UPDATED: Sex and Natural Law…AND SSM!

Aristotle taught that everything has a purpose, its “final cause.” Things are moral if, and only if, they serve this final purpose. Adapted by Aquinas, this idea of ethics became Christian “natural law.”

Let’s talk about sex, as natural law theorists inevitably do. If the final cause of sex is reproduction, say the Catholics, then sexual relationships are only moral if they have this end in mind. Thus, for example, contraception is immoral.

What, from a Mormon point of view, is the final cause of sex? And if we can determine this, how might this help define what sexual expressions are moral, and which are immoral?

According to Mormons, sex is for reproduction and to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife. But these are, perhaps, only efficient causes, the means by which one attains the final cause. In this case, the final cause is eternal marriage and increase. Thus anything that detracts from this final cause is immoral. What one reasons to be such a detraction is, of course, open for discussion.

Might natural law be helpful in questions of Mormon ethics? I would tend to think so. To quote the great Nathan B. Oman re: SSM: “It seems to me that any Mormon discussion of same-sex unions should quit mucking around with Sodom and Gomorrah, the Mosiac law, or the New Testament. The real issue is what does one do with sections 131 and 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. These are the sections that link the concept of exaltation with the concept of marriage.”

The church opposes SSM because of what it understands the final cause of sex and marriage — and the road that leads to it — to be. That is where the true debate lies. Demonstrate how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology, and you’d have something interesting. “Mormons are homophobes,” isn’t good enough.

For their part, Mormons need to explain why SSM so gravely undermines the final cause that it requires the intervention of the secular state to stop it.

Comments

  1. My own stab at the issue.

    According to Mormons, sex is for reproduction and to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife. But these are, perhaps, only efficient causes, the means by which one attains the final cause. In this case, the final cause is eternal marriage and increase. Thus anything that detracts from this final cause is immoral.

    What one reasons to be such a detraction is immoral.

  2. Does sex end after menopause? If the only reason for sex is reproduction then we should be getting married younger and then living celibate lives when we are no longer able to procreate. Anything else would be sin.

  3. A.J.
    What about the formulation I gave in comment #1? In this regard, I think Mormon natural law, such as it is, is more coherent than its Catholic counterpart.

  4. StillConfused says:

    I have often wondered why sex outside of marriage is a sin if both parties consent and there is no chance of conception.

  5. StillConfused,

    I have often wondered why sex outside of marriage is a sin if both parties consent and there is no chance of conception.

    From a Mormon point of view, because of what I outline in comment #1. Unless you can argue that fornication does not lead one away from the final Mormon cause: eternal marriage and increase.

  6. Sex is meant by God to be accompanied by commitment sanctified by sacrifice and permanent covenants. Sex outside of marriage is not predicated on such commitment. While sex within marriage is also predicated upon a physical desire for self-gratification, it has additional layers of meaning for the participants, both as individuals and as participants in a family and a society. Sex outside of marriage, for example the sex that many of my undergraduate students spend their weekends seeking, is consensual and lacks much chance of conception, but is completely lacking in the aspects that would make it something constructive in their lives. I can’t think many things more tailor-made for separating people from God and frustrating his noblest plans for them. That is sin.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    The Church handbook not too long ago added the idea that sex wasn’t only for reproduction, but for strengthening the relationship between husband and wife, which was a good move. Thus the Church’s position seems to now match Ronan’s no. 1, which is more coherent than saying sex is solely for reproductive purposes. (Indeed, there were at least some Mormons who understood it the old way and who became celibate within their marriages after the possibility of reproduction had ceased. Not wisdom in my view.)

  8. “What, from a Mormon point of view, is the final cause of sex?”

    The kids not being around.

  9. True that is the LDS belief. Catholics think of marriage as a sacrament. According to my mom, who is Catholic, it is also to strengthen the bond between husband and wife. I have heard that in the early 80’s Bishops would ask husband and wives specifically if they engaged in ,to put it nicely, non-procreative sexual acts. I know ,thankfully, Bishops don’t ask such questions anymore. I think as individuals we have to pray and reason it out ourselves as to what is acceptable to the Lord and what is not.

  10. oops typo that is supposed to read husband and wife. I am not trying to promote polygamy.

  11. STOP PRESS!

    I have RADICALLY updated my original post to clarify my thoughts somewhat and to add a bit of casuistric goodness.

    N.B. Tired, boring SSM comments may not be deleted, but they will earn you my loathing.

  12. Ben Pratt says:

    LOL Ray #8

    Ronan, it seems the next question would concern specific sex acts. How each of us applies it may vary, but I do think the criterion of whether an act leads toward eternal marriage and increase is a good one.

  13. “I do think the criterion of whether an act leads toward eternal marriage and increase is a good one.”

    I don’t.

  14. Ben Pratt says:

    Ray #13, care to elaborate?

    I can imagine scenarios in which an active, sealed, etc. LDS couple decides “non-procreative sexual acts” strengthen their marriage bond. I can also imagine scenarios in which a similar couple decides the opposite.

    In that case, perhaps it isn’t as useful a criterion as I thought, simply because it doesn’t lead to one choice or the other.

  15. I think that sex acts between a married couple should be mutually agreed upon. Once that is established, then the specifics should not be part of the determined by the church or anyone else.

    When I was getting intervies for our temple marriage recommend, the stake president used a line my wife and I still laugh about today. “What you do in your bed is between you and your spouse. As long as you don’t involve a third person, it is fine.”

  16. I have heard that in the early 80’s Bishops would ask husband[s] and wives specifically if they engaged in ,to put it nicely, non-procreative sexual acts.

    Comments like this make one yearn for a hearsay rule in blog commentary. Having served in a bishopric in the early 1980s, and as a bishop before the decade was half over, I think I know what the temple recommend questions were back then. They did not include any questions about “non-procreative sexual acts.” And, the recommend books came with instructions that advised bishops and stake presidencies to ask the questions as printed in the books.

