Families, Eternal and Otherwise

[Two Mormon Elders stand adjacent to a popular thoroughfare, attempting to catch the attention of passersby. On a table next to them are displayed various samples of Church-produced art, most of which depict either families or images of the Savior’s ministry. At the center of the display is a framed copy of “The Family: A Proclamation.” A man approaches, his attention visibly piqued. Elder Q reaches for a copy of the Book of Mormon, while Elder P gears up to speak with man.]

Elder P: Good afternoon. Have you got a minute for a quick message?

Paul: Sure, I think I can spare a minute or so. You guys Baptists?

Elder P
: Actually we’re missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You probably know us better as Mormons. My name is Elder P and this is my companion, Elder K. [Extends his hand]

Paul: [Shakes hands with both Elders] I’m Paul.

Elder P: Today we’re just handing out some free literature with information about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and sharing a special message about families. You a family man, Paul?

Paul
: You might say that, yeah. Married ten years. Anniversary next week. Here [produces an iphone with illuminated screen], these are my kids. Kelly is almost 8, and Matt and Adam, the twins, just turned 3.

Elder Q: That’s a beautiful family. I have a twin brother too. He’s a missionary in Poland.

Elder P: Actually Paul, our message is particularly important for families. Can I ask you a question?

Paul: Sure.

Elder P
: Do you ever feel like the world is not the most friendly place for families, for your family?

Paul: Well, honestly, we’re very happy and feel pretty secure most of the time, but, sure, there are times when it feels like there are forces in the world that aren’t exactly helping, you know what I mean?

Elder P
: I think we all feel that sometimes.

Paul: I mean, I didn’t ever feel it before starting a family of my own, but now that we have kids, it’s pretty hard to miss sometimes.

Elder P: Are you a religious man?

Paul: Sort of. I was raised Catholic, but gradually drifted away from that as I grew older. My parents still give me a hard time because we never had the kids baptized.

Elder P: How would you like to learn how you and your family can be together, as a family, forever? For all eternity.

Paul: That’s an interesting question. I guess I just always thought that would be the case anyway, assuming there actually is some kind of eternity, some afterlife.

Elder P: That’s the core of our message. That there is an afterlife, there is an eternity. God is our father, our real, actual father who loves us and wants us to be like Him. Through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can not only return to our Father, but our family bonds will be in place forever. We can progress eternally, as families. And it’s all possible through the Gospel, as restored through this man, Joseph Smith.

[A brief discussion of Joseph Smith’s story follows, along with a cursory explanation of the Great Apostasy, the Book of Mormon, modern revelation, and temple worship]

Paul: So what exactly happens in these temples then?

Elder P
: Well we consider the temple to be very sacred, and we don’t talk about the details of what happens inside when we’re outside the temple. But the most important thing is that once you have made certain promises to God—promises to live your life a certain way and to obey His laws—you and your family can participate in a ceremony that will seal you together for time and eternity. I know it might sound a little weird, but I want you to know that I know the power to do this is real, this ceremony really does seal us together. I know that I will be together with my family forever. Both the family I come from and the family I still hope to start after I’m done being a missionary.

Paul: I have to confess, when I first walked up I was more just curious than seriously interested in what you had to say You seem like nice, very sincere, and dedicated young men and I admire the work you’re doing. But it was still mostly just a mild curiosity. But I’ve also been thinking about some of these questions recently. Not so much about the Church in the New Testament or truth being lost or anything like that, but about families and about how family life might be a part of the afterlife. I think it’s very cool, and very interesting that you Mormons don’t just care about being with families in the afterlife, but that you make being a part of a family a key part of what it means to find salvation. And I have to say that I have found it very moving to listen to you describe it. It stirred something inside me. This is going to sound weird, but I kind of feel like I’ve been waiting for this. I don’t pray, I haven’t since I was a kid. But I do sometimes just silently talk to myself, almost as if there is a God listening. I feel like, if he is there, if he did hear me, then he might have sent me to you. Listen, I have to go, but I would really like to talk with you more, and I would especially like for my family to hear this message. Would you guys be willing to come to my house sometime and talk more?

Elder P: Absolutely. We’ll come anytime. Just tell us when and where. [Hands him a copy of the Book of Mormon and the Proclamation on the Family] Take these with you and read through them, particularly this Proclamation. Talk about it with your family and then we can answer any questions you have. I want you to know that what you felt when we were talking here, that was the Holy Ghost. It was God testifying to you that what you suspect is true. He did send you to us. We do pray, and we have been praying for to find someone like you, someone prepared to hear this amazing message. I felt it too, and it’s a powerful feeling. Remember it and trust it. I testify to you that your family can be together forever, through the power of the restored priesthood and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Paul
: Wow. Thank you.

Elder P
: Can we come sometime this week?

Paul: Yeah, any evening is fine. Can we feed you?

Elder P: That would be great. How about tomorrow, 6:00?

Paul: Sounds great. Just a warning, though. Brian—my husband—is much more skeptical about religion than I am, so he might be a harder sell. Still, he’s pretty open-minded so he should be willing to at least listen.

Elder P: Your husband?

[An awkward pause]

Paul: Is that a problem?

Comments

  1. Oh snap!

  2. Saw this one coming from paragraph one.

  3. #2: Ha, I saw it coming from the TITLE! :)

    In all seriousness, Brad, this is an important scenario to consider. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  4. Yeah, hard not to see this one coming. Still, sometimes things need saying, regardless of how obvious they should be intuitively.

  5. Latter-day Guy says:

    Hehehe… There were elders where I served who had very similar experiences –– just one of the perks of serving in what President Packer called “the One True Mission.”

  6. I can only assume that’s Amsterdam, LDG.

  7. Oh no! What an awkward situation that would be! Gosh, I sure hope Heavenly Father hurries up and tells us that homosexuality is the awesome and that homosexual acts are no longer immoral and stuff. Wow that’ll be so cool! Can’t wait… Oh, and all those people who have chosen the adultery lifestyle and wish to do so openly and stuff. Yeah, God should hurry and be cool with adultery too to avoid making people feel bad about their behavior and keep the Church from bullying them and kicking them out. Oh, and obviously to avoid any awkward situations between missionaries and adulterers similar to what you described.

    \sarc

  8. Yes, T. You’ve nailed it. The point of this post is the awkwardness of the interaction and my secret agenda is to prevent such awkwardness. And since you’ve pointed out what should have been the obvious, perfect parallel to adultery (I mean, you could like totally write the exact same exchange but substitute the gay lifestyle with the adultery lifestyle…brilliant), I feel really sheepish for even having posted it in the first place.

  9. Then what was your agenda for writing and posting such a thing?

  10. Yes, it was easy to figure out where this was going; but it’s so well done that I was glad to be along for the ride. :-)

  11. Then what was your agenda for writing and posting such a thing?

    Well, among other things, I had hoped to try and provoke the kind of thoughtful, nuanced discussion of which your participation here is so emblematic.

  12. Hey, T, Brad had just, like, totally agreed with your awesome analysis. Now it’s your turn to explain what was your agenda for writing and posting your comment.

  13. Latter-day Guy says:

    Nope. It was stateside.

    7, And while we’re waiting to receive that revelation, T, we can all be grateful that no divine communication is required to reveal that you’re an ass.

  14. The Elders should cancel, and say ” We are sorry, but we have nothing to offer your family”(?)

  15. …followed by “oh, and that thing I said about your family being together forever, I was wrong about that. I mean, it’s true that families can be together forever. I still stand by that testimony. But, just to be perfectly clear, your family cannot be together forever.”

  16. MikeInWeHo says:

    Even though we could all see it coming, this post still raises a good point: There are many families out there right now that don’t fit the LDS mold. They’re real, and they’re not going away. Their kids are doing just as well as yours. Many would like to be friends with a family like yours, because you have a lot in common.

    So what’s a Mormon to do? One hint: Comparing the family next door to adulterers (or drug addicts, or whatever) is not a good place to start.

    Check out the comedy Modern Family on ABC. It captures the reality of contemporary American life very well, and it’s hysterical to boot:

  17. …or maybe “well, the first step toward having an eternal family is breaking up the family you currently have. Can we still come for dinner?”

  18. Re- The Adultery scenario- in the Philippines, it is currently illegal/not possible to get a divorce and extremely expensive to get an annulment. We commonly taught families with seven children who had been together for 20 years who were not married due to not previously being divorced. The practice of the church when I was there was to allow baptism but not allow temple attendance. Supposedly this was one reason Elder Oaks went over there, so I am not sure things are still the same.

    Anyway, T’s comment wasn’t that far off the wall as a response to this post. We should all listen to Jon Stewart and bring it down a notch.

  19. Matt,
    T’s comment was off, not because it is unimaginable that adultery is a problem that missionaries deal with in working with investigators, but because it is a problem that is wholly unlike, both in nature and potential solutions, the problem depicted in the post.

    In Russia, fwiw, there were also legal/economic impediments to many committed couples getting married. The rule there was that if they had been together for X number of years (7, if I recall correctly) it was deemed a common law marriage and they were able to get baptized and go to the temple to be sealed. That typically involved couples who simply hadn’t formally been married, rather than couples whose individual members were still technically legally married to somebody else. I blogged about one particular scenario from my own experience.

