Unforced Errors

When I first got married, my wife had ideas about teaching me to play tennis. Actually, that isn’t true. I had ideas about my wife teaching me to play tennis. It was a sport she enjoyed and something that we could do together. She was a little skeptical but willing. It was, of course, a disaster. The first problem was that I’d never been all that serious about the game. As I told her before we started, I played tennis like I didn’t play baseball; everything went over the fence. Initially, this wasn’t a problem as I was willing to run after all the errant balls and she was willing to stand around and watch me. But this eventually grew boring and she decided it would be useful to help me with my swing. So she stood by me, modeled the swing, and bounced the ball to me so I could hit it. I was very fast on the trigger, hoping to impress her, I suppose. I swung around quick and caught her hand with my racket. She cried out, I went to her and apologized, she shook it off after a moment and decided to try again. She started to bounce the ball and, sure I knew what I was doing, I swung again and immediately wacked her hand again. Afterwards, she wasn’t angry with me, but she has never stepped onto a tennis court with me again.

In competitive tennis, there are frequent unforced errors. Generally, they happen when the person serving is trying very hard to hit their fastest or trickiest shot. The margins for error are slim and, as a result, bad serves often occur. To keep the players motivated to risk all on an impressive serve, those who fail on their first attempt are given a second chance. Most people, when they already have one error, play it safer the second time, so that they don’t lose the point. Others, like me, blunder forward, sure of their skill, stumbling right into the reckoning that hubris always brings.

I’ve been thinking about this lately in relation to the church’s response, thusfar, to the legalization of gay marriage. Admitting that it isn’t legal everywhere as yet, it is definitely legal in some places. What this means is that gay couples can attend church in areas where gay marriage is legal and say, in all honesty, that they live the law of chastity as they are legally and lawfully wed. However, from reports I am hearing, it appears that some local leaders do not see gay marriage as legitimate, no matter what the law states, and therefore some legally and lawfully wed people are being excommunicated for the sin of marrying the person they love.

I’m going vague here both because I don’t know the specifics of the cases that have been mentioned to me and because I am obviously not privy to all the information that local leadership is privy to in making these decisions. But, all that said, this isn’t something that we have to do. Someone should not be excommunicated just because they are living in a manner that will prevent them from going to the temple. There are gay members that want to participate in our church, in our congregations, but who are being removed because they have decided to make a life-long commitment to live in a monogamous relationship with someone they love. What is the harm in such people saying prayers, partaking of the sacrament, or teaching a class in church? Even if their marriage cannot be solemnized in the temple, we can still treat them with dignity and allow them participation in our congregations, where, frankly, we need all the help we can get.

This feels like an unforced error. We are driving these people away from the kingdom of God on earth and we do not have to. These are people who love us, who love the church, and we keep swinging away at them to make some self-justifying point. We’ll be very blessed indeed should any of them desire to give us a second chance.

Comments

  1. Maybe it’s because the church teaches that homosexual sex is a sin. And if someone is married to someone of the same sex, I would guess they are having homosexual sex. And if they are married, it doesn’t seem like they feel that that is a sin, nor will they be changing anytime soon. And unrepentant, repeated sexual sin is often a cause for excommunication in the church. So I don’t see how the church can teach that homosexual sex is a sin and act any other way.

  2. Thank you for explaining this so clearly. I have been bothered by this a lot, especially having moved into a state that while politically conservative has decided not to fight the 9th Circuit Court ruling. With gay marriage legal, and a number of LGBT married couples who have at least one spouse that grew up Mormon who are part of a scripture study group that meets on our college campus, the search has been on to see if any of the wards in our stake would be open to having them come to activities. While one bishop was receptive, the Stake Presidency is not, and so our little group continues as a safe haven for those who want contact with the church teachings, but can’t find it in a Mormon ward.

  3. So presumably in countries where polygamy is legal (eg much of North Africa), and polygamous adults can attend church and say in all honesty that they live the law of chastity as they are legally and lawfully wed, they should be able to participate in church activity without fear of church discipline?

  4. I should say, I agree with the sentiment of the post. I just think arguing it based on legal definitions of marriage is pretty flawed.

  5. The Handbook specifies that a disciplinary council is mandatory in case of pattern of serious transgressions or in case of serious transgression that is widely known. It also defines homosexual relations as serious transgression. However, the Handbook does not state that the disciplinary action should be excommunication. But according to the current regulations of the church, legally married gay couples can’t avoid church disclipine.

  6. DeeAnn and James have identified the flaw in the argument: A change in the definition of marriage in the civil law doesn’t imply a change in the divine definition of chastity, or of marriage. The words “to whom you are legally and lawfully married” have not always been a part of the spoken ecclesiastical ritual, either; they were added in the 1920s to emphasize the seriousness of violating the prophetic edict against continued plural marriage, and the Church’s commitment to enforcing penalties for violation. I would not at all be surprised to find the ritual refined in the near future to include an explicit gender component — that would in no way mark a change in the law of chastity itself, but only a clarification of something that until now could be taken for granted.

