Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Morality, Mormonism, and Marriage Equality

Opposition to marriage equality never quite made much sense to me. In high school I vacillated back and forth between supporting gay marriage rights and opposing them. In 2008 when I heard that the church was lobbying for Proposition 8 in California, I decided that my deference for the leadership of the church ought to outweigh my personal concerns on the subject. Since that time, I have completely, and happily, changed my opinion on the subject. In fact, I find that opposition to marriage equality, while nominally based on the support of family values, is actually harming families and doing more to erode the basis of a family-centered society than gay marriage ever has. In order to examine why, we need to take a look at the relationship between church teachings and morality as well as what family values even mean.

Popular culture within Mormonism has elevated the words of the Brethren to a status of infallibility. While people nominally say we ought to question their teachings, anyone who, after questioning, comes up with answers different than the Brethren are looked down upon and feared. Generally people seem to me to feel that if prayer doesn't yield the results we feel it ought to, the only explanation is that the person is not praying right. I deeply disagree. I stand that someone can disagree with the Brethren, and still be a faithful member of the church. And I believe that the aura of infallibility that surrounds the leaders of the church presents an even greater danger than questioning.

When our system of morality is downgraded to simply "do as you're told," we give up our own moral conscience. Particularly disgusting is the blaming of past inequities on God. I've hardly had a conversation about the pre-1978 ban on blacks holding the priesthood in which someone hasn't mentioned that God's wisdom is beyond ours and we cannot comprehend his ways. I refuse to believe that denying equality has ever or will ever be part of the ways of a God who "is love." The 2013 edition of the scriptures changes the explanation of the official declaration in which priesthood rights are extended to all worthy men regardless of color to say that the teaching that black people  couldn't hold the priesthood was merely a policy and that we're not sure how it crept in. It was not revealed by God. It was the mistakes of men. And yet we are so staunchly unapologetic that we blame our mistakes on the "wisdom of God" instead of taking responsibility.

Morality has to be something more than simply doing as one is told. If it were mere deference to religious leaders, then any member of the church who supported the abolition of slavery in 1852 when Brigham Young advocated its legalization in the state of Utah would be morally wrong in their advocacy. To find a moral qualm with the teachings or practices of the church does not mean that one has to cease believing in the divinity of the church. It merely confirms the scriptural declaration that we are wrong when we believe that "all is well in Zion."

Families are sacred for reasons far more substantive than executive mandate. To truly appreciate and advocate for families, we must understand the reasons behind their sacred nature. Is it simply the gender of the parents that determines the sanctity of a family? Is gender the essential factor in determining whether or not a relationship can be given the status of marriage? I argue that to believe so is, in reality, to undermine the true value of families and marriage relationships. There is something deeper that defines our relationships than simple biology.

The essential element that defines marriages and families is not gender identity or sexual orientation, but commitment. The familial ties between a single mother and her child are not related to gender, but to commitment. The loving bonds between parents and their adopted child have nothing to do with biology, but to do with commitment. The essential element that makes a family sacred and endows it with the power that Mormonism describes as saving is neither gender identity nor sexual orientation, but the loving bonds of commitment that family members share for each other.

And the importance of extending marriage rights is that the public commitment acknowledged by the state that occurs in marriage has been shown to increase the commitment between partners. Studies have shown that there is no difference in children raised by heterosexual and homosexual married couples, but that there is a difference in children raised in homes with no marriage commitment. Legalizing gay marriage will increase family values and family commitment throughout society, not decrease it. I think that heterosexual couples should reflect on their own relationship and ask this question--is the nature of your relationship more defined by your partner's gender, or by the commitment you share together? The extent to which your commitment reaches beyond gender is the extent to which you ought to support marriage equality.

In addition, qualifying family values with the adjective "traditional" hardly adds legitimacy to the argument. The traditional family was one in which the woman was treated as property and the utility of a child was either in its hereditary capacities or the economic value of its labor. In addition, traditions differ across cultures and civilizations. "Traditional marriage" definitively includes same-sex marriage for Native Americans, while including polygamous, polyandrous, and polyamorous relationships for a host of other cultures. In fact, the transformation of marriage from an economic union to one of love and commitment has largely been a product of the past two hundred years of popular culture. Modern heterosexual marriage is anything but traditional.

When marriage becomes something more to do with biology than compassion and as defined more by the physical characteristics of the persons involved than the nature of their feelings and commitments for one another, then the true, sanctifying power of marriage is trivialized. Opposition to marriage equality undermines the importance of marriage in a way more powerful than gay rights activists have ever approached to doing. And thus lies the deep irony that the defense of "family values" in opposition to marriage equality is actually undermining the very values claimed to be espoused.

