Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Taking a Stand: The Church's, the World's, and My Stance on Gay Marriage

I am faced with a daunting task. I am arguing on behalf of the traditional values of marriage and Church doctrine, though I realize that science and the world are coming to hold different values on the matter. Facing this challenge, I realize that I should begin by making a disclaimer: this is an LDS doctrinal essays blog, as it reads at the head of our page. It is largely on this basis that I will make my argument. The reason for this disclaimer is that many in favor of same-sex marriage state that “there isn’t a single credible secular argument” against it. Using that as a platform, they attempt to dismiss any arguments taken from a religious standpoint as invalid. Though I will certainly address secular issues as well, I must emphasize that my arguments will stem from the doctrines and beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which I am affiliated, hold loyalty, and which I believe to be the Church of Christ on the earth today. Regardless of the criticism of skeptics and non-believers, these reasons are more than valid to me, and I believe should be just as valid to any member of this church.

As an additional proviso, I should state that while I believe that homosexual behavior is wrong, it doesn’t mean that those who feel such feelings are sinners. Even those who engage in gay practices are not necessarily bad people. But they are engaging in sin. When I refer to homosexuality throughout this essay, unless I make a clear distinction, I am referring to the behavior and not simply the inclination.

The Point

Whatever you term it, homosexual, same-sex, or gay marriage is wrong. But why? What makes me so certain of this, despite growing feelings in the Church and world favoring the opposite view? Well, first, homosexual behavior itself is wrong. I will demonstrate this as clearly as I can, as it is a major staple of my argument. But so many disagree, and that presents a problem. Furthermore, assuming that it is morally wrong, does that justify actually legislating against gay marriage? Wouldn’t that be imposing religious beliefs or removing agency? Again, I say no. And I give my reasons:

Biblical Arguments

I quote from the 8th Article of Faith, a canonized declaration of the basic beliefs of the Church. “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” By extension, the other books in the LDS canon, The Doctrine & Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price also fall into this category. Furthermore, “whatsoever [the latter-day prophets] shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord” (D&C 68:4). If it is true that all such words qualify as “the word of God,” as I believe them to be, then I feel that we are obliged to hold them as true. I am not ignorant to the fact that there are man-made errors in the scriptures as well as the words of our leaders, but it is all inspired of God, and the ultimate message is nothing less than completely true. If a believing member of the Church feels inclined to disagree with these authoritative sources, a very heavy argument must be presented in order to show the man-made errors of the Lord’s inspired servants, ancient or modern.

So what does the Bible have to say about marriage? After creating Adam, God declared, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). The first commandment God then gave to the newly created Adam and Eve was this: “Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Eternally, a man and a woman are incomplete without their complementing sex. “[N]either is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). Such completion is not only desirable, but is requisite to attaining mankind’s fullest potential (D&C 131:1-4; 132:15-17, 19-20).

Such scriptures make it clear that a man and woman are only complete when they are together. But they do not specifically state that any alternative relationship is wrong. Of course, there are other verses are more explicit. These have been mentioned on countless other blogs, but I mention them again here for the benefit of the reader, and to paint a clear, well-rounded picture of the Bible’s words on the matter.

Genesis 18-19 is the well known story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two great cities destroyed personally by the Lord in consequence of their sin. This has often been interpreted as the sin of homosexuality, as within these chapters is the story of men wanting to rape the two guests of Lot, obviously not knowing that they were angels of the Lord. Many now try to discredit this interpretation. ‘Certainly,’ the interpreters say, ‘raping two men is absolutely wrong. But it was not for homosexual conduct that the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. It was for pride and inhospitality.’ A scripture is used to support their stance, namely Ezekiel 16:49. “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” Well, I credit such an argument in that raping your guests is not exactly hospitable. But it certainly wasn’t for these reasons alone that such cities were destroyed.

A scripture that is generally not mentioned or that is simply glossed over by advocates of the above-mentioned theory is found in Jude. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7, italics added). It is the because of the sins of fornication, including (but not limited to) homosexuality that these cities were judged so harshly in this world, as well as in the world to come.