  7. John Mansfield says:

    Here the idea seems to be using the law to define morality, that there is something wrong in not accepting that which conforms to current laws. If someone’s acts are not illegal, such as drug use or prostitution in some jurisdictions, then who are we to object or mind? Elsewhere is not infrequently heard the notion that we shouldn’t try to legislate our morals into being the law of the land, and individuals and groups should choose standards for themselves without imposing them by law on everyone. Hopefully, no one tries to promote both arms of the circle at the same time.

  8. Heterosexual sex is considered sinful until someone gets married. Even then, it is considered sinful with someone to whom you are not married. Marriage, as understood legally, does seem to be the dividing line between sin and not.

    I can see people saying that homosexual sex is sinful in a way that heterosexual sex is not. Not even entering into a legally binding contract of mutual support and companionship can redeem homosexual sex, this seems to be saying. Those people are just depraved. But that doesn’t describe the gay folks I’ve met (not even the unmarried ones), at least not as far as I could tell.

    Now, as for polygamy, I think it is sinful in ways that don’t have to do with sex, so I’d like to set it aside. I also think that the church has had trouble distancing itself from polygamy, both because of a reluctance to denounce past prophetic teaching and a determination to keep scripture holy once acquired. Neither of those is an inherent evil, but it makes bold statements regarding what the church will do regarding polygamy weak. I also think the church won’t reintroduce polygamy, no matter what legal scholars in a region might say, FWIW. But, also, I think polygamy is sinful in ways that don’t have to do with sex, so I don’t think it makes a good parallel. Ditto pedophilia, if you feel like going that route.

  9. Really, folks. Are you saying that homosexual sex is sinnier than non-married heterosexual sex? I just want to be clear on this before we move forward in this conversation. Because that is a thought that, obviously, didn’t occur to me prior to writing this.

  10. “homosexual sex is sinful in a way that heterosexual sex is not”
    According to the church, that seems to be true (when Handbook gives definition for serious transgression it mentions fornication, adultery and separately homosexual relations). However, I believe that this is just a policy. But changing that policy would most likely require revelation from God. Maybe the policy will change in the future, but I cannot see it changing in any time soon.

  11. John, maybe I’m missing something but it seems you’re being somewhat disingenuous. Are you really saying that all this time the Church has viewed homosexual sex as sinful simply because you couldn’t be married and engage in it?

    “Now, as for polygamy, I think it is sinful in ways that don’t have to do with sex, so I’d like to set it aside.”

    That’s a little too easy.

  12. “However, from reports I am hearing, it appears that some local leaders do not see gay marriage as legitimate, no matter what the law states, and therefore some legally and lawfully wed people are being excommunicated for the sin of marrying the person they love.”

    I think the “legally and lawfully wed” rule is about to change to “legally and lawfully wed in a heterosexual marriage”. That would seem to fix the linguistic discrepancy, and it allows both the Church and society to be happy.

    Or basically, what Ardis said.

  13. John Mansfield says:

    “Because that is a thought that, obviously, didn’t occur to me prior to writing this.”

    Really?

  14. Mark Brown says:

    Here is where the complication occurs.

    If recent reports are accurate, it appears that the triggering event for church discipline has been when two homosexuals commit marriage. The may have been living together and presumably having sex for years, but the hammer comes down only when they become legally married.

    In other words, not only is unmarried homosexual sex worse than unmarried heterosexual sex. Married homosexual sex is worse than unmarried homosexual sex.

  15. JeannineL says:

    The question that I wish we would ask is, “Why does the Church cut off sinners at all?” Does that seem weirdly unchristian to anyone else, or is it just me?

  16. Mark Brown,
    Why is that a complication? Marriage is the trigger for church discipline, because it makes the transgression widely known. There might have been pattern of serious transgressions already before that (which also would make disciplinary council mandatory), but that is hard to prove.

  17. juliathepoet – That surprises me that they can’t come to the activities. I know that would not be the case in our ward – the expectation would be that they could come to the activities but not hold a calling.