This is perhaps a controversial argument, but it's one we need to face and reconcile. We need to be more thoughtful than simply doing as we are told. To do so is to place our own moral agency in the hands of others.

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Another excellent article. Your writing is inspiring.

  2. This is a horrible article. And for anyone in question this was not and is not endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints (the Mormon church)Where has the faith of the saints gone? Do we think that the trends of society or the natural man is smarter than God? God made men and women, our gender is eternal and was determined before we were born. We have different roles and different functions and work together for the same purpose and that purpose is centered around FAMILY. Society can try to overturn God's plan for man, but in the end societies that embrace such moral decay and oppose that which is natural always fall apart, are destroyed or decay entirely.

    1. Hey Unknown. I know where you're coming from. I just disagree with you.

      You ask, "Do we think that the trends of society or the natural man is smarter than God?" Unless your question was not intended to relate to the content of the original post, I think I see a couple of problems with your question.

      If I'm not mistaken, it seems that you've been rash in your application of the pejorative "natural man" to describe the stances in the original post. Without any additional clarification, your argument might be taken to mean that any belief that deviates in any way or to any degree from current LDS Church teachings is opposed to God, which of course, would make the likes of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Mark E. Peterson and Bruce R. McKonkie enemies of God. You may wish to clarify your stance.

      It also seems that you have equated "God" with the first presidency and quorum of the twelve. The truth claims of the Church cannot extend to the point of requiring that the current stance of the leaders of the Church be true. In fact, latter-day prophets have frequently and sometimes admittedly contradicted each other on doctrine, to say nothing of differences on social issues (see Gregory Prince, "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism," available from the BYU Bookstore, for an example of these types of personal disagreements among prophets regarding the extension of priesthood to all worthy men). The Church's truth claims rest on the members' acceptance of their inability to correctly determine the will of God in all cases. To say otherwise is to believe everything that Brigham Young says as well as everything that Bruce R. McKonkie or the scriptures say, which is, of course, logically impossible.

      I respect the faithful motivation for your post; however, a cursory study of Church history or doctrine reveals that this kind of faith is not tenable; in order for members of the Church to both know and believe the claims of the Church, they must accept that the leaders of the Church do not represent God infallibly.

      If I've misrepresented you, please correct me.

    2. In the Proclamation to the World in the very first paragraph it states, "marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God." There is nothing more clear than that. Marriage between anything else is NOT of God and if it is not if God it will always trace back to the devil. End of story! No need to you complicate things even more. Don't waste your time anymore. Same sex marriage is NOT of God and DOES destroy the family.

    3. Dear tbriggs,

      First, did I miss the part where the Proclamation was canonized?

      Second, "Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" is not, in fact, the same thing as "marriage between anything else is NOT of God," just as "I love brownies" is not the same thing as "brownies are the only thing I love." There is zero chance that the brethren didn't know about that distinction, and if they had meant something different, they would have said something different.

      Or so it seems to me.

    4. tbriggs,

      "Anything else"? Dehumanization leads not only to bigotry but shock therapy, suicide and genocide. Love one another.

    5. Matt,
      Although not canonized "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" was signed by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles and was issued to the entire world. I believe them to have the authority to issue such declarations as given to them by God.

  3. Absolutely brilliant! Thank you Josh!

  4. I don't think anyone thought this was put out by the church. Its a blog. It was a very thought out post in a blog. I think there are a lot of LDS people who won't always say out loud how conflicted they are about the churches stance on LGTB people. I have wondered endlessly why they are trying to prevent gay people from having the opportunity to choose marriage. If the church believes that we'll all be punished for our own transgressions why not let others "sin" and be punished for it. I don't know, but what i do know is that this was a great, well thought out post.

  5. "I stand that someone can disagree with the Brethren, and still be a faithful member of the church."
    That entirely depends on what you're disagreeing on.

    "I think that heterosexual couples should reflect on their own relationship and ask this question--is the nature of your relationship more defined by your partner's gender, or by the commitment you share together?"
    If the commitment between a man and a woman married in the temple wasn't eternal, I agree that that would be a perfect question to ask.

    I had much more to say, but I've never liked politics.

  6. This was amazing. Thank you so much. I have been constantly worried and anxious about how gays and lesbians simply didn't fit in Gods plan according to all the teachings I learned. But that is not true. They are included and God knows more than we can ever comprehend. Gays try to change for religious reasons, to be accepted. When they can't, or realize they cant, they go into depression and can even commit suicide, never realizing that the reason God didn't change them is because there was nothing wrong with them in the first place.

    I believe the Family Proclamation applies to all loving and committed couples and relationships. It has to.

