The Inevitability of LDS Gay Marriage

Somewhere in the roiling sea of the Gay Marriage Debate ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú where the determined, but overmatched boats of Prophetic Proclamation, Scientific Speculation, Political Posture, and Bleeding-heart Babbling bob and weave, toss and turn ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú stand two immovable pillars.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ†

The pillars are two immutable facts:?Ǭ†

  1. The Onward March of Civilization.
  2. The LDS Imperative to Maintain an?Ǭ†'Optimal Tension' with the World.

To support the first pillar, I turn to the sage advice of Levi Peterson:?Ǭ†

Many Mormons see little value in the process of civilization.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ†

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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† Everywhere are wars and rumors of wars without end and perversities and whoredoms beyond calculation.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ†

This cynical view of civilization is unfortunate.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† Civilization is a social process which flourishes most dramatically precisely when such interaction takes place.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† Heterosexual-only Marriage is taking on water like the Titanic, and?Ǭ†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!

Thomas Andrews (a.k.a Titanic’s builder): She is made of iron, sir. I assure you, she can. And she will. It is a mathematical certainty.

So the question is not whether the World will accept Gay Marriage, the question is whether the Mormons will follow??Ǭ†

The answer to that question is the second pillar: The LDS Imperative to Maintain an “Optimal Tension” with the World:

Since shelving Plural Marriage in the late 1800s, the LDS have steered a course that allows us to be both 'in' and 'out' of the world. We maintain a healthy distance, or 'optimum tension' between the Church and the World, but we will never let the distance or gulf to grow too wide (or too close). Armand Mauss convincingly details this phenomenon in The Angel and The Beehive as the ongoing process of assimilation and retrenchment:?Ǭ†

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.?Ǭ†

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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ†

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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ†

So, unless the Church reverses its course to become a truly (not just 'sort of') 'peculiar people,' (think FLDS, Amish, or other fringe groups who doggedly refuse to shift with the World), it will continue to shift along the continuum with the rest of civilization.?Ǭ†

We're seeing it now ?¢‚Ǩ‚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.?Ǭ†

At some point down the road ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the next generation? the generation after that? ?¢‚Ǩ‚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.?Ǭ† We have ample precedent ?¢‚Ǩ‚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.?Ǭ† But there is still ample room for the mystical or spiritual, for the guiding hand of the Divine.?Ǭ† I return to Levi Peterson and the process of civilization:?Ǭ†

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.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† Evidence for this assertion may be seen in events preceding the revelation of 1978 which extended the priesthood to Mormon men of all races.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† 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.

Why can't the influence of Civilization be a part ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú sometimes even a key component ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú of Revelation??Ǭ† Don't we have ample precedent for this as well??Ǭ† Don't we have a long track record of accepting all truth, 'let it come from whence it may'??Ǭ† Don't we recognize that the Light of Christ shines on all of God's children??Ǭ† Don't we accept that many of Civilizations' greatest advances, whether spiritual, scientific, technological, industrial, etc., have come from non-Mormons??Ǭ†

(Pesonally, the idea?Ǭ†that God influences all of His children throughout the world, one person at a time, gives me goosebumps.?Ǭ† 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.?Ǭ† But other times, other groups or cultures are better prepared, and God chooses them to reveal a new truth.)

With the Priesthood Ban against Blacks, the healthy or 'optimum tension' was stressed during the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, but had become seriously strained by 1978.?Ǭ† By ’78, the major Civil Rights wars had been fought and won, and we were left standing on the wrong side of the line.?Ǭ† Today, were the Ban still in effect, the tension would be unbearable.?Ǭ† Without the Revelation, I am doubtful that Mormonism could have survived today, except maybe as a fringe group, like the FLDS or the Amish.?Ǭ† But its international footprint, its mainstream acceptance, (and even respect), in society today would be gone.

Is it not so hard to see that history will?Ǭ†likely again repeat itself??Ǭ†

1890.?Ǭ† 1978. ?Ǭ†20XX?


  1. For those tired of the Gay Marriage debate, I apologize in advance. We won’t hold it against you if you sit this one out. 🙂 I’ll try to post on a different subject next time, but the issue is still very topical, and I had some more thoughts on the subject I wanted to enumerate. Thanks. (Or “Sorry,” depending on your point of view.) 🙂

  2. Very thoughtful and interesting post. I agree that this has what happened in the past. Here’s why I’m one of the last-days doomsdayers who don’t think this is what will happen in the future:

    My prediction is that homosexuality will be to Mormonism in the 21st century what polygamy was to us in the 19th, only in reverse. In the 19th century, we espoused a principle that the civilization at large could not abide, and civilization eventually pressured us into abandoning it. In the 21st century, civilization is espousing a principle that Mormonism cannot abide, and civilization will try to pressure us to accept it with every bit as much force as they used to get us to abandon polygamy, and perhaps worse. But instead of driving us to comply like we did to get statehood, it will instead make us dig our heels in deeper and ultimately perhaps cause us to part ways.