Another pair of verses used to argue against homosexuality is sin and is utterly wrong. These are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. And the standard counterargument is that these rules are part of the Hebrew Holiness Code. The chapters contained are guidelines in how Israel was to live, but they include things that we surely would abhor today. Rules on how to conduct slavery properly, kosher dietary laws, and the execution of those who break certain laws. Those who use such an argument make a good case here; we can’t possibly accept all the laws that were binding on Israel to be equally binding upon us. But their case doesn’t rule out such law either.

So where do we stand on those verses? Surrounding them are other laws of sexual conduct, specifically the sins of incestuous relations. We still cling to these today. Why? They certainly were unaware of the genetic repercussions of such relationships at the time of Moses, but the Lord commanded that those relations were wrong. The Lord then, as always, knew best.

Romans 1:26-27 is also a frequently mentioned scripture in condemnation of homosexuality. “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” This is very clearly a denunciation of homosexual practice. Other New Testament writings condemn homosexuality in varying degrees. See for instance 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

The Bible is the Word of God. The heaviest arguments that people level at these verses are that they are inapplicable today, or that the writers were uninspired in those cases. Acknowledging that Church leaders, ancient and modern, are prone to error, statements so often repeated and firmly held throughout history do not much allow for our trivializing of them. And the applicability of such commands cannot simply be dismissed because “many commandments in the Bible (i.e. kosher diets and the like) are no longer in force.” Most commandments remain in force, and sufficient reasons have been given for most changes, most notably Christ fulfilling the Law of Moses. Simply put, one cannot pick and choose which biblical commands to follow and which to obey.

It would be unjust to avoid mentioning the biblical arguments that favor homosexuality. Many religious advocates point to verses that indicate that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers (1 Samuel 18: 1-4; 1 Samuel 20: 30; 2 Samuel 1:26), and to New Testament verses that could be interpreted to justify or at least tolerate this behavior. Except for the case of David and Jonathan, every other argument raised is very weak, and requires too many assumptions and leapt-to conclusions to really be of any validity. In the case of David and Jonathan, the references are only slightly less vague, and could be (and generally are by conservative readers) interpreted as just a very strong friendship. The phrasing claimed to be sexual in nature, for instance, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David” (1 Samuel 18:1), is never duplicated elsewhere in the Bible. The Bible does at times make use of innuendo, especially in the case of a man “knowing” his wife. But no where is the case of “knitting souls” made as a sexual act. No biblical argument, not even that of David and Jonathan, carries sufficient weight to defend homosexuality.

Secular Arguments

It is difficult to make an argument of the rightness of anything from a moral standpoint. In fact, I may be unable to really prove that homosexual behavior or marriage is immoral at all. But the truth is, from a secular perspective, there is little that can be done to “prove” anything as morally right or wrong. Regardless of which side a person takes on homosexuality in general and gay marriage in specific, it all boils down to the ethics of the situation. The opponent sees it as a threat to an established system; the defendant sees the refusal of the right as an infringement on human rights. My point here is that morals are subjective, and as such, they are unable to be defined as absolutely right or wrong. Every moral we hold dear and true is challenged by others in this world. But we bind ourselves to moral codes based on the benefit to humanity in general. Therefore, my secular argument will be an attempt to convey the difficulty in proving homosexual behavior and marriage as moral (or anything, following the same logic). I will then try to interpret what our moral views actually are, and see if homosexuality fits that mold.

Many non-religious arguments are used to favor homosexuality. In fact, it is often claimed that these bear more weight than religious arguments. The point is made that a number of religions have favored homosexuality throughout history, some even believing it to be a form of higher love. Many cultures have accepted homosexuality as a natural alternative throughout history. Additionally, it is not considered by most in the psychology field to be a disorder of any sort. Furthermore, homosexuals do not choose to be gay or lesbian. And even some animals practice homosexuality. So questions are raised. Why do so many treat it as if it isn’t natural? Why can’t we simply accept it as a natural phenomenon, and treat it no differently? Well, I first will show that we cannot make moral assumptions on the matter based on these arguments.

