Elder Porter of the Seventy, in Newsweek

December 16, 2008 | 103 comments
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Elder Porter of the Seventy has a column in Newsweek responding to a recent Newsweek opinion piece claiming that opposition to gay marriage was unbiblical. There are several unusual features about the column

The column is co-authored. Writing along with him are Joseph Bottum, a Catholic editor at First Things, and John Mark Reynolds, an evangelical professor.

The column is about the Bible alone.

The column treats the Christian tradition as somewhat normative.

The column claims authority for the Bible not because of divine witness but because its central message (fallen man, redemption through Christ) has been proven through centuries of experience.

This passage:

Those who tried to live by the Christian understanding have come to amazingly similar conclusions about what God wants in marriage. We have had centuries to try out many different ideas and test them against the text of the Bible and experience. Only traditional marriage has stood. The Orthodox of Russia came to the same conclusion as the Roman Catholics of Italy. The Pentecostals of Kenya came to the same conclusion as the Reformed Christians of Scotland. Over time, different accommodations have been made to extreme or difficult situations, but the ideal has been clear: God’s will is for marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman. Nothing else will work.

The column is worded more, ah, vigorously then you usually get from church leaders (I’m familiar with the other authors and the wording is unusually strong for them too, if memory serves).

There are some interesting Mormon pointers, both in the passage I cite above and in this one that stops short of treating the Bible as an ultimate authority: “Suppose we were to take the Bible seriously–where it agrees with us, and where it doesn’t.”

All in all, the column is an unusual production.

I remember talking to a Stake President once who was gloomy. He said it was because as Stake President he was responsible for the welfare of everyone in his stake, not just the Saints, and he had no idea what to do for them.

Recently, I think, we’ve seen the Church start to worry that we might need to help save the country before we can convert it.

P.S. Getreligion.org has been all over Newsweek’s opinion piece.

P.P.S. The Atlantic had the same argument several years ago and we commented on it here.

Comment warning.
Also I have this little quirk that makes me react badly to criticizing Seventies and Apostles and so on.

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103 Responses to Elder Porter of the Seventy, in Newsweek

  1. Matt W. on December 16, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Can you link in the full article?

    [Ed. -- The links are fixed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.]

  2. Brian Woodward on December 16, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Adam, do you have a link to the article? After the gay marriage column last week I cancelled my subscription.

  3. Phouchg on December 16, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Isn’t it kind of presumptuous for a Stake President to assume he has responsibility for non-members of his stake?

    Does the pastor of a Catholic church have responsibility for the mormons who live in his parish?

  4. Blake on December 16, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Wow! What does this mean for polygamy?

  5. Jettboy on December 16, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I actually think that this article proves exactly how different Mormons are to Catholics and Evangelicals in the understanding and interpretation of the Bible. There was very little in it that I could agree with without serious caveats. That isn’t to say I don’t agree with the thrust of the argument, as much as the way it was argued. Like Blake said, polygamy is very problematic for this article.

  6. Julie M. Smith on December 16, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Blake, I think “Over time, different accommodations have been made to extreme or difficult situations,” is the bone thrown to polygamy.

    I couldn’t find the rest of the article on the Newsweek site–anyone have a link?

  7. CJ on December 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2008/12/no_case_for_homosexuality_in_b.html

    Best approach was to Google a portion of the text cited by Adam in the original post. Came up as the first result.

  8. Julie M. Smith on December 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    “Christian slave owners had to read race-based slavery into the Bible, and their arguments resemble in form all the other attempts–ancient and modern–to read into scripture what they wanted to find there.”

    On first read, I thought: wha? And then I realized that the key words in that sentence are “race-based.” Hmm. Not the strongest argument in the world.

    As to the larger issue: it is fascinating that we have a Seventy’s name on a not-very-correlated-sounding document. Yet “gentle goo” is such a wonderful phrase . . .

  9. Hunter on December 16, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I agree that there are several eyebrow-raising turns of phrases in the editorial. However, mostly I was just elated at seeing that Elder Porter took the time to (co)write such an interesting and thought-provoking article. I mean, it kept my attention like no other!

  10. Ben H on December 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Does the pastor of a Catholic church have responsibility for the Mormons who live in his parish? (#3)

    Yes. We who have been warned are all responsible to warn our neighbors. Otherwise their sins will be found on our garments.

    This co-authored column is possibly the strongest evidence I’ve seen yet that the battle over Prop 8 has fundamentally changed how (at least the more visible members of) a number of other Christian denominations feel about Mormons.

  11. Julie on December 16, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    #4,
    Here is what the article says: “God’s will is for marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman.”

    I’m not sure how you think that undermines polygamy. Polygamous marriages (as practiced in LDS history) were all between a man and a woman. Just because individuals were involved in multiple marriages does not mean that each of those marriages involved more than 2 people.

    In other words, let’s say Husband A has a marriage to Wife B as well as a marriage to Wife C. This does not mean that Wife B and Wife C are involved in the same marriage.

    (Now, I’m not saying I favor polygamy as a marriage situation I would enjoy. I’m just saying that an argument designed to tie the definition of marriage to the biological gender of participants has nothing to do with polygamy.)

  12. Jason on December 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Is this really in Newsweek, the print edition, web address notwithstanding. Meacham and Quinn’s ecumenical “On Faith” mega blog is certainly sponsored by the WaPo/Newsweek family, but I wonder if anyone has seen this piece get space in print in reply to the stunning “Bible supports gay marriage” cover story.

    Also, whence Bruce D. Porter as dark horse public defender of the church’s doctrinal heritage in the past few months? I didn’t see that coming. Is he in Public Affairs now, or just pitching in?

  13. Natasha on December 16, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    #11. You distort polygamy to make it fit the definition in the article. One man, several wives does not = historical practice of one man, one woman marriages.

  14. Julie M. Smith on December 16, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Re #11,

    That’s slicing the bologna pretty thinly.

  15. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    As to the larger issue: it is fascinating that we have a Seventy’s name on a not-very-correlated-sounding document.

    Great point.

    On the polygamy issue, I tend to see the article as implicitly criticizing polygamy as a failed experiment or, at best, an unusual response to an “extreme or difficult situation.” #11 could be right, but I bet not.

  16. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Does the pastor of a Catholic church have responsibility for the Mormons who live in his parish?

    I don’t know and I don’t care.

  17. Rob Perkins on December 16, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I see Julie’s point; it could never be said that “sister wives” were married to one another. The covenant was across a sexual difference, man to woman, and there was a separate covenant for each man and woman. And still is: My father-in-law is sealed to his late first wife, and he is also sealed to his living second wife. Thus he’s involved in two marriages, but each woman is not.

    So, it’s more complex for Mormons, but each covenant still crosses sex boundaries, man to woman, and has never been a ratification of a same-sex union in its 175-or-so year history.

  18. Rob Perkins on December 16, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    #3 — I’ve heard of the concept before. I think it’s only presumption if the Stake President attempts to go beyond the boundary of kind-hearted proselytizing, for example, if he were to attempt church discipline on a nonmember. But I’d be completely unsurprised if that Stake President were to mobilize people and distribute food or other emergency help in the whole stake, if needed, for example.

  19. WMP on December 16, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I like the piece, and I am glad to see Elder Porter’s participation.

    I also think that Julie (11) may have a point. Surely, it would have been more compelling, if one were striving to make the point, to state that marriage is a covenant between “one” man and “one” woman. But the article uses the phrasing “a man and a woman.” I have to think this was purposeful.

  20. Ida Tarbell on December 16, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Adam–

    This article raises some pretty interesting issues surrounding authorship. As you observe:

    “The column is worded more, ah, vigorously then you usually get from church leaders (I’m familiar with the other authors and the wording is unusually strong for them too, if memory serves).”

    Perhaps it is worded differently because a church leader didn’t do the wording. Just because three people’s names appear on a document does not mean that they met around a conference table, connected in real time on the internet, or otherwise actually wrote the article together. Since signing your name to a document has legal, political, and rhetorical consequences, it’s often the case that busy people–like an LDS general authority–have documents prepared for their signature. They look it over, maybe fix a few things, and then sign it to indicate that they agree with and claim ownership of the words in the document. Of course, I don’t know how this particular piece of writing came to be–maybe Elder Porter wrote it and his coauthors signed off. Maybe none of the named authors actually wrote much of it–all of these people would have bright, capable underlings and associates. So without a trail of drafts, speculating about the meaning of this document is problematic.

  21. Bookslinger on December 16, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    I’ve often heard it said that the Bishop is the Bishop of everyone, including non-members, living in the ward’s boundaries.

    Just like the Prophet and the Apostles are the Prophet and the Apostles to everyone on the planet, whether people recognize them as such or not.

    I think a better view is that the ecclesiastical leader is “responsible to” those within his geographical boundaries, rather than “responsible over“. This comes under the leader-as-servant concept as expressed by King Benjamin.

    As I’ve learned from my association with the local Bishops’ Central Storehouse (a regional church “warehouse” serving other Bishops’ Storehouses), the goods are freely given out in disasters to all regardless of membership.

    Adam: I didn’t think the wording was as vigorous, as it was plain and firm. Mainstream Christianity has been turning the Bible into “gentle goo” for at least since 1972 when I started paying attention. That’s a wonderfully apt phrase, tied in with being lulled into accepting sin as described in the Book of Mormon.

    The words of Paul to Timothy (itching ears, hiring preachers to say what people want to hear), and the words of the Book of Mormon have been coming to life right before our eyes.

