I will try to be brief and allow this article to be a quick read. I will lay out first the reasons the Church Won’t change on its Theology and Doctrine and will followup with Why it Will and allow you the reader to make up your own mind. At the end, if you care what my feelings are, I will share my perspective.
WHY THE CHURCH WON’T CHANGE
1.) Our entire theology hinges on heterosexual sealed people making it to the Celestial Kingdom. It does not take much thinking to see that many of the points and parts would need to be unraveled to accommodate LGBT individuals within our belief system.
2.) In some ways we have painted ourselves even more into a corner than we did on Blacks and Priesthood and their lack of participation in the temple. If we were to change not only does our theology change, but also many of our leaders will go down in history being bigoted folks who perpetuated false theories. There would one day be another Gospel Topics Essay that disavows all these men’s statements and in some ways these teachings are more pervasive than the ones we spewed on people of color of African descent.
3.) As a consequence of #1 & #2 the top leaders will have to adjust to members relinquishing a large amount of trust they have in them. While our history shows that prophets have taught and perpetuated false doctrine and that all 15 men united generation after generation were wrong about what is truth and what is false doctrine, the average member hasn’t yet caught on. To reverse on the LGBT issue would be so deep and expansive in terms of our coming face to face with the limitations of leadership, that a large scale adjustment of what it means to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and to be trusted to discern the mind and will of God would occur in a monumental wave. To some extent this happened with the 78′ revelation but without the internet it was so much more limited and so few really understood the complexity of how proliferated our teachings were on when and even if such a change could happen. With the internet and Facebook….. a change on Homosexuality and how we include LGBT members would completely rock the “Good Ship Zion” and large scale adjustments would be the consequence.
4.) God appears in the room and tells them not to make a change.
WHY OUR CHURCH WILL CHANGE
1.) The ‘Missionary Surge’ was ineffective in terms of converts and what that may say about our future in terms of convert growth. I have to believe the Church is surprised that so few additional converts came out of the Missionary Surge. The increased amount of convert baptisms statistically is negligible. In spite of Elder Holland’s Predictions on what he or the Church expected missionary force to grow to, a simple look at statistics shows that this increased force could only be short lived before a return to only slightly higher numbers than before the age change. That diminishing has already begun and will continue over the next 18 months. One has to wonder knowing society is in general less interested in institutional Churches along with organized religion and hence less interested in Mormonism, if once the numbers go back down we will see convert baptisms take a really hard hit. Without converts the Church must look to growth within its ranks.
2.) Loss of Males – Recent research was published that shows we went from a Church of 52% of members in Utah in 1990 being female to 59% of members in Utah being female in 2008. Think about that. It may very well be 60%/40% at this point. What does that mean. It means that at a minimum 1/3 of all LDS women in Utah must choose to either remain single, marry a nonmember, or move out of the state in hopes there is a better chance elsewhere. Ok… so what? It is the next logical step to come to the realization that when members of the Church remain single or marry nonmembers their general commitment and activity within the Church drops off. Our theology doesn’t really include single members (Find single members in the Family Proclamation for example). And when members marry non-members the activity rate is much lower and those individuals often are exposed to various ways of seeing the world and began to adopt a less black and white view of how everything works. Also the loss of males diminishes the work force within Mormonism. Males are needed to hold the Priesthood and administer God’s kingdom. Without sisters having Priesthood offices, the work force in Utah is slowly diminishing. We could go back to polygamy to solve this but I am highly skeptical the Church would ever want to touch that with a ten foot pole.
3.) Public Perception. Consider 10 years from now…. 25 years from now….. 50 years from now. What will the general perception of the public be of a faith that discriminates those of the LGBT community? Don’t think it will be that great? Ask yourself “Had we never changed our Doctrine and Theology to include Black members in the Priesthood and Saving ordinances of the Temple, what would be the public perception of our church?” How many potential converts who would have been interested otherwise and now would simply turn their back to our faith seeing us as racist bigots? I can just about assure you that had we not changed, the number of convert baptisms in the here and now would be minimal and have little effect at adding to the life blood of the Church. This issue with time, can be assumed to have the same effect.