First, using historical precedence is certainly not justification for accepting something as moral. Many religions (Judaism, for instance) accepted prostitution and slavery at certain points in their history. The Roman Empire executed people in some of the most violent means imaginable (crucifixion, incidentally, was considered to be the apex of cruelty). Surely most readers are aware of the practice of feeding prisoners to lions in very public displays. Numerous groups of people, such as the Foré tribe, have engaged in cannibalism for various ritualistic reasons. Many peoples have practiced incest throughout history, with even biblical examples to draw from. Obviously, some cases are more widespread than others, but it all boils down to one point: some things have been acceptable by even the largest of populations, but having a precedent still does not validate an act as morally tolerable.

Second, I can agree with the psychologists who state that homosexuality is not a psychological disorder. But that doesn’t immediately qualify it as moral. For instance, incest is not necessarily the result of a psychological disorder (I am not referring to the effects of incest, especially when forced upon children, which certainly can cause psychological problems). Pedophilia/ephobophilia, which I consider to be one of the vilest of crimes to God and mankind, is being pushed by many psychologists like Richard Green to be declassified as a mental disorder. Some progress, though relatively little, has been made in this cause. But imagine that such a reclassification took place. Would the public then be compelled to accept acts between consenting adults and children/adolescents? Simply put, we cannot accept something as moral merely because it is not considered a psychological disorder.

Third, the lack of ability to choose one’s orientation still does not validate such orientation as acceptable. Again, using pedophilia as an example, the “boylove” advocacy group known as Free Spirits even states, “boylovers have not chosen of their free will to become so.” They claim that it is simply an “orientation,” and that it is unchangeable, just like homosexuality.

Now, I imagine here that many will take issue with what I have said. A major point among homosexual marriage advocates is that it all acts are performed between consenting adults. But remember, I am pointing out the difficulty of determining what is really moral. The belief that consenting adults can do whatever they want with each other is simply another assumed moral. Many do not hold that to be ample reason for any act.

But many further question the morals of changing one’s orientation. Why quell the feelings with which a person was born? Why suppress what nature gave them? I will not go deep into this issue, as it is not the purpose of this essay. However, I can say that this, as it does further my argument: there is more research than many psychologists will admit that shows that perhaps homosexuality is not an inborn trait, but that it is learned. If this is true, and if homosexual behavior can be identified as immoral, then why would we be compelled to give homosexual relationships the same status as those of a heterosexual nature? Now, I am in no way condoning any mistreatment of or prejudice towards gays and lesbians, even if it true that the orientations they hold are learned. I am merely pointing out that a learned trait does not automatically receive the same status as a natural one.

I could go on, showing how it is impossible to actually “prove” that homosexuality should be accepted as completely moral, but none of this actually proves that it is immoral. Truthfully, this is probably the most difficult point to make without bringing religion into the matter. Hopefully I can make a case.

It would seem to some that allowing homosexual marriage would increase fidelity and devotion and strengthen families. As Andrew Sullivan, a homosexual and well-known spokesman of gay marriage rights has said, “It seeks merely to promote monogamy, fidelity, and the disciplines of family life among people who have long been cast to the margins of society” (“Let Gays Marry”). This is greatly lacking in truth. The same Andrew Sullivan kindly provided us with some evidence against this claim. “The openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds,” says he. There is “more likely to be a greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman.” And statistics apparently support this assertion. One survey shows that only 7 out of 156 gay couples were actually completely faithful in a 5 year period (Bolt “Gay Edge of Wedge”). Though infidelity occurs in straight relationships, it is frowned upon. This statements and statistics show that it is not only common but even expected and acceptable.

Gay marriage also makes it difficult to actually draw moral lines. Mr. Sullivan has again undercut his own arguments, this time by trying to draw distinctions between polygamy and homosexual marriage. “Some…fear that there is no logical difference between allowing same-sex marriage and sanctioning polygamy and other horrors.” He equates polygamy with horrors on other occasions as well. Being Mormon, it becomes a particularly sensitive issue, as I do not believe that early Church members were engaging in horrific acts. I certainly would not like to participate in the practice, but I don’t believe there was anything morally wrong with it. Islam to this day continues to advocate and practice polygamy. Most find absolutely nothing wrong with the practice. But Andrew Sullivan identifies it as a “horror,” and inadvertently strengthens my case. It is far too easy to define your own morals, and then elevate them to “well-known” facts. What you deem acceptable is not necessarily inherently so. We cannot constantly redefine our definition of morals to accommodate every minority group that exists.

