Thursday, March 21, 2019

Brigham Young or William Marks? The Twelve or the High Council? A Rebuttal to D. Michael Quinn on Prophetic Succession, Part 1

This blog has long worn out, its regular posters busy with real life.  However, I still am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and still love to study the gospel.  In my time away from here, I have certainly grown and matured in my worldview, including my take on the gospel.

I have had a particular fascination with other groups within the Latter-day Saint tradition, particularly those stemming from the 1844 Succession Crisis and the following two to three decades.  For years, my favorite of these groups was the Strangite Church; James J. Strang was an interesting and charismatic individual, and he had accrued a large following during his time.  I had wanted to write a rebuttal at some point on this blog, proving that his claims were false and that many of his doctrines did not line up with what Joseph Smith taught.  My intention was never to be hostile, but rather to simply provide a potent counterargument to the different Strangite websites I saw on the Internet.

Sadly, I never completed this goal, and I doubt I ever will.  Fortunately, I have found one blogger who has addressed the topic, though not as comprehensively as I had originally intended.  Nevertheless, he accomplished what I never did, and I appreciate his post:

For a time, the thought of attempting to rebut the claims of the Strangites or any other organization had passed from my mind.  After all, few take these alternative claims seriously or threaten the testimonies of the members of the Utah church.  However, there is one claim I have long yearned to argue, and one that has gained steam in recent years.  This was a claim that was most effectively postulated in 1994 by D. Michael Quinn in his seminal Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.  Though still an active member of the LDS Church at the time, Quinn’s scholarship had led him to conclude that the highest body in the Church following the dissolution of the First Presidency was the High Council of Zion, which, in the year 1844, was located in Nauvoo.  The Nauvoo Stake President/President of the Nauvoo High Council, as head of this body, had the strongest claim to succeed Joseph Smith as leader of the Church.  The man who held this position at the time of the Prophet’s death was William Marks, a loyal, influential, and important man in church history and hierarchy.

In 1853, Jason W. Briggs, one of the founders of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, labeled the succession of Brigham Young and the Twelve as a coup d’etat. More recently, a gentleman by the name of Bill Reel, bearing the online handle of Radio Free Mormon, reused that phrase in a two-part podcast series.  Obviously a reader of Mormon Hierarchy, he makes the same argument as Quinn did.  His podcasts portray the ascension of the Twelve to Church leadership as a matter of political intrigue.  Now, while this makes for a scandalous and sordid historical drama, such hyperbole does not truly represent the events that transpired.  While that which followed the death of the Prophet Joseph were truly unusual, events were far more mundane than Reel’s and Briggs’ characterizations.

Another individual who has latched onto Quinn’s train of thought, using it to argue against current Church leadership, is Denver Snuffer.  It is immediately apparent that Snuffer and his adherents follow Quinn’s line of reasoning to a tee, and with it (and various other arguments), he has successfully led many away by telling us that we no longer belong to a church led by revelation.

            Brothers Reel and Snuffer have provided a few additional elements to their arguments, primarily in the form of catastrophizing existing claims.  Nevertheless, while these minor additions hold up to little scrutiny, the ultimate argument that requires attention is the most powerful, and it is this primary argument that I will attempt to counter: the alternative succession option of William Marks as put forth by D. Michael Quinn.


Quinn makes several points that diminish the status of the Twelve in 1844 and elevate the High Council and other claimants to the presidency:

1)      In Doctrine & Covenants 107 (canonized in its present form in 1835), with supplemental, non-canonical clarification, the Twelve are deemed the “traveling high council,” with jurisdiction strictly outside the established stakes of Zion.  The High Council at Nauvoo was equal generally and superior at Church headquarters. Brigham and the Twelve did not appeal to D&C 107 because they knew it actually invalidated their claim to the presidency.  Subsequent statements and revelations never granted the Twelve greater authority than the Presiding High Council.

2)      In 1836, the Twelve were acknowledged as “Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth” by Joseph Smith.  However, this was the only time they were given such a title in Smith’s lifetime, and this applied only to their jurisdiction outside the organized stakes. The Twelve modified the History of the Church to state that they were “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” while the counselors in the First Presidency were only “Prophets and Seers.”

3)      In 1836, the order of anointing quorums and priesthood leaders at the Kirtland Temple, the Twelve Apostles were anointed sixth, indicating a low rank in the pecking order.  Meanwhile, the Kirtland High Council was anointed fourth.

4)      An unpublished January 12, 1838 revelation makes it impossible for the Twelve to organize a stake. When Thomas B. Marsh and, later, Brigham Young acted to reorganize the Far West in 1838, Missouri Stake, it was in their role as members of the stake presidency and not as apostles.

5)      D&C 124, revelation given on January 19, 1841, states that the Twelve “hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature” is just a reiteration of previously stated limitations outside the stakes.  Meanwhile, the central High Council is termed the “cornerstone of Zion.”

6)      Upon the death of Joseph Smith, in the setting of the Anointed Quorum, on 4 July, 1844, the Anointed Quorum nearly appointed William Marks as Church president. William Marks had seniority over all the Twelve due to his prior entrance to the Anointed Quorum.

7)      According to James Monroe’s diary entry on 24 April, 1845, Emma Smith asserted that Joseph Smith had blessed William Marks to succeed him.

8)      Brigham and the Twelve had William Marks dropped from the High Council and the Stake Presidency.

9)      Brigham Young depopulated the Seventy to remove their challenge.  He also ordained seventies of greater than 400 men so they would come directly under the control of the Twelve.

With these points in mind, I will attempt to rebut Bro. Quinn at each turn and deconstruct the argument of William Marks’s superior claim once and for all.  While many of Quinn’s claims are elegant and potent, I believe that the scriptures and historical context both will reveal that the Twelve Apostles were the right men to lead the Church following the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  If time allows, I may address other claims made by Reel and Snuffer, but these are all secondary to my goal.

This rebuttal will require at least two posts (perhaps more), this being the first.  I cannot promise a timeline for my follow-up(s), but rest assured, I will address each of these points and will complete my argument.


D&C 107 deals in large measure with various aspects of the priesthood.  In particular, it cites the relationship between the various high quorums.  Though it has been cited numerous times before, I am compelled to quote D&C 107:21-24 once again, as it establishes an equal standing among the First Presidency and the Twelve.

21. Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.
22. Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.
23. The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
24. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

In the same vein, the Quorum of the Seventy is identified as an equal quorum in 107:25-27.

25. The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
26. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named.
27. And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—

            However, Quinn points out that the equality is not limited to these quorums, as is so often noted by Brighamite advocates.  It is in verses 36-37 where Quinn’s argument gains steam.

36 The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the traveling high council.
37 The high council in Zion form a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.

            According to Quinn’s interpretation of verses 36 and 37, the various high councils are jointly equal to the other aforementioned quorums, and that the high council in Zion alone is equal specifically to the Quorum of the Apostles as well.  “By revelation, this high council had a position equal to that of the Quorum of the Twelve in the church generally and superior to the Twelve at the headquarters stake.”  He also quotes Emma Smith’s advocacy for William Marks as the more appropriate successor.

“Whereas it is the business of the first Presidency, more particularly to govern the Church at Zion,” wrote Emma, “and the members abroad have a right to appeal to that quorum from the decisions of the Twelve. Now as the Twelve have no power with regard to the government of the Church in the Stakes of Zion, but the High Council have all power, so it follows that on removal of the first President, the office would devolve upon the President of the High Council in Zion, as the first President always resides there, and that is the proper place for the quorum of which he is the head; thus there would be no schism or jarring. But the Twelve would attend to their duties in the world and not meddle with the government of the church at home[,] and the High Council in Zion and the first Presidency would attend to their business in the same place …. Mr Rigdon is not the proper successor of President Smith, being only his counselor, but Elder Marks should be the individual as he was not only his councillor at the time of his death, but also President of the High Council.”

According to Quinn, the intent of the revelation was to establish the Twelve Apostles as the presiding high council outside of the established stakes of Zion, while the High Council of Zion was the presiding high council within the stakes of Zion.  Both organizations were coequals with different jurisdiction.  When Joseph Smith stated in 1836, “I next proceeded to explain the subject of the duty of the twelve; and their authority which is next to the present [First] Presidency,” he was not placing the Twelve above all remaining priesthood bodies.  Quinn argues that numerous leading councils reported directly to him, including the presiding high council.  “[T]he Quorum of the Twelve was only one of several quorums which ‘stood next to’ the First Presidency. No officer or quorum stood between the First Presidency and the Presiding Patriarch. None stood between the First Presidency and the high council at church headquarters,” and this particular relationship continued to exist up till his martyrdom. “At church headquarters before June 1844, no quorum or echelon of authority separated the First Presidency from the high council’s jurisdiction over Mormons.”

            Unfortunately, in spite of his assertions, it is pretty clear that even at the publication of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835, there was indeed at least some ranking of quorums.  The question is, how did the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Presiding High Council relate to each other and the First Presidency?

            Quinn represents the relationship between the First Presidency, the Twelve, and High Council visually like this:

An Alternative Interpretation for the Standing High Council’s “Equality”

Quinn’s point is strong but not ironclad, and there are alternative interpretations when explored further.  First, let us explore how subtle wording and capitalization in verses 14 and 15 (different versification) could slightly alter their interpretation.  Let us look again at the verses on the position of the High Council.  This time, we will consider how it was presented in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants, as shown on the Joseph Smith Papers (

14 The standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion, form a quorum equal in authority, in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency, or to the travelling high council.
15 The high council in Zion, forms a quorum equal in authority, in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the twelve at the stakes of Zion.

            Please note that the word twelve is not capitalized, while in the modern edition, it is.  From this edition, it is evident that all high councils functioning together form a quorum equal to the presiding quorums.  However, the high council in Zion clearly has precedence above all others. 

“The central high council had equal authority with both the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Quinn asserts.  However, perhaps the revelation does not actually directly equate the Presiding High Council with the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Verse 15 states that all stake high councils are equivalent to both the presidency and “traveling high council,” the term most frequently used to describe the Twelve Apostles in this revelation.  Meanwhile, the presiding high council is equated to the councils (plural!) of the twelve (lower case), not explicitly the traveling high council, and not mentioning the First presidency, and “at the stakes of Zion.”  While modern editions capitalize the word Twelve, it seems quite possible that the intended interpretation was that the High Council in Zion is equated directly with the (lower case) “councils of twelve at the stakes of Zion,” meaning it alone is equal with the combined high councils of the subordinate stakes.

I am not alone in this interpretation.  The Ensign ( addressed this question in 1982. “Thus, this high council, and any other stake high council of twelve members referred to as ‘councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion,’ was to be of equal standing to each other.”

