Marriage, part 5: Defending marriage, defending charity

This is the final post in a five-part series on marriage, in case that wasn’t obvious in the title.

Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.

Thus far, Latter-day Saints have put a lot of money and rhetoric into defending marriage, in particular against gay marriage. Perhaps the most notable example of this was the church’s recent campaign for Prop 8 in California. Though Prop 8 passed, we have seen since its passage that this “victory” for marriage cost more than just a lot of money. For the Latter-day Saint church in particular, the victory bordered on a public relations nightmare, with a lot of hate generated against the organization and its membership. Even worse, perhaps, was the division it caused within the membership.

One might argue that these are simply signs of the times – that we are in the last days and should expect good to be reviled – and one might be correct. But it is also correct that rhetoric (and money, for that matter) can only get one so far when it isn’t backed up by correlating behavior. In other words, if our actions don’t reflect our commitment to and value of marriage, then we will almost certainly struggle to defend marriage with our rhetoric.

You may ask, “But don’t our actions reflect our rhetoric?” When it comes to defending marriage, that’s the question we ought to be asking ourselves. If what I have argued is correct, then our behaviors must reflect a willingness to embrace difference. And I fear that we as Latter-day Saints struggle with embracing difference, choosing instead to go with the flow of society and favor similarity – even between the sexes.

Consider a popular marriage book, And They Were Not Ashamed, written by Latter-day Saint Laura Brotherson to enhance the sex-lives of married couples (particularly Mormons). Brotherson spends two chapters discussing what she calls the “Symphony of the female sexual response,” her purpose being primarily to help the couple work together so that the woman might experience an orgasm at every sexual encounter.

Ostensibly, it appears that Brotherson is helping couples embrace differences that exist between men and women: it is generally far more difficult for a woman (biologically speaking) to have orgasms, so let’s figure out ways to make it happen. But what she may or may not know is that she is following in a long tradition of feminists who have been pining for a feminine sexuality that mirrors as close as possible male sexuality – orgasm every time.

Now, I don’t want to argue for or against female orgasms here. What I do want to point out, however, is that the author of this best-selling LDS sex book is doing little to promote differences – let alone embrace them – in her repetition of a stale argument for equality of the sexes. Once we make men and women biologically the same (all should have orgasms every time), what case do we have against persons of the same sex marrying?

That we fail to embrace difference at the biological level is also evident by our failure to embrace differences at the social level.  It is true that our rhetoric is quite traditional: men and women are eternally different. But our practice? Aside from who gets the priesthood, what social differences do we have? Men and women increasingly assume similar roles in and out of the household. But to truly be different, we must not only differ biologically – our biological differences must necessarily have social manifestations. Ignoring differences or acting as though they should not be there is denying a truth so deep that it even manifests itself biologically. Denying the truth seems like the last thing Latter-day Saints want to do.

I do not know what these social differences ought to look like. I don’t even know if they should be universal (i.e., cut across all cultures). But if what I argue is correct, then we must at least start talking about differences. In order to defend marriage – and in doing so, defend a tolerant and loving society – differences must be there. If we aren’t different, then we can’t learn to love difference. And if we can’t learn to love difference, we not only fail to defend marriage, but we fail to defend charity.

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73 Responses

  1. I think you failed in your attempt to persuade the reader at looking towards the differences of gender. I don’t care if the male is shy and timid, and the female has the stronger leadership role. Doesn’t bother me at all. I say let the husband and wife figure out what works for them since they have individual strengths and weaknesses.

    You lost your credibility when bringing in a woman’s orgasm. Who cares if a woman tries to have more pleasure in her intimate relationship? I think it’s fine for a husband to put off his selfishness and be a true man by helping his wife.

    As far as gay marriage goes, the Morman church shot itself in the foot by getting neck-deep in the muck. Each person should decide what is right and then vote in private. It’s silly to spend so much time on a minority group when the straight community can’t get their act together. Divorce is far more damaging for children then living next to a gay couple. I wish all my neighbors were gay. I could depend on them more often than my straight neighbors.

  2. I would agree with Mitch. Divorce, adultery, out-of-wedlock births, pre-marital sex, and bad parenting do more in one day to destroy the institution of divine marriage and parenthood than anything the gays and lesbians could every possibly accomplish through same sex marriage in a year.

    Yet, as church members, we do nothing to legislate against these much more dangerous threats. Instead, we make excuses and justifications for NOT interfering in these items.

    Is marriage for love or is it for pro-creation? If for love then why are gays and lesbians banned from loving someone fully and completely in this life the same as a straight couple. If for pro-creation, then why are we teaching the youth of our church to follow the world in the princess fairy tale mentality of romance instead of a practical selection of a suitable mate based upon compatibility and similar backgrounds?

    We cannot have it both ways and still exclude one significant group of people who have a different sexual orientation due to no choice of their own.

    Matthew Chapter 19 reveals the will of the Lord very clearly but we totally ignore it (especially as church members). FYI – Eunuchs so born from their mother’s womb is referring to gays and lesbians, not castrated men.

  3. The whole point of these posts started with the idea that you must show that gay marriage is bad somehow. You failed miserably, just so you know. And you’re a mean person. Why are you determined to make life so difficult for this particular group of people that you’ve decided, with the help of your religion, to hate?

    Charity doesn’t require enforcing differences, it requires charity, you know, kindness? No, I see that concept is way beyond you.

    Would you shun a gay child?

  4. I think TMB is more misguieded. Yes, it is mean to discriminate against a minority group, but I think TMB is looking past the mark. I find this blog to be ignorant of the reality of what the gay community deals with. Gay marriage is much more than sex at 1:00 in the morning. It ‘s about people living meaningful lives.

  5. Joe, I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to formalize them into postings.

  6. Mitch, I don’t think you’re justified in saying anything universal. I’m sure there are others who weren’t persuaded, but you ought to let them speak for themselves. But if you didn’t notice, I didn’t try to proscribe any behavior to gender – I merely was looking for a discussion about difference.

    As for the female orgasm, I (like you, I think) don’t care who “[has] more pleasure.” If you read the post carefully, you’ll notice I wasn’t trying to make that case. Try to see beyond the example toward my argument: perhaps we should quit trying to make us the same and sit back and see what the differences are.

    As for your final point, once again, we agree on something – that divorce at least as damaging to children. But dependability isn’t what makes good parents.

  7. Michael,

    As I said to Mitch, I agree that divorce, etc is dangerous – I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than homosexuality, but danger is danger.

    Where we disagree, however, is that in my opinion, marriage is about neither love nor procreation – at least not totally. This might sound really boring, but in my opinion, marriage is about building the kingdom of God. It certainly takes love, and many would argue procreation as well, but it takes more than that.

    Perhaps marriage between a man and a woman is also necessary, and I am simply arguing that maybe difference is a part of that. Maybe.

    As for the “no choice of their own” issue, I think it still needs to be approached with caution. The evidence is still a little mixed.

  8. marmot,

    I’m not really sorry to hear that I failed to show that gay marriage is bad. That wasn’t what I was trying to do.

    And you’re right, I am sometimes mean to people. But you can hardly gauge my character and behavior towards homosexuals based on posts that argued for difference in marriage. I’d appreciate not having my character attacked by someone who is misreading my argument.

  9. One last general comment: my primary purpose, though it must not seem this way, was to defend marriage – as much against divorce and abuse as against gay marriage. It is somewhat unfortunate that the only comments I have gotten are from those so committed to defending gay marriage, they are blind to what I’m trying to do.

  10. I think it is wrong to force the question of whether marriage is for love or procreation. These are two outcomes of marriage, but both can also be found outside of marriage. I see marriage as something more — part of the eternal plan of happiness — part of becoming like God, part of sanctifying our souls. The man gains the portion of godliness not included in his masculine nature, and the woman gains the portion of godliness not included in her feminine nature. Male and female created he them, and together they return to the celestial kingdom of our God.

  11. Joe, we are not blind to what you are trying to do since we recognize your approach to dismiss gay marriage. And yes you did bring up the famale orgasm which was very clear that women should not have an orgasm as much as men. Talk about selfish!

    Any of us can say things in an universal sense. It’s silly for you to say I can’t when it was you who made this blog. And since when did I post that others cannot think or speak for themselves?

    It’s foolish to say that we are attacking your character. Instead, we are attacking your ideas. Huge difference!

  12. Your basic premise that same sex relationships lack charity because they lack gender differences is based in an elaborate and unnecessary thought experiment. You tried to imagine what a theoretical same sex relationship would be like. Why not study a real same sex relationship. Because gay people are real people, and their relationships are real, and no matter where you live, you live close to a gay couple.

    Why not get to know two people who love each other, even without gender differences? I guarantee you, if you did, you would find they don’t lack charity. Quite the opposite. The persecution they endured and the stigma around their love actually gives them a deeper understanding of love, compassion, and Christ-like charity. You will also find that they have more differences and less similarities than you would expect.

    I have been in love with my fiancée for nearly two and a half years. We will be married in June. He and I are not the same, though we are both men. We have different personalities, and we think in different ways. It is the constant, daily labor to reconcile our differences that keeps us together and that keeps our relationship strong, and I don’t use the word labor lightly. We love each other, and that makes the labor worth it.

    You can conjure up whatever elaborate explanations you want to conjure up to dismiss my relationship, but until you actually make an effort to get to know a people who are different than you, you will never understand charity. I grew up LDS, and I understand Charity to be a pure Christ-like love. It’s easy to love the people who are the same as you. It’s not easy to love those that are different, but then again, you seem to know all about that.

  13. Daniel,

    Before I reply to your comment, please answer the following questions:

    1) Where exactly do I mention/imply that my basic premise is “same sex relationships lack charity”? That was never my conscious intention and I’m pretty sure I didn’t have any unconscious motivation to make that argument.

    2) When exactly did I dismiss your relationship? Or any gay relationship for that matter? My posts were about marriage between man and woman, not marriage between two men (congratulations, by the way).

    If you’ll re-read my posts and respond instead to my arguments, I’ll respond to yours.

  14. I understood this to be a series of posts attempting to defend Latter-day Saints’ position against gay marriage and to convince the gay community to choose opposite sex marriages over same sex marriages, and I thought that your argument was based on a notion that opposite sex couples have inherent valuable differences that same sex couples by extension wouldn’t have.