  18. The Mormon standard of behavior is clear and I don’t think anybody should think otherwise: sex within a one-man/one-woman marriage, and not otherwise. Same-sex marriage is public defiance of that standard. Our complicated history [Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, polygamy in Utah, retrenchment and the ‘law’ in early 20C, waffling over miscegenation and race in mid-20C, Proclamation in late 20C, SSM battles in early 21C) leaves room to make legalistic arguments about doctrine, but nobody can reasonably believe that they are any more than ‘legalistic’ (with all the negatives that usually implies).
    What the OP is talking about, in my opinion, is not any kind of change in principle or doctrine, but a pastoral change much like that advocated by (Roman Catholic Cardinal) Walter Kasper and others, which, in the Catholic case, would “allow Catholics in a second marriage to receive Communion even if their first marriage is still considered valid—that is, even if they are living in what the Church considers an adulterous relationship”. See: Will Pope Francis Break the Church?, in the May 2015 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Pope Francis’ “who am I to judge?” comment is seen as an entry in this discussion, which extends to same-sex issues as well as divorce.
    I think we’re talking about a fundamental liberal/conservative fault line. The intended and unintended consequences of a liberal/tolerant/universalist pastoral approach are significant. Personally, I’m in the liberal camp, publicly supportive of same-sex marriage for two decades not just as permissible but as a positive good, and arguing for the equivalent of the Kasper approach in the LDS context since the mid-90s. But it’s only fair to recognize that it’s a big deal, not a little side show.

  19. Ardis, regarding changes in wording in the 1920s, I’m really interested. “Legally and lawfully” is perfectly understandable in context, but arguably an unforced error with the benefit of hindsight. Are there references, records, documents? [Probably to take this off-line.]

  20. The question that I wish we would ask is, “Why does the Church cut off sinners at all?” Does that seem weirdly unchristian to anyone else, or is it just me?

    As it turns out, Paul actually takes a much harder line on church discipline than the LDS church does. Paul advocates completely dropping all interaction with unrepentant sinners, and a lot of Christian churches follow this pattern. So I don’t know that we can call church discipline “unchristian” when it is an integral part of the New Testament and practiced by most Christian churches.

    In terms of the LDS approach, you may be familiar with these already, but the church gives three primary reasons for church discipline:

    1. To aid in repentance (this is the primary purpose)
    2. To protect the innocent (e.g., those actively and defiantly teaching false doctrine, sexual predators, etc.)
    3. To protect the good name of the church (e.g., in certain cases where someone’s egregious sins affect other’s view of the church and the ability of the church to carry out its mission – think Corianton in the Book of Mormon)

    Even if church discipline results in a person’s excommunication, unless the person is deemed a threat to others at church (which is very rare), they are still encouraged to come to church and be a part of the ward family. There are 2 members of our congregation who are excommunicated and who attend church every Sunday and participate in activities. They are a part of our ward family, and most of that ward family has no idea that any church discipline was applied to these individuals.

  21. John C. asks: “Really, folks. Are you saying that homosexual sex is sinnier than non-married heterosexual sex?”

    I believe the church has traditionally viewed homosexual sex as more serious. On my mission in the 1990s, there were some sins for which an investigator had to have a second interview with the mission president. These included abortion, homosexual conduct, and some others I forget. Heterosexual fornication and even adultery were not on the list – even though arguably heterosexual adultery should be more serious because it includes the breaking of a marriage covenant.

    I don’t have access to a Handbook 1, but I believe the most recent edition (2010) still treats homosexual sex as “more sinnier” than heterosexual. That said, homosexual sex is not one of the mandatory sins for which a disciplinary council must be called – apostacy, murder, incest, etc.

    FWIW, I agree with Ardis about the implicit understanding in the definition of chastity as given in the endownment, as well as the likely re-wording in the near future to clarify that SSM are not sanctioned by the church. At the same time, I do think that civil acceptance of SSM will have an impact on some number of local leaders’ decisions as to discipline. As time passes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find some local leaders being more tolerant of married homosexuals – sort of like the recent trend to show more patience and tolerance regarding youth and masterbation. As one example of this, there are accounts of Elder Christofferon’s brother – Tom – being warmly fellowshipped in his ward even though he resigned his membership and is living in a longterm SSM relationship (I’m not sure if they’re married). Various accounts report that Tom is allowed to teach lessons and perhaps even take the sacrament.

  22. James and John Mansfield,
    “Are you really saying that all this time the Church has viewed homosexual sex as sinful simply because you couldn’t be married and engage in it?”

    Honestly, yes. It didn’t occur to me that we were placing gradations of sin on what consenting adults do during their sexy times. I just figured it was all illicit sex.

    “Now, as for polygamy, I think it is sinful in ways that don’t have to do with sex, so I’d like to set it aside.”
    James, it may seem easy, but it isn’t. Polygamy, traditionally, is tied up in notions of patriarchal power and, at least in versions I’m aware of, seems very tied to abuse due to the very-messed up power dynamic in those relationships. It is possible that various polyamorous folk (or, perhaps, celestial beings) have overcome this, but I’m not sufficiently familiar with such a lifestyle or its adherents to know if that is the case. In the meantime, there are issues of inequality, abuse, and assymetrical power in polygamy that renders it inherently sinful to my mind, setting aside any of the potential sex stuff. And, I should note, the things that people find most egregious in Mormon fundamentalist polygamy (aside from all of it) is the tendency to abuse and sexual exploitation of minors (which reflect power inequities, again). I’m not aware of this being a common feature of monogamous homosexual relationships.