    I think by as soon as mid-century you will find the church isolated and embattled because we refuse to accept gay marriage and accompanying legislation, which will have progressed to the national constitutional level by then, I think, and involve sanctions against those who don’t comply, such as closing our temples for refusing to perform gay marriages. I predict you will find faithful Mormons leaving the big metropolitan areas, especially on the coasts, and gathering together in places for safety and protection from the storm. You may even find the church itself officially disenfranchised or outlawed at some point, but if so then it will continue on an underground basis.

    Why do I think this? Because the secular, irreligious world needs a seemingly moral cause to replace the religion they have rejected and to assuage their consciences, and Satan is setting up gay marriage as that perfect cause. He is brilliantly making it seem like accepting and embracing homosexuality is the next logical step in a progressive civilization, and anyone who stands in the way will be mowed down with even more vehemence than racists and other bigots are castigated in today’s politically correct atmosphere. There’s some validity in political correctness, of course, but Satan’s twisting it and taking it too far, using it to deceive people into defending and celebrating a sin. God will not support the civilization in this like I believe he probably did during the black civil rights movement, and so it will all turn nasty and evil.

    I do not predict that the church will ever back down on the gay issue. Some Mormons are saying that the church backed down on blacks and it’s just a matter of time before they back down on gays and we’ll all feel so stupid and ashamed for resisting. However, you never saw the church resist the black civil rights movement in any officially coordinated way, although some individual leaders expressed concern. By contrast, on the gay issue the church is clearly ramping up for the fight, and I’m sure we’ll go the distance even if we end up getting knocked out of the ring and have to hunker down under the bleachers somewhere.

    If gay marriage survives in California this fall, I think 2008 will go down in history as a major turning point that put us on a faster track to the chaos and calamities of the last days. In related news, this year may also prove to mark a turning point that puts us into an economic downturn from which we never fully recover. And who knows what change will be wrought by this fall’s presidential election, which may plunge us into some new situation that will look like another major watershed in retrospect? Or if not, then 2008 will have been a dress rehearsal for when things really do bump up to the next level of the last days.

  3. MoHoHawaii says:

    I need to argue against against the doomsday scenario of #2 above.

    But instead of driving us to comply like we did to get statehood, it will instead make us dig our heels in deeper

    And exactly why will the Church behave differently than it has in the past? The one thing it seems you can depend on an authoritarian bureaucracy to do is act to preserve itself. Self-destruction just isn’t in the cards for something as professionally run as the LDS Church.

    [There will be] sanctions against those who don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t comply, such as closing our temples for refusing to perform gay marriages.

    I’m sorry, but this is just paranoia. We have a long history in this country of allowing churches great leeway in saying whose unions they will bless. The Catholics, for example, have strict requirements that include never having been divorced. There is a separation of church and state in the US, and this exists for the protection of religion!

    Besides, the LDS Church is just one of the many conservative churches, consisting of perhaps 25% of the population, who will not want to perform gay marriages. There’s safety in numbers.

    There?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s some validity in political correctness, of course, but Satan?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s twisting it and taking it too far.

    I don’t know quite how to respond to this one. Let’s bring this back home:

    1) The gay marriage issue is a civil issue entirely. It’s about whose kids are eligible for health insurance, which tax forms can be filed and who gets survivor benefits in the case of death. It’s a bit on the dull side for a diabolical plot.

    2) No one is asking churches to do anything differently. Period.

    3) What may cause pressure is simply the tide of public opinion that will occur as people see that gay marriage doesn’t make the sky fall down, and this is what Matt is talking about with his “optimal tension” argument. It’s real, but it’s going to happen regardless of the results of this particular election.

    If gay marriage survives in California this fall, I think 2008 will go down in history as a major turning point that put us on a faster track to the chaos and calamities of the last days.

    I hope you’re not trying to suggest that natural disasters and economic troubles are due to whether my boyfriend and I get to file joint tax returns someday.

    You know, I too am scared for the world my kids will inherit, although I would argue that the coming economic challenges have more to do with charging a $3 trillion war on our national Visa card than with letting gay couples have hospital visitation rights.

    One of the problems I have with the First Presidency’s letter is that it is polarizing us and whipping our emotions into a frenzy over something that, frankly, isn’t our number one national problem. We’ve got big issues to face: infrastructure, education, health care, the budget deficit, ending a 7 year war, etc., etc. Gay marriage is the least of our worries.

    As always, if I disagree, I do so with respect.

  4. Matt Thurston says:

    Thanks for commenting Chris.

    Your comment certainly dovetails nicely with Levi Peterson’s second paragraph above.

