Last month, the blog Millennial Mormons posted an article about gay marriage that caused quite a comment firestorm. They then posted a follow-up article (that can be read in its original form and entirety here) by a different author. While I appreciate the attempts of both articles, and don’t think either was motivated by any sort of malice or even ambivalence, I found some serious and severe issues with the second article. The only way I know how to do the article justice is by responding paragraph by paragraph. The article in its entirety appears below in italics, while my responses are in bolded text. I have modified some of the formatting. Because this is essentially two blog posts, it is super-duper long. Some of my comments can stand alone, but some will make a lot more sense if you read them in the context of the paragraph they are responding to.
All of this is somewhat influenced by my surprise at reading an article entitled “the Church loves gay people, and so does Jesus Christ” that included only one example of evidence as to how the Church “loves” gay people. Before I get into the actual responses, I’m going to talk a little bit about love and hate.
1. an intense feeling of deep affection.
“Babies fill parents with of love.”
Synonyms: deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment.
1. to feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone).
“The boys hate each other.”
Synonyms: loathe, detest, despise, dislike, abhor, execrate.
Here is my main contention: to love someone or a group of people one must display “an intense feeling of deep affection.” To hate them, one must display “an intense or passionate dislike.” The Church has referred to the gay community, gay activists, and gay people as adversaries and perverted and warned that their activism will bring about calamities and the very destruction of society as we know it. In recent years, Apostles have been coupling their strident rhetoric against gay marriage with a reminder to be civil and respectful even with people we disagree with. Very rarely has it been acknowledged that there are hundreds of thousands of members of the Church who are same-sex attracted or identify as gay or lesbian. Yes, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS—2% of 15 million is 300,000. You could fill at least ninety-eight Conference Centers with gay members of the Church and still not have enough room.
So ask yourself, as you read through this post, if you can think of statements, actions, and rhetoric from the Church towards these thousands of our brothers and sisters that display an intense feeling of deep affection. If you can’t, ask yourself what that would look like. What does love mean to you? Have you see that from the Church towards gay people?
If you’re pro-gay marriage and our posts make you angry, please remember that we are human just like you are, and we have no desire to hurt you. You can call us wrong, and that’s ok. Whether or not your believe us, I can tell you that we love people regardless of beliefs.
We posted an article about gay marriage the other day. The number of comments, both positive and negative, that we received in response were overwhelming. With the high number of negative comments in mind, I want to make a few things clear.
The church does not “hate gay people”.
First of all, the church is made up of it’s members. So to say that an organization hates any large group of people is a bit ridiculous. I don’t doubt that there are some less-than-Christ-like members of the church who harbor negative feelings toward gay people. I am not one of those people – some of my best friends are gay. Regardless of whether they’re faithful church members, they’re great people and I love them.
First of all, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a hierarchal organization that we Mormons believe is led by a Prophet and Apostles who speak for God on the earth. If the Church was just the sum of its members, we would be a democracy, which we clearly are not. This institution has a PR department, a legal department, and an HR department—it has procedures, guidelines, and rules, not to mention the doctrine and policies it receives and reveals. Hate is an emotionally-loaded and vague word. But, it is entirely plausible to say that an organization or institution can have policies or take actions that are detrimental, harmful, or even hateful towards individuals or groups.This is to say nothing of the countless members of the Church whose opinions on members of the queer/same-sex attracted (SSA) community range from ignorant to downright revulsion (if you don’t believe me, spend fifteen seconds in the comments section of any Deseret News, LDS Living, or Meridian Magazine article on the topic). Or of the hundreds of families in Utah who have disowned and made homeless their own queer children—abandoning them to the streets.
While I will not say that the Church “hates gay people,” a false negative does not make a positive. The Church of JESUS CHRIST should LOVE everyone. Clearly the Church as an institution has had past failings in its ignorance of, approach to, and treatment towards gay people, and the Church as a body of believers has a long way to go in being kind and loving to those that are different.
The final problem with this paragraph is the tokenizing of “gay people”. Just because you have a gay friend, a black friend, or a Mormon friend does not mean you are free of prejudice or ignorance or an expert on any minority group.
We don’t hate you for your beliefs, so please don’t hate us for ours.