  23. I also think that the church has had trouble distancing itself from polygamy, both because of a reluctance to denounce past prophetic teaching and a determination to keep scripture holy once acquired.

    Except that we are still practicing polygamy. Couples who are divorced are routinely denied cancelation of sealing and instead the man is granted clearance. His sealing to his first wife remains valid and honored by the church, while they allow (and encourage) a living man to be sealed to two living women. This is happening today, IN 2015. Living man, sealed to two living women. They won’t even consider cancelation unless the woman is applying to be sealed to another LDS man.

    If the LDS woman remarries a non-LDS man and has children with him, those children are sealed to her first husband..

    We’re not distancing ourselves from polygamy in meaningful ways.

    As far as the rest of the argument, this further highlights the lack of transparency and the wide swath local leadership has to interpret rules and laws lay members simply cannot see. Is gay sex worse than other sex? It would appear so, based on what we’re seeing. A punitive actions against a woman having extramarital sex worse or more lenient than a man having extramarital sex? Does that change if the woman is with another woman? The man with another man? We just don’t know.

    We are clear as mud.

  24. Also, stuff like what Tracy brought up. Polygamy is a whole ‘nother ball of poop that we still aren’t ready to deal with, renounce, or explain. Hence, my desire to set it aside for this discussion.

  25. John: I’m genuinely surprised that you didn’t consider that it was the homosexual sex part, whether illicit or within the confines of marriage, that is the big issue. There’s a whole “the laws of man do not change the laws of God” rhetorical tradition.

    It’s always been about sex, dude.

  26. Ben, I get that the church doesn’t want to marry gay folk in the temple. But it doesn’t want people who are co-habiting to go to the temple either. I believe that co-habiting couples undergo a waiting period before attending the temple, even if they get a civil marriage.

    I guess I figured we were, as a church, less homophobic than this.

  27. Sorry about that, John. It’s personal to me, and I see a lot of crossover in the ridiculously opaque way we deal with these issues. But for the sake of this discussion, I understand.

    I know it’s about sex, but if Gay sex is scalable as *worse* than hetero extra-marital sex, we’ve never officially acknowledged it. What this has created is, same-sex couples can come to church and not be excommunicated. But if they take the step of getting married and committing to a life with each other, they are ex’d. If they try and actually LIVE their religious beliefs– marriage is valuable and good; and obey the LoC– wait until marriage for sex, then they effectively sign their own excommunication notice. Is this really the message the institutional church wants to send?

    This is the kind of thought that’s going to drive my kids, and so many younger people, from this church. It’s a tragedy when we have so much good we could offer. We have an open cannon. We claim to have prophetic leadership. We could do so much good, without going anywhere near offering sealing ordinances to SSM.

    We’re going to be accountable for this kind of behavior towards each other someday.

  28. A person cannot repent for who they are. Only for what they do. Our rules say get married and obey the LoC.*

    *Does not apply to our gay brothers and sisters.

    Is that really who we are?

  29. “I believe that co-habiting couples undergo a waiting period before attending the temple, even if they get a civil marriage.”

    And I imagine the Church would say a gay person can undergo a waiting period before attending the temple as soon as they stop being in what the Church sees as a sinful relationship, just like they won’t let co-habitating couples start their waiting period until after they end what the Church sees as a sinful relationship. Just because a thing is sanctioned by the law does not mean the Church will change its policies; there are plenty of legal things the Church will excommunicate you for.

    This policy can certainly be debated, but I don’t think we can call it inconsistent.

  30. TracyM — it’s driving me away and I’m a temple-married heterosexual.

  31. Ben, the responses here indicate that you are correct that there is something about homosexual relationships that the church finds more sinful than illicit heterosexual ones. I suppose the better question is whether they should, but that’s beyond our scope.

  32. John C. and Tracy M., I’m not defending it, but I do think there is a pattern in church history of disciplining unapproved relationships more heavily when those relationships become *official.* The case in point is actually polygamy (sorry to bring it up again). Under the current CHI, if I’m married and am having an affair, the stake president is allowed to take action but has some discretion. However, the moment that affair turns *official* – i.e., I enter a second marriage, the stake president is required to convene a disciplinary council and, absent a change of behavior, excommunicate me.

    If I had to guess as to why this is our practice, I would say that there is an added fear that comes when an relationship the church disapproves of takes on an approved status by a competing authority – be it a civil authority or just “society.” Thus, a polygamous marriage or a SSM are seen as not only violations of the law of chastity, but affronts to the church’s doctrine of marriage and the church’s authority to define what marriage is. Punishing such unions is seen as necessary to “protect the flock” because a flock exposed to such unions may conclude that they aren’t so bad afterall, which would undermine the flock’s faith in church teachings.