    “wherein I discuss charity in marriage, why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman” (Post 1)

    “In the previous post, I argued that differences were actually essential for a spirit of charity to thrive in marriage. In seeking out and embracing these differences, we learn to love that which is other than us – and by love, I mean in part to appreciate and embrace the unique contribution made by those differences.” (Post 2)

    “Thus far I have tried to make a case for difference in marriage, arguing that without confronting the fundamental differences symbolized by the sexual unity of male and female, we are less able to understand fully what it means to be charitable. In this final post, I will argue that defending marriage – and by association, charity – requires we defend difference.” (Post 5)

    I apologize if I have misunderstood both your intent and your argument. What is the point of these 5 posts?

  15. Daniel,

    First, let me say that I would never claim to defend Latter-day Saints’ position against gay marriage. While I am LDS, I would never presume to speak for them. They have their position, I have mine, and while they might look similar, that never means we are speaking for one another.

    Second, I would add that you didn’t answer my questions from my previous comment.

    But I’ll answer yours: My original intent was not to argue against gay marriage, but to argue for heterosexual marriage, of which male and female differences are an integral part. Some day, I’d like someone to respond to THAT argument, rather that simply jumping to the wrong conclusion that I’m on a diatribe against gay marriage.

    “…why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman…” If what I argue is correct, then the gay community might appreciate the charity that is taught in homes where differences is valued and appreciated. That doesn’t mean they’ll stop being gay and stop loving each other; but it ought to mean that they’ll experience more respect and
    tolerance.

    “…differences [are] actually essential for a spirit of charity to thrive…” You certainly seem to agree with this, even if those differences aren’t biological. And indeed, by love “I mean IN PART to appreciate and embrace…differences…”

    As for heterosexual differences, I argued that “without confronting the fundamental differences [of heterosexuality], we are LESS ABLE to understand fully what it means to be charitable…” I mean to imply that it is only a limitation; it does not make it impossible to love and have charity.

  16. Joe, I thought I had answered your questions by explaining what I thought your argument and intent were and pulling quotes to demonstrate why I thought that was your argument. I was apparently wrong, and again, I’m sorry for that.

    I do appreciate the charity that is taught in homes where differences are valued and appreciated–both gay and straight. I appreciate the marriage of my parents, for example. I don’t really see this as a big deal. Do you see a lack of appreciation in the gay community for heterosexual marriage? Because I have never observed this.

    Just because we don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean we are in any way against heterosexual marriage. Quite the opposite, and yet we are constantly told by opponents to marriage equality that they are defending marriage from us. It’s degrading rhetoric, and it is pure and simply false, but it’s the way conservative pundits have framed the debate. “Defending marriage” has become code for “Attacking Gay Marriage.” This is why I mistakenly assumed that you were opposed to gay marriage when you said you were arguing for heterosexual marriage.

    I guess in the end, I’m having a hard time understanding the argument you want people to respond to. You state, “My original intent [is] to argue for heterosexual marriage, of which male and female differences are an integral part. Some day, I’d like someone to respond to THAT argument.” What is there to respond to? What is to be debated? Who disagrees with you? It just sounds more like a statement or an observation than an argument, and maybe that’s why it hasn’t received the response you’ve hoped for. I’m not a regular reader of this blog, so maybe I just don’t understand your audience. I’ll go back to the blogs I’m used to now! lol.

  17. Daniel, I don’t think Joe is showing clarity on his blog. There aren’t many readers here which makes sense to me. I will join you by looking elsewhere.

  18. Maybe I don’t understand my audience…

    Perhaps Mitch is right and I’m not being clear. Or maybe it will just take us each a little time (and patience) to see beyond our own biases and understand each other’s arguments. But I do appreciate your willingness, Daniel, to talk with me now in a more reasonable tone. Now, perhaps, I can be clearer (or perhaps not, we’ll see).

    I was concerned about your earlier comments where you claimed I was dismissing your relationship and arguing that homosexuals lacked charity. I never meant to argue that and I was hoping we could clear that away at the outset. I hope we have done that.

    Now let me try to clear things up a bit: while I do not dismiss homosexual relationships or claim they lack charity, I am arguing for heterosexual marriages that embrace sex and gender differences as part and parcel of that relationships.

    It seems that you and I both agree that differences between two lovers can potentially enhance their love as they work through those differences. I was merely trying to argue that, given the fundamental differences between men and women, heterosexual marriages ensure fundamental differences – differences that will always be differences – be a part of the marriage.

    This makes heterosexual marriage different in ways same-sex marriage can never be. Without heterosexual marriages, or at least the valuing of those gender differences for the sake of developing love and charity (a la Body of Christ), a community will suffer.

  19. Joe, in your most recent comment, my reaction is still “so what?” I don’t see a lack of valuing differences in heterosexual marriage. Certainly not in the LDS community or in the gay community. I still don’t understand what the problem is that you’re addressing.

    Is your argument really that there aren’t enough differences between gender roles in the LDS community? If so, I disagree. I think you too easily dismiss the distinction Latter-day Saints make in gender roles by restricting their priesthood to men only. And I fail to see how encouraging women to orgasm makes them more like men. Sexual satisfaction is not a male trait. Most of our notions of gender are socially constructed, not biological. If women can orgasm every time, then that is proof that the idea that she shouldn’t orgasm every time is a man-made notion, not a biological difference.

    But you know that it is sociological–you argue for increasing the amount of social differences between men and women. I don’t see how that can strengthen marriage. Even if you intend for those differences to be of equal worth, the fact is that social differences are inherently unequal and set the stage for one group to “be” superior to another, and that causes problems. I’m not just talking about female subjugation, though that is a major problem. The door swings both ways though.

    For example, if you set aside nurturing children as a female role, and it becomes interpreted that women are therefore better at nurturing children than men, then men will become less nurturing with their children. This has nothing to do with biological capacity, it has do with social gender constructions. The resulting absence of fathers damages the strength of families, as has been clearly demonstrated by research.

    Social gender differences make families weaker, not stronger, because they create inequality. This is why I believe gay marriage will actually strengthen society and the family, not weaken it. Gay couples cannot default to socially constructed gender roles, so they have to be more creative and more equal in their approach to household responsibilities. Heterosexual couples will in turn benefit from these redefined gender roles, and will be more equal in their share of household responsibilities.

    So in some ways, I think you’re right. Valuing, encouraging, and creating social gender differences will position a people to better oppose gay marriage, but in the end, I do not believe it will improve society or their community. To improve society, we need more gender equality, not less.

  20. Yes, embracing differences fosters charity not only in our society, but especially in our intimate relationships. You made this point well.

    Several things you did not address.

    1. Why this principle is not just as true for same-sex relationship as opposite-sex relationships.
    2. Why this principle says anything about what sex the partners in a marriage should be.
    3. Why those who fall in love with those of the same-sex should not be legally aloud to marry the person of their choosing.
    4. Why attacking one type of marriage does anything to defend other types of marriage.
    5. Why the church has chosen a battle we don’t even have a theological foundation for. We can not support our actions with the Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, or even the proclamation on the Family.

    It seems that you have given some great marital advice, but when it comes to the gay marriage debate you have drug some beautiful red herring in your five part series. I am sorry to say you took a long time so say nothing on the subject you set out to prove.

  21. Daniel,

    I suppose my biggest concern with encouraging gender equality is ignoring difference. Difference is a fact of life and ignoring it seems to me problematic, given that it denies how things are.

    Conflict so easily becomes destructive when sameness is called for or preferred. I would like to see RELATIONSHIPS preferred over sameness – then perhaps conflict would cease being destructive and would instead allow us to better construct relationships, acknowledging BOTH the sameness and difference that characterizes each of our relationships.

    I guess it just seems (to me) that we need to first be able to value difference, if only for the sake of the relationship.

  22. Gail,

    1: The principle is not true for same-sex relationships because the differences aren’t as fundamental. That is, they don’t reach the level of the soul (i.e., body and spirit). I believe I addressed that, if only implicitly.

    2: I never intended to address what sex partners ought to be, though I think it is implied that heterosexual marriages have more POTENTIAL (and are perhaps necessary?) for building a charitable society.

    3: I never presumed to make a legal case against gay marriage.

    4: I never called for nor encouraged the attack of gay marriage. Indeed, if you knew me at all, you would understand that that has very little to do with my project.

    5: I never intended to address “why the church has chosen a battle…” That was clearly not the point of these posts. But just for fun, I’ll address it: I don’t believe the LDS church has a “theological foundation” for anything. It’s a church of practices – practices meant to bring us closer to Christ. One of those practices, as I understand it, is marriage. I’ve presented here why I think (perhaps) this practice might be essential for helping us come to Christ.

    Just to repeat myself, when titled this post “defending marriage,” I may have brought up Prop 8, but only to accuse members of the church of exactly what you seem to be trying to do. I’ll repeat it here for those who missed it:

    If we presume (as LDS) to defend marriage against things like gay marriage, we can’t do it because our practices don’t mesh with our preaching. In other words, we’re hypocrites when it comes to defending marriage, because we can’t even defend our own marriages! Is that clear enough for everyone?

  23. Joe,

    I am not sure why a call for gender equality is a call for sameness. We live in a country that calls for equality under the law, do we ever question if that ideal implies we are all the same?

  24. Gail, I’m not sure. But I would argue that gender equality has come to mean sameness culturally. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that, either.

  25. Gender equality is not the same as gender sameness. Gender differences do matter. They matter a lot. They matter so much that I could never find myself in a relationship with a woman simply because of her gender. I’m not advocating gender sameness by any stretch of the imagination.

    I don’t believe in ignoring inherent differences, I just don’t believe in creating unnecessary differences just for the sake of having differences, which is what you advocate when you say, “But to truly be different, we must not only differ biologically – our biological differences must necessarily have social manifestations.” You want to increase the social differences between gender roles.

    I believe we are all different–inherently different–and that we can celebrate our differences without having to exaggerate them or separate each other into prescribed arbitrary roles. I also don’t believe that a married man and woman have more inherent differences than two married men. The differences may be more obvious, but not more significant. Same sex marriage is not referring to sameness of soul.

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify what you’re trying to say, but at the end of the day, I still disagree with your basic premises about relationships and gender and, therefore, your whole argument. I don’t think Latter-day Saints ignore or devalue gender differences, I think they’re still clinging to old fashioned differences more than the rest of America. They should go further in embracing gender equality, which is not the same as gender sameness. While I value difference in relationships, I don’t believe those differences need to correlate to gender. Again, prescribed arbitrary gender roles do not strengthen marriage or society.

