The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, is an institution unlike any other religious organization in the world for one reason: prophets. Mainline Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, the Baha’i Faith, and a number of other sects are all similar in that they believe that prophets talked to God and wrote scripture a long time ago – but that such prophets do not exist in our time. Some small sects do profess to believe that various individuals do stand as authoritative representatives of God in this world as the prophets of old did, but over the last thousand years or so, the general trend has been for such sects to arise under the leadership of this “prophet” and then fizzle out as soon as he is gone. Additionally, the adherents of such sects tend to prove unable to function as contributing members of society. Indeed, their leaders often command them to completely cut themselves off from society. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is special in that it is a large, mature faith – with over 14 million adherents and nearly 200 years of history – that has managed to maintain a trend of solid growth even after the death of Joseph Smith. While the adherents of the faith believe that they follow a divinely inspired leader of a caliber comparable to Moses, Isaiah, or John the Revelator, their apparent weirdness does not extend far beyond a hokey sub-pop-culture and innovative Jell-O recipes.
So what does this have to do with homosexuality and similar gender and family issues? In simple terms, an understanding of the Latter-day Saint view of revelation is absolutely vital in that it shows that the doctrines of the Church are not and cannot be decided according to shifting social preferences. The Church claims that both its interpretation of ancient scripture and additional scripture introduced by Joseph Smith and others come from God, and not from mere scholars or believers who do the best they can due to a presumed state of heavenly silence. Thus, for the doctrines of the Church to suddenly undergo a fundamental change, the entirety of its message would prove illegitimate. For instance, while Southern Baptists believe that the will of God is expressed through their democratic system of ecumenical governance, this belief is a very loose one: since it is obvious that Baptist doctrine is defined by what Baptists think rather than by what God thinks, if that doctrine were to change, there would be nothing particularly earthshaking about such a development. Southern Baptists do not even claim to have the same authority as Peter or Ezekiel, so any claim to prove that point would be of little use. However, Latter-day Saints do believe that their interpretations of scripture come from God in a very real sense, and any discussion of Latter-day Saint doctrine must occur with that understanding in mind.
In recent decades, emboldened by slackening sympathies from society in general, a growing number of Latter-day Saints have started to “come out,” describing themselves as “Gay Mormons” or “Homosexual Mormons.” Some, particularly those who hardly ever actually attend services or read their scriptures, seem to believe that the Church’s doctrines do not conflict with the homosexual lifestyle in any way. Others, correctly realizing that the homosexual lifestyle is absolutely incompatible with current doctrines, often develop a hope that doctrines will change in the future, allowing two men or two women to go to the temple and get married for time and all eternity in the same way that a man and a woman can. However, the assumptions that these people make as a result of these hopes are all baseless. Here are a few:
“If we just remain faithful to the Church’s doctrines in every other way and exert soft force on its leaders, they will eventually come around.”
The Kingdom of God is just that: a kingdom. God is the boss, and He does not take suggestions. If God needs suggestions, God is not God. Those who assume that God is not actually the source of the Church’s doctrines – those who believe that our leaders do not really receive revelation – should not want to be members of the Church to begin with. If you honestly believe that a man has been appointed by God to lead you in moral issues, you should never want him to “come around” about any such issues.
“Jesus Christ dined with sinners, so the Church should stop being so judgmental.”
The irony in this argument lies in the fact that it implies that homosexuals are, in fact, sinners. Aside from that, though, the other implications here make no sense. Yes, Christ dined with sinners and preached a gospel of love – but He also publicly chastised sinners and even beat them with whips. The difference between these two groups of sinners was that the first came to Him specifically for the purpose of forsaking their sins, while the second came to Him to make themselves feel better by telling Him that He was wrong. Into which group do these people fall when they come to the Lord’s anointed and try to convince them to change doctrines to make the Church more palatable to society?
“Homosexual marriage is compatible with the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage.”
Gender identity is a fundamental doctrine of the Restored Gospel. We believe that there is more to gender than sex: those who are male in this world were male before they received bodies and will continue to be male after they die. The same goes for females. Our gender is an inexorable aspect of our identity, and God is no idiot: He does not match male bodies with female spirits or vice versa. Arguments challenging Latter-day Saint beliefs regarding homosexuality are largely rooted in a feeling that sexuality is not something that Mormons concern themselves with. However, the contrary is actually true: sexuality is something extremely sacred to us. It is for this reason that we must be unyielding when it comes to homosexuality, as it is a perversion of something most sacred. Sexual deviants often talk about how their love transcends meaningless physical things such as an incompatibility of sex organs. However, in doing so, rather than elevating sex to the spiritual level, they turn it into something purely temporal: they imply that one’s identity as a male or female is meaningless on the spiritual level, and that all spirits are neuter. The Latter-day Saint belief in eternal marriage, however, comes forth as a result of an understanding that gender is something applicable to all levels of existence, and that only by joining male and female energies can we progress together to the point that God wants us to reach.
“We have the right to disagree with the Prophet.”
Of course you do. However, you do not have the right to belong to this Church when you believe that its doctrines are false and tell others to do the same.
“The Church has changed its doctrines in the past.”
