Guest Blogger

Mormon LGBT Promises: Way Too Little, Far Too Late

Filed By Guest Blogger | February 04, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: misogyny, Mormon Church, nondiscrimination laws, racism, religious freedom, religious liberty, sexism, special rights

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Warren J. Blumenfeld is a professor in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


"Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, distorts loving relationships, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel..." - The Handbook of Instructions, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints


These words express God's supposed "revelation" to the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), reaffirmed in 1995 when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entered the debate on the parameters of marriage by issuing "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." It stated in part,

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His Children..."

If the Church's position on same-sex attractions, expression, orientation, and marriage was not clear enough, the LDS President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Boyd K. Packer, referred to homosexuality throughout a sharply-worded 2010 sermon as "wrong," "wicked," "impure," "unnatural," "immoral," "against nature," "evil," and a threat to civilization. Packer delivered this sermon to the more than 20,000 participants in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, and millions more watching on satellite television at the Church's 180th Semiannual General Conference.

At a recent press conference, Mormon leaders said they would back proposed anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT people in the areas of housing, employment, and public services if wide-ranging "religious exemptions" are included. So, for example, a landlord could still refuse to rent an apartment, or an employer could refuse to hire, or a shop owner could deny service to a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans* person on the basis of their religious beliefs.

Mormon leaders said they would not change the church's position on marriage equality or the relationship of LGBT people within the denomination. They once said similar things about its policies on people of African heritage and the church.

Nineteenth-century LDS president Brigham Young instituted dogma on February 13, 1849 -- emanating from "divine revelation" and continuing until as recently as 1978 -- forbidding ordination of black men to the ranks of LDS priesthood. In addition, this policy prohibited black men and women from participating in the temple endowment and sealings, which the church demands as essential for the highest degree of salvation. The policy likewise restricted black people from attending or participating in temple marriages.

Young attributed this restriction to the sin of Cain, Adam and Eve's eldest son, who killed his brother Abel: "What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?," stated Young in 1849 following declaration of his restrictive policy. "The Lord had cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood."

While making a speech to the Utah Territorial Legislature in 1852, Young further asserted: "Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain]... in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before, I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it."

In another instance, Young continued:

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind... Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. That was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin...that they should be the 'servant of servants'; and they will be, until that curse is removed..."

Joseph Fielding Smith, Tenth Prophet and President of the LDS Church wrote in 1935 that, "Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness, he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures..."

And in 1963 he asserted: "Such a change [in our policy] can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur."

bigstock-The-Book-Of-Mormon-1072086.jpgIt seems that the Twelfth LDS President, Spencer W. Kimball -- who served from 1973 to his death in 1985 -- was touched with such a "vision" and, therefore, reversed the ban, referring to it as "the long-promised day."

We can ask today whether "revelation" or mere pragmatism was the determining factor in permitting black people full membership rights in the Mormon Church at a time of ongoing and heightened civil rights activities in the United States and an increase in LDS missionary recruiting efforts throughout the African continent. We can also ask whether "revelation" or mere pragmatism was the motivating consideration for abandoning its promotion of polygamous marriages at a time when the United States Congress demanded this as a condition for the admission of Utah as a state within the United States.

Yes, the LDS "revelations" on sexuality, gender expression, and race have hurt and damaged real people, as have its policies opposing the ordination of women and keeping all women in a second-class status well under that of men.

The church's recent statement on anti-discrimination legislation against LGBT people hardly touches the surface in its tired and sordid history. It is way too little and far too late.

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