Hold the phone. We don’t hate you for your beliefs. Really. Truly. Honestly. I don’t hate you. Period.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that we came to Earth to be tested, and that we’ll all face temptations that we must overcome in order to return to our Heavenly Father. Every single member of the church is tempted by things. If I went to my bishop and said I wanted to start smoking Marijuana because I think it would really help my anxiety, he would not be OK with that, and neither would the Lord. That would not mean, however, that my bishop hates me. It simply means that he has my best interests at heart and is aware of the importance of keeping the commandments in this life. If large numbers of the church wanted to start drinking wine at social functions because it would give them a bit more of a buzz, again – church leaders wouldn’t be ok with that. It’s not a matter of love or hate – it’s simply a matter of obedience and commandments.
This paragraph, where to begin?
It is not appropriate to compare being attracted to someone to deciding on a whim to smoke marijuana or drink wine. On a scale of 1 to 10, the appropriateness level is 0. You know what you could compare being attracted to someone to? Being attracted to someone. The idea of comparing homosexuality to alcoholism or drug use is old and tired (full disclosure, I used to use these exact metaphors as a teenager). They are based on the reduction of same-sex attraction to a solely lustful and physical experience. Being gay or lesbian or same-sex attracted means you’re attracted to members of the same sex. Not just penises. Or abs. Or boobs. Or butts. I’m attracted to people. Men. Men with souls and hopes and dreams. Men that want to be fathers. Men with beautiful eyes. Men with infectious smiles. Men whose company inspires me to be more selfless and loving and patient. How similar is that to wanting to smoke marijuana? Zero percent similar.
The Church is free to receive any and every revelation from God it claims to, and it is free to enforce those standards for its members. And you are free to agree and believe them as you see fit. But you’re not free to misrepresent, misconstrue, and spread misinformation in the process. So please stop comparing being attracted to someone of the same gender as something either on the same level as or similar to drug or alcohol consumption or addiction. I’ve never done drugs or drank, but I bet you anyone who has and is also gay, lesbian, or same-sex attracted can assure you they’re not the same type of thing. Sex addiction is real, promiscuity is real, and those are things that afflict both the homosexual and heterosexual populations. But same-sex attraction is not like a “temptation” to drink. Period. End of story.
In 2009, Salt Lake City became the first city in Utah to offer housing and employment protection for gays and lesbians – an action supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Read more here.) The church openly supported the rights of gays and lesbians to not be discriminated against financially or in terms of housing or employment because of their sexuality. So whether or not you agree with their stance on marriage, you can quite clearly see that the church does not “hate gay people” – it is simply defending our beliefs.
I personally am very grateful that the Church lent its support to the non-discrimination ordinance in Salt Lake City. To say, however, that this is evidence that the Church doesn’t “hate gay people” is a little silly. What’s important to note here is that the Church didn’t lead on this issue. People from the queer community had to negotiate and haggle with them to get their support—a simple stamp of approval for a single city where the Church is headquartered. When similar ordinances were discussed in any other city in the state, or for the statewide ordinance that has been introduced year after year in the Utah legislature, the Church was conspicuously silent. A one-time, begrudging stamp of approval does not erase an entire history of animosity.
The “Mormon” church defends traditional marriage because we believe in the doctrine of the family.
That’s really all I have to say about that point. Whether you hate us or not for it, we’re just defending our beliefs because we want societies to be as happy and flourishing as they can be. Of course we aren’t perfect, but we should still strive for ideals.
Defend. Traditional. Doctrine of the Family. Let’s look at these three terms.
The only impact same-sex marriage has on “traditional” marriage is that it decreases the likelihood that closeted gay men and women will marry opposite-sex spouses to fulfil what they see as a religious commandment—marriages that have failure rates as high as 80% that lead to broken homes and broken hearts. That right there is reason enough to support same-sex marriage; it quite literally will strengthen “traditional” marriages by making it less likely that a small but specific segment of the population will be getting divorces.
Other than that, same-sex marriage has no impact on “traditional” marriages and families. But there are dozens of other things that do have direct implications: teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births for adult women, poverty and joblessness among men, education levels of men and women, etc. Think for a minute about if the Church put as much effort and resources into mobilizing its members to combat any of these other issues. The positive impact could be really consequential.
