The Church and Same Sex Marriage: The Pastoral Question

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.”—John Henry Newman

aGen2114Dore_TheExpulsionOfIshmaelAndHisMotherUnless everybody I know has misread the tea leaves, same-sex marriage will soon be legal in all 50 states. On the off chance that this doesn’t happen in June, it will happen some time. We have passed the tipping point, and a clear majority of people in the United States now favor such unions. Even in a democracy as dysfunctional as ours, clear majorities usually end up getting their way.

Universal same-sex marriage laws will have consequences for the Church. I’m not talking about the dire parade of horribles at the end of Glenn Beck’s slippery slopes. Nobody is going to force the LDS Church to perform gay marriages in their temples, nor will anyone force a religion to give ecclesiastical recognition to that which has been joined civilly. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment will not go gentle into that good night, and gay marriage will not awaken the Ice Giants.

The real consequences will be much less drastic, but still very real. For one thing, the Church will probably face some legal questions about things like married housing at its universities (see Sam Brunson’s excellent contribution here). There will also be political questions. Will we support the inevitable efforts to overturn or protest a Supreme Court decision? Or will we conclude that, having fought the good fight, we should figure out a way to build the Kingdom of God in a country that lets gay people get married?

By far, though, the most significant question we will face as a Church will be pastoral: how should we as a religious community treat our legally married gay members? Most people I know think that this is an easy question. The problem is, about half of them think it is easy in one direction while the rest think it is easy in the other. Actually, it is a very difficult question. But it is also an extremely important one, as it may determine the nature of our community for the next hundred years.

What makes this question so difficult is that, more than perhaps any other religion in the United States, Latter-day Saints have tied our definition of “morality” firmly to the whims of the state. This was probably inevitable, given the problems we had when we strayed too far from that definition in the nineteenth century. But after we determined to submit to the laws of the land, we started to use those laws to draw a big bright line on sexual activity. The line is marked “legally and lawfully wedded.” On one side lies eternal life; on the other lies the sin next to murder.

As lines go, this one has worked pretty well. It has done all of the things that lines are supposed to do; but it is not our line. We have subcontracted out the hard work of defining morality to the state, which will no longer work to our specs. The line in the sand has become sandier just when we needed it to become linier. At the very least, we will have to clarify it.

But the blurring of this line also presents us with pastoral opportunities we should not ignore. By giving legal sanction to monogamous same-sex relationships, the state could help the Church create spaces for its gay members in between lifelong celibacy and excommunication. As one of my blogging colleagues recently put it, “to me gay marriage was a gift, a way to stanch the bleeding, by providing a path for good young gay Mormons to envision a happy life within the Church.”

Let me be very clear here that I am not suggesting anything that would require changes in our theology. Profound shifts in fundamental doctrines would have to occur before the Church could solemnize same-sex marriages in the temple or declare them valid for time and all eternity. But the bar for temple marriage need not be the same as the bar for not cutting people off from the Church, revoking their baptisms, and delivering them up to the buffetings of Satan.

The Church has managed to accommodate a lot of people who are not married for time and all eternity in some level of activity short of Satan’s buffeting. Many of these people are also sinners of one sort or another, which is actually the whole point of the Church. To answer Christ’s call, we must become a hospital for the sick and not a museum of the saints. Not casting people out does not constitute an endorsement of their behavior or their lifestyle. It simply acknowledges that, notwithstanding their weaknesses, the gospel can still make their lives better

For a century and a half, the Church has tolerated liars, gossipers, and backbiters in our midst. We do not excommunicate people for being uncharitable, proud, judgmental, or unwilling to help others. And we give a free pass to the majority of things forbidden in Leviticus. I believe that there are some very powerful pastoral reasons to add legally married gay people to the list of those we allow to exist in our community. Here are some of them:

    • Committed monogamy is a good thing, and its goodness does not depend on its configuration of genders. Promiscuity and infidelity are spiritually destructive, and this destructiveness is independent of sexual orientation. Once we agree that some kinds of relationships are spiritually superior to others—independent of the sexual orientation of the partners—the principles of pastoral care dictate that we should encourage the former. Excommunicating people for getting married does precisely the opposite.
    • The only two options now available for gay people who want to remain part of the LDS Church are 1) a commitment to lifelong celibacy; or 2) a mixed-orientation marriage. Neither of these options has proven effective in keeping people in the Church or in helping them to live happy, spiritually fulfilling lives. The Church will never be able to minister to the spiritual needs of more than a small fraction of its gay members without another option.
    • Marriage is more than simply a license to have sex. Almost every discussion of this issue I have ever been involved in has hyperfocused on sexual expression (which actually does not require marriage, gay or otherwise). Committed, long-term, monogamous relationships are about intimacy, closeness, tenderness, mutual support, and the transformative power of loving somebody else on the same terms that one loves oneself. These are the sorts of things that we come to earth to learn about, and our biology is such that it is difficult to experience them without sexual attraction.
    • Excommunications can have traumatic effects on families and can force parents, siblings, children, and other family members to choose sides between the Church and their loved ones. Such situations often result either in the excommunicated members losing the support of their families, or in family members themselves leaving the Church. Pastorally speaking, these are both bad things.
    • The generational shift on the issue of same-sex marriage has been profound, and this will have consequences. Young people today are far more likely to support same-sex marriage than their parents were, and to consider it an important civil rights issue as well. This means that the pastoral consequences of excommunicating legally married gay members will not be limited to the members and their families. An entire generation will be watching to see what we do.

It is difficult to see what pastoral objectives are accomplished by excommunicating people for a sexual orientation, over which they have no control, or for choosing to express that orientation in the most chaste, socially acceptable, legally official, and spiritually positive manner available to them—a committed monogamous marriage.

In nearly every other case I can think of, pastoral discipline focuses on behaviors that people can change and by doing so, live happier lives. It does not punish people for being who they are. We need to find ways to minster to people who are doing the best that they can under the circumstances that prevail.  This, I believe, is the second most important reason that we need to find ways to make room for married gay Mormons in our congregations.

But there is an even more important reason, which another of my BCC colleagues pointed out yesterday in his brilliant post “Unforced Errors.” Simply put, we need our gay brothers and sisters too badly to drive them from our midst. We need their strengths and their desires to serve. We need the perspective that they bring to our community and the gifts that they bring to the altar of God. If we cannot find a way to use these gifts, we will deprive ourselves, and the Church, of those whom God put on the earth to do some work which He has not committed to others. If we cannot find a way to let everybody do the work that is theirs to do, we will all be diminished by the absence. We cannot afford to throw anybody away.

Comments

  1. Two questions/comments:

    1. Is excommunication mandated (or even advised) based solely on a member’s sexual orientation? I thought (admittedly I haven’t read handbook 1) excommunication is only a possibility (and only a possibility, not a mandated requirement in every instance) for violations of the law of chastity?

    2. Not sure the Church has entirely outsourced to the state its definition of the law of chastity (is that what you meant when you said morality?). While “legally and lawfully wedded” is part of that definition, it is not the whole definition. You’ve left out important qualifiers: “…sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife…” In light of of the broader definition, I don’t see how state-sanctioned SSM changes the Church’s view on law of chastity violations.

  2. love reading your analyses!!!

  3. I am not Michael but……

    1. No.

    You are correct on your second statement.

    2. Agreed. I think the idea that “more than perhaps any other religion in the United States, Latter-day Saints have tied our definition of “morality” firmly to the whims of the state” is a huge stretch given our history.

  4. Active Believing says:

    Paul, acknowledging that humans often fall short of the ideal, taught that “it is better to marry than to burn.” I think that probably applies as much to LGBT Mormons as to those of us with other challenges. The LDS Church, along with the rest of Christendom, has managed to side-step Jesus’ explicit condemnation of divorce and remarriage, for the sake of pastoral care. How would same-sex marriage be an entirely different situation? Even if it were never possible for same-sex couples to be sealed in the temple (as is the case for spouses married to non-members), couldn’t welcoming them into our congregations be another example of trying to help people live the best lives they can in the here and now, and then letting God sort things out in the next life? I would be happy to worship alongside same-sex couples and their children.

  5. Marc, the very reason for our having tied the definition of “chastity” to the whims of the state is that the creation of that definition of “chastity” was in response to the state outlawing the LDS church’s previous definition of “chastity.” It’s not a stretch given our history – it *is* our history. And that’s problematic, both logistically and theologically.

  6. “The Church has managed to accommodate a lot of people who are not married for time and all eternity in some level of activity short of Satan’s buffeting.”

    True, your name won’t be removed from the records of the church or your ingress blocked by hall monitors. You just have to endure obnoxious talks and lessons about not settling, the inherent inferiority of such arrangements and the people who engage in them and so on. But opposition in all things, I suppose.

  7. And those of us who don’t do our genealogy have to endure obnoxious talks and lessons about that, too. Enduring church talks and lessons isn’t quite the same as being kicked out of the church (though it does feel like being slowly pushed out sometimes).

  8. As important as refining our approach to pastoral care is in light of the societal change going on in the United States, I often wonder in these discussions how the church avoids the inevitable one-two step that follows. If, as the author suggests, we set aside a dramatic reworking of our present doctrine (which is, admittedly always a possibility) and work only within the current framework, how does the church create this pastoral space? If we continue to uphold sealing between a man and a woman, either in this life or the next, as the ideal necessary to obtain the highest degree of exhalation while at the same time welcoming those in committed same sex relationships, are we not on the one hand begging for a push to re-frame the sealing ordinance to sanctify these marriages while on the other hand telling such committed people that their spiritual progress is literally damned because they cannot achieve this ordinance for no other reason than that are in this same committed relationship? Although we accommodate sinners of all sorts, the underlying premise/hope is that we will bring our lives into conformity with the Lord’s commandments. If this is an implicit expectation, how does the church welcome individuals in committed same sex marriages while maintaining that, in order to enjoy further blessings, they must abandon those same committed relationships?

    Given the authors analysis, I would be interested in his thoughts on how deal with the two sides of this scale? Excommunication is probably not the answer, but what is? The situation strikes me as different from divorce or marriage to a non-member, where there is an assumption that everything will work out positively within the current framework in this life or the next (either through the Lord’s understanding of the reasons for the divorce, or the spouse’s possible acceptance of the gospel). Here, barring that dramatic reworking of our present doctrine, it seems like the only solution is an implicit expectation that the committed relationship cannot continue.