This interpretation may be wrong, but I feel it is worth considering.  The message may have been intended to be: the First Presidency = the Quorum of Twelve Apostles; the combined high councils = the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles; the Presiding High Council = the combined high councils.  Ultimately, the final conclusion is the same: the Presiding High Council and the Twelve are coequals.  However, as mentioned before, there remains an order of supremacy and preeminence.  Placement and wording of these verses suggest that the Presiding High Council may not be coequal with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Are the Coequal Quorums Truly Coequal?

            The establishment of equality amongst these quorums is admittedly a source of confusion.  This equality has been misconstrued to create a horizontal structure, particularly by the aforementioned Bill Reel, who believed that Joseph Smith intended for all these councils to coexist at the same rank with different roles.  It becomes necessary to clarify that between these “equal” councils remained a vertical hierarchy, according to D&C 107.

33 The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.
34 The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews— (emphasis added).
            One is forced to accept that this equality is significant, but so is the necessity that one act under the direction of another.

Section 107 Not the Final Word on Upper Council Organization

To further the point, I must make clear that one simply cannot rely on D&C 107 alone to make an argument for succession.  Neither did Quinn believe that alone one could do so, whether for the Twelve or for the Nauvoo High Council.  “If written revelation alone governed the post-martyrdom situation, then the Quorum of the Twelve had authority only over scattered branches of the church.”  While his argument primarily favors Marks’s position, he does acknowledge elsewhere in his book that both parties would likely have to share power.  “As president of the Nauvoo high council, [William Marks] had the potential of presiding over all organized stakes of the church in the absence of a First Presidency. However, Marks certainly had no authority over the non-stake branches scattered throughout the United States and Britain. They were the Twelve’s responsibility. According to a strict interpretation of the priesthood revelation, governance of the entire church after Smith’s death required joint-rule by two co-equals: William Marks and Brigham Young.”

Bear in mind that revelation is and has always been an ongoing process.  Of all the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants, 107 is the most complex in its evolution.  I cite from an article entitled “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled” from the January 1985 edition of the Ensign (

“Probably the most complex combination of revelations occurs in section 107. Verse 59 to the first part of verse 69, and verses 71, 72, 74, 75, 78–87, 89, 91–92, 99 and 100 were received as a complete revelation in November 1831. The last part of verse 69, and verses 70, 73, 76, 77 and 88 were received sometime between November 1831 and March 1835. These verses contain material about the duties of bishops and about bishops being literal descendants of Aaron. (Section 68, which was also received in November 1831, did not have any references to bishops being literal descendants of Aaron. Verses 16–21 of that section, which contain such information, are, therefore, later additions.) Section 107:90 and 93–98 is about the vision of the seventy that the Prophet Joseph Smith received sometime between November 1831 and 8 February 1835, when he mentioned to Brigham and Joseph Young that he had had such a vision. (History of the Church, 2:180–82.) Section 107:53–55 is part of a blessing Joseph Smith bestowed on his father on 18 December 1833. The rest of section 107 seems to be original material received on 28 March 1835, when the Quorum of the Twelve requested this revelation. Thus, section 107 contains portions of at least five different revelations.”

My point to this is that the revelations Joseph received were not immediately perfect.  Joseph received his revelations line upon line, precept on precept.  Often, people presume that Joseph wrote the words he heard directly from On High as if by the mouth of God.  What they fail to recognize is that Joseph Smith had to ponder and gradually come to an understanding of what God’s intent for him was.  Revelations changed a great deal over time.  Though the 1835 canonization is what we read in our scriptures, it was clearly not God’s last word on the subject.  Doctrines and practices changed drastically in the lifetime of the Prophet.  Section 107 is, in fact, the best example of the evolution of doctrine and understanding, both in its canonized form, as well as in its datedness.  For this reason, we should consider Joseph Smith’s subsequent statements, even if not canonized, for further clarification.

When Does the Presiding High Council Preside?

As an example of its lack of finality, let us look at the organization of the Presiding High Council throughout Joseph’s lifetime.  The previously mentioned 1982 Ensign article discusses this context.

“In 1835 when Doctrine and Covenants section 107 was revealed there were two high councils, one in Ohio and the other in Missouri....Since it was the only high council in the Church when it was organized (February 1834), the Kirtland high council was presided over by the First Presidency and had general jurisdiction throughout the Church. This placed the high council in a unique position. (See D&C 102:9–10.)….

“In the next verse (37) [D&C 107:37], the Lord refers to the high council in Missouri (Zion), which did not have the First Presidency as presiding officers, as being ‘equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.’ Thus, this high council, and any other stake high council of twelve members referred to as ‘councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion,’ was to be of equal standing to each other.”

In an Improvement Era article from 1955, the following was related:

“The first high council in the Church in this dispensation was organized in Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1834. This high council was in some particulars different from the high councils in stakes of Zion as they are constituted today. While all that is written in that revelation (D&C 102) in relation to [Church disciplinary councils] still applies today, it should be remembered that the First Presidency of the Church constituted the presidency of that high council. … This council had wide jurisdiction and was not confined to the borders of a stake.”

This is supported by verses 3 and 9 of section 102:

3 Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams [who comprised the First Presidency] were acknowledged presidents by the voice of the council…
9 The president of the church, who is also the president of the [high] council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration by the voice of the church.

            On October 5, 1839, Joseph Smith established the high council and stake presidency of the Nauvoo Stake.  Instead of presiding over either directly, however, he called and the Church sustained William Marks as president of the stake and high council. One must seriously consider the question: did this stake high council outrank the Twelve without the president of the Church at its head?

Supplemental Information Required to Clarify Section 107

As has been shown, using D&C 107 alone, one could theoretically conclude that the Twelve outranked the Standing High Council of Zion, though the wording is absolutely not clear.  It is only with clarifying commentary that Quinn can even draw his more definitive conclusions.  “The president then stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the Church….No standing high council has authority to go into the churches abroad and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No High Council will ever be established only in Zion or one of its Stakes” (Kirtland Council Minutes, 27 February 1835).

            If this were Joseph Smith’s final word on the matter, then I might be inclined to agree with D. Michael Quinn.  However, later public statements were highly enlightening, making for a very conclusive order of the presiding quorums.

A Change in the Order of Church Government

At an August special conference in 1841, the relationship between the First Presidency and the Twelve changed drastically.  Brigham Young, who knew that this conference had been called to establish a new relationship, asserted that the desire of the Twelve was not to aspire to new authority.  The following is from the September edition of Times and Seasons, which publicized the record of the August conference:

“At a Special Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, held in the City of Nauvoo— August 16. 1841. Elder Brigham Young was unanimously appointed to preside over the Conference….The object of the Conference was then presented by the President, who stated that President Joseph Smith (who was then absent on account of the death of his child) had called a special conference to transact certain items of business necessary to be done previous to the October Conference, such as to select men of experience to send forth into the vineyard, take measures to assist Emigrants who may arrive at the places of gathering, and prevent impositions being practised upon them by unprincipled speculators, &c, and he [President Brigham Young] hoped that no one could view him and his brethren, as aspiring because they had come forward to take part in the proceedings before them; for he could assure the brethren, that nothing could be further from his wishes and [those] of his Quorum, than to interfere with Church affairs at Zion and her stakes, for he had been in the vineyard so long, he had become attached to foreign missions, and nothing could induce him to retire therefrom, and attend the affairs of the Church at home but a sense of duty, the requirements of heaven or the revelations of God, to which he would always submit, be the consequence what it might; and the brethren of his Quorum responded. Amen” (Times and Seasons, volume 2, 1 September 1841: 521–22, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling standardized, emphasis mine).

Quinn shared most of this quote, but claimed that “Young was simply restating the limits imposed on the Twelve earlier.”  Nevertheless, if the full context is read, it seems clear that Brigham was aware of the purpose of the conference and the additional responsibilities about to be laid on the Twelve, and was seeking to allay any fears that he intended any usurpation or impropriety.  The Prophet Joseph arrived a short time later to the conference to fully explain the context of Brigham’s speech by declaring his intentions for the Twelve: to establish: a new relationship and structure in Church government.  First, I quote from the Times and Seasons published record:

“President Joseph Smith now arriving proceeded to state to the conference at considerable length, the object of their present meeting, and in addition to what President Young had stated in the morning, said that the time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the first presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the church at the stakes, and assist to bear off the kingdom victorious to the nations; and as they had been faithful and had borne the burden in the heat of the day that it was right that they should have an opportunity of providing something for themselves and families, and at the same time relieve him so that he might attend to the business of translating” (Times and Seasons, volume 2, 1 September 1841: 521–22, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling standardized, emphasis mine).

These notes already reveal an amazing shift in focus.  Even Quinn describes this as a “breach” in the wall of jurisdiction.  Quinn, T. Edgar Lyon, Ronald K. Esplin, and others have described the growth of the Twelve’s expanding power, almost to the point where there is no doubt as to who the second-ranking quorum would be.  However, Quinn stops short of granting the Twelve local authority until after Joseph’ martyrdom.

Perhaps Quinn does not recognize the significance of the above quote.  Please recall the point we discussed earlier regarding Joseph’s 1836 statement and how all the highest quorums were “next to” the First Presidency.  But in this 1841 statement, it could be no clearer that this is not a restatement of the past relationship between the First Presidency and the Twelve.  If the Twelve already stood “next to” the First Presidency alongside the other senior quorums, then the 1841 statement obviously must be revealing a new, elevated relationship.  One might easily surmise from this statement that the relationship is now, in fact, a hierarchical designation, where the Twelve are above all except the First Presidency.

In spite of recognizing this advancement in the Twelve’s status, Quinn did not come to the conclusion that they were next in the line of succession.  At the martyrdom, he states, “According to the 1835 revelation, which was still in force, there was no clear hierarchical distinction among the quorums these men represented.”  Though the Times and Seasons article indicates that this is not correct, the handwritten minutes of the same 1841 conference are even more elucidating than the published record.  Note the differences in the following quote:

“President Smith (who had been absent in consequence of the death of his child during the former part of the day) on his arrival then addressed the conference on the object of calling a conference at this time and, in addition to what had been stated by President Young, said that the Twelve should be authorized to assist in managing the affairs of the Kingdom in this place, which he said was the duties of their office &c.  Motioned, seconded, and carried that the quorum of the Twelve be authorized to act in accordance with the instructions given by President Joseph Smith in regulating and superintending the affairs of the Church.” (Minutes, 16 August 1841, General Minutes Collection, punctuation and capitalization standardized, emphasis mine;

            The intention of this statement could not be clearer.  Following this bestowal of increased authority, the Twelve issued an epistle in the Millennial Star to the British membership of the Church explaining their new role.