    Those of us who are a bit older, and have seen the societal changes of the 60′s and 70′s, and the steady “one thing leads to another” since then can see a progression. Were they to bring in the history of the downfall of past societies, the authors of that article could have been even more vigorous and even alarmist.

    Another point: Things like that article are also free advertising for the church. I think such articles are laying the foundation for an upcoming mass-media proselyting effort. Look for more media placements by the church on billboards, magazines, newspapers, radio, and television. I would not be surprised by seeing 1/2 hour infomercials by the church within the next 12 to 24 months.

  22. Bull Moose on December 16, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    #13, and #14:

    Julie’s description of polygamy is analogous to the current practice of marriage in most of the Western world, ie. serial monogamy. The only difference between the Church’s practice of polygamy and the situation Rob Perkins describes with his father-in-law’s multiple marriages, which many can relate to, is the number of marriages at one time. The practice of polygamy in the Church simply collapsed the series temporally to allow men to enter into multiple marriages at one time.

    Still, that polygamy as practiced by the Church was anathema to 19th C. America does not mean that members of the Church have no moral basis to say that homosexual marriage is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

  23. Aaron T. on December 16, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    So, their response argues that the bible alone does not dictate God’s will. Apparently, God’s will is determined by the text of the bible – PLUS – what society generally accepts over time. Don’t they undermine their own argument here? They are saying as they argue against gay marriage that God’s will isn’t at all dictated by society’s “norms”, but then they argue in order to justify monogamy that because 1 man 1 woman marriage has been dictated by society’s “norms” over time, the bible must say x, y and z on marriage. Strange.

  24. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Aaron T.,

    Straw Man was not a coauthor.

  25. Aaron T. on December 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    What about his wife, Straw Woman?

  26. Adam Greenwood on December 16, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    First Things on the Newsweek piece:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blog/2008/12/16/1534/

  27. Mike Parker on December 16, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Over time, different accommodations have been made to extreme or difficult situations, but the ideal has been clear: God’s will is for marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman. Nothing else will work.

    This seems to miss what is (at least to me) an obvious point: It’s perfectly acceptable for a religious faith to establish what is (and is not) God’s will, and then require the faith’s adherents to live accordingly. It’s quite another thing for that religious faith to claim that a secular society, including those who don’t hold to that faith, hold to those principles as well.

  28. Julie M. Smith on December 16, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Adam, I followed your link and ended up at this very interesting piece:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/january/1.38.html

  29. DavidH on December 16, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    The analysis of #11 also means that Joseph’s polyandry was also consistent with the one man/one woman definition of marriage–each woman had two or more marriages, but each such marriage was between a man and a woman.

  30. DavidH on December 16, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Frm the article: “And when, in the New Testament, the followers of Jesus encountered homosexual acts, they quickly and universally condemned them.”

    I am aware of Paul’s teachings that appear to condemn homosexual acts. Who are the other “followers [plural] of Jesus” who “quickly and universally” condemned such acts?

  31. Geoff B on December 16, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Adam, this was one of the more interesting pieces I have read from a Seventy in, well, EVER. Wow, well-written, forceful, to the point and it eviscerates the pabulum being spewed by most commentators who love to mutate the Bible into whatever they want to believe. I loved these lines:

    “They’re trying to convey a feeling, really, rather than an argument: Jesus loves us, love is good, homosexuals love one another, marriage is love, love is loving–a sort of warm bath of words, their meanings dissolved into a gentle goo. In their eyes, all nice things must be nice together, and Jesus comes to seem (as J.D. Salinger once mocked) something like St. Francis of Assisi and “Heidi’s grandfather” all in one.”

  32. Kristine on December 17, 2008 at 12:01 am

    The Salinger quote alone is enough to prove that there was some ghostwriting–GAs don’t read Franny & Zooey!!

  33. Adam Greenwood on December 17, 2008 at 10:09 am

    This seems to miss what is (at least to me) an obvious point: It’s perfectly acceptable for a religious faith to establish what is (and is not) God’s will, and then require the faith’s adherents to live accordingly. It’s quite another thing for that religious faith to claim that a secular society, including those who don’t hold to that faith, hold to those principles as well.

    You miss the obvious point: this column is a response to an article claiming that opposition to gay marriage is unbiblical. I tried to make that point in the original post but perhaps I was insufficiently clear.

  34. Rameumptom on December 17, 2008 at 10:47 am

    What amazed me about the Newsweek piece (I just read it in the doctor’s office on Monday), is that it was front page and there was only the one opinion given on it. Seems to me that a magazine entitled “NEWSweek” would be about news, and not giving front page coverage to an opinion piece. At least not without giving both sides equal say in the same issue, at least.

  35. Rob Perkins on December 17, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Alas, there’s the rub, eh? *No* “news” magazine exists to deliver the news. It exists to collect the money generated by ad revenue and subscription fees by employing people who exist to deliver the news. The publishers of Newsweek have far more interest in getting an impulse buyer to add the rag to his shopping cart, than to be bias-free and truthful. I never actually expected better.

  36. Jettboy on December 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    One of my biggest problems with the article is that with all the talk of how Biblical teachings have become ignored to accommodate open-ended concepts, there isn’t much Bible use for the arguments. I wanted to see them use what the Bible had to say about homosexuality, at least according to them. Instead, I get a piece that doesn’t do any better than the article it is responding to. Although I know of one or two instances, most Scriptural discussions on the homosexual issue never use the text. I would think if you are going to argue what is in the Bible that you should actually use the Bible and not some vague paraphrasing.

  37. Mike Parker on December 17, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Adam Greenwood wrote:

    You miss the obvious point: this column is a response to an article claiming that opposition to gay marriage is unbiblical. I tried to make that point in the original post but perhaps I was insufficiently clear.

    You’re right, Adam. Sorry about that.

    The authors are right that gay marriage is unbiblical. However, the modern notion of marriage — consisting of (only) two equal partners — is also unbiblical.

  38. Jeremy on December 17, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I must say I agree with those that say that, in the end, this article still seems to leave the weight of moral navigation on tradition rather than doctrine.

    “We have had centuries to try out many different ideas and test them against the text of the Bible and experience. Only traditional marriage has stood.”

    Forgive the momentary detour, but this passage calls to mind something I recalled Richard John Neuhaus writing in First Things when Mitt Romney was running for president. He came out and said explicitly that his greatest fear was not that Mitt Romney would be a bad president, but rather that Mitt Romney would be a good one, and that his being a good president would legitimize Mormonism.

    I can’t help but sense some of that going on here. Many, many people who change their mind about homosexuality or at least homosexual adoption or marriage do so because of encounters with homosexuals that are strong contributors to their communities and that have strong families. When I come across discussion of the threat homosexuality poses to society, I simply cannot help but filter the discussion through my own experience with homosexual colleagues and friends who have proven to be outstanding parents.

    So when I see arguments that rely on the “test of time” as a validation to Biblical standards, I can’t help but wonder how people triangulate those arguments with their own experiences with homosexuals–especially as more and more people inevitably become more acquainted with homosexuals in their workplaces and communities.

  39. john f. on December 17, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    This article seems to me that Bruce Porter was just allowed to put his name on it. I don’t see much of it that could have plausibly come from a contribution from him. It is a sign of a small shift that Catholics and Evangelical creedalists have sought out a Mormon to put his name on an article with them but other than that, there aren’t really any Mormon ideas in the piece.

    We Mormons need to be careful about being starry-eyed at the prospect of creedal Christians nodding their heads at us (that is still all it is, and the nod is still accompanied by a plugged nose). There is a reason that Joseph Smith didn’t join one of the creedal Christian options available instead of restoring the Gospel. To the extent that creedal Christians represent “the World” (and it is not hard to see them doing so given their large numbers and the status they claim for themselves as determining the course of society, e.g. the Evangelical creedalist bragging and taking credit for the victory of Bush in 2004), we Mormons need to be mindful of the prophetic injunction issued to us numerous times to reject the world and worldly ways and focus on the restored Gospel and Plan of Salvation, neither of which are things that creedal Christians support or agree with. If social causes important at the moment to Mormons happen to coincide with the social causes being pursued by creedal Christians, then there might be an alliance of convenience there but at what cost? Are all such alliances worth it, even those in which one party is being maliciously and spitefully used without being truly valued for who they are?

    My preference would be to see a Mormon document, i.e. a document that expresses Mormon positions and beliefs, to which a Catholic and an Evangelical creedalist are happy to sign their names, rather than the other way around — a creedal Christian document, i.e. a document that expresses a point of view about religion and scripture that is relevant to the creedal Christian position to which a Mormon has been allowed to, and is also happy to, sign his name.

  40. Bookslinger on December 17, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Jeremy, #38, So as not to thread-jack, do you have a blog on which, or an email to which I might respond to your last sentence/graph? (or see my email addy on my blog)

    john f, #39. I think It’s a even more nuanced than you allow by your catchall “creedal Christians.” Many mainstream Protestant churches have already embraced homosexuality, it’s the evangelicals and Catholics who are intersecting or overlapping with the LDS on this issue.

    To “celebrate” the overlap may be a good thing because we do have a very meaningful portion of doctrinal overlap with the evangelical/fundamental/pentecostal wing of Christianity: personal revelation, miracles, gifts of the Spirit, walking in/by the Spirit, etc. That personal revelation thing and walking by the spirit thing we have in common are the key ingredients by which they might discern the truthfulness of the rest of Mormonism. However, by focusing on the differences, the adversary keeps them away from exercising that key in relation to the restored gospel, and the very elect are deceived into not investigating.