    God did not create all these gay youth for nothing.(BYU video below) They are here, to help us as members become more accepting, loving and to adjust and stretch out of our comfort zones. They're here to teach us to be more Christ-like. And they play a HUGE role.


  7. This same propblem applies to science and evolution. We have Mormon religious leaders for and against evolution, totally and openly disagreeing with each other. At BYUI, students are astounded and baffled to learn that our own brethren whom we have deemed to be infallible have not been able to agree on such a subject, even if the church has no stance on the subject.

  8. Josh I cannot tell you how much I appreciate what you are doing with this blog. Your arguments are so well thought out and they confirm a lot of the conclusions I've been leaning toward for a long time now (at least it feels that way) concerning marriage and same-sex couples. I don't see how we can claim equality while denying those rights that come with marriage to one group of people over another. I feel like it's an extension of the 11th article of faith. ~We worship God and think everyone should be able to worship in the method of their own choosing. ~We choose a heterosexual relationship in marriage and think everyone should be able determine the type of relationship they have in marriage for themselves.
    I think you are the definition of awesome Josh. I miss you and wish I could give you a hug and tell you that to your face. PS-我是Brandon.

  9. I don't know you and you don't know me but I'm proud of you. While I may no longer associate with the LDS church, growing up in it I know the pressure of blind obedience on this issue and I applaud you for searching your own heart and the heart of God. It takes a good deal of bravery to do what you have done in this article. To boldly say you disagree while still alining yourself with the church.
    I whole-heartedly agree that the sacred nature of family is secured in marriage and that in giving that right to all you solidify the familial culture around same sex couples, especially those with children.
    Morality cannot live for morality's sake and "tradition" cannot be granted good for traditon's sake.
    Be wary for many will try to tear apart your faith for this. Remember that God knows your heart and that when you stand on the basis of seeking truth you stand on the basis of seeking God.
    God bless,

  10. I would just like to stand up for myself and tell you what I believe, not what you think I believe. I am not simply "doing what i'm told" and not questioning. I know that the prophet is lead by God. I know that I will never be lead astray by following what he says and that God will never let him give counsel that is contrary to what the Lord wants. I know that this is true and I have faith that things will work out how they are supposed to. I know it doesn't seem fair but, if you are a member of the church and you believe in life eternal, then I believe it is a very short perspective to give up all the father has for a time as short as mortality. That being said I can't imagine how hard it is and i have sympathy (probably not enough because it's not me and you can't totally relate until you go through something.) I love many people who i know are gay. I do not think they are inherently bad or evil. This isn't an argument if Lesbians and Gays are good people, they are. It is a moral issue. This is a great reference if you'd like to know more about the otherside instead of listening to the weird ramblings of people who i do agree sound like bigots on facebook. This man has many great points and i agree with his argument and it is partly how i have formed my beliefs. http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1809

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think I was a little bit unclear in my post. I don't mean to make the claim that everyone is just accepting what they say for themselves, but only that obedience alone is not sufficient for me. I'm not saying that everyone believes the way they do because they are doing as they are told, but only that because I significantly disagree, "do as you're told" isn't enough for me. I definitely respect your position. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Hold fast to what you've been taught and you will be blessed. Listen to the words and testimony of your wise grandparents. They know the gospel is true and so do I. Get back on the path wnd continue in faith and trust in the Lord. Seek him for answers, not the word of man. No matter how well-liked this blog makes you, in the end, only what God thinks of your choices will matter. Choose to follow Him! We are NOT blind believers, we are led by the Holy Ghost. He is the teacher of all truth. Remember. Please remember Him.

  12. Prophets communicate God's will for us. That is basic doctrine. Through His prophets and apostles, God told mankind that marriage is between a man and a woman. I will happily and blindly follow our prophets until the day I die. I don't need to rationalize or justify God's will.

    That being said, we should never mistreat others based on who they are attracted to. Compassion can be achieved without compromise.

    In the past, the brethren have expressed their personal opinions on matters according to their understanding; however, they have been mistaken at times. For example, James E. Talmage was incorrect when he taught that Jesus personally taught the gospel to those in spirit prison. We now know that He organized the missionary work in the spirit world, but that He did not go himself.

    When acting as an individual (and not speaking as an official mouthpiece of the Lord) any one of the brethren's opinions may be challenged. I am a republican, but many of the brethren are democrats. Does that mean that I need to change my political party? No. However, when the brethren give official instructions to the world, as they did with the Proclamation, we must strictly obey. It becomes a commandment, not a suggestion, and we have absolutely no right to question the will of God.

  13. Josh,

    I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this page, but feel a duty to hopefully have some voice you can hear to help you. Your logic and reasoning is very flawed at just about every level.

