Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Proposition 8 from a Mormon Perspective (Part 2)

Just what is it that drives 2% of the California population to donate 40% of the money to annul my marriage?

Not satisfied with my prior post, I decided to look further and found the answer in scott's comment on this blog post).

Below are some highlights of the official Mormon teaching regarding same-gender attraction, according to two high-ranking officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a member of the Seventy.

Needless to say, I disagree with essentially every one of these beliefs. You decide.

[NOTE: comments in italics are those of the interviewer or my own providing context, and not those of the Church officials]

Is homosexuality innate?

homosexuality...is not a noun that describes a condition. It's an adjective that describes feelings or behavior.

homosexual feelings are controllable.

The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn't have a position on.

So are homosexuals just out of luck?

same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities.

There's really no question that there is an anguish associated with the inability to marry in this life. We feel for someone that has that anguish. I feel for somebody that has that anguish. But it's not limited to someone who has same-gender attraction....I happen to have a handicapped daughter...[who] will never marry in this life, yet she looks wistfully upon those who do....whatever the hindrances to our enjoying a fullness of joy here, we have the Lord's assurance for every one of us that those in due course will be removed. We just need to remain faithful.

Isn't homosexual about who you are, not what you are?

I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school.

Why does the Church care about civil marriage anyway? Isn't that just a private matter?

marriage is neither a matter of politics, nor is it a matter of social policy.

It really doesn't matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it's given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, "That is not right. That's not appropriate."

children deserve to be reared in a home with a father and a mother.

Do you see any irony in the fact that the Church is so publicly outspoken on this issue, when in the minds of so many people in the United States and around the world the Church is known for once supporting a very untraditional marriage arrangement — that is, polygamy?

I see irony in that if one views it without the belief that we affirm in divine revelation. The 19th century Mormons, including some of my ancestors, were not eager to practice plural marriage. They followed the example of Brigham Young, who expressed his profound negative feelings when he first had this principle revealed to him. The Mormons of the 19th century who practiced plural marriage, male and female, did so because they felt it was a duty put upon them by God....if you start with the assumption of continuing revelation, on which this Church is founded, then you can understand that there is no irony in this. But if you don't start with that assumption, you see a profound irony.

Here's some real irony: God apparently keeps changing his mind.

Mormons used to but no longer believe (thanks to divine revelation) in polygamy (abandoned in 1890), the inferiority of black people (abandoned in 1978 with the following immortal words: "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said [about Blacks and the priesthood]... We spoke with a limited understanding."), and the belief that God was once a person.

Mormons still believe that a "woman's primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband", that the dead can be baptized (including more than 300,000 Jewish holocaust victims), and that access to the Temple (including a Temple Marriage that lasts through all eternity) can be denied to those who do not give 10% of their income to the Church.

I can only hope that God will once again whisper into the ear of the Prophet (currently Thomas Monson) that He as changed His mind yet again on His views of gender role and sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, I guess we're stuck duking it out the old fashioned way: via the ballot box.


Reuven said...

There's a real danger to Proposition 8! It paves the way for polygamy!

Unknown said...


I will assume by your wickedly clever irony that you intend to equate the wackiness of the belief that Proposition 8 paves the way for polygamy to the (equally) wacky notion that it promotes the teaching of homosexuality in our public schools or to any of the unrelated slanders that the Yes on 8 campaign ads are implying. The Supreme Court has affirmed only the right of any two unmarried consenting adults to marry in California — and no other right. Voting no on Prop. 8 makes no further statement over and above this finding, so everyone else will have to fight their own battles on those unrelated issues.

Then again, on the off chance that some might have missed Reuven's subtle humor (or misconstrued my own), I guess I feel obligated to issue the following disclaimer making my own views absolutely clear:

I am no more anti-Morman than I am anti-Christian (which is to say I believe in neither religion). The only points of this post are that:

1) people who live in glass houses should not throw stones (and if they do, innocent people hit by them will throw them back)

2) people who promote invidious discrimination deserve to have their own wacky beliefs (which are otherwise none of my business) held up to public ridicule

3) people whose religious dogma keeps evolving over time, especially in response to political or social evolution, have even less credibility in claiming to speak for a Higher Power

4) There is nothing wrong with believing in seer stones (or the tooth fairy), but there is something very wrong with writing discrimination into our state Constitution.

Who knew that the simple act of publicly committing myself to spending the rest of my life with the one that I love would be so subversive!

Unknown said...

Ever heard of Moses? You know, that guy God talked to. He was a prophet, capable of receiving revelation for the church. Do you think, in 40 years in the wilderness, God never adjusted His commandments(even for the sake of His people)?
If you don't believe in continuing revelation (modern revelation), then of course our beliefs seem strange.
Please don't slander things you don't understand.

Unknown said...

Thank you Nathan for your comment.

Yes, I have read of Moses. Voices spoke to him and he wrote down what they said. I thin when you're herding a tired, unruly mob longing for the slavery of home over dying in a desert, it propably helps to claim divine provenance for your commands.

Moses of course had nothing on President Spencer W. Kimball, who as you well know had this revelation in 1978 that God was in fact not a racist after all.

He was actually in luck. Since no Christian churches believes in continuing revelation after Jesus (and even the muslims stopped after Mohammed), they would all just have to come out and say, well that they were wrong. So I guess it is natural why you might think your beliefs would seem strange to me.

But you would be wrong. The God stuff (and eternal marriage and the Lucifer/Jesus thing) doesn't bother me at all (after all, I love Greek mythology and watched Superfriends as a child).

