What if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed its law of chastity to simply state that sexual relations should exist only between two individuals who are legally married — regardless of sexual orientation? Considering that Latter-day Saints believe in continuing revelation, and the law of chastity has undergone such a radical change in the past, this is a real possibility.
The unanimously adopted 1835 Articles on Marriage in the Doctrine and Covenants declared, “We believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband.”
In 1842 Joseph Smith said the articles on marriage were “the only rule allowed by the church.” Other scriptures, speeches and publications firmly entrenched this as doctrine.
Polygamy was repeatedly denounced by the church and was publicly denied and condemned in 1844 three times by Joseph and Hyrum, even while they were secretly practicing it.
In a monumental shift of established doctrine, polygamy was officially recognized as an essential doctrine of exaltation in 1852. Though disavowed after political pressure in 1890, polygamy is still practiced in temples today and remains part of Mormon theology. Why can’t the law of chastity again change in such a radical way?
The church preaches, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” This becomes problematic when the doctrinal “sin” is tied to an individual’s inborn traits. This complication occurred with the now-disavowed, racist doctrinal explanations for the priesthood ban which led to discrimination and exclusion toward those of African descent.
Similarly, legislating against homosexual behavior leads to discrimination, exclusion and hate towards individuals born LGBTQ.
LDS doctrine prohibits LGBTQ members from showing affection, dating, finding real romantic love, experiencing temple marriage and creating an eternal family. The only option for LGBTQ people in the church is loneliness and suppression of their sexuality — all while being taught that they are a creative mishap, qualifying for a lower kingdom hereafter.
This position is harmful, abusive, and leads to depression and increased suicide rates. It destroys families, forcing a choice between their loved ones and their church. There is no safe, healthy place within the LDS Church for LGBTQ individuals.
LDS theology does not explain why God created individuals who are LGBTQ, or fully explain how things will work out for them in the eternities. Because of this knowledge void, members are told they simply have to trust God, everything will be resolved hereafter, in the very same way that they must trust all the tangled issues of polygamy will work out. If we have to trust God to sort out polygamy in the afterlife, we can trust God to sort out gay marriage.
While the church simply doesn’t have answers for the “why” of LGBTQ complexities, the current policies are harmful and prejudiced, similar to the priesthood ban. The church can either relieve suffering in this life by allowing gay marriage, or continue harm based on lack of knowledge or prejudice. Both scenarios require trust in God in the afterlife, but one scenario is loving and compassionate, the other is abusive.
I trust that God knew what they were doing when they created LGBTQ individuals. I trust that God would want everyone to have, in this life, equal opportunity to make marriage covenants, form a family and qualify for exaltation. I trust that God would make a safe, healthy space for everyone in their church. I trust that God can sort out gay marriage in the afterlife. I hope the church will trust God enough to make such a compassionate change.
Brad Huber is a physician and resides with his family in Provo.