  20. I enjoyed the piece, but I’m disappointed by the discussion so far. Now that we’ve all established that we were all clever enough to anticipate the twist ending, what happens next? Surely, this gay man as depicted is sincere in his quest for happiness and his desire to do the right thing. How do you even begin to tell someone that the cost of salvation includes divorcing your spouse?

  21. Let me also suggest that the fact that you can see this coming from a mile away is, in itself, probably quite telling.

  22. Peter LLC says:

    How do you even begin to tell someone that the cost of salvation includes divorcing your spouse?

    You think about the testimony-building frenzy of the last zone conference, mutter “just gotta be bold like Prez said” under your breath and just blurt it out.

  23. never had an experience like this. i don’t envy the missionaries who have/do/will.

    for what it may or may not be worth, the experience i did have (in brazil) went something like this:

    i and elder x are walking back to the appartment after a long day.

    two men approach.

    ‘hey. elders.’

    we stop.

    they tell us that they are members, that they were baptized by past elders so and so.

    ‘do you know them?’

    we don’t.

    ‘well you should come by sometime for a discussion. the discussions we used to have with elders so and so were orgasmic. you know what orgasmic means, right?’

    we stand there stupified.

    they giggle.

    we walk away.

  24. In order for a contact to go as outlined, it must have happened before prop 8. I have a hard time imagining a gay man (or lesbian woman) not know who the Mormons are and the Mormon position on homosexuality in a post prop 8 world.

    Still, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with going to the house and giving a lesson on the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. Invite the family to pray and gain a testimony of the Book and follow the spirit from there.

  25. Fletch,
    You’re right that such an interaction would probably have to take place in a context that didn’t include an awareness of Prop 8. But part of what I tried to highlight is that lessons on the BoM or the history of the restoration are not enough. They are not the core of why this investigator is interested in Mormonism and they are not the end to which Mormonism directs us. Everything the Church does is designed to funnel people into sealing rooms, as families, and to bring others into the orbits created therein. When the basic message we have for this man is that his family is not eligible for our brand of eternal family salvation, interesting conversation about the Book of Mormon is pretty cold comfort.

  26. #23: “…follow the spirit from there”. To where?

  27. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    First thing that came to mind is the stories Dad still sometimes tells about his mission in Central America 1977-79. If, pre-1978, they met a black family they were encouraged to give them an uplifting message but not to continue with the discussions unless they felt strongly inspired to do otherwise. He never liked doing so because he felt there were plenty of families of “African descent” who would benefit from Church membership even in the face of not being able to participate fully.

  28. Ron Madson says:

    I have been reading Emmanuel Swedenborg’s “Heaven and Hell” where in his multiple visions there is extensive detailed discussion as to continuing associations after death–all very naturally.
    I have been thinking about the whole eternal relationships issue for some time.
    So what exactly does it mean to “be together forever”? Or to put it another way, let’s assume someone is not “worthy” as we define or even God define’s worthy to “be together” do we have “shoo-off” those of our children we have grown to love despite their sins or are there zillions of angels that do that when they get near. Do we get to hug them when they ache for acceptance and not rejection–but hey they are the ones that were defective or drank the wrong kind of caffeine.
    Not to thread-jack but exactly what does it mean to be together or rather NOT together with another intelligence?
    I personally like Swedenborg’s take as compared to our binary approach of you are either “together forever” or not?

  29. MikeInWeHo says:

    This is an interesting post. It raises the question: As more and more families in society don’t fit the LDS mold, how can Mormons interact with them in positive ways?

    One hint: Comparing the gay family next door to adulterers (or alcoholics, or pick-your-sinful-inclination) is not a good starting point. There is no basis for charity or friendship there. The belief that these families must of necessity be dissolved for God to be obeyed is, as you can imagine, a bit problematic from their perspective. It’s no different than an Evangelical telling you that your Mormonism must be renounced in order for you to be saved. How does that make you feel?

  30. Mike, the big secret is that most Mormon families don’t fit the mold either. Fewer than 20% of Mormon adults live in families composed of mother, father, and children at home. If you add temple marriage as a requirement, the percentage drops even more. Thinking and speaking more inclusively would be like universal design in architecture–we might think we were doing it for someone else, some minority “other”, but it would end up benefiting everyone sooner or later.

  31. This is probably a poor analogy, and feel free to correct me where I am wrong.

    Could we take this conversation and have it with a black man before 1978? “Well, right now, you can’t be sealed to your family. But, you can still read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of its truthfulness.”

    In a purely hypothetical world, were this man to give up relations with his husband, he and his family could be baptized and receive more ordinances than a black member could pre 1978.

    But yes. I see the problem. We channel people into the church with a idea of eternal families, but some families don’t qualify for that blessing.

  32. Ron,
    Those are great questions. I think answering the question “what does it mean for a family _not_ to be together forever?” is the most pressing task for anyone who wishes to take Mormon familial theology seriously on its own terms. Probably something of a threadjack here, but how about I promise a post (almost completely written already!) on it soon. :)

  33. Brad (#20): Let me also suggest that the fact that you can see this coming from a mile away is, in itself, probably quite telling.

    What do you think it tells us? That people have Brad’s opinions pegged?

    Maybe it tells us this: Mormonism ain’t for everybody.

    (Lest you object, I point to the fact that active Mormons account for about 0.1% of the population of the earth. If God really wants everyone on earth to be an active Mormon there are 99.9% of humans left to convert. If we keep growing at the pace of 0.1% per 180 years getting to 100% is a long, long way off. Thus we can conclude that in the present Mormonism ain’t for everyone.)

  34. So which easily-pegged opinion of mine does this post illustrate, Geoff? That, in its current form, Mormonism is not for everybody?

  35. Ron Madson says:

    #31 Brad, 10/4—look forward to it very much.
    I will just say (and no more along these lines) that this topic is very personal to me. It started when I was a counselor to two mission presidents and over year interviewed hundreds of “difficult” baptismal candidates who had these very poignant questions—including those with SSA. I had so many bury their heads and sob, aching to want to be accepted, included—it was all about relationships and being a part and not being cast out–I think we need to think more deeply to find a way to express the inclusiveness that the pure love of Christ that I know He feels for them to the point of wanting to embrace them and not cast them off doctrinally like we do..or worse invalidate their relationships–and I am not primarily talking about SSA–

  36. #30: How do you know the ‘husband’ will not get the kids?

  37. While T’s rhetorical style is ineffective, his underlying point is legitimate. This post highlights the difficulty the Church has in dealing with homosexuals, but does it also imply that the Church should sanction homosexual marriage? If so, is the Church’s understanding of the law of chastity wrong? If so, what is the correct understanding of the law of chastity? Our answers to these questions can influence our feelings about proselytizing homosexuals as well as our own standing in the Church.

  38. Probably more likely to actually see this scenario outside the U.S. At this point, I think there’s just too much baggage at this point with Prop 8 and other issues.

    It seems like a similar dynamic to what I perceive as the racial baggage over the priesthood ban inside vs outside the U.S. Maybe that perception isn’t quite accurate, so don’t flog me over it too hard if I’m off there…

    Still, makes for an interesting thought exercise. Thanks, Brad.

  39. Bob,

    I am not suggesting they separate. Just give up relations. Isn’t that where the sin is? Not in the attraction, but in the action?

  40. Brad,
    I hesitate to speak for Geoff, but I’m guessing that is widely assumed about the ‘nacle that you believe the church’s current approach to homosexuality is wrong-headed (as the post amply demonstrates). So that might be the opinion in question. Let’s all stop baiting one another, shall we?

    Note: I also think the church’s current stance is wrong-headed and I eagerly await a possibly never forthcoming corrective revelation. In the meantime, I muddle through, doing my best to be a good Mormon. I think that I am in a majority here (at least in the muddling through part).

  41. #38 – “Just” give up relations within an otherwise healthy marriage relationship (whether you approve or not). So simple.

    It’s a wonder they aren’t banging our doors down trying to jump in the font.

  42. Kristine, that’s a fascinating stat, please provide a source for it, as I’d love to dig into it, if for nothing else, the next talk I give at church.

    MikeinWeHo- I think this hearkens back to the previous gay post regarding Orthodox Jews. Orthodox Jews and Mormons have in common a belief that homosexuality is a sin (Jews going so far as to put it in a category of “It is better to die than…” while Mormons don’t nail down our laws that specifically.) Yet Orthodox Jews aren’t actively proselyting the gay community, while Mormons are proselyting everyone. In the Mormon and Orthodox Jew mindset, homosexuality is in the same strata and of the same nature as adultery, which is loosely speaking “sexual sin”. You brought up the Mormon/Evangelical Divide and I think that is a good comparison. It has taken thirty years of dialog to get the LDS and the Evangelical Community communicating on better terms, and we aren’t anywhere close to being on great terms. I don’t think either side is going to mass convert to the other ever. And I think our work with them is mostly on the scholastic level, and rarely involves church leaders. How do we positively work towards that with the Gay Community and the LDS Community? I think efforts are underway, but sadly the Gay Community has the same decentralized problem the Evangelical Community has, so it is difficult to pick out the movement leaders and engage in discussion.

  43. Sometimes when I post here, I wish I had some great excuse like “English is my second language”. Apologies all around for the poor grammar and spelling.

