Theological Thorns and Same-Sex Marriage

download (1)Last November, revisions to Church Handbook of Instructions 1 included policies of ordinance exclusion to minors who reside with same-sex parents and of mandatory disciplinary council (essentially mandatory excommunication, I believe) for Church members in same-sex marriages.[1]  These policies have brought three theological problems to the fore in my mind: the universality of exaltation, the personhood of God, and the centrality of patriarchy.  While these are not new problems, examining the policies has, for me, given them a new urgency.

This is not the first time people have been categorically denied ordinances in the LDS Church, but these new policies, and the assertion that they come by prophetic revelation,[2] have deeply shaken many of us.  They have made me seriously reconsider LDS soteriology, or doctrine of salvation.  LDS soteriology holds that virtually all people will be delivered from sin and death through Christ’s atoning sacrifice[3], but this is often subsumed in a focus on the uniquely LDS doctrine of exaltation.[4]  The fact that the Gospel Principles lesson manual has a chapter on exaltation, but not one on salvation, belies the reality that soteriology for Latter-day Saints is really about exaltation.[5]  Is exaltation universally available, and therefore possible for any given soul?

Gospel Principles defines exaltation as to “live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven…with our Heavenly Father in eternal families.” [5] This resource lists five ordinances required to qualify for exaltation: baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, endowment, and marriage.  The marriage requirement, as currently constituted, categorically excludes some individuals from exaltation: those who find themselves outside the cis-gendered, heterosexual majority, who do not enter into opposite sex, opposite orientation marriages.

God is the author of creation, and creation is diverse beyond comprehension.  As Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso so beautifully put it, “Since human beings are created in the image of God and no one looks like another, it is required to look in the faces of all people to catch a glimpse of the vastness of the divine.”[6]  Human beings are diverse not just in physical appearance, talents, and interests, but also in their sexuality.  How could it be that a God who authored the amazing variety found in humanity also created a system of exaltation that categorically excludes a portion of humanity?

LDS soteriology only works if eternity consists only of cis-gendered, heterosexual souls.  Since I have not seen the afterlife, I must concede the possibility that the spectrum of human sexuality will be collapsed down to two types: hetero-oriented female and hetero-oriented male.  But that would be at odds with other canonized thought, specifically an idea from Alma chapter 34: “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”[7]  In context this verse is talking about repentance, but given Alma’s concern with the state of the whole soul [8] and Christ’s distillation of all the commandments to love of God and neighbor,[9] I think it would make reason stare to assume that sexual love is disconnected from the rest of our souls, and will not continue into the eternal world (at least not for some of us).  Simply put, LDS soteriology is not internally consistent when it asserts that exaltation is available to all, and at the same time limits exaltation based on sexuality.

My second concern is with the personhood of God.  LDS doctrine holds that God has personhood – God is not without body form and function, and that humans are literally, and in detail, created in the image of God, male and female.[10]  LDS doctrine also affirms the existence of a “universal Father and Mother,”[11] who presumably are married, and that gender is eternal.[12]  Most radically, LDS soteriology culminates with humans becoming gods.[4]  How can LGBT individuals aspire to godhood that is founded on immutable gender and heterosexual marriage?  Again, since I haven’t seen the afterlife, I concede the possibility that God created souls that are meant only to be saved, not exalted.  But this is not a God I want to believe in.  I believe, as Rabbi Sasso does, that God’s nature transcends and exceeds the creation that flowed from it.  In other words, there must be much more to the personhood of the LDS universal Father and Mother than we currently know, or think we know.

The third theological problem stems from the characterization of God as the supreme patriarch.  In LDS theology, men preside in the church and in the home.[12]  Perhaps God the Father presides over God the Mother as well.  While I absolutely reject that idea, I can find no statement in modern revelation to contradict it, and many to implicitly support it.  And it is a fine fit for a traditional understanding of heterosexual marriage.  But what if a marriage is between two women or two men?  Who presides with two men?  Does anyone preside with two women?  Why is presiding even necessary?  I suspect a reason the Church is so invested in opposing same-sex marriage is that it is so powerfully subversive to patriarchy.  Boyd K. Packer’s famous assertion in 1993 that three “dangers” to the Church are “the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, and … the so-called scholars or intellectuals” was almost spot-on.[13]  They are not threats to Christ’s gospel of redemption through His infinite atonement.  But they absolutely are threats to patriarchy.

