I’ve noticed a not-insignificant number of members, both orthodox and heterodox, assume that the Church’s position on human sexuality is a “just because the prophet said so” issue, and aren’t aware of any well thought out defenses of the Church’s (or conservative religion’s in general) position written by non-church leaders, so I’ve gone ahead and thrown together a collection of pieces that speak to the subject that I’m posting here.
I’m intending for these sources to speak primarily to theological issues; I recognize that legal same-sex marriage is a whole other can of worms, and that the political arguments vis-a-vis same-sex marriage are related, albeit ultimately distinct. from the theological arguments surrounding same-sex sealings. However, since a lot of treatments of the subject touch on issues germane to both there is some political mixed in the batch too, but that’s not the primary intent.
A note on the comments: yes, I’m aware that for many people literally any argument defending the Church’s position is arbitrary and capricious. I don’t have a ton of time to puppy guard the comments, so while I’ll keep them open I’m not going to be a super active presence there.
Cassler, Valerie H. “Plato’s Son, Augustine’s Heir: ‘A Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology’?” SquareTwo 5(2): 2012.
Dyer, W. Justin. “Shifting Views on the Male-Female Relationship: Same-Sex Marriage and Other Social Consequences.” Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel 18, no. 2 (2017): 31-51.
George, Robert P. “The Philosophical Basis of Biblical Marriage.” Public Square Magazine. January 6, 2022. https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/gospel-fare/the-philosophical-basis-of-biblical-marriage/
Girgis, Sherif, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson. “What is Marriage.” Harv. JL & Pub. Pol’y 34 (2011): 245.
Hancock, Ralph. “A Familiar Eternity” SquareTwo 9(1): 2016
Hancock, Ralph. “”When Following the Prophet is Too Easy: Against the Identification of Reason with Progressive Liberationism”” SquareTwo 1(1): 2008.
Hedelius, Cassandra and Jeff Bennion. “Treasuring All that God Has Revealed” Public Square Magazine. January 21, 2022. https://publicsquaremag.org/dialogue/tolerance/treasuring-all-that-god-has-revealed/
Hypatia. “Faithful Answers to Common LGBTQ+ Questions.” Public Square Magazine. December 1, 2021. https://publicsquaremag.org/sexuality-family/faithful-answers-to-common-lgbt-questions/.
Thayne, Jeffrey. Latter-day Saint Philosopher. https://www.ldsphilosopher.com
Stephen, thanks. Theology around this topic is something I wish we did better as a church. If I can add something to your list, the New Testament scholar Richard Hays did a systematic treatment of Biblical scripture regarding homosexuality, which touches on the larger sexual ethic of the Bible. I’m sure there’s reason to disagree with some of his points, and obviously we go beyond the Bible in many ways, but I wish we had something comprehensive and clear like this to really work through the reasons we believe what we do around sex, marriage, and singleness.
Thanks again for putting this list together.
@Bryan: Fascinating, thank you!
Thank you. I shall enjoy reading the sources you included in your post.
Just two observations, hopefully with some humor, about how we as a people teach, or fail to teach, sexuality to our children.
One of my favorite Mormon-themed Bagley cartoons features two 12 year-old boys skateboarding down a sidewalk. One of the boys says, “Then my Dad said, ‘Son, sex is not secret, it’s sacred, and besides, talking about it makes your Mother faint.’”
I served as a Bishopric Counselor between 2009-2013. One of my assignments was to interview youth for temple baptism excursions. Our Bishop’s policy was to ask the questions for the standard temple recommend (which in recent years has generated some controversy, vis-a-vis youth).
On three occasions when I asked the youth whether he or she kept the law of chastity, the answer was, oh no, I don’t smoke or drink. These kids were 14-15 years old. I replied that that was the Word of Wisdom, and then gave a heavily redacted one-minute lesson on chastity: not having sex with anyone other than your spouse. That’s all I said. I quietly informed the three sets of parents that their children had had no basic concept of the law of chastity. One set of parents thanked me, and said that they had some work to do. The other two parents were angry with me that I had even provided their kids a very basic, bare-bones explanation.
Religious people often flee from sexuality as a sort of third rail. I do not think this is wise.
