|The future of Mormonism?|
During his mortal ministry, Jesus commanded his disciples to restrict their preaching to the house of Israel.
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples . . . [and] sent [them] out with the following instructions: Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ (Matthew 10:1, 5–7)
This policy of restricting the preaching of the gospel to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” was eventually altered, but only after Jesus’ mortal ministry. As recounted in Acts 10, the vision received by one Cornelius, “a centurion of the Italian Cohort” and “a devout man who feared God” (Acts 10:1–2), catalyzed revelation on the part of Peter, the president of the first century church, if you will (vv. 9–16).
The result of Cornelius’ conversion (Acts 10:44–48) was the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles. It also resulted in immediate criticism of Peter by members of the church.
Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” (Acts 11:1–3)
The acceptance of (uncircumcised!) Gentiles into the church was too shocking for these pious Jewish members. It was too drastic of a paradigm shift for these members to accept. What was true for Joseph Smith’s day was, evidently, also true in the first century, namely, that members of the church were prone to “fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything [came] that [was] contrary to their traditions.”
The subsequent schism and division in the early church over the issue of Gentile converts was so pronounced, in fact, that the leadership of the church convened a council to determine a (hopefully unifying) course forward (Acts 15). But problems persisted, and personalities within the church clashed. Famous is the stance derived by Paul, who emphasized the grace of Christ as sufficient for Gentile converts, not adherence to Mosaic rites. Paul, however, faced considerable opposition among the so-called Judaizers of the church, or early Christians who insisted on Gentile adherence to the Law of Moses, specifically circumcision.
This example from the primitive church brings to mind what is one of the foremost vexing social issues facing the Church of Jesus Christ today: the church’s stance on same-sex marriage and the position of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) members of the church. The manifestation of this controversy may be easily explained by what is basically the theological and moral equivalent to when an unstoppable force (the progress of LGB advocacy) collides with an immovable object (the quite literally cosmic heteronormativity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
I will not hash out the fine details of the controversy in this post. Anybody who has paid any attention at all to this matter will undoubtedly be familiar with what the stakes and parameters of the debate are. Suffice it to say for now that despite the hopeful patience of some, and the thought-provoking (though debatable) theological musings of others, at this point it is next to impossible for me to imagine the Church changing its theological and moral position on same-sex marriage. For better or for worse, I simply cannot fathom such a thing happening. I of course might ultimately be wrong, but for now my glance at the discursive and administrative tea leaves does not vouchsafe any change towards acceptance of same-sex marriages in the LDS Church.
But that’s an issue to discuss in another post. For now, what I want to do is imagine what might happen if the Church were to change its position. What would happen if the Church were to not only permit but grant sacramental sanction to same-sex marriages?
(As a quick side note, I understand that transgender Mormons have some similar complications as LGB members of the Church, but their unique concerns are in many regards different from the focus of this post, and are therefore not going to be addressed at this time.)
Let us suppose that at the next General Conference President Thomas S. Monson were to stand before the pulpit in the Conference Center and announce that he had received revelation permitting same-sex sealings in the temple. Let us even suppose that a gay couple had come to him, much like Cornelius had come to Peter, and that their interaction with the prophet catalyzed the reception of a revelation that fundamentally upended the prevailing paradigm.
What might be the result of this?
For starters, it would have to be acknowledged that this would be without question the most consequential theological and ecclesiological development in Mormon history. The only thing that would come close to being as consequential for the development and identity of the Church would be the abandonment of plural marriage at the end of the nineteenth century. But even then, theologically the allowance of same-sex marriages in the Church would be wholly unprecedented. Heterosexual monogamy can be easily derived from Mormon scripture; indeed, it is arguably the default. The same emphatically cannot be said of same-sex marriage.
Additionally, the entire conceptual framing of the Mormon cosmos would need to be fundamentally refashioned. Latter-day Saint teachings about eternal marriage and exaltation, to say nothing of orthodox sexual ethics (the Law of Chastity), would need a complete system reboot. The presentation of the endowment would need to be totally rewritten, with key narrative, covenantal, and doctrinal points of the temple liturgy being stripped of their heteronormative vestments. The canon would need to be expanded (Official Declaration 3?), and decades of attempts to do systematic Mormon theology would have to start over from scratch.
But besides Mormon theology and cosmology being fundamentally changed, what might be the temporal consequences of such an earth-shattering revelation? What might happen to the membership of the Church? To answer this question, I think the most illustrative historical example would be the announcement of the end of plural marriage. I am confident you would see schisms in the Church, with ultra-orthodox members resisting this development. I am fairly sure you would see a new wave of Mormon fundamentalism arise in response to this change. This fundamentalism would center around preserving a heteronormative Mormon cosmos. Fundamentalists of this persuasion, much like their polygamist predecessors a century ago, would muster arguments for how and why President Monson was either a false or fallen prophet.
I suspect that after the initial shock most members of the Church would come to accept this new paradigm. As with the jettisoning of polygamy, Church members would simply learn to adapt to the changing theology and ecclesiology. It would, I suspect, take time, but I think we would see a similar trend of Mormon transition into the new status quo that was seen a century ago.
In terms of Mormon apologetic discourse, I could foresee both lay members and General Authorities justifying this change the same way the revelation on the priesthood was justified. I can imagine a talk from an apostle in a subsequent General Conference going something like this: “Forget everything that I have said, or what President [Gordon B. Hinckley] or President [Russell M. Nelson] or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”
What’s more difficult to predict would be the reaction of non-Mormons. I can imagine the reactions ranging from congratulatory salutations to resentment against the Church for just now “catching up” to bewilderment to dismissal. (“This ‘revelation’ was simply conjured to relieve political pressure.”) I am absolutely certain that ex-Mormon and progressive agitators would loudly bray about how they were right all along. Most assuredly a certain podcaster from Logan, Utah would be nothing if not supremely ungracious in this triumphant victory over homophobic bigotry, as he would suppose it to be.
And ultimately, what would this mean for LGB members of the Church? It would at once open a whole new world of possibilities and personal identities. It would be a stepping out of the closet into a post-heteronormative Narnia; a land of undiscovered and unchartered identity-territory.
Mind you, in none of this am I saying whether such a change would be a good thing or a bad thing. I am simply wondering as a sort of thought exercise what it might look like if it were to happen, and how looking at past examples (such as the one from the New Testament described above) might help our understanding if such dramatic changes were to ever arrive.
: Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 520.