It is impossible for male presiding to exist in same-sex marriage, likewise if same-sex marriages were blessed by the Church, male presiding would be undermined.  In an interview about women’s rights, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg remarked on how gay rights and women’s rights are linked: “It’s a facet of the gay rights movement that people don’t think about enough. Why suddenly marriage equality? Because it wasn’t until 1981 that the court struck down Louisiana’s ‘head and master rule,’ that the husband was head and master of the house. Marriage was a relationship between the dominant, breadwinning husband and the subordinate, child-rearing wife. What lesbian or gay man would want that?”[14] Similarly, writing patriarchy out of the theology and practice of the Church is essential for women’s equality, and would also make same-sex marriage a theological possibility within the Church.

The policies published in Handboook 1 last November made the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage painfully clear.  So desperately do at least some of our leaders want to prevent the boundaries of the Church from being expanded to include marriages of LGBT members, that they are willing to ban innocent children from ordinances that make them part of their ward families, set them on the path of discipleship, and give the life-changing gift of the Holy Ghost.  It grieves me that my ecclesiastical leaders think these children should bear the costs of boundary maintenance.  Equally grievous to me is the implicit message that defending patriarchy is of chief importance.  I realize that seismic doctrinal shifts would be needed to allow for exaltation of individuals irrespective of marriage and to replace patriarchy with equality, but I think we as a Church must face how problematic our current doctrine of exaltation is.  We must adopt more humility by acknowledging the many unknowns about the nature of God, and we must gather the courage to shake off the patriarchy we inherited from our forebears in favor of the equality of all before God.

 

[1] Bailey, S.P. (2015, November 6) Mormon Church to exclude children of same sex couples from getting blessed and baptized until they are 18.  The Washington Post.  Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/11/05/mormon-church-to-exclude-children-of-same-sex-couples-from-getting-blessed-and-baptized-until-they-are-18/

[2] Stack, P.F. (2016, January 10) Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.sltrib.com/home/3391057-155/lds-gay-policy-came-from-god

[3] 2 Nephi 2:4-7 “And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free…Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.  Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.”

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 132:16-17 specifies marriage between a woman and man by the “Holy Spirit of Promise” as a requirement for exaltation, with those who do not enter into this marriage destined to be ministering angels.  Those who do marry are “worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.”  Whereas those who don’t “cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.”

[5] Gospel Principles. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-47-exaltation?lang=eng Chapter 47, “Exaltation,” lists the ordinances required for exaltation as 1) We must be baptized. 2) We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 3) Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood. 4) We must receive the temple endowment. 5) We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

[6] Sasso, S.E. (2007) God’s Echo: Exploring Scripture with Midrash. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press.

[7] Alma 34:34

[8] Alma 5

[9] Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV) “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

[10] D&C 130:2 “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” Moses 6:9 “In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God.”

[11] “Mother in Heaven,” Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/topics/mother-in-heaven?lang=eng

[12] “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&_r=1

[13] “Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council,” by Elder Boyd K. Packer, May 18, 1993.  Retrieved from http://www.zionsbest.com/face.html

[14] Galanes, P. (2015, November 14). Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gloria Steinem on the Unending Battle for Women’s Rights. The New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/fashion/ruth-bader-ginsburg-and-gloria-steinem-on-the-unending-fight-for-womens-rights.html?_r=0

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49 Responses

  1. Andrew R. says:

    A very well written argument, and quite persuasive, however:-

    ” …but I think we as a Church must face how problematic our current doctrine of exaltation is. We must adopt more humility by acknowledging the many unknowns about the nature of God, and we must gather the courage to shake off the patriarchy we inherited from our forebears in favor of the equality of all before God.”

    So the Church needs to change its doctrine. It is Christ’s church, and His doctrine. Is it not?

    If “we” the church seek to change simply because it logically seems right to do so then we are no different from those who changed ordinances, and doctrines centuries ago (infant baptism, trinity, etc.)

    The heart of my problem with accepting your well considered, and presented, idea is that I do not see the mortal sexuality of an individual as eternal.

    We are born in life with many differing conditions. Some with short lives, others with mental or physical disability. Others with psychotic conditions. I see those with sexual orientations different from the normal to be in the same class. Something an individual may be born with that they have to live through in the best way they can.