  44. John C – Do you also eagerly await a new revelation to change the Church’s stance on adultery? I mean, don’t those who choose to live an adulterous lifestyle deserve the same blessings and consequences of their actions as those who obey God’s laws?

    Bottom line, the “gay rights” issue is not the 21st century civil rights issue that Satan wants you to believe it is. Immoral acts are still and will always be immoral acts. Trying to hurry God up to accept and bless wickedness is a perilous activity. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  45. John C,
    Are you saying that merely writing a post which suggests that gay families might want to be together forever in the Mormon heaven but are kept from it—in other words, articulating self evident, obvious facts—bespeaks disapproval of the Church’s current approach to these questions?

  46. T (#43)– I recommend you give up the adultery analogy. It doesn’t work largely because it requires a betrayal of marriage vows/covenants. If you need an analogy maybe fornication would work better for you. That’s because most Americans don’t really consider sex out of wedlock a sin these days.

  47. T, I do not have any answers about whether God would ultimately sanction homosexual relationships (and I don’t have a compelling feeling on it either way…way beyond my pay grade so to speak), but there are countless gay couples and families out there living as much an “unadulterous lifestyle” as a lot of happy Mormon families.

    Whether anyone approves or not, this paradigm will continue to emerge, and it presents some interesting questions for us to consider in relation to our own understanding of eternal families.

    There are countless numbers of people living “adulterous lifestyles,” both hetero and homosexual in nature. Your inability to comprehend the nature of the issue Brad has presented is obvious, and you are foot stomping a point that wasn’t part of where I think Brad was going. There are a lot of interesting implications to consider in this issue, and I think you’re missing them.

  48. While the post raises the theological and policy questions regarding homosexuality, I think the more interesting question it raises is how we as Latter-day Saints, who believe the gospel is for everyone, approach those whose lives do not conform with our present understanding of the gospel.

    The analogy to persons of African descent, pre-1978, is an apt one, I think. Do we really want missionaries telling people that “we” or “the church” have nothing to offer someone? Or do we really believe that the gospel can bless people’s lives, even if they never end up conforming to our understanding of gospel laws or joining the church? My hope is that the answer is “yes, we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people-regardless of race, sexuality, and nationality.”

  49. The adultery analogy also fails because adulterers can repent and fix their problem in this life, according to Mormon doctrine. They can fly to Vegas and fix it tonight, ferhellssake. I can’t believe this even has to be said.

  50. Kristine (#48),

    Adulterers flying to Vegas to get married would just compound the problem. Then they would be bigamists too.

  51. Another analogy, which probably occurs quite frequently already, is the same conversation with a man who invites the missionaries over for a discussion with his wives (in a country or society that recognizes polygyny). Once the missionaries start proselyting near the Himalayas, that might also run into a woman who invites the missionaries over for a discussion with her husbands.

  52. DavidH (#51) – The church already has an answer for that. The men are required to divorce all but one wife. The LDS church has become so afraid (ashamed?) of it’s past history of plural marriage that it is unwilling to condone plural marriage in countries where it is accepted and legal.

  53. #31 Brad, I look forward to that post as well. I think we try to understand families together (or not together) forever according to our understanding of what families are here in mortality. To quote a very wise man, I don’t think together forever means what we think it means.

  54. Aaron Brooks says:

    Wow. I, for one, did not see the end of the story coming. This post has really made me think.

  55. Do we really want missionaries telling people that “we” or “the church” have nothing to offer someone? Or do we really believe that the gospel can bless people’s lives, even if they never end up conforming to our understanding of gospel laws or joining the church? My hope is that the answer is “yes, we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people-regardless of race, sexuality, and nationality.”

    I completely agree. And for me its the subtle difference between Salvation and Exaltation.

    Salvation = Absolvment of all sins, being made clean and pure through the atoning blood of Christ.

    Exaltation = Being raised to the highest glory, part of an eternal family unit, to become a Creator of worlds.

    Even Gospel Principles and countless talks equate these two thoughts, that IMO are not equal. Salvation is a prerequisite for Exaltation, but not all who are saved will (necessarily) become exalted.

    I think the Mormon understanding of Salvation can and should be taught to all people. We are all sinners, and can all be cleaned. There are different glories, but all of happiness.

    As Kristine says in comment 29, very few percentagewise fit the mold of what we ideallize as Mormon. But I think the church has more to offer than what we currently emphasize as the only path to happiness.

  56. I used to have a related situation happen to me every other week when I served my mission in Brazil.

    Where I was in Brazil, a legal, secular marriage license cost about a month’s wages, and took weeks to secure. If you wanted it to happen faster, you could bribe the courthouse with even more money to have it happen in days. As far as we knew, there wasn’t a “common law” marriage scenario (there may have been but no one in the mission, president included, was privy to it).

    This was usually too much of a financial burden on the people that they almost *never* got “legally and lawfully” married. If they did, it was usually after they had been together 10-15 years or so, saving money.
    If they felt like they had to get “officially” married in the beginning of the relationship, it was a church-only wedding, with no legal standing.

    I probably told literally dozens of couples that they couldn’t get baptized until they were legally married. “We want to be baptized and sealed.” “You have to get legally married. Sorry.”

    I can imagine that it would be *more* difficult to not have the “easy” solution of “just spend your life savings to married.”

  57. Yes, this post has interesting implications. But you’re all missing them. As for me and my house, we understand Brad to be illustrating how it’s time to pack up the kids and move to some podunk small town in Idaho, where, as member missionaries, we are unlikely to run into homosexual people posing theological question designed to trick us, and make us doubt the Everlasting, Unchanging Gospel, and make us feel empathy instead of the dogmatic religious certainty that God prefers. I, for one, care enormously about my children and future grandchildren and I don’t want them exposed to these people and their irksome questions. If our new digs in podunkville won’t protect us forever, we’ll move into our bomb shelter.

  58. 58 – here here. Aaron B, always the voice of reason. Let me know of any lots for sale in Podunkville; the Wasatch Front is already getting too scandalous and evil for my taste.

  59. #58
    I live in one of the smallest podunk towns in Idaho you could hope to find, and I can assure you that we have families here struggling with these issues, and that we do it with about the same varying levels of acceptance/struggle/ love/hate as the people commenting here. Maybe you’ll have to go off planet.

  60. That’s how I felt when I met Don Corleone while out tracting one afternoon. He was so excited about his family and its eternal possibilities.

    How heartbreaking for him to discover that his family was not included. And how unfortunate for my companion, who was garrotted in the driveway outside the Corleone house.

    Of course, that Corleone bunch reacted much more violently than the “He” family, which my new companion and I met a few days later. When they learned that despite their nobility they couldn’t be an eternal family they just sat there stunned. Inert, I’d say.

  61. John Mansfield says:

    “Fewer than 20% of Mormon adults live in families composed of mother, father, and children at home.”—Kristine #30

    The uninteresting fact that some adults are young and others are old, leaving only a portion that are middle-aged would account for a lot in such a calculation, but the empty-nesters and widows and younger people who haven’t yet married and had kids are a pretty conventional part of the Church.

  62. Damn it, Jones! Looks like we’ll have to head straight to the shelter then.

    Is there nowhere on Earth where I and my family can go and be free of neighbors with hostile values? My values aren’t just sacred — they are extremely fragile. They must be protected from the marketplace of moral ideas!

  63. Ron Madson says:

    #58-60
    That is why Kolob aka the Exalted /Celestial Planet exists for. Once and for all we will find peace when we can free ourselves of all intelligences/people who ruin our peace and tranquility including those defective family members with their troublesome behaviors

  64. I think the most interesting dynamic in the comments so far is the idea that merely writing this particular post, which asserts or points out nothing remotely controversial or disputable and articulates the Mormon doctrine of eternal families in a highly sympathetic manner, in itself is taken as evidence of disapproval of the Church.

    Though I guess, as the Prop 8 comments suggest, the idea of an open, “practicing” gay man being genuinely and sincerely interested in what Mormonism has to offer is probably a bit jarring, if not altogether far fetched. I suspect that the occasional Prop 8 style move will continue to keep prospective Pauls sufficiently at arms length to prevent situations like the one depicted in the OP, with all concomitant messy questions, from happening too often.

  65. booyah!

  66. I’m thinking alternative families like the Cullens will also be left out with their blasphemous, cold, sparkling bodies and sorry excuse for counterfeit eternal unions.

    But they could end up in Idaho…

  67. Way to stay classy, Mark B. An exceptionally insightful, thoughtful, and apt comparison.

  68. Mark Brown says:

    Well, so far we have compared committed homosexual couples to adulterers, alcoholics, and mafiosi. We haven’t hit rock bottom yet, people, let’s keep trying! Child molesters, anyone?

  69. Perhaps the Preach My Gospel discussion concerning the Plan of Salvation will, in the future, be more like Choose your own Adventure.

    Is investigator Heterosexual? Then, a.
    Homosexual? Then, b.

    LESSON B
    Focuses on their eternal goal/vocation as being a celibate angel who is Saved in perhaps the 2nd degree of the Celestial Kingdom, as in D&C 132:17.

