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Religion, Politics, and Holy Matrimony

I know that this thing has been discussed to death, but POUNDS raises some wonderful points, and I’d like to respond.

I am not really anxious to argue any side of this issue….. it is not very high on my list of concerns. And I certainly do NOT consider you to be a homophobe or a bigot. I greatly respect your intellectual acuity and personal integrity.

Thank you, sir. Likewise.

However, I do have some questions about some of what you wrote.


It seems to me that your stated concerns are for:
— your belief that the historical definition (accepted by the vast majority of people) deserves to be weighed heavily in to whatever the legal definition will / should be in the future
— the advantages that children have when raised in the traditional nuclear family (with a mother and a father)
— the tenet that marriage, in its long accepted pattern is one of the “foundational principles of civilization”


Here are my questions:
How much is your point of view influenced by your specific religious beliefs?

My point of view is entirely informed by my specific religious beliefs. It would be disingenuous for me to pretend otherwise. At the same time, I reject the assumption that’s often at the root of that question: i.e. “what percentage of your position can I summarily discount because it’s irrational?” 

If I may digress or a moment for a little background…

After serving an LDS mission in Scotland, I came home and attended the University of Utah for a year. I hated it, mainly because there was such a sharp divide between those who were Mormons and those who were not. I loathed the fact that every classroom discussion had a religious subtext. Once people knew where you went to church, many no longer felt they had to take your argument seriously. (That cut both ways – the Mormons were equally guilty of dismissing the “Gentiles” once their allegiances were exposed.)

When I returned to the University of Southern California the following year, I relished the fact that nobody much cared where I went to church. And when I went to Brigham Young University for my graduate degree, I discovered how liberating it was to not have to exclude religious considerations from my academic inquiry.

Still, I recognize that public policy debates have very different standards than BYU classroom discussions. I cringe when religionists resort to “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” rhetoric. Public policy has to be based on empirical evidence and reason, and I don’t think these have to be inimical to religious principles. Nor do I think it makes sense to discount solid reasoning because the person making the argument is religious. For example, most Mormons don’t smoke cigarettes primarily because they believe God told them not to, but those who would ignore a Mormon Surgeon General’s warning because of the warner’s religion will probably still end up with lung cancer.

It is hard to think of a religion which holds the family in as high and everlasting esteem as Mormons do. However, the idea of some generally accepted definition of marriage has usually included the concept of “til death do us part.” (The phrase dates back to at least Classical Greece.) The LDS concept of Celestial Marriage (as part of Temple Sealings) is quite unique and NOT generally accepted by anything approaching a majority of the population either today or in the past (despite the LDS interpretations of Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18.). Wouldn’t it be wrong for the law not to recognize LDS marriages simply because so many others view the “traditional definition of marriage” differently?

That’s an excellent question, and it’s not entirely academic. In many countries – Great Britain, for one – LDS temple sealings are not recognized as legal marriages, and so they are preceded by a civil ceremony. I would actually welcome such a change here in the United States, but primarily for religious reasons. Currently, in the US, the Church requires a one-year wait between a civil ceremony and a temple sealing for reasons I don’t understand at all. Since only active Mormons are allowed into temples, family and friends of other faiths are excluded from temple weddings. A civil ceremony would include everyone and would be a welcome change in church policy. 

That wasn’t your point, of course, but the issue you raise was a real factor in nineteenth-century Mormonism, which included the practice of “plural marriage.” Ironically, Mormons then weren’t asking for legal recognition of plural marriages, but the religious practice thereof proved too much for the Federal Government, which outlawed cohabitation as well as polygamy and prosecuted many of the early Mormons on those grounds.
Today’s environment makes this a very real issue again.  Once you decide that marriage is malleable, it will be difficult to reason why marriage between a man and a man is marriage, but marriage between a man and two women is not. 
I don’t think, however, that the law could take action against monogamous LDS marriages, because in practical terms they are indiscernible from any other marriage. Perhaps you could pass a law that all marriages are dissolved at the point of death, but unless you have a mechanism for post-death prosecution, it makes that law very difficult to enforce. 

Of course my view is: since LDS definitions and interpretations don’t interfere with anyone else’s ability to define marriage for themselves (and their religion), let the law allow Mormons, Catholics, Hindus, Scientologists, and others to define it however they wish FOR THEIR RELIGION’S DEFINITION AND RECOGNITION OF THE TERM.


Kids! Of course YOU ARE RIGHT. Anyone who denies the advantages for children (ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL) being raised by a mother and a father is in some kind of denial…… or just being dishonest about it. Certainly it is better for kids to be in the traditional nuclear family. 

Agreed again. 

However, that isn’t very relevant since “all other things being equal” is an impossible standard to measure or meet. Some children are raised in poverty or without adequate medical care, or are provided an inferior education, or raised in crime ridden communities. I assume you wouldn’t preclude the marriage of poor people, illiterate people, etc.

Of course not. And I agree completely that all things are never equal. I would also add that some people are raised by widows or divorced parents, and I am not advocating that children be yanked out of these situations and placed in two-parent families. 
The difference here is that the standard is being attacked, not the reality. That is to say, no widow would ever argue that their situation is equivalent to a two-parent household. They’d be the first to lament the lack of a father in the home. What advocates for gay marriage are asking is for us to dilute the standard, to say that two fathers are the same as a father and a mother, and to dismiss as bigots anyone who would argue otherwise. 
No one ever meets the standard perfectly, but the standard still matters. You may not be able to eliminate child poverty, for instance, but you certainly don’t help a child in poverty by changing the standard so that child poverty is socially acceptable. 
I have to go… I’ll respond to the rest of this either later today or tomorrow. 
Marriage: Why It Matters
More Marriage Responses

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  1. SC – I await your discussion of LBS’s most salient point:

    <>“So, absent the religious belief that the purpose of marriage is to procreate (and your very interesting assertion that it serves to “tame” the beast that males essentially are), what function is served by having the civil law decide who to include or exclude?”<>

  2. No your not a bigot or a homophobe or filled with hate – simply a reducationist.

    Marriage existed before Christianity and before nation states – something people in the US get confused with since their country was formed after both ideas had taken ground. Marriage is not immutable as a defined good: Women were material wealth once, some family connections through marriage are forbidden in come countries some not, inter religion marriage was illegal, inter racial marriage punishable by death, divorce was illegal or at other times divorce was easy.

    Ironically to your case, polygamy is the GOLD standard of marriage and that is YOUR beliefs. Marraige is between a man and women. Now, if you dont have the cojones to stand up and act according to your scriptural beliefs and fight the federal and state laws then thats your beans(it would also address the reality of decreasing attendance Roll as ineffective missions would be replaced by highly effective pregnancy!) I am sympathic to polygamy on religious grounds – does not mean I would ever want one! In South Africa, a liberl democracy it is a right and the President has 3 wives.

    So pretending marriage arrived in 1620 or was revealed from heaven intact is wrong.

    The LDS church has been against every form of social progress since its inception ( and same sex marriage is no different). Even the LDS church will whitewashes its past and adopt a different strategy. Mormons are survivors first and foremost.