Freedom to Marry?

image A former professional colleague posted an interesting question on this site earlier today:

"How does the freedom to marry fare here? Living in Canada, I can marry as I choose but in the US gay, lesbian and bisexual people are NOT given that freedom."

This question is certainly controversial, but as one who deeply treasures freedom, I have pondered extensively on this subject and am pleased to share my thoughts with you.

First, I will address this as a matter of logical thought …

Inherent in our existence as human beings all of us possess free will, also called agency, or the ability to act for ourselves and not be acted upon by someone else.  

If that statement is taken with no other context, it would seem that you could  exercise your agency by choosing to kill me, steal my wife, ravish my daughters and haul away my possessions.   While certainly you could do that, I am grateful that you won’t, because  the civil society in which we live has placed both moral and legal limits on such actions. I am grateful that such actions are both culturally abhorrent and legally forbidden.

As members of a civil society, we accept limitations on how we exercise our agency based on two fundamental principles:

  1. A person may act in ways that do not harm or threaten other people or property.
  2. A person may in ways that do not undermine the ability of the society to flourish and sustain itself.

The first principle largely addresses immediate or short term affects; the second encompasses long term consequences.

Restrictions on marriage within our society are primarily based on the second principle.  For millennia, the fundamental unit of our society has been and continues to be the nuclear family, led by a husband and wife who are bound together both by legal and moral covenants.  Marriage is the foundation relationship which serves to sustain both husband and wife and provide the environment for children to brought into the world, raised to be productive citizens and nurtured in the moral standards that form the basis of our society.  There is no more important relationship in our society. Without the family as currently defined, the principles which sustain this society will progressively decay and undermine the very existence of the society we enjoy.

Efforts to change the definition of marriage to include relationships between two men or two women strikes at the very heart of our society.  Such relationships are not marriage; they lack the fundamental capacity to have husband and wife procreate and nurture the children they have brought into the world. To change the definition of marriage would undermine the ability of the society to flourish and sustain itself.

Those who choose to enter relationships other than traditional marriage can certainly do so, but such relationships do not constitute marriage.    Perhaps another term can be defined to encompass appropriate legal privileges afforded to participants of such relationships, but these relationships cannot and must not be called marriage without endangering the long term sustainability of our society.

I firmly support the proposition generally accepted by the majority of the citizens of the USA and legally ratified by recent referendums in states such as Arizona and California, that maintaining the current definition of marriage is critical to the preservation of our society, and therefore worthy of the legal and moral restrictions placed upon how we exercise our free will.

Second, and most importantly, I address this subject as a matter of the heart and faith in a living and loving God …

Mental logic alone falls far short of articulating how I feel about this subject.  My absolute acceptance that a loving God governs this universe and that my life and family will survive and flourish for eternity beyond this mortal life, provides the foundation for my perception of marriage.  The best explanation of the moral principles governing this subject come from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” published in 1995 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, written by men I accept as apostles and prophets of the living God.

The entire proclamation is included here:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.

The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

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.

© 1995, 2008 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

We are not just mortal beings who happen to reside here on earth because of some fortuitous accident of nature.  We are an integral part of an eternal plan that was put in place before time began and will exist long after this earth dies away.

Marriage and family are absolutely basic to this eternal existence.  Therefore, I will always stand in support of traditional marriage, for both reasons of faith and logic. 

By the way, the photo at the top of this post shows my dear wife Claudia and myself on the day of our marriage for time and eternity in 1976.   As young kids with stars in our eyes, we scarcely had an inkling of what lay before us, but now, 34 years, seven children and nine grandchildren later, we’d do it all over again.