Homosexuality and Tolerance


One variant of a common response to California’s Proposition 8


Although this article is obviously aimed at evangelical Protestants, I think the warning applies to Latter-day Saints, as well.


Some, at least, in what might be called the militant homosexualist movement — a movement that is increasingly vocal, confident, and influential — seem to demand not merely equal rights but approval, even celebration, from the rest of us.


Homosexuality is, I confess, not a topic to which I’ve devoted a lot of thought or attention.  And I’ve had scarcely anything to say about it, whether in public or privately.  (I do have a few thoughts about which I may write in the near future, but, thus far, they’ve gone unexpressed.)  Yet even I’ve been diagnosed by a number of my most vocal critics as suffering from the mythical mental illness now fashionably termed “homophobia.”


While I have reservations (based on historical usage of the word, etc.) about granting the title of marriage to same-sex couples,* I’m quite okay with removing legal penalties for homosexual behavior (already largely taken care of, I think) and, off hand, I have no particular objection to granting domestic partnerships and/or civil unions.  And while, as someone strongly inclined to libertarianism, I don’t think that the State has any business interfering with the freedom of association, which means that I have trouble with anti-discrimination laws in principle, and would have such trouble even if they were designed to protect people like me, I strongly disapprove of discrimination based upon irrelevant matters of race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.  Such discrimination is, in my view, both unethical and profoundly unchristian.  I’ve tried, as earnestly as I know how, to search myself for any signs of hatred for homosexuals — I have homosexual acquaintances and, even though I’m based in isolated and “straight-laced” Mormon Utah and am employed at Brigham Young University, have worked, and worked quite well, on a few projects with homosexuals and have counseled with others — I can honestly say that I find no trace of it.  None.


However, I suspect that my attitudes on these matters won’t be enough to spare me condemnation for “bigotry,” “hatred,” and “homophobia.”  (Far and away most of the “hatred” that I’ve seen in connection with California’s Proposition 8 has come from the “No on Prop 8″ folks, not from its proponents.)  After all, I belong to a church that teaches — and I myself believe — that homosexual behavior is wrong.  I don’t think that it ought to be legally punished, any more than I think that drinking coffee should be prohibited, but, yes, I believe it to be wrong and, both as a bishop and now as a lay member of my church, I claim the right to regard it as a moral/spiritual problem.  (Indeed, as an exceptionally difficult and painful one.)  Thus, as elite and perhaps popular opinion shifts on this matter, we Neanderthals who persist in believing that homosexuals have the same inalienable rights as the rest of us and should not be interfered with by the State but, at the  same time,that homosexual acts are wrong and reflective of a disordered sexuality, will come under increasingly harsh criticism and ever mounting pressure.  The trend seems to me fairly clear.



*  In this regard, one of Mr. Lincoln’s stories, told in a very different context, seems to me apropos:  Arguing with a group of fellow Washington politicians about something or other, he’s said to have asked how many legs a dog would have, if the dog’s tail were redefined as a leg.  “Why, five, of course,” responded a member of the group.  “No,” Lincoln replied.  “Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”  Marriage, in my judgment, is a quite specific kind of relationship, with thousands of years of tradition behind it, and it can’t and shouldn’t be casually redefined.



Another Hamblin/Jenkins fix
Twelve years ago, today
Jerusalem 4000 años en 5 Minutos
New Testament 189, 190
  • Ed Ludeman

    Strange coincidence that I just posted this to a friend who grossly misunderstood my view, which I see as similar to yours, yesterday:

    “I think you are putting me into a camp that I am not in. You must think that there are only 2 views on this topic, which would be 1. Marriage must be government defined as only male/female or 2. Marriage must be government defined as male/male, female/female or male/female. I assure you I don’t like either view.

    So glad you asked, albeit sarcastically, about how religious freedom is hampered by a wider legal definition of marriage. If either of the aforementioned 2 views is in place then the people who are using their “freedom of conscience” (also called “freedom of religion”) to believe something different must be forced to live only the view they do not like. Currently those who believe the word “marriage” has nothing to do with it’s Latin root are not allowed to exercise their belief. However if view 2 is put in and marriage is now an enforced right then I know of some groups that would love to try to schedule a wedding at their church/temple and then seek legal action when said church denies them their “right” to marry in the way they want. In this way it does impede on religious ordinances.

    You are really arguing against someone else here. It should be very clear that I personally disagree with a definition of “marriage” that does not involve the possibility (in principle) of offspring being brought about. This is exactly how I feel about those who believe “baptism” can be a sprinkling. I disagree with both, but fully and whole-heartedly believe they have the right to believe as they will. I hold view number 3 which is that the definition of marriage is a doctrinal question and governments should make no regulation of it. ‘No regulation’ means that the way it is now is not right either. Making more government impositions into a disagreement on beliefs is the opposite of productive and would restrict further the “exercise thereof”. Sorry to invoke the Constitution but it must be considered.”