    In addition, I remember a seminary teacher in the 1960s talking about sexual relations in marriage, and blasting the notion that the only purpose for sexual intercourse was to produce children.

    So, where are these anachronistic bishops who ask these ridiculous questions? And, how many of the 30,000 bishops in the church were asking that sort of question? Data, man, DATA!

  17. Sex is the means by which we obtain bodies but sex plays another very important role.

    Within marriage sex is the way we create families which of course become family trees. Outside of marriage sex is the way we cross-link otherwise unrelated family lines. For instance out of wedlock children are now sealed vicariously to their parents.

    Warning; controversy ahead.

    But, depending on your belief it may go beyond this. When does the spirit enter the body? I don’t claim to know but the Bible says that the life of all flesh is blood. Circulation begins in the third week. Interestingly this is about the same time the embryo’s DNA takes over from the mother’s mRNA. So for a working assumption and for the sake of argument let’s assume the spirit enters the body in the third week of pregnancy. So a spirit is assigned to this body before you even know you are pregnant. If this is true you probably have spirit children waiting for you that you don’t know about.

    Consider fornication and adultery in this model. By “sewing our wild seeds” we may actually be creating family ties that are invisible to mortals. Cross-linking families that otherwise would not be connected. In some cases transgressors may actually be doing the Lord’s work in the way Adam and Eve did by disobeying the lesser commandment

    We were once one with God we hope to be one with him again. We are slowly being woven back together into one large interrelated group. Sex is the weaver’s loom.

  18. On the face of it, I think it is silly to say that sex brings a couple together and strengthens their bond without discussing how and/or why this is so. In what way does sex strengthen you as a couple? It has already been argued that pre-marital sex does not strengthen the parties involved, so why does it within the bonds of marriage? What specifically in marriage makes it so much different?
    In Mormonism we talk about this endlessly, but don’t articulate it well.

  19. Howard,
    When we see your name we see “Warning: Controversy ahead.”

  20. Demonstrate how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology, and you’d have something interesting.

    To have a homosexual orientation is what, indeed, detracts from the final cause in Mormon theology. SSM naturally flows from being attracted only to members of the same sex. Yet in Mormon thought, SSM is sin and having homosexual attractions is not.

  21. #14 – Not really, but I will anyway.

    I think “leads toward eternal marriage and increase” is way too subjective to be used as a determination. For example, there are lots of things that could “lead to increase” that I personally don’t think are a good idea, and almost any activity can lead to eternal marriage – depending on broadly how you choose to define that. Ultimately, I don’t want anyone but my wife and I to determine what criteria are good.

    The advice I received from my father works just fine as the general guideline for me. Paraphrased, since it was said to me over 20 years ago:

    “Agency and unity are core principles of the Gospel. As long as there is no coercion of any kind, as long as there is agreement within your marriage, as long as you are completely faithful to each other, nobody has any right to ask you about your sex life.”

  22. StillConfused says:

    Also, what if one person in the marriage withholds sex? Is that a sin? It definitely keeps the couple from progressing together.

  23. The church opposes SSM because of what it understands the final cause of sex and marriage — and the road that leads to it — to be. That is where the true debate lies. Demonstrate how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology, and you’d have something interesting. “Mormons are homophobes,” isn’t good enough.

    Exactly right. Our opposition to SSM and our contention that homosexual relationships are sinful are often painted as being based on reactionary homophobia and/or old Biblical traditions. I get the sense that some people, even some members, think that all it would take for the Church to change its stance on homosexuality would be for us to get with the modern program and see how loving and beautiful homosexual relationships can be or to choose one Biblical interpretation over another. But the truth is we would have to abandon and/or modify some pretty fundamental teachings about exhaltation and eternal increase before we could condone homosexual relationships.

  24. Oooh fun!

    OK. Srsly.

    Being a heretic, I don’t really care one way or another what the Church’s own position is or the justification for it. That’s up to each individual religious body to decide.They can come to that decision any way they see fit.

    How do you translate this into public policy in a pluralistic democracy?

  25. “How might this help define what sex acts are moral, and which are immoral?”

    “The church opposes SSM because of what it understands the final cause of sex and marriage — and the road that leads to it — to be.”

    I spent a lot of time trying to write this precisely and carefully.

    I think we need to separate sex and marriage in this type of discussion. Creating an eternal marriage does not depend on sex, and it does not require sex to become a “Celestial couple”. Celestial marriage and eternal increase might be synonymous in Mormon theology in the afterlife, but such a marriage and having kids in this life are not. A couple could be unable to engage in full sexual activity and still create a perfectly unified, “celestial marriage” in this life – just as a couple could have an active sex life and produce the same type of “celestial marriage” but not be able to have kids.

    I also think in order to justify a ban on homosexual marriage, it is critical to disallow not only sexual intercourse (as it is understood by the general public) but also the “like unto it” activities that are included in the term “sexual relations”. If all that is prohibited is narrowly-defined intercourse itself, essentially all homosexual activity would be allowed.

    This is a tricky issue to address comprehensively and consistently, but it’s worth exploring intently. There isn’t much that is more fundamental to our theology than this.

    (I also would add that there is no reason to assert as indisputable doctrine that sex itself, as we understand and practice it here in mortality, continues in the eternities. Howard, I know you disagree, but we simply don’t know with any degree of certainty how spirits are created to be certain one way or another.)

  26. Ben Pratt says:

    Thanks, Ray #21.

    I didn’t articulate this very well, but something very much like your father’s advice was what I had in mind earlier.

    For clarification, I took “eternal marriage and increase” to mean the state of a couple who were sealed in mortality, kept their covenants, and died. Thus whatever acts or avoidance of acts a couple uses to increase unity would be progress toward this state.

  27. Tom,

    What do you think of this formulation?

    Mormons believe that heterosexual eternal marriage is God’s “final cause” for mankind. Given that nature has decreed that homosexuals cannot, in this life, move meaningfully towards that goal, SSM, for gays, does not substantively detract from the final cause and is thus not immoral.

    I wonder if pro-SSM Mormons are articulating such a view. Does it work?