“Since our arrival in this place [Nauvoo] there has been oue [one] special and one general conference of the church, and the twelve have been called to tarry at home for a season, and stand in their lot next to the first Presidency and assist in counciling [counseling] the brethren and in the settling of emigrants &c., and the first great object before us, and the saints generally, is to help forward the completion of the Temple and the Nauvoo House; buildings which are now in progress according to the revelations, and which must be completed to secure the salvation of the church in the last days, for God requires of his saints to build him a house wherein his servants may be instructed, and endued with power from on high, to prepare them to go forth among the nations, and proclaim the fullness of the gospel for the last time, and bind up the law and seal up the testimony, leaving this generation without excuse, and the earth prepared for the judgments, which will follow. In this house all the ordinances will be made manifest, and many things will be shown forth, which have been hid from generation to generation” (emphasis mine).

Here, the Twelve acknowledged and declared their additional local responsibilities.  Following this, they received duties over the official Nauvoo periodical, the Times and Season.  Several were appointed by Joseph Smith to the city council, took on more local financial responsibilities, and even ecclesiastical responsibilities, calling missionaries in Nauvoo.  Ultimately, they also became the recipients of the sacred and secret temple ordinances and practices instituted by the Prophet, and the primary guardians of the secret practice of polygamy.

Regardless of what was stated in D&C 107, it is clear that by the time the Prophet had died, his intentions for the Twelve’s role and jurisdiction had expanded to the point that they were truly the presiding quorum under the First Presidency, even over the Nauvoo High Council.


            To me, the first section is so conclusive that the other points are not nearly as important to address.  Nevertheless, they inject doubt into the minds of Quinn’s readers, and so I shall endeavor to address these smaller points.

In March of 1836, the Twelve were designated “Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth” by the Prophet at the Kirtland Temple dedication.  Quinn minimizes this in three ways: first, by claiming that this designation only applied to their missionary jurisdiction; second, by pointing out that there is no record of them being sustained as such again during the lifetime of Joseph Smith; third, by pointing out that the official history of the church adds the word “Revelators,” indicating a false inflation of their authority over the counselors to the President, who are merely described as prophets and seers.

            To his first and second points, claiming the Twelve are only prophets and seers while functioning outside of the Stakes is disingenuous.  While their calling was specifically to the ministry throughout the world, their designation as prophets and seers is no trite designation, nor does it necessarily only apply to the mission field.  Throughout Joseph’s lifetime, the Presiding High Council did not receive this designation, whether inside or outside the Stakes, nor did any other quorum aside from the Presiding Patriarch and the members of the First Presidency.

            To his third point, Quinn erodes at his readers’ confidence in Joseph Smith’s appellation of this term to the Twelve by pointing out how it was changed when published in the History of the Church, published between 1902 and 1912 under the editing of the Elder B.H. Roberts.  Misquoting Joseph Smith’s diary from 1836 during the Kirtland Temple dedication, “I then called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the Twelve Apostles, who were present, as Prophets, Seers, Revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it, or cause it to be done, among them, and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to by rising.”  Quinn then contrasts this with the portrayal of the counselors in the First Presidency only termed “prophets and seers” previously in the same passage.  In so doing, he emphasizes the reaffirmation of the Twelve of their superiority over Sidney Rigdon, painting this as a subtle

Joseph Smith’s original journal entry, which the March 1836 edition of the Messenger and Advocate followed, only defined the apostles as prophets and seers.  “I then made a short address and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of saints to acknowledge the Presidency as Prophets and Seers, and uphold them by their prayers, they all covenanted to do so by rising; I then called upon the quorums and congregation of saints to acknowledge the Apostles who were present as Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it or cause it to be done among  them; and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to by rising.”

While Quinn asserts that “[t]his subtly implies that the Twelve had higher status than Smith’s counselors who were also designated as ‘Prophets and Seers’ at the 1836 meeting,” and that “[t]his textual change reflects the 1844 succession conflict of the apostles with first counselor Sidney Rigdon,” it appears that this was not the intent at all.  The original journal entry, Messenger and Advocate, and the much later History of the Church, all term even Joseph himself as a “mere” “Prophet and Seer,” without the Revelator title attached.  This took place only a short time prior to the sustaining of the apostles and the presidency as a whole.  “After closing his discourse he called upon the several quorums, commencing with the Presidency, to manifest, by rising, their willingness to acknowledge me as a Prophet and Seer, and uphold me as such, by their prayers of faith. All the quorums, in turn, cheerfully complied with this request. He then called upon all the congregation of Saints, also, to give their assent by rising on their feet, which they did unanimously.”

The Apostles never claimed superiority to Joseph Smith, and therefore Quinn’s conclusion appears dubious.  What seems more likely is that B.H. Roberts was indeed attempting to show the high status of the Twelve, but never at the expense of another “prophet and seer.”  This seems more likely to be an oversight.


            To illustrate Quinn’s perception of the low ranking of the Twelve, he points to their anointing in the Kirtland Temple in 1836.  The order of the anointing of the quorums was as follows.

            “On this occasion the pre-eminent church officer was Presiding Patriarch Joseph Smith, Sr., who received his anointing first from the prophet, then from each other member of the First Presidency. Second, the Presiding Patriarch anointed each member of the First Presidency, “according to their age.” Third, the Presiding Patriarch anointed the regional bishops of Kirtland and Zion (Missouri) with their counselors. Fourth, the First Presidency’s assistant counselor Hyrum Smith anointed the president of Kirtland’s high council, which showed the supremacy of the stake high council at church headquarters. Fifth, and by contrast, the president of the high council at Zion (Missouri) was anointed by a non-general authority, David Whitmer, who was president over the Missouri settlements. Sixth, the First Presidency anointed only one apostle, the Twelve’s president Thomas B. Marsh. Marsh then anointed the other apostles, and Smith spoke prophetic words to each one but did not anoint them. Seventh, the apostles then anointed the presidency of the seventy. Eighth, and last, Don Carlos Smith was anointed as president of the high priest’s quorum.”

            Quinn interpreted this as an order of prominence or ranking, but there is little reason to believe that such is so.  If this were the case, then bishops, the presiding officers of the Aaronic Priesthood, would rank just below the First Presidency and ahead of the presiding High Council, which was comprised of high priests in the higher Melchizedek Priesthood.

To further strain the credibility of Quinn’s argument, the members of the First Presidency themselves were anointed by age instead of rank.  The assistant counselor to the First Presidency, Hyrum Smith, anointed only the president of the Presiding High Council (John Smith, Hyrum’s and Joseph’s paternal uncle); Joseph, who directly presided over this council, did not.  Unstated by Quinn is that John Smith then anointed the remainder of his quorum alone.  The entire First Presidency anointed Thomas B. Marsh, the president of the Twelve, who then anointed the remaining members of his quorum (Edward Partridge Journal, January 21, 1836).  It seems to me that this event was not so much an expression of seniority, but rather an opportunity to give various presidents a role in anointing his brethren.

            Quinn also fails to mention that, during the sustaining of the priesthood officers on the same occasion, the order was different: the President; the First Presidency; the Apostles; the Presidency of the Seventy; the High Council of Kirtland; the Bishoprics of Kirtland; the High Council of Zion (Missouri); the Presidency of the Elders Quorum; and the presidencies of the Priests, Teachers, and Deacons Quorums.  Nowhere was the Presiding Patriarch sustained.

Now let us return to canonized scripture if we are to consider the order of mention as indicative of rank.  In 1842, Joseph Smith dictated section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  In verses 124 through 139, there, the order of the priesthood quorums is given.  First, the verses note the Presiding Patriarch, then the President of the Church, followed by his Counselors.  After this come the Twelve, the Presiding High Council, the President of the High Priests Quorum followed by his counselors, then the President of the Elders Quorum and counselors, and finally, the Presidency of the Seventy.  According to this section, the Twelve outranked everyone but the Patriarch and First Presidency, most notably above the Presiding Standing High Council.

It seems foolish to attempt to divine the intended rank of the quorums based solely on the order of their anointing (and not their sustaining).  When attempting to discuss 1836 rankings in relation to the 1844 Succession Crisis, it would be especially futile.

In part 2, I intend to discuss the remaining points of Quinn's argument.  I may, whether in part 2 or even in a follow-up post, address some of the arguments unique to Bill Reel and others.

Monday, January 29, 2007

We believe in the Resurrection

Mormons believe in the resurrection, right? Well, by virtue of the web, we are trying to resurrect this blog. Perhaps a better choice of words would be 'resuscitate,' but no matter. Much has happened since last we posted. We officially were removed from a listing on the Bloggernacle. We all became seriously thrashed with school, work, and life. And I got married *WOOHOO*!!! I was sealed to my wife on December 22, 2006 and gosh, it sure is swell. I would love to devote an essay to eternal marriage some time, especially considering it's recent impact on my life, but that is for the future.

Again, we are trying to breathe some life into this little humble blog, and I feel that a slight change of pace might be a good place to start. I have always wanted to write a poem on my personal feelings on the Atonement of Christ. I can't claim to be the Robert Frost of Mormondom, nor can I compare myself to W.W. Phelps. But at least I can express in another way my gratitude for the Savior. Please read it below.

Two Men

Not too far off I see a lone man
Head high, shoulders squared, he stands all alone
A man so entrapped within his pride
His very own soul a dark prison cell
And still there he stands, unbending as stone

Just closer, a man standing all alone
Head still erect, body showing no strain
Inside he feels such ugly burdens
His spirit slowly bleeds away life
Yet little betrays this man’s inner pain

Still closer, a man hunched over in grief
Still stubbornly clinging to strength of his own
Stiffnecked, though bent from the crushing weight
His sweat, perhaps tears then pour down his face
His mind finally reaching for Someone once known

And nearer a broken man lifts up his eyes
Remembrance flows into his heart and mind
He now knows that he cannot stand on his own
Nor heal the ails of his damaged soul
Another is needed, this man’s wounds to bind

So close to me I can see two men
A Man in white robes, the other ragged and broken
The One wraps his arms around his dear friend
With love he caresses the head of the fallen
And wipes away tears with those hands marked with tokens

Now here I kneel, burdens lifted, heart healed
Again tears, not of sorrow, but joy on my face
The lowest I’ve bowed, yet the closest to Heaven
In the arms of Messiah I’m held in embrace
Partaker of Redeemer’s all-reaching grace

--Jonathan Rutherford (aka darth_ender)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Guest Essay: A Gay Believer's Point of View

I read a recent comment on the "gay marriage problem" by Michael that gave me pause. Not only was it well written, it represented a side of the debate that we three writers could not represent on our own, that of a gay-but-believing Mormon. I was so impressed with what he said that I felt it should not be tucked away in the comments. Therefore, I am taking the liberty to repost his comments here on the front page. Since there was no email address, I have no way of contacting him, so Michael does not know I am posting this. However, because he did post his comments, it is my good faith belief that he wanted his words to reach a wide audience. I am doing what I can to aid him.

