I will try to be brief and allow this article to be a quick read. I will lay out first the reasons the Church Won’t change on its Theology and Doctrine and will followup with Why it Will and allow you the reader to make up your own mind. At the end, if you care what my feelings are, I will share my perspective.
WHY THE CHURCH WON’T CHANGE
1.) Our entire theology hinges on heterosexual sealed people making it to the Celestial Kingdom. It does not take much thinking to see that many of the points and parts would need to be unraveled to accommodate LGBT individuals within our belief system.
2.) In some ways we have painted ourselves even more into a corner than we did on Blacks and Priesthood and their lack of participation in the temple. If we were to change not only does our theology change, but also many of our leaders will go down in history being bigoted folks who perpetuated false theories. There would one day be another Gospel Topics Essay that disavows all these men’s statements and in some ways these teachings are more pervasive than the ones we spewed on people of color of African descent.
3.) As a consequence of #1 & #2 the top leaders will have to adjust to members relinquishing a large amount of trust they have in them. While our history shows that prophets have taught and perpetuated false doctrine and that all 15 men united generation after generation were wrong about what is truth and what is false doctrine, the average member hasn’t yet caught on. To reverse on the LGBT issue would be so deep and expansive in terms of our coming face to face with the limitations of leadership, that a large scale adjustment of what it means to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and to be trusted to discern the mind and will of God would occur in a monumental wave. To some extent this happened with the 78′ revelation but without the internet it was so much more limited and so few really understood the complexity of how proliferated our teachings were on when and even if such a change could happen. With the internet and Facebook….. a change on Homosexuality and how we include LGBT members would completely rock the “Good Ship Zion” and large scale adjustments would be the consequence.
4.) God appears in the room and tells them not to make a change.
WHY OUR CHURCH WILL CHANGE
1.) The ‘Missionary Surge’ was ineffective in terms of converts and what that may say about our future in terms of convert growth. I have to believe the Church is surprised that so few additional converts came out of the Missionary Surge. The increased amount of convert baptisms statistically is negligible. In spite of Elder Holland’s Predictions on what he or the Church expected missionary force to grow to, a simple look at statistics shows that this increased force could only be short lived before a return to only slightly higher numbers than before the age change. That diminishing has already begun and will continue over the next 18 months. One has to wonder knowing society is in general less interested in institutional Churches along with organized religion and hence less interested in Mormonism, if once the numbers go back down we will see convert baptisms take a really hard hit. Without converts the Church must look to growth within its ranks.
2.) Loss of Males – Recent research was published that shows we went from a Church of 52% of members in Utah in 1990 being female to 59% of members in Utah being female in 2008. Think about that. It may very well be 60%/40% at this point. What does that mean. It means that at a minimum 1/3 of all LDS women in Utah must choose to either remain single, marry a nonmember, or move out of the state in hopes there is a better chance elsewhere. Ok… so what? It is the next logical step to come to the realization that when members of the Church remain single or marry nonmembers their general commitment and activity within the Church drops off. Our theology doesn’t really include single members (Find single members in the Family Proclamation for example). And when members marry non-members the activity rate is much lower and those individuals often are exposed to various ways of seeing the world and began to adopt a less black and white view of how everything works. Also the loss of males diminishes the work force within Mormonism. Males are needed to hold the Priesthood and administer God’s kingdom. Without sisters having Priesthood offices, the work force in Utah is slowly diminishing. We could go back to polygamy to solve this but I am highly skeptical the Church would ever want to touch that with a ten foot pole.
3.) Public Perception. Consider 10 years from now…. 25 years from now….. 50 years from now. What will the general perception of the public be of a faith that discriminates those of the LGBT community? Don’t think it will be that great? Ask yourself “Had we never changed our Doctrine and Theology to include Black members in the Priesthood and Saving ordinances of the Temple, what would be the public perception of our church?” How many potential converts who would have been interested otherwise and now would simply turn their back to our faith seeing us as racist bigots? I can just about assure you that had we not changed, the number of convert baptisms in the here and now would be minimal and have little effect at adding to the life blood of the Church. This issue with time, can be assumed to have the same effect.
4.) Science – It is becoming more and more overwhelming that being gay is biological. That one neither chooses to be gay nor does any life experience after birth make them gay. They are born Gay and it can not be changed. We also are coming to grips with the the concept that being gay is not just attraction but rather this identity proliferates through their entire being. There is no way to untangle this from who they are at their core.