39 thoughts on “Of Gays and Gentiles: A Thought Experiment”
I have never undertaken a thought experiment like this about this topic–that is, about gay marriage. So, thank you for prodding thought on that topic. I have, however, undertaken such a thought experiment about women and the priesthood.
What do you think about the differential probabilities of changes in these two areas? Would one change seem more likely and more consonant with current church doctrine than the other?
But back to the topic of gay marriage. As you touched on, the church changing its stance on gay marriage would amount to, and require, a change in core doctrines. In my view, this has never happened before, but I'm not an expert on what Mormons thought about polygamy over 100 years ago. From my understanding–and from my attempt at a very straightforward reading of it–the polygamy ban of OD-1 required zero changes in the most basic doctrines of the church. It required a change in practice, or policy, but no change in doctrines about the nature of God or exaltation or any such thing, since at no time did any authority (from what I know) teach that no one could become like God without having more than one wife. Correct me if I'm wrong.
Changing its stance on gay marriage would, on the other hand, as you've noted, require a complete overhaul of the church's theology. What it means to become like God would fundamentally change.
I note this only to draw the following conclusion: Neither in the church's OD-1 or OD-2 did the dramatic policy change require a concomitantly dramatic change in core LDS doctrines. If the church changed its stance on gay marriage, it thus would go far beyond the dramatic nature of the polygamy ban, as also the reversal of the priesthood ban.
And now back to women and the priesthood: On the other hand, I don't see how a change in policy regarding women and the priesthood would require any doctrinal change. That's why, in my view, a change in policy with respect to women and the priesthood sounds much more likely, and much more logical. In fact, it sounds, in principle, almost exactly like what happened in 1978 with blacks and the priesthood.
I think you're being too dismissive of the history of polygamy, James. I see where you're coming from. You're right that when it comes to the most basic doctrines of the church, significant changes were not necessary. However, while Joseph Smith hid his involvement with polygamy, Brigham Young openly embraced it and took it to a new level. If you have strong feelings towards polygamy and don't want your testimony threatened, don't read any further. But, here are just a few quotes from the Journal of Discourses:
"Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). Also, "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269). – Brigham Young
Wilford Woodruff made remarks of his own on the eternal nature of polygamy before OD-1:
"This Priesthood, these keys of the kingdom of God that have been sealed upon him, the world is at war against; let them say what they may, these things are what they are at enmity with. Their present objection to the Latter-day Saints, they say, is plurality of wives. It is this principle they are trying to raise a persecution against now. But how was it in Missouri, Kirtland, Jackson County, Far West, Caldwell County, in all our drivings and afflictions, before this principle was revealed to the Church? Certainly it was not polygamy then. No, it was prophets, it was revelation, it was the organization of an institution founded by revelation from God. They did not believe in that, and that was the objection in those days. If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does, then all would be right. We just can't do that, for God has commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey Him in days to come as we have in days past."
Now, was Mormonism completely changed with the rescission of polygamy by Wilford Woodruff? No. Some of the core doctrines of the church remained the same. However, to say that this didn't send seismic waves through the church would be a lie. OD-1 caused a new crisis of its own creating polygamist splinter groups and those groups eventually creating groups of their own.
Do I think this would happen with Mormonism today were gay marriage to become part of the doctrine? No, but I do think there would be plenty of people who would be sent into faith crises and leave. And yes, if women get the priesthood, which I hope they do, serious questions will be raised as to some of the core doctrines of the church. And certainly if Mormonism accepts same-sex marriages in the temple someday, which I also hope they get around to, it will definitely cause major uproar.
Josh, typical abuse of the Journal of Discourses. To renounce plural marriage was well within the church's doctrine, gay marriage is not. The saints did obey God for a time and his prophet later changed. So what?
Big deal that some separated. Their testimony was obviously on the practice and not in revelation or prophetic authority. This issue is nowhere in the same ballpark as same-sex marriage. The Church, if it were to ever embrace them would void itself as anything but the restoration of Christianity. It will never happen under true Christian faith.
What do you mean by "if it were to ever embrace them"? The fact that you imply that the church should never embrace "them"–referring to not embracing people–when you could have said only that the church should never embrace the practice or institution or concept of a different type of marriage, is a profoundly different kind of statement. Were you really trying to say that the church shouldn't embrace a certain group of people? This is fundamentally distinct from saying that it shouldn't embrace a certain institution.
I find it very difficult to understand why you would imply that Scott would mean anything but embarrassing a policy change of same sex marriage. It is clear what he meant and it appears hostile to suggest otherwise.
It is genuinely concerning to see that a simple question can be "hostile" to certain people. What does that mean about the chance for true dialogue? Such eager suspicions of hostility are a clear threat and obstruction to rational discussion. Just so Scott understands, in case he didn't already, there was no hostility intended by my simple question asking for clarification. In fact, logically, it's hard to see how a simple question for clarification can be hostile. Is such a thing even logically possible?
What does it mean, or what does it show, that when nothing more than a question about what a person meant is asked, another person is somehow able to find hostility in that question, where none existed?
While I'm sure Scott doesn't mean to say we should not embrace a particular group of people, I am not Scott, and I don't know anything about what's in another person's head. That's why I ask questions. Questions are harmless. Questions are precisely the sorts of things that cannot be hostile, by their very nature. That's probably why those who typically perceive questions as inherently hostile are dogmaticians. Anyway, all I know about are the words on the page. And the words themselves, are, as you apparently agree, rather clear. They state that we should not "embrace them." In my childhood I remember learning about pronouns like "them" and what those pronouns mean. But maybe I'm mistaken. What does the pronoun "them" mean to you, Carl? Anyway, now, at least, hopefully you can see why I was genuinely puzzled by Scott's comment. That's why I asked if that was really what he meant.
There's another reason your comment is so odd: it's counterproductive. Given the fact that Scott said "embrace them" and not something else, regardless of what anything someone might subjectively infer about what he meant, my asking the question actually gives Scott the opportunity to give the kind of clarification that you have so chivalrously offered in Scott's behalf.
Is there any way for a question like mine to be logically dismissed or looked at as a valid excuse to raise one's hackles? Questions just aren't the types of things that should elicit those types of reactions. Reacting like that to questions stultifies thought and understanding.
Anyway, I welcome a clarification from Scott himself since it is possible that he would prefer not to have someone else speak for him.
