Think of the Children – A Perspective on Same-Sex Marriage

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(photo from lds.org)

Before I begin, I want to remind all that the purpose of this blog is to expose people to the various perspectives held by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). My view is not the only one among LDS people, even though Church doctrine will always proclaim that Marriage is between a man and a woman.

This post is about my perspective on the recent Supreme Court ruling to legalize same-sex marriage across the whole United States. I remain firm in my view that Marriage is between one man and one woman. I am concerned that the Court’s ruling has serious negative implications for our country.

My view may be considered “old-fashioned,” especially now, but it is not bigotry. Let me be clear: I do not hate gay people. The definition of bigotry is “intolerance toward people who hold different opinions from oneself,” and I still like people who may disagree with my opinion. In fact, I have both LDS and non-LDS friends of the opposite persuasion — who have overlaid their Facebook profile pictures with a rainbow, posted pro-gay marriage statements, and called June 26 a “happy day.” According to LDS Apostle Elder D. Todd Christofferson, as cited in this Salt Lake Tribune article, Mormons can hold the view that gay marriage is okay without jeopardizing their membership in the Church, as long as they do not advocate against the Church or seek to draw others away from the Church. Although I’m really surprised that some of my LDS friends are celebrating gay marriage, that’s allowed, and by the way, we’re still friends.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on same-sex marriage.

I believe Marriage goes beyond a social statement. Marriage is not about becoming more accepted by society. That is not the point of Marriage.

The “Love Wins” hashtag seems to miss the mark. Certainly, gay people may have love for each other. But Marriage is more than love. As Elder Christofferson said of Marriage, “It has never been just about the love and happiness of adults.” Rather, Marriage is “a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind.”

Marriage is bigger than individual rights and preferences. Marriage is bigger than me, than my spouse, even bigger than the two of us, because Marriage is about Family.

Marriage is the framework for families, the building blocks of society. Study after study shows that Marriage between a man and a woman provides the most ideal setting for raising children. This argument is not new.

The Church forewarns several adverse effects on children everywhere because of same-sex marriage legalization: “erosion of social identity, gender development, and moral character”; no choice in school curricula about sexuality; and “more difficult to engage in wholesome courtships, form stable marriages, and raise another generation imbued with moral strength and purpose.”

In addition, much could be said about the threat same-sex marriage legalization poses to religious freedom: loss of tax-exemptions, loss of church-run adoption agencies, loss of job stability because of disagreeing with same-sex marriage, etc. (For a comprehensive overview of the effects on religious freedom, see the “How Would Same-Sex Marriage Affect Religious Freedom?” section of the Church’s Divine Institution of Marriage document.)

What’s done is done I suppose. So what can I do about it now?

  • Though same-sex couples may be allowed to “marry,” I will teach my children the absolute, God-given truth that Marriage is for a man and a woman. Then, and only then, do sexual relations have God’s approval.

  • I will equally teach my children to be kind, compassionate, and civil to all people. I will educate my children on the viewpoints and issues at hand. They will run into discussions about it, there is no doubt. I will encourage them to stand for truth with confidence and clarity while being tolerant to those with different opinions.

  • I will help my children come to know their loving Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ, Who help us resist temptations and provide strength and stability in a world of shifting values.

  • I will strive to strengthen my own marriage to provide a secure home environment for my children to grow up in. I plan to show by example a happy, healthy heterosexual relationship.

  • I will continue to educate myself about religious freedom and act to protect it. I will vote against and speak out on matters where I feel religious freedom is threatened. Likewise, I will support nondiscriminatory efforts in things like employment opportunities and equal housing (just as protected by Utah state bill 296).

These are my deep-felt convictions. I felt compelled to write, to add my voice to those who proclaim that same-sex marriage has not been unanimously accepted even though it is now legally condoned. I love all people, including gay people, but loving them doesn’t mean I need to support gay marriage.

Note: Some may want to counter my views as expressed here, and you’re welcome to do so. But please keep it civil, or your comment will be removed — not because you disagree, but rather if you are disrespectful (see comments policy on the sidebar).

If you’re interested in some sources that have informed my opinion, see these:

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9 Responses to Think of the Children – A Perspective on Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Sarah says:

    Lauren, thank you for sharing your thoughts with clarity and courtesy. However, I wanted to add a perspective that I’ve noticed is not only missing from your article, but also from much of the discussion within the church about LGBTQ issues: the lives and feelings of LGBTQ children who grow up in the church.

    I grew up as the child of a “happy, healthy heterosexual realtionship.” I grew up in a family that cherished and taught the Gospel, and relatively early in my life, I actively sought to develop a personal relationship with my Savior and with the Church itself. God’s plan for me was clear: I was supposed to be active in the church, go to college, get married, stay at home and raise a family, and I would be guaranteed happiness on Earth and Eternal Life in the hereafter.

    Then puberty hit, and everything came crashing down.

