Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment Part III: The Social Science Case

The LDS Church, along with 54 other religious leaders, signed a letter which supports the Marriage Protection Amendment. While obviously a plea from the religious side of the aisle, these religious leaders also give evidence of their view that traditional marriage is good and even essential to our society. They call this evidence, “Top 10 Social Scientific Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage.” The ten are as follows:

1. Children hunger for their biological parents
2. Children need fathers
3. Children need mothers
4. Inadequate evidence on same sex couple parenting
5. Children raised in same sex homes experience gender and sexual disorders
6. Vive la difference
7. Sexual fidelity
8. Marriage, procreation, and the fertility implosion
9. For the sake of the children
10. Women and marriage domesticate men

Each point is made using evidence from studies conducted by social scientists hailing from universities such as Yale and Stanford. It is hard, researched, and quite frankly damning evidence. Much of this research was conducted not to discredit gay marriage, but in response to other societal factors working against the traditional family.

Some may scoff that these points advocate a “Leave It To Beaver” family and ignore the reality of an ever-dwindling “family” structure.

Those people would be right.

The "Ten Arguments" do advocate a return to traditional families. That's because science says the traditional family works the best. Science has told us what a family should be, and why it is important.

Consider this statement from Sara McLanahan, a Princeton University sociologist quoted on the Religious Coalition for Marriage website,

“If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would also provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting. The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.”

The two-parent ideal. Two parents biologically connected to their children. This is the best way to provide for children. This is what a “family” should be. All of our efforts should be put towards protecting and reinforcing this ideal.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment Part II: The Religious Case

The LDS perspective on marriage and family, and by extension, homosexual marriage, is clearly stated in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World". The Proclamation was read by Church President Gordon B Hinckley at the General Relief Society Meeting September 23, 1995. It was drafted by prophets and proclaimed to the world as doctrine. It contains many important points pertaining to the gay marriage debate. These include:

-Marriage between man and woman is ordained of God

-Gender is an essential characteristic of our eternal identity and purpose

-God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife

-Marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan

-The first commandment God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife

-The disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

The document concludes by calling 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."

In the October 1998 General Conference, President Hinckley answered commonly asked questions. Question 2 was "What is your Church’s attitude toward homosexuality?" President Hinckley answered,

"In the first place, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. We believe that marriage may be eternal through exercise of the power of the everlasting priesthood in the house of the Lord.

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families."

In the May, 1984 Ensign, President Ezra Taft Benson said,

"Do not commit adultery "nor do anything like unto it." (D&C 59:6.) That means petting, fornication, homosexuality, and any other form of immorality."

President Spencer W. Kimball spoke often on the subject of immorality, including homosexuality. One notable instance is found in the June 1971 Ensign article titled, "Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future."

Ancient scripture supports our modern prophets. God soundly rejects homosexuality by condemning Sodom in Gen 19:5, Deut 23:17, Isa 3:9, and Jude 1:7. He further condemns homosexual acts as sin in Rom 1:27, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:10.

Any form of homosexual marriage is in direct conflict with these doctrinal truths. Furthermore, the Proclamation asserts that allowing gay marriages will "bring about the calamities foretold by the prophets". I imagine it is for this reason that we are urged to "strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society". Indeed, in the book Gospel Doctrine: Selection from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, it states,

"After we have done all we could do for the cause of truth, and withstood the evil that men have brought upon us,... it is still our duty to stand. We cannot give up; we must not lie down. Great causes are not won in a single generation. To stand firm in the face of overwhelming opposition, when you have done all you can, is the courage of faith. The courage of faith is the courage of progress. Men who possess that diving quality go on; they are not permitted to stand still if they would. They are not simply the creatures of their own power and wisdom; they are instrumentalities of a higher law and a divine purpose."

There is not, and there never has been, any ambiguity concerning God’s view of homosexuality.

It is a sin.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Times News Letter on "Spoils of War"

This letter appeared in the Times-News (Twin Falls) this week:

"Why America can win wars and lose the peace:

We don’t accept the rules established long ago in a far off land. You go to war when attacked or when you want or need something others have. When you win in either case, you take the spoils of war. That’s how England, Spain, Germany, Rome, France (under Napoleon) and all other major powers did it. That’s how they became world powers.

