On my Facebook wall, I got into a discussion with a TBM friend about the LDS church’s policy on LGBT members. Part of that new policy is that members in a same-sex marriage are considered to be guilty of apostasy and require church discipline. That will mean excommunication for those who were previously going to church but are in legal same-sex marriages. My friend said religious progressives like me are just trying to ignore doctrine and follow society wherever it goes. But to me, the doctrine of homosexuality being a grievous sin that requires church discipline doesn’t match up to the idea of a loving Heavenly Father who wants all of his children to be happy. Why should I get to spend my life with a person I love, and have intimate relations with her, and yet someone born as a homosexual has to remain alone and never get to be intimate because of no fault of her own? If she wants to remain in good standing with the church, she will never be able to have her own family. My friend said it’s not God’s fault they’re born that way, but that pedophiles are also born with their attraction to children, and they have to avoid acting on their impulses as well. To me, there’s a big difference between acting on sexual urges with children, which will obviously damage the children, and homosexual relations between two loving, committed adults. But my friend says there are commandments that God has to follow, and he isn’t allowed to change the rules. He said the church will never change the doctrine that homosexuality is a sin. I hope he’s wrong, but I thought I would educate myself on both positions: how do people argue homosexuality is a sin or not a sin, and still believe in the same Bible?
Viewpoint: Homosexuality Is a Sin
I found lots of articles on the web explaining why homosexuality is a sin. This article does a good job explaining the viewpoint that God has set his standard in the Bible:
Several times in the Old Testament, God lays down the law concerning homosexuality (Genesis 19:1-3; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). Paul reiterates this mandate, renewing the standard for the Christians in Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9. A common argument is that while Paul talks about homosexuality, Jesus does not. Defenders of the homosexual lifestyle choose to accept Jesus’ loving nature and reject Paul, accusing him of latent legalism. It’s an invalid argument. Jesus spent the great majority of His ministry in Jewish lands, surrounded by Jews who were very familiar with and quite faithful to the Old Testament law. He generally dealt with sin on a case-by-case basis (as he did with the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and the woman caught in adultery). Paul worked with Gentiles, specifically Romans, in a culture where homosexuality was common.
Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, because the Jews he interacted with were living the Jewish law as specified in the Old Testament. But Paul had to deal with it because both the Greeks and Romans had a lot of same-sex intercourse as part of their culture. And if someone is born with homosexual desires, he needs to not give in to those desires and instead be faithful to God:
The great choice for those caught in a sinful lifestyle is deciding if they are going to define themselves by that sin, or if they are going to set aside their limited point of view and define themselves by their relationship with God. It is important to note that it is not a sin to be unintentionally exposed to a temptation or to be predisposed to being tempted in a certain area. Rather, it is a sin to dwell on the thought of the sin, indulge in the possibility, and/or act on it. Yes, according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. But, it is no more a sin than any other sin. It is just as forgivable. It is just as conquerable (through the power of Christ).
So it’s not a sin to have homosexual temptations, but it is a sin to act on them. That sounds consistent with what I’ve heard from the LDS General Authorities in recent years.
Viewpoint: Homosexuality Is Not a Sin
For the viewpoint that homosexuality is not a sin, I found this article. The author calls the anti-homosexual scriptures from the previous article the “clobber passages” because they are used to “clobber” LGBT folks and label them as sinful. The author makes a point that the clobber passages not only talk about homosexuality, but about other sins as well. And yet Christians that use the clobber passages use them for absolute morality against homosexuality, which they as heterosexuals will never be tempted to commit, and then use relative morality for the other sins in the clobber passages, which they will be temped to commit:
But Christians don’t think that they are expected to never commit any degree of those sins. They understand that circumstances and normal human weaknesses must be taken into account before condemning any transgression. We all readily understand and accept the moral distinction between drinking socially and being a drunk, between a lustful thought and committing adultery, between telling a flattering white lie and chronically lying.
Even a sin as heinous as murder we do not judge without first taking into account the context in which it occurred. Self-defense, protection of the innocent, during a war—we recognize that there are times when taking the life of another is not only not a sin, but a morally justified and even heroic act.
Christians evaluate the degree of sin, or even whether or not a real sin has occurred, by looking at both the harm caused by the sin, and the intent of the sin’s perpetrator.
They do, that is, for all sins except homosexuality.
Another point is that the practices Paul speaks against were homosexual acts between heterosexuals. Homosexual acts in Greece and Rome were about one person dominating another, not about two people being in a committed homosexual relationship.
We can be confident that Paul was not writing to, or about, gay people, because he simply could not have been, any more than he could have written about smartphones, iPads, or televisions. We do not know what Paul might write or say today about gay people. All we know is that in the New Testament he wrote about promiscuous, predatory, non-consensual same-sex acts between people whom he understood to be heterosexual.
The Bible was written thousands of years ago. When we try to apply what was written in their culture to our current culture, the original meanings can be lost unless we get more context about the original culture. And since gay marriage didn’t exist back in Paul’s time, there’s no way he could have condemned it.
And an additional point of my own: Paul taught other things that Christians are happy to ignore, like that women should not be allowed to speak up in church, or that it’s a shame for men to have long hair. Jesus said if someone gets divorced, that person commits adultery by getting remarried. And yet Christians (except for the Catholic church) have decided that we do grant divorces, and we don’t regard divorcees as adulterers.
For Me, Love Wins
I have met many homosexual couples. They are doing their best to find happiness in the world, just like heterosexual couples. Some want to raise a family, and they’re perfectly capable of doing it. Maybe someone would argue a child would be better off with both a mother and a father. To that I say, no situation is perfect! There are single parents who struggle to raise their kids. Some kids have a mother and father but have to put up with emotional or physical abuse. Kids with same-sex parents can and do have challenges, just like in any family.
The Book of Mormon says “Wickedness never was happiness.” So why are the gay couples I know just as happy as the rest of us? Because to me, they are NOT wicked for wanting to love and be loved, just like any heterosexual wants. I find it the height of unfairness that I as a heterosexual would say to a homosexual: “You had better not have any kind of intimate relations your whole life, and you had better not have a committed relationship with someone you love. But hey, no worries, God will make it up to you after you die! As for me, I’m going to go home and sleep with my wife.” I just can’t believe God looks at these loving, committed couples as the vilest of sinners. No, they’re not sinners. They’re just people like anyone else, who deserve to love and be loved. For me, love wins.