Monday, April 06, 2009

Why I'm Against Gay Marriage

Okay, I got myself involved in another blog smackdown on the gay marriage issue. I think I did a better job representing my position this time; below are all my comments, and you can click here if you want to go to the original post on Mormon Feminist Housewives and read them all in context. While I'm not following that blog anymore (for reasons you'll see below), I welcome being reasoned with on this blog, if you have any counter-arguments (however, I've been around the block on this issue enough that I've probably already heard them all).

Some interesting logic, but your post shows that you don’t really understand (or accept) Mormon theology. Same-sex marriage is simply absolutely impossible in Mormon theology. Marriage with accompanying sexual relations is a holy, godlike state. As far as we understand, God doesn’t have sex with other male Gods, and neither does Heavenly Mother have it with other female Gods.

To convince someone who really understands and believes in Mormon theology that God would ever say it’s OK for same-gender couples to marry and have sex with each other, you would have to convince us that our heavenly parents could do that too with other same-gender deities. Good luck with that.


#5: With interfaith marriages, the status of the non-Mormon partner can change in this life or the next, with regards to accepting the Mormon gospel. However, gender is eternal, so there’s no way to transform same-gender couples into godlike couples. Sorry!

#6: Absolutely not satirical. Just voicing the Mormon side, putting out the challenge for someone to harmonize same-gender marriage with Mormon theology. I think it’s impossible, but I’m all ears.


#13: OK, I’ll tell you my logic. (I know sources exist outside of the four standard works in which GAs have spoken of similar things, but I don’t have them handy. Some of it was McConkie, which may not hold much credibility anymore anyway.)

We’re taught that God has a corporeal body with “parts and passions.” We’re also taught that we’re created in God’s image and that gender is eternal. So, basically, our heavenly parents must have actual genitals. Personally, I cannot conceive of a God who has a humanoid body and who possesses male gender who is just blank and smooth between his legs, like a Ken doll. (And similar reasoning applies for our female deity.)

And if God has a reproductive organ, I can’t imagine he doesn’t use it in some celestial way, and same with his spouse(s). I don’t pretend for a moment to understand exactly how celestial procreation works, but my Mormon logic tells me that it is a glorified, ultra-turbocharged version of our mortal version here on earth. (By the way, I personally tend to agree with one GA who gave his opinion that those resurrected to a lesser degree will not receive their genitals in the resurrection–indeed, perhaps they WILL be like Ken and Barbie dolls in the crotch area.)

This is deep stuff, and today’s GAs won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole, but it’s essential to the conversation about same-gender “marriage” and why it will never be compatible with Mormon theology, in my opinion.


#11 said: “Why in a pluralistic,civil society does Mormon theology take precedence over equality for all?”

If I understand Mormonism correctly, we believe that God inspired America’s founding on Judeo-Christian principles chiefly as a seedbed for the restoration of the gospel. If this society devolves from this original purpose and nature, then it is cause for great alarm and strong action. Legitimizing sodomy in any form is against basic Judeo-Christian principles, not just against Mormon ones. Now, the libertarian in me personally agrees that we shouldn’t be prosecuting people for committing sodomy or anything, but to change the definition of marriage to fully accommodate sodomy is just WAY over the top.

From a Mormon standpoint, I agree with us taking any steps possible to help slow our host society’s devolution into post-Judeo-Christian secularism, because otherwise we know that the same thing will happen to our civilization that happened to the Book of Mormon civilizations. In fact, we know it WILL eventually happen in the time leading up to the Second Coming, but it’s worth fighting to delay the inevitable by a few decades. Also, standing up for what’s right helps sort out the god-fearing from the post-god people, a process that will only keep accelerating as we progress ever deeper into these latter-latter days.

This whole gay-marriage issue is both a sign of our civilization’s degree of pulling away from God and an unprecedented opportunity for people to choose which side they’re on. I’m sure thousands of people are weeding themselves right out of Mormonism because they’ve been deceived by the modern-day gay movement. In my belief and that of most Mormons like me, same-gender attraction is a mortal failing to be resisted or dealt with like any other addictive tendency that may be beyond some individuals’ control, with compassion that stops well short of actually condoning sinful behavior or, even worse, presuming to change eternal principles to legitimize the sin.