4.) Science – It is becoming more and more overwhelming that being gay is biological. That one neither chooses to be gay nor does any life experience after birth make them gay. They are born Gay and it can not be changed. We also are coming to grips with the the concept that being gay is not just attraction but rather this identity proliferates through their entire being. There is no way to untangle this from who they are at their core.
5.) No way to absolve ourselves from this issue. If the Church wanted to absolve itself from dealing with a certain group internally it could simply bar that subset of our culture. It appears in some ways they tried to do this with the recent policy change on children of gay couples. This works if the trait you are trying to keep out is one gained after birth. For instance we could ban Muslims from baptism and hence there would be no members who have Muslim characteristics or background. The issue here though is being gay is biological. Even if the Church could rid itself of all gays with the snap of the fingers, the very next generation of LDS youth will find find that 6 to 8% of them are LGBT. It is a continual issue that will forever be in our face until we adjust. And if we don’t we must plan on the results of our treatment of them to be in our face as well. Also when one has a gay child or a gay sibling or a gay friend, many of those folks are having their mind changed about the issue in drastic ways and hence adding to those who become disaffected or leave all together.
6.) We are becoming a Global Church. While I predict our growth rate will turn into a loss rate if this issue continues without a dramatic shift, at present we are becoming or have become a global church. Whether we continue to grow or began to incur a rate of loss, this much is true. Members more and more every day are interacting with the world at large. Due to employment in a world economy, the internet and social media, and interaction with the growing segment of those who are disaffected or who have left, orthodox members are coming face to face with with the reality that their history is messy, that leaders have made serious mistakes, that people are marginalized and even hurt by the Church, and that those who dissent are making good points within the arguments. The more members see a freedom of thought and that critics both in and out of the Church are making valid arguments something naturally occurs. The rate of Orthodox members becoming open to varied ideas of thought and even more importantly, began to think for themselves trusting their inner authority rather than placing complete trust in authorities outside themselves, will continue to increase. People who dissent faithfully will grow and those who all together leave will grow.
7.) As a followup to #6 – Who converting who? – Ask yourself, are members who support the Church’s stance on Gays thinking it is from God more often converting to LGBT allies or are LGBT allies in the Church being more often converted to Supporters of the Church position? I think this is a tilting landslide in one direction. If convert baptisms decrease radically and membership is changing their mind in almost entirely one direction one only need sit with that to recognize the consequences.
8.) Sisters leading out – As we discussed in #2 there is a trending of losing more males than females to inactivity or completely leaving the Church. It begs the question, why are males leaving the Church in greater numbers? In a patriarchal society males are more often taught to think for themselves and to rely on themselves. They are likely more confident in their conclusions because the society teaches them they preside and make the final call. The trouble is we have begun as a culture to give our sisters more independence and more leadership. One must ask if having Sister Missionaries in Leadership and training roles, and having Women General Authorities more at the forefront, along with having Women more involved in councils at every level of the Church; if this will also lead to our sisters placing more trust in their own understanding rather than trusting Church authorities. It feels like this will be one of the consequences of the shift we are making.
9.) financial. My guess is tithing is down and costs are up. I still think they Church is in great shape financially as they have begun shifting their reliance on tithing to reliance on commercial ventures in even greater ways than in the past. the Loss of Tithing likely isn’t hurting them. But if the Church holds this position it will begin taking deep losses in membership, we are already seeing some of this. This leaves them short on manpower to manage the assets they have. This leaves temples and ward buildings with less people using them and less people to man them. This is an issue and will be a frustration and a struggle going forward.
10.) Humanitarian Efforts – As the Church encourages its members to reach out more and more as it is doing with the recent refugee issues something is likely to occur. When members are reaching out to the marginalized in one section of society they are more likely to develop empathy for others in society who are marginalized. Once we begin to put ourselves in the shoes of another who is different than us we may began to put ourselves in others shoes who are different who knees are feeble and whose hands hang down.