I’ve often wondered why it is that we should have four creation accounts in our modern canon. And the first answer that has come to my mind is that they serve as a bold reminder of divine creation to a materialistic society. The second answer has to do with our core identity as children of a loving God–that we have a deep and purposeful past that began long before our physical bodies were prepared through natural processes. The third answer–that is just dawning on me–is that we are in need of a plain reminder as to who and what we are with respect to our sexuality–and the archetypal Adam and Eve serve as a model for human sexuality and sexual identity.
No doubt there is much more that might be culled from the creation accounts–but these three reminders seem to be precisely what the doctor has ordered for a people that has largely forgotten who and what they are in the grand scheme of things.
Of course, I should probably mention that the primary reason for the creation accounts (IMO) is to help us to understand our need for a Redeemer. That being said, it sure seems like they’re calculated to thump us moderns on the head.
Taiwan Missionary, it was Calvin Grondahl who did that cartoon, I think from his first compilation book, _Freeway to Perfection_.
Thanks for making the correction; I appreciate it. I Iooked it up in my own copy of Freeway, and you are of course right.
I think it’s worthy to note a response from Taylor Petrey, in which he speaks about the ways Hudson-Cassler mischaracterizes his “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology” article (specifically, by accusing him of implying or saying misogynistic things with which he fervently disagrees): https://www.academia.edu/68857795/After_a_Post_Heterosexual_Mormon_Theology_A_Ten_Year_Retrospective
Why I say it’s a “because the prophet said so” issue is mostly indirect:
1. Reproduction is seen as an inherent aspect of godliness
2. Reproduction is achieved through heterosexual relationships — ideally, married ones
3. Since God is divine and has us as children, he must be heterosexually married (to what number of women depends on when you’re asking LDS authorities)
4. Humans’ goal is to become like God
5. Therefore, to achieve their objective, humans must be heterosexually married
It’s not a fiat “the prophet said so,” but there are several theological propositions in there that rely exclusively on things said by LDS authorities (including scriptural interpretations, including of D&C 132, which has shifted significantly since the polygamy days). Hence, indirect.
The uniqueness of LDS theology of heterosexual marriage, rooted in a non-trinitarian married God, is what makes Catholic and Protestant reasoning about marriage — from both the conservative and progressive sides — fall flat to me.
Having been in a room where Hancock defended heterosexual marriage as “beautiful to [his] soul,” afterward expressing surprise when a (conservative!) listener pointed out that that wasn’t a philosophical argument, I was prepared to raise my eyebrow at Hancock’s reasoning.
Instead, in his “A Familiar Eternity” article, I found instead primarily a defense of the familial *particularism* of the LDS soteriological imagination: wanting to be reunited with, specifically, the people whom we loved on Earth, instead of being amalgamated into contemplation of the Divine. He talks about sexual attraction (quoting Pratt speaking of his love for his wife, but also apparently venturing beyond eros into all “natural affections”). But he only brings up reproduction/procreation twice:
1. Holland saying that reproduction is Godly, with analogy to the initial creation of human life.
2. Robinson, a non-LDS novelist, referring to the “great bright dream of procreation.”
In either case, the (implied) defense of heterosexual relationships *isn’t Hancock’s*, and he elaborates on them to argue that eros is conducive to the formation of those particular relationships whose persistence into eternity we so keenly desire. His defense throughout the piece is of particular relationships, often brought together by eros; he seems to perform sleight of hand to implicitly apply his argument *only* to heterosexual married ones.
Does our keen desire for the perseverance of particular relationships apply to other forms of earthly “sociality”? to friendships? to non-sexual familial relationships? to familial relationships not rooted in the couple in question using intercourse to engender new human life (say, adoption)? He doesn’t really say, and doesn’t explore.
I’m curious: why did you think *this piece* was a defense of the Church’s position? Holland’s quote could be one, but I don’t think that Hancock adds anything to its implied defense of heterosexual reproduction. On the contrary, Hancock’s reasoning expresses why people feel pain at perceiving that they cannot participate in the particularist LDS “familiar eternity.”
Choosing to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge amounted to receiving a mortal body.
Those who partook of the fruit directly from the Tree were endowed with wombs to fulfill Creation: they are identified as women. Those who partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge directly from the woman are as Adams, and came to be identified as men. The first law given to Adam is to leave mother and father [in heaven] and cleave to wife (Eve), who is a type for Mother of All Living/ Mother Earth. This implies that the decision to partake of the fruit is an act of obedience to the first instruction. Taken further, the conspiracy to usurp Lucifer has its root in “the opposition” and then “the union” of man and woman.
