Monday, September 01, 2008

Another Tack on the Sunstone Piece

The new editor of Sunstone, a good friend of mine who is also a very awesome, very demanding editor, wanted me to try redoing my piece to focus more on trying to show why same-sex marriage doesn't harmonize with the Mormon gospel. Below is the new portion of the essay; I changed the intro and conclusion too, but they are similar enough to what I posted in the earlier version that I won't post them again here.

Allow me to apply some Mormon spiritual and theological reasoning to the question of whether same-sex marriage could find a place in the Mormon plan of salvation and thus become acceptable to Mormons. I’m going to focus on the sexual aspect, for that is the crux of the matter. A recent New Yorker cartoon summed up the reality of the situation well: Three men are sitting at a table in a gay bar, having drinks and scoping out the action. One laments to the others, “It’s been so long—it’s like I’m only gay in theory” (August 25, 2008, page 65).

In Mormon temples, where we learn ideal standards and promise to strive to reach them, one of the covenants we make is to avoid any practices that are impure or unholy. For gay marriage to work in Mormonism, that covenant is as good a litmus test as any other I can imagine.

First, I’ll look at the impurity issue. Can same-sex copulation be made pure through gay marriage? One argument I often hear in favor of gay marriage is that many heterosexuals practice non-procreational oral, anal, and object copulation, and even the LDS Church seems to have taken a don’t-ask-don’t-tell stance on married heterosexual bedroom activities. So why shouldn’t gays be allowed to marry and enjoy the same intimacies?

I’m not going to focus on the oral or object parts of the equation—I know many modern-day Mormons feel these practices are okay for married heterosexual couples, so it would be a double standard to argue that they would be intrinsically worse when practiced by gay married couples. However, for male gays the ultimate sexual expression is anal sex, and that’s going to be a hard sell for the Mormon people. I’ll be blunt: Anyone who regularly indulges in anal sex will occasionally face the reality of fecal mishap, and most Mormons would agree that this constitutes an impure practice regardless of whether the participants are the same sex or opposite sexes. Purity means free of taint or pollution, containing nothing that does not properly belong. Mixing the body’s foulest excretion with the sexual act will never compute for most Mormons, even if the participants are married.

Many Mormons also find the concept of anal sex to be spiritually impure as well. According to Mormon belief, we are created in the image of God, who we believe has a body with parts and passions, which many Mormons interpret to include the genitals. From youth, we are told that the body is sacred and should be treated with reverence and respect, like a temple. In the view of many Mormons, to use an orifice for other than its natural purpose is an affront to the human tabernacle, whether or not physical impurities are in evidence. So in order for Mormons to accept gay marriage, we would somehow have to become reasonably comfortable with its sexual implications, which I suppose might be possible if married Mormon gays somehow made it clear that they would not practice anal sex.

Now I will look at the unholy part of the test. When something is holy, it has divine qualities, and we venerate it as sacred. To Mormons, marriage is holy—in fact, many Mormons believe that God himself is married and that eternal marriage is, in fact, the key to exaltation, which most Mormons understand to mean becoming eternally procreative parents like God. For Mormons, even earthly marriages that are not sealed in the temple have holy potential, as evidenced by our practice of performing posthumous sealings for any and all couples who have ever been married on this earth.

So what are the theological implications, for Mormons, of granting marriage status to same-sex couples? According to Mormon theology, same-sex marriages would, by our definition of marriage, have to be defined as holy and godlike. By most people’s definition, marriage includes sexual relations—in fact, marriage partners who withhold sex from each other are sometimes said to be violating the law of chastity, and many Mormons believe that the heavenly parents engage in a celestial form of sexual congress. So in order for same-sex marriage to be accepted by Mormons, we would need to become convinced that God himself could conceivably engage in such a union, with all its implications. This too will be a hard sell for Mormons, to say the least.

If Mormons in favor of gay marriage are able to overcome these reservations in some way, then I agree with Thurston that the LDS Church will accept gay marriage—and probably sooner than later, given the degree of pressure our society will likely increasingly exert on those who display even the slightest hint of “homophobia” or discrimination against gays. Personally, though, I think we would have to give up our Mormon integrity to accommodate gay marriage—in other words, we would cease to be Mormon in any theologically meaningful, distinctive way.

4 comments:

JennVan said...

How interesting. I like the take and the more specifics on the sexual purity thing. I hadn't even thought about the implication of our belief in eternal marriage and eternal procreation and how that doesn't fit with gay sex/marriage. I wonder if there might be merit in discussing this further and how it flies in the face of all that we know to be true about the nature of ourselves and God since you focus more on the sexual side of things. I've also been talking a lot to people who feel that they don't care what "the gays" do because it doesn't impact them since they are heterosexual. Any thoughts on writing something about that?

Christopher Bigelow said...

jennvann: I don't care what the gays do either, beyond feeling concerned for them because I think they're making the wrong choice to pursue the sodomite lifestyle. But when they try to make us change our definition of marriage, that's where I have a problem. And if they make our host civilization change its definition of marriage, that's going to majorly affect our religious rights because we won't be able to define sodomy as a sin any longer. So then we'll have to allow gay marriages to be performed in our public meetinghouses and let schools teach our children that gay marriage is just as good as hetero marriage, and that's just the start.

JennVan said...

That is exactly what I talk to people about. That there is a gay agenda and its about more than just having the ability to marry. They want to be able to change our society to not only accept them but to reject anything else. It will eventually lead to requirements of churches performing gay marriage or lose their legal status. People are usually surprised when I talk about that since its not something they have really considered before. Many think its just a civil thing to allow gay spouses to inherit or such but the end agenda is really to destroy marriage and religion.

Quin said...

Chris,

My mind always boggles when people talk about "the Church" accepting gay marriage in a different context than "God" accepting it. As if "God" has already accepted it and isn't capable of getting a clear connection at the COB with which to convey His will. Or as if "the Church" changes its policies and doctrines once the members reach some kind of politically correct tipping point-and we all just hanging out waiting for that to happen.

I guess I have a hard time wrapping my brain around WHY anyone would WANT to belong to a Church that "isn't REALLY" being run by Christ, or where "the leaders" of that Church "aren't really" speaking to and for God regularly. What on earth do such people have faith IN???

If God already HAS taken a stand on both sodomy AND marriage, the debate is over. I know that He has. Why do so many people seem to be content with NOT knowing?