What License to Shun Those who Choose a Different Path?

A collaborative online effort of like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently took a public stand on what it characterized as a “protected class” of sin: gay marriage [Edit: please search the site yourself to find the post in question if so inclined]. See, “some members of the Church have […] been ‘drawn away after the persuasions’ of the world and support same-sex marriage” without realizing “that their support for it inadvertently supports serious sexual sin.” In case you didn’t pick up on it, the author goes on to hammer home the message that gay marriage = “sexual sin” several more times:

Is there any other sexual sin that’s supported like this one?

Pause for a moment and consider if there is any other sexual sin that is so widely accepted or affirmed by some members of the Church (or even other Christian faiths) as same-sex marriage and homosexual relationships.

try substituting “same-sex marriage” with another sexual sin in its place

In fact, try substituting “gay marriage” with any other sin and see what happens.

Same-sex marriage is institutionalized sexual sin.

If we are not very careful, we will think it means we’re being given a license to support serious sexual sin and abusing the words of an Apostle. Let us not use this to justify homosexual activism or support for gay marriage.

Herein lies the doctrinal deception and great misunderstanding by so many wonderful members of the Church: supporting and affirming same-sex marriage is supporting and affirming something that is a serious sexual sin and an act of apostasy.

Hang on to your hats, folks, because I’m going to agree with part of this: As far as things currently stand, gay marriage is in fact an act of apostasy. (Let the detractors take note—BCC stands with the prophets!) For the record, the First Presidency clarified back in November 2015 that

The newly added Handbook provisions affirm that adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship commit sin that warrants a Church disciplinary council.

So there’s no getting around the charge of apostasy. But is gay marriage a sexual sin? Not unless you live in a strange world where marriage is synonymous with sex. All that substituting of gay marriage for sins sexual and otherwise elides important distinctions. In the world in which rational minds are not clouded by the fog of (culture) war, “having a wedding,” “getting married,” and “having sex” are separate items on the to-do list.

While gay sex may be a serious sexual sin, gay marriage is not, unless your argument is that gay monogamy is more of a sexual sin than gay promiscuity (or cohabitation). This would be an uphill battle, I believe, in light of Elder Oaks’ endorsement of President Joseph F. Smith:

“Sexual union is lawful in wedlock, and if participated in with right intent is honorable and sanctifying. But without the bonds of marriage, sexual indulgence is a debasing sin, abominable in the sight of Deity.”

Sure, those were different times—who could have foreseen that one day there would be such a thing as gay sexual union in wedlock?—but let’s stick to the prophets’ explanation that under the November 5 policy, gay marriage is not a sexual sin but the sin of apostasy.

Now, I hear you, I really do—”Sins are sins! A distinction without a difference!” you cry. But I remain unpersuaded. (Let the detractors take note—BCC stands with the publicans!) As apostasy, being gay married is analogous  to, say, converting to Catholicism, and going to a non-Mormon friend or family member’s gay wedding is supporting exactly the same kind of apostate behavior as going to a Catholic wedding. In each case, one forsakes the knowledge, light, and truth that give our very mortal existence meaning. Certainly, it would be a move that the prophets and apostles would not support, and we are to take the advice offered in the post linked above we should take heed not to (unwittingly) lend our support to apostasy either.

Which raises a vital question: What does being unsupportive of marriage apostasy look like in practice? Encouraging friends and family to marry people they don’t love? Attending the wedding but closing your eyes, plugging your ears and humming hymns loudly? Preemptively hiring a divorce lawyer? Refusing to recognize their spouse? Talking about them in their presence as if they didn’t exist? Labeling them an apostate and culling them from the flock?

Sure, you say, nice straw man. That’s so patently absurd that no one would… Well, what? What license do we grant ourselves to shun those who choose a different path? Just how sure are we that Jesus wants us for a storm cloud to rain on someone else’s parade?

 

Comments

  1. When Jesus was accused of being with publicans and sinners, He didn’t retort with “oh, but these are the repentant ones! I wouldn’t want to encourage the sinners in their sins by actually consorting with those still sinning!”

  2. Jacob H. says:

    Carol Lynn Pearson made the prescient argument that being against gay marriage implicitly means condoning the alternatives available to well-intentioned, family- and marriage-oriented homosexuals. Ergo, anti-gay marriage stances implicitly sanction mixed-sexual orientation marriages. Such a position does not protect heterosexual marriage, but on average does a ton of multigenerational harm.