#44: That’s all fine and good, and obviously you know history better than I do and how to discuss it. My statement wasn’t a sweeping statement precluding any other influences on this country’s founding as well, and I also wasn’t using the term “Judeo-Christian principles” to mean the whole package transported over from Europe or something. I was more meaning biblical morality and the bits and pieces of the Judeo-Christian tradition or mindset that God saw fit to salvage from among the errors of history and put into the hearts and minds of America’s founders, many of whom asked for such inspiration, after all.


Eh, you guys don’t scare me. I’ll continue to browse FHM any time I want and comment any time I want, unless you ban me.

I guess lots of people see blogs like this as havens from things in Mormonism they don’t like, rather than as places to really fully consider all viewpoints, including conservative Mormon ones like mine is on these issues.

I’m sure there are at least a handful of readers out there who relate with and appreciate most of what I’m saying, even if they don’t speak up because they don’t have much stomach for the demeaning flak that ensues. Get used to it, folks, because it’s only going to get worse, and it’s eventually going to reach YOU too, one way or another, as society puts more and more pressure on us to deny our beliefs. It’s too bad when it comes from ostensibly within the faith…


Like I said before, Quimb-o, I’m open to people using logic and evidence to help me examine my beliefs, which I admit have been hard-fought and hard-won and are not something I’ll put aside easily, and which I tend to communicate as certainties because that’s how I experience them at this point in my life.

That’s why I occasionally get involved in discussions on this issue, to allow for the chance that someone might be able to explain some bit of theology or spiritual reasoning that might make it possible to give up my views against gay marriage and go along with the secular/liberal crowd. But so far no one has been able to do that; instead, I get lots of logical fallacies and emotional stuff. (And I’m not claiming that I don’t return in kind, sometimes.)

Also, I’m very interested in learning more about how others think, and it’s breathtaking to me to see the audacity of people within Mormonism on this issue. Really, it’s VERY entertaining to me and thought-provoking too, mostly in a cautionary way.

Bottom line: I think it’s a discussion worth having and am glad it’s online rather than in person. Quimby, I don’t really care if you’re on my side either, but I have an almost voyeuristic interest in how people with views like yours justify yourself and–again–just a TINY bit of curiosity to see if anyone can win me over to the other side.


OK, I’m back from having Indian food with the editors of Sunstone and Dialogue, both in town for a conference today, and I wanted to weigh in on a few more things before I watch some Big Love on DVD:

#33: I agree that the idea of no genitals in the lower kingdoms is wonderfully hilarious, while also being something that I can believe. I admit I got the concept out of one of the Tanners’ anti-Mormon books, but they’re usually quite scrupulous about their quotes, if quick to go for the weirdest stuff in places like the Journal of Discourses. I just went down in the basement and tried to find it, but couldn’t. I like testing out my Mormon mind against people like the Tanners from time to time, and I’ve learned a lot about my own religion from them. I also get a real kick out of The Godmakers.

Mfranti, I have somewhat more to say unto thee. I think you were too quick to take my crack about Mormon Kool-Aid too personally. I don’t have a clue about your background or anything, so I was responding solely to the person who made the outraged comment in #41. Judging solely by that comment, the person writing the comment has not encountered or absorbed much deep Mormon thought yet, at least in some areas. I can’t reconstruct for you exactly how my Mormon worldview came about, but it goes far beyond the scriptures and includes countless other Mormon books and articles, as well as countless seminary and institute classes, firesides, and employee meetings and retreats while I was an editor at the Ensign magazine for over six years, at which high-ranking church officials, apostles, and other GAs would share frank, intimate insights into the Church, the latter days, America, the gay movement, etc. So you see, I’ve drunk very deeply of Mormon Kool-Aid, and anyone else who has drunk as deeply would recognize what I say as very much reflective of fairly widespread currents of Mormon thought, not freak out and attempt to apologize for them like the writer of comment #41 did, whoever she may be.