    In short I no more believe a gay man will continue to be gay in a resurrected body than I do a person born with one arm will only have one arm in the resurrection. It is an abnormality of mortality.

    If I didn’t believe this I still couldn’t see a way forward by changing doctrine. How do you bestow the “power of endless lives” on two individuals of the same sex eternally? You don’t.

    If sexuality is eternal then by your argument the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in not the Lord’s church and can not offer salvation or exaltation. I would have to leave the church.

    Of course, we are all different and how we choose to cope with these issues is individual.

    • Emily U says:

      I’m glad we agree that a belief in unchanging sexuality is incompatible with the parameters for exaltation as currently given.

      I can’t put non-hetero sexuality in the category of disability, or with covenant-breakers and liars, as you do below. Surely you don’t really mean that?

      I do think the doctrine will change, and that this is not a crazy or evil hope. According to an Article of Faith, there are “many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” that are yet to be revealed. Of course I don’t know what God has in mind for us, but I have faith that it goes in the direction of revealing how all people belong as equals in the family of God.

      • Andrew R. says:

        So you believe that in the eternities the Lord has always had a place for same-sex exaltation. However, He has waited until the very end of time to reveal this.

        The result being that some really great people have been sealed to a spouse of the opposite sex, lived their life happy – but not as they would have wanted. They have died and will be sealed to someone they would not have chosen.

        This is the most un-God Like Love I could imagine. If this were really eternal doctrine I do not, and can not, believe that God would have put so many people through so much pain just because of evil sexist Apostles.

        No, quite apart from the idea that in the heavens there are parents of the same sex make reason stare. A God that cruel is beyond my imagining.

        I realise that you may feel a God allowing people to have such feelings when they detract from His ideal is also cruel. But so is taking children in death, and still birth (something I have experienced) could also be seen as cruel – but I have leaned much about myself through this experience.

        So I am not expecting a change to sealing doctrine.

      • Amy says:

        Andrew R,
        “They have died and will be sealed to someone they would not have chosen. This is the most un-God Like Love I could imagine.”

        This could be said about SO MANY PEOPLE who have been sealed…those who could not be sealed to their true loves because of race, because of early death, because of distance or circumstance or even temple worthiness.

        Most of what you are saying here – that this must be an eternal doctrine or else it would seem unfair to so many who have lived before us – negates the very concept of an unfolding restoration, and ignores all the real pain that has existed and continues to exist due to decisions made by church leaders that reflected a contemporary rather than eternal perspective.

  2. A Happy Hubby says:

    Emily – very well thought out and articulated.

    Andrew, you bring up some good points on how you feel. But what are those that deeply feel differently – those that feel their gayness is such a part of them they don’t want to even think of being without it because they would no longer be the same person?

    I see many in the church that are as sure as sure can be on their opinions (“knowledge”), but I have just seen so much of that in past generations on things that we now have changed that I have come to the point of the only thing I can do it rely on what I feel God is telling me. In the end I believe I will be judged by God and not by any man.

    It can feel good to have confidence and “knowing”. I am willing to concede that your position could be right. Are you willing to concede others a difference of opinion?

    P.S. – sorry for the first to comments to be from men coming here to mansplain things.

    • Andrew R. says:

      I concede they could be right, but since I do not see how it would be possible, it doesn’t fit into my logical and faith based acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      There are equally those who believe they can only find happiness with children. But, quite rightly, and for the safety of the children, we lock those people up. Is that their choice? I don’t believe they think it is. They feel it is how they are made. If that is the case they are doomed to an eternity of wanting children.

      You see, I don’t know how far we can take liberal sexuality. It’s OK as long as it’s consenting adults. But some sexuality includes non-adults, and non-humans.

      All, at some point have been considered deviant in some societies. And in some societies all have been considered normal. Society has its ideas, and God has His.

      The purposes of earth life as see them are to get to a point where we can become as God is. Do I believe this is possible for all? Yes. Do I believe it is achievable by all? No.

  3. Ziff says:

    I really like your points, Emily. I particularly like that you point out that it’s patriarchy that the feminists, gays, and intellectuals are threatening, and that BKP was worried about defending. The Church doesn’t have to bind itself so tightly to patriarchy, and so it doesn’t have to make enemies of feminists, gays, and intellectuals.

