A Question, Part 2 of 2

July 21, 2008
By

Last week we speculated on where the church would be today if it had not extended the priesthood to blacks thirty years ago, and now the other shoe drops:

Where will the church be thirty years from now if it continues classifying monogamous gay sex as a sin and if it rejects any state or federal legislation on gay rights, in whatever form such laws may take?

Please, let’s try to keep this discussion focused as much as possible on the actual question and not turn this into another free-for-all on homosexuality or gay marriage in general…

  • John Nilsson

    Without it’s tax-exempt status.

  • jjackson

    The classification of monogomous gay sex as sin and being in favor(or not) of gays marrying are not necessarily companion subjects here. If I go into that any more I’ll be immediately contradicting the request just made above….

    Without getting specific, I don’t think the consequences will be as great, particularly if the law/courts/churches can ALL recognize the difference between moral religious definitions and legalities and rights – especially if we can negotiate where and when and which rights take precedence. At what point does a same sex couple’s right to equality in the public domain infringe on a private religous organization’s right to teach and solemnify through ordinance what it believes is right?

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    Where will the church be thirty years from now if it continues classifying monogamous gay sex as a sin

    The LDS church, of course, can promulgate whatever doctrinal beliefs it’s leaders wish, no matter how those beliefs are regarded by those outside the LDS church. Many non-LDS, such as myself, would gladly fight for the right of LDS members to believe as they wish, even if we find the particular beliefs in question to be reprehensible. Contrary to the scare tactics engaged in by some, the U.S. Constitution is simply not going to allow any sort of civil or criminal penalties to be imposed for religious belief. In the “marketplace of ideas,” however, the LDS church may not fare well if it continues to proclaim such a doctrine thirty years from now, since the percentage of Americans who believe that homosexual relations are “morally acceptable” has increased an average of 3% per year for many years now. If that trend continues, the continuation of such a doctrine by the LDS church will eventually be perceived by the majority of Americans in much the same way that most Americans now see the Klu Klux Klan.

    Now, here’s an interesting bit of speculation: When a group’s ideas are significantly out of the mainstream, group members sometimes respond to the resulting cognitive dissonance by becoming fanatical, rather than doubting or being embarassed about their beliefs. If the LDS church is still preaching against monogamous homosexuality in thirty years, its members could end up reacting to societal repudiation by taking a militant and/or somewhat fanatical stance on the subject. Anti-gay rhetoric could become much worse in the LDS church, perhaps even to the point of inspiring less-balanced LDS members to anti-gay violence. Note that this is not a comment on the character of present day LDS members. Rather, it’s a comment on human nature, applied to a hypothetical future situation.

    and if it rejects any state or federal legislation on gay rights, in whatever form such laws may take?

    First, I think we have to point out that the LDS church presently does not fit this description. Even Gordon Hinckley briefly hinted that certain legal protections may be necessary or appropriate. Many LDS members who oppose marriage equality are supportive of lesser forms of civil recognition of same-sex partnerships.

    That being said, it’s not clear, Chris, what you mean by “rejects any state or federal legislation on gay rights, in whatever form such laws may take.”

    If by “rejects,” you mean refuses to obey state or federal legislation which protects the civil rights of homosexuals, then the LDS church may find itself running afoul of the law, thus putting the lie to its own twelveth Article of Faith. (Of course, some “gay rights” legislation, such as anti-discrimination employment laws, specifically exempts religious groups, in which case the LDS church would not be in violation.) Under some circumstances, the general officers (i.e. FP and 12) of the LDS church could be held accountable under the civil and/or criminal law for such violations. This, of course, would not be a new experience for the LDS church, given that many LDS openly violated anti-polygamy legislation, and willingly suffered the criminal penalties thereof, prior to the first Manifesto.

    If by “rejects” you merely mean “preaches against,” then the likely consequences go back to the first part of my comment, above. The president of the LDS church under such circumstances could end up being seen by Americans in much the same way that Americans see Fred Phelps today.

  • http://www.mormonmatters.org Clay Whipkey

    I’ll agree with jjackson and say that the sin status of gay sexual relations and the legality of gay rights (i.e. the freedom for people to choose a gay lifestyle and receive equal rights and treatment as straight people in comparable scenarios) are not connected at all. I think the LDS church, and any other religion, has every right to define what kind of behavior is acceptable. I view the church’s freedom to believe and teach that the sexual part of homosexuality is a sin, is allowable for the very same reasons that gay people getting married and raising children should be allowable. We all have our agency to choose how we will live our lives, as long as doing so does not infringe upon the agency of others.

    I personally don’t see the church changing their position on the sinful nature of homosexual activity in my lifetime. I do think it will inevitably have to change its position on gay rights. The softening has already begun, as one could see through the progression from Miracle of Forgiveness – to the pamphlet “To The One” – to the most recent “God Loveth His Children”. Changing the law of chastity itself is plainly a mountain that would have to be moved.

