Thursday, November 11, 2010

Church changes stance on gay marriage in CHI 2010

The 2010 edition of the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI) contains a very different position on gay marriage than the 2006 edition. Here are the edits, with deletions in strikeout and additions in italics:

Same-Gender Marriage

Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. The Church accordingly opposes same-gender marriages and any efforts to legalize such marriages. Church members are encouraged "to appeal to legislators, judges, and other government officials to preserve the purposes and sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and to reject all efforts to give legal authorization or other official approval or support to marriages between persons of the same gender" (First Presidency letter Feb 1, 1994; see also "Homosexual Behavior" in the previous column).

As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God's the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

The powers of procreation are to be exercised Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define affirms defining marriage as the legal and lawful union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.

While opposing same-gender marriage, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. See also "Homosexual Behavior" on page 187.

This is a large change. The Church rolls back overt support or opposition of any specific marriage statute and replaces it with a vague statement that "affirms defining" marriage in a way that would exclude same-sex couples. ("Affirm" could mean just about anything in this context. It's not a strong word.) The admonition for members to get involved politically has been entirely deleted as well as opposition to civil recognition of same-sex relationships that falls short of marriage.

It's not exactly "I'm sorry, gays" but who am I to quibble? This is progress.


Beck said...

It is progress... slow, yes, but still progress.

Also, in the definition of "homosexual behavior" there are some interesting changes as well... I was going to post something on that. Or are you?

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Beck,

Slow, but in the right direction. I'm looking on the bright side of this.

Please post the changes you found!

Anonymous said...

Where'd ya get a copy of the handbook? You a bishop or other leader? Mark

Steven B said...

The first section that was omitted comes from a letter issued as part of the Hawaii anti-gay marriage effort. The verbiage was reworked and included in the Proclamation on the Family. It is a damning little piece of evidence that the Proclamation was a direct and official response to the Hawaii gay marriage issue.

The letter used to be available and searchable on the LDS website. They dropped it when they redesigned the web site. I have often wondered if that omission was deliberate in order to distance the church from its clandestine involvement in the Hawaii campaign.

That the verbiage was also dropped from the CHI seems to add more evidence that the Proclamation is simply an anti-gay document all dressed up in feel-good language about heterosexual families, and the church would just as soon bury its anti-gay origins.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Steven,

Thanks for your interesting comment. You could be right.

I think the Proclamation on the Family is going to be increasingly embarrassing for the Church as the years go by. The CHI doesn't agree with it now.

MoHoHawaii said...

Anonymous (3rd commenter),

I don't appreciate the accusatory tone of your comment. However, if you are sincere and would like to check that I've correctly quoted the material, you can find it on the Church's own Web site. See What I quoted can be found in section 21.4.10.

Jenne said...

This is genuine curiosity and interest, can you explain further how the CHI doesn't agree with the Proclamation?

Anonymous said...

Must be feeling defensive to tell me I was accusing. Poor old boy. Mark

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Jenne,

Thanks for commenting.

The POTF says

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

This is precisely the language that was cut from this section of the handbook.

Jenne said...

Its not exactly the same wording, but point taken.

There is still a great deal of activism in the legislative realm that would "maintain and strength the family" that doesn't have anything to do with homosexual marriage and would, through their adoption, remove barriers to happy family functioning, regardless of marital or legal union status. That's OT, yet I'm very happy to see the verbiage removed obligating church members to lobby against gay marriage.

alan said...

I figure they can take out the mobilizing language now because the issue is so bound up in the court systems that it will be resolved judicially one way or the other. The language of the 1990s in the Family Proclamation, however, can't exactly be scratched out. The question of "embarrassment," though...that's tricky. There are signs that the Church will do things differently in the future, but I don't know if there are yet signs of regret.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hi Alan,

It is possible that they are moving from overt to covert involvement in politics. The Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allows the Church to put unlimited secret funds toward influencing elections. The recent activities by the LDS front group National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is an example. NOM recently removed judges from the Iowa Supreme Court with a well-funded campaign. It was also the force behind last year's anti-gay constitutional amendment in Maine. There can be little doubt that LDS money was involved in both of these efforts, even though members weren't encouraged over the pulpit to participate.

Also, I agree with you about 'regret.' It's not in the Church's DNA, regardless of the issue.