  28. Ronan,
    I’ve seen things to that effect from, I think Christian Cardall and/or a ZD lady. I don’t know if we have any precedent for that kind of position where a biological condition exempts one from a prohibition in mortality. I think that would be new.

  29. One could come up with arguments against that position based on the idea that our character and attitudes in the next life depend on our choices and experiences in this life. So it would be wrong to indulge in intimate homosexual relationships in this life because it would make one less likely to form an intimate, celestial, heterosexual bond in the next life. I’m not sure that’s an unassailable position but it is defensible.

  30. StillConfused; what if one person in the marriage withholds sex? Is that a sin?
    Withholding can be as self defeating as sinning. We are commanded to multiply which means we are commanded by God to have sex. We are dependent on our partner to gain exaltation; it cannot be done without them. When sex is habitually withheld it can interfere with intimacy and worse, it may leave our partner open to temptation resulting in the breakdown of the marriage and divorce.

  31. So it would be wrong to indulge in intimate homosexual relationships in this life because it would make one less likely to form an intimate, celestial, heterosexual bond in the next life.

    It has also been argued that participation in a committed same-sex marriage is good preparation for forming an intimate celestial bond in the next life.

  32. Matt Jacobsen says:

    RE 28 and biological conditions exempting one from a prohibition, here are a few exemptions that are kosher LDS, though not exactly along the same lines as SSM:

    – a woman whose life is threatened by an unborn child is no longer prohibited from getting an abortion

    – someone having various medical procedures is no longer prohibited from using certain drugs

    – someone defending themselves in a life-threatening situation is no longer prohibited from killing another person

    – a man with a skin condition can get a beard card at BYU :)

  33. Steven,
    I don’t think that’s an argument either side could really win.

  34. re 32
    Are you saying that possibly, those with genetic components (if that could be determined) toward SSA would be exempt from laws regarding heterosexual relationships/marriage?

    I didn’t understand your comment.

  35. This is the foundation of my assumptions and experience:

    Sex is a natural by-product of a healthy, committed, trusting, and loving relationship. A couple expresses the depth of their feelings and trust for each other through their natural sexual drives. To short-change this in some way is to go against a healthy approach to sexuality, resulting in personal and social shame (i.e. “she is such a slut”, “something must be wrong with me, since my spouse won’t have sex with me”, “I cannot stay with my spouse since they are cheating on me, leaving me feeling worthless and used”).

    The church defines the “committed” part as being marriage. This make sense to me on many levels, one of which being that since sex can accidently or intentionally lead to children, who are best raised by parents in a healthy and committed relationship, as demonstrated through considerable historical time of nature in action.

    On a personal level, I reserve judgement on same sex relationships. I have many friends (8+), both male and female, who define themselves as being homosexual, who express longing for companionship and who of course have natural sex drives.

    For me, the thought of personally being in a homosexual relationship is repulsive and something I want no part of, but obviously my friends who define themselves as being homosexual don’t feel the same way. I personally don’t judge them, and still value my friendships with them.

    In essence, the only person I ultimately need to worry about and have any real control over is myself. I of course worry about my children and spouse, but really can only express my own wants and needs, which can take the form of requests and guidance.

    In other words, I find the whole topic of SSM to be rather moot for myself, but wanted to chime in anyways.

  36. “I think we need to separate sex and marriage in #25 “I think we need to separate sex and marriage in this type of discussion. Creating an eternal marriage does not depend on sex, and it does not require sex to become a “Celestial couple”. Celestial marriage and eternal increase might be synonymous in Mormon theology in the afterlife, but such a marriage and having kids in this life are not. A couple could be unable to engage in full sexual activity and still create a perfectly unified, “celestial marriage” in this life – just as a couple could have an active sex life and produce the same type of “celestial marriage” but not be able to have kids.”

    I disagree with this statement. We could argue the same thing with other abnormalities with different results. Take blindness , certainly someone so afflicted can have a productive and fullfilling life. They make the best of their circumstances, which is the most productive course, but no one would argue that having sight would not drastically improve/round out the human experience. I think sex and marriage are very related, and just like other eternal trusts, they are subject to abuse.

  37. #24 – That is the real issue. SSM in the domain of religion should rightly be defined by the religions, and in the religious domain I support the Church(s) efforts. I have a hard time seeing how a legal argument can be made for public policy restricting SSM that is not tied directly to religious ideals.

  38. StillConfused says:

    If the point is obtaining celestial marriage, does it matter if you engage in sexual intercourse before or after a civil marriage? What if your spouse is not LDS and so celestial marriage is not in the cards for you?

  39. #16 Mark,

    I was asked if I “handled [my] wife in an experimental way”. I was floored and answered of course not! Maybe I did, I should have asked for more clarification on what was experimental.

    Presumable “experimental” techniques are the ones used for marital bonding rather than reproduction.

    I have wondered if there were test sets of questions given to various stakes to see what sort of questions were useful. The church does this, starting pilot programs, to see what the effect will be before full implementation.

    —-
    I just remarried, have had a prostetectomy, We are well past the age of bearing children. Still like sex. We are definitely bonding. We are in love.

    How are we different from any SSM? In love, sex as bonding, not able to have children.

    We look forward to an eternal marriage. Is it love and commitment that makes marriages eternal? If it is christian love (agape) and commitment, then what are the limits of marriage? What happens if SSM couples really want children but defer having them because of social opprobrium.

    —–

    What happens if heterosexual couples do “experimental” thing. Let us assume that the HSM couple do the very same things that the SSM couple does for sexual relief. Because they are HSM they can pass muster?

    There is just a lot of homophobia. A huge lot. For myself, who am quite tolerant, it is really hard to see two guys kissing…. What about some 80 year old GA?

  40. re 38
    Whether the Old and New Testaments actually forbid pre-marital sex is perhaps debatable. Regardless, modern church leaders certainly prohibit it.

    But in terms of the premise in this thread, it has been argued by some in the world that a “trial run” can certainly help form the foundation of a successful marriage. If the final cause is a celestial bond in the afterlife, would not pre-marital sex help contribute to that ultimate goal?