  9. This is a joke, right?
    The question you analyze is basically this: is the sin of sodomy less serious, if you are married?

    How is your position different than asking the following: is physical abuse against your spouse different or less serious than physical abuse against your girlfriend?

    Sometimes the gospel is easier to understand than we make it.

  10. A lot of things wrong with this line of reasoning.
    -The word “lawful” is used in DC 132 and is clear that the Lord’s law of chastity is NOT tied to mans law so the main premise of this reasoning crumbles.
    -The teaching of the church is that homosexual behavior is damaging to the individuals involved and harmful to society at large. Suddenly accepting it will not be “pastoral” or anything else kind to the followers. We are here to call people to do hard things and face difficult challenges to their lives. I welcome fellowship with any gay brother or sister trying to live the law but membership requires conformity to this law. Anyone not willing to pay that price may attend meetings but cannot be a member.
    -@Active Believing, Paul was not open minded on homosexuality. To use his quote about marriage in support of homosexuality is a very selective reading of his works.
    -Here is a thought: Maybe we should not pretend we are a religion that decides policy and doctrine by vote. There are consequences to having a prophet, perhaps that is why they so often have been killed. I am willing to leave questions of membership qualifications to his judgement and God’s mercy.
    -Fundamentally I think this whole line of approach is disrespectful to those members who have made hard sacrifices to follow the requirements of the church. This includes the many celebate women who having lost a husband to death or divorce or never finding a spouse remain faithful. It includes people who have had to choose faith over family when disowned for joining the church. It includes those who had to overcome addiction. It includes those who risked prison and even death for their belief. And, yes, it includes our gay brethren and sisters who follow the commandments. This is not an easy religion. As Joseph said any religion that does not require you to sacrifice all you have has no power to save.

  11. thor, playing pretty solid lawyerball with the church’s stated definition of the Law of Chastity leads to the fairly indisputable conclusion that same-sex sexual relations (not just sodomy, which also includes oral sex between opposite-sex partners) are technically not a violation of the Law of Chastity so long as they are between same-sex partners who are, in the words of the “law,” “legally and lawfully married.”

    Now, we all know that’s not the “real” Law of Chastity, because the “real” Law of Chastity, per the church’s doctrine, includes the caveat that the parties to the sexual relations must be of opposite sex. But that’s not in the statutory language, is it? Nope. And thus the sort of funny problem that’s only really a problem if you’re playing lawyerball. But the church plays lawyerball, so it’s fun for us to do it, too, if only as a thought exercise.

    Spousal abuse is as an analogy doesn’t really work the way you’re presenting it. To make the analogy work, maybe compare the church’s position vis-a-vis shooting and killing your wife intentionally with a rifle in normal circumstances as opposed to doing so if you’re an officially-designated member of Utah’s capital punishment firing squad and the person you’re executing happens to be your wife. That’s a pretty direct analogy, don’t you think? The church says it’s an excommunicable sin, except in the circumstance where it’s legal and lawful.

    As it currently stands, though, it seems that the church will discipline and even excommunicate a gay couple for getting legally married – even if they do not engage in any sexual relations with each other. So, in the church’s eyes, a totally sexless same-sex marriage is a sin equal to or approaching the gravity of same-sex sexual relations. I can guess at the reasons for that, and it’s not surprising. But I don’t think there’s any solid revelatory or scriptural support for it.

    (Also, again, I think it complicates things to use the word “sodomy” as shorthand for same-sex sexual relations, since “sodomy” has an actual definition that doesn’t have anything to do with the gender of the participants, and, notwithstanding SWK’s opinions on the matter, engaging in sodomy with your wife is not an excommunicable offense or even necessarily a sin at all.)

  12. it's a series of tubes says:

    “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”

    Hard to square that circle, isn’t it? It’s amusing to see so many “enlightened” thinkers trying to bend the church to match their opinion.

  13. it’s a series of tubes, when did God command that? And to whom?

  14. Well, obviously the “sacred powers of procreation” are only to be employed between men and women. Sex, on the other hand….

  15. Kristine says:

    ^ftw

  16. In other words, IASOT, some of us square that particular circle by respectfully disagreeing with the Proclamation’s assertion.

  17. it's a series of tubes says:

    My thanks to the posters above for proving my point.

  18. Which point did we prove for you? That we’re trying to bend the church to match our opinion, that we’re only “enlightened” if you put quotes around the word, or that it’s hard to square the circle?

    If you assume the Proclamation is infallible, then yes, it’s hard to square that circle.

  19. lol, Lunch.

    I’m skeptical of Gilgamesh’s suggestion that the church is also excommunicating non-gay fornicators right and left, so of course we’d ex all the gay ones as well.

    Does the church excommunicate in the following situation?
    – A less active member begins to attend church again.
    – It develops that the member is not legally married to his/her current “spouse.” They’ve been together for years and even have kids, but a past marriage on the books and their country’s draconian divorce laws mean they can’t marry the current partner.

    I understand this kind of thing is (or was?) not uncommon in Latin America. Are/were people in this situation routinely excommunicated? It seems like the closest analog to the legally married gay couple that might want to sit in our pews, and not a slam-dunk case for church discipline.

  20. “Enduring church talks and lessons isn’t quite the same as being kicked out of the church (though it does feel like being slowly pushed out sometimes).”

    I didn’t mean to equate the two, just to point out that “accommodation” doesn’t mean one has to give up one’s righteous indignation at the choices of co-congregants.

  21. Also, tubes: I would have thought it was obvious that this whole conversation was predicated on a simple idea: it’s unclear how much of the church’s rhetoric and tradition on a given subject aligns perfectly with the Lord’s will (cf. 1978). What if our rhetoric and tradition on homosexuality changes drastically in the next 20 years, just as it has in the last 20?

    You probably disagree, but you probably want to engage with that part of the argument, rather than just saying “B-b-but the Proclamation!”

  22. it's a series of tubes says:

    If you assume the Proclamation is infallible

    This is a good point, and worth addressing. I don’t believe the Proclamation (or our leadership) are infallible, but it’s quite a stretch to argue that the Proclamation does not represent the official position of the LDS church.

    We can play lawyerball with certain phrases till the cows come home. I do it for a living, and quite enjoy it :) But the upcoming SCOTUS decision won’t suddenly invert the church’s position on this issue.

  23. Active Believing says:

    Gilgamesh, it’s true that the Apostle Paul was opposed to homosexual relations (though nothing quite like same-sex marriage existed in his day), but if you read him carefully, you’ll discover that he wasn’t a big fan of opposite-sex marriage either. The principle, however, is that he thought it wise to accommodate some–though certainly not all–less-than-ideal behaviors. The question is where Church leaders will draw the lines, and the OP suggests that there are good reasons to make same-sex monogamy less than an “automatic excommunication” offense. In areas of family life, prophets have and will continue to change their minds about the relative sinfulness of various behaviors. Polygamy is the obvious example, but when I was growing up, using birth control was an egregious sin and interracial marriages were strongly discouraged. You can easily say “get it right or get out” about any number of sins, but we generally don’t excommunicate people for not paying tithing, not keeping the Sabbath or the Word of Wisdom, or even breaking the law of chastity (if the offenders are young and unendowed). Being Mormon, including no sex outside the bonds of marriage, is hard enough. Why not hold gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints to the same standard? They would still face the same prospects of perhaps not finding a spouse, or being divorced, or living after the death of a spouse, and celibacy would be required in those situations, just like for everyone else. But if married same-sex couples were allowed to participate fully in wards and branches, they would enjoy the blessings of the gospel and their children would be raised in the faith.

  24. Aaron Brown says:

    Gilgamesh, you may be willing to leave membership decisions to the Prophet, but interestingly, the Prophet himself seems willing to leave them to local ecclesiastical authorities. The Handbook classifies homosexual activity as a sin for which church discipline is discretionary, not mandatory, (And there is a “mandatory” category, so it’s omission from that category was not an accident). That it does so suggests the Brethren recognize specific cases will differ and that they have no interest in legislating every not and tittle of these questions. To be sure, things could always change, gay marriage itself may be treated as a clear, bright-line case (is it? Is this stated anywhere officially?), and I doubt they intended the discretionary powers granted to local leaders to be used in infinitely malleable ways, but this whole topic is a bit more complicated than you’re making it.

    Michael, your assertion that Mormonism has tied it’s definition to the morality of the whims of the state is interesting and provocative, but it strikes me as not entirely persuasive. Can you say more about this ?

    Aaron B

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    it’s unclear how much of the church’s rhetoric and tradition on a given subject aligns perfectly with the Lord’s will (cf. 1978). What if our rhetoric and tradition on homosexuality changes drastically in the next 20 years, just as it has in the last 20?

    We live in interesting times, for sure. We will see.

    Let me append this, lest my short comments give an incomplete impression of my thoughts on the issue: I’ve wept with friends who have come out to me, and shared their agony as they tried to reconcile who they knew they were inside with the teachings of the church they were raised in. I don’t believe for a second we should ever demean, belittle, or treat anyone as second class or unwelcome in our community – the scriptures are clear on that point. But as a previous poster noted, God seems to ask hard things of us in life, and I’m not certain that just because something is hard (like being asked to be celibate), that it is wrong.

  26. Aaron Brown says:

    Folks, the Family Proclamation — no matter how official and/or infallible — doesn’t speak directly to the pastoral question at the heart of this post.

  27. Aaron Brown says:

    “… Definition OF morality TO the whims of the state.. ”

    This is why Facebook is superior to blogging: You can easily edit your grammatical mistakes. Grrr.

  28. “righteous indignation at the choices of co-congregants?” aye, Zion is a long way off.

  29. “Well, obviously the “sacred powers of procreation” are only to be employed between men and women. Sex, on the other hand….”

    Is there an award for comment of the year?

    “Marc, the very reason for our having tied the definition of “chastity” to the whims of the state is that the creation of that definition of “chastity” was in response to the state outlawing the LDS church’s previous definition of “chastity.””

    SGNM, I would be interested in your basis for this statement. I think your stretching. Regardless, we have a unique history with government (extermination order, Utah war, general authorities hiding from federal marshals, Reid Smoot, etc.)