Apparently you must think I know very, very little about polygamy. I am not an expert, but that's hardly necessary in order to have at least a commonplace familiarity with the subject. Yes, Brigham Young was open about polygamy, as I would have assumed literally everyone knew. If there ever was a "testimony" that could be threatened by such news, then that testimony was very severely sheltered indeed! But thank you for the warning 🙂
To address your points:
"You're right that when it comes to the most basic doctrines of the church, significant changes were not necessary."
Yes. And that essentially was my only point. That, and how it contrasts with a change regarding gay marriage. Don't forget that you have, in that statement, already acknowledged that with OD-1 "significant changes were not necessary." If that really is how you see it, then I agree with you.
But to address the rest of your remarks:
"Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, p. 266). This is a statement to the effect that one should not reject *the idea* of polygamy. Think about it. What if we did decide to reject the idea of polygamy categorically? We would have to reject the notion that Abraham and Jacob were righteous men of God, whom Jesus said would be in the kingdom of God with the rest of the blessed, in Luke 13:28. With clear and obvious examples like these, we hardly need to include statements like this one from Brigham Young, as it merely goes along with common sense combined with an acceptance of what's in some of Jesus' own teachings. Rejecting things that God revealed, or, that God was okay with, is logically not going to be something favorable to one's standing with God. So, I fail to see how this negates anything I said about OD-1 not changing core doctrines. To be perfectly clear, what this means to me is that, while we don't practice polygamy today, we should't negate the validity of the practice at the time, as it was revealed by God. If we did reject it, we would be negating the validity of a practice that God himself sanctioned for a temporary period.
The next quote you included is more complicated. The portion of Brigham's talk quoted in your comments above makes–at least inadvertently–the statement seem a little misleading to me. You may already know, I presume, that Brigham didn't intend to say that literally everyone who hopes to obtain all the blessings Abraham obtained had to enter into the practice of polygamy themselves. He clarified this himself, just a few sentences prior to the sentence you quoted. He said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists ***at le[a]st in your faith.***" (asterisks mine). If you didn't already know that he said this, I suggest you look up the full discourse yourself. Either way, this is very different, as I'm sure anyone can see, than saying that everyone has to actually enter into the practice themselves. No, he's simply saying not to deny that the practice was revealed, and not to deny that this was officially part of their religion, whether they practiced it themselves, or not. Based on the full context, Brigham clearly did not say one had to actually practice it themselves in order to become like God.
So, in answer to your points, I still see no reason to correct my view that OD-1 required fundamental changes to core doctrines. I still am unaware of any authority teaching that "no one could become like God without having more than one wife." But again, if there are such teachings, I will gladly correct my statement.
The next quote, from Wilford Woodruff, is apparently not something you interpret the same way I would. I don't see that, again, as a statement to the effect that polygamy was logically inseparable from the gospel, but only as a statement that obeying revelation was logically inseparable from the gospel. You can interpret it differently if you wish, just know that this is the way I interpret it, and it seems rather straightforward to me.
To me it seems sensible to distinguish between the generic concept of following revelation, and the specific practices and policies that are revealed at different times according to different needs and circumstances. The doctrines I see as being core to the church are ones that remain invariant across changing circumstances and practices. If a doctrine I identify as one that is basic to the church could be regarded as logically violated by a real world, historical change in policy or practice, then I would need to change my opinion as to what kinds of changes the church (or, technically, God) would be okay with. I don't see OD-1 or OD-2 as logically negating any basic church doctrines that existed prior to those declarations.
To address the rest of your remarks:
"Some of the core doctrines of the church remained the same." I disagree. I think *all* of the doctrines remained the same. I see the discontinuation of polygamy as a change in practice, not doctrine. I make a distinction here between the concept of orthodoxy and the concept of orthopraxy. By way of analogy, one might change the way they treat children with dental crowding, for example, by giving them Invisalign in specific circumstances rather than conventional braces, but that change in treatment in no way violates the "doctrine", or principles, that underly the basic methods and goals of correcting malocclusion and/or crowding.
Did OD-1 send seismic waves through the church? Sure. That's precisely what I acknowledged here: "… the **dramatic** nature of the polygamy ban …" (asterisks added).
I'm not particularly intrigued by the contemplation of the possibility of splinter groups forming today in our hypothetical scenario with gay marriage, but if I were to opine on the matter, I would say there's a fair chance of that. However, for me the bigger question is whether such backlash would be logically justifiable. What if God came down tomorrow and said to us all, "You know how I told you all to love one another? Well, now we're going to march to the beat of a different drum: Everyone is now hereby commanded to hate one another." In a situation like that, backlash would be logically justifiable–exceedingly so. If God opened up the heavens and said, "Women should be given the priesthood,"‡ I would see that as requiring very, very little change to what we already do and believe, and as requiring no fundamental overhaul of doctrine. What about gay marriage? I stand by what I observed in my earlier comment.
I am happy to see that we have both been very civil with one another in these comments. I see no reason to not remain that way, even if we or others disagree with anything being said here by any of us. If anyone does not think I have been courteous in the way I respond to the thoughts of others, I sincerely apologize and hope to do better in the future. I only say this because I understand that gay marriage is a sensitive topic–as it probably should be. LGBT rights are just as important as anyone else's rights, and properly understanding what those are and respecting people who are different is, I'm sure we can all agree, very much a core part of our shared value system. We might disagree about exactly how to show respect and love to those who are different, but I think we all agree on the basic idea and practice of respecting and loving. And it's not like disagreeing on *how* to love is a new problem! We encounter it everywhere. One case my wife and I are encountering right now is how to show that we love our children when it comes to sleep training them and teaching them to behave. But what is *not* a question is whether we love them in the first place. Not everyone in the world has a shared view of how exactly to go about expressing the love we have, but everyone should be expected to have that love in the first place, to try to show it responsibly and sincerely, and to change or update our way of expressing love in accordance with the evidence, and with logic. Without going into further detail, this applies, I believe, to how we should treat LGBT people, as it does to how we should treat anyone else.
‡ As a side note, that hypothetical portrayal isn't how I actually conceptualize revelation, just to preempt any misinterpretation. For example, when the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978, I don't see that as 'God changing his mind about blacks', to paraphrase a familiar musical. I see it as people collectively becoming open to a principle God would have introduced earlier, had there been the same receptivity.
You are correct that nowhere is it ever stated by modern prophets that Plural Marriage is required for exaltation. I would agree that the polygamy ban is the only comparable change that may shed light on the effects of sanctioning same sex marriage I would argue that it is completely inadequate to inform the subject. The Church could not survive same sex marriage nor would it survive women receiving the priesthood. Both would result in a practice that is so radically different than the theology as to destroy the integrity of the system. What ever would be left would bare little or no resemblance to the original sect.