A note: the only changes I have made to this post were to run it through a spell checker and to break it into paragraphs for easier reading. If you prefer to check the original post, you may do so here.

As I begin this effort to better communicate with others concerning "The Gay Marriage "Problem," I pray to my Heavenly Father to have the Spirit of Inspiration I desire to be able to do so in a factual and logical way. I must first of all declare my status as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am also an adherent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have come to realize there is a profound separation between membership in the church, and knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I should also declare that I have been, for nearly 50 of my 59 years, been dealing with same gender attraction. I am currently a single adult male who has never been married, and am a convert to the church since I was 24 years old.

I was baptized in the South China Sea while serving as a Sergeant in the United States Army in the Republic of Vietnam. I was virtually inactive for approximately 30 years. I became active again in December, 2001. During the 30 years of inactivity I am certain I would have been excommunicated justifiably for my sinful behavior. I began my repentance process by declaring my sins in the prescribed method. At the time I was a Teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. I currently hold a valid Temple Recommend. I have received my ordination as a High Priest. I am also Cub master in my Ward, and 11 Year Old Scout Leader.

I make these declarations because I do not believe anyone is called out of the world to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ because they are qualified, but because they are willing to allow the Lord to qualify them through being converted away from the world, and the worldly. As we continue to progress in our personal journey with the Saviour, we are going to be continually reminded of the world we are so determined to overcome.

Overcoming same gender attraction is, in my estimation, just as easily overcome as any other worldly affliction. However, the ease to which I refer is due to the Atonement, as I, myself cannot overcome anything sinful. I know what the requirements are for me as an individual to enter into the level of the Celestial Kingdom wherein my Heavenly Father resides. I knew when I first joined the church, and was baptized, and given the opportunity to receive the Holy Ghost that I was embarking upon a journey which seemed familiar to me, and I wanted that more than anything I am able to understand, or describe. I only know that I long for the opportunity to sit at the feet of my Heavenly Father with my Savior Jesus Christ learning what he would have me do in order to be as He is. I am certain I shall be able to realize the desires of my heart because I have the promise given to me by the Savior when He proclaimed the Plan of Happiness, and Salvation, and I sustained Him in that proposal. I hope to be able to marry, and be sealed in a Temple ceremony upon the earth, but will not forsake my Savior by doubting Him. I know I will attain to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom because I have the Word of Him whose I am. My only requirement is to rely upon His sacrifice on my behalf by faith.

It is so very important to always remember exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish on this earth. We are to rely solely upon Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Any other consideration is doomed to failure. Unfortunately, discussing the problems we face with anyone other than the Lord through those who are called to represent Him whether it be a Bishop, or through prayer, and personal revelation is dangerous. I say this because unless they possess the keys commensurate with the calling, we are acting purely in an unprotected realm whereby the adversary may also participate. Compassion, properly understood, is an attribute of Christ, and possessing a compassionate nature is desirable, but it must be exercised through understanding of the Higher Laws of Creation, and Order. If it is exercised in any way contrary to divine understanding, it may be subject to contamination through adversarial influence.

I have come to profoundly understand the time in which we find ourselves is literally the most wonderful and dreadful simultaneously. It is the time when many of us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be required to valiantly proclaim our absolute loyalty to Jehovah, and His plan. It is also a time when many of us will fail to recognize just how powerful to persuade Lucifer can, and will be.

To those of my brothers, and sisters who are struggling with same gender attraction, I pray you will be valiant in your efforts to resist the temptation to forsake the Lord. I further pray you will remember who you are in relationship to those who do not possess the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I sincerely believe many of us with this understanding will be called upon by the Lord through the Priesthood to take the message of the Restored Gospel to those of our brothers, and sisters who are struggling with same gender attraction, but do not have the power of the Priesthood to help them understand how to repent.

As for the marriage debate, I must rely wholly upon the Prophets, Seers, and Revelators whom the Lord has called to lead the body of His Church. I cannot permit myself to become involved in worldly debate as to whether or not the church may change, or the brethren may change. I do know that the Lord will not change. If there is anything new or different concerning the way the Lord would have the leadership of His church respond to the world, and the ways of the world, I believe He will inspire His Mouthpiece to declare it in the prescribed manner He has laid out for the body of the church to follow. If it is to be proclaimed to the world, it will be likewise done.

While we do have our agency, I pray we will lend it to the lord to show Him our faith, and trust in His higher knowledge to navigate through the din of worldly clamor, and bring us to the other side of the veil unscathed.

I beg your forgiveness for my lengthy ramblings, and hope I have not offended any of my brothers or sisters. I believe some of us must valiantly refrain from being politically correct, and multiculturalistic, and I intend to continue to pattern my response to the world in the same way Captain Moroni did.

There are 3 things in my life upon this earth which cause me to tremble with compassionate feelings, and they are the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Constitution of the United States of America, and my love for those of my brothers and sisters who have been called upon to endure the tremendous responsibilities of overcoming the world sufficiently to declare the gospel of repentance to the world.

I know that our Redeemer lives, and that there is no other name under Heaven or upon this earth save it is the name of Jesus the Christ. I know that there is but one man upon the earth at this time who represents that Name, and he is President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is but one Gospel, and one Priesthood with the power, and authority of Him who created all things spiritually before they were created temporally. I know these things to be the truth, and do declare it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Next Thirteen Articles of Faith

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the main tenets of the gospel were distilled by Joseph Smith in the infamous Wentworth letter. He enumerated 13 statements which represented some of the basic beliefs of Mormons. They are now canonized and referred to as the 13 Articles of Faith. Critics and true believers alike have wondered at the seemingly incompleteness of these thirteen articles. So much is not mentioned nor accounted for. I felt it was time to write additions to the list. I ended up with 13 more, but could have easily gone another four or five. These seemed the most important additions. I did not try to cover everything.

Of course, in so doing this, I could be accused of being prideful, declaring myself a writer of doctrine. I make no pretenses that this is the authoritative Word of God. This is just how I see it. Also, please note that I write them as the church currently believes, not how some may wish they would believe. And now, the next Thirteen Articles of Faith:

  1. We believe in the agency of mankind. Said agency is not free, but is a gift, given by a loving Heavenly Father to his children and made meaningful by the atonement of His Only Begotten Son. We are not free from the consequences of our actions.
  2. We believe that the temple is the house of God, and that attending the temple, partaking of the ordinances therein and living up to the obligations accompanying said ordinances is critical to the exaltation and eternal progress of the human family. Living a life that is worthy of temple attendance is equally important, and is a part of enduring to the end. Obeying the Word of Wisdom, remaining chaste in thought and deed, paying a full tithing and other spiritual markers are the current standard by which one should live to be worthy for the temple blessings.
  3. We believe in the importance of families. Fathers and mothers are to be sealed to each other in the temple for time and all eternity and are to head their families in righteousness, guiding their families and strengthening their children to preserve them against the buffetings of Satan and of the World.
  4. We believe in a merciful and just god, that will judge his children by their hearts in perfect fairness. We believe that through the mercy of our God, all save those who commit the unpardonable sin and deny the Holy Ghost will be saved with some degree of glory.
  5. We believe that sacrifice is a necessary part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although in ancient times, the sacrifice of animals was necessary, the atonement did away with such. We are required to sacrifice the only thing that is uniquely ours to give, our will. Without personal sacrifice, there will not be sufficient faith unto salvation.
  6. We believe in science and the scientific method, insomuch as science conforms to the revealed gospel truths. All truth, whether scientific or revealed by God, serves to confirm the existence of the Almighty.
  7. We claim that some history and historical facts are of less value than others. That which is faith-building in nature is to be cherished. That which is not faith-promoting need not be ignored, but should be remembered in the context of the time it happened. A testimony should not be based on historical fact.
  8. We believe that when the prophet has spoken, the thinking has only just begun. Because agency and personal revelation are equally as important as having living prophets, it is imperative that every member receive spiritual confirmation on questions and important matters. Personal revelation should be the foundation of the testimony of every baptized member.
  9. We believe that this life is meant as a trial and a hardship. Nonetheless, we believe men are that they might have joy, both in this life and in the eternities. We believe that even extreme hardships can be blessings counted upon our heads, for both this life and in the next.
  10. We believe that commandments are given for the benefit of mankind. Not all commandments will make immediate sense, and are meant to challenge the humble follower. Some commandments will later be rescinded. In all changes, it is well, because the Lord has a prophet leading His church.
  11. We believe that the prophets and other leaders are called of God. We understand that they are human and subject to human frailties and imperfections. Nevertheless, they were called for the Saints, to lead and sometimes try them. It is the prophet who has been given the keys to the kingdom and all the keys of the priesthood, but even he is imperfect and in need of the Son’s atonement.
  12. We believe in being charitable to our neighbors. It does not matter if our neighbors are members of the Church or not. Because we have been given much, we too must give. Being charitable can mean imparting of our substance. It can also mean not judging others who have different views, standards or traditions than our own. It often can mean sharing the gospel or a testimony with those who may stand in need. We believe that when we are in the service of our fellow man, we are only in the service of our God
  13. We believe we are children of a loving God, and have the seeds of godhood within us. Through following the ordinances and principles of the gospel, we can draw nearer to our Father and become more like him. We further believe that our Father in Heaven is not single, but have little revealed about the nature of Heavenly Mother. Nonetheless, we can deduce that She is very kind, loving and forgiving. We strive to be like both of Them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Closing Thoughts on Marriage

Well, we have all had our shots at posing our views on same-sex marriage to the public. We received a good number of visitors and had some nice comments. Not as much as we'd like, but then, we're a small blogging team who puts out material infrequently. We write large works as it is, but these essays were massive and hard for many to get through, I suspect. We weren't as done as we promised to be, and therefore the three day spacing between essays never really happened. This resulted in further drops in interest. To top it off, the topic was largely dead on the flowing sea of Bloggernacle themes to begin with.

Through our writing, I don't think any of the other author's were swayed from their existing beliefs. But we learned a great deal from each other, as well as the complexities of the issue at hand. I think that the one thing we all agree on was that regardless of how we feel about same-sex marriage, those discussed are still people. We have no room to judge, to be unloving, to be anything but Christlike. All of God's children deserve to be treated as the divine beings they are.

