What are Mormons to do now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land?

supreme courtWhat are faithful Latter-day Saints supposed to do about the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage? Nothing. Okay I shouldn’t say nothing, obviously it’s a signal that we live in the last days and that Jesus Christ is coming soon, so we should watch and prepare for all that. But on a practical level, since we are no longer voting or advocating because the decision has been made, what is left for us to do now is to be kind and loving neighbors.

Yet it seems to me that Latter Day Saints are caught between two extremes: on the one hand they feel, in the name of love, to completely embrace the choices and lifestyle of homosexuality. (This is evidenced by the many active members of the Church I’ve seen with a rainbow overlay on their facebook profile picture, for example). On the other hand there are those members of the church who want to sustain the Lord and His prophets, but who come across as mean, hateful and exclusionary doing so.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this in April Conference,

“President Gordon B. Hinckley… told a BYU audience about political commentators “aflame with indignation” at a then-recent news event. “With studied art they poured out the sour vinegar of invective and anger. … Surely,” he concluded, “this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker.”1 In contrast, to be securely rooted in the gospel, we must be moderate and measured in criticism and seek always for the broader view of the majestic work of God.”

As Latter Day Saints we can choose a middle road. We can be tolerant and loving of our friends and neighbors who choose the homosexual lifestyle, while at the same time maintain a consistent loyalty to the Lord and His definition of marriage between a man and a woman. See the letter issued by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve this week.

Let me use an example to illustrate. As Latter Day Saints we have the Lord’s word of wisdom wherein we do not smoke or drink. I think many of us with young children have had this experience where they witnessed somebody smoking and say (often loudly) something like “he’s a bad person for smoking!” To which you explain (hopefully) that just because somebody has chosen to smoke doesn’t mean they necessarily are a bad person. In saying this we are not advocating that smoking is okay. Nor do we need to worry that our children will become smokers. All we have done is separated the action from the person (who, by the way, God loves just as much as He loves you.)

And so it is with a person who has chosen a gay lifestyle. We can wish them the best as they try to live in a way they feel will make them most happy. But if the right opportunity to share the gospel comes up, we can be firm and clear about the doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman and Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.

I have appreciated the experience shared with me recently by one of my close friends. He works with several people who are openly gay, and has always tried to be good friends with everyone. One day, one of these co-workers came to him very confused. “I just found out you are a Mormon” he said. “Yup I am” was my friend’s response. “So you must not be a very good one then?” asked the co-worker. “I don’t know about that, but I try and am very active in my Church” was his response. “Then I don’t get it. I’m gay, and when I married my partner you sent me a card. You’ve always been nice and accepting to me, but I thought Mormon’s hated gay people.” I love my friend’s response: “If you are asking about what I believe then here it is; I believe in a God who loves us and wants us to become like Him and to be happy. Getting married and having a family is central to how we can do that. He has defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. That’s my belief about marriage. But I also know that God loves you as much as He loves me, and that’s good enough for me to love you too. So I will always try to treat you as well as I know how.”

Obviously that conversation is paraphrased and second hand, but that was the gist. It’s how I feel about it. My relationship with others does not have to be defined by their sexuality. That has nothing to do with me. I stood with prophets when the issue was on the ballot. I teach the truth whenever it’s appropriate. And I love my neighbor as myself. I will not encourage a person who struggles with same gender attraction to give in and live the lifestyle because I do not believe that will bring them a fulness of happiness. But, if my gay neighbor’s marriage were in trouble, and he asked me for advice, I think I’m going to give him the best advice I can to help him.

It’s possible that no other time in the history of our word has demanded people to be more thoughtful and discerning about tough issues as our time. My hope is that we pass this test.

Note: As always, I do not represent the Church and am solely responsible for this message