Mormons and Homosexuals

June 8, 2006

Here is the official Church position on gay marriage. Is this anti-gay? Does it call for denying God-given and inalienable rights to gay people? Just exactly what right is being denied here? How is it that so many centuries have gone by without anyone noticing that these "rights" were being denied? If the denial of these rights is unconstitutional today, why hasn't it been unconstitutional since the Constitution was ratified in 1789? Has the Constitution changed so that what was constitutional once is now unconstitutional? What changed?

Perhaps most important, what is untrue or unloving about what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says in this official statement on gay marriage? I don't see any evidence of bigotry, prejudice or lack of charity in it. On the contrary, it seems to want what is best for the long-term happiness of everyone, especially gay people.

Here is the official Church statement taken directly from the Church website:

First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage
19 October 2004SALT LAKE CITY — The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has issued the following statement:

"We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.

"As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

"Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship."

I find it hard to understand how anyone including gay activists could find anything objectionable about this statement and position. Just what do they expect from a Church that considers the Bible and the Book of Mormon to be the sacred Word of God? Are gay people just anti-religion? Or perhaps merely anti-Christian? Or perhaps merely anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon and anti-Baptist? What? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Amending an Inspired Constitution to Define Marriage

June 5, 2006

Today, my friend Gary Shapiro has written a guest editorial for The Iron Rod commenting on the Marriage Protection Amendment currently being discussed in the US Senate. He feels as I do that we should be strongly supportive of our living Prophet and the Twelve as they work with our national leaders to protect our traditional families.

Amending an Inspired Constitution to Define Marriage
by Gary Shapiro

During his 51 year ministry as an Apostle and Prophet, Ezra Taft Benson gave hundreds of talks about the U.S. Constitution. In fact, he said more about the Constitution than any other Church President. Some Latter-day Saints who felt a special loyalty to Ezra Taft Benson are frustrated by the current First Presideny's support of a Federal Marriage Amendment (for reasons outlined below).

I believe we cannot be loyal to the memory of Ezra Taft Benson without supporting the current First Presidency.

During the month of January, 2004, our family discussed the pros and cons of a Federal Marriage Amendment. Our discussion proceeded from the point of view that

"God-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years. There is no justification to redefine what marriage is. Such is not our right, and those who try will find themselves answerable to God." (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1999, p. 54.)

We were in full agreement that something must be done "to safeguard traditional marriage from forces in our society which are attempting to redefine that sacred institution." (Ibid.)

Activist federal judges seem to be the major problem. They will probably impose same sex marriage on the entire country unless something is done to stop them.

The question was whether a federal marriage amendment would be the most desirable solution. Keep in mind, this discussion took place in January, 2004.

Original intent argues against a Federal Marriage Amendment

We all agreed that the Lord himself had "established the Constitution of [the United States], by the hands of wise men whom [He] raised up unto this very purpose." (D&C 101:80.) And there was no question that the founding fathers had intentionally placed marriage and family matters beyond the reach of the federal government.

A belief that the Lord himself established the Constitution implies loyalty to original intent, or in other words, the Constitution should be preserved in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. This view is supported by modern Prophets.

President George Albert Smith

"Said President George Albert Smith, ' I am saying to you that to me the Constitution of the United States of America is just as much from my Heavenly Father as the Ten Commandments. When that is my feeling I am not going to go very far away from the Constitution and I am going to try to keep it where the Lord started it….' " (As quoted by Ezra Taft Benson in "Jesus Christ — Gifts and Expectations," New Era, May 1975, p. 19; italics added.)

President David O. McKay

"…President McKay … encouraged us to support good and conscientious candidates who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers. Ah … there it is … the Constitution in the tradition of our founding fathers. They are the ones the Lord referred to as wise men. (As quoted by Ezra Taft Benson in "Jesus Christ — Gifts and Expectations," New Era, May 1975, p. 19; italics added.)

President Ezra Taft Benson

"We must do as the Lord commanded us by revelation in 1833: ' Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil ' (D&C 98:10). Men who are wise, good, and honest, who will uphold the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, must be sought for diligently." (Ezra Taft Benson, "A Witness and a Warning," Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 33; italics added.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley

At the Weber State University Commencement in 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley asked God to bless this nation's leaders "that they may rise above pettiness and live after the tradition of the Founding Fathers." ("News of the Church," Ensign, Aug. 1999, p. 7; italics added.)

The First Presidency

"We honor our founding fathers [because] God raised up these patriotic partners to perform their mission, and he called them 'wise men.' (See D&C 101:80.) The First Presidency acknowledged that wisdom when they gave us the guideline a few years ago of supporting political candidates 'who are truly dedicated to the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers.' " (As quoted by Ezra Taft Benson in "Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints," Ensign, July 1972, pp. 59–60; italics added.)

Because the founding fathers intentionally placed marriage and family matters beyond the reach of the federal government, original intent argues against a Federal Marriage Amendment.

The Equal Rights Amendment as precedent argues against a Federal Marriage Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment would have guaranteed equal rights under the law for Americans regardless of sex. It was approved by the House in October 1971 and by the Senate in March 1972. Although the amendment had gained the approval of 30 states during the first year after Senate approval, intense opposition effectively brought ratification to a standstill.