Thanks to all who read our little three part series. We assure you, for our own sanity we will certainly never do it again :)

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Gay Marriage “Problem”: A Mormon fence-sitter’s perspective

On a sensitive topic like this, I have to start with the disclaimer that I am not gay, and because of that, I probably cannot truly understand the challenges that gays and lesbians face, especially those who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In other words, I do not know everything and make no foolish claims otherwise. I only have my own experiences to go from. Despite that limitation, I hope to add some perspective to the controversy rippling through the web, especially in Mormon circles. The most recent controversy has been triggered by the leaders of the LDS church, who have come down on the side against gay marriage. Attempts at banning it through constitutional amendments and legal measures are officially supported by the church (as a starting point for learning more, see the church’s news release on the topic,15503,3881-1-23503,00.html). Many have been upset at the church for taking such a position. However, there are many who support such a ban. It is in that social and political environment that I write this essay.

The church is polarizing, but I do not believe the question is whether one group is right or wrong. It seems to me that each side could view the other viewpoint and learn something.

Brief statement of intent
Although I will refer to some doctrine, my intent for this essay is not to show off my doctrinal understanding. Nor do I hope to persuade anyone to accept or reject the homosexual lifestyle. And finally, I do I intend to convince anyone to accept or reject homosexual marriages. That choice (to accept or reject or something in between) is highly personal. A person would do well to educate themselves first.

I intend to talk about the issues, but also will include personal anecdotes and realizations. At the end, I will state my thoughts and recommendations, but with no call to action. In this way, I hope to reason together, to remove some of the polarizing influences, to bring both sides together. I also hope to put a face on the people who are being ostracized, dehumanized and politicized by this debate. If I persuade the reader of anything, it would be to look at this emotional issue with new eyes. My hope would be that the reader can rise above disagreement, look past perceived sin, and view the humanity of those who might be on the other side of the argument with Christlike charity and love. Despite all my efforts, it is entirely possible that some will call me either a hatemonger or a morally bankrupt deceiver (depending on which camp one aligns with). That is fine, because we all are entitled to opinions. However, I try to have no malice for anyone, no matter what their beliefs or practices.

Introduction and background

So the reader might know some of where I am coming from, I shall tell of some early experiences. Rather than have a parade of “Gays I have known,” this is intended to show some real learning experiences that helped me come to the conclusions I have developed. All of these are real experiences, and some very personal. Only names have been changed.

Middle School
When I was in eighth grade, my body began to change. Much like the experience of others, puberty was difficult and awkward. My straight hair became curly and unmanageable, I grew taller and less comfortable with my body. I became self-conscious and even shy. And let us not even mention acne.

During this time, I found many former friends and acquaintances no longer seemed to like me. For whatever reason, I was not cool enough, or something. Even now, I cannot pretend that I was ever really with the in crowd, but before this time, I at least managed to stay on the good side of most people, a useful survival technique. But by eighth grade, I became the butt of many jokes. At the beginning of the school year, my favorite class was an elective crafts class. Sadly, it quickly became a nightmare, as the people who seemed to despise me the most were all in that room. At first, the taunting was subtle, but it finally became more open, more bold. They started calling me gay . . .

What? Me, gay? The thought had never occurred to me before. Up to that point, conversations about gay people and being gay were very remote, distant. I thought, “Nobody actually chooses to be gay! I mean, what a gross thing to be!” But with the taunting, I began to wonder, what if I was gay, and didn’t know it? Did I give off gay signs? What was I doing to get this feedback?

I truly did not understand. With the perspective of time, I have since realized their calling me gay probably had nothing to do with me “acting gay” (whatever that means). Rather, the chances are good that, because I was different from the standard eighth grader, they chose to mock me with the worst insult they could think of. Bear in mind, this was 1987, and the country was a lot less accepting of homosexuals.

So, sensitive lad that I was, I searched my soul, tried to determine if this was even a possibility. I had to conclude that I was not. But this did not remove the external problem of people calling me gay. In order to prove to others I was not, I became more aggressive in chasing girls. Of course, that was an awkward experience and I had little success in that area for several years, but that is a different story for a different time.

I do not know how many or who may have actually believed I was gay. I was (and still am) an artistic soul, and that probably did not help my case with those who believed. However, I have since come to grips with my sexuality and have no anxiety over who I am. An accusation such as that would be meaningless to me today. I am a heterosexual and happy with that designation.

As a follow up to that story, only one person of that group ever apologized to me, more than two years later. It was kind of him to do, albeit late. By that point, I had no expectations of any kind toward members of that group. But I forgave him.

I can now chalk it up as a learning experience for me, the result of a bunch of dumb kids trying to impress each other. But it was hard at the time, causing a lot of soul searching.

What does this experience mean to me? Although I can never understand the struggle of a person who is homosexual in a society that does not fully accept them, I can say that I was, for a short while, accused and suspected of being one. I have had a very small taste of the frustration of not being accepted. People can be very ugly, sometimes. Despite this experience, I say again that I have no delusions about totally knowing what it’s like to be gay.

Early conclusions
Having decided or realized that I was not gay, I adopted the mindset that homosexuality was bad. Not just bad because the church said it was bad, but because it is weird and different to my limited experience. I rejected it so that it would not be a part of me. While I never purposefully targeted people I suspected of being gay as objects of ridicule, the truth is, I did not understand why they would want to be attracted to the same sex. At the time, it was beyond my ability to see. And sadly, despite my best intentions, I was far from sensitive to them. I did my best, and have continued my personal development. Hopefully, I am a more enlightened person today.

Schemas and bias
The problem is, humans have a natural tendency to categorize. It is a psychological phenomenon of building schemas. Without going to much into the theory, it is believed by some that we begin to differentiate at a very early age, first by separating ourselves from our mothers. Then, distinguishing other people in our minds. As time goes on, we learn words to describe these different objects that we encounter. Ball, cat, dog, blanket, etc. With words comes the ability to create more sophisticated schemas, allowing us to describe and distinguish ideas like love, anger, justice and more. This takes time and is a useful skill. However, the importance of schemas in social interaction is limited, because categorical thinking is too concrete, too all or nothing. In social interaction, shades of gray and subtle meanings become more important, but schemas still have their place.

Some people never seem to learn to think beyond schemas, though. A simple dichotomy of us versus them can result. You are different from me, so you must not be worthwhile. Race can be the victim of schematic thinking. Sexual orientation, disability, religion, socio-economic status and more can also be used as distinguishing, schema-based classifications. Racism and bigotry usually result.

Unfortunately, we cannot get rid of these schemas. They are like mental shortcuts and as I said, they serve a purpose. The next time you see a car, think about how you process it. Do you have to stop and think about its components? Of course not, because you have classified it already, a long time ago. A car has four wheels, a windshield, usually has at least two doors, a steering wheel, takes gasoline, etc. These rules are all embedded in your schemas. The problem occurs when you do this with people. You may classify someone when you first meet them, but if you do not bother to get to know them, you are shortchanging both them and yourself.

Simply put, when I was younger, my schema for homosexuals was limited. I knew they were different from me, and that was enough. They were strange and made odd choices that made little sense to me. I had no familiarity to inform me otherwise. It took several experiences to expand my schemas and help me more beyond that form of interaction.

High school

For example, even though I did not choose a gay lifestyle (or have it thrust upon me by genetics, depending on what theory you follow), I had several acquaintances and friends who are gay. It was through them that I expanded my understanding.

The first gay person I knew was a high-school boy named Robbie (all names have been changed). Robbie was in the newspaper class with me. Although I would not say we were close, it would be fair to say we were friends. He was a talented poet and had an intelligent mind. He also had a creative flair, and just enough femininity to make me question which side of the fence he was on. Robbie was not openly gay, and socially, it would have been unacceptable in that time and that place. However, I was never convinced when he would talk about his “girlfriend.” We worked together on the literary magazine that we put out that year. I got to know him pretty well, but the subject of his orientation was never discussed. Despite my prejudices, I believed (and still believe) in being kind to others, and so I befriended him.

Having said that, I cannot claim to be so wonderful for befriending a gay person. Also, I am not looking for pats on the back for being nice to the member of a minority. Rather than pointing out how wonderful I am, I am showing how I learned about him. The sad truth is, I would sometimes make fun of Robbie behind his back, a fact I am not proud of, but willing to confess. I did learn from him that being gay was not a disease to be caught, and I was a better person for having known him.

College acquaintances
Of course, this experience did not tell me everything I needed to know, but it was a start. Now, rather than consider them social lepers, I was able to see them as people. However, it was still hard to see homosexuals as being like me in any way.

When I first went to college, I attended a small, two-year school in Arizona. This college is located in a very small, very conservative and very Mormon town. Being different was not tolerated very well. Being gay was antithetical to the whole experience of going to that school. And yet, the drama department somehow fostered the coming out of several students. One such student was a young man, Brian, whom I had vaguely known from my home town (again, names have been changed). While I was never close friends with Brian, he and I hung out in the same circles and everyone in that group was aware of his orientation. He even had a straight roommate who was entirely fine with his lifestyle.

It was a new experience for me, hanging in a social crowd like that. Even though I (sadly) sometimes made fun of him behind his back, I also poked fun of him in front of his back. The thing was, we were part of a group of friends that just mocked one another. They even mocked me, and I was able to take it well. Nothing was ever meant maliciously. It was just a part of the social circle I was in at the time. I recall the absolute normality, even banality, as we talked about Brian seeing his boyfriend and spending quality time together. His roommate would not enter their apartment during their private, and we all understood. And it would have been the same situation, even if Brian was straight. From him, I recognized that the differences in relationships between those that are straight and those who are gay are not that significant, really.

The ugly intolerance in some members of the church
I had another gay friend, when first attending college. This one, I will call William. William was a quiet young man, but a brilliant musician. I don’t quite recall how I met him, but it was one day after classes. We just kind of bumped into each other and ended up talking for some time. I found him interesting because of his intelligence and great interest in classical music. He let me listen to some of his music, and there was a true friendship bond, there. After a while, he sort of disappeared. While I did not know for sure if he was gay at that time, I decided it didn’t matter. Every time I saw him, we would chat for a few minutes. He always had a smile and a cheerful “hello” for me. I did not understand what happened when he stopped showing up at school.