11.) God shows up in the room and tells them to make a change.
WHICH WAY DO YOU THINK THIS TURNS OUT? AND IF YOU SUSPECT A CHANGE, HOW SOON DO YOU EXPECT IT?
Personally I waffle back and forth. At times I think The leadership has chosen this as the hill to die on. And frankly if they do I expect a large scale loss of membership over the next 30-40 years to the point that we go from 15 million members (5 million active) to 5 million members (around 1 million active). They can do that and that can work if that is what they desire. At other times I am left to think it is inevitable that they change and they will see this and do so.
Frankly I am certain of the fact that there are members of the top 15 who currently would and do support a deep shift in how we handle this issue. Their private conversations tell as much. I even suspect the Leadership as a whole wants to move in that direction but needs the membership to see the change as having come from them and not from pressure from dissenters within and without. Before the internet this would be possible. They could work towards a stretch of silence before unveiling new revelation…. but with the internet here and social media what it is, I am doubtful they can ever attain that kind of peace before the change. I also believe if they want to shift they want to do so slowly over several decades…. but I also think the internet and dissent within and without is mounting much faster than they expected. They are coming to grips I suspect that this is not going away and the longer they wait the more difficult it will be to keep the orthodox membership from losing trust when they do make the change. Personally most days I think they have to change, they don’t have a choice and I also think think they are beginning to see that the sooner they do it, the better it will be in the long run.
Thanks to a Good friend (you know who you are) in helping me work through these ideas in my head!
Bill, I think the theology unravels faster than you think. Much like blacks and the Priesthood, much of why LGBT are excluded is based on interpretation of scripture and not sctipture itself. Most important to members and leaders is the Proclamation and eternal families. The Proclamation is full of gender roles and peering into the pre-existence without any real theological foundation. And the concept of eternal families is full of exceptions and a rule of adoption that could be easily adapted to LGBT families. We already believe that sealing is more powerful then being a genetic birth parent. We are adopted and sealed into the tribe of Ephriam and blessings of Abraham even when you are not a descendant of Abraham.
When the day of revelation on blacks and the Priesthood finally arrived, we realized the series of false teachings/interpretations of scipture that the previous doctrines and policies had been based on. Once it starts to unravel, the next generation will conveniently forget the Proclamation which was never cannonized, never scripture and never revelation. And the Exclusion Policy will be acknowledged as just that: a bad policy (that was corrected by revelation).
Thank you for this delectable smorgasbord of food for thought.
I believe the Nov 5 revelation was an unforced error that can’t be repaired and the church will slowly decline in membership and influence. It will become even more of an oddity–something like the snake handler church. On the other hand, not changing the policy will be good for tourism in Utah. Everyone will want to take a peek inside the Tabernacle and meet some real live Mormons!
Great analysis (although I’m not sure what having too many women in the church has to do with this discussion).
My view is that the church leadership, at least the ones who are lucid, knows this will need to change eventually, but they don’t want to do it now because it will alienate the older and more conservative members of the church (the ones who still pay tithing).
So they’re kicking the can down the road and will let the future leaders deal with it. The problem with that is that this issue is driving people out of the church in droves, so when the change is eventually made the church will be much smaller and probably irrelevant.
I see two issues with your analysis:
1. I have seen many places where it was clear that the brethren expected the priesthood ban to be temporary. I have not seen any of that with the homosexuality issue.
2. when people fail to make a distinction between being attracted to the same gender (genetically gay) and acting on that attraction. that is the same as calling someone that is attracted to a child a pedophile or someone attracted to their family incestuous. Or for that matter someone who wants their neighbors stuff a thief or wanting more dessert glutenous. Desire is not equal to action.
You may be right but I don’t believe for a minute the lgbt movement is any where near the issue for most members of the church as you and some of your readers/listeners think it is. I personally have no problem with the new policy and not because I’m some bigot that thinks less of these individuals. Quite the contrary, I think it would be extremely difficult to live with same sex attraction and my heart goes out to those who feel ostracized for their lifestyle. The reality, however is, my testimony would be more shaken by the complete absolution of that particular way of life and seeing leaders within the church behaving in that manner themselves, then would the church acting the way it has.
