Red Light, Green Light: The Church’s Homosexuality StanceBy: hawkgrrrl
As the culture wars heat up in the 2012 election cycle and more and more states accept same sex marriage, the church remains in a very precarious and somewhat contradictory position. This seems to be the case when change happens. Old attitudes eventually give way to new ones, but in the meantime, we have contradictory evidence about our stance.
When I was a little girl, we used to play a game called Red Light, Green Light. In the game, one person is “it” and the rest are in a stop and go race to get from the starting line to the person who is “it” at the other end of the room. The person who is “it” turns away from the group and says “Green Light,” meaning the group can advance. When s/he turns back to the group and yells “Red Light” all the players have to freeze in place. A player who moves when “Red Light” is shouted gets sent back to the starting line. It’s a game with an inevitable outcome. The players are all advancing steadily, but watching for the “Red Light” warning. It’s pretty easy to keep from getting caught moving, unless you do something crazy like break into a full gallop.
In our game of Red Light, Green Light with homosexuality acceptance, here’s how our current state looks:
- We are pro-human rights and charitable treatment of all. Hate speech and bullying should be opposed by all Christians.
- We are anti-discrimination, sort of; we supported anti-discrimination legislation for gay couples seeking housing in downtown SLC, but we also won’t allow a gay couple to kiss on our property.
- We create an environment in most wards where homosexuals do not feel comfortable or accepted, often even if they live the law of chastity.
- We are against gay marriage, but we can’t really say why it hurts traditional marriage except that children deserve two parents, one of each sex (although others who don’t meet this “ideal” are not equally ostracized).
- We believe in gender essentialism and have placed monogamous marriage (which Brigham Young derided as unnatural and the catalyst for the fall of the Roman Empire) at the core of our doctrines.
- Some members of the Q12 have accepted that people are born gay rather than choosing to be gay; others in the Q12 clearly do not accept this.
- Prominent members have supported gay rights or come out in support of their gay children, and the church has accepted this diversity of opinion and not jeopardized their membership.
- An openly gay (but celibate) man serves as executive secretary in his California ward.
- Members still report strong anti-homosexual political hate speech in some wards that goes largely unchecked.
- Efforts in the past (and sometimes in the present) have often focused on remediation or trying to “pray away the gay” through a variety of means to overcome same sex attraction.
- Teens are warned about homosexual behaviors in the new For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet.
- The CHI includes an instruction against allowing anyone with same sex attraction from teaching primary, based on an antiquated view that equates homosexuality with pedophilia.
- Adult gender reassignment is considered elective and disqualifies people from holding the priesthood.
- Acceptance of homosexuality among members is at an all time high and seems to be trending upward.
- We are still calling people “so-called” gays and lesbians as if they are not really gays & lesbians but something else pretending to be gays and lesbians.
A comment was made elsewhere that the church can’t actually bend on homosexuality until it bends a little on the law of chastity. That’s one view. Some language regarding the law of chastity will also need to be changed now that gay marriages are legal and lawful, meaning that according to one common definition in the church, married homosexuals who are celibate before marriage and totally faithful after are (technically) not breaking the law of chasity. Another view (mine) is that homosexuality cannot be fully embraced in the church until we get on the right side of science regarding innate sexual orientation and lose our belief in gender essentialism.
All this contradiction to me indicates a shifting stance, both within society at large, an increasing majority of the lay members, and even some of the leadership – in that order. This brings up a valid question, though. Can the church ever accept homosexuality without relinquishing the “crown jewels,” our (current) core doctrine of families? I am not convinced the church can ever successfully reconcile homosexuality with eternal families, which means that progressing beyond the status quo will be very difficult:
- Gay members will only have a home within Mormonism if they remain celibate forever. Conversely the church could attach a “second class” status to those who are married homosexuals, allowing them to participate on a clearly-defined limited basis. This seems like it will eventually go the way of the race ban, though.
- If being gay is scientifically proven to be 100% innate, the church’s intransigence puts us on the wrong side of science, not a good place to be.
- Families with gay children are often torn on this issue, sometimes feeling they have to choose between their children and the church. Therein lies the rub. We preach about eternal families and the family being the center of all our doctrine, so when a family includes someone who is a homosexual, our family loyalty and love is conflicted with our fealty for the gospel. And we are told that families come before church.
- Another creative suggestion was to allow Mormon gay men to marry Mormon lesbian women, effectively eliminating the surplus of celibate gay singles. I imagine this idea will sit well with those who like all the loose ends tied up, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a very helpful solution.
Let’s see what you think:
- Is it possible to reconcile acceptance of homosexual orientation and behaviour (such as same sex marriage) while also retaining our strong doctrine of families? When will such a thing become feasible?
- Is this issue going to come to the forefront again as the election progresses?
- What is the biggest obstacle to Mormon acceptance of homosexuality? Doctrine? Culture? Slowness to change due to gerontocracy?
- What types of compromise could the church make with practicing homosexuals without losing core doctrine about families?