  41. it is really hard to see two guys kissing…. What about some 80 year old GA?

    That would be a beautiful thing! :-)

  42. mmiles, 18: five out of five stars!

  43. I can imagine scenarios in which an active, sealed, etc. LDS couple decides “non-procreative sexual acts” strengthen their marriage bond. I can also imagine scenarios in which a similar couple decides the opposite.

    In my mind, perhaps the process of making these kinds of decisions as a couple is part of the process of creating an eternal marriage. I think that a key element of marriage is learning to work together in harmony and to seek God’s inspiration and guidance in all facets of life. Yes, even including this one.

    If the point is obtaining celestial marriage, does it matter if you engage in sexual intercourse before or after a civil marriage? What if your spouse is not LDS and so celestial marriage is not in the cards for you?

    Our leaders have said do all you can do toward the end of eternal life. The law of chastity is something required for eternal life. Even if one is not married in the temple at the moment, the law of chastity is still binding for membership in the Church and for companionship of the Holy Ghost. Keeping one’s self pure is important even when a marriage is not (or not yet) a temple marriage.

    BTW, this is a good post.

  44. #36 – “I think sex and marriage are very related, and just like other eternal trusts, they are subject to abuse.”

    I certainly agree with that. I don’t follow how #36 expressed disagreement with #25. Are you saying that a couple who cannot have sex cannot have a celestial marriage?

  45. I agree with #18. If sex strengthens marriage, then we ought to articulate why and how. Although I believe that we have cultural assumptions that healthy marriages involve sex, I, too, would be curious to understand precisely what we value as “healthy” sex and why. Sometimes, I feel that the over-emphasis we place on sex in marriage can also lead to weakened relationships when people struggle to achieve models of “healthy” sex.

    “The church opposes SSM because of what it understands the final cause of sex and marriage — and the road that leads to it — to be. That is where the true debate lies. Demonstrate how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology, and you’d have something interesting. “Mormons are homophobes,” isn’t good enough.”

    I don’t know quite how to phrase this comment, but if homosexuals are not going to have a heterosexual marriage here on earth, and are therefore outside the procreative marriage paradigm, do homosexual relationships really detract from their eternal marriage prospects? Are we assuming that they will marry in heaven? It seems like this logic is only convincing if we assume that homosexuals will ultimately be “normalized” into procreative eternal marriage, unless their are other inherent reasons to avoid same-sex sex.

  46. I agree with #18. If sex strengthens marriage, then we ought to articulate why and how. Although I believe that we have cultural assumptions that healthy marriages involve sex, I, too, would be curious to understand precisely what we value as “healthy” sex and why. Sometimes, I feel that the over-emphasis we place on sex in marriage can also lead to weakened relationships when people struggle to achieve models of “healthy” sex.

    “The church opposes SSM because of what it understands the final cause of sex and marriage — and the road that leads to it — to be. That is where the true debate lies. Demonstrate how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology, and you’d have something interesting. “Mormons are homophobes,” isn’t good enough.”

    I don’t know quite how to phrase this comment, but if homosexuals are not going to have a heterosexual marriage here on earth, and are therefore outside the procreative marriage paradigm, do homosexual relationships really detract from their eternal marriage prospects? Are we assuming that they will marry in heaven? It seems like this logic is only convincing if we assume that homosexuals will ultimately be “normalized” into procreative eternal marriage, unless their are other inherent reasons to avoid same-sex sex.

  47. #25 Ray: we simply don’t know with any degree of certainty how spirits are created to be certain one way or another.
    I agree, we don’t know.

    But we do have scripture that equates temporal with spiritual and visa versa. Created in the likeness of, etc. So when it comes to parsing the unknown of how spirits are created my money is on some form of sex in the likeness of mortal sex.

  48. Based on the title, I was hoping to learn how sex had been UPDATED.

    Rats.

  49. #18

    Hormones released during sex are a root cause of bonding. Oxytocin, serotonin, etc. Anyway, shared pleasure, shared experience causes bonding.

    The day after a night of pleasure is a joy, also.

    This is powerful stuff and I can see the reason for restrictions. Did you see the movie, “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner”?

  50. Mark B. (16):

    See here for a discussion of non-procreative sexual acts and temple recommends. The rule wasn’t in place long, partly because bishops were not keen to ask about the details of members’ sex lives.

  51. “According to Mormons, sex is for reproduction and to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife. But these are, perhaps, only efficient causes, the means by which one attains the final cause. In this case, the final cause is eternal marriage and increase.”

    This is a pretty good description of LDS thought on this topic. In my own personal experience every person who has ever told me that they only believe in sex for procreation is either divorced or having marital trouble.

  52. StillConfused says:

    I often wonder what if chastity was defined not as having sex outside of marriage but rather eating meals with someone other than one’s spouse. I wonder how dynamics would change (not just in reference to the term drive thru).

  53. BobW-
    Sure, but then why not bond and share pleasure with everyone? That’s what the free love movement was about. That isn’t good enough–why should sexual pleasure and sexual joy be reserved for marriage to bring us closer together?
    It becomes even more problematic if you look at our history. It seems to be that JS polyandry would support more of an open ideal if we are just talking about closeness and bonding and living in harmony.

    I am just not convinced that as great as the biology of sex is, hormones and all, that a couple can’t grow into a ‘celestially’ close relationship without sex, where in some relationships sex is impossible.

    It seems to me we have developed a dogma that sex is to bring us closer together, perhaps overcome earlier dogma that sex was only to procreate. It may bring us closer together, but is that a main pupose of sex? or a fortunate biproduct that left humans wanting to reproduce?

    It might be if Mormons could embrace evolutionary biology, they could better embrace the realities of reproduction, sexual pleasure and that sex, in mortal form–is to make more humans. All sexual activity at a biological level would ultimately lead to producing children. Sexual pleasure of two people of the same gender does not lead to reproduction. I am not saying sexual pleasure is not biological in homosexual activity, but it is not the norm for any species actively choose to engage in homosexual activity over heterosexual activity.

