The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has a history of notoriety and dissent over the issue of nontraditional marriage, now finds itself engaged in battle over nontraditional marriage. This time, the issue isn’t polygamy in Utah. It’s same-sex marriage in California, where Mormons represent about 2 percent of the population (but about 40 percent of donations for Proposition 8).
“The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 represents its most vigorous and widespread political involvement since the late 1970s, when it helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment. It even departs from earlier efforts on behalf of traditional marriage, in which members felt more free to decide their level of involvement,” writes Peggy Stack, religion writer for the Salt Lake City Tribune.
LDS leaders are encouraging (some say demanding) congregational leaders to speak against gay marriage and to solicit volunteers and donations to support Prop 8, which would amend the state constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex marriage and define marriage as a legal union “between a man and a woman.” To their credit, LDS leaders are aware of the irony.
In a frank and fascinating discussion of the issue, Elder Dallin H. Oaks was asked about the irony of LDS activism against gay marriage “when in the minds of so many people in the United States and around the world the Church is known for once supporting a very untraditional marriage arrangement — that is, polygamy?”
“I see irony in that if one views it without the belief that we affirm in divine revelation,” Oaks said. “The 19th century Mormons, including some of my ancestors, were not eager to practice plural marriage. They followed the example of Brigham Young, who expressed his profound negative feelings when he first had this principle revealed to him. The Mormons of the 19th century who practiced plural marriage, male and female, did so because they felt it was a duty put upon them by God . . . In short, if you start with the assumption of continuing revelation, on which this Church is founded, then you can understand that there is no irony in this.”
“Continuing revelation” is the belief (by Mormons, Quakers, Pentecostals and many others) that the Old and New Testaments are not the last words from God, that God continues to reveal divine commands or principles to us. According to the LDS website: “While the prophet of God receives revelation and inspiration to guide the Church as a whole, revelation flows at every level, including to the leaders of congregations and to individual families and members.”
I wonder if that applies to homosexual members? That would be ironic.