I remember being in an office building elevator in Dallas, Texas with two other people about fifteen years ago. They were talking about a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time, where a fellow by the name of James Dale sued the Boy Scouts of America for removing him as an assistant scoutmaster on the basis that he did not match the ideals of the organization because he was an avowed homosexual and a gay rights activist. Dale claimed this violated a New Jersey state public accommodations law. I was intrigued.
I read the decision the day it came out. Justice Rehnquist wrote the opinion, joined by Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. Basically, the Justices found that the public accommodations law violated the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right of expressive association. There were two competing interests at play. First, New Jersey had a legitimate interest in promoting equal access for all people in the state. Second, the BSA had met the standards for making out a claim that they had the right to associate with folks who stood for their ideals, which at the time did not include homosexuality. The decision, while controversial, basically said that a First Amendment right (expressive association) trumped a competing, well-intentioned state interest (equal protection). The case was Boy Scouts of Am. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, 120 S.Ct. 2446 (2000).
While touted as a victory for the Boy Scouts at the time, the decision was not generally popular, and ultimately became a catalyst for an increase in litigation against groups with similar stances which were seen as oppressive in regards to the LGBT community’s rights.
Few predicted how quickly the tide of public opinion would change in favor of the LGBT community’s rights in the ensuing fifteen years.
In June 2015, the US Supreme Court made another major decision. It was decided that all people have a fundamental right to marry under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584 (2015). This landmark decision included considerable discussion about the speed with which public opinion changed in regards to LGBT rights.
The news agencies couldn’t print enough stories capitalizing on the public response, which was largely positive.
The LDS Church has long advocated for equal rights for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church was concerned, however, with protecting traditional marriages and families. Many saw these two goals as conflicting, but they did not directly disagree.
Enter President Obama.
At a Democratic Party National Committee fundraiser held in Gotham Hall in New York on Sunday, September 27, 2015, President Obama said,
“We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions. But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”
Wait, is he trying to distinguish between religious freedoms and constitutional rights? Aren’t those one and the same? Keep in mind, President Obama taught this very subject – Constitutional Law – in law school. He knows exactly what his wording means. Lawyers are nothing if not careful with their choice of words when it counts.
This isn’t misquoted or taken out of context, either. Read the full, official transcript directly from the White House:
The First Amendment gives, as its first directive, a very clear statement, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof[.]”
The ultimate battle, in the next few years, regarding freedom of religion, will be whether the government has the power to direct how a religion administers its own beliefs.
Could the U.S. government ever go so far as to order a church to violate its own religious beliefs in the name of equal protection? Could the LDS Church be ordered to perform marriages or even sealing ordinances for non-traditional relationships?
It seems that this battle was foreseen by prophets many years ago. While not announcing any new doctrines at the time, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” was written by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This formal declaration succinctly and clearly stated God’s position on marriage, family, and gender.
The first two paragraphs set the stage for President Obama to come and challenge religions such as the LDS Church on their most fundamental beliefs.
“WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
“ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
What do we learn here? We learned ten of the most sacred, important, fundamental, and eternal laws given by God to man.
- Marriage is only meant to be between a man and a woman. Traditional marriage is the only type of marriage God approves. While non-traditional marriages may be legal in the world’s eyes, they are a violation of God’s commandments.
- Families are central to the Great Plan of Happiness. What is the purpose of this life, and what is our goal in the hereafter? We want to be just like our Heavenly Father and Mother – we want to create spirit families, provide bodies for them, and give them the same opportunities to learn and grow and progress which we have been given.
- The Plan of Salvation’s goal is the eternal life of God’s children. Eternal life here means to be glorified in a resurrected body, and to become parents to our own eternal families.
- Humans are not the product of happenstance or uncontrolled evolution. While Heavenly Father certainly uses natural, scientific, and even Darwinian processes to create life, we are not descended from apes, let alone one-celled organisms. When we were first created, we were created in the same form as our Father and Mother in heaven, which is the same form we humans have today. Are we, as a species, changing slowly over time? Sure we are. Humans have changed in life longevity rates, height, intelligence, size, and many other ways. What hasn’t changed is that we were created in God’s image.
- Both males and females have been created in the image of God. Yes, that means men are created in the image of Heavenly Father, and women are created in the image of Heavenly Mother.
- We have both a Heavenly Father (God) and a Heavenly Mother (Goddess) who are our parents. God did not create us alone. He and his wife did so, and they have cared for us ever since, and will continue to do so just like good parents should.
- Each person on earth is divine in nature and has a divine destiny. People were not created to fail. Every single person who ever lived or will live on this earth has the potential to become divine, meaning that we can be exalted and glorified and have eternal families if we are obedient to the Plan of Salvation.
- Our genders were determined before we came to earth. Our gender is an essential element of who we were in our pre-earth life, and will continue to be essential throughout our entire eternal existence.
- Our spiritual gender is the same as our physical gender, and remains unchanging. Anyone who claims they are actually meant to be one gender, but have the physical body of another, is simply wrong. None of us are perfect, and we all misunderstand things in life, but gender cannot be “reassigned” on the whim of the person.
- Our soul’s gender has an eternal purpose. Because our eternal goal is to become parents of spirit children ourselves, our gender is entirely important in reaching this goal.
I want to be clear on one thing. In no way am I advocating against the LGBT community, the U.S. government, a certain political party, or even President Obama himself. None of those are the aim of this blog.
Religious freedom is the goal here. I claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God and I afford all people that same right. Article of Faith 11.
Do Mormons hate the LGBT community? Of course not – Mormons are Christians. Then why doesn’t the LDS Church allow gay marriage? The answer lies in the most basic doctrines and commandments God has given us. We seek, as husband and wife pairs, to live in a manner so that we can live together forever, become exalted, and be with our family forever. If marriages which could not result in children in this life or the life to come were to be sealed in the temples, they would frustrate the very Plan of Salvation. We do love all people regardless of their choices, however. We don’t teach that any hate should happen, for any reason.
So no, the doctrine of the Church is not meant to discriminate against another person’s choices. In a media statement, the Church stated, “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.” Mormon Newsroom, June 29, 2015. We learn in Proverbs 19:16 that “He who keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul.”
The Family: A Proclamation to the World is not meant to attack others, but instead clearly states what the Mormon Church believes, and claims the intention to protect those beliefs under the Constitution of the United States of America or any comparable law worldwide.
We are cautioned in Doctrine and Covenants 46:7 that we are to seek God’s will, and not the “commandments of men.”
However, the Twelfth Article of Faith from the LDS Church says that we are to obey civil laws!
Oh no! How will we obey earthly laws and God’s laws if they conflict?
1 Nephi 17:3 says, “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them”.
If the president or anyone else has a goal of using man-made laws to force religions to violate God’s laws because His laws conflict with the current whims of public opinion, the conflict will be epic. In the end, however, obedience to God’s laws, which are eternal, is a choice each individual makes with their God-given agency. Only eternal truths lead to salvation. Our faith in our Heavenly Father and our diligence in seeking answers will allow us to remain obedient to God’s commandments even when life makes that difficult.