    Because the religious right (including Mormons) most often both reject evolution and reject SSM, it leaves them in quandary.

  54. #44

    Ray: I am a little leery of the term “Celestial Marriage” in that context, and outside of it’s current application to the Temple marriage ordinance. Obviously those who possess physical handicaps which impede sexual intimacy are not barred from recieving the Temple ordinances or the promise of a perfect glorified body in the resurrection. To me anything pre-fixed “Celestial” must encompass all of the Temple ramifications associated with the term, ie the promises extended to those continue faithfull.

    I am saying that the fact that we have examples of people who are unable to function sexually, and yet make the best of the situation still, by forming strong marriages, does not demonstrate that sexuality therefore is not an integral component to the intended function of marriage. I don’t want to overapply/misapply scriptural language here, but I would argue that those who cannot have sex are unfortunately missing a “fullness” of what marriage was intended to be.

  55. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 20
    You’re correct, and that’s why the position taken by the Catholic church is more coherent. Rome realizes that the ‘accept the sinner, not the sin’ position taken by the LDS and many other conservative Christians is inherently problematic. The current LDS position is like saying to a south-paw: “It’s OK to be a Leftie as long as you only write with your right hand.” Huh?

    The Vatican (with no small irony) describes homosexuals as “intrinsically disordered” even if they are completely chaste. Before he became Il Papa in Prada, Cardinal Ratzinger spelled this all out. See especially Section 3.

  56. Ray:

    Having now re-read post #25, I have misunderstood you. I read that we need seperate sex and marriage, and then put the blinders on to the rest of your comment. Sorry, another case of shoot first and ask questions later.

  57. #54 – I don’t disagree with that cowboy – except the following:

    “To me anything pre-fixed “Celestial” must encompass all of the Temple ramifications associated with the term, ie the promises extended to those continue faithful.”

    Children are part of the “ramifications” associated with the Celestial Kingdom, but I can’t agree that those who can have sex but no kids have a lower level marriage than those who can have kids. I think we are getting caught in a disagreement over the term “Celestial Marriage”.

    I am talking about a marriage that would qualify the couple to inherit the Celestial Kingdom together as one. For that, I think both sex and kids are desirable, but I don’t think either is necessary. Do you disagree with that?

    Also, I’m not convinced that “sex” (as we know it) is necessary in the next life – that it’s not just the way to create kids here in this one. I understand the arguments for that stance, but I don’t think they are anywhere near conclusive – and I believe that ambiguity has important implications for any discussion like this.

    If we disagree, we disagree. I certainly am not going to stake my eternal reward on it.

  58. #56 – and I was typing my response without the benefit of reading your comment. Ah, the joys of this type of communication.

  59. #55 – “The Vatican (with no small irony) describes homosexuals as “intrinsically disordered” even if they are completely chaste.”

    Mike, how do you see this as different (in description and implication) from the current Mormon position?

  60. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 59
    Ray,
    The current Mormon position opens a vast space between same-sex orientation and same-sex physical relationships. A chaste gay person, while perhaps not merry, can be a good Mormon. Would the Brethren ever describe as “intrinsically disordered” a gay Mormon perfectly living the Law of Chastity? On the contrary, I suspect.

    The Catholic position narrows the moral distance between orientation and behavior considerably. Under current policy, for example, the Vatican expels chaste gays from the seminary even if they are following the same rules as everybody else. Why? Because they are inflicted with a “moral disorder.”

    It’s a fairly subtle difference, but since we’re having a discussion about Natural Law it seemed appropriate to look at the Catholic approach.

  61. Thus anything that detracts from this final cause is immoral.

    In response to this, and stepping outside of the discussion of homosexuality here, I ask the following question:

    If a Mormon marries outside the temple and has sex with her spouse, is she therefore immoral even if she has kids and participates in sex to maintain feelings of unity with her spouse?

  62. #60 – Got it, Mike. I thought that was the case, but I didn’t understand how they used the terminology. Thanks.

  63. mmiles, 53:

    …we have developed a dogma that sex is to bring us closer together…but is that a main pupose of sex? or a fortunate biproduct that left humans wanting to reproduce?

    It might be if Mormons could embrace evolutionary biology, they could better embrace the realities of reproduction, sexual pleasure and that sex, in mortal form–is to make more humans. All sexual activity at a biological level would ultimately lead to producing children. Sexual pleasure of two people of the same gender does not lead to reproduction. I am not saying sexual pleasure is not biological in homosexual activity, but it is not the norm for any species actively choose to engage in homosexual activity over heterosexual activity.

    I’m not the expert here (calling StevenP!), but I think an argument can be made that sex evolved for the purpose of bringing individuals closer together. Many species, including many vertebrates, reproduce in a way that humans would not consider sexual: female trout drops some eggs in a furrow, male trout sprays them with sperm—hardly any romance there! Even in species where there is intercourse, it is often very brief and without any ‘foreplay’ (yes, I see the obvious jokes here); e.g., mice.

    So the evolutionary sexologist has to ask, “Why do some species take so long to do it?” The answer, I imagine, is to bring the two individuals together, and in the case of monogamous species, to strengthen the pair bond.

    As for homosexuality in the animal kingdom, StevenP recently wrote something about that on his blog. The important point:

    “it’s not individual survival that counts, but genes. … a helping sibling that doesn’t breed can be a huge evolutionary advantage to a genetic line, … lots of animal species some forgo their reproductive opportunities for the betterment of their genes

    So why do those gay animals still have sex? Is there an evolutionary benefit?

  64. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 63
    Interesting questions, BrianJ. They’ve been the subject of endless speculation and controversy, as you might imagine.

    Don’t take Orson Scott Card’s colorful rambling on the subject as gospel truth, however. Sometimes you can’t tell if he’s commenting on a social issue or giving us the next installment of the Ender’s series. (Must…resist…temptation to compare OSC to L.Ron Hubbard….)

