The handbook and Homosexuality

The handbook and Homosexuality December 7, 2015

This is the full post from which Peggy Stack quoted in Sunday’s Salt Lake Tribune.

Ralph Hancock, professor of political philosophy at Brigham Young University and President of the John Adams Center, sees similarities and differences in the Church’s policies regarding children of polygamous households on the one hand, and, on the other, its policies regarding children raised in same-sex households.

In both cases the Church must attend both to the challenge of apostasy and to the interests of the child; these two problems cannot be disentangled from each other: to serve the interests of the child must ultimately be understood as separating the child from the belief-environment of the apostate household. Obviously there can be no question of such a separation before the child is an independent adult.

In any case, all of the huffing and puffing and hand-wringing over the new Handbook policy is finally a distraction from the main question, not to say a strategy to distract from that question: the moral status of homosexual relations. The church has been consistent and increasingly emphatic in its position on this: homosexuality is deeply wrong. Members who understand and support this position are not at all troubled by the policy regarding children of homosexual households. They understand that the real harm to children is not that of granting them some space and time to separate their own moral and religious identity from that of their unfortunate household – the real harm is to put the child in that environment in the first place.

Polygamy raises some of the same questions of apostasy and the need for the child to establish independence from the environment in which s/he has been raised. Polygamy obviously has presented a delicate problem, to say the least, for a Church determined to put that part of its history in the rear-view mirror. But the homosexual household in fact presents a deeper, more radical challenge to the LDS idea of the very meaning of human existence and of human happiness. Polygamy, it appears, though thoroughly repudiated in the modern Church, has been, not only accepted, but commanded by God in some instances, even though we may now understand monogamy to be the eternal ideal. And it will not have escaped your notice that polygamous households can produce offspring in the natural way. But homosexual unions have never been and could never be prescribed or considered religiously legitimate by LDS Christians. And so the apostasy of polygamy might, for historical reasons, be a particularly touchy point for Church policy; but the apostasy of open homosexual practice and the heresy of “gay marriage” actually go much deeper theologically, even (to paraphrase Orthodox writer Rod Dreher), “ontologically.” “Gay marriage” offends against the very understanding of reality that is fundamental to Mormonism.

So the only important question between friends and foes of the Church and its handbook is this: are homosexual relations deeply wrong, or are they O.K., even, perhaps, particularly enlightened and liberated? This is what each must decide.


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