    I also think you’re spot on that we have this narrow model of exalation, that not coincidentally precisely fits the characteristics of Church leaders: cisgender, straight, male (i.e., women are largely an afterthought), and only recently not explicitly whites only. I hope that the Church can expand its view to accept the reality of the greater diversity of people God made, as you so well observe.

    • Andrew R. says:

      Well it could expand its view and allow all, of whatever sexual, or lifestyle they choose.

      Give a TR to anybody – surely if God loves them he doesn’t care if they pay tithing, or are honest, or keep their covenants. After all, not everyone can do these things, surely a loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t care.

      You see, boil it down too far and you get to Satan’s plan. In in that plan there is no growth, no chance to be exalted, and self-existent – as is God.

      We may not like the rules, but the rules are what we have. And we all have the agency to choose what we will do – all of us, male, female, or whatever someone chooses to be.

      • Ziff says:

        No, being gay or transgender is not like lying. It’s great that you’re so anxious to jump and accept all “the rules” as coming from God’s very mouth. Not all of us are.

      • Andrew R. says:

        That’s certainly true, many of you appear to be quite anti the church, at least the church I grew up in, and am enjoying my children and grandchildren growing up in.

        What you seek is not in this church, and the majority of people do not want it to be, for the most part because the do not accept your ideas of doctrine.

        I realise that for the majority here the Church doctrines are just man made constructs which can change with our ideas. But that is not what the Church doctrines are for the majority of active, TR holding, members.

      • Ziff says:

        I’d be interested to see your data to back up the claim that the majority of members are fundamentalist believers in prophetic infallibility like you are.

      • Ziff says:

        I think you also miss the point that I (and others like me) are not calling something like the latest anti-gay exclusion policies wrong on a whim, just because we happen not to like it. At least for me, I see it as going against the core principles of the gospel like love. It’s really unfortunate that the Church has evolved to a point where it is run by very old men who have no problem inserting their own biases into Church policy. But that doesn’t make what they’re doing right. And I’m confident that it will be changed. I refuse to follow your approach that God is guiding every step of Church leaders.

        You might find this post by Cynthia L. at BCC interesting. As she explains so well, “The church created me, and created many others like me. We cannot ignore or act against the voice of conscience. The guilt of defying what we know to be right would eat away at us, and we know so well that fleeing to music, alcohol, or pleasure can never dull or evade the indictment of knowing we did wrong. Like our Primary teachers taught us about the young Joseph Smith, we know it, and we know God knows it, and we cannot deny it. Things can get very, very uncomfortable for us–excruciating even (as the past 70 days, 5 hours have been), but buoyed by our pioneer stock stoicism and faithful tenacity, we will continue to hold to our knowledge that this Exclusion Policy is wrong.”

        https://bycommonconsent.com/2016/01/13/we-are-as-the-army-of-helaman/

      • Andrew R. says:

        “I’d be interested to see your data to back up the claim that the majority of members are fundamentalist believers in prophetic infallibility like you are.”

        Thank you Ziff for once again putting words into my mouth. I said that the majority were not seeking a change to the sealing doctrine.

        And I have never said I believe in prophetic infallibility. I have said that I believe the system, from the Doctrine and Covenants, that requires unanimity in the presiding quorums for changes to occur is a good check and balance.

      • Andrew R. says:

        “I think you also miss the point that I (and others like me) are not calling something like the latest anti-gay exclusion policies wrong on a whim, just because we happen not to like it. At least for me, I see it as going against the core principles of the gospel like love.”

        No, I get your point. I just don’t accept it. Homosexual marriage is not scriptural, it is not doctrinal, and it is therefore not acceptable. Unfortunately that means that those who enter into such a marriage, in law, are not ( and can not) doing it in the eyes of God. To accept it as a lower class of marriage, one which would ultimately mean those in such a marriage were barred from exaltation, but could in all other ways be active members would create a second class of members, unable to progress.

        I do not see that as helpful and I can not accept that, given gender is eternal, two people of the same sex can be Heavenly Parents. Just because they can go through the motions (have children by other means), here on earth. Just because their love is every bit as real as heterosexual love, doesn’t make it possible.

        I am not opposed to anyone living their life how they choose. We are all free to do so. But the consequences of our actions are well known. And we can not expect the rules to change because we want the prize, but don’t want to live the rules.