  33. “To live in a monogamous relationship”
    I wish this were the case, and it may be in some situations, but it does not seem to be the default assumption, as expressed by this gay man for Gawker. http://gawker.com/master-bedroom-extra-closet-the-truth-about-gay-marri-514348538

    Or take Alan Cumming, bisexual but currently married to a man. He’s said repeatedly that “there’s no question of monogamy.”

  34. I don’t know, Ben. I see the inconsistency. Presumably there are thousands of gay, inactive Latter-day Saints around the globe who are engaging in sex with someone of the same gender. To my knowledge (and I’m happy to be corrected on this point), these inactive Latter-day Saints are not being excommunicated en masse for their same-sex sex. This seems to correspond to countless inactive heterosexual Latter-day Saints around the globe who are engaging in unmarried sex with members of the opposite gender. What emerges then is a sense that if one is inactive in Mormonism but sexually active, regardless of whom one has sex with, they are largely left alone by the church.

    So then the triggering effect does seem to be the marriage. It is difficult not to conclude that, at least in these cases, the message is: getting gay married is worse than having gay sex, living together and being gay, etc. Now, it’s possible (probable, I’d say) that the handful of cases that have been reported are more likely the result of zealous local leadership rather than a churchwide policy. There are likely more married gay couples who are inactive Mormons who are not facing church discipline. Until we see more data, I don’t think we can conclude that this is a Mormon policy. But that said, I’ll reiterate that it certainly seems like, in these specific cases, the ultimate sin is not gay sex but gay marriage.

  35. Ben, you cannot take examples of crappy behavior by some people and apply it to gay Mormons who are seeking the sacrament of marriage. That’s just crap.

    There are plenty of heterosexuals who don’t take their marriage vows seriously. It doesn’t mean none of us do.

  36. Ben, that’s stupid. I mean, I’m sure it’s true that not all gay marriages are founded on monogamy. And you can certainly find gay men who will tell you that the dirty little secret of same-sex marriage is that it is fundamentally different than straight marriage.

    But you can find the same in straight marriages. And using an outlier as an example of the problems with marriage is, at best, disingenuous. (I mean, how would you feel if people pointed to, say, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries as the exemplar of straight marriage, and why it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be?

    The same-sex couples I know are as devoted to each other, and to their kids, as the opposite-sex couples I know. And to pretend otherwise—and then to justify ecclesiastical discipline on that pretense—is dishonest at best.

  37. Wow, thanks for the respectful response of “stupid” and “just crap.” Did you read Gawker?

  38. Arguing about the greater sin, about more and less sinful, is to make a category error. Instead, think private – public or personal – institutional. Marriage moves the matter of sexual relations out of private or personal (where counseling, local discretion, individual cases, and pastoral efforts predominate) into public and institutional (where bright lines, declarations, rules, and hierarchy predominate). We’re seeing the same thing with heterodox belief vs apostasy. Cross into the public arena with your outré beliefs and the rules change.

  39. Fwiw, I didn’t say anything about ecclesiastical discipline, but was commenting on John’s assumption that gay marriage mirrors heterosexual marriage with monogamy as a presumed element.

  40. And I again say, citing outlying examples isn’t correlative to people who wish to be in committed marriages. A person committed enough to their LDS faith to keep the LoC and seek marriage isn’t analogous to the people disinterested in monogamy. Of which, there are plenty, both gay and straight.

  41. Ben,

    Every authority I’ve seen that recognizes SSM holds such marriages to the same standards as heterosexuals marriages. Whether it’s a religion or state, the obligations and rights associated with the covenant/committee are the same for both groups.

    So regardless of what any individual may express, it is factually incorrect to label the SSM – the institution itself- as different from heterosexual marriage in regards the monogamy component. Moreover, as others have pointed out, it highly unfair to allow the approach to monogamy that is reported by some gays to define the institution of marriage itself for all gays. Christ instructed that we judge others as we would be judged ourselves. That applies to SSM.

  42. Emily U says:

    I think christiankimball just nailed it @ 8:36 am.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    Since these chaste homosexuals who want to marry just like any virtuous boy and girl pair are being thrown into the discussion, and since many writers here know many homosexuals, does anyone know a homosexual couple who married without prior cohabitation?

  44. John, yes.

  45. While you’re at it, John, what is the percentage of folk among the non-Mormon hetero couples you know who didn’t co-habitate prior to marriage?

  46. I don’t know a single non-Mormon couple who didn’t cohabitant before marriage. (I’m the only Mormon in my family) I’m including my entire family– cousins, parents, aunts, siblings– and ALL my friends… everyone. Not a single couple that didn’t live together first.

  47. Mark Brown says:

    “I guess I figured we were, as a church, less homophobic than this.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! Good one, John C.!!!