    So I just disagree that we, more than any other religion, tie our doctrine to the whims of the state.

  30. Interesting that marrying for time two people sealed to others is not adultery.

    I’ve blogged on that before. Once that is established all the issues are resolved.

  31. We cannot afford to throw anyone away, and yet the church is doing just that. Have a doubt? Go away. Express a concern? Buh-bye. What happened to the example of doubting Thomas? He questioned – and was given an answer. Possibly with a slight admonishment but he didn’t get excommunicated for it.

  32. “gay marriage itself may be treated as a clear, bright-line case (is it? Is this stated anywhere officially?”

    No.

  33. I have to admit that this post is difficult for me to digest because it’s a bit abstract. I observe that discourse about church matters can focus on 1. theology 2. policy and/or 3. lived experience. Some work as writers, readers and/or thinkers primarily in one area more than another. Some work in an intersection of two. Writing about all three is tricky. Even if I stick with my preferred mode of lived experience (personal narrative), the other two are implied. There are huge tensions when people try to make all three realms identical and static. There are tensions when there are differences among / between them. For example, when I was growing up in the 1960s, women were not allowed to say the opening prayer in sacrament meeting (policy). I remember when Sis. Gates was the first women to do so (lived experience). The implication was that there was a change (in theology) about the status of women in relationship among God, the priesthood and the congregation practices. This post here about gay marriage and church policy doesn’t have a lot of examples of lived experience, but there are implications readers can make. Controversy! But is this post asserting a static theology? Or a static policy? Or dictating what is a valid lived experience? Or is it mainly identifying shifting ground and differences among these three realms? (I don’t have insider information. I promise. The post is too abstract for me to really made an educated guess. I’m mainly doing errands and cleaning today–is there a theology and/or policy implied in THAT lived experience?)

  34. I commented on this subject yesterday in response to “Unforced Errors”. Without unduly repeating myself, let me (a) applaud–I agree 100% with the pastoral approach, and (b) pick up on this line: “The problem is, about half of them think it is easy in one direction while the rest think it is easy in the other.” I would quibble with “half” and with “easy”, but the observation that there is a clear divide seems right to me. (Comments to this post would support that.)
    In order for the obviously correct pastoral position to gain traction, it has to speak to the conservative but-that’s-sin crowd. Most of the genuinely fine arguments in the OP are essentially preaching to the liberal choir. Even the argument that marriage is better than the alternative (better than burning?) falls a little flat. My thoughtful conservative friends and family will reply that certainly a committed monogamous relationship is better than sexual promiscuity, and a commitment ceremony or domestic partnership arrangement is laudable, but same-sex marriage itself is wrong, is a distortion, is a “public defiance of God’s law” that cannot and should not be tolerated.
    As wholly committed to a pastoral approach as I am (and have been for several decades that I can label), I struggle to find the argument that speaks to my conservative friends. I hate to resort to the “authority instead of argument” position, but I haven’t got much else.

  35. Marc, the “legally and lawfully” in the definition of chastity is, I understand, directly related to the government outlawing plural marriages and the church imposing a definition of the law of chastity that would make clear that sex with a spouse where the marriage is illegal is not chaste. Before that, there doesn’t seem to have been much concern with whether a marriage was legally recognized. For example, Joseph Smith, Jr. didn’t seem to think legal recognition of his plural marriages had any bearing on whether his sexual relations with those wives was chaste.

  36. Aaron Brown says:

    But aren’t the ingredients for such an argument right there in your comment, Christian? You say your conservative relatives acknowledge that monogamy is superior to promiscuity and that domestic partnership short of marriage is better than nothing at all. So why not point out to them that gay people getting married, while not the marital “ideal” in a cosmic sense, is an appropriate compromise under the circumstances, and then encourage them to “tolerate”, if not embrace, the gay marrieds, even as they retain their moral and religious views about what God’s eternal rules are?

  37. “The line in the sand has become sandier just when we needed it to become linier” is an excellent bit of writing that I will henceforth incorporate into my usage, without ever giving credit.

  38. Aaron, here is my take on the “whims of the state” thing,

    Since shortly after the Manifesto, we have used the phrase “legally and lawfully married” as part of our definition of morality/chastity. This phrase was initially used because, previously, the Church married people unlegally and unlawfully, and there were still a lot of people in the Church who didn’t think that the legal authority mattered, but Joseph F. Smith was determined to save Reed Smoot’s Senate seat, so, darn’it, we were going to prove that we were following the law in all things, especially marriage.

    Over time, this became a hard and fast rule. Legal marriage became both necessary and sufficient to establish that sexual relations were “moral.” On my mission (Central California, Spanish speaking), I probably had 30 investigators who could not be baptized because 1) they were married in their home country, which did not permit divorce; 2) they had been living in common law marriages for many years and had children with their common-law spouse. The only way that we could baptize people in this circumstance was for them to abandon their families, since divorce was completely out of reach. Our definition of “morality” was so skewed to the civil definition of marriage that we could not allow a person to join the Church unless they abandoned their children. This is the “necessary” problem

    On the other hand, the “sufficient” nature of the equation between marriage and morality can get us into trouble. In several wards that I have been in, I have seen people rushed to marriage (because that would make sex OK) with horrible results, because one or both of the partners were nowhere ready to be married.

    Now that same sex marriage is pretty clearly a thing, we have apparently revised our definition to make civil marriage necessary but not sufficient for morality. But this still ties the definition very closely to the way that the state defines marriage. And this becomes kind of ironic, given that the state whose approval we are calling “necessary” is the same state whose views on marriage we don’t trust anymore because they are making it available to gays.

  39. Aaron Brown: The problem is that for the conservative relatives I’m thinking of (and others I know about) ‘marriage’ is not part of a spectrum of relationships, not the next step in progression, but is a different category, a high and holy state that should be honored and sought after. In a religion that preaches eternal family, there’s plenty of support for that position. It allows very little room for tolerance or ‘compromise’ (your word).

  40. Mark Brown says:

    “…the sacred powers of procreation are to be used only between husband and wife…”

    Ironically, this line shows us the way out of this thicket, because it isn’t the bright line some commenters here apparently think it is. For example, it is a 100%, take it to the bank, sure bet that young people occasionally misuse their sacred powers of procreation through masturbation. We recognize this as an infraction, or even a sin. And yet we still allow a young man to pass the sacrament and a young woman to be the Laurels’ 1st counselor. Nobody is convening a disciplinary council with an eye to throwing them out of the church. So why do we lose our collective minds when it comes to homosexuality?

  41. Lew Scannon says:

    I think it would be a good idea for everyone here to just take a deep breath and read Craig Harline’s BYU Studies article, “What Happened to My Bell-Bottoms? How Things That Were Never Going to Change Have Sometimes Changed Anyway, and How Studying History Can Help Us Make Sense of It All.” It will give you a bit of perspective on what is happening right before your eyes, and not just on this particular front. Here’s the link: https://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=9263.

  42. I’m with Christian on this. I suspect (and a number of commenters on this blog corroborate) that many Mormons see no problem whatsoever with no-questions-asked excommunications of gay couples. This sentiment is likely mirrored by a sizable percentage of General Authorities. If this doesn’t change, how can we have an official pastoral strategy?

    Individual efforts, on the other hand, need not wait for official processes and recommendations.

  43. Mark Brown asks why we lose our collective minds when it comes to homosexuality. Isn’t this the crux of the problem? And isn’t the answer to that question: because of the disgust that so many people feel about the idea of homosexual sex? Disgust makes it extremely difficult for people to consider the possibility that homosexuality might be something they could actually tolerate. When something disgusts you, it only seems natural to throw it away, cut it off, excommunicate it.

    Isn’t the challenge now for the Church to somehow hold things together until the generational change takes hold? Until we have a critical mass of people who can see beyond disgust, how will it be possible for us collectively to think clearly about the pastoral problems that Michael articulates?

  44. Some dude says:

    Thought provoking post Michael. I tend to agree with many of your points. However, I take issue with something that seems implicit in your post and in the arguments/rhetoric employed by most that advocate that the Church soften its stance, pastoral or otherwise, toward SSM.

    It’s rarely explicitly stated but it always seems taken as a given that one’s physical expression of sexual desire is a fundamental part of our sojourn in mortality or, at a minimum, essential to our happiness. Is it?

    There are many joys, pleasures and experiences in this life that for whatever reason (economic, cultural, religious, etc.) many born into this world will never enjoy. Does that make their mortal journey less meaningful? Perhaps, in God’s omniscience and display of mercy, he saw fit to deny some non-essential aspect of mortality to some but not others.

    You state “[i]n nearly every other case I can think of, pastoral discipline focuses on behaviors that people can change and by doing so, live happier lives. It does not punish people for being who they are.” Who are we? Is our eternal identity wrapped up in our sexual desires? Are sexual desires eternal?

    Would you suggest that a heterosexual male or female living/struggling in an asexual marital relationship pursue divorce? Should they receive a pass if they pursue an extra-marital affair? Should such a person press forward with an asexual spouse or, in recognition of “who they are” and prone to sexual desires that they cannot change, should that person pursue the course driven by sexual desire?

    I am curious to your everyone’s thoughts on this. All else being equal, I am inclined to believe that, in God’s eyes, there is greater eternal value in living a life free of our preferred sexual expression than a life designed to satisfy our temporal desires.

  45. it's a series of tubes says:

    Nobody is convening a disciplinary council with an eye to throwing them out of the church. So why do we lose our collective minds when it comes to homosexuality?

    Mark, it is your sense that disciplinary councils are convened more often than not, when homosexual activity is involved? As I posted in the related thread, my experience is exactly the opposite. Let me count quickly… of the 18 church members I know who are sexually active with a same-sex partner, not one has been the subject of church discipline (in fairness, all but two are inactive).

    I guess I’m just not seeing the “throw them out” mentality alleged here, and I live in a fairly conservative suburb of a large western city.

  46. Some Dude,

    I think that this is a good point. In the passage that you cite, I was actually trying to suggest that sex is not the most important part of a marriage, but that our sexual orientation makes it difficult to form deep, intimate attachments those to whom we are not sexually attracted. By this, I mean that it does not work to tell gay people to just marry people of the opposite sex–for exactly the same reasons that it does not work to tell straight people just to marry people of the same sex. It is not just about having sex, but about a kind of closeness and intimacy that is extremely difficult to achieve without some level of sexual attraction, whether or not that attraction is expressed in sexual activity.