    First, to relate following a Prophet of god as downgrading our moral system to “do as you’re told” is egregious. I will follow a prophet’s voice because I have upmost respect for him. This respect comes from spiritual light and knowledge that I have received that what he says is true. I know he will not lead me astray. However I would never get into zealot like behavior following random church leaders blindly like sheep. But I will let the Savior and his prophet be my shepherd. How can you convince yourself that you could possibly know more about gay marriage than a prophet of god does?

    I don’t know you Josh, but what I do know is that you’ve never been married. I know this from your error on what defines marriages, and obvious lack of understanding what a marriage truly is. I also know that you know nothing about raising a child. I can tell you with years of experience that children are best raised with Father AND Mother. And to prove this best, you stated that studies show it doesn’t matter. This is a study out of the University of Texas and perhaps why I am most against gay marriage. I am for protecting precious little children that cannot defend themselves against what happens in Homosexual homes. Approving of gay families WILL be a cancer to society. It can be found here: http://narth.com/2012/06/regenerus-study-on-homosexual-parenting/

    Here some of the findings on children raised with homosexual parents:
    • Are more likely to be currently cohabiting
    • Are almost 4 times more likely to be currently on public assistance
    • Are less likely to be currently employed full-time
    • Are more than 3 times more likely to be unemployed
    • Are nearly 4 times more likely to identify as something other than entirely heterosexual
    • Are 3 times as likely to have had an affair while married or cohabiting
    • Are an astonishing 10 times more likely to have been "touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver."
    • Are nearly 4 times as likely to have been "physically forced" to have sex against their will
    • Are more likely to have "attachment" problems related to the ability to depend on others
    • Use marijuana more frequently
    • Smoke more frequently
    • Watch TV for long periods more frequently
    • Have lower educational attainment
    • Are more likely to suffer from depression

    1. Thanks for your response.

      Firstly, as for the prophet, I'm not claiming that following the prophet is wrong. I'm claiming that thoughtlessly following the prophet is wrong. I am not saying that everyone does this. What I'm saying is that people need to think through things for themselves. If respect for the prophet plays into that thought process, then I'm fine by that.

      Secondly, NARTH is hardly a reliable source. http://www.truthwinsout.org/narth/
      Studies put out by NARTH have a motivation to be anti-homosexual. It's difficult to trust an organization with such a strong agenda. That aside, there are far more studies suggesting children raised in homosexual homes are just as well off as those raised in heterosexual homes. See the link I provided.

      You are completely correct that as someone who has never been married or raised children, my views are not informed by experience. They are, however, informed by research. In addition, I'm hardly the only person who supports same-sex marriage for the reasons I state in my post. I can think of quite a few married people with children who agree with me, and so I feel like that point is nothing more than fallaciously ad hominem.

    2. Your writing is so filled with errors. It almost makes it humorous. I'm sorry you haven't been able to learn the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints correctly.

    3. Chris Chandler, I feel it my duty to hopefully have voice you can hear to help you. Your logic and reasoning is very flawed at just about every level.

      I don't know you, Chris, but what I do know is that you've never been gay married or a gay parent. I know this from your error on what defines a gay marriage and good parent, and obvious lack of understanding what a gay marriage is about and what a good parent truly is. As a gay-married man, I know a hell of a lot about raising children. I'd venture I know more about being a parent than many straight parents. You've completely dismissed my skill and ability at raising well-adjusted children because of one small part about me: I'm gay.

      And you might want to do a little more research into the research you're quoting. Auditors of academic journal have come back to say the research was "bull shit", which is pretty strong language. And Regnerus himself said the study was flawed. For starters, he compared broken homes to unbroken homes. The "gay" people from his study were those who cheated on a spouse with a same-sex person and did not identify as gay/lesbian. The control group were kids raised by a mom/dad who didn't have those issues. So… all of the conclusion you've cited are about the affects of broken marriages, not about gay parenting.

