Question: Do Mormons seek to impose their version of morality on others?

Table of Contents

Question: Do Mormons seek to impose their version of morality on others?

The Church seeks to preserve the definition of marriage. Preserving the definition of marriage does not take away any rights from same-sex couples

Critics charge that by its political opposition to same-sex marriage, the Church is attempting to "impose its own morality" on those who are not members.

The Church seeks to preserve the definition of marriage. Preserving the definition of marriage does not take away any rights from same-sex couples. Even after proposition 8 passed, same-sex couples were not only free to practice any morality they want, but also have their committed relationships recognized and subsidized by the government. There are rights that same-sex couples do not have in California, but the Church does not oppose these rights nor did Proposition 8 substantially change those rights.

Preserving the definition of marriage recognizes the benefit that a union between a man and a woman has for society that a union between two men or two women cannot offer, particularly in child-raising. This recognition does not take away rights from families that are founded on something other than a marriage relationship.

The Church opposes legislation that seeks to control conscience or suppress the freedom of the soul and has supported legislation that expands the freedom to choose same-sex relationships

The Church opposes legislation that seeks to control conscience or suppress the freedom of the soul and has supported legislation that expands the freedom to choose same-sex relationships. It has also sought to preserve the legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. These two things do not conflict.

There is a difference between supporting and protecting individual's freedom to choose how they want to form their families, and accepting their definitions as the legal definition that applies to everyone. Preserving the definition of marriage does not impose morality nor does it take away rights. The Church recognizes the unique benefit that a union between a man and a woman has to society and child raising and has sought to keep that recognition in laws. Individuals are still free to chose to form their families differently and the Church has supported laws that would help them make that choice.

In California, same-sex couples have many of the same rights that the state gives to married couples, including having their relationship legally recognized and subsidized by tax payer money. The church is on record as not opposing any of these rights.

The Church believes in agency

According to D&C 134:4

"We do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul." D&C 134:4

Definitions do not impose morality

For many years, definitions were simply "understood". People knew what marriage meant and what drunk meant. However, as our society has progressed, it has seen a need to pin down certain definitions.

Nowadays, the government uses legal definitions to lay out a legal framework in which citizens interact with each other. Different people may come up with their own definitions, but legal definitions affect everyone. For example, drinking while driving is illegal in most places. The Word of Wisdom prohibits drinking whether you are driving or not. However, the legal definition and the definition under the Word of Wisdom is different. Under the legal definition, the cut off is a blood alcohol level of 0.08%. Under Mormonism, the limit is any consumption of alcohol. The difference between the legal definition and the Mormon definition does not prohibit our exercise of religion. We are free to use our definition for our purposes while the legal definition is what is applied in legal cases.

The same applies to marriages. There needs to be a legal definition of marriage to set a framework for citizens to interact with each other, but people are still free to consider themselves married even though the government may not recognize it. Many countries do not recognize religious marriages. In these countries, the legal definition of marriage requires being married by a civil officer. However, this does not affect the right of individuals to consider themselves married when they get married in their church. For example, a couple may get married in the Catholic Church, but not have a legal union. We do not recognize their marriage, even though they might. While they are free to consider themselves married, when it comes to a legal framework for interacting with other citizens, they are not considered married. Because of these laws, many Latter-day Saints couples are forced to get married outside of the temple and later be sealed in the temple. In these countries, the legal definition of marriage does not include temple marriages. Other churches are not forced to view temple marriages as marriages, but this does not prohibit our ability to recognize temple marriages as marriages.

Having a legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman does not affect the ability of same-sex couples to define themselves as being married, nor does it affect the ability of churches to consider them married. What it does, is set a legal framework so that other citizens do not have to consider them to be married. Same-sex couples are free to practice whatever morality they want when choosing to form families. Changing the legal definition to include same-sex couples changes it for everyone, not just for the same-sex couples. Having a traditional definition of marriage be the legal definition would allow same-sex couples to consider themselves married, but insulates other people from having to consider them married.

Definitions are different from rights

The Church does not oppose rights for same-sex couples. While marriage might be a convenient vehicle to distribute rights, the Church believes marriage is much more than the distribution of rights. The focus of the Church has been the impact on families and religious freedoms.

The Church believes that same-sex relationships are fundamentally different from opposite-sex relationships, and should be distinguished in law. However, just because these relationships are different, does not mean they should have less rights. Same-sex couples should have the rights to pursue whatever morality they want, and not suffer discrimination for it. There is a difference between discussing what marriage means in a legal context and what rights same-sex couples should have.

Definitions recognize distinctions

Legal definitions by themselves do not impose morality nor do they take away rights. They do show a need to make a distinction between two different concepts. They create a separate category, which is inherently unequal. We believe that a union between a man and a woman has a distinct benefit to society that a union between two men or two women cannot bring to society. We believe that by recognizing this value, we can promote environments where God's children will have the greatest likelihood to be raised by a father and mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Elder Oaks explains:

"We believe that we must contend for the kind of mortal families that provide the best conditions for the development and happiness of children—all children...

"There are many political, legal, and social pressures for changes that confuse gender, deemphasize the importance of marriage or change its definition, or homogenize the differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness.[1] </blockqutoe>

The legal definition does not impose morality or take away rights, but it does effect how things are discussed in official settings, taught in schools, and ultimately viewed in the public. While people are free to form their families in any way they choose, many are looking for the best way to form their families. By understanding that having both a father and a mother makes a difference for children, many people will chose to form families in a way that would give that benefit to their children.

Notes