10.29.2008

MARRIAGE IS A RELIGIOUS CEREMONY


The following is my latest response to an unidentified, self proclaimed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The author is part of a group who has established a website www.lds4gaymarriage.com. A major premise regarding their view that the Church's leadership is in error rests on D&C 134:4. After considering his arguments, I have come to realize my own error in the manner I have been computing this issue. Here is my response:

"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24)

"Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:3)

"Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." (1 Corinthians 7:2)

"Marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; and that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made." (Doctrine & Covenants 49:15-17)

"God instituted marriage in the beginning. He made man in his own image and likeness, male and female, and in their creation it was designed that they should be united together in sacred bonds of marriage, and one is not perfect without the other." [1]

The Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) believe that marriage is an institution ordained by God. The marriage ceremony was governed by religious traditions. In addition, practically every culture on earth associates marriage with their religious beliefs. Even if you are an atheist, you cannot deny the historical fact that marriage and religion are inseparable in nearly all cultures.

If you believe in the words of the Prophet Joseph F. Smith, then you believe that God himself instituted marriage and is without question a religious ordinance. Since marriage and religion are inseparable whether by fact (from the revealed word) or by historical association, let us look anew at D&C 134:4.

We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

We DO NOT believe that human law has the right to interfere in prescribing religious marriage ceremonies. We DO NOT believe that human law has the right to dictate who should be married. We DO NOT believe human law has the right to assume supreme authority on the definition of marriage. It is a religious ceremony, a religious union, and a religious sacrament. The government has no business involving itself whatsoever in a religious ceremony. It is obvious from scripture and latter-day prophets that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Therefore two people of the same gender do not have the right to marry, and the government cannot intervene to dictate otherwise.

The only reason government involves itself in any way in the religious institution of marriage is for issues regarding divorce, i.e. the division of property, custody of children, etc. Since the government cannot dictate to religious organizations who can be married, and marriage in religious organizations is between a man and a woman, the only unions to which a government can ever involve itself in with regard to marital dissolution, are those between a man and a woman.

Since the government has clearly overstepped its bounds by involving itself with religious ceremonies and religious definitions, I have the right to voice my opinion to the government that it has intervened where it should not have. D&C 134:4 is a mandate to all members of the Church to voice their opinion, that the government has intervened in proscribing rules of worship and dictating public devotion with regard to marriage. Marriage is a religious function, and the government has no business defining what marriage is. It does not have that right. Yes on Proposition 8 reaffirms that the government has no business in defining or dictating a historically religious institution.

In regards to the church loosing its tax exempt status, I find the threat of the government to impose fines on an organization for speaking out on political issues deplorable. It violates the right of individuals to express their views. Through the tax code, the government has found a clever mechanism to silence its greatest threat, people who believe in a being superior to the state. I believe the current tax code is immoral and should be abolished. I do not believe the government should have any right to participate in social engineering by granting favorable treatment to people who are married or to whomever it deems.



[1] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 272.

2 comments:

kannie said...

Very interesting write-up! I'd never taken that angle on it before, and your point is very well-argued! :-) Thanks!

Gabriel said...

I have posted this on behalf of the person to whom this post is referenced. This was his correspondence to me via email:

Here is my response to your most recent blog posting. Thank you so much for being so fair-minded as to post my responses. The Lord said that we should, "Come and let us reason together.." I look forward to hearing more from you

GF - The only reason government involves itself in any way in the religious institution of marriage is for issues regarding divorce, i.e. the division of property, custody of children, etc. Since the government cannot dictate to religious organizations who can be married, and marriage in religious organizations is between a man and a woman, the only unions to which a government can ever involve itself in with regard to marital dissolution, are those between a man and a woman.