  47. Mark B. says:

    So why do we lose our collective minds when it comes to homosexuality?

    The greatest loss of collective minds in this thread seems to have occurred among those who believe that there is an impending avalanche of excommunications awaiting those in same-sex marriages, and that anybody who has commented above believes there should be “no-questions asked excommunications” of such couples.

    it’s enough to remind one that pastoral and pasture come from the same root, and that someone should bring a shovel around to clean up.

  48. “I was actually trying to suggest that sex is not the most important part of a marriage”

    It’s up there, though!

  49. Some dude says:

    One more thing…

    You state “It is difficult to see what pastoral objectives are accomplished by excommunicating people for a sexual orientation, over which they have no control, or for choosing to express that orientation in the most chaste, socially acceptable, legally official, and spiritually positive manner available to them—a committed monogamous marriage.”

    Doesn’t this presume that the physical expression of homosexuality doesn’t offend God? Would helping a congregant avoid the potentially eternal consequences of offending God not qualify as a reasonable or even primary pastoral objective?

  50. Steve, necessary, but not sufficient.

  51. “Doesn’t this presume that the physical expression of homosexuality doesn’t offend God? Would helping a congregant avoid the potentially eternal consequences of offending God not qualify as a reasonable or even primary pastoral objective?”

    If excommunication did this, perhaps. But it very rarely does. There are a fairly large number of things that offend God that we don’t excommunicate people for because excommunication almost never helps congregants do anything. It simply makes them not congregants anymore. Generally, I have found that people who are offending God need more communion, not less. And certainly not none at all.

  52. Some dude says:

    Michael @ 3:21

    I often hear this explanation and I think there is some truth to it.

    That said, it is worth noting that the parent/child relationship (including adopted children) is asexual and yet capable of great depth and intimacy.

    I do believe that our ability to form relationships with and remain loyal to those we share deep and intimate (in the asexual sense) relationships with has eternal implications. I just don’t know/am not convinced that sexual desire plays an eternal role.

  53. Matthew says:

    Brilliant. I have always wondered why the Church Handbook of Instructions defines “licit” sex in relation to the state. Some states allow first cousins to marry; others don’t. Are these marriages licit in the eyes of the LDS Church? Or, as a Mormon, does it depend on where you live, if you are LDS in California where such marriages or lawful, yes, but not in Nevada, where such marriages are not. Is that really LDS policy? I would really like to know what LDS policy is on whether marriages between first cousins are licit or not or if depends on the state you live in. This entire approach was always problematic because of the first cousin example (and others, age, etc).

  54. “I do believe that our ability to form relationships with and remain loyal to those we share deep and intimate (in the asexual sense) relationships with has eternal implications. I just don’t know/am not convinced that sexual desire plays an eternal role.”

    I do not know how it works in eternity, but a big part of pastoral care is addressing people’s needs in this world. And here, the statistics on mixed-orientation marriages are dismal.

  55. Beautiful vision of the future. Fingers crossed.

  56. I know I’m not kicked out of church for my sins. I have family members that have been exed for infidelity; and family members that haven’t for being drug dealers and unchaste. Even then the exed member was welcomed every sunday at church but not in a calling/praying role. I don’t see what the big deal is about welcoming gay families into our ward families.

  57. Some dude says:

    Michael @ 3:42
    The first go round I didn’t read it strictly in the context of excommunication. I agree with you here.

  58. Some dude says:

    Thanks for the thoughts Michael. I think it is an important conversation that needs to take place. The challenge is framing the discussion in a way that the underlying assumptions don’t alienate a significant chunk of Mormondom.

  59. Anon for this says:

    I liked this post. A lot. A few points:

    1) If anything like what this post seems to suggest ought to happen actually happens, I’ll eat a rabid wildebeest. Raw. Hell, alive. I do not think the church will ever, ever, ever deal with same-sex physical intimacy with anything but censure. Sure, an inactive person can do what they want in most cases, but if they want to become active, participating members, excommunication or some sort of discipline is bound to happen.

    2) Mormonism and religion in general is way too focused on sex. Being gay and raised Mormon, I’ll try to make sense of this for y’all. I am currently in a long-distance relationship with a guy (who happened to serve in my mission — the blessings of mission service include boyfriends sometimes). By necessity, this is a celibate relationship for the time being. So let me tell you this: I am happier and more fulfilled in a romantic relationship in which sex cannot happen yet, than I would be in a “licit” relationship with a woman in which sex could. Homosexuality is fundamentally less about with whom you go to bed than with whom you fall in love. Think about your own romantic relationships — if sex became impossible for whatever reason, do you instantly divorce or break up? I hope that it isn’t that shallow. In any case, arguments talking about “asexual relationships” miss the point. It’s not about sexual or asexual nature of what takes place in a relationship; it’s about romantic love, which even Boyd K Packer said was an absolute sine qua non for the “abundant life.”

  60. Some dude says:

    Define romantic

  61. First, I am surprised that on THIS blog the vast majority of the comments to this topic are in opposition or at least mild derision of the post. I would expect this on some LDSLiving.com blog, but not here. And, I know not all of you are new here, I guess that this is just a topic on which so many of you have vastly different, more “conservative/traditional’ (to be kind) views than do I.

    Some Dude stated…
    “Doesn’t this presume that the physical expression of homosexuality doesn’t offend God? Would helping a congregant avoid the potentially eternal consequences of offending God not qualify as a reasonable or even primary pastoral objective?

    The short answer is Yes, then NO, so long as such “physical expression” is within the same bounds of righteousness as that which exist for heterosexuality. The whole notion of our behaving so as not to “offend” God is so very Old Testament (= false propaganda). Loving, committed, mutually supportive, strong bonding between two people helps them both be more righteous, more kind, humble, etc–gain Sermon on the Mount attributes. And, parenthetically, such a helpful bonding is not within the psychological reach of polygamous/polyandrus couples…identifying it as not originating with God.

    In my (opinion) cosmology, our becoming more like Christ is the overarching objective of God…not obedience, covenants, rules, procedures, priesthoods, nor coming to KNOW “that this is the one and only true church of Christ”, etc Those are all means to the end–and not all originated with God. Accepting, welcoming, respecting, loving, and supporting (I guess that is what “pastoral” means?) one another regardless of sexual orientation are Christ-like.

  62. Anon for this says:

    Some dude, read ‘The Four Loves’ by Lewis. It’s the difference he places between ‘Eros’ and sex. Sex and ‘Eros’ are related but each can and often does exist without the other.

  63. Bleeding is stanched, not staunched.

    Otherwise, thank you for taking the time to write this. My understanding is broader now.

  64. Theron, thanks. Fixed it. (And you’re welcome).

  65. Kim Reid says:

    I don’t know the history on “legally and lawfully” as some commenters seem to, but as an editor, I assume each of those words has a unique purpose or I’d scratch one out in my scriptures with the comment “redundant” in the margin. Hence, I assume “legally” means justified in the face of the civil law, and “lawfully” means justified according to God’s eternal law as currently revealed to those holding priesthood keys to define doctrine and establish practice.

  66. Kim Reid says:

    ^ sorry, I guess that phrase isn’t scriptural, but you know what I mean. (I thought it was in D&C)

  67. I suspect that the same division we see in the comments above also exists in the 1st Presidency and Q 12. So, my prediction is that the fate of married, same-sex couples will rest in the hands of local leaders because the leading quorums will be unable to provide a unanimous policy for the Church.

  68. I have a burning question. If same sex married couples are accepted in permitted in the church, would bishops feel obligated to perform such marriages in the chapel or elsewhere when asked by gay congregation members? Sorry if the question has already been asked. I didn’t have time to sift through all the comments.

  69. AZ, I think that the answer to your question depends on the level of acceptance achieved. Two possible precedents: 1) non-temple marriages are accepted and permitted in the Church, though they are considered less than ideal. Bishops are often asked to perform such ceremonies in the Church, and they are able to do so. But 2) people who drink coffee (something that Mormons stigmatize but everybody else in the world is pretty much OK with) are accepted in congregations to the extent that they are allowed to participate and hold callings and are not excommunicated. However, there is no expectation that they will be served coffee at Church activities–even if they ask nicely.

    I could see it going either way with same-sex marriages. I would much prefer something modeled on the first example. But even a policy comparable to the second would be much better than what we have now.

  70. Kim Reid, legal and lawful are synonyms for the most part. There are some minor difference in meaning but not such as would be substantive here. Legal refers to something being permitted under law (i.e. not illegal), but lawful can imply (but does not always imply) accordance with the ethics underlying civil structures (i.e. permissible). Something can be legal but not lawful, but not vice versa.

    But most of the time, the two words mean the same thing. They probably do here, though I’m sure much hay could be made of the “legally and lawfully” expression by those inclined one way or the other on the politics.

  71. First and foremost, I would like to point out here that many of the various and sundry phrases that we have inherited are redundant. Some even contain words that are exactly identical in meaning. In legal circles, it has become usual and customary to use such phrases, not to draw legitimate and valid distinctions, but to harness the clear and obvious rhetorical power that each and every one of them contains.

  72. Michael, applying the thoughts of the post to some specific situations, if you were a bishop of a gay man who was in a legal same-sex marriage, and assuming he once had received at least the Aaronic Priesthood, do you have any views about whether you would allow him to:

    1. pass, prepare, or bless the sacrament;
    2. receive a home teaching assignment; or
    3. accept a calling as a Primary/Sunday School teacher, a secretary to an EQ presidency, YM advisor, ward clerk;

    and would your views on any of the above change if that man was not legally married to his same-sex significant other?

  73. rebeccadalmas says:

    Here’s one way I’ve thought it out: we are commanded to love each other. In the eternal sense, we will be continually progressing toward being able to love everyone perfectly. To me, this means we would be capable of deep intimacy with another regardless of gender. So, it seems to me, that being able to love another of the opposite sex would be among our eternal goals. Not being able to do so would be contrary to those goals. Logically, then, it seems to me that homosexuality would disappear in the context of eternal progression.

    However, I don’t dismiss people like the gay man on a recent Affirmation teleconference who said that his commitment to his husband helps him to love in a more Christlike way. I readily agree that truly loving anyone in a mutual, consensual, mature relationship will help us love better. So how might this paradigm affect Church policy, or doctrine?

