Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I happened to come across a blog post where the blogger was exploring the question "Can Testimony Exist While Opposing Prop. 8?" I'm not trying to pick on this particular blogger - I only use it to illustrate a view that seems to be widely held across the LDS church.

First of all, the very question exudes a certain arrogance. It reeks of a "if you're not for us then you're against us" attitude - which itself is a twisted variation of the words of Jesus Christ where he said "for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:50).

The sentiment seems to be that Jesus Christ spoke to the prophet that His people should actively oppose proposition 8 in California and the prophet then brought His word to the people. So, to oppose this is not only going against the teaching of the prophet - but you are in direct opposition to Jesus Christ. And, if you are opposing Jesus then you, by definition, must be following Satan - how can a person claim to have a testimony when they are following Satan?

If you accept the premise that the direction to the saints in California encouraging them to do all they can and donate their time and means to defeat proposition 8 came directly from Jesus Christ via the prophet - then there is no argument. It becomes a matter of doctrine - and who, in their right mind, would oppose doctrine?

But was the opposition to the proposition 8 by the LDS church a point of doctrine or policy? As a faithful latter day saint, I must acknowledge that doctrine is unchanging - it is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, I also concede that while doctrine may not change, our understanding of doctrine can and does evolve over time. I know that is certainly true for myself - and it only seems reasonable that it is true for the church as a whole as well. And then there is the matter of policy. Church policies can and do change over time. Policies change to keep up with the pace of changes in society.

When I first joined the church, women were not allowed to say prayers in sacrament meeting - it was viewed as a priesthood responsibility. Yet, the very idea of that in today's environment seems ludicrous. Was that a doctrinal change? Did God take a priesthood responsibility and make it a responsibility for all saints - men and women? Or did our understanding of the doctrine of prayer and priesthood responsibility evolve such that the brethren concluded that praying in sacrament meeting was not the sole responsibility of the priesthood? And is it mere coincidence that this change happened in the midst of sweeping changes throughout society regarding women's rights?

Which brings me back to the question: Was opposition to proposition 8 in California a matter of doctrine or policy? Many latter day saints seem to conclude the former - that it was their moral responsibility to change the California constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. But, some of us view it as a matter of policy - one that we disagree with.

Does it even make a difference? Is opposing the brethren on a matter of policy just as grievous as opposing them on a matter of doctrine? Can a person claim to have a testimony while disagreeing with a policy?

The simple fact of the matter is, there are church policies that I think are dumb. For instance, we are no longer supposed to 'cook' in the kitchens in our meetinghouses - they are only to be used to 'warm' food. So, in response - at our ward annual pancake breakfast - we no longer cook pancakes, we warm pancake batter (in a circular shape until it firms up). Now, I'm sure there are bishops who interpret the policy very literally and require the pancakes to be cooked at members homes and brought to church to be warmed up in the ovens. Other bishops, like ours, take a more liberal interpretation of policy, preferring to go by the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. Does this mean that one is wrong and the other is right? Or is it possible that they can both be right?

Now making pancakes is certainly different than two guys engaging in gay sex. But, is the underlying principal applicable? Isn't it possible that the decision to oppose proposition 8 was a policy decision - one made by committee rather than by direct revelation? And isn't it also possible that some of us, because of our own unique life experiences, cannot support that policy? And, is it just and right for other latter day saints to question the faith and testimony of those who cannot support a particular policy?

In my mind, I also question if opposing proposition 8 on grounds of morality is even correct. To cast it as a moral issue suggests that if we keep gays from getting married then they'll stop having gay sex. Was there anything in the language of proposition 8 that dealt with sex? Does the passage of proposition 8 forbid gays from engaging in gay sex?

The answer, of course, is a resounding "No!" So, if it wasn't about morality then what was it all about? The purpose of proposition 8 was to remove the rights of same sex couples to marry one another. And, yes it was removing rights because they had those rights in California on November 3rd and lost them on November 4th. And, when you are dealing with rights then it is, by definition, a 'civil rights' issue. On November 4th the voters in California passed, by a very narrow margin, a constitutional amendment removing the right of all Californians to marry someone of their same gender. It is not a right that was only applicable to a subset of the population - it is a right that is no longer available to all residents of California, one that would likely only be exercised by the gay population. Just because someone chooses to not exercise a right doesn't mean they don't have the right. As an adult male over 21, I have the right to consume alcohol - I choose not to, but that doesn't mean I don't have the right. And, I can choose to not consume alcohol on grounds of my religious beliefs while supporting the rights of others to imbibe to their hearts content.

Likewise, as a gay man in a committed monogamous mixed orientation marriage, I can support the rights of other gay men to enter into a committed monogamous gay relationship. And, I can mourn with them when the right to call that relationship a 'marriage' is taken away from them. And, I can do all of this while having a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and be temple worthy.


MoHoHawaii said...

Now making pancakes is certainly different than two guys engaging in gay sex.


(Insert maple syrup joke here.)

Beck said...

