Disclaimer: I am not a spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church). I do not hold any position of authority in the Mormon church that allows me to dictate doctrine of the church to this audience. I can, I believe, speak of my own beliefs and of my own understanding of the doctrine. This essay is my personal voice and what I believe has been revealed to me through my search for answers. I share it with you in case it helps you find the truth in your own search for answers.
Note about my blogs: I reserve the right to edit or rewrite my blogs as my opinions change and evolve through discussion and maturity. If an element of a particular blog changes significantly, I will likely release a later version for further discussion. Please look for those later versions before reading and commenting. Please don’t take this as an invitation to recklessly assault my opinions hoping to change them. I am stronger than that. Logical and thoughtful rebuttals, however, may persuade me to rethink my stance.
What is homosexuality, exactly?
Before I can discuss my views on gay marriage, I feel I must first establish what, exactly, I know homosexuality (or gayness) to be. Gayness is a temptation. Temptations are real. Therefore, gayness is real. It is as real as the gays claim it to be. As such, it should be expected that your average gay person is as physically, mentally, and emotionally different or non-different as they claim to be. I believe that. I accept that.
Do these possible differences and non-differences make gays any more or less of a person than straights? No.
Looking for Meaning
I was born and raised Mormon and, through this, I was also raised to inherently believe that being gay was bad. Not just bad, but very very bad. I can’t say we were taught to fear or hate gays, or anything bigoted like that, only that it is was very wrong to be gay according to our Lord. As I grew into my teens and twenties, and came to know more and more gays, I began to wonder what really made a person gay. By this time I also had a pretty good understanding of my faith and why, technically, gayness was wrong, but I still spent time wondering what exactly gayness was. I especially got more curious the more I learned about the various androgynous birth defects. I mean, what where the truly androgynous to do? (I’ll answer that one later.)
Back to my early development. I started jazz dancing at the local ballet studio when I was in junior high and later switched to ballet a couple years after high school. I was also a musician and later spent a lot of time hanging around singers at universities. The more gay behavior I observed and the more gay friends I made, the more I began to wonder what is up with this picture. I knew their actions never felt quite right but I couldn’t say I knew why. To confound things more, I even witnessed disturbing behavior such as a male dancer discussing his “possible” gay feelings with ten or so female dancers with an apparent motive to get the attention he wanted from the women (not the men). Gay or straight, his cowardice made me sick that he could not get his desired attention honestly. Other things I saw made me even more sick with where society was headed in both gay tolerance and gay hate – but I see no useful purpose in trying to get into all of that here.
I wanted to know what exactly gayness was – logically, scientifically, religiously – and searched for answers for years. I was in my mid thirties when the answers struck me. I was at church, reading through our lesson handbook during class, when I read a quote from President Kimball that suddenly made it obvious to me that homosexuality was simply a temptation and that is was not unlike any other temptation. And, as a temptation, it can be overcome like any other temptation can. Anyone who has given in to this temptation is no better or worse than anyone else who has given in to any other temptation (which is, basically, all of us). Specifically, what made all this instantly known to me was the first sentence of the following paragraph:
If one has [homosexual] desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. … Again, contrary to the belief and statement of many people, this [practice], like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act. The fact that some governments and some churches and numerous corrupted individuals have tried to reduce such behavior from criminal offense to personal privilege does not change the nature nor the seriousness of the practice. Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere still denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons and daughters of God; and Christ’s church denounces it and condemns it. … This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it. (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 97.) (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, “Chapter 17: The Law of Chastity,” p. 181.)
It is, of course, useful to read the whole chapter if you want to know more.
This personal revelation (Mormon’s believe that any person may receive personal revelation from God) and understanding that gayness was a temptation like all other temptations instantly put a lot of things in perspective for me. Namely, I know, from my own temptations that I continually struggle with, that temptations are a very real part of us. My temptations are part of what makes me who I am — part of my identity. Mormons know that we each are given our own peculiar set of weaknesses and challenges. Therefore, it logically follows that homosexuals are truly different than heterosexuals. Likewise, I am also confident that anyone suffering unusual temptation towards any one of the “seven deadly sins” (not a Mormon term but still a useful term) will have scientifically provable similarities to other sufferers of the same temptation versus those who do not suffer that particular temptation as strong. In other words, yes, gays are different like they claim – but so are the lustful, the gluttonous, the greedy, the slothful, the wrathful, the envious, and the prideful. And, yes, I am also sure that you could break lust into various sexual categories and prove distinctions between those groups.
