The Washington Post is at it again. Now they're misleading the public on Mormonism by equating what Mormon women want with what progressive Mormon women want. Neither of these groups are authorized to speak for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor are the Church's positions clearly stated or referenced in the article. This time, however, the article is written by a member of the Church. What did I tell you? The distinctions between doctrine, the Church policy, and culture are confusing for Mormons too.
Joanna Brooks, a self-identified progressive Mormon, has given a voice to all progressive Mormon women in her post published in the Post. Naturally, these women will not automatically support Romney because of their political views. That's not a problem. Nor are most of the facts about the LDS Church and its members which she includes. Here are the problems:
... and its [the LDS Church's] opposition to equal rights for women and LGBT people will come under scrutiny in connection with Mitt Romney’s campaign. We hope to respond with honesty and dignity, as our religion comes of age under intense scrutiny.
Progressive Mormon women find unacceptable attacks on the dignity and equality of LGBT families, many of whom are also doing the vital work of parenthood but without the rights and protections of civil marriage.
It's difficult for me to tell from "comes of age" whether progressives want the Church to change positions, or whether they merely support gay marriage separate from (and in opposition to) the LDS Church, though I'm well aware that these women float hopeful rumors around cyberspace that the Church will change its policy regarding homosexual marriage. This insinuation that the LDS Church may 'evolve' its position on homosexual civil marriage because of what progressives think or what society thinks is extremely misleading. These women fail to understand that this a doctrinal matter that will never change - it goes beyond Church policy. The article is misleading therefore of both the LDS Church and its doctrine. Allow me to clarify.
As Brooks points out, the media questions the LDS Church's position against gay marriage often, thanks to the spotlight on Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Let me share with you the "why" of LDS Church doctrine relating to homosexuality.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World is the best resource to learn the LDS doctrine about family. To sum up, it teaches that families are the most fundamental and important unit of society, and were designated to be so by God. Marriage is defined by God as the union of a man and a woman. Families can be united eternally. We are specifically created as either a son or a daughter of God, meaning gender is an important part of our eternal identity. After marriage, bearing and raising children is a commandment of God. The power of procreation may not be used outside the bonds of marriage, which means abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity afterwards. This also means that members who do not marry, including homosexuals, do not engage in sexual relationships.
That said, the LDS Church teaches empathy and love towards those with same-gender attractions. Gay members may remain in good standing in the Church if they do not participate in homosexual relationships. These faithful members will have no blessings denied to them in the hereafter. Being tempted is not a sin, but giving in to temptation is. Only those who give in to temptation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, risk facing Church disciplinary actions such as excommunication.
The LDS Church does not endorse discrimination against the LGBT community in any form, following Jesus Christ's teachings in the Gospels of "love one another," "judge not that ye be not judged," and "the merciful shall obtain mercy." There are those (including progressive Mormons) that would argue that refusing gays the ability to marry is discrimination by the LDS Church. Is marriage even a right? Whether it is or not, according to the God-given definition that marriage only can be between a man and a woman, this is not so much a matter of discrimination as an impossibility by LDS definition. Members who understand this doctrine are more concerned about their standing before God than bending to political or societal pressures.
This issue is of enough importance to the LDS Church leaders that they are pursuing a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man a woman. Even with their policy of strict political neutrality, the Church will occasionally take a stand on moral issues. From the interview of Church leaders describing the official Church position on homosexuality:
Some people promote the idea that there can be two marriages, co-existing side by side, one heterosexual and one homosexual, without any adverse consequences. The hard reality is that, as an institution, marriage like all other institutions can only have one definition without changing the very character of the institution. Hence there can be no coexistence of two marriages. Either there is marriage as it is now defined and as defined by the Lord, or there is what could thus be described as genderless marriage. The latter is abhorrent to God, who, as we’ve been discussing, Himself described what marriage is — between a man and a woman.
How does the Church show tolerance with a position against gay marriage? The Deseret News reported a meeting between LDS Church officials and the LGBT group Soulforce. A Soulforce representative was quoted:
"We are disappointed that leaders of the church didn't sit at the table with us, but the people we met with were great," Conner said of the meeting, which was hosted by members of LDS Church's Public Affairs Department. "They listened to our concerns. We talked about some very important things."
Governor Romney exemplifies tolerance for the LGBT community. He invited their particpation in volunteering for the Salt Lake City Olympics. He has employed homosexuals in the past and supports domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, equal opportunity housing and employment.
Romney's position is entirely consistent -- and always has been -- with the doctrine or gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to which he belongs. Please refer to my earlier distinctions between gospel, Church, and culture. The reputation some Mormon communities have of intolerance, especially noticeable towards LGBTs, is a matter of Mormon culture and it is not in line with the Church or its doctrine. However, the issue of homosexuality is a matter of the doctrine itself, which never changes.
The progressive goal of legal marriage for the LGBT community among liberal Mormons is not in agreement with the doctrine of the LDS Church. Perhaps these members confuse the doctrine -- which never changes -- with culture or Church policy, which does change from time to time. Do not expect this position to change, especially since the Church considers this doctrinal issue of sufficient importance to seek a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Headline image: Vince Mig