Oh, and as far as the “gay movement,” here’s a starting place for you:

Personally, I feel no doubt that Satan has largely inspired the gay movement to legitimize sodomy-based relationships as a valid lifestyle. And this must make it incredibly hard for today’s people who are same-sex attracted, to have this large, well-organized campaign luring them all the time by making gayness look normal and acceptable. A hundred years ago, people who felt same-sex attraction might in rare cases act on it furtively but would never have tried to publicly embrace it and defend it as a legitimate long-term lifestyle. But now someone who feels SSA and doesn’t act upon it is made to feel like a repressed coward, so no wonder we have people feeling such pressure to “come out.” With such a vibrant, alluring gay lifestyle beckoning, many people with mixed gender attraction are giving in to same-gender attractions who never would have done so if society had not become so permissive, a process aided and abetted by the devil, who I believe is a real being with a real agenda and real ways of confusing and tempting us.

#56: Huh? I’m actually against sodomy laws. I think consenting adults should be free to practice whatever vices they want and face the consequences, as long as they don’t directly infringe on the rights of others. Even the church hasn’t said anything about enforcing sodomy laws, and it even stated that it doesn’t necessarily oppose basic legal rights for gay couples. Committing blasphemy against God by changing the definition of holy matrimony to include sodomy is a whole other ballgame, though.

#64: That’s a really interesting viewpoint with some good logic. However, Joseph Smith and other early leaders made it quite clear, and it makes total logical sense to me, that God is part of an eternal lineage of Gods who all follow and obey and uphold the same eternal principles, which are very clear when it comes to marriage and procreation and parentage. The universe is one big endless Zion beehive of Gods who are all on the same program, not a chaotic sci-fi scenario like you speculate with “creative families.” At least, from my Mormon perspective.

#68: In logic class, we call this an ad hominim attack. If I do have any narcissistic tendencies, I have lots of other easier topics and more welcoming venues to feed that need. I admit I do feel a sense of responsibility to speak out on this issue as a conservative Mormon when I feel so inclined, because so few other people who think like me do so in venues that I find interesting, such as this one. It’s boring to talk about this with people who already think just like I do.

#71: Thank you. This is just the kind of Mormon Kool-Aid that I’m talking about, which people like the writer of comment #41 don’t seem to have internalized much yet.

#73: Oh, I just like conversations like this online because I have time to formulate my responses and can space it out over a longer time period rather than getting caught in some intense face-to-face encounter. In face-to-face debate, I’m the kind of person who tends to do more listening than talking, with lots of head nodding because I can always see what the other person is saying, but online I can focus on what I think and formulate my responses. I’m sure this is true for other people who are text-driven rather than verbal-driven.

#82 said “There are so many Christian and Jewish sects that are totally fine with gay marriage (either secular or religious) so why should this church, or a group of conservative churches, have the say?” That doesn’t mean anything to me, because none of those churches has the full truth or is authorized by God or led by his priesthood. I’m sure we’ll see the day when the Mormon church is the only one left standing in the right place, all other churches having caved in to secular societal pressure and persecution. (This is another concept I learned at the foot of a mentor while employed at the church.)

#83: Yes, I’m sure he’ll be patient for you to hopefully eventually come around and fully understand Mormon theological reality and accept the stand of the prophets. And if you don’t, he won’t be able to fully trust you and reward you, but he’ll still love you and give you as much reward as he can justify and as you can handle. And if you have some real mental or spiritual block that makes you not fully accountable in this area, then I know he’ll take that into account too, but it won’t make him change the doctrine.

#85: Whoa, the church isn’t trying to force anything on anybody, just trying to rally the majority to block the wrong-headed efforts of the minority to change basic laws and principles upon which the nation was founded. Everyone already agrees that greed, materialism, and poverty are not good, so the church doesn’t need to state the obvious; the reason the homosexual issue is such a telling one is that it’s a recent development in which you now have people saying that the sinful vice of sodomy is actually a good, acceptable thing. That kind of twisting of God’s laws shows an amazing lack of sensitivity to his spirit and respect for his laws, and the more this kind of secular, proudly humanistic thinking catches on in our civilization, the faster God will naturally withdraw his blessing from among us, eventually leaving us to the fate of the Jaredites and the Nephites.

I think one of the most effective ways that Satan is confusing people is to conflate the gay issue with the racial issue and, yes, perhaps even the feminist issue. Race and gender are unchangeable, unavoidable characteristics, while sexual preference is something that one can choose to act upon or not. And I want to say that I’m personally much more alarmed by a supposedly Mormon heterosexual who is so confused by the world that he or she thinks gay marriage is a good idea than I am by a gay person who is having sinful sex but acknowledges that it’s not the ideal and that he is breaking God’s laws but just hasn’t yet figured out a way to resist the temptation. And yes, I do have some gay friends who have left the church.