I later found out he went into seclusion by choice. The short version of his story is, he came out of the closet to some supposed friends of his. Member friends. Friends in his ward whom he trusted and thought they cared. Instead of sympathizing, listening, understanding or any normal response a friend might make, they were repulsed. These fine, upstanding, popular and spiritual kids utterly rejected his friendship and threatened him, demanded him to resign from his calling as ward pianist. As someone who never acted on any homosexual impulse, had never done anything inappropriate and broken no commandments, he did not feel he should quit. These friends finally talked to the bishop and insisted he get released from his calling, even though he hadn’t done a thing. His former friends ruined his reputation by telling even more people. Finally, they were successful in persuading the bishop to release him. William sank into a deep depression and eventually killed himself, a victim of betrayal. While looking for help, understanding and support, he got complete and utter rejection. A true tragedy. I am still angry, just thinking about this.

William’s experience taught me a lot about how little, misguided actions can have big effects. Probably, those kids thought they were doing the right thing. They thought they were protecting the ward from a big sinner. But these misguided fools forgot the golden rule: love thy neighbor, no matter what. Even if thy neighbor is different from you.

It wasn’t until I lived with Kevin (for the last time, I’ve changed the name, now no more reminders), a good friend and former roommate, that I really got close to a homosexual man. At the time, he had not come out of the closet, but I had known Kevin for a long time, at two different schools. He and I met before our missions. He was a recent convert and had a powerful testimony and a quick understanding of the gospel. I am not exaggerating when I say he was brilliant and talented. We loved to talk about philosophy, society, movies, music and more. We went on our missions within a month of each other. I drove two hours to go to his farewell.

After our missions, we lost track of each other for a while, but he eventually moved to the same city as me. I introduced him to some friends, and we all began to hang out. After a semester of bad experiences (judgmental people in the university institute), we decided to become roommates. The honest truth is, I’ve rarely had a roommate I spent more time with than Kevin. Probably the biggest drawback to being a close friend of his was his negativity. He is a cynic, and by nature, so am I. It got too easy to see the world with a jaded view. But I do not regret being his friend or roommate.

Despite our friendship, I could tell there was more to him, underneath the surface, that he wouldn’t talk about. After he moved out, our third roommate started making fun of him, telling everyone he was gay. I had suspected, but figured it wasn’t my place to say anything. It wasn’t the other roommate’s place, either. I actually defended Kevin, to no avail. Gossip is a strong weapon and was turned on me, too (for reasons that had nothing to do with Kevin). Kevin and I lost track of each other for a while. I got married and moved, and he moved, got a job, and our lives grew apart.

Now, I do not know the entire story, but from what I heard, he eventually came out of the closet and went “anti” for a while. Knowing his testimony and great gospel knowledge, it was sad to hear that happen. However, I met one of his good friends, several years later, who told me he still has a testimony of the church. I doubt he will ever come back in this lifetime, though. But I don’t know. I do know that many people judged him before he had ever done anything wrong.

Sadly, even though Kevin and I bump into each other online once in a while, he still has not said a thing to me. Time and distance have moved our friendship to a different place. I don’t know if he ever will.

These experiences are not alone in shaping my worldview. Despite what it may sound like, I have known many other homosexuals, both men and women, who have impacted my life in many ways. I have worked with them, gone to school with them. There is at least one professor in my department. Really, they are all around, in various stages of coming out. Judging them is fooling, as foolish as judging anyone. I do not know what is in anyone’s hearts and not qualified to pass judgment.

Shifting gears a little, lest this sound too much like a greatest-hits retrospective on Mathoni’s gay friends, I will now talk about an obvious point to these stories. Most of them seem to end poorly. In some cases, they end pretty in tragedy. Despite the greater level of acceptance in the world today, it is still hard to be gay in this society, and especially in the church.

Psychological point of view
So far, I have only spoken from my perspective as a lay person. However, as someone in graduate school to become a mental health counselor, I have been forced to confront my biases and beliefs about everything, including how I see gays. Such a self-examination is not easy, but I have learned a great deal about myself in the process.

My training in psychology tells me that homosexuals are normal. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM (that’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a diagnosable disorder in 1973. Why? Well, there was lobbying and protesting from gay activists, to be sure. Do not underestimate the power of lobbying. But the reasoning behind the change actually makes sense. A disorder in that book is (in simplified terms) defined as a behavior that is causing harm to one’s self or to another. Homosexuality between consensual adults harms no one.

Well, it can harm their spiritual relationship with God, according to LDS theology. The harm is caused because committing homosexual acts is considered a sin, and sin is how we experience spiritual death. However, there is no practical way for psychologists and other scientists to measure spiritual health and closeness to God. All they can measure are outward behaviors. They can measure outward expressions of guilt and shame, happiness and joy, but there is no known way to measure closeness to God. And sadly, a great many scientists do not even acknowledge the possibility of a god, and therefore do not try to measure the relationship one might have with such a being. So, spiritual harm is not registered in the consciousness of psychologists and psychiatrists. By their definition, there is no harm in homosexual acts.

And I support that. Just as I believe religion and government should be separated, psychology and counseling should be separated from religion. It is too easy, when in a position of power in a relationship (as the position of counselor most assuredly is), for personal values to be imposed unfairly on the client. Although I value certain things, I cannot force my values on those I am trying to help. That is not how it works (and is considered unethical).

As a practitioner (future counselor, when I finish school and get licensed), I have already had the chance to meet with gays and lesbians. When I first started in this field, I cannot say I was as sensitive as I could be, but I tried. Why? Because remaining as neutral as possible on the morality of my clients’ actions allows me to better help them. My purpose as a counselor is not to judge the actions of others, but to help them improve their own lives in ways that makes sense for them.

Imagine going to a counselor or other mental health professional and telling him or her your deepest secrets. Imagine then finding out that your counselor is busy judging everything you do by his or her standards. Trust is lost. How can this person be objective if they are busy criticizing everything you do?

No. A therapist, no matter what the specific field, has a job to do: aid the client through their troubles. That involves putting aside personal biases, agendas and concerns, and truly listening to the person sitting across the room. The act of listening and showing a true understanding have a powerful impact on others, and have great potential for bringing about change.

This has meant truly listening to gay and lesbian clients, understanding something of their world. Aiding them in finding a place where they belong. I don’t have to agree with anything they say. That is not my purpose. Instead, I am to help them understand what they truly want and help them accomplish it. No matter what my personal principles.

Professional experiences
Two examples of how I had to do this. I am sure that in years to come, I will have many, many more. Before going to school for counseling, I worked as a case manager for the mentally ill for two years. During that time, I had a lesbian client, Lisa, who challenged me in many ways. She had borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder and occasional suicidal tendencies. She was in a codependent relationship and had occasional fights with her partner that ended with domestic violence going both directions. If I had remained concerned about her sexual orientation, I would have been unable to help her many other needs. I learned pretty quickly that to be in my field, one has to put personal feelings aside, or get over them. Really, Lisa had enough going on that I could not even think much about her sexual orientation.

Years later, as a practicum student in the Masters counseling program, I met with a young man, Douglas, who had just come out of the closet. He was 18 and also a Latter-day Saint. Douglas was stuck between two worlds. He believed in much of the doctrine and practices of the LDS church, but could not reconcile the feelings he held inside with the church doctrine. He also yearned to develop a personal relationships in the gay scene, but was upset that most gay men did not seem to want more than a short term fling or encounter. Straddling both worlds, he remained unsatisfied with either. He did not want to feel an attraction to men, he just did. Douglas told me of his experiences of faking interest in girls during high school, trying to go on dates when he was just not interested. Pretending to be something he knew he was not. He told me about coming out to his mother. Still wanting to go on a mission. Wanting to just find a fulfilling relationship. Fearing rejection from both sides, he was at a crossroads in his life. I did the best I could to listen and help him find his path.

During that semester of counseling, I was supervised by a man who is a member of the LDS church. He was excited when he first found out I had a gay client, because he knew it would be a wonderful learning experience for me. He told me his own understanding, which has stayed with me as I progress in this field. He said that some homosexuals just choose to be gay. Peer influences, bad heterosexual relationships, experimentation and other reasons could play into this. However, his own, honest opinion is that there are some homosexuals who really are born that way, have always felt an attraction to the same sex. For a Latter-day Saint counselor, I have to remember that it doesn’t matter why they are gay, only that I am there to help them.

Reparative therapy
A brief word about this experiment in changing orientation. There have been many attempts to explain homosexuality as a disease or disorder, theoretically curable by therapy. The LDS church and other religions have promoted and explored these therapies, called reparative (or conversion therapy, or reorientation therapy) as the solution to the struggling homosexual who desires to remain in full fellowship at their church. After years of trials, it appears that reparative therapy does not work, but little peer-reviewed research has been done. Anecdotes that have positive outcomes are plentiful, but what little follow-up has been done finds that the individuals orientation has not changed, only the outward behavior. Perhaps for those with whom it truly works, the orientation was social or out of choice, or curiosity. However, my own personal belief is that those individuals who are somehow born that way will not be aided by this therapy.

Sadly, it can cause more harm than good. Added guilt, a sense of failure and hopelessness and serious depression have been caused by this harmful treatment. Anxiety and drug abuse are also common. At best, this treatment convinces homosexuals to remain celibate or bisexuals to confine their relationships to the other gender, but it does not appear to change their hearts. I am not sure of the current status within the church, but I hope they do not continue promoting the shameful practice.

Gays marrying straight

Another important topic that should briefly be discussed is the traditional approach of encouraging an admitted homosexual to get married to a nice member of the opposite sex and raise a family. The carrot dangled in their faces is that proper marriage will somehow help cure the gay individual. The truth is, most of these marriages seem to end in divorce, with an ex-spouse and children wondering what happened to their happy family.

Promoting marriage can be a wonderful thing, but not in this case. In my opinion, it is far better to promote celibacy, however hard that may be, over promoting a gay person to marry the opposite sex. Worse than so-called “gay marriage,” this farcical marriage does far more damage to more people. It also mocks the meaning of traditional marriage.

Gospel perspective
For members of the church, there are many reasons provided to disagree with homosexuality. The scriptures condemn it (for a nice list, see the Topical Guide’s entry on “Homosexuality” Tradition contraindicates it. The modern prophets condemn it. That type of behavior goes against God and nature. Celestial marriage is not possible in that type of relationship. It does not promote healthy happy families. It degrades society and it warps children.

Going even further, homosexuality is considered a sin, and therefore separates us from God. One cannot be truly happy while in a sinful state. Therefore, a society that accepts gay marriage is legitimizing, even promoting acts that are counter to God’s will. a society that accepts homosexual marriage is promoting unhappiness. It risks the wrath of God, as did Sodom and Gomorrah.