The very valid point has been made many times before, and I do not believe it succumbs to any slippery-slope fallacy, as we can already see the steep decline of morals in everyday life due to this very problem: when we continue to redraw the line on what is moral and ethical, we find that we have no place to stop. We must continually expand our acceptance until everyone is within in our circle and no one is left out. Honestly, where do we stop? When do we finally decide that we’ve accepted everything worth accepting and forbidden all that is truly wrong? The reality is that there is no true valid secular reason to about-face and accept it as a mirror image of heterosexuality, with all the rights that pertain to the latter.

I guess that is what addresses the most used, and likewise most poorly defended point in the argument against gay marriage. Redefining marriage does undermine the real definition of family. As members of the Church know, but even as groups like conservative atheists admit, the structure of the family is becoming corrupted. Numerous decadent acts charged as “rights” seek to push the envelope on what a stable family really is. Abusive parents, broken marriages, unwed parents, adulterous spouses, and abandoned children are all symptoms of the gradual loss of morals that causes further decay in the bulwark of strength the family was intended to be. We can say, “Well, Bob is cheating on his wife, and Lilly abandoned her child. But these things have no affect on me and my stable marriage.” Perhaps not directly. Perhaps never upon you. But allowing gay marriage is simply another battle lost to the side of immorality, and in the not-too distant future, the nature of marriage will truly be so misshapen as to be unrecognizable.

Political Legislation Against Homosexual Marriage

Throughout most of this essay, I have sought to prove that homosexuality is morally wrong. But the whole purpose of my argument is really to give reason to legislate against it. It is difficult to determine what to legislate against and what to let slide. It certainly is wrong in most people’s eyes to commit adultery. Yet, there is nothing illegal about it. And illegalizing it would be met with serious opposition for multiple, justifiable reasons. Another fine example would be the prohibition. Making alcohol consumption illegal seemed to cause more problems than it solved. Yet, the Church teaches that consumption is immoral, and most would agree that drunkenness is wrong. But do we outlaw drinking? No. So how can one justify the political decision to outlaw marriage?

One of the most popular arguments against the marriage amendment and other heated political points is this: “You can’t legislate ethics.” A weaker argument is hard to find. I can’t think of a single law that does not legislate morality, from laws on J-walking, to gun control, to hate crime laws, to the Geneva Convention. All laws are backed by a moral of one sort or another. A law explicitly protecting gay marriage would itself be a legislation of morality. It would be a protection of individual rights, and we as a people are highly concerned with the moral obligation to preserve a person’s rights. Simply put, you not only can legislate morality; you are bound to.

To Church members, the outlawing of polygamy is often seen as an equivalent miscarriage of justice as the attempt to outlaw gay marriage. They argue that the government shouldn’t have dictated the nature of marriage then, and they do not have that right now. I believe this to be merely word play for emotional appeal. I hardly can believe that those who are such advocates of equal rights as to support gay marriage are also in favor of the supposed “dehumanizing of women” inherent in polygamy (though I personally hope to never be required to engage in the practice). However, if we as a nation support the government in its legal action against polygamy (and most of us are), we are then compelled to be equally supportive in the government’s right to illegalize gay marriage. We support the government in protecting institutions, and as was mentioned earlier, gay marriage is a threat to an existing institution.

Legislating against immoral behavior is still difficult. There are no laws that make adultery, fornication, group sex, and many other immoral sexual acts illegal. I can’t say where we draw the line on what behavior is legislated against. But we must draw lines, most especially when it destroys the already damaged established moral code.

The Bottom Line: Modern-day Leaders and Doctrine

Modern Church doctrine also teaches that homosexuality is not in God’s plan. Though never mentioned explicitly in the discourses and revelations of Joseph Smith, his revelations and doctrines clearly teach that marriage is intended between man and woman (see D&C 131, 132, and the Community of Christ D&C 111).

Furthermore, we understand that the pattern of godhood is paralleled here on Earth. God has a Wife and has children. Without a spouse, bearing children in this world is impossible, and so is the case in Heaven. The establishment of marriage can only be made on Earth, and therefore gay marriage bars God’s children from reaching exaltation, and frustrates God’s work and glory (Moses 1:39).

