Once again a lot of people are talking about marriage and what it means and how it can or ought to be defined. I have written before about my thoughts on the same-sex marriage debate (While morally I believe that homosexuality is not right in the sight of God, I do not see how the US government can legally deny certain rights a specific subset of its citizens that it grants to other citizens), but I would like to add a few more thoughts now.
As I prepared to write this post I was reminded of another post that I wrote a couple of years ago just after a General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During that conference President Packer reaffirmed the Church’s position on the subject of morality, including the belief that there are certain moral laws that are ““irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world” that cannot be changed.” There were many who were upset at his words, feeling that he was speaking too harshly against homosexuality, and in particular those who profess to be homosexual. In my response to this, I quoted a scripture from Nephi which I would like to repeat here.
“ I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” 1 Nephi 11:17
For me, that simple sentence sums up a lot of how I feel about the Gospel of Christ. I will not claim to know everything, to understand completely the mind of God, nor why he does what he does, but I do not need to. I know that God loves his children, and with that faith firmly in place, I can trust in his commandments, in his Priesthood, and in his Church. I do not know the meaning of all things, but let me express my thoughts on a few of the things I do know.
1. I know that God lives. I know that there is a God in heaven, and that he is the Father of our spirits. I know that he loves us, as only an eternal Father can. I trust in his Plan of Salvation and in his promises that, if faithful, we can receive all that he has.
2. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that he is the Son of God, and “that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22-24). I trust in the Atonement of Christ, that he suffered himself to be taken, to be crucified so that he might overcome the bands of death and rise triumphant from the tomb on the third day. I believe in the power of the Atonement, that it can right all wrongs, heal all wounds, dry every tear, and forgive every sin.
3. I know that marriage is an eternal principle, ordained by God and that its purpose is to join one man and one woman together for eternity, allowing them to become one flesh, to grow and progress and one day become as God is. Marriage is a celestial ordinance, in that it is both required for entry into the Celestial Kingdom and through marriage couples are qualified and prepared for celestial glory. For, “neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” ( 1 Corinthians 11:11). Marriage is the institution that builds families, and families are the most basic units of society. Without marriage and families and the fundamental principles that are learned in the home, society does not function and will not prosper or survive.
4. I know that God loves all of his children. All of his children. No exceptions, no conditions, no equivocation. I wholeheartedly believe that God loves me as much as he loves anyone else, regardless of religion, race, age, sex, occupation, or sexual orientation. The scriptures state that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and I believe that with my whole heart. God invites all to come unto him and he turneth none away. At the same time, he has given commandments that must be obeyed, not because he is some manipulative being who loves making us jump through his silly hoops. Commandments exist to protect, to guide, and to prepare us to one day return to his presence, where he is waiting patiently, with arm stretched out, always willing and eager to lift us up.
As it pertains to the present debate, those are the four things that I know and “most assuredly belive” (D&C 52:36). I believe that God would rather that we, as his children, remember that we are all his children and that we have more in common than not. I believe that God would much rather we find more reasons to get along, to reach out and help one another, than excuses to exclude, tear down and hate. I am reminded of the account in the Book of Moses of the prophet Enoch who saw God weeping and was astounded that such a being as God could weep. He asked him why and God replied,
Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. … But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? —Moses 7:32-33, 37
God weeps for his children when they choose to disobey him, he weeps for us because he has such high hopes for us. He wants all of us to enjoy all of the blessings and glory that he has to offer. That is the God in which I believe, the loving eternal Father who weeps for his children, while at the same time preparing a means whereby we can be forgiven and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. A few verses later in Moses it reads, “And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me.” From the beginning a plan was implemented that would enable all of the children of God to return to him, based upon their faithfulness. If it is that important to God, then it ought to be that important for us. We need to set aside all of these issues that divide us and look for more reasons to love one another, look for more reasons to say yes and fewer reasons to disagree.
God’s plan is all about uniting people, and the very first step is marriage: the uniting of one man and one woman for eternity, to learn and grow together and be exalted together. Family is most crucial aspect of the Plan of God, so important to him that of all of the possible names or titles he could have taken for himself, he has chosen to call himself our Father. That should give us some glimpse into the eternal importance of fatherhood as it relates to marriage and the raising of a family.
These are the things that I know, these are the things that I believe. I will state again, I believe that marriage is ordained of God to be the uniting of one man and one woman for eternity, but I also believe that God expects us to treat our brothers and sisters with more respect and love than we currently do. To be honest, I want to do my best to help as many people as I can make it to the Celestial Kingdom, I don’t want to get there and have the Lord look at me and ask me where my brothers are, where my sisters are, where those individuals and families are that I could have helped and served and loved but did not. I love this Gospel of Christ, precisely because it is so simple that a child of 8 years can be expected to understand it fully enough to accept its first covenant and yet so complex that a man must spend the rest of his life in study, prayer, and meditation to begin to fathom all of its facets. But the basic principles never change. God does not change and God is love.