Even the most casual student of the Book of Mormon is familiar with the story of Alma’s son, Corianton, who “didst forsake the ministry” among the Zoramites and did go “after the harlot Isabel”. This story also serves as a reminder of how sexual desires can so easily overpower even the most righteous. Sex is one of the most powerful physical and emotional forces that define the human experience. Very few have escaped its influences completely unscathed. Kept within the bounds the Lord has set, these God-given desires bond a man and a woman, physically, emotionally and spiritually into a family unit that is ideal for the raising up of God’s spirit children in an environment where they will be most likely to experience the fullness of eternal joy for which they were created. Unharnessed, however, these desires and cravings lead daily to everything from lustful thoughts to pre-marital sex, accidental children, pornography, adultery, rape, child abuse, abortion, STD’s, and other forms of violence and social tragedy. I have become convinced that sexual sin is poison to the soul – a destructive force that leaves a trail of broken lives in its wake. This is not news, but it is necessary to establish a baseline for the rest of my thoughts.
In this post, I wish to discuss the topic of same sex marriage from an LDS perspective. I know it’s been done before, but I believe that I can offer a body of thought on the topic that will increase our understanding of why it is such a difficult topic for people – even in the relatively homogenous Latter-day Saint community – to agree on. I would like to begin by listing two things that I will not discuss:
- Whether homosexuality is a choice or an accident of birth
- Prejudices concerning the overall morality of the gay community as a whole
In the first case, I am not really qualified to offer an opinion and, to the person who is gay, it doesn’t matter. Whether it is a choice or not doesn’t change their situation. It is what it is. Discussion of the second item would be totally based on anecdotal evidence, and although I have had the opportunity to make some direct observations, I do not feel that it qualifies me to authoritatively discuss the topic. Besides, it is decidedly prejudicial, judgmental and unfair to saddle any individual with a stereotype that has been ascribed to a minority of millions by the majority of billions who obviously know very little about what it is truly like to be gay in the first place. That said, I believe there are a number of aspects of this topic that I can discuss, if not authoritatively, at least thoughtfully.
Definition of Marriage
It’s been a couple of years since I posted a blog entitled “Perspectives on Marriage”. In that post, I made the point that marriage, in my opinion, has been undergoing a gradual redefinition for more than a hundred years. Prior to that, marriage was more of a religious, procreative, and economic arrangement. At its glorious best, it represented a 3-way covenant relationship between a man, a woman and God. From a more worldly perspective, it was at least a proven arrangement that facilitated the survival of the species by having children. It provided the best structure for raising children to adulthood, in the process forming a social and economic cornerstone for survival and growth of the species. Marriages, no matter how unfulfilling or even miserable, were typically for life, simply because the man was dominant and the woman could scarcely leave, especially once there were children in the picture. Of course, there were exceptions, but, for better or worse, that was the overwhelming trend.
Beginning in the 20th century, though, marriages began to be granted unique privileges, or rights, that were denied to unmarried people. Details are provided in the blog post above, but in general they include tax breaks, inheritance rights, health insurance discounts, hospital visitation rights, living will authority, etc. The government began to license marriage. It became a legal and civil institution rather than a religious one. Divorce laws were developed and varied from state to state, although they have largely become generic over the last few decades. This is why it has become so difficult to deny same-sex couples the same civil rights that are granted to participants in traditional marriage. It’s not so much the right to marriage, it’s the right to all the privileges that come with being married which arguably cannot be legally, or even morally, denied. Society and government “subsidized” marriage for many years with these “rights” in an attempt to encourage couples to form and maintain family units. There may well have been good justification for the direction marriage took during that time, but in this day of 50+% divorce rates, single parent house-holds, children born to un-wed mothers and, yes, abortion…this social and legal subsidization has lost its focus as well as the power to really make a difference. What was, ironically, once marriage’s best friend, has now become its greatest threat. Over the past decade, the justification for withholding these civil “rights” from certain groups in society has been rapidly eroding, and as we well know court after court has decided that such civil issues override any traditional, religious or cultural definition of whatever arrangement it is that carries with it those rights. In short, “marriage” has been redefined to be nothing more than a social contract, and thus can scarcely be denied to any two individuals who desire to enter into such a contract.
The Law of Chastity
As mentioned above, one of the Lord’s most significant commandments, according to LDS doctrine, is the Law of Chastity, which all faithful saints, endowed or not, are commanded to obey. Simply put, it is that any sexual relations outside of the bonds of marriage are forbidden. In addition, the Proclamation on the Family states:
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. 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.
This proclamation, which I personally consider as scripture for my life, makes it quite clear that marriage is defined as “between man and woman…husband and wife”. (It is interesting that it does not say “…A man and woman” – I had never noticed that before). Whether or not you consider this proclamation to be scripture for your own personal life, there is no room for interpretation that it includes same sex marriage or any form of marriage that does not involve man and woman. There is also no room for interpretation, when combined with the Law of Chastity, that it leaves any room for heterosexual relations outside the bonds of marriage. The commandments are quite clear.
Chastity outside of marriage, and complete fidelity within marriage, are essential to maintaining the marriage bond and thus the family unit. When a husband and wife commit themselves to each other physically, emotionally and spiritually, and when they engage no other outlet for this powerful physical desire – even need – for sexual fulfillment, the bond that is formed is very powerful. When these boundaries are broken, through any form of stimulation or fulfillment that does not involve one’s spouse and only one’s spouse, the bond is compromised and the marriage, and thus the family, are threatened. God’s precious children suffer. We see it every day – most likely even in our own families.