I would be very interested to see research attempting to prove or disprove this – not that it would change my beliefs (faith is faith and God’s laws are final) but it would, nonetheless, be interesting discussion one way or the other.
I see two major issues to address at the moment: gay civil rights and gay marriage.
The civil rights argument is obvious to me: Of course gays should have the same civil rights as anyone else who indulges in temptations (which is, all of us at one time or another). We are all human beings and children of God who deserve to be loved. If we can love all other sinners, we can love our gays. This kind of love is the true meaning of charity and is the path of righteousness.
Yet, I also recognize that the issues get more complicated quickly when we try to define what a civil right is and why gays can do this and not that. One thing I have to say about gay rights before I jump into the marriage issue is: “Treat everybody right!” That goes for everybody on all sides of this argument. Gays have rights to their opinions and votes… and so do the fanatical, right-wing conservatives. (I like to think of myself as a centrist or moderate but I suspect some may label me otherwise after reading this essay. I voted for Obama in 2008 but neither Obama nor Romney in 2012.) And in response to stupid stuff like not letting gays visit their loved ones in the hospital, I offer this advice: “Just because it may be lawful to do something, doesn’t mean we should.” (I read a quote to that effect years ago but cannot find it… perhaps a paraphrase of Lincoln.)
Regarding the gay marriage issue, I suppose it would be too simplistic to claim that gays already have the same rights as everybody else. A gay man can marry any willing woman and raise a family, and a gay woman can marry any willing man and raise a family. But this simple argument, as valid as it may or may not be, is obviously not why I am writing this essay. You may, however, understand later why I bothered at all to make this statement. It is more correct than it first appears.
The primary purpose of this essay is to answer why I cannot and will not support gay marriage as commonly defined (man to man, woman to woman, or other to other). The most basic answer to “why” is that God has commanded what a family is and I believe in being obedient to God even if I do not yet know why. But let’s try to answer the “why” anyway. I, personally, am never satisfied by faith alone and must also solve everything logically if not also scientifically. I am, after all, not Mormon merely because I was born to Mormon parents. I am Mormon because it makes good scientific, philosophical, and eternal sense. (By the way, “science versus religion” is one of my favorite topics – one that Mormonism always does very well with versus other Christian religions. We have answers to the hardest questions. Look for them sometime.)
One of the primary tenets of the Mormon faith is belief in eternal families. All persons are commanded by God to seal our families together for eternity. Husbands and wives are sealed together for eternity and parents are sealed to their children for eternity. Furthermore, these sealings can only hold if you are righteous enough to enter the highest kingdom of God (hint: by accepting and living all the teachings of Christ). The desire to build and maintain the eternal family, from my point of view, is the single most driving factor to the hard work and dedication of Mormons to life and faith. Simply put, we want to live with our spouse and children forever. Much joy and work await us in the eternities so why not spend it with the ones you love the most?
As I understand it, the structure of the eternal family that our Heavenly Father created follows higher or older laws. Likewise, on Earth, biological laws follow the eternal laws. Sure, families can be created outside of marriage in disobedience to these laws but these families cannot be made eternal until the disobedience has been repented for and proper marriages and sealings have taken place (and, yes, adopted children can also be sealed into eternal families if their natural family is not available or they are not the child’s preference).
A marriage is between a man and a woman. It makes biological sense. It makes eternal sense. It has been commanded to be this way by our Heavenly Father and His laws are eternal (and, thus, unchangeable).
Please forgive me but I feel I need to share a bit more of my own story here. My own possibilities to someday have an eternal family remain uncertain because of great mistakes in my past. Most people reading this will have a clear path forward for repentance and for establishing their families as eternal (if they choose to do so). I, however, have given in to various unnamed temptations too many times and have suffered the consequence of my wife leaving both me and our Faith and, thus, I have missed my chance to establish an eternal family in this world. After a long road of repentance and through many miracles given to me restoring my career and my health, my Heavenly Father has given me another chance at being useful and I now support a widow and her children as my mortal wife and step children. They are all sealed to her deceased, eternal husband. It is my lifelong goal to help them all join him in eternity. This leaves me on unknown ground for eternity but I am happy to help and to serve wherever I am able. I have only my faith that if God is pleased with my works now, then he will be fair and just with me in eternity. While I cannot help but constantly speculate as to what possibilities may await me (for many things are possible in the next life) I know I should not voice my speculations here. Whatever the result, I know I will be happy if I endure with righteousness to the end of this mortal life.
