The Law of Chastity Is Not Changing

Note: In this article, I’m not talking about any specific political measure, on which there is always room for some disagreement. I’m talking about the law of chastity, which holds that sexual activity is only appropriate between a man and a woman, lawfully married as husband and wife.

In the aftermath of this past General Conference, I’m surprised that I’m still hearing members argue that Church’s doctrine regarding chastity is wrong, and that it will eventually change to accommodate same-sex relationships. Here, for example, are two  actual quotes from various places on the internet: “I don’t feel the spirit about what Elder Oaks says,” and “I feel peaceful when I say Oaks is wrong.” Someone else posted on their Facebook page, “Oaks fail.” Another has written an entire response to Elder Oaks’ talk, suggesting that his talk — and the Church’s doctrine on sexuality — is hurtful and probably wrong. Another self-proclaimed active Latter-day Saint has posted this online. Still others have pulled out the Church’s statement: “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.” They have used this statement as evidence that we can just dismiss Elder Oaks’ teachings about the law of chastity as a personal, well-considered opinion, but not officially binding on members of the Church.

Still others have implied that once President Packer has passed away (and maybe now one or two others, such as Elder Oaks), the Church will be free to change its doctrines on sexuality — the implication being that there are deep, hidden disagreements amongst the Quorum of the Twelve, and that these deep disagreements keep the Church from progressing towards an egalitarian utopia in which same-sex activity is celebrated as just another form of diversity. The implication is that there are members of the Quorum who would love to change the doctrine, but must patiently wait unto some of their stubborn colleagues are in the grave before suggesting it. These members sometimes (probably unintentionally) give the impression that they have “inside men” in the highest quorums of the Church, sleeper cells just waiting to activate once the bigger threats (President Packer) are no longer around.

This is a pattern I observe quite frequently: an apostle will address this particular topic, and people will immediately dismiss that apostle’s teachings as their personal opinion, not representing the Church as a whole; further, they will remind themselves that in just a few more years, the more obstinate apostles will be dead and the rest can herald in a transformation in Church doctrine and policy. And, therefore, anything taught in the meantime should doesn’t represent the opinions of the Quorum as a whole, and is just that individual apostle’s personal (and wrong) opinion.

At this point, it’s clear that nothing could be further from the truth. While the naysayers will continue to harp and complain, while the dissidents will continue to voice their contrary opinions, it’s becoming more and more clear that they are not just rejecting the personal opinion of an apostle or two — they are rejecting official Church doctrine. It’s becoming clear that for many of these dissenters, their dissent is not just on what political measures should or shouldn’t be taken in response to Church doctrine, but with the Church’s teachings on chastity itself. For many, the tone of the dissent has changed from political to doctrinal — the hope is that the doctrine itself will change to accommodate same-sex activity within the Church, and not just in society at large. Further, it’s becoming more and more clear that they hold to their dissent so tenaciously that they are making themselves unteachable. They are unwilling to accept correction and learn truth from God’s servants.

The Quorum Is United on this Topic

In order of seniority, I’m going to share what we’ve heard from the apostles in just the past year regarding the law of chastity as it relates to same-sex activity.

We’ve heard from President Packer: “The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result of the violation of God’s law of chastity.” While he does not directly reference same-sex activity, few us who know Elder Packer believe that this wasn’t foremost on his mind.

We’ve heard from Elder Perry:  “The proclamation also declared the law upon which the eternal happiness of families is predicated, namely, ‘The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.’ … The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. …  Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society.”

We’ve heard from Elder Nelson: “Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!”

We’ve heard from Elder Oaks: “The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan. Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children. There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. … Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.”

We’ve heard from Elder Ballard: “Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman.” This clearly rules out same-sex relationships as any eternal family unit.

Elder Hales, I think, made allusions to it: “Standing obedient and strong on the doctrine of our God, we stand in holy places, for His doctrine is sacred and will not change in the social and political winds of our day.”

We’ve heard from Elder Bednar: “The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). …  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a man and a woman in the marriage relationship prescribed in God’s plan.”

OK, so I don’t know that Elder Scott, Elder Holland, Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson, President Eyring, or President Uchtdorf have talked about this issue this year. But most of them have both done so in the recent past.

Elder Holland, for example, made allusions to this issue in his CES devotional last spring. He published an Ensign article on how to reach out to those who are same-sex attracted, while nonetheless reaffirming the Church’s doctrine on chastity: “While same-gender attraction is real, there must be no physical expression of this attraction. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone.”

Elder Christofferson recently wrote: “The doctrines that relate to human sexuality and gender are really central to our theology. And marriage between a man and a woman, and the families that come from those marriages – that’s all central to God’s plan and to the opportunities that He offers to us, here and hereafter. So homosexual behavior is contrary to those doctrines – has been, always will be – and can never be anything but transgression.”

Elder Cook was heavily involved in the Proposition 8 movement. I’m sure if I searched, I could find similar doctrinal reaffirmations from him. Elder Scott, and others have made similar remarks in the past upholding the Church’s stance on chastity. Add to that the bold testimony of every other prophet and apostle for the past 40 years, and we’ve move so far beyond “isolated opinions of individual leaders” it’s not even funny.

The idea that the Quorum of the Twelve is in any way divided on the place that same-sex activity will have in the Church is simply false. All evidence suggests that they are unified on this issue, that they all share and support the Church’s definition of chastity. Further, this should forever put to rest the common tactic of referring to these as the personal opinions of an isolated Church leader. We should stop saying, “I disagree with Elder Oaks on chastity.” That statement is misleading, because it implies a disagreement with Elder Oaks and Elder Oaks alone — it implies a disunity among the brethren on this issue that just doesn’t exist. To disagree with Elder Oaks on the issue of chastity — as defined as restricting sexual intimacy to man and woman, married as husband and wife — is to disagree with the Church’s official stance and the entire Quorum of the Twelve. Let’s put to rest the idea that we’re dealing with “isolated statements” of “personal opinion.” We’re dealing with official Church doctrine.

Now, some will probably respond, “Ok, sure, I get it, it’s Church doctrine. But I just wish they would stop focusing on it.” Well, when we have swathes of members denying this doctrine, after the reaction to this past conference, what can we expect? If we want them to stop teaching the doctrine in a straightforward, no holds barred manner, perhaps we should start listening to them and adjusting our opinions to match the doctrine of the Church. They teach it boldly and straightforwardly because members are still agitating against it. They consider it important, and they will probably continue to teach it boldly so long as members are still needing to hear the message. They teach so long as we need to be taught.

Sorry, Folks, Elder Oaks Is Probably Next in Line

The past few days I’m been thoroughly baffled as to why Elder Oaks is the one taking all the flack. After all, didn’t Elder Nelson teach the exact same thing? Nobody has made memes depicting him as a homophobe (that I know of). And I think I know why:  Because actuarial predictions (http://imgur.com/1JHZjBT) suggest Elder Oaks is the most likely person to be our next prophet. That will probably bristle the feathers of those who were disappointed in his talk this last conference, but there you go.  The adversary is already working hard to discredit him in the eyes of the saints.

We love President Packer and we are praying for him and his health, but I suspect that most of us don’t expect him outlive President Monson. And statistical predictions suggest that Elder Perry and Elder Nelson might not either. But let’s say they all do, and that each, in turn, become the prophet — President Packer, Elder Perry, Elder Nelson, and then Elder Oaks. Based on what we’ve heard the past year, all of them will remain firm on these doctrines. There is a 65% chance that Elder Bednar will eventually become the prophet. In between, we have Elder Holland. So as far as I’m concerned, the entire line of prophetic succession for the next 30+ years have boldly testified that the law of chastity, as presently understood, is God’s law and is not going to change.