      • nrc42 says:

        “I do not see that as helpful and I can not accept that, given gender is eternal, two people of the same sex can be Heavenly Parents. Just because they can go through the motions (have children by other means), here on earth.”

        That’s a big claim seeing that we have no idea how Heavenly Parenthood works. We have no idea how intelligences are organized into spirits. I for one hope the afterlife is NOT one of eternal pregnancy and childbirth in the earthly sense. What a terrible fate.

      • A Happy Hubby says:

        That comment does make me wonder what morning sickness must be like in the celestial kingdom. Or is there even a “morning”? Oh the questions.

    • Emily U says:

      Thank you, Ziff! “Not coincidentally fits the characteristics of Church leaders.” Too true, too true.

    • Andrew R. says:

      mcr42 – I think we have a good understanding of how eternal parenthood works. We may not know the process, but we do know that in the Heavens are not “parents single”, and that “truth is reason” we have a Mother there.

      How can that be certain. If what is proposed here is an Eternal Truth then our Heavenly Parents may well be two men.

      But I believe it a much deeper, eternal nature to my being. I am ever male, and my wife ever female. And our mortal life echo the eternal truth of Male and Female Oneness.

      What it takes from each of them to organise intellegences in to Spirit Children I have no idea – though I very much doubt it is physical coitus – I do however believe that it is, in a Spiritual way, just as intimate, filled with love and creation.

      • nrc42 says:

        Honestly it would not bother me if it turned out we had two Heavenly Fathers or a single Heavenly Parent. It would be incredibly reassuring, actually. That would suggest that our current lack of doctrine around Heavenly Mother (I love “O My Father” as much as the next Eliza Snow fan, but really – a sort-of mention in a hymn is all we get?) doesn’t actually mean anything at all about as far as indicating the fate of women in the afterlife goes. If I am to assume that our Heavenly Parents are male and female, then given Church teachings as they stand I have to also assume that my fate is to be invisible and unknown to my children, forever in the shadow of my husband. But if our lack of knowledge on Heavenly Mother means she doesn’t exist, that’s incredibly reassuring. Maybe women don’t have to be invisible. Maybe we can all become like God individually, rather than women just being appendages helping their husbands become gods.

      • Andrew R. says:

        I can’t help thinking that how each God Couple work is probably down to them. If Heavenly Father is anything like my wife she probably likes not being in the limelight, and likes to be home with the kids. Others, may want to play a bigger role in the the main play.

        However, given the mortality is such a short part of out eternal progression Heavenly Mother not having an active role in it is really not that much of a deal. It is after all a day out with our older Brother.

      • nrc42 says:

        I like the idea that couples can figure out what arrangement works for them – in both this life and the next. The problem, though, with the “it’s just a small moment” explanation is that this small moment determines our fate for ETERNITY. Eternity’s a long time. This tiny moment determines our fate forever, and Heavenly Mother isn’t involved at all? It seems to leave two disturbing possibilities: she is either forcibly kept from us in this life, or she just doesn’t give a damn.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Now there is a doctrine that we really do not know fully.

        The extent to which progression is, or isn’t, possible in the eternities is debatable. I am much more open to the idea of retrial, or other means of progressing, than I am to SS God couples.

        I also think that we have an eternity of experience that, when we get it back into our knowledge, may well change our entire outlook on these mortal issues that dominate our lives – often taking us away from the better things we could be doing.

      • nrc42 says:

        I’m a fan of the eternal progression and retrial idea myself, but I acknowledge that there isn’t much of a doctrinal basis for it.

        Why are you open to the idea of eternal progression – a very nebulous concept with no doctrine backing it and in fact a whole pile of teachings contradicting it – and yet, despite the comparable lack of knowledge on the creation of spirit children, so confident that you know what sort of god-couples are required for it?

      • Staci says:

        If you think you know how eternal parenthood works, and that there is actual sex, actual baby growing in female bodies and that me, a woman, if I am “righteous” get to create babies that my exalted uterus is made for, and produce billions of offspring for eternity because that is what women are needed for you need to understand, MANY WOMEN DO NOT WANT THIS. THIS IS NOT HEAVEN. It’s literally hell for many women. But you’re not saying that. You say it’s an intimate spiritual creation filled with love. I know so many gay parents personally that could totally handle this. no female and male sexual organs required. Your argument about how eternal parenthood works actually makes plenty of room for non hetero eternal companions and parents.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Staci, I am definitely not saying that spirit children grow inside heavenly mothers. I think that would make them little less than queen ants.

