Church Supports Amending Constitution to Preserve Marriage

July 7, 2004 | 134 comments
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From the church’s website:

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement today. This is a statement of principle in anticipation of the expected debate over same-gender marriage. It is not an endorsement of any specific amendment.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman.”

Thanks to Lyle Stamps for the tip.

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134 Responses to Church Supports Amending Constitution to Preserve Marriage

  1. Julie in Austin on July 7, 2004 at 5:03 pm

    HHmm, hate to sidetrack another round of SSM debate, but I noticed that the news story above that was about Doubleday publishing an edition of the Book of Mormon.

    Help me out here, but why would a publisher take on a book that anyone can get for free? Anyone know anything about this?

  2. Russell Arben Fox on July 7, 2004 at 5:10 pm

    Well, I guess my (somewhat ambivalent) prediction has finally come true.

  3. Randy on July 7, 2004 at 5:22 pm

    Russell,

    I don’t mean to begrudge your victory, but I’d take some issue with your assessment. You predicted that “supporting or endorsing efforts to legalize same-sex unions will, again, be essentially against the official order of the church, and perhaps (depending on one’s local leaders) will result in church discipline.” The Church’s statement, however, is more narrow, calling for an amendment to preserve the definition of marriage. Civil unions, as distinguished from traditional marriage, are not addressed–at least not in this most recent statement.

  4. Rob on July 7, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    I thought it was just my AC going out, but I guess that sound was some holy freaking crap hitting the fan…

    Will we be getting a First Presidency letter sent to our wards now?

  5. Randy on July 7, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Like Julie, I don’t quite understand the point of Doubleday publishing the Book of Mormon (and for $24.95 at that). What is most interesting, however, is that the Church lists the Doubleday announcement as the “Top Story” and the SSM press released as merely one of several “Other Stories.” What’s up with that?

  6. Derek on July 7, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    Does anybody know whether the Church has a systematic way of handling people born with ambiguous genitalia, or are these generally taken on a case-by-case basis? (A person with a Y chromosome doesn’t always have male parts, or may be both male and female. More information here: http://tinyurl.com/2ddy2 )

    Society has difficulty with the whole issue, so I’m just wondering how the Church deals with it. My best guess is that fasting and prayer is used to decide the child’s true gender and by extension what gender that person may marry. (I suppose then that sexual assignment must happen before the marriage.)

  7. Kevin Barney on July 7, 2004 at 6:15 pm

    I guess the University of Illinois Press, which published Grant Hardy’s _The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition_ recently, doesn’t count as a “trade” publishe due to its university affiliation. Although the Reader’s edition is more expensive than the Doubleday edition, it has numerous features that justify the cost. From this announcement, it is not clear to me what if any features of the Doubleday edition justify someone paying $25. But I’ll keep an open mind until I actually see a copy.

  8. Renee on July 7, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    I heard a rumor that my stake president favor a Constitutional Convention for purposes of just such an amendment. Of course, a convention would open the door to a whole lot of other things too, that might not be so favorable. KWIM?

    If this is true, and I don’t know as I heard it from a friend of a friend of the Stake Prez, I think it’s a crazy notion.

  9. Geoff B on July 7, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    A few comments:

    1)Glad to see the Church take a formal position on the SSM issue. There was a very large demand among many members I know for the Church to speak out earlier and more forcefully on this. I think the Church’s position is right on target — point out that an amendment is needed but not endorse any specific one.

    2)The BoM was named one of the top books that changed America by Book Magazine last year. This raised a lot of questions among book enthusiasts about reading it just to be knowledgeable and not for religious reasons. I’m guessing Doubleday is therefore interested in satisfying that need.

  10. Grasshopper on July 7, 2004 at 7:13 pm

    I’m a little surprised at the confusion about Doubleday’s publication of the Book of Mormon. It seems right in line with the Church’s attempts to appear more and more mainstream. As for justification to pay $25 for a free book: you don’t have to call the Church and get your address on their list or have missionaries stop by your door.

  11. Randy on July 7, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    Grasshopper, the issue is not whether the Church would be in favor of Doubleday publishing the BOM. The issue goes to why Doubleday thinks this will be a profitable venture. If you don’t want to be troubled by the missionaries, and thus are willing to purchase a BOM, there are several ways to get a copy at a nominal cost. For example, you can order a hard copy of the BOM on line from the Church’s website for $2.50.

  12. Kingsley on July 7, 2004 at 7:42 pm

    People can get Bibles for free as well, and yet they pay out the wazoo for different editions. It’d be neat to see gentiles buying a nice edition of the Book of Mormon for its literary and historical value, as they do the Bible, the Koran, etc.

  13. dan on July 7, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    Huh, that’s rather interesting. If it’s not read at the pulpit, I would imagine lots of members won’t be aware of the church’s stance, unless of course it becomes a big story in the news.

  14. Randy on July 7, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    Most people who “pay out the wazoo” for different editions of the Bible actually believe in the Bible. As such, seems to me that there is a substantially larger market for fancy Bibles than overpriced BOMs. The Koran strikes me as a somewhat different case, but I’m not aware of any place that I get a new hard-bound copy of the Koran for $2.50.

    Perhaps this will prove to be a money-maker, but I just don’t see it.

  15. Kingsley on July 7, 2004 at 8:31 pm

    Randy: I don’t really see it, either. Come to think of it, I prefer the Koran in a nice neat little compact cheap edition (same goes for the Bible and especially the BoM–I was really pleased when the Church came out with the new, slimmer edition without all the homoerotic Frieberg stuff. And the giant, expensive, “family” version of the BoM Deseret Book recently put out didn’t fly off the shelves. So maybe Doubleday made a mistake. I’m sort of glad for it anyway).

  16. greenfrog on July 7, 2004 at 8:35 pm

    Most of the members of the Church I know carry copies of the Book of Mormon that cost substantially in excess of $2.50 — and frequently they’re carried in canvas or quilted satchels that cost more than $2.50 themselves.

  17. Fred Astaire on July 7, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    Doubleday will publish an edition of the Bk of Mormon for the same reason it published Krakauer’s book: it will make good money.

    Seriously: what’s odd is not that a trade ed. of the Bk of Morm. is coming out, but that it has taken so long! think about it: is there any other book in the U.S. of comparable influence and significance that you can’t (couldn’t until a few months ago) buy in a bookstore (Deseret Book doesn’t count)???

    think about the average professor or student or cop or lawyer who wants to check out the Bk of Morm. just out of curiosity. until now there’s been no way to find a copy through the regular channels.

    the consequence? Aside from church members virtually no one has any clue what the Bk of Mormon is about, including otherwise well-informed, well-educated professionals–even including professors of religion and of american history! this is long, long overdue. in time, i’m sure, there will be other editions, such as one in the “Oxford World Classics” series.

  18. D. Fletcher on July 7, 2004 at 11:44 pm

    Fred, you seem awfully chipper for a man who’s been dead for 20 years.

  19. D. Fletcher on July 7, 2004 at 11:49 pm

    This announcement is very sad, since this confirms my own suspicion that I can never go back there, and will never be welcome in any case.

    Very sad.

  20. Jordan Fowles on July 8, 2004 at 12:03 am

    D., I am sure that if you go back and offer to play the organ again you will be welcomed with open arms.

    The Church is not suggesting that those with a tendency towards same sex attraction be shipped off somewhere or excommunicated (or forbidden from playing the organ when the prophet comes, despite your unfortunate experience…). It is merely coming out and saying that it favors not allowing the government to extend the rights and privileges of marriage to same sex couples.

    I somehow fail to see the hostility in such a statement towards those in the church who have issues with same sex attraction.

    Stay strong, brother!

  21. Ben Huff on July 8, 2004 at 12:13 am

    Hee hee like Fred, I immediately thought of Krakauer’s (unscrupulous) book, also published by Doubleday. I suppose it’s unrealistic to think of it as an attempt to make up for that indiscretion?

    I imagine that no matter how cheap it is to buy the Church’s editions, there will be people who will feel squeamish about buying anything from the Church, as if their objectivity would be tainted. Even the $2.50 edition somehow seems . . . devotional, doesn’t it? Buying a third-party edition, or ordering it for a class you’re teaching, seems less like people might think you might actually believe the Mormons! Don’t you think?

  22. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 12:27 am

    Jordan,

    I’ve been told that if I come back of my own accord, I will not be asked to do music. This is reason enough to look elsewhere.

    But philosophically, I can’t support a Church that throws its political might behind such dubious causes.

    I shall seek spiritual effulgence somewhere else though it still makes me sad. The Church was my life.

  23. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Ben: I think you are right on with that one. After all, I feel squemish reading in a JW edition and feel the tendency to distrust any given verse, or compare it with a more mainstream version. So in a library or elsewhere, I always will reach for one of those versions of the Bible and not the JW version, even if it is right next to them.

    I only make this comparison to show that for non-members, this might also be their reaction to a BoM printed by the Church vs. one printed by a notable outside publisher (and not to compare the LDSs to the JWs). Hopefully, that edition will be just as accurate.

