Will the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ever support or allow same-sex marriage?
Despite the rampant assertions of patriarchy and sexism, Latter Day Saints bear the unique distinction of being the only mainstream Christian religion that believes in a God and a Goddess. If you read the Proclamation on the Family, which is an official piece of doctrinal material released in 1995, the official position of the LDS Church is that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.
This is not such a unique view when you get into more Eastern religious philosophies. Ancient Chinese paintings in the tomb of Fan Yen Shih depicted a God holding a square and a Goddess holding a compass entwined together.
The ancient Egyptians had a King and Queen deity, Osiris and Isis. Even certain sects of Jews held the belief that a goddess accompanied God, at least as an aspect of God, called the Shekhina. The late Leonard Nimoy did a photography project about the divine feminine and described his first exposure to the idea of the Shekhina at an Orthodox synagogue in his youth. (The “live long and prosper” sign of the Vulcans was Nimoy’s suggestion, it was the sign he had seen the rabbis do during synagogue for the Shekhina.)
Why a man and a woman? The answer to this is also in the Proclamation on the Family: gender is an eternal characteristic. Latter Day Saints also believe that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are the Father and Mother of the spirit of every human being. So in Latter Day Saints’ belief system, it is that union between the male and female that is the source of all creation. Other unions may be ordained by earthly institutions or by people, but only a sealing of a man and a woman can create life in the world to come. Based on these beliefs, I don’t think that same-sex marriage will ever be sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
There are a lot of people who don’t agree with this belief system. But that is the great thing about living in a country that allows free speech and free thought. If the Latter Day Saint view of God and marriage doesn’t fit for some people, they can choose another religious or social group that does fit. Diversity doesn’t mean that we all change to a different viewpoint and tolerance doesn’t mean that others conform to our thinking. Diversity means that we allow a lot of different viewpoints and tolerance means that we learn to peacefully co-exist with people whose views may differ from our own.
What about the LDS Church’s ban on blessing and baptizing the children of same-sex couples?
Um, why would it be ok for total strangers or your neighbors or extended family to teach your child values you disagree with and then make them a part of their organization without the parents’ consent? Why would that be OK? It’s inappropriate for schools to promote a particular lifestyle or family type and it’s inappropriate for religions to bless and baptize minor children against their parents’ wishes.
The LDS Church has placed restrictions on proselyting and baptizing people in other circumstances such as Muslims in certain areas of the world and certain countries like Israel and mainland China. In Russia, LDS missionaries have to comply with certain legal requirements about what they can do and who they can work with. Latter Day Saints may only perform baptisms for the dead and temple work for Jews who are their ancestors. To effectively navigate a world of social, political and legal complexities, the LDS Church sometimes puts restrictions on how and when missionary work can be carried out.
Josh Weed’s assertion that the Church may refuse to baptize his youngest two daughters may or may not be entirely accurate since their mother still has legal rights—unless she relinquishes custody— and could be a party to deciding (along with Josh) whether their daughters should be baptized. If Josh and his ex-wife are both in favor of their daughter being baptized, it may be a non-issue, especially if their children are members of a ward with one or more active parents. The policy is more about ensuring overzealous families or neighbors don't interfere with the parental rights of same-sex couples over their children (adopted or conceived through surrogacy or sperm donation) than barring Josh Weed’s daughters from baptism if he is in favor of it. These cases are to be decided on a case-by-case basis by local leadership. In the event that local leadership is uncertain about baptizing any of Josh Weed’s children, he and his ex-wife could likely present their case to General Authorities by writing to them and asking for their wishes to be carried out.
I have a son with spina bifida. It does have a major impact on his life and the things he can do. Some day, whether in this life or the next, I hope that he will have a body that allows him to run and jump and be free from a VP shunt. But at the same time, his condition is a part of who he is, and I am proud to have a son who handles his challenges with a great attitude. If he wants something, he just goes after it and doesn’t think too much about his condition holding him back from what he wants. He brightens people’s day when they see him in his wheelchair or walker with a smile on his face. In some way, I think this experience is part of his contract for his mortal life and mine, something he needs to learn from and something he can teach others, including me. I would not trade the experience of having a child with spina bifida for anything. It has blessed my life and helped me see the world as a more beautiful place. I would suggest that everyone, whatever side of the debate they fall on, come to that place where they can be proud of something that is hard or different and embrace the fact that somethings are not meant to be changed in this life, but rather learned from.