CM - Sorry, but many religious organizations perform same-sex weddings. The government can't pick one religion to favor and therefore should allow SSM. Atheists need a way to marry, so civil marriages done at the Court House need to be available as well. Church & State need to remain separate. Churches should marry whom they wish, but government must treat all alike. Consider this -

Bruce R. McConkie, in his Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, gives us additional doctrinal support for the absolute separation of church and state. He discusses -

Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:22-26. He states -

"How better could the Master Teacher proclaim his doctrine of separation of church and state than he did here in avoiding the trap of the Pharisees and Herodians?
These scheming and hypocritical "spies" offered Jesus these two alternatives as possible answers to their diabolically clever question: (1) Say, 'Yes, pay the hated poll tax to Rome as the law already requires,' which answer would cause the Pharisees to inflame the people against him. Or: (2) Say, as the sect of Zealots taught, 'No, Israel is a theocracy; God only is her King; pay no tribute to a foreign power,' in which event the Herodians would have delivered him "unto the power and authority of the governor," charging him with sedition and rebellion.
But from his lips instead came the decree: 'Render unto God and Caesar their own.' That is, in this present world where wicked men will not repent and come unto the fulness of the Lord's perfect order of government, there must be two separate powers - ecclesiastical and civil - the one supreme in spiritual matters, the other in temporal. Neither power can dictate to the other. And men are subject to them both."
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols.,[Salt Lake City: Bookcraft], 1:600,601.)

People cannot be denied civil equality based on subjective religious doctrine. This is what D&C 134:4 and 1 Cor. 10:29 express.

GF - Since the government has clearly overstepped its bounds by involving itself with religious ceremonies and religious definitions, I have the right to voice my opinion to the government that it has intervened where it should not have.

CM - Government is in NO WAY interfering. It doesn't tell religious organizations what they can or cannot do. Yes, you DO have the right to express your opinion via speech, press, and your vote. HOWEVER, the aforementioned verses denounce the idea of restricting the rights of others based on our subjective religious beliefs. Voting for prop.8 does that since gays DO have that right. You may feel that it is not a "natural right", but it IS at LEAST a LIBERTY and infringing upon those based on our theology is still condemned. You stated above that, 'government involves itself in any way in the religious institution of marriage is for issues regarding divorce, i.e. the division of property, custody of children, etc. " Agreed. These same reasons also apply to gays. Government needs to address them as well.

GF - D&C 134:4 is a mandate to all members of the Church to voice their opinion, that the government has intervened in proscribing rules of worship and dictating public devotion with regard to marriage. Marriage is a religious function, and the government has no business defining what marriage is. It does not have that right. Yes on Proposition 8 reaffirms that the government has no business in defining or dictating a historically religious institution.

CM - As stated for the reasons above, government MUST be involved from a civil/secular standpoint. It also has a need to address the above reasons for atheists. gays have those same needs and government needs to address them from a legal standpoint. Government also extends additional rights/benefits to married people (over 1000 from the feds alone). This alone makes it necessary for the government to get involved in determining marriage. Let churches deal with marriage from a theological point of view and let government deal with marriage from a legal/civil rights perspective.

GF - In regards to the church loosing its tax exempt status, I find the threat of the government to impose fines on an organization for speaking out on political issues deplorable. It violates the right of individuals to express their views. Through the tax code, the government has found a clever mechanism to silence its greatest threat, people who believe in a being superior to the state. I believe the current tax code is immoral and should be abolished.

CM - I agree...unless a church is more of a political organization than a religious one.

GF - I do not believe the government should have any right to participate in social engineering by granting favorable treatment to people who are married or to whomever it deems.

Cm - As you stated above, "government involves itself in any way in the religious institution of marriage is for issues regarding divorce, i.e. the division of property, custody of children, etc. " . If government we totally out of the marriage business, there would be no legal way to address the above. Stay-at-home moms could be put out on the street, a man's property would go to his next of kin blood relative rather than his wife. Aliimony and child supprt and visitation are all out the window as well. This is EXACTLY how gay couples are treated though. Would any LDS woman like to live without the protections marriage provides? No Way! How can we, as LDS, do unto gays that we wouldn't want done unto us?

The bottom line is that churches need to address marriage from a religious standpoint and let government deal with marriage from a civil standpoint addressing the division of property, custody of children, etc. type of issues and since gays need to have those addressed as well, government has an obligation to give them these same Civil Rights.

We LDS need to liken the scriptures and our past history unto ourselves. Our scriptures denounce infringing upon the rights of others. Gays have the right in CA to marry. We can't vote to revoke those rights (like others did to us 120 years ago). Voting for Prop 8, therefore, is hypocritical and unChrist-like on many levels.