  48. John Mansfield says:

    That’s a fair point, John C., and Sam Brunson’s quick confirmation shows that chaste homosexuals are not hypothetical. It puzzled me how despite the LDS church involving itself in several election campaigns against any-sex marriage over the last couple decades and making noises this year about preserving its religious liberty in a nation of legalized any-sex marriage, it could be thought that the only problem the LDS church has with homosexuality is intimate expression of it outside of marriage. It makes sense, though. The LDS church opposed any-sex marriage because all the homosexuals were unmarried and not having the option of marriage weren’t saving themselves for marriage, but now that such marriages are recognized in various jurisdictions, the institution is available for a rising generation of homosexuals who have behaved chastely, and therefore the LDS church now accepts homosexual marriage. It was one those tricky fruit-in-the-garden-of-Eden puzzles.

  49. Anonymous says:

    John Mansfield, the implication that being gay = being promiscuous is unfortunately common, particularly in church and related society, and is horribly damaging to our young people who are trying to come to grips with their identities. It makes me very angry to see it from someone who has been in the bloggernacle as long as you have—not angry at you, just angry in general—since it means that something about the way we talk about all of this is not working.

    Until any of you has sat with someone who you care about deeply and who is literally shaking in agony trying to figure out how in the world they’re going to be able to find their way ahead in life and particularly in the church, you should just shut the hell up. And I mean that for anyone who thinks they’re taking the high road and standing for truth and righteousness and the nuclear family without any idea about the personal implications of this kind of speech.

  50. John,
    Your logic is probably impeccable, but I don’t follow it. I’m not saying that the LDS Church accepts homosexual marriage. I’m saying that excommunicating married homosexuals who seek participation in the church is unnecessary and counter-productive. I’d like the church to accept homosexual marriage as legitimate, but one miracle at a time, as they say. I’d just like them to stop excommunicating people for having a stable, legally-recognized long-term loving relationship.

  51. Tracy M: Some points on your post @7:25 am:

    1. It is not true that the church “won’t even consider cancellation unless the woman is applying to be sealed to another LDS man.” That may have been the policy in prior years, but it is not so now. When I was bishop I processed several such requests and 100% were granted (cancellations when the sister was not engaged or set to be married again). If a bishop tells a sister that he cannot process an application for cancellation until she has another person to marry, that bishop is absolutely incorrect.

    The church was (and is) concerned about taking away that sealing ordinance for the sister because, in the church’s eyes, that sealing is a required ordinance to reach exaltation (not to reach heaven or the Celestial Kingdom, and no the woman would not be forced to live/be sealed that her old husband (contrary to what many in the church believe, the sealing does not create ownership of a person by another person–it is all about the ordinances and sealing all together)). The church is still concerned about a woman losing the sealing ordinance obviously, but they honor these requests.

    2. As far as church discipline on women vs. men, bishops/stake presidents must be careful to make sure women are not treated differently. Ultimately you go by the spirit, but if all the women in situation X are being excommunicated while men in situation X are being disfellowshipped, that is a problem. I know in some instances area authority 70s have paid visits to stakes where that was going on.

    3. As far as the children in your example of an LDS woman remarrying a non LDS man (or it could even be an LDS man but they were not married in the temple), the children would be under the sealing of the first marriage. I think the church looks at this as protecting the children to make sure they are entitled to eternal parentage. Being born in the covenant is different than being sealed–BIC guarantees eternal parentage and is not essential to exaltation. What exactly being guaranteed eternal parentage entails, I am not sure. But that is the church’s handbook explanation. Of course if the sister had her sealing cancelled then the children with the later marriage would not be sealed to anyone.

  52. 1. That bishop might be incorrect, but she has no recourse. Also, I am living this right now. A cancelation was “out of the question”. And I don’t know a single woman or man to whom it’s been granted.

    2. But women ARE treated differently. An entire high counsel is necessary to discipline a man. Only a bishop to discipline a woman.

    3. Imagine how that man might feel. Or his new wife. Or especially if they’re people whose request for cancelation was denied.

  53. MG – Re: your #3 “As far as church discipline on women vs. men, bishops/stake presidents must be careful to make sure women are not treated differently.”

    Men and women are treated differently for the same sin when the sin is heterosexual sex outside of marriage resulting in pregnancy. Because the woman’s sin becomes “widely known” as the pregnancy progresses, her sin may be treated differently than the man’s which is more private (assuming the two are in different wards).

    See this post: http://www.the-exponent.com/five-more-lds-church-discipline-policies-that-affect-women-unequally/

  54. The only answer I see for the church is it to start formally treating homosexuality as it does, say, drinking coffee. Someone who drinks coffee is not inherently bad or wrong, and on the list of sins, coffee is pretty far down there. Heck, on the WoW list it’s pretty far down there. But still, our church chooses to live by a certain standard, and that standard includes abstaining from coffee. The church has drawn a relatively well-defined line.