  14. There are several issues embedded within the gay marriage debate, both political and religious. One, which is not as prevalent as it should be, is the question of scope of the federal government. It is not the place of institutions of the federal government to prescribe laws regarding individual morality such as stealing, sexual practice, marriage, etc. No, the government is not the arbiter of morality. Any suggestion to the contrary is a symptom of a larger, insidious sickness infecting the political viewpoints of society and threatening the Democratic-Republican foundation of the United States of America. Hence, any type of marriage amendment or Congressional law regarding the definition of marriage would be legally odious. However, a Constitutionally defined role of the federal state can be to determine legality of local state laws in relation to Constitutional principles and amendments - in this case the 14th amendment especially, as it has been the rallying cry for and foundation of any progression of the civil rights movement historically. The text is especially important here: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Essentially, all citizens are entitled to rights specifically granted in the Constitution (freedom of speech, assembly, right to vote, etc.) regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender. Additionally no state law can impinge those rights, punish individuals, or deny protections based on arbitrary differences previously defined. The legal term for protection you have probably heard of: due process. However, this equality of protection and guarantee of inalienable rights does not entitle every individual to all legal statuses, protections, and titles possibly enjoyed by an individual or other social unit. I am sure if it were otherwise interpreted, then high net worth individuals would love to use the 14th amendment to invalidate higher tax brackets to give just one example. So what exactly am I getting at? I support equal rights for LGBT individuals. Is marriage a Constitutionally guaranteed right? Uh, no, at least not in the way LGBT would hope it to be. The Supreme Court has ruled very clearly that choice of marriage is a fundamental right. But the legal definition of marriage presupposes a contract between a man and a woman, not two individuals of the same gender. Thus, any man and woman, provided they are of legal age, capable of entering into such a contract, and are not already married, can enter into marriage. Thus we see that to a certain degree marriage is sanctioned and regulated by the legal system, and rightly so. The propagation of the species, correct socialization of children, and morality promoted via families are all items in which the human race has a vested interest. It is not unreasonable to argue that homosexual relationships cannot deliver in these areas. The most glaring instance is in terms of propagation of the species. However, such relationships are suspect in the area of correct socialization of children. Your assertion that child-parent relationship is not influenced substantially by gender is quite naïve and ultimately very weak. Far reaching detrimental effects were observed after the easing of divorce laws and subsequent increase of divorces several decades ago. Change with regards to the number and gender of parents (no dad or mom, meaning no woman or man) were demonstrably detrimental to children. But that is a different topic altogether not to mention the subject of research papers. There are hours and hours of pretty good literature you can find via google scholar.

  15. In the end, homosexual couples are entitled to due process and equal protection of the law. I support equal rights for same sex couples, and so does the church.
    Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-responds-to-same-sex-marriage-votes)
    The Constitution does guarantee these rights, but it does not guarantee all couples (meaning any two individuals) the right to the title of marriage. To suggest that the legal "title" of marriage is essential for the pursuit of happiness even when same sex couples are allowed to be together and enjoy equal rights and protection under the law is to have a rather shallow view of happiness. This issue is fundamentally different from something like education, so the whole pejorative "separate but equal" rhetoric applied this debate is misplaced. Public education is a legally granted privilege in all states, so to deny all equal access to the SAME education was illegal even if "equal" (not really) and separate institutions were offered to non-whites. Do you see my point?

  16. Now, to speak to religion. Perhaps some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unkind to homosexuals or view them as lesser individuals, but neither this nor objecting to gay marriage from a moral and political standpoint is akin to institutionalized hatred or bigotry. Last time I checked, official (that word is important... more on it later) policy is to love all people as Jesus loved. However, anybody that has truly studied the Bible MUST admit that Christ's singular, incomparable love did not equate to universal suffrage of sin, so to speak. You should know that. You suggested that a loving God would accept loving monogamous relationships of homosexuals and that Christ never taught anything definitively opposed to such relationships. Yes, He did. The teachings of the Bible are in fact quite clear. You can’t even get out of the first five books without homosexuality being universally condemned (Leviticus 18:22). The Jehovah that utters this statement (through a prophet’s voice) you know very well to be the loving Jesus of whom you speak. I am not mocking your view of Christ as loving – that is definitely true – but He did speak very clearly about the sin of homosexuality. And lest you begin the figurative Sicilian Defense of Biblical teachings, namely that this law - uttered in the Old Testament – has since changed with the higher law, let me stop you with a few words. While such changes may be the case in terms of minor prescriptive elements of the law of Moses, bedrock moral principles, such as those regarding sexual practice, killing, stealing, filial piety etc. have not changed with time. In fact, a reading of Christ’s words in the New Testament suggests that the moral standards to which we are held in such areas are only raised higher. Hence the condemnation of not only lust in action, but also lust in thought. Any other interpretation is tenuous at best and in some instances laughable. Otherwise it could be argued that the principle in the proceeding verse in Leviticus prohibiting bestiality or the principle in the previous banning offering children as sacrifices to Molech are somehow outdated and now acceptable, especially because Jesus never specifically spoke to either act in the New Testament. Indeed, from what I recall He never condemns stealing outright though he does speak of thieves pejoratively; therefore, stealing must be alright in certain instances.