  65. Whoa, Mike! Let’s be clear that I do not “take Orson Scott Card’s colorful rambling on the subject as gospel truth.” Not in the least!

  66. MikeInWeHo says:

    Well, that’s good. But unfortunately plenty of Latter-day Saints view him as authoritative just because he’s a member. His recent pseudo-scientific commentary is revolting (and Empire sucked).

  67. Token Average Member says:

    Minerva asked the question I had in mind: I have been married to the same man for 42 years but do not expect it ever to become a temple marriage. One of our daughters is determined to seal us after death, but I am not sure that either of us would accept it. Does that put me in the same moral status as someone in a SSM?

  68. BrianJ,
    I think you make a good point. I suppose that if both men and women feel a bond as oxytocin is released, then growing together in such a way would make their family more sustainable. People that are attached to their mates are more likely to stick around and raise their offspring–which would be an evolutionary plus, a better outcome for the offspring, especially if they are their own offspring. This all supports the family as central. So it hinders the argument for SSM.
    I don’t know about animals, I’m no expert, so I won’t go there.

  69. Also, what if one person in the marriage withholds sex? Is that a sin?

    If it’s not, it sure should be. And grounds for excommunication.

    Ray:

    Creating an eternal marriage does not depend on sex, and it does not require sex to become a “Celestial couple”. Celestial marriage and eternal increase might be synonymous in Mormon theology in the afterlife, but such a marriage and having kids in this life are not. A couple could be unable to engage in full sexual activity and still create a perfectly unified, “celestial marriage” in this life – just as a couple could have an active sex life and produce the same type of “celestial marriage” but not be able to have kids.

    I’m not so sure. I think there’s something fundamental about sex and a close spousal relationship necessary for any kind of “perfectly unified ‘celestial marrriage'”. I think it’s a required element.

  70. I’ve been thinking more about this post, maybe it really does not make sense to doctrinally take a firm position on gay marriage until we have more revelation about eternal marriage and gender. Until we understand the bigger picture better, and how everyone fits into the eternal scheme, I feel that pretty much any argument we make is based on speculations and assumptions.

  71. I feel that pretty much any argument we make is based on speculations and assumptions.

    Natalie–you heretic!! Are you trying to bring the bloggernacle to a grinding halt?!!

  72. Re #15 and the hearsay objection regarding such a question being asked of couples during temple recommend interviews.
    I and my wife can testify given our personal knowledge of such a question being asked of us by a bishop in the Midwest during the early 80’s. I guess we were too shocked by the specifics of the question, it dealing with a very particular form of non-productive sex, to respond in any way other than “ahhh. We’ll stop.” The more we thought about it afterwards, the more we thought what right did he have to ask that question….

    So yes, the question was asked of us and if asked of us, had to have been asked of others….

    Sam K.

  73. thank for a circumspect discussion of the church’s stance on SSM. the best thread i’ve found today in the bloggernacle approaching the complexity of an issue that elder ballard asked us so cal residents to take up so stridently…

  74. paul f, are you a friend of john f?

    Returning to the point of my post, if I may, I still submit that Mormon proponents of SSM need to show how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology.

    For their part, SSM-banning Mormons need to explain, in Mormon language, why SSM so gravely undermines the final cause that the secular state must disallow it.

  75. Howard #30 (or anyone else), please elaborate:

    We are dependent on our partner to gain exaltation

  76. nasamomdele says:

    Ronan,

    I don’t think that SSM necessarily undermines the final cause so that the secular state must disallow it.

    Frankly, LDS only need to state their stance on marriage as being divinely appointed to be between man and woman. That is inarguably a pillar of our faith and there is an opportunity to put that in a constitution.

    It isn’t that it has to be there, it is simply an exercise of our freedom to put something we believe in there as other states have done. Why not?

    Our way of life would not cease if the prop did not go through and neither would SSMers’ if it did go through.

  77. Ronan, 74: are you looking for an argument that shows that SSM of a gay couple does/doesn’t detract from the “final cause” for heterosexual couples or for the gays so coupled?

  78. MCQ, re: #69

    What if, after raising the number of children they deemed appropriate for their family and thus fulfilling to the best of their ability the command to multiply and replenish, both husband and wife mutually agreed to abstain from further sexual relations. Could the couple then be equally as unified as a more ambitious couple and have equal claim on the celestial kingdom?

  79. “Returning to the point of my post, if I may, I still submit that Mormon proponents of SSM need to show how SSM does not detract from the final cause of sex and marriage in Mormon theology.”

    At the risk of stating the obvious . . . . The current position of the church is that gays and lesbians in most cases should not enter into different-gender marriages. That position itself detracts from the final cause of marriage in Mormon theology. So, given the current policy, what would best help gays and lesbians prepare for their future, next-life Celestial marriages? What would help move them toward the final cause, the experience of a life-long committed same-sex marital relationship or life-long celibacy?

    Is the gender of the partner the critical factor or are the relationship dynamics involved in marriage what best prepare us for exaltation? I cannot see where gender would really make that much difference.

  80. nasamomdele says:

    #79,

    Is the gender of the partner the critical factor or are the relationship dynamics involved in marriage what best prepare us for exaltation?

    Both.

    I cannot see where gender would really make that much difference.

    The proclamation disagrees with you.

  81. “The proclamation disagrees with you.”

    You’ve got my attention. Please elaborate. Or shall we simply let The Proclamation function as a discussion-killer.

  82. Ronan,
    You seem to have something very specific in mind that you yourself have thought of. Pray do tell, what is it?

  83. Anonymous (this time) says:

    mmiles, (Re: 18) As for how sex strengthens a marriage, I can only speak as a guy.

    When my wife consents to sex, she is in a way validating our relationship. She is saying she still likes me even though I forgot to do something that was important to her. And, in fact, that she likes me enough that she can get turned on. She can say she loves me but sex makes it more credible. Talk is cheap. And that positive reinforcement strengthens our marriage even in the face of the turbulence of real life.

