Why Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints So Dead-Set Against Gay Marriage?
By Ken K. Gourdin
A Chicken-Little, The-Sky-is-Falling, Slippery-Slope Guess as to How Those Favoring Gay Civil Marriage Eventually Will (Attempt To) Change the Church’s Doctrine
As all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and even many outsiders who have but a passing acquaintance with the Church) know, the Church places strong emphasis on families and on marriage. Among its core doctrines in this area are that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that sex outside of marriage is wrong.
Please forgive a question which is inartfully and awkwardly phrased using too many compound (hyphenated) adjectives, all of which are too complex. Will the equal-rights-for-gays “tail” eventually come to wag the “marriage-between-a-man-and-a-woman-is-ordained-of-God” and the “sex-outside-of-marriage-is-wrong” “dog” in the Church of Jesus Christ? Once the social, political, and legal landscape shifts enough—say that, by some miracle, marriage regulation still has been left to the states all that time, and Utah is the last state remaining to have not legalized gay marriage—there won’t be any tenable social, political or legal arguments remaining for Utah to continue to be the last holdout prohibiting gay marriage.
A gay or lesbian couple who otherwise consider themselves devout Mormons then will ask themselves, “We can get married in nearly all other places where marriages occur. We can even get married in most other churches where marriages occur. My partner and I are devout Mormons in every other sense of the word: we have testimonies of the Church’s foundational claims that are just as strong as those of any heterosexual couple who has been sealed for time and for all eternity in one of the Church’s Temples. Why is it that the ‘between-a-man-and-a-woman’ caveat remains the sin qua non (Latin for “without which, not”) of our being able to spend eternity together? There’s no legal reason why we should be treated differently: we should be allowed to be sealed to each other for time and for all eternity in a Temple.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will refuse to allow our loving gay couple (devout in every way but in that one insignificant respect) to be sealed together. Then what will our (completely hypothetical!) loving gay couple (who could never exist in real life—after all, there’s no such thing as a slippery slope!) do? Why, they’ll turn to the courts for redress, of course!
And just as has been the case with gay civil marriage, some court, somewhere (it’ll probably be somewhere in the jurisdiction of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit!) will find that argument persuasive. That court will do what courts do: it’ll weigh the (now ample) precedent in favor of the couple’s position and against the position of the Church of Jesus Christ (“Every jurisdiction but one, and even most churches [all but one, perhaps?] now allow gay marriage!”) and will issue a ruling in favor of the couple.
The Church of Jesus Christ will appeal the lower court’s decision to an appellate court (probably to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit!). The appellate court then will do what courts do, weighing the (now ample) precedent in favor of the couple’s position and against the position of the Church of Jesus Christ (“Every jurisdiction but one . . . !”) and will issue a majority decision in favor of the couple.
The Church of Jesus Christ then will appeal the appellate court’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. After several appointees by President Obama and who knows how many like-minded successors, who knows what the United States Supreme Court will look like then? The Supreme Court then will do what the Supreme Court does, weighing the (now ample) precedent in favor of the couple’s position and against the position of the Church of Jesus Christ (“Every jurisdiction but one . . . !”), and will issue a majority (unanimous?) decision upholding the appellate court’s decision in favor of the couple.
But that’s a slippery slope, and slippery slopes are disfavored by the legally- and logically-erudite. It’s completely hypothetical. Since we have a First Amendment in the United States Constitution which has a Free Exercise clause, the United States Government, via the courts, would never be allowed to dictate religious practice to a church. It would never happen! Except that it already has. This very scenario, involving this very government (First Amendment notwithstanding) has happened to this very church.  The government decided that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause was insufficient to prevent it from prohibiting polygynous marriages, the joining of one man in marriages to multiple women, no matter how firmly that doctrine was held as a matter of religious faith. The government, in contravention of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, dictated religious practice to the Church of Jesus Christ by prohibiting polygynous marriages.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m simply suffering a severe case of Chicken Little Syndrome. Time—and my only consolation is that will it probably take a lot of time—will tell.