#142: Hmm, good point. I’m sure I’ve heard someone else argue this better and haven’t restated it as well. I don’t think homosexuality is a characteristic; I think it’s a temptation that can be so strong in some cases that it may FEEL like a characteristic, especially when gay propaganda abets such a feeling. But this gets into areas of whether there’s a biological component to it, which is unproven in either direction. Bottom line: It’s certainly not a clear-cut case like race or gender. Personally, I believe it’s analogous to alcoholism; some people are more prone to it than others and some seem almost born to be taken into its clutches against their will, but it’s something that ideally should be resisted and that should not be enthroned or celebrated by society as something good for us.

#143: Huh, not sure what to say. Are you saying it was wrong for me to comment on your comment from a certain not uncommon Mormon perspective? If so, I think you’re overreacting a bit. I agree with you that God won’t condemn you for doing your best and will give you all the opportunity you need to work it out, and maybe someday someone will finally pull the rug out from under me on this issue and I’ll be in the same boat as you, at odds with the church but feeling that God fully accepts my differing opinion.

I remembered a scripture that encapsulates why I think the LDS Church did the right thing on Prop 8 and should keep trying to rally the people of America along these lines:

26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.
27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29)

I think when this will really get interesting is when gay marriage makes it to the federal level within a few more years or decades.


#174: Bah, no regrets on this end. The reason I brought up my Mormon background is because Mfranti commented as if I were some kind of oddball embarrassment for which she felt the need to apologize, when in reality I’m well seasoned to communicate ideas that come from deep within the church (not without my own idiosyncrasies added in, I admit; and I certainly wouldn’t claim to be free of ego, either; it’s hard to be any kind of effective writer/communicator without some healthy self-confidence).

The main reason I like to let loose in this discussion from time to time in somewhat hostile venues like this is because I suspect that for every person who is vocal about their pro-gay-marriage stand and about their disdain for the Church’s involvement in the issue, there are one or more silent readers of comments who are still trying to figure out where they stand on the issue, and I hate to sit by and not try to communicate the orthodox Mormon side, for those still weighing the evidence.

Personal disparagement like what you just said about me, calling me a judgmental ass, just comes with the territory, that tired old ad-hominem cop out often resorted to when other rhetorical devices aren’t strong enough to effectively counter the orthodox position. I don’t expect that my position will convince anyone who’s actively debating the anti-Church side; it’s the undecided onlookers I’m hoping to influence. Don’t be persuaded by so-called Mormons who go counter to the prophet, even if they claim to have received their own revelation from God!


#167: Ah, the old “the same thing is going to happen with the gay issue as happened with the black issue” argument. “Boy, won’t you prophet-following sheep all feel dumb when the church eventually sees the light and accepts gay marriage.”

Here’s why I think it’s different this time, and I’m open to correction if I get any history or interpretation wrong: With the black race issue, it seems like individual GAs gave their opinions for reasons why the church didn’t give the priesthood to blacks, but I don’t think the church ever had an official unified position that rose to the level of today’s practically scriptural proclamation on the family.

And the Church, to my knowledge, never openly resisted the civil rights movement in any organized way, although I understand that some individual GAs expressed concern about some of the militant aspects of the civil rights movement.

However, the Church leadership is obviously quite intensely unified about resisting the gay rights movement, at least at the marriage level. We have the proclamation, and we have organized campaigns and efforts against gay-rights efforts. That signals a whole different ball game. The church ain’t going to back off from this one; there’s too much solid doctrine and theology behind it, not the sketchy mark-of-Cain stuff used by individuals here and there to justify the racial ban.

With the racial issue, our society moved in a positive, godly direction and the church eventually came around. I agree it’s disappointing that the church didn’t lead out in this area and took so long to change its racist policy. With the gay issue, though, society is moving in the direction of ungodly, permissive, radical change that the church cannot abide or capitulate to. Some people may indeed be
individually unaccountable for their homosexual orientation, and we’ve got to find better ways to help them deal with this challenge, but legitimizing the sin of sodomy with marriage status ain’t the way.


Quimby, I don’t understand you. While “ass” is a pejorative remark based on subjective standards, if someone is pro gay marriage when the prophet is anti gay marriage, isn’t it just a cold, hard fact that the person is “counter to the prophet” on that issue?