Following Joseph Smith, many leaders and teachings have clarified the issue for those in doubt. Numerous discourses and documents could be cited, but the most modern and most prominent is probably The Family: A Proclamation to the World. “We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife…The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan.” Here, it is spelled out rather clearly. God intended marriage to fit one specific formula. It was not meant to fit any other description.

Various secular and religious reasons could be offered to oppose gay marriage, but on one point do I feel so strongly about this issue: I believe in following the prophet. We don’t have to understand the reasons for God’s commandments. We don’t even have to agree with our leaders. They are prone to error, after all. But in our accepted canonical work of modern revelation, we are promised that “The Lord will never permit…any…man who stands as President of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God” (D&C: Official Declaration 1). They have repeatedly given us the will of the Lord, and we would be wise to accept that. There are thousands of historical cases (scriptural and otherwise) where the Lord’s people were commanded to do what they did not understand, but they were still expected to obey. Why would the Lord not expect the same of us today? His feelings do not sway with what the public feels is PC.

The Church is entitled to make political statements when the fate of humanity lies upon obedience to God’s commands. We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. In fact, the Church is obliged to. “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Just as the ancient prophets preached against the practices of men, our modern prophets are just as entitled to. No, we do not live in a theocracy, but then, the Church has not compelled us to actually accept the truths they teach. Like Alma the Younger, our prophets call us to make the world a more righteous place, or the world may suffer consequences.

No one in the Church is entitled to say that he or she knows better than our leaders. We cannot hold the knowledge of Man to be above that of God. Humans can study and research all they like, but we have been told time and time again that spiritual understanding and faith forever outweigh the frail philosophies of humankind. I stand with the Bretheren on this one. I oppose homosexual marriage.

Tolerance and Understanding

As I wrap up my essay, I wonder how many have muttered the term “bigot” under their breath as they read. I assure you that this is not the case. I have taken a very practical approach to this issue, removing simple emotional appeal as much as possible, and trying to clearly define right and wrong.

But here, in the end, I will let my readers know that I am incredibly sympathetic towards those who have homosexual tendencies. Some of the best people I’ve known were gay. I even have a fairly close friend who has homosexual tendencies, and is a member of the Church. This friend helped shed a lot of light on the moral dissonance that is felt in his/her life. But I am convinced that this person is just as righteous a child of God as any. We are all faced with challenges in life. Some are incredibly difficult to resist. But God has promised deliverance from sin and temptation to those who rely on him in faith. I also know that God is merciful, and understands that so many face incredibly difficult circumstances in life. Our merciful and just God will certainly weigh all things in balance when it comes time for judgment. I am content to allow him to do the judging. All I can do is accept each of his children as precious souls in his eyes.


darth_ender said...

This was a very difficult essay to write. It also has been difficult to bring into cohesion. I ask that my lack of eloquence (especially in contrast to Larscapo's) can be overlooked, and the points can still be well-taken.

Also, I chose to avoid citing and linking to all my sources for the sake of my own ease. If someone would like the link to a specific source, they can mention it here in the comments section, and I will give it here as well.

Jeff said...

I wanted to let you know that I read your essay, but Larscapo's is in line with my understanding of the Gospel. The Church simply must be about more than blindly following scripture and blindly following leaders.

Your argument here, being based on supposed doctrinal and authoritarian reasons can stand no ground against the very people it seeks to legislate about: Most gays are not Mormons. They would see your sources as distorted things, something akin to the Ku Klux Klan or Hitler's Nazi regime, but not quite as severe :) How would you like it if Scientologists came around and started legislating to outlaw medicines because they believed all illnesses are psychosomatic and can be cured by engaging in dianetics auditing, and that the medical profession is unethically fleecing you of your money for treatments that only turn you into addicts. This sounds very foreign, but it is just as foreign to you as your evidences against homosexuality are to homosexuals.

Brandt said...

I liked your essay... you make some quite valid points.

Brandt said...


I think tha tyour comment on the essay's failure to address the issue from a more religion agnostic approach is missing a point. The target audience of the essay would seem (in my understanding) to be the LDS seeking to understand why the Brethren would be supportive of legislation that limits homosexual marriage.

darth_ender said...

Thank you for your compliments and support, Brandt. You are right, I was addressing an LDS audience, and I hope that people will read it in that context.