    Scriptures on Celibacy would be emphasized, such as Matthew 19:12 (saying “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.”) , and some of Paul’s teachings on the holiness of Celibacy.

    The ordinances of the temple, such as the endowment, will be available to them, just not the ordinance of Eternal Covenant Marriage, which is reserved for those called to the vocation of Godhood.

    We will see a ‘caste’ system developed in our doctrine. The Angel Caste are those unable to be heterosexually married. The Godhood caste are all the rest. Both will be presented as honorable and noble goals.

  70. All I meant to suggest was that the word “family” is elastic enough to use all sorts of organizations, social or chemical. I suppose I should have used a more neutral example, such as a corporate organizations that include parent companies and sister corporations and, at least in some non-English languages, “child companies.”

    The Corleone’s could have been simple olive oil importers, after all.

  71. It seems to me that (at least in the short term) the gospel will bring a great deal of pain to Paul’s family. Given that, wouldn’t it be better to share the gospel with him in the next life?

  72. “Is there nowhere on Earth where I and my family can go and be free of neighbors with hostile values?”

    Try the Taliban controlled areas in Afghanistan or Pakistan. (Just keep quiet about your religious affiliation.) Alternatively, I hear that North Korea keeps a lid on hostile values as well.

  73. You’re not a wartime blog commenter, Mark B., never were. Pops had Genco, look what I got.

  74. gst, FTW.

  75. Kristine: I have that book. (I love Tim Heaton). Can you tell me where in the book to look? I am skimming through it, and can’t find the stat you reference. (I am seriously interested.)

  76. You’re still missing the point, Mark B. The Corleone family can repent of its sins and be together forever. The sin that prevents Paul from being together forever with his family is having the family he does. The family itself is its own obstacle to together-foreverness. You’re not saying to Michael Corleone “your family cannot be together forever, period.” That’s exactly what we’re saying to Paul. The best we’re willing to say to him is “you can be together forever with your family, but first you have to break up your current family, divorce your husband, repent of said marriage, cultivate a sufficient remorse and Godly sorrow for the love you once felt for him, marry a woman and make a new family or commit to a life of celibacy, trust that the Lord will work things out for your current kids (who must endure a life marked by the consequences of divorce) in the world to come, and take comfort at the hope that in the next life you can find eternal companionship and all the blessings of exaltation in a relationship which you currently find not only unappealing but positively repulsive. Take courage and remember: families can be together forever.”

  77. Yeah, FWIW, did not see the twist coming, either. But I usually don’t, anyway.

    In any event, a very thought provoking post.

  78. the current discussion aside, just curious what you all understand the concept of ‘eternal families’ to mean… is that me and my folks? me and my kids? me and my spouse? all of us carrying on but able to hang out? or is it whatever we choose it to be at any given time… ie, I can go have dinner with my parents as a child, then I can enjoy a wonderful time with my wife, then we can put our kids to bed? and what about my wife’s family – will they be there too?

    I find these questions a bit disturbing because its one thing to say ‘be together with your family forever’, but my definitions of my family will differ from my spouses, etc I suspect. I like to believe she’d choose me, but maybe she’d rather hang out with her parents and siblings all the time.

    It would be nice to get some clarification on this at GC… maybe its best if we don’t have any insight though

  79. Ron Madson says:

    #79–Great questions! Brad said he would address this in another post, but I think we have to address what it means to “be together as a family”?? We need to wrestle with these questions to lay a foundation for further revelation. Frankly, I do not wait or look to those administering to find such answers. I search almost daily. Swedenborg had twenty years of personal revelations on that very topic. I am even going to see the movie “Hereafter” not that I will find a definitive answer I suppose but I grasp at everything—and so in our relatively immature faith (I am not saying “immature” derogatorily but only two hundred years so far) we have to wrestle with these things/ engage as Brad is forcing us to do—as the world forces us to do everyday. THis is healthy IMO and necessary for a “true and living” church. So the search continues and your questions are foundational and must be addressed as JS started to with DC 76, etc (from which I believe he probably borrowed or was prompted by Swedenborg)–“we believe all things””

  80. me-

    The Scriptures say: “And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”

    So technically, if any two people both adhered to the rules of being together forever, they would be together forever, and with everyone else.

  81. “The LDS church has become so afraid (ashamed?) of it’s past history of plural marriage that it is unwilling to condone plural marriage in countries where it is accepted and legal.”

    53, why wield the attack stick? It’s not like the church is run by a bunch of opportunistic unprincipled people who just roll with the best strategy that works, regardless. An important part of priesthood authority really is to have the key to the knowledge of God. Which means they can act for and discern what God wants the church to do. Many of us have individual experiences and confirmations which moves this from the believe/hope to “know” category. We’re not just a “do good” club with spiritual overtones.

    Could it be in the example you cite, the church actually believes there is a time and place for polygamy and it is 100% up to the Lord to make that known? And absent the Lord making it known, multiple wives are a non-starter? Where’s the nuance from the worlds leading nuancers?

  82. Here’s a foretaste of the coming post: any effort to deal with the meaning of eternal families must acknowledge and, indeed, begin from a single fact—that LDS are not unique in believing that it’s possible for families to be together forever; we’re unique in believing it’s possible for families not to be together forever.

  83. Ron Madson says:

    Brad,

    Can’t wait! So if I read you correctly are you saying that the message we offer is “good and unique, but the good is not unique and the unique may not be good” –at least as perceived by those being shut out..??

  84. And, just to follow on #83, part of what the original post points out is our apparent belief that some families are constitutionally incapable of remaining intact, together forever. Our current theological outlines emerged in both a post-polygamous context and a cultural space in which the notion of a stable, nuclear family centered upon a committed, monogamous, same-sex relationship was utterly unthinkable, incongruous with both the discourse on marriage and family (patriarchal, highly nuclear, upper-middle class) as well as the discourse on homosexuality (deviant, promiscuous, self-referentially wicked, indulgent). Is it possible that this alone accounts for the invisibility of gay families to our current, incredibly retrenched discourse?

  85. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, I’m curious where you’re deriving your “fact” that the LDS church teaches that gay families cannot be together forever. Is this based on the fact that they cannot be sealed?

  86. Ron Madson says:

    #81. The same “sociality.”? Really? Interesting. For me Christ was perfected in hospitality and socialized with all the losers/sinners and seemed to avoid the self-righteous and then he told us to do as he did. So will it be the same there—socially speaking?

  87. Is this based on the fact that they cannot be sealed?

    Only to the extent, I suppose, that sealing is viewed as a prerequisite to eternal families. To be clear, I’m not saying that it is, in fact, a fact. Just that it is construed as an eternal and unchanging fact by our current discourse on homosexuality.

  88. it's a series of tubes says:

    I, for one, liked Mark B’s “He” family and related chemistry puns immensely. Nobility? Inert? Gold!

  89. Steve Evans says:

    Brad, OK — then let’s not refer to them as “facts”, because I think the discourse itself is changing to the point that many would not consider those notions as “factual,” but rather “our current understanding” or somesuch. Probably a distinction worth noting as part of a fair discussion.

  90. Chris (#82) – No attack stick, just my opinion. I am unaware of any statement by LDS leaders, contemporary to the manifesto(s) that would suggest the Lord was opposed to polygyny or that He was removing it from the theology of the church, just that the church had to stop practicing it because of the laws of the US, and the consequences that would come from breaking those laws (although they did so surreptitiously for many years).

    In fact, LDS leaders expounded on the benefits of polygyny and railed against the US government after the manifesto(s). Polygyny is still very much a part of LDS theology (at least until D&C 132 is decannonized), so why would the church steer away from it in countries where it is legal? I say it’s because the church is afraid and/or ashamed of the past and the consequences for the current day church’s proselytizing efforts in Western countries if they were to be seen condoning polygyny. So they institute a policy that requires a man, legally married to multiple wives, to divorce all but one.

  91. Right, Steve. It’s not a fact that gay families cannot be together forever. It is a fact that the Church currently teaches that gay families cannot be together forever.

  92. 77 – Ummm, I think that you’re missing Mark’s point. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he’s just making a joking reference to a mafia “family”, not being the biological/nuclear family we refer to when we talk about eternal families, but that Don Corleone would be disappointed to find out that he couldn’t be sealed to his many assasins and racket that were part of his “family”. Similar to the gay marriage, there would be no way (under current doctrine) for Don Corleone to be sealed to his “family” regardless of repentance.

    Jokes are always funnier when they have to be explained.

  93. To say nothing, Kari, of the fact that we still allow men to be sealed to multiple wives.

  94. B. Russ, you’re probably right. That said, I’m not sure that comparing the obviously ironic “family” relationship between Don Corleone and those on his payroll with Paul’s relationship to his husband and children is that much less offensive than comparing homosexuality to organized crime.

  95. 83, indeed!

    The overtly exclusive nature of our message, which we package with the hope of inclusivity, needs to be reckoned with. It is as if any desire to share the gospel with everyone must be tempered by the reality that the gospel simply isn’t for everybody. When one truly loves their neighbors, it is often extraordinarily difficult to swallow this cultural and spiritual conundrum.

  96. Brad,
    Am I to take it that you approve of the church’s stance on homosexuality? I’m not looking to bait you nor put you in some sort of theological corner. Heaven forbid we should call shovels shovels in these parts.