  3. So much pent-up disapproval, and so few places to legitimately vent it. Must be frustrating.

  4. I have no idea what Jacob H. just said.

  5. Let’s see–unlike BCC, I have advocated return to and conversion to Catholicism (for certain people at certain times), I have attended and enthusiastically celebrated a variety of weddings including for my own children, and I have publicly advocated marriage for same sex couples, both that they get married and that the marriages be legal and respected. So on the apostasy front, I’m a lost cause.
    But sexual sin? That’s a different topic. The OP does a nice job. Thanks.
    (I wish you would delete the hyperlink to the MWS piece. It doesn’t deserve additional clicks.)

  6. Hmmm, Elder Christofferson’s interview with KUTV is pretty clear that members can have different opinions on gay marriage.

    In an interview Friday with KUTV in Salt Lake City, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that individuals in the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would be in trouble only for “supporting organizations that promote opposition or positions in opposition to the church’s.”

    Backing marriage equality on social media sites, including on Facebook or Twitter, “is not an organized effort to attack our effort,” Christofferson said in the interview, “or our functioning as a church.”

    The KUTV interviewer asked further if a Latter-day Saint could “hold those beliefs even though they are different from what you teach at the pulpit?”

    Yes, the apostle answered.

    “Our approach in all of this, as [Mormon founder] Joseph Smith said, is persuasion. You can’t use the priesthood and the authority of the church to dictate. You can’t compel, you can’t coerce. It has to be persuasion, gentleness and love unfeigned, as the words in the scripture.”

    Christofferson echoed this sentiment in two January interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune.

    “There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right,” Christofferson said after a Jan. 27 news conference.

    So isn’t the MWS author contradicting an apostle?

  7. wreddyornot says:

    The different path I choose is to reject that marriage between homosexuals is apostasy, unless it’s seen as an apostasy from our long-standing unjust scapegoating and intolerance as a society, which the vast majority of Christian believers at one point or anther got sucked up into and often continue to stick to.

  8. So on the apostasy front, I’m a lost cause.

    Well, so am I, being married to an unrepentant Catholic and all.

    (I wish you would delete the hyperlink to the MWS piece. It doesn’t deserve additional clicks.)

    Done.

    So isn’t the MWS author contradicting an apostle?

    She addresses the interview in her post, noting that “He never once said that ‘gay marriage is okay’ but that there are ‘differing opinions’ on the subject.” In my view it’s a strained reading but probably not an outright contradiction.

  9. Once upon a time blacks could not marry in the temple which allowed white members to believe blacks could not enter the Celestial Kingdom. Then there was a time that interracial marriage was not encouraged which led same-race couples to believe it was selfish to bring mixed children into the world.

    No one in the 1990s would admit over the pulpit they had a gay cousin. Now everyone has a gay family member. Some food for thought.

  10. Hey, anyone want to send all the leaders of MWS a pair of handheld pruning shears? (For the maintenance of hedges about the law, duh.) I’ll pitch in if other folks will.

  11. Thanks for removing the link. These women will be held accountable in the day of judgment, but until then, there’s no reason to promote their bilge. They’re speaking of things of which they have little or no experience or knowledge. They are acting as blind guides, trying to clear a way through thickets that should be left the responsibility of the watchmen upon the towers. What hubris.

  12. Loursat says:

    “What does being unsupportive of marriage apostasy look like in practice?”

    Opponents of same-sex marriage have a dilemma. Now that it’s no longer obvious to everyone that same-sex marriage is wrong, its opponents are struggling to find legitimate ways to signal their opposition. They can try to “love the sinner and hate the sin,” but no one will be surprised if the “sinners” reject that approach. If they choose to frankly shun the “sinners,” they open themselves to the criticism that they are Pharisees. Either way, most of those they are likely to persuade are not the kind of people who will strengthen an outward-looking, growing church.

    The underlying problem for opponents of same-sex marriage is the dreadful weakness of their arguments. Arguments from authority and tradition will eventually lose to arguments based on love, community, prosperity, and growth. Unless the opponents of same-sex marriage can find something more than authority and tradition in their argument, the future doesn’t look good for them.

    This is why we have continuing revelation! Let us pray for greater light and knowledge in these matters.

  13. Single Sister says:

    Well, I’ve been to a lot of weddings outside of the church and celebrated with them. And, if my gay nephew ever gets off of his butt and meets someone nice and gets married, I’ll be there. (I’ve loved that boy since before he was born – not going to stop now). So if any of that means that I’m apostate, bring it on. We’ll see whose side God is on when we meet Him face to face (although I have no doubt He’ll be on mine). Oh, and didn’t Jesus say something about not judging? That piece has a whole lot of judging going on.