So the covenant associated with receiving a mortal body is first a covenant for gender and second a covenant for marriage. Eternal families are central to the eternal covenant. If we come to identify our souls by our appetites and attractions, then, existentially speaking, we are merely reflections of what we like to eat: such a model lacks transcendence.
The belief-systems in the LDS institution obscure simple doctrine and leave the congregation vulnerable to social and political storm. We act like the secular world is the problem, but it isn’t. The problem is within the institution. If Joseph Smith appeared to LDS leadership today, he would be heart-broken about the mess we’ve made of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Put another way, if the Keeper arrived home to his vineyard looking like a mess, he does not hold the weather or nature responsible, but instead, the stewards whom occupy his House and his Field.
@Taiwan: Interesting! In today’s world it seems like your kids are going to get that education one way or another.
@Jack, I’ve often wondered the same re the four accounts. At the least it shows that we’re clearly not the super-literalists about Genesis that some of our other religious counterparts are, since the Lord apparently doesn’t have a problem with a variety of creation accounts that don’t match up on every point.
@ TK: Yes, Hudsons’ OP is only half that discussion, the other half is in the back-and-forth in the comments with Petrey.
Yes, the “because the prophet said so” is indeed part of the argument indirectly, since prophetic and revelatory authority supports some of the pillars of the arguments, but yes, I agree that it’s more indirect than, for example, Namaan bathing in the river because the prophet of the Lord commanded him to.
Also, as a confession, that piece of Hancock’s is in there because I mentioned I was putting this together and asked if there was anything else of his that addressed this issue.
Stephen, I love how the accounts differ–it gives us a bit of wiggle room in how we interpret them. Even so, the four elements I mention from the various accounts are all rather unambiguous in terms of how they correlate with each other–their pretty-much the same. And so I take those elements as a cue–it must be very important that we understand them. Else, why four separate accounts that testify of the same essential elements?
Travis, I always find your comments interesting. I’d say in this particular case, though, that you may have put the cart before the horse. IMO, the way the garden narrative rolls out it is clear that Eve is identified as a woman *before* she partakes of the fruit. And I give it to you as my opinion that it was her design–her potential as a life-giver–that caused her to be open to the notion of partaking of the fruit–at least more open than Adam was at the time they were tempted.
Whatever these are, they are not theology. I suspect this list may be a clue, however…
Cassler — Political Scientist
Dyer — Human and Community Development
George — Political Philosopher
Girgis — Law
Anderson — Political Philosopher
Hancock — Political Scientist
Hedelius — Political Scientist
Bennion — Marriage and Family Therapist
Hypatia — a group of writers in academic, legal, and professional circles
Thayne — Instructional Technology
@Jack, thank you. The interpretation I offer solves problems associated with gender ambiguity while maintaining a spirit of love–something Utah and the LDS Establishment seem to struggle with. It also amplifies covenant as the central theme, and marriage as the symbol of covenant. And it can be substantiated by ordinance and text.
As far as putting the cart before the horse–maybe not. Consider there are three figurative “bodies” represented in the Eden narrative, or, three estates of progression–each identified by “covering” (think: kaphar, cloth, the veil, the body, Hebrews 10:20). The fig leaf (premortal), the coats of skins (mortal), and the garment of linen (light, resurrection) represent types for atonement and the “weaving” of new Creation/inheritance.
The implication is that some of the followers of Eve put aside “garments of light” in order to take upon animal skins of flesh: we set aside “robes of glory” to descend to the fallen world in order to raise it (think: tikkum olam): a Great Rescue Mission (think: City of Enoch, Church of Firstborn). This kind of cosmology is alluded to in the gnostic “Song of the Pearl/ Hymn of the Robe of Glory/ Hymn of the Soul,” and in other texts (youtube has 10 minute audio worth a listen).