    You can go to church and drink coffee, even openly (well, maybe not in church per se. But I’ve known lots of open coffee drinkers over the years in my wards. Some bishops and stake presidents may decide you’re not worthy for a TR if you choose to drink coffee, and for some people, that’s okay.

    Is it a perfect model? Far from it. But I think it’s the closest you’re going to get to a workable model for the church without having to fundamentally re-write decades of doctrine and walk back hundreds of statements by church leaders. It allows for a relatively well-defined line that also allows people to experience church fellowship.

  55. “An entire high counsel is necessary to discipline a man. Only a bishop to discipline a woman.”

    Correction: Bishop and his counselors.

  56. One more correction: The stake presidency and high council are necessary to excommunicate a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The bishop alone can provide informal church discipline to such a person; and the bishop and his counselors can apply formal probation or disfellowshipment to such a person (i.e., any formal discipline except excommunication). Bishop and his counselors together, in a formal disciplinary council, can apply any formal discipline to any other member of the church.

  57. None of this, of course, changes the point you were making, that there is a different process for women.

  58. Okay, so regarding the whole sealing cancellation, I don’t get why they think the sealing is necessary for exaltation for those women. What about women like me, who’ve never been married? Does the church think I have no hope of exaltation because I’ve never been sealed to anyone? That’s never been my understanding, and I don’t think that’s what the church teaches. So why wouldn’t that apply to women who are divorced? Couldn’t they still achieve exaltation without being sealed to someone? And in turn, if the church doesn’t want those who are LGBT to be in any kind of relationship, married or otherwise, wouldn’t they say that those people could still attain exaltation without being sealed to anyone?

  59. It has surprised me for a long time that the church has not revised the wording of the law of chastity in light of the lawyerball one can easily play with its current wording. I think part of the reason it hasn’t is that it’s been pretty clear at least during my adult life that the church views any and all homosexual conduct, no matter how tame, as more grievous a sin than any opposite-sex analog. They won’t kick a guy and girl out of Temple Square for holding hands and kissing, after all, and the risk of a disciplinary council for an unmarried man and woman who have a heavy make-out session is basically zero, whereas it’s a significant risk for a same-sex couple.

  60. Bro. Jones says:

    In light of this conversation, will be interesting to see how the church reacts to the possibility of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) eliminating their ban on gay adults.

  61. Angela C says:

    “not only is unmarried homosexual sex worse than unmarried heterosexual sex. Married homosexual sex is worse than unmarried homosexual sex.” I suspect this is similar to what may happen if two heterosexual people co-habitate. They may have been knocking boots beforehand, but there is a bit of a don’t ask, don’t tell when it comes to sexual sin. Co-habitating or gay marriage just makes what was suspected and unknown suddenly obvious and openly known. I’m not agreeing with our stance, just observing what is probably causing marriage to be a triggering event.

  62. It seems to me that the church really wants to establish that same-sex marriage is, in and of itself, conduct unbecoming of a member of the church. I think that this kinda gets at what christiankimball remarked earlier, but I would put it like this: when you have folks in same-sex marriage on the books of the church, that gives the impression (even if they are inactive) that that’s something the church tolerates. But no, the church absolutely does not tolerate that.

    Its visibility makes it more important for the church to address.

    (the whole: “well, when it becomes legal, then the church will have to accept it” argumentation hasn’t made a lot of sense to me. The church has fought so strongly against legalized same-sex marriage because it really does oppose it…so the fact that it has been legalized in many jurisdictions despite its efforts doesn’t mean that it’s just going to say, “Well, I guess that now legitimizes certain same sex relationships due to our “legally and lawfully wed” language!”

  63. John Mansfield says:

    The visibility issue brings to mind this bit said by Michael Ballam twenty years ago:

    ” . . . I want to tell you about when Laurie and I moved to Manhattan. Manhattan is a very artistic place and the ward is enormous. It’s got to be the biggest ward in the Church with the smallest attendance in the Church. I went there and they had an idea that nobody [the public] knew who the Mormons were, yet they had this beautiful building right across the street from Lincoln Center. The idea was why don’t we get people in here to hear organ recitals, or plays, or vocal recitals? Let’s let them see who the Mormons are because we live in the artistic community- we’re right there at Lincoln Center. I thought it was a wonderful idea. We had plenty of artists to do that so I was appointed to put this series of artistic expression together on behalf of the Mormons living in Manhattan. I met with the Bishop and the Stake President and had a book, a very substantial book of all the artists who were Mormons living in the Manhattan Ward. It was page after page after page after page, but most of them either had an ‘X’ or an ‘X’ in parenthesis around them. I said, ‘What does this ‘X’ mean?’ ‘It means they’ve been excommunicated.’ ‘What does the parenthesis around the ‘X’ mean?’ ‘It means if they come through the revolving door they’ll be excommunicated.'”

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    I guess I figured we were, as a church, less homophobic than this.