Its completely antithetical to the teachings of the church in a way the race issue is not. There is simply no way to reconcile full inclusion of the lgbt in the church with its most fundamental doctrine. That wasn’t true with race.
That said, I hope we can all find a way to be more kind and thoughtful towards those who identify themselves as lgbt and realize they are children of our father in heaven and that the atonement of Christ reaches into their lives just as much as mine and yours.
If only we had a real Prophet among us that could truly call upon God and receive a real revelation, then nothing else would matter, whatever the consequence we would know what to do. But as long as we rely on titles we are certainly in deep trouble.
My thoughts align very much to what you have written here Bill. What I am struggling with is am I complicit by staying so involved with a church that is causing so much pain? I almost wonder if I am going to be ashamed of myself when I stand at the judgement bar and I am asked if I did everything I could to get this changed as quick as possible. It makes it hard to stay.
Except it was always known that someday the Blacks would get the Priesthood.The announcement of the change with Blacks was not that earth shattering.
If the church recognised homosexuality as being acceptable would not bring the church any more members. Would only hurt the church because people prefer to think the church is not govern by what is popular. In fact it thrives on not being trendy.
And the whole question of it homosexuality being biological is called into question all the time.
The presupposition in many of those statements predicting righteous African-americans to hold the priesthood and enter the temple was that it would happen in the millennium, and as part of that, Africans would be resurrected as caucasians. The church’s official position regarding LGBT is essentially the same. Righteous LGBT will eventually be able to marry and enter the Celestial kingdom, but they’ll be resurrected as straights.
You said: “One has to wonder knowing society is in general less interested in institutional Churches along with organized religion and hence less interested in Mormonism, if once the numbers go back down we will see convert baptisms take a really hard hit.”
I was on my mission during the age-change spike. From my experience, they were sending the extra missionaries to areas that had been closed for years (super small towns) and doubling up missionary sets in areas where there was barely enough work for one set of missionaries. Not a lot of good came of it.
I personally don’t think there will be a hard drop in convert baptism as the missionary numbers go down. I expect the gradual decline in converts with coincide with the decline in religious interest.
Bill I think you are wrong on several assumptions.
One is the mass exodus.
We are seeing a mass exodus but it is a mass exodus of liberals.
The church is composed mostly of conservative members who see homosexual behavior as immoral.
In my opinion the mass exodus of liberals has peaked. At this point I don’t see the rate of liberals leaving the church increasing. The majority of liberals who had unworkable issues with the church’s stance of homosexual behavior or women in the priesthood have left the church already. Those who are left although they may disagree with the church on its social issues will not leave because of a spiritual witness of its truthfulness or see the blessings of being a member as outweighing their negative views. I see you as an example of one of those who are willing to stay in the church despite their liberal leanings.
There is nothing in any scripture that has ever condoned homosexual behavior. There are no examples of church leaders who ever condoned homosexual behavior. Church leaders and scripture have always stated that homosexual behavior is a grievous and abominable sin. Gods (church’s) stance on this won’t change because people in the great and spacious building are telling it to change. From a different point of view one person has already commented, the church thrives on being the moral backbone to a world gone awry. The church will continue to grow because some people do not want to be involved in the social decay of the society we live in. They will see the church as an anchor to good ole fashion values of family first and moral stability that does not kowtow to every wind of doctrine or social decay.
If church growth does decline it will be attributed to the last days a sifting of the wheat and tares(Mathew 13:24-30).
You stated that homosexual behavior is genetic that 6-8% of people are gay. Science has shown that some people have a genetic predisposition to abuse alcohol. But science does not tell them to follow this genetic predisposition to become raging alcoholics. Science and nature tells males to procreate with as many women as possible but even society generally states not to follow this instinct but monogamy is the healthiest lifestyle for positive and healthy wellbeing. If you look at world history throughout the millennia there is no evidence that 6-8% of the world’s population were homosexual. The few times that the world has seen large homosexual populations it was always associated with social decay (Sodom and Gomorrah for example). For those who have a propensity toward homosexual behavior we live in a society that accepts and encourages which would explain the growth of homosexual behavior in our society today. A hundred years ago this was not the case.