No, it has not. The application of doctrines changes, but the actual doctrines do not. Those who expect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to warm up to homosexuality tend to respond to this assertion by claiming that the Church has, in fact, changed its doctrines in two areas: polygamy and priesthood. However, this is not true in either case. Regarding polygamy, anyone who assumes that the Church’s doctrine is or ever was either strict monogamy or strict polygamy does not understand the Church’s doctrine or its history. The Church’s doctrine regarding polygamy is clearly shown in the Book of Mormon:
Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:27-30)
The doctrine according to Jacob is very clear here: The general rule is and always has been strict monogamy. However, in cases in which the population is skewed, having more eligible women than men, it makes sense to practice polygamy for one or two generations until that imbalance has abated. Only the Lord can say when it is necessary to practice polygamy, though. Unless the Lord specifically commands us to practice polygamy, we must practice strict monogamy. This was the doctrine of the Church in the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and it continues to be the doctrine of the Church today. No doctrinal change has occurred: the temporary need to practice polygamy has simply subsided. Those who refuse to see the simple truth of this do so as a matter of personal convenience rather than rational truth-seeking.
As for the matter of priesthood, I do not intend to address that in-depth here. However, I think it is sufficient to say that, from Genesis to the Doctrine and Covenants, we have seen a continuing trend in the Lord’s issuance of priesthood authority, and that this trend has continued up into modern times. What was once given only from father to eldest son in a very limited patriarch-to-patriarch model has gradually broadened over the millennia, becoming available to a larger and larger group of people as time passed. The fact that a particular group had to be last should not be any great trial of faith for us, and the extension of priesthood authority to that group is evidence of a continuity of doctrine rather than a revocation of it. Some might say that, according to this logic, the scope of priesthood authority may continue to expand, allowing women to hold the priesthood – and then homosexuals. I doubt that women will ever hold the priesthood, but if the Prophet were to issue a statement to the contrary, it would not be a trial of faith for me. However, God will never categorically extend His Holy Priesthood to people who openly and unequivocally believe that the doctrines of His Gospel are incorrect.
“We will obey doctrine as it is, but we hope it changes in the future.”
Regardless of whether doctrine changes in the future or not, this is an intrinsically sinful attitude, and it shows that you obey out of fear rather than out of a desire to obey. No one should live his life hoping that God will someday sanction his favorite sin.
“We are persecuted.”
I am truly, truly sorry for the hate that homosexuals face in society – especially when it comes from members of the Church. From a doctrinal standpoint, we should not view homosexual acts much differently from adultery or general fornication. For some reason, though, people in this church often shrug at heterosexual fornication, viewing it as something bad-but-understandable, while vehemently railing against homosexuality. This ethical imbalance is something that I hope changes in the future. However, let’s remember that no amount of undue persecution can turn a vice into a virtue.
What To Expect
Joseph Smith and others prophesied that this Church, though still small, would grow to establish a presence in every nation of the world, and that, prior to the Second Coming, we would see a time of great rebellion from within the Church, causing even those previously thought to be very faithful to deny the faith and become enemies. Judging by developments that are currently happening in the Church, I think that it is perfectly rational to assume that such issues of discord and rebellion will come largely as a result of disagreements with the Church’s doctrine of homosexuality. We may even again see a time in which Apostles deny the faith due to an inability to accept the idea that they or their family members may be sinning by rejecting the words of the prophets. Buckle up: Things are only going to get crazier.
What We Should Do:
- Be nice. Some make the mistake of thinking that being righteous always means being nice. Jesus was not “nice” to the Pharisees and Sadducees. However, this does not give us the right to be snooty or mean. We should do whatever we can to help people feel the love of God – and realize that someone who is struggling with a particular sin may even be more righteous than us in another area.
- Stand with homosexuals whenever possible. While the Church has been unyielding in its doctrine regarding homosexuality, the leaders of the Church have wisely done what they can to show love for homosexuals. One way of doing this has been to help them enjoy the same basic rights as other people. In the political realm, we should enact and support policies that help to ensure that homosexuals enjoy the same basic human rights as other people, such as access to health care, housing, and employment. However, this does not mean that we must allow our representative governments to openly advocate and institutionalize the homosexual lifestyle by elevating it to the same status as what a husband and wife have.
- Believe. Maintain a testimony of the Restored Gospel: believe that God has not left us alone in the dark, but that He has sent us prophets just as He did in times of old.
- Obey. If you experience same-gender attraction issues, deal with them. We all have tendencies toward sin, and we all have to overcome them. You can do this: many people have, my favorite example being Michael Glatze. Even if marrying someone of the opposite sex is not something you think you can do, God still requires chastity from you. No, it is not easy – but chastity is not easy for anyone.
What We Should Not Do:
- Obsess. Every apostate I ever met became an apostate because he decided to become something else first and a Saint second. Whether it means openly accepting homosexuality or becoming violently hateful of it, obsessing over this issue and forgetting about everything else will cause you to live a very imbalanced life and lose touch with reality.
- Ignore. This is a real problem, and it is only getting worse. The world needs the Gospel now more than ever, so be part of the solution.
An Era of Prophets
I know that I am blessed to live in an era in which prophets guide God’s people. As Brigham Young once said:
I felt in those days [before joining the Church], that if I could see the face of a prophet, such as had lived on the earth in former times, a man that had revelations, to whom the heavens were opened, who knew God and his character, I would freely circumscribe the earth on my hands and knees; I thought that there was no hardship but what I would undergo, if I could see one person that knew what God is and where he is, what was his character, and what eternity was. (DNW, 8 Oct. 1856, 3)
A prophet guides us today. As in times of old, some people oppose his message. Some of these people are outside the Church, while others are inside. Some of these people oppose the message with violent force and inflammatory rhetoric, while others use soft words and tears. The majority of the people of this world will almost always oppose the true Gospel. This is to be expected. Let’s not look back on our lives after this homecoming game is over only to realize that, when we were faced with the great challenges of our time, we stood on the wrong side of the line. I may have my moments of weakness and indiscretion, but I will stand with the Prophet of the Lord until I die. I am a Saint first and foremost – and nothing else really matters.