    The opposite is true. When she withholds sex she is saying I have been doing a lousy job as a husband. I can intellectually know that she is really just tired, or under the influence of antidepressants, but it doesn’t change how I feel, which is that she doesn’t love me anymore.

    For some reason, that validation does not work the same way in premarital sex. Prior to marriage, sex was more about the pleasure.

    I’m sure sex in marriage is different for women, but not being a woman I can’t tell you how.

  84. 75 Jim,
    Re: We are dependent on our partner to gain exaltation
    Elder Russell M. Nelson explains: Salvation and Exaltation

    In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter.

    Eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift. Conditions of this gift have been established by the Lord, who said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

    No man in this Church can obtain the highest degree of celestial glory without a worthy woman who is sealed to him. This temple ordinance enables eventual exaltation for both of them.

  85. nasamomdele says:

    Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

  86. Flake: “In sum, I subscribe to the sentiments of KJV John that in the next world “there are many mansions” or habitations for the resurrected soul – with emphasis not only on the “many,” but also the “mansions.” …Everybody is resurrected to various degrees of glory; their differences measured by the Pauline comparison of sun to moon to stars and all stages of light between. The assignment of a habitation is based not directly on what we’ve done, but what we want. Or, more accurately, final judgment is based upon what we have become through the choices we have made. At the moment of judgment, we will have no choice but to be what we most genuinely are.”

    Perhaps because we have many mansions to go to in the hereafter, not everyone is asked to function or to do things in the same way. Perhaps Adam and Eve were told to multiply and replenish the earth because that was how the earth would come to be peopled. I’m not trying to say that SSA means that someone is in anyway lower than or less than another person, as that is not at all what I believe. Just that maybe each of us have different roles to play and parts to fulfill in the universe and that we will all fit perfectly with where we belong in forever. In Mormon theology we are told that to be in the third degree of the Celestial Kingdom we would be able to continue God’s work… however, maybe some people will not want to do that or have not been called to do that in this life (or the next). Maybe some with SSA were not necessarily called to reproduce in this life because it was not their “final cause”. And maybe for some it is. I don’t know. This is not to say that homosexuals do not want children or have that desire, as I know many who do just like many heterosexuals do. Additionally I know many heterosexuals who do not want any children in this life although they are happily married (even LDS) and certainly engage in sex for bonding. Its just that we are taught that everyone will have a mansion to go to, and thus if the LDS theology is correct that only the third degree is where creation can occur and yet we will all be happy where we end up– then is marriage and perpetual increase truly the final goal?

    Sorry so long and potentially unclear. Not a very good writer.

  87. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

    Given that gender is an essential characteristic of mortality, and not considering the special cases where individuals are of undetermined gender, are intersexed or transgendered, then I would agree that the gender of one’s spouse does matter. And in the case of gays or lesbians who desire to build relationships patterned upon the order of heaven, and work toward fulfilling the “final cause” in Mormon doctrine, same-sex marriages are the most appropriate paradigm, due to their attraction to those of the same sex. It would be inappropriate for gays and lesbians to enter into opposite-sex marriages given their sexual orientation in mortality.

    Simply living a celibate existence does little to serve the final purpose of marriage and family. SSM may not be the ideal situation, but it is the most logical approximation of the “final cause,” and certainly the best choice for individuals who are sexually attracted to those of the same sex.

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.

    This is all the more reason to encourage gays and lesbians to form relationships that are built upon a foundation of marital fidelity, honor and dignity, and raise their children within the bonds of matrimony. Again, it does not conform perfectly to the ideal laid out in the proclamation, but it is the closest situation that can be reasonably expected for gays and lesbians. After all, the Proclamation itself teaches us, “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

  88. MikeInWeHo says:

    I suppose that is a bit of a loophole in the Proclamation, if one chooses to look at it that way.

  89. GatoraAdeMomma says:

    1. I was asked those “questions” in the TR interview in the 1980s by the bishop who apologized for asking but said it was a directive from the Stake President. I did not go back for another interview for more than 5 years b/c it was so embarrassing. I finally asked my husband (I was pretty young then and even to embarrassed to ask MY HUSBAND…now I can’t imagine that I didn’t.) My DH states HE was NOT asked those type of questions.

    2. In the early 1990s in a different stake the Stake Pres held us hostage in a Sunday School meeting for all adults–married or of a certain age–and told us what was not appropriate in very specific terms in what amounted to a very public meeting. People were incensed and for years I felt his intrusion into our bedroom.

    3. Where in the NT does it state to avoid SS relationships? Maybe to avoid the unnatural affections, but that is also true–or even more true– of child molesters, etc.

    4. Since marriage is like Baptism required, why do we not have an account of our Savior married? I always wondered about that.

    5. I have known of SSA individuals who married a HSA person and it was very unfair to hte HSA spouse and cheated him/her of a normal healthy sexual relationships.
    Eventually the SSA person could not keep up the appearances of being normal and left.

    6. I believe we have to be careful when we judge and label others. We do want to know what someone’s orientation is b/c it helps us know how to relate to them. We won’t try to set cousin Bev up with our friend Ken if we know he not attracted to women. We have neighbors who are two ladies who “live together.” We suspect they are in a committed relationship. They are great neighbors, but I don’t want to know what they do or don’t do together when they shut the door any more than the “married couple” in the other house near us. For all we know these two ladies are together for economic convenience and b/c they aren’t the most attractive women in the world, maybe they never had / or felt they had a real stab at getting married to a man and moved on with their lives.

    7. What is the statistic, about 1 in 10 has the SSA orientation? In general society is not comfortable with folks outside the norms. What gets my husband who is considerably less tolerant, or I should say is intolerant of SSA relationships is he can’t stand the public display of affection by almost anyone.

  90. Howard- re:84

    I understand and agree with the doctrine regarding temple sealing as requirement for the celestial kingdom. This is a bit off topic from the original post, but I am interested in expounding upon this concept.

    Do you believe the ordinance itself is sufficient “qualification” for this blessing? If not, what else is required?