It can be argued that gender exists from before the Beginning, as Sound [The Word, masculine], moves across the Great Deep [The Waters, feminine], in order to bring forth the child–Light. The engendered forces are without form–just as the First Creation is without form before its re-Creation/incarnation. The “intelligences” occupying the figurative First Creation were separated by the act of partaking the fruit (identified by those with “fig leaf” bodies and those without). The engendered premortal fig-leaf bodies were made of light and not patterned or shaped after fleshly bodies until first-estate “skins” were given/endowed to replace the fig leaf. So Eve’s spiritual “womanness” pre-existed before partaking of the fruit and before she inherits the body (skin) of flesh.
Now if Eve can be understood as a type for Mother Earth–the Mother of All Living, then Moses 7 can be read as a rescue mission and the linen garment fits as the inheritance-restored: a royal robe of glory. Our horse-and-cart is really a chicken-or-egg problem of who came first: Mother Eve or Mother Earth? (According to eternal-round-theology, it makes no difference).
The interpretation offers greater meaning and value to temple ordinances: we are not so much “trying to become,” but rather, “remembering the high estate from whence we came.” In this, our temple ordinance depicts a restoring of royal glory, instead of a feigning for it. Aloha.
I know Taylor Petrey’s article in Dialogue “Toward a Post Hetero-Sexual Theology” which is what Valerie Cassler is responding to is acknowledged as a serious response from Taylor himself in his recent follow up where he responds to her main points. Here’s a link hist response where he reflects on the past 10 years since his article was first published in Dialogue.
@TK sorry I didn’t see your comment before I posted a link to the same article as you did. Although the link I posted goes directly to Dialogue and doesn’t require signing into academia.edu
Travis, if I remember correctly you once mentioned that you believed the flood to be a representation of the physical creation and Noah to be the real mortal Adam. That’s a fun way of looking at things because of the way it places previous events in context, e.g., spiritual embodiment and so forth. Even so, I believe Adam’s expulsion from the garden to be the event that brings us into the mortal world–death being the great signifier of that reality.
Re: Gender existing from the beginning: There are a lot of unknowns–but it seems to me that gender is present very early on–perhaps from the very beginning. My sense is that when the woman is taken out of the man it is the archetypal woman being separated from the archetypal man–or men and women being placed under two separate archetypal heads. Before Adam falls asleep–the archetypal Adam, that is–he seems to be unaware of gender. Much like babes Adam (who represents all of us) didn’t comprehend gender–or at least didn’t fully understand it’s purpose and potential. But when he awakes from the sleep–which may be likened unto passing from one existence to another–he, or they, find themselves in a situation where gender is part and parcel of who and what they are. And of course, that opens up a world of possibilities.
Just to add, I think the plan of happiness is both a plan of restoration and a plan progression. There’s no question that certain gifts and powers will be restored to us that we lost upon entering this world. But by the same token we will be added upon in news ways–such that we had never before experienced–as we move forward on the path that leads to eternal life.
@Jack, a bit more nuanced: We might interpret Noah as “an” Adam, a type for the Second Adam. The First Creation might refer to the universal template-the “kolobesque creation,” whereby all the earths in the universe take their shape, being patterned after the “everlasting covenant of peace.” Whereas the First Adam offered up meat and herb thanksgiving offerings, the Second Adam offered up bread and wine. The liturgical offerings differentiate the First and Second Creations and their respective kings. The New Testament and Qumran texts contrast between the Second Temple cult–with its abundance of wealth, its savory meat and rich incense offering–and the sacramental bread and wine of Melchizedek and Noah.
Note: I don’t identify with beliefs; I prefer to navigate from faith to ordinance to covenant without a single belief system. So for me, there is no doctrine where there is no ordinance.
A psychological construct (belief system) that imagines a passive, childish Adam and Eve, leads to a more permissive gender ambiguity, and does not serve to magnify the grandure of sexual opposition, male and female, and its creative marriage union. The imagery of Adams partaking of the fruit from Eves, and Eves partaking of the fruit directly from the Tree of Knowledge, signifies that each gender approached the fruit [covenant] differently. We might see this reflected in temple ordinances, where the woman’s covenant to Jehovah differs slightly from the man’s counterpart covenant. Because the covenant relates directly to the inheritance of first-estate bodies, we assume that gender identity–bodies male and female–are the emblems of the promised-covenant, fulfilled.
LDS youth are in need of a theology that strengthens the ordinance of male and female marriage by emphasizing the covenant (responsibility) instead of the commandment (obedience): such theology synthesizes gender opposition and marriage union organically, cosmologically.
