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By Michael J Davidson, a sometimes guest blogger at Millennial Star who happens to be active LDS, a husband, father, attorney and genealogy enthusiast.
It is not every day that the Supreme Court of the United States issues an opinion that has such eternal implications as we have in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. I undertook to read the syllabus, opinion of the court and the dissents (103 pages!) thinking that I would possibly write a legal critique of what the court did, but I found that such a critique would likely be similar to those already done. Instead, I thought about the eternal consequences of this decision and found them to be very sobering.
Frankly, a lot of what the Court does really is somewhat insignificant in the timeframe of the gospel, but today’s decision is different. Foreign affairs, healthcare, and housing discrimination are all important topics, to be sure, but they affect items that are very temporal, very temporary, when you take the long view that we should be focused on. There are some truly important things addressed there, but for the most part we won’t look back on the Chevron decision as something that impacted the salvation of souls in the world.
Families, on the other hand, are eternal. Or at least some of them are. In this brave new world, violence is being done to individuals in a manner that will impact these individuals in the eternities. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court gives legal sanction to marriage relationships (and parental relationships) that will not and cannot endure in eternity. With this legal recognition comes an increased level of social acceptance that will result in more individuals engaging in such relationships, and doing so in a manner that is more permanent. In discussing these developments, we need to keep in mind not only of the sinful nature of homosexual behavior, but also of the futile nature of these relationships from an eternal perspective.
It has long been clear from a doctrinal perspective that engaging in homosexual sex is sinful, under any circumstances. This is something the brethren have made abundantly clear, particularly in recent general conference addresses and other public statements. What I haven’t heard as much, though I expect we will hear more of, is that these new family relationships cannot endure in the eternities the way heterosexual marriages can endure.
The Proclamation of the Family could not be more clear. “THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” In 2004, the First Presidency further issued this statement: “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 following guest post is from Beth Buck. Beth is a stay-at-home mother of three. She works part time as a staff writer for an emergency preparedness website, has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies/ Arabic from BYU, and holds a black belt in Karate.
Patriarchal blessings are unique to Mormonism in concept and practice. No other denomination (save the offshoots of Mormonism) continues the biblical tradition of receiving a prophetic blessing unique to each person. The lds.org topical article describes these as “personal counsel from the Lord.”
This is a guest post by Huston.
In his remarks at the April 2015 General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said, “The social science case for marriage and for families headed by a married man and woman is compelling.”
He’s not the first to draw support for this area of doctrine from the secular realm. Citing summaries of social science research to bolster statements about marriage and family has practically become de rigeur in talks by general authorities these days.
Below is a list of all such citations that I could find in General Conference in the last five years. This list doesn’t have every citation from a social science study—just the ones where the research was clearly meant to back up a doctrinal principle or recommended practice.
I don’t know of any other subject that’s regularly preached from the pulpit with peer-reviewed, academic references like this. Have there been sermons about tithing or chastity that increase their persuasive strength by quoting scientists, much less a spate of such sermons? Have church leaders settled controversial matters like priesthood ordination with appeals to secular social science? So why just the issue of marriage and family?
Here’s a theory: because this issue is so critical to the success of society, and to our success as a church, that our leaders feel inspired to defend it by every means reasonable. It’s so important that urging ourselves and our friends to consider our view as an article of faith may not be enough—we should be ready to make a difference in our homes and communities equipped with an array of information that should reach any open-minded acquaintance.
If I’ve missed any relevant citations, please note it in the comments.
1. April 2015: “Why Marriage, Why Family,” By Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Family-related idea or counsel: “The social science case for marriage and for families headed by a married man and woman is compelling.”
Social science cited in support: “Nicholas Eberstadt catalogs the worldwide declines in marriage and childbearing and the trends regarding fatherless homes and divorce and observes: ‘The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young. That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old.’ (See ‘The Global Flight from the Family,’ Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2015, wsj.com/articles/nicholas-eberstadt-the-global-flight-from-the-family-1424476179.)”
This is a guest post by Laura Hales.
Laura Harris Hales is a freelance copy editor and author. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in Professional Writing from New England College. She has worked as both a paralegal and as an adjunct professor of English. After marrying in 2013, she found herself immersed in the study of Church history. With her husband, she is the co-author of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding and co-webmaster of JosephSmithsPolygamy.org. She is also the copy editor of Mormon Historical Studies. Laura is married to Brian C. Hales and, combined, they have nine children.
Sometimes taking the road less traveled is a conscious choice, and sometimes it’s a result of a diversion that unexpectedly appears along one’s chosen path. Over the last eighteen months, I’ve found myself making one of those course changes as a result of reading Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology, written by my then fiancé, Brian C. Hales.
Soon after the wedding photos were unveiled on Facebook, I finished the 1500-page tome on the early practice of polygamy in the Church. Reading his treatment of the subject was somewhat akin to taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant. Totally drenched with new and somewhat confusing information, I found myself in unexplored territory. Inculcated from birth with an idealized image of the Prophet Joseph Smith, I now questioned whether Joseph’s marrying of thirty-five brides and other men’s wives reflected the behavior of a prophet.
Through further study, I was able to resolve my dissonance and make peace with the past. In the process, I developed a desire to present the research from Brian’s trilogy in a format accessible to the average Latter-day Saint. Less information might actually be more beneficial to those first encountering this material. My husband, though initially hesitant, agreed to the project after our publisher echoed his support of the idea.