As tragic as my past has been, it has, however, given me a great understanding of how temptation works and how to overcome it. I don’t know that I could have ever come to understand gays and my own peculiar feelings without this terrible but remarkable journey.
Some may consequently ask that if God can do all things, and if children can be adopted into families, then why cannot children be adopted eternally by gay couples? Good question, I suppose, but it simply cannot be. The laws of procreation appear to extend into eternity. How or why, I do not know. My faith simply tells me that this is how the universe works and that it is good.
Others may then ask about Mormons and their history with polygamy and how it fits into the grand scheme of things. As much as I would like to avoid this topic here, I suppose I cannot avoid it entirely. Polygamy is only allowed when God tells us it is necessary, and when the laws of the land allow it. It is neither legal nor necessary right now. Polygamy is hardly a Mormon creation but we usually catch all the rumors and stereotypes about it in America. In short, we generally believe that women are more righteous than men and that more women will make it to the highest kingdom of God than men will. When women outnumber the men, there must be polygamy in order for all to have a spouse – such as in the 1800s in America when Mormon men were being massacred by their fellow Americans. As a side note, polygamy also makes biological sense, but I don’t care to pursue this argument. Why it can’t go the other way (one woman married to multiple men), I won’t get into either, but it has to do with the divine and biological roles defined for men and women. One curious thing that I can’t help mentioning here is that gay marriage opens the doors for cohabitation and whatnot and, thus, polygamy. Yet, Mormons are still against changing the definition of marriage in America. That should mean something to people. We won’t sacrifice the definition of marriage just because it might again allow polygamy, which isn’t proper for this time anyhow (and can come with its own set of problems regarding sexual temptation). [Keep in mind that this is me talking and not the church. Just my own odd thoughts on the subject.]
Back to monogamy and gay monogamy (Is that a term?). Given the above information and beliefs, it should begin to be somewhat apparent how I see gay marriage as destructive. Destructive to families, destructive to societies, destructive to nations. Living a life of self-justified complacency to temptation breeds more complacency to more temptations. In my opinion, this is how America came to the gay marriage argument in the first place: we became too complacent in justifying all temptations before this one (alcohol, drugs, honesty, fornication, adultery, pornography, etc.). Self-justification slowly destroys the individual as they sink lower and lower. Societal complacency slowly destroys the society. National complacency destroys the nation. “Wake up, nation!” Rising individualism lowers the fertility rate which then stresses and destroys society.
Some Mormons are quick to remember a possible statement from Joseph Smith regarding the Constitution of the United States falling into tatters through such degradation of standards. I do not know much about this even though I have heard claims of such a prophecy my whole life. I prefer a less fatalistic view where we do not have to wait until the Constitution utterly falls to pieces before the righteous might save it. Therefore, even now – especially now – I must do what I can to fight for what I know is right for my nation. We can wait for the return of Christ (or for the Messiah) in a healthy nation, or we can wait in a tattered nation. You choose. Perhaps the nation and Constitution are already in tatters. Will you make a stand (either way) to save it?
The one thing that I do know for certain regarding the U.S. Constitution is that many Mormons hold it to be sacred and believe that the men who wrote it did so by the hand of God:
And for this purpose have I [the Lord] established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80.)
To me, the threat that gay marriage and other acts poses to the nation, the world, and the family is very real. Blessings from God are gained through obedience. This I know through my own terrible acts of disobedience and loss of blessings… and subsequent repentance and restoration of blessings. If a nation chooses to be disobedient, God will withhold his blessings from that nation. This does not always mean that God will send destruction to that nation (I cannot know the will of God); it may, however, mean that he may stop protecting that nation from bringing destruction upon itself. Mormons know the land in the Book of Mormon to be a “land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.” (Ether 2:7; 1 Nephi 2:20.) We know these lands are somewhere in the Americas. I believe there is good evidence that these lands are, more specifically, in North America and primarily in the United States. Therefore, it seems certain to me that God will preserve this nation for righteous people one way or another. I would rather fight for righteousness now than test God’s wrath.
