Recently, Boyd K Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, in a Conference talk April 2013, warned of the “tolerance trap”. Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, we must not carry it to extremes. I believe this is a fair and correct paraphrase of his remarks. Then he went on to imply that in the context of the pending U.S. Supreme Court’s pending ruling on marriage equality, too much tolerance leads to “serious spiritual consequences” and amounts to “legalizing immorality”
Let’s take a deeper look at whether marriage between two partners of the same gender or sex equals “legalized immorality”. And let’s use the words and doctrines of the LDS Church to do this.
I am going to quote something to you from the LDS Temple Endowment. If this offends you, stop reading now.
However, these are words from a covenant which many of us have taken and are expected to covenant to live by. This is not any big secret, nor should it be. If you have not received your endowments, you have a right to know the nature of the covenants and obligations you will take upon yourself.
The church publicly teaches the Law of Chastity, and most of us understand what this entails. We are also told by church authorities that legalizing same-sex marriage is tantamount to “legalizing immorality”, because it violates the Law of Chastity. However, the true Law of Chastity is taught and explained in the temple endowment, and the specific wording of that Law is what we covenant to obey “before God, angels, and witnesses”.
So, is legalizing same-sex marriage, and thus making it possible for a man or a woman to be faithful to their “legally and lawfully wedded husband (wife)”, in reality legalizing immorality or, in fact, providing a way for people to obey this Law? Let’s examine the wording of the Endowment Ceremony:
We are instructed to give unto you the law of chastity. This I will explain. To the sisters, it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your husband to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded. To the brethren it is that no one of you will have sexual intercourse except with your wife to whom you are legally and lawfully wedded.
Footnote: The 1990 revision does not have women and men covenant separately to keep the law of chastity. Instead, women and men simultaneously covenant to have no sexual relations except with their “husband or wife” to whom they are legally and lawfully wedded. This revision was no doubt made to streamline the ceremony. However, the new wording has the presumably unintended consequence of bringing same-sex marriages–if legalized–within the pale of the law of chastity.
Therefore, a person could be legally and lawfully married to a person of the opposite gender, under the laws of New York, Washington, California, or any other jurisdiction that recognizes marriage equality, and live a monogamous and chaste lifestyle with his or her companion, and according to church doctrine, NOT be living in legalized immortality, Boyd K Packer’s absurd rantings notwithstanding.
And what about those who are in such marriages, but were previously prevented from doing so, and were forced out of necessity to live an immoral lifestyle?
For them, there is the principle of repentance. A person can recognize that he has sinned, make restitution, and promise to himself and God, not to repeat the offense. Or, in other words, stop being promiscuous, find a worthy companion, settle down, getting married and be monogamous.
There is also the principle that God has applied to His people in the past, where He commanded His people to do a thing, but were prevented by the legal authorities from doing so. Moses wanted to take the children of Israel out into the wilderness to offer sacrifice and serve God, but the pharaoh of Egypt would not prevent it. A little closer to the modern day was when the Mormons believed that God commanded them to practice polygamy, which they believed was a requirement for entering the highest degree of heaven, but were prevented from doing so by the U.S. government. Now, whether you believe in the story of Moses or that polygamy was divinely inspired, members of the LDS church, and most importantly, its leaders do.
These leaders should be versed enough in the Bible and in their own history and fair-minded enough to recognize the same principle here. But in this particular case, we have uninspired church leaders siding with the extremists in our government to prevent people from fulfilling his commandments.
D&C 121:16 Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.
The Book of Mormon repeatedly references a people having “ripened in iniquity”, but what are the signs that a nation, a people, or a church has “ripened in iniquity”.
We hear these terms a lot in the Book of Mormon, but how do we know what a people or a church is “ripe for destruction”?
What has to happen before the Lord allows destructive forces to come in and effect a long-overdue cleaning?
Samuel the Lamanite has the answer in Helaman 13:14:
“But behold, it is for the righteous’ sake that it is spared. But behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, that when ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction; yea, wo be unto this great city, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in her.”
This defines the point at which a city, a nation, or a church is ripe for destruction — when they cast out the righteous from among them. Could we say that the LDS Church has reached this point where they cast out the righteous from among them – good and faithful members whose only sin is thinking for themselves and questioning the established authorities?