    (One time I visited a friend’s fundamentalist church, and their Sunday school lesson was on walking in/by the Spirit, and I thought the lesson had at least a 90% overlap with LDS doctrine. I visited a Methodist church, and that SS lesson and main sermon would fit the “gentle goo” category.)

    I think that part of our missionary commission is to ask our creedal Christian brothers and sisters (at least those individuals who are open to the Spirit among the evangelical/pentecostal/fundamental types) to consider which is greater, personal revelation and discerning truth by the Spirit, or knowing the nature of the composition of God/the Godhead/the Trinity?

    By politely and brotherly inviting them to turn their focus from esoteric non-saving nature-of-God’s-composition issues and focus on other things we already have in common, they may stumble onto that key and turn it, and spiritually investigate.

    And please don’t write off the evangelical/pentecostal/fundamental rank and file because some of their leaders (or more specifically, some of their “consultants”) are anti-mormon, that would be like tarring all Jews of 34 AD with the same brush as the Sanhedrin and Pharisees.

    Not all, but many of the rank-and-file evangelical/pentecostal/fundamental “creedalists” have the spiritual keys with which to discern the truth. Our job is to help them turn those keys or use them in our direction.

    And that’s why I believe we have a much better chance of missionary success with the evangelical/pentecostal/fundamental type of Christians than we do with the “gentle goo” type of Christians.

  41. Adam Greenwood on December 17, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    This article seems to me that Bruce Porter was just allowed to put his name on it. I don’t see much of it that could have plausibly come from a contribution from him. It is a sign of a small shift that Catholics and Evangelical creedalists have sought out a Mormon to put his name on an article with them but other than that, there aren’t really any Mormon ideas in the piece.

    I doubt very much that Elder Porter was allowed, as a favor, to put his name on a document he was too dopey to really understand.

    I share some of your concerns with document, but I don’t think Elder Porter’s signature is a meaningless triviality. And parts of the documents show real signs of being tailored to fit a Mormon sensibility.

  42. Eric Boysen on December 17, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    #39- That document already exists–The Proclaimation on the Family. I don’t think anyone needs to send a copy around for signature, but a favorable citation or two would be an acknowledgement of the sort you seek. Will that happen?. . .

  43. queuno on December 18, 2008 at 1:37 am

    This article seems to me that Bruce Porter was just allowed to put his name on it. I don’t see much of it that could have plausibly come from a contribution from him. It is a sign of a small shift that Catholics and Evangelical creedalists have sought out a Mormon to put his name on an article with them but other than that, there aren’t really any Mormon ideas in the piece.

    The Mormon donors to Prop 8 basically ensured a quasi-permanent seat for the Church at the anti-gay marriage table …

  44. mlu on December 18, 2008 at 1:40 am

    I don’t see real conflict between the argument that the Bible expresses God’s will and the argument that we know by experience that marriage between man and woman works best.

    They are unified for me by the argument that there really are laws of life, expressed in the Bible and also knowable by the tests of experience.

  45. Jeremy on December 18, 2008 at 2:25 am

    mlu,

    I don’t see a conflict with those arguments co-existing, but I could see a problem with them being co-dependent. What happens if one agrees that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, but anecdotal and perhaps eventually empirical evidence does not support the idea that homosexual marriage or adoption causes the societal ills that many people fear? For many Mormons with whom I enter into discussions on this topic, the biggest societal ill that homosexual marriage poses is the legitimization of homosexuality. In other words, it seems that their biggest fear is not that homosexuals will be bad parents, but that they will be good parents. They seem more threatened by my gay friend and his monogamous partner and their two adopted children and their picturesque suburban life than by my heavily-tattooed, party-going, very flamboyant gay relative.

    Or, to put it another way, it seems circular to me to invoke two strands of argument — Biblical doctrine argument and the “danger to society” argument–if the principle danger to society that is posed is a deviation from Biblical doctrine. If someone has a gay couple with an adopted child in their neighborhood, and see no evidence of societal danger in that household beyond other than the sheer fact of that household’s deviation from the Bible, what does it mean to say that “Only traditional marriage has stood”?

    To bring this back a little bit to Adam’s post, I guess my concern with this article, and with the rhetoric used in the Yes on 8 campaign, is that it invoked a “societal danger” argument that I’m not sure will continue to resonate with people after they encounter apparently healthy and happy gay families, unless they see Biblical deviance, in and of itself, as the damage done.

  46. Chris E. on December 18, 2008 at 2:56 am

    It doesn’t appear to me that Elder Porter’s article fully addresses the arguments that were raised by Ms. Miller. Her central argument is that we cannot take every passage of the bible literally— we do not practice animal sacrifice, most churches clearly allow women to speak in them (to name a few of the passages that are no longer followed.) Thus any approach to using the bible as a guide for behavior must have some standard by which some teachings or passages are accepted and others rejected.

    Ms. Miller argues that the standard to be used is one of love and respect for each person as an individual, and that as society’s ideas of what love and respect mean have grown we reject biblical passages that contradict our ideals of love and respect (for example stoning adulterers, or rebellious children to death as in Duet 21:18-21). On the basis of individual biblical passages alone we cannot reject homosexual behavior or gay marriage, because there are so many other biblical passages that condemn actions that we clearly do not reject, or advocate actions we do reject. She accepts homosexual marriage as biblical, in spite of the specific injunctions to the contrary, not because she doesn’t believe in sin, morality or the bible, but because she believe these passages should be treated the same way we treat so many other biblical passages; and we have given her no good reason to do otherwise.

    If we want to provide a strong rebuttal we need to focus on arguments that provide an alternate method for determining which parts of bible we will apply and which we won’t. Some effort was made to do this in the Porter article with an appeal to tradition, but it wasn’t fully developed and was abandoned part way through.

    Attempting to dismiss arguments by mocking them (the “gentle goo” passage, although I do have to admit that it has a poetic resonance) or questioning attempts to contribute to an important national discussion in good faith by claiming that the writers actually “know” something contrary to their stated opinion (“In truth, of course, Meacham and Miller actually know what everyone else knows…”) adds to the bitterness surrounding the issue and does nothing to move us toward any type of solution. To the extent that we use mockery or personal attacks our position appears weak. It is possible to present our arguments clearly and forcefully without stooping to mockery or degradation, even if (especially if) that is what our “opponents” do. When we use emotion or other non-rational based arguments, we only marginalize ourselves and limit our ability to contribute in a meaningful way to the national discussion.

  47. CJ on December 18, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Hear, hear, Chris E. I agree. Without a more general explanation of why many apparent inconsistencies in biblical application are in fact the product of some synthesized, consistent approach–and not the result of haphazard cherrypicking–Miller and the like-minded will remain unconvinced. (They’re sure to remain so either way, of course, but you get the point.) I realize there are explanations aplenty for many biblical verses that cause us trouble, but without a more comprehensive explanation as to why some are still applied and some aren’t really, the use of individual verses to decry homosexual relations will be seen as somewhat arbitrary and indefensible by many.

  48. Eric Boysen on December 18, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Among Christians, only restorationists really have a legitimate method of providing for doctrinal change. Without the principle of continuing revelation, the cannon is closed and a “people of the book” are stuck with the written record as it stands. Other Christians have five options. They may use the philosophies of men through scholarly re-translation (as opposed to inspired re-translation) to obscure meanings, they can treat the offending passages as allegory, they can deny the authority of the original author, they may rely on unwritten traditions of dubious provenence or they can ignore the plain meaning of what they do not like and just pretend it was never written. Ignorance is, I suppose, another approach, but that, as in law, is not an excuse.

    Of course, Mormons are free to do the same things, but we must do it in the face of living witnesses of the divinity of Christ and men with authority to act and speak in God’s name today.

    The problem is that if we make common cause with a larger Christian community, we become limited by their methods and have to adopt their vocabulary to make joint statements. We would break the alliance with a single extra-biblical “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

    The bible is silent on gay marriage because it presupposes that marriage ia contract across genders. It does condemn homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. We do not exact the biblical penalty of stoning, but that doesn’t mean the sin involved is not grievous, but that we have demoted the bible from governing society as a law book.

  49. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Porter writes: “Those who tried to live by the Christian understanding have come to amazingly similar conclusions about what God wants in marriage.”

    Wait…so you mean that in a global society, there has been a convergence of thought? Shocking.

    Taking one moment in history—the present—and saying that it is the culmination of social progress is at best puerile. It gives no acknowledge to the *radical* shifts in marriage that seem unending—divorce, property, polygamous arrangements (and not just the Mormon-flavored variety), polygynous arrangements, countless tribal orders, racial barriers—not to mention the Christian monastic traditions of “marriage” to Christ and a lifetime of celibacy. In short, anyone who suggests that the dominant paradigm of the present, frozen in time, is ultimate proof of God’s will shows some pretty myopic stripes.

    The historical practice of warfare has been more constant than the historical practice of marriage. By Porter’s standards, must we accept warfare as God’s will, too?

    Quoting again: “We have had centuries to try out many different ideas and test them against the text of the Bible and experience. Only traditional marriage has stood.”

