SALE LAKE CITY, January 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a time when public figures from reality TV stars and fast food franchise presidents are increasingly facing backlash for casual comments about homosexuality, a new policy from the Mormon Church defends traditional marriage and the institution of the family without apology – and “insists” on its right to be heard in the public square.
“Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established,” the statement, issued by church leadership on Friday, says. “God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.”
The statement was released just days after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, an Obama appointee, struck down Utah's state constitutional marriage protection amendment and other laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Utah has the largest percentage of Mormons in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on Shelby's order until the case is decided. Governor Gary Herbert and new state Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that Utah will not recognize gay “marriages” contracted under that judge's order until the case is fully appealed. However, last Friday the Obama administration said the federal government would recognize those unions as bona fide marriages in federal taxes and benefits programs.
Citing the opening chapters of Genesis, the proclamation states that “marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God” and that “strong families” are “central to…the well-being of society.”
“His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife,” the statement says. It forbids church leaders from using “their ecclesiastical authority” to conduct same-sex nuptials, and adds that “the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.”
But the Mormons are not retreating back into their temples. The statement makes a full-throated demand for religious tolerance and true debate.
“Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it,” it states. “The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution.”
Affirming its right to weigh in on the public debate dovetails with a new religious freedom campaign, which the church launched in September. “Religion is not just private worship; it involves public expression on social and moral issues,” the church's religious freedom statement affirms.
The church played a leading role in supporting California's successful Proposition 8 initiative in 2008, protecting heterosexual marriage in the state constitution. Mormons received threats and vandalism as a result.
This month's directive on marriage flies in the face of sustained media coverage alleging that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is “softening” or altering its view of homosexuality and gay “marriage.”
Maurine Proctor wrote in the Mormon-oriented Meridian magazine that the church's ruling body took “a clear cut, unwavering stand and a sense that this is an issue with critical implications to come.”
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She also noted “an interesting ploy on the part of same-sex marriage advocates, neutralizing the efforts of those of us who support traditional marriage. Their message: 'If you don’t agree with me, you hate me. Agree with me across the board or you are a hater. Submit to my viewpoint or you are a bigot.' In this way, they don’t have to win their arguments by intelligent discussion or rational debate.”
“Instead, they can silence us by labeling us,” she wrote. “It is the lowest form of policy debate, but in this case it has been effective.”
On December 20, 2013, a federal district judge in Salt Lake City issued an order legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah, striking down century-old state laws and a state constitutional amendment that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman. The United States Supreme Court has put that ruling on hold pending consideration of the issue by an appellate court. During the interval between the district court ruling and the Supreme Court stay, numerous same-sex marriages were performed in Utah. Legal proceedings and legislative action in some other states and countries have given civil recognition to same-sex marriage relationships.
As we face this and other issues of our time, we encourage all to bear in mind our Heavenly Father’s purposes in creating the earth and providing for our mortal birth and experience here as His children. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:27–28). “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God and is central to His plan for His children and for the well-being of society. Strong families, guided by a loving mother and father, serve as the fundamental institution for nurturing children, instilling faith, and transmitting to future generations the moral strengths and values that are important to civilization and crucial to eternal salvation.
Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it. The Church insists on its leaders’ and members’ constitutionally protected right to express and advocate religious convictions on marriage, family, and morality free from retaliation or retribution. The Church is also entitled to maintain its standards of moral conduct and good standing for members.
Consistent with our fundamental beliefs, Church officers will not employ their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex, and the Church does not permit its meetinghouses or other properties to be used for ceremonies, receptions, or other activities associated with same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there.
While these matters will continue to evolve, we affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree.
As members of the Church, we are responsible to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to illuminate the great blessings that flow from heeding God’s commandments as well as the inevitable consequences of ignoring them. We invite you to pray that people everywhere will have their hearts softened to the truths of the gospel, and that wisdom will be granted to those who are called upon to decide issues critical to society’s future.