The LDS Church’s refusal to allow same-sex marriage is emotionally damaging
People can be awful when others don’t conform to their worldview. That’s everybody, not just Latter Day Saints. Much has been said about suicide among Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction. Pulling from some of my public health studies, we could look at the issue of emotional harm as a quality of life issue. In the context of same-sex attraction in the LDS Church, many have asserted that the lack of support for people with same-sex attraction leads many Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction to feel deeply depressed and suicidal. In a bioethics setting, feelings of depression and suicide are criteria we look at when we evaluate how we should approach a case where there is the potential for suffering, such as a seriously disabling or terminal condition.
The problem with blanket statements and criteria for any quality of life issue is that everyone reacts differently. Faced with quadriplegia, some individuals opt for physician assisted suicide, citing the inability to do most things they enjoy while others continue to live life adapting as needed and pursue careers or higher education. Some people faced with terminal cancer choose physician assisted suicide, citing pain and loss of abilities and the pain of family members in watching a slow death. Others opt for hospice care.
The large numbers of Latter Day Saints who suffer from depression and suicidal feelings should be deeply concerning to all Church members, though this should hold true for Latter Day Saints who have depression or feel suicidal who don’t have same-sex attraction. (And for anyone who isn't LDS. OK, basically anybody who is feeling seriously depressed and suicidal, we should be concerned about.) Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction have a specific set of needs to be addressed. This is part of bearing one another’s burdens and living in a consecrated manner where we are prepared to live with God among us.
I do think that people on both sides of the debate need greater tolerance for others and their decisions. If an individual chooses to live a life that involves same-sex sexual activity, it is not our business to change the other person’s behavior. Only they can make that decision. My first responsibility is not to influence how others act or what they choose, but rather to govern myself in a godly manner. On the other side, proponents of gay marriage need to be tolerant of the choices that others with same-sex attraction might choose. If someone with same-sex attraction chooses celibacy or marriage to a person of the opposite sex, that is their decision and it should be respected.
An interesting parallel to this (in my opinion) is couples with infertility. We are often presented with a vision of the family that involves a husband and wife (who are both active in church) and have several children. For couples who can not conceive, it can be extremely difficult to “fit in” to a family oriented organization like the LDS Church. Couples who do not have children are frequently judged and stigmatized for their status of childlessness. Every couple’s story resolves differently. Some spontaneously conceive after a while, some adopt, some undergo fertility treatments and some never end up having any children of their own.
A second cousin from my family and her husband struggled for years with infertility. They tried for adoption, but their prayers were not answered with a “yes” and they continued to remain childless- at least in the legal sense- despite their righteous desires and dreams of a family Eventually, the wife was called to a prominent position in the Young Women’s organization and served as a mentor to many girls maturing to adulthood. Their home became a place where children from all over the neighborhood come and visit.
Their prayers were not answered in the way they anticipated, but this couple was given a chance to fulfill a parenting role. Why were they not blessed with biological or adoptive children of their own? I don’t know. I do know that God knows their hearts and their circumstances and I need to work on living my own life worthily first. I think that people with same-sex attraction (members or non-members) will have less depression and suicide if they have the lack of judgement from people both in and out of the Church to choose their own path.
Should the LDS Church fight same-sex marriage?
I think this is a matter of personal opinion. However, the bigger question for everyone on both sides is “How do you handle it when someone has a viewpoint opposite of yours?” Do you use name calling, shunning, shaming or even vandalism? Or, do you understand that not everyone has to agree with your view and respectfully disagree? I think that the Eleventh Article Of Faith applies here: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
When it comes to marriages, Latter Day Saints and same sex marriage proponents actually have quite a bit to learn from each other. In the 1858, the American government sent armed soldiers into Utah to deal with— among other things— polygamy. Church leaders who practiced polygamy were jailed. Some left to set up colonies in Mexico where they could practice this part of their religion without persecution. Latter Day Saints should treat those with differing views on marriage as they wish their ancestors or early Church leaders had been treated. And those who have deeply held convictions in favor of same-sex marriage should be willing to stand by those convictions without the approval of others.
What if it were your child?
In my opinion, this is the worst argument both ethically and emotionally for supporting same-sex marriage— or other issues for that matter. Ethically, I don’t believe it is right to decide our moral viewpoint based on our children’s characteristics or choices. I see a lot of potential problems within this point of view. I have seen people defend things like child molestation and adultery because it was their son or daughter who was doing it. I think that how a person feels about same-sex marriage should be determined by their beliefs about same-sex attraction and marriage.
But an even bigger reason not to link your love for your child to your stance on a political or social issue is that it doesn’t send the right message to the child. As parents, our responsibility to our children is to love them no matter what. (Note: Love does not equal approval and love does not equal indulgence.) If your child decides to get married to a person of the same sex, the response should never be, “That’s ok, because I love you.” The response should simply be, “I love you”— no matter what you think about same-sex marriage. I think our kids need to know that they are loved whether we agree with their choices or not.