#194 wrote: “The American Public sector forced a re-evaluation of LDS doctrine on several occasions, and perhaps that is exactly what Heavenly Father intended by locating the church in American borders.”

Yes, agreed. In my opinion, however, it works the other way around too, and the LDS Church is now called upon by God to try to help persuade the American public from going down the wrong moral path by putting sodomite relationships on an equal footing with procreative hetero relationships.


#196: I’d like to see if I can respond to some of this well-written comment.

And with all due respect, I find your position full of folk doctrine and speculation at best.
I wouldn’t deny that there’s some of that in my beliefs, but are you calling the proclamation on the family folk doctrine?

The uniquely LDS scriptures say not one word about homosexuality. […] Having never canonized anything about this issue since the Restoration, and with the founding prophet Joseph Smith saying nothing about it either, this means all statements by the Church about homosexuality rest on a Biblical basis which is questionable at best.
I don’t really have a direct refutation for this, especially for the biblical stuff, but here’s my thought: It may be that the reason homosexuality isn’t dealt with in LDS scripture is because it wasn’t even an issue, it wasn’t even on the radar, it wasn’t even within the realm of possibility that society could devolve to the point where same-sex marriage could actually become a serious proposal on the table. (After all, we’re often reminded that most all of Joseph Smith’s revelations came in response to the Church’s needs and requests.)

I’m sure someone can cite some obscure society somewhere that performed something like gay marriages, but unless someone can convince me otherwise, I would say that our civilization is the first major civilization that actually has the nerve to say the same-sex marriage is a good idea and deserves equal status with traditional hetero marriage. I know that same-sex attraction has always been with us, and I know that people like the Greeks indulged it to an alarming degree, but most of those men were still heterosexually married and, as far as I know, no one tried to say that a same-sex relationship was a suitable alternative. I mean, they wanted to have progeny, after all. Today, of course, we’re a lot less excited about having progeny, and procreative science has muddied the waters further.

Here’s the thing with me: I don’t judge individual gays. I fully believe there are some gay people who really don’t have any choice about their attraction (at the same time, I believe some “gay” people have chosen to magnify their same-sex attractions and minimize their hetero ones). I think it’s even possible that some gay people who have chosen to live a life of fidelity with a same-sex romantic partner may actually be forgiven fairly readily at some point for the sinful sodomy aspect of it; only God knows each person’s degree of accountability and whether they made the best of their circumstances, and the Atonement can fix everything that’s out of whack, for those who let it. (I absolutely do not believe, however, that these couples could ever be sealed as eternal sexual partners, although perhaps their relationship could continue on some basis through the eternities. I’ve heard arguments that same-sex partners could be sealed, but it comes across to me as pure science fiction.)

My problem is with giving gay marriage equal footing with hetero marriage. I’ve already talked about the theological reasons why I object to that. I’ve also talked about why I’m alarmed by the idea of the majority of people preferring this to what we’ve been taught by prophets of God. Another thing I’m concerned about is the confusion it causes for young people. Many young people experiment sexually before settling on their sexual identity. If the gay option becomes so widely accepted and legitimized, many more young people will lock into that lifestyle than otherwise would have. Yes, there will always be some who are just 100% gay through and through regardless of societal influences. But there are many—perhaps the majority—who could resist gay impulses and capitalize on their hetero impulses, but society’s acceptance of the gay side makes it much harder to do so. Bottom line, I don’t want my kids growing up in a world that offers such confusion about marriage.

Here’s another reason I’m against gay marriage from a Mormon standpoint: In our temples, we perform sealings for all married couples. At some point if it hasn’t happened already, some of these gay marriages are going to creep into our family history databases and get sealed, if the fact that they’re same-sex can’t be spotted. For those who believe in Mormon theology, this is a huge inadvertent desecration of the ordinance.

Nothing in your arguments, CB, necessarily excludes the possibility of same sex relationships in the eternities. The best you can defensibly say is that our knowledge is incomplete. If you truly believe the 9th Article of Faith then you must concede this.
Yeah, you’re right, I can’t prove it. But I think the bigger burden is on those who are trying to introduce this new idea, not those who are trying to defend the status quo.