  91. Jim,
    When I earned my pilots license more experienced pilots quipped that I was now licensed to learn. Ordinances to me are similar, they are simply door openers.

    Exaltation is the highest level of the highest degree of glory; it is living in the presence of the Father. We not only have to become Christ-like, we must become Gods.

  92. Howard,

    If you are willing to take this discussion offline, please contact me at jima at atlconnect dot com

  93. This all shows why we should never be Aristotlieans. (Sorry Ben, if you’re reading)

  94. i’m not acquainted with john f, but wouldn’t be opposed to being his friend:)

    i too see few good arguments that show SSM hinders ‘final cause’ of HSM.

    the argument most consistently set forth in the broadcast from elder ballard and elder cook was that SSM would allow the government to normalize SSM in the schools. this would then intensify the teaching to children from HSM’s that SSM marriage is a viable option for them and possibly even encourage it.

    in this way, perhaps, SSM might alter children’s perceptions and desires and ultimately lead them to a entering a SSM when older and therefore forfeiting their ability to enter into a temple sanctioned HSM marriage. this would be a hinderance to the ‘final cause’ of HSM.

    this argument is not extremely compelling for me personally, but it was a theme mentioned several times in the southern california broadcast…

  95. nasamomdele says:

    #87,

    I don’t see how SSM approximates to gender as an eternal purpose and marriage between a man and a woman.

    It’s like saying that 2+2=22. In a roundabout way, it works, but it goes against the “fundamental law” that guides the equation. It’s denying the math for the sake of being correct on a test in a twisted way.

  96. Paulf,
    I’ve mulled the same idea. Would the recognition of SSM by the state ultimately make it so incredibly difficult for children, the rising generation, that it would be as if they could not choose correctly? Would the state sanctioning of SSM make it so children are no longer able to discern between right and wrong concerning marriage and the family, thus making the point of this life null and void?

  97. @mmiles: Pardon my lack of citations. I recently read a study in which 56% of women reported having a same gender fantasy at one time or another. Can’t remember what the stat was for men but it was lower.

    In another study, self described lesbians, bisexuals and unlableds (love that catagory) were observed and questioned over the course of 2 yrs. In the end, 1/4 of those who described themselves as lesbians had sought out and had sexual contact with men.

    From what I can gather in my novice research, many who study this topic identify a higher level of plasticity and fluidity in female sexuality.

    Perhaps this sheds a little more light on your question?

  98. Unrelated to my last comment: I think it is extremely important to remember in any discussion of homosexuality that after years of rigorous research the most updated 2008 APA brochure on the topic asserts the following in relation to questions about SSA causation:

    “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

    The twin studies are extremely weak that would otherwise support a genetic component.

    In contrast the old 1998 brochure read “There is considerable recent evidence to suggest that biology, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors, play a significant role in a person’s sexuality.”

    And that seems to be the line of thinking in several of the posts I’ve read in this thread (yes I am to lazy to cut and paste them all) as well as the political underpinnings of support of SSM or theories for special alternative eternity plan of salvations.

  99. Laura,
    I don’t think that addresses my question at all. I’m not at all concerned if genetics has any baring on it. The question is what is so gravely terrible about SSM that we shouldn’t allow it. Whether or not it has a biological component is irrelevant if it is “gravely” dangerous, no?

  100. @mmiles: 97 is in answer to your question, 98 is in regards to assumptions made by various posters throughout the thread. It seems you are responding to 98?

  101. TO clarify,

    Mmiles you said

    “Would the recognition of SSM by the state ultimately make it so incredibly difficult for children, the rising generation, that it would be as if they could not choose correctly? Would the state sanctioning of SSM make it so children are no longer able to discern between right and wrong concerning marriage and the family, thus making the point of this life null and void?”

    I hope my post (97) highlights that because there seems to be quite a bit of plasticity when it comes to female sexuality, it may be a factor that may contribute to the unfortunate scenario you propose in your question more probable.

  102. @Steven B #87: Given your line of thinking, perhaps we should also give all of the single women in the Church the option to marry each other as well — as their marriages to one another would be preferable to single hood if they want to more fully progress. I know this isn’t what your suggesting but to me it sure seems to follow from the argument you’ve made for an LDS embrace of SSM.

    If the Church took such a position, hypothetical faithful LDS couples with SSA who took your proposed route would not have any children at their time of marriage and could not have them (through various alternative means) without consciously choosing to deny such children a mother in the case of gay couples or a father in the case of lesbian couples. And to allow such as a Church, we would essentially be saying that adults being able to act in the role of a spouse and parent for a time is more important to progression than a child being sealed unto exaltation with its parents. To me that seems quite problematic and backwards.

    I must admit, I am terribly biased and sometimes get emotional when I read this kind of take on what we should encourage those with SSA to do. I can’t disclose my whole experience and journey with SSA to ultimately being able to genuinely partake in a temple marriage in a blog but I can say I am a grateful a benefactor of the Church’s current position and I am aware of others who have been equally benefited in its stance for us to seek the doctrinally acceptable familial ideal as opposed to alternatives.

  103. StillConfused says:

    I like #102’s idea. I am not lesbian in the least, but an LDS wife sounds much better to me than an LDS husband right now.

  104. #16.
    Not just apocryphal.
    Sorry.
    Such a practice was alive and well in Arizona. A bishop, told me [in the early 90s] specific acts not permitted in marriage, and said that he did so in all of his temple recommend interviews.

    A relative of mine was asked very specific questions, but she responded by asking the bishop to clarify, and embarrassed him so much that the questions went away. But, I might add, not before they had caused some conflict in her marriage.

  105. Reading the comments of this thread only bolsters my opinion that those who ask the temple recommend questions should do all they can to stick to the recommend questions as they are written.

  106. Seems this thread has kinda died.

    Ronan I very much appreciated the content of your post

    thanks

  107. After scanning approximately one hundred comments on this topic, I want to congratulate the participants on their respect for differing viewpoints and their ability to express thenselves in uplifting language.
    I also noted that one nees a “sense of humor” to appreciate some of the comments. Congratulations again.

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