Yesterday, the Mormon Church announced, in stark contrast to its fully stated beliefs on marriage, public support of the deceptively named “Respect for Marriage Act.” Even The Salt Lake Tribune called this “a stunning move.”
The official statement from the Mormon Church on this decision begins by proudly stating their historic and well-known belief on marriage, “The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints related to marriage between a man and a woman is well known and will remain unchanged.”
Even still, Mormon leadership declared that this bill codifying radical marriage redefinition into U.S. law while going further than the Supreme Court did in Obergefell v Hodges, “is the way forward” to “heal relationships and foster greater understanding.”
This is a dramatic capitulation by the Mormon Church for political and public relation purposes.
Dr. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and former board member of Focus on the Family, said this move “comes down to basically unconditional surrender” by that church on one of the most important public issues of the day. He adds, the Mormons “have decided that they’re not going to fight the issue of same-sex marriage when it comes to its legal status. They are instead going to draw a new boundary” regarding what they are willing to defend and stand for.
Dr. Mohler explains, “Joseph Smith himself taught that the Constitution of the United States of America was divinely inspired. That’s something you’re not going to find in historic Christianity.” This fact is not without significant influence on Mormon theology of course and how it engages U.S. law. Mohler adds that according to Mormon understanding, “the United States Constitution, if divinely inspired, well, it is also revisable or amendable, and that points to the Mormon understanding of revelation.”
Of course, the Mormon Church has a dramatic history regarding marriage and how their beliefs align with or conflict with U.S. law.
For their historic territory to officially become the state of Utah, Mormons were forced to promulgate a new prophetic revelation banning polygamy, which they had previously endorsed and practiced.
This change was enacted because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Edmunds-Tucker Act which outlawed polygamy and secured the federal government’s right to seize all church property as long as Mormons held to plural marriage. The church promptly changed its official doctrine on polygamy in 1890 through a new “Manifesto” of Mormon church President Wilford Woodruff.
In this manifesto, Woodruff said,
Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.
And the Mormon Church has vowed and been keenly aware to submit to U.S. marriage law ever since. Which brings us to this present moment.
Senator Mitt Romney, famous for his Church ties, has stated that he is now one of the few Republican Senators willing to vote for this troubling bill. Utah Senator Mike Lee has said he plans to vote against the act.
All four of Utah’s U.S. congressional representatives voted in favor of codifying marriage redefinition into federal law in July.
This deeply pernicious law, now supported by the Mormon Church, will do the following,
- Require the federal government to recognize almost any definition of marriage any other state acknowledges (like plural marriages or even marriages involving a minor or a relative) with one exception. While the federal government will not be required to recognize marriages involving three or more persons, new amendments will still require the federal government to recognize polygamous relationships where one person is married to multiple partners.
- Activists will be given the right to sue religious individuals, organizations, and businesses who hold to a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.
- The IRS could use this bill to remove tax-exempt status from religious non-profits that believe in natural marriage.
Dr. Mohler correctly observes the pitfalls the Mormon Church has now stepped into with their new announcement,
It is interesting to note that the Mormon authorities have moved forward positively in negotiations with LGBTQ activist groups, trying to find some kind of middle ground, but that middle ground does not actually respect religious liberty, the way the LDS authorities claim that it does.
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Photo from Getty.