P.S. (29 March 2013): For the record, I don’t disfavor allowing gay partners to have the same inheritance rights, the right to make end-of-life care decisions for partners, equal hospital visitation rights with blood relatives, equal health insurance rights, and so on as their heterosexual counterparts. While some leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed opposition to gay civil unions in the past, I’m not sure there is an official Church position in opposition to them. Let them have civil unions, and/or let them have the other rights I have mentioned. If the government wants to sanction those measures, more power to it: fine by me. Then, let’s get government out of the marriage business all together.
Whatever problems might result from such a solution, I think that allowing gay civil unions and/or extending partner benefits to them which were historically reserved for traditionally married couples, is a far more favorable result than saying that (a) anyone who wants to can get married (and, to those who think I’m overstating it, broad legal recognition of gay marriage will eventually lead to that result) and, therefore, (b) any church (even one which has, as two of its core tenets “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God,” and “Sex outside of marriage is wrong”) must solemnize nontraditional relationships in its sacred ceremonies.
 See President Gordon B. Hinckley (September 23, 1995) “The Family: A Proclamation To The World,” Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed at https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation on February 14, 2013.
 See Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1878). For an excerpt of the case containing the portion that is most relevant to this discussion, see http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/reynoldsvus.html, last accessed February 14, 2013.
Update: March 5, 2013 – I found this post when rummaging through my old posts at Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board and thought it was germane to the discussion (from March 26, 2012):
“Sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage are wrong.”
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.”
The state has sanctioned nonmarital sexual relations by endorsing the concept of a common-law marriage. Several states have sanctioned marriage between parties other than a man and a woman. It seems as though those who wish to endorse the first of those principles by saying, “Fine. Let’s let gays and lesbians marry,” are forgetting the second of those principles. Just because it’s legal in the eyes of men doesn’t make it right in the eyes of G-d.
Now, having said that, putting aside the brutishness of former ages, relationship-wise, humankind survived quite well when marriage was strictly a religious institution and the state had nothing to do with it. While it’s probably unrealistic to turn back the clock that far or to try to put the cat back into the bag or the genie back into the bottle (is that enough cliches for ya?) I wonder what would happen if we could remove the state from the marriage business altogether and turn it back into a strictly religous institution. At least then, we wouldn’t have to worry about the tail wagging the dog and the state telling churches who they are required to perform ceremonies for. For all who would dismiss me as nothing but a “slippery-slope” alarmist, I could see that happening eventually in the case of gays and lesbians.
Update: June 22, 2013 – Brigham Young University Professor Daniel Peterson (who blogs at Patheos—see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/) and is a regular contributor to Salt Lake City’s Deseret Morning News (to which this writer is an irregular contributor) had this to say in his latest column, which is a defense of traditional marriage http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865580492/A-case-for-the-traditional-view-of-marriage.html. I have not read the book to which he refers in the column. If and when I do, I will comment on it here.
Update: June 26, 2013 – With the recent United States Supreme Court decisions invalidating the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which denied various federal benefits to married gay couples while extending them to married straight couples) and California’s Proposition 8, which limited legal marriage to opposite-sex couples, there is a good deal of chatter in various corners of cyberspace which I frequent (and where I occasionally contribute) about not only the legal ramifications of these decisions but the religious ones as well. I chimed in by posting a link to the above main blog post, along with this comment, at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion Board:
As I stated in the [above blog post], my only consolation is that it will be some time before gay marriage achieves the level of sociopolitical acceptance at which someone then will attempt to use legal means in an effort to change the sealing practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But neither the Church of Jesus Christ nor the vast majority of its members condone hate: only a tiny fraction of the Church’s membership can be said to “hate” gays. Conversely, those who hold the views that (1) marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and (2) sex outside of marriage is wrong, are hated by a much, much larger proportion of the gay community. While I do not support gay marriage, my views on what rights gay couples ought to be afforded actually are quite moderate and reasonable, as I think this blog post illustrates. http://greatgourdini…say-at-the-doj/. But that’s not good enough for militant gay-marriage backers. With due respect, the vast majority of those who accuse the Church of Jesus Christ of fostering hate against gays need to look in the mirror.