I think you're an apostate and the sooner you comes to terms with that term describing who you are, the better off we all will be. :)

I told myself I wasn't going to check any blogs and here I am responding. Oh well, I'm addicted... The all or nothing concept bothers me as well. When did the Brethren say that if you aren't with us on this issue, then turn in your temple recommend and report to the Bishop at the door? It is still a personal choice and political decisions are still that - political. The Church is now distancing itself from the role it played. So, if it were to have risen to a doctrinal level for a certain political point of view to be deemed doctrinal, (separate from the Proclamation on the Family which states the meaning of marriage in a doctrinal manner), then all members of the Church would have been told that there is no room for any other thought to be of good standing in the Church.

I don't think it's come to that level, has it? (except with certain members and their blogs). Can't one have a testimony of a prophet but still question the prophet? I certainly hope so...

Now I'll go back to my non-blogging.

Bravone said...

Abe, I may be wrong, and forgive me if I am, but I don't believe the following comment to be true:

"I must acknowledge that doctrine is unchanging - it is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

I think we have seen examples of doctrine changing, i.e. blacks and the priesthood, polygamy. I don't mean to diminish your point, because I agree with it. I think what is unchanging and eternal is the gospel...its principles and ordinances. Maybe I tend to separate the church from the gospel too much, but I believe the gospel to be true and see the church as a good, yet imperfect vehicle for teaching the gospel and helping us to live it.

To your point about morality and marriage - I would like to think that allowing gay marriage would add stability and increase morality within the gay community. It obviously doesn't work perfectly with heterosexuals, but in general does add stability and hopefully increase the likelihood of fidelity between a husband and wife. I think the same should apply to same gender marriages. It would hopefully increase the commitment to each other that is expected in a heterosexual marriage, reducing promiscuity and strengthening society.

Thanks for your post.

Matt said...

I like this post--but I think you sidestep a major issue.

It reeks of a "if you're not for us then you're against us" attitude - which itself is a twisted variation of the words of Jesus Christ"

Matthew 12:30:

"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."

Luke 11:23

"He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth."

It doesn't seem like the anonymous blogger was twisting Jesus' words at all, which is too bad; it would have been much easier to reconcile if he (she?) had been doing so.

Scot said...

I always thought those passages were strange considering these:

Mark 9:40

"For he that is not against us is on our part."

Luke 9:50

"he that is not against us is for us."


"Likewise, as a gay man in a committed monogamous mixed orientation marriage, I can support the rights of other gay men..."

I hope we can similarly be supportive of gay men in MOMs.

Abelard Enigma said...

I think we have seen examples of doctrine changing, i.e. blacks and the priesthood, polygamy

That begs the question of doctrine verses policy. Plus, I submit that polygamy is still part of our doctrine. It is our policy to only have one wife in this life; but, we seal multiple women to a single husband all the time in the temple.

But, I get your point.

I think you sidestep a major issue.

You have to look at the context in which the scriptures were written. In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 Jesus is specifically reprimanding the Pharisees - whom elsewhere he refers to as a "wicked and adulterous generation". Where in Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50 he is referring to others who perform good works but who do not walk with the Disciples. I agree with Bravone that "allowing gay marriage would add stability and increase morality within the gay community" - which is certainly a good work by those who do not walk with the Christian majority.

Max Power said...

Now making pancakes is certainly different than two guys engaging in gay sex.

I am never going to be able to cook pancakes again without giggling.

Christopher said...

Ha. This post follows exactly the conversation I had with my wife last night. Except the part of the pancakes, I guess. Were you eavesdropping!??

Chester said...

I wish more members wouldn't turn off their brains when the brethren spoke.

I remember while growing up I got a lot of flack from some members who didn't like me practicing my trumpet in the chapel during the week. NOT on Sunday's mind you - during the week. The reason, I was told, was because my instrument was too loud and blaring for the chapel, even though there wasn't anyone in the building.

I just liked the acoustics! I think the seeds of my rebellion were sown then. :)

Grant Haws said...

The Mormon church, both the actual organization and the culture, is so homophobic that it doesn't matter if you oppose Proposition 8 as a matter of policy or as a matter of doctrine. You are condemned an apostate all the same. Which is sad for a church inspired by a young boy questioning. Apparently you can ask questions as long as they are on the approved list from Salt Lake.

Reality is that policy is directed by human beings. And human beings have prejudices and opinions that they can't always turn-off. Church leadership included. That simple statement of reality is deemed evil in Mormonism and that is my main concern. I want to state reality without being stoned. If that's apostasy then I guess I'm an apostate.

Ezra said...

That wasn't my blog, was it Abelard?

I appreciated your comment the other day. It makes me smile to know you read it.

Abelard Enigma said...

That wasn't my blog, was it Abelard?

No, it wasn't your blog - but it was a blog I found via your blog :)

Lisa said...

About a week or so ago, my SIL discovered that my husband and I voted no on Prop 8. She tried her best to choke her shock down, but not until she asked "Even though the Prophet said...?"

I was on the phone with her the other day and she finally let loose. Though I can write about my opposition with no problem, it's quite another thing to have someone bust out the "testimony" question to your face like that.

These people don't realize they're not helping the cause, here.

hahahaha, pancakes.

That sounds good ;)

(great post, btw)