If this were the end of the story, I would say that homosexual behavior should be outlawed. But, there is more to consider.

Worldly view
Gay marriage is, at heart, a request (or demand) by a small, ostracized portion of society to be accepted and legitimized by society as a whole. It is about people with same-sex attraction wanting society to recognize their committed relationships, even approve of them. They want state sanction. They want the same benefits as mainstream society. And their request appears, on the surface, to be similar to that of women and African-Americans. Those two groups wanted voting rights, freedom and equal treatment. Now, many figure it is the time of the homosexuals.

Proponents of gay marriage feel that homosexuals deserve the same rights as do heterosexuals. They are a part of this country, and are not breaking any laws by having a gay or lesbian yearnings. In recent years, many laws have been taken off the books that made gay relationships illegal, too, so where is the crime? They state they yearn for the privilege of seeing loved ones in the hospitals, and adopting, and raising families, and more.

On the surface, that seems fair. We live in a country that promises equality for all. Why shouldn’t they have the same rights? Let us look closer, now.

My split views
As a professional fence-sitter, I have two views of the gay marriage dilemma. I hope I have shown that I see them as people. I love the sinner, not the sin. I recognize the honest, genuine desire of many of them to have a loving, committed relationship, free of fear or shame. I recognize the rampant discrimination that happens on a daily basis. But as a faithful member of the LDS church, I cannot ignore the warning statements made by our leaders. How do I reconcile them?

Difficult. But I am a practical person. First, though, I must explain some of the considerations I take into account.

Prohibition, abortion and changing societal attitudes
The current political situation is comparable to other periods in U.S. history. Like homosexual behavior, alcohol consumption and abortion have the dubious honor of being illegal in this country at one time or another. All three have also been actively prohibited and against the tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at one time or another.

Most people know about prohibition, the constitutional amendment that made millionaires out of criminals. People still drank, some people profited, and a lot of effort was expended toward stopping the unstoppable. That amendment was repealed. Society changed.

In the church, there was a time when drinking alcohol was legal. Even after the Word of Wisdom was given to the prophet Joseph, it was not binding on the general church membership or a requirement until 1951. In fact, it was not until the 1930’s that keeping the Word of Wisdom was made a requirement for a temple recommend. And it is sad how few know that Joseph Smith and other early leaders drank and smoke. Of course, nowadays, an easily recognizable marker of activity in the church is whether one keeps the Word of Wisdom. It is simple to tell. One merely has to look for smoking or drinking and it is nearly a guarantee that this individual is not welcomed to church.

Abortions, while illegal from the 1880’s until 1973 (Roe versus Wade), were still widely sought after and practiced. Unfortunately, the demand was high but few were performed under safe circumstances. Women self-administered tonics and herbs or visited back-alley clinics to rid themselves of unwanted pregnancies. Often, the reproductive organs were severely damaged by these procedures. As someone who does not favor abortion, I still must admit that having a safe place to get one done is far more preferable to endangering the mother’s life, too. While some may say she deserves it, remember that not all pregnancies were with a willing participant. Also, for those who do make mistakes of passion, it is not our place to judge. I do not condone irresponsible behavior or killing unborn babies, but punishing the mother further is not going to help facilitate the repentance process. Society has since decided that it is a woman’s right to choose.

And from a gospel perspective, why else are we here, anyway? To have families, raise children, prepare for eternal Parenthood. And yet, even the church does tolerate some abortions, strange as it may sound. The Catholics sometimes criticize us because we do not go far enough. We allow that in certain instances (rape, incest or the health of the mother threatened), not only is an abortion legitimate, it is also preferable.

The history of homosexuality is similar. While sodomy is not something that puts anyone’s life at risk (with the exception of if it is illegal with a penalty of death), it has faced some stiff opposition over the years. Sodomy laws have only been declared illegal by the Supreme Court since 2003. Before 1962, it was a felony in every state. We have come a long way. Obviously, with the current debate about gay marriage in the United States, society is again trying to reevaluate its stand on gays and sodomy. Now, some states have banned gay marriage (but not sodomy), while others have given complete sanction. Of course, in other countries, like Canada, it has already been legalized.

The church attitudes in history is a little tricky. Up until the abolition of polygamy, the church was fairly tolerant of different orientations. In a way, this makes sense. Being radical outsiders because of their divergent sexuality (plural marriage in a time of heterosexual monogamy), Latter-day Saint leaders were more forgiving of other outsiders. Once the Manifesto was issued, all forms of deviancy were condemned, plural marriage, sodomy and anything else not in line with mainstream America. That is not to say that Mormons necessarily promoted gay unions. However, comparing the rhetoric of the day to what we hear today, relatively little was said denouncing the act. Only a few, outspoken leaders like George Q. Cannon (who had a bisexual son) spent significant amount of energy on decrying the practice at that time.

Culture and religion
We have seen both society and the LDS religion alter their points of view. So, why the changes? A general survey of history reveals that religion and culture both change their values over time; it is inevitable. I pair religion and culture in this discussion because of their overlap. However, I fully recognize they are not the same thing. Each informs and influences the other on how to act and make policy. No matter how separate they try to remain, most religions cannot help being influenced by the society within which they sit. A quick example would be the U.S. rejection of polygamy and the Manifesto. And even in an increasingly secular world, religions continue to assert their influence, for better or for worse. Another quick example would be the LDS church (and others) supporting a ban on gay marriage. Culture and religion cannot help but influence one another.

This is good, though. For a religion to remain relevant, it must keep up with the society within which it resides. For a society to function properly, it must have values and ethics, many of which originate in religion (although some argue that, I won’t get into it here). What happens when the two disagree? Long, protracted battles occur, with no clear, immediate winner. Think of the Ten Commandments, prayer in school, creationism versus Darwinism and many other conflicts still being fought.

And simplistically speaking, that’s where we stand with gay marriage; in a long, protracted battle with no clear winners, yet. While some religions have relented and allowed, even sanctioned, same-sex marriage, most have not, including ours. The general trend in the United States appears to be acceptance, or at least indifference, toward gay marriage (although I could be wrong).

People often compare the struggle for gay rights to the struggle blacks and women had in this country. Like all analogies, critics will say that this one is flawed. Unlike the act of being a woman or being black, homosexual acts have been illegal by more than one government. Of course, in the not too distant past, being a woman was poorly regarded. A woman had no rights, no ability to own land and was little more than property in the eyes of the law (she was evil as a daughter of Eve, and all that). Being black was also looked down upon. Blacks were slaves, property, could not vote, and were called insane for trying to run away (they were evil, lesser beings because they were sons of Cain). You notice that the reasons behind the laws were originally religious. It seems religion ran amok in oppressing people. However, do not forget that simple bias and prejudice are also at play, so do not just blame religion. Examining it closely, the analogy actually does seem to fit with gay right, after all.

And thankfully, things have somewhat changed in recent years. While there are acts of violence against gays, they are normally punished by law. In the past, there would have been no retribution.

Science and culture
Of course, science has done its part in oppressing others. Scientists have “proven” that women and blacks were inferior to white males, and some scientists today try to “prove” that gays are not happy, not good parents, not good people, whatever. Not only that, being homosexual is counter to the common wisdom first spoken of by Charles Darwin, survival of the species. Same-sex pairings do not produce offspring, and do not perpetuate the species. Therefore, the argument goes, these pairings are unnatural. Thus, the longtime foes, science and religion, appear to form an uneasy alliance against homosexuals.

But science and religion are both reflections of culture, and cultures change over time. Different cultures have different values, even. For example, ancient Sparta and Greece embraced homosexual acts. Anthropologists and historians are finding gays throughout history. I have already talked about religions changing their minds. Science, or rather, science-based cultures can also change their minds.

Even though science is meant to be impartial and unbiased, the actual practice is full of politics, egos, agendas and profits. Science is suppressed or blown out of proportion to make a point, or to support the current societal ideals. And science can discover new things. Take, for instance, the discovery that homosexual behavior extends to the animal kingdom. In fact, not just an isolated one or two species, but dozens and dozens. So, maybe same-sex partnerships are “natural.”

Considerations specific to Mormons
Mormons can counter the science argument quickly with the statement that the natural man is an enemy to God (see They forget that all of us are sinners. All of us are natural men and women, needing the Savior. Casting stones is not normally a wise idea, when we all are imperfect. There are other things that Mormons would be wise not to forget.

Mormons also trust in something called agency. I am a firm believer in the necessity of allowing God’s children to exercise said agency. The war in heaven was fought because two competing plans were being contested. One plan, Lucifer’s, would involve the salvation of every man, woman and child. Sounds like a good plan, until one realizes it required the absolute and total loss of agency in each person who comes to this world. Hardly an ideal plan. The plan proposed by the Father and sustained by the Son involved choice. It is called the great plan of happiness, because forced obedience never leads to happiness. It is not a mistake that I call this blog Correct Principles. Joseph Smith taught that he believed in teaching correct principles and letting the members of the church govern themselves. Agency.

Yes, that means some people will drink. Yes, that means some people will get abortions. For that matter, that means some people will have premarital sex (protected or otherwise). Yet, they still must be allowed to choose. What they cannot choose is the consequences. Some choices damage society (like murder), and are punished with jail time. They may also have spiritual consequences, like distancing one’s self from God. But if a behavior does not damage society in some way, society should not legislate it. Leave those consequences to God.

Unless laws are broken, we cannot, should not, must not infringe on agency. Laws, of course, are theoretically created to facilitate the smooth functioning of a society. If there are unjust laws, let us fight against those unjust laws, but still allow individual agency. After all, if we are all gods in embryo, we need to all learn to exercise our agency properly.

Agency is one of the bigger arguments for gay marriage I have seen. By making stricter and stricter rules, we are restricting the agency for everyone. BYU is an example of a church institution that uses a mild form of Satan’s plan (i.e. the Honor Code) to enforce certain behaviors. Of course, people do what they want, anyway. The sneakier ones don’t get caught, but actions that break the Honor Code occur frequently, according to friends and family who have attended that institution (I have dodged that bullet, but considering my personality, it’s a good thing). Similarly, restricting gay acts throughout history never stopped them.

Therefore, if a man or woman wants to masturbate, leave that to God. If individuals want to overeat, they are harming their body (and bodies are temples unto God), but breaking no law. These things do not damage society. The question is, does society get damaged if two men or two women engage in intercourse? That seems to be the key question, here.

