A Response: “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage”
The message of this article feels familiar: if we consider ourselves Disciples of Christ, then we will obey. God’s will is for men and women to be in monogamous, heterosexual (traditional) marriages – and in addition to being in these relationships, we should defend them.
In delivering this message, Elder Nelson uses strong, definitive words like “the most”, “cannot yield”, “warn”, “stern judgment”. And sets up several binaries like “love means obedience”.
Elder Nelson is straightforward in his approach, rather than nuanced. To me the topics of discipleship and marriage are complex, and I would like to add some further ideas to consider.
Elder Nelson says, “The day is gone when you can be a quiet and comfortable Christians” and continues, “Disciples of the Lord are defenders of traditional marriage.”
I recognize that the focus of this article is on defending marriage, but there are obviously more things for disciples to defend than traditional marriage – such as the poor, the trafficked, and children.
This binary also begs the question: are we Christians and disciples if we choose not to defend traditional marriage? Do we still love the Lord if we choose to show it in other ways, like comforting the distressed or encouraging the voices of women?
Because I am single, the language in this article feels exclusionary for me. When speaking of how one might feel when reflecting on life, Nelson says our thoughts should be first of our performance as “good husbands and fathers or a good wives and mothers”- and second: as good people.
The most important thing in my life is not being a good wife or mother, because I am neither. It seems to me that the language could be more open to include those who do not fit primary categories – people like divorcees, single parents, and me.
Elder Nelson also says, “The greatest guardians for all virtues are marriage and family. This is particularly the case with the virtues of chastity and fidelity both of which are required to create enduring and fully rewarding marriage partnership and family relationships.”
As a single woman, I do consider myself a guardian of these virtues and it is a personal sacrifice. Again, perhaps language could be more open to include other guardians.
Children come into families in many ways. In my experience, raising children is a complex business and requires many people – to aid, protect, and help raise them. I believe children deserve to be loved, cared for, freed from abuse and neglect. Many types of families can create this for children.
Elder Nelson’s comments on children are more narrow. “It takes a man and a woman to bring a child into the world.” and “Children deserve a chance to grow up with both a mom and a dad.” It seems to me that there is beauty and complexity missing from this view.
Elder Nelson talks about the possibility of being persecuted for defending the traditional family and quotes 3 Nephi 12:10: “Blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Persecution, Nelson infers, will follow righteousness, but we will be blessed for staying true to God’s command.
Perhaps those who defend their beliefs around traditional marriage are persecuted, but I’m unsure if persecution is reliable yard stick. Many people are persecuted, for a variety of reasons. Jewish people have suffered horrific persecution; homosexuals have been and are persecuted; suffragettes were persecuted; and interracial couples were and are persecuted.
Near the end of the article, Elder Nelson states, “Proclaim your love for all human beings, with malice toward none, with charity for all.”
This seems in contradiction to an earlier section where he quotes the Apostle Paul: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affections, trucebreakers, false accusers, despisers of those that are good.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Elder Nelson does not encourage us to love the people who fall into these categories (as we all do), but “from such turn away”.
How do we show our love to others? How do we defend traditional marriage and love those who do not participate in traditional marriage? How do we love the single woman, the gay man, the divorced father, the unwed mother?
I believe these are important questions to consider as we strive to be disciples.