Mormonism, Homosexuality, and Infallible Churches

A CNN article broke out recently informing the world of the LDS church’s,  as they put it,  “monumental shift”
on homosexuality.

There has been a shift, even on the lds.org webpage has a banner indicating that the church has updated its resource list on “gay Mormons.”

The new feature of the webpage, (mormonandgay) is a resource and explanation of the Mormon church’s position on being both gay and Mormon.

It is important to be fair and consistent. Never allow CNN, FOX, or MSNBC to tell you what other churches believe anymore than they are allowed to define what your church believes.

Those like me who are opposed to the Mormon church will find it tempting to jump to conclusions about this. Those who disagree with Mormonism will be tempted to quickly begin hurling the charge that Mormons no longer think homosexuality is sinful in any way.

However, we are not loving God or our neighbor, and so fulfilling the Law, when we hold double standards. We won’t allow others to misrepresent us, therefore, we must be careful to love God and Mormons by properly representing them. The fact remains that  the new Mormon and gay resource list has indicated a change in perspective, but one thing is clear: the Mormon church has not accepted the practice of homosexuality. The church would still consider homosexual behavior sinful; we ought not to misrepresent that.

Here are some of the things the church has spoken on officially through the link above, first from Elder M. Russell Ballard,

“Let us be clear: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that ‘the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including [those with same-sex attraction].’”

Later, the resource added,

“While same-sex attraction is not a sin, it can be a challenge. While one may not have chosen to have these feelings, he or she can commit to keep God’s commandments. The parent of a child who experiences same-sex attraction or identifies as gay should choose to love and embrace that child. As a community of Church members, we should choose to create a welcoming community.”

Lastly, another important aspect of the change is the those with these desires can be leaders in the church.

“If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances.”

Thus, what seems to be the “monumental shift” of the Mormon church could be summarized this way:

1) Self identifying as Mormon and gay is acceptable.

2) A being being gay is not a good reason for a family to excommunicate or discipline, provided they are not acting on their impulses.

3) The church ought not to excommunicate someone who identifies as gay.

4) Those who identify as gay can be an authority within the church.

The Mormon church still expects “gay Mormons” to refrain from homosexual behavior, but the church no longer officially declares their orientation as inherently sinful. It does not seem there is even a push to change, provided the person involved is willing to refrain from homosexual activity.

Many Christians would agree with much of the sentiment above. Many Christians would also say the orientation is not sinful, but acting on it is. A well-known and respected ministry, John Piper’s desiring God, contributed an article promoting this very idea.

Many Christians would argue that one can have a homosexual orientation, but still be a justified, authentic Christian. However, their responsibility would be to commit themselves to celibacy. Also, prayer and a focused effort toward the sanctification of their sexual orientation ought to always be pursued.
(1 Corinthians 6 identifies former homosexuals: those who were changed after conversion. All Christians must expect homosexuals to pursue change once coming to faith in Christ.)

However, to the contrary, many other Christians would argue that the orientation itself is also sinful (which the above article admits is a possibility).

Whether someone can serve in the church while admitting to having homosexual inclinations would probably be further debated among Christians, although I assume most would not be comfortable with it. I certainly would not find it biblical or appropriate.

There is a sense in which the Mormon position is not all that provocative. The idea that a person can have a perverted sexual orientation, but resist it, strive to follow God’s Law, and identify it as sin is seen, in many Christians circles, as orthodox and biblical.

The Mormon church’s allowance of these people in leadership is certainly troubling, however, the thing I want to focus in on and most address is the fact that the church has shifted. This is a genuine change, and that ought to terrify the Mormon community…

The “infallible church” knife cuts both ways.

Many people choose to follow religions which offer them alleged infallible authorities. Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons all believe their church to be infallible. The desire for this is understandable.

Human beings want assurance. People do not want to do their homework; they want easy, feel-good-fuzzies which give them confidence.

Thus, to appeal to an “infallible” church requires no need to do the dirty work. “Why do we have the books in the Bible that we do?” “Well”, as the Catholic says, “the Church decided! That settles it!” 

No longer do we need to do the tough work of history, epistemology, and theology. It is easier to just listen to a church, and then calm internal doubts by being convinced said church cannot be wrong, so neither now can you.

I have dealt with the biblical and philosophical problems of the “infallible church” claims many times. Here is one small example. 

A twist I have not brought to bear before is that, as nice as an infallible church may seem to be in an apologetic confrontations, the same doctrine which provides much comfort suddenly eats its own and now provides much fear because one must go where that church goes.

Mormonism has budged on homosexuality. This is monumental, not so much in how it budged, but because it reminds all of us that there is room to budge.

This means there may be a day when they go completely overboard and start swimming among the corpses of many other apostates in the frigid waters of secular, sexual ethics. And if this happens, that means Mormons must jump overboard and go for a swim whether they want to or not.

Any Mormon who is unhappy with the current movement cannot disagree the movement, they cannot argue, they cannot challenge, they cannot turn to the Scriptures, they must follow.

As Christians, we can consistently condemn other churches, even when they claim to be part of us. We can tell the PC(USA) or the Methodist churches they are wrong, that they are unbiblical, and can we can refuse to follow them. Why? Because the Scriptures are our highest authority, not a church.

But Mormons cannot argue with the church. Rome cannot argue with the church. They must accept what the church is, and more importantly, whatever it evolves into.

What this budge means for Mormons is this:
Do not get comfortable.

Buckle your seat belts and get ready for the ride. Because the Scriptures are not your highest authority, you are obligated to remain seated, even when water starts flooding the boat.

I beg and call you, while you still have time, to jump from that boat, and swim to the shores of biblical Christianity. The foundation you stand on here is a Rock, immovable, unchanging, and able to withstand all religious and secular tides.

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