  14. If they choose to frankly shun the “sinners,” they open themselves to the criticism that they are Pharisees.

    With MWS, that ship hasn’t just sailed–it’s practically to the Antipodes by now.

  15. Loursat says:

    As I read it, the MWS essay stops short of endorsing shunning. It just says that “supporting and condoning” same-sex marriage is wrong. Maybe, if we asked her, the author would say that shunning is the right response to same-sex marriage. But I don’t think it’s fair to assume that.

    I insist on this distinction because we need to preserve civil discussion. We should neither shun others nor presume to infer that they support shunning. I remind myself of this every week at church meetings when I see people who enthusiastically stump for Trump. I must not shun them, though I despise their politics. This principle is also important as we struggle with racism in the church.

    In order to thrive, the church has to be continually renewed and reformed. If we are going to renew the church without tearing it apart, our bonds of fellowship have to be stronger than the things that divide us.

  16. Kristine says:

    Thanks, Loursat.

  17. [Obligatory minor threadjack warning.] For the longest time–and I feel silly for saying this now–I assumed that the biggest implicit goal of this blog was to suggest and prove that leftists could be good members, too. That those on the left might have different positions on political issues, but that they were still following the gospel the best they could and had the same claim to salvation as the majority of American Mormons on the right. That someone on the left could look at the scriptures and come to a different and reasonable conclusion about how he or she should vote, and that that was okay.

    And now the tables seem to have shifted somewhat, and there seem to be a lot more American Mormons that are leftists. And instead of what I assumed would happen–that those on the left would say that we all have different political beliefs, but we all have a place at the table of God–I think it’s just a role reversal: that you can’t be a good, celestial-type member unless you think as leftists do. Thus, Michael Austin’s recent post that all *good* members will oppose the dismantling of the ACA, because you can’t be a *real* Christian and against it at the same time. And, more to the point, comments like those above, where we find that “[t]hese women [from MWS] will be held accountable in the day of judgment” and that “We’ll see whose side God is on when we meet Him face to face (although I have no doubt He’ll be on mine).”

    Hail to the new boss, same as the old boss, I guess.

  18. Loursat, granting your/our interest in civil discussion, and not wanting to label MWS or PeterLLC as an offender (or you or me, for that matter), the “shunning” distinction is a mite fine. As we all know, the underlying principles and concepts are that marriage = apostasy, apostasy = grounds for discipline, and excommunication == modern (and older) form of shunning.

    We should not be shunning, but “we” are. Scare quotes because I have not come to rest with self-identification as part of this “we”. The MWS piece is not helpful. This OP and the comments so far are helpful.

  19. Tiberius says:

    I guess I’m curious why you guys are so afraid of this group. To reduce them to a they-who-shall-not-be-named-or-linked is like you are making them out to be some white supremacist group, when what they’re saying isn’t that far off from what the brethren have said. The tone of some comments make you look like a 1990s High Priest Group member, only on the other side of the aisle.

    Also,

    “The underlying problem for opponents of **polygamous** marriage is the dreadful weakness of their arguments. Arguments from authority and tradition will eventually lose to arguments based on love, community, prosperity, and growth. Unless the opponents of **polygamous** marriage can find something more than authority and tradition in their argument, the future doesn’t look good for them.”

    Wow, wasn’t that easy.

  20. Loursat says:

    Christian, maybe I’m just in a good mood today. Of course, you are right that the MWS essay is not helpful, and you are right that the institutional church’s practices amount to official shunning. But I perceive both in the essay and in the church’s “apostasy” policy a loud note of desperation. The essay is defensive. It is the voice of failure. Today I prefer to say that we who hope for better have it in our power to show a better way.

  21. Loursat says:

    And I would add that I also find PeterLLC’s post helpful and insightful.

  22. Loursat says:

    Not so easy, Tiberius. You seem to have missed the point. The reason that same-sex marriage is a flashpoint now is that it has become complex, whereas thirty years ago, it did not seem complicated at all. The more people think about the complexity of real problems, the more challenging those problems become. Neither you nor I can say whether the arguments in favor polygamous marriage will at some point become compelling to a critical mass of people. What is certain is that when we take an issue seriously, we can never blithely treat it as identical to some other thing. Those who presume to know the end of these arguments before they begin are foolish.

  23. Michael H says:

    “To reduce them to a they-who-shall-not-be-named-or-linked is like you are making them out to be some white supremacist group, when what they’re saying isn’t that far off from what the brethren have said.”

    I completely agree.