  17. Back to the priesthood. I do not understand everything, but I do understand a few things (if any non-members of the LDS church are reading, then I must say what I am about to say will be characterized by language and ideas familiar to LDS individuals, but may seem a little strange to you. Email me if you want a more straightforward explanation in Layman's terms.). I understand that blacks were initially given the priesthood in this dispensation and that Joseph Smith, despite initial statements to the contrary in the 1830s, advocated abolition. It is well documented. Indeed, other than purely religious bigotry, the anti-slavery stances of many Mormons led to persecution in Southern slave states, many fearing an increasing Mormon population would tip the electoral balance in favor of abolition. Mormons paid for slavery and civil rights with their lives long before Mr. Lincoln and Dr. King. For whatever reason the policy of giving blacks the priesthood was changed. I was not privy to the circumstances of this change, and I don't think it is documented particularly well (meaning the change in policy itself or the institution of one). However, I do know that in the past God has not allowed the Priesthood to certain individuals based solely upon their heredity. If you believe that we are all members of the same family of Adam, then to deny an individual the priesthood based on race is the same as denying people the priesthood based on the fact that their father was Judah and not Levi, not because of any fault of their own. I don't understand this, but it is well-documented in the Bible. Can you explain all of the reasons why without deference to the wisdom of God? If you can't, then I believe you have a problem with the words that came from your own fingertips above. Additionally, you are judging God, expecting Him to conform to your view of what is reasonable or rational. I am not saying that God does not utilize reason, in fact my study of His words and interactions suggest the contrary, but you are suggesting that what you feel is right is the benchmark of reason by which you judge Deity. Problematic at best. Additionally, you are omitting any consideration of appropriate timing as well as an understanding that truths are often revealed, even to prophets, when proactively sought after. So, why 1978 (year priesthood was granted to blacks) and not 1830 (organization of the church)? Well, why the nineteenth century instead of the 11th? Why Joseph Smith and not somebody else? Why when he was in his mid-teens and not when he was ten?

  18. What’s more, I am not quite sure why you are bringing this up. Seems like a pretty obvious attempt to reach for “mistakes” of the past to justify your dissatisfaction with current official church policy. With regard to your view of statements by church leaders in the past, the idea that the word of the First Presidency and Apostles not being the word of God Himself, as well as the idea that because leaders have been wrong in the past and therefore could be wrong in the future... First I just want to point out the double standard here: you are using isolated statements in the past to prove the Church in general has treated demographic groups unjustly and disgustingly while at the same time suggesting that such statements don't prove that the Church itself is not true. If you are a fan of old statements by Church leaders you should perhaps take a look at Joseph Smith's comments regarding the "high road to apostasy." But I digress. What is really important is that last time I checked statements of church leaders in isolation have been subject to said leader's personal opinion and do not constitute church doctrine, BUT whenever the First Presidency particularly has come out with an official proclamation or declaration or has issued an official statement, this does represent the mind and will of the Lord (case in point: official declaration 2). The principle here is that when a Doctrine or principle is taught consistently (not just by several individuals over a period of decades or hundreds of years), substantiated by official First Presidency statements, and sanctioned by scripture, it is the will of God.

  19. By isolated I mean that speakers stand alone, I am not talking about the timing of one statement in proximity to another. I assume that when you talk about looking through the history of comments of LDS church leaders you are talking about The Journal of Discourses or other talks given by single General Authorities themselves. The Journal of Discourses? Are you joking? In it Brigham Young said he thought people lived on the moon. Hardly a source of official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Again, there is a difference between what a person holding a particular calling says on his own and an official statement by a governing quorum of the church. Even given the suspect nature of the Journal, passages from it are made more ridiculous than they actually are because they are constantly cited out of context. The passage most commonly referred to with regards to LDS church policy and African Americans has to be the Brigham Young quote about “death on the spot” for mingling his seed or something thereabouts in volume 10 of the Journal (I believe, but I may be mistaken). Let us examine this. Brigham was talking about sexual relations between whites and blacks. Because marriage between the two was not legal at the time, this kind of sex could only occur via rape or fornication (i.e. extramarital sex), both of which are systematically condemned within LDS theology. In fact, for Mormons there are few quicker paths to quote unquote spiritual death than through sexual misconduct. Rather than taking the words “chosen seed” to mean Brigham Young was a pre-Nazism Nazi white supremacist, why not read them as referring to the Priesthood? Holy scriptures definitely don’t skimp on comparisons between priesthood and chosen descendants of one form or another (a.k.a. seed). So essentially, to restate generously, it is unbecoming of a man holding the Priesthood (holy seed a la the sons of Moses and Aaron – or however you spell it… I always forget), a man who has made serious and solemn promises to God in a way other men have not, to be party to rape or extramarital/premarital sex. Let’s be real here. He condemns the treatment of blacks at the hands of whites – even calling on white people to repent – in the same confounded talk. Look, I am not saying the man was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, but, not to excuse him, there were few that were in his day. His statements were influenced by his personal views on the matter, which were normal at the time, even if incorrect. It is not wrong for him to have had personal opinions, and to expect that he completely divorce that from his teaching at all times is absolutely unrealistic. But I digress. What is really important is that statements of church leaders in isolation have been subject to said leader's personal opinion and do not constitute church doctrine, BUT whenever the First Presidency particularly has come out with an official proclamation or declaration or has issued an official statement, this does represent the mind and will of the Lord (case in point: official declaration 2).