    I do not know, but we do know that there must be lines at some point. Perhaps the fact that they change is not as important as whether or not they help.

  74. Glenstorm says:

    “Since shortly after the Manifesto, we have used the phrase “legally and lawfully married” as part of our definition of morality/chastity. This phrase was initially used because, previously, the Church married people unlegally and unlawfully, and there were still a lot of people in the Church who didn’t think that the legal authority mattered …”

    The “legally and lawfully wedded” language was in the Law of Chastity /before/ the Manifesto and was applied to plural marriages. The “law” in question, however, was the “law of the Priesthood”–and that’s one reason why, for example, some GAs through the 1960s said that Mormons getting married outside the temple was tantamount to breaking the Law of Chastity!

    Also, while much of the gay marriage discussion has focused on marriage as sexual expression, the broader LDS approach to marriage has taken a significant turn toward emotional, spiritual, and companionate intimacy since the invention of contraception.

  75. Glenstorm says:

    Oops. On another post, Ardis said that “legally and lawfully” was added to the ritual language in the 1920s, and I’m inclined to trust her on this. I’ll see if I can’t find the references to “legally and lawfully” from before then, because even if it wasn’t in the ritual, I’m pretty sure I ran across sources that used those words–and explicitly connected them to the “law of the priesthood,” i.e. sealing.

  76. Kevin Barney says:

    Kim Reid, your impulse as an editor to understand legally and lawfully as having distinct meanings is certainly understandable, and if this were ordinary English that would make sense. But this is an example of a very common phenomenon in legal vocabulary of a paired doublet. This developed historically where, to avoid confusion, technical synonyms in Anglo-Saxon and Latin/Law French would be used. “Legal” is latinate, from Latin legalis “or or relating to the law,” from the Latin noun lex, legis “law.” “Lawful” is Old English from Old Norse.

    This is why we commonly refer to one’s “last will and testament.” “Will” is Old English, while “testament” comes from Latin testamentum. They are synonyms; they are not meant to be plumbed for different nuances of meaning.

    Here is a Wikipedia article on this phenomenon with numerous examples, which the article calls “legal doublets”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_doublet

  77. Glenstorm, you’re right that the phrase “legally and lawfully” appears in Church usage well before the Manifesto (you can Google /”journal of discourses” “legally and lawfully/ and find several examples), sometimes in exactly the sense you mention as “law of the Priesthood.” In 1880, for one example, while teaching about eternal sealings, Orson Pratt describes what couples who were not sealed would discover in the eternities:

    You would have no wife in the morning of the Resurrection, no children that would be yours legally and lawfully. Why? Because your marriage was not legal, only legal so far as the laws of the land were concerned, only legal according to the traditions of men.

    He’s clearly making a distinction in that talk between “legal according to civil law” and “legal according to priesthood law,” exactly as you say.

    There may somewhere be some stray speech by some leader who does use “legally and lawfully” in some sense in connection with chastity. If so, my money is still on the proposition that such a talk would be making a distinction between civil law and priesthood law, rather than between “married by civil law” and “not married by civil law.”

    “Legally and lawfully” had no place in our definition of chastity and marriage until the point where civil law and priesthood law (as administered by the men holding the keys to that law) coincided, and a violation of one was also a violation of the other. Now that we seem to be reaching a point where civil law and priesthood law are again diverging, I will not be surprised to see the language change to clarify that divergence.

  78. As a gay man in the Church, let me throw in my 2 cents…

    First off, I want to thank Michael for the article. It’s one of the most balanced and thought provoking on this subject that I’ve ever come across. Brilliant!

    Second, for those who think equating the plight of single straight people with celibate gays in the Church – you’re dead wrong. Us gays cannot have ANY form of intimacy or we are at risk of discipline. This means no dating, kissing, holding hands – nothing. It’s monastic in its scope. Straight singles can do all those things, and we have Singles programs in the Church to accommodate them. Not so for LDS gays. And for the record – celibacy totally sucks! God said “Is it good for man to be alone?”, and the answer to that rhetorical question was a resounding “No!”. God knows what he’s talking about.

    Third, any half-hearted internet search on Church policy and homosexuality through the years will show major shifts in thinking. The reader will discover that, just like ‘Race and the Priesthood’, the attitudes, prejudices, thinking and policies of the Brethren regarding homosexuality have pretty much incorporated the attitudes, prejudices and beliefs of the times – at least until recently. For example, the Church used to teach that homosexuality was curable by entering into heterosexual marriage, that it was a mental disorder, and that children could be ‘converted’ to homosexuality simply by association with a homosexual. These attitudes were commonly held perceptions in mid-nineteenth century America, and many of the current General Authorities were raised during that era and with those attitudes.

    Lastly, we must differentiate between policy and doctrine. Most members don’t know the difference. Much of what is being discussed here is really just policy. I’ve been in 5 Bishoprics and served on the High Council for years, and I can tell you that years ago they used to excommunicate people – including teenagers – for just about any infraction – especially anything sexual. They also announced your excommunication in Sacrament Meeting! Then one day we got a directive from the Brethren. It told us that we should stop excommunicating and use probation and disfellowshipment for all but the most serious and extreme infractions. Did God change his mind on the seriousness of those transgressions, or did the Brethren just decide we were being too heavy-handed? One more example – the Church currently marks the membership records of anyone disciplined for having homosexual relations as being unfit to hold callings where children or youth are involved. This “black mark” can only be removed by the First Presidency. When I found out about this policy, I was really disturbed by it, and had the opportunity to ask an Apostle if that policy could be changed. His answer was that it was there because “we don’t want what happened to the Catholic Church and their priests to happen to us”. In other words, it’s there as a legal firewall. It has nothing to do with doctrine, revelation, love, or pastoring. That policy was put there by Church lawyers out of fear. Even though there are numerous studies that show gay people are not pedophiles.

    So this whole issue is more about policy. Can the policies of the Church change to accommodate our gay brothers and sisters? The answer is ‘Yes’ – it has already changed drastically in the past 30 years. And I agree with Michael that it will probably change again.

  79. @some dude 5/22 3:15PM
    As one of those in a sexless/asexual marriage for many years, I don’t know that I know that answer to those rhetorical questions. I don’t think God wants me to pursue divorce or some kind of “open” marriage. I think an “open” marriage would violate the current monogamous understanding of the law of chastity. But I do not know if God expects every one in a sexless marriage to endure that state “until death do they part”.

    I think that much of the answer probably lies in what we think the reasons and purposes for our sexuality in this life. Elder Bednar described sex (maybe only when actual procreation is involved) as “the ultimate expression of our divine nature”. Elder Holland gave a well known talk that put sexual expression on the same level as a sacrament or ordinance. I have seen many LDS commentators on sex and marriage issues who will put sexual refusal and sexless marriages as “sins” and “violations of the law of chastity” (example: http://ldsmarriagebed.blogspot.com/2010/12/sexless-marriage-and-sacrament.html ).

    I see a lot of people, both from professional and religious points of view, tackling these kind of rhetorical questions. I do not know that anyone has any authoritative and universally true answer to them. I feel that I have some empathy towards the homosexual LDS who is forced into a life of celibacy — in many ways against his will. I think I would understand the Church’s official position better if I understood what God really wants us to learn from our sexuality. Until then, I agree wholeheartedly with Michael’s OP — we really ought to do everything we can to keep LGBT LDS as close to the Church — as much a part of our congregations — as we can.

  80. “fbisti says: (May 22, 2015 at 4:59 pm) First, I am surprised that on THIS blog the vast majority of the comments to this topic are in opposition or at least mild derision of the post. I would expect this on some LDSLiving.com blog, but not here.”

    One of the toxic after-effects of Prop 8 was to skew this debate rightward, esp. at the local level. The “all hands on deck” approach that the Brethren employed in California still permeates our local culture, you hear references to the encroaching evil of SSM frequently from the podium on Sunday and even in chapel weddings. The political cover the Brethren have attempted to provide themselves – and I believe that’s all it is – by backing anti-discrimination laws in Utah has really done nothing to counter the perception that this issue is one, if not THE, defining marker(s) of the Last Days, and we must and should resist at all costs. You won’t see the loving enlightened attitudes espoused in “The Pastoral Question” adopted any time soon, if ever.

  81. Neal:
    “Even though there are numerous studies that show gay people are not pedophiles.”

    I hope and pray that many/most gay men striving to live the law of chastity are not pedophiles the same as I hope that most straight men are not pedophiles. However, there are so many documented, egregious historical exceptions that the churches (Catholic, LDS, as well as the BSA and others) have adopted current policies as an abundance of caution. You no doubt have heard of North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)? You can read about all the numerous studies supporting Neal’s assertion on the NAMBLA.org web site.

    Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.

  82. Heavily Roman Catholic Ireland just enshrined the right to SSM in their constitution. Speaking of Prop 8, you will recall that our involvement in this fiasco was at the invitation of George Hugh Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco, formerly the 8th Bishop of Salt Lake City.

  83. Rigo,

    Not even funny. How many groups do you think are out there that prey on under-age women? Your snide assertions have been debunked by reputable research (as in research not connected with anti-gay organizations) from leading universities and psychological organizations.

    Here’s 1, in case you can’t Google:
    http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/HTML/facts_molestation.html

  84. Neal, your situation is hard — add all the other adjectives you want to elaborate on that, and I’ll accept them as your lived experience. But I think you do not understand the situation of single adult heterosexual Mormons any more than most of us understand yours, based on the assumptions you express in your comment.

    Many of us — including me — long for emotional and physical intimacy, but cannot have now, may never have had, and realistically may never yet have that intimacy, for any number of reasons. My desire for that intimacy cannot be satisfied with just any ol’ heterosexual man, you know, but only one of an increasingly scarce kind of man who has other traits I find attractive, who is attracted to me, and who is not now married. Singles programs don’t help — in many enumeratable ways, singles programs in the Church make life for us harder and more lonely.

    I do have at least three advantages that I know you do not have: The attempted, if ineffective, support of the Church as a single woman; the very rare and extremely mild scorn of other Church members for who I am, as compared to what you may face; and the reality that if, no matter how unlikely it may be, but IF I were to find the right man tomorrow, we could marry in the temple with full recognition and endorsement of the Church. Those are huge advantages in my case, in theory. But as far as how we actually live from day to day, I think our lives may not be as different as you assume they are. Yes, total celibacy sucks, regardless of the reason for it. And yes, God certainly did know what he was talking about when he said it is not good for man to be alone.