  26. Joe,

    “1: The principle is not true for same-sex relationships because the differences aren’t as fundamental. That is, they don’t reach the level of the soul (i.e., body and spirit). I believe I addressed that, if only implicitly.”
    You have tried to say this, but I struggle to see how you have illustrated that this principle is only true for people with opposing genitals. Maybe I am slow, but I don’t see how this point is made. You can believe it is true, and state that it is true, but I believe that is a little bit different than showing or explaining why it is true.

    “2: I never intended to address what sex partners ought to be, though I think it is implied that heterosexual marriages have more POTENTIAL (and are perhaps necessary?) for building a charitable society.”
    Here again you never showed us how opposite sex couples are necessary for building a charitable society. I have seen examples of very charitable acts and very charitable examples coming from people within same sex relationships, how would there charity or examples of charity be greater if they were in a relationship with someone they were not in love with?

    “3: I never presumed to make a legal case against gay marriage.” Point taken that was never expressly part of your thesis.

    “4: I never called for nor encouraged the attack of gay marriage. Indeed, if you knew me at all, you would understand that that has very little to do with my project.”
    The euphemism “defend marriage against things like gay marriage” is attacking same sex marriage. It is easy to pretend that same sex marriage is attacking opposite sex marriage. The truth is the people in same sex marriages or these marriages themselves do nothing to hurt opposite sex marriage. Even if they were the defense you refer to is going on the offensive and making them illegal. Those that claim defense of marriage really has nothing to do with doing anything to protect any marriage. No efforts are ever made to decrease divorce or help people love their spouses better. All the effort made is only to attack same sex couples and families. Your thesis was trying to prove that marriage should not be between people of the same sex. That is inherently attacking same sex marriage.

    “5: I never intended to address “why the church has chosen a battle…” That was clearly not the point of these posts. But just for fun, I’ll address it: I don’t believe the LDS church has a “theological foundation” for anything. It’s a church of practices – practices meant to bring us closer to Christ. One of those practices, as I understand it, is marriage. I’ve presented here why I think (perhaps) this practice might be essential for helping us come to Christ.”
    You seem to be defending the church’s stance on same sex marriage. I can think of few of our church’s stands that do not have clear scriptural or revelatory backing. It seems that if you are going to defend this church stand you may want to address either why it has no backing in this area or persuade that it does have some backing that I can not see.

    “Just to repeat myself, when titled this post “defending marriage,” I may have brought up Prop 8, but only to accuse members of the church of exactly what you seem to be trying to do. I’ll repeat it here for those who missed it:
    If we presume (as LDS) to defend marriage against things like gay marriage, we can’t do it because our practices don’t mesh with our preaching. In other words, we’re hypocrites when it comes to defending marriage, because we can’t even defend our own marriages! Is that clear enough for everyone?”
    I have not issue with the church not being able to defend our own marriages, but at least illustrate how attacking same sex marriage will “defend marriage.” In fact I think it is completely contrary to the words in the proclamation: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

    To try to say good parents that love each other raising good children can not be legally married flies in the face of this admonition.

  27. Joe,

    “Gail, I’m not sure. But I would argue that gender equality has come to mean sameness culturally. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that, either.”

    I do not hear anyone advocating equality also arguing sameness. I only hear those arguing against equality arguing against sameness because they have no case against equality.

    In the case we are talking about here we are talking about everyone should have the right to marry the person of their choosing. I am arguing that may mean something different for different people. I think you are the one arguing that it is not OK for it to mean anything different for some one else than it means to you. Therefore you are the one arguing for sameness

  28. Sorry to not weigh in until now. I’m glad the comments here have taken a (relatively) positive turn. People actually talking with each other. Imagine that — novel idea.

    Joe, I think Gail has a point here:

    You have tried to say this, but I struggle to see how you have illustrated that this principle is only true for people with opposing genitals. Maybe I am slow, but I don’t see how this point is made. You can believe it is true, and state that it is true, but I believe that is a little bit different than showing or explaining why it is true.

    What needs to really be demonstrated — and I believe it is crucial to your argument — is that there is a meaningful structural (not simply physiological) difference to gender difference that cannot be equated with some other so-called socially constructed difference.

    I’m going to take a stab at taking this argument in this direction — but I ask for everyone’s patience. I’m about to make a bunch of assertions — I fully admit that is all they are. But I think they are compelling enough to not be dismissed out of hand, as they cut to the heart of many of these issues. So I hope I can get a conversation going about what I take to be some of the deeper manners of this conversation — and I trust Joe will agree with me here.

    Assertion 1: It’s awfully popular to talk about how gender and sexuality are “socially constructed.” This is certainly true to a large extent — but we forget that it can’t possibly be social constructions all the way down. There really is something structurally and meaningfully important about the differences between genders, if for no other reason than reproduction. It is not simply a social construction that women can give birth to babies and men can’t. And this is hardly a little detail. It’s enormous. Inasmuch as the human race cares about humane and natural reproduction (as opposed to some kind of bizarre Gattacca world or Brave New World) it necessarily cares about gender differences in a strong sense. Now, I’m not trying to say that this means that this detail of reproduction necessarily dictates really specific gender roles. But to say that it is completely irrelevant to gender roles is highly questionable — and I’ve got thousands of years of evolutionary history on my side here. To say that women or men can and/or should simply do whatever they want as if they had no gender (or as if this gender can be socially constructed however they want) is inaccurate, harmful, and naive.

    Assertion 2: There is something, at least from an LDS perspective, that is deeply and phenomenologically meaningful about these deeper, structural differences between men and women. These differences are deepest for men and women in relation to one another, not as thin platitudes or unbending gender roles. But just because gender roles vary does not mean they are whatever one wants to believe.

    Assertion 3: More than anything else, the difference between man and woman is most real and meaningful in the sexual act. This is especially heightened in how this act links generations, both meaningfully and physically, across time. Whatever virtues can be said of same-sex relations, this virtue cannot be claimed. And (I realize this is an enormous assertion) this is huge.

    Assertion 4: In this way, the meaningful difference between heterosexual partners is all the more potent and vibrant than could ever be the case between same-sex partners — mind you, I said “in this way,” not in all ways. Man and woman come together not just as two different individuals, but connect themselves meaningfully in the “circle of life” (to use a cliche) as two different sexes. In this way, difference is not merely a social construction. It’s not just two individuals getting together. It’s not just two people “in love.” Or even two people deeply committed to each other. As virtuous as all of the above are, this coming together of differences is a unique virtue upon which the past, present, and future (unless, again, we opt for an inhumane technological order) of the human race rests.

    Assertion 5: It is for these reasons that heterosexuality (and dare I say heterosexism) are normative and arguably necessary. Therefore, whatever is to be judged concerning homosexual relations (and please note that I have made no judgment about this), heterosexual procreation and the institutions which govern it ought to be privileged as a societal good. To forget this is lunacy–the heights of disconnection about what makes the human race the human race.

    Assertion 6: These points are apparently lost in the marriage debate (on both sides) because of the deeply individualistic society we live in. If it’s all about individual satisfaction, then who gives a fart about who can marry who? This individualism (which admittedly has virtues, especially in comparison to most hierarchical societies) has long cheapened not only marriage, but has severed virtually any semblance of meaningful intergeneration connection, and thus has disconnected (mostly white) Americans and Europeans from a meaningful fabric of life. Sadly, gay marriage has taken the brunt of the hit about posing a threat to marriage. But it’s really just the last in a long line of societal threats to marriage and an intergenerational relationality that includes and heightens non-socially-constructed, meaningful, and crucial differences — differences that cut to the core of what it means to be human.

  29. Dennis,

    I would agree that heterosexual relationships are vital and necessary.

    If we assume all your assertions are true; and assume that they prove that the principles in this five part series apply more to opposite sex couple than same sex couple for the reason that they produce children and bridge generations in a biological not just a parental way.; If we also assume that this explains why we should seek to make gay marriage illegal; and I guess we would also assume this is why attacking same sex marriage is defending opposite sex marriage. Than this would also assume that all relationships that can not or will not produce biological offspring can not foster Charity in the same way those that can and do. We would also need to assume we should attack these relationships as well and make them illegal to be called marriage in order to defend the marriages that can and do produce biological offspring. I do not know about you, but even though relationships that can and do produce biological offspring are necessary I am unwilling to say that the rest have no value, or have less ability to teach the participants Charity, or should be attacked, or that such attacks have any defensive value for those that do produce biological offspring.

  30. Gail,

    Just to be clear, i did not say anything about attacking same sex relationships (marriage or otherwise) or any other relationship configuration or saying they have no value. I spoke of the defense of prioritizing heterosexual marriage at the societal level. There is an important difference.

  31. Dennis,

    Please help me understand. How is putting someones marriage or relationship as a lower social priority in our society than an other how that is not an attack?

    If the US government said “we are making relationships between two Mormons a lower priority to protect than Marriage between two Christian people” in what way would we not feel temple marriage under attack?

    In the south of the early 20th century when local sheriffs made crimes against black people a lower priority, how was that not an attack?

    If we now say marriages between two people that can’t or won’t have biological children on a lower social level, why will they not feel attacked?

    When we tell people that love each other, have been faithful for years, and are raising good children together that your relationship is at a lower social level than ours because of the sex of the participants, therefore you cannot call it the same thing, you cannot file your federal taxes together, you cannot own property together they same way as married people do (even if both of your names are on the title if one of you dies you need to pay inheritance tax), we will also not allow you to have nearly 1000 more federal rights that we give married people, and the list goes on of what these couples that are at a lower societal level don’t get, please help me understand why this not an attack, and how it is in any why defending anything?

  32. “These points are apparently lost in the marriage debate (on both sides) because of the deeply individualistic society we live in. If it’s all about individual satisfaction, then who gives a fart about who can marry who? This individualism (which admittedly has virtues, especially in comparison to most hierarchical societies) has long cheapened not only marriage, but has severed virtually any semblance of meaningful intergeneration connection”

    I don’t think things are as bleak as you’re painting them. First of all, I don’t see a lack of generational connections. Interest in genealogy is up. But that aside, I don’t believe that marriage today is selfish. My upcoming marriage is not about individual satisfaction, it’s about partnership and love for my fiancée over myself. I’m deeply concerned not about my own well-being, but about his, and I believe that our mutual success is based on cooperation, togetherness, and faithfulness to the commitments and obligations of marriage. It’s the responsibilities and sacrifices of that covenant that make it meaningful, lasting, and that ultimately make us both better people, and that’s what I want and need.

