A Homosexual Duty to Marry?

September 12, 2007 | 109 comments
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I know that this is controversial for some readers, but for purposes of this discussion stipulate that same-sex marriage in wrong. As an institutional shift it will damage the institution of marriage in ways that will harm society in the long run. Obviously, this is a hugely controversial claim, but for the time being just accept it. Notwithstanding this, however, a number of jurisdictions have adopted same-sex marriage statutes. Let’s also stipulate the homosexual conduct is sinful, a belief held by most Mormons and one that certainly seems to be church doctrine. Should Mormons who hold all of these beliefs, nevertheless believe that homosexuals engaged in sexual conduct have an obligation to get (same-sex) marriages?

It seems to me that one could make an argument along these lines. Given the beliefs set forth above, we get a rough moral ranking of sexual conduct that looks something like this:

1. Abstain from all homosexual relations.
2. Conduct homosexual relations only within the confines of (same-sex) marriage.
3. Conduct homosexual relations outside of the confines of marriage.

I take it that the priority of 1 flows fairly simply from the assumptions above. One the other hand, if a person rules out 1, one might still argue that 2 is morally superior to 3, which would imply a duty to get married (albeit a duty nested within a supervailing — but neglected — duty of abstinence). The question, it seems to me, is whether the assumptions set forth above forbid one from drawing a meaningful moral distinction between 2 and 3. For myself, I don’t see that they do. One may believe that as an institutional matter, the creation of same-sex marriage is mistaken, yet also believe that a committed and legally enforceable same-sex union is superior to homosexual promiscuity.

What think ye?

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109 Responses to A Homosexual Duty to Marry?

  1. box on September 12, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I predict a 400+ comment thread on the way!

  2. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    This post isn’t meant as as stunt or a SSM slug fest. I encourage commenters — if any there be — to focus on the issue actually presented in the post, namely the existence of duties to pursue second-best outcomes in the face of neglected duties to pursue first-best outcomes. I am also interested on the extent to which opposition to same-sex marriage precludes moral nuance in the face of political loss on that issue.

  3. Blake on September 12, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    What is it about marriage that makes intimate relations morally superior to relations outside of marriage? I submit that it is not merely commitment, but also the fact that marriage is designed to protect children and grant them rights and that if folks are going to engage in intimate conduct they must be prepared to provide the security and protections afforded by marriage for the good of society. If there is no religious reason to marry, then there is no reason to provide protections for homosexual relationships. I know — what about homosexual couples who adopt? Adoption is also a social prerogative and not a moral prerogative. I suggest that homosexual couples adopt only if considered as a single they would be granted an adoption.

    As I see it, moral obligations are deontological and legal policy ought to be utilitarian. That means that it is a category mistake to derive moral obligations from public policy considerations.

  4. GordonC on September 12, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    No. Because the act itself is a sin, there is no difference if it is done within the confines of a bogus marriage or not.

  5. Seth R. on September 12, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    I consider married homosexual sex to be better than unmarried homosexual sex. And I also support the Church’s policy of no homosexual sex. As far as laws go, I don’t think government should be doing marriage licenses in the first place, but rather protecting relationships on more of a contractual model.

  6. Sarah on September 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    I don’t see how, if you presuppose that same-sex marriage is wrong, that you can later end out believing that it’s a moral duty. Not, like, a duty because if you don’t some other person is going to shoot ten people (you know, the argument that it’s immoral to steal bread/torture people/whatever, but you might have to to prevent a worse and immediate evil), but a duty in the absence of good conduct on your own part? Eh. I just don’t see it. But then, I never really did a good job of not hating philosophy in college, so.

  7. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Sarah and Gordon C: It seems to me that there are two issues here.

    First, can one draw meaningful moral distinctions between two sinful course of conduct. In otherwords, are some sins greater than others.

    Second, can one have a duty to engage in conduct that is less sinful but nevertheless wrong.

    For example, suppose that I am a Latter-day Saint and I am also a violent binge drinker. I ought to give up drinking entirely. On the other hand, one might still say that being a moderate social drinker is better for a Latter-day Saint than being a binge drinker. Could we still say to the binging Jack Mormon, “You ought to quit drinking and you also have a duty to be at least a social drinker”?

  8. Ronan on September 12, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Add this to the mix:

    in many jurisdictions, homosexuals may adopt children. Is marriage preferable under these circumstances, or are we uninterested in the matrimonial status of homosexuals who adopt?

  9. MAC on September 12, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    My first inclination is to accept that the second option is morally better than the first. But that said, it is an issue of agency and let someone else the judge, I don’t want to.

    I think that this quote “extent to which opposition to same-sex marriage precludes moral nuance in the face of political loss on that issue.” is more salient to me. Defining it is a political loss is not a complete picture. The unintended social consequences to traditional marriage are going to have a much greater impact than any political consequences. Which makes me think that maybe 2 is actually worst than 3, because it carries consequences to society as a whole and not just to the people who do what they want behind closed doors.

    As to 400+ comments, I think there is a population which *needs* to validate their inability/unwillingness to accept (either in thought or practice) that the first option is in fact an option. If that path was attempted and failed, there is ALOT of baggage that clouds the ability to be objective and colors the discussion.

  10. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Blake: It seems to me that you have simply reiterated your arguments as to why the legal recognition of homosexual marriate would be a bad idea. I don’t see why that implies that we cannot draw a moral distinction between 2 and 3 in my original post. One may still believe that 2 is sinful, but why can’t you draw the distinction and say that it is less sinful than 3?

  11. ronito on September 12, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    ain’t no way this will get to 400 replies. Threads get shut down and locked here long before then.

  12. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Indeed they do. Sometimes the best course of conduct at a cocktail party is to move the refreshments table and suggest that the boors shouting at one another find another topic of conversation.

    Remember, a blog is a cocktail party not an open forum.

  13. Bob on September 12, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    “Better to marry………” (Bible). That’s as near as I can come.
    In many new Bible translations, it reads like this: “However, if you cannot control your desires, you should get married. It is better for you to marry than to burn with sexual desire.”

  14. jimbob on September 12, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    My initial reaction is that stability is preferrable to society than instability, so a long-term, monogamous homosexual relationship is preferrable to a short-term one. Facially, long-term homosexual relationships would seem to mean greater stability for adopted (or previously conceived) children, more certainty in ownership of real and personal property (as disputes would seem to arise less often), and less financial turmoil (assuming the trends for heterosexual couples would carry over to homosexual couples).

    What that does to the analysis, though, I don’t know.

  15. Steve Evans on September 12, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    “one might still argue that 2 is morally superior to 3″

    Nate, could you lay out the room in Mormonism for such a position? You seem to rely on the assumption that Mormons would consider 2 less sinful because of the presence of the institution, which seems to me to be false since we would consider the institution of no effect in the eyes of God. Now, if you’re saying that it’s better for sexual relations, generally speaking, to occur within the context of a meaningful relationship with vestiges of permanence, then I think Mormons would agree — but again I don’t believe it’s because of the institution itself, but rather what the institution represents as evidence of the intent of the parties.

  16. Sarah on September 12, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Nate: I don’t think drinking alcohol is “wrong” or even “sinful.” I had a very hard time not laughing out loud when a church member told me he felt completely engulfed by evil at a beer manufacturing facility — it’s a covenant thing (an additional obligation taken on voluntarily,) not a ten commandments (everyone’s held to it regardless of their inclination) thing.