  85. Kristine says:

    Rigo–that one comment can stay because it was ably rebutted, as it deserves to be. But any further comments that suggest a correlation between homosexual orientation and pedophilia will be deleted, because it’s 2015 and that idea should have died a few decades ago (and mostly did, among reasonable and well-informed people).

  86. Kristine – Thank you.

    Ardis – I do sympathize with your situation and know a lot about LDS Singles. I was in charge of a Tri-Stake singles program for years – first as the Chariman, and then as a High Councilor. I have become completely uninvolved (for at least 10 years now) because I came to feel like it was dishonest for me to participate. A lot of really awesome women (like you!) deserve to dance with someone who can actually become their companion some day. I knew I never could, so I stopped all Singles participation and I also stopped dating women completely. Now I’m just trying to be ‘me’ as much as I can.

    Being gay in the Church is really tough – even when you’re being totally ‘faithful’, and it is also tough just to be a ‘single’ in general. Here are some musings I wrote on my blog that might strike a chord:

    http://nealspensieve.blogspot.com/2012/06/mormon-kuiper-belt.html

  87. Re the excommunication risk (either by general policy or local discretion) for an LDS member who legally enters into a same-sex marriage, I wonder if (on the flip side of that issue) Mission Presidents are allowing legally married same-sex couples to be taught and baptized?

  88. Interesting question, GaryK, and most certainly answered in the negative – which is interesting/disheartening considering the population missionaries currently DO teach. In my area, a Midwest college town, this consists exclusively, and I mean exclusively, of an underclass, that, once “converted”, attends for a month or two and then is gone forever. This is in stark contrast to the days of my youth when young professionals and entire middle-class families were baptized regularly and became mainstays of their wards & branches. Ironically, at this pt our best shot at young professionals and middle-class families may be young GAY professionals and same-sex marriages/families seeking to establish themselves in the middle class. Yes, Jesus loves recently-released felons and recovering meth addicts, too, but typically these folks don’t have the wherewithal to support and sustain the structure of a complex institution.

  89. Geoff - A says:

    As p says above Ireland has just voted “for marriage equality”. I am in Ireland at the moment and that is the expression that was used. I was on a mission here 50 years ago and birth control was illegal.

    With reguard to pastoral care. 1. Talking to a seminary teacher here, one of the biggeat problems the youth of the church here have is understanding/accepting the church position on gay people and gay marriage. They are willing to accept past mistakes, but this is a step too far.

    One of the things that was discussed in the aftermath of the yes decision was how good it felt to live in a country where the majority was willing to make decisions to include a minority group. Reading the responses above, to be more inclusive and loving to others of Gods children might be of as much benifit to the majority of the members as to the gay ones.

    When did we ad between a man and a woman into definitions of marriage or chastity, it is certainly not in the definition in the temple?

    I believe in 15 years gay marriage will be accepted by the church. I certainly hope so. I can remember conference talks about the evils of inter racial, and then inter cultural, marriage, now we have a number in our ward, who were married in the temple.

    This opposition is nothing to do with the Gospel, just some powerful people teaching their prejudices, and beliefs as if they are Gospel. There is no revelation, and if you think what the scriptures are describing is homosexual behaviour you could visit some of the historical sites paul visited and you might see differently.

  90. Geoff-A, could you please refer me to a conference talk in the last, say, 100 years about “the evils of interracial marriage”? Not just the occasional counsel that “marriages are more successful when partners are most similar,” with race being one of a list of characteristics (religion, economic background, education), but a talk which actually set forth the evils specific to interracial marriage? Thank you in advance.

  91. “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” – Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10:111

  92. (True, not a conference talk from the last 100 yrs, but he WAS a prophet.)

  93. I didn’t know which joker would post that, but knew that someone would. Congratulations for being that joker, p.

    Now, back to the question at hand: Geoff-A made a claim that I suppose many readers accept at face value, because it pops up often enough in online chatter. I have never seen any evidence to corroborate that claim, although I cannot say unequivocally that none exists. I would appreciate even the name of some conference speaker who is half-remembered to have said anything remotely like what is claimed, at any time within living memory. If these talks made the impression claimed for them, that should be an easy thing to do. Then, I could start a targeted search for such a reputed teaching. As it is, I’ve searched the databases for marriage + race, and marriage + racial, and have come up bone dry. I call bogus to this claim, now and in future, unless someone can turn up the evidence.

  94. Guilty as charged – but please DO explain your (somewhat blithe) dismissal of President Young, especially his “This will always be so” which frankly sounds as if it were meant to be understood as uber-prophetic. This man was one of the foundational leaders of our Church, for crying out loud, and if we can throw him under the bus on the topic of race, as seems to be the institutional inclination, then I have a few more candidates on several other topics – so not sure this is as easy as you’re making it.

  95. Active Believing says:

    Ardis, I suspect that you may be right about the lack of direct comments on interracial marriage in conference talks, but when I was a teenager in the mid-70s, black/white marriages were simply unthinkable for active Latter-day Saints. When I asked my parents what they might say if I married a black woman someday, they were aghast at the possibility that my sons (and their grandsons) would be ineligible to hold the priesthood, go on missions, or be married in the temple. The social stigma did not need to be reinforced by explicit comments in conference; everyone knew exactly what would happen.

  96. Ardis, racial marriage was specifically targeted by President Kimball several times in the ’60s and ’70s. He didn’t call it evil, merely “not the wisest thing.” He was quoted in this manner by church publications following the 1978 revelation. I don’t know if he said that in conference itself, but he did say it publicly and more than once. Frankly, I have enough non-white relatives who were adopted–Indian, Native American, and so forth–that advice against interracial marriage seems silly. I understand intercultural marriages may sometimes be more difficult, but a dark-skinned adult born and raised by white parents in a white community is going to be culturally “white.” Especially after the church was involved in Native American adoptions on a large scale in the ’60s and ’70s, and therefore many Native Americans were being raised by white families in white communities, advice to marry the same race just seems racist.

  97. Active Believing says:

    And though I’m sure that most people reading this thread are already aware of this, a 1976 quote from Pres. Kimball that ““We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally” was included in the 1995 Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, and is still available online at lds.org. An explicit “recommendation” in a manual in use for nearly 20 years was strong counsel for a generation raised on the Primary Song “Follow the Prophet.”
    https://www.lds.org/manual/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-31-choosing-an-eternal-companion?lang=eng

  98. Wow, Ireland – 62.1%! Them’s big numbers + unexpectedly auspicious timing for SCOTUS decision.

    Something MLK said about the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice …

  99. I do not agree with your assertion that a clear majority now support same sex marriage, i do feel that a majority of the loud voices support it. Also it is quite amusing for you to say the majority usually gets it way when just a few years it was clear a large majority was opposed to it, but doesn’t seem to have gotten it’s way.

    Like others here I also don’t agree that the line is in the sand as far as what is acceptable in a sexual relationship to the church or to the Lord. There have been many talks given in the last few years in general conference that make it clear the church and the Lord will never accept same gender sex regardless of any state approved marriage.

  100. “I do not agree with your assertion that a clear majority now support same sex marriage, i do feel that a majority of the loud voices support it. Also it is quite amusing for you to say the majority usually gets it way when just a few years it was clear a large majority was opposed to it, but doesn’t seem to have gotten it’s way.”

    Did you click on the link? I am not making an assertion of aesthetic value here, I am making a claim of fact backed up by factual source. The way to rebut this would be to point to similar factual evidence that refuted it. But that will be hard to find, as all of the polling data that we have shows that there has been a massive shift in public opinion on this issue just in the last five years. It also shows that the changes in policy almost exactly tracked the change in public opinion. The fact that most people opposed same-sex marriage in the past is why it did not happen in the past. The fact that most people support it now is why it is happening now. The courts are not nearly out in front of public opinion on this issue as they were on Civil Rights issues in the 1950s and 1960s. Like it or not, democracy is working this time.

  101. Tim, SWKimball’s public speeches were along these lines:

    Cultural differences pose dangers for marriage. When I said you must teach your people to overcome their prejudices and accept the Indians, I did not mean that you would encourage intermarriage. I mean that they should be brothers, to worship together and to work together and to play together; but we must discourage intermarriage, not because it is sin. I would like to make this very emphatic. A couple has not committed sin if an Indian boy and a white girl are married, or vice versa. It isn’t a transgression like the transgressions of which many are guilty. But it is not expedient. (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 303.)

    [W]e recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background.(Speech at BYU in 1976; sorry, I don’t have the formal citation at hand)

    You write that this counsel “seems racist” — and you are right to use the present tense. It seems racist to us today, when we are so sensitive to race that we single out SWK’s mention of race and ignore his references to economics, education, and religion, *even when he specifically says that interracial marriage is not a sin, is not a transgression.*

    I apologize to Michael for pursuing this threadjack, and will drop it now. It seems important to me, though, not to exaggerate this aspect of the past, not to allow grossly distorted memories about interracial marriage advice to justify clubbing the Church about same sex marriage policies today. The credibility of the same sex marriage argument is at stake.

  102. Ardis, Mi thread es tu thread. Always. Your perspective is valuable, well informed, and always welcome here.

  103. Regarding polling and majority opinions, same-sex marriage is a matter where anecdotes and “among the people I know” views can be misleading. Mormons from the intermountain West are particularly likely to draw their personal sample from Republicans over the age of 30, and that group polls against legalizing same-sex marriage, However, Democrats of all ages tend to favor same-sex marriage, and younger Republicans do too. The skew by age is dramatic. Quoting from a Pew Research Center report of March 10, 2014: “61% of Republicans and Republican leaners under 30 favor same-sex marriage while just 35% oppose it. By contrast, just 27% of Republicans ages 50 and older favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.” With Democrats and younger Republicans all tending to favor legalization, a nationwide majority is quite well established, and growing.

  104. Ardis, regarding teachings about marriage and race, I agree we should not exaggerate or allow distorted memories to tell the tale. But I do not agree that hearing ‘race’ is all about 21st century sensibilities. I heard and read those SWK messages in real time when I was of an age that they mattered to me, and in that time and context I heard ‘race’ and it did seem racist to me.