Let’s stop imagining to ourselves that Church doctrine and practice will change to accommodate same-sex activity. We all know that it’s probably not going to happen. We all know that it would require a massive revision of core Church doctrines. It isn’t a change of policy, it is a change of core doctrine — it is a rejection of the essentiality of both genders in an eternal family. It would render either gender ultimately expendable. And that is something that our doctrine simply cannot accommodate with any degree of fidelity. On this matter, we already have our answers from God. God’s servants have spoken. Those who continue to claim that the Spirit is telling them that the Church is wrong on matters of chastity will soon have to learn that either (1) whatever voice they are communing with probably isn’t of God, or (2) they don’t really believe in this Church and its teachings. The time for straddling that line is coming to a close.

There will be some who feel as if I’m beating a dead horse. But that’s the point: the Church’s teachings on chastity are so thoroughly established and so often repeated, we shouldn’t have to bring it up. We shouldn’t have to point it out. But given the vocal outcry after this past weekend, apparently we do. There will be others who feel as if I’m using the teachings of the apostles as a club to beat up on those who think differently. I don’t think I am — I’m just trying to put to rest the folk story that the Quorum of the Twelve is at all divided on this topic, and that the Church is going to revise its doctrine once a few cantankerous, obstinate apostles have moved on from this life. I think that any perusal of the Church’s recent teachings will show that these ideas are simply not true.

Concluding thought: This article is not addressed to the many among us who experience same sex attraction and who are trying to live the Church’s standards. To them, I want to say: Hang in there — it gets better. God’s mercy and God’s grace will accompany you. And we will befriend you. This post is addressed to those who claim to be loyal members but who obstinately insist that the Church is going to be revising its doctrines in the near future, and who insist that the Church is wrong on its understanding of the law of chastity — that idea is tiresome and needs to be put to rest. To those enmeshed in these issues who are just trying to make it through the day, who are wanting to believe the Church’s teachings but are just having a hard time, we want to extend our support and our heartfelt love towards you. Please stick with us.

88 thoughts on “The Law of Chastity Is Not Changing

  1. So true. If you disagree that’s fine but remember – The Lord apoointed these leaders. He alone instructs them and he has set his plan in stone. I believe the D&C tells us the Lord has said he cannot and will not ever change something he has given us. We aren’t dealing with the law of sacrifice, we are dealing with and discussing the law of chastity which is The 3rd greatest of all sins following Murder and Denying the Holy Ghost.Think about that and just how serious that is. To deny this is true and correct doctrine is verging very closely upon apostasy.

    Be strong. Follow the Prophet and he will guide you safely home. If you should disagree then please fast and pray and fast and pray some more. Allow the Lord to reveal the truth of his doctrine to you through the Holy Ghost. He will if you ask and truly desire the answer. But you have to ask properly and fasting amd prayer is a good start.

  2. Another has written an entire response to Elder Oaks’ talk, suggesting that his talk — and the Church’s doctrine on sexuality — is hurtful and probably wrong.

    If you’re referring to Steve Evans’ contemplative and sincere BCC post, this is a crass and I have to think intentional mischaracterization of his post.

  3. In particular, Evans said nothing about the Church changing its “stance” on chastity and multiple times reaffirmed his commitment to the law of chastity in his post. He was not asking about whether the Church would someday reverse course and teach that homosexual sexual intercourse is not immoral. He explained that very clearly in the post and the comments. His post was more directed at the idea of political implications — seeking further understanding about why Elder Oaks seemed to be requiring Mormons not only to believe that homosexual sexual intercourse is immoral and behaving accordingly (and seeking to persuade others to do the same) but also to seek to implement this belief politically so that others who do not happen to share that belief are nevertheless bound by it.

  4. John, you assume to much. I’m actually referring to a lengthy post written by a self-proclaimed Latter-day Saint on Reddit, and not to Steve’s blog post. I was bothered by Steve’s blog post for other reasons, but that was not the “response” I was referring to.

    I think Steve, and many other Latter-day Saints, fail to see how our legal and social mores and traditions shape our society, and the dangers that we face for abandoning these mores and traditions. They cannot see “afar off,” in ways I think our prophets can. And because they cannot see afar off, they resist the prophets in other ways (but not the ways I’m talking about in this post), and exalt their own vision and wisdom above the prophetic foresight of prophets and apostles. Because they cannot see the changes that this will bring about in our society, they question what the prophets are seeing.

    But the watchmen on the tower warn of dangers long before they are visible to the rest of us. We, and our children, may find ways to get along in a society that has abandoned these traditions and norms, but perhaps our grandchildren will face dangers and tragedy in ways we cannot anticipate with our mortal wisdom. But God can, and I think He is sending us warnings through His servants.

    I think Steve and those who think like him are failing to exercise trust in that foresight and questioning in just the sort of ways Lehi’s contemporaries did: “How can Jerusalem fall? I will not believe until you show and tell me exactly how that will happen.” And I think that prophets cannot always do that — they can only know and warn of the consequences, and they do not always have a ready answer for exactly how a particular action will bring those consequences about.

    But even in this case, I think that thoughtful scholars can see how a dissolution of the legal and social norms that scaffold traditional marriage in our society can have long-term deleterious consequences. But for these scholars to be persuasive, you have to already assume some things that I think some among us are starting to question: that the family, with a father and a mother, really is what keeps society stable, and that legal norms really do scaffold those societal structures, and that small changes in such legal ecosystems can have tremendous, holistic impact on society as a whole. We saw such an impact with the implementation of no-fault divorce (something that many at the time thought would only have small and negligible effects on marriage as an institution).

    But that’s not who I am talking to or about in this post. I’m talking about those who long for and hope and sincerely believe that the Law of Chastity, as presently defined, will go the way of polygamy and the priesthood ban. So let’s move on from that topic, and stick with the original.

  5. Stu, I do believe that doctrines and practices have and can change. Polygamy, for example. A brief overview of the history of the Church demonstrates that. So be cautious: the adversary may try to exploit that perception of yours to diminish your faith in the future. Because God has indeed changed some things in His kingdom over the years.

    But what we’re facing here is something that prophets and apostles are declaring to be fundamental to our doctrine, something that they are unitedly teaching as binding upon Latter-day Saints. And it’s absolutely true that this is tied right into the very core of our doctrine. We cannot use past changes to willfully disregard the current teachings of the prophets.

  6. “I think Steve, and many other Latter-day Saints, fail to see how our legal and social mores and traditions shape our society, and the dangers that we face for abandoning these mores and traditions.”–>Amen and amen. We — and I include many “thoughtful” members of the Church, here — are actively participating in creating an environment that is leading to new “closets” (hat tip: Elder Wickman) for those of us who still believe in traditional morality.

  7. And I have to say that I really get amused by the comments from people trying to find some difference between the 15 prophets and apostles on these issues. They are completely united on these issues, and if we want to “follow the prophet” we should be united as well.

  8. LDSP — thank you! I was clapping as I read this (I know geeky). But I agree with this, and these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about this week, as I’ve pondered Conference. Chastity is so very important. Thank you for being so bold and so frank.

  9. European Saint, that belief requires a belief that unless the religious voice is privileged in the civil sphere, it is closeted. That doesn’t follow.

    So far there has been very little persuasion as to why Mormons need to recalibrate their dedication to fundamental underlying principles of liberty that, it seems to me, we used to be encouraged to view as eternally valid even if only uncovered to our understanding through Locke and his associates in the intellectually formative period of our political and philosophical heritage. Now it seems, if I am hearing the signals correctly those principles are being cast as corrupted and somehow contrary to a vaguely Straussian concept of “the good,” whereas previously such principles were part of the package of the “objective morality” to which all individuals have access through the Light of Christ.