But to answer your issues, Jeff, I must say that I think you missed the point of the essay (which could very well be my fault for not being clearer). I wouldn't care if Scientologists tried to push for illegalizing medication. That is their right. If taking medicine were immoral, then I would hope we would outlaw it. I try to raise two issues about morals in my essay. First, it is difficult to define what morals are, but we do outlaw what we find immoral. Second, the Church and God find homosexual practices immoral, and therefore we have every right (and duty) to try to illegalize it.

Why shouldn't the Church urge its membership to stand up for the right on political issues? Joseph Smith condemned slavery, though many people considered it their right. President Hinckley said we should support the War on Terror. We are not required to accept their counsel, and will probably still make it to the Celestial Kingdom if we disagree. But why not agree? They are right more often than you or I are. They see what we do not. And God has not become more liberal as the world has shifted left. I would prefer to err on the same side as his servants.

Steven B said...

Darth, you say that this was a difficult essay to write. I think it is partly due to the difficulty in finding a rational argument that homosexualiy is inherently immoral. Your objection to same-sex marriage and advocation of moral legislation to forbid it are based primarily on the position that homosexual activity is sinful, and therefore, gay marriage would be wrong.

I think you have given a good summary of the Biblical arguments, from both sides. In the end, however, you fell victim to your own restriction: "one cannot pick and choose which biblical commands to follow and which to obey." If you choose to use the Bible to condemn homosexual behaviour, of both believers and non-believers, you must also advocate the death of all sexually active homosexuals. (And to be consistent, death to all who eat animal fat, Lev. 7:25, to adulterers, to children who curse their parents, and to a host of others.) Otherwise you ARE picking and choosing to fit your OWN concept of morality.

Your Secular Arguments do not provide a rational basis to condemn homosexual behavior as inherently immoral. As you say, "It is difficult to make an argument of the rightness of anything from a moral standpoint." Rightly so. But at least provide some logical rationale. What you have asserted is that if we can't prove, by secular argument, that homosexuality is moral, then it must be immoral. What kind of logic is that? Why not the opposite? If we can't prove it is immoral it must be moral? That is equally irrational. The fact that our societal acceptance of feeding Christians to the lions has changed over time has no relation whatsoever to whether homosexuality is moral or immoral. All you have shown is that you think it is immoral and unless proven otherwise, it must remain so.

Similarly, you state, "we cannot accept something as moral merely because it is not considered a psychological disorder." OK, the tendency to want to eat ice cream is not considered by the APA as a disorder. Using this same logic, let us not be hasty to declare eating ice cream morally acceptable. Is the DESIRE to eat ice cream morally reprehensible or merely the act itself?

Similarly, your nature/nurture point falls flat. (Of course, making the comparison to pedophilia won't win you any points from your opponents in the debate.)

The only rationale you are left with for condeming homosexual behavior as immoral is that God taboos it, or rather, the modern church leaders, as God's mouthpiece, say it is sinful. There is no reason why, just that it is "contrary to God's will." So for the Latter-day Saint, it really boils down to blindly following the Prophet. And I say blindly, because I have yet to be given a rational basis upon which to convince me of the inherent immorallity of homosexuality. Don't get me wrong, we are blessed to have prophetic leadership as church members. But when it comes down to having intellectual, rational discussions of the "evil" of loving committed homosexual relationships and the "threat" of same-sex marriage, no one seems to have any rational basis to their condemnations.

darth_ender said...

Steven B, I thank you for your reply. You raise excellent points. As I have admitted, I probably lacked clarity and cohesion on certain points in my essay. Whether it is due to that, or simply the fact that we never are easily swayed to believe that which we don't wish to believe, I don't know, but in all honesty, I think you missed several of my points in your reply.

For instance, about picking and choosing which commandments to follow, when read in context, it all becomes clear. I did not fall subject to my own restrictions. I said, "Most commandments remain in force, and sufficient reasons have been given for most changes, most notably Christ fulfilling the Law of Moses." If I was unclear, I apologize, but my point in this was that our leaders, including Christ, have at times changed our understanding of commandments. Post-Mosaic Law completion, Paul continued to condemn homosexuality, though he never said we should kill them. Elder Oaks said, "We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with [same-sex attraction]." So the commandment to abstain from homosexual activity remains in force, but the execution of homosexuals and numerous other laws are no longer. But this isn't do to MY picking and choosing. It's the picking and choosing of the prophets.