    On the other hand, as you point out, I never did hear this as a matter of sin but as a recommendation. In any conversation about the Church’s positions and teachings about marriage, that is an important distinction and should not be lost.

  105. Ardis – you must go to some of the arch-racists of the Quorum to find the really vile teachings on race:

    Apostle Mark E. Peterson, 1954:

    “I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn’t that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it.”

    Apostle Mark E. Peterson, citation:

    “We must not inter-marry with the Negro. Why? If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would oil be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse. There isn’t any argument, therefore, as to inter-marriage with the Negro, is there?”

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine:

    “Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.”

    President George Albert Smith, First Presidency letter to Dr. Lowry Nelson in 1947:

    “Your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and white races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs until now…. there is a growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.”

  106. Gee, Neal, I can go to the same sites you go to, to find these compilations of ugliness from 60 or 70 years in the past. What I can’t do is substantiate the assertion that these ideas were taught to the Church over the conference pulpit anytime in living memory.

  107. Geoff - A says:

    When my wife and I became engaged in 1970 in the UK, my wife was taken aside by her Bishop, and advised against it because I am an Australian and she was English.Both white.

    Can we acknowledge that the Apostles of that time were teaching their culture, with such confidence that it was also gods culture? Is it possible that those who are so confident on this issue are doing the same thing? I believe so.

    The problem for the church is that the younger generation have moved past that prejudice, and question the whole package because obvious(to them) falsehoods are being taught, by Apostles as if they are Gospel.

    Can those who support this not see a problem with believing that the God who taught very little except love, would oppose marriage equality. Has there been a revelation since the 1990s to change the definition of marriage, and chastity to excude some?

    There is a real feeling of love, inclusion, and even a more Christlike spirit of love, here in Ireland, than we hear from many of the Apostles, and their supporters on this subject.

  108. rebeccadalmas says:

    Something which is fundamental and which in my opinion, we must improve upon, is loving and including regardless of worthiness and standing.

    Whether we talk about same-sex relationships or anything else, wherever the law draws lines, wherever the Church draws lines, there will always be people, other children of God who are each of infinite worth, who will not or cannot stay within those lines drawn by the Church. People we love, people we never want to live without, people we would choose to die for without a second thought. We are to love each other, regardless of which side of the line they’re on.

    And I guess that’s what troubles me the most about what is being said about “fighting for LGBTQ inclusion in the LDS Church.” Our love for each other cannot be a reason to ask God or the Church to change the lines. We have to love beyond the lines.

    If we loved better, there would be more support for each one of us. Church is instrinsically social, but membership in the Church should not be a social passport. We shouldn’t “ask” to see someone’s “passport” before we welcome them and care about them, we shouldn’t feel the need to have the passport to feel love and care in the Church. Baptism is a covenant we make, with which socializing in the Church should be independent.

    We may be ready to make that change, many already have.

    So with excommunication, for example, I do not think it should take place without members at the ready to encircle the person in compassion and support, unless, of course, the person excommunicated refuses the open arms. Like Joseph Smith revealed, when we must chastise with “sharpness,” we must show an increase in love and affection.

    Gordon B. Hinkley said, in one of his interviews with Larry King, that the Church must simplify in order to respond to the ever-changing needs of the global Church. I agree, and I think that the Church has possibly become a bit industrialized in the last century and needs to return to a more organic nature, but this can only be possible when members are willing to step up to it…and I think many more will, with good guidance.

  109. Hear, hear, Rebecca!

    But don’t you think that after several decades of LDS homosexuals hanging, shooting, cutting and poisoning themselves in large numbers, someone SOMEONE in the upper echelons would have noticed and taken steps to put in place the kind of pastoral care Michael Austin advances above? Correct me if I’m wrong but as managers in Zion isn’t this their job, to minister even unto “the least of these my brethren”?

    Instead, the negative messaging continues (“counterfeit and alternative lifestyles”) and the only alternatives for an LDS homosexual remains lifetime celibacy or high-risk marriage. What a choice! More despair, more depression, more suicide. Round & round. Where else but a church would this kind of shoddy management survive?

  110. [Apologies as I comment on my own comment] Overnight I’ve been pondering the statistic that I posted last night: “61% of Republicans and Republican leaners under 30 favor same-sex marriage while just 35% oppose it. By contrast, just 27% of Republicans ages 50 and older favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.”
    Is it possible that part of the “youth in Zion” talks suggesting these are hard times, are in fact decrying this trend? That Mormon teenagers and young adults are already and increasingly tolerant, welcoming and supportive of LGBT persons, and that that’s troubling to the older folks who are doing the talking?

  111. Christian, my take on this is that, for most of the 20th century, Changes in Mormon social values have tracked very closely with changes in the larger American culture, but have been about one generation behind. Take civil rights. In 1959, nearly every Church in the country was rigidly segregated. By 1979, Mormons were standing almost alone on the issue. Same with women’s rights and other major social movements. We are now about where most of the country was 20 years ago. I suspect that, in 20 years, we will be where most of the country is now. I’m guessing that this has something to do with the fact that Mormon leadership tends to be a full generation older than the leadership of most American institutions.

  112. Michael, judging solely by my children (and they are a select and wonderful group, of course), I would guess that you are correct directionally, but your “20 years” has been compressed dramatically and change is coming faster and closer in line with the larger American culture on this issue.

  113. I do hope so, Christian. Looking at my children, I would agree. But also, the pastoral option that I have tried to lay out here is where nearly every other (non-fundamentalist) American religion was on this issue 20 years ago. Not in all of its particulars, of course (since there was no legal SSM 20 years ago), but in the general sense of allowing non-celibate gay people to exist in their Church without being forced out. We are actually overdue for this change now.

  114. Molly Bennion says:

    Re 20 years: Years ago an ex-Bishop friend who headed a major division of a very large international corporation invited my husband and me to see a video report of a sociological study the corp solicited. Younger workers just didn’t fit into the corp culture and they wondered why. Short conclusion: we deeply internalize the values and events of our early pubescence, about age 12. Our friend posed the question: what were the values and events when the top leadership of the Church was 12? What when political and social leaders at large were 12? You could argue there are 2-3 generations of difference there. I don’t know how much to read into the study but I’ve been more pessimistic about change in the Church since. 20 for blacks? yes, you’re right. But for women and LBGT? Not so sure and not very optimistic.

    I strongly agree the pastoral argument is THE argument, an argument that forces us to reconsider all the other arguments. Thanks for the post.

  115. Ardis,

    Exactly why must the quote be from conference? There are more sources for “doctrine” than just conference. The quoted sources were from talks given to Church educators, extremely popular books, etc. Sometimes those have more of an effect on the adoption of doctrine than a conference talk. Take for example ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness’. I know bishops who think it is practically scripture and hand out copies like candy to the sinners who show up at their door. Yet there are grievous errors in that book. And Mormon Doctrine has delivered perhaps more false doctrine to the membership than any anti-mormon organization in history!

  116. Regarding “20 years”: It’s a fairly common assertion and has to do with lag time compared to U.S. social change, not with the absolute rate of change. With respect to homosexuality and the Church, I’m about the right age to tell the story from personal experience.
    Qualifier 1: What follows is entirely anecdotal and broad brush. And not entirely correct—I can think of exceptions as fast as I make generalizations.
    Qualifier 2: This is fascinating but academic for me. I moved very far out of the mainstream many years ago and can’t imagine ever again having a responsible position in the Church.

    I am 60. I served as a bishop 20 years ago, like other men in my cohort who are on the future GA track. In the intervening years I moved way off track, but the people on the future GA track have now done the stake president bit and served as a mission president. You can see them entering area presidencies and 70s. Their time of general leadership in the Church will be ages 60+ to 80+. It is just starting. By contrast, in many other organizations the age of general leadership is more like 50 to 65 or 70. In such organizations the future Mormon leaders of my generation would have been at the top of their game for 10 years already.

    This is relevant to the present discussion for the following reason. Based on conversation with people my age and older, it seems that people in my cohort have dealt with homosexuality and the Church at a pastoral level for most or all of the last 20 years. Pondered, counseled, wrestled, worried. Many of them could have written some version of Michael Austin’s OP, although there would be a range of differing conclusions. The generation older than me? Not so much. It seems that until the ‘90s it was possible to get through a lot of Church callings without dealing with homosexuality directly.

    In sum, the generation in charge right now have certainly thought about homosexuality, but very possibly only at an administrative or policy level. The next generation, just starting to move into general leadership roles, is the generation with extensive in-the-trenches pastoral experience. I predict that will effect change.

  117. Left Field says:

    “Exactly why must the quote be from conference?”

    Because Geoff made a specific claim about general conference that Ardis challenged.

    Ardis knows past teachings in the church better than probably any of us. I know for a fact that she could cite any number of other embarrassing racist quotations from church leaders and publications in addition to those already quoted. But none of them are from general conference during Geoff’s living memory, and so Geoff’s specific claim remains unsupported.

    If I claim that Babe Ruth scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl, then any evidence of him having scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl is relevant to my claim. Five people falling all over themselves to detail every home run that he hit in the World Series is not.

  118. Interesting observations, Christian. I wonder, too, whether the Church will now begin to emerge from its Empire-builder stage and not automatically gravitate towards management types when vacancies occur in the upper echelons, or (wishful thinking) create an independent quorum of women with review privileges and veto power. The Judeo-Christian model of elderly male hierarchies that stretches from Salt Lake to Rome to Tehran struggles with the new world emerging from Cupertino and Mountain View. These types of governing bodies are perpetually unresponsive and behind the curve, and the institutions they administer suffer as a result.

  119. Josh Smith says:

    Do we have any statistics on how many homosexuals remain LDS? Any guesstimates?

    As I read the post and many of the comments, I had a couple thoughts:

    I have moderate compassion for adult LDS homosexuals. Their faith tradition is completely uninviting. They go to faith meetings and are consistently told they’re part of a counterfeit lifestyle. Today, May 24, 2015, there really isn’t any hope that things will change any time soon. I’m curious why they continue to be a part of the organization. Surely many leave. … Those who stay are the true believers. Seriously, that’s who should be speaking in General Conference–“I believe in this faith even though this faith disparages me at every opportunity. Nevertheless, this is where my soul belongs.”