So, defending is not really the word you want to use here. More like distracting from strengthening.
- Traditional Marriage
This one is easy. Let’s take all of scripturedom from 7,000 years ago until just now. The only times that heterosexual, non-incestual, monogamous marriage (what the Church currently calls “traditional”) was the norm of recorded scripture are 1890–present (124 years), parts of the New Testament (~100 years), and parts of the Book of Mormon (~900 years that don’t overlap with the NT). Altogether, that’s 1124 years out of 7,000 years of history. That’s 16%, if I’m being generous. Let’s count the ways that 16% of history, most of it relatively recent, count as “traditional”: zero ways. If you want to get really specific, our model for and concept of marriage, family, and all their appendages essentially comes from mid-century American norms. To call that traditional is irony in the utmost. Aberration is the word you’re looking for here.
- Doctrine of the Family
I covered most of this in the preceding paragraph, but what is exactly our “doctrine of the family”? Since 1995, it’s been semi-officially that we claim that monogamous, heterosexual marriage to be ordained of God. And, anything outside of these bounds is amongst the gravest of sins and cause for excommunication from the Church. The other 90% of scriptural history is rife with everyone from normal peasants to prophets doing things that would currently get them excommunicated from Church by not obeying the “doctrine of the family.” It’s totally fine to say this is the current doctrine of the family, but don’t pretend it hasn’t changed or is immune to external social pressures.
Same-sex marriage may have dramatic consequences on our religious freedom.
A popular argument among gay marriage advocates is that gay marriage won’t affect anyone but those getting married. I believe this is false. Once gay marriage is legalized, there’s every chance that a legal battle against the church will begin. People may demand that the church marry gay couples in our chapels – then temples. Temples will be shut down before the Lord allows that to happen. The church may be forced to comply or lose its tax-exempt status. THAT is why we aren’t “mixing church and state” – we’re trying to DEFEND what the founding fathers believed about not mixing church and state.
(^ These are my own speculations.)
We aren’t trying to force anyone not to be gay.
I’m glad you clarified that these are merely speculations. Because they are 100% demonstrably false. Let’s look at a list of countries that have already legalized gay marriage:
Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), Denmark (2012), Brazil (2013), France (2013), Uruguay (2013), New Zealand (2013), most of Mexico (2013) and England & Wales (2014).
These seventeen countries house a lot of temples.
Netherlands (1), Spain (1), Canada (8), South Africa (1), Sweden (1), Portugal (1), Argentina (2), Denmark (1), Brazil (8), France (1), Uruguay (1), New Zealand (1), most of Mexico (14) and England & Wales (2) including a few under construction. For a grand total of forty-three temples by my count, or roughly 27% of the operating or under construction temples worldwide.
Combined, these countries have roughly seventy-five years of gay marriage history.
Let us count how many of these countries (ALL of which have fewer and weaker religious liberty rights than the US, and some of whom have official state religions) have forced or attempted to force LDS clergy to officiate same-sex weddings, meeting houses to be used for said weddings, or for same-sex weddings to happen in temples.
Zero countries. Literally zero.
I could get into the assertion of “that is why we aren’t mixing church and state.”
So I will.
The reason the legal arguments failed to prevent same-sex marriage from happening in the US (which enjoys the strongest religious protections in the world of which I know), is because (wait for it) the legal arguments failed. Literally dozens of states came up with dozens of separate legal briefs, opinions, and state constitutional amendments, and dozens of private organizations submitted amicus briefs. They all lost. Why? Because religions and churches are free to define whatever they want to define however they claim God sees fit. But as soon as they want to coerce society into using their definitions and codes of behavior, they need to provide arguments based on fact, logic, reason, research, and science—not faith and belief. Very few of the arguments against same-sex marriage are anything other than window dressings for the but-God-said-so-a-long-time-ago-so-this-is-how-society-should-be argument.
This paragraph is awash in double speak. “We’re afraid that the government will not let our Church practice our religion by forcing the State to accept our definitions and apply them to all of society because we are trying to defend the separation of Church and State that we are ostensibly seeking to usurp.”
