My mind has been weighed down for the past few days after the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. From one side of the issue I have seen celebration while the other has given warnings of danger to the American democratic process. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints but also a citizen of the United States, I find myself in a peculiar position with an unorthodox opinion. I have refrained from sharing my perspective on social media, for fear of more ridicule and scorn from my fellow church members, which I received a lot of earlier this year from my blog posts and contributed to me swinging precariously close to a nervous breakdown.
I want to make my opinion clear, and I will do that in the form of an open letter. This is just my opinion, you are free to your own. I must emphasize that this is not the official doctrine of the church nor do I make a pretension to that claim. This is how I view the world within the context of doctrine. But I had to get this off of my chest.
To whom it may concern,
June 26th of this year will be considered one of the key historic moments of our decade. For some it was a day of great celebration, for others a day of mourning. For some it was a triumph of the greatest of American values, liberty and equality, for others it was a day where those same values seemed to have died.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am active. I have served a full time mission, have worked as a counselor for the churches Especially For Youth program and hold an current temple recommend. And I am conflicted.
I am conflicted because my stance on the issue of gay marriage is wrong to both sides of the issue. I feel like I exist in a middle ground, where both sides level the same amount of hatred at me, whether they realize it or not. I wish to explain where I stand right now as a young man. Perhaps my views will change over time, perhaps not, but this is where I find myself right now.
Prophets of God have revealed the eternal nature of the family. The most definitive statement on this issue is the 1995 “Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Oftentimes, gay rights activists will point at the inherent silence on the issues of homosexuality in the Bible. Indeed, besides a few oblique references in Leviticus and writings of Paul, the Biblical record does not address this issue. Notably it is not found anywhere in the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we are going off of the Bible, no Christian religion can completely prove their stance without seeming hypocritical for avoiding other minor scriptures in the Bible.
This is why we need modern-day prophets. An old saying goes: “‘Adam’s revelations didn’t help Noah build an ark.” The Bible may be nearly silent on the issue of homosexuality, and thus God in his infinite wisdom has decided to give us modern prophets and seers who speak with the same authority as the ancient patriarchs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is founded on this concept. In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith received a visitation from the Father and the Son and was told that no churches were true at the time. He was called to be the prophet of the restored church of Jesus Christ, following in the steps of the illustrious Biblical prophets. Joseph Smith received the keys to act and speak in the name of God, and these keys have perpetuated in the church. When Joseph Smith was martyred in 1844, the keys were passed to Brigham Young and followed down through the decades to our day, when the modern prophet speaks for God himself.
In 1995, one of these prophets, named Gordon B. Hinckley, received a revelation from God discussing the family. In this revelation, since known as “The Family: A Proclamation To The World”, God’s doctrine on the sanctity of the family is spelled out. In forceful, yet simple language, the Creator of the universe gives us this statement through his living apostles and seers:
WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
This doctrine is profound and unquestionable. Any Latter Day Saint who believes that marriage between the same gender is ordained of God has been diluted and pushed in the wrong direction. Any discussion about whether the church will eventually allow same-gender marriages to be performed in the temple is a fruitless exercise in speculation. The doctrine is clear. Marriage is between a man and a woman.
However bold this doctrine may seem, no true follower of Jesus Christ would use it to state that any human being is lesser or inferior due to the doctrine. In an equally bold statement, apostle D. Todd Christofferson taught:
To declare the fundamental truths relative to marriage and family is not to overlook or diminish the sacrifices and successes of those for whom the ideal is not a present reality. Some of you are denied the blessing of marriage for reasons including a lack of viable prospects, same-sex attraction, physical or mental impairments, or simply a fear of failure that, for the moment at least, overshadows faith. Or you may have married, but that marriage ended, and you are left to manage alone what two together can barely sustain. Some of you who are married cannot bear children despite overwhelming desires and pleading prayers.
Even so, everyone has gifts; everyone has talents; everyone can contribute to the unfolding of the divine plan in each generation. Much that is good, much that is essential—even sometimes all that is necessary for now—can be achieved in less than ideal circumstances. So many of you are doing your very best. And when you who bear the heaviest burdens of mortality stand up in defense of God’s plan to exalt His children, we are all ready to march. With confidence we testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has anticipated and, in the end, will compensate all deprivation and loss for those who turn to Him. No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children.
The church of Christ is for everyone. God does not make mistakes.
But what is to be done about the issue of same sex marriage? Should it be legal? This is where I feel the need to share my opinion.
In my understanding, I do not feel justified in forcing civil law to conform to my religious beliefs, for the simple reason that everybody in this country has not chosen to follow my religious beliefs and should not be forced to do so by any civil law. If a person is a member of the church, they have no excuse to enter a same sex marriage. However, if they wish to enter into this relationship and they have not joined our church, they have chosen to not live by our standards. Of course, I wish that everybody would make the covenants necessary to join our church, but seeing as not everybody has done so, their freedom to exercise their free agency should not be restricted by civil laws. The consequences of their actions will come in the eternities, but while here on Earth, all human beings should have the same right to live how they want and reap the positive or negative repercussions of those actions.
In the early period of church history this doctrine was taught by Joseph Smith. In two particular instances he made claims to this nature. First was in the Article of Faith, a guideline to the standard beliefs of our church:
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.
The second was made in a section of scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants:
We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.
We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.
With these two statements in mind, it is my opinion that the United States government acted justly in the ruling of this week and in fact followed the moral imperative to give all people rights. In the confines of religious government they may lose priveleges, but in the general civil law, all people should be free to exercise their own rule irrespective of what religion they belong to as long as their will does not harm or restrict the freedom of others.
All government leaders must take this into consideration. A quest for equal rights must not trample on the rights of others. Tolerance is a two way street. It is wrong for anybody to discriminate based off of sexual orientation, just as it is wrong to discriminate based off of religious preference. Government officials must make sure that religions have the right to operate in their accordance to the doctrine and laws that they believe inspired of God. In considering this, it is important to avoid using a slippery slope fallacy. We must evaluate each law and ruling based off of its merit.
Similarly, religious people are under the obligation to live to the highest standard of Christlike love in confronting the challenges of the world today. This specifically applies to Latter Day Saints who are under covenant obligation to bear “one another’s burdens”, this promise extending to all mankind. Members must be aware that they are surrounded by other church members who experience homosexual or bisexual tendencies and must understand that messages that are not meant to be hurtful may in fact cause severe psychological damages. It may be frustrating to live more concerned for others, but this is part of the call to be Christ’s disciples. Christians must live to a higher standard.
For all new homosexual families, I would challenge you to read The Family: A Proclamation To The World. While you may not agree with some of the teachings in it, many of the teachings are universally applicable and can help any two people who are embarking on the adventure of married life. We value your happiness, and happiness can best be founded on good family principles.