  24. Greg on July 8, 2004 at 12:49 am

    Jordan wrote: “It is merely coming out and saying that it favors not allowing the government to extend the rights and privileges of marriage to same sex couples.”

    I think this is not quite right. The statement is about preserving “marriage,” rather than preventing the extension of the rights and privileges of marriage. In other words, I don’t think advocating for civil unions with all the effects of marriage runs afoul of the Church’s statement.

  25. greenfrog on July 8, 2004 at 12:53 am

    D,

    The Church will be the less for your absence.

  26. Ben Huff on July 8, 2004 at 1:47 am

    : )
    john, like you I wouldn’t do the JWs the disservice of comparing them with us, but for plenty of “mainstream” folks, we’re in exactly the same category! and viewed with just the suspicion you describe.

  27. Ben Huff on July 8, 2004 at 1:49 am

    If only we could get more of our grown-ups to proselyte as couples, like the JWs do!

    Sorry for the threadjack about the BoM.

  28. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 2:37 am

    My feeling on the amendment issue is that other avenues of addressing gay marriage have not been exhausted, and that an amendment should be reserved as a last hope. Of course, the Brethren have a bit of an inside track on these sorts of things, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

    : )

    I just hope that any amendment that actually passes isn’t the kind of claptrap that’s been put forward to-date.

    What I’m interested in seeing is whether the announcement will come across the pulpit — and if it doesn’t, I’m curious what that means (if anything).

    The one thing that this is sure to do is to spawn a great deal more conversation.

  29. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 2:41 am

    Kingsley: I never thought of Frieberg’s paintings as homoerotic… euro-centric, yes; and their heads all look like they’ve been washed in hot water when the labels clearly called for dry-cleaning only. But never homoerotic.

    Hm.

  30. Matt Evans on July 8, 2004 at 9:23 am

    Greg,

    You make a nice point about the ambiguity in the statement regarding civil unions: does the church desire to preserve the word marriage, or preserve the institution of marriage?

    However, I suspect the church would not support an amendment that granted all of the rights and privileges of marriage to same-sex couples, but titled such relationships narriages in order to preserve marriage as the union of a man and woman, as you suggest it would.

  31. Kristine on July 8, 2004 at 9:56 am

    D.–I second grasshopper’s comment. Not just the Church, but *my* Church feels diminished by your absence. I lived through the Prop. 22 unpleasantness in California, and I’m not sure I can do it again. I’m really disheartened by this announcement.

  32. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 11:49 am

    D. Fletcher,

    I hope you’ll come back and find a way to contribute that is meaningful for you, even if at first it doesn’t involve music or playing the organ. I doubt that anyone would ever censor you for verbally sharing your thoughts and appreciation regarding music. Very few people in the Church know how to play organ and church members would gain a lot from hearing your trained and educated perspective, as well as the emotional connection that you have to the music.

    I doubt that if you resumed full activity in the Church, that you would be permanently banned from contributing through music. I can understand why you feel offended but I hope you’ll reconsider and work through this towards activity.

    You might be surprised at how many people will appreciate you if you’ll show up and contribute whatever you can.

    p.s. My father plays the organ and when I was little we’d go to church early so that he could practice playing preludes and hymns. Sometimes he’d even let me mess around on the keyboards and foot pedals. I asked him to teach me the organ but he said I needed to learn to play piano better first. I guess I never got myself trained sufficiently well. :( Still, because of those experiences I have a special affection for those who can play the piano with the big pipes.

  33. Eric James Stone on July 8, 2004 at 11:51 am

    Well, I hate to take time to mention what should be blindingly obvious, but…

    If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church, then leaving it because of the positions taken by its members or its leaders, whether such positions are actually the result of revelation or merely the result of fallible humans doing the best they can to reason from revelation, is extremely shortsighted.

    If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the true church, then leaving it to find one closer to the truth is completely reasonable.

    So, the question basically comes down to this: Is the Church true? If it is, there’s no good reason to leave.

  34. Jared on July 8, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Hi Matt,

    Do you think the FP will ever officially say whether they support a particular amendment over another?

    The way I parse the language of the statement, it seems that the church is reluctant to actively oppose or favor any particular language.

    However, I do recognize that a “narriage” amendment as you call it is arguably against the “statement of principle.”

  35. T-ylor on July 8, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    I think it is interesting that the wording of the church’s statement favors a constitutional ban on polygamy as well.

  36. Hellmut Lotz on July 8, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    We need to be more precise. The question is not whether the church is true. The question is whether the church is led by prophets. Jesus Christ taught us how to recognize the true prophet: You shall recognize them by their fruits. According to the savior it is not a matter of feelings but of observable evidence.

    It is hard for me to see how men that persecute intellectuals and bully dissidents can claim to represent the Lord if they generate such fruits.

    What do you make of Matthew 19:11-12?
    All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.

    Current Catholic translations substitute “unfit to marry” for “eunuchs.” I would be very much interested to hear from a qualified linguistic about this passage and what it might reveal about the nature of human sexualtiy.

  37. Kaimi on July 8, 2004 at 12:34 pm

    Taylor,

    Yep, this would seem to indicate that polygamy is dead. If there’s one good thing that comes out of this, it’s the strong suggestion that the inchoate “polygamy will be restored in the future and/or in the millenium” position (to the extent that it ever really existed) has been abandoned.

  38. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    FWIW, an article in the Herald suggests that the statement supports amendments at both the state and federal levels.

  39. Jordan Fowles on July 8, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Hellmut, I don’t think anyone has been denied temple privileges (or any church privileges) because they have same sex attraction.

    That passage never says that Eunuchs should marry, just that they exist.

    If you read Dee’s awful experience on another blog, it seems clear that he was not denied a temple recommend by anyone in authority because of his tendencies in attraction, but rather because he had issues which caused him not to want to renew it.

    So I am not sure how that reading of Matthew would change anything about the church’s apparent stance on a marriage amendment.

  40. T-ylor on July 8, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Kaimi, I agree with your assessment. The temporal hope for a return of polygamy is definitely gone from the leadership of the church. However, there still may be an eschatological or a celestial view that polygamy may still be practiced. I think that the only way to get rid of the latter would be a removal of D&C 132 from the canon…but if you did that you would lose a lot of the ground for a theology of deification.
    The church’s position in favor of an ammendment seems like a nice way of striking a blow to both fundamentalist Mormons and liberal social change (who have strangely united forces on this issue) at the same time.

  41. T-ylor on July 8, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Matt, I understand the use of the “a” to be a numerative article, and not an indefinite article. Though I may agree that it is possible to read it as the indefinite article, I think that the use of “preserving” and “lawful union” speak towards the status quo definition of marriage which exclude polygamy. If they wanted to include polygamy as a legal option, they could have said “defining marriage as the union of men and women.” For this reason I see the use of “a” as a deliberate reference to polygamy.

  42. Nate Oman on July 8, 2004 at 1:16 pm

    For what it is worth, the Church signed off on a legal ban on polygamy long, long ago. In particular, the FP vigorously supported passage of the 1896 Utah State Constitution which contained a perpetual ban on polygamy. Not sure that there is much news here on the polygamy front.

    Matt: My understanding is that the Church already signed off on a civil unions bill in Hawaii. When I was at the Y I spoke with the woman who was in charge of the Church’s political response to the Hawaii same-sex marriage case. She told me that she also actively supported civil unions. As I recall, a lot of students were uncomfortable with her precisely because she was not seen as being anti-gay marriage enough…

  43. Kaimi on July 8, 2004 at 1:23 pm

    “a lot of students were uncomfortable with her precisely because she was not seen as being anti-gay marriage enough…”

    Well, I suppose one can never be anti-gay-marriage enough, right?

    :)

  44. T-ylor on July 8, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    Nate, I agree that the church signed off on a legal ban long ago :) However, the church has had a mixed stance on it ever since. I am just interested that the church is now supporting an explicit constitutional amendment which would seemingly make Reynolds et al irreversable. Not only did the church concede to federal pressure on the issue in 1890, but has now had a full change of heart and seeks to actively eliminate it for good.

  45. Kaimi on July 8, 2004 at 1:54 pm

    See, e.g., this Trib article:

    “It is still enshrined in Mormon scripture (Doctrine & Covenants 132) and some believe it will one day be re-established, if not on earth, at least in heaven. In his quasi-official 1966 book Mormon Doctrine, which remains in print, the late LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote that ‘the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming and the ushering in of the millennium.'”

  46. Hellmut Lotz on July 8, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks a lot for your response, Jordan. It still should make a difference if something is natural rather than a perversion.

  47. Greg Call on July 8, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Matt,

    I am not so sure about the “narriage” example. If one believes that what is really at stake here is whether society will be able to continue to stigmatize gay relationships, then creating a separate legal category for gay unions would serve that purpose. I think if that if the Church opposed granting gay couples the rights and privileges connected to marriage, they could have said so. And from Nate’s story, it appears they don’t oppose it.