    When we bring a child into our family someday, it will likewise be not about personal satisfaction, but about providing a home for someone who needs one–not far off from the LDS concept about providing a body for a spirit who needs one. Again, this is selfless, not selfish.

    I don’t think we’ve been seeing a steady cheapening or decay of marriage, family, and society. To the contrary, I see an increase in meaning in all of these things. Marriage decisions are no longer political arrangements, property exchanges, or social obligations. They are now about mutual love, partnership, desire for mutual success, and selfless love for others. The reason we see higher divorce rates is because these reasons for marriage are higher and more meaningful, and therefore harder to maintain than older reasons for marriage.

    I would hate to go back to a time when marriage was about creating a family and siring children to maintain the farm. Sure it was easier to get married in those days, and simpler, and sure when love isn’t required it’s easier to stay together, but isn’t it so much better now? Marriage is more meaningful when it is about love, not selfishness, but love for another person, and desire for happiness together.

    I believe, and I’ve blogged about it before, that the people who seek to prevent gay marriage are the ones who cheapen marriage. To justify a definition of marriage that excludes same sex couples they have to reduce marriage and take out all that stuff of substance that same sex couples and heterosexual couples share. So I will fight with everything I have to defend marriage–Modern marriage, rooted in love, commitment, and sacrifice. I will defend your marriage, and I will also defend my marriage to my same sex partner.

  33. Daniel,

    Bravo!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. To reduce individualism down to selfishness is a rather narrow approach to understanding individualism. Alexis de Tocqueville, who allegedly first coined the term, defined it as a feeling which “disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellow-creatures; and to draw apart with his family and his friends; so that, after he has thus formed a little circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to itself.”

    Two people (gay or not) could love each other, decide to marry, then become so absorbed in being-for-each-other that they neglect any sort of duties to their fellow man. On the outside, they look selfless and altruistic; but according to de Tocqueville, they are just as individualistic as the egoist. And it seems to me that no matter how many marriages seem based on sacrifice and altruism, few marriages (if any) escape individualism – gay, straight, atheist, Mormons, etc.

    That’s not to say that love isn’t good for marriage. But the romantic love that you’re talking about is so prone to individualism that, in my mind, it’s poses a threat to marriage as much as anything. After all, what do we do when that love is gone? Heaven forbid we stick out the marriage because we’re committed to marriage – and not our own sense of romantic love.

  35. Joe,

    You really are arguing that romanitic love is a threat to Marriage?

    Still how does this help your argument that same sex marraige is a threat to other marraige that we need to attack it to deffend other marraige?

  36. I believe I was referring to a marital foundation of romantic love, not romantic love itself. As long as romantic love is in the service of the marriage (and ultimately, in the service of the kingdom of God), I think it’s a good thing. But once we make it the basis of a marriage, then we lose sight of the marriage itself and focus instead on romantic love.

    That seems to be a threat to marriage.

  37. Joe,

    I can see your point, but you haven’t addressed my second question. Actually there are a lot of my points that you have not addressed. Is that because all of your points are just as applicable to same sex relationships as opposite sex relationships, and is it also because there is nothing that same sex marriage do give opposite sex marriage have a reason to defend against? Therefore what is called defending are really just meaningless attacks on the families of good honest people.

  38. Gail and Daniel,

    I appreciate your continuing to engage this conversation. I wish I had more time to really get into things, but I have some pressing deadlines right now.

    I will say a few things, though.

    Gail, I think you raise some good points that there are ways to view prioritizing one good only at the expense of attacking another. I hear you there. Still, clearly, clearly, societies can and do (and must) prioritize some social goods as higher than others. This doesn’t have to be done in a way that devalues or stigmatizes individuals (and please note that I have said nothing about what civil rights same-sex couples ought to have).

    For example, would a priority of physical health be “attacking” people who are obese? I suppose it could be, but it definitely doesn’t have to be. Is the recent surge in anti-smoking laws attacking smokers? Is the general consensus that all kinds of disabilities and illnesses (e.g., AIDS and Huthinson’s Disease) undesirable and ought to be eliminated if possible) a necessary attack on those who currently have these disabilities and illnesses? Or how about bans on school prayer — is this an attack on religious people? Is a priority of monogamy an attack against polygamous people? Is a priority of marriage (generally speaking) an attack on single people? I could go on and on. You might say that same-sex marriage is different because there is no choice for heterosexual marriage — but this is an oversimplification, in that many of these other things may not involve choice (e.g., someone who is born with Hutchinson’s Disease). I realize that people may think I’m making the insinuation that homosexuality is a disability, but I’m simply saying that to prioritize something is not necessarily to attack the individuals who don’t fit that priority (though certainly it may be in some cases).

    For Latter-day Saints, anyway, heterosexual marriage is a necessarily priority, due to the belief of eternal marriage and eternal procreation. There are many in this life who do not have the ability or opportunity to marry and have children (the ideal), but all who are faithful will, in the next life, be able to do so. This is a kind of relationship that has a clear priority.

    Perhaps the following illustration might be persuasive (to some) about how heterosexual relationships ought to be prioritized (on a societal level). This is admittedly an unrealistic hypothetical example, but I think it illustrates my point. Imagine that, for some odd reason, a magical genie comes down from the sky and says that the gods are fed up with this disagreement about marriage. They (the gods) have decided that, in the near future, only one type of marriage will exist:: other- or same-sex marriage. Those who are already living will continue to enjoy their current sexual orientation, without prejudice or stigma, and they leave it up to us as to how to manage our laws that surround such. But — from this point on — all people will be born with the same sexual orientation (gay or straight). They have left it up to us to decide what this orientation will be. They demand an answer in three days. From now on, all will be born either gay or all will be born straight. There is no other choice. If we decline to answer, then everyone will die a slow, tortuous, and dehumanizing death. Now, if you were to entertain this hypothetical (in spite of its ridiculousness), what would you choose?

    I believe that the answer is, without a doubt, that all should be straight — and this is obvious in a way that similar scenarios about race (e.g., all will be either black or white) and gender (e.g., all will be either male or female) simply cannot be. And the reason for this goes far beyond homophobia. It is because of structural realities of the differences between genders and the necessity of other-sex relationships for the sustainability of the human race.

  39. Joe,

    The things we prioritize in our society are typically budgetary items. What is more important the bridge to no where or education? These are things that we need to prioritize. Why would we need to prioritize the families in the US? And why do we as Mormons have the right to prioritize other peoples marriages? I am not getting this.
    Making health a priority may be attacking obesity or smoking, but it would making the smokers and the obese a priority. Bad example.
    Actually we do attack Polygamy in our society, because it is illegal. Not that we are arguing the merits of this law, but I would say there are much clearer reasoning for these law than those against same-sex marriage. If you wish to make an argument against these laws I likely would not argue with you, but I would look on in fascination.
    You have not illustrated that heterosexual marriage is necessarily a priority for we Latter-day Saints. I would love to discuss this some time. I think I can clearly explain why that this is not the case.
    The problem with your parable is none of us chose our orientation in the first place, (the gods) chose all our orientations. So why would they suddenly thrust this choice back on us?
    Yes, couples that produce offspring are necessary for survival of the species. These couplings are still in the vast majority. No other type of coupling is doing anything to tear down these types of couplings. What reason is there to defend them from other forms? Again, if this is a reason to not give marital status to other forms of coupling than are you prepared to make it illegal for any coupling that is not producing biological children to be called marriage and receive the benefits of such?

  40. Gail,

    I apologize for not responding to all of your points. I unfortunately have to deal with several pressing matters right now that take me away from a computer for hours at a time. Consequently, I have to prioritize what I can and cannot respond to.

    Perhaps in responding to your most recent question might be a way of responding to several of your comments, as I am, once again, limited in time.

    “Is that because all of your points are just as applicable to same sex relationships as opposite sex relationships, and is it also because there is nothing that same sex marriage do give opposite sex marriage have a reason to defend against?”

    …or…

    “Still how does this help your argument that same sex marraige [sic] is a threat to other marraige [sic] that we need to attack it to deffend other marraige [sic]?”

    in my opinion, marriage is a practice meant to build up the kingdom of God. I form that opinion based on other practices and ordinances in which I have taken part. My opinion could be wrong, but there it is.

    There are diverse ways to build up the kingdom, but at this point, marriage between two people have the same sex has not been designated as one of those. As Dennis has argued, when it comes to procreation (both now and in eternity) it appears heterosexual marriage has an advantage over homosexual marriage.

    While that is not necessarily the foundation of my argument, I am attempting to argue for another advantage I think heterosexual marriage has, if we practice it correctly (by allowing men and women their various differences).

    I also believe that the differences between men and women are not just physiological, but far more substantive. As Dennis said, “structurally and meaningfully” different. That makes heterosexual marriage different – structurally and meaningfully different – than other forms of marriage.

    If what I argue is correct, then perhaps building the kingdom requires these differences. That is certainly the case for procreation, which Dennis has argued quite well. What I’m trying to argue is that perhaps these differences could be important for other reasons as well.

  41. Gail,

    By the way, you’re responding to Dennis, not to me, in that last comment. I will not respond to you because it was not my parable.

  42. Oh, actually I will respond to it: I am not talking about legal status of gay relationships. I never was. Please please please quit making this about the legal status of gay couples! That had nothing to do with my posts in the first place!

    I am talking about building the kingdom. If gay couples would like legal rights, they can have them as far as I’m concerned (and as far as the LDS church is concerned, too, in case you haven’t been watching the news).

    But I don’t think they can have temple sealings because gay marriage is a practice that doesn’t build the kingdom like God would have it built.

  43. why does my brain feel like its going to explode? :)
    jk Joe.
    OH and get ready for word vomit… because like I told you I’m just going to throw it all out there…

    I do have to agree that although I think you have great great points and make people think and discuss sometimes your ideas and points are hard to follow.
    me needs things spelled out.

    like you pointed out that book that one lady wrote that spends a couple of chapters talking about the female orgasm.