    In this view, it seems, we are no longer striving to be co-partners in civil society (team players, if you will) but rather a special interest group seeking a privileged voice (and, indeed, claiming that the Founders intended us, as a religious voice in the public debate, should have a privileged voice that is somehow exempt from rigorous opposition in the marketplace of ideas) and hoping that our convictions as to certain moral questions (but not others, markedly) are enshrined in positive law such that others who do not share those convictions are bound by them. Since this seems to deviate from the old quid-pro-quo paradigm (in which we not only did honor but wanted to honor others’ freedom of conscience and personal autonomy in directing their own lives to the same extent that we want others’ to honor our choices in ordering our lives according to the dictates of our conscience), it has some people understandably scratching their heads.

  10. John F, once again you appear unable to see the actual world around you and how it operates. Tell me: what is the environment like at the average university for a conservative or even moderate professor? What would happen to said professor if he/she wore a t-shirt to work saying, “Mormons Against Gay Marriage?” Would that professor be sued for hate speech or disciplined/fired? Obviously yes. But professors can easily wear pro-gay marriage t-shirts or t-shirts with pictures of Mao, Lenin or Che Guevara (killers all) without any fear. Now let’s move on to the average newsroom. The exact same rules apply. So, in effect, society has created a world where Mormons must remain closeted whereas those supporting immorality (in many forms) are free to express their views. The fact that you see religious people as somehow being “privileged” is really quite sad. Your idea of “liberty” is that people who share your views are allowed free expression while people who disagree with you remain quiet. Very telling indeed.

  11. John f., I think those who are scratching their heads are doing so because, again, they cannot see afar off. They do not see the severe secular destruction dismantling these legal traditions will have on society at large. You suggest that this is a cultural deviation from sound principle, rather than a revealed warning from God — which suggests you simply do not believe the prophets when they testify of the secular consequences of these new policies. I would hold, again, that this is because you are questioning some fundamental assumptions that can be secularly defended: that the family, with a father and a mother, really is what keeps society stable, and that legal norms really do scaffold those societal structures, and that small changes in such legal ecosystems can have tremendous, holistic impact on society as a whole. If you accept these assumptions, and realize that they can be defended with secular rhetoric and logic, the prophet’s political advocacy makes sense.

    Seriously, I can imagine people in ancient Jerusalem saying, “I just don’t see how Lehi is playing nicely with society at large. He’s warning all sorts of secular consequences for collective attitudes and behaviors that we just can’t see happening. Further, instead of just preaching to his own crowd, he’s trying to imply that everyone should follow his teachings, and that his teachings be enacted in our civil traditions. Can’t he just shut up and let unbelievers be?” And so it went, perhaps until the day Jerusalem was destroyed.

    I suggest two things: (1) realize that God’s prophets see things that you cannot, so the fact that you are scratching your head in confusion should indicate not that the prophets are wrong, but perhaps the limitations of your own foresight; (2) that we stick to the original topic of this thread. Future deviations from that topic will be deleted.

  12. Geoff, the person wearing that t-shirt would likely be rigorously opposed in argument around the water cooler and might lose some friends and, relatedly, any influence for good from a proselytizing perspective but he our she would certainly not be fired or sued. And there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that people who find the view printed on the t-shirt should not forcefully vioce their convictions about it in our free society.

    LDSP, no one is saying that Lehi should not be able to outreach as loud and as long as he likes in whatever venue. This question is about legislation and criminal law.

  13. I suspect that if you were to expand your search for recent statements by apostles and prophets to included statements related to the definition of marriage or the proclamation on the family their unanimity on this topic would be even more obvious and undeniable.

  14. John f., no Latter-day Saint I know of in the past decade has suggested that homosexual conduct should itself be criminalized. Rather, we are talking about what kinds of family structures society has an interest in incentivizing and subsidizing through tax breaks, benefits, and marriage law (which is civil law, not criminal law). In other words, what family structures warrant special privileges and attentions from Federal and state governments as a preferred institution for raising children and sexual procreation?

    Imagine, for example, that society decided that getting an education is a good thing that should be incentivized. So imagine we developed legal programs to subsidize student education, and perhaps legal perks to students to make their lives easier while they are students. Nothing about this criminalizes non-student behavior — it is simply not afford a preferred status by the state. I see the present debate as comparable to non-students saying, “But aren’t we valuable too? Should we get those same perks and benefits?”, and being offended when the response is, actually, no — because the same benefits to society do not accrue, and thus they do not merit the same investment. And to be granted those same perks then renders completely useless the original purposes of the investment, since the incentives towards getting an education are no longer in place.

    Supporting the legal and civic structures that scaffold and incentivize traditional marriage norms — because we recognize that they are good for society (and there are plenty of secular reasons to believe that) — has nothing to do whatsoever with criminal law, and does nothing whatsoever to criminalize same-sex conduct or relationships. It simply does not grant them the preferred legal status they are seeking, because we do not believe that those arrangements have the same benefits to society and therefore do not merit the same investments. Nobody is talking about what should be legal, but rather what should be supported as a preferred civil institution in our marriage civil code. Since there are good reasons (both secular and religious) to believe that hetereosexual marriage is better for society than other family arrangements, particularly for the raising of children, we wish to preserve the purposes of civil marriage by incentivizing heterosexual marriage and heterosexual marriage alone. Prophets have warned that failure to do this will result in tragic consequences.

    I choose to believe them. Why? Because they are prophets. It is their designated job to see afar off and warn of dangers that the rest of us don’t see. It’s their raison d’être, their reason for being. If we fail to heed their warnings because we can’t quite see the dangers they do, then why put watchmen on the tower in the first place? This is our religion, and this is what we do — we follow the warning cries of living prophets and apostles.

    Last warning: all further deviations from original topic will be deleted.

  15. J. Max, you are most certainly right. I was just trying to be *very* specific on this. But yes, it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that there is not unanimity on this issue. This. Is. Official. Doctrine. And. Is. Not. Changing. Case closed.

  16. The fact that there is even debate about this among those who self-identify as Latter-day Saints is cause for great sorrow. If such basic principles of righteousness are open to wholesale revision by these “thoughtful” Saints, what is there within the doctrine of Christ which ISN’T subject to being tossed about by every wind of doctrine? It’s hard to imagine one’s self as “faithful” if the only thing one has faith in is whatever he chooses to believe.

  17. I love this post. It is clear and comprehensive on the one point made in the title. In concert with your other post on heresy and apostasy, it makes a more complete address on how we are to approach this subject with our friends and Internet neighbors.

  18. I too wish agitators for change on the Law of Chastity would give it a rest. It just makes it annoying that we have to hear the brethren beat a dead horse. The law is not going to change.

    But because the brethren feel they have to slog this doctrine, it gives it undue emphasis which makes it seem like our agenda is to attack the Gentiles who have different laws, rather than attacking Mormons who agitate for change. Then this confuses people like Steve Evans, who thinks he is being asked to be a biggot, when all God asks of him as a covenant Mormon, is that he have no gay sex.

  19. Regardless of slight deviations from the main focus of the post, I have to say that I value John F.’s continued participation here. Not because I agree with him on the vast majority of his arguments (I don’t), but because he is willing to engage respectfully in this venue. I know what it is like attempting to engage in other, more “thoughtful” venues. It is easy to get bullied or pushed out. Let’s not do that to John F. I have to ask John F. though, after his comment (“European Saint, that belief requires a belief that unless the religious voice is privileged in the civil sphere, it is closeted. That doesn’t follow.”), how he interprets this and other real-life events (not theory): http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/2011-05-06-peter-vidmar-resignation_N.htm. Is this not a tragedy? Morally wrong? Or merely a “blessing” from living in a pluralistic society?