What does bother me greatly (but in which I have no standing to protest) is the rigid gender role division enforced by means of "homemaker evenings" and male-only "elder quorums". But I guess if the participants do not mind, who am I to butt into their private lives.

When the Mormon church slanders my same-sex marriage by saying it is less valid than that of opposite-sex marriage, then I do have standing to respond. That shows a willful ignorance of human sexuality and our State Constitution.

Slander is a very powerful accusation. Please tell me which sentence in my blog is factually incorrect, and I will correct it. I assume that at least Joseph Smith's use of seer stones was historically accurate? Keep them safe. The current Prophet will need them to update your beliefs once society gets comfortable enough with gays that God sees fit to let you in on the new master plan. Again.

Scott B. said...

Am I allowed to comment here?

Despite Nathan's cheeky comment, and your cheekier response, you didn't actually address his question: Why is Moses (or other Old Testament prophets) immune to the criticism of changing policies? If you know your Bible as well as I think you do, you'll find that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were not the first people to say one thing one day, and another thing another day.

Not defending the topics of criticism (God was a man, polygamy, etc...)--just saying your basis is unwarranted in view of all of Judaism/Christianity.

Unknown said...


Of course you are allowed to comment here. This is a censorship-free zone.

Actually, I did address Nathan's questions:

Ever heard of Moses?


Do you think, in 40 years in the wilderness, God never adjusted His commandments

God never gave any commandments, but assuming there is a God and he did give commandments, it is not God-like to change them. That's what gave power to the ubiquitous Biblical phrase: "it is written". To the Jews, that had a powerful, eternal, and immutable ring to it, the anchor on which a minority people survived millenia of oppression in a diaspora.

(even for the sake of His people)?

No. I think if truth cannot be said to protect the listener, nothing should be said. It seems reasonable that a God would think this too. Being caught in a lie, or changing your mind without new evidence (and let's stipulate that God knows all evidence, even in advance), causes more damage to the listener's faith than being kept in the dark.

Outlawing slavery was contemplated by the Constitution Founders (and had a majority vote), but would have split the Union, so the difference was split 3/5 to 2/5. One truth was more important than another.

Is God's truth really as venal as man's? I vote no.

As for an "unwarranted basis", my addressing myself to Mormons says nothing about what I would say to Catholics, Baptists, or Zoroastrians. As to why I choose to address Mormons: they donated per-capita most of the money, Catholics are more-or-less evenly divided on the issue (and in any case do not respond well to orders from Rome anyway, unlike apparently many Mormons do from SLC), Baptists do not believe in intelligent debate (God said it, I believe it, that settles it), and I don't even know how Zoroastrians think of gay marriage. As for (American) Jews, a substantial majority oppose Prop 8, so they are off the hook.

Also, the era is important to the context. Moses lived 3400 years ago, when slaves, wives, and children were owned by men. Moses improved the ethics of his people with his laws. 1978 in constrast was a bit late to decide about Black people. Shouldn't God have at least predated LBJ, or was LBJ more of a prophet?

We are all charged with making this world better than we left it. When your gay grandchildren ask how you voted, what do you plan to tell them? That "God wasn't ready" back then to stop picking on them?

One last theological question: if you are in a Temple Marriage, does your homosexuality just disappear in the next life? What if it doesn't? Isn't eternity a long time to be in a sexless marriage? What about her? Is she stuck with you? Sounds more like hell than heaven to me. I guess Eternal Marriage really is the triumph of hope over experience.

Scott B. said...

"... assuming there is a God and he did give commandments,it is not God-like to change them."

Oh please. Even the story of Moses debunks that. God gave Moses a higher law...Moses walked down the hill, saw the people in bad form, and the law was taken away. The people got the 10 commandments instead of the higher law.

I think what we're disagreeing about here is the difference between "changing" a commandment and "withholding" a commandment...the whole "Law of Moses" was a School Master for the higher law...honestly...I'm not in the mood for Sunday School; it's not even Sunday.

Re your last question about homosexuality in the eternities...Do homosexual desires exist in the next life? I hereby promise to write you a letter as soon as I've died and can ask someone.

It's not the attacks on Mormonism that irk Mormons--well, that's not always true, but for the moment we'll pretend it is--it's the use of unrelated attacks that is so obnoxious.

Stick with polygamy; stick with blacks and the priesthood; stick with the ERA; you can legitimately (but incorrectly, in my very educated and always-correct opinion) relate those things to the topic at hand. But honestly, Dan...what on earth does the Adam-God theory have to do with...uhh...anything? And the belief that God was once a mortal man? C'mon.

Make your case on the merits of the case itself. Anything less than that is below you.

Unknown said...

You are right to point out that the recanted personal beliefs of LDS founders is not relevant. I had included it only to forstall confusion about changing revelation and changing personal belief. Still, it was prejudicial and I have deleted the offending paragraph from the blog entry.

As for "withholding" commandments, what is the morality in letting slaves languish in bondage because God didn't think the slaveholders were ready to give up their slaves? Sounds like a feckless God to me. The Old Testament prophets were constantly shouting to the wind proclaiming the truth to an obstinate people, and yet God chooses to be prudent?

As for what irks Mormons, I cannot say. What irks gays is to be treated like second-class people.

Scott B. said...

"As for what irks..." Lofted you a softball, and you hit it out of the park. I should have known better than to attempt lame martyrism

Withholding commandments--I said nothing about the rightness or wrongness of God doing so--my point was just that Joseph Smith and the following Prophets have not been quite as out-of-harmony with Jewish-Christian prophets (in terms of changing policy) as they are often construed.