Marooned in their homes, many Americans made the best of the early days of the pandemic by sorting through old boxes of family artifacts. One Saturday morning in March 2020, Dan Larsen and his wife were doing just that when they discovered the world’s only verified photographic image of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr. Larsen, […]
“Hi, my name is Brad Carmack, calling on behalf of Protect Marriage Maine. Will you vote to maintain the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman?”
This was my phone pitch in October of 2009. Calling from Provo, Utah, I volunteered in the effort to persuade voters in Maine to oppose same-sex marriage (a bill permitting same-sex marriage in Maine had been signed into law five months earlier). Question 1, a Maine referendum, repealed the state law on November 3 by the narrow margin of 53% to 47%. Victory!
It’s coming up on two years since my anti-same-sex marriage activism, and I now find myself on the opposite side of the fence. Last year while at BYU, I risked my diplomas by writing and openly distributing a book about same-sex marriage and homosexuality entitled Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective. As I wrote I discovered the science behind sexual orientation, the social arguments for and against same-sex marriage, and the heart-wrenching stories of gay Mormons. This experience of writing and sharing my book, along with some soul-searching and prayer, eventually convinced me to support same-sex marriage.
To my surprise, I’ve learned that same-sex couples can and do make wonderful parents. Homosexual orientation is about more than just lust; it’s about companionship, emotional intimacy, and romance, just like heterosexual orientation. The gay couples I know experience the same troubles and joys as my opposite-sex -couple friends. Same-sex couples (and their children) stand to gain from the mutual caretaking, community support, and stabilizing effects of marriage. Risky mixed-orientation marriages and lifelong celibacy are more of a threat to healthy marriage than monogamous same-sex partnerships.
Mormonism is unequivocally pro-family: so is same-sex marriage. I feel that this is the strongest reason Mormonism can abide gay marriage.
Also, contrary to my initial suppositions, I discovered that there is room within LDS theology for embracing gay families. Yes, I know the Church vigorously opposed same-sex marriage in Hawaii, Alaska, and California. Yes, many cite the Family Proclamation and the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions as clear condemnation of all homosexual behavior. However, the Church’s law of chastity is explicitly tied to legal marriage — in which case a monogamous, legally married LDS same-sex couple in Massachusetts is arguably already abiding the law of chastity. Also, the best example in the universe of the intersection of love, commitment, and unity is not of a married man and woman, but of three men: the Godhead.
What about scripture? We have no record of Jesus condemning homosexuality during His ministry. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (Restoration scripture) are silent about same-sex relationships. As many scholars have argued, the five or so Bible verses frequently referenced do not condemn homosexual conduct per se in a way that’s binding on the latter-day church. The Family Proclamation is not doctrine (compare to both Official Declarations, which were voted on by general church membership), and even if it were, does not provide an applicable test for discerning spiritual sex (witness intersex persons). Unfortunately, space doesn’t permit here the further, more formal discussion needed on this subject (more can be found in the narrated YouTube PowerPoint, “Why Mormonism Can Abide Gay Marriage”).
To conclude. Last weekend I attended a social event with a group of my gay friends, many of whom were on a same-sex date. I asked how many had served missions — all but one raised their hands. Not one of them is still active in the Church. The exodus of gay Mormons and their supporters from the Church is of great concern to me. I believe this issue is one of, if not the, moral issue of my LDS generation. After all, it is my (mostly straight) generation that will become the parents of tomorrow’s gay and lesbian children. Along with many of my peers, I am fiercely committed to building a world where a robust opportunity for a healthy marriage is not limited to my straight children. I pray for the day when more Mormons come to see the value of same-sex relationships, and seek to match an institution to the reality of homosexual orientation that will yield the same personal and societal benefits we believe flow from matching heterosexual marriage to heterosexual orientation. Jesus taught that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Can we make a Sabbath marriage that is made for man — gay/lesbian man? As Latter-day Saints, I for one believe that we can: and I hope that we will.
Biology graduate Brad Carmack presented “Why Mormonism Can Abide Gay Marriage” at the Sunstone Symposium in Ogden, Utah on 6 August 2011. He recently graduated with his MPA and JD from BYU, and earlier this year published Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective (available for free to watch or read at bradcarmack.blogspot.com). Brad is an active member of the LDS church and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.