It is apparent that this nation was cleansed by the shedding of blood in early American history with the Revolutionary War. I believe this nation was also tested and cleansed again by the shedding of blood with the Civil War. I also believe that President Abraham Lincoln was a great man who was acting as God’s servant and who was taken from us when God’s work was done. God will not let his servant’s work be done in vain.
I digress a bit – back to the U.S. Constitution and laws.
One could present an argument to me that perhaps marriage should not be recognized by the government at all. I, personally, might indeed find such an argument valid – particularly in the case of tax breaks for couples. What then? While I may agree with the validity or fairness of these arguments, they would likely still not sway my stance or vote because of a particular concept I have come to call a “national moral code.” I believe that nations have a right to establish more than just black and white laws of right and wrong but can also establish a moral code. If the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, then the moral code might be found in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
What this means, for example, is that if I had the opportunity to help establish the “Unique Republic of People Like Me” I would, naturally, work to establish a national moral code similar to my own. Would this desire to instill my personal or religious moral code upon a nation be wrong? Quite likely it might be if I were an evil or unjust person. But does this possibility of evil inherently make such an idea wrong? I say no. This great nation was founded with a national moral code that trusts in God and I believe it is right to continue to strive to maintain such values.
As a Mormon, I believe in freedom and free agency:
Now there was no law against a man’s belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds. (Alma 30:7.)
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Articles of Faith 11.)
People should have the right to choose between right and wrong regardless of my personal opinion of what is right and what is wrong. Yet, we can’t have people choosing to do things like murder freely, so we must draw the lines and the laws somewhere to keep some order. One option is to draw those lines at the boundaries between harm to oneself and harm to others. For example, while drinking alcohol may be morally wrong, it should be legal, so that people may be free to indulge or overcome this temptation themselves. Just because drinking may be legal doesn’t mean, however, that alcoholism should be dismissed as okay and normal. Furthermore, violent drunkenness and actions such as drunk driving should be outlawed because they have crossed the line between endangering oneself and endangering others. These arguments around alcohol and drugs are fairly easy for most people to see.
Now take the drinking arguments and adapt them to the wide array of sexual temptations. Here, the discussion gets much tougher because it is much harder to find consensus on which acts are causing harm to others and which are not. Some see birth control as harmful to the creation of life, some do not. Some see fornication as harmful through the potential for bearing a child out of wedlock, some do not. Some see adultery as harmful to the family, some do not. Opinions, however, get stronger rapidly with incest and pedophilia. Opinions get very clear with rape. Thus, finding the line between harmful and not harmful tends to be very subjective to the society and this subjectiveness provides no clear boundary on which to place a law.
For the sake of argument, lets place the law somewhere in the middle of all this with homosexuality on the legal side. Homosexuality then becomes analogous to other arguments where it may be morally wrong, but still legal. Just because it may be legal, however, doesn’t mean I have to condone the addiction to the temptation, especially if I believe that such condoning would cause real harm to those involved, and/or society as a whole. To me, gay marriage is just the latest addition to a long list of real threats that are causing harm to the family unit and, thus, should be outlawed because it crosses the line of harm to others. I will even go so far as to suggest that the gay-marriage threat is worse than many other threats because the damage can be eternal rather than merely mortal. That is because it will not be possible for a righteous child of gay parents to have these same parents in the highest paradise of God in the next life; and, that, is a difficult scenario to find truth in while living in this mortal world.
True, not all gay couples will be bad parents. True, not all straight couples are good parents. This argument is nearly irrelevant to me because the disobedience to God will always be there with gay couples while there is hope that other couples may improve. The threat to the sanctity of the divine role of marriage is at steak and this sanctity is all important. (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World.) On a similar front, the proper family unit is so important to Mormons that the Church generally recommends that unwed mothers who have no current prospect of marriage place their newborn children for adoption to married couples so as to give both the mother and the child the best future: the mother can focus on restoring her righteousness, and the child can be adopted and sealed into a family with good hopes of eternal blessings. (LDS Adoption.) Remember, this is not a requirement, only a recommendation. Trust in the Lord. What it illustrates, however, is exactly how important we believe it is for a child to have a righteous mother and father. Consequently, it follows that there is far less possibility for a gay couple to provide the same blessings to a child versus a straight couple.