    When I first read it I just saw red and smoke started coming out of my ears. and my first thought was “Are you kidding me! Girls can have orgasms every time too” and I wasn’t going to make the point of … well if we talk about it… and discuss… and try different positions… and I’M ALLOWED just as much as a man… and how dare you say that…

    the reason why it got me all crazy and seeing red was because it seemed to me that your point was saying we should accept that women just aren’t like men and can’t have an orgasm like men. and HA HA HA WOMEN… take that…. and if you try to think you can… well you are just being a dumb feminist.
    but that wasn’t your point… but it kinda seemed like it was…. it took me re reading and re reading like about 30 times to get your point. well i think i get it. and I am afraid to say what I think your point is because you’ll be like “uh no that wasn’t it” and I’ll be like “doh!”

    I guess the only thing I can say is my point of view. oh and because I’ve only had heterosexual sex (although I did have a lesbian dream once) thats all I can really discuss with some sort of accuracy. but at the same time I really think my feelings about sexuality can be followed generally.
    I
    n regards to:
    Female orgasm and sexual relationships…

    I just try to keep it pretty simple. I don’t really get frustrated in this department because I really don’t think of how I’m going to get one. I just try to be as sexy as hell, rock his world, and by doing that I’m guaranteed a great time. Which not only includes “great time hee hee” but also that I feel really appreciated and loved.
    Sometimes I think LDS women think “I need to have more love in our lovemaking to have more intimacy”
    and I think thats what messes up intimacy in marriages sometimes… because a woman thinks… well candles aren’t lit… and he’s not caressing my body with lotion and there’s no KENNY G saxyphone playing in the background!!!!!!!… so this is just sex and that means its not a sharing of love…. blah…

    I rarely have that… and I don’t expect it…. I think horny crazy sex is just as intimate… same goes for boring morning sex… same goes for quickie in the shower…

    I don’t get caught up in should I be doing this… should I not… what would the church think? Nope. and maybe I should get caught up in the whole “circle of life” sex is a ritual that bounds all through time… and maybe a part of me recognizes that because I don’t get caught up with the whole “HEY I GOT NEEDS TOO MISTER” attitude that some women have. I just do what comes natural… and thats turning on my husband and going with the flow.

    anyway sex is funny… and weird… and awesome… and annoying… and beautiful… and cool… and fun… and frustrating. but it is what it is… and its probably been all of those things since Adam and Eve both started doing it all those eons ago.

    Realizing the difference in sexual relationships…

    I think people need to TAKE a STEP BACK from generalizations.

    i.e.

    Men do not just want big boobed lingerie wearing crazy bathroom bar sex. Women do not just want romantic love making over looking a waterfall.

    The differences that I see between men and women is that we think that all these generalizations are the sexual wants/needs of the opposite. and they aren’t.

    in reality I think we both want the same thing. to feel valued. to feel wanted. to feel needed. to feel satisfied.

    And at different times to meet those needs its okay to want different things.

    men do appreciate and want and need tenderness… just as much as women. and women appreciate and want and need sex sex just as much as men.

    I think we aren’t that different. I think we just go about different ways of showing what we want. and thats what needs to be understood.

  44. Shellie,

    I appreciate you weighing in on the difference issue. I think what you’re responding to is part of what I’m getting at. There’s a sense in which negotiating the awkwardness of sex is part of responding to the other, which I have tried to discuss in all five posts.

    One thing I’m concerned about: “romantic love” and “having needs met” are kind of two peas in a pod: focus on either one (or both) might distract us from what is most important: the marriage itself. And if marriage is about building the kingdom of God, focusing just on meeting each other’s needs could move us away from that goal.

    I wonder if we could ever talk about sex for the sake of kingdom? Because so often, sex or marriage or whatever is focused on what it does for me (egoism) or my spouse or my family (individualism), but rarely on what role does it play in building the kingdom. There’s a thought experiment that’s worth pursuing.

  45. I think I’ve made all the points I need to make, I just want to clarify what I meant in my last comment:

    1. A society is made up of individuals, and I think the strength of a society is enhanced by the collective health of its individuals, so it is better for society to have healthy marriages grounded in love and obligation to each other.

    2. Joe, in my most recent comment, I repeatedly used words like obligation, responsibility, and sacrifice to demonstrate that I do not believe marriage is just the consummation of romantic feelings. I would agree that if a marriage was only founded in honeymoon-love it would not be very strong.

  46. (That was Daniel, btw).

  47. Joe
    “in my opinion, marriage is a practice meant to build up the kingdom of God. I form that opinion based on other practices and ordinances in which I have taken part. My opinion could be wrong, but there it is.”
    I have no issue with marriage being a practice meant to build up the kingdom of God. I do not believe that is restricted to procreation in this life. Remember with God all things are possible. Also remember the words of Joseph Smith Joseph Smith “Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and [more] boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive.”
    I assume your statement is referring to the temple endowment. Given that this is what your opinion is based upon we really cannot fully discuss it because out of respect for what is held sacred. But there are a few things I would mention. Just because the example of eternal marriage given in the endowment is opposite sex marriage does not mean God does not have room for same sex couples in the hereafter. In fact in the fifties when the church was working to keep interracial marriage illegal more than once the argument was given that interracial marriage is un-natural and if God wanted it this way he would have put it forth this way in the beginning giving an example in Adam and Eve. Remember the endowment apparently was not directly dictated to Joseph Smith, because it has been changed countless times since Kirkland.
    I fully disagree that a same sex couple cannot build up the kingdom of God. I know several examples of same sex couples that do that better than many opposite sex couples. They raise good children, practice Charity in real ways, and teach people to love God and their fellow man in every way. If this is not building up the Kingdom I do not know what is.
    So many times threw out history Prophets have made mistakes based on their personal prejudice. Abraham had slaves, Paul said women should veil their faces and not speak in church, Brigham Young said the Law of God was that anyone who mixed their seed with the African race should die. These in my opinion are all prophets called by God making mistakes based on their personal bigotry.
    I disagree with your interpretation of the News. When the leaders of the church ask its members to give millions to make same sex marriage illegal as well as very resent comments from Elder Wickman of the Seventy partly quoting Elder Oaks of the twelve. Maybe I have missed some big reversal in the last few days. If you are referring to their actions in SLC two months ago you have missed a lot.
    Also, can the act of making love with the one you love can be just as symbolic and beautiful for same sex couples as opposite sex couples. They can become one in just as a real way opposite couples do.
    If sex was only part of Gods plan if it was involved in procreation God leaves out a lot more people than homosexuals.

  48. Shellie, I like you. Hope you get everything you dream of.

    Joe, when I mow my lawn this weekend, I won’t be thinking about the “kingdom”. I just want to mow my lawn. Peace.

  49. “For Latter-day Saints, anyway, heterosexual marriage is a necessarily priority, due to the belief of eternal marriage and eternal procreation. There are many in this life who do not have the ability or opportunity to marry and have children (the ideal), but all who are faithful will, in the next life, be able to do so. This is a kind of relationship that has a clear priority.”

    That is quite a set-up for unhappiness in this life…

  50. robert,

    “For Latter-day Saints, anyway, heterosexual marriage is a necessarily priority, due to the belief of eternal marriage and eternal procreation. There are many in this life who do not have the ability or opportunity to marry and have children (the ideal), but all who are faithful will, in the next life, be able to do so. This is a kind of relationship that has a clear priority.”

    I have grown up in the church, did 4 and half years of seminary, went on a mission, got two degrees from BYU, married in the temple, etc. please show me where it says in the scriptures or in modern revelation that homosexual marriage would be excluded from this.

    “That is quite a set-up for unhappiness in this life…”

    What is it that you believe is a set-up for unhappiness?

    Because, being married in the temple to a woman that is gay for 16 years I know for certain is a set up for unhappiness. I also know that raising our children as divorced partners and my parental partner embracing her orientation is a clear set up for happiness. I know this to be true through prayer and experience, and I find nothing in the scriptures or in modern revelation to contradict it.

  51. I enjoy reading your writing, but I’m not sure exactly what your main point is. Maybe I’m slow…:-) Is it that society needs to recognize and appreciate differences between genders more fully? I’m totally with you there. Equality does not mean everyone is the same or gets the same stuff, as I tell my kids all the time:-).
    But, I wasn’t sure where you were going with the part about the church needing to embrace differences better. Did you mean the differences between genders or the differences between sexual orientations? If genders, then I’m not sure what evidence there is that the church as a whole doesn’t distinguish between genders. If sexual orientation, then I don’t think the church should “embrace” differences in that way.
    But, maybe I missed the whole point.?
    Love to hear any clarification you could give lil’ old me!

  52. You aren’t alone in misunderstanding what I’m attempting to convey. Part of the problem surely lies in my lack of clarity in many places. In my defense, however, I was intentionally vague in some areas as a way to encourage dialogue, rather than end it and encourage, instead, the sort of fruitless debate represented by the 50 other comments that have followed this post.

    Since you asked, though – and since interest in this post has seemed to wane – I’ll tell you quite specifically what I mean. It might take a while.

    First of all, what I mean is that we as a people should do a better job at making meaningful distinctions between genders and gender roles.

    When I said the “church” I did not mean the church as an organization – that was unintentionally vague. The church as an organization does just fine as one of the few Christian hold-outs that permits only men to hold the priesthood. (And, contrary to what many might believe, it is out of sacred duty that we maintain this practice, not because we are organizationally misogynistic.) Indeed, the upper-organization – in particular, the general authorities who hold permanent offices – often speak on the differences between the sexes as important (Elder Glenn Pace, as an example, gave a wonderful talk just Tuesday, which echoes many of the arguments I made early in this series).

    But the culture of the church – that seems to be a different story entirely. Both men and women are blinded to their appropriate roles by a culture that pushes them toward a destination other than the kingdom of God. The result is a massive confusion and, consequently, dissatisfaction of what our roles OUGHT to be.

    Does this mean we as a culture don’t distinguish between the sexes? Absolutely not. Mormons on the whole make quite a few distinctions between men and women – the distinctions just aren’t very meaningful, as far as I can tell.