  20. Nate, I think you and I have very different interpretations of what’s been asked of us, and what that means in the grand scheme of things. But that’s a story for a different time.

    European Saint, my last couple of posts were coopted by deviations from the topic. I’m not trying to silence John f. or push him from the discussion. I just don’t want that to be the focus of the discussion.

  21. LDSP,

    Thanks for writing this piece. Your note at the end was perfect! I know that you didn’t have to include it. But the fact that you did meant a lot.

    I hate the belief that The Law of Chastity is somehow outdated or actually does allow for same-sex sexual behavior as long as it is in a committed relationship. I recognize that hate is a strong word, and I’m not suggesting any ill will toward individuals who hold that belief. In my struggle with same-sex attraction, I heard that again and again from disaffected SSA members. That was bad enough. But then the message frequently came from “faithful” members who just cared so much for “people like me” that they lovingly encourage us to sin. Even starting to believe that the Lord “surely would want me to be happy (in a same-sex relationship) led to intense, prolonged suffering.

    So thank you for doing the work of distinguishing between the Law of Chastity and the Socio/political issue of same-sex marriage. The apostles have been quite clear in their support of traditional marriage as a social structure. They have been unmistakably, unwaveringly, unanimously clear about the Law of Chastity.

  22. FWIW, my prediction is that someday in the LDS church…maybe 20 or 30 years down the road…premarital chastity rules will remain in place for all, and monogamy/marital fidelity rules will remain in place for all, but legal ss-marriages will not be defined as immoral.

    It will either be this, or the church will lose a significant amount of its membership, power, and influence.

    And no…I don’t see this all leading to beastiality and pedophilia. That seems silly to me. Folks don’t need a prophet to know that those things are just plain wrong. For me, two men or two women in loving, committed, monogamous marriages — when their SSA was not a choice was not changeable — that’s a totally different deal. It’s committed love, and committed love is not evil to me…regardless of the sexes involved.

  23. And to that extent, John, you are in open contradiction to the teachings of living prophets and apostles, and I think you are just plain wrong. And, to the extent that you preach this doctrine of yours in public, I believe you are in open rebellion to God’s servants.

  24. Here’s my question for you, John: Let’s say that 30 years from now, the Church has made no such changes. Let’s say that the law of chastity still remains enforced and taught as it is today. Will you (1) be supporting the Church and the prophets, or will you (2) be part of the forces that are reducing the membership, influence, and power of the Church?

    Also, ok, perhaps we don’t need prophets to tell us that pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. But apparently we do need prophets to tell us that homosexual conduct is wrong, because apparently it’s not self-evident to all of us.

    From where I stand, however, you don’t see the need for prophets at all. Because for the things that are obviously wrong to you (such as pedophilia, bestiality), we don’t need prophets to tell us — and for the things that aren’t obviously wrong to you, well, the prophets are just wrong if they claim those things are wrong. So in either case, we don’t need prophets: we just need the enlightened moral sensibilities of John Dehlin. And, for that reason, I consider you a false prophet — a man who delegitimizes the very need for prophets while at the same time crowning your own enlightened sensibilities as a more reliable measure of right and wrong.

  25. These are my opinions. I’m open to further light and knowledge, of course, but these are my opinions. At least for now. And I don’t feel like I’m in the position to teach anything to anyone. I’m not a teacher.

  26. For the record, I believe that the LDS prophets are very important, that they should be listened to very carefully, that their counsel should be heeded according to the dictates of one’s own interpretation of the spirit and experience, and that one should be very, very cautious in disagreeing or disregarding prophet counsel.

    Ya’ll are really mean-spirited and insulting here with your false assumptions. That’s unfortunate.

  27. Are you? Further light and knowledge has come through prophets and apostles — teaching that same-sex activity is wrong — and you reject it off-hand. So how open are you, really? They are teaching us — are you teachable? From where I stand, you are only open to further light and knowledge if it takes you a certain direction — away from the current teachings of the Church. Prophetic light and knowledge, apostolic instruction that teaches you that same-sex activity is wrong, you simply (close-mindedly) reject.

    And yes, you are a teacher. You have a platform with thousands of viewers. You have a microphone with thousands of listeners. And when you share your doctrine on your Facebook page, you are teaching. You are leading others away from the teachings of the Church. To say that you are not is to ignore the enormous influence you have as a public figure. To openly express and spread your opinion on this matter is to teach people and lead them astray. It is immensely deceitful to claim that you do not hope that others will adopt your opinion, that you do not hope that your moral influence will lead others to believe as you do. It is immensely deceitful to claim that you are not in any way using your public platform to disseminate this doctrine of yours.

  28. For the record, I believe that the LDS prophets are very important, that they should be listened to very carefully, that their counsel should be heeded according to the dictates of one’s own interpretation of the spirit and experience, and that one should be very, very cautious in disagreeing or disregarding prophet counsel.

    You earlier comment suggests otherwise.

    And if you think we’re mean-spirited, it’s because we’re thinking of the friends and colleagues that you have led astray. We know people who have decided to reject prophetic counsel because of your moral influence. So our moral indignation at your deceitful claims to a “mere opinion but not teaching” and to faithfulness to prophets is, I think, warranted.

    Further, “Oaks fail” is mean-spirited. You can bash the prophets and apostles, but it’s mean-spirited to openly criticize your beliefs? You can publicly blame Elder Oaks for causing suicides amongst Latter-day Saints, but we’re the mean ones for saying that you are delegitimizing prophetic instruction? Your outright, public contempt for Elder Oaks and his teachings — which this post demonstrates are not his teaching, but the unanimous teachings of the entire Quorum of the Twelve, renders your above quote meaningless. And your mean-spirited public attitude towards him — while calling us mean-spirited for calling you out on it — is hypocritical.

  29. My wife pointed out the hubris. We say, “The prophets are unanimous on the law of chastity,” and John Dehlin chimes in, “Hey folks, I’m not” (as if that matters). We’re not talking about you, Dehlin. We’re talking about the prophets.

  30. As for your (Dehlin’s) claims that you are not a teacher, that your ideas are not negatively influencing the faith of members in the prophets, and that your ideas actually strengthen the faith of members, I’d like to share a brief experience. I joined the church almost 7 years ago. My decision devastated my mother and seriously strained our relationship (thankfully, things have been better as of late). My mother took it upon herself to read up on all the anti-mormon lit she could find, but she didn’t stop there. She started contacting anti-mormon scholars and finding forums for others in her same position. She begged people to help her “save” me. She begged me, she yelled at me, and she put up quite a fight. It got worse a year and a half ago when I got engaged.

    She started sending me stuff she hoped would dissuade me and help me (and ldsphilosopher) see the grave error of our ways. You might be surprised to know what she sent us. Not all of the anti-mormon sites and books she had found (though one or two), but Mormon Stories podcasts! Many of them! She listened to them and she ate them up. They gave her hope that I might change my mind about the Mormon church and getting married in the temple.

    So, in short, a non-member comes across your site, recognizes that it is conflict with faithfulness to the LDS church (and prophets), and sends it to her daughter hoping to convert her back. And because of that, I’m calling your bull on your claim that you don’t influence people as a teacher, and that you don’t negatively affect people’s loyalty to prophets and other true principles. And, if you wish to claim otherwise, I would hope you’d look at what you’re doing with a humble enough heart to see that your very public opinions on the law of chastity and your moral influence as a public figure are leading people away from true doctrine. Many people in and out of the Church can see that.

  31. “It will either be this, or the church will lose a significant amount of its membership, power, and influence.” Well, it may just turn out that there will be a significant sifting of the membership. Then, we will see “who’s on the Lord’s side, who?”

