Saturday, July 12, 2008

Families: Defending Traditional Marriage I

On June 29 the following letter was read in LDS sacrament meetings throughout California.

On July 7 the Contra Costa Times ran a front page article, Mormon notions of gays may shift, written by Rebecca Rosen Lum. This is the first sentence.

"Some Mormons are rejecting their prophet's call to campaign for a ban on same-sex marriage in California, suggesting the church leadership's sway over the issue of homosexuality may be weakening."

I'm always intrigued by statements and articles about my church by people who are not members and who don't understand us. I'm sure Ms. Lum is a good person, and she possibly meant no harm when she wrote the article. In any case, Freedom of the Press is one of the foundations of our republic.

In spite of that, a little fairness in reporting – an honest and unbiased presentation of both sides of the issue – is one of the hallmarks of Great Journalism. I would have to label the article Yellow Journalism, at best. It is so strongly biased in favor of homosexuality and against the LDS Church that the email I wrote to Ms. Lum is no doubt a waste of time. The same is probably true of this post. But even though I don't hope to change how anyone thinks, maybe I can at least put some additional thoughts into someone's mind.

First of all, there have always been "dissidents". One of the great things about America, which goes right along with Freedom of the Press, is the opportunity for people to have differences of opinion without getting arrested for their beliefs.

Let's do a thought experiment here. Suppose the LDS church is telling the truth when it proclaims Thomas S. Monson to be literally a prophet of God. Then any rational person should "follow the prophet" to the best of his or her ability.

Now suppose the LDS church is wrong: Thomas S. Monson is just a nice old man. If that's the case, then the LDS church doesn't matter. Who cares what we think?

But a lot of people obviously DO care a lot about what we think, even though they don't believe God speaks to man through prophets today like He always did in ancient times. I have to ask myself when I read Yellow Journalism about my Church: why are people who don't think it is true so concerned about it? I suspect their motivation comes from darkness, rather than light.

Don't forget that a lot of very confused (but perhaps well-meaning?) Jews crucified the Savior of the world. They will regret what they did for all eternity. But they had every right to disagree with the Man and his Message. They had every right to choose darkness over light. We likewise have our agency today.

I was also intrigued by the "Mormons" Ms. Lum quoted in her article.

In any organization there is always a group of "core" people who keep the organization running. There is a much larger group of people who are there for the benefits and the fellowship. There are even people who participate just to avoid the pain of separation – in the business case so they don't get fired, and in churches because they are on a guilt trip and think they are "supposed to" be there, or because their family is pushing them into it.

In Ms. Lum's newspaper office there are people who are movers and shakers, who promote themselves and their causes with great efficiency, who are charismatic and sociable, who fit in well, and who have outside window offices. Then there are the rank-and-file employees who contribute meaningfully but who lack the excitement and the energy to be leaders. Finally, there are the drones; people who are hard to get along with, who put in their eight hours, but won't give more, and who do just enough to keep their jobs. I daresay the Contra Costa Times staff includes all three kinds of people.

The same "organizational behavior" is found in churches. Some people are "anxiously engaged ... and bring to pass much righteousness" (D&C 58:27). They give 10% of their income to their church. They accept "callings" to positions in the church organization and try to do a good job serving in those positions. Other people are there every Sunday because that's where all their friends hang out. They don't usually pay tithing or accept callings. (I'm the financial secretary of my church, so I have a first-hand knowledge of who does what.) A third large group of members don't come to church very often. They typically don't ever read the scriptures or have much understanding of the beliefs and doctrines of their church. But they are still members, and if you asked them about having their names removed they'd get all huffy with you.

"Members" of the LDS church – in all the different categories of membership – are under no obligation to support the church leaders with their time or money. Those who openly oppose the church leaders, on the other hand, cannot expect to remain in the church. How in the world would that make any sense? I'm sure you can get away with a lot of misbehavior and still remain an employee of the Times, but if you were to write and publish articles criticizing your boss or coworkers, how long would you keep your job, especially if what you wrote about them was filled with twisted half-truths and biased misrepresentations like this July 7 article?

Businesses reorganize periodically, try to adopt a new corporate culture, and in the process downsize. They get rid of some of the drones. Churches are unlike businesses in that respect. God is "unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity" (Moroni 8:18), so a true church would never reorganize or try to adopt a new corporate culture. Churches never downsize you, either, as long as you don't break any of the rules (commandments) too badly.

I think most of the "Mormons" Ms. Lum talked to are in the extreme outer fringes of church membership. They are almost certainly not "anxiously engaged" or even socially motivated. They might be people who have lost their membership because of immorality. It is interesting that they have (and express) these opinions and lack of faith but still tell you they are "Mormons".

In a talk he gave in General Conference in October 1998, Why We Do Some of the Things We Do, President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the position of the Church on homosexuality.

"In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.

"People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

"We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families."

I believe that God's prophets have always taught these things. The New Testament certainly teaches that homosexuality is an abomination to God. Things were the same in Old Testament times. Look at what the prophet Moses taught his people in Leviticus 20:13, for example.

The Lord God has always taught the same standard of morality, and He will never change.


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