You were quick to criticize my secular arguments, quoting my first line on how difficult it is to prove the moral rightness of anything. What you failed to quote was my open admission in the next sentence. "In fact, I may be unable to really prove that homosexual behavior or marriage is immoral at all." I then went on to say that though I can't necessarily prove it immoral, the same cannot be done from the opposing perspective either. I then tried to show what we do define as moral, and see how well gay marriage matches up. So my ultimate point to that whole section was not to prove from a non-religious standpoint that gay marriage is wrong. My point was that gay marriage doesn't have enough strength to prove itself right, especially when compared with other generally accepted morals.

But that doesn't mean my argument was completely devoid of evidence of its incorrectness, as you assert.

Please give me some reason as to why my nature vs. nurture points fall flat. Simply saying so doens't make it so. There are numerous sources indicating that perhaps it is a learned trait, and I will find some links for you.

I don't ask for any points from the opposing camp. I don't expect any. But my purpose in comparing pedophilia with homosexual practice is not to make them out to be moral equivelants. I do show the similar nature of the separate inclinations. Many pedophiles feel that they are "born that way," and few will every overcome their urge to have relations with children. I point out that the real difference between the two orientations is that one takes place "between consenting adults," while the other does not. And THAT is where I make my real point. What makes action between consenting adults ok? Many adults consent to kill each other. But that is still illegal. Why? Because we consider murder morally wrong and illegal. So all other things being equal between homosexuality and pedophilia, we for some reason draw the conclusion that one is wrong and one is ok, simply based on the adults in the group? Well, again, that is left for the reader to question. I was only furthering the point that we cannot easily prove anything as moral, including an action that only appears immoral if it is done between consenting adults. I drew the similarities only to break the point down to its root justification, and then show that such justification isn't sufficient, much like all other secular arguments. Does that make sense?

And basing our obedience to commandments solely based on our rational understanding is dangerous. Do you keep the Sabbath day holy? Why? Because you feel good? Because it recharges your spiritual batteries? I challenge you to find any scientific proof that any real benefits arise. You could just stay home and read the paper, maybe mow the lawn, and scientists could find the same benefits. What about tithing? Is there any scientific evidence that tithe payers have the "Windows of Heaven" opened up to them? Have you really seen anything dramatic? The answer is probably no. We often don't understand the full reasons why the Lord gives us commandments. As I recall, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It's hard not to at least somewhat blindly follow a prophet, and yet follow him in faith. Certainly, we must receive some spiritual confirmation that what he says is true. But if you see the scientific rationale to every commandment he gives us from God, if you have absolute sight in the steps you take, then you are completely empty of faith. And we all know how impossible it is to have a testimony without faith.

Steven B said...

Darth, you said, "Most commandments remain in force. . ." I believe that when Jesus taught us that the Law had been fulilled he meant the entire Holiness Code. However, it turns out that much of the Mosaic law and parts of the Holiness Code are codifications of longstanding legal traditions widespread throughout the Middle East, many predating Moses. It stands to reason that many cultural norms and moral codes remained among the people regardless. Even in modern times, lawmakers have used Biblical statutes as a basis for modern legislation. The Washington State Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), for example, was enacted with a liberal amount of Bible quoting and references to the Almighty God.

When you note that some of the ancient proscriptions found in the Law of Moses are still in effect, incest, for example, it is because our society still considers it immoral. We furthermore have scientific evidence that interfamily-marriage can lead to birth defects. So we have a rational basis to enact legislation prohibiting incestual marriage.

When the Supreme Courts of Washington State and New York State were recently asked to decide whether denying marriage to same-sex couples had a rational basis in law ("does denying marriage to same-sex couples further a state interest?"), they failed to provide a rational basis. Instead, they answered a different question, "Does the state have an interest in extending marriage to opposite-sex couples?" Both courts answered yes to the second question, and upheld the ban on same-sex marriage. In neither case did the courts provide a rational basis for excluding gay people.

