By Michael J Davidson, a sometimes guest blogger at Millennial Star who happens to be active LDS, a husband, father, attorney and genealogy enthusiast.
It is not every day that the Supreme Court of the United States issues an opinion that has such eternal implications as we have in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. I undertook to read the syllabus, opinion of the court and the dissents (103 pages!) thinking that I would possibly write a legal critique of what the court did, but I found that such a critique would likely be similar to those already done. Instead, I thought about the eternal consequences of this decision and found them to be very sobering.
Frankly, a lot of what the Court does really is somewhat insignificant in the timeframe of the gospel, but today’s decision is different. Foreign affairs, healthcare, and housing discrimination are all important topics, to be sure, but they affect items that are very temporal, very temporary, when you take the long view that we should be focused on. There are some truly important things addressed there, but for the most part we won’t look back on the Chevron decision as something that impacted the salvation of souls in the world.
Families, on the other hand, are eternal. Or at least some of them are. In this brave new world, violence is being done to individuals in a manner that will impact these individuals in the eternities. Today’s decision by the Supreme Court gives legal sanction to marriage relationships (and parental relationships) that will not and cannot endure in eternity. With this legal recognition comes an increased level of social acceptance that will result in more individuals engaging in such relationships, and doing so in a manner that is more permanent. In discussing these developments, we need to keep in mind not only of the sinful nature of homosexual behavior, but also of the futile nature of these relationships from an eternal perspective.
It has long been clear from a doctrinal perspective that engaging in homosexual sex is sinful, under any circumstances. This is something the brethren have made abundantly clear, particularly in recent general conference addresses and other public statements. What I haven’t heard as much, though I expect we will hear more of, is that these new family relationships cannot endure in the eternities the way heterosexual marriages can endure.
The Proclamation of the Family could not be more clear. “THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” In 2004, the First Presidency further issued this statement: “As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.”
Elder Perry noted in his last General Conference address, “[w]e want our voice to be heard against all of the counterfeit and alternative lifestyles that try to replace the family organization that God Himself established.” Many decried his use of the term “counterfeit,” but in the eternal view of the gospel, it is appropriate. A marriage between two men, regardless of what the law recognizes it to be, is not a marriage between a man and a woman. Likewise, children raised in such a family are not being reared by a father and a mother. Such a family is an imitation of that form ordained of God, but it is a pale imitation, and essentially counterfeit.
Elder Russell M. Nelson also addressed this matter plainly in his October 2013 General Conference talk: “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…. It is not ours to change.” And just this morning, the Church issued a statement that “The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”
Clearly, there is no reason to think that the doctrine of the family can or will change. As a result, same sex marriages are not and cannot be sealed. Nor can the relationship between homosexual parents with their adoptive children endure in eternity. Such children cannot be “born into the covenant” nor can they be sealed to the legal parents as if they were born into the covenant, because you can’t be sealed to parents who can’t be sealed to each other.
It doesn’t take much thought to understand the ramifications of this. The Supreme Court has now put the stamp of legal recognition and legitimacy on an entirely new class of family relationships which we know, most assuredly, cannot continue past “’til death do you part.” People are now, and will continue in an accelerated manner, to build their entire lives and identities on something that is doomed, and now that it is legal, we will be pressured to recognize it and give equal respect to such relationships.
But we can’t. A civil marriage (or a marriage solemnized in accordance with other religious traditions) has never been the equivalent of a temple sealing. Not even close. However, up until the last few years, pretty much every civil marriage had the potential of growing into a temple sealing at some future time, either in this life or the next. These newly recognized marriages do not have that potential. Likewise, children born into a family solemnized by a civil marriage, historically, could potentially look forward to being sealing to their parents, but this is not going to be the case of those adopted into families headed by homosexual partners.
If we are honest, and we should always strive to be, we cannot recognize same-sex marriages and families headed by same-sex couples as equal to heterosexual marriages and families. They are not, and cannot, be equal. If we put blinders on, and look only to the limited period of this mortal probation, and squint a little, we might be able to get to the point where all of these families start to look the same, a little. But that is to ignore the truth.
If you look at the natural consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision beyond the grave, things become much more stark. Those doing missionary work in the spirit world are going to face an increasing flood of people showing up who lived their entire mortal lives in these new family arrangements. If you thought teaching the law of chastity got a little awkward on your mission, try having to explain to someone that the family they built in mortality is done, while their neighbors have a chance to continue those relationships. Imagine the invective that they will face.
You don’t even need to imagine this in the spirit world, imagine this as your 18 year old son is teaching a married gay couple about the law of chastity.
So what are faithful Latter-day Saints to do? By all means be kind and generous to your friends and neighbors. Treat them as Christ would treat them. In doing so, though, remember to teach your children and those that will listen that the goal isn’t to have a nice family in this life, but to build one for eternity. There are certain ways to do that, but these new family forms recognized by the Supreme Court cannot and will not allow them to meet that goal, no matter how well intentioned.
(Also, when members of your ward, or your facebook friends differ with the Church’s clear teachings on this, keep in mind what Pres. Benson said in the April 1969 General Conference: “Sometimes we hear someone refer to a division in the Church. In reality, the Church is not divided. It simply means that there are some who, for the time being at least, are members of the Church but not in harmony with it. These people have a temporary membership and influence in the Church; but unless they repent, they will be missing when the final membership records are recorded.”)