Ruminations on the LDS Church’s Endorsement of Same-Sex Marriage

These thoughts address two statements by our LDS Church regarding its support for the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) – the December 13, 2022, statement from the signing of the bill and the November 15, 2022, endorsement of the bill in the United States Senate.

Statement language in red.

The December 13, 2002, statement:

U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act on Tuesday, Dec. 13. Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, and former U.S. Sen. Gordon H. Smith, now an Area Seventy, were in attendance for the signing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Indeed, the LDS Church celebrated the presidential signing of the RFMA. That low-level Church representatives were present does not lessen Church celebration of the bill – a lesson learned many times throughout the years, such as with the immigration debate of 2010-11 in Utah. With zero speculation, the LDS Church has celebrated and endorsed the passage and signing of the RFMA.

“We extend a heartfelt thank you and our congratulations to all who played a part in the passage of the amended Respect for Marriage Act. Their efforts to protect religious freedom as Congress sought to codify the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision are both historic and commendable.

The LDS Church is convinced that necessary religious freedoms in the Senate Amendment to the bill are now safely protected. Also, the LDS Church endorsed same-sex marriage (SSM) and its expansion nationwide, when SSM had not been recognized by all states.

“Historic” for the LDS Church? Yes. Historic for this nation? Just an opinion. The use of the word “commendable” is a show of the LDS Church’s endorsement of the RFMA – odd after decades of opposing the threat of Supreme Court decisions on SSM. The LDS Church now endorsed the Obergefell decision, the codification of a Supreme Court decision on SSM.

“The amended Respect for Marriage Act specifically recognizes that ‘diverse beliefs about the role of gender in marriage are held by reasonable and sincere people based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises.’

This statement is saying that the Senate Amendment justifies endorsement of the RFMA and that “reasonable and sincere” and “decent and honorable” Latter-day Saints are likewise given permission to endorse the bill. Those adjectives, unmeasurable, are simple permissions wrapped in the cloak of justification. When homosexuals and their LDS allies claim that “It answers, once and for all, the question, ‘Can members of the church support same-sex marriage?’ The answer is yes…” they are justified in that claim.

Of course, endorsement of SSM cannot now be held against any member seeking a temple recommend. “Question 7: Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” Endorsement of SSM, though antithetical to LDS Church doctrine, and homosexuality antithetical to practices, are no longer in conflict with the question.

“As restated last month, ‘the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.’ Congress has now reaffirmed that our beliefs ‘are due proper respect.’

Good to know that the doctrine will remain unchanged. Unfortunately, endorsement of the RFMA is in conflict with the doctrine. The logic of the LDS Church is staggering here. On the one hand, it believes in marriage as between a man and a woman and, on the other hand, the LDS Church couldn’t care less if any “reasonable, sincere, decent, and honorable” Latter-day Saint believes differently.

Furthermore, consider how endorsement of the RFMA affects our understanding of the Family Proclamation:

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…Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose…

 The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan…we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

 We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Parenthetically, just to maintain our sense of humor even during a very serious moment, I can imagine one of the Brethren reciting words of the Family Proclamation to other Brethren reminiscent of a scene in the movie, A Few Good Men, and the other Brethren reacting as did actor Jack Nicolson’s character on the witness stand regarding a court transcript and, with disdain, roared, “I don’t need it read back to me. I know what it says!”

Clearly, endorsement of the RFMA is in conflict with the Family Proclamation.

Furthermore, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution already gave our doctrine on marriage “proper respect.”

“The new law demonstrates that respect. The law states that it can’t be used to harm religious or conscience rights for faith-based institutions. It protects the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. It protects the grants, licenses, contracts, and accreditation of religious schools. And it ensures that religious organizations, religious schools, and their employees do not have to perform or host same-sex marriages or celebrations. No law is perfect. But putting such protections in the federal code is a big step forward.

Interestingly, the LDS Church believes that “respect” equals freedom from legal challenges to that respect. There is nothing a federal statute can do about a United States Supreme Court finding against the federal statute. Very naïve legal counsel given the LDS Church. The RFMA stands as a prima facia example of a total lack of respect for existing federal statutory language (i.e., it overturned the Defense of Marriage Act) and contradicts the legal notion that any law – congressional, executive, and even judicial – cannot be overturned (i.e., nearly every opinion regarding homosexuality written by Justice Anthony Kennedy overturned previous rulings).

As a matter of historical legal practice, the RFMA does not protect “the tax-exempt status of religious organizations” nor any of the other examples provided in the statement.

“No law is perfect.” The LDS Church is referring to how many laws are the product of compromise. Actually, that claim better refers to the vulnerability of every law to be changed.

“But putting such protections in the federal code is a big step forward.” Not in legal terms, no it is not. In political terms, it might be.

“The Church has been pleased to participate with many others in the difficult but worthy work of civil engagement that accompanied the passage of this bill. Like the Church-supported Utah law in 2015, our efforts are helping the nation pursue freedom, fairness and respect for all.”

Again, compromise is not a religious doctrine. Compromise is a political tactic when one party is fearful of losing something. In fact, political compromise is a tactic of war, not peace. Political compromise is not an olive branch, such as between a husband and wife differing over the color of paint. Political compromise is a tactic of political warfare in an attempt to preserve something feared to be lost.

In addition, within this part of the statement, the LDS Church has little understanding of freedom, fairness, and respect for all. I have written volumes on the idea of true freedom and, for our purposes here, freedom is not license.

The RFMA is not fair as we consider the very real creation in federal law of legal discrimination against homosexuals – the LDS Church is now permitted to legally discriminate against homosexuals. That fearmongering among homosexuals over Justice Clarence Thomas’s brief remark in the Roe overturn about revisiting all cases decided using substantive due process scared them into accepting legal discrimination in the RFMA is not an act of “fairness.” It is, in fact, an act of discrimination.

If by “fairness,” the LDS Church means we can discriminate against you and, in return, we will endorse a concept antithetical to Church doctrine, then yes, it is fair. But such an agreement is hardly “respect” for one another.

The November 15, 2002, statement:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.

Great! Does question #7 in the temple recommend interview remain unchanged? Does the Family Proclamation remain unchanged?

We are grateful for the continuing efforts of those who work to ensure the Respect for Marriage Act includes appropriate religious freedom protections while respecting the law and preserving the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

In fact, the “appropriate religious freedom protections” do not respect and preserve the “rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.” The RFMA disrespects homosexuals and their allies by establishing legal discrimination against them.

We believe this approach is the way forward. As we work together to preserve the principles and practices of religious freedom together with the rights of LGBTQ individuals, much can be accomplished to heal relationships and foster greater understanding.

“The way forward”? Do you mean there is more of this fear-based political posturing and toothless legal remedies to come?

Perhaps a less offensive way, a more constructive way – if your real concern is “to heal relationships and foster greater understanding” between the LDS Church and homosexuals – is to do so individually, person to person, as Christ would do, and leave politics alone, as Christ did.

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