Our conversation about homosexuality tonight started with talking about the Boy Scout controversy, and one of the guys said that he felt that homosexual relationships were contrary to family values, and so people in relationships with others of the same gender shouldn't be allowed into the leadership. That led me to question what exactly family values are, and we started talking about the nature and importance of families.Families are central to Mormon theology. They carry eternal significance because family relationships are saving relationships. There's something salvific about the family.
So often in church we glorify the importance of families, but I don't think it's often enough that we examine carefully what it is about families that gives those relationships such power, potency, and relevance to our eternal destinies. What I'm going to endeavor to show in this post is that same gender relationships are not only in line with family values and partake of their saving power, but that opposition to same-sex marriage is actually harming the very values it's trying to protect.
The question at the heart of the point I'm endeavoring to make is as to the nature of the relationship between the gender of the parents and the saving power of family relationships. What is it that makes family relationships saving?
I posit that the saving quality of family relationships comes in the nature of the commitment that they entail. In Mormon theology, to be saved from sin is to become like God, and God is love. Family relationships teach us how to love each other in ways friendships aren't capable of doing. I would argue that commitment is central to the saving quality of families (if there's anything I'm missing here, feel free to bring it up.)
So the next question is this: what relationship does gender have in enabling commitments? If a family is defined by the commitment made by two people when they enter into the marriage, then in order for there to be a relevant difference in terms of salvation, gender needs to make a difference. The first point that comes to mind is procreation. It can be argued that if two individuals can procreate, then their children serve as a bond that enhances their commitment. But there are many heterosexual couples who can't procreate for a variety of reasons, and yet they are able to get married, and I assume that the commitment of their marriage still serves a spiritual purpose. There are also people who get married beyond the age of having children. Furthermore, countless people get divorced after having children. Procreation, therefore, does not serve as a unique enough argument for it to be an essential factor in the relationship between families and salvation. In addition, families that can't procreate biologically can still adopt, and both parents assume responsibility for the adopted child, creating the same obligations and commitments that exist in a biological family.
Gender, therefore, does not seem to be relevant to the salvific qualities of family relationships. If family values are those values that enhance commitment, and commitment does not necessitate certain genders, then I would argue that someone who espouses "family values" ought to espouse them everywhere, and not just in certain circumstances or instances. Opposition to same-sex marriage is opposition to same-sex commitment, and is therefore opposition to the fundamental quality essential to family relationships.
Many people also make the argument that men and women naturally complement each other in ways two men or two women cannot. I agree that men and women serve as great compliments to each other within marriage because of inherent differences. It must, however, be noted that there are distinct biological differences between straight men and gay men, and straight women and gay women (such as brain structure). If this is the case and their inherent qualities differ, then straight women do not necessarily complement gay men (or the other way around) the same way that they do in heterosexual relationships.
So many people bring up God and His plan for families when they discuss gay marriage. Is God really so limited that He didn't make room for homosexual relationships in the eternities? I feel like the same God who made the rainforests and the galaxies is a God of deep complexity. He doesn't seem to me to be a God of black and white. Creating such a straight (no pun intended) plan where there is only one option for everyone doesn't seem to me to fit into the way he's always done things.
And so I think it's incumbent upon us to deeply question the nature of families and their role in the process of salvation. And I could be completely wrong and misguided on all of this, in which case I hope it's made clear to me where my mistake has been made. But to sum up my current view: the saving aspect of families is commitment. Gender is a non-essential part of commitment. Gender is, therefore, a non-essential part of the saving power of families.