    If you’re presupposing that it’s actually a “sin” to do X, and a bigger sin to do “Y”, and you refuse to avoid either by adhering to your inherent obligation to do “Z”, I don’t see where you can introduce an obligation to do “X.”

    And the Paul thing (“better to marry”) is a lousy comparison, too, since he thought people should be celibate (implying that sexual relations of any sort are sinful, which Mormons don’t agree with, and I don’t think Paul really thought so either — it strikes me as more of a philosophical “stoicism and self-denial are good, all that nasty biological stuff is a regrettable weakness and thank goodness people in heaven don’t have bodies” thing.) And I agree with Bob — that’s as close as I can get, too.

    Once you’ve presupposed that same-sex marriage is “sinful”, you’re kind of sunk, I think.

  17. MAC on September 12, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    jimbob #14

    While it might create stability for the minority (those directly affected) the destabilizing impact on the status and meaning of marriage will impact many more.

    The analogy is the sexual revolution, which removed the guilt of sexual freedom from the upper-middle class but decimated those lower on the socio-economic scale.

  18. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Sarah: Isn’t the violation of a covenant sinful?

  19. Lamanite on September 12, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    It is obviously more desireable to have practicing homosexuals to engage in long term monogomous relationships. Although I can’t endorse state lisenced marriages, I think culturally they (homosexuals) could create a similar institution. Moreover, the private sector could decide whether or not to honor cultural marriages for the purpose of benefits.

  20. Sarah on September 12, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I think it’s easier, incidentally, to argue for an obligation (assuming same-sex marriage is sinful) for people to marry into a heterosexual relationship, than it is to argue for an obligation to marry into a same-sex relationship, as a secondary (not as good as celibacy) obligation, in this scenario. That is,

    1. Celibacy – good
    2. Heterosexual (unhappy) marriage – acceptable (but you wouldn’t really advocate it)
    3. Homosexual marriage – unacceptable owing to homosexuality
    4. Homosexual outside of marriage – unacceptable owing to “outside of marriage” clause and homosexuality

    I don’t think something can be both unacceptable and an obligation at the same time. If it’s truly a sin, and not just distasteful or problematic or not-ideal or not-quite-good-enough-to-go-to-the-temple or what have you, you can’t be obligated to do it (except in the crazed-shooter scenarios, which make no sense in this context.)

  21. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Steve: I think that you make a very good point. I take it that Mormons regard marital sexual conduct as presumptively good not because it is presumptively committed but because it is married. We don’t generally view sexual conduct by couples in long term, committed, but unmarried relationships in the same light. (Although even here I think that we have more wiggle room for couples, for example, in South American countries were divorce even in the face of abandonment or abuse is difficult or impossible to obtain.)

    However, if we think that “bindingness” for want of a better term can erode the relative sinfulness of sexual misconduct, then the more binding the better. It seems to me that so long as same-sex marriages are the most tightly bound fora for homosexual conduct in our society, then such conduct is the best kind of homosexual conduct, even from a Mormon perspective. This needn’t imply, however, that the institution of same-sex marriage has the same sort of morally transformative power that heterosexual marriage has in LDS ethics.

  22. Steve Evans on September 12, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Nate, I think that’s right, but unfortunately I think your scenarios above have the effect of downplaying the role of the “morally transformative power” of heterosexual marriage. For Mormons, it’s paramount I think — far more important than “bindingness.”

  23. JM on September 12, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    I find it interesting that we are changing the definition of marriage over time, continually watering it down.

    If the first marriage performed was by God between Adam and Eve in an eternal, celestial state in the garden (yes, that’s a whole other discussion, but we teach in the church that this happened), the the only real definition of marriage is that of an eternal union between a man and a woman.

    Perhaps a similar discussion happened long ago in that Adam’s descendents motioned to change the definition of marriage to be any union between a man and a woman. After all, what is better? Sex outside a union or confined to some “Official” union. And from there we introduce the Temopral Marriage.

    As time goes by, we have living common-law which is also now a legally recognized union in many parts of the world.

    Then we continue to change the definition to include a union between any two people.

    What’s next? A union between human and animal? A union between a human and a legal entity (I can see the headlines now… “Man marries his corporation to get better tax rate”)

    If we believe that celestial marriage is the only “Real” form of marriage, then no other forms matter, or hold any more validity over any other. They are all second rate.

    What is the ultimate purpose of marriage and families? If you believe that ultimate purpose is to have an eternal family relationship in the post-mortal life, then the only option is a celestial marriage performed by someone with the authority to seal you to your spouse. No other type of “union” can, or tries to accomplish this.

  24. Ardis Parshall on September 12, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Nate, I think it matters what hat I’m wearing when you ask my opinion.

    If it’s my Mormon hat, then wrong is wrong; there’s no halfway wrong, or “this wrong is a shade better than that wrong.” Morally, religiously, a married active homosexual is in no less sinful a position than an unattached active homosexual where the law of chastity is concerned.

    If it’s my civic hat, then I have more to think about. If marriage (of whatever kind) is a benefit to society (reducing crime? preventing the spread of disease? providing stability for citizens who then pay more taxes, support PBS and obey traffic laws? — then I would have to consider whether the benefit is sufficient to warrant social and political support, in the interest of a less-unendurable miserable world.

    Of course there is a lot of assumption and even more oversimplification here. But which hat do you see me wearing when you ask your question?

  25. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Steve: You are probably right, but the case of the South American couple seems to put a lot of stress on this. A and B are married. B then abandons A and is never heard from again. Because of divorce laws, however, A and B remain married. A subsequently meets C. They fall in love, move in together (they can’t marry), have children and raise a beautiful family. They want to join the Church. Can they? My understanding (correct me if I am wrong) is that they cannot, but it is a decision that makes one’s stomach turn a bit. Of course, at common law there would be a presumption of death for B that would disolve the first marriage and perhaps a common law marriage to legally validate the second union. My intuition, here, is that the Latin American law at issue is unjust, and plays havoc with the contours of “real” marriage, which would not be offended by A’s divorce of B and remarriage to C. This, however, suggests some legally independent conception of marriage. What do I use to understand that conception? Well, we might start looking at things like willingness to accept permanent and long term commitments….

    I am not saying that we go all the way there, and I think that you are right that there is a real normative gulf between commitment and the morally transformative power of marriage. I am just saying that there are legal institutions other than same-sex marriage that push us toward the narrowing of that gulf.

  26. JM on September 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I guess I should also answer the question asked. A homosexual should only marry into a heterosexual relationship if their primary goal in doing so is to enter into an eternal marriage in the hopes of having an eternal relationship in the post-mortal life.

    If not, then it really doesn’t matter what type of relationship they have because we preach that in the end, all other eternal outcomes are secondary to the celestial existance.

  27. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    Ardis: Both.

  28. Ardis Parshall on September 12, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Nate: I have a big head, true, but not big enough to wear two hats at once. I therefore have no meaningful opinion.

  29. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Ardis: But in real life, don’t you were both hats simultaneously? In other words, this may be something about which you can’t have a real opinion, which in and of itself is interesting….

  30. Tim J. on September 12, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    “A and B are married. B then abandons A and is never heard from again. Because of divorce laws, however, A and B remain married. A subsequently meets C. They fall in love, move in together (they can’t marry), have children and raise a beautiful family. They want to join the Church. Can they? My understanding (correct me if I am wrong) is that they cannot…”

    Anyone who’s served in Latin America can attest to how difficult this situation is. Exceptions have been made but are usually done so on a case by case scenario.

    I heard (of course from the Bloggernacle) that many exceptions were made in Chile(?) because divorces weren’t difficult, but they were illegal.

  31. jimbob on September 12, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    “While it might create stability for the minority (those directly affected) the destabilizing impact on the status and meaning of marriage will impact many more.”

    I’m prone to agree, MAC, but for the fact that Mr. Oman’s hypo appears to assume that marriage is already widely available to homosexuals, meaning that the “destabilizing impact” on the “meaning of marriage” would have already occurred (via legislation). What I was trying to address was what to do now that marriage had already been “redifined.”

  32. Bill on September 12, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    “As time goes by, we have living common-law which is also now a legally recognized union in many parts of the world.”

    In fact, as time goes by, fewer and fewer jurisdictions accept common-law marriages, which were once the great majority of marriages throughout the world. Scotland became the last European country to abolish marriage “by habit and repute”, in 2006. In several US states and Canadian provinces, however, common-law marriages may still be contracted.

  33. Ardis Parshall on September 12, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    29: Yes — and I didn’t say I didn’t have a “real” opinion; I said I couldn’t offer a “meaningful” one in terms of this conversation.

    I do have a public and a private opinion about homosexual marriage, just as I do about abortion, or the assumption of certain politicians that the only way to have a vibrant downtown SLC is to pump liquor through every drinking fountain and watering hose: Privately, I abhor abortion, liquor, and homosexual activity. Publicly, I resent how much of the public conversation is consumed by these topics, as if our elected officials had no more urgent business to conduct and citizens had no more interesting options to consider. So privately, I vote my opinion. But publicly, I don’t picket, I don’t debate, I don’t add to the noise (theoretically; I am taking part here, after all) — so I have no meaningful opinion for this conversation.

  34. Ardis Parshall on September 12, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    32: In this context, “private” equals Mormon; “public” equals civic.

  35. MAC on September 12, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    jimbob,

    Legislation doesn’t preclude that individually endorsing (or not actively discouraging) option 2 might be morally inferior to ignoring option 3 (live and let live).

  36. Dave on September 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    “Second-best solution” is the right term for technical problems, but not necessarily for moral questions. One can argue that, in this case, it gets the framing wrong. It suggests the problem is homosexual relations outside of marriage, to which there are two solutions: abstaining (the first-best solution) and relations within same-sex marriage (the second-best solution).

    An alternative framing using an different vocabulary would be that abstaining is the desired and approved condition, from which there are two sinful departures: relations outside of marriage (the first-worst sin) and homosexual relations within same-sex marriage (the second-worst sin). Obviously, “second-worst sin” has less inherent appeal than “second-best solution.”

    Which framing has a better claim? I suppose that depends on whether, from an LDS perspective (which is the perspective under consideration here), the moral worth of marriage or the moral demerit of homosexual relations is the stronger factor. If the second is the stronger, then the “second-worst sin” framing more accurately represents the LDS perspective. This avoids having to reject a “second-best solution” (which sounds rather arbitrary, harsh, and uncompromising) because, from the LDS perspective, it is not really a solution at all.

  37. Mathew on September 12, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    In the model you have constructed I agree that 2 is morally superior to 3. There is a great deal to be said for the idea that we can mitigate sin by 1) engaging in less of it even if not completely abandoning it, 2) modifying the moral seriousness of the sin by changing the circumstances in which we commit it. Ancient scripture and modern practice recognize this by giving different names to the same physical act–fornication and adultery.

    Although the mechanics of the sin are the same, the moral implications of fornication are much less than adultery. Marriage has traditionally contained at least an implicit promise made to both society and one’s spouse of faithfulness. Any such implicit promise to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage is considerably weaker.

    Mitgating rather than extirpating a sin entirely is not well received by many Mormons–in my view because we have traditionally oversold perfection of self and underplayed grace. In the world of your hypothetical, I think your conclusions are correct.

  38. Mathew on September 12, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    “Because of divorce laws, however, A and B remain married. A subsequently meets C. They fall in love, move in together (they can’t marry), have children and raise a beautiful family. They want to join the Church. Can they? My understanding (correct me if I am wrong) is that they cannot, but it is a decision that makes one’s stomach turn a bit.”

    This hasn’t always been the case. According to his biography, as an apostle SWK was instrumental in developing a policy whereby such common-law marriages were recognized in the church.

  39. lamonte on September 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I know this sounds cliche’, but one of my good friends is gay. We worked togather several years ago and we had some frank discussions about his lifestyle. When I first met him, he had trouble carrying on any monogamous relationship for more than a few months or even weeks. But he has been with the same partner now for more a decade. The last time I saw him he was happier than I’ve ever seen him and he attributes it to his committed relationship.

    Based on that limited experience, it would seem that Option 2 is better than Option 3 regardless of how you feel about homosexual relationships.

  40. Last Lemming on September 12, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Nate’s premise–that one can engage in such an ordering of sinfulness–is sound. Back when birth control was still frowned upon, I engaged in the exercise myself. Specifically, I argued that although birth control was frowned upon, it was better to use it when committing fornication than not to. But in this case, I agree with Steve Evans. Because #2 depends on recognition of the institution and the Church does not recognize it, there is no effective difference between 2 and 3. If # 2 referred strictly to a monogamous relationship instead of a marital relationship, I might agree.

  41. Dan Y. on September 12, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    One thing worth considering is that, to the extent it is “binding,” option 2 makes it less likely that option 1 (which is stipulated as first-best) can be chosen as some later point in life.

    Also, this seems to be structurally similar to the following alternatives heterosexuals must consider:
    1) Conduct sexual relations in a temple marriage
    2) Conduct sexual relations in a non-temple marriage
    3) Conduct sexual relations outside of marriage
    That is, what seems to be the second-best alternative may make later adoption of the first-best alternative more difficult. (There are differences, of course. Option 2 is considered sinful in Nate’s scenario; here, maybe not so much.)

  42. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    To try to stay precisely on topic –

    As a Mormon: If this discussion were about heterosexual “sinful” relationships outside of marriage (fornication) or inside marriage (adultery), I think the answers would be obvious – and diametrically opposite. In the case of heterosexual fornication, perhaps every Mormon I know would prefer that a person be in a committed, monogamous relationship than sleeping around with multiple partners – implying that it is just a bit more “moral” to sin with only one person. In the case of heterosexual adultery, I think almost everyone would say that adultery is adultery is adultery – that there is no difference morally in one partner or twenty, since even one is breaking a covenant. To me, what’s good for the goose (heterosexually sinful activity) is good for the gander (homosexually sinful activity). Sorry; no pun was intended.

    As a citizen within a society, I prefer monogamy over promiscuity for too many reasons to list here – regardless of sexual orientation. Also, I know this next statement is a dispassionate, emotionally detached, heterosexual perspective, so take it for what it’s worth, but if I was a believing Mormon who felt like I simply had to be homosexually active, I would lean doctrinally toward a committed, non-married relationship – so my fornication would not become adultery. Without that religious conviction, OTOH, I probably would want my monogamous relationship to be granted equal status to heterosexual marriage – even if it was termed civil union. Either way, I would posit that monogamy is better than promiscuity – since a degree of self-control and commitment is better than none.

  43. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Dan Y (#41), “maybe not so much”?! How about, not at all?

  44. Nick Literski on September 12, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I’m surprised that nobody has brought up the fact that in modern times, LDS leaders have routinely framed the primary objection to homosexual relations in the context of “sex outside marriage.” With the exception of very recent comments, LDS leaders have stated that the expectation for gay members of the LDS church is the same as for straight members of the LDS church, i.e. no sexual activity outside of marriage. This would seem to imply that when it comes to homosexual relations, sexual activity within a legally-recognized marriage (albeit not a marriage recognized ecclesiastically) would be preferable to that which occurs outside of a legally-recognized marriage.

    A similar idea applies to heterosexual marriage in an LDS context. Temple marriage is certainly seen as the truly obedient ideal, yet the LDS church does not consider sexual activity within a heterosexual civil marriage to be sinful. Some sources (of admittedly questionable reliability) suggest that in early Utah, endowed LDS men promised not to engage in sexual activity with a woman unless she was “given” to that man “by the priesthood.” If this is correct, the standard would appear to have relaxed since then, to recognize civil marriage as ecclesiastically acceptable–even if not ideal.

    I am aware of at least one situation of a male LDS member who entered into a legal marriage with his male partner. Attempts were allegedly made to persuade this man to have his name removed from the records of the LDS church, rather than allow a disciplinary council to convene. The man refused to request that his name be removed from the records of the LDS church. His marital status has not changed, but no further action has been taken on the part of LDS leaders, local or general. This would suggest to me that LDS leaders are struggling with the same sort of questions Nate has raised here.

  45. giotto on September 12, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    “-for I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” D&C 1:31
    End of discussion

  46. Dan Y. on September 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Ray (#43),

    Agreed. As one that selected that option for myself, I meant the comment as a bit of a joke. My apologies if it came off as judgmental.

    OTOH, what is sin if not something that keeps one from receiving God’s full blessings?

  47. jimbob on September 12, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Re 44:

    Is it the end of the discussion? What result in the hypo does that compel? I certainly can’t tell from your comment?

  48. Mathew on September 12, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    #44,

    Nate seems to have already accepted that some sins are more acceptable than others but your statement rejects that idea entirely–even if applied to something less controvesal than homosexual relations. Even if we didn’t have prophets who have taught that some sins are preferable to others, we can intuit it by our preference for mild cursing over murder. The question under discussion isn’t whether one type of sin is ultimately acceptable, but rather one type is preferable in our present state. If the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance during our probationary state, we are already lost.

  49. MikeInWeHo on September 12, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Lamonte really nails it in comment # 39. It’s always good to consider real-world cases in a discussion of hypotheticals like this. Cuts through the fog.

    Option 1 is a non-option in the real world, because the vast majority of homosexuals are not going to suscribe to it. So the actual choice is between #2 and #3.

    re: 19 Where do you live, Lamanite? (Some people at FAIR have been looking for you… : ) Oops, I digress. Anyway, I’d just like to point out that you perfectly describe the status quo, at least in the U.S. All that has already been done.

  50. Frank McIntyre on September 12, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Suppose someone was choosing between–

    2. Bigamy
    3. long-term adultery with a mistress

    It seems to me that there is no obvious reason to think 2 is better than 3. Similarly, it is not obvious to me that 2 is better than 3 in the original case you offer. But it is not obvious to me that it isn’t. I really don’t know, and am doubtful as to whether anybody else does either. In neither case is marriage being put to its proper use, so I am unclear as to its benefits.

  51. jjohnsen on September 12, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    SSM is preferable, because married couples have less sex, thus the result would be less homosexual (sinful) sex. Right? Right? Who’s with me here?

    My more serious take is that option 2 is better than option 3. Is keeping sex within marriage only a better choice for heterosexual Mormons because the church has told us it is? Are there any other benefits that come with monogamy between two people that are committed to each other over the long term? I believe there is, which is why I also believe we should support SSM. The happiness and differences I see in gay friends that are part of a committed couple is the same happiness and difference I see in heterosexual couples.

    Couldn’t you apply this to anyone, homosexuals don’t have to be part of the conversation. How about single mothers, another group that seems to be looked down upon with regularity in my ward. What is preferable?

    1. A young woman becomes pregnant, the father takes off, and she is left to raise the child on her own.
    2. The young man and woman decide to give it a shot, they move in together and start to raise the child with all the love a married couple would, but without the marriage certificate.
    3. The young man and woman are married by the bishop in the backyard of the young woman before the child is born, and everyone lives happily ever after.

    Of course number three is preferable, but isn’t number two much better than number one, especially for the child?

  52. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    In a sense Nick’s comment raises the question of whether a same-sex marriage is a marriage for purposes of defining the sin of fornication among LDS. (Although, as I suggested in my response to Steve one might think that SSM is to be preferred to homosexual promiscuity for reasons unrelated to the way that marriage marks off fornication from legitimate sexual activity.)

    There is an analogy here from Islamic law. Shi’ia jurists recognize what is called a Nikah el Mut’a. This is a temporary marriage whose term is defined at the outset. The marriage is totally valid under Shi’ia interpretations, and indeed some Shi’ia enter into Nikah el Mut’a for very long terms (99 years or in effect for life) rather than ordinary marriages just as a way of sticking it to Sunnis. (Although there may be an element of property and divorce planning involved; I don’t know.)

    Sunni jurists, on the other hand, are quite insistant that Nikah el Mut’a are nothing more or less than prostitution contracts and far from being legitimate marriages are a form of sin. My understanding is that under Saddam Nikah el Mut’a were illegal in Iraq, but this is not longer the case now that Shi’ia are in control. Sunni jurists, however, would continue to insist that those who engage in a Nikah el Mut’a are fornicating.

  53. MikeInWeHo on September 12, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    re: 52

    That’s an interesting analogy, Nate. I agree, Nick’s argument in #44 hinges on whether or not a SSM (a la Canada, etc) is in fact a valid marriage at all. Answer that question (as the Church clearly has: No) and the rest follows.

    That said, it is fascinating that there’s at least one same-sex-married gay man that we know of who has been allowed to continue as a member of the Church without any action taken. I assume he does not hold a TR. It would suggest some ambivalence about how to handle this situation in terms of ecclesiastic discipline.

    Ambivalence is a word that well describes how many LDS feel on this whole issue, imo. (Here’s where bbell jumps in to refute me…! : )

  54. Nick Literski on September 12, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    The gentleman in question does not hold a temple recommend, nor does he hold a calling. He attends LDS meetings regularly.

  55. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    btw, I forgot to add one explanatory note:

    If you remove the religious and marital aspects and discuss sexual activity solely as a physical health issue, given the chance of STDs alone, I find it hard to fathom that anyone would argue that monogamy is not better than promiscuity. Everything else only adds to that most basic foundation.

    For example, if two gay men are in a committed relationship and are following the basic standard of the Church as if they were heterosexual (prior abstinence and current fidelity), what would be the chance that either of them would contact and then share an STD through sexual activity? Exactly the same as my wife and I. Regardless of one’s theological and doctrinal view of sexual orientation and activity, how can anyone argue that such a scenario is not better than multiple partners and the multiplied risks?

  56. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    and, please, don’t get technical about various ways to get an STD. This isn’t the time or the place, and I really don’t want to go there. By “share”, I meant “share it with others”.

  57. SilverRain on September 12, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    My first reaction to this question would be to say that although one can certainly rank sin by degree, there is little purpose in doing so unless one is discussing difficulty of repentance. Without repentance, sin remains. Whether it is a little or a lot, any degree of sin keeps you from exaltation. Whether one indulges in homosexual relations in- or outside of marriage is rather moot, since an easy assumption is that either way, one isn’t wanting to repent of it.

  58. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    SilverRain, the assertion that “wanting to repent of it” is all that is required to be able to change is problematic for others who struggle to overcome non-sexual inclinations and never totally conquer them in this life. I know quite a few people who want badly to react differently to their children in stressful situations but can’t conquer their current reactions totally – and I would never claim that their desire to repent simply isn’t strong enough. Some things are thorns that will go away only in the resurrection.

    That is *not* a blanket excuse for either homosexual activity or any other action that the Church deems to be sin. It merely points out the danger in blaming one’s inability to control perfectly one’s deeply ingrained impulses and inclinations on an inadequate desire to change. The beauty of the Atonement, IMO, is not *just* that we can receive strength to change in the here and now, but also that we can receive grace for our efforts even when we cannot change in the here and now.

    To the question of the post, I think that points to the need for those who simply feel they cannot remain celibate at least to strive for a committed, monogamous relationship. It isn’t the ideal, but all of us are commanded to live as closely to the ideal *as we individually are able* – trusting that the Lord in His infinite wisdom will understand our hearts and make up the difference. I’m not going to be judged against you, and I’m not going to be judged against a universal, Mosaic Law-like standard; I’m going to be judged against myself – what I did with what I was given. Since I have no idea the exact extent of any other person’s struggle to deal with his/her own thorns, I try to preach the ideal, recognize that not all can live that ideal, and encourage them to do the best they can to live as close to it as is possible for them. If that means monogamy rather than promiscuity, so be it.

  59. Blake on September 12, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Nate: My point was that your example and question commits a logical category mistake by mixing one type of considerations with another type of considerations. Whether homosexual marriage is a moral obligation is a different question than whether there is a good social reason based upon public policy considerations for homosexual marriage. Your question assumes that they are commensurate and can be compared in terms of duties. My point is that they cannot be so compared. It is a logical category mistake that ends up asking us to consider apples (moral obligations) when what we ought to be considering are oranges (public policy consequences).

  60. Ryan Bell on September 12, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    I’m surprised that the responses haven’t been more unanimous. This question seems pretty cut and dry to me. Perhaps a simpler analogy:

    John is a gay man who has decided to come out of the closet and become sexually active. He has one gay friend who is constantly finding new sexual partners, and one gay friend that is in a committed, long-term monogamous gay relationship. Each friend encourages John to live the lifestyle they have chosen. Which should he choose? In other words, assuming that sex outside of the formal confines of marriage will occur, which is better, a revolving door of sexual partners, or a committed, multi-dimensional relationship that includes sex?

    To me that’s a very, very easy question. Regardless of the basic fact of unchastity (which is a big deal of course), there are clearly varying levels of unchastity, and the moral depravity of sinful long-term loving monogamy simply can’t approach the depravity of sinful non-committed, non-loving serial sex.

    To those that are arguing that sin is sin and thus there are no meaningful distinctions in the moral seriousness of various sins, I think your position is contradicted by all the scriptures that do rank-order sins, and by the obvious fact that some sins have only tiny effects on our souls, and some sins have enormous effects on our souls (not to mention our standing in the church). Yes, it’s true that all sin, if left unexpiated, will keep us from salvation. But there are plenty other reasons to be concerned with the moral gravity of one’s conduct besides its effects on their salvation. Besides, understanding the seriousness of a sin is important to understanding what level of repentance is required to gain salvation, so it is a useful inquiry to the penitent, and to the sinful-but-hoping-to-be-penitent-at-some-future-point.

  61. m&m on September 12, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    I like what Steve Evans (22) and SilverRain (56) have said.

    A related thought: I think that the Church’s definition of marriage makes it impossible to make a sexual homosexual relationship that is somehow approved (to Nick’s 44). When the Church says ‘no sex outside of marriage’ that means no sex outside of heterosexual marriage, and only heterosexual marriage. If gay marriage is legalized, it won’t change the law of chastity.

    I imagine all of us would agree that for practical reasons (better health, etc.), monogamous homosexuality is better than promiscuity, but by the Church’s definition it’s still sin, and making marriage more than heterosexual, even for ‘practical’ reasons would still run contrary to the plan of salvation.

  62. queuno on September 12, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Re 30 (divorce/common-law marriages in Chile) -

    When I was on my mission in Chile, there were stipulations for baptizing common-law people, but only after a certain amount of time (like 10 years, I think), and had to be personally approved and interviewed by the mission president. And it wasn’t that they couldn’t get a divorce — because it was outlawed. HOWEVER, the Catholic Church would, for a fee so high that most couldn’t afford it (like US$50000, in the early 90s dollars), grant an annullment. If you couldn’t get an annullment, your only hope for baptism was to get into a common-law marriage for the 10 years.

    We didn’t get many of these baptisms, as you can imagine.

    The movement to legalize divorce started shortly after Aylwin was elected. The Church was a quiet supporter of the movement and (IIRC) contributed financially to the effort (someone feel free to contradict me, I’m basing my recollection on missionary gossip). Chile has allowed divorce since 2004, an achievement which many, many Church members in Chile applaud (with the goal that it remain rare, safe, and legal).

  63. Miss Piggy on September 12, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    This question could be aptly rephrased as: “What happens when you put lipstick on a pig?”

  64. Nate Oman on September 12, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Blake: The analysis in the post that I offer above may be incorrect, but not I think because of a category mistake. You assert that moral duties are a matter of deontology and public policy is a matter of consequentialist analysis. You may be right about this, but it is a hugely controversial claim, certainly not one of such obviousness that it can form the major premise in an accusation of logical category mistakes. Laws are regularlly justified on deontological moral grounds (I can provide citations if you would like) and there are perfectly respectable theories of personal morality grounded in consequentialism. Furthermore, while law and morality are seperate domains (even in natural law theories), there is obvious overlap between then. There is no a priori reason that the arguments just to justify (or attack) law X could also be used to justify or attack personal activity Y. Furthermore, there is likewise no a priori reason to suppose that arguments justifying personal moral judgments might be independent of arguments justifying legal insitutions (which after all was the premise of my post). In short, I may be wrong, but you can get to that conclusion through a series of questionable ipse dixits about the relationship between law and morality.

  65. Julie M. Smith on September 12, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    I think it depends if you are thinking from a theological perspective or a civil one. From an LDS theological one, there is no more benefit from a homosexual marriage than from a Catholic baptism.

    From a civil perspective, we might find measurable advantages to society (and esp. any children involved) from more stable homosexual unions.

  66. Dan S. on September 12, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    From a Mormon perspective, I would ask, why draw the distinction with homosexual marriage? God’s laws are spiritually based, not temporal. Couldn’t you argue that those who don’t get married by the Holy Priesthood are living in an invalid marriage in the eyes of God (similar to the way we argue that those who don’t have a proper priesthood baptism have an invalid baptism?) So, why then does Heavenly Father still encourage his children to at least enter into an “invalid”, earthly marriage?

    I think that Heavenly Father presents to his children degrees of good and asks them to live as much good as possible. You might say that in reverse, that God presents his children with a list of sins and ask them to sin as little as possible. Either way, if you are doing more good or sinning less, I suppose you could define that as progression toward God. And, I firmly believe that ALL progression toward God pleases God. I think that heterosexuals and homosexuals alike should look for as many opportunities to move up from their number 3′s to their number 1′s. If the number 2 helps you to get to your number 1, then it is progression in God’s eyes.

    However, does 2 above really seem to be a progressive step toward 1? I would argue that living in a monogomous/marital relationship probably wouldn’t progress a homosexual person from 2 to 1. It might even discourage progression to 1 in some ways. BUT it probably would progress that person in other ways (enhanced societal duty, less emphasis on carnal pursuits, greater opportunities to server others, etc.) any of which could lead toward progression to God.

  67. -L- on September 12, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Believing sin is sin because it prevents one from advancing toward a divine destiny to become like God, I’ve often thought that SSM offers important opportunities to express love, commitment, and sacrifice to another person. Basically, it allows for the development of certain divine traits much more than the promiscuous alternative.

    On the other hand, recently I’ve been persuaded that SSM may be more damning than promiscuity. In contrast to Nick’s case example above, I know a gentleman who was indeed excommunicated from the church following his marriage, and now that he’s reconciled with the church in all doctrinal ways, he is unable to receive necessary ordinances or progress in priesthood service because of his outstanding obligation to his faithful spouse. This is tragic to me in a particularly poignant way.

    As others have mentioned, sin will keep one from reconciliation with God, regardless of the flavor. The only stratification that seems meaningful is one that measures capacity for future repentance. It may be that in this sense, option 2 is worse than 3. It’s also one of the reasons I’m ambivalent about gay marriage, despite my belief that folks ought to have the chance to live their lives according to their own values, and not mine.

  68. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Sorry, L, but I don’t understand the “outstanding obligation to his faithful spouse”. Do you mean financial obligation – and, if so, why does that stop the opportunity for growth? If so, are you saying that the financial obligations of divorce make promiscuity (no financial obligation) better than marriage and the attendant possibility of divorce? If so, hos would this differ in any way from heterosexual marriage? If not financial, to what kind of obligation are you referring?

  69. Murray on September 12, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    A couple of people (one being Ray) have made the assertion that a monogamous homsexual relationship is as physically healthy as a monogamous heterosexual relationship. My understanding is that this is not true. One common health problem among homosexuals is fecal incontinence. Doesn’t get much publicity. It is not a good dinner table conversation. It is simply caused by the fact that Part A is meant to fit in to Part B, not Part C. Other problems, such as infection, also arise from this activity.

    Homosexual activity is wrong, whether it is within a “marriage” or not. In fact, I think within a “marriage” is worse as it is mocking the institution of marriage which is ordained of God, therefore mocking God, and we all know He does not like that one bit!

  70. -L- on September 12, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    He’s still married. He has made a promise to his spouse to stand by him. He loves his spouse, and he’s not going to break that commitment. That commitment therefore keeps him from returning to the full blessings of the gospel.

  71. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Murray, the resident parser asks that you not misread what I actually said. Seriously, I don’t like answering invalid charges; I get that too much from those who claim I am a brainwashed robot shill because of my calling in the Church. I’m sure yours was innocent, but it still is important to read carefully and not misread comments.

    Look again at what I actually said in #55 and #56. I was talking about monogamous vs. promiscuous activity and the spreading of STD’s – NOT overall health of homosexual activity and heterosexual activity. I am well aware of the many health issues associated with homosexual activity (far more than need be discussed herein); I was addressing one specific issue relevant to the central question of this thread.

  72. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks, L, for the clarification, but I have to ask:

    When you say “stand by him” do you mean not seek a divorce – divorce but not separate – or continued sexual activity – or something else? According to the new Church pamphlet, as long as he remains celibate he is obeying the Law of Chastity. What is it that is keeping him from returning to the full blessings of the Gospel?

  73. -L- on September 12, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    This gentleman, I know, does not believe celibacy within his marriage is appropriate. Indeed, if marriage is being sexual and domestic partners, requiring celibacy from his non-Mormon spouse seems unfair and untrue. It’s his honor that keeps him in his marriage, sexually active with his spouse, and unable to do more than attend church as an excommunicated visitor.

  74. Bob on September 12, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    I know Nate put a lot of limits on this post, but I had hoped to hear a more Charity, and see a little less reaching for the rulebook in the back pocket.

  75. -L- on September 12, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    Incidentally, I have an uncle who divorced his catholic wife in order to find an eternal companion, and despite my best efforts to believe his claim to divine guidance on that, I’ve never managed to rid myself of skepticism (especially having seen the long term effect on my cousins).

  76. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Got it, L. So, trying to get back to the question of the original post, are you saying that if he had not gotten married in the first place, but rather simply lived in a non-married union, he could walk away from that union and it’s attendant activity – making his marriage the one thing keeping him from full activity?

    I understand the reasoning, but I’m not sure I can accept it fully. To most people, regardless of orientation, the commitment precedes the marriage or union. I think it is the commitment to the individual that is keeping him from walking away, not necessarily the marriage in and of itself. I think it might support the #2 is better than #3 claim, since I have a hard time believing he would be attending church regularly if he had not been able first to establish his own version of commitment and monogamy.

    Having said that, I am not going to hint at judgment in his case. I think this is a good example of why Elder Jensen said that what the Church is asking of its gay members is akin to living without hope – and why the official stance has softened so much recently. It’s also why I believe, assuming what I have been told is true and accurate, this man’s heart is in a better condition than someone who is promiscuous in his sexuality. The mere fact that he attends as an excommunicated visitor in such a difficult situation, IMO, is a testament to the belief that this is not as easy or clear-cut an issue as many believe it to be.

  77. Kevin Barney on September 12, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    I reject the premises of the hypothetical, but accepting them arguendo per Nate’s instructions, I would say that 2 is preferable to 3. So I agree with Nate’s suggestion. (But I’m not sure that that amounts to a “duty” for a gay person to marry. If I’m gay, I’m going to engage in sex one way or the other and therefore I’m going to leave the Church, so Mormon concepts of morality no longer are going to have any pull for me.)

    This is actually one reason that I wish the Church would not oppose gay marriage; it seems to me that such would be a conceivably possible way to allow sexually active gay people to remain engaged in the Church (even if, say, they were not given temple recommends or something like that). Buy I realize that by Mormon standards I’m hopelessly liberal on this issue.

  78. Ray on September 12, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Kevin raises an interesting question. Perhaps it is such a minor distinction that it is irrelevant, but:

    Do Mormons (or enough Mormons to make a difference) draw a distinction between same-sex marriage and same-sex civil union – and would the change in wording change the way anyone discusses the hypothetical in the post? IOW, someone might say, “Calling a homosexual relationship a marriage is an affront to God and demeans the very purpose of marriage, but if “the world” wants to sanction same-sex civil unions, it would be better for homosexual men and women to commit to monogamy in that type of union than promiscuity outside a civil union.”

    Nate, if that is a re-direction you don’t want addressed, feel free to say so – and delete it, if you want.

  79. Blake on September 13, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Yeah Kevin, you’re hopelessly liberal on the issue. [snicker] Why would getting a piece of paper from the State change whether having immoral sexual relations is immoral? Consider this: if a gay man were to remain celibate it wouldn’t matter if he were married or not. If he were married but not celibate, it wouldn’t change whether his sexual intimacies were moral or not. I can accept that having a single, stable partner is far better than impersonal objectifying sex with multiple sex partners and spreading STDs rampantly (hetero or homo doesn’t make any difference there). However, it still doesn’t make homosexual relations moral; it just makes them less immoral.

  80. Bob on September 13, 2007 at 1:12 am

    #77: I am not sure what Mormon standards are, but I hope…being “Hopelessly liberal” is not one of them.

  81. Dave on September 13, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Heterosexual marriage (even when its just a piece of paper from the State) legitimizes heterosexual relations, which are deemed sinful outside of marriage but permissible within marriage. But marriage doesn’t do the same trick for homosexual relations in the eyes of the Church. So while we use the same word (“marriage”) to refer to each case, it is referring to two different concepts. So one could argue that Nate’s rough moral ranking, while intuitive, doesn’t fit as a description of the LDS perspective, which does not necessarily give homosexual relations within marriage any higher moral ranking than without.

    The “a glass of wine each day is good for your health” argument doesn’t make drinking wine less of a transgression. I don’t know that drinking beer is given a higher moral ranking than drinking vodka or Jack Daniels. So just pointing out a nicer result (or a less deleterious result) doesn’t translate to a higher LDS moral ranking.

  82. Kaimi Wenger on September 13, 2007 at 1:29 am

    Blake asks:

    “Why would getting a piece of paper from the State change whether having immoral sexual relations is immoral? ”

    That’s the ticket, Blake. It’s just a piece of paper, and has nothing to do with morality.

    The same as with straight folks, of course. What significance could a piece of paper have? Please ignore the lines in the temple ceremony that attach any level of moral significance to that particular piece of paper.

  83. Ray on September 13, 2007 at 1:30 am

    Bob, It depends totally on how you define the term – and the issue in question. I am extremely conservative on some issues, hopelessly liberal on others, quite moderate on most.

    Also, from what I have been able to tell from Kevin’s comments on this and other blogs, if all of the members of the Church were as humble, caring, dedicated and Christlike as Kevin, there would be much less contention and much more true charity in the world than there is now. Even as a passionate parser, I simply ask that you please be careful about how the underlying implications of comments like #80 tend to project value judgments onto others – usually with little or no real understanding of the one being implicated.

    All I am saying, in such a verbose way, is that labels applied too liberally (ironic, no?) are not constructive and only lead to misunderstanding and/or offense.

    Sorry for the personal response, but Kevin is too good a man to have to defend himself. In fact, he might not even deign to do so. Let’s stay on topic with this one, please.

  84. Kaimi Wenger on September 13, 2007 at 1:32 am

    The “a glass of wine each day is good for your health” argument doesn’t make drinking wine less of a transgression. I don’t know that drinking beer is given a higher moral ranking than drinking vodka or Jack Daniels. So just pointing out a nicer result (or a less deleterious result) doesn’t translate to a higher LDS moral ranking.

    I don’t know, Dave. Can we generalize from beer/vodka/word of wisdom, to an argument that degrees-of-sin is not a valid conceptualization?

    What about drinking tea? When the current Word of Wisdom was phased in, at the turn of the century, tea drinking was still a violation — but not one that would keep a person out of the temple. Does that support the idea that degrees of sin (some more sinful, perhaps, or more serious, or somehow more blameworthy) exist?

  85. Dave on September 13, 2007 at 1:47 am

    Bishop to confessing transgressor: “Well, Brother X, that does sound like a problem. Let me get out my updated copy of the Correlated Moral Weighting Chart and find the point value of that particular transgression so I can add up your itemized list … oh, good news, it comes in at a 26, which when combined with your other minor transgressions gives you a sin score of only 42 and does not qualify for formal discipline, which kicks in at 50. As you get 5 points for every month of good behavior, in only 9 months you’ll be back to a Celestial Zero if you stay out of trouble.”

    That’s what’s wrong with the idea of degrees of sin or moral rankings (if taken to its logical conclusion).

  86. Ray on September 13, 2007 at 2:13 am

    I just spent 20 minutes crafting a complex debate response to #85, but I realized everything I was writing had already been said. Some of us believe some sins are more serious than others; some of us don’t. I think that is clear and doesn’t need further elaboration.

    Good night.

  87. MikeInWeHo on September 13, 2007 at 2:35 am

    re: 69

    Oh dear. And I thought my friend kept going to the restroom over dinner because there was too much wasabi in the mashed potatoes. Who knew?!

    Murray is to gays as Ed Decker is to Mormons. Maybe a DVD is next. Let’s call it The Incontinents. They can hang it on all the front doors here in West Hollywood.

    Seriously, friends…..PLEASE non-judgmentally befriend some gay families if you feel so strongly about this issue.

    Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or get angry when I read a string like this. Think I’ll choose laughter!!

  88. Murray on September 13, 2007 at 5:08 am

    Ray, re: my comment 69 and your comment 71 – sorry if I misread your comments in #55 and #56. I thought I had the gist of what you were saying, obviously I missed the boat somewhere.

    MikeInWeHo #87: not sure if you meant that as a compliment or not, but I will take it as one. And I do have homsexual friends.

  89. John Gustav-Wrathall on September 13, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Line upon line, precept upon precept. We progress from light to greater light.

    Either/or thinking and condemnation never helped anyone.

    Why would we not want to provide all the encouragement within our power to give, to those who wish to improve their state. With the exception of the folks posting on this blog who are living in a state of complete perfection, we all live in sin. For us sinners (sorry to be a blight on you perfect folks), one step at a time seems to be the best way to move toward perfection.

    The way ahead is rocky and slippery for most of us, and it is up to us to determine which step will move us forward the best. If there are any other sinners besides me posting on this blog, here’s a word of advice. Don’t listen to the perfect people over there mocking and demeaning you because you are not perfect. Listen to the folks down here on the path with you, and focus on the task at hand. Becoming more perfect.

  90. Adam Greenwood on September 13, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Interesting post, Nate O.

    I accept your premise that sex is less wrongful the more lasting and committed it is. And I see no particular reason this should not apply to homosexual sex. That is, the committed homosexual is not sinfully treating his body and other people as meaningless instruments of pleasure to the degree that the promiscuous bathhouse homosexual is, if at all.

    But I think that your analysis ignores several points:

    A) If SSM and civil unions are *institutionally* bad for marriage, in all probability the bad effects are enhanced the more the institution is practiced.