    For example, I have often heard Mormon mothers complain that their husbands get all these perks at their job, which mothers don’t get: sick days, conferences on the beach, expensive meals with colleagues, the glamor of being recognized, and often substantial monetary compensation. These women (and there are many of them) see their husband’s work as mere money-making, as though it had nothing to do with raising a righteous posterity. They reduce their husband’s work down to an income with social and societal perks. What is worse, though, is that they reduce their own work down to the same thing – the only difference being that it doesn’t bring them the same income and perks. In other words, by complaining that their job doesn’t gain the same monetary and societal recognition, they are essentially admitting that compensation would make their job more worthwhile!

    In truth, it seems that money isn’t the issue. Comfort, though, does seem to be the issue. Mothering is hard work – no one can deny that. Who wouldn’t want – who wouldn’t NEED – a break from the job for a little while. And so women look to get a break from their work and, when they don’t get it, they resent the men in their lives that do get the breaks. This tends to blind Mormon women from seeing that there is work to do and that they are the one’s called to do it.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, men have work to do too, and they are guilty of the very same things women are: clamoring instead after money (or comfort), and neglecting their proper duties. Men often go to work seeing their job as “making money” and bringing it home, rather than building the kingdom and raising a righteous posterity. They are often quite incapable of working toward the kingdom, seeing their work instead as the vacation from home their wife so desires, and their conferences on the beach as a reprieve from all their duties to the kingdom.

    So what does this have to do with gender differences? Well, women can make money, too. So why forbid them from doing it? Indeed, if money is what it’s about and the man can’t cut it (because I want a smart phone), then why shouldn’t the woman go out and make some money? And if guys can change diapers too, then why don’t we just keep count of how many diapers each one of us has changed and then we can share the household chores equally and the woman can get her reprieve (though in the end, this will likely drive the man to want – and enjoy – his reprieve even more).

    What meaningful difference do gender differences make in these circumstances? Oh, if I’m a woman, I’ll stay home with the kids and give off the appearance of being different. But every once in a while (and for some, more often than not) I’ll resent my husband for being a man and being able to take trips on the company’s dime, or go to lunch with colleagues, or get his work published and recognized, because I could do all that too. I’ll stay home because the prophet asks me to, but I’ll gossip or blog with other women about my husband and how insensitive he is to my needs (or write a whole sex book, like Laura Brotherson). In the end, though my duty seems to be at home, I won’t do the work very well, because I’ll need time to spend with other mommies and online.

    If I’m a man, I’ll gladly go to work, because it gets me away from the kids. I’ll thank my lucky stars that I’m the one the prophets said should go to work, because of all the temporal benefits that come from that work. Of course, I won’t do MY work very well, because after all, it’s only for the sake of a paycheck – that’s all I have to bring home, isn’t it?

    This seems to me to characterize Mormon culture fairly well – at least, what I know of it. Gender differences in our culture are merely facades – and in some cases, not even that (I’m talking about the woman who decides she must work because $40,000 isn’t enough to live off, what with the mortgage, the new furniture, and my husband’s smart phone). We’re only acting out some sort of 1950s ideal because we have no idea what it means to “provide” or to “nurture,” as it states in the Proclamation. And in the end, it only ends in resentment, driving us as couples apart from one another – the worst sort of way to be married.

    Let me try to emphasize a point by quoting Wendell Berry:

    “There is an enormous difference between working to get some place, for the big payoff that will come later…and working with some serenity and pleasure at the work that is necessary and present…”

    It is clear that men and women have different roles and responsibilities in the building up of the kingdom, based on the scriptures and the Proclamation. But we have no idea what those roles are because all of us are just working to “get some place” – a promotion, a new home, even the celestial kingdom. We have lost sight of what it means to work “with some serenity and pleasure at the work that is necessary and present.”

    Obsessed with money and comfort, we – somewhere along the way – stopped seeing our gender roles as obligations and responsibilities, and instead starting seeing them as socially constructed – things we could simply choose to do, and simply choose not to do, without any significant repercussion.

    In sum, I am claiming not only that there are differences between the sexes, but that our gender roles were never meant to be “socially constructed” as they say. Instead, our gender roles were responsibilities and obligations given to us somewhere along the line, and they are part and parcel to the work of building up the kingdom. In other words, men and women are given different roles to play in building up the kingdom. We should discuss those roles, learn those roles, then work “with some serenity and pleasure” in fulfilling those roles. Else the kingdom cannot be built.

    ASIDE: While these posts were not intended to focus on gay marriage, others seemed to want it so. So I’ll just add this final note.

    As for as gay marriage is concerned, we seem to be dealing with the same problem. Nobody (heterosexual OR homosexual) speaks of obligations or responsibilities anymore. Instead, we speak of “attraction” and “personal preference” as though that were all there is to getting married. Is “attraction” and “personal preference” part of choosing to get married (and who you choose to marry)? Sure it is – but to say it is everything, or even the most important thing, is to be absolutely blind to the truth.

    Deciding who to marry must necessarily include an acknowledgement of and an embracing of our diverse gender responsibilities if we are to seek the kingdom of God. Ignoring those differences won’t make them go away. If you aren’t attracted to someone of the opposite sex, fine. But leave marriage – and I’m not talking about legal bindings, I’m talking about building the kingdom through marriage – the religious part of marriage, which two people of the same-sex are incapable of fulfilling together – if you are attracted to members of the same sex, have your civil unions, but leave marriage to those who are willing to fulfill their gender specific roles to society and to the building up of the kingdom.

  53. Ok, that makes it more clear. I get what you’re saying.

    Although this:

    “This seems to me to characterize Mormon culture fairly well – at least, what I know of it. Gender differences in our culture are merely facades ”

    and what came before it, I think might be your perspective and experience because you live in Utah..
    Ha ahahahahah

    Just kidding…….but, not really.
    I have seen some gender retardation in families, but for the most part, the people I see in the church get it-they get the different roles, and if the mother is working because her husband lost his job-she hates it, and wishes she could be home with her kids.

    But, there is definitely some worldly infiltration that influences members of the church.
    Anyway, thanks for making it clear for me:-)
    Happy writing in the future.

  54. I’m guessing few have read the lengthy comment I posted above. Those who have may have noticed a tone that I didn’t intend. As I re-read this comment yesterday (out loud to friends – that’s how egotistical I am), I realized I may appear to some as overgeneralizing. I did not intend to come across that way.

    You should know that my comment was meant to be rhetorical, not to represent any – or even just one – woman or man.

    One of my friends was kind enough to forward a link to me of one (Mormon?) woman’s blog who says what I tried to say differently and better. Feel free to take a glance: http://blog.cjanerun.com/2010/03/i-am-not-it-turns-out.html

  55. Joe,

    Thanks for that (long) response to Sara’s comment. Though your posts were enjoyable to read, your summation in that recent comment made your point so neatly and nicely. (At least the point I think you were making.)

    I agree! Gender differences and roles are given to us as responsibilities and obligations to fulfill. That one man or woman seems more naturally fitted than another to the role is to be expected (and beside the point).

    To build the Kingdom of God in the way He wants (really, the only possible way), both genders must necessarily be coupled together. No two women together or two men together—be they the most loving, committed, faithful, righteous people in the world—can fulfill what God intends a marriage to be.

    Women and men would be wise to figure out what our differences REALLY are and how they are or can or should be complementary. When I’ve done that, I’ll let you know.

  56. Joe,

    Thank you for being more specific. I think I understand better what you mean. You have very interesting opinions, but I do not see how you can claim that they have anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Even the proclamation seems to contradict what you are saying. “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” This implies to me that the roles put forth here are guidelines and the couple needs to work out together in prayer how to raise their children.

    Where does God out line the specific rigid responsibilities of men and women in marriage? I believe that there are many people in the LDS culture take their responsibilities very seriously and work together to figure out how does it all get done. How do you care for the children, support the household, do your church callings, support your children in school and activity in church and other activities, and teach them the gospel? This is a massive job today and it seems to get bigger. I see many LDS couples figuring this out in many different ways. Most figuring it out with much less money than non-LDS counterparts, and they do so happily.

    I believe you make a lot of assumptions with the Gospel if you are saying that gender roles are very rigidly specified by God and if people’s situations do not fit specific traditional gender roles than they are not building the Kingdom.

  57. Joe,

    Can you help me understand how these statements fit together.

    “I am talking about building the kingdom. If gay couples would like legal rights, they can have them as far as I’m concerned (and as far as the LDS church is concerned, too, in case you haven’t been watching the news).”

    “if you are attracted to members of the same sex, have your civil unions, but leave marriage to those who are willing to fulfill their gender specific roles to society and to the building up of the kingdom.”

  58. Gail,

    In response to your first comment, I’d ask “where do I claim that God has outlined specific rigid responsibilities of men and women in marriage?” I have not yet claimed that he has. Indeed, most of what I have said about those roles might fit well with your statement that “the couple needs to work out together in prayer…” If that seems incorrect to you, please point out to me where I seemed to have assumed otherwise.

    As for your second comment, let me respond this way: Building the kingdom of God requires work. Men and women have different work to do in marriage, as well in bearing and rearing children. One thing that often gets in the way of getting the work done is an over-concern with what’s right (with my rights, or with what I’m due given my efforts, with what’s mine or what I’m owed by society or by my spouse or by the church or by God…) and an under-concern with doing the work. Consequently, our vision has become clouded.

    I’m trying to clear away the cloud and get back to work. That’s all.

  59. Joe,

    “In response to your first comment, I’d ask “where do I claim that God has outlined specific rigid responsibilities of men and women in marriage?” I have not yet claimed that he has. Indeed, most of what I have said about those roles might fit well with your statement that “the couple needs to work out together in prayer…” If that seems incorrect to you, please point out to me where I seemed to have assumed otherwise.”

    If two people’s roles in marriage or in raising children can ebb and flaw not rigidly restricted by their gender, then I don’t see your point at all. If this is the case the differences you refer to that help us build charity and make it possible for a couple to build the kingdom are not contingent on gender.

    As for my second comment:
    “I am talking about building the kingdom. If gay couples would like legal rights, they can have them as far as I’m concerned (and as far as the LDS church is concerned, too, in case you haven’t been watching the news).”
    “if you are attracted to members of the same sex, have your civil unions, but leave marriage to those who are willing to fulfill their gender specific roles to society and to the building up of the kingdom.”
    In the first comment you claim you have no problem with gay couples having the legal rights of marriage. In the second it sounds like you are violently apposed to that. It sounds like you have no problem with gay couples having civil unions but you want to stay out of the marriage business. There are nearly a thousand federal marriage rights that civil unions cut people out of. So help me understand to believe they should have these rights or do you not.