  • http://plainandpreciousthing.blogspot.com/ Rozann

    “I have no particular objection to granting domestic partnerships and/or civil unions.” I do have a problem with it, as it legitimizes sinful behavior; and is the beginning of legalizing and legitimizing every other unholy and impure practice. I believe Elder Oaks address on Law and Love addresses this topic well.

    • danpeterson

      I’ve just reread Elder Oaks’s conference address on “Love and Law,” and I saw nothing in it about the desirability of some form of domestic partnership agreement or civil union. Please note that I’m not granting a blank check. I have specific concerns about adoptions, for example. And I care very much that the venerable concept of marriage not be muddled.

    • http://nathanrichardson.com Nathan000000

      I remember back in the summer of 2004, the First Presidency issued two statements about the pending state marriage amendment. One said it if favored defining marriage as man-woman only. The follow-up letter specified that civil unions or domestic partnerships should not be given substantially the same status/benefits/legal power as marriage (I wish for the life of me I could find a copy so I could see the exact phrasing they used). I think that’s an important middle ground. It acknowledges the argument that any kind of legal ties and commitments can strengthen society, while pointing out that man-woman commitments deserve a special status, in part (but not solely) because they lead to childbearing and -rearing.

      I agree about the lesson from Tebow. It’s sad that small, calculated concessions don’t seem to be worth it. I doesn’t have to be that way.

  • Atomicpunk

    I tend to think the word homophobia was invented to be more of a pejorative used against those who have any kind of disagreement with the homosexual agenda than a description of an irrational fear. It’s meant to shut down dialogue. So the word, for me, is problematic. That said, I see a lot of religiophobia and mormonophobia exhibited by these preachers of tolerance.

  • http://marionjensen.com Marion Jensen

    The problem I see is that the church has changed its position on many things, not just culturally, but doctrinally as well. Whether it’s interracial marriage, polygamy, word of wisdom, blood atonement, God being a man . . . first things are one way, then they are another. One might be able to argue that the church hasn’t changed, but you really have to twist things to make that happen.

    So why can’t we expect the church to eventually change their position on this issue as well? And should we wait until the church changes its position, or should we go with what our heart tells us what is right (personal revelation)?

    • danpeterson

      I’m going ahead with what my heart tells me is right.

  • scott pierson

    It seems to me that redefining the term “marriage” should be utterly rejected by our friends in the LGBT community. After all, I’ve seen commercials where they denounce the redefinition of the word gay by our youth to mean something that is “stupid.”

    What’s good for the goose…

    But, whatever. Marriage in our society should be treated as a contract not unlike any other type of business contract. You shouldn’t have to petition your local county office to get a license to marry, any more than you should have to petition them to enter into a contract with your neighborhood landscaping company. The place for such contract oversight is the courts, when terms of the contract have been breached or are otherwise challenged (divorce). In such a scenario, the participants in the contract could characterize it however they chose.

    But, if we are going to retain government sanctioned and endorsed contracts, Marriage should be considered just one type of person-to-person contract, that being between opposite-sex adults. Civil Unions would merely reflect precisely the same thing except among same-sex partners. I think the distinction would be important in order to avoid confusion in our rhetorical references. Different terms, but all the same bells and whistles.

  • Steven B

    Albert Mohler tries to spin the controversy as merely being about acceptance of homosexuality. Similarly, you frame it as being about one’s position on marriage as well as homosexuality. Both of you fail to report the real reason for the many bloggers, activists and reporters’ objection with minister, Robert Jeffress. The problem is with Jeffress’ rhetoric, not his position that homosexuality is a sin. This isn’t about a failure to tolerate gay people. It is about dangerous, vilifying rhetoric. It is one thing for a hugely influential pastor to declare at the Values Voters Summit that “70% of all gay men have AIDS,” but more serious is that Jeffress continues to declare that there is a link between gays and pedophilia. Promulgating such falsehoods that “20 to 40% of molestations are by gay people” continues to propagate the false stereotype that gays are pedophiles. The gay community simply cannot continue to tolerate these false, dangerous accusations, especially from such an influential religious leader. In my opinion, Tebow was right to withdraw. And I hardly need to remind Mormons that this same Jeffress bashed both Islam, Judaism and Mormonism as heretical religions “from the pit of hell.”

    • danpeterson

      I’m a bit puzzled by your response: I don’t believe that I’ve said a word in defense of Robert Jeffress, nor even mentioned him.

      I’m not a fan of his.

      • Steven B

        You are correct. I did not really respond to the content of your post but was commenting more on the article referenced at the beginning. The point I was trying to make is that the intolerance you describe as “increasingly vocal, confident, and influential” is mostly targeted at those who are either actively working to eliminate civil rights for gay people or who’s rhetoric is incendiary, vilifying and dangerous to the safety of LGBT people (the hostile reaction to Elder Packer’s conference address a few years ago being a notable exception).