  32. Interesting to see John Dehlin reading this blog. I agree with this by LDSP:

    ” From where I stand, you are only open to further light and knowledge if it takes you a certain direction — away from the current teachings of the Church. Prophetic light and knowledge, apostolic instruction that teaches you that same-sex activity is wrong, you simply (close-mindedly) reject.”

    The natural man is an enemy to God. The natural man ignores prophetic counsel and pursues his own worldly knowledge. Is John Dehlin a natural man, and if so is he an enemy to God?

  33. “It will either be this, or the church will lose a significant amount of its membership, power, and influence.”

    That is really a hoot. If you look at church membership worldwide it is the more conservative churches that support traditional values that are growing and it is the increasingly liberal churches that are disappearing.

  34. John Dehlin said: My prediction is that someday in the LDS church … legal SS-marriages will not be defined as immoral.

    John, do you agree that the current prophets teach that SS-marriages are immoral? If so, do you teach others that SS-marriages are not immoral?

    John Dehlin said: Ya’ll are really mean-spirited and insulting here with your false assumptions.

    Which assumptions were you referring to?

  35. Actually I think think the church leaders might agree with John that the Church will lose power and influence and are prepared for it.

    Last week Elder Hales said, “The world is moving away from the Lord faster and farther than ever before.”

    Elder Oaks added :

    In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited.

    It’s going to get harder to uphold the Lord’s commandments and his servants are bracing us for the challenge.

    But “power” and “influence” are not what the Gospel is about anyway.

  36. Bravo. Excellent and well-written post. I agree completely with your stance, LDSP. It was heartwarming and reaffirming to hear the unity and solidarity between the brethren on this and other topics during this past General Conference. To me it says that they are all receiving the same inspiration from the same source.

    I, for one, dread the day that Pres. Packer is called home. I will miss his take-no-prisoners, no-nonsense approach. Others may call him “unloving” or “insensitive” (these are the mildest of names I’ve seen him called), but I prefer to use the ones I’ve already stated.

    I also have to call out John on his “teaching” assertion. I have several friends who have left the Church and express to me their gratitude for John’s writings/podcasts for opening their eyes and leading them to their present circumstance. That implies “teaching” to me.

  37. If professing said opinion on his Facebook page (specifically, that same-sex activity is not a sin and should not be a sin) — a page with thousands of followers — and then basking in the hundreds of “likes” and dozens of comments from people expressing their love for him and their admiration for his courage for saying so isn’t “teaching,” then I don’t know what is. I would grab a screenshot, but I think it’s since been taken down.

  38. Thank you, LDSP, for the post. I couldn’t agree more. Elder Oak’s statements about being careful to not worship other gods is equally relevant. A recent newspaper article related a LDS couple struggling with Oak’s talk and the church because they have a gay 15-year old son. I believe that for some members, this will be a sore testing ground. Jesus said those who love family members and other priorities more than God are not worthy of Him. While we love those who struggle with SSA, obedience to God’s laws and edicts should come first, and cannot be altered.

    Also, John D. has been a massive influence on my ex-member missionary companion who absorbs everything he says. It’s kind of like Nehor saying he’s not a teacher, just stating his beliefs in a public forum, and let those with him agree or disagree. Or like Karl Malone saying he’s not a role model for kids. Laughable, really.

  39. Tiger, we must and should love and embrace family members who struggle with SSA. (I know you agree, I just want to reemphasize). Elder Cook has recently taught that SSA should never justify alienating our family members. We must love them and include the. But we must reject the false definition of “love” that includes approval of all lifestyles and behaviors.

  40. Great post. Very clear and articulate. The Millennial Star shines like a beacon in the ever dimming bloggosphere, a light that holds up the true light of the world, Jesus Christ and His loving doctrine. This same Christ beckons to all the heavy laden, even and especially those burdened by false teachings or the weight of their own erring intellects. God loves all his children: “How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, 
than the vain imaginations of the human heart, none but fools will trifle with the souls of 
men.” – Joseph Smith

  41. Absolutely, LDSP. We should love family members unconditionally, but not to the point that it supersedes our devotion to His kingdom, no matter the difficulty or the pain, since we will not be tested/tempted beyond our capabilities.

  42. Tiger, I’m just trying to reiterate that love of family and love of God do not have to conflict in any degree whatsoever once we abandon the false notion that love requires us to accept or condone anyone’s behavior. =)

  43. Like what you say LDSP. The sun won’t be rising in the west tomorrow nor in 2030 or 3000.

    John Dehlin has provided me with a barrel of laughs over the tears but today he has me in stitches.

  44. !!! Tiger, I’m just trying to reiterate that love of family and love of God do not have to conflict in any degree whatsoever once we abandon the false notion that love requires us to accept or condone anyone’s behavior. =) !!!
    Best Comment Ever, LDP. Exclamation Point!

  45. I thought it was nice of Dehlin to come and try to clarify his views, but I thought he wasn’t given much respect here as a guest, and as an important LDS figure, regardless of how you feel about him.

    This issue is tearing the church apart, but why? Most of the Mormons partial to Dehlin obey the Law of Chastity, are married, and have kids! Why should they even be getting upset about this?

    This issue is a DISTRACTION. Dehlin groupies are getting tripped up by their desire to be accepting and non-judgemental of others. Then they hear talks like Oaks, and they get hung up on it. If a person is married, with kids, living the Law of Chastity, why push them away by telling them they have to be judgemental of others who don’t?

    Dehlin groupies have moral instincts. They are fighting homophobia and ignorance, and they are overly sensitive. Why not leave them be? Why tell them that they have to open themselves up to accusations of bigotry? Is this the best way to treat liberals? Tell them to do their hometeaching instead! That was a much more relevant and timely message in conference.

    The Law of Chastity doesn’t have to change, but why do we have to over-emphasize it to people who already obey it? It sounds like the point of talks like this is to rally indignation towards outsiders, non-member homosexuals who want to call something they do marriage. We’ve lost that fight already, and God told us to be separate from the world to begin with! We have our marriage, they have theirs. Ours is for eternity, theirs is for time. We have marriages which last for endless eternal eons, and we care about these pathetic “for time” only marriages authorized by apostate churches and wicked worldly authorites? Marriages that last for the blink of an eye in the vastness of eternity? We care? Why? It’s a lost cause, and it’s devisive.

    Isn’t it enough to say: In our temples, eternal marriage is reserved for men and women. God has commanded the members of His church not to engage in homosexuality. Period. Let others do what they want. “Shall we judge them without the Law?” No, according to Paul. They without the Law are free.

    Just quote the Bible and give all these uptight liberals a rest. Sure, some wont rest till the church embraces homosexuality. But most liberals would be cool with it as a peculiar commandment given to the Latter-Day Saints, like the word of wisdom.

  46. Nate, first of all, kudos to you for perpetuating the exact same attitude towards Elder Oaks’ talk that Dehlin has: that “the point of talks like this is to rally indignation towards outsiders, non-member homosexuals,” and that it encourages us to be bigots and uncompassionate. It sounds like you have the same disdain for Elder Oaks’ remarks that he does.

    The truth is, this talk was not intended to rally indignation towards non-member homosexuals. Rather, it was directed towards Dehlin-ites and others who have rejected true doctrine and have given themselves over to other gods and priorities. Why do they keep harping on it? Indeed, that is a question — why would 7 apostles of Christ make bold statements about the law of chastity this year alone? Hmm… let me think about that… could it be because they are all receiving inspiration from the same source? Maybe they see danger in believing these false doctrines? Maybe they seek to correct these false doctrines because God has warned them to?

    Isn’t it enough to say: In our temples, eternal marriage is reserved for men and women. … Let others do what they want.