  48. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    I read an interesting interpretation of the parable of the talents once. I believe early Saints used this parable to explain the difference between the monogamists and the polygamists — the monogamist being the one who had only one talent and buried it.

    And all this time I thought it just meant I was supposed to practice piano more.

  49. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    All this talk about semantics, the “wording” of the proposed amendment. I guess this is a lawyer site, and it’s a lawyer thing to do.

    It’s just perfectly clear to me that the Church will not tolerate homosexuals, either celibate and active, or actively sexual and outside the Church. It now has two statements, the Proclamation on the Family and now this public announcement, to the effect of stating its intolerance.

    Anyone, like myself, who feels same-sex attraction, will find no place in the LDS church, regardless of what talent or brainpower or soul I might bring with me.

    I’m convinced that enforced celibacy (in this country, the priests of the Catholic Church) creates far worse problems for society than the possibility that two people of the same sex might wish to be legally joined.

  50. greenfrog on July 8, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    D,

    I am convinced of that, too.

  51. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    “It’s just perfectly clear to me that the Church will not tolerate homosexuals, either celibate and active, or actively sexual and outside the Church. It now has two statements, the Proclamation on the Family and now this public announcement, to the effect of stating its intolerance.”

    D.: Am I correct in believing that the Lord cannot look on sin with the least degree of tolerance? If that is true, shouldn’t the leadership of the Church also tow that line? And I disagree that the Church is in any way intolerant of someone who suffers from same-sx attraction but doesn’t act on it. It is like saying the Church condemns heterosexuals as fornicators, even if they haven’t committed the sin.

  52. Jared on July 8, 2004 at 3:30 pm

    Matt:

    Agreed. Unless an actual amendment allowing civil unions is able to make it out of Washington to the states for ratification (which I highly doubt), we won’t really know whether the church is ready to go to the mattesses on this issue a la the ERA.

    Nate:

    I’m very curious. Why is it that anytime someone (including myself, Taylor and Kaimi) wants to comment on how the church currently views polygamy your responses are always quite curt and claim that there is nothing new. You seem to think that polygamy is a very well-settled doctrinal issue. If that is the case, I’d very much like to hear how it was settled and what your sources are.

    You know very well why the church supported anti-polygamy laws in the 1890’s. It was all about survival and statehood, not actual belief or doctrine. D&C 132 and statements such as McConkie’s about polygamy in the afterlife are still out there and I can assure you that my mother very much believes (and is terrified about it) that she will have to practice polygamy to be in the celestial kingdom.

    I agree with Taylor and Kaimi that the FP statement issued yesterday could be read as a repudiation of this doctrine, which I would certainly welcome. There are no pressures (except perhaps PR) on the church today to support legislation that effectively bans polygamy, yet the church has offered support in principle for constitutional amendment that appears to also ban polygamy. Also, we can probably rest assured that President Hinckley will not assure members in our next GC that he still very much supports the notion that polygamy is necessary for our eternal salvation, as Wilford Woodruff did in the 1890’s.

    In short, I believe that there’s a real issue here and I’m surprised that you don’t see it that way.

  53. Davis Bell on July 8, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    Well, I suppose this shows us how things are going to stack up in the future. I know SSM has been debated at length on this blog, and I think Adam Greenwood posted links to the different discussion thereof. Does anyone know where that link is?

    This is an incredibly difficult issue to grapple with, and it’s nice to be able to talk it over with people of good faith, intelligence, and erudition.

    D. Fletcher, I don’t pretend to understand the nature of your struggles, but my heart goes out to you.

  54. Kaimi on July 8, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    Jared,

    I think it’s because Nate and a small coterie are secretly practicing polygamy today.

    In the old days, code words were used for polygamy, so members could talk about it in public without people knowing what they meant.

    I suspect that I know the modern code words: Epistimology, hermeneutics, eschatology.

    Hmm, epistimology = plural marriage. Hermeneutics = plural wife. I’m not sure what eschatology would be, maybe the secret pact that this coterie has entered into.

    Now, based on usage of those terms, I would say that we can figure out who the modern polygamists are: Nate, Aaron B., Julie, Clark, Kris (yikes!), Greg, Ben H., . . .

  55. Julie in Austin on July 8, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    “his quasi-official 1966 book Mormon Doctrine”

    AAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!

  56. Davis Bell on July 8, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Hellmut said,”We need to be more precise. The question is not whether the church is true. The question is whether the church is led by prophets. Jesus Christ taught us how to recognize the true prophet: You shall recognize them by their fruits. According to the savior it is not a matter of feelings but of observable evidence.”

    First, by “true” I think Eric James Stone meant the same thing as you, i.e. whether it is lead by prophets or not. But I think he put his finger on the central point of the larger issue: Are the 15 speaking for God when they support a constitutional amendment banning SSM? The answer to that question determines one’s reaction to the announcement.

    Second, determining if someone is a prophet is a bit more complicated than looking for “observable evidence.” Jesus didn’t go on to tell us very much about what the fruits of a prophet would look like, so we’re left with some pretty subjective criteria we cook up on our own. Further, we’re told that many of the fruits we would associate with prophets, i.e. miracles, healings, can also be counterfeited by followers of Satan. My point is that I think it’s rather subjective and unreasonable to say, “Well, Jesus said the fruits of a prophet are good, and to me bullying intellectuals isn’t good, therefore GBH isnt’a prophet.”

  57. Julie in Austin on July 8, 2004 at 4:04 pm

    “Now, based on usage of those terms, I would say that we can figure out who the modern polygamists are: Nate, Aaron B., Julie, Clark, Kris (yikes!), Greg, Ben H., . ”

    I’ve said more than once that I would be thrilled to have another woman around here to manage the house and my kids while I go East and get a medical degree . . .

  58. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    Phew. I’m too ignernt to be usin’ werds lyke “epistemology”, “hermeneutics” and “eschatology.” Glad to see I didn’t make the list of secret polygamists. (wink, wink)

  59. Jared on July 8, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Epistemology = plural marriage.

    I am aware that the good books talks about men and women “knowing” each other, but YIKES!

    :)

  60. Rob on July 8, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Kiami–“I’m not sure what eschatology would be”

    Are you telling me you can’t imagine what happens after the lights go out while you’re practicing epistemology with your several hermeneutics?

  61. Matt Evans on July 8, 2004 at 5:09 pm

    Taylor,

    I wasn’t reading the ‘a’ to be indefinite either. That is because marriage is, and always has been, between two people. Polygamy is one person with two or more marriages, not one marriage with three or more partners.

    My great-great-great-grandfather John Johnson, for example, was a polygamist. He had two wives by two marriages. My great-great-great-grandmother, John’s wife Brita, had one husband by one marriage. Brita was not married to John’s other wife. (Think of the uproar back east had the Mormons been performing polygamous and same-sex marriages!)

    Because the church has never recognized a marriage with more than two partners, I don’t believe it’s possible to read into the above definition anything about polygamy.

  62. Nate Oman on July 8, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    Jared: I think that the well-settled doctrinal settlement is that there is no settlement, and I also think that there is absolutely no interest on the part of the church in re-opening the issue. The costs of ambibuity have yet to exceed the costs of concrete resolution, and there don’t seem to be any events on the horizon that are going to upset that equilibrium (Russell’s articulate hand-wringing about SSM and polygamy not withstanding.) Hence, I am extremely skeptical of attempts to read this or that current act by the church as modifying or taking any position at all on the issue of polygamy.

    If I am curt it is because I am generally commenting between tasks at work. As it happens, however, I do think that there is basically nothing new in the Church’s official (and officially murky) position on polygamy.

  63. Janey on July 8, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    “I’m convinced that enforced celibacy (in this country, the priests of the Catholic Church) creates far worse problems for society than the possibility that two people of the same sex might wish to be legally joined.”

    D – Single Mormon heterosexuals are also required to live by enforced celibacy.

  64. Hellmut Lotz on July 8, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    Hi Davis,

    You have a valid point. My particular standard does require explanation and justification. Though your judgment of “unreasonable” might be a little hasty. Finally, we can also reverse the logic and look at the statement calling for a constitutional amendment as a fruit of the prophet. In light of this fruit we may be able to decide if the authors are authoritatively speaking on behalf of the Savior.

    I believe that the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ reveal the standards by which it may be determined whether a prophet is speaking for the Savior.

    Jesus Christ taught us that we need to be on the narrow path (Matthew 5). However, Mormon culture is not only comparatively conformist but its conformist tendencies are consciously reinforced by the authorities’ treatment of dissidents and intellectuals (among other things). There is an analogy to the case of Galileo Galilei for which even the Pope has apologized. Granted Galilei was threatened with physical death but excommunication for nothing but your beliefs and your research denies the sacraments that are necessary to obtain eternal life. Clearly, when it comes to freedom and individuality, our hierarchy’s response to non-conformists is taking us back beyond the gains of the Reformation. For documentation I direct you to the website of the Mormon Alliance and others who have meticulously documented incidents of unrighteous dominion. Christ was never about conformism. He is about freedom (John 6). Therefore I am wondering whether such fruits are compatible with Christ’s will.