What makes you think that giving women the priesthood would result in a practice so radically different from the current theology that it would destroy the integrity of the church?
Is this a serious question? How would it even remotely be the same? How could we go from almost 2 centuries of professing a basic tenant like this to a complete dismissal of prophetic utterance and revealed scripture without losing all credibility as a professed divine theology. The question wouldn't be what credibility have we lost, it would be what, if any, credibility would we have left? Take a look at the RLDS and you will see what awaits us should that ever happen.
Yes, this is a serious question. But it’s okay that you didn't suspect that it would be at first. Allow me to explain why it can be contemplated with seriousness.
To illustrate most effectively how starkly an alternative approach to this topic could contrast with your reaction to it, I'll take advantage of a recent precedent as an analogy.
Imagine 40 years ago, in 1977, two people having a conversation almost identical to our own, with the only difference being that instead of talking about the ordination of women, it was the ordination of blacks. Okay. Now, let's take a look at how the doubter's end of the conversation might sound:
"Is this a serious question? How would the church even remotely be the same if blacks were allowed to hold the priesthood? How could we go from almost 2 centuries of professing the basic tenet of withholding the priesthood from blacks to a complete dismissal of prophetic utterance and revealed scripture without losing all credibility as a professed divine theology? The question wouldn't be what credibility we've lost, but what, if any, credibility we have left? Take a look at other churches that ordain blacks to the priesthood, and you will see what awaits us should that ever happen in our church."
If you haven't noticed this already, I'll point out now how ironic your near-exact comment looks in light of the change that happened just some decades ago, and how similar that change was in essence and kind to the one we're talking about now.
Just 40 years ago, there were people with as much doubt in their minds about a reversal of the racial priesthood ban that then existed, as you are now expressing today about a hypothetical reversal of the gender priesthood ban. Literally everything you just said about ordaining women could have been said about ordaining blacks 40 years ago. I say that the same things could have been said, but it's important to explain what that means. I don't mean to say that the same doubts or incredulity would have been warranted or cogent, but only that they could have been expressed–since literally any claim, no matter how false, can be made by someone naive enough to make it.
Moreover, the points you've made, about how mind-boggling such a change would be, are rather vague, and could be attached to anything ideology drove a person to attach them to. You may be aware now that you didn't exactly cite any examples of scripture or tenet that explicitly and directly articulate the notion that women are, by divine and eternal design, not supposed to hold priesthood authority. You claimed, somewhat nebulously, that such tenets and scriptures and revelations exist, but you have yet to actually name any specific examples.
Furthermore, you may very well have such examples ready to share in your next comment, but would even that make our conversation any different than what some blacks-and-the-priesthood conversations were in reality like during the years leading up to the 1978 reversal? Clearly not, since specific "revelations" or statements, and *scriptures* were routinely used by doubters to prove their point that blacks shouldn't get the priesthood.
And then blacks got the priesthood.
Let's say that, in your next response, you quote some letter from the first presidency recently disseminated to stake presidents and bishops, or something of the sort. Let's say there are letters like that explicitly saying that women are not allowed to hold the priesthood or priesthood keys. Those very same types of letters, forbidding any ordination of blacks, existed in the time period prior to the OD-2 of 1978. So how can we reconcile such contradictory statements? By paying attention to the difference between doctrine and policy. The church had a ***policy*** of banning blacks from the priesthood. Then, a revelation reversed that policy. The church never had a ***doctrine*** that blacks shouldn’t hold the priesthood. It wasn’t a moral principle, nor did it have any basis in eternal gospel truths. At best, it had a basis in proof-texts and distorted interpretations of scripture. It was a policy that eventually became hard to sustain logically—precisely because of the lack of any doctrinal principle that would require such a ban. Before OD-2, people needed to have faith in Christ, repent, make covenants with God through ordinances like baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, ***just as they needed to do those things after OD-2.*** Nothing about the gospel changed. When policies are the only things that change, the church’s doctrinal self-consistency remains intact.
But to address your remarks one at a time, with respect to my analogy: How would the church be even remotely the same if blacks were given the priesthood? If the question were directed at someone like me, I would say it wouldn't change hardly at all. The change's magnitude would probably vary with the eyes of the beholder. To the most racist people in the church, the church would not even be remotely the same—and in a bad way. To the non-racists, it would certainly be different, but in a positive way, and not in any way that would transmogrify it in a way implied by the phrasing of the above question. And now to bring it back to what your question is about–ordaining women: If you're asking me (and it appears you are), I would say that the church would be largely the same. Why do I say this? Because,
1) Women already have authority in the church. Simply read Elder Oaks' talk from the April 2014 General Priesthood session where he talks about the nature of their authority: "We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood."
2) Verbiage clearly indicates that women, along with men, already receive priesthood in the temple.
3) For women to be given the priesthood, nothing about the Godhead, the plan of salvation, the atonement, the principles of the gospel, the nature of the family (husband and wife would remain equals), the *nature* of priesthood, belief in the restoration or the Book of Mormon, or the mission of the church, would change. If the essential nature and purpose of the priesthood didn't change when blacks were given it, then why would any such aspect of it change if women were given it?
Next question: How could we go from almost 2 centuries of professing a basic tenet like this to a complete dismissal of prophetic utterance and scripture without losing credibility? Well, how did we go from almost 2 centuries of professing a belief in not ordaining blacks to professing a belief in ordaining blacks? Answer: by revelation. Would it dismiss prophetic utterance or scripture? Which utterances? Which scriptures? It would probably be as easy to find proof-texts in scripture to support banning blacks from the priesthood, as it would be to find proof-texts to support banning women from the priesthood. So, that’s probably going to be a question of interpretation. But did the church lose credibility when it lifted the priesthood ban against blacks? If it didn't, then it's really hard to see how it would if it lifted the (partial) priesthood ban against women. If, on the other hand, you think the church did lose credibility in 1978, then what would that imply? That OD-2 was a false revelation? That blacks should have remained without the priesthood?
Finally, let's take a look at what happened to the RLDS church. The RLDS church did many different things, and many different things happened to it. The RLDS church didn't practice polygamy. Is that why it deteriorated into ruin? It didn't perform vicarious ordinances in the temple for ancestors. Is that why it fell apart? The RLDS church gave women the priesthood. Could that be why it failed? How would you know that that was the reason? Wouldn't it be much more straightforward to look at the fact that it, for example, renounced the Book of Mormon and regard that as a prominent causal factor in its downward spiral? I'm not sure how you drew a logical line from ordaining women specifically to the collapse of the RLDS church. The RLDS church also ordained men. That could have just as easily been the reason. By what logic or evidence does one pick just a single arbitrary feature of an organization and pin that one down as the sole cause of its downfall? There are simply so many other, better reasons to which to attribute their failure. Of all things, why pick ordaining women as the reason the RLDS church failed?
