Backlash: Did the Lord, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Church’s Leaders “Miscalculate” the Response to its Active Opposition to Gay Marriage Legalization? Have Church Leaders “Changed Their Tone” on the Issue, and, if so, Was the “Backlash” the Reason Why?
By Ken K. Gourdin
In a May 8, 2013 post, another contributor posted a link an article at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion regarding how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “abandoned its crusade” against gay marriage. The article, however, is from Mother Jones, hardly a bastion of conservative thought or an outlet known for having any sympathy for conservative points of view (such as opposition to gay marriage, especially if such opposition springs from religious convictions).
Here’s a link to the article on line, (this link and all subsequent links last accessed today): http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/04/prop-8-mormons-gay-marriage-shift. Here’s a link to the thread where the article is discussed: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/60832-article-mormon-church-abandons-its-crusade-against-gay-marriage/. The “spin” offered by the article’s author is that the Church’s active opposition to popular and legislative measures supporting gay marriage has done irreparable harm to its public image, so it has chosen to lie low when it comes to other such measures, and to attempt, insofar as possible, to forge détente with the gay community.
Relevant to the issue of whether near universal acceptance of gay marriage might one day lead to agitation against the Church of Jesus Christ in an effort to force it to change its sealing practices by allowing gays to solemnize their unions in the faith’s Temples, the article’s author (although I certainly could be misreading her) recognizes reality on the one hand, while seeming hopeful that the reality will change on the other (although she didn’t articulate that hope explicitly). “[N]oncelibate LGBT members are still excluded from [having] ‘temple recommends’—access to the church’s most sacred spaces and ceremonies.”
In contravention to the article author’s apparent view that the Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders made a grave sociopolitical miscalculation and failed to account for the perhaps-irreparable (could that be, hopefully-irreparable, in the minds of some?) damage which the backlash against the Church’s active opposition to gay marriage would do to its public image, on the thread discussing the article, I offered another potential reason for the Church’s seeming change in tone, one which (shockingly!) still leaves room for the Lord to be in charge. I said:
I would be the last to suggest that the Church of Jesus Christ (or that Jesus Christ Himself) should at all be concerned over criticism about how He (that is, Christ) or it (that is, His church) expends resources. However, perhaps the Lord has told the Church and its leaders, essentially, “Okay. We’ve made our stand. That stand is known well enough by now that continuing to expend resources on it to a great degree when we have so many other things to do simply means that return on resources spent on this so-called ‘crusade’ forever will diminish from this point on: the more resources we expend, the less the per-dollar (e.g.,) return will be. I asked my servants to raise a voice of warning. They did so. From now on, I’ll preach my own sermons.”
Alas, the article’s author, and anyone who shares her views on this matter, likely would be disappointed if she had heard the address of Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the recently-concluded 183rd Semiannual General Conference. Elder Oaks left no doubt about the Church’s stand regarding gay marriage, whatever political battles the Church’s leaders choose to fight (or to refrain from fighting). Here’s the link to the entire address: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/no-other-gods?lang=eng. In part, he said:
There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness.
Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.
Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.
In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for equivocation there. Elder Oaks seems, politely but firmly, to reiterate the stance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with respect to gay marriage, the reasons relating to Church doctrine which underlie that stance, and why (however many jurisdictions eventually may legalize it) that stance cannot and will not change.
P.S., February 12, 2014 — Another poster at Mormon Dialogue & Discussion asked what the point is of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continuing to oppose the legalization of gay marriage, since there’s now an onrushing tide of public and legal opinion that runs in the opposite direction. I wrote:
We’re not called to stand for what’s right … when it’s easy … or if it’s popular … or (while we’re commanded to love all of our brothers and sisters) if people will love us for it … or as long as the courts think we’re on the “right” side of the law … or as long as people think we’re on the “right” side of history. As Christ said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love you.” Elder Oaks made it clear in his last General Conference address that we may well have to sacrifice these things in order to be true disciples of Christ. As President Ezra Taft Benson said nearly a quarter-century ago, the proud care more about “What will the world think of me?”, while the humble care more, “What will God think of me?”
Update, December 28, 2013 — Some Things Don’t Change: The Priesthood Ban, The Doctrine-Policy Distinction, Gay Marriage, and the Law of Chastity in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
By Ken K. Gourdin
If acting upon whatever tendencies one might have would be considered a violation of God’s law as promulgated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when it comes to attempting to decide between acting on those tendencies and fully accepting the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, one must make such a decision knowing the following:
1. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and
2. Sex outside of marriage is a violation of the law of chastity.
One can only arrive at the conclusion that same-sex intimacy is not a violation of the law of chastity if one disregards or discards the first of those two premises. Some, perhaps many, hopeful people in the Church of Jesus Christ (who, for all of their sincerity, nonetheless, are misguided [IMHO]), seeing a parallel between the lifting of the Priesthood ban and the hoped-for eventuality that the Church will approve gay marriage, think/hope that perhaps Elder Dallin H. Oaks, e.g., one day will say something akin to what Elder Bruce R. McConkie told an audience of religious educators [about the lifting of the Priesthood ban]:
Forget everything that I have said, [including my General Conference address of October 2013], or what [anyone else] has said in days past that was contrary to the present [hoped-for] revelation [which, it is hoped, will broaden the law of chastity and the conception of God-ordained marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace conduct which now is contrary to that law and to that conception]. We spoke with limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about [gay marriage] before [the date the hoped-for revelation] was received]. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation …1
While your mileage may vary, from where I sit, who does and who does not get the Priesthood, as important as the Priesthood might be, does not fall under the rubric of foundational doctrine. Rather, as important as who gets the Priesthood may be, it is simply a matter of policy. (While such a policy may have a foundational doctrine associated with it, such as that Priesthood is God’s power through which He does His work among men on the earth, the policy itself is not doctrine). Conversely, the concepts of marriage and family as taught in the Church of Jesus Christ do fall under the rubric of foundational doctrine. They are, as the Proclamation on the Family tells us, “central to the Creator’s plan of happiness for His children.”2
Again, your mileage may vary. While some may wish to accuse me of being naive, some, because they don’t understand the “doctrine-policy” dichotomy, have had their foundations rocked by the Church’s recent statement on Priesthood. That said, I would certainly have to choose where to make my stand if a future prophet were to purport to receive such a revelation as the one I describe in the foregoing fictional “quote.” While my crystal ball may have a crack in it (Nooooo! Really?! ;-D) I don’t foresee such a revelation ever being received.
|1.||This fictional “quote” is a rewording of an excerpt from an address Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who, prior to his death was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered to an audience of the Church’s religious educators two months after the policy restricting blacks from receiving the Priesthood was lifted. See Bruce R. McConkie (August 18, 1978) “All Are Alike Unto God,” Speeches of the Year, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, accessed on line at the following address on December 28, 2013: http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1570|
|2.||See President Gordon B. Hinckley “The Family: A Proclamation To The World,” Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accessed on line at the following address on December 28, 2013: http://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation.|