A generation ago it was proclaiming as a matter of doctrine and faith that homosexuality was a choice. Now it’s flipped on that. So when was/is the Church
I don’t think the Church has so much flipped as they have refined and clarified their verbiage. They acknowledge that unwanted homosexual feelings are not a choice, but they continue to maintain that acting on those feelings is a choice.

Now the Church is conceding that this “core characteristic” may not change for some in this life. In which case, what afterward? The Church has no answers.
Incorrect. Through the Atonement and resurrection, all earthly flaws can be corrected, including same-sex attraction, even for gay people who can’t currently imagine what it will be like to have hetero desires.

The best you can say CB is that based on your limited knowledge at present, you and the Church believe XYZ, and you must acknowledge that it is all subject to change.
Anything’s possible! But it’s also possible to hope for change for the wrong reasons, such as extreme compassion for gays and/or the desire to be politically correct in today’s society. Both of these motives have redeeming qualities, but not when they outweigh understanding and adhering to the bounds the Lord has set. Any Mormon who is not following the prophet’s lead on this issue is taking a real gamble; I acknowledge that the gamble paid off for those who rejected the Church’s racist policies prior to 1978, but I just don’t see it paying off this time, and I really worry about you Mormon folks who are pro-gay marriage. I worry more about you than I worry about an actively gay person who acknowledges that his lifestyle is in error.


Go ahead and ban me on principle then, Quimby. If I can’t state how I feel from a Mormon perspective when talking about things with other Mormons who are on dangerous ground by preaching against the prophet, then I’d like to request my name to be removed from your records.

I’ve been spending too much time on this anyway. It will be the second blog I’ve been banned from, including Mormon Matters.


Anonymous said...


I have followed your discussions on this issue with great interest over a long period of time in a variety of forums.

My own views lie in sympathy with yours, though they are more tentative and are held in juxtaposition with other truths I feel are of equal importance.

I have watched you fashion what I have come to regard as a gimmicky voice of inflammatory rhetoric when you speak on this issue. It is a shrill voice that carries with it very little convincing power.

You are clever when you speak about the "spider of sodomy" and invoke all the dark mechanics of gay sex, but I think you compromise your effectiveness at every turn when you take up this clever but discordant voice.

Even though, as I've said, my beliefs mirror yours in many respects, I don't like the voice of gimmicky extremism in which you speak sometimes. I do not believe it is effective.

I grant that you do often show an expansive and compassionate spirit of non-judgment and understanding that I think is commendable.

I once commented that you could learn from Eugene England about how to approach this issue in a way that was not only correct, but also effective.

You responded by labeling England as a "secular humanist" and therefore diminishing anything he might have said about homosexuality and how he might have said it.

I believe Eugene spoke with genuine spiritual power when it comes to this issue. And I believe he taught a whole grain gospel message about homosexuality based on the teachings of the prophets and apostles.

In speaking to gay Latter-day Saints in 1998, Eugene said:

" may certainly be true that the proscription of same-sex marriage by the Church is not merely a temporary, lower law God is having us live until we and our society get over our homophobia, but is an expression of God's highest and permanent will. Any of us at all serious about the Mormon religion, which derives much of its energy and appeal from the principle of continuous revelation, must recognize that possibility."

I recently came across an anecdote relating how Eugene England's voice on this matter did have a redemptive impact on "secular" group. It strengthened my initial impression that he was an excellent role model on how to speak with redemptive impact on this issue.

I believe he honored the Lord and the Lord honored him by allowing his words and example to have a positive, redemptive impact on a wide range of people even after his death.

I would ask you, Chris, to produce a single person who has been similarly moved by your voice of gimmicky rhetorical extremism. As right as many of your ideas may be, I would submit that you have not been very effective.

Here is the anecdote for your review:

Anonymous said...

I guess the link was too long. Here is a shortened version.

Anonymous said...

Since I'm not having success with the link, I'm going to copy and paste the anecdote below.

How often have you been able to change someone’s mind on an important political issue? For many of us, it is an unusually difficult, if not impossible task. But Eugene England had a unique gift in his ability to change minds. One of the most striking examples of this that I saw happened a few years after he had passed away.

The incident involved an LDS classmate of mine in law school, a politically liberal professor, and the issue of gay marriage.

