Whoa boy. This isn’t really a topic I’ve had any desire to write about over the years that I’ve been blogging–despite the fact that Mormonism and gay marriage have no small amount of . . . history. I don’t typically like or enjoy opening my virtual mouth when it comes to hot topics like this, and that’s why I’ve done my best to steer clear.
So why have I decided to tackle the subject today?
Good question. I think some of it has to do with this post. If you don’t feel like clicking over to read it, it’s written by a gay Mormon who’s been married for ten years and is finally coming out of the closet publicly. If that guy could come clean with who he is and what his take on all this is, then me writing a simple column on my blog should be easy peasy.
No. I’m not gay, if that’s what you were wondering.
But I am Mormon (not like that’s a big revelation on this blog.) Many of my most popular posts have been focused on me explaining why I believe what I believe. Many people have been at least somewhat interested to read about it. So today I’m tackling gay marriage.
I think most people are aware of Mormonism’s stance on gay marriage–meaning, we’re against it. (Officially, the church has endorsed nondiscrimination ordinances in matters of housing and employment. It’s the rights that go along with being officially married that are the hang up.) And I think in many ways, the Mormon church has been set up to be a bit of a punching bag in this arena. We’re all against it, we’re homophobic, we’re dated, we’re . . . whatever other mean label you want to attach to us.
My hope in writing this post today is to explain why I personally believe what I believe. Why this issue that so many people have told me should be a clear cut, easy decision (and I’ve had people on both sides tell me this) is actually pretty darn complex when it comes to me personally.
To adequately explain my views as a Mormon, you have to understand what I believe. First and foremost, I believe there is a God. We’re His children. To me, the issue of whether God exists or not isn’t affected one whit by what I personally believe. It’s a factual thing. Every human on Earth could decide to not believe the sky was blue. Their lack of belief in a blue sky wouldn’t make the sky turn green. Belief doesn’t affect facts. Either God exists, or He doesn’t.
Assume for a moment He does. Mormons believe that the purpose of life is to get to know God better. Understand the rules by which He lives His life, and become more like Him. We believe our church is the one true church, that Christ is at the head of it, and that He leads the church through revelation to living prophets on Earth today.
(Yes. I know that above statement can come across as very insulting, particularly to believers of other faiths. But this post isn’t about which church is true. It’s about why I believe what I believe. I don’t mean to put down your faith–Mormons also believe that all good people can be saved, regardless of which religion they belong to right now. But that’s a post for a different time. One huge topic at a time, please.)
If you don’t believe God exists, then yes–this whole gay marriage thing becomes a lot simpler. Humanity can muddle along as best it can, making the decisions at the time that seem like they’re the best choice available. But I believe God does exist. Why do I believe that? Because I have had personal experiences in my life that show me He does. I’ve experienced first hand things like direct revelation, spiritual healing, prayers being answered. These events in my life are not up for debate. They happened to me, and nothing anyone can tell me will change that fact.
So for me–a believing Mormon–life isn’t just about doing what I think is best. When I was a missionary, I met a lot of people who wanted to find a religion that agreed with them on everything they already believed in. I don’t particularly think that’s how religion works. It’s not a self-help institution. It’s not about finding a place where you fit in. Religion–to me–is about finding out what God wants you to do. Chances are, you’re doing things God doesn’t want you to do. No matter how sensible and reasonable and splendid a fellow you are, some of those thoughts and reasons are going to be off base.
(In many ways, this reminds me of some conversations I’ve had with my kids. They think themselves very grown up, and they think their issues and problems are quite complex. Yet some of the things they come up with are . . . very inventive, and in no way based in reality. I love my kids, but eight and four year olds just don’t have a complete grasp on how the universe operates. I think God likely says the same things about us often. “I love my kids, but forty and fifty year olds just don’t have a complete grasp on how the universe operates.”)