  24. Michael H says:

    Is it possible that some of the rage against the MWS piece be rooted in a worry by progressive Mormons (BCC’s target audience) that it’s ideas will be interpreted as representing the entire institution, casting all Mormons in a bad light as bigots? That would be unfortunate, but who can blame these women for thinking that a behavior that the Brethren have clearly established as apostasy is also sinful?

    I’m only speaking for myself, but I’ve found that for the few baffled, well-informed outsiders/friends who have had the guts ask me “what’s the deal with your church and gay people?”, the only way for me to satisfy their rationality and preserve their total respect for me is to clearly and firmly state that I don’t believe that these men are in any way called of God.

  25. This article is baffling, how is it you misinterpret the word of God so bad? You’re condoning sin but trying to signal that you’re not.

    “While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone.” – Jeffrey R Holland.

    Our modern leaders have made it pretty clear what God’s will is. Stop twisting their meaning to fit your narrative.

  26. Tiberius says:

    @ Loursat:

    Not to thread jack into a related but different same-sex marriage discussion, but I suppose it matters whether we’re discussing this in terms of a sociological phenomenon or a political philosophical justification. If the latter, then whether we reach that critical mass is besides the point, and to connect the justification of a position to the popularity of that position is to subtly inject “direction of history” reasoning into the argument, with the problem being 1) there is no direction of history (it’s an outdated Hegelian concept), and 2) even if there was, which way the winds are blowing is completely non-sequitur to whether it’s somehow justified from first principles. It’s a social version of the is-ought problem.

  27. Tiberius says:

    @ Loursat

    Not to thread jack into a related by distinct same-sex marriage discussion, but I think it depends on whether we’re discussing a sociological phenomenon or a political philosophical justification. If the latter, then it doesn’t matter whether we ever reach that critical mass or not. To connect the justification for a position to the popularity of that position is to subtly inject a “direction of history” rationale into the argument, with the problem being 1) there is no direction of history, it’s an outdated Hegelian concept, and 2) even if there was, which way the winds are blowing are non-sequitur to whether the position is justified from first principals. In a way it’s a social version of the is-ought problem (you can’t ever derive an ought from an is).

  28. Michael H., no, that’s not really a concern of mine. Also, you’ve got our target audience wrong, as well as a few other things.

  29. Jimbob, interesting observation.

  30. Loursat says:

    Tiberius, what I have in mind is this. Things like same-sex marriage and polygamy only become live issues when there are both philosophical debate and real-world sociological effects surrounding the debate. If the debate remains purely academic, few people will really care about it. If there is no philosophical substance to the practice, then it will remain the province of kooks on the margin. But when a practice and the theoretical debate about it come together, we get the deepest, most testing development of both theory and practice. That is what has happened during the past twenty or thirty years with same-sex marriage. During that time, the issue has come to affect a great many people in both their minds and their hearts. I don’t think this development was inevitable or the product of an overarching direction of history. It just happened. (Though I am grateful that it happened, because I believe that it has made our society better.) I have no idea whether it will happen in the future with polygamy. What we always find in times of social change is that the debate happens on its own unique terms, and we can’t predict how our own hearts and minds will be changed.

  31. Commenting was closed on the MWS site, so I’m going to write the comment that I would have written there:

    If I get to the celestial kingdom and gay couples are there, I’m going to be … happy that there are more people in the celestial kingdom.

  32. And now the tables seem to have shifted somewhat, and there seem to be a lot more American Mormons that are leftists.

    Do you mean more than before or more as in a majority? The latter I cannot imagine for a second, but what I could more readily imagine is that growing numbers of members are finding it difficult to stand behind the American conservatism that gave us our current president. All the tears and ink that have been spilled in defense of the family, all the boundary policing and taking hits for the team, only to discover that—surprise!—promoting the sound functioning of the family and strengthening the fabric of society aren’t the only goals we’ve been pursuing.

  33. RobT,
    Will you feel sad if instead you also discover that so many people were led astray into putting on a false consciousness that accepts gay marriage as godly, when it only serves to separate from God?

    If that were the case, which the prophets testify it is, would it be your duty knowing such, to actively support traditional marriage morality and vocally and lovingly warn others from the sin of gay marriage?

    To the main point, the strawman argument can be helpful at exposing a position”a weakness at the margins. So, let’s continue. If a 50 year old man marries a consenting 12yr old (male or female) with the intent to have sex, in a culture which allows children as young as 12 to consent, is this a concern? Or should you not rain on that parade too? What if instead of a random extreme exception every now and then it as paraded as true love and something all of society should naturally cerebrate as often as hearts desire?