  60. Gail,

    I see now what you’re talking about with that second comment. By legal rights, I’m referring to civil unions. So I’m opposed to defining marriage as between, for example, two people who love each other. But I see no reason to deny two people who love each other legal rights – even civil unions – that protect their loving relationship. I believe, however, that marriage should be reserved for two people of opposite sex, both of whom are committed to fulfilling their unique responsibilities associated with marriage and with their gender role within marriage.

    As for this last issue, about gender roles ebbing and flowing, I see the problem we’re having here:

    You feel that, EITHER the gender roles are universal and inviolable, and thus should not change; OR, they are flexible and they can be whatever we make them. I am not arguing for either cause.

    Maybe a better way to see it (though it still fails to capture what I really think is true) is to see it as a mix of those views. For example, women are the only beings physically capable of bearing children (even Schwarzenegger was incapable, though it might seem otherwise). This is something relatively fixed.

    This fact of nature constrains the roles men can have in childbearing. They can fetch ice chips and hold their wifes hand; they can coach the breathing – they can even sit at the mother’s feet and catch the baby as it comes out. But they can’t grunt and complain about the pain; and they certainly can’t relate to other women the same way a mother can.

    Men’s roles in childbearing are relative to the context, but they aren’t entirely socially constructed. They are grounded in the biological (fixed, if you will) constraints of being a man. In that sense, their role is flexible, but constrained.

    Part of my call is to start seeing sex and gender as intricately tied together as they are in my example above (see D&C 88:15 to understand why).

  61. Oh, and as far as the federal government is concerned, I think it ought to get out of marriage, too. It has no idea (in my opinion) what marriage ought to be, and I’m sick of it pretending to. That goes in particular for the state of Utah. I should add the my “definition” of marriage, with its responsibilities, would preclude many heterosexual couples from marrying as well, just because their “in love” but nothing else. This relates to my earlier discussion on the “nuclear family” and individualism.

  62. Joe,

    What I am hearing is that the only example of a rigidly prescribed gender role you can come up with is the actual physically bearing of children. So all the many thousands of couples regardless of gender that can’t have biological children what you are saying about gender roles and differences does not apply or are you saying that none of these couples differences will help them develop charity and they have no ability to help build the kingdom? Also for example since I have 4 children then there has been only 4 times in my and my spouses life where our differences helped us build charity or that we built the kingdom as a couple?

    Also in the way of clarification, you believe that the government should get out of the marriage business all together and that there should only legally be civil unions and that marriage should only be a religious ceremony?

  63. Joe,

    “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”

    Clarifying, you are taking this to mean that you need to have different genitals in order to build the kingdom with someone else.

  64. You asked for an example, and when I gave it to you, you made it gospel. That is obviously not point, Gail. I never mean to reduce differences down to biology – that should have been pretty clear.

    My point was, biology has (or should have) social correlates. That is part of Mormon doctrine: the soul is both body and spirit. So where something affects the body, it affects the spirit; and vice versa. I don’t think I used the word “rigid,” I believe I used the word “constrain.” You’re trying to close it down; I’m trying to open it up.

    For you, it is either “biological and universal” or “non-biological and relative,” is that right? I’ve already told you that I don’t follow either camp. I don’t believe there is a true division. Please read my comments a little more carefully before responding.

  65. Joe,

    You are trying to make the point that if a couple does not have a very specific gender make up (man and woman), than your relationship does not build charity and the couple does not have the ability to build the kingdom. If this is the point you are making than it is rigid. It is highly dependent on proving that there is something specific in the gender roles that builds the kingdom and build the charity. By attempting to argue this very rigid and specific thing has set up the rigid constraints. If this is really what you are trying to prove you can not open it up without saying that the genders of the participants with in the marriage do not matter any marriage or couple can build charity within their relationship and they can build the kingdom dependant only on the other principles you are talking about. If you do not believe that those things can happen unless the couple consist of a man and a woman than can not open it up. If you are not tying it strictly to biology, how can you than make the point that it depends strictly on a biological make up of the couple for any of what you are saying to work?

    If the only example of gender roles in marriage is physical procreation does not this have implications to the rest of your argument? When you argue that it is roles within marriage that are based on the physical gender of the participants that gives the couple the ability to build the kingdom, then those specific roles or examples would be what in in of themselves that builds the kingdom. If you arguing that it is only the physical act of procreation that makes it possible for a couple to build the kingdom than that really limits your interpretation of what it means to build the kingdom. Are you really saying that physical procreation is the only way to build the kingdom? If this is the case you are cutting a lot of people out of God’s plan.

    Again you assume a lot from the doctrinal belief that the spirit and the body make up the soul. Your thesis does not naturally flow form this scripture.

  66. Gail,

    I don’t think Joe is saying that procreation is the only way to build the kingdom. Nor is he saying that male and female roles in such are the only things that differentiate them. Clearly there are many other things (e.g., hormones).

    Concerning your argument that a lot of people are being cut out of God’s plan. First, I think a big part of Joe’s point is that sexual difference (which includes procreation and everything that comes with it) is crucial to God’s plan. This isn’t rocket science. From an LDS perspective, God desires all of his children to be in eternal loving relationships where they do what their heavenly parents do — conceive, bear, and raise children. Eternally. Doing this is not just about procreation. This example is simply the most obvious (to everyone) of male-female differences. I would hold that gender differences are much more significant than some would think, in terms of these eternal relationships. (But I don’t think that means that all men are the same and all women are the same.)

    To help prepare His children (generally) for this goal, as well as to help further His plan, He has given us procreation powers here and now. The fact that these powers require a man and woman points to the ideal eternal standard–the standard that was instituted in the Garden of Eden. One woman and one man. As a result of the Fall, many do not have this opportunity here and now. (Just as many do not have the opportunity to enter the new and everlasting covenant here and now.) Many die in childhood. Many never have a realistic opportunity at marriage — and this includes many who have, to no fault of their own, attraction to the same sex. Others marry but are unable to have biological children. Some adopt but this option is not available to all. In some circumstances, polygamous relationships are necessary — I do not believe this is the eternal ideal, and I am not convinced that there will necessarily be any polygamous relationships in heaven — but, unlike same-sex relations, polygamous heterosexuality still is able to retain the eternal standard of male-female copulation and conception. Of course, many people can adopt — and this is a good thing. But even my friends who cannot have natural children will insist that having biological children is ideal. Were they able to do so, they would. This does NOT mean that parents should love their adopted children less — any more than parents should love children with disabilities less. It is simply to say that neither adoption or disability is ideal. My narcolepsy is not ideal — but people with narcolepsy are no less important. Poverty is not ideal — but poor people are no less important. And the inability to bear and raise children with your romantic partner is not ideal — but these individuals are no less important.

    The problem with same-sex romantic relationships is that they do not recognize (unlike most heterosexual couples who cannot have children but adopt) that the inability to have children is a societal deficit that runs against the grain of thousands of years of history. They cannot — in principle — have children together, whereas heterosexual couples may be able to in the next life. (I do think God is often liberal in his views, but to hold out on same-sex couples being able to have children in the eternities — who knows, I guess, I won’t tell God what He can’t do — is absurd. This absurdity is not the case for heterosexual couples who cannot have children in this life. Infertile sperm and egg problems will presumably be repaired. But it takes a lot of creativity to suppose men will be growing wombs or women packing sperm.

    Moreover, I believe it is a lie that our society teaches people with same-sex attraction that this is a part of who they fundamentally ARE. I’m not arguing for sexual-orientation change therapies (though I find it amusing that many people opposed to these therapies are in favor of sex-change therapies and ignore the evidence that these therapies are not effective in alleviating gender identity disorder), but I am saying that this is another reason why same-sex relationships are so damaging, from an LDS perspective. It is not who they fundamentally ARE, any more than I am fundamentally a narcoleptic. In fact, I oppose the word “narcoleptic” because that’s not who I am. I am a person with this problem. That’s all. These identity lies are not typically associated with heterosexual parents who adopt.

  67. Wow, I just read this post and couldn’t read all the numerous replies, but I think Joe is brave to put this out there. From an old lady, you are right…men and women are So different. And I love being different.
    couple of points:
    The Church did NOT put a lot of money into prop. 8…it just encouraged members to be active.
    I think we should defend marriage in other ways also…i.e., not opting for divorce at the first sign of “unhappiness.” If this is truly an eternal thing, dig in, stick it out. Our divorce rate is just too high to successfully defend marriage.

  68. Dennis,

    Procreation is the only example Joe was able to come up. So different hormones and different anatomy are others, but what about these things build the kingdom and foster charity more than other differences.

    If procreation is what prepares us to work eternally for this plan, than are the millions of people that don’t physically procreate not preparing in this life for the Celestial Kingdom. You list many people that are exceptions this rule that you do not believe are cut out of Gods plan, what makes same sex couples any different than these other exceptions? I do not believe that God sees them as any less important either. If you are going to say this is all tied to gender roles and is contingent to different sexes in marriage you need to point out why. So far the only argument has been that same sex couples can not physically procreate. When it is pointed out that many others do not physically procreate you merely say the rest are exceptions to the rule. Come on.

    Through out the ages people with in the gospel have made assumptions based on cultural norms and bigotry. The examples of this are seen threw out history. None of these things could be justified with the scriptures or with revelation, but because it was just common since. Please forgive me if I am skeptical when a principle can not be illustrated through logic, scriptures, or even revelation but just makes since to so many people.

  69. Gail,

    re-read parts 1-3 of this series.

  70. Joe O.,

    I reread the first three parts. In fact I reread all five parts. I am not sure what you wanted me to get from this, but I do have a few thoughts.

    I would like to start by commenting on what you set out to illustrate in this five part series on difference in marriage.

    “This is the first in a five-part series on marriage, wherein I discuss charity in marriage, why the gay community should favor marriage between a man and a woman, and why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage.”
    Your first point discussing charity in marriage you did this very well, all great points for any relationship romantic or other wise. The second point I did not see where you did anything to explain why gay people should be in favor of marriage between a man and a woman, but you have no need to make this point the evidence is clear that most gay people and the gay community if such a thing excites is in favor of marriage between man an woman. I believe you would be hard pressed to find a single example of a gay person that has said anything specifically against gay marriage, but it is easy to find examples of gay people defending man woman marriage. Your last point why Latter-day Saints are not positioned well to defend against gay marriage, I struggle with this one. We have talked about the fact that there is nothing to defend against. Gay marriage fights no one. This statement is only a euphemism for attacking gay marriage. Next I have also talked about that I agree that Later-day saints do have no justification for their hostility against gay marriage. Not in the scriptures or in revelation not even in the Proclamation.