I firmly declare, and I can quote no authority other than the fact that I have lived many years on this earth, that I have been on both sides of this battle, and that I have the gift of the Holy Ghost to testify to me of truth, that the disregard for the Law of Chastity that has been steadily increasing over the past 50 years is one of the primary causes of the degradation of society that we all are witnessing today. This disregard is much more manifest, just through sheer numbers, in the heterosexual community than it is in the homosexual community (are they really different communities?), but both are an abomination before the Lord, and will only lead to more of the symptoms I described in the first paragraph above.
“And the second is like unto it”
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question,tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)
And now the counterpoint to any discussion about same sex marriage – the need for love and compassion. This cannot be denied. The Lord is clear. One can argue that “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” suggests that one could perhaps condemn and judge behavior in another just as one would condemn it is oneself. In other words, if I am willing to condemn extra-marital sexual activity in myself, I have the right to condemn it in others. I don’t think so. People regularly invoke the conveniently modified edict “Thou shalt not judge”, which is actually said nowhere in the scriptures, but reads more like:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke 6:37)
Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (Leviticus 19:15).
However, I don’t believe this gives us the right as individuals to condemn others for their actions. We do not know their challenges…do not live in their body…in short, we have not walked in their shoes. Only Christ’s judgment is perfect – only He has the knowledge, the understanding, and the compassion to judge perfectly, and for us to impose our imperfect judgment on others is not loving them.
Consider with me what it must be like for a child who is raised up in today’s world, seeing all around them examples of the promise of marriage and family with the accompanying emotional and sexual love. They are told by their parents that, when they grow up, they can be just like them. Media, relatives, churches; the vast majority of society’s influences all reinforce this promised dream. Then, at some point, probably during puberty, things go horribly wrong. The attraction they’re supposed to feel for the opposite sex doesn’t develop as it does with their friends. Worse, they find themselves physically attracted to those very friends. Can you imagine the confusion? Just as these promised dreams should be materializing and coming true, the rug is pulled out from under them. They are banished into the fringe of society, with no acceptable outlet for these powerful sexual urges and unfulfilled emotional desires that typically spin out of control even for heterosexual teens. The tension that is set up here is pretty obvious. Throw in the fact that, for most heterosexuals, there is a deep, psychological, perhaps even physical, revulsion for same-sex activities. It’s just as hard-wired into our make-up as same-sex attraction is for the gay person. Imagine being told that, in order to be part of society you must either overcome those visceral feelings or abstain from sex altogether. Imagine being told, as a heterosexual, that you had to engage in homosexual relations. How can one not have compassion – true compassion – for such unfortunates?
There is no Easy Solution
The forces mentioned above, all of them very real, are in insidious opposition to each other. Marriage today simply is what it has evolved into. The civil rights, once given, will never be taken away. Society and Government are not going to do that without huge social upheaval which would result in casualties far beyond so-called marriage benefits. The Law of Chasity, among the LDS faithful, is not something on which we can or should compromise. The welfare of society, not to mention the building of God’s Kingdom on the earth, demands its strict observance. Yet, there are millions of people who find themselves, for whatever reasons, trapped in the interplay between these two forces. The commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself” encourages us to tolerate, if not condone the actions of others even though we know them to be wrong. It’s like a perfect storm designed to wreak havoc on our society – on the Kingdom of God. As a matter of fact – it probably is exactly that – insidiously designed by the enemy of the Kingdom of God.
Government will almost certainly, in the next few years, alleviate the civil rights aspect of this dilemma. Although I remain convinced personally that same-sex marriage, as a symptom of the larger disease of sexual immorality overall, will further the destruction of society that has already been aggressively advanced by the widespread disregard for the Law of Chastity, I do not see any other moral or legal route for the state and federal government to take. Unfortunately, this course will result in even greater erosion of the family, making more and more people dependent on the government, which, of course, transfers power, both political and economic, right into their hands. In other words, the whole thing is very much in the interest of the government.
The Law of Chastity itself can never be compromised – it is of the Lord. The fact that all those who participate in extra-marital sexual relations will ultimately be judged by the Lord for their choices is indisputable. There is nothing any of us can do about that. However, that judgment will also be “of the Lord”, and it is not our place to circumvent His perfect, fair, compassionate justice by replacing it with our own.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in all of this would be for us to disobey the second great commandment which is “like unto” the first and forget our responsibility to love our neighbor as ourselves. The sin is then on our head. We suffer, they suffer, everybody suffers. The world, which is already descending into a pit of immorality that includes pornography, promiscuity, rape, and abortion, would be made even darker by the removal of what precious little light is left. Let us not hasten its decline by adding our own hatred to the veil of darkness that threatens to engulf us. This, our ability to love, is the only thing that is truly variable in this drama. We must each resolve to love our fellow man as we love ourselves. This is really the only “weapon” we have to battle the evil one, and make no mistake – this IS his assault.
The Future – a prediction
What I am about to say is a personal prediction, most definitely not in any form a prophecy. It is not particularly inspired of the Holy Ghost, although that doesn’t mean it is not true.
In Europe, the church no longer performs weddings – that is reserved for the state. The church only performs sealings. I predict that, once gay marriage is legalized, the church will stop performing marriages, and only sealings will be performed in the temple.