    It’s almost astonishing to see the deep contradiction in this juxtaposition. If marriage has gone through many different ideas, you cannot call a singular idea or practice a “tradition.” If my family does something different for Christmas every year, I can’t say that what we happen to be doing this year is our “tradition.” The very admission of a fluctuation of form over time negates any claim on the word “tradition” and reveals the true context of this dialog: polemics and a prejudiced agenda.

  50. john f. on December 18, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Michael, I don’t think that Elder Porter wrote that. One of the creedal Christians listed as an author did. The voice just isn’t LDS.

  51. Bookslinger on December 18, 2008 at 10:57 am

    [Adam, I tried not to thread jack, but after two comments on this line by Jeremy (#38 and #45), I'm moved to respond.]

    Jeremy, #45, perhaps the societal danger won’t be widely visibly and generally accepted until a generation or two after the removal of the social stigma of homosexuality. Then the assumption that all homosexuals are born that way will be more clearly seen as erroneous. Maybe some are. But homosexuality can also be instilled, unintentionally by family environment, or intentionally by abuse; and some choose it. There are still many psychologists/psychiatrists who disagree with the APA’s politically driven decision about homosexuality in the 1970′s.

    When the day comes that in society’s view that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality and a new generation has been raised with that mind-set, then homosexuality will be another option for adventurous exploration and experimentation. Why not try it out if there’s nothing wrong with it? What’s to lose? Societal barriers against pre-marital sex have already fallen, so there will be no barrier to homosexual experimentation. Can’t get a date with the opposite sex? No problem, double your chances.

    ( Kate Perry’s hit tune “I Kissed a Girl (and I Liked It)” might be an illustration of choice. )

    What if, in 11 to 15 years or so, your son or grandson “tries out” homosexuality, just for experimentation or exploration, (whether as adventure, or to be outre, or to find out if he’s gay or not) and like Kate Perry he “likes it.” Then multiply that by many adventurous teens across the nation.

    Or, in another scenario, what if your son or grandson waits until after his homosexual marriage before actually engaging in sex? Would that make it better ? Would it no longer be a sin?

    Do you feel an “ick factor” about homosexual acts? What’s going to happen in a generation or two when teens reach the age of sexual experimentation (in a society that has no barriers to pre-marital sex) and they feel no “ick factor” towards homosexuality? When there’s no social taboo against homosexual acts?

    The analysis of what gay marriage is going to do to society is not done by looking at a snapshot in time. The analysis needs to be done by looking at a generation or two upstream and downstream, not a 2 dimensional cross-section of the river.

    By the way, your picturesque suburban gay friends are also a small minority among homosexuals. They are not the reality for most homosexuals, they are the outliers.

  52. Bookslinger on December 18, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Michael, #49:

    Quoting again: “We have had centuries to try out many different ideas and test them against the text of the Bible and experience. Only traditional marriage has stood.”

    It’s almost astonishing to see the deep contradiction in this juxtaposition. If marriage has gone through many different ideas, you cannot call a singular idea or practice a “tradition.”

    Traditional marriage has always been in place on the earth, and likely practiced by the majority at any given time, while the various different forms have been practiced simultaneously by different societies or by minorities within a larger monogamous/heterosexual society.

    If I’m not mistaken, common acceptance of immorality, especially homosexuality, has at times preceeded or precipitated a society’s downfall.

  53. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Bookslinger—oh no you di’int.

    The perverse fusion of church and state that occurred under Roman imperialism had more to do with the destruction of the empire than did the practice of anal sex.

    In the present moment, the greed and corruption of Wall Street AND Main Street are driving western civ to its knees. I would be amused to see someone try to link the housing crisis to the emergence of gay and lesbian television programming.

    Incidentally, it is no wonder that the Lord talks incessantly in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon about the love of money and about pride. If Moroni really saw our day and if he really was worried about the downfall of civilization and if he was really convinced that same-sex bumping and grinding was going to be our demise, it would be quite irresponsible for him to have neglected a mention.

    Classic Sunday School, guys—-love of money and materialism lead to social demise.

  54. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 11:32 am

    And, by the way, Katy Perry may have kissed a girl, but she is dating Travis McCoy. Poser.

  55. Bookslinger on December 18, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Chris E, #46: “When we use emotion or other non-rational based arguments, we only marginalize ourselves and limit our ability to contribute in a meaningful way to the national discussion.”

    But it is an emotional issue, perhaps more so than a rational one. And the defenders of homosexuality are also basing their main arguments on emotions. I don’t think those who are thinking emotionally on the issue will be swayed by rational arguments alone.

    The metamorphosis (often quoted by Pres Monson) of “first pity, then endure, then embrace” seems to be in play in this.

    I still hope that “love the sinner, hate the sin” can still be a proper emotional response to those who appeal to emotionalism in advocating gay marriage.

    Chris E and CJ (46 & 47): You well illustrate the downward slide of “mainstream” Christianity ever since the Apostasy, the reinterpretation and picking-and-choosing of the scriptures. And Eric Boysen aptly points it out being due to the lack of a living prophet.

    In this issue at least, the LDS church seems to be helping mainstream Christianity from sliding further, by trying to influence Christian believers away from sliding into any more “gentle goo” (false) interpretations.

    As I wrote to john f (#40) this may be a good strategy that may lead our more traditional or fundamental Christian brothers and sisters into being more open about looking into the things we have in common, which may lead them to investigate, which may lead them to realize the truthfulness of the Church’s claims.

    To tie this back into Adam’s original premise, Elder Porter’s participation in that column is a good tactic that illustrates a couple of overall strategies about the Church’s ministry to the world, and to our mainstream Christian brothers and sisters in particular.

  56. Bookslinger on December 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Michael: In my Book of Mormon, Mormon and Moroni and other prophets give plenty of mention to whoredoms, wickedness, abominations, wicked abominations, and secret abominations. I think homosexual acts are included under one or more of those headings. Up until recently, homosexuality was often referred to as “the sin that dare not speak its name.” Imagine that, something so bad you’re not supposed to directly talk about it. My, aren’t we so enlightened nowadays.

    And yes, the perfusion of church and state may have followed and stemmed from the destruction of Rome’s empire, but my point was that the destruction of empire was also much in part a function of Rome’s decline into immorality.

  57. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Personally, I don’t get why we as an LDS Church are so frenetically hungry for Christian mainstream acceptance. I kind of picture the Lord asking us wide-eyed, “What part of THEY ARE ALL AN ABOMINATION’ didn’t you get?”

    Lest I be wrongly painted as a rainbow cook, my main objection is less about position, and more chiefly about reason for position. If you oppose gay marriage, I can respect that—-as long as your opposition is not grounded on bigotry and ignorance (as is, sadly, most often the case. Any Californians in the house? The “6 Consequences of Gay Marriage” document circulated in California was atrocious).

    Regarding hyperventilation over the fear that your sons and daughters will become gay if they experiment with homosexuality, if only it were that simple! Do you know how many gay and lesbian men and women experiment with heterosexuality? Are they any the straighter for it?

    If sexual orientation were merely a matter of behaviorism, trust me—there would be a lot fewer gay Mormons taking their lives.

  58. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    By the by, once upon a time, women’s underwear was also referred to as “the unmentionables.” (Hence the sardonic corporate name “Victoria’s Secret.”) Maybe you also prefer misogyny to women’s lib?

  59. Bookslinger on December 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Michael, that’s not what the Lord said, according to Joseph Smith.

    In the Pearl of Great Price, JS History 1:19 states “and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight”. (Emphasis mine.)

    Why is the church so “hungry” for mainstream Christian acceptance? The church wants _everyone_ to accept the gospel. With some, it will have to be accepted piece by piece.

    Re: experimenting with heterosexuality. Lots of confused teens who explore their sexuality experiment with heterosexuality. Your rejoinder about the unlikelihood of adults who’ve already made conclusions about their orientation (gay and lesbian men and women), experimenting with the opposite orientation, doesn’t apply to teens who haven’t decided/concluded their orientation yet.

    We hear from gays who say they tried to live a straight life and couldn’t. But I would guess that we don’t likely hear much from teens who do experiment with homosexuality, but end up concluding they’re heterosexual after all.

    There was a good comment on a FMH thread about hard-coded versus soft-coded sexual orientation. It seemed to make some sense. It said most people are hard-wired, but there’s a middle group of varying shades who could be influenced either way with varying degrees of push.

    Our society is going through a whole paradigm shift in attitudes about homosexuality. My point is that on the current course, within a generation or two, homosexuality will be seen as a legitimate option which can be chosen, and step by step, more and more people who come of age in that new paradigm will choose it. In fact, lesbianism started becoming chic among college students at least by the mid 1990′s, though my understanding is that it was viewed by most participants as a fad or stage.

    Same sex marriage is a major step along the paradigm shift, which the referenced article points out. The church is right to oppose it. The church is right to join in the effort of other churches in opposing it. The church is right in helping other Christian leaders lead Christian believers away from the slippery slope into gentle goo.

    I think the authors (and Eric B) are correct in pointing out (at least by implication) that just because we don’t stone adulterers and unruly children, is not sufficient to throw out all biblical injunctions against sin. Just because eating shellfish is now okay, doesn’t mean a host of other sins are okay too.

  60. Jeremy on December 18, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Bookslinger,

    I’m not very convinced by your use of homosexual “conversion” hypotheticals that church leaders, by and large, have abandoned. I’m also not very convinced by your “ick factor” argument. Yes, I feel an “ick factor” towards homosexual acts. Because I’m straight. I also feel an ick factor towards virtually any recipe involving shredded coconut. Because I don’t like shredded coconut. The “ick factor” is what makes my grandfather freaked out by miscegentation. Because he’s 94 and racist.