        What I am saying is that we do not know what eternal female and male means in terms of what we are at our core.

        And I believe that both, for something beyond our current knowledge and understanding are needed. Why? Because earth is a shadow of eternity. God created male and female, for the eternal male and female, and all creation progress by that process (bar a very few asexual reproductive instances in much lower life forms).

        I am not saying that two men, or women, can not love each other. I am saying that that love can not produce life, on earth or in the eternities. At least that is what I believe. And I accept that others believe differently. Isn’t that the point of discussion?

        I realise I may come over and blunt in my beliefs. But, so too do many here. The difference is that I am in the minority here. I am not seeking to persuade, I am seeking to understand. It is hard to do that without stating my heart felt beliefs, because if I don’t I can’t get the appropriate responses to understand the other point of view.

        So, find me two men, or women, who can, without any outside assistance, produce offspring and I may begin to see eternal possibilities for them.

      • nrc42 says:

        We have no way of knowing, though, what is “a shadow of eternity.” Is the requirement that a male and female are needed to create life a divine pattern or a facet of temporal biological necessity? If one accepts that spirit creation doesn’t involve physical pregnancy and childbirth, it seems to follow that spirit creation probably doesn’t have anything to do with male and female gametes. It seems to me that biological functions shouldn’t be taken as indicating or implying anything for the afterlife. What IS a shadow of eternity, I think, is the loving relationships and nurturing habits we cultivate in this life – which has nothing to do with gender.

  4. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    It took seismic change for Judaism to arise from early polytheistic religions. Christianity emerged from Judaism through more seismic change. The Reformation followed and then came Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Seismic change got us to where we are now and more seismic changes can bring us to a more inclusive and more compassionate religious experience. It’s my hope.

    • Emily Butler says:

      Carolyn, I’m coming to this post a little late in the day, but I appreciate your observation. My sense is that seismic changes in religious practice, unlike the geological variety, come when members are ready for it, long for it, pray for it. My hope for a more compassionate church mirrors yours.

  5. christiankimball says:

    Well done, Emily. Well written, well reasoned, and correct.
    (But you already knew I would think so.)
    I think it valuable to draw out the patriarchy point. It is probably working on a less conscious level–for some Church leaders–than some of the other difficulties you identify.

  6. Violadiva says:

    I love how often you point out that we don’t know what we don’t know….because we’re not in Heaven with God and it could be entirely different than anticipate it to be. In fact, I’m banking on it!

    I read this interesting article about the 6 (SIX!) most common biological sexes in humans. I have always found our Church’s explanations about intersex individuals to be completely unhelpful, and I wish we fix that about the way we communicate these issues.

  7. Heather says:

    Let me echo how well thought out this is. It has given me so much to think about. Thank you for articulating this all so beautifully.

  8. Rob Osborn says:

    Its quite clear that Gods original creation was “male” and “female” and that together they make one. No other configuration is intended or warranted. God did not create men to be with men or women to be with women. This wicked world we now live in seeks to destroy or make confusion of the original creation and purpose of man and woman and make a mockery before God with all this immorality seeking justification and strongarming the church to acknowledge their wickedness.

    • Emily U says:

      I know I’m not going to change your view with this comment. But. Have you thought of looking at what our natural world actually contains, rather than reading narratives about it, to discover what God’s creation originally was and is?

      • Rob Osborn says:

        Our natural world contains a lot of wickedness. Its not hard to see the immorality and its ngative effect on society.

      • Emily U says:

        Oh good grief. Are you saying homosexual orientation itself is wickedness? Or intersex babies are wicked? Not even Church authorities go that far.

  9. Megan says:

    Thank you Emily. I really appreciate the work and deep thought you’ve put into this article. It mirrors a lot of the insights I had while I was wrestling to understand these very topics.

    I often think that by clinging to this rigid, formalized structure we, in essence, bind God. I think that God and eternity are broader and vaster than we can understand, that the Plan of Salvation is a sketchy outline that only hints at deeper, wilder truths. I mean, look at our mortal existence, look at how varied and wonderful it is, eternity can only be wider than what we experience here.

