In an article of the August 2015 Ensign, President Russell M. Nelson declares, “Disciples of the Lord are defenders of traditional marriage. We cannot yield. History is not our judge. A secular society is not our judge. God is our judge!”
“Traditional marriage”. Interesting term.
This week, the term “traditional marriage” had an interesting wrinkle in the news. The New York Times reported on how ISIS combatants are justifying kidnapping, rape, and sex slavery of Yazidi women, on their interpretation Qur’annic tradition: that righteous warriors can subjugate virgins who are not “of the book” as being concubines. Ugly stories are emerging of how the islamicist soldiers first pray, then rape, then pray again, all in the name of God.
As appalling as this is, the acts of ISIS are part of our “traditional” biblical marriage model. As well, the conquering Israelites were allowed to take in virgins of the conquered cities as their concubines.
We may shrug these things off as being “of the past”, but when we find a bed next to the altar in an FLDS temple and Warren Jeffs continuing to manipulate marriage relationships — essentially continuing the excesses of nineteenth century polygamy that our LDS church has never fully repudiated; when we see faithful saints supportive of marriage equality or Ordain Women punished for asking their prophets, seers, and revelators to seek guidance as to whether women can be ordained, I don’t think we are very far along the path of justice and righteousness as a church and culture.
I raise this not to be provocative, but rather, to explore what it means to defend “traditional marriage” as a disciple. If I am to “hearken” unto the brethren, then I ought to carefully “hear” their words, and “ken”/understand what they have to say.
If I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and heaven knows, this wayfarer tries and fails at being such most of the time, it seems to me that I am called to love and commitment, not to hatred, or force of any kind. I do not have the option to judge others — I have enough to do to judge my own path, to see if I am “perfect” in the sense that the Lord laid out in Matthew 5:43-48: that is, that I am impartial and unconditional in my love. When I measure “marriage equality” versus the denial of the right for a committed, intimate relationship by my LBGT brothers and sisters, then the law of “perfection” as defined by Christ, that is whole, unconditional love, is clearly in favor of marriage equality. In this sense, President Nelson is correct, history and secular society are not our judges; the words of Jesus Christ are.
If I am “defending” something important like “traditional marriage”, perhaps it might be good to realize that (1) our marriage traditions have evolved significantly over time, (2) any biblical definition, or even our early church definition of marriage, essentially treats wives (specifically in the plural) as property, not as equal partners in love, and (3) the data for what causes marriage decline show that marriages are more under attack by poverty, unrighteous dominion (abuse), and lack of commitment, rather than the alleged threat of a very hurting minority that seeks to have the same right to love and commitment as their heterosexual brothers and sisters.
There is nothing “traditional” about a marriage of equals as we seek today. It is novel in the history of the earth, and it is as divine as anything I know.
Marriage is best enhanced and defended when both partners feel a health attitude toward their love, intimacy (sexuality), and commitment — all of which are demonstrated and enhanced when we consider what is at the core of marriage equality: the desire for two people to be intimately connected — to be One — in all things.
That, to me, is worth defending.
So, President Nelson’s words in the August Ensign are my call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and to defend marriage. My commitment therefore is to defend marriage in the fullest sense of the word: love, intimacy, and commitment as a right for all.