    I’m not trying to threadjack either, but, entirely apart from my personal feelings about gay rights, etc., I worry about the Church using this issue as a basis for collaboration with churches that really don’t like us, and using as common ground arguments against homosexuality that use the Bible in a way that seems quite unconvincing to me.

  61. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    “But I would guess that we don’t likely hear much from teens who do experiment with homosexuality, but end up concluding they’re heterosexual after all.”

    They’re called Wellesley alumni.

  62. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Re: vying for mainstream Christian acceptance, what does it profit a man if he gains the world, but loses his soul? Setting foot onto the shaky ground of apostate Christian credo just sounds like a bad idea.

  63. Jeremiah J. on December 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    john f. “Michael, I don’t think that Elder Porter wrote that. One of the creedal Christians listed as an author did. The voice just isn’t LDS.”

    I’m kind of puzzled by all these vague references to the unMormon things that Porter supposedly signed on to or indrectly endorsed by collaborating with Bottum and Reynolds. Are there specific things in the column that john f and others are thinking about, or is it simply the fact that Porter is co-authoring or signing on to something written by a “creedal Christian”? Or is it that we think that Porter needs to be informed that his co-authors hate him and hate Mormonism, if it were true that they do?

    Bottum and Reyonolds are prominent Christian writers who write about social and political issues, and the piece kind of sounds like them. But I’m not sure it doesn’t sound like Porter, let alone like any possible “LDS voice”. For what it’s worth it’s a lot more gentle and less derisive and ad hominem than a lot what I’ve read from Reynolds, so there at least I see the influence of Porter.

    Chris E: Porter et al’s argument is not a sophisticated outline of the Biblical case against gay marriage. But it does accurately refute Miller’s arguments. MIller claims that the Biblical critique of gay marriage amounts to trying to use the Bible as a simplisitc “how to book”. Miller further argues that a norm of family life in the Bible is in some parts non-existent and in other parts repulsive and should be rejected. That’s a real argument, but it’s false, and we don’t have to accept the Nicene creed to participate in an effort to refute it. I don’t claim to know what Meacham and Miller know, but it does seem like they’re uninterested in engaging with intelligent Christian opponents of gay marriage. That’s especially sad in the case of Meacham, who has dealt more charitably with the religious views of the faithful dead who can’t vote for Prop 8. But perhaps they don’t like contemporary moral theology or may think it’s not worth their effort. After all, Meacham points out, demographic and historical tends are on the side of toleration. So maybe they won’t be bothered by this kind of thing in a few years.

  64. john f. on December 18, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Jeremiah, I am certain that Elder Porter is aware of that — he is a very smart and well educated man. It was Adam G. above who suggested something about Elder Porter being to dopey to understand the document or something to that effect with reference to my comment. That was neither intended nor conceivably impliedy by my comment, however hastily typed.

  65. Jeremiah J. on December 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t think I was referring to Adam’s comment; I was asking a question. Specifically, what do you mean when you say that “there aren’t really any Mormon ideas in the piece”? I can see plenty of Mormon ideas in there, such as the general point of the column, that the Bible does not support gay marriage. Perhaps you’re talking about exclusively Mormon ideas, or Christian ideas expressed in especially Mormon language. But in that case I could say I don’t see any particularly Mormon ideas in any number of GA statements on social issues, e.g. Dallin Oaks’ criticism of state-sponsored gambling.

  66. Michael on December 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    My gripe is this: Mormons are among the last who should be making any sort of arguments that the consensus of the dominant should be the gold standard for either a) the privileges to fully participate in society, or b) truth itself. By playing into this game of saying “all hail tradition,” we absolutely undercut our own theological premise. In a world where “tradition” (such an amorphous term) is the cultural king, then what other facets of “tradition” do we need to vigorously protect? The Bible? Consensus and tradition are that no one should add to or take away from it. The Mormons do both. Should we constitutionally protect the Trinity? Consensus and tradition are that they are three-in-one. Do you see what silly possibilities we invite by claiming that protecting “tradition” is sufficient grounds to mess with constitutions?

    Further, if we are in the business of protecting peoples’ salvation through the channels of politics, we must make a constitutional amendment prohibiting any churches that fail to recognize Jesus Christ as the literal son of God. This is a far more weighty requirement for eternal salvation than the direction of your sexual behavior. Just think of the danger we invite by allowing our children to live in a society where they can experiment with other beliefs.

  67. MikeInWeHo on December 18, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    re: 66

    Yeah, the irony of Mormons leading the charge to suppress unacceptable configurations of the family is not lost on many observers.

  68. Martin Willey on December 18, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    “Suppose we were to take the Bible seriously–where it agrees with us, and where it doesn’t.”

    I took this sentence as a recognition of the universal tendency to pick and choose what we like from the scirputres. Or as an acknowledgement that not everyone will agreee on what every passage of the Bible means. I did not see it as “Mormon pointer.” Not surpisingly, I did not see much that was unquely Mormon in the piece. It was pretty generic, conservative Christian stuff.

  69. Martin Willey on December 18, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    “Over time, different accommodations have been made to extreme or difficult situations, but the ideal has been clear: God’s will is for marriage to be a covenant between a man and a woman. Nothing else will work.”

    And, to echo MikeinWeHo and others, isn’t this an interesting sentence for a Member of the Quorum of the 70 to have signed onto?

  70. Chris E. on December 19, 2008 at 12:02 am

    In response to comment Jeremiah J. (63) and Bookslinger (40):

    My intent in comment 46 was not to argue for one side of the marriage debate or another, only to point out that if we are to have a national discourse on the subject with the idea of moving toward some sort of resolution; arguments and counterarguments should actually address the points that the other side is raising. And they should do so in the spirit of mutual respect. When we accuse others of acting in bad faith we marginalize ourselves and make our voices less relevant to the overall discussion. If we truly believe that our arguments are worth making we should make them as persuasive as possible to the widest possible audience. It is the sinners to whom we are sent, not the Pharisees.

    The fact that “… the defenders of homosexuality are also basing their main arguments on emotions” (comment 55) is no excuse. When we use our public voice in an attempt to stir up emotion rather than address problems, we leave the problems unsolved, the sides more entrenched, and resolution less likely. Allow me to use the extremes to illustrate my point. If we equate gay parents with pedophiles and they equate us with the KKK we will get nowhere. Accusing a lesbian couple of child abuse because they want to marry and raise children will do nothing to convince them that a long term heterosexual relationship is deserving of special recognition by the state in a way that their relationship is not.

    It is only through rational examination of mutually accessible and mutually agreed upon facts that they could come to support such a position. If those facts exist then we have a basis for the church’s contention that long term heterosexual relationships should be protected. Additionally this would seriously weaken any accusations of bigotry and undermine comparisons to the racial struggle for civil rights. If we are to find that those facts do not exist, then we loose our basis for imposing our ideas on others who disagree with them. Then we can either petition the Lord for a change in doctrine (such as with polygamy or blacks and the priesthood) or we can concede that our restrictions can only apply members of the church.

    What we cannot do is attempt to restrict the behavior of others merely because we personally are repulsed by it. We saw the results of that when we were on the receiving end. If we believe that our personal revulsion is a legitimate basis for restricting the behavior of others we would then be forced to acknowledge that others’ repulsion to our behavior is grounds for them restricting our behavior.

    If we truly care about our fellow brothers and sisters our efforts should be towards helping and uplifting them, not attacking or degrading them. As has been said we can disagree without being disagreeable. And when we do we are more likely to obtain our objectives.

  71. MikeInWeHo on December 19, 2008 at 12:20 am

    re:70

    That is truly inspired. Thanks, Chris E.

  72. Jeremy on December 19, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Yes, Chris E. Very nicely put.

  73. Bookslinger on December 19, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Chris E , #70: An emotional response to the proponents of gay marriage does not have to be bigoted, unfair, or inaccurate. And where others do act in bad faith, it might be fitting and proper to point that out.

    Too many facts are not mutually agreed upon. Too many facts and statistics are going unmentioned because they are too ugly, unpopular, not widely accepted, or politically incorrect.

    The folks who have been at the forefront of political correctness have trotted out their repulsion and revulsion at conservatism and traditional values for at least 35 years. The gentle goo of group-think feel-goodism has taken a hold in America, and has not been very well countered over the last 35 years.

    And finally, an emotional based response to the proponents of gay marriage does not have be attacking or degrading. or disagreeable.

    Yet the negative aspects of emotionalism that you point to have all been put to much use by the vociferous proponents of gay marriage.

    I say that the rejoinders to the proponents of gay marriage need to be part of each, intellectual and emotional, while at the same time avoiding the negative things you mention.

  74. Ray on December 19, 2008 at 1:01 am

    My personal litmus test when I read or hear any statement from anyone relative to this topic is quite simple:

    Does it “revile” those with whom it is disagreeing?

    For me, it’s not more complicated than that. If so, it should not be said or written; if not, it is open to debate and discussion that continues to avoid reviling.

  75. Chris E. on December 19, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Re: #73

    I agree with you, in part, at least. Arguments can be delivered with emotion, but they should not be based on or supported by emotion. Emotion is not a reason.

  76. NoCoolName_tom on December 19, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Chris E.,
    Thank you for placing my problem with this discussion into a small concise statement. I agree whole-heartedly.