My classmate Dave enrolled in a small, seminar-style course about violence. One day the professor handed out an article she had written that was being reviewed for publication by the Yale Law Journal. She wanted the class to read it and come prepared to discuss it the next class session. Among other things, the article asserted that opposition to gay marriage was a form of violence and anyone who opposed gay marriage was bigoted and committing violence against gay people.

During the next class discussion, Dave spoke up to contend that you can oppose gay marriage without being a bigot. Other students vigorously attacked Dave’s position, and to exacerbate his unpleasant spot, there was an ex-Mormon student in the class who knew Dave was a Mormon. She dragged the Church into the discussion, and Dave found himself trying to fend off attacks against not only his position but also against the Church.

I ran into Dave right after the class. Battle worn and fatigued, he informed me of what happened. Searching for consolation, I thought about Eugene England’s address to an audience of gay Mormons (and gay ex-Mormons), “On Living the Gospel,” in which England very honestly explores his conflicting and evolving beliefs about homosexuality and how to reconcile his testimony of Jesus Christ and what he believed was a Christlike approach to homosexuality, with his testimony of the Church being led by a divinely inspired prophet. England opens the essay with the following:

When I was quite young I had two spiritual experiences that set the course and tone of much of my life. The first occurred one June morning when I was about eight, while my father and I were kneeling in the knee-high green wheat on our dry farm in Idaho. He was asking protection of the developing crop from hail and drought and wind and consecrating it all to the Lord, promising to use all we earned from it in building Zion. I suddenly felt a strong, almost physical, presence which seemed to me a confirmation from Jesus Christ that he was pleased with that consecration. That feeling of approval, a burning in my bosom and fire in my bones, was as real as anything I have experienced and has never entirely left me. It has come back again and again to serve as the touchstone by which I have judged among the choices and issues and conflicts of my life: My actions, decisions, and ideas that have brought to me feelings most close to that one long ago have been the ones I have trusted most and have been the ones that I have later been convinced were the best–the ones that Jesus Christ most approves….

He goes on to describe another related experience he had a few years later at a stake conference. Elder Harold Lee was speaking and began giving the stake an apostolic blessing. England describes feeling that same, powerful spiritual witness he felt in the wheat field, this time confirming to him that Elder Lee was Christ’s apostle and that the Church was Christ’s church.

England then moves into a discussion on homophobia in American and Mormon culture. He describes how in the mid 1990s he came to hope that perhaps the best approach for the Church would be to allow same-sex partnerships “as the best alternative for gays in this life, while holding to the ideal of heterosexual eternal marriage for all at some far future point in the next life.” He admits this position became untenable as the Church began to take official stands against gay marriage. He then summarizes his dilemma:

The feeling I had a few years ago, that [the Church's] staying quiet on the issue of legal same-sex partnerships and waiting patiently on the Lord and society to move us to the point we could live the higher law of unconditional love–-that feeling was confirmed by the spirit of Christ I felt as a boy in that wheat field. But because of the similar feeling I had as a teenager in that Stake Conference, while receiving an apostolic blessing, and subsequent experiences and feelings that have confirmed that one, I also believe that the article on “Same-Gender Attraction” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the October 1995 Ensign speaks to us with his special apostolic authority and that the letter of the First Presidency and Twelve condemning same-sex marriage is both binding on me and an expression of the will of the Lord at this time. That phrase “at this time” is of course crucial to any resolution of the dilemma I have just stated: that my two core convictions about Christ and the Church give somewhat opposed results, that stable same-sex partnerships would be better than the choice of celibacy or excommunication but that the official Church position must be supported.

While holding out hope that the Church will eventually change its position, England concludes:

My spiritual experiences have formed a core of my being that has required, for me to have integrity, that I recommend celibacy to gay Mormons as long as that is the Church’s position, and that is not easy, certainly not popular among many of you whose good will I value.

I emailed the essay to Dave, who read it and then, to my surprise, forwarded it to his professor. Her response was quite remarkable. She said that she had been very deeply moved by England’s honest exploration of his beliefs, and admitted being brought to tears by his spiritual experience in the wheat field with his father.

Then came the miracle. She informed Dave that because of England’s essay, she had changed her mind and had contacted Yale to notify them that she would be revising the article to allow that not everyone who opposes gay marriage is a bigot.

