Times they are a changing. Last month the church announced that it would not longer be doing Temple Marriages for “Time Only”. Then there was the 2019 revision that the Church no longer punishes couples that live in countries that allow clergy to conduce marriages (USA, Canada and a few others) by having to wait a year after a civil marriage to be sealed. I predict within five years the church will get out of the marriage business all together. They will do a purely religious “sealing” after the legal marriage is conducted outside the auspicious of the church.
I wonder if they will allow Bishops and Stake Presidents to still conduct marriages in the counties where it is allowed. My best guess on this is they won’t. They will want a clean break from all things having to do with legal marriage.
The reason the church will give for the whole change will be to make the marriage rules uniform for a “world wide church”. The real reason will be same sex marriage. It is becoming increasing common, and legal in most countries where the church has substantial membership. My quick back of the envelope calculation is that 70% of members worldwide live in countries that permit same sex marriage. To head off any legal action against the church, they will get out of the business all together.
It will only be a matter of time that somebody is going to sue the Church in the USA for not allowing a marriage/sealing of a same sex couple. The Church will prevail with a 1st Amendment argument, but the public relations damage will already be done when the court case makes the news. They are still smarting from the bad publicity of backing Proposition 8 here in California even though they won. They don’t need any more publicity about their same sex marriage stance. Plus they also have all the problems with the LGBTQ discrimination at the BYU schools, and defending the first of many lawsuits that are sure to come their way over the next several years.
What are your thoughts? How soon will the rules change? Sooner or later than fives years, or never?
Interesting prediction, about the church’s evolving attitude towards marriage!
Another possibility is that the social pendulum swings the other way and right thinking holds on long enough to begin a comeback. Conservative values have persisted, so why not a resurgence?
This fact pattern would create a possible “equal protection” argument to a court: Two gay males are faithful LDS members who hold temple recommends. They wish to be married in the temple. They are denied that option for marriage.
Marriage used to be a sacrament of the church. Now it is a act of the state. Yes, the church needs to get out of the marriage business and limit the temple sealing to a religious ordinance.
@BB Sadly, you may be right and in doing so the LDS church may become even less relevant to the younger generations who for the most part don’t buy into the anti-LGBTQ and patriarchal culture the Q15 is promoting. On the other hand, what if temple sealings did become a more private ritual that the couple undertook a few weeks or months after their marriage and the public marriage in the chapel became something that everyone in the community, including young kids and friends of other or no faith, could participate in? Then maybe even the younger generation that isn’t buying into the cultural war version of the LDS church that the Q15 is promoting right now might still see some reason to at least loosely associate with the LDS church and for it to have at least some spiritual relevance to the events in their life. Right now, they mostly just disaffiliate.
I think you’re likely correct Bishop Bill.
Less likely but also possible will be a push to get the federal government out of marriage entirely, which to me seems like a reasonable compromise for religious and non-religious. But the fact that’s less likely to happen outside the U.S. makes your original scenario more plausible. Five years does not at all sound unlikely.
There are many who want the Church. to get out of the marriage business, not because they are promoting LGTB rights, but because they want the Church to de-emphasize marriage completely.
Many in the younger generation don’t want to be married at all. They want to remain unattached and not responsible to anyone for what they do. They are not happy that the Church emphasizes marriage so much. They don’t want to feel guilty.
The Church must continue to emphasize marriage. It cannot succeed if upcoming generations spend their time playing violent video games and having only virtual friends on Facebook.
So yes, Bishop Bill, the Church will continue to face pressure to get out of the marriage business. But for more reasons than you acknowledge.
“They are still smarting from the bad publicity of backing Proposition 8 here in California even though they won. They don’t need any more publicity about their same sex marriage stance.“
If this is true, why such bone-headed moves as publishing that awful Callister article, continuing to speak at a worldwide, public General Conference on the topic, and continuing to back anti-LGBTQ lawsuits? Seems to me they are happy to be public about it.