Another consideration for Mormons: we have had way more doctrinal change than most will admit. Some of that has more to do with changing emphasis than with actual doctrinal changes. One thing I’ve noticed is that with each new president in the Church, the Lord appears to have new focuses. For example, with David O. McKay, it was home teaching. With Ezra Taft Benson, the Book of Mormon and pride were emphasized. With Howard W. Hunter, the focus was on attending the temple. Gordon B. Hinckley has emphasized building temples. While I am simplifying, it remains true that each prophet had their own areas of interest. I believe the personalities and agency of those men were as much a part of the process as was the desires of the Lord. Does it make these policies and directions any less inspired? No, because God has always used humans to do His work.

For those saints willing to believe in continuing revelation, one cannot ignore the current direction of the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They may be men, and human, mortal, frail and prone to accident (like every other human), but they are the tools we believe God chose to lead His church. Perhaps the emphasis has changed for a reason unfathomable to us mortals. Also, it is entirely conceivable that the emphasis will move away from the current trend, some time in the future. We just don’t know.

How does gay marriage impact society?
One of the biggest criticisms I have heard is that legalized gay marriage will lead to the breakdown of traditional marriage in our society. The thinking goes that traditional marriage is sacred and the fundamental building block of our civilization/society/culture/religion, etc. This complaint can actually be debunked pretty easily. One need only take a look at Hollywood and the multitude of hasty marriages, cheating spouses and rampant divorces to see that traditional marriage is already in trouble. Few can honestly believe society values marriage the way it may have in the past. Of course, if one truly wants to preserve the sanctity of marriage, perhaps such a person should focus more on the movie industry, who often portrays adultery and other acts in a positive light. Of maybe they can go after the tabloid industry, whose nonstop reporting of all the shenanigans of Hollywood celebrities only seems to promote even more casual sex and meaningless marriages.

Despite that argument’s failure, I can see some potential problems that cannot be ignored. Any legislation or court mandate that legalizes marriage between same-sex couples can be seen as a gateway to worse things forms of marriage (just like a gateway drug can lead to harder drug use, I suppose). If gay marriage becomes legal, what is next? Plural marriage (either polygynous or polyandrous)? Polyamorous marriages? Marriage with animals? Marriage with children? Which is worse?

Of course, marriage with animals is less likely, because animals cannot enter into a binding contract. Same with children (although some are urging that the legal age be lowered, so we shall see what defines “child” in the future). Plural marriage, going either direction, can be a problem. Rather than having a co-equal relationship, there is usually one dominant and two or more subservient in a plural marriage arrangement. In small communities that practice this (usually with multiple wives), children get married an early age (12 year or 14 years old, for example). Those not getting married (usually young men) are competition for the older members of the community, and are kicked out for petty reasons. This pattern, rampant in polygamous communities in southern Utah and northern Arizona are clearly not in the best interest of society. People are truly harmed.

Polyamorous relationships are open relationships where everyone involved is consensual. Not my style, to be sure, but whatever works for them, I guess. The concern comes when I remember the potential confusion for any children brought into the mix. However, I have to wonder if we really want a society that allows for that kind of legalized relationship. Insurance, wills, visitation rights, divorces and more would be pretty messy (even worse than what we have to deal with, now). I will admit, however, that I do not know enough about this type of relationship. To my limited point of view, I do not think wise to have this legally recognized, but individuals should be free to form such unions on their own, should they choose.

Who is harmed by gay marriage?
As for gay marriages, who is harmed? The consensual partners? Their families? Society as a whole? Good question. I suspect that, barring sin from the discussion, it is difficult to argue that either partner is harmed in the relationship, any more (or less) than in any heterosexual relationship. Of course there are inequalities in hetero relationships. Sadly, domestic violence also happens on both sides of the fence. Cheap, meaningless encounters also occur in both camps. The arguments can be applied equally, it seems.

The families of gay people could be hurt by gay marriages, I suppose. But does that come from the acts themselves? Or from a lack of understanding? A lack of openness at first? Disappointment? How much of the familial harm is just self-inflicted?

As for society, where is the harm? For that matter, where is the benefit? Really, it comes back to the statement I before. I do not see direct harm caused by gay marriages, especially when there are bigger issues being ignored, like child abuse and domestic violence. In fact, the only harm I can see caused by allowing gay marriages would be a loosening of morals. All other “harm” is potential or fictional.

Loosening morals, to some, would be ideal for taking us out of a neo-Victorian era. However, I do see there could be harm of having a lower moral standard. Just like when President Clinton lied about his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, few saw direct harm to the country. Yet when we look at how society has changed since that time, few things are off limits any more. Pornography is everywhere, even in popular culture. Teen sex is occurring earlier and earlier, in more bizarre ways. Our public awareness of sexuality is becoming more perverse, less respectful. In theory, I can see an argument being made about gay marriages having a similar type of effect on our nation.

From a gospel point of view, there are three things needing to be kept in mind when deciding how to handle gay marriage: agency, responsibility and rights. I will try to sum these up quickly:

  • I believe we cannot limit the agency of others when it does not cause harm, even if it is considered a sin. Limiting others in such a manner would be akin to endorsing Satan’s original plan
    • Sadly, banning behavior does not stop people from doing things. Abortion and prohibition proved that. Gays will still choose to have relationships and get married in other countries that do permit it. Such behavior, if banned, will be hid from their families. When it does come out, I would argue that it hurts the families more.
  • Responsibility applies to both gay and straight individuals is tantamount
    • Homosexuals need to take their own relationships seriously if they want the rest of the world to. Of course, I am not speaking for myself, but commenting on what I have observed in the attitudes of other straight people. In no way am I gay bashing when I say that, statistically speaking, gay men have shorter and more casual relationships than their straight counterparts. On the flip side, gay women do not seem to have this problem.
    • Straight individuals, if you are worried about marriage and families, work harder on your own. Spend time with your spouse and children. Be an example. Stop blaming others for your problems. Be involved. Love one another, even those who are different. Stop being so self-centered and help others to feel the love of Christ. Stop allowing the World (with a capital “W”) to negatively influence your family while all you do is complain. Be involved.
  • The rights of everyone, including minorities, are important in building an equitable society.
    • Gay people should have the right to be with those they love, the right to designate inheritance to partner, the right to visit sick loved one in a hospital, the right to form a business relationship with loving partner, the way heterosexuals do.
    • Straight people have the right to all of these things already, and also have tax incentives built in, to boot.
    • This country was built on a theoretical foundation of equality for all.

So, it looks like I come down on the side of permitting gay marriage. While I find the actions of self-serving politicians trying to get a constitutional amendment banning the practice laughable, I still have to say I do not favor gay marriage, per se. Allow me to explain.

If there is any harm to society, as I granted the possibility earlier on, then we have to find a way to minimize the potential harm while being fair to all. If homosexuals want to have the legal rights that heteros have (and they do want them, as far as I can tell), that is fine, even laudable. But, I take issue with their use of the word “marriage.” In the eyes of the law, marriage is a business arrangement and has financial and tax benefits. Give that to same-sex couples, but call it a civil union.

No, I'm not advocating some kind of "separate but equal" type of law. Instead, I'm advocating for the right of heterosexuals to claim a word as their own. Minorities have known for years the power of language, and have reclaimed slurs as words of pride. "Ni**er" and "qu**r" are two such words (and pardon my use of those words. It is not meant offensively, and only used to illustrate a point). As a member of a majority (white, straight male), I can never fully understand what minorities go through when called these names. Yet I am a Mormon, a minority that has been oppressed in the past. The word “Mormon” is an example of a nickname meant derisively, yet adopted to diffuse the insult. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not Mormons. However, we accept that name gracefully, because we must, and because the prophet Mormon was a wonderful and faithful man. But the name wasn’t originally meant as a compliment.

Marriage has been known for years as between a man and a woman. Therefore, I lay claim to that word for all heterosexuals, everywhere, or at least the ones who care about marriage in the first place. And for those who do not, it probably does not matter, anyway.

I realize that some could take offense, and despite my best efforts, would find every reason in the world to call me a bigot and a Neanderthal (no offense meant toward all Neanderthals). So, I further desire to remove the word “marriage” from the legal nomenclature of the United States. Instead, every time someone wants to get “married,” call it a civil union, whether it is two men, two women or a man and a woman. That way, everyone is treated equally by the law. Make sure that all the current benefits given by the current legal status of married be extended to all who enter into a civil union. No discrimination.

Of course, many religious people will take offense. They may want to be married and distinguish themselves from civil unions. Therefore, for those who want to be married, let them do it in a religious ceremony. Allow marriage to be the domain of religion, because they are the ones that originated the idea before governments appropriated it. The result? If you get married in a church, it can be called a “marriage,” but the legal paperwork that is filed will be called a “civil union.” That way, everyone has the same rights and those who want to preserve marriage can do that. Those who don’t want to preserve marriage won’t even bother with it.

Despite all my best intentions, there will be some who call me a sellout for this point of view, and others who will call me a prejudice. I strive to be neither. However, I am a pragmatist. As such, I have thought long and hard about what it would take to be equitable to all, yet help preserve marriage for those who care for it. This is what I came up with. But nobody has to agree with me. That is their own choice.

Final thoughts
The church has to walk a fine line. If they come down on one side, they are perceived as too permissive, and people accuse them of selling out. If the brethren come on the other side, they are seen as patriarchal, controlling and bigoted. It does not surprise me that they chose to reject and fight gay marriage. But why now? Perhaps because this is their way of drawing a line in the sand and saying, “no more!” They will not allow society to pull itself farther down the road to hell. They choose to stand for something. Right or wrong, you have to admire their willingness to fight for what they believe in. Perhaps some day soon, the Lord will let us see why this emphasis now.

Is there a “Gay Agenda?” I have heard of such statements whispered by those who are scared of gay marriage. Well, I will grant the possibility that some out there, both homosexuals and politicians who would profit from aiding them toward greater rights, have some kind of agenda to push for gay marriage. I don’t know for sure if there is one, and can only speculate. But I do know there are many sincere people who just want to be treated as normal, who seek for a connection to another person and want to be left alone. Conspiracies may exist, but most people can only fight evil by being the best person they can be and spreading their positive influence as far as possible.

Being Christlike
Even if we don’t agree with one another, it is still imperative to live the life the Savior would want us to live. Love one another. Be kind. Share of your substance. Be the good Samaritan. Show mercy, kindness, charity and love to your fellow beings. In the end, the Lord is not going to care so much about whether you stood in favor or against a stupid politically-motivated ban of gay marriage. He’s likely to care more about whether you let your light so shine and treated your brothers and sisters of the world kindly.

There are many resources I used to research this essay, but the conclusions are all mine. Resources available on the web include the following addresses, which you are free to peruse:

This topic has been interesting to me for a long time. I've collected a small sampling of links pertaining to Mormons and homosexuality, which you may find here.