    I won’t go into the whole story, because this comment is already long, but I was eleven or twelve when I realized I was attracted to other women in a way that most people weren’t and in a way that was “wrong.” I refused to identify as gay, but I was more than happy to adopt other adjectives to describe myself: broken, diseased, different, wrong, and alone, to name a few. I was too ashamed to confide in my parents or leaders, but I figured that if I was REALLY righteous, somehow God would find it in Himself to save me.

    So I tried. I tried so hard. There were periods of my life where I would read my scriptures for hours. I would drop to my knees and pray at random moments. I would beg for forgiveness for the slightest infraction, but looking back, I think I was really pleading for forgiveness for simply existing.

    And I think God wept to see me like that. I think He grieved to see me take His words, which are supposed to bring hope and comfort, and twist them until I was strangling myself.

    It wasn’t until I got to college that I really began to accept myself, that I finally allowed myself to believe that gay people, and by extension myself, do and SHOULD exist. I don’t know if things have gotten easier, but they have gotten better.

    Which brings me (finally) to my question for you. You, and lots of other Mormons, rightly wonder what affect gay marriage will have on children and families, but what about the gay, Mormon kids? How do we fit, caught in the cross-fire of this debate. People are always quick to say they love us, but I’ve noticed they’re very slow to actually back up their words with meaningful efforts to help or make a place for us in this church.

    You plead with us to “think of the children,” and you should. I plead with you to think of the twelve-year-old girl who is hiding in her bedroom. The girl who is scared, confused, and alone, and is certain she is already corrupted. What can we do, what can we honestly do, to help her, and the thousands of others like her?

  2. Lauren says:

    Hi Sarah, I’m so glad you asked this question because it is a conversation that needs to happen. I definitely agree that this deserves more dialogue within the Church.

    I honestly don’t have all the answers, and I don’t have much experience here. But, after some thoughtful consideration, these are some of my initial ideas.

    Relationships of trust: First, I have tried to think of what it would be like for my children if they experience same-sex attraction (SSA), and the third bullet of my original post lists something I think would be critical to them in their challenges – a relationship of trust with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and Their unconditional love and ability to help, which you mentioned. I think parents, Primary teachers, and youth leaders can help instill in children their identity and worth as children of God. Second, beginning when children are young, parents and leaders should create an open, comfortable environment of talking about anything and everything. Spending one-on-one time with a child could be helpful in forming the requisite foundation of a solid relationship and of an accepting atmosphere between adult and child. Third, I think we should teach children to not be scared of or avoid people who have same-sex attraction, but to treat all people with the same friendliness.

    Essential conversations: I think it’s important to try to talk about SSA with children before they begin to experience those feelings, not as a futile prevention of those feelings but as a way of creating an open dialogue. I think we can explicitly tell them that we are here for them if they find themselves struggling with SSA and that we want them to talk to us about it so we can offer support. It should be talked about as a fact-of-life, without promoting it. When a child does come forward with this struggle, overreacting as parents and leaders will burn bridges. When we teach the Lord’s standard of morality, we need to teach that feelings do not condemn or “corrupt” us (the Church has really emphasized this lately). Whether heterosexual or homosexual, our innate sexual desires are fine, but we need to be careful that we only act upon these desires under the conditions the Lord has outlined: between one man and one woman who are legally and lawfully married.

    Network of support: I, too, have noticed that in Mormon culture we are quick to say we love the members with SSA but are unsure of how to give support. Love does. How, as you ask, can we go beyond saying we love them and do something to support them? I’m still learning. I think we need to show members with SSA that even though sexuality is part of who they are, it isn’t something that defines them in our eyes. We should treat them as anyone else – invite them to activities, sit by them at church, become friends. And, we value the contributions they can make that are uniquely theirs. Perhaps faithful members with SSA could help with stake firesides on chastity, using their life experience to help reach the youth who may be in the same boat. Additionally, there is an LDS website, mormonsandgays.org, which has several thoughts and videos for members with SSA.

    I think you are in a unique position to be of help here. You’ve been through this! I can’t imagine what it must be like to struggle with SSA as a member of the Church. As you consider your own experience, you can offer some invaluable insight about what would have been helpful to you growing up. What things would have helped you feel like you could talk about your feelings? What things would have helped you feel more accepted by others and by yourself? I am really hoping to hear your ideas because I would love to know how to support ward members, friends, and potentially even my own children.

    Thank you, again, for your comment and for prompting me to think about and act on this. I wish you the very best.

