholic or Protestant, as both groups made use of the concept whenever they were out of power). This is basically the way “conscience” works in LDS scripture, too: there is not a robust concept of conscience in the first place, but what there is (in the article of faith and a few verses in the D&C) suggests an psycho-spiritual instrument for legitimizing conscientious religious objection to state laws, that is, conscience works to *fortify* the claim of church authority over an individual, not to limit it.

    It’s only relatively recently that conscience has come to mean something like “being true to yourself,” which of course is completely unworkable as a principle in a governed community.

  164. “” Instead of throwing everything–morality, doing good, obedience, choosing the right– to the wind, I still try to make good decisions but all of those (sometimes competing) things play a role in how I decide what is “right” and “wrong”.”

    Amri: I don’t think that I am advocating throwing everything to the winds. Perhaps you are trying to argue for something like relativism, but this doesn’t seem quite right. (BTW, I tend to think that relativism is like solipcism and skeptism. People can say the words, but I can’t every bring myself to believe them.)

  165. MikeInWeHo: You’re the one playing hide-and-seek with your agenda…

    Don’t blame me just because you don’t know anything about me. It’s not because I’m hiding anything.

    MikeInWeHo: Did you support the elimination of the sodomy laws which criminalized homosexuality?

    Last time I checked, oral and anal sodomy were also time-honored heterosexual activities. I do support the repeal of sodomy laws by state legislatures or state voter referendums.

    MikeInWeHo: Do you support laws which prevent gays from being fired by private, non-religious employers on the basis of their sexual orientation?

    I do not support any special privileges for gay people vis a vis private employers. I do support laws (passed by state legislatures or voter referenda–but not created by courts and litigation) that make it illegal for employees to be fired from private, non-religious employers for doing anything legal when they are outside the office, provided that behavior is not damaging to their employer’s reputation and does not otherwise break any contract that may exist with the employer.

    MikeInWeHo: A simple yes or no would suffice

    Sounds to me like you live in a pretty black-and-white universe of moral discourse.

  166. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 160 Yeah, just like when those uppity negroes made us start calling them Black (and with a capital B, no less!).

    Dude, get back in your time machine and return to 1940. You clearly know nothing about “clinical accuracy” in any domain: medicine, psychology, or sociology. Labels for gay people like ‘deviance’ and ‘aberrant behavior’ were thoroughly delitimized (sic) because they are thoroughly inaccurate, stigmatizing, and hateful.

  167. BobC: I think that sustaining the leaders is actually not a particularlly vacuous idea. It seems to me that when we voluntarily engage in a public ritual with a well defined meaning it has the ability to create obligations for us. The obligations aren’t necessarily absolute. I think that “shaking on it” creates some sort of obligation as well, but in some cases I think we are justified in breaking promises. Still, it seems to me that if sustaining is going to mean anything it must mean support in at least SOME situations when I would not otherwise provide support. The trick is to figure out what those situatiosn are. I am pretty sure that the answer is not given by conscience or by personal revelation. This, it seems to me, leaves us with a real puzzle, not one that can be dismissed by qualifying “meaningless” with “relatively.”

  168. Aren’t we dancing around the core issue here? As Frank puts it, if you believe a unanimous proclamation from the FPQ12 spells the will of God (or its closest earthly approximation) then that’s it, isn’t it? If you think there is still room for error in such a proclamation, then the issue is more complicated. This conversation has very little to do with gay marriage.

  169. Nate,

    No need to consult your “conscience.” I have a perfect solution.

    How about the following letter:

    Dear Senator,

    Most (but not all) Mormons read recent pronouncements of my Church leaders as instructing me to write to you, persuasively, in support of this amendment.

    I personally think the federalization of the definition of marriage through this constitutional amendment is a bad idea.

    However, I believe the counsel of my Church leaders (while not infallible) should be privileged somehow in my life. After all, if, at some time in my life, I don’t follow their counsel against my better judgment and “conscience” (whatever that is), what is the point of believing in their prophetic callings? That being said, our Church also teaches honesty as a core principle.

    Therefore, in all honesty and sincerity, I very strongly urge you to vote for this amendment, an amendment that I honestly believe is a bad idea. To make my argument more persuasive (but to remain honest), I inform you that if you do not vote for this amendment that I honestly and personally think is a bad idea, I will vote against you at the next election.

    Sincerely,

    Your Conflicted (But Resolute and Loyal Mormon) Constituent

  170. “This conversation has very little to do with gay marriage.”

    I think that this is correct, but it has an important implication: You probably should not use your intuitions about the merits of the gay marriage debate as your sole guide for figuring out this problem.

  171. DavidH: There is another competing issue here. I used to be a Senate stffer, and we — like most Senate offices — had a firm policy that every piece of mail and email got an answer. A letter like the one above is going to make life needlessly complicated for some LC who has to figure out how to draft a reply ;->

  172. Nate,
    Absolutely. There’s a lot at stake here. Fear and trembling indeed.

  173. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 165 I would love to live in a black-or-white world of moral discourse, but I don’t, vehement blog entries notwithstanding.

    What I do resist is the attempt by people on the right to use rhetorical slight-of-hand to mask their true agenda. A common one, which you use yourself, is throwing around the phrase “I oppose special priviledges…” To which I respond “No you don’t. You oppose protecting gays and lesbians against employment and housing discrimination.” See how that works?

    For example, it appears you support the right of a public school to fire a gay teacher, if its leaders see fit. Surely a gay teacher would “damage the employer’s reputation” in some communities. Please correct me if I’m wrong on your view. So if that’s what you believe, just say it.

    So much of this boils down to rhetoric. Poll results on issues of gay rights often hinge completely on how the questions are worded. That’s why both sides can trot out polls to support their position.

  174. Nate,

    Another easy answer. The staffer should just send both standard replies (the one for supporters and the one for opponents). Which is what I might receive in answer to 101, which is intended to be equally ambiguous, but with deference to our leaders.

  175. D. Fletcher says:

    My sister’s simple solution to SSM would work — call all legal marriages (including SSMs) “civil unions” and reserve the word “marriage” for the various churches to pronounce as they see fit.

  176. “You probably should not use your intuitions about the merits of the gay marriage debate as your sole guide for figuring out this problem.”

    Amen. That’s why I said earlier, “let’s all be thankful that the FP and Q12 keep most of their this kind of unanimousness behind the scenes. Otherwise, we’d be having this conversation again and again and again with [insert topic here].”

    And Nate, define “voluntarily engage in a public ritual.” Have you ever specifically not raised your hand when sustainings have taken place? Have you ever opposed? Everything always coincidently “appears to be unanimous,” as the brethren say, more out of certain individuals avoiding embarrassment rather than everyone having the same lofty ideals as to what constitutes sustaining.

    Honestly, who here has never been in the situation of *wanting* to oppose a sustaining but not doing so because it’s pointless and causes embarrassment to those around you?

    And exactly what is the statute of limitations on a sustaining? Why do we do it so frequently? Is it because a good sustaining can only last six months? So if I sustained someone and want to be honest with myself, do I avoid the next public sustaining of said individual before I feel good about not-supporting-when-I’ve-already-previously-sustained?

    I guess I could be convinced otherwise, but I think sustaining is little more than a tradition.

  177. I guess I took the letter completely differently than the entire Mormon population. The FP laid out what they believe, and what they think is best. They then asked us to consider the matter and act accordingly. Of course, their hope is that the members of the church follow in their opinion. As many have. However, for those of us who will not be following the opinion of the FP, I personally feel no guilt. I have considered the matter, as the FP suggested. I have looked at what they have said, and how I feel. My conclusion may not be the same as theirs, but I do not feel condemned in that. No where in the letter did I find a mandate or a commandment. Just an encouragement. I do not feel right contacting my senator in support of the amendment, so I won’t. I still feel that I sustain the prophet and follow his counsel. I praferfully considered the counsel, and decided it was not for me. Just as many do with callings, moves, etc. Perhaps some think that I am wrong, or not following the prophet, but I feel I did just what was asked.

  178. D. Fletcher says:

    This is exactly right, Maren, and what I encouraged Nate to do, a few posts back.

    I’m for SSM, so that colors everything I say here.

    I think the government should not try to control ambiguous “immoral” behavior, except as it might victimize other people (like drunk driving). If two people of the same gender want to legally join, why stop them?

    I also think the Church (ours) should not make pronouncements of government/legal concern. The Church isn’t going to lose religious/charitable status anytime soon. If our leaders don’t wish to approve same-sex couples from receiving exaltation, so be it. Most same-sex couples don’t care about exaltation, I’m guessing, and the ones that do may have the option to follow their leaders’ advice, or not.

  179. Bryan Warnick says:

    I don’t know what to do about this issue. I’m toying around with sending the following letter:

    Dear Senators DeWine and Voinovich,

    I am writing this letter because my church is against gay marriage and has asked us, as members, to make our input known relating to the upcoming vote on the federal gay marriage amendment. I have personally been against the amendment: I feel that it is wrong to mess with the constitution in this way and, on the whole, I think gay unions are not any sort of “threat” to traditional families. I have great respect, though, for the judgment and wisdom of my church leaders and they have come, it seems, to the opposite conclusion. I try to be loyal to my religious heritage, so I am quite conflicted.

    I just want to reiterate, I suppose, that this is an important issue. What I ask of you is this: that you use your own best judgment in making this decision and that you try not to be influenced by outside pressure groups. I ask you to consult deeply your own conscience and (if it is not asking too much) to read as widely in the area as you possibly can before the vote about the moral and constitutional implications of your decision. Make this vote a matter of principle, conscience, and informed judgment, in other words, and not one of political posturing. Good luck!

    Thanks,

    Bryan Warnick
    Columbus, Ohio

  180. Maren,

    I read the statement the same way you do. In fact, I think that is what the literal words say. But, you are also correct, we are a distinct minority who interpret the statements that way (even Seth R. thinks the statements mean we are being asked to support this particular amendment).

  181. Incidentally, Maren, you bring up a good point indirectly.

    Nate, have you never had a calling you just did because you were following your leaders even though you didn’t really want it? I know I have.

    Couldn’t that fill your quota enough for you to feel comfortable going your own way with the SSM issue? Or have you rejected one too many callings and feel the need to accept something big, as penance? :-)

  182. Bryan,
    A very reasonable letter.

  183. In response to:
    Not only that, but the only city actually destroyed by God himself, Soddom and Gommorah, was because of their sins regarding sexuality and homosexuality.

    loyd said:
    actually, it was because of their pride and ignorance toward the needy.

    I find this to be the big quandary in our society. Perhaps “good” Christians take on homosexuality and other big issues so they can direct attention away from the fact that they aren’t being Christlike to the neediest among us. Instead, they buy Hummers and big homes and think that 10% is all they need to give to the people around them. Remember the story of the widow…and though she gave far less than the rich man monetarily, she gave far more because she gave all she had. 10% is not enough to make up for ignoring the real problems in our society: poverty, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, disease, etc.