Because we humans are an imperfect lot, Mormons believe God calls a person on the earth to be the prophet and leader of God’s church. This prophet receives revelation for the entire church. Today, the prophet is Thomas S. Monson. Is all of this making sense? So to a devout Mormon, when the prophet speaks, he’s speaking for God.
It’s through prophets that many of the things Mormons do (or don’t do) have come about. That whole no drinking coffee thing? That’s from a modern-day revelation. And I think a lot of the public perception problems Mormons have today stem from non-believers looking at some of the things we Mormons do and trying to explain them through secular means.
Take, for example, another sort of marriage we Mormons had a run in with over a hundred years ago: plural marriage. For decades during the mid to late 1800s, some Mormon men had more than one wife. Why? Prophets said that was what was supposed to happen. Much of America derided Mormons for this practice. And then, just as Utah was trying to become a state, the prophet received a revelation ending the practice of plural marriage.
“How convenient,” the world says. The secular explanation of all of this is that Mormon men wanted to shack up with a harem of Mormon women, and when they wanted to become part of the US, they decided to magically have God tell them to stop.
Take another hot button topic for Mormons: blacks and the priesthood. Prior to 1978, blacks couldn’t get the priesthood in the Mormon religion. That had been the policy for over a century. Then, just at the tail tail end of the civil rights movement, the Mormon prophet get a revelation saying blacks could now have the priesthood.
“How convenient,” the world says. Mormons decided to get with the program, culturally speaking, and poof! Another revelation telling them to stop doing that mean discrimination thing they were doing.
I’m not an idiot (usually). I know how this all looks to a non-believer. But then again, if you look at things a bit closer, you’ll see that if all of this revelation was happening for the sake of convenience, it would have come a whole lot sooner. The church is dealing with fallout from polygamy and accusations of racism to this day. If those revelations had come earlier, much of that fallout might have been avoided.
And there are other areas where the church hasn’t bowed to public opinion. Women still aren’t allowed to have the priesthood, for example.
But if it wasn’t convenience that caused these revelations, what was it?
My answer? I don’t know. Why in the world did the church wait until 1978 to give blacks the priesthood? I have no idea. God didn’t think the church was ready for it? I could come up with a slew of reasons, but they’d only be conjecture. Why was polygamy fine and dandy one minute, then against God’s will the next? Dunno. Again–there are some reasons that seem to make sense, but when you get down to it, it’s all conjecture again.
And you know what? This makes sense to me. There are times when my son asks me a question, and I want to answer him completely, but I don’t. Why? Because I know a complete answer is going to go right over his head. He won’t get any of it. The same thing happens in mathematics. I remember when I got to calculus (it’s been a long time, folks), my teacher explained that some of the “facts” we’d be told were rock solid weren’t quite so rock solid after all. They were incomplete explanations that had been simplified to make learning the basics easier.
Mormons believe the organization of the church is changing and evolving over time. That’s what modern prophets are for. Right now, the prophet has spoken out against the legalization of gay marriage. Why?
When you get down to it, I don’t know. There are a lot of reasons I could try to come up with. Some of them might even be the right ones. But again–I truly don’t know, and so to provide some explanation would be off base, in my opinion.
So why do I go along with it? I have friends who are gay. I have many more friends who are staunchly in favor of gay marriage. I like these friends. I like to consider myself to be a pretty darned open-minded person, for a Mormon. I don’t think of myself as bigoted or homophobic. (But then again, I realize that bigots and homophobes rarely do.) In part of my circle of friends, being against gay marriage is definitely a no no. It’s so obvious to people why gay marriage is fine, and any religious person who gets in a huff about it is just being short-sighted and rude, forcing their own world views on the rest of the world.
But you know what? I think a lot of what the world thinks these days is completely off base. I’m constantly dismayed at how romantic love and sex is portrayed and thought of as the ultimate trump card. In an unhappy marriage? That’s okay–just have an affair. That’s what Hollywood would have you think, at least. Not married? No problemo. Sleep together as much as you want. Sex is looked at more and more as an inherent right: I should be able to have sex with whomever I want, whenever I want.