    My heart breaks for teen LDS homosexuals. If they don’t have a compassionate adult to guide them through LDS culture … my gawd, that is genuinely scary. Those are difficult years for heterosexuals. There’s a bunch of new feelings. It’s bewildering. Now imagine if one is immersed in a culture where one is developing sexual feelings the faith tradition tells you your emerging sexuality is contrary to God’s plan for his children. An adult can leave. If an adult wants to stay, an adult can be reflective about it and carve out some kind of belief system within LDS culture. What on earth can we do for teen LDS homosexuals?

  120. rebeccadalmas says:

    In response to p, “But don’t you think that after several decades of LDS homosexuals hanging, shooting, cutting and poisoning themselves in large numbers, someone SOMEONE in the upper echelons would have noticed and taken steps to put in place the kind of pastoral care Michael Austin advances above? Correct me if I’m wrong but as managers in Zion isn’t this their job, to minister even unto “the least of these my brethren”?

    Instead, the negative messaging continues (“counterfeit and alternative lifestyles”) and the only alternatives for an LDS homosexual remains lifetime celibacy or high-risk marriage. What a choice! More despair, more depression, more suicide. Round & round. Where else but a church would this kind of shoddy management survive?”

    So you want apologetics, too?

  121. Geoff - A says:

    Ardis, It appears I have a memory problem as to where inter racial and inter cultural marriage was taught. It was certainly common knowledge.

    In the talk about the experience of the leaders, with homosexuality, I wonder if it may be different for the non US leaders? You don’t hear Uchtdorf use these terms.

    As I have said elsewhere, I think we need a discussion about the succession of Prophet. Ziff has figures on Zelophehads daughters, that show that for the foreseeable future our Prophets will be over 90 by the time they are Prophet, if tradition continues to be followed.

    I think, for the future of the church, Uchtdorf needs to be the next Prophet. Not in 15 years when he is 90

    There is discussion above about leaders being in their prime, and their experience. We need a generational change, and Uchtdorf is the best option I see. Could it be he would also be the Lords choice but he will not make the decision, tradition will.

    How do we have a discussion so when the situation arrises tradition is questioned.

    If we had a Prophet young enough, and open minded enough, to ask for revelation on social issues?????

  122. jls2455 says:

    (This comment is not any more graphic than is needed to convey the message. Please don’t delete it moderator.)

    Yesterday it became very clear to me that there are young homosexuals growing up in LDS culture who need support. One of these young people could be my son or daughter, niece or nephew. What would I tell my own child?

    Dear daughter,

    The next time you’re listening to a general conference address and the speaker endeavors to tell you that your sexuality is contrary to God’s plan for his children, consider this. If you draw a vertical line down from the speakers nose, you’ll see a design carved on the podium. Literally directly under the speaker’s nose you’ll find a honey bee skep. Basically, a skep is where beekeepers kept bees about 150 years ago. While the speaker is telling you about God’s views on sex, consider these lessons from the honey bee:

    Lesson #1. Honey Bee Sex. The Creator of heaven and earth is wildly imaginative when it comes to sex. Every morning after the honey bee hive warms up a bit, the male bees (drones) wipe the honey off their sloppy little faces and fly out into the world to congregate with other drones. They loaf about waiting for one thing–the virgin queen. The virgin queen emerged from her own hive that morning and flew out to the drone congregating area. (Nobody knows how she finds them.) Here’s what happens next.

    The queen flies through the congregation until a drone embraces her (in flight) and inserts his endophallus (aka “phallus” aka “winky” aka “member”). The male bee’s member explodes with a sound audible to the human ear. Really. It explodes. The male bee plummets to the earth and dies (presumably satisfied). Another male bee pulls out the last male’s winky and inserts his own. His winky explodes. The virgin queen will do this about 20 times and then return to her hive.

    The next time someone stands at the conference center podium and tells you what’s “unnatural” or “counterfeit” or “deviant” or “counter to God’s plan” just look at the honey bee skep under the speaker’s nose. Our God created flying-polyandrous-exploding-phallus-death sex.

    Lesson #2 will follow shortly.

  123. Okay. I had some breakfast. Here’s the long awaited second installment–Lessons from the Hive.

    When the general conference speaker purports to tell the world what God thinks about homosexual sex, draw a vertical line down from the speaker’s nose and look at the middle of the podium. You’ll see an intricate design of what’s called honey bee skep. Long ago, maybe 150 years ago, beekeepers housed bees in these, but now technology has advanced and there are better ways to house bees. (Probably a lesson there, too.)

    Lesson #2. Beautiful, Intricate Social Behavior Without Offspring. Our Creator is wildly imaginative when it comes to social organization. The honey bee hive is stunning in its complexity. These social creatures communicate through smells and dances. They have complex behaviors for cleaning, rearing, foraging, guarding, swarming, and on and on. They have behaviors that govern day-to-day operations. They have behaviors triggered by the passing of the seasons. They use the sun to navigate, even when it’s covered by clouds. They are absolutely magnificent in their behavior.

    Yet … 99.999% of the hive will not pass on its genetic material. How on earth can such beautiful behavior develop when those exhibiting the behavior do not have offspring? Hopefully that puzzle makes sense. Here’s the puzzle again: Honey bees have wildly intricate behavior and the individual exhibiting the behavior has no children to carry on its genetics. If that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.

    There are a number of theories about this, and I’ll let the reader explore it (see “kin selection”). My only point here is that when someone claims that God’s plan can’t include certain social behavior’s because it doesn’t result in offspring, clearly that person hasn’t observed honey bees. Again, if you’re listening to general conference and you’re discouraged, look directly under the speaker’s nose at the honey bee skep and remember that our God has created beautiful, intricate social behavior without offspring.

    (I’m Josh Smith and I don’t know why my comments come up as jls2455. I’m not anonymous. My name is really “Josh Smith.”)

  124. Of course what we’d really like to know, and what might be a bit more germane to the conversation, is how gay bees have sex.

  125. p,

    I don’t think anyone has bothered to figure out if there’s gay bee sex.

    If you’re not clear how my comments are related to the discussion, I could explain it quickly.

  126. P

    A bunch of male bees hanging out together, dancing, and not having sex with a female bee…..sounds pretty self explanatory.

  127. Sure, Josh, go ahead – but how about some detail this time.
    Talon, seriously? Do you really think a bee would get excommunicated for THAT?

  128. Mark B. says:

    Gay bees? I think that issue was settled years ago on Saturday Night Live, Which, come to think of it, is as useful a place to learn sexual morality as a beehive.

  129. I’ll talk about this as long as you like, or until the moderator tells me to shut it.

    It’s my understanding that Mormons simultaneously believe in God the creator of the natural world and God the author of human morality. According to Mormons, God forbids gay sex–it is an “abomination,” “unnatural,” “counterfeit,” “contrary to God’s plan,” etc. The Mormon God is interested in conformity, orthodoxy, norms, and traditions rising out of 1950s in the U.S. This God demands only one type of family unit, a man and a woman and their offspring.

    However, when I experience the natural world, including keeping my honey bees, I don’t see that God. The God of the natural world is infinitely imaginative when it comes to behavior, including sex. The God of the natural world is infinitely imaginative when it comes to social organization.

    It is ironic that the pulpit used to allegedly convey God’s moral law regarding sex is the same podium with a honey bee skep carved in the middle of it. The speaker’s words proclaim a God of strict orthodoxy; the skep symbols the opposite:

    1. The skep symbolizes the wildest sexual behavior you’re likely to find in the natural world: flying sex, female with dozens of male partners sex, exploding penis sex, and plummeting death sex.

    2. The skep is one of the best symbols you’ll find of organisms that have no offspring, and yet develop fabulously intricate behavior. (P, Note that gay sex does not result in babies. It’s because … well, you can look that up. If gay people do not have babies, how does “gayness” pass from one generation to the next? How does an intricate behavior pass without direct offspring? There are a number of theories. One of the best examples is the honey bee.)

    It is ironic that the conference center podium has a skep carved on it.

  130. Josh – That covers bees. Can you explain the birds now?

    P – I honestly don’t think bees practice organized religion, so I don’t think excommunication is an issue for them whether they are gay, straight or other.

  131. Talon,

    I’m sorry, but I’m completely tone deaf when it comes to comments on blogs. When I talk to people in person, I often have a difficult time detecting sarcasm. When it’s online, forget it.

    Do you not like my conclusions about the honey bee skep? I will seriously explain it again if you’d like. I’m also very open to persuasion otherwise.

    Admittedly, it’s been years since I’ve listened to general conference. I attend one hour of church maybe twice a month, so I don’t know much about church policy regarding excommunication. Maybe the LDS tone toward homosexuality has changed since I last paid attention. My understanding is that the LDS church teaches that God says homosexuality is bad and abnormal, and God says same sex marriage is bad and abnormal. If that’s what God is like, the LDS church should put something else on its podium, like a … well, the church could put a … I’m not sure what part of the natural world represents that kind of rigid sexual norms. Beavers. I think beavers are exceptionally monogamous. Though they don’t really have defined gender roles. I think the male plays an enormous role in nurturing the young.

    Maybe stick a beaver on the podium if you want to worship the Mormon God. However, the honey bee makes a terrible mascot for Mormons.

  132. Max Brave says:

    Very thought provoking. I am fascinated and encourage by the dialogue that is coming from the non-gay Mormons, the non-SSA Mormons, and the non-Glenn Beck Mormons.

  133. Talon, I know for a fact that several Deseret bees have been excommunicated. The charge: making honey when the queen was not around.

    Josh, just keep the good stuff comin’ buddy!

  134. Josh – I was being sarcastic, but in a light hearted way. I will seriously think of you and bee sex every time I watch GC from now until my end days. :-)

    For what it’s worth, the majestic Beaver is one of the national symbols of Canada. What does that say about the boring sex lives of Canadians in general?

    p – LOL! Maybe they didn’t respect her because she wore pants around the hive.

  135. Oh the double entendres for both “queen” and “drone” in this upside down sex-world of the bees where males do all the work and queens rule with an iron bee-fist. Maybe not so ironic that the hive is our mascot, i.e., a portent of better -certainly more interesting- things to come.

  136. Thanks to everyone for your contributions. I’m closing the thread now.