Why Same-Sex Sealings for Time is Logical Next Step for LDS Church
by Keith Burns
I was once told by an LDS leader that the central reason homosexual relationships are deemed sinful is that they cannot lead to eternal relationships. He further explained that anything which helps us progress toward eternal life is good and of God, and conversely, anything that hinders our eternal progression is bad and of the Devil. Because Latter-day Saints believe that eternal life and exaltation are only possible between covenant-keeping men and women sealed in the temple, same-sex relationships are viewed as sinful and contrary to God’s divine plan. My purpose here is not to refute the theological tenet that eternal marriage can only exist between a man and woman. Instead, I propose an institutional shift that would maximize queer rights in the Church within an existing heterosexual theology. Allowing queer temple sealings for time would be a significant expression of affirmation, compassion, and acceptance for LGBTQ+ members without disrupting or uprooting doctrinal frameworks regarding marriage, sexuality, and gender.
In past decades, church leaders have relied on several arguments to support the belief that same-sex relationships are immoral. One is that same-sex couples are not biologically capable of procreation. However, once same-sex adoption became common, and medical techniques like sperm donation and artificial insemination became available, a new argument emerged that the well-being and development of children suffers under the care of same-sex parents. Further, opponents of same-sex relationships have disparaged the quality, intimacy, and durability of such relationships with statements implying that same-sex partners cannot complement each other like heterosexual partners, or with derogatory remarks that frame these relationships as inherently promiscuous, self-indulgent, and fleeting.
Within the past several decades, countless social science data have emerged to debunk each of these anti-queer sentiments, repeatedly showing that same-sex couples and heterosexual couples can provide equally loving and nurturing parenting environments. Further, innumerable studies have supported the finding that a child’s moral, social, and emotional development has no correlation with the sexual orientation of their parents, and that parenting ability has no relation to sexual orientation.
Current attitudes among LDS members have continued to shift in the direction of tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships. In fact, LDS sociologist Jana Reiss found in her “Next Mormons” survey that “LGBT issues” was one of the most common reasons for millennials leaving the Church. She also discovered that younger members are significantly more likely than older members to believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. With these shifting attitudes, it is becoming more common for members to associate with at least a few LGBTQ+ individuals and/or couples, and to acknowledge the happiness and fulfillment they observe in their relationships. I recently spoke with a former Bishop who currently lives in Utah. In discussing the Church’s stance on homosexuality, he expressed that he does not think the Church will ever change its stance on eternal marriage. However, he did express approval for the immense cultural and attitudinal shifts that have been taking place in the direction of increased kindness and acceptance. He shared with me that he recently attended the wedding of a same-sex couple, pointing out that their relationship appeared as happy, fulfilling, and loving as any good heterosexual relationship. Many devout members have often told me that even though they do not understand how homosexuality does or does not fit in with God’s eternal plan, they find it difficult to dispute the fact that same-sex relationships have the same potential for happiness and love as do heterosexual relationships.
If Latter-day Saints can accept the idea that same-sex relationships can be just as beautiful and uplifting as heterosexual relationships, then the Church could fully affirm and even celebrate same-sex relationships without compromising what they claim to be eternal doctrines. People in committed relationships (gay or straight) often explain that their partner helps them grow and become the best version of themselves. In such relationships, people also describe the process of developing and strengthening Christian attributes like patience, kindness, and charity. If these are just some of the fruits of a committed relationship, why then would a same-sex sealing for time defy God’s divine aspirations? In other words, why can’t a same-sex marriage for time be a fundamental aspect of one’s discipleship and quest to become more like Jesus Christ? Along with providing opportunities to become better people, same-sex marriages also afford the emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy that so many LGBTQ+ members yearn for, yet are currently denied.
I reiterate that allowing same-sex temple sealings for time would not require any fundamental theological ‘180,’ as many members often put it. If eternal marriage can only exist between a man and woman in God’s eyes, providing this mortal opportunity for LGBTQ+ members would fit completely within that doctrinal framework. Further, such a change would be a monumental expression of compassion and affirmation directed toward a group of people who have long been the victims of oppression, marginalization, and degradation. With sincerity and respect, I call upon LDS leaders to permit same-sex temple sealings for time, with the deep conviction that doing so would bless countless lives around the world without threatening the theological foundations of the Church.
This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.