  184. BobC: It seems to me that there are two objections lurking in your post. The first is that our sustainings are not in fact voluntary because of peer-pressure, etc. The second is that the act is so ritualized that it doesn’t have an agreed upon public meaning; it is just what we do.

    The first issue gets to the very difficult question of what constitutes “voluntary” action. In raising our hands to sustain, we clearly act volitionally, but I take it that you believe that something more than mere volitional conduct is required. Fair enough. How do you figure out the point at which a volitional action nevertheless becomes “unfree.” This is a really tough philosophical problem, not simply for sustaining church leaders, but for any theory or institution (like contract law ;->) that contains “voluntariness” as a key concept. The best analysis of the question that I have seen is an essay by Robert Nozick entitled “Coercion.” His conclusion is that an action is free unless it is made in response to a threat that dramaticaly reduces one’s future prospects. I don’t think that any such threat is present when we sustain our leaders, so I think that peer pressure nontwithstanding we freely make a choice when we decide to do so.

    The second objection is that the meaning of the practice is not really very clear. Here you may have a point. I take sustaining to be about our committing to support those chosen by other means. On the other hand, to the extent that the ritual looks like an election it might be thought of as a wholly fictious process of choosing leaders. On this latter interpretation, I think that you are correct. as the practice now stands it is rather meaningless. On the other hand, if my first interpretation is correct, then it is not. As for the periodic nature of the commitment, it seems to me that this could serve one of a couple of functions. First, it could be about allowing us to constantly reconsider our previous commitment. Second, it could be an administratively convienent way of letting us sustain new leaders, the idea being that we are sustaining a corporate body so it is necessary to “vote” on everyone again. Third, it might simply serve a channelling or pedagogical function, reminding us of our previous commitments via ritual, much like the sacrament.

  185. “Nate, have you never had a calling you just did because you were following your leaders even though you didn’t really want it? I know I have.”

    I am appalled, APPALLLED, that you would abdicate your own moral compass in this way Bob. Wehre is your sense of integrity?!? Where is your sense of conscience?!?! Would you go and murder immigrants if that was your calling? You know, I assume, that MMM and opposition to civil rights is the logical conclusion of this frightening way of thinking. Besides, you will learn much more by fufilling the callings that YOU determine to be important rather than blindly following your leaders. Even if you don’t actually beleive it, the Chruch is filled with people who think this way. It is a wonder that we don’t massacre more immigrants.

    Just remember that you are just a few steps removed from racial bigotry and the slaughter of innocents.

  186. Nate: denying marriage to a class of people based on in-born traits is a lot closer to racial bigotry than it is to accepting a calling one doesn’t want. Just on substance, we’re in a realm of terrible gravity here. Not all decisions fall into that realm, but making a particular group of people continue to be legal outcasts because of a trait that they don’t choose makes these comparisons apt–in general if not in specific.

    I’m sorry that I earlier imputed beliefs and motives to you that you don’t possess. That was a mistake and a failure of civility on my part. Please accept my apologies.

    Nonetheless, I think the analogy to the decisions involved in Mountain Meadows or in opposition to African-American civil rights until the mid-to-late 1960s is instructive. The decision we currently face, regarding the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of marriage, seems of equal gravity. Another instructive analogy would perhaps involve people who leave the church to become fundamentalists against leadership council because of their individual sense of right and wrong. While none of these is identical to the current choice, they’re all instructive.

  187. RT, I don’t believe anyone has fully established that this is genetically determined (I personally know of 2 for whom this is not the case), nor does it render someone a legal outcast.

  188. RT: I agree with you that the choice is ovf greater gravity. Again, however, I think that this is a trivially true statement. I think that the analogy to racial discrimination is imperfect in the marriage context because because sexuality is tied up with marriage in a way that race is not tied up in the ability to vote. One may nevertheless believe that SSM is the way to go, but this conclusion will not be compelled by the racial analogy, regardless of its rhetorical appeal. I think that you are on firmer ground when yiou argue that (1) SSM is not going to negatively impact heterosexual marriages; and, (2) SSM will ameliorate problems among homosexuals by discouraging promiscuity, encouraging commitment, etc.

    The problem with rights-talk about hotly contested issues is that rights are supposed to act as trumps because they reflect our deepest commitments. Sometimes, however, it is precisely our commitments that we are conflicted about. In these cases, invoking “rights” is little more than another way of saying “I am right and you are wrong.” It is much more useful to simply offer reasons.

  189. RT: Incidentally, which of the legal incidents of marriage do you think that are denied to SSM couples under current law? Forget the symbolic importance, talk about the nitty gritty of the legal consequences of marriage itself?

    The fact is that most of the legal consequences of marriage can be replicated or avoided by contract, and the movement of the law has been in this direction for several generations. Hold out exceptions are land law, but I seriously doubt that everyone is getting hot under the collar because homosexuals are denied the right to a tenancy in the entirety. Certainly, this doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing as beign a legal outcast. For example, the entire time That you have lived in California you did not have the ability to have a tenancy in the entirety. Furthermore, as a resident of Virginia, I cannot have community property the way that you, as a married California, can. The results have not been legally devestating.

    In contrast, the legal disabilities suffered by blacks under Jim Crow were legally — not simply symbolically — quite brutal. To be sure, symbolism matters, which is mainly why — I think — we are having the SSM debate. However, if concrete legal problems were really what was at issue, there are any number of solutions that are likely to be more successful than a frontal assault on the citidel of heterosexual marriage.

  190. Ben, the evidence certainly doesn’t prove that nobody has a choice about sexual orientation–but it is extremely convincing with respect to the claim that there is a strong genetic component that, for a large number of people, makes sexual orientation an ascriptive rather than acquired trait. I think you’re probably right that some people choose; my claim is simply that the evidence strongly suggests that many do not.

    Nate, I agree that simply calling something a right doesn’t close debate. However, when we’re dealing with something as important as marriage–an act which has traditionally been a central component of our cultural definition of adulthood–then I think the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the person who wants to exclude people. Same-sex marriage may or may not have positive effects on society. But legally excluding a particular group from full participation in adult society is an inherent negative. That negative needs to be counterbalanced by affirmative argument in order to be justified. I haven’t yet seen such an argument.

  191. Nate, I think the single thing that matters most about debates over same-sex marriage is just exactly the symbolism. I agree completely that concrete problems can be resolved in other ways.

  192. But the fact that our law is on the side of exclusion, in a way for which I haven’t seen compelling affirmative argumentation, seems grave to me.

  193. To extend a point Seth R. made on the T&S discussion, perhaps the FPQ12 are thinking strategically here. I have to imagine that if polygamy were ever to be legalized, there would be a certain amount of controversy (see Jeff Day’s comments, for example) as to whether the church should reinstate it — especially since it wasn’t fully repudiated when its practice was proscribed. If, as some assert, legalized SSM is the first step on the way to legalized polygamy, a church leader seeking to avoid a polygamy controversy might be attracted to laws against SSM. While most of the FPQ12 are likely against SSM on its own merits, perhaps a desire to avoid a polygamy quagmire is the impetus behind the emphasis they have put on opposition to SSM.

  194. ” I think the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the person who wants to exclude people.”

    RT: I am not sure that this works either. One could just as easily make the Burkean argument that heterosexual marriage is such a central institution that we tinker with it at our peril, particularlly when we see that in the past even well-meaning and benign measures that don’t seem to undermine marriage at all, e.g. AFDC, no fault divorce, etc., have arguably had really negative consequences. Frankly, I find allocating the burdens according to Burke more compelling to the extend that we are going to play the burden shifting game.

  195. “Nate, I think the single thing that matters most about debates over same-sex marriage is just exactly the symbolism. I agree completely that concrete problems can be resolved in other ways.”

    This is one of the reasons that the racial analogy is unhelpful.

  196. BTW, for those interested, T&S seems to be back up with commenting.

  197. Maren, that is how I read it too.

    Ronan, let me amend your excellent restatement by noting that the question is not if leaders err, but the probability I can detect that error once they’ve made it, given that I am noticeably more fallible than said leaders.

    RT,

    On your claims about civil rights in the 60s and MMM, you have yet to provide any official unanimous statements on par with what we have on gay marriage. As early as 1963, the FP is on record favoring equal rights in an official statement. And I know there is nothing unanimous for MMM. Since D&C 107 is specific about unanimous quorums, it really does matter.

    Not that it proves your case should you find them. The question is not prophetic fallibility, but rather the relative fallibility of you vs. the prophetic. So for a fair comparison, we should also list the big mistakes you’ve made (or would have made if you’d been alive for 170 years). :)

  198. Jared E. says:

    Kevin,

    Bravo on this post.

    Although your #3 seems to be the most objectionable to others, it is the one which I find most compelling. According to Mormon doctrine, one of the main purposes of coming here to earth is to be married and have children. It does not make any sense for God to send someone to earth, knowing they are going to be gay, and knowing that their homosexuality will preclude them from participating in this fundamental part of being human. The argument that “well gay people can’t have children” just doesn’t fly with me. There are many heterosexual couples who also can not have children, but raise them none the less successfully.

    As to the conclusion about whether people are born gay or it is an acquired trait: why would someone choose to be gay when doing so would only make their life so much more difficult (especially if you are a Mormon)? Some Mormons despise themselves because they can’t stop being gay, so much so that they kill themselves.

    I don’t think everyone that is gay is born that way, but to say that no one is born gay to me just doesn’t sound reasonable.

  199. Davis Bell says:

    A very, very interesting and enlightening discussion. Nate/Frank on the one hand and J. Nelson on the other have ably and civilly (!) articulated the opposing schools of thought on this difficult matter.

  200. jothegrill says:

    I guess a mass migration to Canada could solve a lot of problems. =)
    I have a story, which maybe none of you will read because this is a VERY long thread. When I was young I had a crush on my first cousin. Where I live it is illegal to marry your first cousin, and when I admitted that I had a crush on my cousin I was teased and mocked. I was also lovingly taught by my parents that it was not an appropirate thing. Did this crush mean that I had “incestuous tendencies” and that I was being persecuted and denied a fulfilling life because of a feeling that was beyond my control? No. I was steered in another direction. One that brought happiness to me.
    Also, before I was married a celibate life didn’t seem like a bad thing to me. Life isn’t all about sex, marriage isn’t all about sex. I have never met a happy person whose life is dominated by sexuality. There is so much more to existence than that. Those who cannot in good conscience be married (nuns and monks included) seem to be much happier when they are celibate and I am proud of them.

  201. grill,

    A childhood crush on your cousin and a lifelong same-gender attraction are two wholly different things.

    Re: nuns and monks. Are you celibate? And where is the monastic tradition within Mormonism that can offer a sanctuary to our gay members? There isn’t one. If you are a Mormon there is only one outlet for your religious expression and it is one utterly focused on marriage and family. As a hetero male I find this wonderful. Were I gay, however, I think I would find it incredibly difficult.

