Mormons + Equal Marriage: Right and Left Perspectives
Last week, the Supreme Court decided to not make a decision. Essentially, the Supreme Court lets state rulings allowing same-sex marriage to stand. Therefore, this decision strikes down bans of same-sex marriage in other states. (Read more here.)
Robert Barns explains, “The decision is likely to expand same-sex marriage to other states covered by the federal appeals courts that already have ruled that the bans are unconstitutional: Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.”
The Court’s “non-decision” is seen as helping those who are in support of equal marriage. (Read more here.)
Stance: Studies on the Family is run by BYU students. Our journal and blog emphasizes the impact that marriage and family have on society and increases awareness of current issues affecting the family. We encourage professionalism, respect, and tolerance.
So what do we think about this recent news? Two articles below represent right and left perspectives concerning the issue of Mormons and their support of equal marriage.
Lean Right: “How to Live with Change”
Written by: Karee Brown
I will be honest: I have been out of the loop on political issues for the past two years. I guess serving an LDS mission will do that to you, but after my mission, I didn’t feel any rush or the need to get back into the “loop” of current events. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?
Sadly, being ignorant of current affairs can hurt you. Last Tuesday, I was shocked, to say the least, that on Monday, the Supreme Court made the decision to let the appeals court rulings stand in regards to same-sex marriage, thus striking down bans on same-sex marriage in 5 states, including Utah.
I wondered about these questions:
- What is this decision going to do to our country? To depleting the idea of the traditional family? To the idea that the family unit that is ordained of God?
Inspired prophets and apostles of God wrote and published The Family: A Proclamation to the World. President Gordon B. Hinckley read this proclamation, which was part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting on 23 September 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah. We need the truths and principles contained in this proclamation to help us to understand what God wants. With this proclamation—and the words of other prophets and apostles—everyone, both members of the Church and non-members, can gain strength in God’s plan for us.
So how are we going to live with these changes that we cannot currently change ourselves?
In the talk given this October 2014 called “Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families,” Elder L. Tom Perry taught, “How we learn to adjust to the changes which come along depends on the foundation on which we build.”
Undoubtedly, the inspired messages of General Conference were sent by God, through his servants to prepare us and to help sustain us with the changes that are coming.
I suggest 4 things that I found from General Conference that can help us with change:
- Look to Christ. From the talk listed above, Elder Perry also said, “The Savior is the Master Teacher. We follow Him . . . . Jesus is the great Exemplar. The only way to find lasting peace is to look to Him and live.”Therefore, to find peace during change we must follow Christ.
- Love others. In the talk “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” Elder Dallin H. Oaksreminds us of the “new commandment” Jesus gave to His apostles: love one another. His talk was based on how we can love others and live with differences. In a world where our beliefs are going to differ more and more from others, loving those individuals, even those who are different from us, will be key.
- Follow the prophet. Sister Carol McConkie explained in her talk “Live according to the Words of the Prophets,” “When we choose to live according to the words of the prophets, we are on the covenant path that leads to eternal perfection.”
- Blessings will come to righteous families if we follow the Lord and his prophets and apostles. “Remember that the greatest of all the blessings of the Lord come through and are given to righteous families,” says Elder Perry.
Change can be scary. However, we can gain peace, as we are obedient. We must never forget that there is no middle ground, no grey. Our choice is black and white: we must choose to follow the Savior.
Lean Left: “Mormons for Marriage Equality”
Written by: Conor Hilton
The debate surrounding marriage equality is ugly and quite charged with accusations on both sides. Even the very language we use to discuss the debate reveals our biases and leanings. (I mean would anyone choose to say they oppose marriage equality? No. That makes you sound like a heartless tin man, you say you support traditional marriage.)
As a Mormon, who happens to support marriage equality, I have seen, read and experienced much of this ugliness. To truly follow the counsel of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, we’ve got to stop this. Sure, those that lean left should stop calling conservatives bigots and homophobes. But, that’s not really the problem for most of the Church or BYU.
Instead, progressives/liberals/democrats are painted as apostates or otherwise barely holding on to their dying testimony, the light of which has been doused in the suffocating stream of secularism. This perspective is equally unfair and un-Christ-like.
Here are 5 thoughts to consider:
- To politically support marriage equality does not equate to advocating for homosexuality or suggesting that homosexuality is moral behavior. In fact, there are multiple instances of Church leaders saying broadly that there is no political litmus test for Church membership and specifically that members are free to disagree with the political position (President Monson here, Elder L. Whitney Clayton here, and more found here.)
- There is a strong belief in Mormonism of the ability to receive a personal witness of the truthfulness of anything that is said. This statement corresponds to a belief in prophetic fallibility (see note 1), the idea that prophets and apostles are men, inspired by God, but still subject to the foibles that all of humanity faces. This can be seen in any sort of study of Church history, but is a touchy subject for most members of the Church.
- The data suggest that rather than legalizing same-sex marriage leading to a disintegration of the family, not only are there slightly higher or average marriage rates in states that have legal same-sex marriage, but divorce rates are lower than the national average, with the lowest divorce rate in the country being in Massachusetts, which has had same-sex marriage since 2004 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/gay-marriage_n_3513028.html).
Obviously, there could be larger trends and changes in the future after short-term benefits. However, the data we do have, suggests that the apocalyptic future predicted by conservative pundits is not coming.
- I support same-sex marriage because as the Supreme Court ruled decades ago, separate is inherently unequal. It feels wrong to me to deny someone the right to marry, based on who that is. Given that Church teaching is now that homosexuality is a condition of birth and not caused by sin or deviations later in life. Who am I to claim that one person’s love is superior to another?
- I am not opposed to personal morality coloring our political decisions. However, for me if society at large or other individuals are not impacted by the action, it seems immoral to impose my personal code of morality on them. I do not see the slippery slope of same-sex marriage that others do, the logic falls apart for me. This could be an entire post in and of itself, so I’ll just leave it there for now.
I do not believe that all Mormons should necessarily support same-sex marriage. I think that we need political diversity in the Church and need the ability to express our beliefs and feelings in a civil manner, especially when we disagree.
Regardless of your personal stance on same-sex marriage, recognize that there is room for active, faithful members of the Church to be on both sides and treat each other as Jesus would.
Note 1. “With respect to people feeling that whatever the brethren say is gospel, this tends to undermine the proposition of freedom of speech and thought. As members of the church we are bound to sustain and support the brethren in the positions they occupy so long as their conduct entitles them to that. But we also have only to defend those doctrines of the church contained in the four standard works—the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinion and not scripture. Although there are certain statements that whatever the brethren say becomes the word of God, this is a dangerous practice to apply to all leaders and all cases. The only way I know of by which the teachings of any person or group may become binding upon the church is if the teachings have been reviewed by all the brethren, submitted to the highest councils of the church, and then approved by the whole body of the church.”
—Hugh B. Brown, LDS Apostle 1958–1975, Member of First Presidency of LDS Church 1961–1970, quote from ca. early 1970s, from Chapter 8, An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown