The eternal consequences of legalizing same sex marriage

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.”)

55 thoughts on “The eternal consequences of legalizing same sex marriage

  1. Michael, do our erstwhile culture war allies know that Elder Nelson does not consider their non-temple heterosexual marriages real either? He has made statements as to the inferiority and non-eternal nature of such marriages many times in conference talks, including as recently as 2014.

  2. “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.”

    And God would do that — tear apart families like that . . . why?

  3. I’m going to have to ask for a reference that Elder Nelson “does not consider … non-temple heterosexual marriages real.” I’ve not heard him say that. If what you are referring to is related to non-temple marriages not be of the same quality and effect as a temple sealing, this is not a secret. That is one of the big reasons we build temples, because temple sealings are better than civil marriages.

  4. Trond, you’re approaching the question backwards. It’s not that He is tearing anything apart. Instead, he’s set forth the grounds on which families can endure eternally. The formula is really quite simple and is available for anyone to follow. If individuals don’t follow His guidance on this, their family connections don’t endure.

  5. Trond
    its a tough truth. Homosexual relationships are not sustainable in mortality or the eternities.

  6. Excellent post, Michael. The sort of thing I wish I had thought to write myself.

    “And God would do that — tear apart families like that . . . why?”

    God tears nothing apart. These relationships come apart after this life because of their inherently flawed nature.

    Furthermore, none of these couples can plausibly claim that their religion has taught them that their relationship can be eternal. The only church teaching that is ours, and ours has never offered sealings to homosexual couples. Can they justly bring a railing accusation against God for breaking a promise that they didn’t ever believe God had extended to them in the first place?

    I believe that some homosexuals who were part of such marriages in this life will repent in the life to come. I am confident God will provide sealing relationships to these couples that are satisfying to them. I do not believe that sealing relationship will be with each other. I believe that, because of the change of heart that will come to them with repentance, they’ll be fine with that.

  7. Elder Nelson repeatedly speaks on this idea that non-temple marriages are not real marriages (though I doubt that our erstwhile culture war allies know that he believes this of the marriages performed in their churches).

    In a General Conference talk in 2008, for example, he took issue with the peace and comfort he observed families taking in obituaries when it was mentioned that so and so has gone on to be with his or her spouse who preceded him or her in death. Not so! says Elder Nelson. “Instead, they opted for a marriage that was valid only as long as they both should live. Heavenly Father had offered them a supernal gift, but they refused it. And in rejecting the gift, they rejected the Giver of the gift. . . . Some marital options are cheap, some are costly, and some are cunningly crafted by the adversary. Beware of his options; they always breed misery! The best choice is a celestial marriage. Thankfully, if a lesser choice has previously been made, a choice can now be made to upgrade it to the best choice.”

    Do our culture war allies know that Elder Nelson thinks this of their marriages, performed in their churches? They are cheap counterfeits of Mormon temple marriage?

    Also, are we so sure that not being married in the temple means that, contrary to what Christians have believed for thousands of years, they will not join their loved ones in death? Sealing can mean something above and beyond this. And we don’t have to so abruptly destroy the hope and love that so many people have for their departed loved ones, trying to guilt and manipulating them through such a scare tactic into getting married in the temple.

    The point is that this particular interpretation of issues relating to sealing does NOT have to lead to the idea that people who are not temple married Mormons will not join their loved ones in death. Why do we choose to adopt and perpetuate that particular interpretation? It doesn’t speak well of us.

  8. There’s a flaw in the logic here. The assumption is that it’s worse for a gay couple to be happy here because the relationship will be torn asunder after death. But since the only provided choice is no relationship at all not a fulfilling married relationship (unless someone figures out how to engineer the biology) this isn’t terribly persuasive to the people who don’t already agree with you.

    The only way this logic works is if sexuality is entirely a free and active choice. But certainly for many people it’s not. In which case the underlying problem is what solutions to offer them. Right now all that’s offered is a life of celibacy. Frankly it’s rather understandable why people don’t leap in glee at that choice.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s much else to say given what’s been revealed. However we should at least acknowledge the nature of the problem and be forthright about it.

    The way most approach this is by denying the biology, which is even more pronounced with many trans people. (Say people born with both sexual organs and presumably similar brain development where doctors arbitrarily pick a sex for them)

    Again there are no good answers but let’s not be ostriches putting our heads in the sand and pretending there aren’t real issues here.

  9. To add, based upon what’s been revealed, I agree that such relationships won’t persist. I’m not arguing against the doctrine. Just that the responses are quite alienating to the people you appear to be trying to persuade.

    Put simply, if you don’t have a better solution than what people are choosing don’t be surprised they aren’t persuaded.

  10. “Right now all that’s offered is a life of celibacy.”

    We haven’t just been offering them a life of celibacy but also a life of persecution and discrimination. Attempts to change their orientation through electric shock therapy. Up until only the last few years, it’s been permissible and common to fire them simply for having been born gay. Deny them housing. We have done this. Mormons and Christians and other religious believers, throughout our entire history as a nation and in other nations.

    Is it any wonder that gay people are vigorously asserting their rights at this time, and don’t believe us or trust us about our supposedly good intentions toward them?

  11. Trond, Elder Nelson’s remarks in 2008 doesn’t call into question the reality of a marriage solemnized outside of the temple, it just recognizes the limitations of such a marriage. Additionally, sealing does mean something above and beyond this merely the perpetuation of family relationships. If realized, that blessing is tied to exaltation in the Kingdom of God, with all that this entails.

  12. Yes, THAT is what sealing means. It does NOT mean that people who aren’t sealed will never see their loved ones against after this life. The fact that we’ve made it into meaning that doesn’t speak well of us. The sealing doctrine is true but the fact that we explain it that way reveals that we wish to manipulate people through the most sad situations they’ll find themselves in (the death of a loved one) to get married in the temple.

    And, yes, calling their marriages a cheap counterfeit is tantamount to saying they aren’t real marriages, compared to Mormon temple marriages, which are the only real thing.

  13. Trond, I don’t recall anyone saying that if two people aren’t sealed they won’t ever see each other again after death. No one has said that. What has been said is that the familial relationship will not endure. How that plays out practically is unknown, or at least unknown to me. What is clear, is that there will be a very distinct difference between families sealed for time and all eternity and those that will not be.

    In the end, this is the most destructive and violent aspect to gay marriage. There is simply no way to continue that familial relationship in the next life in the way enjoyed by a family sealed in the temple which endures to the end. Even if you ignore the sinful aspects of the homosexual lifestyle, simply making the choice to enter a homosexual marriage and foregoing one that can be eternal, is damning.

  14. Clark, I daresay that people who don’t believe in the Mormon view of the afterlife aren’t going to agree with much about Michael’s post.

    Fundamentally, either you believe that gay people who abide by the Law of Chastity can look forward to being fully healed and receiving an opportunity for a celestial marriage in the hereafter–or you don’t.

    A person who believes that, and believes life can be happy and fulfilling even without the sort of sexual relationship one is currently hard-wired to want, can find consolation and renewed resolve in Michael’s explanations. A person who rejects that view of the hereafter, and buys into Babylon’s view of sex as a sine qua non for any sort of meaning in life, will find no compelling reason to be a Mormon.

    It really is that (depressingly) simple.

  15. Clark said:

    “There’s a flaw in the logic here. The assumption is that it’s worse for a gay couple to be happy here because the relationship will be torn asunder after death. But since the only provided choice is no relationship at all not a fulfilling married relationship (unless someone figures out how to engineer the biology) this isn’t terribly persuasive to the people who don’t already agree with you.”

    There’s a flaw in your logic here that is a bit more glaring. It’s a false choice to say that a gay couple can either be happy and fulfilled here or have no relationship. I tend to agree with Alma that wickedness never was happiness. One can’t believe LDS doctrine and conclude that anyone living in a same-sex marriage today will stand at the judgment bar of God tomorrow and say that they made the right choice.

    If being persuasive requires not being honest about the implications of the doctrine of families, I don’t think I’ll have any part of it. And there’s no avoiding it. Sooner or later, any self-identifying LGBT person investigating the Church will have to wrestle with this issue.

    Clark said:

    “However we should at least acknowledge the nature of the problem and be forthright about it.”

    This is exactly the point of this post. And I disagree that there are no good answers. The answers are clear and they are good. Just because some people don’t like them and the world condemns them doesn’t change this.

  16. “… 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.” ”

    This is the critical take away. The Church is saddened by the outcome, but it will not make any difference for doctrine. Practice will have to be fine tuned – much like it already has been in countries where either homosexual marriages already exist, or in countries where civil marriage ceremonies are required prior to religious ones.

    We will continue to do what we always should have been doing – make the best effort to follow the Spirit when talking to our non-member friends (and member friends as well) in an attempt to positively influence their lives.

    Regarding the eternities I suspect (JMO here) that what happens to non-sealed relationships (of whatever type, where the long term Gospel option is rejected) is that they cannot continue on to become exalted partners in creation. Does that mean they can’t “hang out” with each other? I doubt it. It is just that it would be only that: “hanging out” – not progressing on to exaltation as an eternal unit. Resurrected bodies nature and abilities are apparently very different between the Kingdoms, and different even within the Celestial Kingdom. Anyone who does not make it to the highest degree within the Celestial Kingdom is not going to have an eternal exalted marriage relationship. But that does not logically imply they will not recognize their life partner(s) and that they can’t establish some type of ongoing relationship with them. It is just that the nature of the relationship’s potential is limited by the capabilities/nature of their resurrected bodies.

  17. Clark, I am struggling with your comment:

    “There’s a flaw in the logic here. The assumption is that it’s worse for a gay couple to be happy here because the relationship will be torn asunder after death. But since the only provided choice is no relationship at all not a fulfilling married relationship (unless someone figures out how to engineer the biology) this isn’t terribly persuasive to the people who don’t already agree with you.”

    Happiness does not depend 100 percent on having sex. If it did, then God would be perpetuating a cruel hoax on the significant percentage of the population who is 1)not interested in sex at all for a variety of reasons 2)older and no longer able to have sex 3)injured and/or disabled and unable to have sex, etc, etc. The only illogic I see is to claim that all happy relationships need to be sexual. It is a sign of our times that an intelligent person like Clark would not even consider the possibility that people can be happy without having sex with each other.

    Jesus “loved” his male disciples. He did not have sex with them. The Church has no problem with two people of the same sex living together in a relationship of friendship as long as their relationship is not sexual. It is only our sick and twisted culture that believes everything must be about sex.

    So, in the eternities there will be faithful heterosexual latter-day Saints who were unmarried for a variety of reasons beyond their control. They are counseled not to have sex outside of marriage, and their happiness in the eternities will be greater if they follow this counsel. The same thing applies to people with same-sex attraction. I am confident that a loving God will provide joy to all people who try to follow his commandments. He is aware of all of our challenges. Yet the counsel remains the same for all of us: sexual activity only in marriage between a man and a woman. This is a difficult commandment for many people, including those with and without same-sex attraction, but it is a consistent commandment nevertheless.

  18. You end with that quote from the then-Elder Benson and I’m curious if you are familiar with the complete talk, some of which has not held up to modern church policy and practice. I’d argue that in view of the comments from apostles today that this quote in this framing does not hold up either in the ever-growing call for respect and civility regarding this issue.

  19. Frankly, I read that talk last night, and it struck me as particularly appropriate on this topic and a couple of others. When one considers that the Church’s position on gay marriage and homosexual relations is abundantly clear, one cannot say that they can support gay marriage and be on the same side of the question as the Church. There is no divide in the Church on this question. Instead, there are some members of record within the Church who disagree with the doctrines of the Church on this matter. I think then Elder Benson (who was sustained in that conference as a prophet, seer and revelator) gives a warning that is still relevant today and should be headed by those who stand apart from the Church on this issue and others.

  20. Few points. First, if the church doesn’t publish a controversial talk there’s usually a reason. Especially if parts of the talk contradict church doctrine or practice. I have a strong testimony of Pres. Benson as a prophet but it’s also clear he had some views that were his own, however passionately held.

    Geoff (5:41) You are right that happiness does not hinge fully on sex. However to deny that something significant is being cut off from a group of people that is essential to most people’s happiness is to be in denial. That says nothing about the doctrines of the church. But let’s at least be honest here. If you honestly think that asking people to be celibate doesn’t involve sacrifice and a measure of unhappiness then I think you need to reconsider. It may well be what is asked. No one said we’d necessarily be happy here nor that the commandments will bring immediate happiness. Often they demand sacrifice and at best the hope of future happiness.

    The counsel remains the same, I fully agree. However let’s at least be honest about why it makes people unhappy in the here and now.

    Very little to almost nothing is revealed about the next life. Nor is it revealed why so many suffer here on earth. To deny their suffering though seems wrong. And I’m not just talking about sexual issues – there is a lot of suffering here in this life along numerous lines. Indeed we are fortunate living when we do with the wealth we have. A great percentage of people’s lives through most of the earth’s history has been degrees of misery – typically without even the hope the gospel gives.

    Michael (4:57) “There’s a flaw in your logic here that is a bit more glaring. It’s a false choice to say that a gay couple can either be happy and fulfilled here or have no relationship. I tend to agree with Alma that wickedness never was happiness.”

    The answer is there are degrees of unhappiness. The question isn’t being fully happy with the fulness of the blessing you have. That is cut off from them and we have no answer for why. The question then is what will make them happiest in this life. However that is quite different from asking what sacrifices (leading to degrees of unhappiness) with the hope of happiness in the next life.

    “And I disagree that there are no good answers. The answers are clear and they are good. Just because some people don’t like them and the world condemns them doesn’t change this.”

    It’s akin to the answer of why someone might be born as a slave in 1855 Alabama to spend most of their life being raped and tortured. We might have an answer, but we should at least be honest it isn’t a good answer.

    What doctrines we have are clear and simple. That they answer the problems people ask also seems quite clearly to not be the case. We have faith there are answers for the suffering in this world. When we pretend to have answers for why individuals aren’t not given the types of experiences other receive I think we err or worse.

    Let’s be honest we don’t have all the answers and that there is much about this life we don’t understand. We don’t understand why so many are born into horrible circumstances, beyond the answer of free will which goes only so far. It doesn’t answer disease, pestilence, and all the other tragedies which have until fairly recently afflicted so much of the human race. It also doesn’t explain why we have the social structures we have or the biological instincts we do as humans. There are answers for these questions, but I rather doubt we’ll have them in this life.

    I truly believe the gospel will make most people much happier in this life here and now. But I think we err when we assume it’s simple and happy for all.

  21. Trond (4:29) I think the church has always been clear that a temple marriage is the ideal. Not sure why you think this is shocking. It’s not just Elder Nelson who has said this. It’s a pretty major doctrine. Indeed unless it’s changed recently if you marry outside of the temple when it’s possible to be married within, you have to wait a year to be sealed. (Things are different in some countries where a civil marriage has to be done first – the church bows to the legal requirements in those cases)

    I don’t think calling civil marriages or marriages done by other religions “not real” is the best rhetoric. But in terms of the saving ordinances of the gospel they don’t count obviously.

  22. Clark – doesn’t have any conference talks prior to April 1971, and they have all of the talks after that. This happens to coincide with when General Conference reports started being published in the Ensign. I don’t know why they don’t have anything from earlier than that at However, I was able to get the pdf in question from a Church site, if that makes you feel better.

    As for the happiness question, if you take a narrow view that includes only the present, and don’t account for the horrible violence done to one’s soul by repeatedly engaging in activities that constitute serious sin, I can see how living a life as a sexually active homosexual might increase one’s happiness. But that is an awfully narrow view and requires one to be willfully ignorant of some pretty big gospel principles.

    In saying this, I don’t say that choosing the right in these situations would be easy. There will likely be frustrations and confusion. I have frustrations and confusions that arise from my own weaknesses and sins. But momentary giddyness and pleasure that one may derive from a sinful activity is never worth it. The consequences always outweigh whatever “happiness” the sinner may think that they are deriving from the sin. To say otherwise is to deny basic doctrine. The fact that there are a lot of people who don’t understand this or accept this doesn’t have any effect on its truth. Nor do we do any favors to those who disagree by neglecting to be honest with them about the truth.

    “I truly believe the gospel will make most people much happier in this life here and now. But I think we err when we assume it’s simple and happy for all.” I must be missing something, because it seems like you are saying that the Gospel isn’t for everyone. It seems that you are suggesting that some people are better off without the gospel and the atonement in their lives. Who might these folks be, I wonder?

  23. Clark, there are no conference talks on before 1971. The talk was published in the applicable conference report as normal (an image of which is what Michael linked to). I haven’t read it, and I’m not claiming it’s pure revelation, but your implication that the church has disavowed it is, as far as I can tell, false.

  24. One doesn’t have to go to relatively obscure conference talks to understand that “covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise… are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.” See D&C 132:7.

    It was this matter of the New and Everlasting Covenant that resulted in Joseph Smith’s death. If killing the LDS prophet wasn’t enough to change this doctrine, I don’t know that other measures will succeed.

    Regarding the OP comment about Church division, I would agree that members who “dissent” are merely showing that they are part of the ablative layer of the mortal Church, prone to separate when the heat becomes too great.

    Ironically, the LDS faith is the only Church with a doctrine that embraces even such ablative individuals as potentially able to enjoy all the blessings of eternity, due to post-mortal repentance.

    Instead, the Church that remains after the ablative layer has departed represents those who are powerfully committed to the gospel, like the soldiers of Gideon who both wanted to fight (didn’t take up the offer to depart without prejudice) and were wise in the ways of war (didn’t stick their faces in the river to drink, supported on all fours like animals).

    We teach our children of the Army of Helaman. Do we remember that the unbelievers had attacked the families of those stripling soldiers, killing their fathers? Yet it was not revenge that fueled their bravery, it was faith and compassion.

    Let us love our enemies, love the ablative who depart, love those insufficiently able to stand as witnesses. But in all our loving, let us love God first and foremost, and let our compassion be God’s compassion, not the false compassion of man.

  25. I don’t mean to thread-jack here, but many states already have removed any reference to gender from marriage licenses and certificates, and others plan to do so in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling. With no means to definitively identify from the record which party is male and which party is female, there will be no means to determine whether the marriage involved a man and a woman, involved two men, or involved two women. A generation from now, once the parties of these same-gender marriages begin to die and the Church begins to extract names from these public records for proxy ordinances in the temple, there will be no way to prevent the proxy sealing of same-gender marriages, as many given names these days can be used by either gender. Of course, we can comfort ourselves with knowing that God will work out any mistakes in the eternities, but we are not talking about a relatively short list of individual record keeping or procedural errors for God to fix. We are being asked to valiantly defend the integrity of traditional marriage among the living, but just look the other way with regards to same-gender sealing ordinances for the eternities. I fear the cognitive dissonance will be too great to bear for many of the most devout.

  26. However modern peoples are not so undocumented that one is left to infer gender merely from the information on a particular government document.

    On the other hand, we already have the “cognitive dissonance” created by the practice of sealing both men and women to all possible spousal partners, which has led some to presume that there will be ceremonial polyamory in Heaven.

    As the generations now marrying with vague licenses pass away, I suspect we will see more emphasis on people doing genealogy for those to whom they are directly related. And thus it will be relatively unlikely that it will remain unclear which marriages were between same-gendered individuals and which were between opposite-gendered individuals.

    Further, what if the Church performs posthumous sealings between deceased same-gendered couples? Such performances can only be valid when the people on the other side take upon themselves the fullness of obedience to God. If in that day it turns out that God permits same-gendered couples to bring forth spirit children, then all is good. If it turns out that God only permits opposite gendered couples to bring forth spirit children, then those who truly wish to serve God will do whatever it takes to perform that service.

  27. I have done a post on this already and have more comments in mind, but I don’t see the future problem as identifying if a “married” couple are same or different gendered. Most names will give that away and perhaps only one percent of the three percent who make up the particular community will actually file with the state. This is more a “moral” (in their eyes) and economic victory than an actual rights one.

    A much larger problem is the number of people who elect not to get married or end up just living together. No state court or Church records will exist for these people other than as unconnected individuals. There might end up a greater focus in the future to seal children to parents rather than couples; with guess work for marriageable sealings having to connect loose dots. From my perspective, I see the SC ruling devaluing state marriage even more that it already has. Since marriage is now for love as the highest reasoning way beyond any others, those less inclined will not be inclined at all. The religious will start to see it as a scam perpetuated by an earthly government and simply go the Church without any license required. Those number of those who would not have gotten married no matter what will grow with the reasoning that if marriage is for everyone than there is no reason to get married by anyone. The point is that confusion will actually be replaced by lack of documentation.

  28. A generation from now, once the parties of these same-gender marriages begin to die and the Church begins to extract names from these public records for proxy ordinances in the temple, there will be no way to prevent the proxy sealing of same-gender marriages, as many given names these days can be used by either gender. Of course, we can comfort ourselves with knowing that God will work out any mistakes in the eternities, but we are not talking about a relatively short list of individual record keeping or procedural errors for God to fix. We are being asked to valiantly defend the integrity of traditional marriage among the living, but just look the other way with regards to same-gender sealing ordinances for the eternities. I fear the cognitive dissonance will be too great to bear for many of the most devout.

    Richard_K, your concern is touching, but I wouldn’t worry too much. As I’m sure you, a devout and orthodox Mormon, are aware; when names are submitted for temple work one also has to specifically identify the person’s gender–and their names are then printed on corresponding blue or pink cards.

    Might we get one wrong occasionally? Sure. I remember hearing about one memorable case where a good Church member, in the course of her genealogical research, found the name “Bessie” inscribed on the flyleaf of an old family Bible in which other family members were named. This good sister had Bessie and her siblings sealed to the parents named on the flyleaf–not learning until years later that Bessie was actually the family milk cow.

    And yet–miraculously–I feel absolutely no cognitive dissonance over the Church’s steadfast refusal to allow cows into its temples.

  29. Explanation: I am the father of this author

    The ruling on gay marriage would not have occurred if marriage had been always held in high regard.

    Marriage between man and woman is ordained of God. We must not trifle with this.

    Yet, marriage has not been respected by heterosexuals. They have wedded, but fornication and adultery have been widely practiced in the United States through most of its existence.

    Marriage is not respected if it is not held out as the only environment for sexual intimacy.

    Sins of the parents have an effect on the children for generations leading to further decadence.

    Our nation’s sins have brought us to where we are now.

  30. Michael (7:30) I think you are completely right here. Had traditional views of marriage continued to dominate our culture this decision would never have happened. Society’s views changed rapidly the past 15 years and this is almost the inevitable result.

    As for fornication and adultery, sadly that’s been rather common throughout the history of the country. The number of people who respect marriage in practice has never been as large as it should have been. But at least people paid lip service to the idea which has changed a fair bit. That said, if there is a silver lining it is that perhaps this will get people to pay more attention to marriage.

    Meg (12:00) Well said. I think sealings will unavoidably be a mess just due to the limited information and human fallibility. Presumably a lot will have to be fixed in the millennium – and that ignores the problems of one person accepting the gospel and an other not thereby requiring new sealings.

    Michael (10:53) I think I was rather clear I was talking about happiness and unhappiness in mortality. Again to be abundantly clear I’m not questioning the doctrine at all. I am questioning the idea some have that following the commandments necessarily leads to happiness here and now. That’s simply not the case and one needn’t look far in the scriptures to see that. (Think Jacob 7:26 if nothing else) When we adopt a view that neglects the very real sacrifices and unhappiness that is asked of some and dismiss it, I think we do more than merely err. I think we lack charity. That doesn’t mean the revelations aren’t what they are. What God commands, God commands. And often he asks things that are overwhelming sacrifices. (Think of what Christ was asked to suffer his last week – or for that matter Joseph Smith) But we should keep in mind the situation at hand. I rather suspect many dismissing these might themselves fall away were the same thing asked of them.


    Replace “same sex” with “mixed race” and you will see where the church is on this issue. The leaders of the church were explicit in their condemnation of mixed race marriage. All the same language that is used now (abomination, perversion, sinful) was used to describe mixed race marriage as well. Finally, after realizing the absolute bigotry of their position, church leaders changed their stance. As with polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and the Book of Abraham. Its a house of cards, but filled with the best and nicest people. It’s heartbreaking.

  32. Hi Callie, thanks for swinging by and contributing to this discussion. I am sure that you have a rudimentary understanding of human biology, so I won’t belabor the point. However, there are enormous biological and doctrinal flaws in your argument. Aside from the birds and the bees, and underlying reasons for those two positions are completely unrelated. As I understand it, a big reason why individuals were counseled against certain interracial relationships had more to do with whether such marriages could be solemnity in the temple and whether the children of such marriages could enjoy the blessings of the temple. With that obstacle gone, the rest of it fell into place. This is not the case for the same set marriage.

    Or, are you trying to argue that anything that had previously been called an abomination will eventually be kosher?

  33. “…whether such marriages could be solemni[zed] in the temple and whether the children of such marriages could enjoy the blessings of the temple. With that obstacle gone, the rest of it fell into place. This is not the case for the same set marriage.”

    Your post proves my point. This ^ also was not the case for mixed race marriage when the GAs were condemning and shaming those marriages. Is it possible that the church may come to accept and even perform same sex marriages and sealings?

    As for your second post, there is absolutely precedent in the church for things that were “abominations” to be made kosher. And things that were kosher to be made into sins (polygamy, WoWisdom).

  34. Brigham Young:
    “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

  35. “Is it possible that the church may come to accept and even perform same sex marriages and sealings?” I suppose anything it possible, even the most highly improbable things, and this would certainly apply. But not everything that is possible will happen.

    However, I suspect that further discussion with you will be unfruitful. You see, we see the Church entirely differently. Where you see a house of cards, I see the Kingdom of God on the earth. You’re certainly free to have your opinion on this, but it doesn’t really give you much common ground with most of the folks here. Most of those that disagree with aspects of my original post at least accept that there is Truth (with an intentional capital T) in the Church, while you clearly do not. Of course you would expect that the Church would be swayed by seeming groundswell in support of gay marriage, you think it is all a lie anyway and they we are all nice, but deluded, folks.

    I more than believe that the opposite is actually true, and that God is at the helm of this great work. But the time will come, sooner or later, when we will see who is right and who is sorry. In the meantime, I hope you have peace and can find something more productive to do than to come here and call us “the best and nicest people” while concurrently calling us a bunch of rubes and bigots.

    I do have to wonder about what motivates you to come here and engage on this point. If the goal of the HRC and its allies was simply to put gay relationships on an equal legal footing with all other marriages, congratulations. You’ve won. But you don’t seem satisfied, and seem completely intolerant of someone holding a religious belief that is at variance with your sensitivities. Is it OK with you if someone disagrees with you on the eternal consequences of gay marriage? If so, why do you come here to yell, “I AM SO SICK OF THIS!” If not, why am I not to be afforded a right to my own religious convictions?

  36. Callie, obviously one can never definitively say what will or won’t happen in a church led by modern revelation. It’s like the third quarter of a basketball game where the fans of the team that’s down by ten points keep singing “we will rock you”–all the other team can really do is shrug, point to the scoreboard, and say, “I guess we’ll see”.

    That said: I think the institutional church has entrenched into the gay-sex-as-sin position far more deeply than it ever did on race relations–the priesthood ban always had a theological expiration date; we just didn’t know what that date would be; whereas exaltation as a male-female(s) partnership is pretty integral to our view of the hereafter.

    Incidentally: polygamy is not currently a sin (and never has been); unauthorized polygamy is a sin (and always has been). And the WoW is merely a new covenant–the violation of which is a sin for the sake of the covenant, not because the underlying activity is bad per se (there was nothing inherently wrong with cutting one’s hair in Old Testament times, unless one had taken a Nazarite’s vow).

  37. Polygamy today will get you excommunicated.
    Not observing the W of W will now disqualify you from a temple recommend, even though it wasn’t followed by all church leaders for decades after it’s introduction.
    Members were excommunicated within months of the priesthood change specifically because they were advocating for that very change.
    As a church, the church has every right to these policies. Call it “sin” or something else, the fact is that church leaders change their stance and church policy. It does happen and it will invariable happen again for one thing or another.

  38. Michael Davidson: you assume too much. I am currently RS president. My husband serves as counselor in the bishopric. We and our children are as active as can be, we have common ground with all who love the church. How can you assume I don’t think there is Truth in the church? Is it because I referenced facts (polygamy, mixed race marriage, Book of Abraham, Blacks & Priesthood, etc) about the church that show precedent for change and error in the church? Brigham Young said “death on the spot. This will always be so.” He said that and he meant it. And we can all agree that he was wrong. The mental gymnastics we go through to justify some of our history is what makes this a house of cards.

    Why did I post a comment? My heart is breaking as I see members double down on this issue with language that is alienating and divisive, and with behavior that, in my opinion, will cause sorrow both now and later. Do you really not see that people said the same things you say in your essay about Blacks getting the priesthood? And about mixed-race marriage? I am posting because we should all take a step back and try for Christlike love for others. Let’s not have anymore “death on the spot” type statements, or “same-sex marriages and families are not, and cannot, be equal”. If we believe in modern revelation, we should be open-minded and less condemning.

    And finally. “we will see who is right and who is sorry”? Really?

  39. I find it interesting that someone who is “as active as can be” would describe the Church as a house of cards and would make the statements that you make in your comments above. There is a disconnect there, and that is specifically the reason I included the quote from Ezra Taft Benson above. It seems clear to me that you don’t understand the doctrine, as noted by JimD above, and you have severely misunderstood the Church essays if you think that there is any grounds to your assertion that the Church has admitted that the Book of Abraham is anything other than what it is stated to be. I assumed that you were not a faithful member of the Church based on these items and the others mentioned above. The fact that you represent yourself to be a currently serving Relief Society president does nothing to change my mind on this point and is merely an appeal to authority. I have no way to know whether you are being truthful, nor do I care frankly. My interpretation of your comments led me to believe that you have more in common with John Dehlin and Jeremy Runnells than David Bednar or Dieter Uchtdorf, notwithstanding your claimed calling and status in the Church.

    If you are to be taken at your word, then, you are simply ark-steadying. Did you make similar critiques of Elder Perry’s last General Conference address? What was your opinion of Elder Oaks and Elder Christofferson’s comments in January and March regarding the Church’s continued position that homosexual relations are sinful and a violation of the law of chastity, regardless of whether or not the state puts a stamp of legitimacy on it? What about the statement released by the Church in response to the Supreme Court ruling? You lambaste members for “doubling down” on this issue, but we are only reiterating the doctrine as it has been pronounced by them who carry the divine responsibility of doing so, and the purpose of the original post was to give reasons why it is still important to talk about this issue despite the seemingly insurmountable legal setback.

    In short, you’ve declared your faithfulness and made it an issue in your argument. Since you raised the issue, I ask in return:

    Do you believe that polygamy was commanded of God to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young?

    Do you believe that the Book of Abraham is what it claims to be, and what the Church describes it to be?

    Do you believe that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers and revelators guiding the Church under divine guidance?

    Do you believe that the Family Proclamation was written under divine influence and accurately represents the doctrine on the family?

  40. You are right: there is a major disconnect between my calling and church activity and my level of faith.

    I love the church with all my heart. I want it to be true. I have a deep desire to serve. My bishop knows my many concerns and still extended the calling. It’s been such a rewarding calling! I love the women of my ward, I love their families, I love their efforts to be compassionate. I have been so blessed and uplifted by this calling, despite the sad and sometimes terrible things that happen in families.

    I have been studying church history, mostly from sources at and BYU, along with other sources that are even handed. I have a bachelors in science and a masters in business and I have zero tolerance for conspiracy theories, faulty research, or poor logic, so that rules out most anti-mormon literature. This study has been rewarding and torturous. I’ve learned so many amazing things about our church history, doctrine, and scripture. I’ve done this to confirm and grow my testimony. Instead, I am struggling. I’m devastated by things I have learned and I can’t unlearn them. I’ve prayed and studied and done all the steps and there is no confirmation for me. I know God is real, his Son, and the Holy Ghost, but I have no feeling whatsoever about Joseph Smith. I believe the gospel of Christ as taught by Christ and his disciples in the new testament. I love the Book of Mormon, and I don’t know how to reconcile that with the very real evidence that it is very likely plagiarized fiction! That is devastating.

    I don’t believe polygamy was ever directed by God. I have learned so much about how polygamy was practiced by church leaders and I can no longer suspend my shock and disbelief about that period of our history. I don’t know if God intended Blacks to be banned from the priesthood, but I’m not willing to take something so hurtful and exclusionary on faith. I have read letters and documents from church archives hoping to find some reassurance that I misunderstood these things, but I didnt.

    I don’t believe the Book of Abraham is anything other than a standard funerary scroll. Which doesn’t mean that the words in BofA aren’t inspired. But the scroll itself is not what the church has represented it to be.

    Yes, I think the proclamation accurately represents the church’s view of marriage and family. I don’t know if it was divinely inspired. I doubt that it’s an intentional fabrication. I do want every child to grow up in a home with a mom and dad and siblings and the best odds for a happy and meaningful life. I also believe God knows and loves gay people and I don’t think they are broken or damaged. I have no right answer on this issue.

    I hope that the first presidency are led by God. I want them to be. I want it all to be true and right. I still pray for a positive feeling about these things. I have tried so hard! Seven years of trying to increase my faith. Is it possible, to do it by the book–study, ponder, live a worthy life, attend the temple, serve faithfully in a calling, pay tithing, and most of all, pray–and I have no confirmation. I feel the spirit but not in regards to these things.

    I am at church every Sunday, trying. My children pass the sacrament and get baptized and speak in sacrament meeting with talks that I help them write. My husband struggles similarly and turned down a calling in leadership because of his concern about misrepresenting his faith, and when he went to his parents for advice they shouted over the phone at him for his lack of faith. They haven’t seen this good man reading and studying and crying with me. They should applaud his integrity.

    I don’t know where to go or what to do. I love our church so much. But I don’t want my children to believe that God sent an angel with a sword to make Joseph marry a teenager against her will. I’m okay if they know the story and understand that it’s an ugly, wrong moment in the history. But not okay if they are taught that it’s true, and that they should do the same if they are ever in that situation.

    Our families will be devastated if we leave or become inactive. Our children will be taught insincerity and lack of integrity if we continue to participate in something we aren’t sure is right. Torn is an understatement. It feels like a crisis.

    There’s my lengthy response. you are right that there’s a disconnect between my calling and my faith. It’s been the most heartache inducing experience.

  41. Hi callie,

    Thank you for your service on the behalf of the families in your ward.

    I take it you have not read my series on Joseph Smith (titled A Faithful Joseph). The series doesn’t ask you to unlearn anything, but gives additional information that puts the facts into context and does, in fact, challenge the common presumption that Joseph was motivated by a desire for sex with more than Emma. I personally think it is plausible that he didn’t actually have sex with anyone other than Emma, and even his sexuality with Emma was highly limited (as would be appropriate for a “temperance man” of that era, where sexual excess, even within marriage, was considered a cause for such diseases as cholera.

    Consider that there was not reliable birth control. Consider that there are no children who can be proved to have been engendered by Joseph Smith other than those conceived by Emma Hale [Smith]. Consider further that there are no children who can be proved to have been engendered by any other upright Mormon man on a polygamous wife until the spring of 1843, when only two of the dozens of such upright polygamous men engendered a child apiece with their respective plural wives. And we know that in one of those cases (William Clayton) the man was told he risked excommunication for having engendered the child.

    We are told to cry repentance to this generation. In the Old Testament, the words translated repent and repentance refer to returning and being gathered in. The word translated repent and repentance in the New Testament refers to re-thinking a matter. So even though the etymology of the word in English is debated, it is clear that the original documents asked us to re-think, to turn again to God, to allow ourselves to be gathered into His loving arms.

    Thus it is not so much that I and others are wanting to punish folks for their sins. Rather that their thoughts are not consistent with God’s teachings, and their incorrect thoughts lead them to act in ways that are contrary to God’s will, in ways that make them flee the arms of His love and reject the prophets who He has sent.

    I notice that you came to this post to complain, yet no one comments on my Personal Progress posts, where similar themes are explored (in the readings associated with the different value experiences).

    All the best in your walk with God. If you would be interested in converesing with me about the things you can’t unlearn, feel free to e-mail me at stoutmtc at gmail dot com.

  42. Callie, if your low level of faith is what you demonstrate here, I would in all sincerity hope that you would consider following your husband and rethink the position of Relief Society President. I believe there is a difference between supporting a law of the land for the whole of Gentiles (no matter how much I personally disagree with it) and believing the Church will eventually follow in Babylon and especially hoping it will. Personally, I don’t care what the Bishop thinks of your concerns. My own criticism is if those under you know your positions and low level of faith? After all, they put trust in you that you don’t allow for the Church leadership above your own position.

  43. It does happen and it will invariable happen again for one thing or another.

    As Michael Davidson says–the fact that something is theoretically possible does not make that thing likely. For the same reasons you cite it is theoretically possible that God will someday authorize baptism by sprinkling, or chicken-sacrifice as part of the sacramental rite, or re-institute polygamy. But we don’t have large cadres of Mormons who feel the need to point out that our current practices on any of these issues are subject to imminent reversal. Why the difference? Fundamentally, because no one decided at the outset that they wanted these things to happen, and then engaged in a results-oriented theory of revelation and theology to explain why the Church should accede to those practices.

    By the way–you might want to consider some of the loaded language that is often used in discussing concerns such as yours. For example: what teenager did Joseph persuade to marry him “against her will”? In point of historical fact: There wasn’t one. Now, Joseph did cite the angel-with-the-drawn-sword story in proposing to the (not teenaged) Zina Huntington Jacobs, who had earlier rejected him. Zina, thereafter, engaged in a great deal of soul-searching, obtained her own testimony of the injunction, married Joseph, lived to a ripe old age, became a giant in her civic and spiritual community–and stood by the decision to marry Joseph, for the rest of her life. To suggest that Zina was some shrinking-violet-pushover who married Joseph “against her will”, is to deny the validity of her own spiritual experience and to make dark hints about every marriage in which a woman first rejected, than accepted her husband’s proposal.

    I would respectfully suggest that perhaps It is not history, but historical interpretation–maybe in conjunction with a predisposition to reject the Church’s moral authority on some particular issue–that leads you to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was a creep. I’ll reconsider my prejudices, if you reconsider yours. 🙂

  44. Callie, thank you for being honest about your situation and thank you for your service in the Church. I agree with Meg that her series on a Faithful Joseph is an excellent resource for those with questions about polygamy. I’m hoping it finds it’s way into book form. I concur whole-heartedly with her sentiments above.

  45. “I love the Book of Mormon, and I don’t know how to reconcile that with the very real evidence that it is very likely plagiarized fiction! That is devastating.”

    Hi Callie,

    The only way to know about whether the Book of Mormon is true or not is to pray about it and gain a testimony of it like so many here have. I don’t know how you came to the idea that it’s plagiarized fiction, but after spending a lifetime reading and writing book, I can say it wasn’t plagiarized.

    If you’re not to the point where you want to (re)prey about it, check out this essay. The essay is not going to convince you spritually or grow your testimony, but it does shed some light on the style of how it should have been written if Joseph Smith had simply made it up or copied it.

  46. Callie, I appreciate your honest disclosure regarding your struggles with the Church you profess to love, but as have yet not received confirming answers to your questions for a number of years. I don’t know what you have tried or have not tried, so it’s difficult to know how to adequately assist in your search for truth. But you have mentioned your concerns and I would like to share some thoughts for your consideration.

    First, Having a testimony of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and work is absolutely necessary.

    Consider that Christ taught with power and authority and ordained apostles to build His Kingdom. Not too long thereafter the people rejected the teachings of His authorized servants and eliminated them (in both the old and new worlds), ushering in a long period (approx. 1400-1700 years) without revelations and priesthood.

    Consider that during this span God diligently prepared for conditions to bring about the final dispensation of the fullness of times. God could have selected ANY individual to be His instrument in bringing this about, but He chose Joseph Smith, who was actually foreordained to this calling, telling him his name would, in fact, be known for good or evil.

    Consider that God needed exactly the right person, who embodies high character, nobility, and virtue, despite any weaknesses, to initiate the most important dispensation of our earth’s history. If Joseph was not going to prove courageous enough, virtuous enough, or obedient enough, He could easily have picked another to do His work, give or take a few years in the process. But Joseph was all of those things and more. He was murdered for the Gospel, signifying that his work in mortality was complete.

    Consider that an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Loving the Church as you do and tasting of its goodness, how can Joseph, as an evil tree, possibly bring forth such delicious fruit? Consider also that the Church stands or falls with the Book of Mormon. Without it, Mormonism cannot exist nor flourish.

    Consider reading Meg Stout’s “A Faithful Joseph” series which is beneficial in placing Joseph in a more virtuous light than is typically given, further fulfilling Moroni’s “good or evil” prophecy.

    Second, having a testimony of President Thomas S. Monson as the only authorized person entitled to receive revelation for the Lord’s church is absolutely necessary.

    Consider that we rarely hear someone declaring in testimony meetings, “I know that Heber J. Grant/Harold B. Lee/Lorenzo Snow, etc. was a prophet of God.” Almost always, the name of Joseph Smith or the current church President is invoked as the ones God called/calls to do His work, thus indicating that the priesthood keys has passed through every Church President from Joseph Smith to this day.

    Consider that perhaps what dead prophets have actually said has little bearing on our present circumstances. For instance, I can’t explain BY’s “death on the spot” comment. It is honestly a head scratcher for me. But is it possible he was speaking as a man and not as a prophet? Regardless, God has not as yet removed any prophet from their office, and priesthood keys continue to exist and bless the lives of millions today, including your own family.

    Third, using logic, such as I have outlined, will only carry one so far, but having a spiritual confirmation that this is His work and glory is absolutely necessary.

    As I stated, I don’t know what you have or haven’t done, but consider putting aside what you have learned (after all you can’t unlearn them), put aside your expectations/assumptions of what God would or wouldn’t do, push aside your pride, politics, and perspectives and try to view things in an eternal perspective, that is, to see things as God does relative to His laws and commandments, and then ask if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Earnestly fasting and praying, and reading the scriptures usually results in answers to my own prayers. Whatever means you apply to approach God in all humility, my dear sister, I am certain you will receive an answer to your diligent prayers.

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