    Responding to arguments with punishment is never appropriate, especially not for a Christian.

  65. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Janey —

    Single Mormon heterosexuals can date, fall in love with, and marry whomever they choose, and receive all the incumbent blessings, including exaltation. Single Mormon heterosexuals who do all these things are immediately accepted into the club with all the most social advantages, if they have healthy children without too much trouble. Only when married couples have trouble conceiving do they realize they might fall out of the “track.”

    For single Mormon heterosexuals, it isn’t enforced celibacy. It is, potential sexuality fulfilled.

    Single Mormon homosexuals do not, by definition, have this promise.

  66. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    John Fowles: the Church has been very specific in not defining same gender attraction as a sin… so dial it back a notch.

    Sheesh.

    (If I’m mis-reading the tone of your post, my apologies.)

    D: I don’t know you personally (well, not that I know of, at least), so I can’t speak to your particular situation… but I know of a number of gay men (myself included) that are active in Church… and it is not my impression that the Church is on a witch hunt. In fact, quite the contrary: in a number of associations I have had with the brethren, it would appear that the Church is very much aware of our plight and is actively seeking the very best on our behalf.

    From your posts it seems that you’ve felt persecuted… which makes me sad… but I don’t share that experience in the least, so my assumption is that it cannot be a universal condition.

  67. Eric James Stone on July 8, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    > Single Mormon heterosexuals can date, fall in
    > love with, and marry whomever they choose,

    It’s not quite that simple for single Mormon heterosexuals. I don’t mean to trivialize the issue, but I’m sure I’m not the only guy who’s been turned down for a date by someone I chose to ask.

    Not all single Mormon heterosexuals find someone and get married. They are expected to live chaste lives, even if they never marry. From that standpoint, no more is expected of homosexual Mormons.

    I will agree, though, that homosexual Mormons do carry an extra burden in that they cannot hope that, at some point, they will marry within the church someone compatible with their sexual preference.

  68. wendy on July 8, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    Eric: Is same-sex kissing a sin? What about same-sex flirting and dating? Can a same-sex couple live together, love each other, come to church holding hands and sit together in the chapel, hold callings and be okay church-wise, as long as they don’t have sex? I’m not suggesting that this is an attractive option or plausible scenario, I’m just wondering you think the church draws the line at the sex act or the relationship.

  69. Eric James Stone on July 8, 2004 at 7:37 pm

    Wendy,

    Interesting questions. I don’t know.

    However, since there are heterosexual Mormons who’ve never been kissed, never dated, etc., my point still remains: there are heterosexual members who live their lives without having a sexual or intimate relationship, so that is not something unique to homosexuals.

  70. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    Silus Grok: “(If I’m mis-reading the tone of your post, my apologies.)” You need to re-read my post entirely if you think I was saying that the Church thinks that same-sex attraction is a sin. My post said exacly the opposite.

    I was responding to D’s post about how intolerant the Church is in supporting an amendment. My point was that Church leaders are duty-bound to follow the Lord’s approach of not being able to tolerate sin with the least degree of allowance. The point of my saying this is that when it comes down to action, to sin, the Church leadership cannot be tolerant of it just like the Lord himself, by his own admission in the D&C, cannot look upon sin with the least degree of tolerance.

    However, I was incredulous about D’s judgment of the Church as intolerant because of this stance–D was arguing that the Church is therefore fundamentally intolerant of homosexuals because of supporting the amendment. I was defending the Church by saying that the Church is not intolerant of people who suffer from same sex attraction but at the same time, of course, it cannot tolerate the practice of homosexuality. Maybe you could speak instead to my comparison: accusing the Church of being intolerant of people who suffer from same sex attraction but who do not act on those impulses is the same as claiming that the Church condemns all heterosexuals as fornicators, just because they want to (i.e. absent any acts of fornication on their part).

  71. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 7:44 pm

    Eric: The difference, however, is that heterosexual mormons _differ_ sexual pleasure… homosexuals (unless they are lucky enough to find a mate) deny it… I would submit, too, that the threshhold of dispairing of never finding a mate is significantly lower for homosexual saints and for heterosexual saints.

  72. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    Eric,

    Defer sexual pleasure, I think you mean.

  73. greenfrog on July 8, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    john fowles wrote: My point was that Church leaders are duty-bound to follow the Lord’s approach of not being able to tolerate sin with the least degree of allowance. The point of my saying this is that when it comes down to action, to sin, the Church leadership cannot be tolerant of it just like the Lord himself, by his own admission in the D&C, cannot look upon sin with the least degree of tolerance.

    Um. I suppose it will seem a relatively fine distinction, but who said that gay marriage is equivalent to gay sex? If it’s only gay sex that is prohibited, why would the Church make an issue about applying a label for certain kinds of legally recognized relationships? It seems to me that the Church’s position goes beyond prohibiting gay sex, reaching into the structure of relationships more generally.

  74. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    Oops, that correction was for Silus, not Eric.

  75. Silus Grok on July 8, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    John: I’m glad you clarified, as the original post was not at all clear… on the second point, um… I think I’ll just say that as we’re all sexual beings — gay, straight, what have you — then we’re all guilty of fornicating in our hearts from time to time.

    I would submit that it’s an amazing soul that has not lusted.

  76. Geoff B on July 8, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    I’m going to write something that is completely politically incorrect, but nevertheless needs to be expressed: aren’t we here on Earth to be tested? So, if we take that as a given, than it would seem to me obvious that different people will be given different types of tests. One of those tests will be how people react to their sexual impulses.

    When I was a single (heterosexual) LDS man, it was extremely difficult for me to remain chaste. My rule for dating was chaste kisses and no touching. Given our over-sexed culture, this was an extremely difficult rule to follow, but nevertheless I did and I was married in the temple to my wife, and we are both glad we could honestly say we were worthy.

    Was it easy? It was the most difficult thing in the world for me to have a strong sexual attraction to my wife-to-be but to control my impulses.

    How did I control my impulses? By not looking at pornography, by not letting myself think about sex, by looking away at the half-dressed women at the mall — in short, by controlling my thoughts.

    I have no doubt there are a large number of people who are born with attractions to people of the same sex. These people have been given an extremely difficult test — perhaps one of the most difficult there is. But many people are giving difficult tests — people who are born quadriplegics, people who are born blind, people who have sexual attractions to children, people who have genetic tendencies toward drug and alcohol addictions and on and on.

    Our culture has gone completely wrong in not defining this test for what it is — a difficult trial that can be overcome. That is the message that our Savior gives us — let Him carry the burden and He will make the burden lighter.

    D Fletcher, I cannot pretend to know exactly what your situation is like, but I do know this is the true Church and that it is led by the Savior. I firmly believe by relying on Him and following the guidance of the prophets, you will find true happiness. I don’t think leaving the Church will bring you the happiness you seek, and I believe you will discover that on your own someday.

  77. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 8:03 pm

    I would submit that it’s an amazing soul that has not lusted.

    I would submit that it’s a disabled soul that has not lusted.

  78. Jim F. on July 8, 2004 at 8:07 pm

    Danithew: would you submit that Jesus lusted or that he was disabled?

  79. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    Let me back that up a little more. The goal is not to kill sexual desire… just to harness it. I would expect a healthy human being to feel sexual desire and attraction. The trick is keeping it within the Lord’s bounds.

  80. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 8:11 pm

    I am sure Jesus felt the temptation of sexual desire. Let’s put it that way.

  81. Jim F. on July 8, 2004 at 8:20 pm

    Then what do you make of Matthew 5:28 (3 Nephi 12:28): “whosever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”?

  82. danithew on July 8, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    The word lust is the real issue here. In the context of that scripture, lust describes a sin and it would be wrong.

    I was thinking of lust simply as a term for sexual desire and I would expect a mature healthy person to feel the pangs of sexual desire in one way or another.

    Lust is a tricky issue… as I’ve heard it explained before, if you see someone and you’re sexually attracted to them at the first glance, that isn’t necessarily a sin. It’s the second, third and fourth lustful glances and thoughts that turn the initial natural and healthy attraction into a sin (assuming you’re not looking at your spouse).

  83. Kingsley on July 8, 2004 at 8:32 pm

    Jim F.: Is it saying whosever looketh on a woman in order to lust after her, etc.?

    I think D&C 20:22 might imply that Jesus (like the rest of us) was occasionally made miserable by normal lustful impulses, and that he remained pure by ignoring them.

  84. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 8:32 pm

    Silus Grok: “would submit that it’s an amazing soul that has not lusted.”

    Exactly! That is exactly my point. When D claims that the Church is being intolerant of people who suffer from same-sex attraction, it is completely off base. The Church is taking a position on the act of homosexuality. If the Church were “intolerant” of those with same-sex attraction merely on the basis of that attraction, then it would be just like saying that the Church is intolerant of people with opposite-sex attraction but who don’t inappropriately act on those urges, which the Church does not do.

    It seems to me that it boils down to action, i.e. much like the Reynolds Court’s reasoning for upholding the illegalization of polygamy–that the gov’t can regulate conduct even if it cannot permissibly regulate belief. By analogy, the Church cannot tolerate homosexual conduct while at the same time it acknowledges that people struggle with same-sex attraction but doesn’t necessarily penalize them for this as long as they don’t act on it.

    The thrust of all this was to encourage D. to stay active in the Church or at least stay judgment on the entire Church as being “intolerant.” As you also pointed out, Silus Grok, you have had a different experience that has helped you to realize just what I am saying–that the Church is interested in helping people with this condition of same-sex attraction and is not advocating ostracizing them on the basis of that condition. If someone suffering from same-sex attraction commits acts of homosexuality, then they are disciplined just like heterosexuals who participate in inappropriate heterosexual activity.

  85. Kingsley on July 8, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Jim F.: I also if wonder D&C 93:12-14 contains an implication that Christ gradually left human foibles behind as he gradually came to understand the nature of his calling. Margaret Barker has speculated interestingly about this.

  86. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    Sigh. We do discuss the same material, over and over.

    Suffice it to say (to John Fowles, and others) I do suffer over my temptation, but it is not the same as alcoholism or some physical challenge to be overcome.

    I would like to think that discipline is useful, and celestial. Were I to be told, “you can marry anyone you choose, of any sex, but you may not indulge before marriage,” I would defer the act just like all good LDS boys.

    How simplistic do I need to make this? If you were told, “you love that woman, but regardless of your feelings and your attraction, you may NOT marry her ever; instead, you must marry that man with the beer belly, no matter how unnatural it seems. Only with that man will you achieve exaltation.”

    I’m sorry to be so pedantic and didactic about this complex issue. I think the notion of a Constitutional amendment affirming the rights of some people over others is completely antithetical to our Democratic way of life and our shared religious values. I will repeat what I have said over and over: same-sex marriage should be a right and privilege for anyone who chooses it, and it shouldn’t be up to others (read: heterosexual couples) to decide whether those same-sex couples deserve that right or not: it is theirs regardless.

    I also think that the Church could support legalized same-sex marriage without much fuss. It would not change the Church’s position on homosexuality, even though it should. But for those homosexuals living outside the bounds of Church government, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry each other? It simply makes no sense, and an amendment to the Constitution is an impossible gargantuan task for what seems to me to be a non-issue.

    Also, I’m very concerned that our Church which prides itself on non-partisan politics (usually — President Hinckley mentioned this at the Jubilee just a few weeks ago) seems to be gearing up to fight this — non-issue.

    I have mentioned in many threads that perhaps the Church sees a threat. Civil marriage by heterosexual couples, defined today, isn’t against the Law of Chastity. Perhaps the Church is threatened by some possible lawsuits by same-sex couples who are civilly married.

    Whatever. The Church’s viewpoint is clearly…intolerant…and unloving in a way that seem anti-Christian, to me.

  87. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 9:10 pm

    One more thing. John has mentioned that the Church doesn’t penalize those who have same-sex attractions, just those who act upon them.

    But the Church does penalize those with same-sex attractions, by making the person suppress his feelings.

    Just this last weekend, JWL asked me how I would feel if the Church heroicized my problem and my celibacy. Well, obviously, this would be easier.

    If I could stand at the pulpit in testimony meeting, and say, “I am a Son of Levi (or some other unusual Priesthood Quorum name) and I am celibate by choice, stand with me,” and feel the support and love of the entire body of the Church, it would make me stronger in my resolve.

    It’s called a Doctrine of Celibacy, and we don’t have one in our Church. If you’re a single man, unmarried, in his 40s, you are a sexual suspect, perceived as some sort of perv, and marginalized because of it. A number of LDS friends of mine left the Church because it was whispered that they were pedophiles (they weren’t), and therefore, I refuse any baby-sitting opportunity for the slight possibility that something completely wrong might be whispered about me.

    I have been celibate for 25 years (all my adult life) and I am completely tired of it. I’m tired of fighting from within, too. If I find I’m attractive to the wholesome men in my Ward and Stake, why is that such a bad thing? They’re kind, decent, healthy individuals, with good careers and religious commitments… what’s not to like?

  88. Kingsley on July 8, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    “The Church’s viewpoint is clearly…intolerant…and unloving in a way that seems anti-Christian, to me.”

    The view that homosexuality is sinful is certainly a Christian view, if by Christian view we mean a view more or less held by Christianity from the beginning. I realize there are progressive Christian movements that believe otherwise, and that might (billions of Christians believing x for thousands of years) doesn’t make right, etc., but I don’t know that we could really meaningfully label such a view anti-Christian.

  89. Kingsley on July 8, 2004 at 10:07 pm

    E.g., I don’t believe that the Nicene Creed is true, but it’d be senseless for me to call it anti-Christian.

  90. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    D. Fletcher: what about Geoff B.’s point above? And I still think that accusing the entire Church of being intolerant because of its posture towards the act of homosexuality is overbroad and even insulting.

    Jim: Whatever the nature of Jesus’s mortal experience (i.e. as you asked above about Jesus’s own exposure to lust), I think one can safely say that Jesus is acquainted with what it means to lust after a woman (or a man for that matter) because of the quality of the infinite atonement. By taking our sins upon himself, he suffered for them, which I have understood as meaning that he felt the results of the sin and the sorrow for them. He also bore our physical infirmities and sorrows, which would include the condition of same-sex attraction and presumably felt the difficulties of resisting that attraction.

    Outside of the Church context, on the topic of gay marriage, why is the gay community inimical to civil unions that have all of the rights of marriage? Why must they insist on the word “marriage.” Matt somewhat jokingly suggested “narriage.” It could be anything–something completely made up. Why will I now be subject to criticism for bringing this up? Words have a meaning, and marriage means the union of a “husband” and “wife.” A “husband” is male. A “wife” is female. A same-sex union cannot possibly fit into this definition. Why doesn’t the gay community see that it would have more success in its efforts to get equal rights in a monogamous homosexual relationship if they did not insist on calling it marriage? Even if they are successful in the end, which they likely will be, and it is called “gay marriage,” it still is not marriage from a linguistic standpoint.

  91. Kristine on July 8, 2004 at 11:16 pm

    John, try rewriting your comment using “polygamists” for “gay community” and substituting “celestial marriage” for “gay marriage.”

    It’s all about who gets to say what the words mean. Words *don’t* have meaning all by themselves–they are invested with meaning by the people who use them. If a society chooses a more inclusive definition of a word, as we have with, for instance, “citizen,” there is nothing in the nature of the word itself that can prevent the change. To say that the marriage of two gay men is not marriage from a linguistic standpoint is merely to point to the fact that the people who have been making linguistic rules have, until now, excluded gay people from their definition. You can cavil about that all you want to; you can want to continue to be in the class that gets to define the word in an exclusive way, but you can’t argue that the word *itself* somehow requires this exclusivity. (At least you can’t argue it in a forum with stray lit. majors and afficionados of post-modern philosophy running around!)

    Words do, however, have power, and I suspect that is why some members of the gay community want to insist on the word “marriage.” If they can use the word, they will have manifestly achieved enough power in our society to be invited to the table where the definitions are drawn up.

  92. john fowles on July 8, 2004 at 11:35 pm

    Kristine: “At least you can’t argue it in a forum with stray lit. majors and afficionados of post-modern philosophy running around!”

    I’m one of them, and it wasn’t just a double-major but also a master’s degree. Still, I think it makes sense to observe that part of the huge resistance in the “majority” or, as you put it, in the “class that gets to define the word,” stems from the appropriation of that word in particular. Your polygamy and celestial marriage exercise doesn’t work here at all–there it is still between a “husband” and a wife or many wives. Either way, a member of the opposite sex is on either side of the relationship.

    This gets into the position of marriage and sex in the broader scheme of the Plan of Salvation. As has been discussed at great length already elsewhere at T&S, it just might be the case that the purpose of sex in the Plan of Salvation is to create bodies for God’s spirit children to inhabit in the course of his mission to bring about the immortality and eternal life of mankind. This is where marriage–as understood to mean between members of the opposite sex–including plural marriage comes into play. A nice side benefit of sex is to bring the spouses closer together through intimacy, but that does not eclipse the biological and eternal purpose of the sex act.

    As to the debate earlier on this thread about whether the polygamy question is settled or not, I agree with Nate’s position. From the Manifesto on, there has been no illusion that polygamy is gone from among us. Whether McConkie speculates that it will return in the Millenium or not is irrelevant to that question. As to plural marriage existing in the celestial kingdom, that also seems to me to be a doctrinal point that has little relevance for the place of polygamy here and now on earth. Aside from the fact that the Church has expressly repudiated it, it would be entirely improper in today’s hyper-sexualized society. If I understand it correctly, group sex or other such aberrations had nothing to do with polygamy as practiced in the early days of the Church.

  93. D. Fletcher on July 8, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    As Kristine has so eloquently written, “marriage” is just a word, meaning the joining of two bodies, like a song is the marriage of words and music (and neither is perceived a specific gender).

