This Mormon’s Take on Gay Marriage

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.

16 thoughts on “This Mormon’s Take on Gay Marriage”

  1. You’re definitely too self-reflective and thoughtful to be a homophobe or a bigot! I try to have a very respectful view of all faiths, especially if they base themselves in core principles of love, understanding and the importance of the spiritual. On my blog the other day I had a post “Atheism, Spiritualism and Science” where I note that there is no scientific evidence against a God, and as we are space-time entities we cannot even imagine what might be outside space-time.

    There are homophobes out there; there are also people who think that cultural change can be damaging to social unity and oppose gay marriage for that secular reason. President Obama’s position in favor is very recent, due to what he calls an evolution in his thinking. As globalization brings rapid shifts to all cultures, we have to respect the difficulty change entails, as well as the validity of individual beliefs. So from someone who support gay marriage, I think you had a good post and made your point cogently and logically. Sorry my comment is so long, but so was your post 😉

  2. Thanks for the comment, Scott. It is appreciated. It sounds like my post is coming across the way I intended it to. I debated even publishing it–despite having worked hours on composing it. But in the end I decided to let it run, mainly because I believe the more we can all be up front and honest about our beliefs–and be respectful of how other people think and what they believe–the better we as a people will become.

    Of course, when you throw your thoughts and belief out to the internet at large, you’re never sure what’s going to come back. At least the first response was positive. 🙂 Thanks again.

  3. This was a hard read for me. You know that I disagree with you.

    I really admire and respect your faith, your faithfulness. And I think I follow your reasoning here. But you say your faith is the only right one and mine is wrong. It seems like there’s no room for argument there. So, for the moment, I’m at a loss when I try to think of something meaningful to say.

    Respectfully, I invite you to consider the work that my church is doing, faithfully and lovingly, on this issue:

    I have especially been enjoying the archives of the 2012 Easter Writing Project:

  4. Lisa–You were actually one of the people I was most worried about, reaction-wise. I really didn’t want this post to rub anyone the wrong way, and I typically (these days) only get in talks about religion to either answer people’s questions about my own or to explain what I believe to people who don’t know.

    I know of and respect the work other religions are doing to reach out to the GLBT community and make them feel loved and appreciated. Thanks for linking to your specific church.

    In the end, I believe we should all do our best to follow the light and truth we’ve been given, and to keep following it wherever it may lead. All who do that will one day return to live with God, regardless of current faith or creed.

    I didn’t mean to off-handedly dismiss your faith, and I really hope it didn’t come across that way. My purpose in writing the post also wasn’t to try and persuade anyone that I was right. I really just wanted people to understand where a Mormon might be coming from, just like I do my best to understand where other people are coming from. I’ve heard Mormons labeled as supporting hate speech and the like, and I feel like that’s an unfair representation of our doctrine–although I can see why people feel that way.

    Life is hard. There are tons of ways all of us make mistakes every day. No one should feel that they are less of a person because of the color of their skin, their gender, their religion, or their sexual orientation. I firmly believe God loves all equally. He loves me despite the mistakes I make and the things I do wrong. Being born a certain way isn’t a mistake.

    I don’t know. There comes a point in this conversation where it devolves into discussions of sin and morality and right and wrong. I don’t want it to go there, because while I believe there is an ultimate right and wrong, I also believe we are only accountable for our understanding of that. So what’s wrong for me (drinking coffee, to use a very tame example), is perfectly find for the vast majority of the human race. I don’t think less of people because they drink coffee.

    Hmm . . . Nothing I’m writing here is helping me put any sort of closure on this. I guess I’ll just say that I know you disagree with me, and I respect that and don’t think any less of you in the slightest for that.

    And . . . that’s all I can think of to say right now.

  5. Bryce,

    Thanks for writing this.

    I am often kept fairly insular in my world view, and I enjoy the chance to really delve into an experience and viewpoint that differs from my own, especially a well-articulated one.

    I think what saves me from reacting badly to your post (because I do, of course, disagree with you on this issue, and religion, for that matter) is your respect for people who do believe in gay marriage or who are in fact gay. You may think they’re wrong, but you are not openly judging them. You are not casting them out of your life. You are not disparaging them. That’s more than most people can claim, including those who aren’t the least bit religious.