The LDS Church entered the fray in December of 1974 when Barbara B. Smith, Relief Society General President, told a group of University of Utah students that "the proposed Equal Rights Amendment is so broad that it is inadequate, inflexible and vague; so all-encompassing that it is nondefinitive." (Deseret News 1976 Church Almanac, p. A20.)

Five years later, the First Presidency had issued three major statements relating to the proposed amendment. The March 1980 issue of the Ensign included a 23-page insert entitled "The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment — A Moral Issue." In this insert, Church leaders vigorously opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and in the end, the E.R.A. was not ratified.

The Constitution's "division of powers"

Some of the reasoning used by the Church to oppose the E.R.A. seems to apply equally to a Federal Marriage Amendment.

For example, it was argued that the E.R.A "would result in a massive transfer of legislative power dealing with domestic relations from the states to the federal level [thus] disrupt[ing] the division of powers central to our constitutional system." (p. 13; italics added.)

Twelve years later, Elder Dallin H. Oaks listed "division of powers" as one of five "great fundamentals" that constitute the divine inspiration of the Constitution. "The U.S. Constitution," he reminds us, "limits the national government to the exercise of powers expressly granted to it." (Dallin H. Oaks, "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign, Feb. 1992, 72; italics added.)

Citing the tenth amendment, Elder Oaks points out that the "principle of limited national powers, with all residuary powers reserved to the people or to the state and local governments … is one of the great fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution." (Ibid.)

On this point, Elder Oaks concludes,

"The particular powers that are reserved to the states are part of the inspiration. For example, the power to make laws on personal relationships is reserved to the states. Thus, laws of marriage and family rights and duties are state laws. This would have been changed by the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.)…. The most fundamental legal and political objection to the proposed [amendment] was that it would effect a significant reallocation of law-making power from the states to the federal government." (Ibid.)

Limiting the powers of the federal government is one of the great fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution. Inviting the federal government into marriage and family matters has the opposite effect; it broadens the powers of the federal government, thus undermining one of the Constitution's great fundamentals.

Sadly, today the Constitution is whatever the judges say it is

During our discussion, our family agreed that marriage and family matters do not belong in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. The claim was made, however, that "amending the United States Constitution to define marriage [would] take the issue completely out of the hands of the Supreme Court."

The counter argument was that today's Supreme Court would not follow the intent of a Federal Marriage Amendment any more than it follows the original intent of any other part of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has become a law unto itself. And on this point, President Ezra Taft Benson was quoted:

"If those who so carefully drafted the checks and balances into our Constitution could have looked into the future and seen what the Supreme Court of the United States would do to their masterpiece, they would have been dismayed. Through the process of supposedly 'interpreting' the Constitution, the Court has twisted beyond recognition just about every conceivable clause to justify the transfer of all sovereignty from the states to the federal government, to broaden the powers of the federal government beyond any definable limit, and then to make it possible for all such powers to fall into the hands of the executive branch of government. We may still give lip service to the checks and balances of our constitutional republic, but the phrase is now quite hollow." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 613; italics added.)

In other words, marriage can be constitutionally defined as "the union of a man and a woman" and the U.S. Supreme Court can still say that it means same sex marriages must be allowed. Amending the Constution to define marriage cannot possibly place the issue beyond the reach of the Supreme Court — on the contrary, it would place the issue squarely into the Court's hands.

Limiting appellate jurisdiction

A solution to the major problem (activist federal judges who are trying to impose same sex marriage on the entire country) was earlier suggested by President Ezra Taft Benson:

"In order to avoid a concentration of power in any one branch, the Founding Fathers created a system of government that provided checks and balances. Congress could pass laws, but the president could check these laws with a veto. Congress, however, could override the veto and, by its means of initiative in taxation, could further restrain the executive department. The Supreme Court could nullify laws passed by the Congress and signed by the president, but Congress could limit the court's appellate jurisdiction. The president could appoint judges for their lifetime with the consent of the Senate." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 607; italics added.)

On the surface, this offers a viable alternative to amending the Constitution. All that is needed is to limit the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear any issues relating to marriage. In fact, under Ex Parte McCardle, 7 Wall (74 U.S.) 506, 19 L.Ed. 264 (1869) and earlier cases, the Supreme Court itself indicated that this was the case. Subsequent to 1869, however, the Supreme Court has limited Congress' power to limit Supreme Court jurisdiction.

Quoting President Ezra Taft Benson a second time (for emphasis):

"The Court has twisted beyond recognition just about every conceivable clause to justify the transfer of all sovereignty from the states to the federal government, to broaden the powers of the federal government beyond any definable limit, and then to make it possible for all such powers to fall into the hands of the executive branch of government. We may still give lip service to the checks and balances of our constitutional republic, but the phrase is now quite hollow." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 613; italics added.)

