Thursday, October 30, 2014

By Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage, Is the U.S. "Choosing Iniquity"?

My scripture study today was Mosiah 29 (in the Book of Mormon).I can't resist commenting on verse 27 of this chapter, because of the frequency with which it is quoted (in conservative Mormon circles) against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

First of all, I believe this verse is true, and the entire chapter, actually, is a very interesting (and in some ways challenging and surprising) piece of political philosophy. (Political theology?) One of the most interesting concepts in this chapter, IMHO, is the idea that democracy encourages each individual to take responsibility for his or her own actions in a way that other forms of government can't.

The history of Nazi Germany is one demonstration of the "great destruction" wrought when "the voice of the people doth choose iniquity." (Though of course, Hitler came to power in a parliamentary system with only 33% of the vote.) It's also a classic demonstration of the notion in verse 21 that "ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood." There are plenty of other examples, but that one springs readily to mind.

If verse 27 is true, and if majority support for legal same-sex marriage constitutes "the voice of the people [choosing] iniquity" we should see "great destruction" falling on Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, France, the Low Countries, the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and of course the states in the U.S. and Mexico where it has been legalized. These are all democratic nations where same-sex marriage has been legally recognized through democratic and constitutional means.

Is it possible that the legalization of same-sex marriage in these democratic nations is a demonstration of the truth of Mosiah 29:26, that "it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right"?

You could argue that same-sex marriage has not been legal long enough to bring these countries under the judgments of God... But we can already see the fruit of legal same-sex marriage in the lives of gay couples, their families, their neighborhoods and communities, and it is good. We're seeing more stability, more commitment, more security both for adults and children. We are able to work at our jobs and receive the same benefits and protections for our families as other (heterosexual) workers. We're seeing the social safety net helping to protect many vulnerable who previously were not protected. We're seeing individuals who were once pariahs and outcasts integrated into their families and communities. These all seem like blessings of God being poured out in consequence of righteous choices rather than "great destruction" being visited in consequence of iniquity.

Let's also acknowledge that the predicted "destruction" of the family simply isn't happening. Gay individuals and gay families are being protected under the law -- not at the expense of but alongside heterosexual individuals and families. Heterosexuals are still getting married and having kids, as they have from time immemorial and as they will continue to do. Gay people will continue to be born into many of these families. But gay couples will now be able to get married, strengthen and support one another, support their parents, and adopt and care for kids whose heterosexual parents are not able to do so -- strengthening the social safety net for everybody.

And we will all be blessed, unless we -- like the voters of the Weimar Republic in the 1930s -- choose some genuine form of iniquity (like genocidal hatred of Jews) and bring destruction on ourselves.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do Same-sex Marriages Fulfill the Law of Chastity?

In relation to this question, I feel kind of like I imagine Gentile believers must have felt prior to the Council of Jerusalem (described in Acts 15).

Many members of the Church prior to that council insisted that in order to be a member of the Church in full standing, you needed to live the Law of Moses. It was then that the Church finally clarified that conformity to the Law of Moses was no longer required. At the council, Peter testified: "And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost ["them" being the Gentiles -- who were not conforming to the Law of Moses], even as he did unto us; And put not difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"

Ultimately the council issued a statement: "that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood."

It's interesting to me that they said "that they abstain from... fornication." The gay community has been going through an evolution in the last couple of decades, and is in the process of rejecting promiscuity in favor of commitment and continence within the boundaries of marriage. We've demanded no less than "marriage," we've been very deliberate about insisting on that word, because the word "marriage" clearly defines the kind of law we desire to govern our sexuality. And I believe, in consequence, we're seeing the Spirit being poured out on the LGBT community to the extent that we're willing to let ourselves be governed by this fundamental moral principle.

The gay community's embrace of the principle of marriage I believe is a perfect illustration of what Peter was talking about when he said "purifying their hearts by faith."

(And, for what it's worth... I don't see much evidence that mandatory celibacy is a "yoke" members of the Church are willing or "able to bear" -- though straight members seem willing enough to "tempt God" and "put [it] on the neck of [gay] disciples.")

I think the sign of whether same-sex marriages fulfill the law of chastity is whether we have the Spirit poured out on us in consequence of contracting and honoring our marriages. And I'm seeing an abundance of evidence that we do. So it's up to the Church now to figure out what to do with that evidence of the Spirit in our lives -- just as the Church had to contend with the signs of God's favor toward the Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem.