Why did the LDS Church get involved in Proposition 8? Do you oppose same-sex marriage, too? –Damien
First off, thanks for your question, Damien. This topic weighs just as heavily on our minds as it does on yours. We’ll do our best to articulate what the LDS Church has taught and what it all means.
One quick note: As you read this, you may wonder why our tone is so different from other posts here at Normons. “Where are the videos of awkward Mormon dancers?!” Well, the issue of same-sex marriage isn’t one we want to treat lightly. We thought hard about our response in this post. We’ll bring back the laughs next week!
In August 2008, the Church explained its official position on Proposition 8 and maintains the same stance today. Here are a few key excerpts:
“The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.
“The sacred nature of marriage is closely linked to the power of procreation. Only a man and a woman together have the natural biological capacity to conceive children. This power of procreation – to create life and bring God’s spirit children into the world – is sacred and precious.
“It is true that some couples who marry will not have children, either by choice or because of infertility, but the special status of marriage is nonetheless closely linked to the inherent powers and responsibilities of procreation, and to the inherent differences between the genders. Co-habitation under any guise or title is not a sufficient reason for defining new forms of marriage.”
So just to recap: the Church does not see marriage as simply a social contract between two people who love each other. And it actually supports gay rights in other areas of civic life. But in the Church’s view, the marital union of man and woman is inherently linked to the power of procreation. The Church teaches that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” for this specific purpose, and it maintains that traditional marriages provide the best environment for raising children. Together, men and women complement each other through their natural differences. Further, the Church believes that when a couple follows God and remains faithful to each other in life, their marriage can endure beyond death, which is necessary to experience true, eternal joy. Now, there’s certainly a lot more to be said concerning the Church’s doctrinal justifications, which we may address in future posts. But in a nutshell, the Church’s position on same-sex marriage — and its involvement in Proposition 8 — is fueled by a concern for marriage’s role in our personal and spiritual livelihood.
Along with this stance, the Church has urged more Christlike love and understanding toward our gay brothers and sisters (most notably through its new website devoted entirely to that purpose). Michael Otterson, Director of Public Affairs for the Church, put it much better than we can.
Having said all that, although the above represents the Church’s current official position, it doesn’t represent the views of all Mormons. Some core beliefs notwithstanding, our congregations benefit from a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives. Prop 8 was no exception. Members typically found themselves in one of three categories:
Member #1: “I wholeheartedly agree with the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.”
Some of us simply agreed with the Church’s position. However, this does not mean that participating in Prop 8 was necessarily easy or enjoyable. Despite our desire to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, many of us have gay and lesbian family and friends, and we recognized what was at stake. Social issues are never easy, and there are costs associated with every policy/moral decision, some of which can be quite grievous. We hope that those who view our involvement with anger or frustration will also remember that we tried not to act out of hostility. For our part, we acted (according to our understanding) with the intent to preserve the institution of marriage, not to discriminate or punish gays and lesbians.
Member #2: “While I have my reservations about the Church’s position, I will do what my leaders — who I believe are inspired by God — have asked me to do.”
For some of us, the Church’s involvement in pro-Prop 8 efforts caused some serious consternation and reflection. For anyone not of our faith to properly understand this, you have to first realize the premium we Mormons place on following our Church leaders. We believe that Jesus Christ directs His Church through prophets and apostles — just like he did anciently. Consequently, we hope that as we follow our leaders, we will be following Christ, whose path leads us to happiness. However, our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, encouraged members to participate in the “Yes on 8” campaign, and those who would have otherwise voted “No” found themselves in a pickle. Some decided to follow the prophet, despite their personal opinions. For those of us in this category, we trusted that the prophet’s request had a higher purpose, even if we didn’t understand exactly what it was.
Member #3: “I disagree with the Church’s position on same-sex marriage and do not feel comfortable participating in pro-Prop 8 efforts.”
While some chose to follow the prophet’s instruction, others of us felt that we could not support any effort to deny marriage to gays and lesbians. Individuals in this group believed that the secular re-definition of marriage bore no relation to its spiritual definition, and any “damage” done to the earthly institution of marriage was outweighed by the pain of those kept from it. For those of us in this camp, this decision was difficult, even painful. We always hope that our personal beliefs will align with the Church and its leaders, but sometimes this isn’t the case.
So there you have it: a basic introduction to the Mormons’ relationship with Proposition 8. Definitely not as black-and-white as some tend to think.
In the end, Damien, we hope you’ll remember that the Mormon Church is continually seeking to better understand same-sex attraction and its implications for individuals, families, and society, both on Earth and in the eternities. To be sure, we hope to show even greater compassion and sensitivity toward our LGBT brothers and sisters moving forward. While the Church’s position on marriage seems unlikely to change, we remain open to further revelation, and our capacity for understanding grows in lockstep with our love of the Savior.
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