All this talk of sexuality with only males present. 1 in 3 utah women are sexually abused at some point. They might see things differently
Even if your numbers were correct I don’t think women in Utah–generally speaking–would object to the necessity of both male and female working together to bring about the plan of Life.
Travis, as we grow from a lowly acorn into a mighty oak we will encounter many aspects of godliness that will be new to us. A root or a branch shooting out here or there; the unfolding of a leaf; the bearing of fruit and so forth. We’ve experienced many such wondrous events (or processes) during our long existence–the discovery and development of gender and sexuality being one of them, IMO. And so, I don’t think the idea of Adam and Eve being naive to their potential should be anymore surprising than our naivete in the present with regard to our exaltation. The Lord has been nurturing us carefully as tender plants for a very long time–and he will continue to do so until we receive a fulness.
You have a very interesting take on the creation accounts–a lot of food for thought. One question that comes to (my) mind is how the mechanics of the atonement work with your model. I’ll have to think about it a little more…
If I could comment on a practical issue with sexuality, rather than a theological issue, I have an experience to share. Let me preface this with the standard explanation that I was a very faithful sister. I graduated from seminary and institute, served a mission, read the Book of Mormon 30+ times, attended church, paid tithing, everything. I had a strong testimony of families and the gospel, and I grew up with every intention of marrying a man in the temple, having children, and living worthy of the Celestial Kingdom.
Prior to marriage, I thought that the reason I so easily kept the law of chastity is because I was so righteous. I know other people had to fight temptation, but I didn’t. I avoided all worldly teachings about sex. I’d only had one glimpse of porn on accident. I managed to remain ignorant of some of the specific mechanics of sex into my late 20s even, in my quest to be sexually pure.
Then I got married (to an RM in the temple). It honestly never even entered my mind that I would hate sex. I hated sex. I assure you that my husband was kind and considerate – he never pressured me, and he tried to help me enjoy it and I tried to appreciate his efforts. I conceived easily and we had a child. During labor, while pushing out the baby, I thought “I would rather do this than get pregnant because at least no one expects me to enjoy childbirth.” I felt so guilty about hating sex. I would initiate sex and fake enjoyment so as not to hurt my husband’s feelings. I tried to talk around the edges of my problem, but I just couldn’t make myself tell him that I hated sex. I didn’t want to hurt him.
I fasted and prayed and went to the Temple, and read books and talked to therapists, and everything possible I could do so that I would enjoy sex. Nothing worked. I endured sex in order to have children. I wanted babies. I had babies. Then I couldn’t take it anymore. I filed for divorce for several reasons, but one of the reasons was that I never wanted to have procreative sex again.
Doctrine can’t override feelings. Not all my righteousness could make me enjoy the sacred procreative process. I realized that I would be totally fine with living polygamy – I could tolerate a husband for a week or so, every few months. Polygamy is fine for a woman who is physically repulsed by men but wants children.
I’m not a lesbian. I’m asexual. I don’t experience sexual attraction to either men or women. I don’t want any kind of a sexual relationship with anyone. Sign me up for the Terrestrial Kingdom.
If I’d lived 150 years ago, I probably would have stayed married just because women didn’t have any options. I would have been miserable; my husband would have been miserable; the kids would have grown up not knowing what was so wrong in the household.
Anyway. Carry on with your sterile theological discussion. But what would you do and how would you feel if your wife admitted that she only submitted to sex out of duty and guilt, and she honestly would prefer that you never touch her again? Sexuality isn’t just about theology, doctrine and procreation. I gritted my teeth, held my nose, and endured the sacred procreative process to bring about the plan of life, but then I was done with sex.
I’m probably not really the right person to comment because honestly, I’m not very interested in theology. But in trying to defend the church’s position on sexuality, it seems kind of strange to use Catholic theology. My other thought is that the church’s teachings on sexuality only work for straight people. They cause only suffering for asexual people like Janey and gay/lesbian/transgender people. For those who choose to stay in the church I have never heard of one testify that they are blessed by the church’s teachings on sexuality. They are suffering. To me this is one evidence that there is something amiss with the teachings. The gospel should bless people here in this life, not just in the next life.