    And I think your ideas would make a wonderful “speculative sci-fi novel” for Zarahemla Books. I know I’d read it.

    And while I share your concerns for the future of mankind, let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill here. Gay Marriage doesn’t even crack the Top 500 reasons to fear for Civilization.

    What became of the “end of the world” rhetoric of Mormon GA’s during the ramp up to the 1890 Manifesto? What became of the fear-based paranoia and conspiracy theories propagated by Mormon GA’s during the ramp up to the 1978 revelation? Nothing.

    When/if Gay Marriage is recognized by the World, and possibly later by the Church, the end result, just like in the past, will be shockingly anti-climactic. Life will go on, only it will be more beautiful than before.

    But I will clip and save your Comment #2. Twenty-five years from now, if we’re both still kicking around this place, we’ll either have a good-hearted laugh, or we’ll be hunkering under the bleachers somewhere while the Gay-loving secular world hunts us down. I hope I’m right.

  5. I’m pretty sure we can compare this fight to the abortion-rights campaign more accurately than to the blacks-and-the-priesthood situation. There was a lot of emotion about it all for a while, but the courts have settled on granting abortion rights in carefully selected situations, and the Church maintains its stance against it. Each side coexists, if not exactly peacefully, at least in a state of minimum tension. A small minority of members hold pro-abortion views while holding on to their Church membership.

    No hunkering under the bleachers, no gay Temple marriages.

    Just my gaze into the crystal ball…

  6. Terry Maz. says:

    I think I will side with the ‘not much to see here crowd.’

    All the sound and fury of the ERA issues and priesthood for women in the 1970s and 1980s put the church on the wrong side of equal rights for women, but nothing changed.

    The actions of the church are not widely criticized and generally accepted by members of the church because there is a large portion of the population that, at least with respect to marriage, expects different roles for women. The same goes for issues related to same sex marriage.

    The nightmare scenario predicted by the church with respect to Equal Rights didn’t yield the results in other jurisdictions that did extend constitutional protection to women.

    Life will go on in the church, much as it has done for the past age . . .

  7. Rick Jepson says:

    I have to agree with BiV on this one.

    It’s significant to not that there are more nuances both in being anti- and pro- abortion than there originally were (and a more nuanced position from the church). I’d expect the same from homosexual marriage. And to a huge extent, we’ve already seen that. Just a decade ago or so there was zero tolerance, zero understanding.

  8. Gerald Smith says:

    I think the Church has already drawn its line in the sand. That line was drawn with the Proclamation of the Family. The Church will be compassionate towards those with same sex attraction, as they are with those with other addictions or temptations.
    However, homosexual lifestyle will not be accepted. It is different from plural marriage or priesthood and blacks.
    With plural marriage, Jacob tells us that monogamy is the standard except when God chooses otherwise. With blacks and the priesthood, there was precedence for it, as Joseph had already ordained some blacks, and all Church leaders agreed that blacks would someday receive the priesthood. It was an issue of when, not if.
    In this issue, we are seeing homosexuality, which has always been considered sinful, trying to achieve acceptance in society. The Church has clarified its positions in two ways: first establishing what constitutes an acceptable family to God in the Proclamation of the Family. This states that only a nuclear family, with father and mother, is acceptable. Anything else is sub-par, non-celestial.
    Second, the stance we are to take in loving the sinner and hating the sin, was reemphasized so that members will know how to deal with those suffering from same sex attraction addictions.
    And yes, I agree with the many studies done that strongly suggest that SSA is most common among those who have not had an optimal relationship with Dad/male figure.

  9. BiV, as per usual, makes a good point. Certainly, her scenario is inevitable, the next logical step. I do not expect the Church to sanction Gay Marriage overnight. If it happens, it will be the result of incremental change, degree by degree, line upon line.

    I just don’t think it will stop at “each side coexists, if not exactly peacefully, at least in a state of minimum tension.” It will go beyond that, for a number reason. Let me enumerate two:

    1.) Same-sex attraction, or “being Gay,” will eventually come to be accepted by the majority of society as completely “normal,” in the same way we accept black skin to be as “normal” as white skin. Whether the normality of same-sex attraction is eventually proven by science or medicine, or simply becomes a socially accepted fact, it doesn’t matter. The end result is the same.

    But abortion, even for the majority of Pro Choice advocates, will always be an unfortunate, necessary evil. It is not something to be embraced, it is something everyone — including Pro Choicers — hopes to avoid. People that have abortions don’t consider it part of their identity. It is likely something they’d rather forget, something to push to the back of their minds.

    Being Gay, however, is at the very core of one’s identity. Like being Heterosexual, it is just a baseline given, that impacts almost every aspect of one’s life. Tough to hide that under the rug, like Abortion.