    Would you support it? Would you view the relationship as sinful? Would you encourage society to celebrate it? Would you attempt to persuade both parties their actions are wrong and why?

    Is your response only dependant on the potential biased feeling that the 12 year old really can’t consent or doesn’t know better? Is it possible God might look on a homosexual adult and weep while saying they don’t know better and view their decisions as tragic misjudgments that when the scales fall from their eyes they’ll deeply regret? How would he seek to tell us that within the context of the church if not through his servants as he does now?

  34. Is it possible God might look on a homosexual adult and weep

    Sure, we believe that God is no respecter of persons, so it makes sense that heterosexuals and their endless parade of sins wouldn’t be the only object of divine sorrow. Would God be upset with homosexuals for committing apostasy? I would think so. Does God need us to get up in arms about it and make their mortal lives miserable too? I wouldn’t think so.

    If a 50 year old man marries a consenting 12yr old (male or female) with the intent to have sex, in a culture which allows children as young as 12 to consent, is this a concern?

    If you’d said, say, a 37 year old man and a 14 year old female we could look to our history for precedent, I suppose, but as your hypothetical reads the 50 year old man wouldn’t necessarily be committing a sin of any kind. It kind of boggles the mind, but two consenting adults, equally yoked and all that, would be guilty of the sin of apostasy at the very least if they were gay and married, while your cradle-robbing skeevy dude would be off the hook unless he married a boy. I’m not sure you revealed a straw man as much as a hole the size of a mcmansion in the policy, if the intent was to put the kabosh on icky behavior.

  35. “Is it possible God might look on a homosexual adult and weep while saying they don’t know better and view their decisions as tragic misjudgments that when the scales fall from their eyes they’ll deeply regret?”

    The problem I have with this quote (and this comment and really the entire MWS post) is that it comes from a point of superiority. It is saying that God will only be weeping for the sins of gays. God won’t be weeping for me (the person writing the quote, comment, post) because my sins aren’t so bad. And that right there is the biggest fallacy around and the biggest problem with judging other people’s lives.

    Worry about your own relationship with God. Love you neighbor as God would love them (he never asked us to handle the judgement side of things anyway). Recognize that you are just as much a sinner as the person you are pointing fingers at online (or in person). Let that knowledge feed humility and kindness rather than superiority.

  36. Tira,

    To add to peterllc’s example, please refer to the reformation period of the late 1850s in Utah for many examples of ‘extreme exceptions’ and ‘and something all of society should naturally cerebrate as often as hearts desire’. In Brigham Young’s enthusiasm to hasten the Saint’s preparation for the Second Coming, marriage ages for young women dropped alarmingly, yet it was touted as Godly sanctioned.

  37. Tira,
    Will you feel sad if you discover that gay marriage can be godly, and does not only serve to separate from God? (That is, after all, the reported experience of at least some who have entered into same-sex marriages.)
    If that were the case, as prophets may in the future testify it is [such reversals have happened with respect to Adam-God, Blacks never having priesthood in this life, polygamy being essential to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, etc.], would it be your duty to repent of having contributed, by your unsolicited vocal and [purportedly] loving warnings, to the shunning of gays and the suicides of some? How would you make restitution?
    I am unable to infer from the words of current prophets any personal “duty … to actively support traditional marriage morality,” assuming you mean monogamous, heterosexual marriage only in a politically and religiously pluralistic society, rather than fidelity and love between spouses. I must go with Retx on this one, whatever I may privately think about certain current prophets’ statements on same-sex marriage.

  38. The problem I have with the entire MWS post (and a little on this post) is that we’re spending time examining others’ motes. But without that, what would we discuss on the internet? Self reflection makes for very few comments. Would anyone even pay attention to MWS if they did nothing more than stand? The internet practically runs on “what -they- are doing wrong”, but so does a lot of communication.

    Peoples is peoples.

  39. Too true, Frank. I put far more time and energy into my pilgrimage posts, for example, and the response is pretty much just tumbleweeds blowing down empty streets with the forlorn sound of a train whistle in the distance.

  40. peterllc, the problem with uncontroversial posts is that there isn’t much to say about them, unless you want dozens of comments just saying “great post”.

  41. Indeed, Nepos. As long as readers acknowledge that they are part of the problem I have no problem with them ignoring the devotional content.

  42. Let me add that according to the stats the lack of comments is not just due to people having nothing to say beyond “great post” and so remain silent—they don’t even read the devotional posts. Which is fair enough; different strokes for different folks.

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