I welcome your and anyone else's thoughts on these various points and questions.
James I am sorry but I can't read all that. I think it is pointless to argue giving women the priesthood. It is not even remotely like giving black males the priesthood. Black males were always promised they would eventually be given the priesthood. I was a fully committed and active member in 1977. I remember well the discussion years before and many statements by general authorities that the ban would be lifted. There is no such statements regarding women nor is there any scripture to support the practice. Reason and argue all you like there is no justification for women to be given the priesthood. I was also well acquainted with many members in the RLDS community, the change in policy had a devistating effect on many and the sect never really recovered. It would do the same thing to the ⓁⒹⓈ faith as well. I was there. I witnessed these events. I'd rather not blather on about it. There are other religious choices you can make if you are interested in a church that is more prone to evolving with current cultural trends. I would rather preserve the doctrine and policy as it is in the church today it has served me very well I cannot see how changing the law of chastity to accommodate gays or blurring the roles of men and women in the family and the church would enhance the church. You honestly appear to be hoping the church will morph into something else, I tend to think the church should be about changing us rather than us changing it.
I'm sorry you can't read it too. In light of that inability, maybe you'll want to skip this comment as well. I decided to time myself while reading my initial 3-part comment above, and it took me about 6 minutes reading out loud. I'm not sure what advice to give you about how you can get to the point where you can read material that should take only 6 minutes, but at any rate it actually does look like you read at least some of it.
That's cool that you think it is pointless to argue about giving women the priesthood. By that I mean that you have every right to think something like that. I kind of got that impression earlier, but you're probably also aware that I don't think that way. It's okay if we're different. Not that I want to argue; I want to have a discussion. The difference, I think, is that we simply decide not to get angry or mean with each other. If I have said something that offends or insults you, please let me know. I want to get better.
In spite of apparently thinking it's pointless to argue/converse about the question of giving women the priesthood, I can see you do have a brief argument of sorts about the issue. I'll gladly address it, since an intelligent, civil back-and-forth of contrasting ideas is not something toward which I have any aversion.
You claim that giving women priesthood is not even remotely like giving black males priesthood. That's interesting. I think it is rather similar. Here's why: When it comes to most things that people get to have, we tend to all intuitively understand that it's unfair to place arbitrary boundaries, forming arbitrary groups of people who do get a certain privilege or power, and groups of people who don't get that same privilege or power. It's not that way with every privilege, and sometimes privileges or power that are restricted to certain groups are restricted in ways that are clearly not arbitrary, but are rather logical. For example, the privilege of voting is restricted to people ≥ 18. Is that an arbitrary restriction? To a small degree, perhaps, but as probably anyone can tell there tend to be qualitative and quantitative differences between the psychological maturity/independence and experiential knowledge of minors vs adults. So, it actually makes a bit of sense to discriminate based on age when it comes to voting. It's not being unfair to minors as long as the basis for the discrimination is empirically and logically justifiable. What about blacks? In the past, more people used to think it was okay to ban blacks from the right to vote. But virtually all of us today are able to comprehend–now, at least–how arbitrary and groundless that discrimination is. We should be able to comprehend how banning blacks from a church's priesthood would be similarly arbitrary, groundless, and unfair. That's why the ban didn't make sense, and I'm sure those facts have something to do with why God would be fine with blacks having the priesthood. Maybe I'm wrong, but these considerations about what's fair and what's not fair, what's arbitrary and what isn't, what has a logical basis, and what doesn't, should be fairly obvious to anyone reading this.
But what about women? Is it fair to ban women from voting? No. Is it fair to ban women from holding office? No. From having certain jobs or positions, like doctor, or professor? No. Not solely on the basis of gender and nothing else. These are things most people are capable of comprehending. So, skin color is not a justifiable reason for banning someone from having any of those things, and neither is gender. Skin color isn't a justifiable reason for banning someone from the priesthood. Is gender? How could it be? I fail to see how gender is SO astronomically different when it comes to priesthood, but not at all different when it comes to virtually anything else. And as I already observed, women already *do* have the priesthood in limited ways. In light of these facts, it is very puzzling indeed to hear someone claim that a gender-based priesthood ban is not even remotely like a complexion- or race-based priesthood ban. Such a claim seems to ignore, rather than account for, these very self-evident facts.
Women should be allowed to have privileges like suffrage and other political opportunities, and job/schooling opportunities because there is no empirical or logical reason to deny them those things solely on the basis of their gender. And we all tend to understand that just fine. That's why I say this question of priesthood is very similar to the blacks-and-the-priesthood question. Both have to do with arbitrary and groundless reasons for not letting a group of people have a particular privilege. In case anyone needed an explanation.
So, perhaps some reading this could benefit from me asking the question explicitly: Is there any empirical or logical basis for having a gender-based priesthood ban? I haven't noticed any. But that doesn't mean no one else has come up with one.
Carl, you seem unable to come up with one, as I am not able to discern one of any specific kind in your comments. You don't seem to go much farther than saying simply that the thought is so ridiculous it doesn't even merit thought. Unfortunately, that kind of rationale isn't compelling.
But there is a very well known scripture that can be used to respond to your suggestion that because there are currently no revelations about giving women the priesthood in the future, there will therefore never be such a revelation. It's the 9th Article of Faith:
"We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that ***he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God***."
I'm not saying God WILL reveal that women should get the priesthood. I'm simply saying I see no reason to fly to pieces in the event that he does–for there would only be our stubborn traditions to make us do something like that; no logic, no empirical fact would make us react that way. None that I know of, at least.
Also, to bring up one scripture that *probably* (depending on how you interpret it, or whether you wiggle around it) does mention women with priesthood, we have Romans 16:7. It mentions Andronicus (a male), and Junia (a female) as being particularly noteworthy among the apostles. In other words, Paul appears to be identifying Junia as an apostle. If you'd like to interpret "apostle" to mean something other than what it means in most contexts so you can disagree with my tentative interpretation of it, that's fine. But I mention that just in case anyone else following this conversation is curious.