    Also, at first I thought you said that arguments can be delivered with emoticons, but they should not be based on or supported by emoticons. Which is also true. :-D

  77. BevP on December 19, 2008 at 4:03 am

    Two notable kinds of voices are not being heard here: Elder Porter’s own, and proponents’ or practitioners’ of gay marriage. We are very busy being very sure we know what other people think and therefore would/would not have said, would/would not do/cause/think.

  78. MikeInWeHo on December 19, 2008 at 10:54 am

    re: 73

    “Too many facts are…not widely accepted.”
    Now that’s an interesting assertion.

    You’ve mentioned these alledgedly suppressed ‘facts’ before in here. (Gays are disproportionately diseased, drug-addled, suicidal, homocidal, herbicidal, whatever) Personally, I think this material should be aired and discussed. Where we disagree is when you assume its dismissal is the work of the ever-vigilant P.C. police. There could be other reasons.

  79. Stevo on December 19, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I am troubled (is that the right word?) about claims that “we know” that marriage between and man and woman works best. How do we know this? Have other models been extensively used? Or is it something we know because its essentially all that we know? Certainly there is tremendous information about children raised in single-parent homes, along with issues relating to poverty. However, I am not sure that we know alot about how the one-man-one-woman marriage compares to other forms of family including polygamous, large extended nuclear families, and sustained co-habitation up in terms of divorce, child abuse/neglect, sense of well-being and community, school performance, belief in God, etc. I believe that both “sides” of the issue tend to over-reach in terms of their conclusions.

  80. Bookslinger on December 19, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Chris E: “Arguments can be delivered with emotion, but they should not be based on or supported by emotion. “

    Why not?

    “Emotion is not a reason.”

    So what? Or again, why can’t the reason for something be emotional or be based on emotions? The vast majority of people live and act, and even vote, based on emotions, not reason.

    Reasoning is best used to influence those who make decisions and take actions based on reasoning. But if you wish to influence those who make decisions and take actions based on emotions, purse reasoning will be less effective than emotional propositions.

    Take advertising. Corporations spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars annual manipulating peoples emotions into buying their products. Very few ads in any media are based on reason. Take all the advertising slogans and jingles you can think of. What do they play to, reason or emotion?

    Especially in politics. If politics is about reason, why are there super-smart people on all sides of almost every issue? Why aren’t all the geniuses in the country in the same political party?

    If moral issues and political issues, such as gay marriage , are about reason, then why aren’t all (or at least a vast majority) of smart people on the same side?

    Dismissal of emotion as a sufficient reason or basis of argument is one of the pitfalls of intellectualism.

    Analyze some political speeches of the past cycle, especially Obama’s. Or Gore’s speeches on global warming. Were they based on reason or emotion? Analyze the common phrases. Analyze the hand gestures. Look at JFK’s hand gestures, and compare them to Clinton, Gore, McCain and Obama. They got it down to a science. It’s manipulation, and when done right, it works.

    In fact, analyze the pro-gay marriage rhetoric. I would say most of it is based on emotional arguments, because they’ve taken the words and turned them all around

    Analyze the behaviors of anti-prop-8 protestors who marched and disrupted LDS temples. Was that emotional or reason-based?

    Oh brave new world!

  81. Jeremy on December 19, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Bookslinger says: “Dismissal of emotion as a sufficient reason or basis of argument is one of the pitfalls of intellectualism.”

    Please explain to me the material difference between that phrase and this one:

    “If it feels good, do it.”

    You make a simply outrageous extrapolation: that because good orators use rhetoric and persuasion and emotion to support their arguments, argumentation need only consist of rhetoric, persuasion, and emotion. Rather than engaging in a discussion on the basis of facts, you take it upon yourself to dismiss the importance of facts all together. And you quite comically discuss only the emotion-based rhetoric of the left while conspicuously omitting any reference to the emotionalism of the right — in the Prop 8 campaign especially.

    That kind of (non-) logic is the brave new world’s mother tongue, my friend. It’s also the kind of thinking that urged political progressives during the Bush administration to jokingly refer to themselves as “The Reality-Based Community.”

  82. Adam Greenwood on December 19, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Tempers seem to have got a little hot without my pacific, moderating influence. Lets cool it.

    I’ll use a free hand in moderating posts that keep throwing around the rhetoric.

    Thanks to Jeremiah J. for his thoughtful comment in #63.

  83. Chris E. on December 19, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    [So I had my comment below written, and then saw Adam’s last comment (#82) It is not my intent to upset anyone (that would sort of defeat my point wouldn’t it?) please feel free to moderate or edit as needed. Thanks for the reminder.]
    Re comment 80:
    The use of non-rational arguments by the far left advocates of Gay Marriage is problem too, but I am not a member of a far left Gay Marriage advocacy group and so I am more concerted with and can have more influence over the Mormon response. The fact that others are also contributing to the problem is no excuse for us. “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous word stir up anger.”
    As for why we’re not all on the same side about these issues, it is perfectly reasonable to have total agreement on the facts and disagreement on how they should be applied. For example my wife and I can agree that one route to grandma’s house is the scenic route and one is the fastest route (the facts) but still be in disagreement about which one to take.
    Emotion can, at times, be a factor in decision making. But emotion (our own or others’) can often blind us to reality and quickly lead us astray. For example the idea that gay parents are more likely to be child abusers is untrue, yet there are many who seem willing to believe it because they feel threatened by homosexuality. If we base our arguments on emotion, support them with facts, and ignore reason we are likely to cherry pick only the facts that support our emotions. If we base our arguments on facts, support them with reasoning and then use the emotion that grows naturally from the facts and reason we will be much more successful, and much less likely to be lead astray.
    The fact of the matter is that this debate is one that can in large part be addressed rationally. Either gay marriage has specific consequences or it does not. Careful observations should be able to highlight those consequences totally independently of how I or any one else feels about them. There may be disagreement on the relevancy of the consequences, but not on their actuality.
    As I said in my first post (#46), my concern with the Porter article (to return to the original topic) wasn’t with its Mormonness or that it was an ecumenical joint venture. It was that it seemed to me to rely too much on accusations of bad faith and emotional (and dismissive) rhetoric in order to support what could have been a valid argument. I felt it only reinforces those who agree with the authors, and for those that don’t it just confirms that the authors don’t get it. Everyone can walk way secure in their own position. It is true that more rational argument might not have changed anyone’s mind either, but increasing (rather than decreasing) the level of respect on all sides is a move in the right direction.

  84. Jeremy on December 19, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the civility check, Adam, and for the continued lucid observations, Chris E.

    To respond to #83: I suppose my continued frustration stems from the fact that, for many of my friends and neighbors and co-congregants, the possible social legitimization of homosexuality is all the “specific consequence” they need. Thus they don’t feel any obligation to consider whether claims about societal danger (such as inferior parenting, etc.) are true or not. And I think there’s a strategic ambiguity in the statement Elder Porter co-signed that at once makes or implies claims about possible social dangers–dangers that would be seen as a threat by anyone who cares about society, regardless of religious persuasion–when really, the statement speaks from a Biblical context in which the social danger is homosexuality itself, not the possible social symptoms of homosexuality.

    In other words, it tries to say “Homosexuality is dangerous to society because it leads to ___________,” when what it’s really saying is “Homosexuaility is dangerous.” And many people find the latter increasingly difficult to accept on its own, because their gay neighbors just don’t seem like dangerous people.

  85. Adam Greenwood on December 19, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Chris E.,
    I don’t see the emotion-heavy, reason-free content in Elder Porter’s article that you see. We’re always more likely to believe that of someone we disagree with, which is a tempation to guard against. Care should be taken. The article’s reasons for why the Bible and the Christian tradition don’t support gay marriage are pretty solid.

  86. Geoff B on December 19, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    I would have liked to have seen more Biblical references in the article (and of course there are many), but they may not have been included for reasons of space.

  87. Chris E. on December 19, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I have to agree, Adam (in 85), that it is easier to see the irrational/emotional in those arguments that we disagree with, that is one of the advantages to problem solving by debate- it gives the other side the chance to alter us to flaws in our arguments.

    I agree that Elder Porter article is not “reason-free” (I may have jumped to high too fast- I reread the article several times and you are right, it is not reason free.) However, at times the attempt to persuade was not based on a rational response to Ms. Miller’s article. The second and third paragraphs are the clearest examples. The phase “…but, then, neither Jon Meacham nor Lisa Miller are engaged in argument. They’re speaking, instead, in familiar tropes and fused-phrases and easy clichés.” doesn’t address the arguments made by Miller and Meacham, it belittles them.

    Miller, it seems to me, argues that the bible doesn’t support the current ideas about traditional heterosexual marriage, and that we don’t take every phrase of the bible literally. Thus we must pick and choose what we accept and what we reject. The standard that she uses for her cherry picking is the scriptural theme of love and acceptance. Thus she concludes that we should accept loving and mutually supporting relationships regardless of the sexuality of the participants. We can dispute, her reasoning, logic, scriptural interpretation or a myriad of other things. But we cannot dismiss it as a non-argument.

    The third paragraph accuses Miller of lying. She has explicitly said that she believes that the bible does offer support for gay marriage- that is why she wrote the article, and she has given a lengthy explanation of why she believes it does. The writer’s of the response claim that she actually knows that the bible doesn’t support what she has just argued that it does. We can argue that she is wrong, or misinformed, or missing the point, but we should not assume that she actually sees the bible the same way we do but isn’t being honest about it.