    Apparently not. How do I know? Because prophets and apostles have said so. Why do you keep insisting that you know better than they what their priorities should be? Why do you keep elevating your own worldview as the truth, which is apparently not the worldview God’s prophets and apostles are encouraging us to share?

    You keep expressing bewilderment that the apostles and prophets are making this a priority, rather than adjusting your priorities to match. You seem bewildered that prophets and apostles are actually concerned that swathes of members are believing false and pernicious doctrines regarding chastity, rather than accepting that perhaps their are revelatory reasons for that.

    In your comment, you imply that God’s prophets and apostles are DISTRACTED from what should be their true priorities. Kudos to you for knowing better than they.

  47. John Dehlin said: “For me, two men or two women in loving, committed, monogamous marriages — when their SSA was not a choice was not changeable — that’s a totally different deal. It’s committed love, and committed love is not evil to me…regardless of the sexes involved”

    The difference is that we are talking about a promise made between man, woman and God. Temple marriages, which are the ideal to The Lord, are not just about committed love. The world focuses on the Eros between marriage partners as being the most important aspect of their relationship, and expectations of commitment between partners are allowed to be dropped as soon as “the love is gone.” God’s expectation of love between man and woman is not only that of Eros, and the promises are made between all three parties with the purpose of eternal progression in mind. The world stops at love, but God has eternal expectations. That’s why committed love isn’t enough, and the gender of the parties is eternally important. There are fundamental differences between what the world accepts and expects and what God accepts and expects.

  48. Nate, one more thought: maybe we should prioritize loving others and building Zion. But what if — and I want you to consider this possibility — we can’t do that so long as we think love means something that it does not? Many people think that we can only love people if we learn to embrace and accept as good their behaviors. Many people think Zion means learning to accept sin as normal. What if we can’t actually learn to love until we’ve first learned to uphold moral truth, because otherwise we will define love as something *other* than what it is?

  49. Nate, you write: “We’ve lost that fight already, and God told us to be separate from the world to begin with! We have our marriage, they have theirs. Ours is for eternity, theirs is for time. We have marriages which last for endless eternal eons, and we care about these pathetic “for time” only marriages authorized by apostate churches and wicked worldly authorites? Marriages that last for the blink of an eye in the vastness of eternity? We care? Why? It’s a lost cause, and it’s devisive.”

    What you are missing here is that there is no “ours” and “theirs” in God’s eyes. All of us are one human family, and God wants us all to be saved and with Him in the Celestial Kingdom. Dehlin’s doctrine condemns many people (“them”) to someplace other than the Celestial Kingdom. We are trying to save all people by bringing them all to Christ. Dehlin is telling them to sin a little, lie a little and they will still be saved. Do you see how this is problematic?

  50. Nate, the prophets and apostles are not just spokesmen for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; they are witnesses of Christ to the world. Thus, they can’t “leave them be” any more than Lehi or Jeremiah couldn’t let Jerusalem be. God loves and has expectations for His children, and doesn’t merely “let [them] do what they want” without understanding the consequences. I know you understand that, but it is a fight that needs to and will continue, regardless if you believe that fight has been lost. The law is still applicable to everyone, which is why the Proclamation to the World was instituted in the first place.

  51. LDSP congratulates me: “In your comment, you imply that God’s prophets and apostles are DISTRACTED from what should be their true priorities. Kudos to you for knowing better than they.”

    OK, I revisited Elder Oaks talk, and now I can see that it is not Elder Oaks that it is distracted, it is the Bloggernacle that is distracted.

    In his talk, Elder Oaks introduces the Law of Chastity with this sentence:
    “We know that through the God-given power of choice, many will hold beliefs contrary to ours, but WE ARE HOPEFUL that others will be equally RESPECTFUL of OUR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS and understand that OUR BELIEFS COMPEL US TO SOME DIFFERENT CHOICES and behaviors than theirs. For example…” Elder Oaks then goes on to explain the Law of Chastity, as just ONE example of the differences of belief between LDS and non-LDS. Elder Oaks was not exactly condemning the Gentiles. Rather, he was drawing a line between us and them, between their beliefs, which we respect, and our beliefs, which we “hope” they will respect.

    But this context was completely lost in the wash. The Bloggernacle is on fire with Elder Oaks offensive, bigoted talk. Or else they are engaged in offensive, judgemental, defenses of the talk, which also misunderstand the context and purpose of his message.

    Yes, I might disagree with some of how this talk was phrased, and the tone, and maybe a few of the priorities. But that hardly puts me in apostate territory. The fact is that Elder Oaks has given hundreds of talks, and this one little paragraph is being taken WAY out of context by both his admirers and his detractors. Then, if you add up all the phrases about same-sex marriage in General Conference, you find that they account for the tiniest percentage of everything which was said. But we ignore everything else, and only hear “same-sex marriage.”

    It’s ridiculous. It is a HUGE distraction, and WE are the biggest problem, not the apostles. I’ll leave it to them to fine tune the message. Sure, delivery could be improved. But what I heard in General Conference was “do your hometeaching,” and the importance of that message completely dwarfs the importance of this little “example” Elder Oaks gives to illustrate a simple, doctrinal point. Let’s get OUR priorities straight.

  52. For me the bottom line is what ldsp said in one of the comments. It can be hard to process upholding the standards of chastity as being evidence of God’s love, but I think that is what it’s about. His eternal plan just IS. That doesn’t change. The prophets and apostles have the charge to hold that light up, with the realization that, as Pres. Uchtdorf said, some may choose to leave. The Savior didn’t change His doctrine to appease those who didn’t like it or Him, but He never stopped inviting people to come, and He never stopped loving them. His love was what brought Him to earth and what took Him to Calvary and Golgotha. That love will be experienced as much as people are willing to receive it.

    I see that as being what our leaders are doing…inviting people to come to the tree, to come to Christ and His love. The tree isn’t going anywhere, but the doctrine of agency will mean that people will choose not to go there. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not a lack of love in the doctrine that causes that. Agency is allowed because of God’s love.

  53. Nate, I am sorry but you are missing the larger point of Elder Oaks’ talk. Read it again. The whole thing.

    Here it is:

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/no-other-gods?lang=eng

    First, the title, “No Other Gods.” The point of this talk is that there are some people who completely miss the point of the commandment of having no gods before God. They make idols out of their ideology (hello John Dehlin) of political correctness.

    Elder Oaks points out very clearly that God loves ALL of his children, not just the Saints, and that moral laws apply to ALL PEOPLE.

    “In the midst of these concerning trends, we are also conscious that God’s plan is for all of His children and that God loves all of His children, everywhere.”

    Elder Oaks’ talk is aimed at the entire world, not just the Saints. He is worried about societal trends that denigrate marriage and chastity. *The entire point of his talk is about this issue. It is not one sentence, it is the entire talk.*

    “The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given to His children. Its use was mandated by God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1:28), but other important commandments were given to forbid its misuse (see Exodus 20:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). The emphasis we place on the law of chastity is explained by our understanding of the purpose of our procreative powers in the accomplishment of God’s plan. Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children.

    The importance we attach to the law of chastity explains our commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and has continued through the ages as God’s pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters and for the nurturing of His children. Fortunately, many persons affiliated with other denominations or organizations agree with us on the nature and importance of marriage, some on the basis of religious doctrine and others on the basis of what they deem best for society.

    Our knowledge of God’s plan for His children7 explains why we are distressed that more and more children are born outside of marriage—currently 41 percent of all births in the United States8—and that the number of couples living together without marriage has increased dramatically in the past half century. Five decades ago, only a tiny percentage of first marriages were preceded by cohabitation. Now cohabitation precedes 60 percent of marriages.9 And this is increasingly accepted, especially among teenagers. Recent survey data found about 50 percent of teenagers stating that out-of-wedlock childbearing was a “worthwhile lifestyle.”10

    V.
    There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness.

    Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.

    Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.

    In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited.

    A teaching of President Thomas S. Monson applies to this circumstance. At this conference 27 years ago, he boldly declared: “Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but as the determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well.”11

    I pray that we will not let the temporary challenges of mortality cause us to forget the great commandments and priorities we have been given by our Creator and our Savior. We must not set our hearts so much on the things of the world and aspire to the honors of men (see D&C 121:35) that we stop trying to achieve our eternal destiny. We who know God’s plan for His children—we who have made covenants to participate in it—have a clear responsibility. We must never deviate from our paramount desire, which is to achieve eternal life.12 We must never dilute our first priority—to have no other gods and to serve no other priorities ahead of God the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

    So, Nate, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop trying to ignore the prophets’ words and change the meaning of what they say. Be humble. Accept the advice of the prophets. If you do not understand it yet, then just put it on a shelf and think about it at a later time. But do not try to distort their message.

  54. Geoff, Nate really believes that there is one law for the world, and another for the Church. And that the warnings and words of the prophets should only ever condemn Church members (those in the covenant), but not the rest of the world. He really wants to be able to tell his non-member friends that they are under no moral obligation to live God’s commandments unless they decide to become Mormon. And he tries to fit everything the prophets teach into that box, to keep it contained.

    Dehlin’s dividing line between prophetic prophesy and personal opinion is when the prophet’s words agree with his liberal leanings. Nate’s dividing line is when the prophet’s words start including the actions of his non-Mormon friends. Either way, they have placed a non-scriptural dividing line where they will simply stop believing.

  55. And Nate, if you think this blog post was offensive and judgmental, then I have words for you: You find the doctrine of Jesus Christ offensive. And that’s something I think you should be concerned about.

  56. Also, many people would say that chastity was one of the central themes of last conference. And two separate talks were given this conference on the issue. While it wasn’t a defining characteristic of the conference, to make it out as “a single paragraph” is to marginalize what was actually two talks on the subject, plus a few more last conference.

    We’re not ignoring all the rest. Nowhere in this blog post did I claim that this was THE message. I was simply responding to a particular claim that I keep hearing everywhere, debunking as absolutely and ridiculously false — a claim that the brethren themselves have felt the need to debunk on at least 7 occasions in the past year.

  57. OK Geoff, there is more to Elder Oaks talk than what I said. But I disagree that the talk was aimed at Gentiles. It was not adressed to them. Yes, he spoke about concern that WE feel because of certain trends out there in the world, but the focus was about how the church must stand strong amid changing trends. Yes, Elder Oaks probably advocates more political action to promote social change among the Gentiles than I would like, but that was NOT the point of the talk. He didn’t mention any political action. I agree with the main point of the talk, which is that we must not have any gods before the true God, and that includes worldly philosophies. I am not ignoring or misconstruing. I understand exactly what Elder Oaks is saying, and I’m saying agree with it, except with a bit of an orientation which encourages what I believe is premature judgement on our part, of those who “have not the Law” as Paul said, and we are not to judge people by our same standards, because they don’t have the same light and knowledge we have. “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 So this is a “scriptural dividing line” not a “non-scriptural” one, as LDSP suggests.

    But I think if we were to sit down at a table together and hash it out, Elder Oaks would pretty much agree with Paul. At other occasions he has advocated a great amount of defference and trust to people who take paths outside of the church, saying we don’t know their situations, and we don’t know the plans God has for them, and we should leave them in God’s hands.

    LDSP, your post was not offensive, and I agree with it. It’s clear that the Law of Chastity is not changing, and I accept that. I also was glad you stated at the top of your post that there was room for disagreement on what this means politically. Probably my comments are not really appropriate for this post, because I’m talking about how this talk engenders certain political stances among members which I disagree with. But you didn’t want to talk about politics.

  58. Nate, here’s where I’m confused: I’m stating that this talk was directed at members. Members like Dehlinites who have given themselves over to other gods and have refused to accept this doctrine. So why are you defending them, saying that they should be left alone in their heresy, as if they weren’t members?

  59. It might make me sound EXTREMELY geeky to say this, but I have always loved it when Elder Oaks speaks. The first time I heard him speak was in a video I had to watch for an ethics class in college.

    Funny thing, it was over another social issue: end of life situations. I LOVED his inspired perspective. My professor, who wasn’t a member, even commented on how out of the other three people on the panel, Elder Oaks had the most enlightened perspective, and I was secretly thrilled.

    I say all that to say that Oaks, much like Packer, just has a way of standing firm and conveying real, true conviction when it comes to reinforcing core doctrine.

    The Law of Chastity isn’t going to change, and I don’t think it ever will, and it shouldn’t. That’s what I love so, so much about the Restored Gospel is just that-it’s restored. This is Christ’s Church, as it was in ancient times. I love the fact that while other Churches are caving to social pressure and trying to twist and bend solid doctrine, such as marriage, our Church, the Lord’s Church, has remained steadfast and immovable on this important doctrine.

    Homosexuality has been judged of God already. Since Biblical and BOM times, God has declared that marriage is an eternal covenant to be made between a man and a woman, and that “no man shall lie with man.”

    I was listening to a talk from the April 2013 General Conference that talked about becoming free from the bondage of our desires of the flesh, of “putting off the natural man.” Satan is jealous of the promises we have when we choose to follow the gospel, and he’s done his very best, since the days of Adam, to distort our perceptions of our bodies and twist what we know to be true to fit and mold into the world.

    Christ taught us that though we live in the world, we should not be of it.

    I have known friends, I’ve had students who are homosexual, and I still love them, no matter what. I have students who are engaged in premarital sex and breaking the Law of Chastity. I still love and care for them no matter what. However, when they bring it up and ask me about my beliefs, I’m just as convicted and steadfast as our leaders. I believe and have faith in what God wants for us, his children.

    It’s the faith piece that always gets me. If God is unchanging, unstoppable, and incomparable, and omniscient, then why would we expect the men he has anointed for his purpose to lead his children astray?

    Should we not have faith in Heavenly Father’s plan?

    If we believe that God is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever, then why would God’s counsel to us about the Law of Chastity change? More than that, if the pattern of God is to hold his children to a higher standard, why would we expect that he’d dial it back and make allowances just to make us comfortable? It is that very need to be comfortable that has led other denominations astray.

    The Gospel should make us think, should make us uncomfortable. When Jesus came, he made people uncomfortable. Sometimes, some truths are uncomfortable, but discomfort isn’t an indication that the truth that we’ve been taught is inherently wrong or flawed just because it doesn’t sit well with us.

    I’m not saying that there’s no room for doubt among the faithful, but I take to heart Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s words when he said “doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs.” I feel like that should be applied here.

    Yes, this life is complicated, and because we are fallible and human, our perception of our sexuality is complicated and too often distorted, but I feel like we as LDS should be united as the Apostles are on our core doctrines. Oaks’ talk was refreshing and affirming because too often ( and I’m speaking for myself), with the stuff I see happening with these teens everyday, it’s affirming.

    These social issues, these contentions, deeply divide and distract us from the message. The Law of Chastity is in place because God wants to protect us. It keeps us from falling into the pit of helplessness. It keeps some of our teenaged girls from making decisions that can often lead to life-changing consequences, or impulsive, desperate decisions. The Law Of Chastity allows for the having of children to be intentional rather than inci- or accidental.

    Aaaaand later that same day, she said, “Great post, LDSP.”