In light of my comments here, as well as previously, I find it particularly puzzling that you say, "there is no justification for women to be given the priesthood." See my comments above. Address any of them specifically, if you can. It's particularly odd that you feel that way in light of the fact that (as I've already pointed out) women already do hold priesthood authority in limited ways. Besides the point I’m about to re-address next, you simply aren't coming up with any rationale to support your claim, or to address my argumentation to the contrary.
About the RLDS church: You've repeated it yet again, and everyone already knows, the RLDS church hit bottom and never recovered. Again, we already know that. The question is why that happened to them. A member of the LDS church could point out to fellow LDS that it was because they never had the guiding hand of revelation in the first place, long before they ever did anything like give women the priesthood, and that explanation would be much more convincing to fellow Mormons than the reason you offer here. Again, how about the fact that they renounced Joseph Smith as a prophet, and that they renounced the Book of Mormon? Are you really going to ignore such glaring problems just so you can hang on to the notion that it was all because of women getting priesthood? That seems incredibly otiose for someone in your position.
The only logical mechanism of action causally connecting the giving of women the priesthood to the collapse of the RLDS church, that I could guess, would be that there were just too many misogynists in the RLDS church for it to continue under those conditions. In fact, this would explain your very statement: "the change in policy had a devastating effect on many". Yeah. It probably had the most devastating effect on the most misogynistic among them. Though perhaps a small part of it could have been due to authority going to a few of the women's heads. I don’t really know. But that's what happens with a few men’s heads too though.
I would rather preserve the doctrine, like you would. Notice, you haven't come up with any doctrines that clearly state that women, by divine and eternal design, should not be allowed to ever hold the priesthood. Policies on the other hand—they can change, as they already have in very, very similar ways in the past.
Blurring the roles of women and men–does that occur when the church decides women can serve missions too? How about when it decides they can serve as presidents over various units of the relief society? How about when it decides they can give a benediction at general conference? Or in any capacity in which they currently serve, which men have traditionally occupied?
I'm not hoping the church will morph into something else, any more than anyone hoping blacks would get the priesthood were hoping the church would morph into something else. You appear to be skipping over crucial portions where I lay all of this out in my previous comment. I would hope that had I been around in the 60s or early 70s that I would not have been trying to change the church in any inappropriate way, but I know I would have been hoping it would change in regards to its racial priesthood ban. So, would that have been a problem? I don't see how it would have been if I had been patient enough to stick around to see how things ended up going.
The religious choices we can make today in the LDS church are similar to the ones people could make before the racial priesthood ban was lifted. In spite of what you say, which is true, that many leaders expressed a hope that blacks would soon get the priesthood, there were many who could have chosen to leave the church because it wasn't being fair there and then. But I believe now, as would have been true then, that some things just take time, and all the while the Book of Mormon is still true.
That means I'm staying right here in the LDS church 🙂
Again I can't weed through all that. I don't want to read for 6 minutes and kraft a response for 25 minutes. I'm not interested in the discussion that much.
None, not one of your arguments is especially compelling for me. so expounding upon them further with me is pointless.
I find terms like "arbitrary ban" in relation to women in the priesthood as a fundamentally hostile way to describe the restoration.
I was there when the RLDS was a thriving religion and was so for over 130 years. In less than a decade after giving women the priesthood the religion was devastated. Not accepting the prophet or polygamy was clearly not a major contributor to their down fall.
Honestly, this conversation is boring and irrelevant. Best wishes and God bless. I'm done.
I'm sorry to hear you find the subject boring.
Best wishes to you as well!
I think you write epistles where a sentence would be sufficient. You talk about way too many things for me to even begin offering a fair counter-response. It's clear that our opinions differ on the subject(s). Let's get one thing straight, though. The practice of forbidding blacks to receive the priesthood was a DOCTRINE, not just a policy. Thanks to the correspondence of Lowry Nelson in the late 40s with the First Presidency, as well as George Romney with Elder Delbert L. Stapley in the 60s (to name a few), there is no doubt that this concept was understood as DOCTRINE for at least a generation or two in the church. I suppose it's debatable who instituted the doctrine as it's clear the First Presidency in the 40s thought it dated back to the days of Joseph Smith, though there is no record of Smith instituting it and the fact that Elijah Abels was given the priesthood. I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that Brigham Young instituted the doctrine, though I couldn't point to a specific instance where it occurred. At very least, I would encourage you to take a closer look at these documents. We can debate all day long what constitutes "doctrine" and "policy," but it seems pretty obvious that this was not seen as a changeable practice in those times.
Yeah, I know, I can be longwinded some times. I've been getting a lot of slack for it lately. I'm sorry so many of you aren't fans of more in depth discussions. In your case, I only wanted to respond adequately to each of the things you had brought up yourself, and explain myself in a way that would be hard to misunderstand. I'm sorry if that is not what it looks like I did.
Thank you for offering me something to read. I will do my best to give these documents an unbiased look, and then I'll get back to you.
I do appreciate in depth discussions and it's clear you've given these subjects a lot of thought. It's just a little overwhelming when you deliver rebuttals like these when the original comments were a fraction of the length. It feels less like a discussion and more like a lecture when there are not 1, not 2, but 3 parts to your responses. Yes, it may only take less than 10 minutes to read them, but I would have to devote a great deal more time to deliver responses to all the issues I take with your points. It very much feels like attempting to drink from a fire hose.
Anyway, I hope you do find the time to read those docs and give them some thought. It's a lot to digest, but worth it.
Even if your far-fetched thought experiment you can't give an entire community ANY credit for standing up for what they believe (marriage equality)? You have to cast them as one-dimensional villains, "loudly bray[ing] about how they were right all along"? Bray? Seriously?
This is nothing more than baseless insults to cast them all as out-group and maintain your fragile doctrinal purity.
If you wanted to actually get an idea of what would play out, you should just look back a few decades in history and see how people responded to racial policy changes. No, it wasn't just priesthood, it changed how black members were even seen in their ability to get exaltation. The teaching was that they could only be servants in the Celestial Kingdom. Fairly similar to celibate gay members today.
"You have to cast them as one-dimensional villains"
If ever in my entirely experience living on this small blue planet called earth there was a group of one-dimensional people, it is the ex-Mormon "community" at places like Reddit or the comments on John Dehlin's Facebook posts.
"This is nothing more than baseless insults to cast them all as out-group and maintain your fragile doctrinal purity."
Fragile "doctrinal purity," you say? Are you sure you know what my thoughts are on this matter? On what I think is doctrinally "pure" or not?
"The teaching was that they could only be servants in the Celestial Kingdom."