I do agree with your reasons for why they are backing out of performing legal marriages but it’s similar to them backing out of the BSA – I guess I’m happy that they are, but it’s for all the wrong (anti-gay) reasons.
@JCS, maybe the Church should consider backing all sorts of marriages if it wants to be taken seriously about the benefits of marriage. I would love for the Church to get behind and strongly support any couple who wants to commit itself to each other’s welfare and that of any offspring or family members in its care. Unfortunately the Church only likes one type of family and actively destroys (by telling same-sex couples to divorce or face excommunication – if you don’t realize this is happening you aren’t paying attention) other types of families.
I begged for an exception to the rule about waiting a year to be sealed after a civil marriage so my entirely non-member family could attend my wedding. I was obviously denied, and my stake president bore fervent testimony about the Lord’s law of marriage and how the entire world would eventually come on board to this ‘correct’ way (I specifically cited other countries when I asked to be able to do this).
When they finally changed the rules I had expected to be glad, but instead I was absolutely devastated and furious that I had strained my relationship for my family to make this sacrifice that apparently God hadn’t ever needed me to make. It was the last straw and I left the church shortly after.
All that said, the church can’t make these changes soon enough. The current system, although improved from before, is still incredibly exclusionary. Part-member families are becoming increasingly common and tolerance for that sort of thing will only fade even more as time goes on.
I think you are right BB. It will be interesting to see – after the pandemic restrictions settle down – how many LDS couples choose the civil wedding and then temple sealing. Pros for temple marriage: tradition, it’s the way the happy couple has always envisioned it, one less venue to pay for. Pros for civil marriage first: non-member/non-recommend holding people can be included, flexibility.
It may be the right move to get out of the marriage business for all the listed reasons. I think the 5 year timeframe may be about right on this issue since there have been some baby steps and it may actually be part of a long-term plan that is already in place.
70% of current members may live in areas with legalized same-sex marriage, but nearly all of the growth is occurring in countries that have spottier records.
@dylan true. If the way the LDS church treats women and gay people is going to be driven by Africa and South America, then for me personally – no thanks. I realize that’s a really problematic, colonial attitude and I’m sorting through that but having lived in West Africa and witnessed and experienced how women are treated, hard pass.
Up through the 1980s and even the 1990s, the pro-family, pro-marriage message of the Church was a uniformly positive message. It was a good way to brand a missionary-focused church. Now, moving into the 2020s, it is a controversial and problematic message, given the Church’s evolving position (in light of developing LGBT rights) is now more like some families are good but some are bad, and some marriages are good but some are bad. That’s just a much tougher message to work with.
But what does the Church replace that message with? As far as I can tell, just a plain vanilla version of Christianity (We believe in Jesus! We are Christians!) with the caveat that we firmly reject cheap grace (But we’re not Evangelicals!). The leadership seems to be running away from traditional and distinctive Mormon doctrines and practices as fast as they can.
I don’t necessarily think what happens in other countries will change policy here in the U.S.
Other countries aren’t going to have the same constitutional stance on religion that exists here in the U.S.
I can see them changing policies abroad but I can’t imagine them being fearful of a lawsuit here.
I can’t see them getting rid of temple marriages here and replacing it with temple sealings post civil marriage here.
Organized religion here in the U.S. has long discriminated against women. I don’t see that changing anytime soon either.
But, I could be wrong. Time will tell….
It seems really, really unlikely to me that requiring churches to marry people they don’t want to could ever happen in the US. The Constitution protects the free exercise of religion. Bishop Bill what is your background that would give you this idea? Do you know of any lawyers or constitutional scholars who think this? Churches are allowed to discriminate. They can refuse to marry anyone they want. They can discriminate on the basis of race, sex, disability, or any other characteristic they want to. And they do. I think it’s way more likely that churches could lose the ability to get federal funds for things like education (BYU), but even then, losing federal funding is not the same as the government forcing the church to stop discriminating against people. And decades after title IX, churches are still allowed to discriminate against women when other entities are not specifically because of constitutional protections of religion.