    The argument that follows the opening sentence of the third paragraph IS a good example of engaging the argument. It addresses the thrust of Millers arguments and offers a logical alternative.

    To argue that the non-literal approach that Miller takes diminishes the value of scripture is a legitimate, reason based argument. Calling such an approach a feeling where meanings dissolve into “gentle goo,” or to accuse her of reducing the savior to “…something like St. Francis of Assisi and “Heidi’s grandfather” all in one.” is not. We could argue that application of her idea does reduce the savior thus, but without evidence to the contrary we should not assume that that is how she sees him.

    One of the best ways to tests of if we are slipping away from rational arguments is to look at how we describe the views of those we disagree with. We should be describing their views in a way that they would recognize and accept. I don’t believe that the way that Miller’s views where presented in the article was a way she would recognize and accept. I don’t know this for sure, of course, the only way to know for sure would be to ask her.

    I too have been guilty of belittling arguments rather than addressing them. On my blog this morning I was criticized for doing exactly that, and to be blunt the commentator was correct. It is much easer to see when someone doing some of the things I describe than it is to see when you are doing it yourself. And the more passionately we feel about our arguments the harder it is to spot. That doesn’t make it right, just understandable.

    Sorry for the long post, I don’t realize how long winded I am until I get going.
    Thanks for the great discussion Adam.

  88. Bookslinger on December 19, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Chris: Arguments that have emotional backing are not necessary reason-free or contrary to reason or non-rational. I think you’ve raised a straw-man that emotion and reason are mutually exclusive and in opposition to each other.

    An emotional reason or backing for a proposition doesn’t have to be false, unreasonable, non-rational, or disrespectful. Nor does it make the proposition false.

    Jeremy: The two phrases patently have nothing to do with each other. Not all emotions are hedonism. Many emotions are good, uplifting, and altruistic.

    Goodness can claim emotions as well as evil. And evil can claim rationality as well as goodness.

    I’ll even appeal to Moroni. He wrote that the discernment of good and evil is through our conscience. Is the conscience more emotional-feeling-based, or intellectual-reasoning-based?

    Look at the gospel. The gospel is a feeling. No matter how much we study, analyze, describe or intellectualize it, understanding and accepting the gospel is not a matter of rational argument or intellectual convincing. That one blogger is right about “thinking in a marrow bone.”

    I think you have the non-logic of the Brave New World backwards. Which side in the last 40 years of our society’s culture war has used slick words and sophomoric reasoning to call black white and white black, good evil, and evil good? Which side has used false reasoning to promote the “New Morality”, promiscuity, abortion, nothing-wrong-with-homosexuality, etc?

    “because their gay neighbors just don’t seem like dangerous people.”

    They aren’t. The pro-8 forces are not saying gays are dangerous, and especially not on a person-to-person level. Again, you’re raising a straw-man. That’s as bad as Chris’s strawman about anti-gay-marriage folks accusing adoptive gay couples of child molestation.

    It is the societal acceptance of homosexuality as normal and “nothing wrong with it” that is dangerous.

    This falls exactly into the “pity, endure, embrace” slide toward sin that President Monson mentioned.

    There is no physical danger in living next door to gays, especially those poster-worthy picturesque monogamous committed gays who adopt children no one else wants. I’d certainly want to live next door to them rather than heterosexual pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, drug users, and gang members.

    The danger I see lies in the societal influences placed upon the next generation, with homosexual roll models in schools, text books, and media presented to them as perfectly normal.

    Not everyone’s individual sexual identity and orientation is hard-coded and hard-wired. There is much development of sexual identity/orientation/attitude that goes on from birth to adolescence and on to adulthood. Most people seem to receive as much influence, if not more, from their parents’ example than from genetic wiring. Not all of the things that guide development are hard-wired biological and genetic. The more “soft-coded” someone is, the greater the impact non-genetic influences have.

    If you were to read or interview older psychologists, or those who don’t agree with the APA’s views on the origins of homosexuality, you’d find that many (and most of the older ones) don’t accept the born-that-way origin as being universal. In fact, the universality of born-that-way homosexual orientation may be one of the biggest societal lies of our time.

    The bottom-line is that when the next generation is raised in a society that says there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, then more and more children, as they sexually mature, are going to see it as an option from a list of available options. You may think sexual orientation is hard-wired at birth, but many of your grandchildren’s generation will likely reject that, they will be programmed during their young impressionable years by society that nothing is wrong with it. It will have been presented to them with roll models, and some will choose to follow those models, just as kids choose among the many models that have always been presented to them in textbooks, pop culture, media, entertainment, etc.

    A parade of positive roll model homosexual examples in textbooks and media will have been before them their entire lives. [mock shock] How dare you tell your grandchildren they can’t choose to be homosexual! [/mock shock]

    Is your “ick factor” totally due to your genetic makeup, or could it partly be due to being raised in a “homophobic” society ? Will the “ick factor” towards homosexuality be erased (or fail to be implanted) in the next generation? Will it die off similar to how the attitude of our grandparents’ generation’s racism was not implanted in our generation?

    I read in a comment a few years ago how one ‘naccler wanted to get rid of his own ick-factor towards homosexuality. I would suppose he would also teach or influence his children not to have such an ick-factor.

  89. Jeremy on December 19, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    “It is the societal acceptance of homosexuality as normal and “nothing wrong with it” that is dangerous. ”

    But can you not recognize this as circular? If we’re trying to demonstrate to the populace as a whole–including that segment of the population that doesn’t necessarily use the evangelical interpretation of the Bible as their moral standard–that there is a societal danger to homosexuality, it’s not very effective to say that the danger posed by the social acceptance of homosexuality is the social acceptance of homosexuality.

  90. Rob Perkins on December 19, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    (I hope this isn’t a thread-jack.)

    The whole debate is swirled with disgusting appeals to emotion. The one time I offered some rationales against gay marriage which based (in part) on natural law and realpolitik, the strongest and most reasonable response I got was that my position makes seven-year-old girls cry. Everything else was “how dare you!” and “you bigoted homophobe!” and “how can you deny fundamental human rights to people!”

    I was also given the strongest call to repentance I’d ever seen in my life in or out of the Book of Alma, with the person offering it being avowed atheist. He didn’t have everlasting hell to promise me, but what he did promise me was that I’d spend my life in a state of frustrated cognitive dissonance, and refused to believe any claims about my not being a supernaturalist. I suppose that cognitive dissonant frustrated lifetime is an atheist’s equivalent to the lake of fire and brimstone, based on that.

    Most simply, the central question revolves around defining what “marriage is”. One side has taken a common law approach, citing years of precedent and the reasons for it, the other an ideological approach, citing ideology and arguing that the ideology forces the change.

    It ought to have been relatively simple to put that into a debating forum and apply the rules of reason. It should have been a matter that an honest legislature could have resolved by compromise. By now, with any sense at all, we should have had the State completely out of the business of licensing marriages altogether. We should have had it in 1880, and had polygamy not been revolting to some Supreme Court justices then, this debate might not be happening at all.

    The primary thing that fascinates me is that if we all get *my* desired, libertarian-leaning outcome, where the Union and the States regulate households rather than marriages, which are left to churches, then the Mormons win that old contest, and it will have taken a class of people whose lifestyles we cannot now fully embrace to get us that victory over opposition to polygamy…

    Naturally, we won’t get that as long as people are talking well and truly past one another.

  91. mlu on December 20, 2008 at 12:26 am

    #45 What happens if one agrees that the Bible prohibits homosexuality, but anecdotal and perhaps eventually empirical evidence does not support the idea that homosexual marriage or adoption causes the societal ills that many people fear?

    People already use anecdotal evidence to support the view that homosexual relationships work as well as marriages. This argument is asserting the contrary–that historical evidence doesn’t really support that contention.

    I’m not worried at all that evidence will accumulate showing that there are no more social ills associated with homosexual relationships than with marriages. As with earlier arguments that divorce was better for children than unhappy marriages, or that children raised by single mothers faced no more risks than those raised by married couples, arguments that homosexual relationships work as well as marriages are not going to be supported by much sound evidence. We already have evidence to the contrary, both in social science research and in history.

    So, if we don’t obey the word of God we will learn its truth by experience. I realize this isn’t an argument so much as it’s a testimony. I sort of passed my argument phase about ten years ago.

  92. MikeInWeHo on December 20, 2008 at 1:17 am

    “We already have evidence to the contrary….”

    Can you present that? I have not seen it. Thanks!

  93. Bookslinger on December 20, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Jeremy: “it’s not very effective to say that the danger posed by the social acceptance of homosexuality is the social acceptance of homosexuality.”

    Uh, no. I went on to say that one of the dangers posed by the social acceptance of homosexuality is the eventual _choosing_ of homosexuality (and also the assuming or concluding one is homosexual) in larger and larger numbers by future generations of children as they sexually mature.

    Another point I failed to mention on this thread (but did mention on previous threads) is that social acceptance of homosexuality will also lead to greater experimentation by larger numbers of teens in future generations. (And by “future generation” I mean starting 11 years from now, in any school system that has put homosexual role models in their textbooks. Because in 11 years, today’s kindergarteners in those schools will have reached the age of sexual experimention after having spent their entire school career being taught homosexuality is normal. That’s the cohort we will need to look at to see what the effects are.)

    Since abstinence is not taught very much in public schools, and will be even less so as Obama’s incoming adminstration has indicated, there will be even fewer influences for teens to avoid sexual experimentation. And the earlier the first experience, the greater the impact and imprinting.