You may choose not to accept the concept, but it will change nothing. After the Second World War, we helped Germany and Japan recover. That recovery has caused the international decline in the value of the US dollar, allowed our own economic recovery to suffer to the extent that we import goods that we used to export and we export jobs that put Americans in a position where they can ill afford to buy the goods they used to make.

We went into Iraq, not to keep the world safe for democracy but for the oil. They have it and we need it. If you don’t believe that, I’d like to sell you some waterfront New Orleans property still under water. The problem is if we accepted the rules, we would not =be getting gasoline for 29 cents a gallon.

It isn’t as if we have never known the rules; we took the land from the natives who were here when we came. Oh, it isn’t as if we stole the land, we gave them glass beads, junk jewelry, cholera and smallpox. But we got the land. It’s just in recent times that we’ve lost the vision or the honesty to admit the way things work."

Vaughn Phelps
Twin Falls

Here is my response:

"Vaughn Phelps recently wrote about the “spoils of war”. According to Mr. Phelps, the European “powers” got their power by winning wars and taking the spoils. He wants us to believe that the US should “accept the concept” and do the same. He even goes so far as to blame the declining dollar and the trade deficit on our efforts to reconstruct Germany and Japan after WWII. I guess his thinking is that we should have conquered and enslaved them, at least economically. However, Mr. Phelps’s line of argument fails to remember that Germany was taken as spoils of war after WWI. Historical perspective teaches that Germany’s economic enslavement to the other European powers resulted in a Nazi-Germany caused Holocaust and the continent-wide destruction of WWII. It’s safe to say that the world learned its lesson. Instead of heavy handedness, we extended the hand of forgiveness and showed the axis powers countries a better way. They have in turn rewarded the world with technological advances and competition that has forced US companies to be better. And because their economies have prospered, they have fewer reasons to seek the “spoils” that war offers.

This strategy can work in Iraq as well. Let that nation be a beacon of democracy and free enterprise in a region of oppression and poverty. Let’s help Iraq prosper just as we helped Germany and Japan. If we are successful, the world will be a better place for them and for us. And we won’t even need any “spoils” to make it so."

This letter was printed in the Times-News Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Deseret News Letters on Gay Marriage

This letter appeared in the Deseret News recently:

"It baffles me how blatantly hypocritical the conservative movement and many heterosexuals have been throughout the entire gay marriage debate. If this issue were actually about preserving the sanctity of marriage and family, not just a definition in the dictionary, then I say we ban heterosexuals from being able to marry as well.

After all, who are the ones really responsible for the rotting state of the contemporary family? Don't blame me, a gay man prohibited from even having a family of my own, for the destructive threat to your families. Take a good look in the mirror and realize you only have yourselves to thank. Take a good look at your marriages of convenience and painless, here-today-gone-tomorrow divorces, the rampant, sickening incidence of spousal and child abuse and the never-ending cycle of infidelity and deceit that destroy the lives of your children. Where is the real threat here?"

Russ Adamson

I sent my response today:

"Russ Adamson decries the “blatantly hypocritical conservative movement” regarding gay marriage. Thank you Mr. Adamson for reminding us all to reevaluate the state of marriage in this country. It is indeed weaker than in the past. We have not upheld it as we should have. But with all due respect Mr. Adamson, pointing out another’s faults does not hide your own. Allowing gay marriage will not help to solve the problems we face. It will only add to them. History has shown this to be true. Studies by renowned social scientists from our best universities have shown it to be true.

The family is the fundamental unit of society. The ideal family consists of a father and a mother raising children of their own. This ideal may not be attainable in all cases, but we should be moving towards it, not further from it."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Marriage Protection Amendment: Part I

The Marriage Protection Amendment was finally brought to a vote in the Senate. Sort of. The vote was actually just to decide if the Senate was to debate the issue or not. 49 Senators voted yea, 48 voted nay. While a majority of Senators voted to bring the amendment up for debate, they fell short of the 60 votes they needed. So the amendment was shelved for a time. Both of Idaho's senators voted yea. Here is a breakdown of how each senator voted. It was mostly a partisan vote, with all but two Democrats voting nay:

Byrd (D-WV)
Nelson (D-NE)

Most Republicans voted yea, with these exceptions:
Chafee (R-RI)
Collins (R-ME)
Gregg (R-NH)
McCain (R-AZ)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Sununu (R-NH)

Three Senators didn't vote at all:

Dodd (D-CT)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Hagel (R-NE)

The most notable Republican nay voter was Senator Jon McCain. He is currently the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Some believe his nay vote may have hurt his chances for the nomination. Unfortunately for Idaho, we have little to no say in the matter because the nomination is generally locked up by the time we vote on it. But that's a topic for another day.