  202. Jared E. says:

    before I was married a celibate life didn’t seem like a bad thing to me. Life isn’t all about sex, marriage isn’t all about sex. I have never met a happy person whose life is dominated by sexuality. There is so much more to existence than that.

    Speak for yourself. In my opinion, a celibate life would be akin to hell. It’s a good thing I not gay.

  203. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 189 Nate, there are dozens of legal incidents of marriage (federal and state) which are currently denied gay couples, which cannot be remedied under current law. I’ll attempt to post a link later, but immigration, pension transfer, and social security survivor benefits come to my mind first. Granted, all these could be solved with robust domestic partnership arrangements, assuming they are recognized federally as well. The assertion that we really don’t need a legal remedy anyway does not hold up to scrutiny.

  204. “Granted, all these could be solved with robust domestic partnership arrangements, assuming they are recognized federally as well.”

    That is the trick isn’t it. Actually, what stops them from being recognized at the federal level is DOMA, which was passed in reaction to fears that the courts would declare traditional marriage illegal. IOW, it was a reaction against efforts to redefine marriage not to efforts to remove incidental legal disaiblities to marriage. In California, the state that you live in, the domestic partnership law (and before that state common law going back nearly forty years) has recognized the unmarried co-habitants get virtually all of the legal incidents of marriage.

    I agree with you that there are legal disabilities incident to the in ability to marry. My point was not to deny their existence. Rather, my point is that they are not what is driving the debate. If they were waht was driving the debate, the drive for SSM rather than discrete legal fixes was a massive tactical blunder, as there are lots of folks who don’t object to removing various legal disabilities that homosexual couples have while being uncomfortable with the wholesale redefinition of marriage.

    Interestingly, the Church’s own position seems to have hardened on this issue. My understanding is that in the battles in Hawaii, the Church did not object to a domestic partnership law. (Or at least that is what I was personally told by the woman who co-ordinated the Church’s effort in Hawaii.) That attitdues seems to have shifted. I don’t know when, but I suspect that it happend when the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued its advisory opinion in the wake of Goodridge that domestic partnerships were not good enough, only full marriage was sufficient. (Although I could be wrong about the timing on this.)

    At the end of the day, I think that the rejection of domestic partnership law makes sesne if you think that the real wrong suffered by homosexuals is symbolic.

    In my ideal world, everyone would tone back the rhetorical fireworks about the issue, and that we would let differing jurisdictions experiement with solutions to conceret problems. On the other hand, when it is couched as a debate between “Fundamental Humman Rights” on one side and “The Destruction of the Family” on the other, and when anyone who expresses skepticism or concern about the redefinition of a major social institution is a bigot and anyone who favors accomodating homosexual couples in any way is underminging the family, this isn’t likely to happen.

  205. Karl D. says:

    Frank,

    Help me out. Are you making the following argument:

    Let

    X = the set of all information useful and relevant to decide whether option A or B is correct.

    Y = the set of all information used by the FPQ12 to decide
    whether option A or B is correct.

    Z = the set of all information used by individual i to decide whether option A or B is correct.

    FPQ12 suggest option A is correct and individual $i$ suggests option B is correct.

    If Z=Y=X, then

    P(FPQ12=correct|X) > P(i=correct|X) (1)

    Your also arguing that if Y X and X X then

    P(FPQ12=correct|Y) > P(i=correct|Z) (2)

    However JNS argues that sometimes (if the options have to do with civil rights, woman rights, or gay rights) then,

    P(FPQ12=correct|Y)

  206. Karl D. says:

    Sorry that few lines should read

    Your also arguing that if Y not equal X and Z not equal X then

    P(FPQ12=correct|Y) > P(i=correct|Z) (2)

    However JNS argues that sometimes (if the options have to do with civil rights, woman rights, or gay rights) then,

    P(FPQ12=correct|Y)

  207. Nate, your comment is clearly a bigoted attempt to undermine the family.

  208. Karl D. says:

    One more try Frank. The last line should be

    P(FPQ12=correct|Y) less than P(i=correct|Z) (3)

    You agree in principle that (3) can happen, but it is pretty rare and hard to identify these events ex ante.

  209. Karl, I think you have the idea, but perhaps you can’t easily put a less than sign in html code! Maybe try putting a slashy in front of it– \

  210. Aaron Brown says:

    Jared E.,

    You’re missing the point of those who object to Kevin’s argument #3. And you’re arguing against a position that no one has advocated. No one is saying that homosexual orientation is a choice. (O.K., I know some LDS folks who argue this, but they’re obviously confused (perhaps born that way?), and in any event, they haven’t made an appearance on this thread). What I’m saying is that it isn’t enough to point out “homosexual inclination is involuntary, ergo, God cannot expect homosexuals to behave in a way that runs counter to what their inclinations would lead them to do.” Lots of people have lots of problems that preclude them from complying with the Church’s behavioral restrictions or setting up the Church’s idealized family unit. Some of those problems may be “inborn,” some may not, but either way, we could probably make a long list of problems that are technically involuntary (i.e. not freely chosen). So what? I don’t see the ingredients of a theological or moral revolution in this rather mundane observation.

    Look, I am open to hearing novel arguments about why the Church’s moral prohibitions on homosexuality (and the associated condemnation of Same-sex marriage, etc.) are wrongheaded, and why they should be changed. I just think a lot of the standard rhetoric that goes “Inclination X is unchosen, ergo, it shouldn’t be prohibited,” is unpersuasive. I’m waiting to hear a better argument.

    Aaron B

  211. 208 — yes.

    ALthough I don’t know if JNS is actually arguing that he is less fallible on these issues or not. The only argument I’ve seen was a brief claim that it was better to be probably wrong based on just X than probably right using signals from FPQ12 (and therefore, Y).

  212. “Nate, your comment is clearly a bigoted attempt to undermine the family.”

    Don’t forget my opposition to civil rights and support for massacring immigrants from Arkansas ;->… (JK RT)

  213. Nate, good point.

    Your comment is clearly a bigoted attempt to undermine the civil rights of Arkansan families (and massacre them).

  214. Arkansans ain’t got no feelings.

  215. Karl D. says:

    Thanks Frank (211). I also was not sure about that as well. I know my notation is awful given what the HTML does to it but it seems like arguing

    P(FFPQ12=correct|X) less than P(i=correct|X)

    is tough sledding if you accept their prophetic status. On the other hand I think my equation (3) is tenable position.

  216. Jared E. says:

    Aaron,

    I understand your objection to my comment. Yes, some people are predisposed to things like alcoholism and things of the like. But for all intents and purposes, being gay precludes a person from being married and having a family. This in effect removes from a homosexuals grasp the ability to carry out one of the fundamental purposes of being human.

    Yes some people are predisposed to inappropriate behavior, but homosexuality is in such a different league. What in life is more important than being married and having a family? Is there anything more important than this? The church teaches that family should come before anything else. ‘No other accomplishment can compensate for failure in the home’. Except if your gay, in that case you’ll just have to make due and settle for those other insignificant things which could never bring a heterosexual true happiness.

  217. Thanks for the link and comment, Ronan (#133), sorry I’m late for the party. Nice stats, JNS (#135).

    Nobody has commented on Kevin’s first point, where he seems to say that since his great-great-grandfather was a polygamist, he cannot now oppose gay marriage. Huh? That doesn’t even mean you can’t oppose polygamy now, Kevin, much less gay marriage. I don’t see how that has anything to do with the present debate. Just another example of how much damage polygamy inflicted on the collective Mormon psyche.

  218. I’m not a regular reader or commenter on the LDS blog circuit, but I can’t help but watch this discussion with great interest (despite the somewhat intimidating use of logical notation!).

    I enjoyed the foregoing comments and the initial post especially. However, as a gay man, I do not agree with point 4. When I have attempted to argue against the characterization of the futility of being a gay man in the Mormon Church (whether celibacy or a strained straight marriage is the expectation), I have been criticized as being unempathetic. Cornered, but unwilling to “out” myself for the sake of the argument, I’m left looking like a bigot.

    I’m happily married to a woman who strongly supports gay marriage. My feelings are ambivalent about legislation or amendments, but unambivalent about how we should trust our loving God to relieve or accommodate not only the struggles of our own lives, but also the struggles of lives of others who we may not fully understand. For some the solution may be celibacy, for some straight marriage, and for some reparative therapy. I oppose dismissing any of these categorically as unacceptable possibilities for someone in my situation in the name of empathy.

  219. Karl, it seems to me that one can argue that (3) is tenable by saying that you are talking about an issue peripheral to the prophetic calling.

    But then one must decide what is peripheral to the calling. And then you have to justify why the councils think the issue is not peripheral, but you know that it actually is peripheral. Put another way, if it is not important to the calling, and so there is little revelatory power, how likely is it that those 15 men got convinced that it was?

    Furthermore, I think it gets much harder to make (3) tenable with repeated unanimous declarations by both quorums. Those are not all that frequent and they are a big deal with clear doctrinal importance laid out in D&C 107. I see no doctrinal support for (3) being true in any way that is systematically identifiable.

    Church doctrine (like True to the Faith) say that we should follow the prophet to be “safe”. It does not note any exceptions where (3) is systematically true.

  220. Jared E. says:

    Dave,

    I think that Kevin is just pointing out how blatantly hypocritical it is for the church to oppose gay marriage, in light of the churches objections to state intervention against Mormons practicing polygamy.

  221. hurricane says:

    200-

    Also, before I was married a celibate life didn’t seem like a bad thing to me. Life isn’t all about sex, marriage isn’t all about sex. I have never met a happy person whose life is dominated by sexuality. There is so much more to existence than that. Those who cannot in good conscience be married (nuns and monks included) seem to be much happier when they are celibate and I am proud of them.

    Spoken like someone who doesn’t have to be celibate…

    There is, of course, much more to life than sex. And there is much more to homosexuality than sex. Love, romance, commitment, shared burdens, shared joy. It just so happen that it all happens between two men or two women.

    And Ronan makes the excellent point that there is no place historically in LDS theology for celibacy. Indeed, some of our church leaders of days past have derided the very idea. You may admire those nuns and priests their celibacy, but Mormonism doesn’t, at least not historically.

  222. Kevin Barney says:

    Dave #217, I attempted to clarify what I meant by that point at #132.

    (I do find it a little bit embarrassing to insist in such strong terms that marriage is between a man and a woman, when as recently as Heber J. Grant we had a polygamist as the head of our church.)

  223. Jared, the title of the post is “Why I Favor Gay Marriage,” and the “rationale” Kevin gives starts off with point 1, “Polygamy.” So as I read it that’s his leading reason for his own support of gay marriage. But the same reasoning hold for the Church: just because it once supported polygamy doesn’t mean it can’t oppose gay marriage now.

  224. Dave,
    I don’t think Kevin’s #1 is meant to be the clincher, just something to give us pause. That’s all.

  225. Kevin, your comments in #132 do give better context to your first point. Missed that the first time through the stack.

