Defending the Family

Those wanting to follow the counsel from the first session of General Conference last night about the importance of defending the family will be very interested in this article (please ignore the click-baity headline and read the actual article). A much shorter version of the article was published in the Deseret News recently, but I think that even for the tl;dr crowd, the longer version is definitely worth the investment of time. This article is also well worth reading.



20 comments for “Defending the Family

  1. Thank you, Julie, for referring to those important articles. Most remarkable that the Deseret News published David Blankenhorn’s op-ed. It will take time for the message to reach the minds of those standing on obsolete barricades, but there is hope.

  2. If Sunday School and Relief Society in my ward today, were any indication Mr. Blankenhorn’s ideas aren’t going to happen in the near future, at least in the LDS religion. The rest of the nation/world may adopt it, but long standing members won’t be endorsing it.

  3. Julie, I think the article makes a mistake in believing the gay marriage debate is over. While legally it probably is, or nearly is, a result brought about by judicial mandate is very different than one brought about by legislative law. Historically, the first usually leads to angry retrenchment by the losing side, since they (rightly) feel they were never given the chance to change their mind. Look at the tragic history of civil rights long after legal discrimination was done away with, or the current state of the conversation over abortion.

    Unless there is a major from-the-top shift in rhetoric, I feel The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. will continue to have leaders and members devotedly fighting and preaching against gay marriage for at least another decade. Maybe even longer.

    That’s why, even though I oppose marriage discrimination based on sexual preference, I wish judges had let this matter be solved legislatively: it was only a couple of years away, and that way gay marriage opponents would have felt they had been defeated fairly. Instead, they feel like they were cheated, which only leads to increasing harbored resentment, leading to further polarization on the issue.

    Hopefully President Monson or one of his near successors will make this issue a matter of prayer and revelation, so we don’t find ourselves losing members and social acceptance over a battle that isn’t the right one to fight. Not that I think we shouldn’t be willing to lose both membership and popularity to stand up for what’s right—we just need to make sure that what we’re fighting for is really something God cares strongly about. I don’t think gay marriage is.

    The universally pro-family approach your first article suggests seems like a much better way to help keep families together. But I just think it’ll be really hard to create that shift in mindset in the membership, unless it starts from the top. Even if it does come directly from the prophet, I think many older members will find themselves unable to adapt, because of how long and how strongly they’ve held their anti-gay marriage views. Just look at when President Hinckley tried to get rid of Missionary Farewells, or to get people to stop using the term “Mormon,” and how fully those failed—when something is strongly entrenched, even the prophet can’t convince the membership to abandon it.

  4. I think even the most socially conservative on this issue realize the polls show the weight of public opinion is against them. And the next generation of conservatives, according to polls, are overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage. So I think that debate is over and the issue of whether it should have been done legislatively is moot.

    That said I don’t think the debate is over since as we see in Indiana the new debate is whether accepting this is something completely socially unacceptable like overt forms of racism or if it is more something most feel morally wrong but acceptable like adultery.

  5. What does “Defending the Family” really mean? I would hope that it is activities to encourage public policy that reduces poverty, environmental stewardship to improve children’s health, parent education to improve child-rearing skills, economic policy to support parents access to nutritional, health, education, and employment, and support for the celebration of the blessings of faith, religion, and eternal family bonds.

    Unfortunately, this “defense” too often becomes code for bigotry against LGBT people, and shaming of divorced parents, unwed mothers, and parents in non-traditional roles like stay-at-home dads and working mothers. I hope we are talking more the former than the latter here.

  6. But Clark Goble, if the church loses all our non-ultra-conservative youth, the shift in the younger generation won’t matter as much, as quickly, for us, since they will have left. It is very possible that our church will seriously affect our membership numbers over this issue—and very soon. This isn’t happening now, but we are losing alarming numbers of our youth, and even larger exoduses are a very real possibility, maybe they are even a probability.

    Is it worth it?

    In the past, liberals have been asked to make concessions to conservatives in the interest of maintaining peace in the church. Is it maybe time for the conservatives to do the same thing?

  7. Well going by grumbling by social conservatives to actions by the Church in the Utah legislature I think they are already feeling like they are having to.

    Honestly I think if you look at how the Church has shifted on this for a while they are clearly moving towards doing just this. I think their remaining worry is being forced by the state to marry gays, which seems like an unlikely thing to happen anyway.

  8. Clark, how little you can see the intent. Their concerns are not so terribly near sighted and provincial about being forced to marry gays. That may be even spoken by some as almost a type of hyperbole, “next you’ll want me to do the marrying for you” but the concerns are sincerely about the family and its centrality to Gods plan.

  9. There is an ongoing series of invited speakers at BYU on the topic of the family and on marriage. I was cautiously pleased (for the most part) at the apparent scentific approach to threats to the family.

    How I long to see “family values” move beyond a code word for republican political goals, and an attack on gay marriage. Rather I would like to see it become a term that represents a broad-based collaborative approach to an understanding of family/marriage Then we can work towards solving the many issues that threaten marriages and family relationships. As long as it is a political issue, the debate will be polarized, and discussions will be impassioned, but shallow. Can it be done? Can we move beyond simple generalizations, straw-men, and hyperbole and work towards finding what unites and strengthens families? I believe that we will all be asked to give up an idea or two which we think is important.

  10. So, over the weekend I notice how Indiana was being bashed for passing and signing a religious exception to anti-discrimination laws. Utah,however, was praised on the New York Times for doing the same kind of thing. I haven’t had time to check the differences between the states’ respective legislation. Perhaps someone can explain what the difference is and why one of these things is not like the other.

