California's Proposition 8 and The LDS Church

I've been putting off writing anything about California's Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Not only have many other people on both sides, within and without the church, been sharing their feelings (many of them strong), but I had a hard time thinking of what substance I could add that wouldn't be inciteful rather than insightful.

I feel very strongly about getting behind this measure and did before the Church decided to take a stand on it. I pounded the streets in Las Vegas for weeks to pass Nevada's constitutional amendment on marriage. The Church expressed support for it, though maybe not in as strong a way as it has in California today. At that time, it didn't matter so much to me. I knew that moving the definition of marriage from state statute to state constitution was a sure-fire way to make sure that the residents of the state, not a legislature or a court, would be the final word on the matter. (Nevada, FYI, requires two consecutive majority votes to pass any state constitutional amendment. This makes it very difficult to change and it's very easy to derail attempts to do so from one election to the next.)

There are plenty of church members who are upset over the Church's involvement, some to the point of issuing harsh public criticisms of the Church's leaders. It is important to note, however, that this is a unified stance by the First Presidency which undoubtedly has the full support of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. See the strongly-worded "The Family: A Proclamation to the World " which defines marriage as one man and one woman, calls upon governments to pass laws in accordance with this definition and is signed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, many of whom still serve.  In short, there is no disagreement at the highest echelons of church leadership that this is the appropriate action for the Church as a whole. So why, then, are so many members up in arms?

A friend of ours remarked that the debate over gay marriage may very well be this generation's test of faith. God has always tested the faith of His people through trials, tribulations and other very hard things. The Hebrews suffered in bondage many times, wandered through the wilderness for 40 years and saw the destruction of many of their temples. The early Christians were put to death as enemies of the Roman state and reviled by many of their fellow Hebrews. All of Christendom suffered through dark periods such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the violent reaction to Protestant uprisings.

The Latter-day Saints have had many trials in their days as well. This includes being driven from state to state, the migration across the plains to Utah, the practice of polygamy, the cessation of the practice of polygamy and the prohibition on receiving the priesthood for blacks. At the time, remaining a faithful member in the face of physical adversity and the scorn of the world was a very hard thing and many left the Church over it. In hindsight, we can see how all of these things strengthened the remaining members and helped perfect them. God himself has told us that there is no trial he will give us that we cannot endure.

Enduring is a hard thing to do. We are asked to pray for confirmation (James 1:5) of these things to know if they are true, though we will sometimes not get a confirmation of the truth until we do them. This is not always an instant action-reaction relationship either. The confirmation can come days, weeks, years or even decades after the decision is made. God asks us to put our faith in Him and His servants that they will not lead us astray and, even if we do not yet understand why, to follow through with what is being asked. A good example of this is tithing. It would be difficult to know of the truthfulness of this principle without having put it into action.

What matters more than anything else in this debate is to do God's will even if we do not fully understand why a particular action is important at the time. Recall Adam who, when asked why he was offering a sacrifice, said "I know not, save the Lord commanded me." (Moses 5:6) It requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, diligent study of the Scriptures (including continuously-revealed scripture through Church publications), prayer and fasting. It also requires a solid testimony that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son and restored the true Church of Jesus Christ to this earth under their direction.

That one one is key. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and did restore Christ's church, then we know his teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants are true. This includes the admonition that this was the final dispensation and the fullness of the Gospel was to never again be removed from the earth. (D&C 112:30-32) If those things are true, then we truly do have a living prophet, Thomas Spencer Monson, who communes with God the Father and seeks to do His will even if he or the membership of the church would take it to be a hard thing.

We may not fully understand the purpose of supporting the passage of Proposition 8. Even President Monson may not fully understand it. But through obedience comes understanding. We may not receive it today. We may not receive it in our lifetime. But our willingness to do God's will without a full understanding demonstrates our faith and steadfastness.

I feel I must close this with a testimony. I know that Joseph Smith, a prophet of God, saw God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church and operates with the blessings of God the Father and Jesus Christ at its head. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and is properly sustained by Him as head of the Lord's church and that his counselors, Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Henry B. Eyering, are similarly called of God. I know that God loves us all and wants the best for us as our Heavenly Father and will do nothing save it be for our benefit as His children. I know that God sent his first-born son and only begotten in the flesh, Jesus Christ, to live as an example of divine love and die for us that we may all return to Him someday. These things I say most solemnly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

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15 Responses to California's Proposition 8 and The LDS Church

  1. Dana says:

    Amen.