In any event, the Marriage Protection Amendment is not going away. It has been heavily lobbied for a few years now by groups like the American Family Association, among others. In fact, it may come up again this year.

Needless to say it is a highly charged issue. Which is why I have a hard time respecting the opinion that the vote on the amendment was solely a political move pandering to the religious right within the Republican Party. This is an amendment that has been gaining momentum for a number of years. It has slowly jumped through the bureaucratic hoops required of all amendments. Meanwhile, individual states have been voting on and passing amendments to state constitutions; 20 of them already. Idaho will be voting on its own amendment this fall. 45 of the 50 states have passed some sort of law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. All of this state activity, along with public opinion polls, would suggest that gay marriage is an issue that the public very much wants the Senate to act on. If the Senate's sole motivation is to "pander" to its constituents, then so be it. That's part of what they were elected to do. It is far better than not listening at all. But whether or not the Senate should have voted on the amendment avoids the real issue:

Should marriage be only between a man and a woman? If so, is it important enough to pass an amendment to the US Constitution?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Peculiar People

"We should not allow our personal values to erode, even if others think we are peculiar. "

—President James E. Faust
Ensign, May 1998, 19

Monday, June 12, 2006

Jane Richards and the Iowa Crossing

From "Church History in the Fullness of Times" Institute Manual, pg 319:

Jane Richards made the trek across Iowa late in 1846 without her husband, Franklin D. Richards, who was on his way to England. Franklin D. Richards was a high priest who would be called into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles three years later. Jane's little daughter, Wealthy, was ill and died at Cutler Park after weeks of incredible suffering. Sister Richards wrote one incident of the story:
"A few days previously she had asked for some potato soup, the first thing she had shown any desire for for weeks, and as we were then traveling, we came in sight of a potato-field. One of the sisters eagerly asked for a single potato. A rough woman impatiently heard her story through, and putting her hands on her shoulders, marched her out of the house, saying, 'I won't give or sell a thing to one of you damned Mormons.' I turned on my bed and wept, as I heard them trying to comfort my little one in her disappointment. When she was taken from me I only lived because I could not die."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Joseph Fielding Smith: "Acquire Attributes of Godliness"

"We must endure to the end; we must keep the commandments after baptism; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; we must so live as to acquire the attributes of godliness and become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom."—Joseph Fielding Smith (Ensign, November 1971, p. 5.)

"become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom."

To be in God's presence, we must be made clean; "no unclean thing can enter into His kingdom". The way I read this quote from President Smith, it is not only punishment for unrepentant sinning that prevents us from living with God again. It is that if we are unrepentant sinners, we will not want to be in his presence. The unrepentant sinner cannot enjoy the "glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom". The sinner is happier somewhere else.

For that reason it is so important to "choose the right" while on earth. This is our opportunity to make of ourselves what we will. We must "acquire the attributes of godliness". And what are those attributes? How do we "acquire" them?

The Scriptures are a good place to start. After all, they are the Word of God through His prophets to His people. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught what we should do after we have entered into the way through baptism. In 2 Nephi Chapter 32 he said:

"Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

I believe we can come closer to God, and come to know Him, through the scriptures.

Of course, the scriptures aren't the only place to find the words of God. In fact, we can get them straight from the source:

"No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place." —James E. Faust (Ensign, May 2002)

As we pray to our Heavenly Father we will draw nearer to Him. We will feel of His presence and love. We will come to know Him. Through that knowledge we can come to be like Him.

If we are to change ourselves into beings that truly desire to live with God again, we must use our time here wisely. Through consistent study and prayer we can "acquire the attributes of God".