I'm gonna go ahead and call you out on that one. Care to provide an authoritative source for this? Maybe some scriptural support? Which of Joseph Smith's revelations say this? Which binding prophetic teaching?
Brigham Young taught repeatedly that blacks were to be the "servant of servants." As one acquainted with the history of Brigham Young, I imagine you are aware he taught more than his fair share of racist doctrine, repeatedly reminding the Saints that it was unchangeable. Although I suppose you can make an argument that the early church leaders didn't specifically indicate that blacks would be servants in the Celestial Kingdom in those very words, there is certainly something to be said for the fact that when Jane Manning James wrote to Wilford Woodruff time to be sealed to Joseph Smith as a child. Rather than granting her request as she directed, a completely new ceremony was invented so that she could (and was) sealed to Joseph Smith as a servant for eternity.
Clearly, the concept of blacks as eternal servants wasn't a bunch of balderdash. Alex may have been broad in his characterization of it, but he's also not pulling it out of nowhere.
It's not that he was broad. It's that he was so precise. "The teaching was that they could only be servants in the Celestial Kingdom."
That's a very precisely claim to make, and one that should be backed with sources if you're going to make it.
Speaking more generally, though, I have learned from my friend (and award-winning documentary historian) Russell Stevenson that if you're going to make X or Y claim about "what Brigham said about the blacks" you better be ready to back it up with very specific sources.
For too long people have gotten away with making both sweeping claims about this topic as well as precise claims without offering the requisite evidence. Alex is just one more example of this trend.
It doesn't seem the Church will okay SGM but there was a time when it seemed no non-White male could hold the Priesthood. Non-Whites were faithful and patient and were rewarded. And RLDS did not "collapse" it became The Community of Christ. Among other things in CoC The Book f Mormon is more important than D&C. So Jacob 2 trumps D&c 132, for one example. I've all ways found D7C 132:51 offensive and find it not a little convenient that the Prophet got this "revelation" five seconds after Emma Smioth walked in on him and the maid doing the nasty in the barn. I hear Emma was so upset she threatened to bash their skulls in with a rake and then _SHAZAM_ a revelation about polygamy. Being a Prophet of the latter days doesn't stop anyone from being a deeply flawed person.
Do you mind backing up that story about them in the barn with a credible source?
The source comes from William McLellin, who in an 1872 letter to Joseph Smith III claimed to recall a conversation he had with Emma Smith in 1847 about this, wherein she told him about the supposed incident in the barn.
You'll remember McLellin as the excommunicated apostle who had a falling out with Joseph Smith.
So it's from a hearsay, late, hostile witness.
Take it for what it's worth.
Ah, thank you.
Josh – in response to your comment with the two links you sent on blacks and the priesthood and church doctrine (for some reason this blog doesn't let me reply to certain comments directly, so hopefully you find out about this comment; also, yeah, I know, it's kind of long):
I read the Delbert Stapley letter, and also the exchange between Lowry Nelson and the first presidency.
While the Stapley letter explicitly states at the beginning that his words were only his personal opinion, and not the official doctrine of the church, the letter from the first presidency to Lowry Nelson is, as you'll obviously agree, much more official.
I concede, after reading the Nelson-G.A.Smith exchange, that the first presidency itself, at least at one point in time in the 1940s, understood that "it has been the doctrine of the church, never questioned by any of the church leaders, that the Negroes [sic] are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel."
A statement like this cannot be taken too seriously. I do not think the views expressed by the 1940s first presidency should be extenuated unless one is also willing to acknowledge that the first presidency was confused by their cultural conditioning to the point where they mistook that influence for God's own views on the subject.
It is highly unfortunate that such a belief was accepted by even the first presidency of the church at one time. However, that does not mean there are not other equally authoritative yet countervailing statements to consider when it comes to race and gospel/priesthood privileges. It is actually quite illuminating to see how much more sense Lowry Nelson made than George Albert Smith in their exchange of letters; but there are more things besides very logically and empirically cogent reasons for a member of the church like Nelson to think the way he did, in contrast to the way the first presidency thought. Nelson could have just as easily pointed to scripture as to fact and reason to support his view. And the fact that Nelson–an educated Mormon–was clearly unaware of an explicit church doctrine about race is itself actually compelling in its own right.
Here are some uniquely LDS scriptures Nelson could have mentioned:
"and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." (2 Nephi 26:33)
"For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel." (2 Nephi 30:2)
Part 2 (of 2):
In light of all the evidence I am aware of, a more nuanced description of church doctrine is probably warranted. While on the one hand, I can no longer honestly maintain that the church never used the term "doctrine" to support its earlier position on blacks and the priesthood, I can say that there was something objectively problematic about the internal consistency of the doctrine that the first presidency of the 1940s claimed. An authoritative quorum in the church might make claims about doctrine that end up being overturned at a later time, but in the church's +180-year history, there seems to be a pattern behind which "doctrines" might reasonably be expected to change. Actually, this doctrine is the only one I'm aware of that has changed. In short, I find it interesting that the one doctrine that has changed was always inconsistent with other authoritative teachings. It was always at variance with rather clear statements in scripture–especially the Book of Mormon. Since the Book of Mormon has been with the church from the beginning, and is the keystone of the church, it seems to me there is an interesting point to be made about which doctrines one should expect to be unstable and annullable.
It's interesting to me, in other words, that one could easily counter G. A. Smith's statements with passages straight from the Book of Mormon.
But again, I admit you are right about it previously being considered a doctrine. Thanks again for sharing that.
"A statement like this cannot be taken too seriously. I do not think the views expressed by the 1940s first presidency should be extenuated unless one is also willing to acknowledge that the first presidency was confused by their cultural conditioning to the point where they mistook that influence for God's own views on the subject."
I feel like your argument is lacking. Essentially, what I hear you saying here is, "Well, the first presidency was clearly misinformed, so even if they were teaching this as doctrine, it doesn't matter because they just didn't have all the information. This can't be taken too seriously." I mean, of course, now we have the privilege of scholars having done research and can more clearly point to the origins of this doctrine, rather than relying on past statements such as the one made to Lowry Nelson. My point is that in the 1940s, this was definitive doctrine. Coming to this realization made me wonder, "If the prophet of the church could be totally wrong about a very damaging and erroneous doctrine, what else could they potentially be wrong about?" Mind you, this was 100+ years after the inception of the church. Why did it take God until 1978 to help the 1P/Q12 get their act together? If prophets and apostles can't cut through the cultural biases/prejudices of their time without God, what is that saying about God? What does it say about prophets? As early as the time of Joseph Smith, there were Christian abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison most notably, who firmly believed slavery was against God's will and did everything in his power to fight against it. Why didn't God have Joseph have a chat with him? Or Brigham Young? Ultimately, this led me to conclude that Mormon prophets have no monopoly on continuing revelation.