  226. Jared E. says:

    Dave,

    I agree that it does not stand to reason that because Mormons once practiced polygamy, gays should be allowed to marry. But it would be nice if the church allowed others the same latitude it once pleaded for.

  227. Karl D. says:

    Frank,

    I certainly agree that (3) is rare. I also agree that identifying a (3) situation is pretty difficult from an ex ante perspective. So I am probably quibbling over the extreme tail of the distribution. That said, I am not sure I agree with the idea that the issue must be peripheral. If what you meant was the probability of (3) arising is postively related to how peripheral the issue is then I am in agreement.

  228. This conversation is really wearing me down.

    Frank, if you want to learn about the church’s history with respect to civil rights, I recommend Quinn’s biography of J. Reuben Clark, the David O. McKay book, Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children, or the Bringhurst and Smith book, Black and Mormon. These should provide plenty of authoritative statements against civil rights positions with respect to race for you. If you doubt that there was a clear message sent to members after reading the evidence in those books, then I really don’t know what to tell you.

    Nate, in comment #195, you claim that the fact that concrete issues can be corrected without allowing same-sex marriage distinguishes between the racial civil rights movement of the 1960s and what many would call the current civil rights movement for homosexuals. I’m not sure I agree or even know what the logic here would be. The rejection of the “separate but equal” standard is just as compelling in both cases, isn’t it? In both cases, there are very real material differences that affect the stigmatized group–but in both cases the movement is also centrally about reversing the symbolic stigma.

    This is, after all, politics. Please let’s not pretend that symbolism doesn’t matter!

  229. Kevin Barney says:

    Dave #225, I’m impressed that you made it through the stack at all! That’s a lot of comment to wade through.

  230. I’m saying I don’t see how you are going to identify (3) as being in effect unless the issue is peripheral or you have some other means of assigning it to the less prophetic category. The issue is, as you correctly note, not “when is (3) true?” but rather, “when is (3) likely to be true?”. Thus you are evaluating:

    P( (3) |X)

    while knowing that before the FPQ12 made the statement, they also evaluated

    P( (3) | Y)

    and apparently felt it was still worth making the statement. Thus, it may be true that FPQ12 are alomst never better at knowing whether or not I should eat a Snickers bar today. But since they recognize this fact, no “Snickers Proclamations” are ever made. But once a Proclamation is made, that tells us about what those men think the chance of (3) is.

  231. Karl D. says:

    Frank,

    Got it. Your “peripheral” stuff was about developing an ex ante identification strategy for when (3) is likely. Ok, I think our two positions are pretty close.

  232. Nate,

    #184 Very nice analysis on sustaining, thank you.

    #185 LOL! But you didn’t answer my question… Is your supporting leaders quota full from other faithful obedience thus allowing you, by stickin’ it to them for the issue at hand, to regain your integrity once lost?

  233. RT,

    I see you’re done and that’s fine.

    But please recognize that the bar is far higher than you imply. To really be comparable with the gay marriage stance, we are looking for unanimous official declarations by both quorums together on multiple occasions. Not individual statements or even widely held feelings or attitudes. Frankly, I am suspicious that such a thing existed given that the FP came out officially in favor of equal rights at least as early as 1963. It would be odd if they were reversing official, unanimous statements you claim were made only a decade earlier.

    Karl,

    Glad to hear it!

  234. “The rejection of the “separate but equal” standard is just as compelling in both cases, isn’t it?”

    It depends on if there is some rational basis for the distinctions that the law is drawing. In the case of race what we said s that given whan we know about the history of Jim Crow and the effect of the laws that we are challenging, we should dispense with the laws. We know that they were primarily motivated by racial animus and have the primary effect of hurting black people. On the other hand, American marriage law — despite what the more adventuresome queer law theoriests will tell you — has not history analogous to Jim Crow. Marrriage was not developed as a way of “getting” gay people in the way that Jim Crow was developed to “get” black people. Indeed, unlike marriage, most (although by no means all) of the actual legal mechanism of Jim Crow were fairly recent inventions, having been developed by Southern legislatures only in the 1880s and later.

    Finally, the argumetn is that skin color is never rationally realted to public policy, while sexuality frequently is. Obviously, this isn’t entirely true. Sometimes skin color can be rationally related to legitimate public goals, but these cases are likely to be rarer than cases involving sexuality.

    Accordingly, I think taht issues of sexuality are best solved one at a time, rather than trying to deduce the proper outcome from some grand meta-analogy.

  235. “This is, after all, politics. Please let’s not pretend that symbolism doesn’t matter!”

    It is also law, and by and large symbolism doesn’t make good law.

  236. Brad Kramer says:

    On the question of supporting the brethren but not supporting their “designated modes of action:”

    While I was serving my mission in Russia (1998 to 2000), some state supreme court ruled that the BSA couldn’t discriminate against homosexuals by firing gay scoutmasters. The black-robed thugs on the US SC later overturned this ruling, but evidently the damage was already done. I was having lunch with area presidency member Wayne Hancock (himself a Silver Beaver) when he received the news of the court ruling. Immediately he informed us that the Church would be completely severing its ties with the scouting program in Russia (I’m not sure if this was the case elsewhere). Those ties have not been since resumed. That is, in spite of the fact that the court’s ruling had no bearing on BSA’s activities outside of the USA, and in spite of the fact that the Church did not sever its ties with BSA in the one country where the ruling did have an effect (USA), and in spite of the fact that those effects were only temporary (I assume non-existent since I also assume there was an injunction on the ruling until the US SC could weigh in), the Church has washed its hands of Scouting entirely in Russia, presumably permanently.

    The FP knows what it’s doing and has reasons for doing it. But we should view this for what it is. The FP made a decision, not that it values traditional marriage, not that protecting traditional marriage is desirable, not that protecting traditional marriage will help the Church, but that MAKING AN OFFICIAL ENDORSEMENT of hte concept of amending the US Constitution to protect traditional marriage and OPENLY ENCOURAGING ITS MEMBERS TO WEIGH IN is important.

    We must always remember that fulfilling the missions of the Church is always the number 1 priority for the brethren. Clearly (re: my Russia story) Church leaders feel like perception of the Church re ss marriage, gay rights, etc outside of the US and, in particular, in countries where the Church is struggling to survive (as it was massively at the time in Russia) or even get in (the ME, China, India, etc — all cultures with strong public sentiment in opposition to homosexuality) is crucial to our being able to establish the kingdom, gather israel, perfect the saints, share the gospel, etc etc, on a global scale.

    I think the brethren are much more concerned with the success of the Church worldwide, with our ability to get recognition from foreign governments and legally proselytize, and with how the Church’s image throughout the world will affect those questions than they are with whether or not gay couples in San Fransisco can adopt Chinese girls or American society makes civil marriage a more selfish, adult-centered, unburdening, unbinging institution than it already is.

    (apologies for the fact that this is pretty much cut and past from a T&S post yesterday) :)

    Do I support an amendment? No, but that’s because I don’t think that the passage of an amendment will affect the Church’s worldwide success at all (if I thought differently about the relationship between the amendment’s and the church’s success, I would support it, but for reasons other than those articulated by Weekly Standard writers who seem only to fear gay marriage because it will open the floodgates to the real threat to good society and functional democracy: plural marriage).

    Do I support the FP’s endorsement of an amendment and its call to mobilize its members in the cause in some form or another? Yes, but only because I trust that the brethren can see the larger picture and I assume they believe that publicly weighing in on this issue will be better for the long term goals of the church,

  237. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 204 “…the drive for SSM rather than discrete legal fixes was a massive tactical blunder.” I could not agree more, although I would have argued for a comprehensive fix via federalized domestic partnerships. It’s infuriating to me that these uber-blue-state entrenched activists set the agenda, botch it up, and we wind up with lesbians marrying in Boston but a massive backlash everywhere else.

    re: 216 “But for all intents and purposes, being gay precludes a person from being married and having a family. This in effect removes from a homosexuals grasp the ability to carry out one of the fundamental purposes of being human.” I don’t know what planet you are living on, but that statement is manifestly untrue. It would certainly come as a surprise to my partner and our daughter, and our many gay neighbors raising kids. For now I will choose not to react in anger to such a slanderous comment, though. Just wanted to point out its absurdity.

  238. #166 “You clearly know nothing about “clinical accuracy” in any domain: medicine, psychology, or sociology.”

    Yes, clearly.

    What I do know is that “gay” has no legitimate connection whatsoever with homosexual behavior — either in 1940 or any other time. At any time, if I decide to call myself “gifted”, it does not endow me with any new special attributes.

    And if the face of any science is so elastic that it conforms to whatever awkwardly contrived ideological contours we think to plaster it over, it would seem rather worthless as a real science.

    I disagree that labels such as “deviant” and “abberant” are inaccurate, though it is easily seen that it serves a certain agenda to have them so labeled. How obvious is it to see how those with a personal investment in this issue would benefit from having their own deviant and unacceptable behavior characterized as normal and natural. And to label anyone who sees otherwise as “stigmatizing” and “hateful”.

    Unfortunately, it never quite solves a problem to simply redefine it as “not a problem”. Or to put it another way, “wickedness never was happiness”.

    By some bizarre twist of logic, and much to my amusement, it seems that to label someone as “hateful” these days is one of the most vicious and defamatory ad hominems. I wish I could say I don’t care what evil names I am called, but regardless, I will continue to hate things that I know are hateful, no matter how others try to redefine the terms or turn good traditional values upside-down.

    Some stigmas serve a good and useful purpose. And hating certain hateful things is morally right.

  239. Jared E. says:

    MikeInWeHo,

    You misinterpreted my statement. When I said:

    But for all intents and purposes, being gay precludes a person from being married and having a family. This in effect removes from a homosexuals grasp the ability to carry out one of the fundamental purposes of being human.

    I said it from the point of view of a practicing Mormon. Yes there are many gay poeple who raise children and do so with there life partners, but not in the Mormon Church.

    My statement should have read “If a person is to remain a faithful Mormon, then for all intents and purposes, being gay precludes that person from being married and having a family. This in effect removes from that persons grasp the ability to carry out one of the fundamental purposes of being human.”

    I did not mean to offend. I am speaking from the point of view that gays should be allowed to marry and raise children, and do so within the Mormon Church.

  240. Jared E. says:

    Oh, and in case anyone missed it, my last statement made in #216 was sarcastic.

  241. This in effect removes from that persons grasp the ability to carry out one of the fundamental purposes of being human.

    This is indeed a crucial issue.

  242. Steve Evans says:

    *YAWN*

    only 242 comments?

  243. Jared E. says:

    *YAWN*

    only 243 comments?

  244. Re: Robust traditions of celibacy

    As I understand it, some of the traditions of celibacy relate back, in part, to this “abstinence passage” interpreted in a figurative sense:

    “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” Matthew 19:12

    Perhaps we are seeing the gradual development of a quasi-blessed-celibacy tradition in the evolving articulation of the Church’s policies on sexual orientation. The Church’s policy seems to be that an unmarried celibate member with a homosexual orientation can receive at least the same blessings of the gospel available to a celibate unmarried member with a heterosexual orientation.