Responding to Janey’s comment, in which she says that doctrine can’t override feelings. A few observations:
The core of our doctrine is found in John 3:16. God gave us His son because He loves us. We are to love God and our fellow men and women as ourselves, and that means unconditional love, not a conditional love based on how well we keep commandments.
I am sorry for the pain that Janey has suffered, and pray that she has good Church leaders who support her and who reassure that God wants her, as she is, and is by her side, as she navigates life. We all face difficulties in life, and only the most stubbornly unwilling will not receive God’s fullest blessings, despite what the Pharisees in our Church might say. I suspect God is more concerned that Janey lives a good life, than about her asexual feelings.
Secondly, Janey refers to doctrine. I have been a member of the Church for 47 years, having joined at 23. I have read enough, studied enough, and experienced enough to know that the word doctrine has very fungible definitions. What was yesterday’s doctrine often becomes discarded when further light and knowledge are made available, or when what was formerly doctrine becomes inconvenient to the Church. J. Reuben Clark once wrote to a Church member in Logan that the First Presidency and the Q12 couldn’t agree on doctrine. (He was addressing the Logan woman’s concerns about Ezra Taft Benson’s extremist politics, which many people tried to palm off as doctrine. This information is available in a recent book about ETB’s alt-right politics.)
God has a very large tent. And His Son’s atonement is infinite.
@Janey, I am sorry about your experience with human sexuality. No doubt, it is a challenge for our spirits to adapt to clay tabernacles.
@E, I don’t see that the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints differ from Russian Orthodox, Muslim, or Jewish teachings on sexuality. As a global congregation, consensus and unity with these religious majorities is fundamental to gathering Israel, and takes precedence over any policy that would appease minorities in, or around Utah (who understandably feel segregated by toxic “mormonistic” culture). In Utah, it might take weekly firework shows for us to understand how the sound of musket fire and sight of rainbow flares combine to bless the whole community.
Janey, thank you for being so vulnerable to share your experience. I’m sorry that we as a community failed you. I sincerely hope that, in telling your story, we can do better in the future.
I honestly do not care about the Church’s position on sexuality. I choose to look to the experts. We still have a lot to learn. In the meantime, I hope we can just be loving and kind.
Thank you all for being so respectful and considerate. I’m not a regular here (though I was about 20 years ago), but the headline caught my eye in the ldsblogs aggregator. I typed my comment and as soon as I clicked ‘publish’ I wanted to take it back, because I was intruding into a theoretical discussion among men, and my comment would be glaringly out of place. So thank you for being kind.
Any discussion of theology ought to include the practical as well as the doctrinal and theoretical, especially when we’re talking about peoples’ bodies and experiences. I feel excluded by the law of chastity – there’s no acknowledgment that people have different sexual feelings. I was willing to have sex in order to have a baby, but that’s all. I felt guilty about how that affected my husband. I know that most people in healthy, hetero marriages have sex a lot more frequently than they have pregnancies. Sex is about pleasure and relationships more often than it’s about procreation, but it seems to me that the Church tries to tie it exclusively to procreation. We don’t all feel the same, and again, thank you for your words of inclusion and understanding.
Janey, I can empathize at least in some small measure with your situation. In 2015 fifteen I had to retire early–not only from work–but from life in general. I could no longer work, or serve in the church, or do much of anything really–except live in my cave. My relationship with my wife also changed radically. Because of my severe depression and the medication I have to take for it we no longer have a sexually intimate relationship–that is, since 2015. Even so, we adore each other and hold hands affectionately–and we remind each other every day of how much we love one another and our children. I don’t know what the future holds for us as we get older–I’ll be 60 in a couple of months. She’s 7 years younger than I am and still a total babe–but I doubt that we’ll ever regain that aspect of our relationship–I’m just too far gone mentally.
That being said–and I want to say this carefully so as to not offend–we look toward the ideal in spite of our peculiar situation. Thus far two of our children are happily married–and we hope that the remaining four will follow suit. And we hope that all six will do their level best to promulgate the ideal in their marriages and families even if they’re not able to live up to it perfectly because of the challenges of living in a fallen world. I don’t think anyone of us is likely to have as perfect a marriage as Adam and Eve or Abraham and Sarah. But, IMO, it is incumbent upon us as saints to try and emulate them–and it seems that you did the best you could, Janey, given your difficult circumstances–and I respect you for that.