There are some who think the world as we know it won’t make it another 5 years, so we may not be able to see if BB’s prediction comes to pass. That belief aside, over the past several years I’ve wondered why the church doesn’t take a bolder stand on some issues that seem to conflict with church doctrine. I realize there are others here that think the church takes too bold of a stand on some issues. As it relates to government and church though, as laws get passed, the church abides by the law within the framework of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. I’ve wondered what would happen if the church were “forced by law” to allow for something that was against the doctrine of the church, like for example the temple sealing of two gay men as was mentioned above. It’s hard for me to imagine the church obeying such a law. Would this be an example of the church “taking a stand” in opposition to a law of the land?
I can see the church stepping away from civil marriage as BB predicts. Much harder to see the church succumbing to legal pressures to do something or allow for something that contradicts church doctrine and/or “laws of God”.
“E”, you didn’t catch where I said that the church “would win” any lawsuit with a 1st amendment argument. But there would be lots of bad publicity that they do not want. I think they will change just to make things uniform and avoid the fallout.
“Dylan”, some of that growth is in countries where polygamy is legal. This creates a whole new mess this D&C 132 still on the books.
“bwbarnett”, there is precedent for the church succumbing to legal pressure that contradicts doctrine and/or
laws of God”. The 1890 Proclamation did just that. Also, one could make an argument that the 1978 revelation on Priesthood was succumbing to pressure coming, though the “out” there was it was never doctrine, just some policy by BY..
I think Bishop Bill’s five-year estimate seems about right, perhaps even a bit optimistic for a notoriously slow-to-adjust Church. I would welcome such a change for all the reasons listed and more.
One of the baby steps on the way to totally getting out of the business of performing legal marriages, I think, is doing away with posthumous polygamous sealings. And this will probably happen after Presidents Nelson and Oaks pass, as they are the only two senior leaders who are keeping the practice alive. I anticipate it will go the way of “time only” sealings, without much fanfare.
All this so they can continue to discriminate against gays? They might win court cases because even outside America churches have exemptions from doing things they don’t believe in, but discrimination is going to become less and less acceptable.
In countries where no political parties oppose gay marriage, and none oppose equality for women, the church is going to be on the nose, and change sooner or later. I think in the next 5 years, but I don’t live in Utah.
I t may depend on how long Nelson and Oaks live, and whether democrats have a second term.
Geoff, it also depends on whether Sheri Dew ends up marrying the next widower apostle and keeps the tradition going. But I think the Church as a whole is more than ready to be done with eternal polygamy for good. Then we can make tiny steps toward some version of marriage equality, even if that means no one can get legally married in LDS temples anymore.
Churches like the COJCOLDS may continue to win in the courts to assert their “religious freedoms”, but those victories are pyrrhic. In the court of public opinion (the one that really matters here) they are losing. Each successive PR blunder results in members leaving, and they have never won the Church a single sincere convert baptism.
I’ve often thought part of the strategy behind temple marriages was to promote chastity. I never understood the policy of making people wait a year to get a temple sealing after a civil marriage.
If they de-couple marriage and the temple will there be more hanky-panky?
How might it affect the numbers of couples sealed?
I personally think very little will change in the next five years as I don’t expect Oaks’ presidency to make huge departures from what we have now. I think it gets trickier to guess who might succeed Oaks (I do this not to be ghoulish, but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think the personality of the man serving as president of the Church doesn’t matter in these sorts of things). Based solely on outward appearance, I wonder how long Eyring, Ballard, and Holland will last. If Uchtdorf ever makes it into the seat, I can see some movement there, but he’s 80 himself which leaves Bednar at only 69 as a very likely candidate to get the job. Nothing about him suggests he is overly anxious to change the Church’s stance on gay marriage so we may well be into the 2040s or even beyond before we see anything significant. Of course, if BYU were to get its accreditation taken away (unlikely) or other schools begin to boycott BYU in athletics (more likely) perhaps that starts a shift in attitudes that winds up with gay marriage as no longer a sin. From there comes the tough theological work (that apparently some have already started but I haven’t read the latest book on the subject) of figuring out celestial marriage between people of the same gender. Good thing we have a $100b rainy day find to get us through the lean times until we get this all figured out.