    The Church has not yet classified unmarried celibate members with a homosexual orientation among the class of members to whom no blessings will be denied (e.g., women who do not marry because never had the opportunity); i.e., to be honorably excused from the prerequisite of earthly marriage to attain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.

    But perhaps there will come a day when God will inspire His leaders to announce that indeed, in some way now mysterious to us, a celibate member with a homosexual orientation may be heir to the full blessings of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, without necessity of marriage or biological posterity in this life.

    This would not solve the loneliness issue, which the Brethren acknowledge exists, or would exist, in their October 2004 statement.

  245. Prudence McPrude says:

    Gosh, it seems that everyone has come out of the woodwork on this particular thread. All the apostates and heathens in one place! If the Lord would just pay us a visit today, he could vanquish the enemies of His Kingdom in one fell swoop!

  246. I don’t think celibacy is such a bad thing. However, straight marriage, while not ideal sexually, has been a great benefit to me. Although, the brethren do not recommend marrying a woman in an effort to change a gay man’s orientation, marriage with other expectations (for example, my own marriage, undergone with no expectation of change) has been a wonderful way to live the gospel as a gay man who is not celibate.

    There are solutions for every gay person who wants to live the gospel. Celibacy throughout mortal life may be one, straight marriage may be one, and reparative therapy may be one. That none of these are adequate for all gays doesn’t mean they aren’t viable for some, nor should we assume the Lord doesn’t have less conventional alternatives enough for all.

  247. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 238 Keep going, Jim!! You’ll drive us abberant deviants out eventually. Seriously, though, I’m glad you’ve decided to jump in here. It’s a useful perspective to have laid out so clearly.

    re: 239 Thanks for clarifying, Jared. I completely misunderstood you.

    re: 246 -L- For what little it’s worth, I very much respect your decision and lifestyle because it is based on honesty, integrity and committment. Your family is blessed to have you.

  248. # 245 Amen . . . preach it Sister Prude ;-)

  249. Mark N. says:

    It seems to me that what the Church attempts to do in matters like this is to encourage the members to use the force of government to stop society from becoming less Latter-day-saintly than it already is. Is this a valid use of the force of government? Are the LDS really supposed to not believe that separation of church and state (in the absence of the physical presence of our Redeemer and King) is a good idea?

    I don’t mind at all the Church asking me to preach and teach that homosexual unions will not be valid in the eternities, but when I start advocating the use of force (which it what government is when you get right down to the bottom of the matter) and encourage my government to point its guns at my gay neighbor and tell him that God wants me to get my government to point its guns at him and prevent him from doing something that we evidently disagree about as to the morality of his actions, I have to ask myself if I’m prepared for him to do the same thing to me at some point?

    Are we afraid of allowing gays to get government sanction of their unions because it will be a bad influence on our children? What’s our best response to that: to do a better job of teaching and influencing our own childrens’ sense of God’s eternal plan within the walls of our own homes, or to try and use the force of government to shape society to our own views, the views of everyone else (non-Mormons) notwithstanding?

  250. Kevin, I think there is a major difference between polygamy and gay marriage.

    For Mormons, we just wanted to be left alone. We didn’t ask for any official, governmental acceptance or recognition of polygamy. We just wanted to be left alone. We didn’t ask for federal and state protections that would force government and companies to provide health care, family leave, and a host of other demands.

    For Gay people, they are demanding not only the opportunity to have a relationship, but to demand that everyone else recognize it. They are demanding that every government organization and company be forced to provide benefits to their significant other.

    I do not seek the government to ban gay relationships. However, I do not think they need to recognize them, either. If the federal government were to have left Mormon polygamists alone 100+ years ago, there would have been no demand for official recognition.

    I find this to be a very major distinction. I don’t see Mormons trying to force gay organizations to accept heterosexuals into their ranks, but the gays are attacking Boy Scouts and other like groups for limiting admittance.

    Your feelings about the past are a moot point today. The facts are, the feds DID ban polygamy. And the Church lives with that ruling. (And I think you would have been born, anyway). Yet, we are to think that it is okay for the feds to ban polygamy, but not limit other forms of marriage outside the nuclear family? Either we need to allow government to limit what they accept to be marriage, or get out of the business entirely. But if they get out of it, we need to be ready for those people who “demand their rights” to marry whatever or whomever they wish. There are groups, fringe to be sure, but they do exist, that seek to have legalized relationships with youth, with animals, etc.

    When everything is legal, nothing has value. Giving marriage license to gays takes away from the value of this ancient tradition. It also makes a mockery of it, because they seek it not just to have a relationship, but so they can obtain rights and benefits the Saints never sought after in polygamy.

    So, while I do agree there is an argument to made against the Marriage Amendment, I do not think comparing it with polygamy is the argument to be made – as it is apples and oranges.

  251. Steve Evans says:

    “I think there is a major difference between polygamy and gay marriage.”

    YES! Did you not see the recent link on the sidebar??

  252. MikeInWeHo, it’s entirely possible that in some areas of the country, a school might fire a gay teacher because of the outlook of the community that supports the school. It’s also possible that in some areas of the country, a school might fire a teacher because they smoke (there are already employers who refuse to employ smokers). Things are tough all over.

    Your labeling of this kind of thing as “discrimination” begs the question. Specifically, the issue at hand is whether such actions do, in fact, constitute unfair discrimination. You want to mandate a moral outlook that treats the love interests and sexual activity of gay people as morally equivalent to those of the majority of the population. But rather than argue for this, you assume that they already are morally equivalent and you describe your opponents behavior with pejorative terms like “discrimination.”

    But what bugs me most of all is how gay activists have switched the issue from one of “live and let live” to one of an entitlement based on moral equivalence. For many years, I’ve been fine with gay people doing gay things, because I figured it was their own gay business. Now, the fact that people like me are fine with it (on the grounds that it’s private) is being used as part of the argument for moral equivalence. But make no mistake: when I said I’m fine with gay people doing gay things, that doesn’t mean that I think it’s right or that it should be sanctioned in any sense. That’s where I draw the line.

    We live in a democracy, and people are frequently going to have the right to do things that we find offensive or even that impact our material well-being. We may think that’s wrong or unfair, but one reason I think that gay adoption may not be such a terrible idea is that more gay people need to learn that life isn’t fair, and the best way to learn that is to have to teach it to children.

  253. As the letter was read in my Provo ward last sunday, one elderly sister and one (unrelated, as far as I know)middleaged man stood up, and then walked out of the meeting. I hadn’t been paying enough attention to know what was going on. I wish I had been, and I wish I had joined them. As the church has lobbied for what I regard as poor public policy choices in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Texas, etc., I’ve been both dreading and preparing for the day when it would get to Utah. Now, here it is.

  254. greenfrog says:

    David H wrote:

    Perhaps we are seeing the gradual development of a quasi-blessed-celibacy tradition in the evolving articulation of the Church’s policies on sexual orientation. The Church’s policy seems to be that an unmarried celibate member with a homosexual orientation can receive at least the same blessings of the gospel available to a celibate unmarried member with a heterosexual orientation.

    One way to gain credibility for the “celibacy is a fine alternative” is to call a celibate gay to the Quorum of the 12.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  255. jothegrill says:

    Here’s a clarification about my thoughts on celibacy: When I was single I was celibate. I found great meaning and fulfillment in life as a single person without the physical intimacy that young people get into trouble with (my spouse was my first kiss and I was perfectly happy with that.) Now I find great meaning and fulfillment in being a parent. However my husband just pointed out that guys and girls are very different. I guess it’s something I can’t fully understand in this life.

  256. I am a late comer to this blog, however I have read all of the posts and feel that I need to add some clarification to this issue. First I think it is important for everyone to understand what a “Seer” is. We read in Mosiah 8 the following:

    16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
    17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
    18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

    We “sustain” 15 men as prophets, seers, and revelators. I believe that when we sustain the first presidency and quorum of the 12 we are basically saying to the Lord that we believe that these men are called of God; that we have either a personal testimony or the faith to believe that this is so.

    We can also read in the Doctrine and Covenents Section 21 the following:

    4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
    5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
    6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.
    7 For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard.

    We are to give head to the men who are called to preside. The fundamental issues are faith and obedience. Not bigotry and discrimination. I think Pres. Hinkley has been more than clear on those two issues as well.

    The arguments posted throughout this thread were interesting but they miss the whole point. I think our agency is before us and I believe that the words of Joshua are relevant here “Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve… But as for me and my house” we will serve the lord and follow his prophets seers and revelators.

  257. Darren wrote:

    “we will serve the lord and follow his prophets seers and revelators.

    Hey, nice scriptural revisionism. You fit right in. :)

  258. D. Fletcher says:

    I just wanted to mention that I have a whole bunch of new heroes who have been posting erudite and thoughtful posts on a number of blogs on this subject, which until today I thought was beaten to death. Can I name names? starting with Kevin Barney! and Kevin Burtt, the Baron of Deseret; Bob and Logan, WOW! Ronan, and Jared, and Rosalynde, and my old pals hurricane and rottentomatoes and greenfrog — I love you all, and I’m incredibly impressed. See why I stick with the Church?

  259. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 252 Interesting post, DLK. In the little midwest town where I grew up, there were virtually no Mormons. If a Latter-Day Saint had moved there and started teaching school, this would have been unacceptable to the community. Should it be legal for that teacher to be fired based on his religion? Religious preference is at least as volitional as sexual preference, isn’t it?

    What constitutes real, unacceptable discrimination to you? We can’t base it on morality, because there is no possibility of consensus on that. If my argument for SSM marriage seems based on an assertion of moral equivalence, I have miscommunicated. I know that my relationship is morally equivalent to your marriage, and you know that the prophets declare otherwise. That’s a dead-end discussion for sure!

    “Gay people need to learn that life isn’t fair” might be the most ironic, amusing statement I have ever read in the bloggernacle. It’s a real jaw-dropper.

    Let’s see…..many of us have been rejected by family, excommunicated by the Church, fired from jobs, denied insurance benefits, beaten up, verbally assaulted (“Faaaagot!!!!!!!!!!!!”), slandered online (“promiscuous abberant deviates”), rhetorically dehumanized, and declared mentally ill. This is what you consider live and let live? If I fight back and say “No More!” to the above, I am “entitled” ?? Wow.

  260. TrailerTrash says:

    Nate. 189:
    “RT: Incidentally, which of the legal incidents of marriage do you think that are denied to SSM couples under current law? Forget the symbolic importance, talk about the nitty gritty of the legal consequences of marriage itself?”

    Nate,would you mind clarifying this more? could you provide a list of the legal benefits of marriage and the things that SS couples can do in the status quo to receive the same benefits?
    My understanding is that current tax law and adoption in many states are precluded unwithout SSM. Am I wrong?

