Some of you have perhaps been following the heated discussion going on at MormonMatters regarding the Church's letter to California members encouraging them to donate of their "means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman." You can read the letter here:
Or you can follow the discussion here: http://mormonmatters.org/2008/06/21/news-flash-lds-church-will-be-actively-opposing-gay-marriage-in-california-this-november/
In this posting, I intend to state my personal opinion about this issue. Forgive me if I repeat some of my comments from MormonMatters, but I feel that I summed up my feelings pretty well there.
I realize that I'm going to be part of a minority here and that some conservative members are going to find my beliefs to be radical, perhaps even bordering on heretical. Nevertheless, I have given this issue a lot of thought, have swayed in both directions many times, and have even come to perhaps peace of mind in the matter. At least somewhat, for the issue at hand is so complex and emotional that I think it's impossible to claim that I or anyone else has come to any ultimate conclusions. We simply don't know enough.
The Church has the prerogative to fight against gay marriage if it sees fit to do so and which it has. I don't think that any of us have been naive enough to think that the Church had any other official stance than it has expressed thus far and I defend its right to campaign on behalf of causes it supports. Personally, I'm not thrilled by the fact that marriage is on its way to being redefined. I appreciate the fact that the Church wants to see marriage stay as it is in most places today. However, the release of this letter gives me a bad feeling for a few reasons:
a) Gay marriage is arguably a moral issue, but it certainly walks a fine line with political and the Church is officially neutral.
b) I see huge irony in the fact that Mormons are trying to convince the government that the definition of marriage should stay as it is when our predecessors tried to convince the government of the exact opposite (i.e. polygamy), which makes us look like big hypocrites in the eyes of many.
c) Gay marriage is coming to a place near you whether you like it or you don't. I think this battle is already lost and I would personally rather see members give of their "means and time" to more urgent and needy causes such as the homeless, AIDS orphans in Africa, or political prisoners (hopefully that would include the people who are executed on a regular basis for being gay in places like Iran).
d) This letter is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people, particularly those fellow members who are gay and trying to deal with something they can't change. It's also a big setback for the upcoming meeting between Church leaders and the group Affirmation, which was long overdue. I no longer have much hope for a better relationship between the two sides, which is so unfortunate for members like myself who feel strongly pulled in both directions to some degree.
e) I wonder whether we tend to exaggerate what's really at stake here. Are those of us in heterosexual marriages really going to suffer if gay marriage is legalized? I'm not a fortuneteller so I'm not sure whether we will or won't. Why do we feel so threatened? Personally, I feel more threatened by things like divorce, infidelity, promiscuity, porn, just to name a few. If anything, gays will just be allowed to join in the misery that many of us already know as marriage. (Not a description of my own marriage! :) My guess is that we'll get over the shock of it and go back to doing what we were doing before.
f) The admonition that is contained in the letter doesn't sit with me well because of the Danzig incident. Danzig accused the Church of telling him to violate his conscience by doing what its now telling California members to do, which the Church denied. So whether you think Danzig was right or wrong in how he handled the situation, his original accusation does now at least gain some credibility.
Whether homosexuality is a sin or not, whether the Church is right in fighting same-sex marriage or not, whether the status of marriage is really in trouble or not, all this is sort of irrelevant to me. We can all draw our own conclusions and have our opinions. However, what bothers me is that it’s so easy for some of us to trivilalize being homosexual. Sure, even if someone is born 100% gay, they don’t “have” to live the gay lifestyle. OK, but have you all really, I mean REALLY thought about what that entails? We heterosexual members are so quick to dismiss it as “sin” or simply a matter of “choice” or even just plain willpower. Even if it’s both, just think of what the life of a celibate homosexual entails. It’s not quite fair to compare it to heterosexual singles, who also are to remain chaste, because they can at least date, kiss, hold hands, have a non-sexual relationship. What can homosexuals do? Would it be acceptable for a gay couple having a non-sexual relationship to hold hands on BYU campus? Of course not. I mean think about it. They can’t do all the non-sexual acts of affection and of course they can’t masturbate because that’s wrong too, so what do they do? Basically they live the life of a priest or a nun, complete celibacy, which is certainly by no means impossible, but the Church is always quick to point out that we don’t believe in that celibate lifestyle anyways. We are a Church about love and marriage. I’m not saying that the Church should just come out and allow gay marriage. I honestly don’t know what my opinion is on this anymore. But each of us can only listen to our own consciences and what the Spirit is telling each of us. And this is where I have my personal dilemma. I really and truly feel for those who are gay, especially gay and Mormon, and find themselves in the middle of this war. It must be disheartening to see members trivilialize their struggles and throw the blame back at them constantly. Some of our fellow brothers and sisters have committed suicide over this and I think we owe them at least the thought of why that is so.
It was suggested by someone taking part in the MormonMatters discussion that, "(I)f someone doesn’t believe the church’s teachings on this, I don’t understand why they even bother staying in the church." I disagree with this and I'll tell you why.
If I left the Church, I would maybe find myself regretting it years down the road when changes occur, as they always seem to do. I can’t say I know that they will happen, but I see a pattern when it comes to the Church and moral/political controversies. Just to name a few:
Birth control: Went from being regarded as something downright evil by the Church, to something generally accepted and left up to the individual. In previous times, couples who limited the number of children they had were sinning by denying spirit children entrance into mortality. Now it’s a personal choice.
Women: It used to be that women were pretty much told to stay at home and made to feel selfish for working outside the home. Now almost all LDS women that I know work outside the home and Church leaders have greatly softened their stance. It’s now accepted that most are dependent on a double income.
Blacks and the Priesthood: I know that many like to say it’s not the same thing as the homosexuality issue because you have no choice in being born black, but if we go by what certain Church leaders said in earlier times, blacks did indeed choose being born into the “cursed” race because of something they did (or didn’t do) in the pre-existence. On top of that, someone like George Romney in 1964 could have left the Church feeling guilty, since the apostles who opposed the Civil Rights movement were supposedly speaking on behalf of the Lord and backing up their stance with teachings from previous prophets. Today, people who took Romney’s stance appear to have been right. So either the Church leadership later saw that they were wrong, or maybe God actually does regard blacks as second-class citizens. Who would now argue with George Romney’s 1964 stance, despite the fact that the GA’s were vehemently opposed to it then? It’s just too early to know what the future holds. We may be all surprised one way or the other.
So why would I leave the Church over this issue? I’m not saying that I’m right because I know I could be totally wrong. The feeling in my heart may be failing me in this one, but it’s hard not to see a pattern when we look at Church history. I see no reason why the Church doesn't have room for a person like me when I'm not proclaiming my views as Gospel truth, but rather my personal opinion. I'm sure it's not the first time you've heard the opinion of a member that sounded really "off-the-wall."
So call this my sexual manifesto, creed if you will. For me, it's the only way to make peace with my faith and my conscience. I may be right or I may be wrong. Lucky for me, the only thing at stake is my pride.