Doctrine determines gender politics
It is interesting to see the two divergent paths The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church are taking with regards to their beliefs on gender, sex and sexuality. Philosophically, they remain almost identical, but in practice, they are nearly opposite.
Pope Francis made international news in a recent interview where he challenged the Catholic church’s previous emphasis on issues such as contraception and homosexuality and called for a change in focus — to more central doctrines such as love, healing and salvation.
“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” Pope Francis said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”
In response to the concern of homosexuality, Francis simply said: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”
The LDS church, on the other hand, has held firm to its conviction to speak out on sex and sexuality. In the most recent LDS General Conference, Apostles Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks firmly echoed the church’s positions on gay marriage and homosexuality. Other apostles discussed the role of women and what they saw as essential and defining gender differences.
This difference in direction between the LDS and Catholic churches is at first perplexing. Pope Francis has received resounding support for his change in focus, and 68 percent of U.S. Catholics firmly agree with this new emphasis, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Tenants such as love, kindness and forgiveness — shared by both religions — are profoundly more accessible to believers and nonbelievers alike, and they do not require the same basis in faith and revelation involved in positions against gay marriage and female ordination. It might seem that the Catholic church’s new strategy with regards to these issues is significantly more promising. It emphasizes inclusion and love, rather than secularly unreachable doctrines.
But, upon closer examination, the LDS church simply cannot take the same approach as the Catholic church. Not because of stubbornness or obsession with certain issues, but because of certain metaphysical assumptions in LDS doctrine.
Love, kindness, salvation and forgiveness are undoubtedly the most important doctrines in both the LDS and Catholic churches, but issues of gender and sexuality play a significantly more prominent role in LDS doctrine than Catholic doctrine. LDS metaphysics postulates the existence of both a heavenly father and heavenly mother, each with different roles and responsibilities according to their gender. The Catholic church does not share this doctrine. LDS metaphysics also postulates the eternal existence of family, parenthood and procreation. Catholic doctrine remains silent on this concern.
These differences profoundly impact what each church can and cannot emphasize, and it has created a situation where the LDS church must continue to emphasize controversial topics only accessible through faith and revelation.
Current efforts by LDS memebers to change their church’s emphasis on these matters, or more drastically, to change their actual positions — as seen by various LGBT and feminist organizations within the church — fail to recognize these metaphysical assumptions in LDS doctrine. Homosexuality is not consistent with eternal male-female procreation, and female ordination is equally inconsistent with the role of the heavenly mother.
The LDS church will continue to preach gender roles and condemn same-sex marriage just like they will continue to preach love and forgiveness. They will do this because it is a part of their metaphysical explanation of the world and human purpose. A break from these views will disintegrate the very edifice in which the LDS doctrine stands.