  261. I’m glad you liked our discussion over at Bob and Logan, D. I’m surprised to find you making mention of it. I always forget that there are more lurkers than commenters.

  262. If a marriage covenant is a good thing for a man and a woman, why is it a bad thing for a man and a man (or woman and a woman)? Do we really think gay people aren’t going to have sex?

    Actually, if we wanted to reduce gay sex, I can think of no better tool than gay marriage (speaking from experience in a straight marriage).

  263. What do you think about this scenario?

    1. The government currently licenses who can marry and who can perform marriages.
    2. As gay rights progresses, sexual orientation becomes a federally protected class (it already is in some states and municipalities).
    3. Same sex marriage become legal nationally.

    Couldn’t the government force the LDS Church to perform same sex marriages or revoke their license to perform marriages?

    The government uses discrimination violations to force businesses (such as rental units, hotels, and banks) to comply or lose their licenses.

    In fact, the church’s right to perform marriages might already be in jeopardy some cities or states if someone made a court case out of it.

  264. M_L #265: First off, some corrections to what your wrote. If gays and lesbians were a federally protected class anywhere in the U.S., they would be a federally protected class everywhere. But we (gays and lesbians) are not considered a protected class by the federal government. Second, it is not the federal government which handles civil marriage, it’s the state governments. Under your scenario, and under pretty much every other scenario, your point #3 becomes moot. While states generally honor marriages performed in another state, that is not always true, and is not required by the Constitution because civil marriage is a state issue. One of many current examples would be that same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts do not have to be recognized in another state, but other examples are where one state sets the marriage age at, say, 15, and two 15 year-olds marry — another state does not have to recognize that marriage: states only recognize marriages if they also fit the other state’s laws on marriage or they voluntarily choose to make an exception. Under no circumstances could the federal government or any state government force a religious body to perform marriages, because that would violate the separation of church and state. No church is now required to marry anyone, even if that marriage would be legal in that state. Otherwise, there would be gay couples being sealed in the Boston Temple — but that’s not happening, is it? No matter what happens to the civil institution of marriage, it will not force a change in the religious institution of marriage. In this country, they are both called by the same name and often happen at the same time, but when it does, it’s still a simultaneously performed civil marriage and religious marriage, and it is performed at the discretion of the religious body. If the Federal Marriage Amendment doesn’t pass, things will be just as they are now, and the Church will not have to marry anyone they do not deem worthy.

  265. #171 There is another competing issue here. I used to be a Senate stffer, and we — like most Senate offices — had a firm policy that every piece of mail and email got an answer. A letter like the one above is going to make life needlessly complicated for some LC who has to figure out how to draft a reply
    Nah. They’ll just do what my senator did: send me a form letter thanking me for letting him know that I support the amendment, even though my letter specifically said that I DON’T support the amendment.

  266. Thanks for your reply Mike.
    I’m sorry if I was unclear in my post #265.

    In item #1, I did not mean to imply that the U.S. government governs the right to perform marriages.

    In item #2, I did not mean to imply that there were zones of federal class protection. Rather, that some state and local governments have granted class protection based on sexual orientation.

    In item #3, that if gay rights progressed it is logical to assume that marriage could be considered a federal civil right (not as a result of failing to pass the proposed marriage amendment but as the next logical step).

    Local governments also grant the other licenses I made reference to, but local governments do use federal anti-discrimination laws to regulate the use of the licenses they grant.

    The governments in the U.S., both local and federal (via income tax and federal anti-polygamy laws), consider marriage a civil contract, not a religious right. Thus, it could be construed to not be a violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Merely as regulation of it, as is already done with polygamy or use of drugs in religious practice.

    As you noted, government can not force a religion to perform a marriage, but they could conceivably (at some future time) prevent it from performing any marriage if it was found that the church’s use of the license was discriminitory. Just, as they can revoke the business license of bank or other business that violates discrimination laws and refuses to stop.

  267. M_L, I guess conceivably you’re right that religious bodies might legally be prevented from conferring the civil contract of marriage in tandem with the religious rites of marriage, like most other countries in the world do now. However, that’s an awfully big stretch from point A to point B. It’s not wanted or called for by anyone, and about as likely as the discovery that Jimmy Hoffa has been masquerading as Anna Nicole Smith for the last twenty years. Absolutely anything is conceivable, but it’s the likelihood of its occurrence that matters, not conceivability. No opponents or proponents of marriage equality have floated the idea of separating the civil and religious aspects of marriage. No one seems to want it, or care that religious bodies perform a combination of civil and religious functions when conferring marriage. And if it somehow happened, marriage would continue at the same pace, just as it does in Europe, Asia and South America, where this has been the norm for many, many years. So if this extremely unlikely chain of events that no one seems to want somehow comes about in the U.S., it still won’t matter and life will still go on exactly as before, except that an additional fifteen minutes or so will be required to get from the courthouse to the Temple.

  268. Here is what I actually sent:

    “I support an amendment to the Constitution that permits, but does not require, states to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I also support an amendment that provides that neither the Constitution nor the constitution of any state may be construed to require that marriage (or something like it) be recognized for any relationship except a man and a woman.

    “With a modification along those lines of the first sentence of the second section, I can fully support the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment.”

    I will be interested in seeing what sort of reply I receive.

    *****

    I agree that it is highly unlikely the Supremes would permit full faith and credit to compel the other 49 states to recognize same sex marriages in Massachusetts. But if, at some point in the future, same sex marriage is adopted in a significant majority of states, it is not hard for me to imagine the Supremes deciding that (pick one: equal protection, due process, full faith and credit, implied/dormant commerce clause, right to privacy, 9th amendment, some other penumbra, raw judicial power) requires the rest of the states to follow suit.

    I think the regulation of marriage is primarily a state responsibility, and thus oppose an amendment’s is a future Supreme Court’s federalizing the definition of marriage (i.e., either an amendment’s requiring a heterosexual-only definition, or some future court’s requiring inclusion of a same sex definition).

  269. Adam Greenwood says:

    Good thread. Enjoyed it.

    Let me weigh in just a little on the Aaron B. side-thread about homosexual tendencies being innate. Aaron B. argues rightly that their being innate is no particular objection to homosexual acts being wrong. He says you’d need to come up with some kind of argument showing that requiring someone to be celibate was morally wrong.

    Jared E. responds, essentially, that its wrong because its unfair. Ronan supports him with a faint cheer.

    “According to Mormon doctrine, one of the main purposes of coming here to earth is to be married and have children. It does not make any sense for God to send someone to earth, knowing they are going to be gay, and knowing that their homosexuality will preclude them from participating in this fundamental part of being human.”

    I am not persuaded. I grant that celibacy is unfair. I just don’t think God is fair, not in the here and now. Lots of things prevent people from participating in fundamental parts of being human that aren’t their fault. Kids die young. People are born disabled, or have accidents. People get married and find out they’re sterile. Grooms die in crashes on their way to the temple.

    I don’t think God is * ultimately* unfair. He’ll make it up to these people one way or another, if they’re willing. Are their reasons why this would not be possible for people who are homosexually attracted throughout this life?

  270. Seth R. says:

    Fairness and equality are highly overrated.

  271. hurricane says:

    270–

    If you attribute homosexuality, sterility, the death of children, disabilities and fatal accidents on the way to temple weddings to God, who either causes these things or doesn’t or can’t do anything to stop them, then I can see how you conclude that God is unfair, and these things are simply to be endured.

    From my perspective, this sounds like a very human justification for unhappiness and misery in the here and now, particularly when coupled with the vague assurance that God will “make it right” in the hereafter. That works for some people, including homosexual people who view their orientation as a cross to bear. This is not a God I have any faith in, however.

    271–

    It seems that would depend entirely on your perspective. To a victim of unjust oppression, fairness and equality are most certainly not overrated.

  272. greenfrog says:

    Before we toss fairness and equality out the window with the bathwater, it’s worth noting that our theology asserts that one of the key characteristics of God is that He is no repsecter of persons. In other words, He embodies Fairness and Equality.

    I think we should, too.

  273. It’s not just that I consider the requirements of a celibate life “unfair,” but also that it is a life that seems utterly at odds with one of the core truths of Mormonism: the centrality of family life.

    I do not believe that we marry and have children in order to fill some kind of celestial report card, nor only to multiply and replenish the earth. Marriage and family life are also great crucibles of learning, where we learn — often painfully — the importance of selflessness, sacrifice, and love, all virtues that make us more like God. This is why we eschew the monastic life.

    A gay Mormon living out a life of loneliness is missing a crucial opportunity to learn, which is why, I believe, allowing gay people to form fidelitous families helps them fulfill the measure of their terrestrial existence.

  274. Seth R. says:

    Yeah greenfrog,

    But what does that mean for God?

    Does it mean the same thing it means to you and me?

  275. greenfrog says:

    But what does that mean for God?

    Does it mean the same thing it means to you and me?

    If it doesn’t, then we ought to figure out what the difference is. If we can’t (or if we have done so as much as we can), then we have to do the best with what we have — which is what it means for us.

  276. Aaron Brown says:

    “Marriage and family life are also great crucibles of learning, where we learn — often painfully — the importance of selflessness, sacrifice, and love.”

    Maybe for YOU they are, Ronan. I, however, had already mastered those skills long before I got married. I now devote myself to the painful process of learning how to turn on the boob tube with my toes (too much work to pick the remote up off the floor), and how to get the wife to anticipate my need to have her shove chocolate bon-bons into my mouth when I’m feeling peckish.

    Aaron B

  277. Adam Greenwood says:

    Greenfrog, Ronan, et al.

    Still not understanding your argument. Lots of people are deprived opportunities for reasons that are not their fault. God could fix those things if he wanted to. He could heal the little girl who dies, he could cure the sterility, he could do lots of things. He doesn’t. So the fact that homosexuality makes it harder for those so afflicted to enjoy the life the church sounels for us is not ipso facto proof that the counsel is wrong. The simple, undeniable fact is that every single commandment affects us all inequally, because we all have different temptations and circumstances. The commandments are still the commandments, however.

  278. Patrick Star says:

    The marriage amendment, like the flag-burning amendments of yesteryear, is a snowjob intended to distract people from the ongoing disaster in Iraq, the economy, etc. It didn’t have the votes in the Senate, and no one really ever thought it would. Can we move on now? Bcc, of all places, shouldn’t get sucked in by these periodic sideshows from a flailing administration.

  279. hurricane says:

    278–

    So the fact that homosexuality makes it harder for those so afflicted to enjoy the life the church sounels for us is not ipso facto proof that the counsel is wrong.

    Except that to the homosexual, even the believing faithful LDS homosexual who is trying to do what the Church teaches him to do, that counsel so often feels so very wrong.

