This guest post comes from a regular ZD reader going by the name of Humboldt.
Yesterday, I was talking to my mom about a mutual acquaintance of ours who happens to be gay. He’s the son of a very strong Mormon family that mentored my parents and our family decades ago. He and I went to BYU at about the same time, so I know him too. We were talking about some family photos that had been posted on Facebook, when my mom made the comment that it’s a good thing that our mutual acquaintance isn’t married. Her implication was that gay marriage was intrinsically so wrong, so disordered, so sinful, that it would be better for gay people to live life alone than be married. This was a pretty shocking idea to me, so rather than ask her more about why she would say this, I moved the conversation along, as I usually do when I’m feeling threatened.
The irony is that I’m gay myself – although my mom has no idea, because I’ve never told her. My wife and I have been married for long enough to build a happy family with a bunch of kids. I didn’t tell my wife that I am gay until we had been married for 10 years. I had hoped during my adolescence and early adulthood that my feelings were just a temptation and would recede after I married the right person in the temple. Well, I did find the right person, and we were married in the temple. I still love her, I stay faithful, I have a current temple recommend and a calling. But the feelings have never gone away, and it’s a daily struggle.
I think it’s generally believed that Mormon theology, with its focus on eternal families, has a harder time accommodating gay marriage than other Christian theologies. If God’s plan for each of us is to form an eternal family, and then continue procreating throughout the eternities, it would make sense that only heterosexual marriages could fit this plan. I do believe in some sort of gender complementarity: the idea that I have more to learn and grow by living with a spouse of the opposite gender, and God engineered us into two genders because it was part of his plan. And I’ve benefited from my marriage: raising our biological children together has been an incredible joy to me, and made me a bigger, more compassionate, less self-centered person than I would have been on my own. So I feel like I’ve understood the best, most constructive reasons people put forth to support traditional marriage and prioritize it over gay marriages. But I’ve also made some tough choices and sacrifices in order to take part in traditional marriage (as has my wife, who never planned on being married to a gay man).
I took the November 2015 policy change really hard. It felt like the church was aiming its policy directly at people like me. That if I strayed from the path, I could be facing a situation where my children were socially ostracized and denied gospel blessings such as baptism and priesthood ordination because of my life choices. This policy seems painfully unnecessary. I can’t figure out who it helps, or how it makes the world better for anyone. I started to think more deeply about the theological justifications that could motivate this opposition to gay marriage.
I decided that even the most conservative reading of Mormon theology doesn’t warrant this kind of ostracism of gay people and their families. The strongest argument I can muster against gay marriage from a Mormon point of view is that exaltation requires sealing of heterosexual couples because that’s the plan for continued increase and eternal progression in the afterlife. Homosexual sealings just wouldn’t give the opportunity for such increase and progression.
But this argument doesn’t really make sense, because exaltation isn’t the only good option in the Mormon afterlife. We’re taught that only those living in the highest heaven achieve exaltation – that the other two degrees of glory within the Celestial kingdom are ministering angels. I’m glad I’m not the Judge, but looking around, I think even among active Mormons most of us won’t make it to exaltation. Maybe that’s even a relief to some of us – certainly for me the thought of exaltation has always been overwhelming; I’ve had to take it on faith that God knows best when he proposed this plan, because it’s not something I’m confident I can take on.
So, if most people won’t be exalted, and heterosexual marriage is required only for exaltation, what’s wrong with gay marriage? Even if you accept the idea that gay people can’t be exalted, what’s wrong with people deciding they’re fine with being a ministering angel? It’s not that crazy of an aspiration – as far as I can tell, this is the goal of most Christians, right?
Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” I don’t see why there wouldn’t be some mansions for gay people up in heaven amongst those many. It feels rather dishonest to require that gay people be “on track” for exaltation in order to attend church and have their children be part of the church, while disregarding all sorts of problems in the lives of every other normal human being wending their way through this fallen planet. Either the atonement is infinite or it isn’t. I don’t think we should be making that call as a church. I do think that giving all people their best shot at a happy, stable, healthy life should be the goal of every religion, including Mormonism. I hope that one day, the church leadership realizes that the Mormon afterlife isn’t incompatible with gay marriage.
As for myself, I remain committed to the course I’m on. It’d be too hard to my family for me to uproot everything and pursue my own path. And as I said, I’m grateful for what I have. I just wish the option to form a different kind of family had been open to me. It might have saved a lot of grief.