    But just as that word “marriage” has been empowered by those in power to mean “actual marriage” or “natural marriage,” those not in power will seek the same right to the word.

    As in Geoff’s comment that I should endure to the end, and only then will I be happy, how does he know? Truthfully, all the choices we make in life involve some risk of future misery. I am only making a change in the hopes of finding some future happiness that I don’t feel now.

    There is much truth and divinity in the LDS Church, but it doesn’t provide a model of happiness for certain people like myself. It provides a worthy enough survival system for anyone that responds, naturally, to its “model” of loving parents raising children. Everyone else must stand on the sidelines and hope it will work out in the next life. I’m tired of waiting. And all of the sudden, my particular “problem” is the central cultural and political focus of the Church leaders. I can only speak what I think is right, even if it goes against what I have been taught all of my life.

    Homosexuals have a naturally aberrant sexual desire, but aberrations are normal in life. Some people are albino, having been born without certain skin pigments; it’s an aberration of normal. I have read research suggesting that homosexuality is nature’s way of controlling population.

    Having unusual desires doesn’t equate to evil. Many gay people would like to settle down, have children, lead “normal” lives, and marriage would help them make longer-lasting commitments. It’s a “moral” choice, and I’m surprised that the Church, that ALL churches, aren’t just for it, whole-heartedly.

  94. Greg on July 9, 2004 at 12:03 am

    John wrote: “Your polygamy and celestial marriage exercise doesn’t work here at all–there it is still between a “husband” and a wife or many wives. Either way, a member of the opposite sex is on either side of the relationship.”

    This argument is not too convincing in that it simply picks one aspect of marriage (heterosexuality) and elevates that aspect above another (one spouse only). You need an argument to show why the gender of the spouses is more essential to marriage than the number of the spouses. Professor Gordon laid out a pretty good argument to the contrary here (see #8).

  95. Heather Oman on July 9, 2004 at 12:19 am

    “I think it’s because Nate and a small coterie are secretly practicing polygamy today.”

    That would be news to me.

  96. John H on July 9, 2004 at 12:20 am

    I appreciate D.’s and Kristine’s comments about words. I’d just toss out, we’ve seen attempts at controlling the meaning of words and who’s included before – some Christians don’t want to define Mormons that way, and the Church fights very hard to let everyone know that there’s no such thing as a “fundamentalist Mormon”. They want to control who gets to be called a Mormon.

    I know I’m also weighing a bit late (although John brought it up again a couple of posts ago), but I’m puzzled by Nate’s comment about the Church’s anti-polygamy stance in 1896. Nate, I suspect you’ve studied the history of polygamy and the anti-polygamy campaign far more than I have, so you’ve got to know that the 1896 declaration was hardly more than a political front. Less than a year later, Wilford Woodruff specifically directed Anthon Lund to marry two men (one an apostle) in polygamist unions. Although Lorenzo Snow was more cautious, Joseph F. Smith had no problem authorizing new plural marriages.

    As Kathleen Flake argues quite well, even the second-manifesto was most likely intended as a political move, not a doctrinal one. Perhaps I’m just quibbling over the details.

    Is the Church’s carefully worded statement, which makes it clear that no one amendment is being endorsed, an attempt to sidestep the obvious comparisons to plural marriage? In other words, they have made certain they aren’t endorsing a bill that might say marriage is between ONE man and ONE woman?

  97. Susan on July 9, 2004 at 12:54 am

    Just an appreciation. Thanks D and Kristine.

  98. Nathan Tolman on July 9, 2004 at 1:42 am

    Kristine – PoMos have their points, but I find the view that definitions are set by the powerful is paternalistic and ignores the vast cultural value in words and concepts, ignoring resistance and hybridization. When powerful tried to change meanings and have often achieved with mediocre success (Mao Zedong) at best.

    Why is the sex marriage has meant a Man and a Woman is almost all cultures across the board. Even in Cultures that were accepting of Homosexuality (Ancient Greece, Ming China) did not make the Homosexual union the equivalent of a heterosexual union. Part of this is biological, with having children and some differences in the sexes, and part is cultural, with gender roles, etc. Even if gender roles are completely constructed, they are taught to every person from the time they are born and are not easily changed, even in those that are willing and wanting to change them. Thus, the blending of a man and woman is inherently different than that of two people of the same sex, and thus requires a different name for two similar institutions.

  99. John H on July 9, 2004 at 2:14 am

    “Am I correct in believing that the Lord cannot look on sin with the least degree of tolerance? If that is true, shouldn’t the leadership of the Church also tow that line?”

    But John, they’re only publicly supporting an amendment to outlaw one particular “sin” right now – gay marriage. I don’t see any support of amendments banning adultery, coffee, etc. In fact, the Church has been mighty quiet on abortion as of late, as well. Not that they’re somehow becoming more tolerant of it – I know the Church still strongly opposes abortion. But the gay marriage issue does seem to be the “flavor of the month” in terms of sins we’re talking about.

    How many statements has the Church released condemning corporate fraud? How many thousands of people lost everything because of the Enron and Worldcom? But I haven’t heard that labeled as the pivotal battle of our age, or heard comparisons to other wicked times, like I hear about gay marriage. So you’ll forgive some of us if we see the Church’s intense opposition to gay marriage is more cultural than doctrinal, let alone revelatory.

    Forgive me if I once again sound naive, or like I’m pointing out the obvious, but not all of us regard homosexuality as a sin. And it seems to me that none of us somehow have access to the mind of God and His feelings on this issue. Yes, I’m well aware of what the Bible says, but I’m also aware that the Bible labels many things as sinful that aren’t regarded as sins today.

  100. Nathan Tolman on July 9, 2004 at 2:54 am

    “Yes, I’m well aware of what the Bible says, but I’m also aware that the Bible labels many things as sinful that aren’t regarded as sins today.”

    And there are many things that were considered sins in the Bible that still are, so?

    “And it seems to me that none of us somehow have access to the mind of God and His feelings on this issue.”

    And yet you so easily disregard the only people on Earth who could know this.

    “I don’t see any support of amendments banning adultery, coffee, etc. In fact, the Church has been mighty quiet on abortion as of late, as well. Not that they’re somehow becoming more tolerant of it – I know the Church still strongly opposes abortion. But the gay marriage issue does seem to be the “flavor of the month” in terms of sins we’re talking about.”

    1. Can the Church not prioritize the problems in the world, and deal with the most serious ones first? Perhaps you think this is not one of the more serious problems, but “My thoughts are not your thoughts” come to mind.

    2. The Gay Marriage issue is a “Flavor of the Month” because there is a chance to do something about it now, as opposed to the other things you have mentioned.

    “How many statements has the Church released condemning corporate fraud? How many thousands of people lost everything because of the Enron and Worldcom? But I haven’t heard that labeled as the pivotal battle of our age, or heard comparisons to other wicked times, like I hear about gay marriage. So you’ll forgive some of us if we see the Church’s intense opposition to gay marriage is more cultural than doctrinal, let alone revelatory.”

    1. Corporate Fraud is being handled relatively well by the State, even if it has dropped from the headlines. There is nothing more the Church can say on the issue that would add to the conversation (other than what is mentioned below)Gay Marriage is still in question, and the Church can play a role in this.

    2. Corporate Fraud is covered relatively well under the auspices of Honesty and Integrity, which receive plenty of attention in every Gen. Conference as well as Temple Recommend interviews.

    3. What evidence do you have that it is cultural and not revelation?

  101. Julie Fletcher Sheffield on July 9, 2004 at 3:05 am

    D., my heart goes out to you and has for many years, even though I only suspected the kind of intolerance you describe. I think it’s completely unfair that I could marry the man I love and you can’t. I hope that a generation from now, the Church’s position on SSM will seem as distant, strange, and embarassing as Blacks’ being forbidden the priesthood seems to us now. I can’t claim to understand everything about the Lord’s will on homosexuality, but I am certain about His position on tolerance. The people in the church who presume to judge single men (or any other class of people) are neither being good Mormons nor good Christians in general.

    I agree with D’s point about how it would be better if the Church made some attempt, not just to legitimize but to honor the commitment it take people with SSA to live celibate lives. I wish, for example, that there were a gay general authority, or at least general conference speaker, so it didn’t seem that SSA had to be someone’s dirty little secret. Maybe that would help alleviate the suspicion that so many members seem to have.

    The Church does seem to be improving–albeit slowly–on this issue. A decade or two ago, the Bishop’s handbook encouraged marriage to a woman as a “cure” for men with SSA. So maybe in a decade or two more, the Church will be welcoming in truth as well as in principle. Not that that is much of a comfort for now, but I truly hope there are at least some people in the church who honor the strength and commitment it takes to live according to a gospel that doesn’t seem to include you.

    P.S. D.–when we move to NY next year, you can babysit your great-nephew as much as you possibly wish ;-) I have enough fond childhood memories of you to dispel any suspicions!