    Look, there really isn’t anything that I or anyone else can say to get you to see this differently if you are convinced that the God in which you believe is a God who for reasons that make no apparent sense allows some of us to be homosexual, a state of being that LDS teachings can’t seem to explain in a way that resonates in any meaningful way with our actual experiences. And so you should not be surprised that gay people leave the LDS Church. I can assure you that most of us don’t leave so we can go have sinful and deviant gay sex, but because we feel profoundly and deeply misunderstood by a Church that claims to have unique insights into how we can achieve lasting happiness. We leave because doing what the Church tells us to do doesn’t change us–and it often damages us.

  280. Bcc, of all places, shouldn’t get sucked in by these periodic sideshows from a flailing administration.

    Patrick, you get the award for the most sensible comment so far.

  281. Adam Greenwood says:

    “there really isn’t anything that I or anyone else can say to get you to see this differently if you are convinced that the God in which you believe is a God who for reasons that make no apparent sense allows some of us to be homosexual”

    And if you are convinced that the suffering of the person afflicted with homosexuality is somehow way more senseless and arbitrary than the suffering of the innocents who are maimed and killed and starved and raped and born crippled and born diseased and so on, nothing I can say will persuade you otherwise. But it make reason stare.

  282. greenfrog says:

    Still not understanding your argument. Lots of people are deprived opportunities for reasons that are not their fault.

    Yes. But you’ve cast your argument in the passive voice. That can confuse things, as I think it does here. “…deprived opportunities…” by whom? I see an important difference between being prevented by physics from doing something and being prevented by other people from doing something. So far as I can tell, gay marriage is not prevented by physics. It is prevented by people.

    God could fix those things if he wanted to. He could heal the little girl who dies, he could cure the sterility, he could do lots of things. He doesn’t.

    I agree that He doesn’t. Whether He could seems to depend on a lot of metaphysics I’m from from certain of.

    So the fact that homosexuality makes it harder for those so afflicted to enjoy the life the church sounels for us is not ipso facto proof that the counsel is wrong.

    I agree. The argument is not “physical condition=license.” Rather, it is the recognition that our actions impose suffering on other people, combined with the lessons from the gospel (and history) that we should not impose such suffering unless causing that suffering is better than the alternative. That’s a horrible decision to have to make — whether to impose suffering on another person for one’s own benefit. And we should be repulsed by it. Still, I’ve had to make that decision in my life on occasion. I expect we all have done so, and will likely have to do so in the future. But I will never make it without clearly seeing (and believing) the necessity of such actions. To do otherwise would, for me, be profoundly immoral. I do not see clearly or believe that gay marriage will cause more harm to our society than prohibiting it does.

    The simple, undeniable fact is that every single commandment affects us all inequally, because we all have different temptations and circumstances. The commandments are still the commandments, however.

    I see them as much more mutable than you do, apparently. Commandments, and the way they are understood, articulated, and applied, seem to me to be inextricably connected to the men and whomen who seek to follow them and enforce others to do so. Because I believe that, I also believe we are morally responsible for the harms that result from our attempts to enforce them. I see the harms clearly. I do not see the reported benefits associated with imposing those harms on my gay brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

  283. Elisabeth says:

    Adam – it’s just as unreasonable to refuse to treat a child because God has allowed her to catch and suffer from a curable disease, as it is unreasonable to continue to persecute homosexuals because of their God-given sexual orientation.

    Um, yeah. What greenfrog said.

  284. In response to those using Sodom and Gomorrah as a biblical example of God destroying a city due to sexuality — look: it does not, in Genesis, explicitly reference sexuality as the cause of Sodom and Gomorrah’s demise. And even if it did, go back and read about how Lot — the only righteous man in Sodom — has a sexual relationship with his daughters. I’m an aatheist and I know more about the Bible than some of you — especially those who use Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of God’s “wrath” against homosexuals.

  285. Adam Greenwood says:

    Greenfrog, Elisabeth,

    As far as I can tell, no one has asked us to persecute homosexuals. The church has asked us to write a letter to our senators about giving a legal stamp of approval to gay relationships. This is a far cry from asking us to kick down our gay neighbor’s door to disrupt their homes.

    The only disability being suffered is the disability of those who think that the Prophets have authority to seal marriages but who don’t think the Prophets have authority to say that gay ‘marriages’ aren’t meant to be sealed.

  286. hurricane says:

    278–

    And if you are convinced that the suffering of the person afflicted with homosexuality is somehow way more senseless and arbitrary than the suffering of the innocents who are maimed and killed and starved and raped and born crippled and born diseased and so on, nothing I can say will persuade you otherwise. But it make reason stare.

    But here’s the thing, actually. I’m homosexual, but I certinaly don’t consider myself afflicted. You do. The LDS Church does. That’s not going to work for me anymore.

  287. hurricane says:

    Sorry, the comment above is directed to Adam Greenwood in post # 282.

  288. Elisabeth says:

    The sealing authority is not at issue here. Civil marriage is the issue. And as such, we should look to the words of this Prophet:

    21 And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly:

    22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?

    23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?

    24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.

    25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.

    26 And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.

  289. Adam Greenwood says:

    Elisabeth,
    lots of God-given diseases are incurable and untreatable. Same with sterility and other things I’ve mentioned. Same with lots of biologically based temptations that people experience to unequal degrees to, and so on. Homosexuality among them.

    Its no more wicked for the church to say to the dying child, you’ll have to wait to be baptized and get married in the next life, than to say the barren womb that the church won’t stop preaching that children are good but that the barrenness will be remedied inthe world to come, than to say to the homosexual that it won’t approve of the behavior he or she is biologically inclined to pursue, but that all will be healed in the hereafter.

    The biological basis of homosexuality does nothing to tell us about whether its moral or desired by God or not. None of the arguments advanced here could fog a mirror.

  290. Elisabeth says:

    Adam, you’re missing my point. My point is not that homosexuality and incurable diseases are fair or unfair (homosexuality is not a disease). My point is that we shouldn’t exacerbate the injustices (biologically or socially derived) that God sees fit to perpetrate upon His children.

    For example, IVF can correct the injustice of a barren womb, and modern antibiotics and medical treatment correct the injustice of children dying from disease. 

  291. Adam Greenwood says:

    Since the issue here, Mssr. Hurricane, is whether the biological basis of homosexuality means that it can’t be wrong, I’ll take your personal affirmation for what its worth in other areas but not accord it a lot of weight here.

  292. Seth R. says:

    Ronan quoting Patrick:

    “Bcc, of all places, shouldn’t get sucked in by these periodic sideshows from a flailing administration.

    Patrick, you get the award for the most sensible comment so far.”

    Yes Ronan, but every blog likes to have a 293 comment thread every once in a while.

    Makes one feel like people care.

  293. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 282 Homosexuality per se is not an affliction at all, as many have testified. Mormonism mixed with homosexuality appears to be quite afflicting, however. Since efforts to eradicate the homosexuality are generally unsuccessful, I agree with Hurricane: the afflicted individual can only be ‘cured’ by eradicating the Mormonism. And that is really sad. This Church needs some kind of Underground Railroad for its gay members.

    re: 290 You’ve fogged my mirror, Greenwood.

  294. This Church needs some kind of Underground Railroad for its gay members.

    Mike, it’s probably no consolation, but I hope some of us can offer you a cyber-raliroad of sorts. Good luck, man. I really pray for the day when the Mormon homosexual can be at ease.

  295. greenfrog says:

    The only disability being suffered is the disability of those who think that the Prophets have authority to seal marriages but who don’t think the Prophets have authority to say that gay ‘marriages’ aren’t meant to be sealed.

    I’m not sure I understand this statement. First, I’m not talking in terms of disabilities — I’m talking about real suffering that occurs when we as a Church or we as the US refuse to countenance same sex marriage — both the suffering that results from symbolic rejection as well as the suffering that results from the legal impediments to committed couples caring for one another (hospital visitation rights, medical benefit provisions, tax filing status, etc.).

    Second, I don’t think we’re discussing at all the question of whether the Church leaders have authority to decide which marriages to seal and which not to seal. That, so far as I understnad the First Amendment, isn’t really a question at all. The question, rather, is whether the US should adopt an amendment to its Constitution preventing same sex marriage from being adopted or permitted by the various states.

    And that is a question of whether to inflict suffering on a particular group for the benefit of persons outside that group.

  296. D. Fletcher says:

    Adam, I just wanted to mention the obvious — SSM, the legal contract now in question, cannot be equated in any way to sealed marriage in the temple. I’m still surprised that the brethren (or God, for that matter) care that people of the same gender who are outside our church community might want to marry each other. And it’s such a small group (unlike the majority that might have been affected by the ERA). Why does the Church care enough to make a statement about it? The Prophets will continue to seal, whom they will — this will not change.

  297. Adam Greenwood says:

    “You’ve fogged my mirror, Greenwood.”

    Thank you, sir. Where there’s life, there’s hope.

  298. Aaron Brown says:

    “… you are convinced that the God in which you believe is a God who for reasons that make no apparent sense allows some of us to be homosexual …”

    “My point is that we shouldn’t exacerbate the injustices (biologically or socially derived) that God sees fit to perpetrate upon His children.”

    I am struck by the following thought: If you are someone who believes that the conditions that befall us in mortal life (of whatever sort) are necessrily “perpetrated” on us intentionally by God, or at least “allowed” to afflict us by God in some sort of knowing and specific way, then I think I see why you feel the need to grapple with the apparent contradiction between a loving God and the evidently cruel trick God has played on those who are homosexual (assuming the Church is right, and God really disapproves of homosexual activity). I still don’t think this is necessarily an ingredient in some slam-dunk argument against the Church’s moral stand, but I do see that it is a difficult issue that doesn’t make a lot of sense theologically.

    But here’s the thing: Theologically, I tend to be skeptical of the notion that God has custom-made every single characteristic of His children; I’m more comfortable with the idea that we inherit whatever biological or environmental cards the genetic lottery deals us, as I think this understanding requires less intellectual gymnastics to rationalize “the meaning of it all,” and is actually more comforting religiously. (I”m sure that puts me out of the mainstream).

    As a result, I don’t get to the dilemma about injusticies perpetrated by God, since I actually doubt he “perpetrates” in the meaningful sense of that word.

    Incidently, it is weird for me to be on the conservative side of this issue (relatively speaking), as I typically am of the “Mormons need to stop being so homophobic” camp. I genuinely have mixed feelings about gay marriage, and do often feel that LDS homosexuals have gotten a very raw deal. I would be open to all sorts of radical, revolutionary understandings in the Church with respect to homosexuality. But I don’t see the moral critique of the Church’s stand to be as airtight as others would have it.

    Aaron B

  299. D. Fletcher says:

    This Church needs some kind of Underground Railroad for its gay members.

    To escape the slavery?

    Sorry for the threadjack in advance.

    Mike, the gay community, such as it is, no more understands my Mormon identity than the Mormon community appreciates my gay identity. I’m both of these, so I guess I don’t fully identify with either.

    But I don’t wish to “escape” the Church, for sure.