I am deeply grateful for Eugene England and the powerful, positive influence he continues to exert both inside and outside the Church.

Christopher Bigelow said...

Hmm, Anonymous, I'm just calling it like I see it, not trying to develop some "gimmicky voice." Maybe over time I will learn to be sweeter and nicer. I do think it's a topic worth talking about, as I see it as a major sign of the times. (The dominoes are falling even as I'm typing this: I just got a news alert that Vermont has just legalized gay marriage.)

There's part of me that wants to influence others on this issue, and I have had some people express appreciation for my view, but I suppose they already agree with me to begin with. Another part of me puts out my strong views as an implicit challenge for someone to talk me out of them. I think my views have been moderated somewhat by input from others, but no one has come anywhere close to showing how something based on sodomy could ever become legit.

Did I really say that about Eugene England? I hope you're misrepresenting me. I'm a big fan of his, and I consider him a far better Christian and Mormon than me. I think he gets sucked into political correctness sometimes, but I don't remember ever labeling him as a "secular humanist." And I don't agree with all his views, including about polygamy.

I can handle England's view on the same-sex situation from the article you posted: follow the prophet's current direction, hope for progressive change in the future. There's nothing wrong with hoping, as long as one doesn't jump the gun and go against the prophet. But I think it's wishful thinking to hope that something based on sodomy will ever achieve acceptable status within the church.

While I think my Mormon thinking on this issue is very clear and makes total sense to me, I'm not a very religious or spiritual person in many ways, so maybe that's why I don't speak with great spiritual power. Sorry! It has still been important to me to speak out, mainly because of how this issue dovetails with my latter-day pessimism about how our civilization will eventually go the way of the Jaredites and Nephites, but perhaps I will soon tire of trying and leave it to others who are more in tune with the Lord.

Christopher Bigelow said...

England wrote, "Stable same-sex partnerships would be better than the choice of celibacy or excommunication."

I do think a stable same-sex relationship is better than a promiscuous one. I could even see divine forgiveness for such a relationship being granted quite readily, if the participants truly had no other practical choice. However, forgiveness WOULD be necessary for the sodomy, and I don't think the Church should ever openly accept such relationships on any terms, because it would cause confusion and rationalization and be a horrible example, especially to young people.

And I do not think that such relationships would be better than celibacy. It's hard to imagine living a life of celibacy, but I'm sure it's possible WITH GOD'S HELP. I'm sure if someone exercised their faith enough, he would remove some of the passion and bless them with other compensatory blessings. Sex is important, but it's not vital to one's survival. Many of us face unfulfilled desires in our lives; personally, I struggle every single day with career issues, which aren't as bad as same-sex issues but still cloud my inner life virtually every day.

The only spiritually, eternally sane option for someone who is really 100% gay and can't responsibly develop a heterosexual relationship is to put their burden on the Lord and let him make it light. Wickedness can never lead to long-term happiness, including sodomy. I'm sure that requires more faith and humility than I personally could muster, and I'm grateful it's not my trial. I have no doubt that if I were attracted to males and felt no attraction to females, I would have left Mormonism LONG before now to follow my own bliss.

Anonymous said...

Your entire position on gay marriage is based wholly on the premise of a magical man telling you what to believe. There is no science, logic or reason behind it-- for if your magical man one day decides to change his mind, you all change your mind. It is as simple and twisted as that.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,

While I don't agree with everything you have said on this issue, my basic beliefs are similar to yours, and I admire your courage in speaking out. I got involved in a similar online discussion a while back, and I was amazed by the ferocity of the ad-hominem attacks. It turned me off so much that I rarely participate when the topic comes up.

Personally, I think your message would be even more effective if you focused less on the act of sodomy itself. Regardless, I disagree with the previous "Anonymous" who said your voice is not very convincing. You make important points based on sound reasoning and fundamental doctrine. People need to be exposed to perspectives like yours. Keep it up.

LDS Scriptures for the Modern Man said...

I really don't see what the big issue with same-sex marriage is in the first place, other than the obvious religious complications people seem to have with it. I know that a great many don't care, but here's my own; let live what must live. In the end, we are all human, correct? Even "God", whether he exists or not, in the Mormon culture started out as naught more but one of us; a mortal (or immortal alien, who knows) who made his/her/its way through life, bumbling and tumbling, until finally coming across, well, where he is today.