    2.) My second reason is more personal, but I believe recognizing, accepting, and embracing Gays is inherently “right,” “moral,” and “true,” in the same way that heterosexual love is right, moral, and true. I believe it is what God and Christ wants. And since I believe God/Christ is also present in the Mormon Church, I have great confidence that their influence will ultimately win the day. The prayers of the “least of these” will be heard, and a revelation will come.

  10. Rick Jepson says:

    I really am going to save a copy of this discussion to look back on in a few decades. I’ll be interested to see how the conversation looks then. (Even if it’s underneath the bleachers).

  11. MoHoHawaii says:

    Re #10 (Gerald Smith)

    I agree with the many studies done that strongly suggest that SSA is most common among those who have not had an optimal relationship with Dad/male figure.

    This has been debunked. Basically, association is not causation.

    Some (straight) fathers do not respond well to their (gay) son’s temperament. Macho dads sometimes don’t like their (as they perceive) inadequately masculine sons. No big surprise really.

    Homosexuality is not in any way the result of parenting styles.

  12. MoHoHawaii says:

    I can agree with the idea that the trajectory of homosexuality as an issue might be much like that of equality for women (as opposed to the way it worked for blacks and the priesthood). Society will move on and the Church will follow, slowly, informally without a lot of fanfare. This is totally consistent with the model that Matt has suggested.

  13. Mary in Northern Utah says:

    This is how I can remain in the church I grew up in and love but struggle with in regard to issues like gay marriage. I believe in this model of change, albeit “slowly, informally without a lot of fanfare.” (Thank you MoHoHawaii #14.) I’ve seen how the Church is kinder toward homosexuals than it was a generation ago. Thanks again, Matt, for your thought-provoking posts that give me continued hope.

  14. Eugene says:

    Matt’s initial quote of Armand Mauss: “If survival is the first task of the movement?¢‚Ǩ¬¶” struck me like a bolt! That’s the distinction I have been looking for between Mormon and Christian movements from their respective inceptions. The FIRST task of those who follow Jesus is to love God–NOT “survival”. One doesn’t have to go far to illustrate this: Christians fed to the lions during Nero’s reign, Russian Orthodox Christians giving their lives in Soviet death camps. Non-denominational Christian martyrs all over the world these days in China, Africa, the middle East and elsewhere. True Christians do not first think of “survival”. That is the first task of a collective ego.

  15. This discussion makes me think of Social Darwinism, a little. Matt Thurston’s position seems to be that civilization will inevitably evolve in the direction of progress. Others of us not only fear but fully expect, given our religious beliefs, that civilization will eventually devolve to the point that the Second Coming will be necessary. I see legitimizing gay marriage as a big step down for civilization, because it mocks sacred heterosexual procreation to give equal status to a sin that counterfeits it.

    I don’t buy the comparison with abortion at all. The equivalent argument there is the sodomy laws, which were long ago either disregarded or stricken from the books. Personally, I have libertarian leanings. I think adults should be free to do what they want to their own bodies, without interference from government. I tend to favor having no laws against the personal use of drugs, prostitution, abortion, sodomy, etc. as long as partakers in such vices don’t violate the rights of anyone else. Let them do what they want and face the consequences; after all, they usually do anyway.

    But for our civilization to officially, openly embrace gay marriage, celebrate these sinful unions, give them the stamp of normalcy to confuse the hell out of our children, etc. is to me the sign of a civilization that is starting to get really sick. With such thumbing of the nose at God and his consequent withdrawal from blessing us, Satan will be freer to really make the most of this controversy and use it to push us to the level I described in comment #2 above.

    Or if gay marriage doesn’t turn out to be the new form of evil that gets us all the way to the comment #2 scenario, it is clearly the next step to whatever bigger forms of evil lie ahead that will get us there. But why not gay marriage? It’s different from anything that has gone before in our civilization. It’s not just the toleration of personal liberties to commit a sin but the ENTHRONING of that sin in full legitimacy and celebration.

    Whole different ball game.

  16. Matt #11, your comment actually shows a lot of faith, and hope. You have a lot more than I do, but perhaps in this case I can borrow some of your light. For my sincere wish is that it will happen the way you describe. And sooner rather than later.

  17. Matt Thurston says:

    Chris #17, if the writers of The Secret are to be believed, “the most powerful law in the universe” is the law of attraction, the idea “that feelings and thoughts can attract events, from the workings of the cosmos to interactions among individuals.”

    Such an idea, if true, has truly scary ramifications for a self-fulfilling armaggedon given the vast number of people on earth who fully expect the world to do itself in as precursor to the Second Coming.

    I well remember a time when I shared your literalist thoughts about the “end of the world”. Events that I took as “signs of the times” were scary; but ironically they also gave me a sense of comfort, as they reinforced my beliefs; and hey, the Second Coming was a good thing, not something to be put off or avoided; and what did I have to worry about, I was on the Lord’s side?