  300. Elisabeth says:

    Aaron B, you have identified the conundrum that has plagued me for years. Every week at Church I am told of a loving God who knows my every want and need (last week, I heard a testimony of how prayer moved a stubborn piece of furniture up a flight of stairs). And every week at Church I am also told of a God who is all powerful. If God can help me find my keys, or move a heavy desk up the stairs, then God can surely decide whether I am born gay or Jewish or Mormon (or all three).

  301. hurricane says:

    292–

    Since the issue here, Mssr. Hurricane, is whether the biological basis of homosexuality means that it can’t be wrong, I’ll take your personal affirmation for what its worth in other areas but not accord it a lot of weight here.

    Is that the issue here? Ok.

    FWIW, I’ve never made that argument. Homosexuality is, in my opinion, morally neutral. Homosexual behavior, like heterosexual behavior, can be either moral or immoral. Biology and genetics don’t really come into play as far as I’m concerned.

    You believe the prophets, ancient and modern, have spoken authoritatively and expressed the mind and will of God on the matter of homosexuality. I think their statements have been inspired almost entirely by social and cultural taboo. So fine. We disagree.

    299–

    But I don’t see the moral critique of the Church’s stand to be as airtight as others would have it.

    Fair enough. But neither is the Church’s critique of homosexuality as inherently immoral particularly persuavive or airtight.

  302. Eric Russell says:

    But neither is the Church’s critique of homosexuality as inherently immoral particularly persuavive or airtight.

    Kind of like how the church’s claim that some guy saw God and Jesus Christ isn’t particularly persuasive or airtight either. The church doesn’t forward arguments, hurricane, it simply states what it believes.

  303. Quite right, Eric. But should we legislate for others based on our beliefs?

  304. Eric Russell says:

    It’s a good question Ronan, but my understanding of the last line of the Proclamation seems to suggest yes.

  305. That’s fine, Eric, but I hope that one day (as was the case with polygamy), people don’t legislate against us based on their beliefs.

  306. I received the following chain letter today (actually I started the chain letter). I figured this was the friendliest forum on which I could post it. With minor edits, it could probably be issued as an official statement of MESJ or some other entity. I hope all of us Iron Rod types can agree on these principles.

    (The letter is written partly in jest, and entirely in irony, but I do plan to express myself this week against the repeal of the estate tax to my senators.)

    *******

    Dear friend,

    I am informed that the United States Senate will, the week of June 6, 2006, vote on an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code designed to increase the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few from generation to generation, by permanently repealing the estate tax. I understand that leaving an estate tax in place would be a measure taken to prevent the continued growth of riches among the class already rich.

    The Lord, through His scriptures, has repeatedly set forth the position that “it is not given that one [person] should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin” (D&C 49:20) and “the poor shall be exalted and the rich shall be made low.” (D&C104:16). See also book of Isaiah, the four gospels, and the Book of Mormon.

    In 1875, the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 issued a Proclamation on the Economy, one of the few unanimous declarations/proclamations of those two councils, and which has never been withdrawn.

    That proclamation stated: “One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. . . . If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution of want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the precursor of ruin.” (Emphasis supplied.)

    I join with that expressed hope that measures will be taken to prevent the enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and I hope that fellow LDS voters will also express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.

  307. hurricane says:

    303–

    The church doesn’t forward arguments, hurricane, it simply states what it believes.

    I think we all do that. Of course, the church believes that it speaks for God on this and all things, which makes disagreement complicated, to say the least.

  308. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 300

    You are the most interesting blogger, D. Fletcher. Even though I don’t really understand how you do it, I very much respect people who choose to stay in the Church, obey the LoC, and yet remain honest with themselve and others. Not my scene, but utterly respectable. The people I worry about and pray for are the tortured ones who wind up blowing their brains out on the steps of the chapel. Somebody needs to help them get out before they take such a tragic step.

    That doesn’t seem to be you at all, thankfully. You seem to be on the fence though. OK, you don’t want to leave the Church. Cool. But in other entries you said you’re “waiting, waiting, waiting” for a male eternal companion, who you would marry. Obviously that’s a one-way ticket out of the Church.

    That’s where you lose me. You’re obeying the LoC until you find a husband??! I just don’t understand, but I want to. Are you in Utah?

    Bottom line: I respect you and hope you find your companion. Just don’t stereotype all of us out here in Gayland either. Some of us are awfully darn understanding.

  309. Aaron Brown says:

    “Quite right, Eric. But should we legislate for others based on our beliefs?”

    Oh come on, Ronan. Should we legislate for others based on our beliefs? What other kind of legislation is there?

    Presumably, you’re suggesting that we shouldn’t try to legislate behavior that doesn’t harm third parties, in good libertarian fashion. But whether or not gay marriage would be harmful to society (in whatever way) is the very question that’s being debated.

    Surely you’re not suggesting that when a “belief” has a religious basis, it is by definition out of bounds to try to pass legislation based upon that belief. Why not deny that a secular environmentalist’s pet regulations are out of bounds? His favored legislation is based upon his strongly held “beliefs,” and it would certainly burden third parties. Or is the legislation of his beliefs kosher since those beliefs aren’t “religious”? What if the environmentalist cites scripture to support his goals? Does his legislative agenda only THEN become an inappropriate imposition of “beliefs”?

    Aaron B

  310. D. Fletcher says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Mike. I honestly do wish to stay in the Church, as well as have some companionship of my choosing. I recognize that it’s confusing to many people who wish me to choose one side or the other. But there are a few people, my dearest friends and family, who seem to understand my need to identify as LDS and gay, and these people are encouraging me at every step. They don’t put me in a box, but treat my case as one of an individual making individual choices, as I think all people making choices should be treated. Some of these dearest friends are in the Church, and some are outside it, and some are gay.

    I don’t think of myself as a fence-sitter, but as a wall-breaker. But I’m not so deluded that I don’t know that dissonance will appear from time to time, dissonance in both camps. I have known many gay people who refused to be my friend because I associate myself with the LDS Church. Many — means more than 10.

    If it eventually comes to my excommunication, because I have married an eternal partner in a legal ceremony somewhere in the world, so be it: I don’t believe God really cares (and neither do I). I will continue to go to Church. A funny thought: that will relieve me of Tithing!

    But if I can go to church, and play through that hymn again (“Abide with Me” #166) and hear the quiet weeping of the congregation, and feel their embrace, and know that Jesus has sung along with us, it will be enough for me.

  311. Aaron (310),

    If the environmentalist asks me to support policy X because God wants me to, or the trees demand it, or it makes us feel warm and fuzzy, then no, that argument should not be foisted on others. But if he can show with data that policy X will stall global warming, take money out of the hands of terrorists, etc. etc., then we have an argument worth considering. So far, I haven’t heard many people make an argument against gay marriage that goes much beyond, “God doesn’t want it.” That’s a problem in a society that is supposed to be areligious.

  312. Seth R. says:

    I tow the Church line on homosexual practice.

    Being gay is a challenge for people, I sympathize. But I fully endorse the view that actual homosexual sex should disqualify you for temple recommend and that homosexual marriage should never be permitted within the Church.

    But I also think that being gay is also an opportunity for us all. Neither our Church, nor its members have completely figured out what it truly means to be male (I’m not discussing female sexuality simply because I’m not female and it doesn’t resonate with me). What is the true character of a “man of God?”

    I don’t think the heterosexuals have it completely (or even mostly) figured out. And I think that thoughtful and faithful LDS homosexuals could aid us in defining gender in the Gospel and in life.

    I can’t generalize to all homosexuals, but I think part of homosexuality is symptomatic of a deeper problem with our society’s approach to gender identity. I really think that many homosexuals are partly standing as warnings to all of us that there may be an underlying disfunctionality in our expectations of manhood and general personhood.

    I wish we could get past all of this “do you accept me or not?” sort of debate that has dominated bloggernacle discussion till now. I want to hear new ideas and perspectives on how we can better reclaim our identities as “sons of God.” I think those struggling with homosexuality have new and valid ideas to contribute. I’d like to hear them without the discussion degenerating into an argument over who belongs to the “Mormon club.”

  313. Last Lemming says:

    My point is not that homosexuality and incurable diseases are fair or unfair (homosexuality is not a disease). My point is that we shouldn’t exacerbate the injustices (biologically or socially derived) that God sees fit to perpetrate upon His children.

    For example, IVF can correct the injustice of a barren womb, and modern antibiotics and medical treatment correct the injustice of children dying from disease.

    Some decades down the road, when the biological basis for a homosexual orientation has been identified and found to be correctable, this argument will come back to bite you.

  314. Elisabeth says:

    Last Lemming – no. Let’s be clear. As I said in my comment, homosexuality is not a disease. My comment was in response to Adam Greenwood’s argument that God is not “fair”. As such, some people view homosexuality as being an undesirable (unfair?) characteristic. Be that as it may, whether or not being gay is fair or unfair (certainly, most in the LDS community would say it’s unfair, and should be, as you say, “corrected”. I do not share this view), we as a society shouldn’t deny homosexuals equal protection of the law based on this characteristic, and thus perpetuate more “unfairness”.

    I want to get away from the disease analogy, because, I repeat, homosexuality is not a disease.

  315. D. Fletcher,

    Your last comment made me cry. Thank yoiu for sticking it out with the rest of us.

  316. MikeInWeHo says:

    Re: 311 Thanks for that powerful testimony, D. Anybody who would reject you over your thoughtful stance (gay or LDS) you’re better off without, anyway. Will be interesting to see how many LDS friends you lose when you meet and marry your companion someday. I fear it will be more than ten. It’s easy for them to support you while you’re celibate. My prediction is the merde will really hit the fan, but sure hope I’m wrong. How are you gonig to meet this guy, anyway?

    Active LDS co-bloggers: What do you think will happen to D. Fletcher when he gets married to another man someday?

    D., I suspect we are similar. Your reference to hymn #166 is remarkable. When my partner and I got our various “just in case” paperwork written up (it’s important because we can’t, ahem, get married and some of our assets are in states which don’t recognize CA’s domestic partnerships)…. I had them add an instruction in my will: “Abide With Me” is to be sung at my funeral.

    Just remember, no matter what happens between you and the LDS Church….if the members someday no longer embrace you, if the quiet weeping comes instead from sadness and confusion and loss of community….there are other churches out there where Abide With Me is sung, and where you and your partner will be embraced as just another family. And Jesus sings with them too. It won’t be the same, but it will still be holy.

  317. D Fletcher,

    I have some friends, a couple, that have stuck it out like you. They haven’t been excommunicated but things wax and wane depending on the bishop. Sometimes they hold callings and are fully fellowshipped. Other times they get nothing. But they keep on coming. They are extraordinary men. They choose it simply because they’re gay (something unchangeable) and they want to be Mormon (something changeable that they don’t want to change).

  318. MikeInWeHo says:

    Amri,
    Don’t you find it incongruous that in today’s highly correlated Church (where even the weekly Sunday school lessons are controlled), there’s such variability in how gay members are treated? It basically hinges on the whim of the bishop? I wonder what that means. Disagreement at the top?

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