  3. Sarah says:

    Lauren,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and heartfelt reply. I think you make a lot of good points, particularly about the importance of maintaining honest and open dialogue between parents, leaders, children, and other members from early in a child’s life.
    I think if we are really interested in making life easier to Queer Mormons, and particularly Queer Mormon youth, it is important to be candid about some of the unique challenges and questions they face in the church.
    There are many aspects of the Gospel that I love which are universal and can bring immense joy to someone’s life such as faith, repentance, forgiveness, and charity. These are, in my opinion, foundational to what it means to be a follower of Christ.
    However, the harsh reality is the Plan of Salvation as it is commonly understand and described in Mormon culture, is designed for straight people. I know I’m going to get some pushback on this, but please hear me out. As is constantly emphasized by leaders in every level of the church, the greatest source of growth and happiness in this live and literally the source of exaltation in the next is a righteous, temple marriage and raising a family. This, by definition, excludes gay people. Some may be able to have a successful marriage with someone of the opposite gender, but for many, this is not an option.
    Of course we are assured that no blessing will be withheld from the righteous in the eternities, but that comfort grows stale very quickly. If we accept that our experiences on Earth are unique and foundational to our lives and progress in the Eternities, then it seems impossible to say that people who are not married in this life will have the same marriage and family experiences in eternity as those who are. Even if I marry a man in the next life, we will not be able to grow, learn, suffer, and rejoice together as you and your (undoubtedly wonderful) husband will.
    These are challenges and questions that many people who aren’t gay experience. However, single people who cannot find a spouse must gradually deal with these questions, generally with the hope that they will eventually marry in this life. Gay people, on the other hand, must grapple with these questions at a very young age. While I think it important Queer youth come to accept and understand their feelings as soon as possible, this also means that we will have more and more 12 and 13 year olds who must seriously consider that they will never marry or even be in a meaningful relationship. Especially growing up in a culture where marriage and family is so emphasized, it is easy to believe that the only chance gay people have at true happiness is in the next life, which can have heartbreaking consequences.
    Of course, there is always hope in Jesus Christ, but I think you can see why it can be easy for Queer Mormons to lose hope, especially when, as is sadly the harsh reality, people can still be insensitive, sometimes even cruel, when it comes to the LGBT experience.
    I am not asking you to change your opinions about marriage and family, or to find a solution to any of these questions. I am trying to point out some of the very real issues that need to be discussed and pondered if we want to create a meaningful dialogue about the Queer experience in the church. We cannot continue to promise Queer people happiness in the next life without bothering to address the very real concerns of this one.
    I apologize that this comment is so long, but I hope you found it useful.

    • Lauren says:

      Sarah, thank you again for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’ve said. I can see how the future (at least in this life) could seem bleak and lonely with the gospel perspective that the companionship of marriage and intimacy within that marriage is for man and woman. I can definitely see why this issue is so important to you. I am so sorry that you have felt hurt, judged, and misunderstood by others throughout your life. I feel in my heart that you belong–I hope you feel that too. I know Heavenly Father gives all of us lasting peace and ultimate joy when we strive to keep His commandments, particularly the ones that are personally hard for us. I truly hope you (and others in your situation) find acceptance and love from those around you, strength and peace, and the answers you are seeking.

  4. Kenneth Madsen says:

    As a retired serviceman who believes in the sanctity of marriage, I know like minded servicemen are willing to fight and die to protect the rights LGBT. Freedom to choose was the core issue between Lucifer’s plan and the Father’s plan even when the choice had eternal consequences.

    In this debate, one side has struggled for identity, and reached a conclusion. If the conclusion was L or G instead of H (Heterosexual), then a paradigm shifts the world to their conclusion, that they were always meant to be the opposite sex all along.

    Who was to know that in this complex plan of choice, we could never be free unless the natural man (and woman) were essentially B?

    Also, we are often swept up in the tide of other’s choices too. Innocents, including small children, are often hurt or damaged by nature or by choices of the human condition.

    More and more, we learn of those who declare that they were born the wrong gender as much as they have fought it. When this question arises, many of our young come to a sudden dread or fear. What about me? Who am I? If I am L or G, does that mean I got my genders crossed before birth? Does it mean that God is imperfect, or that there is no God?

    Outside the gospel, any time an innocent is killed or maimed, or born with a birth defect people ask the same question. How could this possibly happen? Anciently, people asked the Lord, who did sin, this child or the child’s parents?

    Thankfully, we know that people in the prime of life can put off their sexual thoughts enough to live for a couple years of celibacy in our church. Often young people do what is unheard of in the natural world, and put of sex until marriage.

    Although we would die to protect their freedoms, many will force their paradigm religion against ours. Please be as willing to protect my religion as I am to protect yours.

  5. Erling Jacobsen says:

    This is where you’re wrong: “the most ideal setting”.

    By that logic, you should also disallow Marriage between an alcoholic man and a woman, because that is certainly very very far from ideal. 2 happy caring same-sex parents beat a dysfunctional straight marriage any day.

    You say that these are your “deep-felt convictions”. That is part of the problem. You’re not thinking about things. Look at this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness because that is what you peddle.

  6. Brad says:

    An excellent post. Compassionately and logically presented. Thank you.

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