Why do a self-governing people hire police to enforce the laws? There are some good reasons, and some that aren’t so laudable. The work of police takes time, so it’s good to hire someone to attend to it and let them develop competence at it. Also, some law enforcement tasks are dangerous and require both training to reduce the risks and physical courage that not all possess. But what about the neighbor downstairs with the loud party at two in the morning while I’m trying to sleep? Do I call the police and complain, or do I put on a robe and knock on his door? I’m not afraid he’s going to hurt me or vandalize my property; he’s a decent fellow. He won’t like me interrupting his fun, though; he may resent me for it. If I call the police and let them handle it, he won’t even be sure who to blame. It’s easier to direct this conflict towards anonymous authority rather than register with him that I personally want him to stop doing what he’s doing. It’s also cowardly.
I do not recognize cohabitation as an acceptable alternative to marriage, but what sort of recognition do I personally confer or withhold? Well, when a co-worker invited me to a housewarming party at the house she and her boyfriend had moved into, I didn’t go because that’s not something I celebrate. Similarly, I decided I wouldn’t invite the cohabiting couple across the street into my house.
I accept the counsel of the First Presidency and Council of Twelve for “citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” I consider cohabitation to be a grave harm to those living in those households and normalization of cohabitation to be a grave harm to society. Marriage is a relationship between society and a couple, and cohabitation is either a counterfeit of that relationship or a rejection of it. I do not want cohabitation legitimized by society as an acceptable alternative to a marriage relationship. Since I don’t want society to accept cohabitation, I have responsibilities to personally not accept it. When the two situations mentioned in my Times and Seasons comment came up, I seriously thought them over and discussed them with my wife. They were uncomfortable positions to be in, but it seemed hypocritical to promote measures, laws even, “designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” if I personally am unwilling to withhold my sanction of a cohabiting couple. John Crawford regards this decision as unequivocally hateful and ridiculous, no other interpretation possible. Well, as Dallin Oaks said in a similar context, “There are plenty of ideas out there in the world that work against the gospel plan. [...] We can’t expect to be applauded every time we do something that we know is right.” I hope I did something that was right. I didn’t ignore the people in question or refuse to speak to them or shun them as individuals, but I did decide I would not socialize with their partnerships as I would with a married couple.
As it often does, this matter regarding marriage came up last week in connection with consideration of homosexuality. If homosexuality didn’t exist, then some other matter would have to take its place as a token of one’s stance on matters such as those addressed by the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve in their Proclamation to the World regarding the family. Homosexuals themselves are in some ways almost irrelevant to the debate; every one of them could devote her full devotion to pushing for an end to a regard for gender within marriage, and it wouldn’t matter. No, that is a cause moved forward by heterosexuals. At the head of the movement are those like David Paterson, New York’s latest governor and head adulterer. They seek to end any capacity for society to disapprove their behavior. Supporting them in their cause are those who feel a desire to signal their cosmopolitan sophistication, transgressive edginess, or insouciant indifference, and the “useful idiots” who need to display their liberal solidarity and how very, very much they care. Oh, I really should love these people, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them. I often find it difficult to do and fail to be a child of my Father in heaven. My failings notwithstanding, they are my enemies, they seek to harm me, and I’m not a bit cheerful about it. Unlike many others apparently, I was not married on Planet Krypton, and so puny Earth gravity does effect my family. I grew up in a neighborhood that currently ranks 4th on the Census Bureau’s list of communities with the highest percentage of opposite-sex unmarried-partner households. Too many of my cousins have fathered or born children outside of marriage. I don’t believe these choices are made in a vacuum; I believe the approval or reproach of society affects behavior that generates wellbeing or harm.
Now, for Mark Brown’s rejection of my comments touching homosexual marriage: First, such chastisement is more credible coming from Mark Brown than it would be coming from some. Over the past couple of years I have experienced several enjoyable interactions with “Mark IV.” When he may disagree with something I write, he unfailingly does so thoughtfully (considerately and “full of thought”). When his name shows up on a comment list, it is worthwhile to consider his words. I don’t know how prominently my words figured into motivating his rebuke at By Common Consent, but since his language was fairly all-encompassing on the point that all comments regarding homosexuality over the past couple of weeks are unwelcoming — “stomach-churning” even, and since I have written a few comments touching the matter since the California court ruling, then my words must be some of those he was rejecting. I believe a motive in his writing was a desire to promote fuller discipleship. Really, though, Mark’s essay did fall short of its own admonition: “Until we are prepared to keep both parts of that counsel, we probably ought to be careful about saying anything at all.” When Dallin Oaks or Gordon Hinckley addressed homosexuality, they left no question that they consider anything other than celibacy, or if feasible marriage to an opposite-sex spouse, to be sinful, harmful, and something that they oppose. When they spoke of honoring homosexuals, it was as individual humans and children of God, not as part of same-sex pairings.
At any rate, Mark Brown is right that those who struggle with homosexuality should be sustained by members of the Church, and those who fall into paths of sin should be sorrowed for, not hated. No doubt there will be some who would prefer that I keep my sorrow to myself, and feel that my stance that homosexual activity is sin that I do not sanction is more or less the same thing as being an accomplice to murder.