Brigham Young University’s removal of a “Homosexual Behavior” section from its Honor Code turns out to mean less than hoped. A revamped church handbook similarly looks better on paper, but bears questionable progress.
President Russell M. Nelson, the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his counselor, Elder Dallin Oaks, each gave recent, related addresses. The brethren still deny what is needed to create true belonging: allowing romantic, same-sex relationships.
Nelson exclaimed in his talk at BYU that “truth is truth.” Realization of three additional truths would help achieve spiritual equality.
Religion is interpretive. Leaders say they are limited to revealed doctrine about marriage. Yet same-sex unions can be justified as the concept is not specified in scripture, thus allowing interpretive space; and the only reasonable view of the Bible (the church’s other scriptures are silent on homosexuality) is that it contains cultural artifacts such as respecting slavery, genocide, and women — aspects similarly lacking 24-karat truth. What if it were realized that the church’s history of homophobia all traces back to cultural artifacts that like other aspects of the Bible, is best considered from an evolved view empowered by continuing revelation?
Nelson repeated that “from the beginning” God ordained marriage between one man and one woman. But that’s not the whole story. Joseph Smith introduced the sealing power not only for an expansive concept of marriage but to fulfill Malachi’s prophecy about our hearts melding with those of our ancestors. (Malachi 4:5-6). The sealing power is a way to fuse together all the generations of the family of Eve. Joseph’s vision was inclusive — a “restoration of all things” and the gathering together of all into “a whole and complete and perfect union.” (D&C 128:18).
Yes, Genesis offers a heterosexual model. But the first model need not exclude minorities any more than the fact of classical music must exclude all country. Marriage is one mode of the sealing power said to make durable all “covenants, … bonds, … vows, … connections, [and] associations” beyond death. (D&C 132:7). Early in the restoration, groups of men were sealed together under the Law of Adoption; why not allow romantic, same-sex unions now?
The barrier is cultural bias cemented in dogma that all homosexual sex is sin. How about turn attention from sex to potential union? Scripture teaches that the original co-creators are the Father and the Son—by the power of “the word.” (Moses 1:32-33). Jesus later taught that he and the Father are one; we are invited to similarly become one with them. (John 17:11, 21-23). Of course a union need not be sexual, but as with heterosexually married people, why can’t it be for us too? (Moses 3:24).
Minority sexuality is a feature, not a bug. Oaks spoke of homosexuality as a “challenge” to overcome. But our sexuality is not reducible to challenge any more than heterosexuality is merely a challenge for the majority. Sexuality is as part of one’s essential selves as our noses. Disassociating sexual minorities from our orientation is felt as abuse. A better view is to honor us as part of a diverse creation.
The Great Commandments mean make room for true belonging. Yes, truth is truth. To serve truth, and its author, we should expand our vision of truth’s full potential for union, amidst diversity. Full spiritual equality, needed for true belonging, will only occur with revision of dogma that cancels who we are. LGBTQ believers are due a chance to achieve romantic union and a fullness of joy.
Samuel Wolfe is a writer currently based in Cairo, Egypt.