First Social Liberals are leaving….. I agree. Except your not grasping this process fully
#1.) The younger generation is much more socially liberal. In otherwords if we don’t shift they are at risk for leaving too. It is already happening. 65% of people who are leaving the organized religion of their youth is due to that religion’s involvement in politics and specifically the politics of social issues where groups of people are marginalized
#2.) your not making the connection that many of these social liberals who are leaving were once social conservatives who having transitioned in their faith and having progressed in their faith development began to explore what it is like to be in anothers shoes and hence became more socially liberal. I was one of them. I was as conservative as anyone and so were many of these so called “liberals” you wish to write off as expendable.
Knowing these two facts helps me see that going forward we are about to enter a large scale drift into smaller membership without some drastic social-political changes in doctrine and policy. More social conservatives are transitioning into social liberals than ever before and our youth are already there in significant numbers.
It’s not just the liberals leaving anymore. The November policy pushed out a lot of moderates as well. The way things are going, eventually the only ones left will be the neo-fundamentalists. It’s possible that’s what the brethren want, but it’d be hard to picture the church as a vibrant, thriving organization were that to happen.
For better or for worse the complete marginalization of lds faithful due to LGBT rights appears less inevitable to me.
So long as a Pope, for example, is saying “gay unions not equal to marriage” there will be enough people whose views line up with current lds to protect.
LDS had virtually no allies with regard to race and Priesthood.
Great analysis, Bill. I think whichever direction the church goes in will depend on how successful they and other conservative groups are in enacting religious freedom exemptions in pending civil rights legislation. It’s interesting to compare what happened regarding civil rights for African-americans vs. the ERA. When the Civil Rights act of 1964 was being debated in Congress, general authorities at the time condemned it but weren’t yet influential enough politically to really do anything to stop it. Even though it took awhile, I believe Civil Rights legislation was most likely responsible for the repeal of the priesthood/temple ban. On the other hand, when the ERA was being debated and ratified by the states 10 years later, the church was much more politically active and mobilized its members to prevent passage. Had it passed, it’s likely albeit not totally certain that women would hold the priesthood today. Utah’s SB 296 is being hailed as a national model of compromise between LGBT rights and religious freedom. Were something similar to be enacted at the federal level, the LDS church and other conservative religious groups will probably never need to revise their doctrines.
The church has made some doctrinal moves that will make it much harder to walk this back should they ever need to in the future. I used to think the church had some wiggle room for changing doctrines regarding celestial procreation. There weren’t any definitive statements on whether procreation of spirit bodies involved a sexual union. One could have made the argument that procreation of spirits by beings with physical bodies would have been done some other way. But with the church’s essay on the role of women declaring that this procreation does occur via sexual union, it’s much harder to envision how they could alter the theology to accommodate gay unions. The other development was where Russell M. Nelson declared that the November policy was the result of revelation to Thomas S. Monson. Of course, the essays remain unsigned so the church has some plausible deniability, but with the advent of the Internet and archived video, it’ll be much more difficult for the church to flush these statements down the memory hole.
I think polygamy will likely become legal in the US someday, and the demographic crunch you pointed out will likely leave the church no choice but to resume the practice. Along with the church’s stance on LGBT issues, the church will only continue to shrink. Their moves to shore up their finances likely means the church will probably never disappear completely, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it eventually morphed from a church into a hedge fund.
The church was founded by a moraless man, that treated women as property. This still exists in chuch culture and theology as men will become Gods with multiple wives birthing spirit children. Mormon women should be ashamed to aspire to so little!!!
Based on the perversion of JS marrying children and other men’s wives, odd that Mormons now find fault with the LGBT community. Sin is sin, but were I to judge, mormons historically commited the greater evil.