    T.,
    No. I do not pray for the Lord to change his position on adultery. There’s that settled, then.

  97. John, I’m not saying that I approve. I don’t. I think my comments make reasonably clear that I think our current theology of families, while incredibly appealing and one of the best things about Mormonism, is nevertheless beset by gaps and incongruities which need to be worked out as we confront the fact that the Proclamation on the Family outlines a model that contrasts rather sharply with lived reality. What I find interesting is not that people (accurately) see my position for what it is, but rather the claim that such a position was discernible from the original post. That merely pointing out in dramatic form the self-evident lack of place for Paul’s family in our Plan of Happiness is taken as an act expressive of hostility to the Church’s current discourse.

    I could just as easily imagine a more orthodox commenter chiming in at the outset with something like “see, this post illustrates, perhaps painfully, why we ultimately can never compromise on the question of homosexuality, why it is simply not possible for there to ever be a change enacted via revelation. It is a logical impossibility, an immovable non-starter.”

  98. The really, really awkward part of the exchange in the OP is where the Elder already acknowledged and pointed out the influence of the Spirit in bringing about the meeting with Paul. If that actually happened, the Elder would be confronted with the fact that God wants Paul’s family to be taught the gospel. I don’t find that part hard to believe at all. I think if we actually taught some great families that just happened to have same sex parents, we would quickly lose the fears we have over same sex marriage. And just think how much better our ward parties would be!

  99. Had a similar experience myself. The punchline was that our golden investigator was having an affair with the clerk one ward over and was hoping to marry her in the temple.

  100. 99 – Indeed . . . . they would be FA-BU-LOUS

  101. Latter-day Guy says:

    …merely pointing out in dramatic form the self-evident lack of place for Paul’s family in our Plan of Happiness is taken as an act expressive of hostility to the Church’s current discourse…

    I suspect this is part of the reason gay Mormons are frequently told by their priesthood leaders not to “come out,” or to keep it quiet. (The message can be couched in a number of ways, but the intent is pretty much the same.) Of course, telling others could result in instant pariah-hood, but I think that is changing rapidly. But there is a greater “danger” of openness about homosexuality: if average members of the Church were actually aware of how many people they know and love have to face this issue, if they were cognizant of the often intolerable* suffering it entails, I think more of the mainstream membership would be seriously troubled by the situation, and therefore less apt to quietly accept the status quo.

    [*"Intolerable" if the rate at which the Church hemorrhages gay members is any indication –– to say nothing of the fact that many of those who stay queue up to end their lives as though self-murder were a carnival ride.]

  102. Brad,
    I don’t think it is possible to give the opening post a contextless reading. Nor do I think the reaction you imagine is likely from the opening post. But stranger things…

  103. With polygamy, weren’t those fifty-some sister-wives all sealed with Mr. Brigham? Thereby making them sealed to each other? If that awful form of marriage was accepted in that time, might we be closer to a future time when any two committed adults in love can be sealed? Or at least sit in sacrament meeting, maybe even holding hands- GASP, and no one care that they are the same sex? Maybe it’s a stretch… but maybe not.

  104. Belen–it is.

  105. StillConfused says:

    I almost quit reading because it sounded so gay. Turns out, it was! Hahhaaa awesome

  106. It’s a stretch in part, Belen, because your premise isn’t true. They weren’t sealed to each other–each was sealed to her husband.

  107. Julie M. Smith says:

    But Mark B., don’t we speak of a sealing line that connects children to grandparents, even though the children aren’t actually sealed to their grandparents? Wouldn’t sister wives then be part of a sealed line, through their husbands?

  108. Latter-day Guy says:

    104, 107, 108: I think the word “sealing” is confusing the point a bit here. What it sounds like Belen is talking about — “any two committed adults in love can be sealed” — is ontologically distinct from “a sealing line that connects children to grandparents,” etc.

    A husband and wife are sealed to each other. They are also sealed to their parents and their children. A husband and wife (one hopes) sleep with each other. However, they do not (one really, really, REALLY hopes) sleep with their children or their parents.

    So, yeah, same sex sealing is possible. We do it all the time. Just not in the way Belen is suggesting. (Which is not to say that I would be necessarily opposed to that type of sealing, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.)

  109. StillConfused says:

    I often wonder if people truly believe that what the church says about eternal families will determine their destiny.

  110. Elder P: Well, I guess I should let you know that Mormons don’t actually do same-gender marriage, and neither do Baptists or Catholics. Frankly, unless you’ve been in a coma for 20 years, I’m a bit surprised that you didn’t know this.

    Paul: Actually, I have been in a coma for 20 years. It was just last month that I came to and a nice man with three kids offered to marry me. I guess I over-interpreted his “times have changed” remark. Gosh. You must think I’m the most naive person on earth.

    Elder P: Not really. Consider Brad, the guy who started this dialog. He was actually surprised (see #98) that his position on gays was discernible from the original post.

    Paul: Wow! I sure hope that guy never plays poker. :)

    Elder P: [laughs] Hey look, I’m not going to claim same-gender couples have it easy in our church. There’s still a ton about the afterlife we don’t understand. Through a glass darkly, as they say. But if you’re interested, we’d love to come by and tell our story. Let the Spirit take us where it will.

    Paul: You know, that means a lot. At least we’re not so depraved that we have to be shunned. [laughs] Seriously, I’m really glad to hear that there haven’t been any hard feelings between gays and Mormons over this issue. You won’t marry us but you’ll sure as hell sit down for a beer with us!

    Elder P: Beer?

  111. So, indeed it is a stretch. I only attempt to connect the two widely unaccepted forms of marriage. Although same sex marriages may never be temple marriages, the concept of same sex couples attending and being apart of church shouldn’t be inconceivable. Unlikely, true but everyone can benefit from eternal truths. “Charity seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45), and so with love, maybe we ought to be seeking people we may not normally share the gospel with.

  112. we’re unique in believing it’s possible for families not to be together forever.

    Most of the Christian world interprets Matthew 22:30 as teaching that marriage terminates at death. Doesn’t sound like together forever to me.

  113. I served in the Bay area and had an experience somewhat like this the last week of my mission. We were going door-to-door in the early evening and came to a man who said, “you probably don’t want to talk to somebody like me–I’m gay.” I looked him in the eyes and said, “God has sent us to your doorstep to share a message with you. May we come in?” He seemed shocked by my reaction but let us in and was really eager to talk about religion. He did ask about the church’s stance on homosexuality and we told him straightforwardly, but the whole thing went really well–it was one of the best first discussions I had taught in a while. We made a return appointment, but I wasn’t there to see what ever happened.

    I think people like that man are often kept away by perceptions as much as the teachings of the church. It only took a simple show of some interest in sharing our message with him to turn what may have been a slammed door into an opportunity.

  114. J. Weaver says:

    Why do so many of you assume that the word family has changed to mean something different than what it has meant for most people for an eternity of history? Does calling a stone a feather make it a feather? If there is a
    God, then where among the various religions is this new meaning for a family shown? Society’s fickleness in a word’s meaning is not going to alter its meaning to Him who set forth what constituted a family. Besides, the purpose of each person’s creation may not be the same for all anyone knows. What mortal knows the measure of his creation, or his potential. Are not some ordained before birth to be a prophet, as was Jeremiah? Was he not as free as any of us to fulfill his mission or reject it? My potential in mortality may be to facilitate a mortal body for a spirit to enter into, but I might not choose to do so or it may not be my mission. In any case I might reject the mission for which I was created. Since it takes a union of a male and female to create a mortal body, it may require a like union to create spirit lives eternally. If I choose not to make the male/female union in mortality, maybe I would not want such a union in the spirit world. The plan, the path, to eternal lives as prescribed is orderly and is offered as a privilege to accept or to reject. There is not cause for offense if I choose not to enter the gate to the path that leads to the gift. How orderly would it be for every potential recipent of the gift to be able to alter the plan for the greatest of all the gifts offered. There are other gifts.

  115. In my Fathers kingdom there are many mansions,

    We once believed that the gospel could not be taught to Gentiles,
    If we believe D&C 132 then we must all practice polygamy to enter the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, but Godon B Hinckley does not believe polygamy to be doctrinal.

    In my opinion love is the uniting power, I was willing to enter a lower degree of the celestial kingdom rather than enter a polygamous relationship. I think it will be the same for the “different” families, they can be together in peace and love with God for eternity and let the authodox families have there “highest degree”. Spending eternity with my wife is heaven to me, and I bet Paul & Brian will be just as happy.

  116. many people believe families can be together forever, but IME not many religions teach it.

  117. #115: “Why do so many of you assume that the word family has changed to mean something different than what it has meant for most people for an eternity of history?
    Because it has. The Nuclear Family is a new thing. Even if you only look at the Mormon Family of the 19thc, you will see something different. Maybe most were three generations, not two. The Clan has been a very common family grouping in history.

  118. Latter-day Guy says:

    Why do so many of you assume that the word family has changed to mean something different than what it has meant for most people for an eternity of history? Does calling a stone a feather make it a feather? If there is a
    God, then where among the various religions is this new meaning for a family shown?

    Facepalm. There are so many things wrong with these [non-]questions one hardly knows where to begin. I had a little post about this (it’s pretty basic) on my personal site: see here.