    All times in the past when the church has corrected a mistake, it has done so without requiring those who were responsible to be accountable. The priesthood issue has never been called a mistake, or apologized for. The Baseball Baptism program was shut down quietly and Henry D. Moyle was allowed to remain a counselor in the FP. Mormon Doctrine was rebuked quietly and McKonkie was allowed to re-publish, as well as allowed to remain an apostle.

    Its not the same as redefining a doctrine to a “policy”. There has to be a comfortable way to explain all the past statements on homosexuality before its moral status could be changed.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Sticking strictly to the “what if” question, I think it depends totally on what the other major Christian denominations do.

    1) If they accept homosexuality as non-sinful, allow gay ministers and sanction gay marriage and the Church does not, I believe we will get a steady influx of members who leave over what they see as the declining morals of their churches. This is true especially internationally, where the general populace is more conservative than America and Europe.

    2) If they hold ground and we hold ground, I don’t see much of a change – since the more liberal people aren’t likely to join us now or then.

    3) If they hold ground and we loosen up, I think we will lose some hardcore conservative members and retain some members who might otherwise drift or run away. Overall, I don’t see much change internally, but I see decreased growth internationally – in the countries where the general populace and potential members are more conservative than America and Europe. (since growth is stagnant in Western Europe already)

    4) If we loosen up and they hold ground, I think we will lose momentum internationally and perhaps even start losing membership outside of the BIC members.

    Having said all of that, I believe there is a way to accept baptism, marriage for this life only and even temple attendance for actively gay members (assuming gay marriage becomes legal throughout the land) without altering anything about our core theology or temple ceremony, but I have a hard time believing I will see gay sealings in my lifetime. It would take very clear and direct revelation to do so, much like it did in 1978, and I can accept it either way.

  • Latter-day Guy

    What do you think is the likelihood of the church changing its current position? (Directed to all and sundry.)

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    LdG, I think that depends entirely on what you mean. There are multiple things that might be considered distinct aspects of its “position”. Anything that labels homosexual activity as not sin or transgression is a long-shot – unless there is direct and specific revelation, imo. However, since I accept on-going revelation that can alter current understanding significantly, I’m not going to try to put a probability percentage on anything.

  • Gerry Spence

    Not much change. I think that there will be a further move to the right politically in Church culture, but not dramatically more than the subtle shift over the last 50 years. I don’t think that the GLBS population is large enough to attract the tremendous groundswell needed to really make a difference in individual LDS members. I think it is unfortunate, but I don’t think the membership composition will change tremendously, it will just attract a different variety of people. Some will likely characterize these people as the elect, and entrench the current attitudes toward same-sex unions. I don’t think the membership will be as rich or diverse, but it will still be Mormon.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    #10 – You think the Church has moved **right** over the last 50 years?

  • http://mormonmatters.org Nick Literski

    #4:
    Carlos, if you think Chris is “pro-gay,” you haven’t been paying the slightest attention to his posts or comments.

  • MAC

    Maybe in the same boat as this guy …

    http://ezralevant.com/2008/06/what-could-mark-steyns-punishm.html

    Mr. Boissoin and [his organization] The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.

  • jjackson

    Another giant “what if” kind of question to consider: WHAT IF…there was direct and clear revelation given that homosexuality was now acceptable. How would the membership react?

    How many could accomplish the rapid about-face acheived by many church leaders in 1978? I think the determining factors (as with most acceptance or rejection of changes in policy/doctrine) would be both the level of faith in the prophet as being the “real thing” and the level to which an individual was already disposed to love someone they even if they disagreed with their choices. Those who had previously adopted an overly zealous or rabid position might have a hard time abandoning all that they had invested in taking such a stance.

    The movement I’ve seen over the past couple of decades has definitely been towards treating others kindly and respectfully regardless of belief or lifestyle. We’re certainly a LONG way off when it comes to having this be universal, but I think that’s the trend.

    I don’t see the lifestyle ever being endorsed, but that’s a function of what I believe about it. The thing is, I have to make my own decisions based on what I believe, and I have to treat others in a way that recognizes that I might be totally wrong. We can get so mixed up either way….and that’s why I think Christ didn’t attach any caveats to “love one another…love thy neighbour….do unto others”.

  • http://ethesis.blogspot.com/ Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Ray

    This is true especially internationally, where the general populace is more conservative than America and Europe.

    The Anglican communions just had a schism where the majority schismed off on this issue, rejecting the American position and authorizing proselytizing and missionary churches to minister to members of the communion in countries such as the United States.

    It is easy to forget that the Church has its growth centered in areas away from the United States. We talk of being an international church but it is easy to forget the meaning that might have. I don’t have an answer for many things that can balance all of the complexity.

  • http://www.mormonmatters.org John Dehlin

    Folks,

    We really need to better manage posts and comments. Permas should moderate through action — not through commenting. I’m closing this thread for now.