    I would like to comment next on the foundation of all your comments, which I might ad is well laid for your first of all your intentions in your series. You talk about the symbolism of our “creation narrative.” Yes, we learn from the symbolism not the biological literalism of this story, which in my mind tells me it can apply broadly to all humanity not just to one race, religion, or sexual orientation. You used the words “creation narrative” by which I infer that you see the story as symbolic in it self and not necessarily a literal rendition of actual events. You may not feel this way, but this is what I infer from your word choice.

    “I do not know what these social differences ought to look like. I don’t even know if they should be universal (i.e., cut across all cultures). But if what I argue is correct, then we must at least start talking about differences. In order to defend marriage – and in doing so, defend a tolerant and loving society – differences must be there. If we aren’t different, then we can’t learn to love difference. And if we can’t learn to love difference, we not only fail to defend marriage, but we fail to defend charity.”

    To end on your final words, which I agree with, I agree with everything you have said about differences fostering charity. I also agree that we should defend a tolerant and loving society. Being LDS I love my culture, my church, and my faith. It is very painful to see my church and my fellow members work so very hard against these statements. To work to keep one type of marriage illegal is down right hateful. And it hurts real families, including my own. Much is said by my church leaders and fellow members about the back lash after prop 8. Even you mentioned this in your series. May I ask what we expected as members when we give millions in money and thousands of hours in time to take away the sacred precious gift of marriage from good people and good families? May I also ask what is our moral obligation when someone works against the family of someone we love or even our own family? Is it not to legally assemble? Is it not to stand up and speak out? May it not include choosing not to give businesses my money that fought against our family? Are these actions promoting a society that loves and embraces differences? Are not these actions promoting a society that is therefore charitable?

  71. Gail,

    You and I will go back and forth simply because you do not accept a foundational premise of mine: men and women are different. Not just physically, but spiritually also – differences that should manifest at the level of SOUL.

    Being different from people is what helps us confront that which is other than us and teaches us what we love, giving us the chance to love. Thus, all relationships (as you state) are equipped to teach us charity.

    Two things about marriage equip us further: sex and fidelity. Through sex, we confront difference in its fullest expression. That is, we as a couple (potentially) expose ourselves both physically and spiritually, making ourselves completely vulnerable before the other – something we rarely (if ever) do in other relationships. Through fidelity, we clear our mind of all other “soul-full” relationships, enabling us to focus on the one who is infinitely other than we are and recognize that infinity characterizes all others (see post #3).

    If, as I assume, men and women are fundamentally different, then the deepest kind of charity we can learn is in this intimate, faithful relationship with a person of the opposite sex. True, all other relationships can provide with a knowledge of difference and the capacity to love difference, but those differences less easily develop beyond superficial difference.

    Without marriage between man and women – marriages of which BOTH sexuality and fidelity are a part – the fullness (if you will, which you probably won’t) of charity can not be realized. I said what I did earlier about gays and the gay community (if such exists) because they often seem to cry for love and tolerance. If what I say is correct, then they need heterosexual marriage MORE THAN they need homosexual marriage, because heterosexual marriage has more potential to teach children about love and charity. This isn’t hateful, this is living truthfully.

    Quite frankly, I agree that we as LDS tend to demean, look down upon, even spit upon homosexuals. I, like you, would like to see more charity shown these people – particularly among those who claim to be followers of Christ. That is part of why I am addressing my comments to the LDS public, and not to homosexuals or to government officials. Like I said, I am in favor of offering rights to same-sex couples.

    Gail, I wish you could see beyond your own problems. I’m sorry for the experiences you have had with people in your own family – I really am. Too much unnecessary suffering takes place because we (as LDS) misunderstand what it means to “be” homosexual. I do not advocate everything that was said in anticipation of and after the passing of Prop 8, and there were certainly hurtful things on both sides. That’s why I’m doing this.

    I’m not trying to say that gay people are bad people. I’m not trying to say that they deserve something less than I deserve, because I’m not attracted to men (which may or may not be true – notice you have no idea what my own status is, but simply assume that I’m a happily married heterosexual – or something of the sort). I’m not trying to oppress anyone. I’m simply trying to argue that maybe there is more to marriage than we think there is. And maybe since we fail to recognize that there’s more to marriage – whether we’re heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, polygamist, etc. – then we’re left with a society that doesn’t know how to confront the fundamental issue.

    Political advocacy as charity? Politics is politics, and rarely is there charity in such an abstract engagement with the country and community. Instead, we end up (here, for example) talking past each other because we’re unwilling to listen to each other. I think we saw how easily that happened in anticipation of and after CA voted on Prop 8. Like you, it disgusted me. There was no charity there.

    What then is our moral obligation to those who work to destroy our families? Love them and forgive them. Turn the other cheek. Show them that true love consists in forgiving. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” And then maybe we can turn to our own and teach them how best to love.

    That is what I’m trying to do here with these posts: teach my own community how to love. I hate that this has become about gay marriage – I’m sorry I ever even mentioned the damn thing. As far as I’m concerned, it just gets in the way. Instead of us (LDS) talking about how to be married well, we vaunt ourselves above these people who “don’t even know what love is.” Then we go home and continue to live our separate lives of self-deception with no consideration of the damage we are doing to our communities and to our children. I’m sick of gay marriage not because I oppose it, but because by throwing it up in our faces, gays have distracted us from what really matters and we have no idea why marriage should be between a man and a woman, so we SUCK at it.

    And then you know what happens? I try to get on a blog and start a dialogue with Mormons about what it might mean to be married to someone of the opposite sex and it gets sabotaged by people who want to make it about gay marriage. I’m done with that, Gail. I’m done. I take back all I ever said in these posts about gay marriage and I refuse to engage you anymore unless we talk about what I wanted to talk about. How’s that for selfish.

  72. Joe O.,

    I do not believe you to be a hateful person. In fact I think I understand that you wrote this in part to try and improve the situation for homosexuals in the church. You are right I do not know anything about you. Straight, gay, man, woman, married, or single.

    My intent is not in anyway to attack you personally. I am sorry if I have in anyway. I can get carried away blogging and forget that I am having a discussion with real live people with feelings.

    To clarify I do not disagree with the fact that men and women are different in more than just the physical. In fact I agree with many of your points. My intent is to illustrate that no logic or theology will bring these things to show that an opposite sex couple is any capable of charity or building up the kingdom.

    I understand that you do not wish to advocate against taking rights form anyone. And you may think that being for civil unions is for equal rights, but the fact is to argue against same sex marriage is working against those couples and does nothing to defend opposite sex couples.

    “we have no idea why marriage should be between a man and a woman” The core of your post is this assumption. That marriage should only be between man and woman. The problem with what has happened is that there is no logic or theology that it is based upon. Yes you want the hatred to stop. But if we as members of the LDS faith allow these unsupported premises to go unchallenged we will continue to have the same hatred in our culture, because these assumptions are at the root of the hate. LDS people at our core I believe are loving, but why did we as a people support lies in support of prop 8, why did work to take away Californians rights, why do we continue to make it more difficult for some families to raise children, why do we continue to foster the type of culture that gay members continue to commit suicide at an alarming rate, because we allow our own prejudice to be unchallenged.

    When you post your ideas on a forum for LDS discussion, I as a LDS man and any one else that reads it will and should question your underling premises. When you hold as a premise something that has no support in theology or logic it is time to show light on it. Our LDS assumption that only romantic love coming from those that are heterosexual can develop true charity, or can build the kingdom of God these ideas are what fuel the bigotry, they are what fuel the culture that is toxic for homosexual Mormons. We must shine light on these prejudice assumptions that have no foundation.

    This type of thinking has happened before within our church and our culture.

    Through the 20the century I do not believe any of our church leaders had any desire for the hatred and abuses that happened in our country against blacks to continue. I do not believe that any of them wanted the lynching’s and the beatings to continue, but some inadvertently promoted the very thinking the fueled it.

    In 1954 in a talk to BYU Elder Mark E. Peterson said:

    “[The Negro] is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a café where white people sit. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar….[I]t appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is the objective and we must face it….Remember the little statement that they used to say about sin, “First we pity, then endure, then embrace.””

    I believe Elder Peterson had no intention to promote the very ideas that drove the KKK, but he believed the idea that was not supported through logic or scripture or revelation. That blacks were some how tainted or cursed. This idea is not in the scriptures or any revelation, but it drove our policy and church political actions. It also drove the lynching’s and the beatings.

    In 1946 in a talk to the YWMIA conference J Rueben Clark of the First presidency said this:

    ”We should hate nobody, and having said that, I wish to urge a word of caution, particularly to you young girls. It is sought today in certain quarters to break down all race prejudice, and at the end of the road, which they who urge this see, is intermarriage. That is what it finally comes to. Now, you should hate nobody; you should give to every man and every woman, no matter what the color of his or her skin may be, full civil rights. You should treat them as brothers and sisters, but do not ever let that wicked virus get into your systems that brotherhood either permits or entitles you to mix races which are inconsistent.”

    So in the same breath he asks for full civil rights and denies them.

    One year latter in a letter to members in CA the full first presidency, George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay said this:
    “No special effort has ever been made to proselyte among the Negro race, and social intercourse between the Whites and the Negroes should certainly not be encouraged because of leading to intermarriage, which the Lord has forbidden.
    This move which has now received some popular approval of trying to break down social barriers between the Whites and the Blacks is one that should not be encouraged because inevitably it means the mixing of the races if carried to its logical conclusion.”
    So these three loving men who did not believe in hatred, than advocate keeping the barriers between whites and blacks, to not share the redemptive gospel with blacks, and discourages social intercourse between the raises (advocating segregation).
    If we as members do not shine light on our prejudice ourselves we will inadvertently promote the very ideas that allow hatred and bigotry to continue.

  73. […] was going over a five-part series on marriage written by the poster Joe O over there…and I found this a reasonable and thoughtful […]

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