    It really struck me that you admitted you are part of the obstruction to the freedom of gay couples to marry. It’s a mature and honest statement, but it’s also not entirely true, or not true in a way that I worry about.

    Other than your vote, you aren’t the person deciding this issue for our country. The United States was founded on the idea of governance separate from religious belief and authority. While that line is blurred constantly, fundamentally, as citizens, we’ve been told that our laws will not be made based on religious truth. As much as it’s important for you to live knowing that God has a plan and a reason for the truths your religion has taught you, it’s important for me to know that I am free from those truths in this country.

    Anyway. Now I’m rambling. Thanks again for writing it.

  6. Thanks for the comment Hilary, and for taking the post in the spirit it was intended. I’ve always been grateful for people like you and Lisa–who can be friends with me despite disagreeing about some fundamental worldview-level things.

  7. Kimberly Trider-Grant

    Bryce and Denisa, thank you for your honesty. As I have grown and developed in my own faith, I have decided that there is a bottom line for me: I was brought into this world by God, I will be removed from this world as he chooses, and I am accountable to him for how I have lived my life while I am here. I do not know the answers, and if I am honest with myself, I know that maintaining a lifestyle that my heart tells me is acceptable to God is about all I can handle! Anyone else’s life is between *them* and God and I do not have to concern myself with that. I only need to love my fellow man.

  8. Hilary and Lisa have already stated a lot of my thoughts, but I’ll add a few anyway. I honestly debated whether or not to read this post, simply because reading people justify their opposition to my right to marry the person I love typically makes me angry, and I don’t enjoy being angry at my friends. Your post was thoughtful and respectful, though, so although I still feel uncomfortable with your position, I’m not angry. 🙂 I appreciate, above all, your honesty. It’s honest to say, “I don’t know why gay marriage should be illegal, but I believe that’s what God wants.” It’s dishonest to make up secular reasons to justify your religious beliefs and to convince others to support your position, which is unfortunately what LDS church leaders behind the Prop 8 campaign did (as well as several church members who participated in the campaign).

    I guess my discomfort with your position stems in the feeling that you are gambling not with your own money, but with mine. As you admit, you don’t know why God wants you to oppose gay marriage. You’re making this decision based on feelings you’ve had, which you interpret as confirmation of God’s will. This is admittedly an extreme example, but Brian David Mitchell had very similar reasoning for believing God wanted him to kidnap and rape Elisabeth Smart. When religious belief is used to justify actions that harm other people, there’s no objective standard by which those actions can be judged (at least from the perception of the believer). You believe you’re doing the right thing, but you don’t know–which is the definition of faith. The problem in this situation is that your trial of faith involves very little personal risk for you, and a great deal of personal risk for me. I end up feeling like Isaac, offered up as a sacrifice to prove Abraham’s faith. (Except with no angel to stop you before the knife comes down.)

    That said, I recognize that being prevented from legally marrying my boyfriend is not the same as being raped or murdered. On the scale of harm that can be done to another person, campaigning to prevent another’s right to marry falls somewhere in the middle. And like Hilary said, it’s not like you’re single-handedly preventing me from marrying my boyfriend. (And honestly, at the moment marriage is much less important to me than, say, legal protections that would ensure me that he will not get fired if the wrong person sees us holding hands.) Moral of the story: I like and respect you enough not to let this stand in the way of our friendship. The fact that you have stated your beliefs so thoughtfully and respectfully makes it that much easier for me to do so.

  9. Kim–Very well put.

    Ben–Yours was another read I was (naturally) somewhat apprehensive to get. Once again, thanks for your understanding. And I’m very glad you’re not angry at me. I do want to make one point clear. While I personally have voted against the legalization of gay marriage, I have not campaigned for that purpose, even when repeatedly asked to. I don’t feel comfortable asking others to vote for something that I’m voting for just because of my faith. I realize there’s some doublethink embedded there, but we all make decisions in life, and that’s where this one came down for me. Like Hilary said in her comment, this nation is built on religious freedom. Voting according to my principles is one thing, but trying to persuade others that my religion should be legally adopted (which is what campaigning against gay marriage feels like to me) is too much for me.