    B) The moral benefits of sexual fidelity are real, but I’m not sure that SSM and civil unions have the institutional meaning of sexual fidelity. Quite a bit of rhetoric from portions of the gay community and their fellow travelers embraces these institutions while vehemently rejecting that they should requrie sexual fidelity. And civil unions, in particular, do not have any legal framework that as yet embraces some idea of sexual fidelity (I’m not aware that any jurisdiction that recognizes adultery as a crime or a tort has applied it to civil unions or that any jurisdiction that recognizes adultery as a factor in divorce proceedings has recognized it as a factor in civil union dissolution).

    C) I think the Gadianton robbers and passages about oath-swearing in the New Testament show us the danger of making promises to remain in a sinful state. The commitment and promises involved in SSM and civil unions, if they are kept, seem to me to require refraining from celibacy and heterosexual marriage. This means that they either deny, or reject, repentance and grace. You may say that an oath to do something wrongful is void and therefore morally meaningless, but even then such an oath will have the consequence of making repentance and change less likely and is therefore wrong; and anyway making an oath to do something wrong isn’t morally meaningless.

    I have one other objection but I’m having trouble explaining it so I’ll keep it to myself right now.

  91. lamonte on September 13, 2007 at 10:31 am

    #77 “If I’m gay, I’m going to engage in sex one way or the other and therefore I’m going to leave the Church, so Mormon concepts of morality no longer are going to have any pull for me.”

    Kevin – I think I am in agreement with all of your comments except the statement above. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say “If I’m straight, I’m going to engage in sex one way or the other and therefore I’m going to leave the Church, so Mormon concepts of morality no longer are going to have any pull for me.)

    I think there is a choice for gay church members (abstinence) although that seems to be an unfair requirement as was skillfully pointed out in John Donald Gustaz-Wrathall’s personal essay in the Summer 2007 edition of Dialogue.

  92. Bob on September 13, 2007 at 10:34 am

    #83: Ray. thank you for catching my mistake in #80. That’s what I/you get when I write at Midnight. I wanted to say ” I hope being ‘hopelessly liberal’ can be one of them.” (Mormon Standards). I, like Kevin, try to be open about our Liberal Gene ( and my bad spelling gene. Why don’t the women seem to have these problems? Why does it say “If there are mistakes……it’s the mistakes of men.?).

  93. Blake on September 13, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Kaimi: What has significance in the temple isn’t the piece of paper but my covenant and agreement not to have relations outside of the bounds of a legal marriage. Breaking one’s covenants and promises is a moral issue; violating a piece of paper issued by the State is not. Perhaps you’re missing the point?

  94. Blake on September 13, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Lamonte: I can see that there is a burden on homosexuals who are asked to abstain because they have no chance for marriage. However, I question whether the abstinence stance is “unfair” as you argue. If it’s fair to ask single women who really haven’t had a real chance to marry to abstain from sexual relations, why is it unfair to ask the same of homosexuals? Or do you think we ought to just say: “well, if you just can’t get married, have at it!”

  95. Blake on September 13, 2007 at 10:54 am

    Adam: Good suggestions in # 90.

  96. lamonte on September 13, 2007 at 10:57 am

    Blake – I accept your point of view and feel you make a valid point. However, I think the difference between homosexuals and the single women you mention is that the women still have hope that they can someday be married and have a sexual relationship with someone they love. In today’s society they have even more of a chance by being the aggressor in securing such a reltionship. However, as John Gustav-Wrathall points out in his essay, homosexuals are asked to void that possibility forever. That is the part I feel is unfair and his essay is what led me to that conclusion.

  97. Nick Literski on September 13, 2007 at 11:03 am

    #69:
    One common health problem among homosexuals is fecal incontinence.

    Would you care to cite a reliable source from a medical professional? The only place I’ve generally seen this claim is in evangelical literature, as part of “gross-out” scare tactics. Actual scientific studies, conducted by medical professionals, find otherwise.

  98. MikeInWeHo on September 13, 2007 at 11:08 am

    re: 88 You go with that, Murray. My compliments indeed.

    Hi, John G-W! Where have you been hiding?

  99. Adam Greenwood on September 13, 2007 at 11:32 am

    violating a piece of paper issued by the State is not.

    Why not?

  100. Kaimi Wenger on September 13, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Dave (86) writes,

    Bishop to confessing transgressor: “Well, Brother X, that does sound like a problem. Let me get out my updated copy of the Correlated Moral Weighting Chart and find the point value of that particular transgression so I can add up your itemized list … oh, good news, it comes in at a 26, which when combined with your other minor transgressions gives you a sin score of only 42 and does not qualify for formal discipline, which kicks in at 50. As you get 5 points for every month of good behavior, in only 9 months you’ll be back to a Celestial Zero if you stay out of trouble.”

    Well, it sounds silly if you put it _that_ way. But something like that absolutely goes on, doesn’t it?

    Bishop to Peter Priest: So you’ve told me that you felt up your date. That’s a violation of the law of chastity. Apologize to the girl, and don’t take sacrament for a month, and don’t do it again.

    Bishop to Ed Elder: So you tell me you slept with your neighbor. That’s a violation of the law of chastity. We’re going to hold a church court.

  101. lamonte on September 13, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Kaimi -Ed Elder has likely been to the temple and made more demanding covenants than Peter Priest. As I see it, that is the difference.

    To whom much is given…

  102. Geoff B on September 13, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    As this discussion continues (excellent comments all), it is even more clear to me how inspired the Church’s position is on this issue.

  103. Peter LLC on September 13, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    #3:As I see it, moral obligations are deontological

    Tautology, anyone?

  104. MikeInWeHo on September 13, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    re: 102 Can you elaborate, Geoff ?

  105. Geoff B on September 13, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Mike, probably not without a massive threadjack. I’m sure we’ll have other chances to discuss this issue in other fora. All the best to you and yours.

  106. John Gustav-Wrathall on September 13, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    I’m still trying to figure out how promising to love and care for another human being is like making an oath to rob, murder, lie, and undermine the government.

  107. John Gustav-Wrathall on September 13, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Oh, and hi, Mike!

  108. John Gustav-Wrathall on September 13, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    I actually knew a devout Christian (heterosexual) guy once, who seriously believed that having a series of one-night stands was less sinful than living in a committed relationship with a woman, because then you were committing to your sin. So he slept around, and felt OK about it.

    To me, it demonstrates the dangers that can occur when you engage in theoretical ethics, and refuse to consider the real-life impact that certain kinds of behavior have on real people.

    I’ve seen the real-life impact of promiscuity on real-life gay people, and I’ve seen the impact by comparison when same-sex couples make a solemn commitment to each other to stick together, come hell or high water. When you see the real-life fruits of these real-life behaviors, there’s no argument any more. Yes, commitment in relationships is always, always better than lack of commitment. People grow stronger as people. Their lives become more stable and meaningful. Love flourishes. And so does, by the way, faith and one’s relationship with God. I’ve seen this in my own life and I’ve seen it in other lives.

    All the gnashing of teeth and anger about gay people destroying the family and undermining society… Haven’t seen much good come of that.

  109. Nate Oman on September 13, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you all for your comments. You’ve given me much to think about. I am going to close comments on the thread now.

WELCOME

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