    John, this comment is beneath you – it’s both lazy and a disservice to the productive aspects of this discussion. A religion with doctrine that same-sex sexual relationships are sinful is not homophobic per se; nor is it racist per se to disagree with President Obama on a policy issue or sexist per se to disagree with Carly Fiorina.

  65. The analogy isn’t quite right. Holding that homosexual relations are sinful is not analogous to disagreeing with a President who happens to be black or a CEO who happens to be a woman.

  66. Anon for this says:

    O_o

    “A religion with doctrine that same-sex sexual relationships are sinful is not homophobic per se.”

    Just as a religion with doctrine that mixed-race relationships are sinful is not racist per se. How’s that logic working for you?

  67. but you see, Anon for this, they don’t do this because they *hate* or *fear* gay people. They do this because they love society, and love gay people enough not to support counterfeit relationships.

    /hamburger

  68. The author understands neither the law of chastity nor the sacrament of marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman in the church and the eyes of God (therefore, call it what you will but two men CANNOT be married by this definition). marriage is a religious rite in the church, therefore any attempt to distort said rite is sacrilege and sinful as such. Homosexual behavior is sin as is any sexually sin, and is breaking the Law of Chastity (no sexual relationships outside of marriage, see above for the definiton of Marriage.)

  69. “marriage is a religious rite in the church, therefore any attempt to distort said rite is sacrilege and sinful as such”

    Hey so what’s all this Supreme Court crap about?

  70. Tubes,
    If gay sex is, by definition, worse than hetero sex, utterly despicable and worthy of excommunication, and the church gives no explanation for this beyond “God doesn’t like it,” that belief is indistinguishable from a homophobic belief. It is possible this might mean God is a homophobe, but I doubt it.

  71. Mad, mad props to Christian Kimball. Spot on, sir. Spot on.

  72. Mark B. says:

    I don’t think the Supreme Court is in the business of deciding what is sinful–they have neither the capacity nor the responsibility to do that.

    And, of course, neither do the authors of this blog.

  73. it's a series of tubes says:

    Just as a religion with doctrine that mixed-race relationships are sinful is not racist per se. How’s that logic working for you?

    Great, given that the doctrine of the church is not that mixed-race relationships are sinful.

  74. Mark B., or, by extension, any of its commenters! Hooray for a level playing field.

  75. Suleyman says:

    Christian Kimball certainly nailed the crux of this issue. SSM is a public declaration of one’s views on sexual conduct and appropriate marital relations. As long as the Church does not condone homosexual behavior nor SSM, both of which are viewed as damaging to one’s chances for salvation and exaltation, excommunication will be the result. Arguments involving legality are irrelevant.

    I believe that even if states recognized plural marriage, LDS polygamists would still be excommunicated for entering into marital relations not endorsed by the Church. The way I read the history of revelations regarding plural marriage, it would take a revelation to change that.

  76. it's a series of tubes says:

    If gay sex is, by definition, worse than hetero sex, utterly despicable and worthy of excommunication, and the church gives no explanation for this beyond “God doesn’t like it,” that belief is indistinguishable from a homophobic belief. It is possible this might mean God is a homophobe, but I doubt it.

    John, it appears that you are repeatedly ignoring Christian Kimball’s excellent elucidation of the true point here. Being a practicing homosexual doesn’t get you exed, nor are the church teachings the vitriolic caricature you present above.

    Anecdotes are not statistics, but here’s mine: In my current mountain west ward, we have, currently on the records and NOT excommunicated:

    2 member women who live with their female lovers
    2 member men who live together as lovers
    1 member man who lives with his male lover

    Each have VTs and HTs, as applicable. One of the women regularly attends the block and is welcomed and loved.

  77. Anonymous says:

    iasot, I believe the correct term is “partner,” unless they are legally married, then “spouse.” And I’m curious how you know the membership status for all these people?

  78. it's a series of tubes says:

    Anonymous, I’m happy to revise my comment to state “partner” if you/they/anyone would prefer. As to membership status, any member can download the LDS Tools app and browse the entire membership of their ward and stake; more specifically, the entire ward council has access to more detailed information on the members of their ward; the bishopric counselors and clerks have access to pretty much everything, and the bishop sees it all. I’m not the bishop, but I’ve been in a position of accessin my ward for over a decade.

  79. In addition to the public-private/institutional-personal distinction, I’ve seen some comments elsewhere that indicate an endowed/not-endowed distinction. The idea seems to be that once you’ve made covenants in the temple endowment ritual, you are held to a higher standard of behavior. Your sins, whatever they may be, are now double – a sin in itself as well as breaking a covenant and thus a second sin. Given that nearly all civil marriages are between adults and all adults who are active in the church face strong pressure to receive their endowment, it would seem the majority of gay members who marry their partners would be endowed and thus seen as committing this extra layer of sin by breaking their temple covenants.