"Actually, this doctrine is the only one I'm aware of that has changed."
I think you would do well to take a look at Terryl Givens books "Wrestling the Angel" and its new companion volume "Feeding the Flock" as they examine the evolution of Mormon thought over the course of the last two centuries.
Yeah I think you've given this a little more thought than I have. However, if you really are aware of other official and explicitly stated doctrines changing in the church's history, just share them here. Givens is a great author and thinker and I look forward to reading those books.
All I was saying in the part of my comment you quoted was that prophets are humans and like all other humans they are also susceptible to confusion and cultural influence. I think the primary characteristic setting them apart is the fact that they usually develop a relatively greater capacity to follow divine promptings or revelation. I'm not sure why G A Smith wasn't able to recognize the racism inherent in this doctrine. I wasn't there. My only guess is that he was confused as much by culture as he was by any prior statements from his predecessors.
While prophets can also be wrong, just like ordinary people, it appears that in the case of the church the pattern of succession has worked as one of those prophets–Spencer W Kimball–has taken a step in the right direction. It's unfortunate that it took that long. I mean that in all seriousness. But the change was still made and that change in the right direction has made feel more confident in the church's leadership system.
Ultimately, my greatest source of confidence in the work the church is doing is the Book of Mormon. If the BoM is authentic, then that means a lot. It doesn't mean the president of the church can never be wrong, but it could very well mean that the church is self-correcting, even if only at a slow pace at times.
Self-correcting systems are the ones I have the highest confidence in. That's why my religion and my science are so similar.
I never said the misguided statements and positions of the first presidency didn't matter. I said in effect that they did matter. That's also why the 1978 change in the right direction matters.
"If you really are aware of other official and explicitly stated doctrines changing in the church's history, just share them here."
I don't know that going through these will be a very productive conversation as our definitions of doctrine seem to differ, but here are just a few I can think of off the top of my head, lest you think I'm relying purely on the thoughts/work of others:
-The Law of Consecration/Tithing
-The Godhead/Nature of God (I'd say this continues to morph)
-The Word of Wisdom
-The Millennium (End of Days)
-Native American Origins/The authenticity of the Book of Mormon
Again, I acknowledge that what I define as a "doctrine" may only fall under the category of "practice" or "belief" for you, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. But, certainly these are a few.
Wow, that is an interesting list. Yeah, I'd say we'll have to agree to disagree, unless you can provide specific first presidency statements or church publications as you did for the last example.
Have you concerned doing the opposite thought experiment and discuss what will happen to the church if we dont change in some way on this subject?
In all these discussions think the one thing we have to come to terms with is that we know very little about life after death & before birth. Our two most detailed descriptions [Abraham 3 & D&C 132] are both hugely controversial. We love the concepts of afterlife and they have been the fodder for many a musing including plays like ‘Saturday’s warriors’ and speculation over the pulpit. (and continue to be)
We have discarded some of that speculation/direction over time – including pre-mortal worthiness of black people…. and polygamy necessary for celestial god-like-ness. But we will inevitably continue to speculate because much of our standing now is predicated on what we think will be privileges in the hereafter including marriage & children. And of course, despite these being essentially ‘wishes’ these can be very intense and lead to complex behavior. i.e FLDS broke off when the main church devalued what they believed was a core privilege/sacrifice.
Marriage (and family) has always been a big battleground for moral efficacy. And we have had many impassioned pleas of societies degradation over the pulpit; promiscuity, prostitution, mixed race marriage, mixed faith marriage, birth control , sterilization (vasectomy), family planning, marriage age, singleness, childlessness, abortion, de-facto relationships, illegitimacy, divorce, surrogacy, sex change surgery, birth defect screening, gender identification, IVF, sperm & egg donors, even bestiality and of course modesty & pornography etc. many of these issues are no longer marginalizations even within the church let alone the society at large… and some are totally ignored, obsolete or the height of hysteria.
I suspect as technology increases we will have new relationship worries including, designer babies, pregnancy outside the womb, Artificial intelligence, hybrid humans, fertility decline etc. [Personally I think Issues like Human – Machine relationships will supersede concerns over gay marriage and like mixed race marriage render the past concerns irrelevant (and the church will be irrelevant if it hasn’t already changed)]
Currently we are debating Homosexuality (and fluid sexuality). This provides (like most social issues) a divide between mostly older generations who are interested in what has worked for them (progeny etc) & younger generations interested in a future good (personal wellbeing etc). These are not necessarily mutually exclusive but quite different emphasis.
This provides pressure from one side to preserve the Status quo & pressure from the other to address inequalities.
Same sex marriage is here to stay (particularly in western countries). So the church will either decline in the west or have to change its stance.
So the question is not if we should change but WHEN & HOW? Change too early and you will upset your conservative base, change too late and you will lose most of your progressive future. [Priesthood/Temple ban had this same problem as did the Polygamy change]
Back to marriage and family – we value lots of things in this space, and in order to constructively change we need to highlight the values that the next iteration will carry on, and minimise the privileges that will be lost in the process.
What does gay-marriage have in common with heterosexual marriage? Love, companionship, fidelity, commitment, equitable partnership, sexual well-being, authenticity, long-term stability, increased mental health.
What are some potential threats? Childlessness??? eternal blessings???, re-write of eternal privilege for heterosexual sealed marriages??? Sharing of legal rights???
Are there any precedents in the Church already? At the moment we do time-only marriages in the temple for widowed couples who already have previous eternal sealings. They are mostly older, non childbearing, and non eternal….. we do this because we see the value in sexual companionship even if you are not pursuing a family or celestial union. [our practice is generally against celibacy as a godly option]
I think we could easily extend this to homosexual couples and suggest that God will sort it out on the other side (like we do with many other relationships) without having to re-write our whole rhetoric.
We are also fortunate that the Book of Mormon and the D&C have no direction on this, so we dont even have to worry about contravening modern scripture. Our biggest threat is that the Proclamation on the Family is cannonized entrenching a direction in church policy that will be harder to reverse.
If we continue to promote an Us vs Them attitude on Same sex marriage we will shrink the church and have very little future.
Anyway that is my two cents worth