@not a cougar, do you think if it takes till 2040+ to soften on gay marriage anyone pro-gay marriage will be left in the church to even care? There is a future in which the church just winds up being made up almost entirely of people who oppose gay marriage anyway because everybody else gave up and left. Just curious for views on that.
A lawsuit would be a very close call. One position is that the Church, like all religions, has the absolute right to marry whomever they please. The contrary position is that the Church is acting as a government agent when they are marrying someone civilly. As a government agent, they are bound by the Constitution and thus cannot discriminate in who they offer services to. (This argument, by the way, is one reason that the Church and LDS Family Services are out of the adoption business.)
That is a Gordian knot for a judge to untangle. It would also be a public relations nightmare for the Church because they would have to publicly admit discrimination. No lawyer worth his or her salt would recommend that the Church get within 10000 miles of that case when the Church can simply stop performing civil marriages in any capacity and thus avoid any legal action.
I give the Church two years to change the policy. Five is the far outer limit. If they don’t, someone will file this type of lawsuit as a publicity stunt and the Church will have to change the policy at that time.
Elisa, I think the Church is full of people who follow their leaders, rather than full of people who are fundamentally anti-LGBTQ. Some surely are, but I believe many more are simply apathetic at best. Perhaps that doesn’t make a difference in everyday practice, but if the president of the Church comes out with a revelation tomorrow about the acceptability of gay marriage, you better believe a ton of members are going to fall all over themselves racing to follow the prophet (at least in public).
“if the president of the Church comes out with a revelation tomorrow about the acceptability of gay marriage, you better believe a ton of members are going to fall all over themselves racing to follow the prophet (at least in public)”
I thought that, also, until the covid pandemic hit and I saw such a high percentage of church members follow far right politics rather than church leaders. I fear that when they teach things that need to later be undone it can be difficult to change mindsets; the fallout is not inconsequential. I believe it would be far better for leaders to steer clear of dogma and focus on teaching members to follow the New Testament Jesus.
There are a lot of folk who would agree with BB’s prediction, as seen in the comments. I’m not so sure.
I don’t see much danger from lawsuits. Besides the fact that any lawsuit would be an easy win for the church on first amendment grounds (at least for now), there are still many, many churches in the US that will decline to do same sex marriages. Any lawsuits would be distributed against all of those churches. As far as bad publicity, the church doesn’t seem to be afraid of it, filling amicus briefs in every similar case that goes to the Supreme Court.
Andrew above makes a bit of a case for the church potentially losing a law suit. I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think that’s likely. At least not for a really long time. The interpretation of the first amendment would have to change substantially, which usually happens with a lot of little cases going to the Supreme Court, whittling away at pieces of legal precedent . This is what happened initially with the same sex marriage as a civil rights question. By the time a lower federal judge In Utah ruled SSM a legal right, he had several Supreme Court cases to cite in his decision making it clear that the Supreme Court was leaning heavily on the side of protecting same sex marriage.
Forcing churches to perform weddings is largely a different question, one that would require new precedent. I don’t think we’re there. And this SCOTUS is the most conservative we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Yes the church could get out of the civil marriage business. But I don’t think it will be done out of legal necessity. Nor do I think it is particularly likely.
There has been one case I know of in Idaho where a court required a “church” to perform a wedding. In that case the church was actually a fee-for-service operation and the court did not accept the that church had an actual religion or belief system that was protected by the first amendment. Y’all can Look it up if you want and decide if it lends credence to one side or the other.
Sigh. Another correction since I can’t edit comments. In the example I just cited, I don’t think there ever was a Court ruling, contrary to what I just said. I think the folks closed their marriage mill rather than have to face potential litigation.