  60. Nate,

    Part of why I think it is so important to convince people about the Law of Chastity is to prevent those married, faithful members from encouraging members like me who experience SSA to set at naught the counsel of God and indulge the natural man. I don’t know how to state more clearly my personal witness that the Law of Chastity as taught by Latter-Day prophets is true and of God. And those who reject that truth for themselves will have to deal with that one day. But those who lead Father’s children astray will be accountable for the pain and suffering they cause.

    Korihor may have allowed himself to be genuinely deceived. He most likely believed in his teachings. But that didn’t absolve him of his guilt.

  61. Although I am not one to normally comment on blogs, I just can’t help it. I cannot believe the lack of charity those who think they are being loving by being tolerant show to those not of our faith. God desires ALL his children to keep his commandments and receive eternal life. Just because I am a member of His church does not mean that I am part of some elite club that deserves the chance to strive for eternal life. Basically you are condemning the Gentiles and saying “they can’t live up to God’s commandments so we shouldn’t make them feel bad.” God desires those with SSA to live with Him again just as He wants all his children to live with him. He gives us law not to make us unhappy, but ultimately to make us happy. When someone teaches a person who struggles with this that they are not able to live the law of chastity, that it is ultimately too hard for them, they are saying, in effect, you aren’t able to strive for eternal life. If you truly love all of God’s children you would desire for them the opportunity to gain eternal life.

  62. LDSP, I was trying to suggest that most Dehlinites are probably living the Law of Chastity themselves, heterosexually married with kids. I just found it sad and ironic that they should be getting bees in their bonnet about a commandment they already obey, simply because they want to be empathetic to the plight of homosexuals. Their empathy is in itself a good thing. Could there a better way to address the issue that doesn’t drive them to Dehlinist activism? My suggestion is to frame the Law of Chastity in monastic, LDS-specific terms, rather than pragmatic assertions loudly announced to everyone. The Law of Chastity is the fourth missionary discussion, and the one approached by the missionaries with the most care and trepidation because they recognize that it’s an extraordinary sacrifice for outsiders to make to become a chaste Mormon. That is the spirit we should approach the Law of Chastity with when we are talking to “those without Law.” We are inviting them, not commanding them: “come follow me, let the dead bury the dead, ours is a strait and narrow way, and few there be who find it.”

    But I thought Kevin L. made a good point, as someone with SSA, he needs fellow members to be strong in their defense of the Law of Chastity, for his sake. Kevin, I admire your commitment, and I recognize your sacrifice is deeper than those who don’t suffer from SSA, and I DO think your sacrifice will be rewarded one hundred-fold: “To the eunuchs who hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters.”

    Collee, I don’t see it as lack of charity, that I don’t judge the Gentiles by the same standards as covenant Saints. Paul says, “Before the Law came, I was free and could not sin. Then when I embraced the Law, sin took hold of me, and I died.” I see the Gentiles as on a different path, one with a different amount of light and knowledge. I’m happy to give them the Law, but only with the proper context and understanding, which, in the case of missionary work, comes at the 4th discussion, after an enormous amount of preparatory doctrine, and many challenges and tests for the investigator to even get that far. Anything else I believe is presumptive and unfair to them.

  63. Geoff and LDSP, I think you both understand where I’m coming from, we just disagree. But I just wanted to say I value what you do here, and I fear I may be seen as sabatoging your efforts, liberal troll that I am. I need to let it go, so I’ll bow out now. Thank you for the engaging discussion on an important but thorny topic.

  64. LDSP, how should faithful LDS deal with close relatives or close friends who are in committed same sex relationships or marriages? Should we avoid them? Should we tell them that we think their relationship is wrong and that they should end it? When they celebrate anniversaries, should we refrain from congratulating them? Or when they adopt a child? When they come to church together as a couple, should the presiding authorities ask them to leave? Should we greet them? Should we make room on the bench so both can sit together? Should we grieve with them when their partner dies? Or if they break up?

  65. DavidH:

    • I don’t see how our baptismal covenants to comfort those who need comfort, to mourn with those that mourn, etc., changes when our family, neighbors, and fellow saints engage in sin.

    • I imagine some situations as very similar to having a family member who drinks. Include them in everything you do, but perhaps don’t allow alcohol in the house. Or perhaps similar to how many LDS parents deal with a college student in a premarital sexual relationship — if they come to stay, the SO sleeps on the couch or at a friend’s. Etc.

    • As far as Church is concerned, I would say it’s entirely up the bishop, but I might welcome them to the meeting, but ask them not to show physical affection in the building (for the sake of setting an example to children), in the same way smokers and drinkers are welcome so long as they don’t smoke or drink on the property.

    • I personally probably wouldn’t attend a same-sex wedding, but I wouldn’t let it change how I treat them on a daily basis.

    • Etc. Etc. But more than anything, pray fervently and follow the Spirit. A lot of common sense, and a lot of spiritual listening and heeding. There are no certain answers for everything. It’s not really up to me to say. But the above are my own take on it.

    Question: Are you asking these questions because you genuinely want to know? Or to try to illustrate how absurd the Church’s teachings are in our day and age? It wasn’t quite clear from your comment.

  66. David H, a very disappointing comment indeed, creating a field of straw men ready for burning. In addition, your comment clearly shows the typical liberal “holier-than-thou” stance where you are righteous and every traditional Mormon is a homophobic neanderthal. If you are truly interested in charity, you would concentrate on the actual point of the post and not ask such loaded, irrelevant questions. The title of the post is “The Law of Chastity is Not Changing.” It quotes nearly all the apostles and prophets on this issue. The post is not about whether Mormons would be willing to sit next to a gay person.

    The Gospel is about having Christ-like love for everybody, including those with same-sex attraction. There may be a time when a post can legitimately deal with some (not all) of your questions. This is not that post.

  67. Geoff, I see that the original post does deal with the law of chastity and not with how we treat one another, including our LGBT brothers and sisters. My apologies. I did not mean to imply that Mormons or others who accept the church’s standard of chastity are homophobic. I was simply trying to discuss the boundaries of how we deal with people in same sex relationships. (I think LDSP answers are a good starting point). But as you point out, that would be better dealt with in a separate thread. Again, I apologize for the threadjack.

  68. Excellent post.

    One small nit:

    “There is a 65% chance that Elder Bednar will eventually become the prophet.”

    I sustained Elder Bednar as a prophet, seer, and revelator just a week ago, and I wasn’t kidding.

    This, of course, only reinforces your point.

  69. Vader:
    As a teacher in college used to say, I think he meant to say/type a “big P ‘prophet’ rather than a little p ‘prophet’.”

    –Iggy

  70. Pingback: General Conference October 2013 | Junior Ganymede

  71. I’m late to this discussion but would like to thank you for this post. I’m personally saddened by the number of friends and family members who think that the Law of Chasity will be modified in the future in order to accommodate the changing will of society. As was stated, it’s a fundamental Mormon doctrine that isn’t going to change once some of the “hard-line” Apostles pass on. As we learn from the endowment session, the Law of Chasity was one of the first commandments given to Adam and Eve.

    It also saddens me to think of all the people will (most likely) leave the church over this. Some comments on this thread have suggested that in 20-30 years we might see lots of members leaving the church once they realize the Law of Chasity isn’t changing. I think it will happen much, much sooner than that. Difficult times are coming for the Church and its faithful members. The persecution of the Church and those who believe and follow the Law of Chasity is only going to get worse–not better. It will be interesting (and sad) to see how many hold fast to the iron rod vs those who join the crowds in the great and spacious building.

  72. Well said. I think some want the church to change because they are afraid of have the world hate them and call them bigots, some who want their own sins justified, and some who have really bought into the world’s ideas rather than the principles of the gospel.

    I would LOVE to see Elder Packer become the next prophet just to give the members in the great and spacious building a collective heart attack.

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