    One scripture that I like, also related to Moses 5:6, is 1 Nephi 11:17. He loves all of us, and sometimes he loves us enough to say, “No, you can’t.” Hopefully, when the Almighty dispenses the “No’s” concerning difficult issues we can see through the simple rejection and regard it in the way it was intended, with love and understanding, wisdom from a Holy parent.

    Ultimately, like most issues for me, it gets down to this statement: “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’ll work for me.

  2. Kristi says:

    I’m glad you decided to post Jesse, I was hoping you would. That was really moving. And here I was expecting a big ol’ argument about state’s rights and the role of judges. Not that I wouldn’t have liked that, but this helped strengthen my own testimony, which for me is more important. Again, thanks!

  3. Shannon Fox says:

    AMEN! Nuff’ said…..

  4. Jason says:

    I agree with our prophet, and with that said, we as Latter Day Saints need to open our hearts to those carrying this burden, instead of turning a judging upon them.

    Only through love will tolerance be created. With tolerance comes teaching, and with teaching comes the spirit.

    Otherwise, we’re damning the damned,and with that attitude, there won’t be a damn thing the damned will want to do about it.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Amen.

    Thanks for this post.

  6. Vanessa says:

    I respect your viewpoints, but you and I are on completely different sides of the fence regarding this issue.
    I will be voting a profound NO on Prop 8 come Tuesday, for several reasons – the first of which being the separation of church and state.
    One of the greatest features of our nations (and states) constitution is that it is supposed to be based upon the separation of church and state. A look back at our nations history shows that this philosophy hasn’t always been followed, but it should be, when it hasn’t been followed it has usually been to the detriment of one group or another.
    So, when I look at this issue, I remove myself from my christian upbringing and take basic civil rights into consideration. From that perspective, I feel that it is wrong to prohibit groups of people the right to marriage.
    That leads me to my second reason for voting no – basic civil rights. One hundred years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote. Sixty years ago, minorities weren’t provided the same rights to marriage and basic education that the white majority were. Women were restricted from enrolling in the same colleges and universities that men were.
    The civil rights movements of the 1950’s and 1960’s gradually changed all of this. Because of the civil rights movement, I benefited. I feel that because I benefited from these movements, many of which were led by gays and lesbians in the hopes that one day the same rights would extend to them, I feel that it is my inherent responsibility to continue this civil rights movement; a type of “pay it forward”, if you will.
    Yes, California does provide gays and lesbians with domestic partnerships but thats nothing more than “separate but equal” and if we learned anything at all from Brown v Board of Education, its that “separate but equal” is inherently UNequal.
    Many people have the misconception that by allowing same-sex marriage, its going to force religious institutions to go against their own practices and recognize and perform same sex marriages. Not true. California law specifically states “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.” If the law did not stipulate this, I would vehemently disagree with it. It would be wrong to force a church to abandon its beliefs and perform these marriages, just as much as I believe that its wrong for a church to entangle itself in law making as far as restricting civil rights to selective groups.

    The way I see it is that if Prop 8 were to pass, it equates to writing bigotry into the California State Constitution, and that sets a dangerous precedent.

  7. Shauna says:

    Separation of church and state… such an important and misunderstood issue. It doesn’t mean that religious beliefs regarding moral issues can have NO bearing on my opinion of how this country should operate. Separation of church and state simply means ( or was intended to mean from the beginning) that there would be no state religion. Our government cannot tell us all that we have to be Catholic or Mormon or Christian Scientists, etc. It does Not mean that we all have to pretend to be atheists when we create laws.

    I disagree that prop 8 equates to bigotry, but I certainly understand the viewpoint of those who feel that way. It’s a fundamental difference between the two sides and it would be pointless to try to convince anyone on either side of the other side’s logic. However, Jesse posted a link on another friend’s blog which showed a completely secular argument for prop 8 and other restrictions on marriage. I found it interesting and thought it would be interesting to those who oppose prop 8 due to church/state issues (Jesse… maybe you could link to that here?), but I also firmly believe that asking religious citizens to “take religion out” of moral issues is ridiculous and an impossible expectation.

    Also? I haven’t seen every state’s application for a marriage license or anything, but I’ve seen a couple. Nowhere on any application does it ever ask you if you’re gay or straight. How can that be discrimination against gays if the applicants’ sexual orientation have not even been established? I’m also not allowed to marry a woman, even though I’m not gay. My husband… he’s not allowed to marry another woman while he’s married to me (not that he’d want to!). You’re not allowed to marry your brother. There are plenty of restrictions on marriage and they apply to us all regardless of sexual orientation.