  119. #119: Nicely written.
    Even putting Polygamy aside, if you look at the ‘Family’ photos of Mormons families in the 19thc, you most often see the father and mother and their adult children.
    We have other models: The Waltons, the Kennedy Clan.
    If you re-read the first part of the ‘ Proclamation of the Family’ do you see it speaking of another kind of family(?)

  120. To say nothing of the fact that marriage, for most of human history, was a form of property regulation/exchange in which women were considered property. Most of what we now take for granted as being a part of marriage—free and equal individuals falling into romantic love and freely choosing to enter into a legally binding contractual relationship, independently of the will or legal rights of either of their parents or extended families, and cultivating a relationship grounded in shared assets, shared tax liability, romantic and sexual love (where the sexual relations can be experienced, thanks to birth control, independently of the desire to have children), with the possibility of easily and freely ending the relationship should it become abusive or should one party fail to live up to the relevant obligations, including fidelity, etc.—this is all very, very non traditional, indeed radically different from virtually all known antecedent historical forms of marriage. You can’t speak sentimentally about being married to your “best friend” with whom you’re even more in love than when you first married and at the same time pledge fealty to some eternal, unchanging, throughout-human-history model and definition of marriage.

    Tim, #111, I might be naive, though I’m certainly not feigning neutrality, but I’d still like you or someone to explain what specific elements of the original post conveys disapproval of the Church’s position on homosexuality. Again, I’m not disputing that such disapproval exists. I think I’ve made that rather clear. But I am very interested in learning what about the dialog betrays my sinister agenda. Rather than scoffing at my inability to see how the OP makes my “position on gays discernible” (by which, I assume, you mean my stance toward the Church’s position on gays), how about you actually show me what specific features of the OP make my position so obvious to you. How would someone who approves of the Church’s position have written the dialog differently?

  121. Mark, #113, that’s a pretty presumptuous reading. Among other things, it presumes that the persistence of the formal marriage relation is required for togetherness to be possible {“…marriage terminates at death. Doesn’t sound like together forever to me.”). I suppose that’s another rather idiosyncratic LDS belief about the eternal world—that we can’t be together with people unless some formal, enforceable, contractual relationship exists between us. Do you really, honestly think that most Christians don’t believe they’ll be together with their families in heaven because of Matthew 22:30?

  122. If perfected bodies can be homosexual as well as heterosexual, does eternal increase come about by something other than physical means? I don’t know why we need bodies, perfected or otherwise, if they aren’t prerequisite for something.

  123. Brad, #121, my sketch was meant as playful teasing. I kind of thought you already knew why people could guess your world view from your post, and that you were sort of playing dumb to be provocative. I never said your agenda was sinister. (Indeed, I suspect my own views are not far from yours.)

    People advocating and defending church policy on this issue tend to tell very different stories and worry about very different things. Try reading their writing for a week.

  124. Tim, that’s true, but there’s no reason someone who supports the church’s position _shouldn’t_ wonder about such a scenario, right? Unless they believe that gay people are universally uninterested in the joys of families…

  125. #122: Brad said,

    “Do you really, honestly think that most Christians don’t believe they’ll be together with their families in heaven because of Matthew 22:30?”

    It doesn’t matter what the average church-goer believes. What matters is the doctrine taught and the creeds accepted by the organization he or she subscribes to.

    A husband and wife may think they’ll be together forever, even while the minister conducting their wedding pronounces them united only “til death do you part”.

    The Mormon view that family relationships can be made eternally distinctive and significant through the power of God on the Earth is deeply supported by church scripture and tradition, and is taught by those with the authority to establish the doctrine.

    According to my understanding, a creedal Christian who wants to believe his marriage is eternal does not have the same sure doctrinal footing. That’s an important difference.

  126. Brad,
    in addition to what jenni said in 126, it’s your task to address your own assertion–that “we’re unique in believing it’s possible for families not to be together forever.”

    That’s a pretty high bar–even if “most Christians” agree with you (independent of what their doctrines say or don’t say), “most Christians” isn’t enough to support your assertion.

  127. Miss Otis Regrets says:

    @116
    “GBH does not believe Polygamy to be doctrinal”
    ????
    source?

    BTW – loving all the comments.

  128. I join those who are calling BS on this line by Brad: “we’re unique in believing it’s possible for families not to be together forever.”

    This is simply false. In fact Calvinism assumes people who don’t become “saved Christians” in this life will burn in hell forever. God saving one person in the family wouldn’t keep the unsaved rest of the family from burning.

  129. Ron Madson says:

    #128

    In September 1998 President Hinckley was giving an interview with Larry King. He was asked about the practice of polygamy and if he condemns it:

    Larry King: You condemn it.

    Gordon B. Hinckley: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal.

    I suppose one can interpret it as “it is not doctrinal now” even though it was doctrinal then. However, to make it fit we would have to do a switcharoo and delete DC 132 and re-insert the old DC 101 Marriage revelation/proclamation (one man and one wife) that was taken out sometime in 1870s??

    Also, is this just his opinion? Anyway I assume this is the source that at least he had the opinion that polygamy is not doctrinal, so is it safe for us to have the same opinion? Last I checked it is a question never asked in a TR interview.

  130. Do you really, honestly think that most Christians don’t believe they’ll be together with their families in heaven because of Matthew 22:30?

    If “together” means remaining as husband and wife, then no, most don’t. As friends and associates, sure, assuming one or both doesn’t end up in hell for all eternity instead.

    I suppose that’s another rather idiosyncratic LDS belief about the eternal world—that we can’t be together with people unless some formal, enforceable, contractual relationship exists between us.

    This comment seems to portray an unusually dim view of the idea of covenant relationships. How many LDS think of eternal marriage as “enforceable”? Next to none, I gather.

    The division you speak of (using the looser sense of the term “together”) is only one way, and only occurs if one person makes it to one kingdom and the other to another. Strictly speaking it has _nothing_ to do with the presence or lack of an eternal marriage. Exaltation is not a requirement for salvation in the celestial kingdom.

    I can’t say most Christians believe they will be able to visit their family members in hell, whereas ministry to lower kingdoms is a established point of the LDS faith.

  131. Left Field says:

    #130:
    No, he wasn’t just asked about “the practice of polygamy” in general. In the extensive exchange you omitted from your quote, it is clear that they were specifically talking about the unauthorized practice of polygamy as practiced by fundamentalists.

    The church has always taken the position that unauthorized polygamy is not doctrinal. Nothing new there. No switcheroo. If you don’t have what the church regards as proper authority for sealing plural marriages, then your practice of polygamy is considered non-doctrinal. See Jacob 2, Section 132:7, 38-39, John C. Bennett, OD1, etc.

  132. Left Field

    My point about GBH is things change, and I’m glad you raised the Jacob 2: 26-30, because I see this as a key to the future authorisation of gay marriage.

    Plenty of children, are being born to people not fit to raise them, financial pressures are making fostering, adoption less attractive to large families, the requirement for strong couples to raise the next generation is becoming ever more important.

    Perhaps at somepoint soon God will see fit to grant permission for this uniq family set up?

  133. Sigh. Busted. I totally forgot that most Christians are not absolute universalists. That’s my bad.

    When we say “families can be together forever” we don’t just mean that it’s possible for all members of a family to end up in heaven as opposed to hell. The statement also implies that some families can also not be together forever, and, again, not just because some members are saved in heaven while others are in hell. Ours is a theological structure in which it is possible for the individual members of a family to be saved without being “together forever.” Family togetherness is more well developed in our theology precisely because it is at stake for us, called into question, in ways that it isn’t for others. We’re not just inviting people to learn how each member of their family can meet the individual requirements of getting to heaven.

    What if a missionary from another Church offered to teach you what you needed to know in order for you to be able remember your name after you died? What if this Church had elaborate ritual forms which conferred this ability onto participants, and had scriptural passages which focused on the problem of name forgetting and the necessity of name remembering for full salvation, etc. Members of that Church would surely pat themselves on the back for being the only Church that believes that people can remember their names in the afterlife, has a strong, well-developed scriptural and doctrinal tradition on the question. They would probably be baffled at how indifferent other religious folks were to the fact that they wouldn’t know their names in heaven.

    If y’all think I’m trivializing the doctrine of eternal families, you’re misreading me. I’m saying that unless we want to reduce “families can be together forever” into something meaningless, we need to face and think seriously about the fact that it means something very different for us than for other religious people, something well beyond the concern that all individual members of one’s family achieve saved status.

    When we say it, we aren’t hinting at our near universalism, nor at inter-kingdom ministry. We’re gesturing toward something we all know—that your family will be together forever not if you all happen to make it to heaven but if and only if your family has been subject to a ritualized sealing which, among other things, depends for its efficacy on adherence to a number of serious and enforceable obligations (“enforceable”, Mark, simply means that we’re talking about obligations which are necessary to the integrity of the contracted relationship, which are acknowledged by the larger community, and which could entail sanction or punishment if they are not kept, so yes, eternal marriage is enforceable).