MW, you may be entirely correct that we’ve reached a tipping point with conservative membership that they will be unwilling to follow Church leaders in areas that don’t align with Trump supporter values (though I find it ironic that many of those Trump supporters who profess COVID vaccine skepticism are turning up their noses at vaccines that were created under a program that Trump pushed heavily). That said, if President Nelson claims a revelation on gay marriage, I think many Church members would place that in a separate category from his encouragement to get vaccinated (which was a pretty mild endorsement that included a “when and where able” caveat that anyone looking for a way to opt out could use as justification for not getting vaccinated). Then again, I could be completely wrong.
MW wrote: “I thought that, also, until the covid pandemic hit and I saw such a high percentage of church members follow far right politics rather than church leaders.”
I don’t know that this is entirely accurate either. Although one area presidency that I’m aware of stressed a mask, as did Renlund somewhat, what I felt most of what Church leaders were asking boiled down to being considerate of your neighbor. For many members, that included looking at science and data beyond epidemiology, and trying to remove the politics out of it entirely. But more and more, it seems when someone tries to remove the politics from a situation with a response that differs from others, that position gets slapped with a political label by default, regardless of intent.
Contrary to a popular belief here, many active members do actually think of the who, what, where, when, why, and how when it comes to doing what the Church leaders ask, also trying to take in the circumstances and context. I’d concede gay marriage approval from Church leaders would most likely make most active members ask those questions more than once.
@Not a Cougar fair point. Not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.
Agree that there would be a subset that still is anti-gay and doesn’t listen (happened with 1978 I believe as well) but I think many would come around.
JCS: “Many in the younger generation don’t want to be married at all. They want to remain unattached and not responsible to anyone for what they do.” I actually think most of those who are turned off by the concept of marriage object based on the hypocrisy and lack of responsibility of those who are married. They often come from homes (or societies) where marriage is a sham in which people cheat on each other or husbands lord their power over their wives or subjugate them, and they instead choose to remain unmarried on their own terms, for better or worse. IMO, marriage is a societal good, but I know not everyone sees it the same way. Just what I see from those I know who prefer long-term co-habitation (well, aside from places like Australia where you will literally pay more taxes if you marry, but that’s another story).
BB: I am not sure about the idea that the Church will get out of performing civil marriages. There are many civil marriages performed today (maybe less commonly in heavily Mormon areas?), and as you point out, there is no way a lawsuit would prevail. You could literally sue dozens of other religious denomination on these grounds if so, and frankly, I don’t think there’s a judge in the country who wouldn’t laugh this one out of court, even if I’m pro-gay marriage. Actually maybe I’m really just pro-civil unions for all, come to think of it. I don’t know what the difference is. But religions have always beeing about “marrying and burying,” so I don’t think they are going to give up either of those things.
I don’t see a high potential for a valid case developing. It would require two temple recommend holding persons of the same sex to desire a temple sealing and be willing to sue for access to that ordinance. Even non-LDS observers would doubt the authenticity and legitimacy of such an undertaking.
Also, many LDS have adopted an apocalyptic worldview which accepts, no, which expects attacks from “the world.” A lawsuit or political effort would only confirm in their minds the righteousness of their position. It took very intense pressure to change in the case of plural marriage. While a few policy adjustments are possible, I see little appetite for changes to ease potential legal or social pressure… Quite the contrary in fact.
As for the idea that young adults are leaving due to the church’s stance on LGBTQ issues, I believe that is often an oversimplification of a complex set of factors.
You’re probably right Old Man about a valid case developing but I thinks its for different reasons. I think its entirely plausible, given the church’s teachings on the various degrees of the celestial kingdom, that two temple recommend holding individuals of the same sex would seek a temple sealing rather than taking a chance on God making it right in post-mortal life (I hear over and over that NOW is day of our probation). But I think they would be excommunicated for requesting the ordinance before it came to a lawsuit. The question would then be about excommunication which, I agree, is not likely to go anywhere. This would all go back to Bill’s point about the court of public opinion and get tangled up in the history of polygamy and polyandry in the church. It would end up being very bad for the church regardless.