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.