    The question of the status of family relationships in the eternities has different assumptions built into it and different possible answers for LDS than for non-LDS. It’s not as if there are non-Mormons out there thinking to themselves “golly, I sure love my family and I sure wish there were a way for us to be together forever but my Church doesn’t have a sacrament for ensuring this, so I guess we can’t be. If only there were a Church out there with the proper authority to allow my family to be together once we all make it to heaven!” The significance of the sealing ceremony for a converting Mormon correlates precisely with her awareness that it is necessary, that absent said sealing, she cannot, in fact, be with her family forever.

  134. Brad,

    I believe you are correct that we are the only Christian faith that teaches it is possible for families to NOT be together, but that is only because in our theology we specify a means for families to assure that they will be together. All that 132 says is that marriage or other arrangements or covenants do not continue after death unless they have been authorized or sealed, directly or indirectly, by God. At present, Church policy is that all marriages are sealed by proxy after death–including a woman to all husbands and a man to all wives. It is up to the individual at some point whether to accept those sealings.

    I do not know whether you are correct or not that most Christians believe they will be together forever after death. I have never seen a survey. I can say that in my experience, most people who believe in an afterlife who have talked about it with me believe they will see each other in heaven. And there is plenty of popular music and film that conveys that message. The presumption is that the children we see in the afterlife will continue to be our children, and we will see each other that way.

    I do not think the Mormon conception of heaven precludes a person from seeing or associating with someone with whom he/she have a relationship in mortality, even if the relationship was not sealed. Indeed, friendships are not “sealed”, yet I believe and hope my friends on earth will continue to be friends in heaven. In that sense, I think that partners in an unsealed relationship can continue to be together.

    For me, the attraction of LDS theology is that it assures the continuation of certain sealed family relationships, not that it prevents the continuation of other, unsealed relationships (because I do not think that it does prevent their continuation).

  135. Brad, this is really interesting stuff, but I’m wondering if you’re going to do your second post now that you’ve (presumably) let most of the cat out of the bag?

  136. Aaron, assuming I can stay a step ahead of the BS police, the post is still coming. Enough of the proverbial cat is still in the bag.

  137. “assuming I can stay a step ahead of the BS police”

    Don’t count on it! We have agents everywhere.

  138. MoHoHawaii says:

    Elder P: Your husband?

    [An awkward pause]

    Paul: Is that a problem?

    [Longer pause]

    Paul: Hey, Elder, I totally owned you! [bursts out laughing]
    I saw you here and couldn’t resist. Actually, I’m a returned missionary myself, Argentina, 1995-97. I always knew I was gay, and I was doing my best to be the person I was taught to be all of my life. When I came home from my mission, it got so tough that I almost killed myself. I decided that something had to give, so I ended up leaving the Church and luckily I found a wonderful companion and have built a great life for myself. Anyway, I know what it’s like to be a missionary. Good luck to you!

  139. Why wait for God’s judgment? We can play god ourselves here on earth: should we deport the undocumented parents of citizen-children? Or should the family be kept together even though some have not honored the commandments (of our immigration law)? Is it “fair” to other families that played by the rules? (For answer, see Matt 20).

    If I were God, I would let whatever kind of family stay together in Heaven if they choose, but not let them get word back to Earth that God is a pushover and they can ignore the scriptures with impunity. That way, I could preserve the deterrent without having to inflict the punishment.

    It is not our sense of mercy and justice, but rather our inability to control information so completely, that separates us from the divine.

  140. I think a more valid comparison is with missionaries during the days of polygamy. It would be tough to tell a family man that if he gets baptized he may one day be asked to take a new wife (or two).

    Yet he believes what he was taught and wants to have an eternal family. Does the man have enough faith to follow the Spirit and conform his life to what God has said through His prophets or not? I think, ultimately, that’s what we all are trying to do, every day. For some of us, that’s much harder than for others. But we still have to do it.

    We also need to get rid of this mindset that God doesn’t ask hard things of us. Eve, Abraham, Nephi and millions of others can attest that He does.

  141. Cynthia L. says:

    Mark Brown once famously said, “It should not surprise us that people dislike being used as a foil for our righteousness..” Brad, I think a similar principle explains a lot of meta-related static you get on these posts where supposedly something is hidden for a later post, but in the current post you’re trying to get people to [say something/notice something/not notice something/commit to something], that later will be turned on them. Participatory stuff is GREAT pedagogy when you have willing subjects, but people naturally chafe at the slightest whiff of being used as foils or setups or what have you.

  142. I think you’re misreading what’s going on here, Cynth. I only mentioned a separate post, not because this one is directly related to it or a prelude to it or something, but because someone brought something up in the comments and I wanted to keep it from turning into too serious a threadjack. I’m not trying to use anyone as a potential foil, and I’m not sure where exactly the perception comes from that I am (let alone that I am doing/have done so on multiple posts). I suppose it’s possible I’m the one misreading what’s going on…

  143. “We also need to get rid of this mindset that God doesn’t ask hard things of us. Eve, Abraham, Nephi and millions of others can attest that He does.”

    This 100 times.

  144. MoHoHawaii says:

    Re #142 (Cynthia L.) “It should not surprise us that people dislike being used as a foil for our righteousness..”

    With you 100% on this one. :- )

  145. I’m not sure where in this discussion britt and m are getting the idea that anyone thinks we shouldn’t be asked to do hard things. I agree with the sentiment generally, just fail to see its relevance to the current discussion.

  146. Khristine…to be perfectly honest I haven’t read all the posts in this thread and was purely speaking on a this is true standpoint and not a “ya you idiots posting on this thread saying everything should be easy” standpoint.

    IOW “Life is pain highness. Anyone telling you differently is selling something”*

    *this pain not necessarily related to any possible or potential pain suffered or thought not to be suffered by the fictional missionaries, young man, or any of the commenters on this or any other like minded site..

    pardon…I may have referred to a comment that was not directly related to the thread et al. derailed, hijacked….

    carry on.

    families can be together forever…it’s not a threat.

  147. Latter-day Guy says:

    We also need to get rid of this mindset that God doesn’t ask hard things of us. Eve, Abraham, Nephi and millions of others can attest that He does.

    Yeah, and we also need to get rid of the mindset that says, “God asks us to do hard things, therefore, we don’t need to be too bothered by the suffering of others — everybody suffers, so stop yer whinin’.” There is a little bit of this attitude implied every time we say things like, “Well, problem X is no more difficult than problem Y. I don’t see why problem X gets so much attention,” — a too-common refrain in LDS circles on the issue of homosexuality.

  148. #148: The problem is that we think making a commotion about problems will solve them. Rather than using the gospel to solve problems, too many try to use problems to change the gospel. We already have the answers we need.

  149. OTOH, not making any commotion at all doesn’t necessarily help, either – and if the answers were truly perfectly clear, well, that’d be nice.

  150. True, everyone has to learn to be tolerant, and I’m aware that there are pigheaded people who refuse to fellowship others who are different. Still, commotions don’t access the power of the Atonement; if we cause contention over our problems, we only widen gaps.

    From what I’ve seen, the finest resource for reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction would probably be the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program. We can’t solve all the problems, but we can get somewhere.

  151. Cynthia L. says:

    Or when that doesn’t work, there’s always this guy.

  152. ExMoHoMoDon says:

    151
    I would like to meet or hear from a single person who can honestly say they have had ‘same sex attraction reduced or eliminated’ by LDS Social Services. I don’t even ask for two.

  153. Scott#:

    From what I’ve seen, the finest resource for reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction deprogramming Mormons would probably be the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program Rick Ross Institute. We can’t solve all the problems, but we can get somewhere.

    Can we agree that the modified quote is offensive? That’s how the original sounds to me and to many others. My orientation is as good as yours, Scott#, it isn’t pathological, it isn’t hurting anyone, and it is not something I need to be cured of.* There is no such thing as civil discourse without recognizing the equality of the participants.

    * As an aside, I have seen some of the results of those “cures.” I know as recently as ten years ago, Dean Byrd was still torturing teens with electroshock therapy (because their parents consented). That friend now associates pain with sexual arousal.

  154. “From what I’ve seen, the finest resource for reducing or eliminating same-sex attraction would probably be the LDS Family Services Addiction Recovery Program.”

    Scott#, I’d be curious to know precisely what you think you’ve “seen”. The notion that LDS Family Services is a resource for “eliminating” anything seems pretty dubious.

  155. #153. “Can we agree that the modified quote is offensive? That’s how the original sounds to me and to many others. My orientation is as good as yours, Scott, it isn’t pathological, it isn’t hurting anyone, and it is not something I need to be cured of.* There is no such thing as civil discourse without recognizing the equality of the participants.”

    It’s hurting you. And you know it.

    You dig deep to hide the shame you feel because of it, digging deeper into the very nerves which cause you to run away from yourself.

    Scrambling for identity, you experiment with other things, never able to escape an overwhelming, and uncontrollable, feeling of shame. You wish for a shadow to cover your head which will never be torn.

    I know exactly what it’s like. Stop making yourself feel inferior when you say “my orientation is as good as yours,” because you don’t know what mine is.

    #154. I have seen the power of the Atonement enter my life and change my heart and my desires. The ARP program was the catalyst, though not the cause: the Atonement was what did it. The Son of God brought about a mighty change in my heart after a deep struggle within me. This is why I say the ARP program is the best one I’ve _seen_, for I haven’t met any more direct and significant entry into the power of the Atonement which has worked for me.