  102. John H on July 9, 2004 at 3:44 am

    Nathan Tolman: You couldn’t have better proven my point better than you did with your last statement: “What evidence do you have that it is cultural and not revelation?” I have none whatsoever – which is just as much evidence as you have. That’s precisely my point – we have no evidence that it is a revelation any more than we have evidence that it isn’t. That means we all have to pick a path – either act assuming it’s cultural, assuming it’s revelatory, assuming it’s both, or taking a wait-and-see approach. But let’s not pretend like one of us somehow has more knowledge than the other.

    “And there are many things that were considered sins in the Bible that still are, so?”

    So, the point is people have picked and chosen what they regard as sinful, and ignored those things from the Bible they don’t regard as sinful. I see no evidence that gay marriage has been picked for any other reason that it offends cultural norms. No Church leader has claimed a revelation on this matter, and no revelation has been presented before the Church for acceptance. So why assume that it is based on revelation? Look, I understand that most Church members choose to put their trust in the Brethren and give them the benefit of the doubt. And I have no problem with that – they’ve certainly earned it and are deserving of it. I often do it myself. But, on this issue, I’ve chosen to follow what I believe is right, rather than put my faith in authority figures I have reason to believe are dead wrong. I don’t fault other people for taking a different route – but I’m still going to speak up and share my own thoughts.

    “Can the Church not prioritize the problems in the world, and deal with the most serious ones first?”

    Of course, you’re correct that the Church can prioritize what it sees as problems. But again, there are those of us who don’t see gay marriage as a problem that needs prioritizing. I see it as absolutely no threat to marriage, let alone as some kind of a threat to the Church. No one will be forcing the Church to seal gay couples in the temple (and if the idea is suggested, I would be just as opposed to it as I am to an amendment banning gay marriage).

    “And yet you so easily disregard the only people on Earth who could know this.”

    I can only assume you’re referring to the Brethren. Please tell me why they get to “know this” and other people don’t? In other words, why are they right, and other religious leaders who have spoken in support of gay marriage are wrong? See Nathan, we’re back at the same problem – you have exactly zero evidence or proof that the leaders of the LDS Church have some kind of divine connection that others do not have. You may have a testimony and faith that they do, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for that. But it deserves to be a two-way street, doesn’t it? If we expect people to be respectful of our beliefs, we need to be respectful of theirs – including those that believe God doesn’t see homosexuality as a sin. And while we can respectfully disagree, I think we show our disrespect when we try and force people to do things by passing amendments.

    “1. Corporate Fraud is being handled relatively well by the State, even if it has dropped from the headlines. There is nothing more the Church can say on the issue that would add to the conversation (other than what is mentioned below)Gay Marriage is still in question, and the Church can play a role in this.
    2. Corporate Fraud is covered relatively well under the auspices of Honesty and Integrity, which receive plenty of attention in every Gen. Conference as well as Temple Recommend interviews.”

    I suspect we’ll just have to agree to disagree on these two points. Personally, I find the Church’s response, not just to corporate fraud, but to honest business dealings in general to be inadequate. The temple recommend question is extremely vague. I won’t trouble everyone with more anecdotal evidence that will simply be dismissed – suffice it to say I believe ethical business practices are a bigger problem than gay marriage, since they are proven to be detrimental to many people, whereas no such evidence exists that gay marriage is somehow detrimental to third parties.

  103. John H on July 9, 2004 at 3:58 am

    “A decade or two ago, the Bishop’s handbook encouraged marriage to a woman as a “cure” for men with SSA.”

    Sadly, this is still being touted, albeit less rampantly. But it is still a pretty popular notion at BYU, for example. And gay Latter-day Saints have often said that they believed if they could just get married, things would get better. Of course, they do so and things don’t get better, and they’ve dragged an innocent young woman into the fray who deserves a loving husband and partner – not someone who’s trying to straighten themselves out.

    Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a wonderful letter that appears in the latest issue of Sunstone pointing out that when we continue to say gays can be “fixed” somehow, we’re creating marriages like her own and her daughter’s that ultimately fail (both Carol Lynn and her daughter married gay men).

    If someone supports the idea of “fixing” homosexuality through marriage, they most certainly should be willing to offer their own sisters and daughters to take on some cases.

  104. Nathan Tolman on July 9, 2004 at 4:13 am

    Yes, I assume the Brethren act by revelation unless there is some reason to think otherwise and I see none here. My evidence is in my heart, and I do not expect you to share it.

    As you stated, Respect and Disrespect must be a two way street, Right? I made a reasonable case before on why Homosexual and heterosexual marriage should be separate. Dean’s compromise in Vermont externalized respect for both sides. Civil Unions are the answer and the constant press for Marriage shows disrespect for the institution as it has always been constituted, in my opinion.

  105. Nathan Tolman on July 9, 2004 at 4:14 am

    BTW: What I meant by “I do not expect you to share it,” is I do not expect you to think the same way as I do. I am not questioning your faith or anything.

  106. Kristine on July 9, 2004 at 8:54 am

    Do we have any Vermonters here? I believe that the church vigorously [well, as vigorously as they could in a state with 5 members :)] opposed the civil unions compromise in Vermont.

    Nathan, I agree with you that it is not exclusively The Powerful who make definitions. I don’t think I said it is only the elites who get to define words, only that being invited to the definition party is a sign of having some power in the society, not being entirely marginalized. But I was far from clear. Sorry.

  107. Nathan Tolman on July 9, 2004 at 9:26 am

    My comment was not a criticism of you, but of PoMo theory on the issue.

  108. Jared on July 9, 2004 at 11:19 am

    Nate,

    I agree with you that the official position on polygamy today is that there is no official position (as it is for so many troubling issues, but that’s another post).

    However, the current “no official position” on polygamy represents a profound doctrinal shift. Until at least the 60’s, it was generally assumed that polygamy was only on hold in order to obey the law of the land. As mentioned previously, this was actively taught in general conference addresses and in influential publications such as Mormon Doctrine. Hence, today’s “no official position” represents a profound change because fifty years ago it was a settled issue for most members.

    I understand your skepticism, but you can’t really think that that polygamy did not come up in internal discussions over the precise wording of the statement. The fact that the statement is worded ambiguously enough for Matt to do a “too cute” reading that avoids polygamy entirely is some evidence that they at least considered how the statement could impact the current murky view of polygamy.

  109. Nate Oman on July 9, 2004 at 11:39 am

    Jared: Perhaps you are right about internal discussions on the language of the statement. Who knows? I wonder if the 1960s concensus you discuss was as strong as you suggest. For example, my understanding is that J. Reuben Clark took a much broader view of abandoning plural marriage and that he was the Church’s front many on this from the 1930s on.

  110. Mathew on July 9, 2004 at 11:41 am

    Heather,

    It was news to Emma too:)

  111. Matt Evans on July 9, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Hi Jared,

    To say that my interpretation was cute suggests that my anaylsis was clever or lawyerly, but I don’t see how that applies to my pointing out that polygamy is one person with multiple marriages, not one marriage with multiple partners.

    In what way do you imagine the brethren might have worded the statement differently had polygamy never crossed their minds?

  112. Nate Oman on July 9, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Jared: I also suspect that the decisive shift came when fewer people had direct links to living polygamists. Many older members in the 1960s were the grand children and children of polygamists, and had memories of polygamist parents and grandparents. For example, my wife’s grandmother was the daughter of a plural wife. (Omans were poor, marginally active Mormons in Carbon county, so I don’t think I have a great deal of polygamist ancestry myself.)

  113. John H on July 9, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    I think it’s tough to determine precisely when the Church shifted its views on polygamy. Certainly the practice itself was phased out and entirely abandoned by 1910. It didn’t take long for the Church to start excommunicating those who continued the practice. Nate’s correct that J. Reuben Clark in particular was aggressive in actively seeking information about those Church members who might in some way be connected to polygamy. In fact, for a brief time, he suspected Richard R. Lyman, until it became clear Lyman was simply having an affair. Clark had extensive contacts with the police department and actually had surveillance carried out against suspected polygamists.

    But the doctrinal dimension is another issue. I haven’t done any kind of extensive study, but if I were to guess, I’d suspect that men like J. Reuben Clark and Spencer W. Kimball, who seemed more focused on practical religion than doctrinal issues (although they were well-versed in doctrine) had little desire to see polygamy return and did not preach that it would. But that’s just a guess and I could be wrong.

  114. Nate Oman on July 9, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    John H.:”I know I’m also weighing a bit late (although John brought it up again a couple of posts ago), but I’m puzzled by Nate’s comment about the Church’s anti-polygamy stance in 1896. Nate, I suspect you’ve studied the history of polygamy and the anti-polygamy campaign far more than I have, so you’ve got to know that the 1896 declaration was hardly more than a political front. Less than a year later, Wilford Woodruff specifically directed Anthon Lund to marry two men (one an apostle) in polygamist unions. Although Lorenzo Snow was more cautious, Joseph F. Smith had no problem authorizing new plural marriages.”