    Now I personally think The Secret nothing more than an obvious, common-sense premise blown to totally bullsh*t proportions for obvious commercial reasons. I would no more read the book or watch a Secret video than I would gouge my eyes out with a rusty dinner fork.

    Nevertheless, the Second Coming prophesies scare the bejesus out of me, not because I believe the Book of Revelations, but because I believe you and billions of others believe the Book of Revelations.

    Having said that, the Second Coming is a wonderful idea — i.e. that God or Christ will come again — but why, oh why, couldn’t it be modified so Christ would come again only after we’ve all learned to live and love each other, after we’ve stopped the wars and rumors of wars??? Doesn’t that make more sense? It would give us human beings something to strive for, it would put positive energy into the world.

    Instead, we all hunker down under the bleachers and self-righteously judge the rest of Babylon, secure in our belief that we are right and they are wrong.

  18. Matt Thurston says:

    But Chris, I appreciate you commenting here. You are as aware as anyone of the demographics and leanings of most Sunstoners, and it takes guts to share one’s opposing opinion, especially using one’s full, real name.

  19. Thanks, Matt. I like to be different. I like to be a Sunstoner among true believers and a true believer among Sunstoners. I get a kick out of both. (And I’m fully sincere in my views/beliefs in both modes, too?¢‚Ǩ‚ÄùI’m not just playing a game.)

    I’m attracted on some level to your hopes that humankind could actually bring on the Second Coming by being READY for Jesus, rather than being about to go extinct without his intervention. I just personally can’t imagine such a thing with human nature combined with Satan’s current free reign in the world. I think the idea that humans could accomplish a secular Zion on their own as a civilization smacks to me of relying on the arm of flesh, which is always doomed to eventually fail, just as all fallen human civilizations are doomed to eventually fail.

    But hey, maybe we’ve got another 500 or 1,000 years left in us as a non-religiously-unified human civilization. Part of me hopes so. But the larger part sees the weight of revelation and the signs of the times as showing that we’re likely much closer to the end game than that. It’s just the nature of the beast.

  20. Krys Corbett says:

    I agree with the comments in #6 about abortion being a good analogy. The women’s rights movement as well — sure there are some changes but the priesthood is still a male only institution because that is seen as the only theologically and doctrinally sound way to go.

    Similarly, gay marriage strikes the same theological and doctrinal bases for many. (Of course I don’t think that should set the civic rules any more than a choice to observe the sabbath should mean towns can’t choose to have businesses open on Sunday.)

    The funny thing about driving this from the church doctrines and theology of gender and family — divorce (and remarriage) seem like greater doctrinal threats than gay marriage. The whole idea of sealing and children being sealed to parents breaks down a little when the parents are no longer sealed to each other. Interesting the Ensign articles about staying together with one’s nonbelieving or nonparticipating spouse — because straight doctrine would actually lead elsewhere.

  21. Trying to be Fair says:

    My crystal ball may be no better than anyone else?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s, but (for what it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s worth) I think Matt?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s scenario is ultimately more likely than those suggested by Chris (who predicts the Church will never change and doomsday will result) or BiV and Terry Maz (who predict the Church will never change and things will go along as usual).

    I see the issues surrounding gay marriage as very similar to those involving polygamy or priesthood to blacks. Gerald Smith tosses off the polygamy issue by quoting Jacob, but if you read the ferocious 19th Century rhetoric by apostles and prophets in support of polygamy, you?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll understand that these folks firmly believed it was the only true ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcelestial?¢‚Ǩ¬ù marriage. The fact that several apostles actually left the church over the issue, and others continued to enter into and sanction plural marriages for years after the Manifesto, should tell you how strongly they felt on the issue.

    Likewise, there were extraordinarily strong statements from prophets and apostles against giving the priesthood to blacks. Alvin R. Dyer, counselor to President McKay (among others), preached that blacks were among the less-valiant third of the pre-existence host, and while there were some statements speculating that their time would come, most of them were fairly late, after the civil rights demonstrations of the sixties.

    Clearly the majority of the Church in the 1870s would never have believed we would forsake polygamy and the majority of the Church in the 1920s would never have believed the blacks would be given the priesthood.

    The gay marriage issue is wrapped up in issues of sexuality, morals and procreation. (Personally, I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t think it has anything at all to do with procreation, but the opponents of gay marriage keep harping on it.) Let?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s look at how those types of issues have evolved. In the 19th Century, and after, we had garments that came to the ankles and wrists. What happened to garments when it became generally accepted that it was OK to show legs and arms? How many women today actually wear garments that even cover their knees? As late as when I was on my mission we were still quoting Joseph Fielding Smith to the effect that any artificial form of birth control was evil. Do you think our GA?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s today use artificial forms of birth control? How many of them have families of 10 to 14 children, as was common in earlier centuries? Some of the old-timers when I was young thought that sex should only be engaged in when there was a possibility of procreation.