  20. The principle here is that when a Doctrine or principle is taught consistently (not just by several individuals over a period of decades or hundreds of years), substantiated by official First Presidency statements, and sanctioned by scripture, it is the will of God. The Lord would not allow anyone in a leadership position to hijack these “instruments” to declare something other than His will because, for LDS people, he has said so himself. Take a look at the entire book of Doctrine & Covenants along with Official Declaration 1: “The Lord will never permit … any… man who stands as the President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If [one] were to attempt that, the Lord would remove [him] out of [his] place…” I realize that I am essentially begging the question by citing an Official Declaration to prove that Official Declarations are really the will of God. I suppose that Wilford Woodruff could have been lying when he said that and that the young Mormon church had somewhere lost what it once had somewhere between Joseph Smith and Mr. Woodruff. Good luck finding that exact schism point. Anyways, when the above criteria are met, one can nearly certainly understand that teachings are coming from God Himself. However, this does not mean that the teachings are to be followed blindly. In fact it was none other than Brigham Young (so often demonized when discussing issues such as those in this post) that essentially stated that all members should confirm the truth of such teachings through prayer and faith. Also, if personal revelation is one of the main highways of communication between God and His children don't you think it would be one of the main targets of insidious attack by the adversary? Of course it would, so we should be confident in our ability to receive revelation, but wary that we don't believe any thought or feeling we have is revelation, and therefore the will of God, especially with issues very near and dear to our hearts and minds such as sexual orientation.

  21. Yes, the truth will defend itself, and we should not be afraid of history. Unfortunately, the high road to apostasy is so often the road to ignoring any history of interpretation favorable to these men, or any that would give them the benefit of the doubt. In such a case critics are guilty of an opposing extreme. It seems to me we either defend the LDS church without looking at any negative or possibly negative history, viewpoints, etc. or we stop giving it the benefit of the doubt altogether, seeking any evidence to refute it. Neither approach can be given the description of open-mindedness. I am not advocating elective ignorance. Rather I am lobbying for informed optimism
    A final word or two: I apologize for any spelling or grammatical errors, but I have already stayed up too late writing this. I fear I am getting sick because I have not been getting enough sleep lately. So I will forgo my usual proofread or two and instead go to bed. And in conclusion. I love you. The fact that you are an out of the closet homosexual does not change my view of you as my friend. Personally, I do not doubt Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw when speaking of his “first vision.” The Book of Mormon as well happiness pursuant to understanding and living Christ’s teachings as restored through Him are evidences unto me. That same unconquerable and divinely inspired vision is poignantly evident in the lives and official teachings of the men and women who have essentially inherited the heavenly mantle of leadership from Joseph Smith. In short, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I count that as knowledge gained independently of any other person, but I also count mine a well-researched and informed faith.

    1. Thanks Greg. Loved this response. Spot on!

    2. I for one appreciate your comments Greg. Even though I don't agree with many of your conclusions, the manner in which you expressed them, and the time and effort you put into them is admirable, and the national conversation would be much more healthy and effective if all could approach this issue with the same amount of thought.

      Primarily I disagree with you is in two places.
      1) You have a litmus test for doctrine that relies on the corroboration of multiple church leaders, and critique Josh for attempting to justify current dissatisfaction with church policy with the historical black/priesthood issue.
      In retrospect, the current understanding attempts to make this prejudice clear that it was only temporary, it was expedient for the time, and that the "doctrine" that said otherwise that it was an eternal principle was in fact just opinion.
      But the black issue did pass a majority of your litmus test; multiple confirmations from church leadership etc. and a large portion of members believed it as surely as you believe this now. If they had the spirit and were incorrect, how are you assured that your position is correct? I think it is unfounded to claim that the members/leadership knew it was temporary, and that we know today that it was God's will.

      2) Just because it has never been (to the best of our knowledge) means it never will be.
      When Hinckley states that it might be possible for women to hold the priesthood, but that such a drastic change in policy would require revelation, I think we as members have to take the claim "that would never happen because of x gospel principle" off the table. And the D&C teaches us both that leadership is often flawed, and that it is the right and duty of members to question doctrine and personally pray to confirm.