  156. To #153, I respond the same as above: electroshock therapy is, indeed, a waste. Pavlov is well in the stone ages when we have an infinite Atonement to rely on.

  157. ExMo: Perhaps no one will be changed by LDS Family Services. If they did, it wouldn’t be what they needed, I don’t believe. It was the Atonement that did it for me.

  158. Scott#,
    I don’t like your moniker. Or your comments.

    I think it’s time you took a break.

  159. Catching up, but . . . Ray of comment #37, please add an initial or something else to distinguish you from me. It’s standard practice on a forum like this.

  160. Steve Evans says:

    I felt the same way the first time a Steve wandered around. It was disconcerting.

  161. 158. At least with a pound sign, we can differentiate between us. Is there something wrong with what I said?

  162. Scott#,
    mostly just the way you presumed to know Nate’s soul.

  163. #156:

    Look Dr. Freud, I know diagnosing people from a distance has been en vogue ever since Bill Frist did it from the Senate floor, but since we’ve never met, I would suggest putting away the psychoanalysis, OK? I’m not sure whether you are being serious or just trolling, but here’s the truth: I knew I was attracted to men and not women before I was 12. I spent my teenage years and most of my 20s pushing people away and generally being unsociable because I didn’t want people to know the real me. Since I came out, I have felt more emotionally stable and more whole than I ever have in my life. You want to tell me that my feeling is false consciousness? That is the most arrogant, condescending, dehumanizing thing I have heard in a while (and I went to law school, so I know from whence I speak).

    I don’t feel the need to argue with you, since you have cleverly rigged the game so that anything I say is just further evidence of some sort of inferiority complex. I just hope that Steve will let your comment stay on the board as the example of Christian charity that it is. The march toward equality continues because it is consistent with common experience and moral instinct. Thanks for demonstrating why that is so with your comments.

  164. 162. I suppose it was a little dramatic, but I wanted to make clear that Nate isn’t isolated or even an enemy in this. I, too, have suffered from these things. But I want to make clear that it’s not hopeless. There’s a way from A to B, and I want others to know about it.

    163. “I don’t feel the need to argue with you, since you have cleverly rigged the game so that anything I say is just further evidence of some sort of inferiority complex.”

    I have only spoken in clarity about my own personal experience. Freud, Pavlov, and any other psychologist doesn’t scratch the surface for me. There has to be a power which changes actual desires, not behaviors; behavior change is shallow and temporary, at best. That’s why I want you to know it just like I do.

    I’m sorry a testimony comes across as trolling, but plainness is how I prefer to speak. Most of us boys start with same-sex attraction when we’re about 10, and it usually flips back to attraction for the opposite sex. However, occasionally that flip doesn’t happen for varying reasons. I was there.

    But I haven’t made any remarks concerning false consciousness or anything of the sort. You may be referring to remarks by people I’m unfamiliar with, or explaining something in a way I’m finding unclear. Men are frequently pushed about by shame, not just by those of us who suffer from SSA, but all men.

    I’m unaware of any game I’ve rigged, but I have spoken the truth as clearly as I can. If there’s any room for debate, I’d be happy to clarify what I mean.

  165. MikeInWeHo says:

    I think Scott# should stick around. He’s interesting. If we’re going to discuss this topic we need to hear from people in his situation, too. Granted, he’s a bit grating but what good blogger isn’t at times? *[edited by admin]*

    “….you experiment with other things, never able to escape an overwhelming, and uncontrollable, feeling of shame.”

    Projective identification, FTW!

  166. “Projective identification, FTW!”

    Indeed it is, but many of us walk the same path. And in the chance I’m wrong (I’ve nailed these things in the past, but the possibility of being wrong always exists), I can be corrected.

  167. Steve Evans says:

    Just so long as we can get our Scott# of flesh out of him.

  168. If spiritual creation is not sexual in nature – and if intimacy exists in the next life, but sexual activity does not – and if sealing means not being separated from the ones we love but rather being united as one great family (with a special relationship between particular individuals) – most of these “eternal” issues would change radically in our minds, I think.

    Oh, wait, now we’re getting close to discussions of TK smoothies . . . Never mind.

  169. Seriously Scott#, time to take a break.

    Nate, don’t feed the troll, no matter how big its mouth is.

  170. I suppose it odd to be called a troll for testifying of the Atonement, but that is your call. I’m done here.

  171. Scott#,
    Oh-so-clever and heart-piercing exit comment aside, i should clarify: Being a troll has nothing to do with subject matter. Being a troll means making inflammatory comments.

  172. Just curious–has anyone in the Bloggernacle ever examined 1 Ne. 16:2? I can’t imagine Nephi being pleased that his words have been used to justify so much self-righteous jackassery as it seems to have done on the internet…

  173. Oh Nate, don’t underestimate Nephi!

  174. Brad,

    While I agree that rank and file members of other Christian denominations tend to assume that once they make heaven (and avoid hell) they can hang out with whoever they want. But the idea that we would still be married to our spouse is often met with resistance if not denied outright. This is mostly based on the “neither marry, nor are given in marriage” verses in the New Testament as Mark D pointed out earlier.

    But Mormonism advertises eternally sealed marriages aggressively. That is appealing to people who are disturbed by the ambivalence or outright rejection of the idea of eternal marriages they encounter in most other Christian theologies.

  175. Latter-day Guy says:

    It’s hurting you. And you know it.

    Whew. A new contender in the “creepiest damn thing I’ve ever read on an LDS blog” category.

  176. 165 ” I suppose it was a little dramatic,”

    And Antarctica is a little cold.

  177. Aaron Brown says:

    The most unfortunate consequence of this conversation will be the inevitable association of the word “atonement” with online silliness and pomposity in my head. Thanks for ruining the term, Scott#. Maybe I can go to LDS Social Services, and they can help me figure out how to scrub the association out of my brain.

    “It’s hurting you. And you know it.”

    This is fantastic! I am going to employ this rhetorical strategy in all my conversations for one week. Every time someone disagrees with me about anything, I will knowingly declare that they are speaking from a place of guilt and self-loathing, and condescendingly invite them to comport their opinions with my own. I promise to report back!

  178. it's a series of tubes says:

    Could a few of the BCC regulars enlighten me on the BCC consensus (if there is one) on this question:

    Are same-sex sexual relations (NOT the attraction / feelings / biological wiring / etc) compatible with our understanding of the law of chastity? If so, how? Or if not, how? Does it turn on the phrase “legally and lawfully wedded”? Is our understanding of the law of chastity incomplete?

    Sorry if asked and answered previously. I’d just like a sense of the lay of the land around here before offering a few thoughts of my own.

  179. No consensus, tubes. Be bold.

  180. 179 – I’d be surprised if there were complete consensus on those questions within the Quorum of the Twelve, much less on a blog run by people who live in different states, of different activity levels, who rarely see each other.

  181. I think a consensus is what everyone is trying to reach here.

  182. #49 What if the adulterer, even after “repenting” in Vegas, just can’t get having sex with other women out of his system?

  183. What if the adulterer, even after “repenting” in Vegas, just can’t get having sex with other women out of his system?

    What does that have to do with anything?

  184. Well, then, definitionally, that’s not repentance. Your point?

  185. I like ponies.

  186. This thread is getting very odd.

  187. Aaron, I’m pretty sure there’s a consensus on that being against the law of chastity.

  188. Not your attraction to ponies, of course, just your behavior with them.

  189. MikeInWeHo says:

    You got that right, n(r)2.

  190. Cynthia L. says:

    Where’s gst?

  191. First, my comment should have said, “just can’t GET OVER having sex…”

    But it might have said, “What if he is incapable of stopping, or biologically programmed, to have sex with lots of women.”

    I’m genuinely trying to grasp this argument and see it from both sides.

    I hear Kristine saying that the adultery argument doesn’t hold water because the adulterer can repent of adultery but the gay individual can’t repent of being gay.

    I think these are two different arguments. My comment, though poorly done, meant to elicit the idea that perhaps the adulterer may “repent” of his/her sin by getting married (or stop the affair). While this may get rid of the sin of adultery, it may not actually change the sinner. What if the adulterer is genetically predisposed to adultery? Or what if the alcoholic is predisposed to alcoholism? What if they can’t change their thoughts? Can they truly repent?

    According to you, definitionally, that’s not repentance. But isn’t that you’re argument for gays? I hear you saying that they can’t repent of being gay. Is this true? If it is, then my understanding of what you are saying is that gays can’t help being gay, therefore it should not be a sin to be gay (even though current Church doctrine says that it is). To me, this means that every time a sin is somehow shown to have a genetic predisposition, then we should take it out of the rule books as a sin.

  192. Nope. The argument is that there is a righteous way to be a heterosexual. There is no corresponding possibility for someone whose orientation is homosexual.

  193. MikeInWeHo says:

    Rompa,
    Thanks for articulating what I understand to be the generally-accepted LDS view of homosexual temptation.

    Putting aside whether or not the Church’s current position can or should change, let’s ask a different question:

    What if comparisons to alcoholism or adultery are simply incorrect? What if homosexual orientation is more accurately compared to a variation like left-handedness?

  194. Thanks everyone for your participation in the comments. I’m closing the thread.

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