    There is precedent for the Church to progress on the sex and procreation front.

    Terry Maz makes a compelling argument that the gay marriage issue should be compared to what happened regarding the ERA. Women got equal rights without the amendment and the fuss has died down. She (he?) may be right. But I see major differences. We never told women they couldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have sex with men. We told them (and men) that they shouldn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t have sex outside marriage, but they have always had the marriage option. We are seeking to deny that option to gays and lesbians who want to remain members in full fellowship in the Church.

    Of course, the gay marriage issue in California isn’t as controversial as whether the Church will ever embrace gay marriage. In California the Church leaders want to deny gays and lesbians the right of marriage altogether ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú even those who have nothing to do with the Church.

    My crystal ball says the Church will come around on this issue eventually because it is the right thing to do. Bigotry is wrong ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú it was wrong in the past and always will be wrong. It may be a long time coming, but I have a great hope that a generation of Mormon leaders yet to be installed will come to understand that.

  22. Trying to be Fair says:

    A quick commenet on Krys, #22, who says: “I agree … about abortion being a good analogy. The women?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s rights movement as well ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù sure there are some changes but the priesthood is still a male only institution because that is seen as the only theologically and doctrinally sound way to go.”

    Matt adequately responded to the abortion analogy, which is entirely off point.

    As to women’s rights — the other thing I would say is that someday Mormon women will wake up and realize that there is no reason they cannot be called to leadership positions in the Church and to lead men, where their respective talents dictate it.

    Sure, there appears to be doctrine against it now, but there was doctrine against doing away with polygamy and giving the priesthood to blacks. The wonderful thing about having a prophet today is that he can trump so-called doctrine.

  23. Glenn says:

    The Church still practices plural marriage, just not while all participants are living. If my wife were to die, I could be sealed to another woman, therefore have 2 women sealed to me for eternity.

    The Church never claimed that being black was a sin, so that was not used to deny full priesthood blessings. Through scripture and modern-day revelation, we learn that homosexuality is a sin and those who openly practice it are barred from the privileges of the priesthood. So are you saying the Church will eventually say that homosexuality will be not only be moral, but embraced? That’s quite the supposition. After all, the first commandment to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply, something gay couples are not equipped to do.

    And would you change Oh My Father to say “I not only have one Father there, I have two or more”?

  24. Rick Jepson says:

    Glenn, are you joking? Church leaders directly linked being black to sin and used it as the central justification for the racist ban: both an historic sin of cain and a premortal sin or all black people.

    one of dozens of examples, this one from M. E. Peterson:

    “He will mete to us according to what we deserve. With that in mind, can we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States?”

  25. Glenn says:

    Rick, nope, not joking at all. All that Peterson quote shows is that some of us were born to a certain lot in life as a direct result of our actions (or inaction) in the premortal realm. No where does that say “blacks don’t receive the priesthood due to the sin of being black.” Though I’m sure in this politically correct climate, they would mean “African American.”

  26. Rick Jepson says:

    They said exactly that. They said that black skin came directly from an individual sin. They said that all blacks were worse in the pre-existence than whites.

    You’ve even reiterated that our “lot in life” (i.e. being black) is a direct consequence of our premortal actions.

  27. Rick Jepson says:

    “Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin…The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence” (Mormon Doctrine, p.527, 1966 ed.).

    According to BRM, being black = being a sinner. NO QUESTION.

  28. Rick Jepson says:

    “there is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient; more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:61).

  29. Rick Jepson says:

    These horrible attitudes were also, as you say, “informed by scripture and modern revelation.”

  30. Rick Jepson says:

    “Why is it in the Church we do not grant the priesthood to the negroes? It is alleged that the Prophet Joseph said – and I have no reason to dispute it – that it is because of some act committed by them before they came into this life. It is alleged that they were neutral, standing neither for Christ nor the devil. But, I am convinced it is because of some things they did before they came into this life that they have been denied the privilege. The races of today are very largely reaping the consequence of a previous life.” (Apostle Melvin Joseph Ballard, Three Degrees of Glory, p. 22)

  31. Rick Jepson says:

    Obviously, this list of quotes could go on for ever. Instead, tell me what you mean by:

    “The Church never claimed that being black was a sin, so that was not used to deny full priesthood blessings.”

    What was used as justification, if not sin?

  32. Some of you know Kaimi Wenger. He said something interesting recently about Biblical errancy. I don’t think he’d mind me quoting him here:

    I think it’s important to note that we _don’t_ follow the rules as set out in either the Old or the New Testament. We cherry-pick like mad. And we’ve done it for a long, long time.