    There are some that say that obedience is the first law of heaven. I reject that statement. If there is a first law of heaven it is love; love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self. By putting form over substance, by deifying tradition over our fellow saints and human travelers, we lose out on so much.

    There’s so much we have to learn. If this is truly a living church then there has to be room to grow.

    • Emily U says:

      Absolutely, I agree that we bind God by what we think we already know. I also think the first law of heaven must be love. I liked how in the last talk of last General Conference, Jeffrey R. Holland said the first great commandment is love of God, but the first great truth is that God loves us.

  10. Rob Osborn says:

    Emily, what I am saying is that things like SSM is wickedness.

    • Liz says:

      Rob, what do you say to a baby that is born intersex? Or one with XXY chromosomes, or XYY? How do they fit in to God’s plan of rigid, binary gender roles?

      • Andrew R. says:

        Same why a child born with one too many chromosomes does, or congenital limb loss, or anyone of a number of other issues. This is abnormality. It is part of mortality. It doesn’t mean that the underlying spirit is not gendered male or female. Surely you are not expecting Down’s Syndrome children to be resurrected in their current state? No? And I do not expect intersex individuals to be resurrected in the wrong body either.

    • s says:

      The gay families and parents I know are some of the best parents and most loving folks I know, with grounded, loving children who serve in their communities, schools, and head up important education and charity work. I am sorry, there is no wickedness there. Just love and kindness. It shocks the system when you spend time with gay families and realize “woah, there is real love here. And that is a fruit of the Spirit. Joy cannot come from evil right? Wickedness never was happiness, right? I’ve seen and felt true joy, true happiness, and you are simply: wrong.

  11. Liz says:

    Emily, this post is gorgeous, and that quote from Rabbi Sasso is my new favorite. Thank you for this.

  12. spunky says:

    Thank you so much for this, Emily. I love the way that you clarify that patriarchy is the core component that BKP was defending and worried about when he claimed that gays, and intellectuals are threatening the church. As with some of the previous comments, I’ve always wondered about those who are born with mixed gendered organs in the church policy that excludes those who don’t physically fit the presumed mould of entirely male and entirely female Gods. You argument supports those individuals as well, and I deeply thank you for that.

  13. Emily U says:

    Spunky, I can’t think of a way in which sexual organs could matter to our eternal selves, and it would sit fine with me, it would resolve concerns, even, if God turns out to be genderless.

    That sentence had way too many commas.

    Love you!

  14. Rachel says:

    Thank you for all of this, Emily, but especially the beautiful quote from Rabbi Sasso and your insight into President Packer’s listed “dangers”: “They are not threats to Christ’s gospel of redemption through His infinite atonement. But they absolutely are threats to patriarchy.”

  15. Caroline B. says:

    It’s been fascinating reading this essay and the comments that followed. I have to come to the conclusion that all of this angst is a result of lack of understand and faith in the Prophets and leaders of the LDS Church. If you truly believe in the LDS faith, you do not wrestle with the latest “EXCLUSION” Policy of the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the thousands of talks from the LDS General Conference that are living scripture, the Proclamation of the Family…get the point? I don’t understand–and never have–why some “Mormons” want to figure out a way to “up think” the Brethren and revelations of the LDS Faith. They want to change doctrine for themselves, to make their faith more in line with the WORLD…to “make the LDS Church in their own image”. This is the essence of Pride…to suppose that one is more “enlightened” than the leaders of the LDS Church, and even God Himself. (Emily U–really ,”it would sit fine with me…if God turns out to be genderless?” If you proclaim to be a practicing Mormon, how little you understand of LDS Theology!!!) There comes a time when pondering, praying, and pontification lead to only on conclusion–a realization that one does NOT know all things and that one must proceed in Faith. It is OK to accept the LDS Church doctrine that gay marriage is not eternal and that homosexual sex a sin and an abomination. It is OK to not believe this. It is not OK to wish, and pine, and persuade others to want to change the doctrines of the LDS Faith.

  1. May 20, 2016

    […] I’ve clarified for myself what is so fundamentally wrong about “the policy” by writing about it.  My writing has pushed at the boundaries of what it means for me to be Mormon, and it has made me […]

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