5.) No way to absolve ourselves from this issue. If the Church wanted to absolve itself from dealing with a certain group internally it could simply bar that subset of our culture. It appears in some ways they tried to do this with the recent policy change on children of gay couples. This works if the trait you are trying to keep out is one gained after birth. For instance we could ban Muslims from baptism and hence there would be no members who have Muslim characteristics or background. The issue here though is being gay is biological. Even if the Church could rid itself of all gays with the snap of the fingers, the very next generation of LDS youth will find find that 6 to 8% of them are LGBT. It is a continual issue that will forever be in our face until we adjust. And if we don’t we must plan on the results of our treatment of them to be in our face as well. Also when one has a gay child or a gay sibling or a gay friend, many of those folks are having their mind changed about the issue in drastic ways and hence adding to those who become disaffected or leave all together.
6.) We are becoming a Global Church. While I predict our growth rate will turn into a loss rate if this issue continues without a dramatic shift, at present we are becoming or have become a global church. Whether we continue to grow or began to incur a rate of loss, this much is true. Members more and more every day are interacting with the world at large. Due to employment in a world economy, the internet and social media, and interaction with the growing segment of those who are disaffected or who have left, orthodox members are coming face to face with with the reality that their history is messy, that leaders have made serious mistakes, that people are marginalized and even hurt by the Church, and that those who dissent are making good points within the arguments. The more members see a freedom of thought and that critics both in and out of the Church are making valid arguments something naturally occurs. The rate of Orthodox members becoming open to varied ideas of thought and even more importantly, began to think for themselves trusting their inner authority rather than placing complete trust in authorities outside themselves, will continue to increase. People who dissent faithfully will grow and those who all together leave will grow.
7.) As a followup to #6 – Who converting who? – Ask yourself, are members who support the Church’s stance on Gays thinking it is from God more often converting to LGBT allies or are LGBT allies in the Church being more often converted to Supporters of the Church position? I think this is a tilting landslide in one direction. If convert baptisms decrease radically and membership is changing their mind in almost entirely one direction one only need sit with that to recognize the consequences.
8.) Sisters leading out – As we discussed in #2 there is a trending of losing more males than females to inactivity or completely leaving the Church. It begs the question, why are males leaving the Church in greater numbers? In a patriarchal society males are more often taught to think for themselves and to rely on themselves. They are likely more confident in their conclusions because the society teaches them they preside and make the final call. The trouble is we have begun as a culture to give our sisters more independence and more leadership. One must ask if having Sister Missionaries in Leadership and training roles, and having Women General Authorities more at the forefront, along with having Women more involved in councils at every level of the Church; if this will also lead to our sisters placing more trust in their own understanding rather than trusting Church authorities. It feels like this will be one of the consequences of the shift we are making.
9.) financial. My guess is tithing is down and costs are up. I still think they Church is in great shape financially as they have begun shifting their reliance on tithing to reliance on commercial ventures in even greater ways than in the past. the Loss of Tithing likely isn’t hurting them. But if the Church holds this position it will begin taking deep losses in membership, we are already seeing some of this. This leaves them short on manpower to manage the assets they have. This leaves temples and ward buildings with less people using them and less people to man them. This is an issue and will be a frustration and a struggle going forward.
10.) Humanitarian Efforts – As the Church encourages its members to reach out more and more as it is doing with the recent refugee issues something is likely to occur. When members are reaching out to the marginalized in one section of society they are more likely to develop empathy for others in society who are marginalized. Once we begin to put ourselves in the shoes of another who is different than us we may began to put ourselves in others shoes who are different who knees are feeble and whose hands hang down.
11.) God shows up in the room and tells them to make a change.
WHICH WAY DO YOU THINK THIS TURNS OUT? AND IF YOU SUSPECT A CHANGE, HOW SOON DO YOU EXPECT IT?
Personally I waffle back and forth. At times I think The leadership has chosen this as the hill to die on. And frankly if they do I expect a large scale loss of membership over the next 30-40 years to the point that we go from 15 million members (5 million active) to 5 million members (around 1 million active). They can do that and that can work if that is what they desire. At other times I am left to think it is inevitable that they change and they will see this and do so.
Frankly I am certain of the fact that there are members of the top 15 who currently would and do support a deep shift in how we handle this issue. Their private conversations tell as much. I even suspect the Leadership as a whole wants to move in that direction but needs the membership to see the change as having come from them and not from pressure from dissenters within and without. Before the internet this would be possible. They could work towards a stretch of silence before unveiling new revelation…. but with the internet here and social media what it is, I am doubtful they can ever attain that kind of peace before the change. I also believe if they want to shift they want to do so slowly over several decades…. but I also think the internet and dissent within and without is mounting much faster than they expected. They are coming to grips I suspect that this is not going away and the longer they wait the more difficult it will be to keep the orthodox membership from losing trust when they do make the change. Personally most days I think they have to change, they don’t have a choice and I also think think they are beginning to see that the sooner they do it, the better it will be in the long run.
Thanks to a Good friend (you know who you are) in helping me work through these ideas in my head!