    The OT prescribes death as the punishment for homosexuality, witchcraft, cursing a parent, or living in the same city as a heretic. It says that rape is a perfectly acceptable way to find a wife.

    The NT has ideas we don’t follow, either. Paul’s epistles say that women shouldn’t speak in church, and that it’s better to be celibate for life than to marry, and that slaves should willingly obey their masters and not complain.

    We cherry pick all the time. Our current focus on a few select scriptures is another example of cherry picking.

    Why ignore Leviticus or Paul on homosexuality? The same reason we ignore them on rape, death penalty, slavery, and marriage.

  33. TTBF (#23, #24), spot on, as usual. I’m with you on women’s rights, but wonder if there will ever be the groundswell of attention and/or desire to make it happen? Part of the reason there was a major shift in doctrine/practice related to polygamy and blacks, (and probably one day for gays as well), is that the status quo was/is largely untenable. There simply was/is no middle gound to occupy.

    Of course, I realize the status quo for women in the church today is untenable for many, but what percentage? Is it even 10% of women?

    Whereas the status quo for gays and blacks was/is untenable for all… close to 100% of gays and blacks simply could not/cannot live with the current situation.

  34. Trying to be Fair says:

    Perhaps it doesn’t need to be untenable. What if it were just nonsensical? And it doesn’t necessarily have to be only women who feel that way. In fact, it would be better if it were equal parts men and women. One can dream, can’t one?

  35. Rick Jepson says:

    We’ll get there. Maybe not on time for my beautiful daughter to get her share….but hopefully her daughter will.

    BTW, for my money, TryingtobeFair is the most level-headed, sensible, objective poster in the forum.

    Thanks for setting that example to more contentious folks like me.

  36. MoHoHawaii says:

    Re #34 (Matt Thurston, quoting Kaimi Wenger)

    We cherry pick all the time. Our current focus on a few select scriptures is another example of cherry picking.

    I was at a gay pride parade a couple of years ago and across the street from me I could see some protesters with the usual handheld posters that pronounced God’s wrath upon gay sinners. Right next to these protesters were a few people with counter-protest signs. These read “God hates shrimp!”

    I cracked up. (If you don’t get the joke, check out Leviticus 11:9-12.)

    By the way, there’s also the web site which blames the Katrina disaster on the fact that Louisiana is famous for gumbo.

  37. DavidH says:

    I do not think there will be significant pressure from the “world” on the Church to change its position on homosexuality as long as the larger Christian communities (e.g., Catholicism, Anglicanism outside of US and Britain, Southern Baptists, etc…), and the Muslim communities, continue to teach that it is wrong.

    I suppose it is possible that the Catholic hierarchy and evangelical preachers will change their views, but I do not think that will happen in my lifetime.

    I will say that a change in the Church’s position (if it happens) would not be as difficult as a change in biblical interpretation by evangelical preachers or a change by the Catholic hierarchy.

    I do not believe there is anything in the canonized works from Joseph Smith’s time (including the Book of Mormon) that speaks to homosexuality, nor did Jesus say anything about the subject during His earthly ministry. The only canonized works touching on the subject are some of the Pentateuch and some of Paul’s teachings. Even the Proclamation on the Family, not yet canonized, does not explicitly address homosexuality or behavior.

    We do, of course, have the words of some of the very modern prophets, especially President Kimball, but these are not canon. If the Church ever changed its position, it could jettison those teachings in the same way it has jettisoned some earlier teachings about race-lineage.

    I do not pretend to know God’s will on the matter. I do believe the Brethren are striving as best they can to discern His will and implementing it.

  38. Jacob F says:

    As a mainstream Mormon, this line of thinking scares the hell out of me. Reassuringly, in 1890 only the Mormons had ever (in then-recent history) favored polygamy. In 1977, we were pretty much the only ones too given the uniqueness of our priesthood doctrines. However, in 20XX we’re not the only ones in the wilderness on the gay marriage issue. Millions of (politically-active) evangelicals, Catholics, etc., have our backs.

  39. Matt Thurston says:

    Jacob, you make some interesting points.

    However, I think the millions of politically-active Evangelicals, Catholics, etc. will start to dwindle. It already has. Every year, something like 2-3% of the population shifts from being against Gay Marriage to for Gay Marriage (or at least tolerant of Gay Marriage).

    In 2000, Prop 22 passed 61% to 39%. Today, Prop 8 will probably be closer to 50/50. If the 2-3% trend continues, what how will the LDS church look in 2020, or 2030? Will there be as many Evangelicals and Catholics who have our back?

    And do they even have our back? Does it bother you that many of these groups are the same people who actively campaigned against Romney on religious grounds, and produce all kinds of “Mormonism is a Cult” texts? Given their track record of bigotry and intollerance for other faiths, shouldn’t we question their stance on Gays?