    Sheesh! I was making what I thought was the utterly obvious point that the Church has long ago reconciled itself to legal prohibitions on plural marriage and a statement that could be read as endorsing such a prohibition is simply not news. The only possible way that it could be news is if we read it as taking the support for legal prohibitions on polygamy to a new level by suggesting a willingness to constitutionalize it, thus giving up on overturning Reynolds. This, however, again is NOT NEWS. For example, my understanding is that in both Smith and Boerne the Church submitted amicus briefs. The justices expected that the briefs would address the desirability of maintaining the continuing viability of Reynolds. I have spoken with attorneys who worked on those briefs, and one of the briefs (Boerne?) very pointedly notes that Reynolds has resolved the issue of the constitutionality of polygamy prohibitions. In other words, the Church has been studiously passing up any chances to challenge Reynolds for YEARS! (Another example is that federal law that makes the anti-polygamy provision of the Utah constitution unrepealable. This kind of act was declared unconstitutional in the early years of the twentieth century. Hence, the Church has had roughly 90 years and a perfectly good legal that it has done nothing with.) Furthermore, even if one assumed that the Church held out the hope of eschatalogical polygamy (no doubt some do; I don’t), the presence or absence of a legal prohibition (even a constitutional one) would be rather completely beside the point wouldn’t it? Presumeably after Christ splits the Mount of Olives, the seas heave themselves up on New York City, and the Saints remove to Jackson County, Reynolds and the constitution are not going to present big obstacles.

    Historically, it is true that initial endorsements of anti-polygamy laws were tactical moves, etc. So what! My only point is that there was NOTHING NEW about the Church endorsing LEGAL prohibitions.

    Sorry about the spelling mistakes everyone. Of course, Kristine, words don’t have inherent spellings. It is just a matter of those with power seeking to maintain that power. Thankfully, spelling seems to be the one area where the English majors can have their baleful influence, Shelly on the unacknowledged legislators of mankind notwithstanding.

  115. Rob on July 9, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    “I’d suspect that men like J. Reuben Clark and Spencer W. Kimball, who seemed more focused on practical religion than doctrinal issues (although they were well-versed in doctrine) had little desire to see polygamy return and did not preach that it would. But that’s just a guess and I could be wrong.”

    On my mission a 70 told us he thought Pres. Kimball had been taken from the earth early because he was planning to re-instate plural marriage, at least sanction it in countries where it is an accepted practice.

    Hope I didn’t just violate the latest directive against spreading GA rumors.

  116. Jared on July 9, 2004 at 1:13 pm

    Matt,

    “Too cute” is a term used by corporate lawyers at my firm when a client tries to insert something in a disclosure document that is “legally accurate” as Clinton would say, but is probably misleading.

    Your reading does seem semantically correct, but I think most people not as erudite as yourself would read “a man and a woman” to exclude polygamous marriage. That is because they probably would read it this way:
    marriage = union of a man and a woman
    polygamy = union of one man and several women (or vice versa technically). Polygamy does not equal marriage and thus could not be called marriage under the language of the statement. I’ll readily concede that your reading is also accurate, but I’m not sure if most people will see it that way, but who knows. I call for an empirical study!

    I’ll have to think more about your second question.

    Nate: You may be right about the connection to polygamists. My maternal grandfather was the child of a second wife, which is probably why my mother is so certain of the doctrine of eschatological polygamy.

  117. ed on July 9, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    According to http://www.familysearch.org, President Kimball’s father-in-law, Edward Christian Eyring, was married to two wives (the Romney sisters), and all three were alive until 1954, when President Kimball was already a 59-year-old apostle. (The Romney sisters were also the aunts of Marion G. Romney.)

    This might explain why President Kimball might have seen polygamy differently than most current church leaders. Also, it seems misleading to say that LDS didn’t “practice” polygamy after 1890, or 1906, or whatever, when there were still LDS practicing it in the 1950s.

  118. Davis Bell on July 9, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    Hellmut,

    Your clarifications are well taken. I guess what I reacted to in your initial statement was the idea that it’s fairly easy to examine a person’s actions and determine if they are a prophet. This seemed, and seems, problematic to me, as each of us has his or her own ideas as to how a prophet should act. To you, punishing intellectuals is antithetical to the idea of what a prophet should be. To another it’s not. So, how then is one to know who is a prophet and who is not? In my opinion, one does one’s best to study the question, and then one asks God. Any other course of action relies too heavily on one’s fallible logic and reason.

  119. Adam Greenwood on July 9, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    I think the difference between unattractive and unpersonable single mormon heterosexuals (‘desire deferred’) and single mormon homosexuals (‘desire frustrated’) is a difference of degree, if at all, not a difference in kind. The atonement will one day, to those who are willing, heal every infirmity and solace every condition. All who are miserable in chastity now will then find their sexual desires fulfilled in marriage.

  120. D. Fletcher on July 13, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    I see in the news (Yahoo) that Republicans are desperately trying to “reword” the proposed amendment to make it more palatable. It is an uphill battle to win this one, I’m glad to say.

  121. Little Hans on July 14, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    Fortunately, it appears that a majority of the Senate has better sense than the First Presidency, and the bill is dead for now.

  122. Kingsley on July 14, 2004 at 5:40 pm

    Said little Hans, brushing back his golden locks with a sniff.

  123. Randy on July 14, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    In the words of John McCain (who voted against allowing the amendment to proceed to the floor), “We will have to wait a little longer to see if Armageddon has arrived.”

  124. Jack on July 14, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    “I hope that a generation from now, the Church’s position on SSM will seem as distant, strange, and embarassing as Blacks’ being forbidden the priesthood…”

    I can only assume that you would be liberal enough in your thinking to embrace polygamy if it were re-established in the Church a generation from now.

  125. greenfrog on July 14, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Touch a nerve?

  126. Kingsley on July 14, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    Croaked greenfrog.

  127. Silus Grok on July 14, 2004 at 7:37 pm

    danithew: I did, indeed, mean “defer”. My apologies.

    Adam Greenwood: though your doctrine would appear to be on solid footing, the idea that I’ll (maybe) find a mate in the worlds to come is little comfort.

    Little Hans: wow, that was bitter… I think you’ll find that some form of the FMA will return, as I believe that the only reason it didn’t pass is that the forces for it were divided on wording, while those against it only had to be against it.

    Julie Fletcher Sheffield: I don’t find the proscription against blacks holding the priesthood the least bit embarrassing. The opinions held on _why_ the proscription was in force are a little embarrassing… but such are the ways of men.

  128. Silus Grok on July 15, 2004 at 11:48 am

    From an article in The Hill:

    From a new article in The Hill: “Realizing that a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage faces little chance of passing soon, if ever, House Republicans yesterday discussed alternative approaches, including stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, passing a federal law to define marriage and using the appropriations process to ban gay marriage in Washington …”

    [via talking points memo]

    *sigh*

    I really hope this kind of thinking doesn’t gain momentum.

  129. D. Fletcher on July 15, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    I’m sure others have pointed it out, but isn’t this Amendment just a little too much? Regardless of how one feels about the moral questions inherent in the possibility of same-sex marriage laws, the proposed Amendment seems too much like an election-year issue for polarizing the voters. I’m guessing that if same-sex marriage were completely passed in the State legislatures without publicity, no one would care. But somebody (Bush?) has made it a big issue, much bigger than it warrants, I think.

  130. clarkgoble on July 15, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    I think the problem is that congressional races aren’t doing that well. Bush appears to have decided to campaign on national security, but that is hard to really do much with in the house and senate. By forcing this it enables senators and congressmen to have something more social to run on – especially in the south.

    I agree it is much ado about little since there is little to no chance of having an amendment passed. It’s one of those things that bug me about politicians where they carefully *appear* to be doing something about some topic while making little practical impact. Democrats do it with gun control on guns rarely if ever used on crime. Republicans do it with abortion bills they know won’t pass constitutional muster or which are against proceedures never used. It also happens with silliness like flag burning and now the gay ammendment.

    As bad as it is when it happens at the federal level it is even worse when it happens at the state level. I can think of a lot of bills passed here in Utah this year that I think fit this as well.

  131. danithew on July 15, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    Mr. Grok,

    No reason to ‘poligize. :) Everything’s cool.

  132. Ben Huff on July 16, 2004 at 3:07 am

    It happened in Massachusetts: activist judges imposed radical change on the state, supposedly based on an interpretation of the state constitution. The Massachusetts legislature shortly thereafter started the process of amending its constitution to remedy the court’s adventure.

    For the Senate to consider taking steps to prevent a similar debacle on a national scale before it happens, in stead of waiting until afterward, should hardly be surprising.

  133. Jack on July 16, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    “I’m guessing that if same-sex marriage were completely passed in the State legislatures without publicity, no one would care”

    D.: There *is* publicity on this issue because people *do* care.

  134. Matt on July 8, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    Taylor,

    The statement doesn’t ban polygamy. Polygamy isn’t the same as group marriage. Group marriage is more than two parties to the union. Polygamy is a person having multiple simultaneous two-person marriages. The statement doesn’t say that those who are married should be forbidden from marrying someone else.

    Jared,

    I have no idea if they’ll support a particular amendment. Those who know what the Church has done in past situations would be much better able to anticipate their course of action.