    Now… with regards to the church’s involvement on the issue, I actually have wrestled internally (though you may not guess that from my opinions expressed above). Truth is, I’m not actually anti-gay. I don’t care to go into all the details, but some of my closest friends (past and present) have been gay. I’ve been friends with flaming gay men, out-of-the-closet lesbians, as well as those who struggle privately to reconcile their moral and religious beliefs with their own emotions and sexual impulses. I’ve not once issued judgments against them whether they choose to live an outwardly homosexual lifestyle or not. My opinions above are really just in response to arguments regarding this issue as a civil liberties issue… I honestly don’t believe that it is. And that’s my take, and I’m not going to apologize for it.

    Regardless of the fact that I didn’t think it was a civil liberties issue, I really didn’t (initially) see why it was such a big deal. Sure… let them marry. What do I care? And though I still don’t understand all the reasons why the church is taking such a stand, I do believe that these men are called of God and I know that my understanding is NOT God’s understanding. I trust He’s got the fuller picture.

    It reminds me a little of something my mom always said. She said that children DO deserve an explanation when you ask them to do something they don’t understand (otherwise, how will they learn???) But only AFTER the child is obedient. This teaches obedience as well as whatever principle your instruction was based upon. I believe this is the way God does things as well. We are asked to be obedient and I believe the answers will come. “wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”

  8. Jesse says:

    FYI, Shauna is referencing Ether 12:6.

    As for the secular case against same-sex marriage, that can be found here. Interestingly enough, it was written over 4 years ago. My point in writing, though, was to address fellow Saints (not that everyone isn’t welcome to join the discussion!) and I wrote specifically in that context. I’ll be happy to tackle the “church and state” issue in another post, though Shauna has already done a good job explaining where I’m coming from. I’d also recommend reading the original letter from the Danbury Baptists to get the full context in which Jefferson wrote his now-famous phrase. They were writing to make sure that the state would not interfere in their affairs.

  9. Kristi says:

    Jesse, please do make a post about the “separation of church and state”. It really is a misunderstood historical phrase.

  10. Krispy says:

    Awesome. And for the record, this issue isn’t a hardship for me. I am hoping – I mean AFRAID – that my trial of faith comes in the form of excessive wealth.

  11. Bethany says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  12. W says:

    “Yes, California does provide gays and lesbians with domestic partnerships but thats nothing more than ‘separate but equal’.”

    Brown vs Board notwithstanding, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that legal concepts which bear different terminology definitions and terms inherently work against equitable rights.

    For example, parent vs guardian: am I some kind of bigot if I believe not every guardian should be called a parent?

  13. Bill Fox says:

    Jesse, it seems the only bigotry I’ve seen thus far is coming from the other side . example A commercial that has been running for days now comparing voting yes for prop 8 with what we did to the Japanese American people during world war II by throwing them in internment camps, I emailed the latest add showing their bigotry to Shauna this evening. Please put the link in your blog so your viewers will understand the no holds bared war that is occurring in the Golden state. Why is it so hard to understand that the word Marriage has a meaning. It has had that meaning for many generations. I can understand the gays wanting the same rights. Heck sometimes I’d have like to have the same rights without the obligations (children) although I’m very happy with how my family turned out and I love them all. If they want the same rights and domestic partnerships just doesn’t cut it for them, let them pick out their own word. Marriage, however, is taken and what 4 men in black robes has done against the will of the people in this state is criminal

  14. Lorene Fox says:

    Because of religious convictions, I’m a strong supporter of proposition 8. For the past few days, I’ve spent nearly every waking hour waving street signs, delivering doorknob reminders, and calling people on the telephone. Ive been yelled at, sworn at, flipped off, spit at, and called names time and time again. Today, someone actually stuck out their tongue at me. Yesterday an irate prop8 no-er tried to run over someone who was holding a YES ON PROP 8 sign. The irony for me is that their key catch-phrase is “SAY NO TO HATE!” This seems a lot like hate to me. I know that prop8 is an emotionally-charged and contraversial issue, but in my opinion, two decent adults should be able to stand on the same street corner with opposing signs and converse civilly about their positions and beliefs.That’s why democracy and freedom of speech is so great. This is part of our system. Humiliating and even trying to kill members of the opposing side for exercising their rights is NOT!!!
    And by the way, I don’t hate anybody.

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