    I’m not saying every teen is going to experiment with homosexuality, but more and more will.

    I’m not saying every teen who experiments with homosexuality will choose homosexuality, or conclude that because he/she liked it, they must be gay. But as long as the common belief is “a homosexual is born that way” and “if you like homosexual sex, then you must be gay”, then some of those teens whose first experiment is with older and knowledgeable same-sex partners, are going to get mighty confused, and end up making conclusions about themselves that aren’t in fact true.

    After the social acceptance of homosexuality is thoroughly in schools and all other societal influences on teens (tv, music, media, etc), then that minor league teenage sexual teasing that doesn’t quite rise to sexual harassment and is not actionable in a school setting, will not only be boy-on-girl, but boy-on-boy.

    Not only will your 16 year old daughters have to be on guard against the 18 year old boys looking to score (as has always been the case), your 16 year old sons will have to be on guard against 18 year old homosexual boys looking to score, and your 16 year old daughters to be on guard against 18 year old girls. (And if memory serves, aggressive girls have been going after the boys for years now too.)

    Not only will parents have to worry about the heartbreak of pre-marital sex by their kids, or having their daughter seduced by a boy, they’ll have another worry, their sons and daughters being seduced by a same-sex person, and yet another worry, their child wrongfully concluding they are homosexual because their same-sex seducer (or even someone who was just willing to help them experiment) knew how to push all the right buttons.

    Abstinence among teenagers is laughed at as an impossibility. Homosexual teens will be no different.

    Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons are among the last preaching abstinence and chastity. Even much of mainstream Christianity has given up on it. Teaching abstinence is ridiculed in political discussions.

    Oh, and here’s another possible danger: we already have sexualization of children and teens to make them sex objects for the opposite sex (from Jon Benet Ramsey, to Bratz dolls, to former teen Britney Spears and all the current and former teens who idolized her). With homosexuality no longer taboo, sexualization of children and teens as sex objects for the same sex will come about. Oh wait, something like that has already started, when Britney and Madonna played tonsil hockey on stage. Oh, and weren’t there some jeans ads a couple years ago that sexualized teens in a homosexual way?

    Are you sure your children and grand children won’t be influenced by Britney, Madonna, (or whoever replaces them in future years) and ads for jeans? Are your children intellectual enough and non-emotional enough to disallow those influences from having any effect?. Will your children rationally investigate and then decide whether they are heterosexual or homosexual without having to rely on emotional feelings and without having to do any emotional or sexual experimentation?

    Those are the kinds of things that are at stake: future generations turning more and more to homosexualtiy. As a society we have gone beyond pitying and enduring, and are now starting to embrace. I think government/political/societal approval of gay marriage definitely comes under the embrace heading. Homosexual behavior is a sin, a grievous sin. Let’s love sinners. But let’s also do all we can not to embrace sin, and do all we can to influence future generations not to embrace it.

  94. mlu on December 20, 2008 at 3:40 am

    #92 No. I’m too lazy and have too little faith that the debate will be decided on the basis of facts and too little belief that people who ask for them actually want them. As I said, I wasn’t making an argument.

    Sorry I sound so churlish. It’s only because I am. I know that the Bible is the word of God, so far as. . .

  95. MikeInWeHo on December 20, 2008 at 11:29 am

    re: 93
    So you’re worried about Gays Gone Wild!

    But seriously, there is no evidence that treating homosexual couples fairly results in an increased number of homosexuals. In fact, as best I can tell it’s just the opposite. The incidence of homosexual behavior doesn’t really vary much from society to society. The same can be seen in animals as well.

  96. Liberty on December 20, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I believe that we are missing some major concerns if we stay focused on the causes of homosexuality or homosexuality = sin debates. Gay activists are attempting (quite successfully, so far) to hijack our society and legal systems. There are major ramifications if their worldview prevails over the traditional view. Their victory (to quote the Newsweek article) would mean the eradication of “any real conception of sin and guilt.” The only real sin in their worldview would be intolerance of their “life-style choice.” Consult your handy BOM for a critique of that philosophy. They could (and we have seen the beginnings of this) attack faith communities economically and attempt to indoctrinate our children with their philosophy. This is a political battle, but it is also a battle for hearts and minds. It is a battle that communities of faith can’t afford to lose.

  97. SLO Sapo on December 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    These are for you, Liberty:

    Psalm 56:4 . . . in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

    2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

    D&C 10:55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear . . .

    D&C 38:15 Therefore, be ye strong from henceforth; fear not, for the kingdom is yours.

    D&C 38:30 . . . but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.

    D&C 50:41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine . . .

    D&C 68:6 Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you . . .

    D&C 98:1 VERILY I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted . . .

    D&C 101:36 Wherefore, fear not even unto death . . .

  98. Liberty on December 20, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    SLO Sapo,

    Your artistry at quoting and proof-texting is noted.

  99. mlu on December 20, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    re 95

    Wow. Could your present your evidence for that?

  100. MikeInWeHo on December 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Sure, but I’m traveling right now so it will have to be next week. Stay tuned.

  101. Murray on December 21, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Amen to Bookslinger in No 93.

  102. Eric Boysen on December 21, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Gay marriage is not addressed by name anywhere in the scriptures. However, since gay marriage presupposes homosexuality, I looked at the Topical Guide and found 13 scripture references to homosexuality, 11 from the Bible:

    Gen 13:13 – This passage does not identify the sins of Sodom, it just says that the men thereof were wicked. I thereby discard this passage as imprecise to the point of meaninglessness on the subject at hand.

    Gen 18:20-22 – Same comment.

    Gen 19:4-9 – This passage identifies the mob’s intent as homosexual rape, but on its own does not say whether it is the homosexuality or the mistreatment of strangers is the great evil. Let me add my personal revulsion towards Lot’s proposal that he let his daughters be raped instead. It appears he valued his responsibility as a host over his responsibility as a father. Yuck!

    Lev 18:22-30 – The Topical Guide only identifies verses 22-27, but I think the others are also germane. This is direction to the priests which appear to have served as the civil authority in their time on what they are to teach the people. It condemns homosexuality explicitly in a list of other abominations including incest (both genetic and social – the marriage to more than one sister item is interesting in light of the relationship between G… Great Grandmas Rachel & Leah), bestiality, and child sacrifice. These are not to be tolerated because the land will reject the whole of the people if these practices become common. The punishment specified is to be cut off from among the people. That could mean many things such as exile or being ignored as if one were dead. Today, I suppose, we would have to restrict it to excommunication.

    Lev 20:13 The Topical guide also identifies verse 15 as relevant, but that verse is about bestiality. This verse is part of a second list of abominations that covers much of the same ground as the list in chapter 18. This list though prescribes death as punishment for these abominations, whereas the former used the softer language of being “cut off.” Why the harsher penalty in this chapter?

    Deut 23:17 – This is a pronouncement rather than a law with penalty ascribed, but it could be read that one who practices homosexual behavior forfeits his identity as an Israelite.

    Ezek 16:44-59 44 – The Topical Guide only cites verse 50 which refers to “abomination” which is presumed to mean homosexuality. This allegory compares Israel with Sodom and Samaria. Interesting, though that the sins of Sodom listed first are pride, gluttony, sloth and greed. The argument is that what Israel at that time was doing was worse than anything done in Sodom or Samaria, and yet Israel would be recovered by a loving God with Sodom and Samaria restored as well.

    Rom 1:19-32 – The Topical Guide only lists verses 24-32. I include the preceding verses because the text identifies homosexuality of both men and women as a consequence of the sins of intellectual pride, ultimately making them “worthy of death.” As I understand it, the power to levy the death penalty had been pulled from the Jews and was supposed to be administered only under Roman law (mob action of stoning the adulteress or Stephen aside). Hence “worthy of death” is how they are described without indicating an actual death sentence is to be applied.

    1 Cor 6:9 – The Topical Guide also indicates verse ten, but that does not have anything to do with homosexuality. This verse indicates that neither “effeminate” nor sexually active gays will inherit the Kingdom of God. What is included in effeminate? Cross-dressers? Non-sexually active gays? Eunuchs? I am not sure.

    1 Tim 1:6-10 – The topical guide does not include verse 9, but the reason for citing homosexuality is stated in the earlier verse – The law was created for the unrighteous (such as sexually active gays among others), not for the righteous. This appears to be discussing people trying to teach the law and “jangling” because they don’t understand it. (Sounds like me as Gospel Doctrine teacher)

    Jude: 1:4-7 – The Topical Guide only cites verse 7. The earlier verses talk about how the apostasy was beginning with some turning grace into lasciviousness (possibly men in the church misusing their office to satisfy their lusts?) with a comparison to Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain being destroyed by God with fire because of their wickedness including lusting for “strange flesh.”

    It appears to me that the Bible condemns homosexuality as an abomination before God, and by extension its institutionalization in the form of legally sanctioned gay marriage. Furthermore, social acceptance of homosexuality is looked at as a collective sin of the nation which subjects that nation to judgment and destruction by God.

    The authors of the Newsweek piece appear to believe God loves us too much to condemn us. That is the goop. Elder Porter and his fellows may not have a completely connected logical response in all particulars, but they are essentially right that the Bible condemns homosexuality and its social acceptance. Latter-day scripture and the words of modern prophets fill out the picture more fully, but do not change the basic message.

  103. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for the comments all, and thanks to Elder Porter for his article.

WELCOME

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