As with all other facets of our government, the Supreme Court has now taken upon itself to govern and interpret the very provision which grants the Supreme Court its power. The Supreme Court has previously found attempts by Congress to limit its jurisdiction to be unconstitutional. While the merits of the Supreme Court's decisions are obviously open to debate, the undeniable fact remains that any attempt to limit the Supreme Court's jurisdiction would be exposed to the Supreme Court's own interpretation its constitutionality. Furthermore, given the trend in decisions issued by the Supreme Court, the chances that such an attempt would be successful are essentially zero.

The only safety we have

If the jurisdiction of activist judges cannot be limited except by Constitutional Amendment, must we then cede marriage and family matters to the federal government in an effort to preserve the institution of marriage?

In January, 2004, my answer was "No."

Today, my answer is "Yes."

Two First Presidency statements (July 7, 2004 and May 25, 2006) have influenced my current point of view. And, interestingly enough, it was President Ezra Taft Benson himself who consistently said we should follow the living Prophet in such matters:

"It is to [the founding fathers], the Lord, and his prophets that we should go to determine what the Constitution is [and should be]….

"To the Lord, his prophets, and the founding fathers we must go to learn of this divine document so our efforts will be to preserve and not destroy the Constitution." (Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ — Gifts and Expectations," New Era, May 1975, p. 19; italics added.)

"Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics….

"How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.

"Said President Marion G. Romney, ' It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.' " (Ezra Taft Benson, "First Presidency Message: Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet," Tambuli, June 1981, p. 4.)

In the April 1982 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson warned:

"Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, 'as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. … But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ' the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.' (D&C 21:6.)" (Harold B. Lee in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, p. 152; as quoted by President Ezra Taft Benson in Ensign, May 1982, p. 64.)

Latter-day Saints who are frustrated by the current First Presideny's support of a Federal Marriage Amendment should consider the advice of a Pharisee named Gamaliel who counseled moderation when criticizing the Apostles, "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." (Acts 5:39.)

There is no safety except in following living prophets.

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Nit Picking and Hair Splitting

June 3, 2006

Why is there so much nit picking and hair splitting in online discussions about the gospel? Is that the way that we learn and love truth? It seems to me that if there is any truth to a person’s position on an issue, that truth should be discovered regardless of the imperfect language we use to express it. And honest people will go looking for the essence of that truth, not use imperfections in our logic or expression to overturn it. Is it possible for the heart to know things that the mind cannot comprehend? If so, we should join together in seeking better ways to express those things instead of using the imperfections of human language to overturn the truth. All the nit picking and hair splitting of correct principle poorly expressed ought be recognized for what it is, an effort to fight against that which is right and true. If we would all bear our testimonies more often, and spend less time trying to overturn the sincerely held opinions of others, our online communications would bear more good fruit. What do you think?

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Awesome! Jim Cobabe Is Blogging.

June 2, 2006

I just made an exciting discovery! My friend Jim Cobabe is blogging over at the Snail Hollow Gazette. While he hasn’t done much yet with his blog, I know from many years of reading his email posts to the Mormon-L and Zion email discussion lists that he is one of the best writers in the online Mormon community. He is a man of great intelligence, and a deep understanding of and committment to the gospel. I hope that all of you will have a chance to read his stuff. Perhaps we can encourage him to blog more. Heaven knows the Bloggernacle needs more writers like Jim Cobabe.

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Will Same-Sex Marriage Put An End To Adoptions Through LDS Family Services?

June 1, 2006

The new laws currently in place in Massachusets have put Catholic Charities of Boston out of the adoption business as reported in Meridian Magazine and The Weekly Standard.  If the saints, working in concert with Catholics and other good Christians, fail in our war against same-sex marriage, will LDS Family Services be put out of the adoption business too, just as the Church was forced to discontinue the Indian Placement Program?  It seems to me that it would be a crying shame for this to happen.  Like Catholic Charities and the Boy Scouts of America, LDS Family Services has done a lot for the welfare of children who otherwise would have suffered from neglect if not outright abuse.  When our nation’s laws are twisted to impede the ability of our churches to do good works, our laws are twisted indeed.

What do you think?

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Getting More Confused About Mitt Romney

June 1, 2006

My effort to learn what Mitt Romney stands for is getting more and more confusing.  Here is another commentary I ran across. It was written by a person who belongs to a party that is affiliated with the Constitution Party, the party that most nearly represents my own political views. He seems to think that Mitt Romney is failing to “stand for something,” which is rather peculiar inasmuch as he is a very famous Mormon and President Hinckley has published a popular book called Standing for Something. What is the solution to my confusion about what Mitt stands for?

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Is Mitt Romney Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?

June 1, 2006

This morning I set out on the World Wide Web to discover whether Mitt Romney is Pro-Choice or Pro-Life, and I learned that it isn’t easy to answer this question.  I ran across this interesting blog post and discovered that others are having a similar problem.  Is Mitt Romney talking out of both sides of his mouth?  Is he being a typical politician who says whatever his audience wants regardless of his own convictions?  What are his own convictions?  How might we best learn them?  Being the Iron Rod Mormon that I am, I would love to vote for Mitt Romney if I thought he was an honest man.  But can I just safely assume that he is just because he is a member of the Church?  If any of you have suggestions as to how I could find out what Romney really thinks, please let me know.

Is Mitt Romney Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?  Where can I find out?  How can I be sure?

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