And so I guess what I’m really saying is–yes we need to be inclusive and understanding. Who among us is perfect? We are required to be patient with each other and to bear one another’s burdens. But at the same time–I also think we should reach for the ideal in marriage and family as best we can, knowing that God is pleased with our best efforts to do so even when we fall short of it because of weakness or extenuating circumstances.
Janey, thank you for sharing. I can relate to not having any desire for sexual intercourse and, indeed, being mostly repulsed by the thought of it. Similarly, as a young person I chalked this up to righteousness, but in my 20s came to realize that my experience was just fundamentally different from others. That’s partly why talk about the theology of sex interested me; it was like conducting extraterrestrial anthropology.
Because of my feelings, in part, and in part because I’ve heard so many others’ expectations about sex in marriage, I have not pursued relationships or marriage, and feel keenly the lacunae in LDS discourse about sexuality and family. It has little to nothing positive to say about non-heterosexual orientations, only negative (“be sure not to X”), and leaves no place for single people.
As for assuming other theologies are compatible with LDS thought — while (many) official Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim stances on the *relationships in which intercourse is acceptable* (hetero marriage) accord with the LDS Church’s, the underlying *theologies* diverge significantly. As I pointed out above, a lot of the LDS theology of marriage is rooted in ideas other Christians consider rank heresies: us progressing to godhood, a Mother in Heaven, us being the same sort of being as God. The “A Familiar Eternity” article linked in the OP does a good job contrasting the LDS conception of marriage and family with some of these.
As a couple examples of divergence: Catholic theology of divorce is much stricter than LDS; Catholic theology of sex prohibits use of contraception, while present-day LDS teachings do not, and indeed enshrine purposes of sex apart from procreation; the idea that marriage is until death, versus the LDS notion that the ultimate purpose of marriage is to persist beyond death; and we rarely hear the paradigm of a married relationship being that of Christ and the Church, which is common elsewhere.
You may be interested in a controversy we are having in Australia. We have just had our summer break and school is just returning. A private school Citipoint Christian College issues a document the day before school returned requiring returning students register as the sex they were at birth, follow traditional gender roles, and that they denounce homosexuality as a sin.
This has created a furore around the country. A group of parents have complained. The principal who is a pastor, and has history as an anti gay campaigner, has withdrawn the document, and then resigned, and been replaced by a woman.
Being anti gay is about as acceptable as being racist. Where does that leave the church position? Siding with the bigots?
We have a conservative government, which has a religious discrimination bill to be voted on in parliament which would allow the discrimination. And we are effectively in an election campaign. Hopefully the conservative government will be replaced by Labor.
Our treatment of women is also a problem, for the last year the Australian of the year is a woman who was groomed and abused by a high school teacher, and there has been much emphasis on power imballance as a factor in abuse for women. Priesthood for men, not women, and men to preside looks like a power imballance. There is more abuse of women in Utah than here, but we are trying to end it.
I think it is useful to look at sexuality from the perspective that until five minutes ago everybody understood–the perspective of a child. Why dd law and morality favor certain things, like marriage between a man and a woman, sex after marriage, parental investment in children, etc.? Because that ensured that as often as possible, babies were born within wedlock to their own two parents, who did all they could to stay together to raise their children. This is, not coincidentally, the gold standard for best child outcomes. That’s why God’s law sets it up as the right course for human life. Now that marriage has been dismantled, because it’s just about two adults who love each other doncha know, everybody has dumped the idea that children do best when raised by the two people who made them, growing up being loved and nurtured by their parents, and knowing who they are, where they came from, their grandparents, aunts, uncles cousins and all the people who are related to them. Adoption is necessary, but was always a good response to brokenness. Now, everyone seems to think it is hunky dory to produce children intending to deprive them of one or both parents, because all that matters is being wanted, and all adults have a right to children. If you think the ethics of this is suspect, you are a bigot. In essence, children have been commodified, because that is what third-party reproduction is, the buying and selling of babies. It’s pretty clear to me that God’s word regarding sex is part of his plan for the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. The stats on this are stubborn. Sociologists know but don’t like to admit, that statistically kids do best without the baggage of not knowing where they come from. They do best raised by their own two parents in a low-conflict marriage. Who woulda thunk it? Well, those of us who were paying attention to God’s law all along.;