    The way that Prop 8 was handled in California made me uncomfortable to the nth degree, especially because it was presented to Mormons in a “God wants you to campaign against this” sort of mentality, which I’m not convinced God did–I think the gospel is true, but (on a local level especially) individual church leaders can push local congregations in directions God didn’t necessarily intend for them to go. (I’m stating this very carefully. Can you tell?)

    Then again, this is a logical result of what happens when you have a lay clergy. As I’ve read your experiences growing up gay within the Mormon church, I’ve felt really bad for you. Some of the things your church leaders said and did . . . are very disappointing, to say the least. I have to believe and hope God makes it all even out in the end.

    As for the gambling with your rights line of thinking, I can also certainly see your point. Still, that’s sort of what democracy ends up being about in this country. Some laws get passed that affect the freedoms and liberties of people who didn’t want those laws in the first place. The argument here is that gay marriage does no harm, so society doesn’t need to protect against it and infringe on people’s rights to do it. Get some Republicans going on about health care and Obama. Again–not to equate the denial of your right to marry with making people get health care, just as your rape/murder analogy didn’t completely line up.

    Anyway. Thanks for your continued respect and friendship. The feeling is nothing but mutual.

  10. a. That was a really long post.
    b. I was hoping you were going to tell us you were gay. Darn.
    c. I do differ from what you said on prop 8. It was made VERY clear in SEVERAL direct sessions with slc to our area from the prophet and his counselors and the 12 apostles that they wanted us to devote everything single thing that we could to that cause, including money and time. It wasn’t a particular church leader. Or, I woudln’t have. It was awful. Just sayin’…
    d. Nicely said. 🙂

  11. Thanks for that clarification, Bryce. There is certainly a difference between voting for something and trying to convince others to vote for it. I appreciate that you draw the line between the two in this case. And although the analogy isn’t perfect (analogies never are), your healthcare point is a valid one. Cheers!

  12. Hilary–
    a. Yes, it was. Took me forever to write, too.
    b. Hate to disappoint. I’m a raging heterosexual.
    c. So I’d really like to know more about this. Who was doing the communicating here? Direct sessions with SLC to your area–who was speaking? (Names don’t need to be named, but positions would be nice.) Are we talking about the prophet doing a direct session? One of the twelve? Or someone speaking for them? Because I have sources that the edict came not from the prophet, but from lower down. If you’d feel more comfortable moving this part of the discussion to an email, that would be fine.
    d. Thanks. 🙂

    Ben–Glad the distinction makes sense to someone other than me. 🙂

  13. Bryce,
    First off, very well written post on the subject. We need more voices out there like yours.

    Secondly, I can confirm what Hilary said above, it did come from Church Headquarters. There was a special fireside held. I can’t remember who spoke at it, I want to say an apostle did, but I can’t remember. It certainly wasn’t just local leaders.

    And to B. G. Christensen I say that I hardly think it’s dishonest to come up with secular reasons. Granted, yes the number one reason I campaigned was because of my religion, but there are truly other secular reasons and rights I fear will be taken away if/when gay marriage comes into play. I really don’t want to argue about the specifics of those because I don’t really think it would get us anywhere, but I campaigned for both reasons. Not to trick people into voting for Prop 8.

  14. Hillary (wow–third Hillary posting so far. My writing must really connect to people with that name.)–I also didn’t mean to say people were trying to trick others into voting for Prop 8. Many people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue, for a variety of reasons. Whether the secular reasons given for supporting Prop 8 were valid or not is something both sides are going to disagree on, so I think it’s wise to let that issue rest as far as the comments section for this post go.

    As for the edict coming from church headquarters, I guess what I’ll just say is that, having spoken with people who talk to church headquarters on a regular basis, often what’s seen as a unified front is far more fractured. But I wasn’t in the meetings, and I was nowhere near California, so I guess I’ll just have to leave it at that. I will say that it’s telling that in the years since then, the church hasn’t come out and done the same thing in other areas. Here in Maine, gay marriage has been on the ballot once, and it’s on again this year I believe. You haven’t had the Twelve or the Prophet telling us to go out and campaign. (For which I’m immensely grateful.) Wherever the edict came from to fight so hard for Prop 8, it seems safe to say that God, the Prophet, the Apostles, or whoever has since rescinded or reconsidered such an approach–for reasons I (once again) don’t know.

    I don’t know much, it seems. 🙂

  15. Thanks for bringing this topic up. I enjoy how you present and argue
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