Somewhere in the roiling sea of the Gay Marriage Debate ?¢Ç¨Äú where the determined, but overmatched boats of Prophetic Proclamation, Scientific Speculation, Political Posture, and Bleeding-heart Babbling bob and weave, toss and turn ?¢Ç¨Äú stand two immovable pillars.?Ç¬ Like towering lighthouses, they patiently endure the pounding sea, barely taking notice of the pitching and tossing boats, except for an occasional, bemused glance in their direction.
The pillars are two immutable facts:
- The Onward March of Civilization.
- The LDS Imperative to Maintain an?Ç¬'Optimal Tension' with the World.
Many Mormons see little value in the process of civilization.?Ç¬ Some of them tend to regard the Church as a culture which gives to but does not take from its sister cultures in the world, particularly in such essential matters as theological insight and moral understanding.?Ç¬ Such things, in their view, come strictly through revelation, and it is the role of the Church to dispense them to the world through missionary work.?Ç¬ It is inconceivable that an increased understanding of perfection might come to the Church from the wisdom which slowly accumulates through the civilized development of the human conscience in many cultures.
Certain other Mormons are even more militantly conscious of their disesteem for civilization, which they express by rejecting the world at large as the symbolic Babylon from which the Church, as God’s specially anointed society, is to keep itself unspotted.?Ç¬ This view tends to take on a doomsday color, for the changes occurring in non-Mormon cultures are often seen as totally corrupt and retrogressive, tainted by sin and worthy of destruction.?Ç¬ Everywhere are wars and rumors of wars without end and perversities and whoredoms beyond calculation.?Ç¬ Armageddon looms on the horizon, and the fearful settle into the fortress of their righteousness to await the imminent end of the world – something like Jonah, who supposed there was nothing in the city of
Nineveh worthy of salvation. ?Ç¬
This cynical view of civilization is unfortunate.?Ç¬ The Church is not a detached and isolated island; it has a symbiotic, interdependent relationship with numerous other cultures, with whose people its members commingle on a daily basis.?Ç¬ Civilization is a social process which flourishes most dramatically precisely when such interaction takes place.?Ç¬ A new insight, a new value, a new tool passes from person to person, crossing boundaries and domesticating itself in various cultures, stimulating among its recipients further inventions and discoveries.
Civilization, what Peterson calls the incremental 'development of the human conscience,' inevitably marches on.?Ç¬ There seems to be little doubt, even in the minds of most conservative members, that the world will eventually accept Gay Marriage, whether Prop 8 is defeated this fall or not.?Ç¬ Heterosexual-only Marriage is taking on water like the Titanic, and?Ç¬though the water may not have reached the tipping point, the end is a 'mathematical certainty.”
Bruce Ismay (a.k.a. Titanic’s venal businessman): But this ship can’t sink!
The answer to that question is the second pillar: The LDS Imperative to Maintain an “Optimal Tension” with the World:
If survival is the first task of the movement, the natural and inevitable response of the host society is either to domesticate the movement or to destroy it. In seeking to domesticate or assimilate it, the society will apply various kinds of social control pressures selectively in an effort to force the movement to abandon at least its most unique and threatening features. To the extent that the society succeeds in the domestication effort, the result will be the eventual assimilation of the movement. Failing to achieve sufficient domestication, the host society will eventually resort to the only alternative: persecution and repression.
Movements which, like Mormonism, survive and prosper, are those that succeed in maintaining indefinitely an optimum tension between the two opposing strains: the strain toward greater assimilation and respectability, on the one hand, and that toward great separateness, peculiarity, and militance, on the other.?Ç¬ Along the continuum between total assimilation and total repression or destruction is the narrow segment on either side of the center; and it is within this narrower range of socially tolerable variation that movements must maintain themselves, pendulum-like, to survive.
If, in its quest for acceptance and respectability, a movement allows itself to be pulled too far toward assimilation, it will lose its unique identity altogether.?Ç¬ If, on the other hand, in its quest for uniqueness of identity and mission, it allows itself to move too far toward an extreme rejection of the host society, it will lose its very life.?Ç¬ Its viability and its separate identity both depend on a successful and perpetual oscillation within a fairly narrow range along a continuum between two alternate modes of oblivion.?Ç¬
We're seeing it now ?¢Ç¨Äú since the charged rhetoric of the 1960s and 1970s (i.e. homosexuality is an abomination on par with beastiality), the Church has slowly adopted a decidedly 'softer' stance towards same-sex attraction.
At some point down the road ?¢Ç¨Äú the next generation? the generation after that? ?¢Ç¨Äú the 'optimal tension' between the Church and the rest of Civilization on the issue of Gay Marriage will become so strained that a revelation is likely to follow.?Ç¬ We have ample precedent ?¢Ç¨Äú the Manifesto of 1890 and the Revelation of 1978 are both fairly clear-cut.
Of course, reducing divine revelation to a mere sociological phenomenon, to worldly pressure, is a blunt and unnecessary conclusion.?Ç¬ But there is still ample room for the mystical or spiritual, for the guiding hand of the Divine.?Ç¬ I return to Levi Peterson and the process of civilization:
Given the fact of proximity and interaction, the Church has inevitably influenced its sister cultures, not merely by proselyting converts from among them but also by the example it gives of Christian living.?Ç¬ But one does no dishonor to the divine mission of the Church by admitting that, in its turn, the Church is highly influenced by the world, sometimes even in matters relating to Christian living.?Ç¬ Evidence for this assertion may be seen in events preceding the revelation of 1978 which extended the priesthood to Mormon men of all races.?Ç¬ That revelation was an immense relief to numerous Mormons, whose united concern and questioning about the inequality of the former policy had moved the prophet to seek a revelation on the matter.?Ç¬ But why should Mormons of the 1970s have been so concerned when Mormons of the 1920s were not? The reason is that they had been influenced by the growing racial equality in other cultures.
(Pesonally, the idea?Ç¬that God influences all of His children throughout the world, one person at a time, gives me goosebumps.?Ç¬ Sometimes, because of our unique gifts, our “readiness,” our sensitivity to this or that issue, Mormons are the first to hear God’s still small voice, and we set the example for the rest of the world.?Ç¬ But other times, other groups or cultures are better prepared, and God chooses them to reveal a new truth.)