      What I can say is as a member, when I pray about this position, just as I did when the church backed Prop 8, I feel dark and empty. I do not however feel this way when I read the Proclamation to the Family. To me this indicates that when individuals use the Proc to claim that the Lord wouldn't support giving individuals the agency to choose to marry who they will, they are incorrect. The church doesn't have to support or institute gay marriage themselves, but it does support stable families, and primarily wants to look out for children, both of which gay marriage assists, even if it might not be ideal for the church. It is not the role of the church in any other area to attempt to legislate our values, in other aspects we respect the rights of others and non-members to exercise their free-agency, and often default to freedom rather than restriction.

      I am at least happy knowing that you are willing to extend all other rights protections to gays and gay couples (as is church leadership as you mention). And that is a lot of common ground. More-so than the rest of the opposition. And it would serve ignorant Mormons well to recognize this and at least support all other rights protections.

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  24. Finally, countering a NARTH study by citing an adamantly pro-LGBT website is not a very strong response. I haven't looked at the study myself, but I would suggest going to a respected, impartial source to dispute research findings rather than a website for political activism. Not that political activism or LGBT rights are bad things. There is far too much hatred towards these kinds of people. I am just saying that such a website is miles away from being an arbiter of good research practices.

    1. In response to statistical analysis, often the only ones invested enough in debunking faulty research is the opposition. The LDS Church and Farms particularly does this often, debunking anti-Mormon "evidence," and they are often the only ones to provide critical analysis.

      When the question of validity in data and the faulty conclusion arises, a biased approach trying to scientifically prove something is not equally flawed as a biased approach disproving said argument.

      In this case it would be appropriate for gay rights activists to critically review any research, and their analysis demonstrating intentional bias, poor data collection, sample bias, sample size, and illegitimate conclusions, assuming it passes a reasonable level of scrutiny should be preferred. It doesn't matter who demonstrates poor sample size, and terrible data collection. The point is still valid. But it does matter when these errors were initially done on purpose.

      The NARTH study is basically garbage, as are the rest of the Regenerus studies, and all of it is pretty well documented, by several sources (although most do have a pro gay agenda, as a mathematician/statistician I can corroborate their critiques. But wait, I support gay marriage, so you can probably just disregard everything I said here as biased conclusions).

    2. Greg,

      "I haven't looked at the study myself, but…"

      Maybe, just maybe, you should read the article first. You might be shocked at what you find: poor methods.

      "I would suggest going to a respected, impartial source..."

      What about Regnerus himself?

      Regnerus --> "I’d be more careful about the language I used to describe people whose parents had same-sex relationships. I said ‘lesbian mothers’ and ‘gay fathers,’ when in fact, I don’t know about their sexual orientation..."

      Say what? Sketch. Was this really a study about gay/lesbian parents? Go read the study.

      Regnerus --> "There were two cases where they said the mom and her partner lived together for 18 years."

      Two cases of lesbian parents living together for an extended period of time... What about the other "gay/lesbian" parents? Go read the study.

      The American Sociological Association (Regnerus' professional organization, similar to the APA) --> "…for multiple reasons and as Regnerus acknowledges, his study did not examine, and provides no conclusions regarding, the wellbeing of children who lived with and were raised by same-sex parents… Regnerus did not study or analyze the children of two same-sex parents… the Regnerus study compared the children of parents who at one point had a 'same-sex romantic relationship,' most of whom had experienced a family dissolution or single motherhood, to children raised by two biological, married opposite-sex parents, the study stripped away all divorced, single, and stepparent families from the opposite-sex group, leaving only stable, married, opposite-sex families as the comparison… the Regnerus study makes inappropriate apples-to-oranges comparisons."

      And while we're talking about respected, impartial sources… For the same reasons you mention you shouldn't rely on pro-LGBT sources, shouldn't we also not rely on pro-anti-LGBT sources (i.e., NARTH)? The study was conducted by a professor of the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and NARTH quotes the study extensively. It's not a NARTH study.

      In sum, you appear to be a thoughtful and smart person. If you had read the study yourself, I think these points would have been clear to you. However, you seem to be relying only on information from partial sources, of which you accused your antagonist.

    3. One final quip from the ASA: "Regnerus categorized children as raised by a parent in a same- sex romantic relationship regardless of whether they were in fact raised by the parent and the parent’s same-sex romantic partner and regardless of the amount of time that they spent under the parent’s care. As a result, so long as an adult child believed that he or she had had a parent who had a relationship with someone of the same sex, then he or she was counted by Regnerus as having been 'raised by' a parent in a same-sex relationship."

      So... We don't really even know if these kids were actually *raised* by a "gay/lesbian" parent? And we don't know if the parent was "gay/lesbian"?

  25. Uh... whether pro or against, everyone should read what this Greg guy wrote.