Like what actually even?
It sucks for us too.
Trust me when I say that I have every sympathy for gay people wanting to get married who are unable to. Too often in the gay marriage debate, we forget WHY each side is fighting for what they’re fighting for. It’s obvious why gay people would want marriage legalized – I am 100% certain that if I were not a member of the church who believed in the scriptures and the commandments and the power of modern-day prophets, I would believe that too. The church doesn’t want to make people miserable. (Return to that housing issue earlier – we fight for right, regardless of who is relates to.) We just want to stand up for what we believe are eternal truths. We aren’t forcing anyone to not be gay. We aren’t forcing people to do anything, really. We are just asking that marriage be preserved as between a man and a woman. (Especially because we may be forced to do things when gay marriage is legalized.)
Just like we probably won’t change your beliefs, ours will not be changed. So there’s no point fighting and hating each other.
Has a man ever come into your church with a shotgun threatening to shoot you? Have you gone through “therapy” to rid yourself of your testimony? Have you ever been electrocuted to get you to stop believing what the Spirit has confirmed to you? Have you forced yourself to throw up every time you have a spiritual experience to get them to stop? Have you been disowned and kicked out of your house for telling your parents you’re Mormon? Have you been raped because of your membership in the Church? Have you been beaten to death for your belief in the Book of Mormon? Because those things have happened to gay people and continue to happen to gay people. Those are things that suck.
There is a huge difference between standing up for what you believe in and encouraging your members (who believe you have divine revelation from God) to pour millions of dollars into a campaign to actively preserve a legal statute that discriminates against them.
Standing up for what you believe in would look like posting your beliefs on Facebook, not attending the wedding of your gay best friends, or voicing your opinion in a discussion at school or amongst a group of friends.
Actively trying to preserve or change a law (on either side) is not voicing your beliefs, it’s activism. The queer community owns its activism. They are proud to be known to fight for what they see as their rights, privileges, and obligations. People who oppose them are just as much activists and shouldn’t be hiding behind the façade of saying they’re just voicing their opinions.
Finally, it would be accurate to say that the Church is no longer forcing anyone not to be gay. But it used to. “Being gay” (meaning you told your Bishop you’re attracted to the same sex) got many people excommunicated back in the day. BYU’s President Wilkinson once gave a speech telling all the gays at BYU to leave immediately. Students at BYU underwent electro-shock therapy to cure them of their gayness so they could continue going to school. Not to mention all of the passive-aggression from countless books, Conference talks, and Ensign articles. The Church is (or was until last Monday) trying to force people not to be able to get married to a same-sex partner.
I am fairly certain gay marriage will soon be legal everywhere. We were taught last General Conference that some things that aren’t pleasing to the Lord will become legal, and we will have to endure them. Let’s just all remember that we’re all human beings with feelings, and we are more than our differing beliefs. Let’s not think that we can’t work together to make the world a better place – to end homelessness, to make those who feel alone feel loved, and to do the whole host of things that we’re probably failing to do.
John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
Yes, we all have feelings, even queer people. I personally would much rather spend my time and energy working to alleviate the objectively vast and varied problems of the world—instead of wondering if I’ll be able to find love, to adopt and raise children, and to have spousal benefits that help me sleep at night.
And trust me when I say that I wish this wasn’t an issue. It’s exhausting and so painful for both sides. But it has to be one for as long as I believe in defending my religion.
It really doesn’t.
You could say “Hey I believe that God wants me to marry someone of the opposite sex and have children and raise them in the Gospel. But I also recognize that is not a valid reason to deny someone the same legal benefits I enjoy from the government under which I reside. I will defend my church’s right to practice and preach as it sees fit, but I won’t use my beliefs to actively try to harm other people by denying them benefits and legal protection. And I will show people whose beliefs and behavior don’t conform with mine love by genuinely being interested in their life, helping them when they’re in need, sharing my deeply held beliefs with them, offering counsel and advice when they want it, and hoping they do the same for me. I can recognize that a diversity of beliefs and experiences can enrich not only my life but other’s live as well—and those beautiful experiences can help me become all the better of a person as I strive to be more like my Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.”
It’s not easy. But it really is that simple.