So yes, many of the Biblical prohibitions remain in force, but it is because society chooses to uphold them. Sometimes there is rational basis, and sometimes there is not. I have simply asked for some good reasoning behind the idea that homosexual behavior between committed, loving, consenting adults is inherently sinful.

All you have argued is that we can't prove that homosexuality is moral, and therefore we must conclude that it is immoral. I reject that thinking. The reason I say your nature/nurture discussion falls flat is that it uses the same line of thinking: "We can't prove that homosexuality is innate or inherited, therefore we can't prove that it is moral, therefore, it must be immoral." And I ask, "Why is it immoral?" Because we can't prove otherwise?

"Do you keep the Sabbath day holy? Why? Because you feel good? Because it recharges your spiritual batteries?" I would argue that these are some of the rational foundations of the sabbath commandment. When I ask for a rational basis, it doesn't need to come from science. Just give me some logical reasoning.

"It's hard not to at least somewhat blindly follow a prophet, and yet follow him in faith. Certainly, we must receive some spiritual confirmation that what he says is true."

Part of the problem is that many mormons and non-mormon Christians who are gay receive spiritual confirmation that God is pleased with them as gay people, that He loves them just as they are. Should such people follow the prophet or their own consciences?

darth_ender said...

Christ fulfilled the law, but no where does it say that the law was done away. Fulfillment and nullification are not the same, despite what many think. Here are some examples. The entirety of the Ten Commandments are still in force. Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law, but the focal points of that law are still around. Tithing was commanded in the Old Testament, but after the atonement, there is no further mention (excluding modern day scripture). Are you suggesting that these commandments are no longer in force, and that they only continue because they are based on tradition? There are numerous further examples that could be offered.

From a secular point of view, you are right, I showed that we can't prove homosexuality to be moral. And that was the major purpose of that portion of the essay. However, once again, the matter of audience is not taken into account. I am addressing Latter-day Saints. Not athiests, agnostics, evolutionists, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, penguins, or any other group. So the major point of my argument was taken from a scriptural and spiritual point of view. My point with the secular section (and legislative, for that matter) was to weaken the secular arguments in defense of the matter, and then actually prove my point with the spiritual sections. If I wasn't clear on that during the essay, hopefully this makes it clearer.

Incidently, I do give evidence, though not at all proof, that gay marriage is immoral. I base this evidence on the fact that it really DOES destroy the definition of family and leads to the acceptance of other immoral acts. These probably only strengthen the views of those already convinced of the immorality of gay marriage, but it is valid evidence.

But if the "feel good" reasons are enough to keep the Sabbath, then what about those who feel better by not keeping it? Many feel better by breaking it. And that would seem to serve as a useless commandment; one more rule to cut of the weak, if its only purpose was to make us feel good. My point is that there is a higher purpose to keeping the Sabbath, though I doubt anyone fully understand what it is. And likewise, we don't fully understand why God has commanded that we not practice homosexuality. But both Sabbath worship and homosexual behavior are commandments, and I suggest we keep them both.

You are right, many receive there own spiritual witness to the rightness of their (or others') homosexuality. But some receive witness that the Book of Mormon is false, that polygamy should be continued, that Mohamed is a true prophet, and that Rice Krispies® are muttering words of truth when they *snap*, *crackle*, and *pop*. That's really hardly an argument, is it? All I can say is that I have received a testimony of the truthfulness of this work, and I'm assuming you have too. I follow what the Lord has led me to, and I believe that the Prophets the Lord has provided in these days are part of the package deal. What I will never understand is why the world, including the Mormon portion, finds it a lot easier to accept dead prophets.

"[W]when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet." - Brigham Young

Belladonna said...

This is a powerful post!

My favorite part was at the very beginning where you clarified your INTENT. I believe that far too many people start spouting words before clarifying that in their own minds, let alone expressing it clearly for others.

Frankly, I'd rather hear words from the heart of someone admitting their own uncertainties and ambivalence than some authoritative treatise full of notations.

You touched on many key issues. I can see how you did struggle to write this. I, for one, am glad you did.

darth_ender said...

Belladonna, thank you for your comments. I haven't written much in the way of of Gospel essays in some time, but I put a lot of heart into this one. Many in the Mormon blogging world were against me from the get-go, and it's nice to hear that not only does someone appreciate where I stand, but also how I conveyed my reasons. Thank you.