Support for Proposition 8 isn’t compassionate or kindly, we are told. Teaching that same-sex acts are immoral is not brotherly or charitable, some say. There are those, even in the Church, who imply that if Jesus were here, he would take aside people with deep sexual impulses that departed from the norm, give them a fatherly pat, gaze soulfully into their eyes, and tell them to get their freak on.
Mormon advocates for gay marriage and for normalizing sexual behavior can certainly quote scripture for their purposes. There is no end to scriptures on kindness, love, tolerance, and other good things. Applying them to gay marriage is hamfisted, but even so it puts faithful Mormons in the awkward position of seeming to explain away scripture. One way around this awkardness is to point out that gay marriage advocates are rightly willing to be “unkind” on premarital sex or adultery (held immoral by the Church, practiced by swathes of the American population), or racism, greed, violence, or any other number of things that also have deep roots in fundamental human impulses but that lack deep roots in contemporary American liberalism.
Another way is to do the thinking and reasoning necessary to give an informed and thoughtful response based on scripture. Shattered Glass, an article in the FARMS Review, gave just such a response to a “but God loves us” argument from a Mormon opponent of the Church’s position on Proposition 8. Said the opponent,
Why would God allow his children to be born homosexual? Because God loves all his children, none is better—or worse—than another. “And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
Gregory Smith’s faithful response was very good. I liked its combination of informed scriptural discussion and real world practicality:
No one disputes that God loves all his children; he is no respecter of persons (2 Chronicles 19:7; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17; Moroni 8:12; D&C 1:35). A reading that implies divine endorsement of homosexual acts, however, must pass too lightly over the fact that creation was declared “very good” after the creation of two genders who were given the command to “be fruitful and multiply,” but before the fall of Adam and advent of a telestial world (Genesis 1:28–31). The context does little to justify homosexual attraction or acts as either directly caused by God or desired by him—unless one argues that Adam and Eve had homosexual desires in Eden. There are innumerable things that God now permits in a telestial world—babies born deformed or mentally handicapped, people with genetic predispositions to violence or alcoholism, Huntington’s disease or schizophrenia—that only a sadist or fool would call desirable or “good” as final goals or states. While being thus afflicted is neither a sign that God does not love us nor a cause for moral condemnation, the fact that God permits such states can hardly be used as an endorsement of them. How would Compton react, I wonder, if I suggested that God allows the existence of homophobia—and that it therefore ought to be approved or even encouraged since God loves homophobes just as much as everyone else, and besides, everything that God has made is “very good”? Compton wants to cry that all is not well in Zion and yet ironically insists that all is well in the telestial world—at least as it pertains to sexual orientation.
That’s a good example of how rewarding it can be to do the hard work of giving a scripturally-faithful response to opponents’ scriptural arguments used to advance non-scriptural ends.
Recently, however, I ran across an even better example in the Book of Mormon. Abinadi went to King Noah and his priests and condemned their lifestyle–their high living and their concubines. He didn’t sugarcoat. Here’s an excerpt :
Thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek; yea, and shall be driven by men, and shall be slain; and the vultures of the air, and the dogs, yea, and the wild beasts, shall devour their flesh.
3 And it shall come to pass that the life of king Noah shall be valued even as a garment in a hot furnace; for he shall know that I am the Lord.
4 And it shall come to pass that I will smite this my people with sore afflictions, yea, with famine and with pestilence; and I will cause that they shall howl all the day long.
The priests responded by suggesting that Abinadi was violating the scriptural injunction to say nice things to people :
And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:
21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
Abinadi’s response is classic . He is not cowed or intimidated. He expounds the scriptures and the law, starting with the basic Ten Commandments and ending with the Atonement . Abinadi’s ferocious attack on sin was only the necessary prologue to a sermon on the Savior.
Most of his opponents are arguing in bad faith, of course, so they respond by burning him. But even one of his opponents, Alma, believes. And we may also assume that many others, bystander-listeners, may have also had their hearts touched.
Where is the love and the kindness in the Church’s teachings on gay marriage? As with all commandments, it is in the wide open arms of the Savior, who forgives the penitent, makes whole the flawed, and knows and comforts every tear.