    Finally, as a “mainstream Mormon,” I’m interested in knowing what you think Mormon Gays should do? Marry someone of the opposite sex and try to work it out? Remain celibate their entire lives and await their sexual re-orientation in the next life? Leave the Church? How do they fit into the Plan of Salvation? Everybody is quick to point out what they should NOT do; but nobody seems to want to talk about or admit what they should do.

    And what do you think about revelation or enlightenment coming from the world? Do you agree at all with Levi Peterson? Do you see the “world’s hand” at all in our revelations to end Polygamy and embrace Blacks?

  40. Jeanne says:

    I know god’s will in this matter: she is strongly in favor of gay marriage. The fact that Utah has the highest gas prices in the contintental US is one indication of her displeasure at Utah’s homophobia.

  41. Rick Jepson says:

    Thanks for demonstrating that people on both sides of the argument can make flimsy connections!

  42. Matt Thurston says:

    Rick, “flimsy” may be too generous a word to explain the connection, an affront to the word “flimsy.”

    I’d re-write your sentance as follows:

    “Thanks for demonstrating that people on both sides of the argument can make totally bogus connections!”

  43. Terry Maz says:

    Dude, am I the only one that thinks of Bill and Ted whenever I hear the word Bogus?

    Totally . . .

  44. Seagullite says:

    “Finally, as a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìmainstream Mormon,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m interested in knowing what you think Mormon Gays should do? Marry someone of the opposite sex and try to work it out? Remain celibate their entire lives and await their sexual re-orientation in the next life? Leave the Church? How do they fit into the Plan of Salvation?”

    My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

    God knows our hearts, our desires. He knows that when we strive through grief and pain. Many of us struggle with temptations and other issues, however, as long as we center our faith in Jesus Christ, we can rest assured that if we endure it well, God will bless us.

  45. Mormonism Straight and Narrow

    “When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” This is the new jingle going around LDS ward houses in California. In an unprecedented move, the LDS Church has actually placed donation boxes and sign-up sheets for anti-gay groups in its places of worship, and encouraged members to give of their time and means to these groups in order to stop the gay tide before it overwhelms America.

    Not to be outdone by the Lord’s anointed in California, LDS Senator Harry Reid has just launched a new burn ’em at the stake contest in Washington in which the featured friers are that other great threat to life as we know it, the vast criminal conspiracy known as polygamy.

    Between its activities in California and those of its Washington bureau, the LDS Church has now made it abundantly clear what it is NOT. It is not for diversity. Not since the days of Cotton Mather and his friends in Salem, who seem to have felt similarly threatened by poor and unsupervised young women, has religious fervor directed against sinister minorities burned at such a pitch. Mormons have declared themselves for the straight and narrow way, the very straight and the very narrow. One man, one woman, twelve kids, and a Suburban.

    It’s also not for history. For the new Mormons, marriage is one man on one woman, and they’re undeterred by the fact this declaration makes bastards of their great-great grandparents and adulterers of the THEIR parents. Perhaps at no time in history has a group of people been so willing, indeed so desperate, to distance themselves from their past. While nursing kids were being ripped from their mothers’ arms in Texas, the LDS Church here in Salt Lake felt compelled not to advocate restraint and due process and Christian charity but to insure that the world knew that LDS?¢‚Ä?¬†FLDS.

    With its violent repudiation of all but a single expression of sexuality, the church’s metamorphosis into an icon of American intolerance is complete. God help Joseph Smith and Brigham Young when they return in glory to reestablish Zion, for no one here will. They’ll be given instead the welcome the Grand Inquisitor gave to Jesus.

  46. P.S. That’s Ed Firmage, Jr. Don’t want Sr. to get blamed for my spouting off.

    The real tragedy in all of this, sad as the direct impact on LDS gays will be, is that there are so many other TRULY crucial issues on which the church should act with this kind of intensity. There has been some discussion of this with Paul Mero on the One Utah blog for anyone who is interested.

  47. Jeanne says:

    OK, this is the point at which God, Saint Catherine, Saint Michael, Saint Margaret and I all become shocked at your lousy senses of humor.

    To those of you who claim, in any seriousness, to know the minds of those two notoriously inscrutable characters, God and his old buddy Satan: I predict that someday you will know how I felt, when the flames rose to my roman nose and my hearing aid started to melt.

    In other words, my point was this: people who presume to know god’s will or satan’s plan on any topic very often discover, in quite painful ways, that they didn’t know jack, and invoking god’s will or satan’s plan as cause of any complex natural or social phenomenon–a military victory, a political upheaval, famine, a hurricane, AIDS, and even the demise of the “traditional family”–is not only a flimsy but a totally bogus enterprise.

    Guess I should have spelled my point out instead of illustrating it.

    Like, duh. To the max.

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