  11. Terry, Utah’s law was a LGBT non-discrimination law that expanded current nondiscrimination laws surrounding housing and employment to include outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bills includes a couple of exemptions for religious organizations and nonprofits and school housing owned by a religious group. This is rather different from the Indiana law, which is just about religious freedom, stating that the government can’t “substaintially burden” a person’s exercise of religion.

  12. In IN, one of the problems is that several big cities have non-discrimination laws, and it’s not clear which laws will take precedence. In addition, the civil rights laws in IN don’t include LGBT as a protected class so that’s the group of people that the religious freedom law will directly affect. At least UT seems to have named specific area where discrimination against the LGBT community isn’t allowed.

  13. Thanks, Brittany. I have been able to look a little farther into it. It has to do with requiring the courts to apply a “strict scrutiny” test for those types of laws and they also allow them to be privately applied. If I’m not mistaken, it follows (how closely remains for further research) many other states (as many as 28) and the Federal Act, which was being applied to Obamacare in the Little Sisters of the Poor case. Naturally, these are tough issues.

  14. Julie, thanks for the links. This is the first approach to gay marriage that I feel I can fully endorse.

  15. Julie, thank you for linking to this thoughtful article.

    For a minute there I thought I had something intelligent to add. Then when I typed it, it wasn’t very intelligent. So, I erased it.

    … Aha! There it is again. Let’s see if it comes out as wonderfully as it sounds in mind.

    Legitimacy. If an institution like the LDS Church were to eat breakfast in the morning, it would consume legitimacy, with a side order of validity. I don’t think the LDS Church is unique in this.

    Here’s the problem: Institutions make mistakes. Sometimes they behave in ways that do not really meet their goals, they misapply their resources, they drain their good will, and they leave their members all at sea. And, sometimes institutions just lose whatever battle they went out to fight.

    What to do when you make a mistake? What to do when you lose? I don’t have a solution, but I think a good question is, How can an institution preserve its legitimacy and move past a mistake? How can an institution lose with grace? Surely we have some successful examples in LDS history. I’m sure other cultures and peoples have come up with other wonderful ways to maintain their validity while admitting mistakes or defeat.

    I’m no genius, but this strategy strikes me as ineffective: “We’re not *opposed* to rights for homosexuals; we’re really *in favor* of rights for religious persons.” That only works if someone is trying to deprive a religious person of his or her rights, which, I don’t really see happening out in the real world. Nope. We need a better way to preserve legitimacy than conjuring up a Boogie Man (see Indiana debacle). Sometimes an apology works, if the institution is the type that offers apologies.

  16. Josh I agree but the problem is the church is not admitting that they made a mistake. They have lost the battle (gay marriage is now legal in Utah), but they fight on and try and make out that they are the victim.

    What proportion of the youth of the church believe them? Do they undermine their authority by continuing with this line, which has more to do with conservative politics then the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    If the succession system for the President/Prophet is maintained and we go for the next 10 years through those above Oaks, and then him, there will be little credibility or future for the church. The only way I can see the church having any appeal (prospect of going to all the world and being welcomed) is if someone who can see the difference between conservative culture, and the Gospel, becomes leader. Ditch the culture, which would include this version of defending the family, and teach the Gospel of love.

    Do conservative Mormons, including our older leaders, realise there is a conflict between their politics and the Gospel, and they continually choose their politics. The Gospel is about love for all, conservative politics chooses many to not love.

    As the article says the family is not under attack from the direction the conservatives in the church suggest, but it does need promoting in real ways, most of which conflict with conservative ideology.

    I realise I have said conservative politics 6 times, I think this is the biggest problem the church has. This version of conservative politics being taught as Gospel is so extreme that it is just not acceptable/ credible in most of the developed world.

  17. Geoff (#18):

    Geoff, I get very excited about ideas. I like discussing and debating ideas, and I get carried away on these discussion forums. So, I’m strongly considering a hiatus. :-)

    If I wasn’t clear in #17, I can try again, quickly.

    I think the linked article has some great (if completely impractical) suggestions. The author basically took liberals and conservatives at their words: “If you genuinely believe a, b, and c, then surely you can both support x, y, and z.” I think that’s an excellent rhetorical tool. I think any thoughtful liberal or conservative could agree with the author on many points. The author persuaded me as to the reasonableness of the approach.

    My comment was simply trying to point out that we’re not dealing with rational parties. We’re not dealing with parties who are interested in principled approaches; we’re dealing with parties who yearn, thirst for legitimacy. That’s what they want, regardless of what they say they want. To my mind, the solution is not seeking out common ground–though heaven knows I’d like to see that. To my mind, the solution is a cultural way for organizations to lose graciously, to admit mistakes without losing face. We need a way to preserve legitimacy in the face of defeat.

    So, I guess my point is it’s a wonderful, thoughtful article, but he misses what conservatives and liberals *really* want. They don’t really want what they say they want. They want to be validated. Which means, when they lose, they need a way to preserve legitimacy, so they can USE THE SHORT TIME WE HAVE ON EARTH TO DO STUFF THAT REALLY MATTERS.

    (Yes. I was just screaming. No. I was absolutely not screaming at you, Geoff. I really appreciate your thoughts. I’m screaming at certain institutions.)

  18. Geoff:
    I am a veteran watcher of Utah politics, I am an old-school Democrat and I get real grumpy when people in the church slam liberals. But I think you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick on this issue. Believe it or not, church leaders are not the rabid conservatives that you suggest. Church leaders were willing to back civil unions for gay couples when they were in the midst of the Prop 8 battle. i don’t believe that Leaders, especially Oaks, are solely voicing their political views when expressing concerns about religious liberty. Oaks has sat down with leaders across the political spectrum and discussed religious freedom. He represented the Church when he signed the Williamsburg Charter. I think they sense something coming.

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