I disagree with that sentiment.
Just remember. I have a strong belief that the worldview of Mormonism is the true one, not the worldview of the world. I don’t think there’s been a time in history when people have taken a look at themselves and said, “As a species, we’re pretty darn stupid.” There was a time when everybody knew the world was flat–even though it wasn’t. Everybody knew the sun circled the earth–even though it didn’t. The best way to cure a sick person is to cut ’em open and let ’em bleed. Lead paint is perfectly safe. People are constantly thinking things that just aren’t true.
I don’t mean to diminish the issue of gay marriage. I realize how serious it is, and how important it is to so many people. But I also believe that my understanding is limited. For now, the prophet has said to be against gay marriage. Why? I’m not entirely sure. Is it too much to think for a moment that there might be ramifications caused by something? Consequences we don’t see in the here and now? Of course it isn’t. That’s what prophets are here for–to help us make decisions when we have a tough time making those decisions.
And so people will read this and accuse me of following blindly. Of just turning over my decision making processes to another person. I hope that if you know me, you’ll realize that’s not how I operate. I’ve thought this matter through. I’ve prayed about it. I’m not against gay marriage because someone told me to be. I have a firm belief that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly, but wrongly, referred to as the Mormon church) is true, that it’s led by a man who speaks with God, and that this current position against gay marriage comes from God.
Fine, people will say. If you don’t want to support gay marriage, then don’t go out and get gay married. Why have my religion butt its head into other people’s lives? Setting aside the morality of the issue (which I’m doing my best not to touch with a ten foot pole in this post), my belief is that God wants what’s best for His children. If the prophet advises against something, it’s not because God feels like being particularly vindictive right then. It’s because that advice is what’s best for us at that time. That might change. But remember, I believe that the God I believe in is the only God out there, and He’s your father just as much as He’s mine–even if you choose not to believe in Him.
I do my best to try and understand how other people think and feel. I would hope people would do the same for me. I know some people who read this would say the obvious thing to do is to leave the church. Anything that teaches something that people define as hateful and discriminatory can’t be true. But again, to me there’s a distinct separation between what we define as hateful and discriminatory. My son thinks I’m an absolute jerk when I make him do his chores or don’t let him have a third helping of dessert. I don’t think it unreasonable that humanity still doesn’t understand everything God does.
I know I’m the worst guy to be writing about such a sensitive topic. I’m white. I’m American. I come from an upper-middle class background. I’m male. I’m straight. Look up “privileged” in the dictionary, and there’s my smiling face, right next to Paris Hilton’s. I know it’s hard to be non-white, non-American, non-male, and non-straight–theoretically, at least. I’ve never been any of those, after all. And I never will be.
I see the writing on the wall. I see that the country is headed toward accepting gay marriage. Does that fill me with dread? Am I worried my marriage will evaporate once it’s approved? No. Humanity is really good at not doing what God wants us to. No killing. No lying. No adultery. How are we doing at all of that? Not too great. Has the world imploded yet? Nope. Life continues. I’ll be happy for my friends when gay marriage is approved. Something they’ve really wanted for years will be here. I won’t have taken part in that. In fact, I’ll have been an obstacle to it. I won’t be convinced it’s the best thing for the country, but such is life.
Will the Mormon church ever come out in support of gay marriage? Again–no idea. I personally would be quite surprised, but stranger things have happened. Realize that according to Mormon doctrine, marriage is eternal. You’re still married to your spouse after you die. You can still have children in the next world. That’s one of the reasons of the entire universe. And try as people might, two men or two women can’t have kids. Yes, they can adopt or have a surrogate, but you need a male part and a female part.
Anyway. I’m a bit typed out at this point. Hopefully some of this made sense. As always, I’m open to comments and questions. All that I ask is that they stay respectful–on both sides of the issue. I will delete anything dismissive or demeaning toward gay marriage or (as is often the case with articles on Mormonism) toward Mormons. So keep it civil.