Regardless of my faith here, I would still be curious to see more scientific research done in this area (if the world chooses to continue down this complacent path). The results won’t change my faith but they would provide interesting information to talk about and dwell upon. I would like to see studies of both relationship success (before and after marriage) and child success (during and after childhood). Specifically, I would like to see studies comparing the average gay family to the average American family to the average Mormon family to the average devout Mormon family (all of the same income class as the average gay family).
Some may suggest I have not provided enough sources to support my claim of also having a scientific view against gay marriage. True, I cited no scientific sources supporting this stance. Considering that I already indicated that I can believe some or all scientific evidence that gays are different, then I find no point in trying to cite this or that on either side of this argument. I basically cede all arguments here while also claiming the generality of them as support of my own stance that gayness is real because all temptations are real. Some minorities strive to prove they are different, others strive to prove they are the same. Whatever. We are all children of God.
As to scientific studies of gay marriage specifically, I am still waiting for those. But basic common sense tells me that living in such selfishness has a lower chance of creating something beautiful.
UPDATE 2017: I have heard of some studies over that last few years that claim children of gay couples grow up just as successful as children of straight couples. I can believe these results but, yet, I still maintain suspicions on whether or not they are comparing apples to apples as well as their measurements of success. I even heard one gay comedian take some data on this so far as to say that all the children of gay couples are straight and so there must be something wrong with straight couples if they think that being gay is so bad, since they are producing all the gays. If you ask me, however, she (the comedian) only proved my point for me. That if children are durable in spite of their parents, then they are getting a deep and extended view of the selfishness and other failures of their gay parents and running the other way. Furthermore, adoption of children by gay couples also appears to lead to deep difficulty for children, but that topic could fill a whole other essay. In brief, these things tell me that children are durable and God will find a fair way to test them regardless; and, yet, we also shouldn’t be setting things up the hard way for them by giving them difficult eternal family futures.
Regarding the biological arguments of how life is created, well, forget about it. The gay arguments cannot win and I find no contest there (even though some may claim otherwise). The various biological arguments are beyond the scope of this essay.
There is one final item somewhat related to this discussion that I feel compelled to just kick out there because I’m tired of its damage here and elsewhere: What is up with all the celebrity worship? Why do we treat our celebrities as gods and listen to their opinions as if they were scripture? Celebrities are not gods or prophets and are no smarter than you or I. Always remember the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3.)
Resolution and Summary
So what does a person like me expect a gay person to do given their temptations towards the same sex? I expect the same of gays as I do of any other man or woman. Fight to cope with or to overcome your temptations and find a good spouse of the opposite sex who understands what you are coping with and who will support you in your struggles. If I have learned anything as a result of my tortured and tragic past, it is that good women come in all shapes and sizes – including ones who are willing to understand and help you with your darkest temptations and love you more so because of your forthrightness and honesty. This is possibly the greatest miracle that can be seen everyday on this planet: the astounding ability of women to love their flawed men. Find your spouse and treat them well! Anything less than that simply angers me and breaks my heart. I shed tears over this, even now, as I write this.
It takes great courage to acknowledge and face your flaws. Don’t be a coward.
So, yes, I believe gays are pretty much who they say they are. Does this mean I have to sympathize with their quest to justify their actions in their temptations and should allow them to wreck the definition of a marriage as I know it? No.
Is it right to adopt a national moral code and law that states a marriage is between a man and a woman? Is it right because we believe anything else would put the family at unnecessary risk of harm? National moral codes may not be fair to all people who do not see the wisdom in them, but I know it is right to fight for them if you believe in them. Was it right to indict the King of Great Britain of “repeated injuries and usurpations” in 1776 even though he surely did not see the wisdom in our fight? The King broke many of our national moral codes (as listed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence) so we kicked him out. We don’t have to kick anyone out here – we just have to stand and vote for what is right and not be blinded by public opinion when it goes awry.
As to those who are truly born physically androgynous and what they should do, ask God and he will tell you as long as your heart is ready to hear him:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5.)
This single scripture is the foundation of personal and modern-day revelation. You will either believe this scripture or you won’t. Don’t ask me. Ask Him.